The rest of the afternoon was scary and tense. The police had taken Roy out, at least not in cuffs, and taken statements from everyone. Jim chose not to press charges, but wanted Roy gone. Dwight gave a statement and was put on notice about having pepper spray on him in the office. Michael had calls with Corporate and was told he needed to fire Roy.
Pam sat in the break room. Silent. Head down, tears streaming (not just from the pepperspray). Her silence was broken by occasional sniffles. The officer who sat with her, trying to get answers, let her cry. She had started crying when the officer asked if they should page their domestic violence counselor.
No one can know. If she talked to this person, about this, someone would overhear. No one can know. Pam politely wiped her tears and quietly said “no, I’m okay, it was just scary.”
A hand reached across the table, passing a business card, and the kind voice reassured “You don’t have to talk to anyone you don’t want to. But if you want to, here is her number.” Pam nodded and the officer said “I will get in touch with you later tomorrow, give you the day to recover.”
Pam slid the card into the tiny pocket of her skirt. With her head down she missed the eyes watching her from the Annex.
She had seen him like that before. So many times. But, never at her, at least not like that. If she was honest with herself, Roy’s actions toward her were always in subtle harsh ways. Well? Even that wasn’t really honest. In the dark, alone and awake at night, while she waited for him to come home from whatever bar he was in, she would find tears slipping from her eyes and her mind replayed things he said to her, for years. But she has started to think everything he said was right. She was always going to be this, the receptionist. Roy’s cruelty and harsh words had hardened her to the things Michael would say. If she was to be talked about like nothing more than a maid and a warm body to sleep with at home, it didn’t hurt as much when at work she was objectified and made the butt of her bosses jokes.
Then Jim came.
Jim walked in to the office and smiled at her, actually looking at her, and it made her feel soft and kind. No matter the day, no matter what Roy had said, Jim was there. He would look up at her and just give her goofy eyes or a sweet grin and she could go on another hour of the day. Finally, she felt some sense of brief reprieve from the tension she had every day, all day. And it was because of Jim.
And then he told her he loved her. He told her, out in the open, minutes after Roy had pulled away, where anyone could have seen them and told Roy about it. She had stayed still, not wanting to move toward him in case Roy’s truck turned around for a forgotten item. Still because she had no other options. She lived with Roy, worked with Roy….
But Jim followed her inside. Where she was standing at his desk, because that was the only place she felt safe. As if, inside the bubble around Jim’s desk she was safe from all the words and insults others had to throw at her. She tried to talk to her mom, but Jim came in…and then he was kissing her. His arms around her, inside the safety of that bubble. She could have stayed there forever. But that bubble extends only just so far. And the fear inside her, over what Roy would do, over what she knew could happen, froze her mind in place, and she could not follow Jim.
Then he was gone. Jim left because she couldn’t find her strength. She knew that would happen. Roy has always told her she is not enough….. she tried to leave, called off the wedding, even moved out. But she knew, always knew, there would be no other changes for her. She was only enough for Roy.
And Roy just tried to hit Jim. Why did I tell him Jim kissed me? What good did it do? Roy showed up with all his anger and tried to hit Jim right in front of her. She saw him come through the door, mouth a word at her she had heard other times, and she couldn’t move. Her legs locked in place and her voice got small…that was the only way to avoid any bigger issue. There will be bigger issues, you knew this wasn’t the end of it. Roy’s voice in Pam’s head was always cruel.
Pam knew she had to be careful. She had to check the street from the window before she leaves later. When she first broke off their engagement she was sure she had seen his truck outside her place a couple times, and sometimes at the grocery store she thought she saw a couple of the guys he hangs around with at the bar. Nothing bad had happened, Pam tried to put it out of her mind, but the thoughts were there.
He knew this would happen, of course he did. No one else was ever as observant as he was. He watched how she sat, how she moved or followed him with her eyes, trying to always keep him in front of her. He knew there would be violence eventually.
He knew Roy was no good. He knew that Pam had been different since she terminated their engagement. He had seen the look Pam had, had seen it in other’s faces, the quiet fear.
And he knew, when Pam left the wedding with Roy, that something bad was going to happen sooner rather than later.
He watched her through his own red and tearing eyes and knew he had a long night ahead of him.
Everyone except Michael was gone from the office. Pam sat at her desk, having noted how no one really said anything to her as they left. Why would they…this was all her fault. Everyone breathed in pepper spray, had to have EMS check on them and had to leave work early to take care of themselves…because of her. Jim and Karen had been two of the first to go. Jim didn’t even check on her, didn’t say a word. She deserved that. She always deserved to be ignored. She needed to remember her place….she is just the receptionist after all.
“Well, Pam-o-la…that was some way to ruin the afternoon for everyone! We always thought you were hot-stuff, but I guess it was just the pepper spray!” Michael laughed at himself, always finding humor in the hurt of others. “Get out of here, go home, nothing more for you to do. Looks like Roy has tried to beat up the last of our sales staff! Unless you would like to date Creed to make him jealous!” Michael called the last bit over his shoulder as he walked out. “Make sure you remember to lock up!”
Pam sat at her desk. Still smelling the spice and heat in the air, but not enough to hurt anymore. She cried, silent and alone, tears streaming down her face as she looked at Jim’s desk…his real desk. The one she should be able to see him at and smile and air-high-five…. But that was not for her. That was over, she knew that now.
Pam quietly put on her coat, picked up her bags, shut off the lights and went in to Michael’s office to look out on to the parking lot and street…..she did not see anything that alarmed her…so she locked up and left.
Her eyes roamed the parking lot, head on a swivel as she walked to her car. Still nothing unusual.
The drive home was horrible. Evening lighting was not doing great with her pepper-sprayed and tear-weary eyes. By the time she got to her road, she did not bother circling to see if she saw his truck…if he was going to come for her, he would. Seeing his truck ahead would just prolong the fight. She parked and sat, crying again, alone…always alone.
Finally she exited the car, eyes roamed up and down the street, and went inside.
He watched from a driveway down the street. He had parked far away and then followed her at a distance home. He did not want her to recognize his vehicle. He had waited for her to close up the office, the long time she was in there after Michael left did not concern him, he had already checked the safety of the building.
He watched her sit in her car, after parking, and he waited out the long period she just sat there with her head hung down.
When she got out again, he saw the dejected look in her face. The look the cows get when the bull is too rough, but they have no choice but to submit.
Dwight would sit in this car, all night, and he would make sure no harm came to his friend.