“Question,” she starts, leaning against the edge of his desk.
“Nothing,” he laughs and shakes his head. “I promise you’ll get that joke by your third week here. What’s up?”
She reaches out and fingers the paper clip chains hanging from his desk lamp. “What are these? I saw them in your desk drawer back in Stamford, too.”
He straightens in his seat and let out a puff of air before explaining. “Those are medals from the Dunder Miflin Olympics.”
Her eyes widen. “The what?”
“Yeah,” he laughs, looking a little embarrassed. “Don’t ask.”
“Ah,” she says, giving one of the yogurt lids a flick with her index finger. “I get it. It’s one of those Scranton things.”
It’s after five and the office is almost empty. He looks around to make sure no one is watching them before reaching up and curling his pinky around her finger. “Are you ready to go?” His voice is low, but husky, and she feels a shiver that runs from her finger all the way down to her toes. Unable to speak, she just nods.
On their way out as she’s grabbing her coat off the rack, she spots the paper clip and yogurt lid medals tacked to the wall behind Pam’s desk. A quick glance around the office confirms her and Jim are the only two who have them.
She was never a drinker before transferring to Scranton, but now more days than she cares to admit, she needs a happy hour drink or two to numb the pain of her day at work. It’s always Jim who nods and laughs as she recounts the day between sips, never pointing out to her that he was also there, letting her vent her frustrations.
Today, though, Jim is out of the office on a sales call and she’s desperate for a vodka and tonic. At 4:30 she approaches the reception desk.
“I know this is last minute, but would you be interested in going for a drink after work?”
Pam immediately nods and the two women smile at their mutual stressed states.
At exactly 4:59, like a well practiced ritual, they silently shut down their computers and grab their things. Then they make a mad dash for the elevator.
They’re both still giggling at their abrupt departure as they exit the building. Neither notice Jim, who is standing at the opposite side of the parking lot, watching them.
“Hey!” Karen finally yells, jogging towards him. “I thought you’d be getting back late tonight.”
“Uh,” he starts, eyes moving between her and Pam. “My meeting was shorter than expected so I’m back.”
“Great! Pam and I need alcohol, right Pam?”
They both turn towards Pam who just nods and gives a small smile.
“Soooo….” She drawls, lowering her eyelids. “I think you should come with us.”
He shakes his head. “No, you guys go ahead. I’ve got some paperwork to take care of and I really should go over my meeting with Michael.”
“Come on,” she whispers, leaning in. “You can get me good and drunk and then take me home.” She reaches out and plays with the button on his coat to emphasis how serious she is. No one at works knows about them, but Pam’s the closest thing she has to a girlfriend in Scranton and she’d like for someone they’re mutually friends with to know about them.
He suddenly lets out a cough and steps back a bit, and her arm drops from his coat. At the same moment, she sees Pam shuffle from one foot to the other and tug at the belt on her coat.
“You know what guys,” Pam says, her eyes never looking up from the concrete. “I think I’m just going to go home. I don’t feel very well and I don’t want to get a cold.” She sniffles a few times as if to prove her point before turning on her heels and heading to her car.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” she says, briefly looking back. “Thanks for the invitation. Maybe some other time.”
Karen looks at Jim for some sort of explanation of what just happened. Instead he just shrugs his shoulders and avoids her gaze.
Jim had told Karen about last year’s Christmas party so she’s not surprised when a sea of voices at once yell, “NO!” to Michael’s suggestion to turn Secret Santa into Yankee Swap.
Dwight tosses a plastic bag onto her lap and she stares at the lump before looking up and meeting eyes with Jim. “Creed” he mouths with a smile. She remembers how she had almost fallen off his couch the weekend before, laughing until her sides hurt, when he came out of his bedroom wearing Creed’s “gift” from the previous year. He had stood there looking offended and shook his head at her. “Filippelli, you have no sense of current fashion trends.”
She opens the bag and pulls out an old book of road maps. It looks to have spent the better part of the last decade under a car seat, with coffee stains and what looks like jelly donut residue on the cover. It also has a certain unexplainable odor to it.
“Maps” she says, holding up the book so the whole room can see.
“That’s from me.” Creed declares with a smile.
“Thank you, Creed. This will come in handy since I’m new to the area.”
The room focuses on Phyllis, who is pulling a big gift from under the tree. “This one is for you, Pam.”
Pam grins, reaching for the oversized package. She takes her time unwrapping the gift and Karen mentally pleas with Pam to hurry up. She heard a rumor that someone spiked the egg nog when Toby wasn’t looking,and she could really use a cup right about now. She looks over to Jim, figuring he’ll see the desperation in her eyes for this all to be over, but he is watching Pam’s face intently, chewing on his left thumbnail.
“Oh my God,” she whispers, pulling the last of the paper off a beautiful antiqued brass picture frame. She looks at Jim who immediately drops his hand from his mouth.
“You had me again this year?” Pam asks.
He smiles. “Umm…it’s from Santa, Beesley.” Karen cringes a bit when he calls Pam by her last name for the second time in thirty seconds.
Pam blinks a few times before breaking into a full grin. “Well, Santa must have overheard me at lunch last week saying I needed to get frames for some of my paintings.”
Jim shrugs his shoulders. “You know that Santa. He has elves everywhere.”
Karen thinks she’s going to be ill. At least she could blame it on the Creed smell if she was forced to run into the ladies room. Pam and Jim continue to grin at each other, lost their own little world, and she’s beyond grateful when Toby clears his throat and asks, “So. Who’s next?”
She tries not to make a huge deal about what she just witnessed, but she can’t stop thinking of the way Pam’s eyes danced as she stared at him. Then she wonders where you could buy a brass frame that size for twenty dollars or less.
When he finally looks over at her a few minutes later, she quickly flips open her book at pretends to be studying a Philadelphia street map.
The sound of Pam’s phone settling on the receiver echoes through the office. The entire room continues to focus on the reception desk, watching as Pam wipes tears from her eyes with the cuff of her sleeve. No one is sure exactly what happened but they had all stopped talking on their phones or typing on their keyboards as soon as they heard her cry, “Mom? What’s wrong?”
Pam gets up from her seat and confronts the twelve sets of eyes staring at her. “Umm....my grandmother . . . she . .” Her voice cracks and she lets out a small choked sob before running towards the break room.
They all remain silent, no one quite sure what’s appropriate to do next until Phyllis quietly pleas, “Jim,” tears pooling in her eyes as she continues to watch Pam cry in the break room.
Karen watches Jim walk into the break room and she feels terrible wishing Pam had left the building to grieve. At least then she wouldn’t be able to see him approach her from behind, his large comforting hands wrapping around her shoulders. Or see her immediately turn around and drop her forehead against his chest, her hands bunching the material of his suit jacket in her hands.
She looks away, and gives the start button on the copy machine a good smack as she wonders why she feels guilty spying on the man she’s sleeping with comfort another woman.
They throw her a going away party at Poor Richard's, which she thinks is very sweet considering that she’s only been there for five months. Ryan greets her with a shy smile, handing her another beer, and she begins to regret not making an effort to socialize outside the office with anyone besides Jim and Pam. Even with all their quirks, these are nice, decent people. Even Angela, who is sitting alone, nursing her first caffeine free diet coke of the night.
“What made you decide on Philadelphia?” He’s standing beside her, holding a Heineken in one hand and a margarita in the other.
“I have a map,” she deadpans. “In fact, I have several maps of the area. I guess I’ll just be thankful Creed didn’t have maps of Siberia under his car seat.”
He lets out a laugh and takes a swig from his beer. “I should...” He gestures to the margarita and then to the table behind them.
She nods. “Yeah, yeah...of course.”
She doesn’t expect him to lean in and kiss her on her cheek, but it makes her smile. “Good luck, Filippelli.” He whispers in her ear.
She watches him walk back to his table, placing the margarita in front of Pam. Then she hears him say, “I had them make it with lots of ice so that should be at least three drinks for you.”
She has no idea what that means but Pam starts to giggle before reaching her hand under the table to smack his knee. His own hand dives under and he grabs onto her wrist to stop her. Their hands stay there, motionless, before Jim’s hand finally slides from her wrist to the palm of her hand. Karen notes how tiny Pam’s hand looks next to his as she links her finger’s through his.
She feels a nudge at her ribs and then sees a shot glass waving in front of her face. She can’t explain the smile on her face and she grabs the glass from Kevin.
She turns to Phyllis, Ryan, Meredith, and Kevin who all have shots in their hands.
“What to, Karen?” Phyllis asks, raising her glass.
“To....getting a clue.” She says before they all clink glasses.