There’s a convention in Scranton the year after The Office really kicks off. Turns out, the appearance of a rival love interest did wonders for the ratings. So the producers work with the lawyers of the parties involved and most of the “stars” make an appearance at the three-day event. Karen manages to make it, even though it means missing a day of work and leaving her son with his father, something that usually only happens on every other Tuesday.
There are all sorts of contractual complications: Jim and Pam have to leave their rings at home, can’t even stay together at the hotel. Anyone caught breathing a word of spoilers will be sued within an inch of their life. The show is worth more than they are; that’s understood.
Awkward “hellos”, a few drinks.
“I’ve never had a fan before,” comes a whisper in Karen’s ear, and she warms, tummy to neck.
Karen looks down, then up the girl. “I know it’s been awhile, but I don’t think my memory is that bad: did we work together?”
“Oh no, I never worked at Dunder Mifflin, but you’re Karen, right? Karen Filippelli? Do you still play Call of Duty? Or, I guess you can’t tell me, on pain of death.” She makes a throat-slitting motion, grins.
Karen blinks. “Producer? Ah…? Help me out?”
“Katy.” She offers a hand. “Jim and I dated for about five minutes in second season. Purse girl?”
The memory jogs a little, but Karen spends an average of zero time thinking about Jim these days, so: “Sorry, I don’t watch, and well, he might have mentioned you, but,” she lowers her voice, “we don’t talk much.”
Katy laughs. “Guess that means I win 20 dollars!”
“Betting on your ex’s romantic future?”
Katy shrugs and something in her top catches the light. “It’s fun, I guess.”
At least she hasn’t had to sit down with Michael Scott, is what Karen keeps telling herself. Well, that and Jim. Kudos to the lawyers and producers and marketing team involved in all of this; keeping current situations from the fans has to be a nightmare.
There’s a small panel for discussion questions; not well attended (the meet and greet—and photo op!--with Jim and Pam and Dwight is at the same time) though it appears that Karen has a few fans.
Fans. What a concept.
A familiar face approaches the table afterwards, smiling. “Can I get an autograph?”
“Maybe I can get you a company discount.” Karen has a moment of jealousy for Katy; that she isn’t scheduled to the brim this weekend, that this documentary hasn’t changed her life.
“Oh, I’ll pay full price for you. Business is booming these days. I just slap on a sticker: ‘As seen on The Office,’” she grins. “Besides, you’re worth it.”
Karen finds a moment alone with Pam—no fans around, none of the other “cast members” and most importantly, no Jim. They don’t say much; there isn’t anything left to say.
“Growing fast.” Pam smiles, inwardly, and Karen wonders how much of herself has now been broadcast on national television.
She covers Pam’s hand with hers, lets it rest there. Just for a moment.
There’s a daily agenda on Karen’s bedside table when she wakes up—it must have been there the night before, but she didn’t notice it. There’s a free section in the afternoon and nothing to do in this town unless you want to bribe a local to take you bowling or something equally ridiculous.
Of course, there’s also a segment called “My Experience on The Office” and Katy is one of the speakers, so Karen figures what the hell, maybe she’ll want to nap by then, but if she’s in the mood… she’ll stick around. Sit in the back. Soak it in.
“I can’t believe you’ve never watched the show.”
Katy smiles. “The show you’re on--we’re on. It’s funny.” She tugs her purse back over her shoulder.
Karen takes her in. “Are you still in the area, Katy?” Something about her red hair and her eyes and her smile makes Karen want to say yes.
“If you’ll bring the DVDs, I’ll provide the alcohol?” She raises an eyebrow and hands Katy a business card. “I’m in The Village. My son sleeps like a rock.”
If Katy’s surprised, about any of it, she hides it well.
“I have wine—red, white, blush--, apple juice (that’s Tay’s), coffee, water…” Karen walks through her industrial-sized kitchen, flipping open cupboards, trying to find where she hid the real goodies. “There! I knew I bought vodka.”
“Trying to get me wasted, Filippelli?” Katy sets The Office – Season One on the counter and leans against the door jam, crossing her long legs at the ankle.
Karen blushes, doesn’t know why. “Variety is good, right? And you seem like you’d be good for a little party. Maybe I should have gone with the wine coolers. The froofy stuff.”
“Seriously, Karen?” Katy stared her down, then cracked a smile. “You’re gonna insult my alcoholic tastes? A guest in your home?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Didn’t you say you were a cheerleader? I’m sure I have some peach schnapps hidden around here…”
Katy punches Karen, but it’s with affection, she swears.
Dwight buys a purse.
“That,” Karen gestures with her wine glass, “is really unfortunate.”
“Definitely not one of the best days of my life,” Katy says, sighing.
“I meant the—right.”
“I brought pizza,” Katy announces, her voice less than jovial.
Karen smiles. “Is there something depressing about that I should know about?”
“Well, I was thinking on the way here, after I bought the pizza, that bringing pizza to an Italian is probably insulting, and I didn’t call ahead to ask what toppings you like when I really should have, especially since Taylor is probably really picky—I mean, aren’t all three year olds picky?—and maybe I shouldn’t have brought pizza in the first case, because it’s not the best food to eat when you’re trying to be healthy, and I always just assumed that you were, because, really, you look great—I mean, great--“
She blushes, but stops talking.
“Pizza is great.” Their hands touch as Karen takes the box, breathing in the scent of veggies and sausage. “Mushrooms,” she looks up. “Perfect.”
“I really wasn’t that bitchy.”
Katy gives her a knowing look.
“Well, some of it is editing.” Karen crosses her arms, turns on the couch to face Katy full-on. “You mean to tell me that you were exactly…?”
“Oh, I’ll fully cop to editing during my episodes, but I know you Filippelli. They didn’t need to edit that mouth.” Katy chances a sly glance, a slight quirking at the corner of her mouth.
Karen reaches for the remote and pauses, not wanting to miss Jim making an ass of himself for at least the eighth time this season, but needing to make this point. “There’s a reason we’re contractually obligated not to discuss the marriage counseling, Katy. The producers of this catastrophe that somehow collided with our lives wanted Jim and Pam to happen more than they ever did.” Katy’s face softens, she leans back against the cushions. “So, even if I wasn’t…”
Smirk. “Bitchy. I didn’t have a chance.”
“Does that bother you?” Katy isn’t usually so quiet. Her knuckles are pale around the coffee cup.
Karen is silent for a minute, really thinks about her answer. She thinks about Tay, sleeping down the hall, about Jim and Pam—whatever is happening with them—about the invitation to next year’s Scranton convention, already in the works. She thinks about Katy sitting next to her.
“No. No, it doesn’t.”
“You’re falling asleep, Katy.”
“One more episode?”
“I’m not okay with you riding the subway when you’re konked out like this.” Karen’s hand is hovering over the remote.
“It’s cool. I’ll stay here.” She pats the couch. “Sit down, Karen. This one’s super funny.”
Sitting down and pressing play turn out to be superficial acts, as Katy falls against her—asleep—before the theme song starts.
The lights are still on in the morning when Karen blinks awake, and it takes her a moment to realize why she’s sitting upright. But when she does, she smiles.