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The first time Pam spent the night at Jim’s house, she woke up alone. She hadn’t been to his new place before and, in the light of day, it felt different then it had the night before when her eyes scanned everything quickly, taking it all in, as Jim took her coat and purse and grabbed her a beer.

It was all about first impressions the night before. She could see the details now of, at least, his bedroom.

His comforter was different from the one she’d sat on a year and a half ago. It was solid navy blue. It seemed older, more mature, like Jim had somehow shed the last remains of boyhood and had officially become an adult.

Of course, there was a basketball in the corner next to the bookshelf that had one shelf dedicated entirely to comic books, so maybe maturity hadn’t reached its height quite yet.

Pam sat up and ran her hand over her hair. It was complete mess and she knew it, but she could hear the shower turning off and there wasn’t much she could right now. Besides, the man had been inside of her so seeing her without brushed hair should not be any sort of big deal.

She fell against his pillows again and stretched diagonally across the bed. Pam had slept that way as a child and had adopted the position again in Roy’s absence. She reached for Jim’s pillow and hugged it to her chest. That her head might actually be on Jim’s pillow and the one she was holding might be the spare crossed her mind.

It was a stupid, simple thing that didn’t exactly bother her—that she didn’t know which side of the bed he slept on. That kind of thing was more connected to intimacy than anything and she wanted that. She wanted to know these things. A long time ago she found out he used fabric softener and it had felt so oddly intimate.

This was in that same wheelhouse.

Jim came into the room in boxers and a tee shirt. He sat down on his bed and Pam moved further from the center and back to her “side.”

“Good morning,” Jim said, smiling down at her.

“Mmmm. Morning.” Her voice was still full of sleepiness, despite that she’d been up for a couple of minutes already.

“Do you want to take a shower or anything?” he asked.

“I dunno. Do we have big plans for today or something?”

He shook his head. “No. What do you do on Saturdays?”

“I normally have an art class in the afternoon but I don’t think I’m going to make it today.”

Pam sat up again and crossed her legs Indian style.

Jim asked, “Have something else in mind?”

She smiled at him. “Yes. But give me a minute.” She scampered out of his bed and went into the bathroom. She’d left a make-up bag on his counter the night before and she dug through it to find her toothbrush.

When she came back into his bedroom, Jim was on the phone. It gave Pam a minute to throw back on her underwear and camisole that she’d worn the night before.

Pam climbed back onto the bed and pulled the covers around her as she took her earlier position of legs crossed under one another. Jim was sitting at his desk chair talking on the phone. He rolled his eyes at her as he discussed, what Pam picked up on, a basketball game being put together by some of his friends.

“You can go,” Pam mouthed to him, as Jim insisted that he couldn’t.

He shook his head. “No way in hell,” he mouthed back. Pam smiled.

“Listen, I gotta go, Mark. Maybe I’ll make it next weekend.” Pause. “Alright, I swear on the grave of my childhood dog that I’ll be there next weekend.” He smiled and Pam could hear Mark’s voice on the other end. “Well, I have someone that heard me so she’ll make sure I get there.” Another pause for Mark to talk was followed by Jim saying, “No, I do actually remember her name and I gave her my number so, yeah, she’ll make me go. Good-bye!”

“Mark?” Pam asked.

Jim nodded. “Yep. He made me swore to be at next week’s game. You can come be my cheerleader or something.”

“I’m more one of those arty kids that gets stoned behind the bleachers. Sorry.”

“Either way, that’s fine.” He came back over to the bed and, as he sat down, he put his hand on her thigh and kissed her. “I didn’t get to say a real ‘good morning’ yet, so…” he trailed off and Pam kissed him again.

“Good morning, Jim.” She put her arms around his neck and pulled him tightly for a hug that ended up with her on her back and him supporting his weight as he kissed her slowly.

“Maybe I should take a shower,” Pam jokingly said a few minutes later. She tried to sit up but Jim kept her down.

“Nope,” he said, his hand on her shoulder. “You’re trapped right now.”

“Really? What would you do if I did try to get up?”

“Not gonna happen, baby.”

“Baby?”

Jim groaned, “You pick up on everything.”

She smiled and put the back of her hands against his chest. “I’m just really, really observant…with my ears.”

He leaned down to kiss her and whispered against her lips, “We should be quiet for awhile.”

Pam nodded.

11111

50 First Dates or Meet the Parents, your choice.” Jim held up the two DVD boxes as Pam sat on his living room couch and ate a slice of pizza directly out of the box.

She scrunched her nose and looked towards his rack of DVDs. “Don’t you have better taste in movies?”

“No. Not at all.”

Pam scanned the racks. “Okay, we’re watching Rebel Without a Cause.”

“I own that movie?”

Pam pointed her finger at the third row of DVDs.

“Alright,” he said, dropping the other two movies on his coffee table and reaching for the one she wanted. “You into James Dean?” Jim asked. He took the movie out of its box and put it into the open DVD player.

“I have a thing for guys with that name. It’s weird. I was totally married to a guy named James in second grade.”

Jim turned to look at her. “Are you serious?”

But Pam was already turning red with laughter and she sputtered out a “no.”

Jim shook his head and turned the movie on when it loaded. He sat on the other side of the pizza box and took a slice. Pam put it on the coffee table and pushed at Jim’s chest until he was reclining against the arm of the couch. She stretched out on top of him, her head under his chin. As he breathed, her body rose with him.

It was dark when the movie ended. Pam was crying.

“Hey, you okay?” Jim asked, rubbing her back as she sat up.

“I do this every time. Plato just wanted to be loved.”

Jim gave her his half-smile and put his hand on top of her hair. “Jim loved him.”

Pam nodded. “He loved Jim. I love Jim. Seriously, what a good guy. You know?” She turned to look at her Jim and he was staring at her seriously.

“You know I love you, right? I know we talked about all of this on Thursday but, you know, it’s still there.”

“I know,” Pam said, her voice small.

“Okay.”

“And, you know I feel the same way, too, right? That I love you?”

He nodded and licked his lips.

“Are those new sheets on your bed?”

He was taken aback by her sudden switch in topic. “That’s kind of out of left field.”

Pam scratched the back of her neck and her face flushed with embarrassment. “I was just thinking during the movie that, like, you might not have had time to wash them and the last girl probably on the bed, naked, was Karen and, if that’s true, the mall isn’t closed yet and we could go get you new sheets.” She said the last part brightly.

“Uh…we could go get new sheets. I did find time to wash them, though. But we should get new sheets. New start; new sheets.”

“Excellent. Yeah. Good. I’ll go get dressed.”

11111

“Am I gonna need a new blanket, too? I really like mine,” Jim said as he and Pam walked around Bon-Ton at the Steamtown Mall.

“Yes. We’re going to find you something with pink flowers on it.”

“Oh, great, why did I let a girl take me shopping, again?”

“No idea.”

They were both dressed in jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers. It was all completely comfortable. Pam’s hair was thrown into a bun and she didn’t have a lick of make-up on. It was nice. To be here this soon.

“What if we did something like chocolate brown for a comforter and navy blue like you have now for the sheets? That could look nice and masculine.”

Jim shrugged. “Whatever you want. You have the eye. In fact,” he reached into his back pocket for his wallet. “Why don’t you pick whatever out and get it and I’ll go get us pretzels and Coke.” He handed her his charge card for the store that his mother had insisted he get. It was all motivation for him to buy work clothes that weren’t handed down from his dad. It hadn’t worked, but he had held onto the card.

“You sure? I could go totally wild with this.”

“Yeah.” He leaned down to kiss her. “The pin is Dwight’s birthday—month and day.”

She giggled. “It’s really sad that I don’t even have to ask what it is.”

“Price of fame.”

11111

Auntie Anne’s was next to a jewelry store. The line for pretzels wrapped around the side of the store and he only started looking in the window as a way to pass the time. The longer he looked, the quicker his heart began to thump. He tried to shake himself of it because everything he was thinking was ridiculous.

“Dude, move up.”

Jim turned and a teenage boy looked about ready to kill him. He turned to see that there were a few feet of empty space between himself and the woman in front of him.

He couldn’t see the rings in the window anymore but they were imprinted in him still.

He still had a naked picture of Karen in his phone and he seriously considered buying a ring for a millisecond.

Well, he could take care of one thing, at least. He took out his phone and deleted all remaining pictures of his two-day-old past.

Pam was waiting at the entrance of the store with three huge bags by her feet as she talked on her cell phone.

“Next weekend? I’m not sure, mom. Maybe on Sunday I’ll come up for dinner.”

Jim waved at her with a pretzel and she smiled.

“Listen, I gotta go. Love you!”

“How many sets of sheets did you buy?” Jim asked, handing over her pretzel and grabbing onto two of the bags. Pam grabbed the other one and Jim led them to a small time by the coffee cart parked outside Bon-Ton.

“Two. One in the navy and another in tan. And I got you throw pillows.”

“Because they are so masculine.”

“You need counter-balance. When I moved, I read a lot about interior design and making a calming, relaxing home and the balance between masculine and feminine feels was key.” She nodded to confirm her thoughts and bit into her pretzels.

“You’re kind of a dork.”

11111

Jim took the new sheets down to the washing machines in the basement of his building while Pam ran back to her apartment for a change of clothes.

When he’d had girlfriends before, Jim had always felt a little sense of relief when they’d leave. He didn’t hate any of them but he was private and he liked having his own space without foreigners.

An hour without Pam and this place felt like it was missing something.

And then there was a buzz from downstairs.

“That was fast,” Jim said when he pressed for the intercom.

A hesitant voice said, “It’s me.”

“Oh. I’ll…um…buzz you up.”

“Thanks.”

He was impressed with her timing. It was better for all of them, Jim supposed, if Pam wasn’t here.

He opened the door and stood with his hand on the top corner of it, waiting for her to come up.

He watched her walk down the hallway from the stairs, a cardboard box in her hands. It was full of his stuff.

“Better now then later, right?” she offered right away, trying to cut the tension. It was very un-Karen, to ignore the important. He was the jokey bullshitter.

Jim opened the door wider and let her come in. “Are you here to try and kill me?” he asked. “Because, you know, you might have reached a max on the verbal abuse earlier today. I dunno. Maybe I haven’t seen anything yet.”

“I’m not here to mess up your life. I don’t do that sort of thing. Here.” She handed him the box full of CDs and his concert shirts that she loved to wear.

“I can get your stuff together, if you want.”

“Yeah. That would be good.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stood by his still-open front door awkwardly.

“Do you want a drink? We can…if you need to, we can talk.”

She smirked indignantly. “There is really nothing left to say. I’m moving and I need my stuff and that’s all.” Karen looked away from him then and focused on a cobweb in the corner where the ceiling met two walls.

Jim nodded. “Yeah. Alright.” He emptied the box she brought onto his couch and moved to his bedroom first. He thought about calling Pam or sending her a text, requesting that she get food or a movie from Blockbuster or anything, really, to stall all three of them in the same room.

That, though, would take time and he really only wanted Karen gone. At least, right now. Things just needed to not get screwed up with Pam.

“Why isn’t she here?”

Karen was standing in the doorway while he went through the drawer he had given her.

“She went home for a little while.”

Karen pointed at his work. “You have space for her now.”

“Yeah. Uh-huh.” He was not going to say anything. Nope. Not one word.

When he finished in his bedroom, Jim hurried through everything in the bathroom: tampons, a mini-hairdryer, hair tie things, he threw them all into the box. It was funny, how he so quickly could get rid of Karen’s presence in his life. Everything of hers was just waiting to be tossed away by him.

“Okay, I think this is everything,” Jim told Karen, handing the box over.

“Good.”

“Before you go, I want you to know that I am sorry for hurting you.”

“You should work on your sincerity.”

And then she was gone and in her place came Pam. Only it wasn’t that linear. The sequence was out-of-whack and the only thing that kept him from feeling like a complete prick was that Pam was always there first. That had to matter for something.

When he came back from changing the laundry, Pam was already there, searching through one of his cabinets for wine glasses.

“I picked this up,” she told him, holding up the bottle of wine she’d bought on her way back.

“Cool.”

Jim came up behind her in the kitchen and put his arms around her shoulders, holding her tightly against him while he put his face against her hair.

“I missed you,” he said softly, starting to sway softly.

“But you had Karen here, how could you have missed me at all?”

“You saw that?”

Pam ran her fingers over the hair on his arm. “Mmmhmm. What did she need?”

“Her stuff.” He kissed the top of her ear. “It’s not a big deal. I’m glad it’s done.”

“Let’s have some wine and ice cream and not think about it, okay?” Pam moved out of his arms and went towards the freezer. “I got you coffee flavored.”

“You know right the way to a man’s heart.”

“Yes, red wine and coffee-flavored ice cream is the sexiest combination.”

They ate the ice cream out of the tub while sitting on his bare mattress.

“I talked to my mom again while I was home,” Pam told him, licking her spoon like it was illegal. Especially when she brought up her mother.

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, instead of me going up there next weekend, I think she’s coming to Scranton. Maybe we can all have dinner or something?”

Pam fixated on pouring more wine and not looking at Jim while he said, “Oh,” and then trailed off.

“Why is she going to be down here?” he asked, trying not to commit to anything. He knew this wasn’t exactly smooth form but they had literally started dating two days ago. It didn’t matter that they’d been in a relationship for (what felt like) thirty. The sex thing was still new and, thus, they probably weren’t ready for one another’s family.

“Roy’s mom is having her birthday party Saturday. It’s a brunch thing.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“I’m not going, but our mothers are still close.”

“Pam, let’s think about this: You want me to go to dinner with your mother just a few hours after she’ll have been spending time with Roy, someone she adores, and his family?”

Pam rolled her eyes. “She doesn’t love Roy. How would you even know if she did? You’ve never even talked to her, Jim.”

He pointed his spoon at her. “Exactly.”

“Fine. I’ll tell my mom you don’t want to have dinner with her and then we’ll see how well she likes you in the future.”

“Doesn’t she feel that it might be too soon to meet me?”

Pam shrugged. “Maybe but I’ve known you for a really long time. I’ve been talking about you for a really long time. It is just dinner. She’s not expecting you to, like, ask for my hand or anything.”

“Well, that would just be weird.”

“Actually, when I told her you finally asked me out, she made a comment about us eloping on the first date.”

“Your mother is nuts. We would never do something like that. Not on a first date.”

“Fifth date is the eloping date,” Pam said, giggling too loudly, and looking away. “Why the hell are we talking about this?” She didn’t mean to sound as freaked out as she did.

“To be awkward?” he offered. “I’m gonna go and put the ice cream back in the freezer. We shouldn’t eat more. We’ll get fat or something.” He stuck both the spoons in his mouth to keep himself from saying anymore and tried to get up as quickly as possible without risking falling and swallowing kitchenware. Because death would be bad.

Pam nodded. “Good idea. We can’t let ourselves go so soon.” She kept nodding manically.

11111

It was later, when he came back with clean, new sheets and they both helped put them on his bed, that the awkwardness from earlier faded.

It was weird, how it went away while they were being domesticated. What that said about them, about this, he wasn’t sure. Then again, signs and symbols, not words, had always been their forte. When they actually spoke, things bubbled to the surface, whether they wanted them to or not. But when they played with the absence of what they didn’t say, it gave them both time to feel it out, to be sure, and, at least, mildly secure.

So when the words did finally burst out, they’d be somewhat ready for it.

They could act married and feel married and not talk about those feelings and that was okay. Their relationship, for better or worse, was never going to fundamentally change who they were.

“This looks good,” Pam told him, smoothing over the comforter once last time before standing up and resting her hands on her hips.

“Yeah. You know what I really like doing?”

“Hmm?”

He moved to her and put his hands over hers. “Making my bed. We should mess it up so I can do…that.”

Jim knew he was going to marry her. Not today, not next week, but some day. That was enough for right now.
Chapter End Notes:
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