“Table for two under Halpert.”
The hostess behind the lectern dropped her eyes to the book in front of her scanning the page with her finger until she came to the name she was just given.
“Yes, right this way sir,” she replied looking to Jim and then Pam and back at Jim as she grabbed two gold-edged menus and motioned for them to follow.
Pam noticed the way the attractive hostess looked at Jim, like he was one of the fancy desserts on the menu, an after dinner treat that had it not been for the arm firmly wrapped around Pam that announced he was spoken for, she might like to sample.
But Jim paid little mind to the striking blue eyes that looked him over nor did he seem to notice the legs for days that were made to seem longer and shapelier from the 4-inch, pencil-thin heels she wore on her feet. Heels, that were Pam to try to pull off would only succeed in giving her blisters and produce from her a clumsy gait that would negate the intended effect of added sexuality. Pam kept her heels to the kitten variety mostly, once in a while like tonight, she would put on her stacked two inchers so she wouldn’t seem so tiny next to her tall boyfriend.
As the hostess weaved through the tables to lead them back, Jim kept his gaze up at the back of her head and the simple chestnut mane that hung straight down her back, the one part of her that seemed dull and lifeless compared to Pam’s golden and lively locks.
Occasionally he looked around the room at the ambiance or turned to peek glances at Pam, smiling at her as he grasped her hand while they made their way to a side of the restaurant they hadn’t seen on their first visit a month ago.
This side of the eatery was different indeed but no less captivating. Even though the breathtaking view of the crystal lake and light-covered bridge that spanned it were unseen from the room they now entered, a trellis wall weaved with blooming foliage and strings of shimmering lights replaced it. Through the cross-hatched gaps the moon’s glow poked into the smaller atrium and when combined with the luminant strings gave the room an enchanted forest kind of feel.
It had been a little over a month since Jim and Pam officially began dating. But unlike a conventional newly-paired couple there was no getting to know each other period. Similarly, they never had to play those silly games counting the days till it was acceptable to call one another again. There was no pretending they had other engagements so to space out the time between dates so neither one of them would seem too eager. Of course, working in the same office made it impossible for them to play at that but they wouldn’t have anyway – not when their years together as best friends had long since given them an intimacy that surpassed what could be attained from going out to dinners, seeing movies together, marathon phone calls or even the physical acts that followed a requisite number of dates.
What they already shared was a familiarity with one another that was layered and complex, a textured composition years in the making. One that had every conversation they shared, every laugh they giggled, every nuance they noticed, every battle they engaged in, even the ones against each other, melded together on a canvas like the works of impasto she’d been learning about and creating in her art class.
But even with what they already had, there was still so much they had lost, squandered in a year of foolishness. And there was still so much to build upon as they discovered more about each other during nightly calls and weekends where they never parted from one another’s company except for Pam to attend her weekend art class and Jim to join his buddies for the occasional pick-up game.
The rest of the time they were inseparable, except ironically at the office. In a strange reversal of circumstances, the place they once had their only moments of connection was now where they had to pretend, portraying themselves as mere good friends as they still were keeping the relationship a secret from the office and the documentary crew. It was hard to do at first but now that the show’s crew was on a short summer hiatus and the drama over Pam’s beach speech and Karen’s abrupt resignation was forgotten, it was easier to keep what they had started under wraps. And keeping things secret added a little excitement, after all forbidden fruit always tasted a little sweeter.
The tables arranged in the restaurant’s annex were set up in the same style as the main room. Similar to the scene of their first visit, delicate sprays of flowers sat in miniature vases between the salt and pepper shakers and votive candle receptacles on each table. A different colorful bloom added a distinct beauty and floral scent to each region’s perimeter.
When they arrived to their own, they were greeted by the dainty white petals of the fortune teller flowers, Oxeye daisies often used for petal plucking to a chorus of, he loves me, he loves me not. But there’d be no need to deconstruct any of the blooms on their table tonight because Jim reminded Pam daily of his love through romantic gestures as well as his words.
The last time they were here was a night of many new discoveries despite having been friends for many years. Over the course of the night, so much was revealed from the pain they’d both felt when Jim left for Scranton to the undying love they revealed to each other as they reenacted their kiss from the year before.
But the very first thing he’d learned that night—aside from the fact that she was stunning in coral, the dress she wore then a perfect complement to green eyes that also featured sparkling flecks of that same color—was Pam’s love for peonies. Radiance danced across her face at the sight of the blossoms that adorned their table on that first date, filling the space with a luminous glow emitted from her coral-speckled eyes.
He was able to replicate that same twinkle in her eyes, the one brought out by the dress and brought on by the blooms by bringing her small bouquets of the flowers that she loved from time to time and for no real reason other than, what plucking the daisies tonight would be sure to reveal, he loved her.
The first time he bestowed them on her, a few weeks after the first date, she gushed, reacting how one might to a gift of jewelry or an expensive perfume not a small cluster of flowers. But since Pam couldn’t remember the last time she’d gotten “just because” flowers she reacted much like she had the day he first asked her to dinner with tears in her eyes and that adorable smile where she bit down on her bottom lip and quite literately glistened with joy.
Jim hadn’t expected her to respond quite that effusively, they were just flowers after all, but was still overjoyed to get the reaction he did, especially when her next act was to shower him with passionate kisses, the kind that made his jeans a little tighter and delayed them from getting to the movie on time.
It was just as well because that night, when they rented from blockbuster instead and then never actually got around to even watching the movie, was the night he’d been waiting years for. The night she led him back to her bedroom and they shared more than just sentiments and kisses.
Sex, it was the one thing they had taken their time with. For him, being with her at last was about so much more than physical gratification and he never wanted her to think anything different. Not that he couldn’t wait to know her in the most sensual way. From the moment he first breathed in her scent he’d wanted to experience it more intimately. How he had been longing to touch every part of her, caress the silk that was her skin, feel the response of her body to his touch and finally know the feeling of their souls connecting in a blur of bliss and passionate harmony. But on that first night when it had been less than 24 hours from when he shared a hotel room with Karen, he restrained himself, not allowing her to even suggest he come in at the end of that first date.
He wouldn’t have her experiencing any doubt of his love or regret having been with him so soon after his last sexual encounter.
He left her at her doorstep with nothing more than a brush of his lips to her temple and a date for the next night, but even so their relationship had taken on a new level of intimacy.
Over the next few weeks, despite her unspoken indications of desire and his physical manifestations of the same, they explored but would stop just on the precipice, both feeling like they needed to hold off on the last act of physical oneness until they had worked through all the emotions the last year had brought to bear.
But the night he presented the small bouquet, there seemed to be no stopping the yearning they both felt. The flowers may have started it, inciting a passion in Pam that he felt ill-equipped to defy but by the time they were back at her place it was the tantric build-up of the past few weeks that had them unable to stop the thirst to know each other completely. Finally, their bodies could no longer deny what they both wanted and they came together in a mellifluous dance of their love that was everything they both imagined it could be and more.
Afterward, while nestled in each other’s perfectly bare contours, Jim still peppering her with tiny kisses, he remarked, “You must really love those Peonies.”
“I like Peonies… a lot,” she replied, still quivering every time his lips brushed her cheek, her shoulder, her breast. “What I really love is you, Jim Halpert.”
She went on to justify her over the top response when he handed her the pretty pink flowers, explaining the emotional association now contained within them. Before she merely loved peonies for their cheerful beauty and sweet fragrance but since then they’d become that much more special. Forever she would see them and be reminded of the first date she waited so long for and how happy she had been since that night.
The first date was not all magic and romance. Yes, there was plenty of it. Jim made sure of that, choosing a restaurant he knew she would love, taking every opportunity to show his devotion to her while still sprinkling in the playfulness that first brought them together.
But they also had a lot to unpack before they could get to a place where the hard feelings and pain they caused each other would fade back into the background. And as much as they would like to have whitewashed over all of it, at least for that night, they knew the sooner they worked through it the stronger they’d be for it.
So, the night had been filled with romance and giggles, but also some tears and hard conversations. They spent way longer sitting across from each other in the cozy restaurant than what it should have taken to enjoy a meal and conversation. But for them the time evaporated as they spent hours catching up on so much, the good and the bad, their growth in the recent past and the shortcomings they still were trying to work on, tales from the last year and stories from their pre-Dunder Mifflin lives.
They talked about so much that first night, from events in their childhood right on through to Pam’s role as secret assistant to the regional manager. But when the glassed votive candles, that throughout the evening had cast a glow that was only half as bright as the ones that engulfed both their faces, had melted from a solid mass to a pool of creamy liquid they knew they’d lingered way too long at the small table. Even though the sweet waitress never once revealed her near certain vexation in attending to them for so long, they knew they were on the verge of overstaying their welcome.
Jim knew Pam would have liked to enjoy more of the romantic views outside before they returned to their car for the drive back to town. The view from the bridge was one of the many things he remembered her describing to Phyllis those many, many months ago.
He noticed the stunning view, luminescence from a full moon creating a halo of light over the arched walkway as it shone down from the sky and back up from its own reflection in the still water. How sweet it would be to share a kiss while encircled in that glow but it would have to wait until their next visit. Jim had one more thing planned that evening, a kiss in the moonlight at a different location, one that had more meaning than a bridge leading nowhere. The place Jim brought her that night he hoped would take them home.
The moon followed them back to Dunder Mifflin, to the exact spot in the ill-fated parking lot where Jim first professed his true feelings. By reenacting the confession, he had hoped to dissociate the bad memory and heartache of the place they passed by each day with a bit of revisionist history.
And on that visit, they succeeded in redefining the place that had held so much pain for both of them.
It didn’t matter that the moon was blocked by the overgrown branches of a tree badly in need of trimming, that the luminant mist that haloed them came from the artificial glare of street lights that surrounded the parking lot. Pam’s response was the only reflection Jim needed when he pressed his lips to hers for what was only the second time ever.
As if her words were not enough, her response was to draw him back so she could assure him this time how she truly felt with a second and then a third kiss.
And like that their romance was in full bloom.
But because they were possessive of their privacy, especially in the early stages, they decided to keep what they had between them. Jim was sure he’d succeeded in thwarting the cameras from finding them that first night but they had to work to keep the charade up at work and even in their time off.
That meant staying away from local restaurants and movies theaters. Because of their fear to be caught by a colleague or a crew member, most of their early dates were take-in meals and movies at the out-of-town theater but more often rented from Blockbuster. In many ways this was preferred and not just because there was little chance being caught staying in. Dinners at home and movies on the couch led to intimate moments. Moments where Jim learned as much about what made her who she was through conversations, as he did about what made her purr through passionate tangos where they explored each other’s bodies and made love sometimes multiple times before credits would roll.
When they did head out to a restaurant—there were those nights when a little change of pace was needed, they tried to go to a place that was less frequented by the people they worked with or they tried to plan for weeknights when they would be least likely to accidentally bump into a co-worker or the people whose job it was to learn everything about them.
Christopher’s on a Wednesday fit both criteria and so even though it was an ordinary night, they decided to head over for a fancier mid-week date.
They took their seats and the hostess left them with a smile and their menus and crossed back to her station at the entrance.
This time, the server who came to greet them was not the cheery and chatty woman who patiently dealt with them on their very long first date. He seemed just as kind and friendly, just not as loquacious. He took their drink orders and left them without small talk or an inquisition about what had brought them to the farmhouse on a Wednesday night.
When he returned with the drinks however, he also brought with him a grilled cheese and a message from Beth, the waitress from a month ago.
“Beth said to enjoy the complementary grilled cheese and she’s glad to see you back.”
“Wow, now that’s so nice,” Pam gushed.
“Please send her our thanks,” Jim said as he looked across to the section where they sat the last time, catching her eye as she momentarily looked up from the large party of eight she was attending to. He mimed a tip of a hat to her which elicited a smile and a reciprocal imaginary hat-tipping gesture.
About mid-way through the meal, Beth came in person to visit the table where they were laughing and enjoying their dinner.
“Hello you two. So nice to see you again.”
“Hi Beth,” Pam said effusively as if she was greeting a celebrity. “That was so nice of you to send us the grilled cheese. How are you? You looked kind of busy over there”
Pam wasn’t always this talkative herself but this waitress seemed to bring it out in her. That and the two Mixed Berry Smash cocktails she enjoyed with dinner.
“I was so happy to see you come in. Sorry I couldn’t be your server tonight. I take it Pete took good care of you.”
They found it slightly hard to believe they were getting this much special attention from a waitress they’d only met the one time. But they had spent a bit of time chatting with her at the end of their last visit, explaining how it was their first date but they’d known each other for 4 years. That after having to explain why two grown-ups were still playing jinx.
“Any occasion tonight? It’s been a little more than a month if I recall since you two began dating.”
Pam, a little surprised at her remembrance replied for them, “Wow, good memory. I guess Friday would have been about a month. Tonight, we just wanted to get out for a nice meal. It’s been a lot of pizza and take-out for us.”
“Jim, Jim, Jim. Please don’t tell me you didn’t take this lovely lady out Friday to celebrate dating a month. Now I would have liked to see you here but please tell me you celebrated somewhere. Even if it were just Olive Garden or Chili’s.”
Jim and Pam both started laughing at the mention of Chili’s.
“What’s so funny?”
This time Jim was the one to explain.
“Pam here, she is banned from Chili’s. Seems she had a little too much to drink at an office event we had there.”
Beth looked shocked at the revelation, although from the size of the petite thing giggling before her now, she imagined it didn’t take much for her to go from tipsy to full-on smashed.
“I got my start at Chili’s - about 8 years ago. And from what I can remember drinking was part of the culture there. Happy hours every night. We were always taught to push the drink specials and it took a real lot to be cut off. I can recall some real rowdy office parties that happened there and I’d never witnessed anyone get banned. It must have been some night for you. I don’t believe it.”
“Oh, believe it.” Jim smirked as he raised his eyebrows at Beth and pretended to knock back an imaginary drink.
Pam turned slightly red as she began to defend herself.
“I don’t usually drink like that. It was a tough night. I was engaged to this other guy at the time, had been for like 3 years. Our boss who is a lot to handle on a normal day was throwing his annual employee appreciation ceremony which to him meant giving out awards that have nothing to do with our work performance. For example, I was about to get one for longest engagement… again. And I’d just had a fight with the fiancé that was making it even possible to get that award.”
Pam paused, her smile deepening as she gazed across the table at the man who on their very first date had brought her to the place that despite three years of hints and subtle suggestions, her former fiancé had not.
“But even back then I think I deep down knew I had a thing for this guy here,” she said, speaking a truth she’d never admitted aloud to anyone before.
“So, I refused to leave when my fiancé wanted to. It became a big fight and he left me there. Long story short, I overindulged a little bit and fell off a chair. But Jim took good care of me. It really wasn’t that big a deal but they banned me, for life.”
Jim was sitting across the table bobbing his head, much in the same manner Pam had been that night trying to grab Beth’s attention from Pam. When he had Beth looking back his way, he pretended to fall out of his seat.
“Seems like you two have a crazy history.”
Jim winked at Pam and smiled again at Beth
“Absolutely, we do.”
Beth turned back to Pam, a knowing smile on her face.
“And you are finally with the right guy.”
“I sure am,” Pam said. “And I’ve never been happier.”
That night after dinner they took that moonlight walk on the bridge.