Perhaps the strangest part of it all was the fact that it happened on a boring Tuesday. It hadn’t been one of those days where everything had agitated Pam to no avail. Rather than this, things were just quite…meh. As much as she wasn’t a big fan of the expression, it was about as fitting as descriptions could get for days like this. Instead it was one of those days where nothing happened at all, and so far, the most interesting thing that had happened had been Andy’s cover of Buddy Holly that he kept humming rather annoyingly. That being said, it was quite accurate.
Maybe that had been the thing that had driven her to want some air. Maybe it was to do with the fact that the air conditioner in the office was currently broken, and it was fairly warm in there, despite the cold outside (which would usually be a comfort, but instead just gave everybody whiplash). Maybe a change in scenery was just what she needed.
It most definitely did not have anything to do with the fact that Jim wasn’t sat in his usual seat, facing away from her. Really, it didn’t.
Choosing to go on her lunch break early, she slipped out of her chair and headed for the breakroom. However, once she'd got inside, her eyes landed on Jim, who was wedged up against the vending machine, clearly trying to hide the fact that he was there. He was on the phone to someone, speaking in a hushed tone. "...okay. Yeah. I will. Thanks. Bye." A quiet beep signified the end of the call, followed by a lengthy sigh. A second later, he glanced up and caught her eye and let out a gasp, before covering his heart. "Jesus, Pam, you scared the crap outta me!"
"Oh...sorry." She mumbled, suddenly extremely embarrassed. Although she'd only caught the tail-end of the chat, she'd still technically been listening in on what many would probably consider to be a private conversation. Though every instinct in her body instructed her to not do what she was about to do, she chose to ignore these instincts in favour of her rather nosey genes. "Who was that that you were talking to?"
"What?" He was caught off-guard by her directness. "Oh, um, yeah...nobody important."
Which meant that it definitely was.
"Come on, tell me."
“It’s nobody, really.”
Choosing to take yet another risk, she dared a smile. “You can’t fool me.” Pam refrained from adding on ‘even now’ at the end. He looked up at her, a little surprised at her honesty. Clearly thrown off-guard, he began to stutter. “L-Look, Pam, i-it's really nobody-"
“Jim. If you don’t tell me, I’ll call them back and ask them myself.” Obviously, this was an empty threat, but her tone was stern enough that it actually sounded a little genuine. He sighed, running a large hand through his mop-like hair, suddenly looking 10 years older. “If you're gonna insist, then I guess I’ll have to relent. I was on the phone to my doctor. He says I have high-blood pressure.”
“High blood pressure.” She echoed, the words carrying no value in her brain. “Wait…so…high blood pressure…as in…high blood pressure?” No matter how many times she uttered it, it still didn’t feel real. Those 3 words tasted sour in her mouth despite this.
“Um. Think so.” He laughed shortly, nervousness evident in his voice, making her feel rather stupid. Fumbling with his hands, she came to the realisation that he was avoiding making eye-contact with her. “Like I said, though…it’s not really a big deal.”
“Not a big deal?! That's ridiculous!" Her tone came off far harsher than she had initially intended, and Jim looked at her with a small frown. Pam sucked in a large breath, mentally cursing herself. She was unsure of what was causing her to act like this. So unorthodox, so…un…Pam. “Sorry, that was…sorry. But, really. It is a big deal. And…I don’t mean to scare you, but…this can be really serious.”
He hardly seemed phased, strangely enough, as if this really wasn’t sudden news to him. “I know. I’ve been researching it a lot, I know what…what can happen…” he murmured, staring at the floor, clearly miles away. “I already suspected something was up. I mean, my dad has high blood pressure.”
“So it’s hereditary?” That at least put her at ease a little, as opposed to him being overly stressed. Pam couldn’t really think of any other causes: he was very much not overweight, he ate lots of fruit and vegetables, and played basketball quite regularly. He wasn’t old, he probably had quite a regular sleep schedule too. Surely there couldn't be any other explanation.
“Potentially. They said it’s the most likely cause, but they need to do more tests.”
"Oh. Right." This didn't settle her nerves in the slightest.
“It’s not cancer, Pam. I’m fine.”
‘Famous last words.’ She thought with a visible grimace which he chose to not acknowledge.
"Hey.” He murmured softly, taking her by the arm gracefully. She tensed beneath his gentle touch, though she attempted to hide it- but no such luck. He in turn registered this, but once again chose not to do anything about it. “I really will be alright.”
Usually, she'd give a limb for him to hold onto her arm with such a desperate-filled gaze, but now she didn't know what to think. He had hidden this from her, even for a few seconds. And sure, they were nothing like they used to be, but even still. Would he end up hiding this extremely important information from Karen too? Probably, she concluded.
Shaking his hand off her arm, she turned around and went back inside the office.
The last three remaining in the office that evening were Toby, Jim and Karen. Jim stared at his computer until his vision went blurry, continuously flicking his pen off and on until he sighed at last. “God damn, I’m so bored.”
“Not long to go now, surely?” Toby queried, craning his head to look at Jim from the copier.
“Doesn’t make it any less boring.”
He hummed in agreement. Karen switched off her computer with a flourish, beaming from ear to ear. “Ah, finally done. Had a feeling I’d have to stay late today. Nevermind.” It was her turn to look over at Jim, who caught her eye and smiled a little. “Lucky.” He chuckled, and she smiled in turn. “If you ever manage to finish over there Halpert, why don’t you come over to mine?”
“I might take you up on that offer.” He murmurs, then sighs. “You're done, right? You can head out if you want to.”
“Try and stop me.” She said shortly with a laugh. Karen got to her feet and gathered her things, then headed over to where Jim was stationed and leaned down to kiss the side of his face. “Good luck.”
“Gonna need it.” He mumbled, but he was smiling. “Thank you, though.”
Toby pretended he had no idea what love and romance was temporarily and stared at literally anything but them, feeling much like a third wheel. He drummed his fingers relentlessly on the copier, willing it to copy faster, though no such luck followed his request. Karen said a polite goodnight to Toby, then exited out the door.
Finally, a little bit later on, Jim let out a loud exhale and switched off his computer. “God, that took ages.”
Toby, who was slipping his coat on, not too far away from him, chuckled. “Yeah, same here. Still, at least it’s the weekend in a day or two.”
“You said it. I can’t do much more of this week without strangling someone who works here.”
“I know that feeling, I’ve been feelin’ it for nearly 8 years.” Toby said, though he quickly regretted it and wished Jim hadn’t brought up strangling. Still, Jim just laughed as he got up, clearly not reading into it too much. “I can’t say I’m leaving anytime soon, so I’ve got all that to look forward to.”
“Invest in earplugs would be my tip,” Toby advised, only half-joking, making Jim laugh again. “Yeah, not a bad idea. And if they don’t work the normal way, I can always just throw them at Michael when he won’t stop talking.”
They shared another brief laugh, and it quickly occurred to the two men how little they actually conversed with only each other anymore. Of course, they used to talk all the time when they were seated by each other, until Michael decided he had an irrational hatred of Toby and split the two of them up. Those had been the good days, long before any of this drama. Sure, he had an innocent crush on Pam, but he wasn’t in love with her. Remembering such simple days brought out a smile on his face, one that he hadn’t felt in a long time.
As soon as he stood up, Jim felt the beginning of it. He suddenly felt as if he couldn't breathe, and, shit, why did his arm feel like that? And why is there a sharp, stabbing pain currently plaguing his chest? And, jesus, whythefuckcan’thefuckingbreathe-
He clutched at his heart, trying his hardest to breathe, despite the tightness in his lungs. What the hell was happening?
“Jim? Jim? Jim!” Was the last thing he heard before losing consciousness.
The only noise that could be audibly heard is the sound of her keys hitting the kitchen counter, ringing loudly in an unsatisfying manner throughout the box-sized room. Drawing a frail breath, she stared ahead at the white walls, feeling as if she was going insane, the colour of the walls only juxtaposing the fact that she felt like she was living in an insane asylum with every day that passed. That would make sense; everyone at her workplace was mad enough to reside in one anyway.
What was on this evening's agenda, she pondered miserably as she settled down on her second-hand couch rather ungracefully. Funnily enough, deserting a wedding at the last second left you in a fair amount of debt. At least there had originally been some leftover lunches to spare for both her and Roy, but those had run thin quite swiftly.
Her mind now drifted, as it often did, to the subject of Roy. How was he doing these days? Well, she saw him every couple of days, and although Pam clearly had no way of knowing what he was really thinking. He certainly looked better, that was for sure. She was actually quite fond of his new look; maybe she’d done him some good after all.
What was she saying? Of course she hadn’t. He’d received a DUI not shortly after she’d dared to split free from him. Was that really her fault? Could all the blame be rested on her weary shoulders even though she wasn’t happy when with him? Pam’s brain throbbed just thinking about it.
She’d done enough crying over that. What was done was now done.
That phrase lingered relentlessly. ‘What’s done is done’. Pam had recollections of her mom uttering this same phrase to her on multiple occasions; after making a silly mistake on an exam, after making a somewhat snide comment to a friend that she instantly regretted upon passing her lips. Simple things that probably wouldn't affect her life too drastically, but she still wished she could change. And yet, certain things appeared to be set in stone.
There were some exceptions to this rule.
Her kiss with Jim had changed her life quite drastically. Was this just ‘one of those things’? Was this done, now set in stone forever? Was there any simple way she could change the current situation?
No. Frivolous thoughts like this helped to solve nothing. Pam could spend years upon years thinking about this, and yet was anything resolved from it? Not a thing.
She got to her feet and headed back into the kitchen. Starving, she decided this was how her night would plan out; first she'd have a microwave dinner as she watched Friends reruns, followed by a bath, and then bed. It wasn't exactly the most adventurous night of her life, but then again, she’d never been that crazy in the first place. The most interesting nights that she could recall revolved around going out with her sister, once in a blue moon. And, once again, even those weren’t exciting, for if they did happen to stumble upon a club, Pam spent most of the evening sat in the corner, barely noticed, while her sister was the apple of every man’s eye. It usually went like that; and not just to do with her sister.
She spent a lot of time going unnoticed by everybody, men and women alike. Most of the time it didn’t bother her- she usually liked it this way. But sometimes, she just wished someone would choose to come and talk to her, even if it was only briefly. Even a slither of recognition from any old stranger would do.
That’s why she’d been so grateful when, on his first day, Jim had spent so much time hovering by her desk, getting to know her. They’d even gone out for lunch. She just wished it hadn’t been because he was falling in love with her, and just because he, much like her, merely wanted a friend.
Or did she really wish that?
Deciding to push these harmful thoughts away for good, she finally cooked (although this was a limited meaning of the word, seeing as she just pushed it into the microwave and pressed a button a few times) her meal and sat down in front of the TV with it as the steam rose from the top. Generally the TV just served as background noise these days, but tonight she decided to try and get at least a little bit invested in the programme which had once been a great comfort to her.
Despite this, she couldn’t properly get immersed in the world of coffee and friendship and strangely massive apartments and the admittedly dreamy Chandler (although he only reminded her of Jim, as many things somehow did these days) and Pam found herself switching the TV off after just 5 minutes. Eating in silence would have to do for tonight.
After this, she spent a good amount of time in the bath, most of her body submerged deep in the water. It was relaxing, and the hot water cleared any lingering tension that may have remained in her muscles. Unfortunately it couldn’t also fully cleanse her mind of thoughts of a 6’3 sarcastic brunette who used to be her best friend, but not much could wipe that from her mind.
Strangely, right as she’d finished washing her hair, the phone began to ring loudly from inside the other room. It scared her slightly- and was it just her, or was the phone ringing louder than usual?
‘It’s telemarketers,’ Pam told herself as she heaved out of the bath and wrapped a towel around her sopping body. ‘It’s nothing serious. Just some telemarketers.’ It felt like she was willing a bit too hard for this to be true.
Her mind having gone blank, as soon as she’d put the phone to her ear, she automatically went “Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam”, which caused her to want to throw herself down the flight of stairs leading up to her apartment. “Sorry,” she swiftly corrected herself, “um, this is Pam.”
“Hi Pam, it’s Toby.”
Now that was odd.
Instantly, blaring red and black signs of danger began to ring throughout her mind, and she gripped the phone a little tighter. What the hell had happened? She knew that Toby, Karen and Jim had stayed late to finish something. Had something happened between the three of them? There couldn’t be many other reasons why Toby Flenderson would be randomly calling her at 6:30 on a Wednesday night.
There was a short silence, and Pam could practically hear the thoughts going round and round in his brain as he attempted to form his next sentence. He swallowed, rather loudly, and Pam felt herself getting more and more agitated with every second that passed.
The warning signs of danger blared louder.
It quickly became obvious she’d have to make the next move, or neither of them would be saying anything for quite some time. They could probably stay on the line for hours, just saying nothing. Those were the kind of people that they were; though she was far too anxious to do such a thing right this minute. “Look, Toby, I don’t mean to be rude, but why are you calling me?”
Clearly glad that she’d taken the initiative, he let out a quiet but audible sigh of relief before remembering that he still had something to say, though Pam wished he didn’t. “Um…it’s Jim.”
The floor beneath her could swallow her up right this second and she’d still be too distracted to give a shit. Pam stood as still as a statue as the water from the tips of her hair dripped onto the carpet, a minuscule pool of bathwater collecting at her feet. Her blood ran cold as endless possibilities of what could have happened to the man she very well might love collected and ran through her brain faster than the speed of light while the warning signs roared at the state of her, bleating louder and louder until she could hear nothing else.
“Jim?” She echoed, her voice soft and frightened. Her heart skipped numerous beats, terrible, horrifying beats, much like when a person knocked a full mug of coffee off the side of a table or twisted their ankle going down the stairs. She took a deep, comforting breath, deciding to cut the crap, then asked the dreadful question that she never hoped she’d have to ask; “Toby, what’s happened to him?”
“They’re loading him into the ambulance now.”
“Ambulance?” She echoed once again, her voice so loud that anyone else within 2 meters of Toby down the other end could probably hear her panicked tone.
“Yes. He’s had a heart attack.”
The line went dead.