March 25, 2008
Sweet fragrance filled her nose.
Sunlight streamed in through cracks between the window and the shade and penetrated her eyelids pulling her from sleep.
A delicate kiss brushed her forehead as she opened her eyes to see Jim hovered above her.
Of course, without her contacts in, he was still a blur, as was the bouquet of pink puffs that sat atop the dresser behind his body. But even out of focus, she could sense the incandescent smile spread across his face and knew it was peonies that filled the room with the delightful scent that brought to mind memories of their first date.
“Happy Birthday Beesly.”
Not properly conscious enough to respond with words she murmured her reply.
“Big day today, 29,” Jim continued as he sat down beside her on the edge of the bed.
Slowly, Pam stretched her arms trying to expel the sleep from her body. How was Jim so awake? They’d both been up late last night engaged in a little pre-birthday amusement that had her singing happy birthday and then halleluiah as he did things to her body that made her wish every night was her birthday eve.
Pam propped herself up to knock him a quick peck, mindful her morning breath, which even though Jim never seemed to mind, she still was self-conscious about after years of Roy shirking from an early kiss until after she’d brushed her teeth.
“So, Beesly. Last year of your twenties. Have you accomplished everything you planned to by age 30?”
“Um, like what?” she questioned him as her cheeks filled with the onset of a smile.
“Climbed Mount Everest?”
“Not yet,” she chuckled in reply.
“Made your first million?”
Out popped her tongue as her giggles grew louder.
“Not even close.”
“Barreled down Niagara Falls?”
Responding with nothing more than her laughter, she fell back on the pillow again before Jim grabbed her hands and gently tugged her back up, planting another kiss on her lips as he did.
“I take that as a no. You best get up then. You’ve got a lot to do and only one more year to get to it all. But first you have an office party to attend.”
At that, Pam dropped herself back down on the bed and pulled the covers up over her head. The muffled voice from under the blanket was unintelligible but what was clear was her dread at what could be in store for her at Dunder Mifflin that afternoon.
“Oh, and I have to warn you, there’s been a little shake-up with the PPC. Obviously, you couldn’t plan your own party so Angela needed to recruit a replacement, technically a few because Phyllis still refuses to work with her and as you know Oscar dropped out a while ago. Rumor has it Kevin stepped in on this one and Michael’s been very involved too.”
Wide eyes appeared on her face as she pulled down the comforter again.
“And you didn’t volunteer because…?”
“Oh, I tried Beesly, I promise. But you know how Angela feels about me and birthday planning after what I tried to do combining the parties last year. Besides Michael said I couldn’t be trusted not to tell you what they had in store for you.”
With that, he pulled the comforter completely off her.
Pam lay immobile in the bed as Jim turned to grab something from the dresser. For a second the thought popped in her mind that he could propose today, the excessive rummaging through the drawer was for a hidden box. Nervousness and excitement had her whole body shaking as he stood with his back to her, but when he turned back around he held only his underwear and socks in his hands.
Feeling a little relieved, after all her dream proposal didn’t include morning breath and the glasses she’d just put on, she relaxed but couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed too. Not that she was expecting it yet. As much as she knew he loved her and she loved him, it had been less than a year that they were dating, but more importantly he’d a long time ago been the ear to all her complaints about her way-too-long engagement to Roy. She knew he would not ask until they were ready to set down an actual date and plan a wedding, knowing he would never want to make her wait again to become a bride and a wife instead of a perpetual fiancée. They had a few passing conversations about it and both said they didn’t want a long engagement when the time came.
But as she lay there she began to think about schedules and time and even though it was a joke, the thing Jim had said when he woke her up. Had she done everything she’d planned to by 30? If she’d gone and married Roy, she might have thought yes. She’d be a wife, maybe even a mother, have a house and a pair of jet skis.
But Jim had changed things when he told her he loved her. Switched things up, altered the timeline, as well as her expectations and aspirations. She’d been thinking a lot about something he had long ago said to her.
Do you want to be a receptionist always?
Once, when she was going to be Roy’s wife, she couldn’t imagine not being the receptionist at Dunder Mifflin. Perhaps it was because if she wasn’t she’d no longer get to see him every day, laugh with him, share secrets with him and retain that close status as best friends, the connection she thought it was they shared. If she left Dunder Mifflin, she’d have no excuse to have him in her life because she believed, and more so Roy insisted, married women don’t have male friends, much less male best friends.
But then he’d been the one to leave and she’d discovered she did want more than that. On both fronts. He wasn’t just her best friend but because she thought she’d blown up that side of things, maybe forever, she focused on new career goals.
She started small with art classes at the community college but now, in light of Jim’s support for her passions and believing in her, she felt herself ready to take a next step.
The last few weeks in particular it had been on her mind a lot what her next thing might be and how she might prepare. The internship opportunity might have past but perhaps there was something more than the art classes that she enjoyed.
She was about to bring it up when the phone charging on the desk began hopping around, still in vibrate mode from last night when they silenced it to keep from getting disturbed during the pre-birthday celebrations.
Jim made his way to the desk before Pam was even able to pull herself to an upright position.
“Birthday celebration central. Chief wish granter speaking... Ah, Hi Mrs. Beesly,...Helene. Sure, I’ll put on the birthday girl.”
Finally out of bed, she met Jim halfway between it and the dresser and took the phone from him, tucking it between her ear and chin, to talk to her mom and then her dad while she started to pull together an outfit for the day.
“Tonight? We’re going to Christopher’s” She looked back to where Jim was watching her, a prideful smile on his face as she shared her birthday plans with her father.
“Of course, I remember, Dad. I loved going to Christopher’s with you. That’s how Jim knew to take me there. I’d been sharing stories of my daddy-daughter dates at the office and I guess he remembered me talking about it.”
She smiled coyly at him, a blush coming to her cheeks as she recalled their first date and the delight she felt as they pulled up to the lakeside farmhouse she had no idea he knew about, much less how long she’d been waiting to return to it, having outgrown having her father take her to the most romantic restaurant in town.
“Thanks Dad. Love you too.”
She hung up with her parents but returned to sit back on the bed, the day’s outfit set beside her, a dreamy look on her face as she basked in memories of that date and the last 10 months.
“Ok Beesly, with that look on your face and if you keep heading back to the bed, then we are never going to get to your party.”
There was little fanfare in the office that morning save for Michael who was waiting at her desk when she returned from the kitchen with coffee, her second cup that morning. As she approached, she noticed his demeaner, that of giddy excitement, like a 5-year-old who couldn’t wait to present his mother with the macaroni necklace he’d strung together as a gift. When she took her place behind the long, curved desk she was assaulted with a blast of aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate that clung to her clothes, became embedded in her hair and rendered her coffee undrinkable unless she wished to spend her birthday in the hospital with toxic poisoning.
Jim, who was moments behind her shrugged in response to the look she cast his way, begging the question they both were thinking, why?
Of course, they knew the answer. Michael declared as he left the night before he was excited to celebrate another office birthday with cake and confetti. His tendency to misidentify and get so close but not quite right was not limited to words, quotes and sayings. This time the mix-up meant glitter rather than small bits of colored paper, would remain part of the décor in Pam’s space for months to come.
“Um Michael,” Jim shared more for the cameras than for his boss, who he knew wouldn’t get it anyway, “I think Pam prefers her coffee with a splash of cinnamon and not gold sparkles.”
Aside from Michael’s early birthday surprise, the rest of the morning passed like most others, slow, tedious, uneventful. A call from Ryan called Michael away before he could destroy the replacement coffee Jim went to fetch for her and everyone else bestowed birthday greetings and then went right back to their day. Even Jim had a busier than usual morning which kept him at his desk on numerous sales calls.
As a result, Pam spent her birthday morning playing solitaire, shredding old files and fielding phones calls for the rest of the office. For some reason it weighed on her more today than normal that she was still just a receptionist. For a second time that day, she thought about the need to make a change before she entered the next decade of her life.
It was when Jim suggested an impromptu, outside lunch, clearly part of a bigger plan to get her out of the office, she knew she’d be coming back to some surprise. Just what it would be made her a touch on edge. She’d worked there long enough to know what kind of craziness could befall the guest of honor on their special day.
However, upon returning an hour later the office seemed much the same except for a decorative sign on the door to the conference room that featured a bright pink 30.
Once again, she flashed Jim a questioning look as they neared his desk.
“I warned you Kevin was involved. Guess the Kelevin doesn’t work when you use it to calculate years.”
“And you didn’t correct them because...”
“I told you I was banned from any participation, except to get you out of here during lunch.”
Just then Michael burst out of his office, bouncing on his heels, announcing to everyone Pam and Jim’s return and calling for the party to begin.
Not wanting to deflate his enthusiasm but feeling he should know it wasn’t the big birthday they all thought it was, she spoke up.
“Um Michael, I’m turning 29, not 30.”
“Yeah, ha ha ha. 29 again, right? What’s with you women and not wanting to get older?”
“No Michael,” Jim interjected, sparing her from having to explain, “Pam's really turning 29. She was born in 1979.”
The lines of Michael’s forehead crunched in confusion as he tried to calculate it in his head, his eyebrows then becoming taut as he glowered at Kevin who, along with the rest of their office colleagues, was joining the small crowd forming outside the conference room.
If Michael was angry or annoyed, he quickly recovered and turned his attention back to Pam with the giddy look he’d displayed earlier.
“29, 30 what’s the difference? Fact is Pam, you are getting old.”
Pam looked to Jim with mock vexation, knowing from experience that another of the qualities that made Michael like a 5-year-old was his lack of filter and as such he meant no insult with his words.
“And because you are getting old, we’ve decided to have a Euthanize Pam party! Are you ready to be euthanized?”
It was this comment though, that had no less than 5 different faces seeking out the camera with the same expression, the one most often on Jim’s face when Michael said something so wrong it was comical. Jim, however, sought out Pam’s eyes which were trained back at him in mutual pretend disbelief.
After Oscar tried to correct him, unsuccessfully since Michael’s attention was preoccupied with getting the party started, he threw open the door revealing what was meant by his very wrong statement.
On the floor was a makeshift hopscotch grid created with masking tape. Scotch tape attached a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game to the far wall. One corner accommodated a blow-up baby pool that was filled with toy fish that could be reeled up by the plastic rods that lay against it. In the other corner, a large metal bowl was set up to spin sugar into colorful cotton, shedding light on the blue tongue Pam had noticed when Michael first ran out from his office to greet them and the frenzied excitement with which he did. The table was strewn with party horn blowouts in every color and also held bowl upon bowlfuls of equally colorful M&Ms, Kevin’s other contribution aside from the miscalculated age. At the end of it was a stack of paper, each sheet with a list of items to be sought in a themed scavenger hunt. And there were balloons, lots and lots of balloons.
He may have thrown it a year too soon, but Pam had to admit to herself, it was actually a rather clever and very sweet 30th birthday celebration and a lot more fun than what usually constituted an office soiree. Everyone seemed to have a blast acting like children, playing the games and seeking out the hidden treasures in the bullpen, annex and breakroom. It was no real surprise, after all this was the crew that had joyfully participated in Jim’s Office Olympics.
Even the cake, a classic devil’s food with vanilla icing and sprinkles, brought back memories of her childhood birthdays and was so good she indulged in a second slice.
Her presents too were better than usual, and she wondered if some of them were now annoyed they’d been asked to contribute extra for the milestone birthday that she would wind up having again the following year.
Presented by Angela, the main office gift was a lush and healthy Dracaena plant in a beautiful ceramic planter, which was only somewhat less charming when delivered with the instruction, “It’s meant to be one of the heartiest houseplants there are so try not to kill it.”
Toby and Oscar gave her Dragonfly in Amber, the second of the Outlander series. She didn’t have the heart to tell them she was already in the middle of the fourth book so instead she thanked them graciously and made a mental note to drop by Barnes and Noble later that week to exchange it for The Fiery Cross. Michael too had a special gift for her outside of the group present. Once again, he was practically buoyant as he watched her unwrap her “Miss Tutu” perfume.
“It’s the smell alike for Coco Mademoiselle. It’s sure to drive Jim wild.”
Pam didn’t have to look his way to know the camera was catching yet another of her boyfriend’s signature raised eye smirks.
Though she was sure she would never wear it, she’d smelled his Night Swept after all, she enveloped him with her own outstretched arms, the rare hug a thank you for the gift and the surprisingly fun party.
They were still talking about the party over dinner.
“I mean aside from getting my age wrong...”
“and going all Kevorkian on you.”
Pam chuckled as she recalled the latest Michael jargon gaffe.
“Yeah, that too. But it was a good party. A lot better than the one you threw for Creed. Maybe they were right to keep you out of it.”
“I’m hurt Beesly. If I had known you wanted to spend your birthday like an 8-year-old I would have brought you to Chuck E Cheese’s tonight instead of here.”
“Ok I take it back. You have made this a very special birthday.”
Despite having just taken a sip of her drink, her mouth went dry as she saw him reach into his jacket pocket.
“I’m hoping this will make it even more special.”
When she caught sight of the robin's-egg blue hue and distinctive white ribbon she felt her throat catch and her body start to tremble.
Was he about to drop to one knee? Was this it?
It was a Tiffany box alright but she suddenly noticed its size and felt herself relax again, for a moment, until she remembered who she was dealing with. He was the type to throw her off with an oversized box and she began to quiver again.
“I hope you like it.”
Her heart sank just a little bit as he stayed seated in his chair but she didn’t let the mild disappointment alter her happy mood. She knew in her heart the question would come when it was time and it just wasn’t quite that time yet.
It may not have been a ring box but she’d never gotten a gift from Tiffany before either. With hands still quivering hands she got to work untying the satin bow, her excitement palpable as she lifted the cover to reveal the small suede pouch.
She pulled on the satin strings to loosen the bag and from it spilled the shiny strand into her hands. Positioned at the center of the delicate thin chain was a gleaming silver bean.
“I think the bean is more of the Jack and the Beanstalk variety than jelly but when I went to buy the little heart bracelet I had planned on and saw this instead I knew you had to have it. Whether it’s a symbol of magic or candy, it made me think of you.”
Pam was pretty sure the symbolism of the bean was not about the Easter confection or magic for that matter, but more about it’s being the origin of all things, so it was still absolutely perfect as a symbol for their love. But it was even more meaningful that he chose it for her because it made him think of the jelly beans on her desk. The colorful candies that she once thought was the main reason he began visiting her space so often and that brought them closer and closer with every one he popped in his mouth.
‘Jim, I love it. It’s perfect.”
His eyes shone with pride and matched delight as she clasped the bracelet around her wrist.
“Oh, oh, oh I know that blue box.”
Beth had returned to the table to check in on the birthday girl and her date to see how they were enjoying the meal, to share a little cheer and, Pam suspected, to get a peek of the present she just received.
“That’s my boy, Jim. You can’t go wrong with something from Tiffany, am I right Pam? So, let’s see.”
Pam presented her wrist to the server who was something more of a friend by now. Beth in return, smiled wider before she tugged down the collar of her shirt to flash her own bean back at Pam.
“Look we’re twins.”
“Oh wow. You have a bean too.”
“Yeah, it’s the only piece of jewelry my ex gave me that I still wear. It was a gift from when I found out I was pregnant with my…” she paused, her eyes searching Pam’s face before scanning down to her midsection, over to Jim and then back again to Pam
“…wait you’re not…?”
“Not unless there’s something Pam’s not telling me.”
Pam let out a little giggle before she assured Beth that no, she wasn’t expecting and together she and Jim filled her in on the significance of the bean to them.
It was moments later, when Beth left to tend to her other patrons that Pam’s face went semi-serious as she commented to Jim.
“Wow, can you believe she thought I might be pregnant.”
He didn’t answer at first, instead sat there with an odd look on his face as if lost in a daydream only to wake when Pam spoke again.
“Earth to Jim. Come in Jim.”
“Ah, yeah..., I mean no, but if you were, just imagine how excited she would be.” He paused again, the look returning.
“You know it wouldn’t be the worst thing, if you were. In fact, it would be pretty amazing.”
Glowing now, Pam’s cheeks went flush and rosy as if the mere thought of creating a new life with Jim caused her face to take on the lustrous radiance of pregnancy.
“Jimmm,” she countered bashfully. “I always imagined we’d be married first. And then children.”
“Well, me too. I’m just saying if it were to happen, I’d be over the moon.”
She caught his eyes with her own and dared not look away, wanting to absorb the glint that was there in his at the moment.
A mental picture clicked in her mind, one of her and him peering over a tiny bassinet, but the image was not a photo. Instead, it was more like an oil painting with texture, and highlights and hued flecks encapsulating all the emotions running through her as he spoke of a baby, their baby.
“Well let’s just try to be careful all the same.”
It was a little strange to hear herself say that. She’d been on top of her birth control when she was with Roy, because she was concerned, but more because he was insistent. He was the one who wanted to make sure there were no surprises as he, in his words, was still a ways off from wanting to be a dad to any rugrats too soon. Pam always knew she wasn’t ready either, given her history interacting with children, but there was a small part of her for a minuscule period of time in the middle of her extremely long engagement that entertained the notion of becoming pregnant if only because it would mean they would have to push the timeline and finally get married. But it was only a fleeting thought, one that vanished as soon as she thought about how immature he still was himself. Having a baby would mean she’d be left to take care of a new tiny infant all by herself while also still attending to a very large child.
In contrast while Jim had his playful nature, she knew he was responsible and dependable when it counted. And he was amazing with kids. That she knew from observing him at the office’s Take Your Daughter to Work days and more recently watching him with the niece and nephew that absolutely adored him.
To hear Jim say he’d be ecstatic to learn she was carrying his child, well it made her fall in love with him just a little bit more. If that was even possible.
“I’m not quite ready to be a mom yet,” Pam shared her mind once again thinking back to the things he had said that morning. “In fact, you know how this morning you asked if I’d done everything I wanted to do before 30?”
“Yeah, do you want to take a trip up to Niagara,” he joked.
She smiled but this time didn’t laugh. She didn’t know why but she was hesitant to tell him how she had been thinking about trying to do something more. It was silly, she knew he’d be supportive of anything she wanted to do. It was him after all who had been pushing her to look into the internship even after Roy had made her give up on the idea.
“No, but I’m thinking about what I can do beside the community college art classes. I’m not sure if it’s more school or looking for a job that has something more to do with art or what but I think I’m ready to not be just a receptionist anymore.”
“Pam, you have never been just a receptionist. Not to me and not by any stretch in the office. That place would fall apart without you. But that being said, let it burn if you want to go for something new. You know I will support anything you want to try. You should pursue your art. You are extraordinarily talented and capable and smart and you owe it to yourself to make the most of your gifts. Just let me know how I can help you figure out what it is you want to do and you know I will.”
Pam took a heaving breath of relief. She didn’t know why it had been of such concern to tell him. Maybe because she was scared how he’d react if she told him she might have to leave Dunder Mifflin or maybe now that they were together, he’d feel different about her pursuing something more for herself. But her fears were unfounded. Jim had reacted just as he had before, wanting only for her to be her best and be happy.
“Thank you, Jim. I’m not sure what it is yet but knowing you are behind me, well that is everything.”
“Pam, of course. I am for anything that makes you happy. Always. We’ve got a lifetime ahead of us and now is the time to start making it every bit of it what we want it to be.”
Pam fingered the small bean that now sat atop her wrist. Her birthday was nearly over but with all they had talked about over the night, she felt almost like she was reborn again thus adding another layer of symbolism to her perfect gift.
It may not have been a diamond, but to Pam it signified the beginning of forever.