This is definitely not how Jim imagined Valentine’s Day going.
It was either going to be a low-key hangout at his friend Amy's, or more likely just a quiet night by himself watching basketball since Mark was out with his girlfriend and Jim had been on the fence about going to the party all day.
He definitely didn’t expect Pam Beesly to show up at his door, announcing her fiance was preoccupied and that she was ready to go to a party with him.
He didn’t expect she would have her arm hooked with his for most of the short walk to Amy’s, though he couldn’t help but be grateful for the icy sidewalks.
And he didn’t expect to see her slip her engagement ring off as they approached the front door.
He nearly asked what she was doing, but the expression on his face must have asked the question for him when she looked up after dropping the ring into a pocket in her purse. “Didn’t you say your friend was very serious about tonight being singles only?”
“I may have overstated that, I don’t think she would actually kick you out -”
Pam shrugged. “It’s fine, I mean, this is an easy way to avoid any prying questions, right? ‘Where’s your fiance? Why is he with a friend and not you?’ Et cetera.”
“Fair enough,” Jim said, knocking on the door.
Amy was a friend from Jim’s previous job, a brief stint at a cellphone kiosk in the Steamtown Mall. He was only there for half-a-year before leaving for Dunder Mifflin but he and Amy had become good buddies in that time. It was a little like his relationship with Pam. Well, save a few key differences.
“Hey Halpert!” Amy exclaimed as she opened the door. There were two consistent things about Amy’s appearance: she always wore dark-rimmed glasses, and her hair was always a new color whenever he saw her. Tonight, perhaps in honor of Valentine’s day, her hair was the color of red wine.
“Hey Amy, this is Pam,” Jim said after Amy had shut the door behind them.
Amy shot Jim a small look and a little smile before shaking Pam’s hand, “Great to meet you, Pam, Jim’s mentioned you before.” Jim was grateful for that understatement. “Decided to join our ‘Singles Awareness’ party?”
“Yes and I’m definitely in need of it this year since I’ve just broke it off with my fiance,” Pam said without hesitation, and Jim thought his eyebrows would shoot up right off his forehead.
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” Amy replied, her eyes darting over to Jim again.
“It’s okay, it was a long time coming." Pam slipped off her jacket, revealing her sweater (oh God, that sweater) and looked to Jim, “I think Jim would agree. He probably got tired of me complaining about my never-ending engagement, didn’t you?”
What is this, he tried to ask her with his eyes, but she tilted her head and silently begged him to go along with it. “I can’t say I was too surprised,” he finally replied.
“Well, you came to the right place,” Amy proclaimed, leading Pam and Jim to the living room where half-a-dozen people sat. “We were about to start a round of Telephone Pictionary.”
“I like Pictionary but I’m not sure what ‘Telephone Pictionary’ is,” Pam said.
“You’ll love it, Pam, it’s all the awkward doodles of Pictionary mixed with the hilariousness of Telephone,” Amy said, pulling a couple chairs up for Jim and Pam to sit at the coffee table. “Jason, you want to explain how it works?”
Amy’s friend Jason started passing out papers and went over the concept of Telephone Pictionary, where everyone wrote out a phrase or scenario at the top of a long, skinny piece of paper, pass it clockwise to the next person who would attempt to draw the scenario, then would fold the top part over so then the next person has to guess the phrase from only the drawing.
Jim was seated as such so he had to pass his papers to Pam, and as the round progressed he apologized for his poor doodles that she had to guess the scenario from. She simply smiled and tried to assure Jim they weren’t that bad, but when it came time to unfold the paper and present how skewed the original sentence had become, Jim couldn’t help but notice the disconnect was coming from his area of the circle. Still all of Pam’s drawings were very skilled, and she somehow managed to get something meaningful out of his chicken-scratches, even if his attempt to draw Dorothy and Toto on the Yellow Brick Road turned into Pam guessing that a farmer was walking his pig up the side of a brick wall.
The next game was Fictionary, which was more up Jim's alley. Amy refreshed everyone on the rules; come up with a plausible definition to an obscure word and earn point by having people pick that made up definition. Then the rounds proceeded with very interesting definitions (it seemed Amy couldn't not make her made-up meaning of every word into something sexual, such as saying "operose" meant "to be aroused by the opera") and with at least two people every round picking Jim's meaning.
This round the word was "paludal" and Amy's friend Rebecca was going around asking everyone to pick what they thought it meant.
Pam was the last to pick. She was a couple beers in and Jim could help but find her cute sitting there with her brows knitted seriously thinking about the different options. "What was the flute one again?"
"The second to last hole on the flute made slightly bigger for quicker air flow," Rebecca read off the card.
"That just sounds right, I'm going with that," Pam said. Jim turned away so she wouldn't see him smirking.
"Okay, everyone's answers are in and the correct definition is - Paludal: living or occurring in a marshy habitat." There was a mix and laughing and groaning and Rebecca started announcing points allotted. "Jim, you get three points for selecting the right meaning and getting two people to select yours."
"Which was yours?" Pam asked, leaning towards Jim.
"The flute one," Jim said, stifling a laugh when Pam's jaw dropped.
"Oh my god, how are you coming up with these definitions? I've picked yours like three times now," Pam almost shouted. "I totally fell for the rubiginous one also."
"Not originating or occurring naturally in a particular place, alien," Jim rattled off.
"See you even write it like a - a dictionary writer person," Pam said, the beer clearly starting to kick in.
Jim grinned, "Pam, you don't get to where I am at Dunder Mifflin without being an accomplished bullshitter."
Pam burst out laughing, leaning forward and resting her forehead briefly on Jim's shoulder. Jim watched her with a big smile on his face, despite seeing in the corner of his eye Amy looking at them and smirking.
There was a faint ringtone and Pam sat up to pull her cell out of her pocket. "I better take this," she said standing up and Jim tried to pretend he didn't know who it was.
"Charades is next, Pam," Amy called to her.
"I'll be two minutes, do not start without me," Pam said emphatically.
Jim watched her disappear down the hallway, then his eyes fell again on Amy and her smirk. He smiled, shook his head slightly and finished off his beer.
* * * * *
Closing the bathroom door behind her, Pam highlighted Roy's name on her phone and hit call. Please don't ask me to come get you, she thought.
"Heeeeey babe," Roy answered and Pam could hear Darryl snickering in the background.
"Hey, you called, how is everything," Pam asked.
"Oh, cool cool." Roy said with a slight slur.
"Roy is about to get his ass beat in Madden," Darryl shouted. Pam rolled her eyes when Roy and Darryl started trading insults and checked herself out in the mirror. She still wished she could have done something nicer with her hair but her makeup looked good and the blue sweater was a good choice, form-fitting without being too tight.
"So Darryl's okay?" Pam finally said.
"Yeah," Roy let out a puff of air like he was getting up and then after a moment started again in a lower tone, "I'm keeping him pretty distracted, and I've hidden his car keys and mine also. So, you know, definitely don't wait up." She heard a clang and a soft thud that she imagining was him getting another beer bottle out of the refrigerator. "You don't care, right?"
"No, I think it's good you're there with him-"
"Oh you did not make the Cleveland Browns my team, you restart right now," Roy hollered at Darryl then spoke into the receiver, "What's that Pammy?"
"Nothing, go have fun." She took a short breath then added an obligatory, "Love you."
"What? Yeah, love you too. Ha, oh you are dead, Philbin-"
The phone went silent, and Pam took a deep breath. Maybe if she was still at home by herself she would start analyzing what irritated her about that phone call. Not tonight, she thought. Tonight was about having fun with friends and that's just what she was doing. In fact this is maybe the most fun I've had in years, she thought straightening out her sweater. The telephone pictionary was a great laugh, and she marveled at how well Jim did at Fictionary; at least one person - often her - would choose his fake definition of a word every round.
She left the bathroom and turned the corner by the kitchen, where she could see Jim and Amy grabbing beers.
“Hey Jim,” Amy started in a low tone, “why didn’t you tell me Pam broke up with that lugnut?”
Pam eyes widened and she took a step back, right next to the end of the hallway where Jim and Amy couldn't see her.
“Oh, um,” Jim stammered, “It really just happened.”
Pam felt a little guilty, both for eavesdropping and also for Jim having to lie for her like that. She really should make herself known -
“Well, you’re gonna ask her out, right?”
Pam’s mouth went dry, “ask her out”? Jim wanted to ask her out? On a date?
“Um, I’m not sure if I should. Feels kinda soon”
“What do you mean ‘not sure’? Jim, you have been pining for her for over two years now.” Amy said, sounding indignant. “And I mean, I finally get why, she’s cute as hell, and really sweet and funny.”
“I just, I think I need to play it by ear,” Jim stumbled, and Pam would have felt bad if she wasn’t feeling completely blindsided. Jim wanted to ask her out, he had been “pining” for her for years. He had seen her coming into work looking tired with clothes wrinkles and hair barely brushed but apparently liked her, to the point that he was talking about her to his own friends.
“You don’t have to be scared, she’ll say yes. She clearly likes you too.”
“You don’t know that,” Jim said in a defeated tone and Pam’s heart suddenly ached a little.
“Part of the joy of being your friend for so long is I’ve witnessed many-a-lady fall for the Halpert charm and she’s smitten with you.”
“Smitten?” Jim said sarcastically.
“You heard me.” Amy’s voice grew closer and Pam panicked. She spun around and all but ran to the bathroom again and shut the door behind her.
Pam leaned against the door, her heart racing for reasons she knew had nothing to do with her quick dash just now. She jumped a foot when Amy called her name from the other side of the door. "Pam, you okay? We're itching to get our charades on."
"Yeah, be right there," Pam said a octave higher than usual. She took three deep breaths and made her way back to the living room.
Taking her seat, she wondered how it hadn't occurred to her until now how close she had been to Jim all night, sitting right next to him, laughing at every halfway funny thing he said, relishing every word of encouragement he gave her during the party games. And Amy was sitting just across the table, no wonder she thought Pam was 'smitten'.
"Great, now that we're all here let's get started," Amy said, shuffling some cards. She looked to Pam, "Have you ever played charades with Jim before?" Pam shook her head and Amy grinned, "You're in for a real treat."
"We might have to make Jim do Mount Saint Helens again just so Pam can see," Rebecca said and everyone started laughing.
"C'mon guys that was-" Jim pretended to think and then nodded, "That was an award winning performance if I may say."
The laughter continued and Pam smiled to herself, picking up her beer bottle and finding it empty.
"Oh hey Beesly, I grabbed you another one," Jim said, reaching for an opened bottle and handing it to Pam. "Unless you wanted a different kind-"
"No no, this is great, thanks," Pam said with a small smile, wondering if her cheeks looked pink at all.
Jim titled his head and his smile faded a little, "Everything okay?"
Pam blinked, before putting on a big smile, "Yeah, everything's good." She took a drink of beer, "Let's see these amazing charades I'm hearing so much about. Unless it's all talk."
Jim's mouth dropped a little, and a round of laughs and "oooohs" went around the group. "Well since my skills are being questioned," he stood and grabbed a card from Amy to act out, "it's on." He gave Pam a little nod and she took another sip of beer, knowing this time her cheeks were definitely crimson.