The ride home was silent. Erin wants to breach the subject. Hell, Pete wants her to breach the subject. But where to even start? It’s far too early to discuss it. They’ve only been together for like, what, a week? And the face she made… it was shock. Not hurt, thank God, but it was still a slap in the face. What’s she thinking now? That this was a mistake? Or is he just blowing this out of proportion?
He had a drinking problem.
She knows that now. Now all he needs to find out is whether or not that’s a dealbreaker, because it certainly could be. And on top of “It’s college, that’s what you do”? Smooth. What a way to absolve himself of responsibility.
They walk into his apartment, him setting his keys down on the ottoman, the clinking of his key already familiar to her. They sit down on the couch and, wanting the awkward silence to stop, he simply wraps his arm around her shoulders. Thankfully, she scoots over and leans on his shoulder, just like his annual viewing of Die Hard back in December.
“So,” she begins, “worst day ever?”
“Eh, I’ve had worse,” he takes a deep breath, deciding to just rip this band-aid off while she’s still here, “I was gonna tell you. Eventually.”
She eases off of him to look at him in the eyes, “What do you mean?”
“The— drinking problem.” He just looks down in shame.
Sensing that he needs comfort, she cups his cheek and gives him a light kiss on the lips. “Pete, it’s okay. I figured you were gonna tell me eventually.”
“So… it doesn’t change anything?”
“Nope!” She smiles kisses him again, more fervently this time, “I’m just glad you were honest with me.”
She can tell he’s relieved thanks to the small smile growing on his lips, “Thank you,” he now needs to clarify something, “Emphasis on had, by the way. I refuse to drink anymore.” She lets him continue his running thoughts. “It wasn’t some deep-seated trauma, and it wasn’t because of Alice. I just… drank too much, partied too much… I made decent enough grades, but I know I would’ve done better if I didn’t… y’know.”
She knows what to do next, “Well… then I won’t drink anymore either.” She says it with the same determination she dedicates to everything she does; it’s one of the reasons he fell for her.
“Erin, you don’t have to do that,” he reassures, his smile growing.
“No, no, if you don’t drink, neither will I!”
“I appreciate it, Erin, but you shouldn’t have to give up anything for me. If you wanna drink at a party or something, go right ahead.”
She sighs, sensing that he really does mean that, “Okay… but I’ll make sure to drink responsibly.”
“I know you will.” She positions her head back on his shoulder, and they say in content silence for a good five minutes before they start getting hungry.
She refused to even approach Andy all day, let alone speak to him.
She’s tired of him and his stupid face and his stupid voice and his stupid… stupidness. To think that she went after him, all that time she spent pining for him and trying to win him back, and the months they spent together, finally happy and in love. Gone. Gone in a flash. All because of that stupid, stupid, stupid boat!
She was there for him, when his world was crumbling down. She did everything she could to impress his snobbish, privileged family and get him through the worst period of his life. And what was her thanks? Five emails. Five! The temptation to break up with him was getting easier and easier by the second when he got back, and after yesterday…
She learned that Pete wants her to be happy. And that’s all the reassurance she needs. But Andy? He wants him to be happy. At the expense of others. And growing up, she called those people “bullies”; there were plenty of them in the various orphanages she went through, and she figured that once she left the system she’d be free of them. But after Gabe and Andy? Nope, they’ll always exist. But now she’s learned not to put up with it anymore. She’s done with it.
And now she’s perceptive enough to see it coming.
Now at 5:20 PM, she’s happy that the day was relatively mundane. Everyone else had left besides Pam, who’s having a long chat with her mother at the moment. She gathers her stuff and is nearly ready to
“Erin? Come into my office, por favor.”
…Darn it all!
With a deep breath, she gathers up her strength and walks to his stupid office. Once inside, she accepts that he might as well tell her what he’s thinking. Maybe he’ll apologize and grow from this. Still, her frown is evident as she crosses her arms in frustration.
“Look,” he begins, “About what happened yesterday… I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and…” he looks up at her to check if her expression has changed at all, and quickly realizes it hadn’t, “I just wanted to say something that will let us move past all the malarky and bad juju of the past.”
She raises her eyebrows, waiting for his response.
“…I forgive you.”
He… he can’t be serious.
“You forgive me?”
“Of course!” he continues, “I mean, I’ve been gone for so long that you were bound to get lonely, so naturally you were tempted run into the arms of someone… slightly more attractive.” Her blood begins to boil. “And now you two are in love and, of course, it stung like the dickens at first, but now I’m happy for you.” Yeah, thanks for the approval. “And, hey, I’m fine with being single now!” he half-laughs, clearly not fine with being single now, “And I know I have been very hard on Plop so, just wanna say: I forgive him, too.” Again, really appreciate it. “Now that that’s out of the way I can safely say that we can properly move on and forge onward!” he says mock-seriously, gesturing his arm forward and ending with a slight laugh.
She has something to say. She doesn’t wanna say it, because it’s really really mean and hurtful. But he’s giving her no choice. “Andy?”
“You’re a piece of shit!”
Andy’s frozen stiff.
Pam briefly looks up at Erin, eyes wide, shocked that she used such colorful language that harshly.
And Erin storms out of the office, angry beyond belief.
What right does he have to say that? Shouldn’t he be asking for her forgiveness? Shouldn’t he at least acknowledge how she feels in all of this for once? All those days wondering whether or not he was even alive?!
She bolts out the door of the business park, where a fully-packed Andy manages to catch up to her, “Erin, wait!”
“What, you wanna patronize me some more?! Treat me like dirt because your feelings got hurt?! I’m a poet and I didn’t know it, but that doesn’t matter right now! You hurt me, Andy! Shouldn’t you be asking for my forgiveness?”
Andy, still floored by her reaction, tries to defend himself, “Hey, don’t pin this all on me, okay? I was in a crisis and you weren’t there for me!”
“I was, Andy, I was there every step of the way! Who helped you reunite your dumb A Capella group or-or learned a made-up language just to impress your family? I was constantly trying and you were too selfish to see it!”
“And what about your little stunt yesterday? Didn’t you know that Pete is really insecure about his drinking problem? Or that I couldn’t figure out where my cardigans went only to find out Gabe was wearing them the whole time? No, none of this crossed your mind, because, again, you’re too selfish to think about anyone but yourself!”
“Yeah, well, my life was falling apart, okay?!” he looks like he was about to cry, “My dad left my family in shambles, I’m just now starting to reconnect with my brother after years of being compared to him, and now I’ve gotten used to a beard that I don’t have anymore!”
“I hated your beard!”
“Well, I hated that you fell for someone else while we were still together!”
He’s right. She can’t deny it. Pete’s charming and sweet and has a cute butt and she fell for him hard. She once felt a crushing sense of guilt about it, and now it’s back.
“Andy… I’m sorry,” the guilt was piercing her, “I-I really am. Pete was only a friend and nothing more before you came back. But he was there, Andy. He was there and you weren’t,” she continues before he has a chance to interject, “And you can still be there when you’re not here. You could have called me, or texted me, or responded to my tweets… and yet you emailed David Wallace constantly because you had the WiFi access and wanted to save your job. You were a bad boyfriend and you made me unhappy. And Pete… makes me happy,” she shrugs in defeat, not wanting to hold that back anymore, “I’m sorry that I hurt you. But I’m not sorry for breaking up with you.”
He looks at her, almost longingly, “I just thought… we finally loved each other at the same time.”
“We did. But I should have accepted that we were not meant to be while we were in Florida,” she thinks out loud, “And I’m sorry I didn’t. That wasn’t fair to either of us.”
He scoffs, “Wow, okay, so this is how it ends? Fine! Well, just so you know, I had fun on the boat trip!” He walks forward, purposefully bumping past her.
She turns around, mouth agape and shocked he’s still not getting it, “Good! Glad you liked your stupid boat trip!”
He turns to face her and points at her, “It was not stupid! It was a wonderful bonding experience between me and my brother!”
“You could have at least asked me to come on the boat trip with you!”
“I would’ve said no!”
“Well at least you would’ve asked!” she tries to get through to him, “You never considered how I would feel about you having fun and partying at the Caribbean while I was here missing you like crazy! And-and talking about moving to Cornell with you? Andy, I don’t want to move to Cornell! You only thought about your own pain, how you were feeling about the whole thing, without once considering how anyone else would feel! Not me, not your coworkers, not your boss, nobody. And now you’re standing here wondering why Pete and Nellie are afraid of you while you took all of your frustration out on them,” she hammers the final nail, “You did this to yourself, Andy. And you can’t excuse it.”
Time stops again. He considers everything that she just said. Who he’s become. Why he’s as abrasive and selfish and immature and downright mean even though he’s lucky that he still has a job. It’s too much at once, too much to take in.
All he can bring himself to say is “I’m sorry.”
She can tell he’s being genuine.
Looking down and back up at him, she shyly replies, “I’m sorry, too.”
After a sigh, he turns around and walks to his car.
She digs into her purse to find her own car keys, but instead she groans dramatically, realizing that they’re back at her desk, and she stomps back upstairs.
Both Andy and Erin were so caught up in their argument… that they didn’t even notice Jim Halpert, standing right there and waiting for his 5:30 cab to the bus station. His eyes are wide, his mouth is agape.
It’s too much at once, too much to take in.
As Erin walks back upstairs to grab her car keys, she notices Pam, still on the phone with her mom. Erin sees that she was in such a hurry that her computer was still turned on, so she sits back down to close every program and turn it off.
She doesn’t listen in on Pam’s conversation, but she is perceptive.
The words she picks up on are “distant”, “lately”, “don’t”, “understand”, “know”, “Athlead”, and the sentence “I just wish he told me.”
Suddenly, Jim walks into the bullpen, making a beeline towards Pam. Erin can tell that his eyes are bloodshot and watery, and he’s taking heavier breaths.
“I gotta go, Mom,” Pam hurriedly tells her, “Love you, bye,” she turns her attention towards him after she hangs up, “Jim—”
He interrupts her by gently grabbing her waist and kissing her. She returns it, but doesn’t knowing what to make of this.
And neither does Erin.
She doesn’t want to interrupt such an intimate moment, but she’s all to curious. “Wait,” the word gets the Halperts’ attention, “I thought you were going to Philly.”
With a broken voice, all Jim replies is “Not anymore.” He turns back to Pam and kisses her again, longingly; she now kisses him back, knowing how badly they both needed this. It was as if Erin disappeared and they were back in their own little world.
After a few seconds, the couple separates, and hold hands. They silently and awkwardly wish Erin goodnight, Jim raising his eyebrow and pursing his lips in acknowledgement while Pam gives her a small smile.
“Goodnight,” Erin quietly responds. As the couple walk out, she notices their hands positioned behind them, grasping for dear life, almost entangling their arms together.
What the heck did she just witness?
“In the middle of the office?”
“In the middle of the office!”
“Good God,” Pete takes another bite of his burger at their favorite joint, “I mean, that must have been awkward for you.”
“Yeah, kinda,” Erin agrees, “but it was also kinda sweet.”
“Y’know,” he says, “Something doesn’t make sense to me.”
“For the past, like, nine months, I’ve been told that Jim and Pam are this ultimate power couple, but all they ever seem to do is fight.”
“It’s actually the first time any of us have seen them like this,” she laments, “I mean, they’re such good people.”
“Well, Pam’s a sweetheart, but I don’t have anything in common with Jim.”
“That’s funny, I don’t talk to Pam very often, but Jim’s really funny.”
Pete shrugs, “Anyway, I’m just glad they probably won’t be snipping at each other anymore. It’s kinda distracting.”
“Kind of? I see it all the time. They sit right in front of me.”
He smirks and raises an eyebrow, “You like spying on people?”
She playfully rolls her eyes, “I’m not a spy, Pete, I’m…” she tries to find the right word.
“Yeah! Yeah, I’m that.” She looks down and plays with one her fries, swirling it in her ketchup, then back up as she vocalizes her thoughts. “I mean, I was there when they got married. The ceremony was beautiful. The way they looked at each other… it’s like they were the only two people in the room. You know what that’s like, right?”
He responds by grabbing her hand like he did a week ago, “I have an idea, yeah.”
His gentle smile makes her eyes water as she grabs another fry, “This is great ketchup.”
“Amazing ketchup,” he agrees as he lets go. They laugh as they change the subject and continue to enjoy their meal.
The following Monday, she’s too engrossed in her work to notice anything until Nellie walks up to her.
“Hey Erin,” she leans over and whispers.
“Huh?” she looks back at Nellie.
“You know what’s going on with the two of them?” Nellie asks, subtly pointing her folder at Jim and Pam.
Jim’s clothes are a little looser and his hair slightly less coifed. And the bags under his and Pam’s eyes have been replaced with bright smiles. They keep typing on the keyboard, and it clicks for Erin that they’re IMing each other. Jim’s snickering at one of the messages gets Dwight’s attention, who raises his eyebrow at him; Jim gives an apologetic look to Dwight, turns his attention back to his monitor, and he and his wife suppress their laughter as best they can.
“I mean, just last week they could barely stand the sight of each other, and now they’re giggling like teenagers,” Nellie continues.
Nellie leans in closer, “Y’know they must have fantastic makeup sex,” she posits, “Kept me and my ex together for another month. Hm,” with that, Nellie’s off to her desk.
Erin can’t help but dwell on what Nellie said. Not the sex thing, the other thing.
Around lunch time, Erin walks into the break room to grab something and she notices Jim and Pam there. She doesn’t acknowledge them in any way, letting them go about their conversation. As she waits for her bar, she does pick up on some words.
The words from Jim — in no particular order — are “happy”, “Dunder Mifflin”, “salesman”, “Scranton”, “promise”, “ready”, “miss”, “sorry”, and “love”.
The words from Pam — in no particular order — are “boring”, “fulfillment”, “career”, “Athlead”, “Philly”, “thank”, “miss”, “sorry”, and “love”.
But it’s two words from Jim in particular that perk her ears as she walks out of the break room.
“Erin” and “Andy”.
Was… was Jim there when that happened?
She strides over to Pete, doing nothing in particular, giving him the snack she got him, “Hey, look over there.”
He’s curious, “What are you—”
He widens his eyes as an apology. He, along with Erin, notices the Halperts, staring down, lost in thought. However, they then look at each other, smiling and grabbing the other’s hand in encouragement.
“They seem to be getting along,” Pete says.
“Yeah,” Erin nods, “And earlier they were making each other laugh.”
He shrugs, “Good for them, I guess.”
“Yeah, but… I think it was because of what I said to Andy.”
“How do those two correlate?”
“Do you mind?” Clark interrupts them, “Trying to work here.”
“Oh, right, sorry,” Erin responds shyly.
“Don’t worry, Erin,” Pete reassures, “he’s probably playing Minecraft or something.”
Clark smirks, “Do you really think I’d waste company time?”
Pete grabs his armrest and slowly eases out of his chair before he hears the sudden click of Clark’s mouse, presumably closing a tab. “Yup, what I thought,” Pete confirms as he slinks back down in his seat. Erin smiles as she leaves the annex.
She paid no more attention to the Halperts’ going ons. She’s done enough of that for the day.
Meanwhile, Andy’s been quiet. There hasn’t been a song or a meeting at all. His door has remained closed since the moment he walked in, and he hasn’t left his office except once, probably for lunch. She believes that he’s embarrassed from the night before. Yeah, well he should be.
The workday is almost finished when Andy’s door finally opens and he walks out, going straight to Erin’s desk.
“Yes, Andrew?” she curtly asks, not looking up from her monitor.
“I just wanted to apologize. For everything.” She slowly looks up at him, anger still evident on her face. “I already apologized to Plop too, by the way, and I recognize that I’ve been acting like a, bit of a jerk—“
“A really big jerk.”
“And you two don’t deserve that. With that in mind, I now ask for your forgiveness.”
Again, she can tell he’s genuine.
She sighs out, letting forgiveness in, “Okay, I’m still really mad at you… but I forgive you.” They shake hands, growing small smiles.
“And, y’know, this whole experience has gotten me thinking what I really want out of life.”
“Oh?” she asks curiously.
“Yeah, and uh… I want to become this generation’s Lisa Loeb.”
“…I don’t know who that is.”
“Really? Singer-songwriter, actress, author, come on!” She just shakes her head. “Whatever. Point being I want to utilize my talents in the entertainment industry,” he finishes, tapping his desk almost proudly.
Oh, no. “That’s… great!”
“Good for you!”
“That is a great idea,” she says “supportively.”
“I know, right?” he starts to walk off, “Alright, see you in the morning!”
“Seeya!” It’s a terrible idea. She’s just glad she’s not involved.
Afterwards, Pete and Erin are out in the parking lot, about to get in his car when
It’s Jim, already at his Outback with Pam, parked right next to Pete.
“Yeah?” Erin asks back.
He says nothing as he walks over and embraces her.
…What the heck?
She awkwardly returns it, patting his back. As they separate, wearing a bright smile, he simply says “Thank you.”
For a split second, she’s floored. Then it hits her: he probably put himself in Andy’s shoes, became a really big jerk to Pam. She basically slapped him in the face with her words, the way she did Andy, but she never saw that for herself. One would think this would be completely lost to her, but no. It all makes sense and it’s clear as day.
Who would have known two completely different people in two completely different situations would learn the same lesson? She wouldn’t, until now.
After that split second where she connects the dots, she smiles back at him, “You’re welcome.”
Still smiling, he waves at her and Pete with a “See you.” He turns back around and unlocks their SUV.
Pam, wearing a smile of her own, says “Have a good night!” to the young couple.
“See you guys.”
Erin and Pete then get into his car, and he looks at Erin, “What was that all about?”
“I told you!” she lightly presses, “I said a lot of stuff that Andy needed to hear and Jim must’ve been there when I said them,” she shrugs, “Maybe he needed to hear it, too.”
At this moment, Pete learns that Erin is a lot more perceptive than people give her credit for.