Karen was ready to put this day behind her, with all the other days that preceded it. Though the smell might haunt her forever. She made her way into the bar and found Pam sitting at a table waiting.
“What a fucking day,” Karen exclaimed as she sat down. “Aren’t you happy to be back from vacation?”
Pam chuckled. “Yeah. Whoever did this really didn’t need to go that far to celebrate me being back.”
Karen snorted. “Wait, you didn’t hear about who did this?”
Pam’s eyes widened in anticipation. “No! Who?”
“Some guy named Packer or something.”
Pam did a full body wince, which was notable, because Pam usually had a nonchalant bordering on blasé attitude regarding the office’s shenanigans. “Well, that makes sense, I guess. I bet Michael loved that.”
“Yep,” Karen responded as she checked out the cocktail menu. “He couldn’t be happier about it.” She needed something strong, with a lot of bright colors and fruits in it, and a sugar rim if they had them.
“On one hand, couldn’t happen to a more deserving person,” she continued. “On the other hand, anything that happens to Michael happens to us ten times worse, so…”
Pam nodded in agreement. “Yep, this is definitely a win-lose situation.”
A waiter came and took their orders. Karen couldn’t wait to start drinking. She hoped Scranton wouldn’t turn her into an alcoholic. But at least, she had made a friendship with Pam that translated outside of the walls of Dunder Mifflin. Even though they spent most of their time complaining about what happened within those walls.
“So, what did I miss while I was gone?” Pam asked.
“Well, I closed a couple of clients, so that was nice. I will spare you the “compliments” I got from Michael about it,” Karen said, feeling compelled to make actual air quotes. The phrase “womanly charms” echoed in her head against her will. She repressed it to the darkest corners of her mind.
“Oh, Jim almost convinced Dwight he needed to marry Michael so that he couldn’t testify against him.”
Pam burst out laughing.
“Didn’t the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Pennsylvania make it difficult?”
“Strangely enough, not the biggest hurdle. Dwight was ready to drive to Massachusetts at some point. I offered to be a witness.”
“How nice of you.”
“I know, right?”
“So, why did it fall apart?”
“You know what? I’m not really sure. It was a several days affair, and at some point, I kinda lost interest.”
Pam looked a bit wistful. She probably wouldn’t have lost interest.
“Oh, Jim. I’ll need to ask him about it.”
Right, not touching that one. Their drinks arrived and Karen felt the rest of the tension in her back melt away as she took the first sip from the sweet concoction she had already forgotten the name of.
“What about you? How was your vacation?”
“It was good. The weather was nice,” Pam responded, nodding, like this was an acceptable answer.
“Come on, you have to give me more than that. Did you get to ski at least?”
“A bit at the beginning,” Pam said evasively. Probably feeling the weight of Karen’s stare, she continued reluctantly. “I’m not the greatest skier.”
“Why did you go to a skiing resort then?” Karen asked before she had the time to consider whether she was being too harsh.
“I kind of wanted to go to the beach. I love it in the winter.” Pam took a sip of her drink. “But Roy doesn’t like it so…”
“It’s not like I mind skiing. It’s just that I am not great at it. And Roy had promised he would stay with me on the slopes.”
“Yes, at first. But he clearly wasn’t enjoying himself. And then, he met up with some friends and I guess it was easier for him to just go with them rather than be stuck with me.”
Karen knew she was staring incredulously at Pam. She also could feel Pam retreating into herself, which wasn’t the point either. Or maybe it was.
“Okay, Pam. Here’s what I propose we do. We are going to order a second round, and by the time it arrives, we will have finished the first one. Then, and only then, we’ll start unpacking this together. Does that sound good?”
Pam seemed to consider this for a moment, then she clearly made her decision as she finished her beer in one go.
Karen smiled and flagged the waiter.
“Okay, so back to the beach versus ski thing. You don’t like skiing; he doesn’t like the beach. How did you arrive at a decision?”
“I guess someone needed to compromise. He also said that with him agreeing to set a date for the wedding this summer, he felt he deserved a fun vacation. Or something to that effect.”
Karen was almost speechless. Almost. She was also starting the feel the effects of the alcohol. “What the fuck? He didn’t do you a favor by agreeing to set a date.”
“I know. He didn’t say it exactly like that.”
“But that’s what he meant.”
Pam didn’t refute it.
“Okay, never mind that,” Karen said, although she minded very much. “He doesn’t feel like going to the beach, fine. There was nothing you could have done, the two of you, that you would have both enjoyed?”
Pam looked kinda lost. “I guess we didn’t think about it like that.”
“But you did tell him you didn’t want to go skiing.”
Pam started to pick at the seams of her sleeve in an obvious tell about how uncomfortable she was with the conversation. “I think I reminded him that I wasn’t great at it, at least not like him. And that I wouldn’t enjoy myself. That’s when he promised to stay with me.”
“Which he didn’t do.”
Karen steeled herself. There were moments that were make-or-break in a friendship, and right now she didn’t want to be the type of friend that said nothing when you had a piece of salad stuck between your teeth. But, you know, with a fiancé instead of a piece of salad.
“So, feel free to tell me to fuck off. But why are you with him?”
Pam didn’t say anything. But she didn’t tell Karen to fuck off either.
“Why do you stay with a man that needs a reward for accepting to spend his life with you, that thinks of you so little as to take you on a vacation he knows perfectly well you will not enjoy and that makes promises he breaks without any consideration?”
Tears started to fall from Pam’s eyes. Karen felt an opening and went for broke.
“Do you want your entire life to be like this? Because Pam, if he is doing this now, being married will not make him change. You deserve so much more than that. You deserve someone that wants and enjoys spending time with you. You deserve someone that makes you a priority because you being happy matters to him. Pam, you deserve all of this.”