He shrugged. "It was just different." And with a small laugh he said, "I don't think anyone's like Michael. He went to work for Staples."
Jim smiled at her. "What's up with you?" he asked. She said she hadn't been okay, but she seemed like she was doing better now.
Where to begin?
"Um, well, in a couple of weeks, I'm gonna start art classes," she replied. "You know, at the community college?"
She smiled at the thought. "And, I've taken up baking. I'm sure it'll do nothing for my figure since I eat everything I make. But, it's really relaxing."
She stopped for a minute. "I....really missed you. You know how many times I looked over at your old desk to see Ryan glowering there and looking miserable? Look," she watched as the waiter brought their food, "I need to ask you -" She trailed off as the plates were set in front of them.
She wasn't sure how to ask him. Maybe, she needed him to talk about it first.
She began to eat.
"You're finally taking classes? That's great." he smiled. "And baking? I'll eat it if you're that worried about it."
He paused. He was about to say, "I missed you too," and add a "Ryan always looks like that." but he stopped himself. Of course the waiter had to come now. Now of all times. This had to the be the worst timing.
"Wait-" he said, gently pushing her hand and fork away from her plate "Ask me what?"
Pam placed her fork on the table and looked at everything but Jim.
She couldn't wait for him to ask her, because somehow, she knew he wouldn't. They'd dance around their food and their words, and she'd end up at home tonight, regretting all the things that weren't said.
"You haven't asked me why I called off the wedding", she said finally. "I know you must be thinking about it....I mean, maybe you aren't, but, do you want to know?"
Jim looked down at the table and then back up at her.
"I didn't know if you wanted to tell me. It's not really any of my business."
He didn't want to ask Pam about it. If she wanted to tell him he would listen, but asking her about her wedding might have been weird. He did want to know.
The faster she said it, the easier it'd be.
"I called it off because - because of you." she said, finally.
She remembered how excited she was to come in the Monday after Casino Night, how happy she was that she could tell Jim how much he meant to her, and how she realized that he was really the one that she wanted.
"I was going to tell you the Monday after the Casino Night weekend. But you had already left for Stamford. Dwight broke the news to me."
"Oh." He couldn't really think of anything else to say to her. So, she'd called off her wedding because of him. Not because of Roy or of anything else. It was his fault. And then he'd just left like nothing.
"I-" he paused. "I didn't know. And I'm sorry. I am. I just-" this was harder than he thought it would be. "I can't." this speech was sounding oh so recycled and he hated it. "Karen." he mumbled.
She promised herself that she wouldn't cry, but, she lied. The tears were welling before she could stop herself.
"I know you can't, Jim," she said. She had started this, and she would end it.
"I was confused, and upset when you left....I thought you were being selfish because you didn't get the answer you wanted, and best friends shouldn't run out on each other. But, after a while, I was happy, because, well....I was on my own for the first time. And I was learning to like, even love myself. I realized that I was so much more without Roy. And I know I didn't call, but, but, you didn't either. And, when I heard that you were coming back, I thought-"
She ran out of breath, but the tears, the tears had disappeared.
"I love you, Jim. I know that I missed out, I missed the boat, and you've got someone better than me now, and I know it's no use, but I do. I'll always love you. And even if we aren't friends or anything like that anymore, even if we can't get back to the way we used to be, I'll never forget the way-"
She meant to say, "I'll never forget the way we were", but what came out was:
"I'll never forget the way you make me feel."
She frantically put down a 20 for her food and gathered her coat and purse. She never meant to take it this far.
"I-I should go, I need air," she stammered as she ran for the door.
Jim sat there in silence for a few seconds. He didn't even know what to say to that. It was almost too much. Too much at one time. He could barely even process everything that she had said.
He couldn't just sit here. People were starting to stare and Pam had just rushed out. Jim could hear the whispers getting louder. They had made sort of a scene. He dug in his pocket for his money, left it on the table and ran out after her.
"Pam!" he spotted her outside, standing at the curb. "Pam, I'm sorry. I know I didn't call you. I should have. But I-" he paused, she wasn't looking at him or showing him that she was paying him any attention, but he continued talking anyway. "I convinced myself that it wasn't going to work and that you didn't want it. But why now, Pam?" he stopped for a second. "I missed you too. I want to be friends again. I just-I didn't know. Pam, I'm not comparing you to Karen. The two of you are different. I just-we were both too late."
He bit his lip nervously. He'd been standing behind her the entire time, now he made his way over so that he was now beside her. "I'm sorry." he said again, but this time he put an arm around her shoulders comfortingly and hoped that he wasn't about to make her even more upset.
She didn't mean to do it.
He had put his arm around her to comfort her, he was talking, and it was a knee jerk reaction. She whirled around in his arms and kissed him. Kissed him like he kissed her on Casino Night, unrelenting and intense.
"I know I shouldn't do this, but tell me that you don't feel anything for me, and I'll let it go," she whispered against his lips. "We can be friends, and it'll be okay again."
For a moment he couldn't move. Honestly, he wasn't sure that he wanted to and when she pulled away, he considered pulling her back in. Of course Karen came to mind at this moment and he decided against it.
"I-" Jim began. This really wasn't fair. He couldn't do that. He couldn't say that he didn't feel anything at all, because he did.
"I can't tell you that. But I can't do this either."
Pam took a step back from Jim, and hung her hands at her side. She really was too late, and all the honesty in the world couldn't turn back time. She had to face facts, and move on.
She nodded. "I guess we never got our timing right, huh?" she asked, not really to Jim, but to the air. She started to walk over to his car. A deep pain went through her chest and she leaned herself against the passenger door.
Then, something in her mind clicked, and reminded her of something she said herself. When Jim didn't get the answer he wanted, he ran away. He didn't stick it out, he made sure he got a transfer beforehand, just in case. Why hadn't she thought about that before? Just then, Pam began to love Jim just a little bit less.
She turned to face him.
"I'm not gonna run away, Jim. I won't do what you did," she said, her voice strong, with no trace of sadness. "This, really....really fucking sucks, but I won't do that. Above everything else, we were friends, and I don't want to lose that. And, I don't want to disrespect Karen either."
She walked over, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
"I'm sorry I did that," she said. "Let's start over."
Jim looked down at his feet. Her words kept repeating in his head.
I'm not going to run away. I won't do what you did.
"There was nothing left for me here, Pam. It wasn't all about you. Casino Night, it wasn't the beginning. It was just...just the icing on the cake really. Maybe I did leave because of you, but it wasn't just you. I've always hated it here. You know that. And when it didn't work out with you, there was nothing that was worth staying for. So, thanks for helping me decide. Thanks a lot." he said bitterly.
"What are you even sorry for?" he paused. "You didn't do anything. I can't just start over. It's not that easy."
"I was trying to fucking apologize for throwing myself like a desperate puppy just now, Jim!" Pam shouted.
The air was tense around them as she spoke. They were on the defenses, on separate teams. This was officially, a disaster.
"Would you have taken the transfer if I had broken it off with Roy that night?" She grabbed his shoulders and forced him to look into her eyes.
"Or did you figure that you waited long enough for me to come to my senses and wise up? I just....I'm so confused right now. I'm trying so hard to be strong and understanding. I needed you, Jim. I knew you hated it here, and I also knew that I hurt you. I don't mean to make myself out to be self-centered, but I want you to understand where I'm coming from. You weren't the only one who felt trapped in a place that was going nowhere."
She felt like she was going nowhere in her explanation, and maybe it was just time for her to shut up and stop digging her own grave.
She let him go, and walked back to the car.
"Take me home, Jim," she said. "Just....please take me home."
As much as he wanted to argue back, he didn't. He didn't want to make it worse than it already was. This was a mess, there was no denying it and it was just about entirely his fault. The whole lot of it. He had done this. Pam obviously wasn't in a position to start fixing things, honestly neither was he but someone had to say something. One of them had to keep from yelling and making this even more screwed up than it had already become.
"Pam..." he walked slowly over to her side and when he spoke his tone was soft and gentle. He was trying his hardest not to sound as though he was mad at all. "Pam, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said...all of that. I wasn't- I didn't mean for it to sound like I was being selfish or like I was accusing you of anything. I'm just- I'm sorry." Jim sighed and reached out to brush his fingertips lightly against her right shoulder. "I love you, Pam." the moment he had said that he instantly regretted it. Whether he meant it or not, now was most definitely the worst possible time. Right now he was quite sure that she could not want anything more to do with him.