Characters/Pairing: Pam, Jim/Pam, Roy/Pam
Summary: It's August and Pam finally makes a stand for herself.
It's August now and the heat outside and the air inside are the same temperature. The shadows are ten degrees cooler, but the trees have been appropriated by Roy and his buddies in lawn chairs. They have the cooler of melting ice set up next to Darryl's side, the cans of beer floating lukewarm. Every hour or so one of the guys will lumber inside to use the bathroom and ask Pam for some more ice. She points to the freezer without saying anything; the ice cube trays are full. She runs them underneath the tap again once they come back empty and puts them away to freeze. Once the thought strikes her that she could just leave them on the counter, in the open, and let the guys refill them themselves. In the end she puts them back anyway. She doesn't want to fight with Roy when it hasn't even been two months.
Once (and here Pam really does have to think once because it seems like forever ago), before the cameras came, she had wanted to have a party and invite the office. But it was never the right time for Roy. He would say, "Not now, baby. How about next month?" and turn the volume up on the television set. He said it again and again until she found herself gripping a tumbler in her hand with the knuckles white and fitting her palm against the glass in a way to throw it at him. Maybe she should have left him then, when she knew that he was never going to listen. Maybe things would be better now.
The backyard has gone crazy with wildflowers and weeds and overgrown grass that tickles her calves. There is a path of trampled greenery leading to the lawn chairs from the stoop of the back door. She pours herself a glass of Arizona iced tea and sits down on the steps, the concrete hot against her bare legs. There's a little bit of a breeze, just enough to stir the loose curls around her face. Her ponytail rests heavy on her sweaty nape and sweat beads on her forearms. She feels a drop sliding between her breasts, into the slow dip of the valley there. Thinking about it makes her skin tingle. Pam balances her sketchbook on top of her knees and hugs them to her chest. Roy hasn't mowed the lawn all summer. She secretly kind of likes the chaos, but it's not what she's supposed to say.
Roy says something that elicits bursts of loud laughter from the other guys. She tries to not to feel queasy at that, but she does anyway. Her pencil makes a curve on a blank sheet, the barest hint of a shoulder, and she inhales through her nose and doesn't want to know what that means. She's spent all summer sketching the way the light comes in through the leaves and trying to forget, but moments still sneak up upon her. They come up in flashes of sudden clarity – rumpled hair and square thumbs, Coke cans and the distance from Scranton to Stamford (because she's not an idiot; she's Mapquested the miles). Roy's chuckles make Pam grit her teeth and she closes her eyes to better picture merging lanes on the highway, seeing the turnoff ramp towards Connecticut.
She doesn't have to stop there. She can keep going until she hits Boston. She can keep going and going until all there's left is ocean and beach and she can drive through the waves and foam.
"Babe?" Roy calls from the trees. "Get us another six-pack?"
Her eyes open. "I'm busy."
He frowns slightly. She can tell. "Please?"
"Roy – fine." She doesn't stop to think that she's disgusted with herself when she stands; she tries very hard not to think about anything at all. Her wedding band is heavy against her ring finger. Pam twists it around, leaning the weight of her hip against the kitchen table.
The beers are cool against her hot hands when she brings them out of the fridge. Condensation runs off the sides as she plops them in the half-melted insides of the cooler. She wipes her palms against her shorts and turns to leave, but Roy catches her wrist and puckers his mouth up for a kiss and the guys hoot. Pam kisses him quickly and turns her head away because he smells like sweat and alcohol. She wants him to tell everyone else to leave so they can go inside and watch a movie. Even football would be okay. She just likes it when they're sitting together on the couch, one of Roy's arms around her slim waist, her half-lying in his lap. They haven't done that in a long time.
The thought of Jim comes to her unbidden and unwelcome. She picks up her sketchbook again and stares at the dark tiles of the garage roof. Pam hadn't gone to his goodbye party. She told Angela she wasn't feeling well and fled. Later that night, she sat for four hours in her car outside his house, hoping a little that he would see her from his window. He didn't. She hadn't seen him again. On her wedding day, she thought that he would come and it made her shake, torn between desire and something else. But he hadn't done that either and Pam found herself wearing a different kind of ring, dancing a dance with her husband, and cutting the first slice of her wedding cake.
She wants to be able to go back and do over the night when he kissed her, but there are some things that don't come, no matter how hard you wish.
On her bedside table, tucked under a neat stack of library books, she has the pamphlet from the internship Jan mentioned. It's frayed at the creases and slightly dog-eared, but Pam takes it out every once in a while and wants something more. She sits down at the edge of her bed, in the late afternoon dim, the paper damp in her hands. She imagines having it and being in New York and the thought scares her a little more then it thrills her. Pam wants to be able to tell herself that it's Roy who said no, because he did, but she knows that it's her too, holding herself back, scared of falling off that edge. Answering phones for Dunder-Mifflin is safe, as safe as she'll ever get.
The wedding portrait is framed on the dresser. She thinks she looks happy. Maybe, captured in that instance, she was. This is her life now, she realizes, looking at the room in a sort of desperation. It's permanent, forever, and it stretches out in an unseeing manner. Pam thinks that she could be sitting here, ten years from now, with more wrinkles and tired eyes, but what will have changed? She might still be the receptionist, picking up phones with her voice muted. It makes her cry then, sudden splotches of tears staining the bedspread. She never thought that this would be her life.
It's August and the fan turns and turns and there isn't enough breeze to keep her from sweating. It's August and Pam knows what she wants. It's August when she tells Roy she's leaving him over macaroni and cheese and broccoli and it's August when she packs her boxes and moves into an tiny apartment with three rooms and a kitchenette. It's August, glorious August, hot and sticky and free. She paints and paints in August, bright colors against white canvas, purple and yellow on her fingers, green matted in her hair, a splotch of red against the thigh of her jeans. That's all August.
When it's September, Pam finds herself standing outside Jim's door.
But that's September.