She really didn’t want to go.
She likes Phyllis and Bob, she really is so happy for them, but she didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to buy a new dress, but had to since her only other suitable option was a periwinkle gown that had been shoved into the back of her closet and was an immediate no-go. She didn’t want to be surrounded by strangers and coworkers all night. And she really didn’t want to see Jim with Karen outside of work.
But she went because she didn’t want to be asked questions or have to come up with excuses. Their (her) invitation also promised an open bar, so, if nothing else, at least she could make sure she wouldn’t remember tonight.
Except she had realized, after she had already arrived and had been spotted by both Michael and Bob so she couldn’t escape, that getting drunk in front of her coworkers was never a good idea. They always teased her when she got anything more than slightly tipsy and started doing weird things like giggling too loud or talking too fast or kissing Jim when she was engaged. So, even though she had to watch Michael dramatically drag a wheelchair down the aisle, was forced to show Dwight her license just to get into a reception that was identical to the one she had canceled just a few months ago, and then spent the last hour watching Jim and Karen dance together, she was still only sipping through her first drink.
She continues to glance over at Jim and Karen, her arms around his neck, him getting her drinks, her whispering in his ear, them laughing together. She wonders if she had said yes to him back in May, if she had called it all off with Roy right then instead of two weeks later, if she had been more brave and confident, if she would be the one running her fingers across his back like Karen is right now. She frowns down at her untouched fish, knowing that she could have been. But she wanted what felt comfortable, wanted what she had pretty much only known her whole life. Choosing Jim would have changed everything, and she wasn’t ready for that. And now that she is, it’s too late. He’s moved on, and now she’s in the same position that she now knows he was in for years, wanting him but too scared to do anything about it.
He is probably glad that she rejected him, anyway. Glad that she pushed him away to Connecticut. Glad that she didn’t have the guts to reach out to him even after she broke up with Roy. Because he found Karen. He found someone more outgoing, more confident. Someone decisive and sure and bold. Someone better.
She wants to hate Karen. She wants Karen to be the obnoxious, mean, selfish brat that she should be according to all of the rom coms she has been binging recently. But she’s not. She’s funny and smart and she goes after what she wants and she’s perfect for Jim. Pam doesn’t blame Jim for realizing what he deserves and forgetting about her.
Roy’s voice pulls her out of her spiraling thoughts, bringing her back to reality. She had seen him across the room earlier and watched him sit down one seat over. She wasn’t entirely sure why he was here since he didn’t work up in the office with Phyllis and doesn’t work for Bob, but he’s here and now sitting beside her since Meredith had gotten up at some point. “Hey.”
“I know I normally don’t notice these kinds of things but uh… This wedding’s really nice! I mean, the flowers and stuff? Phyllis has got some great taste.”
She hopes he’s joking, though she has a feeling he isn’t. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“I know you’re probably not going to remember this, right? But um… Those color roses? I got you those color roses for our prom.”
He’s not joking. “Roy, I picked those flowers. Phyllis just stole all of my ideas for our wedding.”
Realization seems to hit then, and he at least has the decency to look a little embarrassed. “I, uh, guess I wasn’t really too involved in the planning.”
“Sorry about that.”
She chuckles, “It’s okay.”
“You think this sucks for you? I was the one who actually wanted to get married.”
She smiles, because now he is joking. He wanted to get married, she knows that, but they both know he didn’t want it as much as she had. “Yeah, right.” And she’s a little surprised that they are already to the point of joking about it, but then again, Roy always made jokes about what she wanted.
She nods a little, “Yeah, it’s just been…” she glances over at Jim and Karen to see they have moved back to the dance floor, “a long night.”
She looks at him and he seems to want to say something, but isn’t sure if he should. She waits, because she doesn’t have anything to say, and he had just opened his mouth to finally speak when someone clears their throat behind her. She turns to see Angela with a man standing behind her.
Pam glances back at Roy before focusing on Angela, “Hi.”
Angela gestures towards the man behind her, “This is Dennis.”
Her eyebrows furrow a bit, trying to figure out what’s going on, “Hi, Dennis.”
“Dennis loves Jesus and cats, I thought you two would like to talk. Maybe you can gain some good influence from him.” She had put some emphasis on good influence while glancing over at Roy, but Pam ignored it.
“Sounds like you two would get along well, then.”
Angela’s eyes narrow just a touch, “Yes, well, I guess we have. But I really think you should talk to him.”
“I’m really sorry, Dennis, but I’m already talking to my friend here. Maybe later tonight?”
“That’s alright, I was enjoying my time with Angela anyway.”
Angela just rolls her eyes and walks off, Dennis waving a small goodbye before following her back to their table.
“What was that?”
She turns back to Roy, “I think that was Angela trying to set me up with a Christian cat lover.”
“I thought you liked dogs?”
He chuckles, “Well, uh, I—“
“Good evening, everyone!”
She glances up at Bob Vance thanking everyone for being here and announcing the first person to give a toast, and gives Roy an apologetic look. “Sorry.”
He waves his hand, “No, it’s fine. I’ll talk to you later.”
He moves back to his seat just as Meredith comes back to the table, two drinks in hand.
After Michael spends five minutes on just opening lines and then gets kicked out by Bob, she decides it’s the perfect time for her second glass of wine.
She heads towards the bar and recognizes the back of his head immediately. It’s basically all she’s looked at since he has come back. His floppy, unruly hair is slightly more styled tonight for the wedding, but still curls a little around his collar. She starts to wonder if Karen helped him style it before shaking her head, forcing the thought out.
She walks to the bar, only considering turning back for half a second before pushing forward. She’s fancy new Beesly, and it’s just Jim. She talks to him all the time. Well, she used to talk to him all the time, now barely at all. But maybe she can change that tonight.
He speaks first, though, as she reaches the bar. “Hey.”
“When are we going to see some of those famous Beesly dance moves?”
She laughs a little, “I’m pacing myself.”
“C’mon. Get out there, give the people what they want.”
“No, I’m such a dorky dancer.”
He chuckles, “I know. It’s very cute.”
She looks at him as he looks away, remembering the dance Michael had put on years ago, where she danced with Jim almost the whole night because Roy wanted to go play poker with Kenny instead. She remembers jumping up and down with him to the fast, upbeat songs and talking by the snack table during the slow ones. She remembers being shy at first, but opening up more and more the longer Jim just looked at her. How she knew her other coworkers would glance her way and chuckle, but Jim would just grin and match whatever she was doing. She remembers how at the end of the night, lying in bed, she knew that the dance in the old, sweaty, smelly warehouse was the best dance she had ever been to. She just couldn’t admit to herself why until tonight.
“I’ll see you out there?”
She blinks a couple of times, his question pulling her out of her daydream, and then nods, “Yeah, for sure.”
He smiles and then turns to walk away, and she almost wants to call him back, keep talking to him, but then she sees the two different drinks in his hand and remembers that he has someone else to go dance with.
She turns to the bartender, “I’ll take a mojito.”
She does end up dancing with Oscar for a little bit. Jim isn’t on the dance floor, she can’t find him through all the people, but she does see Karen dancing with Creed. She can tell that Karen has had a few drinks, but she still looks as cool and collected as when she first arrived. Just a little looser, a little more carefree. Pam finds herself getting self conscious, so she excuses herself back to her now mostly empty table. She’s grateful for it, though, especially as the song fades into a slower song and she sees Jim leaving the camera crew and makes his way back to Karen.
She watches them, his arms sliding around her back and her hands resting on his shoulders. She can see his mouth moving but she doesn’t know what they’re talking about, just watches them smile and occasionally laugh and it’s almost too much but she can’t look away.
But then he looks up and catches her eye and his face drops and that’s too much, so she looks down. She can still feel his eyes on her, though, so she gets up and walks out. She’s not sure where to go, everywhere looks too crowded. The stairs are blocked off so she can’t escape up there, but then she turns around and the church doors are propped open, only a couple people lingering just outside of them.
She walks outside and rounds the corner so she can be alone, only to just barely avoid stepping on Michael, who is sweating a little despite the cold wind and laying in the grass underneath a window.
He sits up when he sees her, “Pam!”
“What are you doing?”
“Well, I was trying to peek through the window but it’s too tall. But now that you’re here, can I go on your shoulders? Or maybe stand on your back?”
“Will you stand on my back and tell me what’s happening?”
He groans, “I swear, no one appreciates my work around here.” He pauses and looks back over at her, “What are you doing out here anyway?”
“Just needed some air.”
“Did Phyllis pass gas around you too?”
“No, no… she didn’t.”
“It’s okay, I needed air too after I visited her before the wedding. It was pungent.”
“Phyllis didn’t do anything, I promise.”
“Oh. Well, consider yourself lucky. So, what is it? Did Dwight kick you out?”
She chuckles, “No, I came out myself.”
“Is it because Phyllis is getting married before you, even though you were engaged for, like, decades?”
His voice had grown quieter, laced with care and concern, which makes the tears she had been holding back start stinging her eyes. She clears her throat, “No, I’m happy for her, really.”
“I guess,” she sighs, “that it’s still just weird.”
“Her stealing your wedding ideas?”
She’s surprised Michael had noticed that, considering she tried to keep as many details from him as possible. “No, I don’t care about that.”
“So, you mean seeing Roy?”
She considers that, because maybe that should be what’s still weird. But her and Roy had been so off for so long, that breaking up didn’t feel like too big of a difference.
He continues, “Why did you break it off, anyway? I was so excited for the wedding, I thought you and Roy were so good together.”
“We… weren’t, though.”
“Jim didn’t think so, either. I thought he was crazy, but I guess not.”
“You didn’t know that? I thought he would have told you when he told you he loves you.”
Her jaw drops, “How do you know about that?”
He looks smug, “Jim and I share all kinds of secrets. He told me all about it during that convention a couple of months ago. How you turned him down and he was so heartbroken he just had to run away. Like Romeo and Juliet.”
“That’s not how… never mind.” She crosses her arms over her chest, the winter air finally getting to her. “Has he.. talked to you since he’s come back?”
Michael sighs, “No, I’ve tried. He’s been so weird lately.”
She nods a little, shifting her weight from foot to foot, “That’s probably my fault too.”
“You know, because of the whole he loved me thing.”
He’s quiet for a minute, thinking about this. Finally, he says, “You remember Carol?”
She hadn’t expected that. “Yeah.”
“I told her I loved her after, like, four dates. She never said it back, and yet I still proposed. It took me weeks to get over her.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying, I don’t think Jim is really over you.”
Her voice is small, “He’s dating Karen.”
“You were engaged to Roy.”
“But I wasn’t in love with Jim.”
He raises his eyebrows, “Okay.”
“He was my best friend. But I wasn’t… it wasn’t until he…”
“I’m just saying, I don’t think it was all one-sided.”
He’s right, she knows that. It wasn't at all one-sided. She knew she had always liked Jim, more than what is appropriate for someone who was engaged, but she had buried those feelings so far down, she hoped no one else had noticed them. “No, it’s not.”
She opens her mouth to correct herself but instead just shrugs.
Michael, still sitting on the ground, looks forward, like he’s trying to be pensive or inspirational. “You know, Jim came to me that night of the booze cruise. He seeked me out and asked for my advice, and I told him the same thing I’m going to tell you right now. Never, ever, ever give up.”
He looks up at her and she sees that he really is serious. “Okay.”
He grins, having finally won something today, “Will you help me sneak back in now?”
She smiles, “I’ll try to put in a good word for you, okay?”
She’s back inside, standing near the back wall, thinking about what Michael had said, when Roy comes up to her.
“Hey, they’re playing our song.”
“Yeah, that’s weird. I thought they only played the Police.”
“I know. Uh… I gave them twenty bucks. You want to dance?”
She glances back at the dance floor, at Jim whispering something into Karen’s ear, and nods. She lets Roy take her hand and lead her to a balcony, lets him hold her close and lets herself lean into him.
This is what she thought she wanted when she turned Jim down back in May. Comfort. Familiarity. She was content with this, could have been content with this if Jim had never confessed.
“You wanna get out of here?”
She looks up at him and almost says yes. Maybe Michael is wrong, when is he ever right, anyway? Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be. Jim found Karen, and maybe she is meant to be with Roy after all.
She almost says yes, but she doesn’t. She really doesn’t want Michael to be wrong this time.
She offers to walk him out when he says he’s going to leave. He helps her with her coat, which she appreciates, and she walks beside him out of the church. They can still hear the music playing from inside and cars driving down the road in front of them, but they’re silent as they walk to his truck.
Roy breaks the silence after unlocking his door, “Thanks for the dance.”
“Oh, yeah, no problem. It was fun.”
“Yeah. So, I’ll see you at work, I guess?”
They stand there for a moment before he hugs her, and she hugs him back, though she can feel the awkward tension between them. She pulls away first and he smiles a little at her before turning and gets into his truck. She turns around as he backs out of his space to see Jim watching her from the church doors.
His cheeks are turning red and she’s not sure if it’s because of the wind or because she caught him. “Hey.”
“What? Oh. I mean, yeah. I was just…” He runs his fingers through his hair, “I just thought you were leaving… with Roy.”
She frowns a little, her forehead creasing, “What?”
“It’s stupid, never mind. I shouldn’t have come out here.”
“Were you going to try to stop me?”
“I don’t know. I saw you two walking out together and…”
She waits a moment, but he doesn’t continue. “And?”
“I thought you were over him.”
She scoffs, “What if I’m not? Why should you care?”
“Didn’t you break up with him?”
“Well, maybe I’m rethinking things.”
He just looks at her for a moment before shaking his head a little, “No, you’re not.”
He walks down the steps, closer to her. “You’re not rethinking things.”
“You have barely talked to me for months but now you suddenly know what I’m thinking?”
“Why didn’t you leave with him, then?”
“How do you know he wanted me to?”
“C’mon, Pam. He wasn’t even invited to the wedding, Bob asked me why he was here. And then I saw him with you a few times tonight and it was obvious. He’s trying to win you back.”
“Maybe I’m supposed to go back. Maybe that’s the life I’m supposed to live. You’ve got Karen now and—“
“You can’t be serious.”
“What? You’re allowed to move on and I’m not?”
“It’s not moving on if you walk backwards.”
“It’s not walking backwards if we’ve both changed.”
“You really believe he changed?”
She throws her hands up, “I don’t know! Maybe!”
“You’re gonna go back to him with a ‘maybe’?”
“Why are you suddenly so interested in my life again? Who cares who I date? I didn’t interrogate you when you brought back Karen.”
He nods, “You’re right. You didn’t.”
“Exactly. So, why can’t—“
“But you also made it plainly obvious, twice, that you weren’t interested.”
“I was engaged! I wasn’t allowed to be interested!”
“So why didn’t you call after you called it off?”
“What was I supposed to say? You ran off to Stamford. It really didn’t seem like you wanted anything to do with me.”
“It wasn’t some crush, Pam. I didn’t move away because I was throwing a tantrum or whatever, I literally could not be here to watch you marry him.”
They’re silent for a minute, not entirely awkward silence, but there’s tension sitting between them.
Pam’s voice is soft when she finally says, “I’m going inside.”
She gets around him this time but when her foot hits the first step, he speaks up, “Why did the camera crew ask what I would do if you were interested in me?”
She turns back to look at him, “What?”
He’s not angry or upset, but his voice is firm, like he can’t leave tonight without knowing her answer. “Hypothetically. They asked me if, hypothetically, you were into me, what would I do? Why did they ask me that?”
“Why don’t you ask them?”
“Hypothetically, or actually?”
She takes two steps forward, closing the gap between them, and brings his lips down to hers. The kiss is soft, but she can feel his hands slipping around her back, just like they had in their dark office. She pulls away, lets him peck her lips once more before stepping back towards the church. “Maybe they asked you because they know it’s not hypothetical at all.”
She had left him in front of the church, grabbed her purse, and left through the back door. He was just walking back inside when she pulled out of the parking lot. She drove home, feeling deja vu from that night back in May. Her lips tingling, her stomach fluttering, wanting to relive the moment his lips touched hers, but knowing she can’t.
She pulls into her apartment complex, locks her car, and slowly makes her way up to her door. Once she’s inside, she kicks off her heels, throws her coat, shaw, and purse on the table, and collapses onto the couch. She can still feel Jim’s arms around her back, his hair through her fingers. She can smell his cologne and taste the beer and wedding cake lingering on his breath. She eventually falls asleep, right there on the couch, too tired to move.
She wakes up to a knocking on her door, either minutes or hours later, she’s not sure. She’s slow to get up, her eyes are dry from sleeping in her contacts, a kink is forming in her neck and her back is already getting stiff from the uncomfortable cushions of her secondhand couch. There’s another knock, though, this time a bit louder, so she picks up her pace, if only to be able to go back to bed faster.
She peeks through her peephole. She’s not sure what time it is, but she knows it’s late enough for her to not just open the door to anybody. The person is looking down, so she can’t see their face, but she recognizes the mess of brown hair.
He looks up after she opens the door. He looks tired, his hair is certainly messier than it had been the last time she saw him, his tie is loose, his jacket is gone. “Hey.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Were you serious?”
“Serious about what?”
“What you said, at the church. How it’s not a hypothetical. Were you serious?”
“You came all the way over here to ask me if I was serious about that?”
“Jim, I kissed you.”
“I need a yes or no.”
“Yes, I was serious.”
This time it’s him who closes the gap, his fingers threading through her hair, her hands grabbing fistfuls of his shirt. He kisses her deeply, her knees weakening, before he pulls back, but keeps her close.
She takes a moment to catch her breath. She wants to kiss him again, but then it hits her. “Where’s Karen?”
“Um. She’s heading back to Connecticut tonight.”
“She saw us, in front of the church. And at first she wanted to just blame you, told me that we should transfer, again, go to New York or something. But I told her I couldn’t. At least not until I talked to you. She didn’t like that.”
“It wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Karen is great. I did like her, really. But… this is going to sound horrible. I knew, from the start, it wouldn’t last.”
He shrugs, “She wasn’t you.”
Two years later, she sits at Pratt, soaking wet, a new ring on her finger. She should be paying attention to her class, but she’s already picturing white dresses and maybe yellow flowers, and wondering what song they’ll choose for their first dance. She’s noting everything she wants to ask Jim about later when he comes back up for the weekend, date, guest list, venue. At the bottom, she also makes a note to convince Jim to let Michael have some part in the wedding. A small part.