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Author's Chapter Notes:
Pam works at the coffee shop (still the first day).

Pam doesn’t actually get much work done that first time: the cinnamon brown sugar steamer is really good, but it’s decaffeinated (or, more accurately, non-caffeinated) and her body has adapted to a constant stream of tea at all times in the weeks since she broke up with Roy and stopped having him nag her anytime she made tea (“the kettle’s making a fucking racket again, Pammy!”). So she’s dragging a little bit, and it’s just enough that the fascinating job of correcting the colors of this website ever so slightly to the pink end of the spectrum (“it’s, like, the best of the best colors, I don’t know why you put that ugly blue on my site, it’s like you want me to fail. Gwyneth says you can’t have blue, it clashes with the feng shui of the Internet”) is not able to hold off “staring at the barista” for her attention.

The only way, in fact, that she gets any work done at all is that she blushes and looks down at her work every time that he looks at her, and that’s often enough that she manages to get the (actually extremely easy) job done and sent off to her demanding client by the end of the cup of hot milk.

The wifi, it turns out, is not only free but doesn’t even have a password—and it’s not hard to figure out that SeinfeldShouldNeverHaveBeenCancelled is this shop’s network. So she logs in, trusting in the ridiculously expensive antivirus program that her dad insisted on shelling out for when he discovered her job involved sending things to and fro on the Internet will keep her safe from any strange intrusions resulting from having an unsecured wireless signal.

She’s pretty sure that the way that the barista is glancing at her is an indication that he’s at least a little interested in her, but while she may be doing the same thing to him she has promised herself (against Izzy and Penny’s strenuous objections, but still) that she is not on the market until she can at least move out of her parents’ house and into some kind of living situation where she wouldn’t be forced constantly to think of her first and only relationship if things ever got serious.

Because yes, she had sex for the first time in the same bedroom that she’s sleeping in now, and yes, it was with Roy, who she thought for a ridiculously large fraction of her life approaching half was the only man she would ever be with, and no, she would not like to have any of those memories assailing her with any new man she should happen to be interested in having over.

Not that there have been any new men, recently. Except maybe this barista, but the whole point of this little mental breakdown she’s having while waiting for the damn site to confirm that the changes have permanently been made is that he is not an option—nobody is an option—until she is living somewhere else.

It would be convenient if the rest of her that isn’t her higher-order thinking skills would get with that program. She is not going to fall into bed with the first man to smile at her after Roy (even if it weren’t her uncomfortable single bed at home—though she has to admit, she’d been annoyed that her parents hadn’t gotten her a bigger bed once she and Roy started officially spending time there over holidays as a couple, and now she’s grateful that she doesn’t have a giant Roy-inspired bed to flop around in and let her traitorous body start to miss him).

All right, this barista, this Jim Halpert, isn’t the first guy to smile at her since Roy. But he’s the first one she’s actually considered smiling back at, and that’s bad enough.

He’s still looking at her, isn’t he?

He is.

Though to be fair, this must be a very soft open for the coffeeshop because she’s still the only customer in here who hasn’t been taking a to-go cup, and there have only been a few of those. It helps, because it means she’s not feeling guilty at all for occupying a whole-ass table for a few hours on the back of a single purchase of a single non-caffeinated drink, but it does mean that she can’t really blame him for looking over now and again.

And again.

She finishes the job and decides against starting up anything more strenuous—it took her far too long to do a fairly simply task, and while she does charge by the hour so technically she’s making money by slowing down, she’s only really just starting out and you don’t want a reputation for dragging your feet.

So instead she finds herself browsing Zillow, because what’s the point of promising yourself you’ll date and do other, date-adjacent activities once you have your own place if you don’t look for your own place?

Even if you can’t afford it.

Scratch that, especially if you can’t afford it.

So she’s scrolling through apartment listings—all out of her price range—and to avoid being too depressed about the fact that she can’t afford four walls and a bathroom to call her own (or even to call technically-her-own-but-on-paid-loan-from-someone-else-she-isn’t-related-to), she might as well look at the full houses for rent and sale as well.

She doesn’t want a full house, but they’re pretty, and some of them have the kind of wraparound terrace she wishes she could afford. Few of them—they don’t make them that way here, so someone has to have commissioned it special—but some.

OK, she does want a house, but not now, so it’s safer, easier, nicer to herself to look at them.

And then she stumbles across it.

It’s not, technically, a house. It’s an acreage? Definitely not a mansion, but something with a lot that big is the sort of place that ought to be a mansion.

But no, it’s not a mansion, or even a particularly fancy place even though it’s huge.

It’s a beet farm.

Chapter End Notes:
OK, the first few chapters will be slow, then we'll go into a more typical coffeeshop-AU where it's got some time skips between visits. Thank you for the welcome back, and thanks for reading!

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