A stunned Pam made her way up to the office, allowing her mind to be briefly distracted by the weird juxtaposition of wearing her fancy periwinkle dress while doing something so mundane as getting the elevator up to her workplace. It was all made even more bizarre by what she had just learned.
I'm in love with you.
What was she supposed to do with that information? She was literally about to get married; Jim had been helping her pick wedding bands, for God's sake! Pam hadn't felt this overwhelmed in a long time. It's not as though he'd led up to it so she had time to think, and it was a lot to process coming out of nowhere.
I want to be more than that.
Opening the door to the office, Pam stopped and stared across to the kitchen. She remembered Jim telling her a few weeks ago that he'd had a crush on her when she'd first started, and then Michael saying that he had a crush on her, implying it was current. When Jim had initially told her, Pam had actually felt... happy. Maybe hopeful, when she'd thought he meant the crush was something more recent. The idea that Jim was interested in her had made her feel giddy, if she was being honest. It was nice to know someone was into you - that she had qualities Jim found attractive - and of course she had a bit of a crush on Jim. Days and months and years of telling herself it was just a crush that would fade had proven to Pam that it was a crush that was a little more serious than a fleeting attraction; she couldn't deny that to herself. Jim admitting he wanted more than friendship wasn't entirely a surprise - deep down, she wanted that too - but it was unexpected information. This was all too much, all at once.
Yet, truthfully, Pam remembered being more than a little disappointed when Jim had said he no longer had a crush on her. Sometimes when she was feeling low - after an argument with Roy, or Roy had forgotten they had plans, or just coming home after a great day at work with Jim to be faced with a life that brought her no joy - Pam imagined leaving her fiancé. It got harder and harder to tamp that thought down, and more often than not her thought stayed as ‘I think I might want to leave Roy for Jim'. But if Jim didn't have a crush on her anymore, then... anyway, she wasn't really going to break off her engagement. Sure, she kind of wanted out, but surely things would change once she and Roy were actually married, so it was fine. Pam knew her confidence had dwindled over the past few years, and she had no clue what she'd do on her own anyway. They were just musings, she told herself. Everyone had an extremely specific ‘what if' scenario, right? Even now, Pam scoffed at that thought.
Still, Pam had often thought if she had a sign from Jim that he was interested in her, then maybe she'd find it in her to really evaluate her engagement and find a way out. But an outright I'm in love with you that came from nowhere? That was intense.
Just before Christmas, she'd kissed Jim. She had wanted something like that - something certain, something that proved he was into her. A declaration of love was... too much all in one go. It was completely overwhelming, and she couldn't land on the right response yet. He'd just tipped her life upside down and it was dizzying. Like the time he'd spun her around so many times and so fast in his chair and she walked right into the glass panels of Michael's office. Honestly, she'd take that nosebleed over this emotional scramble.
Realizing she was just standing there at the entrance to the office, Pam wiped a tear away and looked around. She needed to speak to someone. Ironically, Jim would have the best advice, but he was the one person she couldn't talk to about this.
Pam tried to think of who else she might call - who would give up their evening to be there for her at the last minute? It wasn't that she had no friends; she had simply grown apart from most of them over time. She knew it was because of Roy, as much as she tried to deny it. Roy rarely liked many of her friends (and she figured the feeling was mutual, even if few of her friends said it out loud) and he somehow took up a lot of Pam's time. She'd have to collect him when he drank too much and spend her weekends doing the chores and groceries and cooking because he never did any of it. Pam would go on trips with Roy (and Kenny, usually, to her dislike) to try proving that they weren't drifting apart. As Pam stood there, she made a resolution to become friends with her friends again. A few names came to mind who would maybe be free to talk right now, but they were all a ‘maybe' at best - she hadn't even told her sister about Jim, embarrassed that she was harbouring all these feelings for someone who wasn't her fiancé. Jim had become her best friend; the one friend she needed for anything and everything. Except... loving him. Or him loving her. Damn it.
Suddenly she realized the next best person to Jim was his sister, Larisa, who she had met, incidentally, the same evening she had kissed Jim. Pam didn't have contact details for Jim's sister, but she figured Jim would have her in the messy contact book he kept in his desk. The simple logic of checking the emergency contact forms eluded Pam's mind.
Pam had really bonded with Larisa, finding that she had the same quality as Jim that made her easy to trust and talk to. Plus, Larisa would also have some kind of understanding of Jim's mind. Sure, dialling someone she hardly knew and who would maybe not pick up an unknown number was a risk, but it was the person who felt most reassuring to Pam. God, I need to get back in contact with my own friends so badly.
Having grabbed the scruffy navy-blue contact book from Jim's desk drawer, Pam flipped it open with shaky hands and found Larisa's details scribbled onto the second page. She took a slow deep breath in and out as she dialled the number, running a finger over Jim's writing on the page. The slight dip where Jim had scribbled out what she assumed was Larisa's old address with slightly more weight to the ink felt soothing.
Despite being the one to make the call, Pam suddenly had no clue what she was doing. Deciding to phone Larisa had pretty much been a decision she'd made in a state of shock, and her actually answering the call had now crashed her back to reality. "Umm, hi."
"Uh... sorry, who is this?"
"It's... it's Pam."
On the other side of the call, Larisa scrunched her face up in confusion and muted her television. "Pam? From Jim's work?"
"Oh, umm, okay - is Jim okay?"
"Shit, yeah, sorry," Pam mumbled, remembering Larisa was Jim's emergency contact. "No, he's, umm... I just - this is kind of weird but I just needed to talk to someone about this and I can't talk to Jim about it so I thought I'd call you and - God, sorry, I sound crazy, I just-" Pam paused so she could take a breath and wipe at the tears running down her face with her free hand.
"No, umm, that's okay," Larisa folded her legs up onto the couch to get comfortable. Being phoned on a random evening by the girl who had secretly taken off her engagement ring when joining her brother's family dinner clearly wasn't going to be a quick check-in call. Larisa had to admit she was still curious about the engagement ring. Surely there was only one explanation for that. "What's going on?"
Pam gently closed Jim's contact book and put it away, trying to keep herself composed before she replied. She ran her finger along his keyboard, neatly tucked close to his desktop monitor, before turning and leaning against his desk. "So... Jim said he loves me."
"What?!" Larisa exclaimed, slamming her hand on the arm of her couch.
"Yeah," Pam could feel her heart racing, and she held a hand against her chest as if that would contain it. "I didn't handle it very well."
"Why? What did you say?"
"That his friendship means a lot to me."
"No," Larisa gasped.
"And that he misinterpreted things."
"No! Pam! Is that seriously how you feel?"
"I don't know! It came out of nowhere and I just, it was a lot," Pam could feel herself flushing red and fanned her face slightly.
"Was it really out of nowhere? Like, you really had no idea?"
"I mean, I thought maybe he had a crush on me, sometimes, but - he said that was when I first started and - like, I know he cares about me, I really care about him too, but - I didn't think he was in love with me!"
"Okay yeah in love is a lot," Larisa nodded. "But surely it's not just a misinterpreted friendship or whatever. That's kinda harsh, no?"
"I panicked! I was scared, I've never really let myself work out exactly how I feel. Obviously I - I like him and I love him as a friend but," Pam sighed, "it's complicated because I'm engaged."
"I know, but engaged isn't married."
Pam felt her heart skip a beat in shock and her voice dropped low. "Wait. How did you know that?"
"I saw you take your ring off when we were walking to the table," Larisa admitted. "I saw it on your hand when Jim introduced you at the restaurant. You don't think Jim hadn't ever mentioned ‘this cute girl from work but she's engaged'?"
"Oh." Pam was speechless for a moment, and she twirled the telephone wire around in her free hand anxiously.
"It was like... the first thing I looked for."
"Also, he told me you kissed him when he dropped you home that night as well."
"Yeah. So to be honest, I really don't think this whole thing you guys have is just a friendship or that Jim misinterpreted anything."
"Jim was pretty upset when I said that. He just walked off and I felt awful. I just..." Pam paused as she felt her eyes fill with fresh tears, her heart a little more open from slowly talking things out with Larisa. Pam looked back towards her desk and thought about how the best part of her day was always Jim. The way he always made her smile, always encouraged her to follow her dreams even when she found excuses not to, always had time for her whether she had an exciting story to tell or needed to get things off her chest. "Jim is so much more than a friend to me, Larisa. Of course I've had times where I've thought, I really do love him. But I'm not supposed to and he's my best friend!"
"Pam, you've given your love for my brother like, five different categories in this conversation alone. I feel like that should give you some answers."
"I don't know what... where do I go from here?"
"Well, with or without the information you have now - do you still want to marry your fiancé?" Larisa asked.
No, Pam thought instantly. Just thinking it felt a bit mean; they had been together for almost ten years now, how could she know that quickly?
But she just knew.
Pam reflected back to all the times she'd almost asked Jim, or her sister, or her friends, if they thought she should break up with Roy or if they thought she was with the wrong person, before chickening out because she was scared of the weight of the consequences of the answers she knew she'd receive. Pam knew part of the reason she was still with Roy, other than the comfort of familiarity and routine, was due to a lack of confidence in herself; that she'd gotten everything wrong and it was all her fault. But truthfully she hadn't even been one hundred percent sure about saying ‘yes' to his proposal and had conditioned herself to be excited about the prospect of marrying him. He was a huge part of her life, and now she could see that she loved him as exactly that - someone that's a significant part of your journey, but one that you have to part ways with to make progress. They didn't want do things together, they argued constantly at home, they were better apart than together. Her doubts about Roy weren't only because she knew she had feelings for Jim, as much as she tried to push those down, but they certainly played a part.
Finally, Pam gulped down the lump in her throat. "No, I don't."
Having been holding her breath, Larisa exhaled loudly in relief. "Okay. Okay! Good, you have an answer then."
"Yeah. It feels relieving, actually. But scary."
"I can imagine."
"What do I do?" Pam asked quietly. She almost felt embarrassed, asking Jim's little sister what to do with her soon-to-be-broken engagement, but Larisa's support and advice felt comforting, as if she were her own sister.
"Umm... well, I guess your next step is to speak to the guy and break things off."
"Oh my God, I'm going to have to... move out, and... and get a car and... wow," Pam trailed off anxiously as the realization of how much of her life was about to change hit her.
"Hey, hey, it's fine. I mean, it's going to be a fucking huge change obviously, but you're going to be so much happier once this is all settled. And if you need somewhere to stay, my sofa bed is not entirely uncomfortable."
"Thank you," Pam felt herself smiling slightly.
"And just... be honest with Jim, okay?"
"That actually feels more terrifying than calling off my own engagement."
"Come on, you already know he loves you, and I'm sorry but my brother is kinda stupid, he needs it to be just super obvious," Larisa rolled her eyes, though she grinned as she heard Pam giggle. "When he told me that you kissed him I was like dude, she's giving you a sign. He was convinced it was just nothing."
"See, that's why it's so scary! That was me trying to give him a sign and nothing happened."
"I mean, I guess I don't really blame him for finding it kinda confusing I guess, since you're engaged. So just... don't leave anything out. Maybe it's terrifying but at least do it for yourself so you can move forward."
"I know, you're right," Pam let out a slow, steady breath to try calm her nerves.
"And sooner rather than later. When did all this happen anyway?"
"About ten minutes ago."
"And did you give him like, any idea that you'd maybe talk to him later or anything?"
"No, I didn't know what to say," Pam admitted, twirling the telephone wire again as she remembered the way Jim had walked away from her.
"Okay, well, you should probably find him before it's too late, you know," Larisa warned.
"Yes, I know."
Larisa nodded to herself, reassured. She knew her brother could be more sensitive than he let on, and being rejected by the woman he loves would be huge for him. "Good, good, okay - so what are you going to tell him?"
"I don't know, he's my best friend."
"You're obviously really important to each other."
"Yeah, he's great."
"Are you in love with him?" Larisa asked, deciding to get straight to the point.
"Yeah, I think I am."
"So tell him that, Pam!" Larisa exclaimed, excited. "You-"
Suddenly, Pam sensed movement and heard the door to the office open and close behind her. Glancing behind her, she realized who it was and cut Larisa off. "Hey, I have to go."
"Is it Jim? Okay, call me if you need anything!"
"I will," Pam replied quickly before putting the phone down. Heart racing, she looked up as Jim approached her. Although she was nervous, she felt ready, thanks to her talk with Larisa. "Listen, Jim-"
And then her world changed as he cut her off and kissed her.
It wasn't like anything she had imagined it would be like. The times Pam had allowed herself to imagine kissing Jim it was frantic, desperate, needing. The actual kisses they'd shared were either quick and drunk, or slow and hopeful. This kiss actually made her knees weak and her world spin; things she'd read about but hadn't believed until now. His hands fit onto her perfectly, and she held onto him as she finally gave in and allowed herself to feel. Time both stood still and flew by too fast, and suddenly they were no longer kissing.
"You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that," Jim mumbled happily, his mouth lazy from the kiss.
"Me too," Pam let herself admit. "I think we're just drunk," she added, unable to stop herself quick enough from letting out a defence mechanism. Old habits die hard.
"I'm not drunk. Are you drunk?"
"No," Pam replied, and although she really didn't want to, she pulled back slightly as he leaned in for another kiss. "Jim-"
"Are you really gonna marry him?"
As she looked up at Jim at met his gaze, Pam knew her answer. In that moment she succeeded in silencing the Pam she had conditioned herself to be because of Roy, and let herself be honest with Jim. With a small smile, she shook her head.
"Okay," Jim whispered, slightly lost for words. He had almost been expecting her to nod, and was a little confused given she had pulled back from his attempt to continue their kiss.
"I need time, Jim," Pam said quietly, clinging onto his hands.
"Okay," Jim repeated. He could give her time. He'd been giving her time since they'd first met, and it was worth it in the end.
"I have nine years of my life to move on from and I could honestly kiss you right now and never, ever stop," Pam smiled up at him shyly, "but there are people who got me to here, to you, in those nine years, and I want to end things properly and re-calibrate myself before I... end up where I need to be."
"Okay," Jim said, one final time, with a smile. "I respect that."
"Thank you, Jim," Pam whispered, and despite herself, she leaned up to kiss him once more. She clung onto the front of his sweater, even as she pulled back. "One for the road."
Pam let go, because she really did want to kiss him forever, and watched as he took a step back. She loved him so much for giving her time, even when she felt she didn't deserve more of his time. As big as her next steps were about to be, she felt comforted by the fact that they would lead her to Jim.
Once Jim left, Pam took a few minutes to simply replay the kiss in her mind as she leaned against his desk. It had taken a lot of self-control not to call him back and turn her making-out-and-maybe-more-with-Jim-against-his-desk fantasy exist for real, but she reminded herself that soon they would have forever to do such things. Perhaps not really in the office, but Pam knew he had a desk in his bedroom too. Pam giggled to herself as she let those thoughts run freely through her mind for the first time, feeling a weight lift off her shoulders at the fact that she could entertain all these Jim-related thoughts for once. She wasn't surprised they were all so deep and intense; they were the ones that had been the most suppressed.
Having given herself time to let her mind run free as she slowly paced around the office, a grin stuck on her face, Pam eventually flopped down into Jim's desk chair and closed her eyes. She had to focus on the reality of her situation now. There were big moves to make, but she figured mentally she'd already made her biggest move. Letting out a heavy sigh, Pam gently spun the chair side to side as she formed a plan.
One: Need somewhere to stay tonight. No way Roy went home. Need time to myself.
Pam wondered if she could stay with Larisa for the night. If not, she'd call Isabel or Marina. Maybe Maggie or Donna, though she didn't think they had a friendship that included late-night calls. She didn't have the energy to go through everything with Isabel or Marina right now, but Pam knew they wouldn't have an issue letting her stay if they were home. Which, given it was a Friday night, they probably were out.
Two: Tell Roy the engagement is over.
Easy. She'd speak to him tomorrow. It wouldn't be an easy conversation, but it was easy in the sense that she knew she wanted out, and she knew that it was the right thing to do.
Three: Tell everyone else. Deal with the drama.
Hopefully by then she'd have a few friends on her side to help her through that. Pam was admittedly a little worried about the fallout, especially from Roy and his family, but it was something she'd have to deal with.
Jim made it all worth it.
Opening her eyes back up, Pam leaned forward and hit ‘Redial last caller' on Jim's phone. To her luck, Larisa was more than happy for Pam to stay over. They arranged for Larisa to collect Pam from the office; Pam figured then she had a safety net that if Roy was home and she said she was staying with a friend, he'd see that it was a girl and not some guy (reason four hundred and fifty two that Pam had lost touch with so many friends - she hated Roy constantly checking on who she was with). She slowly got herself ready to leave as she waited for Larisa, feeling surprisingly calm for someone who had just decided to end her engagement. Pam wasn't surprised when they reached her place and Roy wasn't home; it made packing an overnight bag easier without the guilt of not telling Roy straight away.
They had a late night, talking through everything; Pam caught Larisa up on her relationship with Roy and all the non-Jim related reasons she wanted to end things, before moving onto all the Jim-related reasons. Larisa grinned as she learned that Pam had realized she liked Jim far earlier than her brother could have imagined, before letting her in on her observations during the time Pam had joined the Halpert family for pre-Christmas dinner. They talked over Pam's plan going forward, with Larisa reassuring her whenever Pam started to spiral over just how much was going to change. Every so often, Larisa would throw in a jokey insult at Jim's expense, which somehow kept Pam grounded - she loved all the things about Jim that Larisa made fun of: his ‘gangly-ass limbs', his ‘shitty mop hair', his ‘weird giggle'.
And in the end, after breaking things off with Roy and spending a few weeks at her parent's house (the longer commute each day made up for the peace she felt of being around her supportive family), moving into her own apartment and painting her hallway a calming lavender, Pam made her way back to Jim, who had supported her from a respectful distance. He was there when she needed him, but didn't intrude and insist that she needed his help every step of the way.Finally, Pam was free to tell Jim "I'm in love with you too," as he kissed her in her lavender hallway.