Title: “Or Forever Hold Your Peace”
Fandom: The Office
Summary: At the end of his first day at the Stamford branch, Jim finds out about Pam's canceled wedding. (Jim/Pam)
Spoilers: Through “Gay Witch Hunt,” more or less.
Jim grabbed a beer from the fridge and sank down on his brand new couch—a couch he had been disappointed to discover was a lot itchier and less comfortable than it had seemed in the store. His itchy couch was currently surrounded on three sides by cardboard boxes and he probably should have done some more unpacking but he was tired, so instead he reached for the remote. There was an “Arrested Development” marathon on G4 and he was just about to settle in for a night with those wacky Bluths when his cell phone rang.
“Hey, Jim, it’s Toby.”
“Hey, man.” It was good to hear Toby's voice. Really good, in fact, and Jim felt a dull pang of homesickness.
“How was your first day at the Stamford branch?”
“Good,” Jim lied. “You know, typical first day.”
First days were never great, were they? It was like a rule or something. But it had to get better. Surely, it would get better. He'd get to know his coworkers and they'd get to know him and none of them would be as annoying as Dwight or as mortifying as Michael. Or as capable of breaking his heart as Pam.
“The people are nice?” Toby asked.
“Oh yeah,” Jim said, thinking about the guy at the desk in front of him who had insisted on calling him “Big Tuna” all day, and the woman behind him who never seemed to smile. “Real nice.”
“I hear the branch manager out there is a good guy.”
“Yeah, he seems...” Jim searched for an appropriate word to describe Josh. “...normal.”
“So, the opposite of Michael, then.”
“Totally the opposite. There were, for example, no homemade orientation DVDs set to rap songs waiting for me this morning. And when we had our sales meeting today, he didn’t do a single impression. Go figure.”
He heard Toby laugh on the other end and it occurred to him that it was the first genuine laugh he’d heard all day. On the television Gob Bluth was clutching the bars of his prison cell, saying, I’ve made a huge mistake.
“I’m glad you’re settling in,” Toby said. “I really hope you’ll be happy in Stamford.”
“Yeah,” Jim said hollowly. “So how are things in Scranton? I’ll bet your job’s a little easier without me there torturing Dwight.”
“A little,” Toby admitted. “But a little less entertaining, too.” He paused. “Um, actually, there is some news and I wanted to make sure you knew. I mean, in case she hadn’t told you herself...”
She. Jim could only think of one she who might or might not have told him something. “Tell me what?” he said, gripping the phone so tightly his hand hurt.
“Pam and Roy didn’t get married.”
For a second he couldn’t breath. Literally couldn’t get any air in his lungs, as if all his ribs were broken.
He closed his eyes and managed to draw in a long, shaky breath. “Wow. That’s, uh... huh.”
“Yeah,” Toby said sympathetically. “So I guess she didn’t call you.”
“I guess not.”
All this time he’d been forcing himself to come to terms with the idea of Pam being married. To Roy. That she was now and forever would be Mrs. Roy Anderson. Every day for the last eight days that knowledge had burned like a smoking crater in his chest. Only apparently she hadn’t gotten married after all. Whoops.
“Do you know, uh... why they didn’t get married?”
“I don’t know the details, but... Pam called off the wedding.”
“Are you... okay?”
He was not okay. “Sure,” he said, even though he couldn’t remember what it was like to breathe without having to think about it. “Yeah, I’m... it’s just kind of a surprise.”
“I guess,” Toby said. “Although honestly they haven’t seemed very happy lately.”
“When did she cancel the wedding? How long ago?”
“Um, it was the Monday before, so... the, uh, 5th, I guess.”
Two weeks. She’d called off her wedding two weeks ago and hadn’t told him.
“I would have called sooner,” Toby said, “but since you were on your trip I figured—”
“I didn’t go.”
“Oh,” Toby said. He didn’t bother to ask why.
Jim cleared his throat. “Well, listen, man, thanks for, you know, telling me.”
“Sure. I thought you’d want to know.”
“Yeah, I appreciate it.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll talk to you soon, I guess.”
“Hey, Toby,” Jim said before he could hang up.
“How is she? I mean... is she okay?”
Toby was quiet for a moment. “She’s a little sad, I think. But she seems all right, considering.”
Jim didn’t remember hanging up the phone. He didn’t remember walking out of his apartment, or getting in the car. He didn’t know if he'd turned off the TV or even locked his door, but he was already on I-95 crossing into New York and it was far too late to turn back now.
Two and a half hours and three unheard rotations of A Rush of Blood to the Head later he pulled his car up in front of Pam’s apartment. Only then did he stop to wonder what the hell he was doing. Whatever forward motion had propelled him here gave way to an inertia so paralyzing he couldn’t even bring himself to take the key out of the ignition.
It was raining in Scranton, even though the day had been clear and blue and perfectly cloudless in Stamford. Across the street a forgotten sprinkler chugged, fruitlessly spraying water over the sodden grass. Roy’s truck was nowhere to be seen but there was a light on in Pam’s apartment, the yellow glow seeping through the slats of the mini-blinds, out into the damp night.
All he had to do was walk up to her door and knock. She’d open the door and invite him in and they’d talk like they used to. It would be so easy. And yet.
He fumbled his phone out of his pocket. It took him three tries to dial her number, even though he knew it by heart. She picked up on the second ring.
“Hello?” Her voice was as comfortingly familiar as his favorite t-shirt, but it still hit him like a punch in the gut. For a second he almost forgot how speak.
“Pam, hi,” he finally managed, then lamely added, “it’s Jim.”
“Jim,” she said. Just that. Not hi, not how are you, not I missed you, I’m so glad you called. And nothing even approaching I broke up with Roy for you please come back.
“Um,” he said into the empty space left by the things she wasn’t saying. “How are you?”
There was a brief pause. “I’m good. You know, same as ever.”
“Good,” he repeated. Same as ever. So, still not in love with me, he thought. What else could she have meant? Why else would she have completely failed to tell him about her canceled wedding and then pretend nothing had happened?
“Did you—” she started, and his heart leapt into his throat. “I mean, was there something you needed?”
“No, I...” There were so many things he could say right now, but what he ended up saying was, “I was just calling to congratulate you.”
“Congratulate me?” Her voice sounded small and uncertain, and he knew he was being a dick but only part of him cared because pain was twisting inside him like a nest of snakes.
“On the wedding.” The windows of the car had started to steam up, and he reached up and drew a heart in the condensation with the tip of his index finger. He thought about the way her hair smelled—tropical, like coconuts and mangoes. It had always made him think she should be lying on a beach somewhere instead of answering phones in a dingy office park.
“Oh,” she said. “Oh, that.”
“Yeah, that. How was the honeymoon, Mrs. Anderson?” He almost gagged on the bile that rose in the back of his throat.
“Um, actually, we didn’t get married.”
“Really?” he said, trying to sound appropriately detached. “Why not? Did Roy postpone it again?”
“No, um, I kind of... called it off.”
“Wow. Why?” He bit down painfully on his lip. Everything was riding on her answer to this question. Everything. Come on, Pam, please say it.
“Oh, well, I guess I just realized that Roy and I weren’t... I mean it just wasn’t... we weren’t right for each other.”
He exhaled the barest ghost of a laugh. “And you just figured that out now?”
“Well, a few weeks ago, but yeah, I guess I was a little slow coming to the realization.” There was an edge of irritation in her voice.
This wasn’t the way he wanted this conversation to go, but now that they were here he couldn’t stop. He had to know, even if it ended in another soul-crushing rejection. Even if part of him knew that was the only way it could end at this point. “So... it didn’t have anything to do with...” The last word stuck in his throat.
“Us,” he said roughly. “With what happened before...”
“Before you left,” she finished for him, and the sound of her voice was sharp enough to cut glass.
“Yeah.” He pressed his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes. “That.”
“I didn’t break up with Roy because of you, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“Okay,” he said as the part of him that still stubbornly dreamed of spending the rest of his life with her shattered into a hundred jagged pieces. “Good.” Fat drops of rain fell on the windshield and trickled down the surface of the glass in front of him, casting writhing shadows over the interior of the car.
“I did it for me,” she said. “It’s kind of this new thing I’m trying--doing things for myself.”
“That’s great, Pam. Really great.” He drew a broken line through the middle of the heart on the window, stared at it, and wiped the whole thing out with his fist. “So, you’re doing okay, then?”
“I am. I mean, it’s been hard, but I’m getting through it, you know?”
“I’m glad.” And he thought he probably was, somewhere deep down where it didn’t hurt so much. “Well, I should probably go.”
He waited, but she didn’t say anything else, no matter how badly he wanted her to. “Okay. Bye, Pam.”
“Yeah?” His heart stuttered to a stop.
“Thanks for calling.”
He almost laughed because it was such a trite phrase. Something you said to a stranger or a casual acquaintance when you couldn’t think of any other way to fill the dead air. Definitely not something you said to your best friend, or to someone you loved.
“Sure,” he said bitterly. “Bye.”
But even so he sat outside her apartment staring at the light in her window for another fifteen minutes, just to make sure she wasn’t going to call him back.
She didn’t, of course, so he took his torn and tattered heart back to Stamford. The television was still on when he got home and he shut it off on his way to bed. He didn’t even get undressed, just lay down on top of the covers and closed his eyes.
In the morning when his alarm went off he got up and got ready for work with a grim sense of resolve. He had a chance at a fresh start here in Stamford and he was more determined than ever to make it work. There was no reason he shouldn’t be happy here. It was a decent town, a stone’s throw from New York, he was making good money, and his new apartment was actually kind of nice—scratchy couch aside. The branch office here was much nicer, too. He had a view and an Aeron chair, the carpets were new and clean, and there was no foul stench wafting over from Creed’s desk. Anyone would be happier here. Anyone.
As he drove to work Jim made a mental list of the things he was going to do to jump start his new improved life. 1.) Buy some better clothes for work. 2.) Get a new car. 3.) Make the girl who sat at the desk behind him smile, or die trying.