“I’ll be back as soon as I can. I promise I’ll be home for our first Christmas together,” Jim said as he leaned back from giving Pam a kiss in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot.
“I know,” she said calmly. “Stay safe.”
“I will,” he replied and brought a hand to caress her cheek with his knuckles. “I love you.”
Pam beamed at the simple compliment. Despite the chill in the air, her smile caused his heart to glow just that much more brightly. Her reply was just as warm.
“I love you too.”
Jim leaned in for one more quick kiss before he turned to sit behind the wheel and pull out of the parking lot. Ignoring the chirps coming from his phone that he was sure were from Michael, Jim first drove to his townhouse to change into his good suit. He ran a comb through his hair before walking down the hallway in the direction of his front door. Along the way he passed a shirt of his that had been left on the floor along with one of Pam’s. Grinning to himself at the reason those articles of clothing had landed where they had, he pulled on his overcoat, gloves, and scarf and walked back to his car. The radio crackled to life after he turned the ignition.
“Drivers are advised to take cauti-”
The broadcaster’s voice cut off as Jim inserted a CD to the stereo and pulled out onto the street. Indy rock music came from the speakers and Jim drummed his thumbs on the steering wheel while driving to Michael’s condo. He’d barely stepped out of the car when he heard Michael call out excitedly.
“Jim! Great timing! Let’s get ready to roll!”
Jim took a calming breath and looked down to push the door unlock button so Michael could get in the car. “Hi Michael.”
Sitting back down in the driver’s seat, Jim saw his boss was already starting to mess with the radio.
“What’s with this music?” Michael grumbled. “Where’s the Christmas tunes?”
“Right here.” Jim flipped the visor down and pulled a Christmas CD out of the holder and ejected the previous disc. The radio broke back in during the brief exchange.
“Record setting snowfalls are expec-”
The radio cut out as Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer started playing. Michael started bouncing in his seat excitedly. He was adding all the extra lines between the lyrics being sung.
Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose.
“Like a lightbulb!”
And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.
“Like a firefly!”
All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolf, join in any reindeer games!
Could be worse, Jim thought to himself. And it’s only for one night.
“Scranton branch is in ‘da house!”
Jim wisely held back as Michael made his big entrance to the hotel ballroom that was hosting the party. As he expected every eye turned to the doorway at the shout. Michael started shooting finger guns at everyone he saw while strutting into the room. His eyes lit up when he saw the food tables.
“Ooh! Cookies!” He dropped into a Cookie Monster impression. “Me want coookiees! Ahm nam nam nam!”
Mentally Jim could see and hear Pam shaking her head and say, Oh Michael.
“He’s a unique one.”
Jim looked over to see David Wallace standing next to him. He nodded his head in agreement. “That’s probably the best way to describe him that’s for sure.”
“Glad to see you here Jim,” David smiled. “Just please tell me Michael didn’t bring his own potato salad this time.”
“Ha!” Jim laughed at the memory, “Yeah, it was the tradeoff for me driving. I wouldn’t let him bring any food from home and he got control of the radio.”
David chuckled under his breath. “Is that the secret to how things get done in Scranton? Treat Michael like you’re his babysitter?”
“If it is, it’s not me you’d want to ask. Talk to Pam about that. She’s been doing that for years now.”
“Probably why we always get our reports filed on time too. Hey, I wanted to let you know that personally I was in favor of that local ad you guys put together. I liked the idea of more customized ads for our individual markets. Unfortunately, marketing doesn’t fall under me, so I was overruled. You didn’t hear this from me, but let’s just say had you accepted that job offer last spring you would have been in the position to approve or disapprove of that ad.”
“Huh,” Jim let out as the person responsible for shooting down Michael’s ad registered.
“Anyway, I thought I’d share that with you. The ending with the company logo being filled in was a great touch too.”
“That was all Pam’s work,” Jim brightened. “She really burned the midnight oil getting it finished.”
“Well, tell her to keep up the good work.”
Pride for his girlfriend swelled within Jim. “I will, thanks.”
“I gotta run,” David gave Jim a friendly clap on the back. “Enjoy the party.”
Walking over to the bar, Jim got the one beer he told himself he was going to enjoy before the long drive home that night. The sight that met his eyes when he turned around made him want to immediately chug his beer and order a second due to how parched his mouth suddenly felt. Karen was walking directly toward him.
“Hi Jim,” she said calmly. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Hey Karen,” Jim couldn’t keep the nerves out of his voice. “I didn’t expect to be here either. But someone has to keep an eye on Michael.”
Karen glanced over to where Michael was stuffing his face with meatballs. “Yeah, someone needs to.”
“Yup.” He kept his answer short due to the faint note of scorn he heard in her words about his boss.
Her tone softened when she looked back at him. “Hey, um, I also wanted to apologize for how I treated you last month. I know you were probably caught in an awkward situation, and I didn’t make it any easier for you.”
Surprise and relief made Jim’s eyebrows shoot up. “Thanks.” Her sincerity made him realize he’d been putting something off for far too long. “I need to apologize too. For how I treated you and how I ended things last spring. I dragged you into a horrible situation. It wasn’t fair to anyone involved and you ended up in the crossfire.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that.” Karen took a breath. “I want you to know that I’ve been seeing someone for a while now.” She looked over her shoulder at a man who was talking with some other party guests. “His name is Dan and he’s a dermatologist.”
“I’m glad for you,” Jim told her. “I hope he treats you better than I did.”
“He’s doing pretty good.” A smile and blush creeped into Karen’s face as she held out her left hand to show off a diamond ring adorning her ring finger. “He just proposed yesterday.”
A genuine smile formed on Jim’s face. “Hey! Congrats! That’s great.”
“Thank you. Just do me one favor if you’re ever in Utica again?”
“What’s that?” Jim asked with a quirk to his eyebrow.
“Leave the fake mustache at home,” she said with a smirk.
He returned her the smirk back to her. “You got it.”
Jim spent the rest of the party talking to sales staff he knew from other branches, avoiding Ryan and Packer like the plague, and did his best to curb most of Michael’s over exuberance. By eleven the party was winding down and he was ready to get back on the road to Scranton. He collected Michael and the two of them made their way down to the valet station to collect his car.
“That was fun,” Michael as they started to make their way out of Manhattan. “Thanks for being my wing-bro.”
“No problem. Let’s go home.”
“Mind if I take a little snoozy-woozy while you drive?”
“That is one of the best ideas you’ve had all night,” Jim told him.
Michael took off his overcoat and bunched it up into a pillow before leaning his seat back. Jim was grateful he wouldn’t be subjected to any more impressions or song renditions for the journey home. They made it out of New York without too much difficulty. It was once they reached the interstate outside of the city that worry started to creep into Jim’s mind. Surrounded by the skyscrapers of New York, the snow had barely been noticeable. Now travelling through the suburbs, the snow seemed to be falling heavier with each passing mile. Jim’s speed kept dropping as visibility fell. His grip on the steering wheel tightened as more snow piled up on the highway in front of him. Despite having grown up and driven through snowy winters all his life, the first touches of nervousness started to claw in his gut. He passed more and more cars that had either slid off into the ditch or were parked on the shoulder with their hazard lights blinking. During a relatively clear stretch he reached forward and turned off the CD player to switch to local radio. The report wasn’t good.
“Authorities are advising against any travel and for motorists to seek shelter as soon as possible. New Jersey and New York State Police are reporting multiple car pile ups on all major highways and interstates throughout the New York area. Travellers are advised to refrain from any unnecessary travel to allow for snowplows and rescue crews.”
“Shit,” Jim swore under his breath. He reached over and prodded his companion. “Michael, wake up!”
“Huh?” Michael’s voice was thick as he roused. “W’as goin’ on?”
“I need you to wake up Michael and help me keep an eye out. We’re caught in a blizzard, and I don’t want to hit anything.”
“Holy moley snow!” Michael exclaimed as he looked out the windows. “It’s really comin’ down!”
“Yeah, I know,” said Jim. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it back home tonight. Keep your eyes peeled for the next exit that has a hotel. We need to get off the highway while we still can.”
Hearing the seriousness in Jim’s tone, Michael let the seat back come back up and started scanning the roadway. “You got it.”
Jim felt his heart start to pound with every slow mile that passed. His headlights were hardly able to penetrate the snowstorm. He came close to rear-ending other motorists several times when their taillights would emerge seemingly out of nowhere.
“There!” Michael shouted and pointed to a blue sign emerging from the gloom. “There’s a Day’s Inn at the next exit. Two miles ahead.”
A small measure of relief lifted some of the tension off Jim’s shoulders. “Good eye Michael. Let’s hope they still have room when we get there.”
Twenty minutes later Jim pulled off the interstate and into the parking lot of the hotel in question. A nagging feeling began to grip his chest when he parked in what seemed to be the last free parking space in the lot. Flipping up the collar of his overcoat he and Michael made their way inside. The scene before him dispelled any sense of relief he’d felt when they first spotted the sign for the hotel back on the highway. A line of people who had arrived before them snaked away from the desk
“Any chance of a room?” Jim asked the receptionist once he made it to the front of the line.
“I’ve got one left,” the lady behind the counter told him.
“I’ll take it,” Jim said and turned back to Michael. “We’re in luck, they’ve got one lef-”
The words died in his mouth as watched Michael. He was goofing around with a boy and a girl who were in line behind him along with their parents.
“And what’s this behind your ear?” Michael reached forward to seemingly produce a coin out of nowhere from the curls of the little girl. She giggled in delight while her brother looked on. Jim’s eye turned towards the husband and wife standing near the children. He saw an intense look of worry on their faces.
Jim turned back to the receptionist. “Actually, forget about it.” Jim looked back at the husband. “They’ve got one room left. You guys should take it before it’s gone.”
The relief was palpable on the man’s face as he walked forward to the front desk. “Oh, thank you so much.”
“Don’t mention it,” Jim told him and then called over to Michael. “Come on, let’s see if there’s anything else open.”
“I wouldn’t try it,” the receptionist spoke up as she checked in the family. “I’ve had the Weather Channel on all day. They said it’s only going to get worse tonight and tomorrow. The governor has already declared a state of emergency which means it’s really bad out there. If you want, you can crash in our breakfast area for the night. They might be able to get the roads cleared off by morning.”
Looking out the windows flanking the lobby doors, Jim saw she was right. “Thanks. We’ll do that.”
Without warning, the hotel lobby was plunged into darkness as the power abruptly died. The only illumination came from the red exit signs near the doors. The two children screamed in fright for a moment before their mother’s voice reached out of the darkness to soothe them. After several long seconds the lights flickered back on to reveal a scene of shocked and worried faces.
Jim and Michael made their way to the breakfast area while the family waited for the hotel computers to reboot so they could get their room keys programmed. Jim claimed the only corner booth with its extra bench space as theirs for the night.
“Do you need anything out of the car?” he asked Michael as they settled in.
“I didn’t have anything,” Michael replied.
“Ok, I’m going to give Pam a call. She’s probably worried sick because I haven’t been able to get a hold of her.”
“You do you,” Michael told him.
By now the family had left to find their room and other stranded travelers were starting to make their way towards the tables and booths of the breakfast area. Jim found a quiet corner and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. Flipping it open made his heart sink. The screen was dead. Frustration led to anger when he returned to his car to search fruitlessly for his spare charger. Taking a breath, he walked back to the booth he and Michael were sharing.
“Hey Michael, can I borrow your phone? Mine died and I left my charger at home.”
Michael was already laying down on the curved bench seat of the booth to try and get some rest. He tilted his head up from the pillow he’d once more made from his overcoat. “Sorry Jimbo, I already loaned it out. You can use it when I get it back though.”
Pulling his cheeks down in frustration Jim turned back around to look for a phone in the lobby. He spotted it easily and picked up the receiver. He was about to start punching in Pam’s number when what he didn’t hear made him stop. There was no dial tone coming from the phone. Putting the phone down, he walked back over to the front desk.
“I wanted to let you know the lobby phone seems to be down,” he said when he approached the counter. “Is there any chance I could try one of the phones behind the counter.”
“Hold on let me check.” The receptionist picked up one of her own phones and held it to her ear. “Looks like they’re all dead. I’m sorry.”
Clenching his fist, Jim made sure to keep his voice in check. “Right, thanks anyway.”
Reluctantly he returned to his booth. Michael by now was snoring away on his side of the table. Jim wedged himself onto the bench seat opposite Michael. He also used his overcoat as a pillow and draped a sleeve across his eyes to try and block out the light from the lobby. Eventually he managed to fall into a fitful sleep.
Morning broke with no change in the weather. Jim and Michael untangled themselves from their booth and looked around. The breakfast bar was full of other stranded motorists who’d been able to take refuge in the hotel. The receptionist from the night before was stepping carefully setting out the continental breakfast as best she could. Jim tucked his shirt back and approached her.
“Anything I can help with? Looks like your running solo.”
Setting down the coffee pots she was holding the receptionist looked back at Jim with gratitude. “Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.” She pointed at some cupboards under the counter that was now set with coffee and tea. “There’s cereal under there if you could set that out. I need to grab milk from the back.”
“No problem. Jim Halpert.” He held out a hand once hers were free.
“Shelly Thompson,” she replied. Together along they were able to get food set out.
Jim limited his breakfast to one cup of coffee and a bagel and left the breakfast area to allow room for others. He took up post near the front desk while Shelly moved back behind the counter.
“I take it the morning crew didn’t make it in?”
Shelly shook her head. “Correct. Phones are still down too. My husband must be worried sick that I’m not home yet.”
“I know the feeling,” Jim told her. “I haven’t been able to get through to my girlfriend or family. Do you know if they were able to plow last night?”
“I doubt it,” Shelly said sadly. “Normally our plow guy shows up around one in the morning or so. I didn’t see him at all.”
Jim let his head fall for a minute. “Ok, thanks anyway.”
He finished his bagel and coffee quickly. Retrieving his coat, he walked towards the front doors. Arctic air blasted him the face the second he walked outside. The biting wind cut through the fabric of his suit pants instantly. Beyond the shelter of the front doors over two feet of snow blanketed the parking lot. Cars were only recognizable by the fact they were regularly spaced mounds of snow. Visibility was horrible. Jim was barely able to see across the street due to the wind and snow flying coming down thick and fast. He started to shiver from the snowflakes now finding their way down the collar of his coat. Fighting against the growing despair he clenched his hands hard into fists.
No! I promised Pam we’d be together for Christmas. I’ll dig out this whole parking lot myself if I have to.
“Do you have a lost and found or anything?” Jim asked Shelly when he returned to the front desk. “Also, do you have any objections if I use that shovel in the entryway and try to dig my car out?”
Shelly leaned forward to look at Jim’s outfit then turned her head to glance outside. “If you want to shovel, I won’t say no, but considering how hard it’s coming down by the time you get anything cleared it’ll be covered in snow again. Also, the radio is saying it’s slow going for the city plows because tree branches are starting to come down. We do have a lost and found. I take it you’re looking for something better than those dress shoes?”
“It would make it a lot easier yeah,” Jim confirmed.
Shelly led Jim around the front desk to a closet. There wasn’t much but luckily Jim found a pair of hiking boots that fit and were better than his dress shoes for being out in the snow. He also found a winter hat emblazoned with the logo of the Boston Red Sox. Michael found him sitting on a bench tying the laces to his new boots.
“Planning on walking back home Jimbo?”
“If I have to,” Jim replied. “But before that, I’m going to head outside and start trying to clear the snow. Did you get your cell phone back? I want to call Pam, but the phones are still down.”
“No,” Michael looked around. “I don’t see the guy I loaned it too either.”
“Okay, well when you get it back come find me please.”
Jim stood up and put his new hat on before heading outside. Setting his jaw, Jim started to shovel. The snow was light at first. As he got into a groove, he turned his back to the wind and tried to use it to his advantage when throwing a scoop of snow off the shovel. He was working on the front sidewalk when he saw other people come outside. Most went back inside when they saw how deep the drifts had grown. A few trudged through the snow to their cars and pulled out snowbrushes and a few more shovels. They joined Jim in trying to clear the parking lot.
By midday Jim and his small team had barely made a dent in the drifts covering the parking lot. Shelly had set out the breakfast bar again along with a sign asking people to only take one serving of food to help it last longer. Jim and his small team worked through the rest of the day trying to clear the lot with only minimal success. Michael had a rare stroke of genius and suggested anyone who was able to bring food and coffee from their rooms to the breakfast bar to supplement the supplies already on hand. Others braved the snow to make it to their vehicles for any supplies that would prove useful as well. By the time evening fell Jim was sore and spent. His boots were soaked, and his dress clothes were disheveled from working all day. The family Jim had had let take the last room graciously let him and Michael use the shower in their room to try and freshen up. Other hotel guests followed suit to allow those staying in the breakfast bar get clean. Shelly held nothing back from the housekeeping stores. She distributed spare blankets and toiletries to anyone who needed them. Jim crashed hard as soon as he settled back down in the breakfast bar.
Sunday dawned with snow still falling hard. The TV in the lobby had the Weather Channel on which showed a solid blanket of snow still covering the area. After another bagel and cup of coffee Jim laced up his boots and headed back outside. The scant progress from the day before had been completely erased by the new snow that had fallen overnight. A few more helpers had shown up to lend their assistance. The day followed a similar pattern to the one before. Jim and his crew cleared as much as they could, came in for a brief lunch and went back outside in the afternoon. After two days of hard work with little success, Jim simply crashed for the night. That Michael still hadn’t located the person who’d taken his cell phone only added to the anxiety reeling through his brain.
Jim woke up stiff and sore the day before Christmas. After grabbing his breakfast, once more he wandered towards the front desk. Shelly was looking just as ragged as everyone else but still stood behind the desk trying to help. He was about to start up a conversation when a scaping noise came from outside. Jim and Shelly turned just in time to see the amber lights of a snowplow pass by on the road outside.
“The plows are out!” Jim almost dropped his coffee in shock.
Rushing outside Jim saw the snow fall had finally started to taper off. The parking lot was still covered in five foot high drifts, but knowing the roads were starting to clear gave him a new sense of energy. Rushing through his small breakfast, he laced on the boots that were still wet from the day before, grabbed his shovel and walked back out to the parking lot. The sight of the turning weather galvanized more people to offer to help dig out their cars. Soon there were more people willing to help than shovels. A rotation system was created so no one was stuck outside to long. On one of his afternoon breaks Jim wandered back to the bench he’d been sleeping on intent on only closing his eyes for a few minutes.
“Jim! Jimothy! Hey! Tall guy! Wake up!”
Opening his eyes, Jim saw Michael inches from his face. He came to with a start and pulled back, narrowly missing hitting his head on the table.
“Holy hell!” he spluttered. “Easy there Michael.”
“Sorry. I’ve been trying to wake you up for hours now. A bunch of other people have already left. I know you want to get home too. So, let’s go!”
Jim sat up, rubbed his eyes, and glanced at his watch. It was past ten in the evening already. The idea that it was already Christmas Eve shed the last vestiges of sleep from his mind. “Damnit Michael! Why didn’t you wake me up sooner?”
“I just told you, I’ve been trying! Not my fault you wouldn’t wake up,” Michael fired back.
“Right, sorry,” Jim apologized. “Let’s get going then if the roads are anywhere near clear.”
Together they gathered their possessions and started towards the doors. Jim made one more trip to the desk, but Shelly wasn’t in her normal place. A young man was now standing behind the counter when Jim approached.
“Did Shelly make it home then?”
“She did,” the new employee replied. “Her husband made it through a few hours ago.”
“Can you leave a note to the manager here?” Jim asked. “Let him know Shelly went above and beyond these past few days. She did a great job keeping everyone calm. There are a lot of people who are safe because of her.”
“With pleasure. Drive safe.”
Jim nodded and finally walked out of the doors for the last time. Michael was already at Jim’s Subaru brushing snow off with the sleeve of his overcoat. Jim opened the doors to get the engine warmed up and brought out his snowbrush. Soon the car was clear, and the heater was starting to kick out warm air.
It took a few attempts, but soon Jim had rocked the car out of its parking spot and was making his way to the road leading to the highway. Just as he turned out of the parking lot a new light caught his eye. A Dunkin Donuts sign blazed out into the night. Despite his desire to do everything he could to make it back to Scranton, Jim pulled over. The idea of getting a proper meal along with some fresh coffee for the drive was too irresistible to ignore. He and Michael loaded up on breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and for good measure, Jim bought two dozen donuts to bring with him to his parent’s place.
The interstate was still covered in snow, but the plow trucks were finally making headway. Speeds were still well below the posted limit, but they were at least making steady progress. Snowdrifts still stretched across the asphalt, but they were no match for Jim’s car now that he’d built up a head of steam. The dependable Subaru was able to plow through the drifts without much difficulty. Even still it was nearing five in the morning when they finally crossed into Scranton city limits. Jim could feel the cumulative effects of the last few days spent shoveling snow and a night of driving. Dropping Michael off at his condo, Jim did his best to cover a yawn.
“Thanks for the adventure,” Michael said as he stepped out.
“No problem. Have a Merry Christmas.”
“You too. Give Pam a big old smacker from me.”
Yeah, not going to do that, Jim thought.
As he backed out of Michael’s driveway he looked up. The clouds had finally given way and the sky was starting to clear. A new sense of energy flooded through him. Doing his best to avoid fallen trees and power lines, Jim drove over to Pam’s apartment. He had to park further away than normal as her lot was yet unplowed. Trudging through the snow he let himself in.
“Pam!?” he called out. “Are you here?”
A quick inspection showed the apartment was empty. Locking the door behind him, he set off for his townhouse. Again, he was forced to navigate alternate routes due to the effects of the blizzard. His driveway was impassable, so he parked on the street. Ignoring the snow now flooding his dress shoes he made his way inside. Warm air caressed his face as he let himself inside.
“Pam!” A tinge of worry leaked into his voice as he shut the door behind him. The feeling grew stronger when her voice didn’t answer back. Rushing upstairs to his bedroom he found his phone charger and plugged it in. While his phone rebooted, Jim at last shrugged off his suit. Changing into clean clothes almost brought him to the edge of joyful tears. Letting his disheveled suit lay on the floor where he’d dumped it, he picked up his phone. His voicemail box was full, and he had over fifty new text messages.
Ignoring the texts, he punched in the passcode to his voicemail. Pam’s voice, worried as it was, was still music to his ears.
“Hey it’s me. Your mom woke me up asking if I’d heard from you. Apparently, there’s a big storm on the way in. I’ve already lost power here, but your mom said I could go over there since they’re still good. So that's what I’m doing. I’m packing up all our Christmas stuff too since we were planning on having our little Christmas here. I’m just, worried is all. Call me back when you get this. I love you.”
“Hi, me again. Still haven’t heard from you. Neither have your parents. I made it to their place, but I don’t think I'll be able to leave till the storm blows over. Hopefully you get this. Call me back. I love you.”
“Hi Jim, it’s Mom. I’m trying my phone, just in case Pam’s isn’t working somehow. We’re all safe and warm over here. Tom and Marci with the kids are on the way. Larissa too. Pete’s stuck in Boston though. Hope you’re safe. Call us as soon as you get this.”
“Hi Jim, it’s Pam again. Tom and his family got here safe with Larissa right behind them so we’re all here. Just wishing you were too. Really hope you’re safe. I love you.”
“Jim! I’m really starting to get worried. Please call me back. Let me know you’re ok. I love you.”
Jim shut the phone down hearing the growing heartbreak in her voice. Throwing a few extra sets of clothes, toiletries, and his phone charger into a backpack Jim bundled up in his heavy winter gear and got back in his car.
One more drive, one more drive, one more drive, one more drive one more drive, one more drive. The mantra repeated itself over and over again as he made it was to his parents' house. Dawn was finally breaking properly as he pulled into the driveway. Ignoring his backpack of clothes, he grabbed the donut boxes and slammed his car door closed. Balancing the donut boxes in one hand he dug out his key and let himself in the door. He leaned down to set the boxes on the floor and stood up.
There she was, staring at him in shock. She was wearing one of his old basketball shirts. Her glasses were slightly askew, and her hands were on her head from where she was trying to tie her hair back. It was the most beautiful sight he could have hoped for.
“Jim,” she whispered.
Reaching behind him to close the door, he quickly crossed the few steps to have her in his arms again.
“Merry Christmas Beesly,” he whispered into her hair once they were finally together again.
Her arms all but crushed him to her as she returned his own fierce embrace. They didn’t let up when she leaned back slightly grab the sides of his stubble covered cheeks and pull his lips to hers.
“You’re here,” she whispered when they came up for air.
“I am,” His voice was muffled due to his face was still buried in her neck. “I’m so sorry. I know you all must have been worried sick. My phone died and I lost my charger. When I finally was able to find a landline the phone lines were all down.”
“Shhhh, don’t worry about that right now,” Pam told him as she leaned slightly back to lock eyes with him again. “It’s ok. You’re ok, that’s the only thing that matters.”
He couldn’t think of anything else to say. Instead, he just pulled her back into his arms, never wanting to let her go. At last, though, she released her grip on his shoulders and took a step back. She swiped at the tears of joy leaking down her face.
“Look at me. I’m a mess.”
Jim leaned back and gave her a smirk. “You? A mess? Hardly?”
“I mean it!” she lightly swatted his chest with the back of her hand. “I crashed on the couch last night with your niece.”
“Pam,” Jim said as tenderly as he could. She looked up at him with shining eyes. He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear before pulling her to him again and pressing a kiss into her hair. Gently his pushed her shoulders back to fall once more into the home that was her eyes. “You are so pretty right now.”
Her laughing sob was his only warning as she launched herself at him again. They rocked back and forth until Vanessa woke up and found him standing with Pam in the hallway. He endured the girl’s leaping hug before she dashed up the stairs to wake up the rest of the family. Finally able to take off his coat Jim let out a happy laugh.
“Let the madness begin.”
The joy of being with Pam and his family washed over Jim. He endured their good-natured ribbing, helped set out the donut breakfast, laughed just as loud as Jason and Vanessa while they opened presents, delighted in Christmas chicken soup, and teamed up with Pam to put Tom and Marci in their place in foosball. The afternoon gave way to evening and finally night. Jim and Pam found themselves the last two awake in the living room. The lights on the tree had been left on to cast a soft glow across the room. Careful to avoid the stacks of opened presents that littered the room, Jim walked up behind Pam who was staring at the tree. When he put his arms around her, he noticed something soft brushing his arm. She was holding the small stuffed bear he’d given her.
“I’m glad your new friend was there even when I couldn’t be,” he said quietly.
“Me too,” Pam told him. “Cece has been storing up hugs. Hugs I wanted to give to you.”
Jim immediately recognized the name. He was beyond touched that she’d named her new friend after someone who had been so loved in his family. Thoughts of the ring hiding in his sock drawer floated through his mind. Time enough for that later, just enjoy being with her now.
“I’m sure she did a great job of it too.”
“She did, but nothing beats the real thing.” Pam turned to face him and wrapped her arms around his neck. Rising on her toes she kissed him tenderly.
“Come on Beesly,” his murmur into her ear had the desired effect and he saw a line of goosebumps prickle the skin of her neck. “Let’s head up to bed.”
Hand in hand they walked up the stairs to Jim’s old room. The feel of her next to him once more was more than he could bear once they were settled under the covers. His hands became reacquainted with her warm curves, and he was deeply glad when she began to reciprocate his affections.
Outside the stars and moon bathed the world in silver on Christmas night.