"This song sucks, change the station!"
"I don't think it's that bad."
"Pam, the song is literally the same five words throughout its entirety."
"You have to admit it's catchy, though."
"Yes it is, which is half the reason it sucks. I don't want it to be stuck in my head, so please change it."
Pam sighs, rolling her eyes good-naturedly and reaching across the bed and toward her nightstand where the little radio is perched, some electronic tune playing from its speakers. She presses the seek button until she settles on a different pop station, where an older song is playing.
"Now this I like," her roommate, Kelly says as she nods her head in time with the music.
Pam returns to her previous position, hunched over on her twin bed, and picks up the previously-abandoned bottle of nail polish. Kelly's, of course, it's a bright, glossy shade of electric blue, and she loves it.
"I like that, too," says Kelly from her own bed, likely noticing the way Pam's been admiring the color on her thumbnail. "It's bold."
The shade is a shocking contrast to Typical Pam, who wears muted shades and styles her hair the same way every day. She and Kelly aren't the closest of friends, but Pam does like how encouraging the other girl can be. Very talkative, but generally encouraging. Even in the past three months of rooming with Kelly, Pam has felt herself grow more confident.
"Thanks," Pam says, smiling to herself. "I think I'll go with it."
Kelly nods her approval and Pam continues to paint her remaining nails, humming along to the chorus of the song now playing. She's careful with each stroke of the brush, paying special care to her work when she shifts to painting her right hand, as she has to work with her left. It's not quite like real painting, but she likes to pretend.
They paint their nails in silence for a few more moments, Pam with her chosen shade of cobalt and Kelly with a pastel pink, before Kelly speaks up. "Oh, I forgot to tell you, I invited Ryan and a few of his friends from his suite over here to hang out. They're coming at eight and will probably stay until curfew, so I hope you don't mind. I figured maybe we could find you a cute guy or something too, just not Ryan because he's totally hot and I saw him first, but if his looks are anything to go by, then I'm sure his friends are almost as attractive, so you never know. And—"
"That's fine," says Pam quickly, sensing that her roommate is about to head off on one of her tangents. "But I don't know about the whole finding a guy thing. I still have—"
"Ugh, Roy, I know," scoffs Kelly, rolling her eyes. "But you guys have been on a break for like a month! Who says you can't have a little bit of fun in the meantime? Like, my friend in high school Tiffany went on break with her boyfriend Rob, and we went out that night and ran into the hottest guys…"
Pam kind of tunes Kelly out, instead opting to apply a clear coat to her now-dry nails. She's okay with Ryan and his friends coming over. She hasn't changed into her pajamas yet as it's only six-thirty, so she doesn't have to worry about finding something new to wear, and she doesn't have any classes tomorrow, so she can stay up late.
She doesn't really know Ryan. She knows that he's a freshman like them, and that he lives in a suite-style dorm with three other guys. She's seen him in passing (mostly when he's leaving their dorm while Pam is trying to enter it, his lips swollen and hair ruffled and eyes glinting), but has barely ever uttered more than a hey in his direction. In all honesty, she doesn't think he's that attractive, and he seems a bit sleazy. But she supposes it's really not her business who her roommate hooks up with, so she doesn't complain.
Besides, maybe she wouldn't mind meeting a cute guy or two. Roy's been a total ass, and lately she's been considering calling things off for good. Perhaps a new guy could help her to solidify that choice. Shit, now she's wondering if maybe she should change out of her jeans and the crewneck sweatshirt with her old high school's logo printed on the front.
She's interrupted from her thoughts by Kelly's gasp, which startles her as she looks over to the other girl. "What?" Pam asks, frowning.
Kelly only pouts. "I don't have anything that matches this color," she says in despair, holding up a hand and displaying her candy-pink nails.
Pam fights a smile as she wordlessly passes her the bottle of nail polish remover.
An hour and a half later, Pam has opted to keep her jeans but swap out her sweatshirt for a grey sweater, and Kelly is dressed to the nines in a mint green dress with nails to match. "How do I look?" the other girl asks, twirling a bit on the spot. "Do you think Ryan will like it?"
Pam nods, pursing her lips. "Yeah, totally," she says. "You look great."
And it's true, Kelly does look pretty. Pam just doesn't understand why she feels the need to dress up so much at eight o'clock at night for a few other people to come visit the dorm.
She doesn't have time to dwell on it though, as a knock sounds against their door. Kelly jumps up and down a few times, taking deep breaths and clearly fighting a smile. She smooths her dress out and stands up straight, then crosses the room and opens the door, leaning against the frame. "Hey!" she says, almost sounding surprised to have visitors. "Come on in," she steps away from the door as the four young men pile into the room.
The first is Ryan. Pam watches as his beady eyes scan the room. His gaze lands on her and he juts his chin upward in a 'Sup gesture. Pam smiles at him in greeting.
The next is dressed even louder than Kelly, if it's possible. He dons a pair of coral pink shorts and a royal blue polo shirt. He purses his lips as he also analyzes the room, nodding his head strangely as he does. Following him is a very tall guy, with a weird haircut and large glasses. He's frowning, arms crossed, as if this is the last place he wants to be right now.
The fourth one enters the room and Pam notices that he's even taller than Glasses Guy. And he's… really cute. Shaggy brown hair, boyish smile as he greets Kelly, hands in his pockets as he glances around the room. When his eyes lock with hers, her stomach flips and she has to fight a blush. Yikes, he caught her staring. He doesn't seem to mind, though, as he shoots her a lopsided grin that makes her heart flutter.
"So, everyone, this is my roommate Pam," says Kelly, closing the door behind her and standing before their visitors. "She's super cool, trust me. A little quiet, but I think that's just because she's an artist—"
Pam clears her throat, and Kelly trails off, smiling sheepishly at her. Pam decides to take it from here. "Yeah, hi," she says, smiling at each of them and trying not to let her gaze linger on the cute one. "My name is Pam, and I do like art. I'm a graphic design major and—"
"Graphic design is not a suitable career choice," says Glasses Guy matter-of-factly "Have you considered something useful, like urban farming?"
"Dwight," chides the cute guy, arms out and shaking his head in a What the hell? way.
Pam shakes her head a bit, frowning. "No, I, uh… I've really only considered design," she shrugs. "I know it's not a stable or easy field, but maybe I'll get lucky."
Glasses Guy—no, Dwight—scoffs. "Yeah, as a receptionist, maybe."
Okay, ouch. Pam decides she doesn't like Dwight all that much. She's faced enough ridicule from Roy and his friends regarding her art, and she's grown defensive of her interests over the years. "I'm perfectly content with my choices," she tells him, "but thank you for your concern."
There are a few seconds of tense silence before Kelly claps her hands together. "Okay, well anyway, Pam, you just met Dwight. Uh, these other two are Andy," the loudly-dressed guy waves, "and Jim." The cute one smiles at her again. Is it hot in here? "So, now that we're all acquainted, what do we want to do?" Kelly continues.
"Board game," says Andy simply. Everybody nods in agreement.
"Okay, sure," says Kelly. "I've got a few under my bed. What are we thinking?"
"Monopoly," says Dwight.
"Taboo," suggests Ryan.
"Pictionary," Jim shrugs. Pam looks in his direction, where he's already smiling at her, almost knowingly. Did he suggest Pictionary because Dwight was just mocking her interest in art? Maybe she's just reading into it too much, but she lets herself smile back at him nonetheless.
"Ooh, I like Pictionary! I don't have the other two, anyway." Kelly says. Everybody mutters in consent, with some light protesting from Dwight, but eventually they're divided into teams—Kelly, Ryan, and Dwight versus Pam, Jim, and Andy.
"Team Nard-Dog, alright!" Andy exclaims excitedly, looking for high fives from Pam and Jim as the three of them cram together on the floor against her bed, across from the other three who are situated in similar positions on Kelly's side of the room. Pam is hyperaware of Jim's leg brushing her own, and she notices that he smells like fabric softener. Why is that so endearing to her?
Eventually she's designated as the first artist, up against Ryan in drawing a… walrus? Okay.
They return to their respective spiral-bound notebooks and begin to sketch. Pam finds it a little difficult to focus with Jim's breath against the side of her neck as he watches her draw, but she does her best anyway. She makes the walrus a bit cartoonish, giving him a full mustache and large tusks.
"Oh, walrus!" shouts Andy at the same time Kelly yells, "Elephant!"
"Yeah, walrus!" says Pam with a grin, this time allowing Andy to high-five her. She glances over to where Ryan is looking exasperatedly at Kelly.
"Really? Elephant? Did you see a trunk anywhere? Or big ears?"
"Well, you gave it those fang things—"
"Tusks," Dwight supplies.
"—and its nose is kinda long…"
The night continues like that, with arguments both playful and irritated, much laughter, and exchanged quips. They play until Pam, Jim, and Andy are eventually victorious by a longshot, and by that time it's already nine-thirty. Curfew is ten, so they've still got a half hour left.
They settle for simple chatter. Ryan and Kelly are sitting on Kelly's bed, huddled against the wall as they talk in hushed tones. Dwight and Andy are arguing about something—maybe fishing?—off to the side, which leaves Pam and Jim. They sit at the edge of her bed, her legs crossed at the ankles and his knee brushing her thigh. She wonders if he does it on purpose.
"You're a really good artist, by the way," he tells her. "Even though you weren't really trying during the game, you were still better than anything I could do in a million years." She looks at him and smiles.
"Thanks," she tells him. "I know it's kind of a dumb major—"
Jim shakes his head, focusing on the wall across the room from them. "No, it's not. I think it's really cool. Dwight's just annoying. Besides, he and I are business majors. How boring can you get?"
Pam shrugs. "I guess. I don't know, though, maybe he's right." Jim looks back to her, frowning, and she grins. "I mean, I might consider switching my major to farming. Rural, though, not urban. Move to Kansas after I graduate, buy a few acres of land."
Jim laughs at that, and she feels a surge of pride. He's got a nice laugh. "Right, yeah," he says. "I could see you as a farmer. Straw hat, checkered shirt, cute pair of overalls."
Okay, this time she does blush. Cute pair of overalls?
She settles for laughter at his joke-slash-maybe-compliment, and decides that she likes Jim. He's funny, easygoing, charming. He's enough to make her forget about Roy almost completely, and the thought terrifies her and excites her all at once.
Too soon, ten o'clock is rolling around and the guys have to head back to their suite. Ryan and Kelly walk out to the hall together and kiss (read: literally make out) goodbye, Andy leaves with high-fives all around, and Dwight nods stiffly in farewell. Jim takes his time heading out, falling into stride with Pam.
"This was fun," he says.
"Yeah, it was," she nods, looking up at him and grinning. He smiles widely in return. They're about to approach the door when Pam glances down and catches sight of her nails, electric blue.
Not grey, or beige, or baby blue. Bright blue.
"Hey, we should, um, catch up sometime," she says before she runs out of courage and reverts back to Typical Pam. Jim stops walking and turns to look at her, and she's filled with relief at his large smile.
"Yeah, totally," he agrees, his voice earnest. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his cell phone, handing it to her. "Here, put your number in."
Pam chews on her lower lip to avoid smiling too wide as she enters the digits into his phone, then hands it back to him.
"Okay," she says.
"Alright," he replies. "I'll talk to you at some point."
And with that, he's out the door, sparing her one last smile over his shoulder. Pam is too busy smiling to herself that she barely registers Kelly coming back into the room and closing the door with a giddy, mischievous smile on her face. "Pam. Oh. My. God," she all but shouts. "You and Jim were totally flirting! I knew this was a good idea, oh my god, I'm literally a genius. They should offer a matchmaking major here, because I would be top of the class."
Pam laughs softly, shaking her head. "Relax, Kelly. We just met tonight. We weren't even flirting, just talking." Even as she says it, she knows (hopes) that maybe they were, in fact, flirting. And she liked it.
She just can't afford to give Kelly that satisfaction. Not yet.
Kelly scoffs. "Yeah, whatever. Talk to me again when you two are literally married."
A half hour later they're each settled into their respective beds, lights out. Pam is about to let herself drift off to sleep when she hears her phone vibrate on her nightstand. She grapples for it and squints at the screen to see who could be texting her at this hour.
She smiles wider than she'd like to admit at the message.
Hey, farmer, it's Jim.