She shuts the door behind her, turning the knob as she does so it won’t make a noise when it closes, as if the sound of her beating heart isn’t deafening anyway. She hears Roy before she sees him, his snores echoing off the walls of their tiny apartment and his sleeping profile lit up by the flickering lights of the TV, now showing late night infomercials she used to watch as a kid when she couldn’t sleep. Her eyes linger on him, guilt running over her as she thinks about the way they had grown up together. She knew everything about him. Not to say she understood it all, but he was a pretty open book. Predictable. Their life together was predictable.
Until now, that is.
Quietly, she tiptoes past him, momentarily thinking she should pull the blanket up over him but deciding against it. She doesn’t know if she wanted to be that close to him right now. Not after tonight. Entering their bedroom, she slips off her periwinkle dress and drapes it over the chair in her room, running her hands over it slowly, tracing where his hands had touched it, held her.
”You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.”
She raises her fingers to her lips, grazing over them lightly. Though the office had been dim, every moment flares in her memory. His lips, his hands, the pleading relief she caught in his eyes after they came up for air. The deep rumble of his voice and the lingering scotch on his lips.
”Me too. I think we’re just drunk.”
She grabs a crumpled t-shirt and a pair of baggy pajama bottoms from the floor and slips them on, then pulls the pins out of her hair, one by one, letting the curls fall over her shoulders. Stepping into the bathroom she takes out her contacts and washes her face. She wipes her face with the towel and peers at herself in the mirror. The reflection is her, of course, but there’s something different now. Something unrecognizable, but somehow familiar all at the same time. Her green eyes reflect change, and change isn’t something she’s accustomed to.
”I’m not drunk, are you drunk?”
Pam slips under the covers in her bed and pulls them up to her chin. She’s exhausted but also knows sleep will likely evade her. Her phone buzzes on her nightstand.
Jim Halpert: Try to get some sleep. I’m always here if you need me. -J
Jim leans in for another kiss and her head is screaming at her to stop him while her heartstrings pull him toward her at full speed. But for once, she lets her heart choose. It’s tentative at first, as if Jim isn’t sure she’s going to let him continue kissing her. Even she can’t believe she’s letting him. But his hands snake around her back and she can feel the smile on his lips. Suddenly a rush of every feeling she has ever suppressed for him flows to the surface and she parts her lips, hoping that maybe he will know. Know that she wants him, that she’s been blind, that they have so much time to make up for.
His hand slides up her back and into her hair. Hers run down his chest but instead of pushing against him like she thinks she probably should --she's engaged, after all--she takes a handful of his sweater and tugs him closer. Her eyes roll back as she feels his tongue against hers and nothing has felt more right, more clear.
After what seems like an eternity and a millisecond all at once he pulls back and puts his forehead against hers, eyes closed but a smile playing on his lips.
"I love you so much," he whispers, his hands cupping her cheeks.
She places a soft kiss on his lips because that is a proverbial line she can't quite get herself to cross yet, confessing her love to him while she wears another man's ring on her finger. She kisses him again to keep the words from spilling out.
"Jim," she whispers, breaking away, and she can feel his shoulders tense under her hands. She places her palm on his cheek and gives him a soft smile. "No, I...I think I want this. I do want this."
He looks down. "But you have to figure some things out first."
She shrugs and nods slowly, keeping their eyes locked.
"Okay," he says quietly. "Can I at least drive you home?"
Pam stares at the text message on her phone. She even runs her finger over the screen as if she's touching him as he says the words and she feels a flutter in her stomach. But at the same time, she's laying in a bed she shares with Roy. The reality of an ending had slowly begun to set in as soon as she entered back into this apartment that's so clouded in history. She's been with Roy so long that he's woven into so many of her life's tapestries and she's not sure how she's possibly going to shred them and remain intact herself. She looks down to her phone again, to Jim's promise of always. And she realizes, that even though Roy has been such a defining structure in her life, she's not sure he could ever make that same promise to the extent she actually believed it.
So she makes her choice.
They are going to Roy's cousin's graduation party the next day, but afterward, Pam would find a way to pick apart the threads of her decade-long relationship and begin something new.
She manages to avoid Roy most of the morning while they get ready for the party, and the drive there is filled with nothing but the sound of sports radio. There's an underlying panic that is settled in her chest, knowing that she's hours away from the most difficult conversation of her life up until this point. She just has to make it a few hours at this party, pretend things are normal, and then she can face the demons.
They arrive at the venue and are greeted by Roy’s mother. Immediately, Pam’s chest clenches upon seeing her. Patricia Anderson has known her since she was 16. She could be a little overbearing and coddle her grown sons a little too much for Pam’s liking, but she meant well and had always treated Pam like family. The realization hits her that this choice she’s making doesn’t just affect Roy. There will be a whole wake. His mom pulls her into a hug.
“Hi, Pammy. So glad you could make it!”
“Hey, Patsy!” She winces at how much she overcorrects her voice to mask the nervousness.
Patsy walks to Roy and hugs him. She pulls back and pats his cheek and mentions something about bringing him dinner a few times this week. Once inside, Pam sees a room of people that she’s gotten to know over the years. Aunts, uncles, cousins. Even family friends. The Anderson clan was very tight-knit, even on the extended level, and at this point she thinks she could probably name every person in the room. Normally, that feeling would bring her comfort. The Andersons were much different than her own family, but it was something familiar now. Expected. Comfortable. But now all she saw was a group of people that would most likely become basically strangers to her before she knew it. And she has to spend the next few hours pretending that isn’t the case.
It proves to be more difficult than she thought it would be. Every aunt asks about the wedding. Every cousin wants to plan a bachelorette party. Patsy is hanging around and doting on her more than usual, answering questions about the “big day” and how proud she is of Roy. And she is handling it, until she feels her phone buzz in her purse. She slips away politely to read the message.
Jim Halpert: Strongest girl I know, Beesly.
Her heart catches in her chest when she sees his name appear and all she wants to do is rush back to his side. She had opened her heart after guarding it for so many years with a lock and chain and now she was crawling out of her skin being around Roy's family, wearing this ring on her finger, lying to everyone.
They stand next to each other in the elevator and Pam can feel his eyes on her.
She nods. And she means it. Jim's knuckles brush against hers and she slips her fingers through his, causing his lips to betray him and crack into that half smile that makes her dizzy.
"Good," he whispers.
The doors to the elevator pry open and they walk into the parking lot. Music is still playing in the warehouse. It's mingled with the low hum of conversation and Jim slides his hand away and puts it in his pocket. Pam knows it's out of caution but she instantly misses the feel of his hand in hers. He walks with her to the passenger side door of his car and unlocks it. As she turns to lower herself down, she feels his hand on the small of her back, helping her inside. She meets his eyes as she sits down and sees nothing but adoration in his gaze. What strikes her most, however, is that this isn't a new look. Jim has always looked at her this way. It's only now that she recognizes it for what it actually is.
As they pull out into the street, his hand finds hers again.
She brings her other hand to their joined ones and gives a little squeeze. "It's good."
He lets out a nervous, but relieved, laugh. "I just know…" he swallows. "I just know I'm putting you in a weird position."
She notices his thumb graze over her engagement ring. Of course she has thought about Roy, but really her head had been spinning since Jim's confession in the parking lot. She tried to deny it then, after he told her he loved her. She tried to convince herself she didn't feel the same way, but even as the words of rejection spilled from her mouth in that parking lot, she knew she didn't believe them. Then he pressed her against his desk, kissed her, loved her despite it all, and for her there was no turning back. Once again, he knew her better than she knew herself. He knew she needed a second chance to listen to get heart.
They pull in front of her apartment building and Jim turns to her. His thumb rubs along her knee and she can tell he's trying to find the right words to say. His hand squeezes her knee slightly.
"I'm really happy."
She nods. "Me too." Happy, shocked, nervous...at this point it all started to feel the same.
He looks to her. "But...I want to give you some time."
Pam's brow furrows.
"I just mean, I kind of sprung this on you. And you have no idea how happy I am that you feel the same way, but I don't want to do anything that will make you regret any of this. So, I'm here. Whenever you feel ready. I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer."
His mouth turns up in a sad smile and all she wants to do is kiss it.
"Roy and I have to go to this family thing tomorrow and then," she nods. "I'll talk to him."
"I don't want to…"
"Jim," she runs a hand down his cheek and his eyes close. "I'm going to talk to him. I'm nervous as hell, but I'm going to talk to him. I meant what I said. I want this," she whispers softly.
He places his hand over hers and leans forward to put his forehead against hers. She can feel his breath and it all becomes too much. She presses her lips against his and she feels him relax into her kiss. All too soon, he pulls back.
"We shouldn't," he utters softly.
She closes her eyes. "I know."
He runs a hand over her hair and smiles at her fondly. "Goodnight, Beesly."
And just like that, she can't do it any longer. She rushes into the main area, searching for Roy. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him out on the landing with his brother Kenny. Hands shaking, she takes a deep breath and heads toward them.
"Kenny, can I have a second with Roy?"
Kenny scoffs. “What, didn’t get enough of him last night?”
“Kenny, get out.”
Taken back at her directness, Kenny raises his hands and walks through the door, closing it behind him.
“What the hell, Pammy. What was--”
“I’m calling off the wedding.”
Roy nearly drops his beer. She didn’t mean for that to be the first thing out of her mouth.
Her surge of braveness dissipates as he stares at her in disbelief. “I...I don’t want…”
Roy sets his beer on the railing and faces her fully, hands on his hips and fury in his eyes. “Don’t want what?”
“I don’t want to be together anymore,” she squeaks out softly. “I want to break up.”
Roy runs a hand over his face and raises his eyes upward. She wants him to say something. Anything, really. His silence is often more intimidating than his words. Finally, he looks at her.
“What the hell, Pam? You do this here? What...why? Why now, all of the sudden? I mean...you’re actually serious?”
She does her best not to shrink against the wall. “I just think that we want different things and probably have for a while.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Roy,” her voice is stronger now. “We have been going through the motions for so long now. I don’t feel like you see me anymore. I don’t think we are as right for each other as we thought we were. And I just...I’m not ready to marry you.”
“We can postpone...wait a little longer…”
As hard as she tries, she can’t help but laugh humorlessly and roll her eyes. “Roy! We have been engaged for three years! More time isn’t what we need.” The tears are now stinging the corners of her eyes. “I’m done,” she says quietly.
He takes two steps toward her. “Pam…”
“I’m sorry, Roy,” she says sadly as she slips her engagement ring off. She pushes it into his palm and her tears begin flowing in earnest.
“What can I do?” he pleads quietly.
“Nothing,” she says honestly. “Just...tell your mom I’m sorry too.”
She tiptoes up to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. She tells him she’s going to call a cab and head to their apartment to gather some things and then spend the night at her sister’s. Roy just nods silently, looking down at the ring in his fingers.
Pam manages to escape the party, leaving a crestfallen Roy to pick up the broken pieces she left scattered on the landing. It felt a little like cowardice, but it was also the first time in her life she made up her mind about something and stuck to it, even though it was hard. There was something freeing about that. Even without Jim in the picture, she knew it was right.
But as soon as she enters her quiet apartment, the weight of her decision hits her square in the chest and the tears begin to fall. Not tears of regret, necessarily. She was still sure about her decision. But they were tears of uncertainty about the future, of ending a decade-long relationship that had become all she has really known, and the loss of familiarity and predictability.
Wiping her tears, she begins packing a bag. After stuffing in clothes and toiletries for a few days, she looks around the apartment. It strikes her that most of the things around their apartment don’t feel like “hers” anymore. It’s either Roy’s or something they share, but nothing she feels is solely her own. Except…
She walks into the kitchen and opens the cupboard. A smile spreads on her tear-stained cheeks as she pulls out the teal teapot. Usually it sits on her desk at work, but she had taken it home two weeks ago when she was home with the flu. She hugs it close to her chest and walks into her bedroom. Opening the drawer of the nightstand, she carefully pulls out a small box and lifts the lid. Inside are all the things that were once housed inside the teapot before she decided to finally use it for its intended purpose. She runs her fingers over the pencil, the hot sauce packets, the mix tape, until she reaches the bottom, where a familiar (albeit younger) face is looking back at her. She takes the picture out, and smiles, and tears begin to fall again. This time not out of uncertainty for her future, but because she realizes that she loves him and probably always has. And he’s been there all this time, consistent and constant.
She pulls out her phone, slips the picture into her back pocket, and dials.
“I don’t want time,” she says, nearly cutting him off.
“I don’t want time.”
”Okay,” he says, clearing his throat. ”Are you okay?”
“Yeah. But...can you...can you come pick me up?”
She can hear the smile in his voice.
”Be right there. See you soon?”
She sticks her bottom lip between her teeth and grins. “Yeah. See you soon.”
Dedicating this one to my girl and long-lost twin on her birthday. Happy birthday, Aly!! Disclaimer: I don't own The Office, Taylor Swift, or her songs, but they kind of own me.
Chapter End Notes:
I have one or two more chapters planned for this, I think! Thanks for reading!