A sense of giddy excitement, relief, and anxiety swirled in Pam’s chest as she stood in the conference room. In front of her Dwight turned back to her after repacking a white box.
“There you are, everything back in order as I found it.”
She felt a smile bloom on her face while holding out the iPod. “Thanks Dwight! I owe you one.”
“False, you owe me nothing!” Dwight said as he snatched the iPod from her hand. “We have concluded a fair and equitable barter thus there is no debt involved.”
She followed him out of the conference room and started heading back towards her desk. She couldn’t wait to re-open the box and admire the thoughtful gift she knew was from Jim. The feeling of hope only lasted until the cutting and slightly slurred voice of her fiancé reached her ears.
“Hey! What’re you doin’ with my iPod?”
Pam froze in her tracks when Dwight replied.
“This is my iPod. I completed a barter for it. Now excuse me, I need to start downloading episodes of Battlestar Galactica onto it.”
Steeling her resolve she turned to where Roy was stomping towards her. She paused just in front of Jim’s desk.
“What is it?”
“What’s that Dwight guy doing? He says he traded for our iPod? Please tell me you got something good for it.”
Annoyance flared in her and she felt her brow furrow. “First of all, Roy, it would have been my iPod, not yours. Second, it’s none of your business what I do with my stuff anyway.”
Roy raised an eyebrow at her, oblivious to the glances that were starting to get thrown their way. “Yeah? We’ll see about that.”
He grabbed the box out of Pam’s hands and roughly opened it. He nearly dropped it in shock. “This is it! A chintzy teapot? For an iPod? There better at least be cash in this envelope!”
“Roy! Give that back!” Pam managed to wrest the box out of his hands, however Roy had already opened the envelope and pulled out a card decorated with a Christmas wreath.
Pam looked up at him after making sure the teapot was safe. She didn’t like what she saw. Roy’s face very quickly started contorting into one of pure unbridled rage. He crushed the card in his hand and threw it to the floor before turning around the room.
“Halpert!! Where the hell are you, you skinny piece of shit! Get out here so I can rip your goddamn head off!”
Every eye in the office was now laser focused on Roy as he stomped off in the direction of the breakroom. The only sound was of the lyrics of Santa Claus is Coming to Town coming out of the radio. Pam knelt to the floor and gingerly picked up the crumpled card. Gently she smoothed it out and opened it. Her hand came to her mouth as she read what Jim had written. Words of appreciation, respect, and love flowed from the cardstock. All the emotions she’d felt in the conference room ratcheted up way off the scale as the full force of Jim’s feelings was laid bare for her.
“Hey Roy! I got the Nancy boy right here!”
Looking up Pam’s heart fell at the sight of Todd Packer frog-marching Jim into the office near her desk. Jim was struggling to get out of the other man’s grip to no avail.
“Packer! Get the hell off me!” Jim shouted.
Roy stormed in from the kitchen with several of their coworkers hot on his heels. “There you are you goddamn sonofabitch! Making a move on my girlfriend!”
Pam got to her feet, but she was too slow to stop Roy. All she could do was try and shout out over the growing din. “No, Roy stop!”
Roy’s fist seemed to fly in slow motion, heading right for Jim’s face. At the last second, Jim ducked to the side which caused Roy’s punch to connect with Packer instead of its intended target. The impact caused Packer’s eyes to instantly roll up into his head and he lost his grip on Jim to fall to the floor in a drunken senseless heap. At the same time another body entered the fray. Dwight extended his arm towards the back of Roy’s neck.
The electricity coursing through Dwight’s taser made Roy fall to the ground next to Packer. Dwight kept the taser applied until Darrel arrived to help hold down Roy. Dwight’s voice was calm and firm despite the screaming and swearing coming from Roy.
“I hereby declare a citizen's arrest on you Mr. Anderson. The charges are attempted battery on one Jim Halpert and aggravated assault on one Todd Packer.” Dwight looked up at Pam. “Pam call the police.”
Pam, however, was rooted to her spot in a state of shock. Behind her she thought she heard Oscar walk around her desk to place the 911 call. Around her, her co-workers started to move. She felt a gentle hand lead her forward into Michael’s office.
“Here, sit down.” She looked up at the sound of her boss’ voice. “It’s a madhouse out there. Stay here while I managerialize all this.”
The door closed, but she could still hear Roy struggling under the hands of Dwight and Darrel. She looked down and saw the teapot still resting in hands. Through the tears brimming in her eyes, she saw the top had been taped down. She set the card aside and peeled off the tape. What she saw caused more tears to flow. A dorky yearbook picture, twin hot sauce packets, a Boggle timer, a golf pencil, and a cassette filled the teal ceramic teapot. Memories of joyful times with Jim flooded her mind to wage war with the feelings of anger and confusion she felt at Roy. She bowed her head into her hands and simply let the tears fall. She didn’t know how long she stayed in Michael’s office crying until there was a knock on the door.
“Pam?” Toby’s voice reached her ears. “The police are here. They want to know if you are willing to give a statement.”
Gathering herself, she wiped her face and stood up. “Yeah, I’ll be right there.”
She walked out of Michael’s office and looked around. Roy was gone. Packer was still unresponsive and being placed on a wheeled stretcher by a crew of firefighters and paramedics. Her co-workers were gathered in small groups around the various desks of the bullpen. Two police officers stood by the copier interviewing Dwight. However, the one person she longed to see was nowhere to be found. She waited by Jim’s desk until Dwight had finished talking to the police officers. Toby was standing nearby and beckoned her over when she was needed. As accurately as she could, she told the police what she had seen. After she was done with the police she turned to Toby.
“The cops arrested him and took him to jail,” he said slowly. “I know you two usually drive to work together so I asked if they could have him leave his keys. They’re on your desk. I do have to tell you that Roy has also been let go from the company. He blatantly attacked another co-worker, on company property, during an official company event. Corporate policy is black and white in that regard.”
“Yeah,” Pam swallowed hard. “Okay.”
“If you need anything, let me know, okay?”
Pam knew Toby was trying to be kind, but the news of Roy’s termination on top of his arrest just caused another loadstone to sink into her stomach. She nodded and turned away from him. Retreating to her desk she sat down hard. Setting the box containing the teapot next to her keyboard, she leaned forward and let her head hit the top of her desk. The dull pain from her forehead striking the desk quickly faded while she breathed slowly and deeply.
After several slow breaths she looked up. Two things met her eyes. The first was a hand drawn picture of her tacked up in a place of prominence. It was drawn with all the skill of a fifth grader, but the sight of it even now triggered a glow of warmth in her heart. The second was a framed picture that was obscured behind a mug filled with pens and pencils. Sitting up, she pushed the mug aside and took a long look at the smiling couple in the picture. She remembered it clearly. Roy had just proposed, and she was grinning from ear to ear. Pam picked up the frame and studied the image more carefully. While her younger self was beaming with excitement and hope for the future, she couldn’t say the same of the image of Roy. Long years of being with him had given her the ability to discern his various moods. It wasn’t excitement that she saw in the picture, it was relief.
Thinking back, she remembered the various Anderson family functions she’d attended prior to that date. The constant questions of when they were going to get engaged. The abrasive humor of the jokes leveled at both her and Roy. Roy’s noncommittal answers whenever the topic had come up. It was as if a veil was being lifted from her eyes. The Roy she saw in the picture hadn’t asked her to marry him because he wanted to. The Roy in that picture had asked her to marry him so his family would get off his back. Three years of being engaged with no definite wedding plans confirmed her assessment. With a growl, she reached forward and slammed the picture face down on her desk. It took a few more deep breaths for her to calm down. At once her eyes started flicking between Jim’s drawing of her and the box containing the teapot, he’d given her. As her eyes darted over her desk, she noticed a slip of paper laying on her keyboard. Jim’s familiar handwriting met her eyes when she looked at it
I’m sorry I’m not there for you right now. Michael and Toby told me I had to leave.
I’ll be at home all night with my phone on. Please call if you need or want
She read and re-read the note over and over. Finally, she couldn’t bear to stay seated any longer and stood up. Ignoring the looks sent her way, she walked over to where Michael was doing his best to ignore Toby’s attempts to complete the paperwork needed to document the incident that had taken place.
“I’m gonna go home,” Pam said in a small voice.
Michael looked up, grateful for any pause in the paperwork. “Yeah! Good idea! In fact, that’s what we should all do. Just go home, forget any of this happened and come back stronger. Just like Mr. T did in that one boxing movie. I pity the fool who stays at this lame-o party!”
Michael’s attempt to impersonate an 80’s movie character fell flat.
“We have to stay and get this done,” Toby told him wearily.
“God! Fine! This sucks!” Michael pouted. “Pam gets to leave, and I have to stay here.”
Rather than waiting around to hear Michael squabble with Toby, Pam turned around and gathered her belongings. The elevator seemed to crawl its way to the ground floor. Frigid wind bit at her cheeks as she walked to Roy’s truck. Snow and slush assaulted the windshield on the drive back to the apartment she’d shared with Roy. Looking around confirmed what she’d realized at her desk. There was no sign of her anywhere in the apartment. None of her art, no touches she’d added to make the place cozier. Save for her clothes and bathroom supplies, she was essentially living in a bachelor pad. Exhausted, she fell into a heap on the couch. All her tears seemed to have been spent. Pam buried her face into the armrest and pulled a blanket over herself. Muted light filtered through the worn fleece. Curled up in a tight ball, the weariness took hold and she drifted to sleep.
A buzzing sound coming from the coffee table roused her. Blinking to get moisture back into her contact lenses, she saw it was her phone buzzing that had woken her up. Her vision cleared while she flipped it open to see six new voicemails waiting for her and several text messages. Roy’s voice reached her ear, though it was slightly hard to hear due to a lot of background noise.
“Pammy, these jag-offs say I need five hundred bucks for bail before they let me out. There should be at least that much in the savings account. Grab it and get down here.”
The savings account that was supposed to be for wedding costs, Pam thought to herself as she deleted the voicemail and played the next message.
“Pammy! It’s been hours! Where are you! Get down here so I don’t have to spend the night!”
She heard the tell-tale signs of his anger. The growing venom in his voice he was holding in check. Her own disgust with Roy grew as she again deleted the message before listening to the next one.
“I’ll be done in a second asshole! Back off! Pammy! I don’t know where you are, but I need you to get down here now!”
Roy’s third message was deleted as quickly as his first two.
“Pammy! It’s Kenny! What the hell is going on! I’m on my way to the county jail because Roy said he needs bail money and you’re not picking up the phone. You guys better pay me back for this, or else!”
Rolling her eyes at Roy’s idiot older brother she repeated the steps to listen to the next message.
“Are you fucking happy now! Kenny had to come down here to bail me out, but now he’s in here with me! Fucking cops said he was driving drunk! You hear that! Kenny got thrown in here because you were nowhere to be found! Now we’ll need bail money for him too! Say goodbye to that trip to the Poconos you wanted to take next month. Just get the hell down here, I don’t care what it costs. I’ll tell you this though, the minute I get out of here I’m heading over to Jim’s place and finishing what I started! Where does that prick get off writin-”
Her voicemail cut him off, but by now she was numb to Roy’s anger. The last message on her phone though sliced through all her defenses. She heard herself gasp when Jim’s quiet tone reached her ear.
“Hey Beesly. Sorry, I know it’s late and you’re probably asleep by now. I just wanted to make sure you were okay. That’s, that’s it really. Just wanted to check in on you. I’m probably going to head to bed soon, but if you want to call please do, don’t worry about how late it is. Bye.”
She let her head hang for a minute before opening her texts. They were all from Jim. The theme of ‘are you ok,” repeated itself several times. The difference between the two men couldn’t have been more clear to her. She also knew which man she wanted to be with. However, she also knew that Roy saying he’d be out to finish what he’d started in the office was no idle threat. An idea quickly formed in her mind. One that offered a semblance of peace and safety. A quick search on Mapquest got her directions before she reached for her phone. Her hand trembled for a moment before she hit the speed dial button for Jim’s phone. Despite the late hour, he answered on the second ring.
“Pam! Hey! How are you?”
Relief battled for nervousness before she replied. “I’m, uh, I don’t really know.”
“Yeah, I think I get that.”
“Yeah. Um, Jim, I need to tell you something.”
“It’s about that note right? Shoot, Pam, I shouldn’t have put that in there. I just, I-”
“Jim!” Pam cut him off. “There’s something more important right now than your note.” She explained about Roy’s voicemails and that Jim would be his first target as soon as he was released from jail.
“It would kill me if you got hurt on my account. So, I’ve got an idea. It’s a little crazy but, hell it’s actually completely crazy but I can’t think of anything else right now. It would mean you’d need to pack some stuff for an extended weekend though. I just don’t want you to get hurt and I don’t want to be here right now.”
“Pam, slow down,” Jim said. “Whatever this plan is, we can figure it out. Do you want me to come over there and pick you up?”
One of the loadstones resting in her stomach evaporated when she heard Jim agree with her. “I think it’ll be better if I come over there. Still remember how to drive a stick shift?”
She heard him smile through the phone. “Never forgot. How soon can I expect you?
Looking around the apartment, Pam realized it wouldn’t take her long to clear out all the things that were truly important to her. “Call it forty-five minutes or so. Can you be ready by then?”
“Not a problem,” Jim replied instantly.
“Okay, let me take care of some stuff here and I’ll right over.”
“Great! See you soon.”
“Yeah, see you soon.”
Thirty minutes later two suitcases and two backpacks had been brought out to her seldom used car. Roy’s truck rested in its usual parking space. Another voicemail alert pinged on her phone as she walked back inside after her latest trip to her car. By now she recognized the number of the county jail. She ignored the call and subsequent voicemail. For good measure she turned off her phone as well. Looking around, she found a scrap of paper and set it on the table next to Roy’s truck keys. On it she wrote two words before taking off her engagment ring and set it on the note.
Turning from the apartment for the last time, she slung her backpack over her shoulder and walked out to her car. As soon as she sat down, memories flooded her. Jim and her laughing while she taught him to drive a stick shift. The glow she’d felt in her heart after returning to the office after a lunch at Cugino’s. Confusion on Dwight’s face when the entire office insisted on calling him Dwayne for a day. The glimmer she always saw in Jim’s eyes when they shared an air five.
Slow down, she thought to herself. There will be time for all that later. For now, just get to his house.
Before she knew it, she was pulling into Jim’s driveway. Snow was piling on his car as she stepped out of hers. She kept her hands in the pockets of her pink puffer coat as she walked up to the door. She was about to knock, but the door flew open before she could.
“Hey!” Jim beamed at her.
“Hi,” she smiled gently at him.
They stood on the threshold of his door for a moment before he broke the silence.
“So, where are we going?”
The sparkle in his eyes proved to her the words he’d written in the teapot note were real. He was genuinely excited that she was standing there in the cold. The warmth flowing out of the door flowed over her like a warm blanket. She let the feeling fill her soul and her courage followed in its wake. Her sense of mischief did too. For the first time since she’d traded the iPod for the teapot her smile reached her eyes as she replied.