“When you’re a kid, you assume your parents are soulmates.”
Pam knew how it worked. She’d read the books. She’d seen the movies.
A charming, handsome prince swoops in and saves the damsel in distress. She never had any reason to question the fairytales. She wholeheartedly believed in them.
In her childhood bedroom, she would sit against her pillows with wide eyes as her mother spun her wonderful stories of daring rescues and true love.
She liked the idea of true love.
It was real, after all, her parents were plenty proof of that. Other kids, their parents got divorced. It had happened to her kindergarten best friend, Grace. So, she knew it was real, and a thing to be feared.
It haunted her worst nightmares, but never her brightest days. Her parents were soulmates after all. It was easy to remember that when her mother would run her fingers soothingly through her long, tangled hair and murmur words of comfort.
She had nothing to fear.
She liked the idea of soulmates, she tested the term around her tongue and found it fit. She first heard the word in fourth grade when her older cousin, Jocelyne declared that John Stamos was the one for her.
Pam looked forward to finding her true love, her the one. Well, kind of, boys were pretty icky for the most part. She could see the potential though. She liked the idea that somewhere, someone out there was destined for her.
In middle school, there was a cultural day at her school. Kind Miss Byer with her wide almond eyes and jet black hair spun them stories from folklore past.
Pam listened, captivated as she told the story of the red thread of fate. That two people were connected by a mysterious red thread that could not be broken. She heard everything that Miss Byer wasn’t saying about soulmates and true love.
Her artist heart thudded at the notion. It was beautiful.
She pictured the bright red ribbon of thread tied in a perfect bow on her mother’s finger and how it filled every room they were in with pure love to connect to her father. Her and Penny were wrapped up in it all, the ribbon weaving around them like two perfectly decorated presents on Christmas morning.
From that moment on, Pam could see the threads. She knew that one day she’d find the boy connected to the red thread wrapped around her own finger.
The red thread wasn’t the only thread stretching out from her hand though. Pam, with creativity her driving force, built upon the world that Miss Byer had created for her.
Each and every special relationship in her life had their own thread, their own color.
Her parents were yellow, sunny and optimistic and everything that brought her joy. She felt warm and content in their connection to her.
Penny was pastel pink because she was everything that was sweet and lovely and Pam loved her little sister more than anything. Even if she was a right pain sometimes.
And on it went. Her favorite teacher was green and her best friend Isabel was purple. She spun a little story for each, justifying why they were the color that they were.
She knew some colors were stronger than others. Some of the threads could be cut. Sarah, a friend turned mean girl in junior high was evidence of that. Her orange thread frayed under the pressure and snapped, and gone was their connection.
But in the back of her mind, she knew that the red thread, the soulmate thread that she couldn’t see the other end of yet, would never break.
When she was sixteen, she met Roy Anderson and she felt a tug that she suspected was on the other end of her red thread.
She liked him, really liked. And mystery of all mysteries, cool jock that he was, he liked her too… Except it wasn’t really a mystery to Pam because she figured he must have been tethered to her red thread and that was stronger than mere mortal constructs like popularity.
That’s what was drawing him to her.
Although, she was sixteen and it was all a little crazy to be thinking about soulmates. Her mother was sure that things like hormones and puberty were much more at play and made sure to tell her this - repeatedly.
Pam listened to her. She wasn’t silly. She was grounded and level headed, as much as any teenager could be. Conscientious was often the opening word on her school report cards.
So, she was careful in her thoughts about her thread with Roy. She assigned him his own color, and left her red thread be. He was pink because she felt as if even her heart blushed at the very sight of him. Her face certainly did, especially in those early days of first dates and fumbling handholds.
Over the years with Roy their thread was never a vibrant blood red. It waxed and waned between a washed out pink and a darker stronger almost, almost red-pink. Sometimes when she squinted just right she could assure herself that it was definitely red.
Besides, she believed in soulmates less and less as she matured. The thread mattered less and less in the forefront of her mind because of it. Childish notions like fairytales long forgotten. She learned important lessons in real relationships take work and you have to keep choosing each other, everyday.
There was no thing as a red thread binding her to her future true love. There was only hard work and the long haul.
It was a less romantic notion, but far more practical. That was life.
Despite this, she still thought in threads. Maybe it was her artistic brain, but she liked the idea of assigning colors and meaning to the people in her life.
Dwight was a horrid mustard yellow and there was no prize for figuring that one out.
Michael was a dark, forest green because in spite of himself he was a salt of the earth type and ultimately a good and kindhearted person.
Angela was grey, much like her piercing judgemental gaze. Sometimes, there was a softer blue that shined through her thread, in the right light. It was often fleeting, much like her moments of kindness.
The threads weren’t static. The colors could change. Her relationships with people changed after all. There were still those occasions where a relationship was damaged beyond repair and the thread was severed. She still imagined those threads tied around her finger, drooping uselessly towards the floor. Those people had been a part of her once, so the tattered thread remained as a reminder of what had once been.
Her thread with Jim was royal blue. That’s what she decided on the day she met him.
He invited her for lunch on his first day at Dunder Mifflin and she felt a rich blue thread twist its way around her finger when he laughed with her about his new desk mate Dwight.
Blue was friendship. Blue was bright. Blue was bold. Blue was a clear, calm day. She felt all the best parts of blue with Jim.
She didn’t notice it happening.
She didn’t think about her threads much after that. She just thought about life, somehow it was less monotonous (at work) and more monotonous (at home).
Then Michael hosted a casino night in the warehouse. Jim made declarations that stuttered in her chest and turned her life upside down. Jim pressed warm and cautiously insistent lips to hers.
It wasn’t until she was crying slumped over his desk after he had left that she felt the threads tugging her fingers.
She couldn’t place precisely when it had happened, but her thread with Roy had faded. It was a patchy, pasty pink. It reminded her of cracked, peeling paint and her grandmother’s chipped tea set.
Her thread with Jim had darkened, the blue deepening into a vibrant plum.
Her heart squeezed in her chest and she was struck with the thought of something new. The pink-red ink from her thread to Roy had leached over to her Jim thread.
His purple thread had been dyed by pink-red ink seeping away from the Roy thread, leaving it pale and bare.
That made her decision for her. Her thread to Roy wasn’t red. It had never been red. It had been pink at best. Roy wasn’t the one for her.
She had no way of explaining it to him, because he didn’t know about her threads and he certainly didn’t understand them. Roy didn’t think in color. She did.
She tried her best to find the words. Roy needed words. He needed actions. Colors weren’t enough. So, she told him no. She told him it was over. She packed a bag. She slipped the ring from her finger. She spoke and she acted until he understood. Then she left.
She found Jim at his house. His eyes red rimmed and his voice raw.
“I -” she started to say and then he was grabbing her hand and gaping at the empty ring finger.
For a moment, she thought maybe he could see the threads and not just the strip of bare, pale skin.
There was a flicker of light in his eyes that she had thought she had extinguished for good earlier in the night, so she leaned in and covered his mouth with her own.
He kissed her back like he was drowning and she was fresh air. She tasted the desperation that tampered down to exhilaration the longer she kept kissing him.
He invited her in.
He insisted that she take the bed, he would be fine folding his lanky frame into the sofa. She grasped his hand and pulled him into his bed alongside her.
He murmured sweet nothings about not wanting to push her or rush her and her chest swelled with the appreciation of it all.
She pulled his arm carefully around her stomach and sighed with contentment, sleep finding her far more easily than she assumed it would.
She woke still wrapped in his arms. As she stirred to the sunlight streaming through the window, she felt Jim’s arms tethering her closer than any thread ever had.
And she knew, she knew more than she had ever known anything, that her thread to Jim had shifted again, and that when she opened her eyes she would find that it was a brilliant shade of red.
“My kids are gonna be right about that.”