It started in the parking lot, the slowly blooming seed of happiness deep in her chest, right next to her heart, but she wasn't paying attention to it, only to the exploding dread and panic swallowing her stomach. It was her best friend, her sole support, the man in her life who made everything just a little bit better. It was Jim standing there, with his heart on his face and those words oozing from his mouth like the poison Juliet swallowed.
It was Jim changing the game. This game of theirs, the little dance of just barely something more than friends. A game where she had firmly placed his piece on the board of her life in a safe spot where nothing could touch him. Not the disappointment of a disinterested fiancee or the frustration of an ignored dream. He was the firm knight, only allowed to move in an L-shape dancing around the board, supporting, stealing, protecting, but never check mating the king, never crossing that fine line of more than friends. But he was changing it, making himself the King, moving the pieces, throwing arms across the board, and swiping away any sense of order to her carefully preserved heart.
So she panicked in front of the man who meant the world to her, panicked and turned him away.
And what does a girl do when she's scared and upset and in trouble and turmoil?
Calls her mother.
Even as Jim's footfalls fade into the night, where is he going to go?, she flees up stairs, heart clogging her throat because some thing went wrong back there, something went terribly wrong and if she could just talk this over with Mom things would be okay right? Because Mom knows what to do. She would help Pam fix this, help them get back to being best friends, to having Jim right next to her again, and Roy where he belonged as the King on her chessboard, not raging through her mind sowing seeds of guilt as she remembered his proposal, I'm sorry if I misinterpreted our friendship, Roy's words echoing in her ears as Jim's echo through her bones.
She makes for the first phone she sees, not her own, but Jim's at Jim's desk, a place so familiar to her. What would have previously costed her no hesitation, threw her rush to crashing halt, as she watched him wipe away the single tear, I wanna be more than that, because she was forced to wonder if he would be okay with her entering his space. This question had never crawled up her spine before because this was Jim, her best friend, but that's not who he was anymore. The new Jim, the Jim who asked her to give up on a three year engagement, who loved her, who wanted more, she didn't know what he was like.
The phone slicked with her head sweat and her mother picked up, tired and gentle, just like she always did.
"Mom." Was that? Was that her voice? So shakey an -I'm in love with you.- and high?
"Pam? Honey, what's wrong?"
"It's Jim, Mom. He told me that he loved me, in the parking lot. I was just, I dunno, we were just talking, I was teasing him and he just said it, Mom. He just. He loves me."
"When did this happen?"
"About ten minutes ago."
-I wanna be more than that.-
"Did you tell him you care about him?"
"No. I didn't know what to say."
"You do care very deeply about him, Pamela. You wouldn't talk about him as much as you do, if you didn't."
"Enough to leave Roy?"
-Don't do that. Come on. I don't wanna do that.-
"I don't know, Mom."
"Honey, I think you need to ask yourself what exactly what Jim is to you. Is he just your friend?"
"He's my best friend. He's great."
-I'm in love with you.-
"Are you gonna be okay?"
"Yea, I think I am."
There's a flash of blue, a rustle, and in he walks, purposely not looking at her, and the panic rears it's head because what happens if he finds out that she's struggling to hold on to Roy, that she's blasting through their relationship grasping at sweet thing Roy has done for her, pursuing a weapon or maybe a shield, because she's not sure if she can say no to him again, because she does love Jim back, but it's not, is it?, more than Roy.
"I have to go."
"I love you, honey. Call me when you can."
She can feel him getting closer, his presence solid and something she wants to throw herself into, but also away from. How could he ask her to step away from her life, just to love him? How could he expect her to drop everything and just run with him? And when did it become so hard to say no to him, to truly brush him away?
Right behind her and she turns to him, "Listen Jim-"
But that's all. Because he clearly doesn't want to listen. His hands wrap around her and Roy has never held her like she's precious, gently and firmly, warm and large, pulling her softly towards him, gathering her, even as his mouth falls against hers, just as lightly, just a hint of pressure and she small against him, against this unspoken message that he loves her. And it's powerful.
And she has no choice but to answer him honestly, with her whole heart, and that seed of happiness blooms into a flower of delight and wonder, as she pulls his head just a little closer to hers, feeling his sleek hair on her finger tips, the second kiss she pushes on his lips, softer than she'd thought they'd be, how long had she been dreaming of kissing him, and there's time for a third kiss, a fast one, before she remembers Roy and the ring on her finger and her belief in making it work.
She pushes against him delicately, running her hands down his chest, feeling the lean muscle. He lets her, his breathing shallow but steady to match her own and his brown eyes flick away, looking at her but not at her, and she sees him steel himself against her, that hurts her but she'd already hurt him tonight, it's only fair. Even as he takes a step back, to distance himself in a way she wishes he wouldn't, his eyes fall on her eyes and then to her lips and she watches him get distracted and it's so hard not to kiss him again. His hands never stop touching her, fingers brushing against her elbows and then her arms as she slowly runs her hands down and away towards his, to let him hold them.
Her silence speaks words to him, it must because he smiles, his big, goofy, makes his nose look too big for his face smile, and watches their fingers stretch and bend together as he says, "You have no idea how long I've been wanting to do that."
There's a little laugh, from relief and happiness, in his voice as his eyes come back to her face, something like disbelief and utter contentedness alight in his eyes. She can't tear her gaze away.
He huffs a laugh but she feels out of control. This, this woman who kisses men in the office after work, and cheats on her fiancee, and makes any man as happy as he is right now, this woman isn't her. She feels drunk, bubbly and light but something heavy in the pit of her stomach.
"I think we're just drunk."
She hopes, she prays that he takes the bait, that he lets her off tonight, to rethink and reset the game, with new rules and new game pieces, because she can't lie to him anymore tonight but she can't just. She's scared. She scared that she won't live up to that look in his eyes; she's scared that it won't be good, that all they'll be is a fling knitted from forced survival at this office of hell. She's scared that she won't have a place to live if Roy wants the apartment, that she'll be letting her mother down, that she'll loose the money on the wedding. She's only Pam, she's never brave.
"No, I'm not drunk. Are you drunk?"
Unless he makes her brave. Unless he's around to share half the consequences. "No."
His smile quickly softens as he drops closer, the hold on her hands tightening just a little. And it's those big fingers between hers the lack of ring against ring, and that not-Roy scent sneaking up her nose that makes her pull away, crushes the flower inside her, smothering her with a boulder of terror.
He freezes, jerks away, his hands still gentle, even as his eyes are screaming, those big brown eyes that love her. "You're really going to marry him?"
Her 'yes' locks in her throat and her tears fill her eyes, but she can't look away as she destroys her best friend from the inside out. There are a million reasons to stay with Roy and only one to leave him, because she maybe loves Jim, but she maybe doesn't love Jim, and it's that thought that makes her nod.
She can't blame him when he walks away, when he holds on to her hands for as long as possible, even as he can't look her in the eyes. She wants him to look at her, can't stop staring at him, her fingers tightening around his as he tries to make his escape. She wants him to fight for her, but can't fight for him back and knows it's unfair to ask him. But she doesn't want to loose him and she's going to and she needs him to understand, but he's gone.
She's going to regret this.