Pairing: Kelly/Erin; Ryan/Kelly; Ryan/Pam
Spoilers: through "Company Picnic"
Word Count: 9,825
Summary: Ryan does a number on Kelly's emotional well being, again. This time, Kelly finds a new solution.
Author's Note: Ahahaha, I did it! ... and it somehow became 10,000 words. In one sitting. Oh, I am feeling terribly drunk on MS Word and too much typing right now, y'all. But by God, I actually wrote this fic! (And it is a gigantic, frightening beasty thing, but whatever.)
I think a lot of this wound up exploring the shift in Kelly's character since season three -- is it just me, or has she become a lot less warm and fuzzy and ditzy and a lot more snappy? She talks smack, you guys! I figure it might just be The Further Inadvertent Evolution of Kelly, sort of like how she was a totally sane background character for the first like twenty episodes, but I kind of like to play around with the idea that it was kind of the result of Ryan Bailey Howard crushing her poor little heart.
Oh, God, I need to go collapse now.
But first, a moment of sadness: seriously, why are there no Erin icons??!?!
(p.s. This ship is called Kerin, Karen, Filippeli lives on forever, hurrah! I need to go to bed right now!)
“Hey, so, listen,” Ryan says after they hook up, “you’re not gonna go all crazy on me or whatever, are you?”
Kelly’s fingers slip on her blouse button, but that makes sense. Newsflash, hello, silk is slippery. That’s just science. “What are you talking about? When have I ever gone crazy?”
Ryan snorts. She looks over at him. He’s still in her bed, all shirtless and smug-looking, propped up on one elbow. No one with hair that stupid should be allowed to smirk that much.
“Yeah, okay,” he says. There’s the sound of her blankets rustling as he turns over in bed. He takes one of her pillows and puts it over his face, then groans.
“You’re not sleeping here,” Kelly tells him. She’s sure to sound firm but not angry, because that’s what all the magazines say you should do when you’re trying to teach your man how to behave. She doesn’t really feel mature and in control, though. She mostly just feels like she’s trying to train a dog or something.
Ryan pulls the pillow off of his face to give her that look she so has not missed, that you’re-crazy-Kelly-Kapoor look. “Kelly, it’s like two in the morning.”
“Well, you better call your mom to come pick you up, because I can’t really have you here tonight. I’ve got stuff to do.”
“None of your business,” she says crisply.
“Oh, I get it. You have really important plans to, like, watch Maid in Manhattan again, right?”
“Screw you.” If he’d ever bothered to listen to her at all while they were together, he’d at least know that she likes Monster in Law way better than Maid in Manhattan because Michael Vartan is way hotter than Ralph Fiennes and has never played Voldemort and therefore isn’t tattooed on her brain as a creepy noseless freak.
She is so lucky to be out of this relationship.
“Kelly, just let me sleep over. I’ll take off in the morning.”
“No, okay?? No. You’re a total loser who lives at his parents’ house and – and it looks like you let Dwight dye your hair with his pee, and you know what? I’d be embarrassed if anyone found out I slept with you. So there. And you better not go blabbing it around the office, because everyone will probably just think you’re lying anyway. ”
“You can identify Dwight’s pee by sight? Wow, Kel.”
“Yeah, well.” She hesitates. “He leaves a lot of stuff in the fridge at work.”
“True,” Ryan acknowledges with a shudder.
Somehow this breaks the ice – wow, great, how romantic – and she just winds up taking her clothes off so they can have sex again. Then she changes into her pajamas, which makes more sense anyway. She doesn’t really get why her first move was to put her clothes back on again, it seems sort of stupid. Like, it’s two a.m. Where was she gonna go?
It’s all Jim and Pam’s fault, Jim and Pam with their stupid happiness and their stupid baby on the way. Whenever they get all smiley at each other, Kelly tries to remind herself that Pam is going to be so fat pretty soon. Sometimes it works.
Other times, she finds herself at Poor Richard’s with Ryan Bailey Convict Howard, and they’re the last two people from the office there and she’s maybe had one drink too many. “I can’t believe Jim and Pam are going to be married with a family. It’s so frigging unfair.”
“Pam could do way better than Jim,” Ryan declares, poking around at the peanuts in the bowl but not even eating any. Gross.
“Whatever, Jim’s perfect.” Kelly sighs glumly.
“Jim’s a douche.”
“You’re a douche.”
“Is it just me, or have you gotten bitchier?”
“God, you’re such an asshole,” she scowls, and kicks him under the table.
This leads to them getting a little drunker and playing footsie and going back to her apartment and having inconveniently good sex.
She doesn’t know what it is about him, besides the inconveniently good sex, that gets her so much. He’s mean and skinny and about as pale as everybody in that horrible Repo opera movie that she tried to watch for Paris Hilton but couldn’t get through because it was way too scary and disgusting. They don’t even like any of the same stuff. When she tried to tell him the whole Lindsay and Sam Ronson saga, he was just like, “So?” even though she picked it out specifically because she thought it would be interesting to him. Boys love lesbians.
A couple of years ago, she really used to think that if she stuck with him, and was patient enough, and let him see that she was cool enough not to break up with him just because he stood her up or didn’t call her for a few days or whatever, he’d realize how lucky he was.
Now she knows that he’s just a jerk, and that even if he did care about her, he’d probably still be a sucky boyfriend.
It’s just, he’s Ryan. Even now she can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s what she’s got to work with.
She doesn’t go all crazy, not even a little bit, so you can just suck on that, Ryan Howard. She goes to work the next day and is totally cool. She doesn’t ignore Ryan, but she doesn’t go over and sit on his desk and talk to him a whole bunch either, which is what she did the day after they slept together the first time.
She has a yogurt for lunch and she spends the afternoon painting her fingernails because surprise surprise, business is pretty slow. She tells Toby first so he can go hang out somewhere else in case the smell bothers him, but he sticks around the annex anyway. Up front all anyone is even talking about is Jim and Pam and the baby. Andy tried to sing Cat’s In The Cradle to Pam’s stomach. Then Dwight said a whole bunch of really creepy stuff about childbearing hips that Kelly never wants to think about again. Michael is like convinced he’s going to be the godfather, so he keeps talking in this stupid mafia voice and saying stuff about mattresses. Kelly sort of suspects it’s because he’s never seen The Godfather but he’s watched You’ve Got Mail a lot. You’ve Got Mail is pretty dull as far as romcoms go, because there’s not even any sex or anything and it’s not like Tom Hanks is exactly a hottie, but she likes it. It makes it seem like falling in love can be really simple and nice even when it’s really complicated. Maybe she should open a cute little bookstore, except she’ll only sell good stuff like Meg Cabot and Shopaholic and Twilight.
Nobody else at work has even read Twilight, and one time when she was totally nice enough to suggest to Oscar that they might do it sometime for the Finer Things Club, he just about puked.
Oscar is the most disappointing gay guy she’s ever known. Especially because he’s the only gay guy she’s ever known.
(Although sometimes she wonders a little about Andy, who would make a way better gay.)
While she paints her nails this great gloomy shade of deep purple that so matches her soul lately, she tries not to think about Ryan. He took off this morning while she was still sleeping, but not before eating two of her toaster strudels, which was really mean because now she’s only got one package left and he knows they’re her favorite. She found one of his socks on the floor in the bedroom. He is such a stupid idiot now. Who doesn’t notice they’re missing a sock? The sort of guy who doesn’t even care that he’s almost thirty and living with his mom, she guesses. She decides she’ll just throw it away instead of washing it and bringing it in to him. She’s sick of being nice for no reason.
When it’s finally, finally five o’clock, she gets all her stuff together. As she’s walking past Andy’s desk, she sees Ryan and Pam. Pam’s still sitting at her desk, and Ryan’s sort of leaning against the side of it with his arms crossed. Like, who does he think he is, Jim 2.0? He must be completely deluded.
“So you’re probably going to be really boring now,” he’s saying. “Momma Halpert. A fulfilling life of knitting booties.”
“Shut up,” Pam orders. She rolls her eyes but she’s smiling too. Kelly wonders what Jim would think.
“Yeah, Pam, sorry and everything, but I don’t think I can hang out with you anymore. I’ve got an image to maintain.”
“Oh, yeah, because we’re such good friends.”
“We’re great friends.”
“You’re so full of it,” Pam giggles.
“No, for real. This is something special. MSPC lives forever.”
“Besides, you should think I’m, like, even cooler now, right? Considering how much you hang out with your mom.”
“Bitch,” Ryan says admiringly.
Kelly’s stomach lurches. She doesn’t even know why. She shouldn’t have anything to feel bad about. She’s got stupid Ryan out of her life, she should feel totally exhilarated. It’s like how Britney finally got rid of all her skeezy paparazzi boyfriends and now she’s taking the whole earth by storm on her world tour. Ryan’s the one whose life sucks now, since he is so clearly crushing on a girl who is practically married and carrying another man’s baby. And Shonda Rimes doesn’t write life, so it’s obvious that’s never going anywhere.
Thank God, Jim goes over and leans against the other side of the desk and gets Pam’s attention. He grabbed her coat for her; Kelly can pretty much feel her soul sighing. She would do anything for a Jim Halpert. Anything, anything, anything. Even though he still brings ham sandwiches for lunch most of the time and his flippy hair is more dorky than cute on the dorky/cute scale. No guy can be perfect. (Except Chris Pine.) But it’s so obvious that Jim loves Pam more than anything.
Ryan loved her more than, like, going to the dentist. Not that she cares about Ryan anymore. Darryl probably loved her a little better – like, more than Big Macs, or at least as much as a Big Mac – but that didn’t really matter so much in the end because he was still so obsessed with his stupid daughter.
She wants somebody to love her like a total crazy person, that’s all. She doesn’t get why she’s so unworthy of that or whatever.
What’s so great about Pam, anyway? She wasn’t even cute until a couple years ago. Does nobody remember her old hair?
Kelly watches as Jim and Pam walk out. They hold hands and start cracking up about Dwight telling them to name their baby Gaius, or Godric, but under no circumstances Voldemort, Anakin, or Admiral Cain. Kelly doesn’t really get what that means, except for the Voldemort part. Sometimes it’s like Jim and Pam have their own language and nobody else has any hope of ever understanding it.
“Damn it!” Pam laughs. It seems like she’s always laughing lately. “I really wanted to name it Voldemort. Boy or girl. I don’t know, Jim, my heart’s just really set on it.”
“No, Pam. Okay? Voldemort is off the table. Sauron, on the other hand—”
“Sauron Dwight Kurt Schrute Beesly Halpert. The Third.”
“Sorry. I’m really bad with numbers.”
Ryan stares after them for a few seconds. Then he laughs under his breath, this short, quiet, mean laugh. Kelly recognizes it from the days when he used to come home from work all pissed and mopey because he’d blown another sale.
Then he shakes his head and walks out.
Kelly knows she should take off, but for some reason, it seems too hard to do it. She doesn’t want to walk down to the parking lot and watch Jim and Pam drive off into the frickin’ sunset with, like, rainbows blossoming out of the exhaust pipe or something. So there! Rainbows can’t really blossom, but she doesn’t even care.
More than that, she doesn’t want to see any more of Ryan staring after Pam like that. Like, ever again ever.
Ryan really likes Pam, says this matter-of-fact voice in her head.
Kelly goes into the bathroom and she cries. She doesn’t even make it to a stall, which is stupid, but everybody’s going home now anyway. She just slumps down onto the floor across from the sinks and leans her back against the cold wall and cries. It reminds her of that scene in Marie Antoinette where Kirsten Dunst totally just loses it because she’s feeling the horrible pressure of not being able to have any royal babies, and she leans against that wall with the awesome wallpaper and just slumps down in her amazing poofy dress and cries like crazy. Except that looked totally gorgeous, and Kelly is in a fricking bathroom.
The thought makes her cry harder. She wishes her life wasn’t so ugly and boring all the time.
The door swings open with a sudden squeak. Kelly looks up to see Erin the new receptionist. She’s got her coat over one arm and her bag slung over the other shoulder.
“Oh! I didn’t know anybody was in here.” She takes in the sight of Kelly, who has no doubt that at this point she looks all snotty and mascara-streaky and completely gross. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Kelly sniffles defiantly.
Erin hurries into one of the bathroom stalls. Wow, that’s so nice, Kelly doesn’t think. Sure, she looks gross and she’s pretty much curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, but that doesn’t mean that Erin has to actually run away from her. She could at least pretend not to be freaked out. People are such jerkazoids. Especially the ones around here.
But then Erin comes right back out of the stall again, one of her hands full of toilet paper. She breaks off a couple of squares and hands it to Kelly.
“I would have gone with paper towels, but those are really scratchy,” she explains.
“Oh,” Kelly says. She’s so surprised that she totally just stops crying. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Sure,” Erin chirps. “Um. Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” Kelly scowls. There is no way Miss Adorable, a.k.a. Pam II could ever understand any of this.
“Okay,” Erin says uncertainly.
Kelly takes a quavering breath. Whatever. Like any of these people care about her problems. They so don’t. They’ve proved that time and time again.
Still, Erin keeps staring at her with her eyes all big and concerned, so Kelly figures she should probably just say something.
“It’s just,” she says, trying to stop her voice from shaking, “that Ryan Howard is a totally stupid awful jerk and he’s been ruining my life for like the past three years nonstop and now he’s in love with Pam freaking Beesly.”
“But Pam’s with Jim,” Erin says, her forehead wrinkling a little.
“I know! And he still likes her more than me.”
As soon as she says that second part out loud, she feels sort of nauseous. Like that’s even the problem.
Well. It is the problem. But … but it’s a stupid problem and she doesn’t want to have it because it’s the worst, because she doesn’t even care about Ryan, because so what if they were together for over a year and he looks at Pam now in a way that he never, never once bothered to look at her. So what.
“Ryan does seem like a jerk,” Erin says tentatively. “And his hair is sort of terrible. I bet you could find someone way nicer.”
“Oh, like who?” Kelly scowls.
“Andy seems really sweet. And fun. He sings a lot.”
“I know,” Kelly agrees, because Andy is pretty much the best single guy in the office (not that that’s saying much, like, who’s his competition? Creed? Anyway, Kelly is secretly convinced that Creed has like at least eight wives scattered across the globe), “but Angela fully like broke his heart and screwed him over and he must have so much emotional damage. Also, I kind of want him to be gay.”
“Oh,” Erin says, looking sort of surprised. “Well, um. Maybe Oscar—”
“Oscar is gay.”
“Oh. Gosh. I feel like I should have known that.”
“That’s okay. He’s so lame about it, you’d never know.”
Erin gives her a little smile. “Anything else I should know?”
Kelly considers. “Michael is crazy but he can actually be sort of nice and funny, but don’t tell him I said that, because it will totally go to his head and he’ll think I’m in love with him or something. He always thinks random ladies are in love with him. Sometimes they are, like with Holly, but usually he’s just being nuts. Never bring any pets to work, because Dwight will probably try to roast them for lunch. Don’t go into the storage closet at the same time as Creed, because he’ll try to feel you up and then pretend he was reaching for post-it notes. If he’s feeling polite. If he’s not, he’ll just go, ‘Well, whaddya say, little missie?’ Which is totally weird, and should probably be reported to Toby, but nobody even bothers anymore because Creed’s really old and it’s pretty easy to avoid his weird old man grabby hands anyway. Toby is mostly sweet but he really hates it when I listen to Beyonce at my desk, which is a pain because she always gets me all in the mood to get work done. Angela is all Jesusy and stuff, but she’s really the devil, so don’t let her fool you. Oscar gets really touchy if you talk about Brokeback Mountain to him and call them Heath and Jake instead of their characters’ names, which is sort of a pain because I can never remember them. He says it’s an affront to Annie Proulx’s short masterpiece, whatever the heck that means. Kevin keeps a huge jar of M&Ms under his desk and it’s pretty easy to sneak some when he goes to the bathroom or into the break room or whatever, but you can only take a few because otherwise he’ll notice. Meredith is almost always hung over in the morning; that’s why she looks so grumpy. Also, her hair totally didn’t used to be that red, I’m just saying. Don’t ever, ever try to help Stanley with one of his crossword puzzles. Phyllis is married to Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration and is like the queen of the fridge empire. Which is apparently not enough to buy her good perfume, because hers stinks really bad. Just stand a few feet away and you’ll be okay. Jim and Pam have been in love forever. It’s this whole big crazy incredible stupid saga. Pam used to be engaged but Jim was totally in love with her, and then Jim transferred to the Stamford branch because he couldn’t stand watching Pam get married to another guy, and then Pam broke off her engagement with the other guy, even though Jim was already gone to Stamford, and then the Stamford branch got closed – it was totally like destiny – and a few of the Stamford workers came over here, and Jim was one of them, so he and Pam could reunite. Except this other girl, Karen, came over from Stamford too, and it turns out she was Jim’s new girlfriend, and so then Pam was all in love with Jim but she couldn’t have him because Jim had somebody else. But then I guess Jim like randomly dumped Karen in New York when he was applying for this fancy job at corporate and he came back and got with Pam, and they’ve been together ever since, and I don’t think they ever fight or anything. And now they’re going to have a baby and get married and it’s going to be amazing, just like stuff always is for them, and so Ryan Howard can just deal because it’s not like he’s going to be able to mess that up, he’s just not.”
Erin’s quiet for awhile. Kelly finds herself realizing how weird bathroom silence is. It’s so much quieter than normal silence.
“Poor Karen,” she says then.
It is so just the exact right thing to say. Kelly’s so surprised she laughs. It’s just, she was totally expecting, like, ‘Wow, that’s so amazing!’ about Jim and Pam, and this is so much better.
She wasn’t really sure about Erin at first, because of the whole pain-in-the-ass two-Kellys thing. She’s been the Dunder Mifflin Scranton Kelly for years; you can’t just let some skinny adorable girl walk on in and change that. But Erin was really nice about having everybody call her by her middle name. Besides, Café Disco was a lot of fun.
“Whatever,” Kelly says, feeling weirdly better. “Ryan’s a dumbass. You know, he lives with his parents.”
“His mom picks him up from work.”
“Oh no,” Erin says. She laughs a little and her nose scrunches up.
“Oh yeah,” Kelly says, and so so enjoys doing it. “He’s such a loser.”
“Well, you’re not a loser,” Erin says. “And I bet you’ll find someone great. And … I really like your nail polish.”
No one ever notices her nail polish.
“Thanks,” Kelly says, smiling a little. “I just did it this afternoon.”
“What’s the color called?”
“Feeling Plumb,” Erin repeats, and laughs a little. “That’s cute.”
“I was thinking of maybe doing Orange You Glad instead,” Kelly replies, “but then, I don’t know, it just felt like more of a dark purple day, you know? Besides, it goes a lot better with this top.”
“Yeah,” Erin agrees. The way she says it is a little weird, though, and she’s sort of leaning away, like she wants to take off. Of course she wants to take off.
“But whatever, you can go,” Kelly adds, stiffening. “It’s not really like any of this is your problem.”
“No, no, it’s not that! It’s just …” Erin bites her lip, then finishes in a whisper, “I really, really have to go to the bathroom.”
“Oh!!” Right. That’s usually why people come into bathrooms. Not to have psycho sob fests over bleached blonde losers. “Oh my God, go, then.”
Erin laughs. “Okay.”
“No way are you wetting those pants, they’re way too cute.”
“Okay,” Erin says again, still laughing. “Thank you.”
She sets her bag and her coat down on the counter, then slips into one of the stalls. Kelly goes over and turns on the sink so she can’t hear Erin peeing, because Kelly always gets really embarrassed about that whenever she has to use a public bathroom. She wets a paper towel and starts wiping the smudges of black from under her eyes. As she does, she glances over at Erin’s bag on the counter. It’s white with big pink and green polka dots, all cute and summery. There’s a copy of New Moon peeking out of it.
It’s summertime and everything, and Erin tells Kelly that she always really wants to go outside and sit on the hood of her car and eat, because the sun is so nice.
“We should just do it,” Kelly says decisively. This, for the record, has nothing to do with the fact that Ryan happens to be eating in the breakroom right now.
They actually fall into the habit of it pretty quick. It’s really fun, too. Kelly never really thinks of Scranton as an exotic paradise or anything, but it really is nice warm weather. She tends to associate this place with yucky everlasting winters for some reason. It doesn’t seem quite as blah lately.
On the day that Erin finishes reading Eclipse for the first time, they have like one of their best talks ever. Kelly can’t remember the last time she talked to someone who talked almost as much back. Erin’s always got stuff to say.
“Oh my God, I always get so torn,” Kelly groans, “because Edward is so amazing, and dark and passionate, and he wants her so much, but Jacob’s like such a sweetie, you know?”
“I like Jacob,” Erin says decisively. “I like nice boys.”
“Smartie,” says Kelly, kicking her. Erin giggles.
“I would have been the air, the sun,” Kelly recites, and sighs.
“God,” Erin says after a woeful silence. “It’s so sad. What happens??”
Kelly’s brain threatens to, like, bubble over. She imagines spelling out the whole plot of Breaking Dawn for Erin, and the idea is so thrilling she almost bounces up and down just thinking about it. The wedding! The sex! The baby! The imprinting!
But no way. She’s not gonna ruin it for her. If she’s still really feeling the urge to explain the whole thing when she gets back inside later, she’ll just tell Toby or something. It’ll be really helpful for him, she reasons, because Twilight is pretty much required reading for young girls everywhere, and Sasha must be old enough to read by now, right?
“Not telling,” Kelly says deviously. “But it’s amaaaaazingggg.”
Oh God, Renesmee is going to kill her.
“I can’t wait,” Erin says giddily. She takes a few bites of her sandwich, then says, “Can you imagine if humans could sparkle like vampires?”
Kelly totally thinks about this all the time. “Oh my gosh, it would suck if you were a boy. But a girl? So pretty! I want to! It’d be like jewelry on your skin. Sign me up.”
“Me too! Oh, God, I so loved body glitter.”
Erin takes her cardigan off and folds it in her lap. (She folds clothes like, really, really well, and it turns out it’s because she worked at Gap all through college. She says Dunder Mifflin is better than Gap because she gets to sit down and read Perez Hilton and stuff, but Kelly’s not so sure. It’s Gap.) She makes a little happy noise and closes her eyes, leaning back so the sun hits her better. She’s just wearing a silky turquoise cami now, and her shoulders are bare and really pale – but in a pretty, Nicole Kidman sort of way. Kelly amuses herself by imagining sparkles there.
“I can’t believe Oscar was such a jerk about the Finer Things Club reading Twilight,” she says after enough time has passed that she figures it’s kind of weird she’s just, like, staring at this other girl’s shoulders. “We should start our own.”
“The Finer Vampires Club,” Erin suggests slyly.
“God, Edward’s so fine,” Kelly says with an adoring sigh.
“DO I DAZZLE YOU, BELLA,” Erin intones in this totally ridiculous super-deep man voice, which makes Kelly laugh so hard she almost chokes on her Snapple.
“Oh no, oh no!” Erin keeps exclaiming as she pats Kelly’s back, trying to get her to stop coughing, but she’s laughing too. When Kelly finally, like, regains her ability to breathe, Erin lets her have a few sips of her water.
They stay out talking until Dwight comes and, like, forces them inside.
One of the great things about Erin is that she always wants to see all the same movies as Kelly. Kelly’s best friend Jill is in Europe for the summer with her super-great boyfriend, so she doesn’t really have anyone to hang out with for fun girl time except her sisters, which, um, how fun is that? Answer: not very. So Erin’s just like totally heaven sent.
They go to see The Proposal the day after it opens, and the theatre is like one big air conditioned paradise. They stand in line for snacks and talk about how they’re both trying to eat healthy and movie theatre candy is such a waste of money, and then they pool their money and get like one box of everything when they make it to the counter. Plus popcorn. Lots of popcorn.
“Oh, you only live once,” Erin declares as they struggle to lug it all into the theatre. “Sometimes you should just do what you want.”
The movie is funny and romantic and sort of makes Kelly want to go to Alaska. Sandra’s amazing and Ryan’s amazing and Erin laughs and coos and sighs just as much as she does. It’s so refreshing to sit next to somebody who actually reacts to the movie – Ryan would always just sit there, and Darryl would kind of chuckle really low sometimes, but that was it. Of course, they’re just lame-o boys, not girl friends, but lately Kelly likes hanging out with Erin even better than Jill. (Or maybe she’s just a little bitter, ‘cause of the Europe and the boyfriend and all.) Anyway, Kelly even gives Erin the last Red Vines when their hands bump reaching for it in the box. Red Vines are totally her favorite, but she doesn’t mind doing it. A lot of the time, especially lately, it feels like she’s just being nice to people because it’s the rules, but with Erin, she actually wants to be. It makes her feel so much better about, just, everything. Like, she’s sure right now she would be a totally awesome role model if any of the Disney kids ever wanted to hang out with her in a big-sister-mentor kind of way. Kelly can so see herself taking Demi Lovato shopping.
“Okay, okay,” she says on the drive home, bouncing a little ‘cause she’s pretty sugar high, “that or Definitely Maybe?”
“Oh God!” Erin exclaims. “Don’t make me choose!”
“Fine. But –” Inspiration strikes! “—Amy Adams or Isla Fisher?”
“Erinnnnn! You have to answer. You have to. It’s the rules.”
“Of what? Totally evil questions?”
“Ohhhhhh – Amy Adams.”
“Isla Fisher! Shopaholic, hello!”
“But – Enchanted!”
Kelly realizes right away that she’s totally been bested. It’s Enchanted. There’s nothing better than that.
“How does she knowwww youuuu love herrrr?” she sings out without even really thinking. She sort of fell out of the habit of singing around people because it used to get on Ryan’s nerves so bad, but come on, like she’s going to resist Enchanted.
“How does she knowwww she’s youuuurs?” Erin sings right on back, looking away from the road just long enough to smile really big at her.
Kelly giggles, like, a lot and clasps her hands together in sheer joy. Honestly, lately she just feels like she’s floating sometimes.
Erin has all the High School Musical movies on her DVD shelf, hidden behind the first season of Felicity.
“You are honestly totally completely my favourite person in the whole world, oh my God!” Kelly squeaks.
“Oh my gosh, don’t tell anybody,” Erin orders, blushing, but she gives Kelly a hug anyway.
Her hair smells really yummy. Sort of citrusy, which Kelly always thinks is a bold choice shampoowise, but it turns out it’s actually pretty nice. Girls smell so good. Boys are such lucky bastards.
“Love is love, people!” Michael exclaims one sweltering afternoon in the conference room, because Oscar is dating some new guy who walked him to the elevator this morning and kissed him goodbye and Michael just so happened to see it and is now just, like, totally, totally freaking. “It doesn’t matter if who you love is a man when you’re a man, or a woman when you’re a woman, or a donkey when you are – with two legs, and human parts. The point is, love is a force of transcendentalism. I believe Gandhi said that.”
“Fact,” Dwight says, “A donkey cannot experience emotion.”
“That,” Jim says, “is bestiality. By the way.”
“Whaa whaa whaa whaa whaa! That doesn’t make it any less valid,” Michael snaps. “What are you, Jim? The love police?”
“Love mountie, actually,” Jim replies without missing a beat.
“That’s what she said. Oscar. The point is, whoever this … lovely chap just so happens to be, that you were so heatedly … embracing …”
“It was just a small goodbye kiss, Michael,” Oscar sighs wearily.
“NO! It was a big goodbye kiss! It was – fireworks, James Blunt, tongues a-waggin’, the whole dealio! You, Oscar my friend, do not need to be ashamed.”
“Can we please not do this again?” Oscar asks, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I really don’t think that my love life is the business of anybody here—”
“Eeeexcept your #1 wingman. So, bromigo, give us the 411,” Andy orders, poking Oscar in the arm. “What’s this dude’s dealio? Is he good enough for our accountanté muy bueno? Is he strooong enough to be yourrrr mannn?”
“Andy—” Oscar sighs.
“He a good kisser?” Andy presses, grinning. “Gimme the deets.”
“This is all very distasteful,” Angela sniffs.
“Ooofficeslut,” Michael coughs.
“I don’t think that kind of name-calling is really appropr—”
“Yeah, well, you know what, Toby? Why don’t you save it for your donkey lover? Because I’m sure he is the only one who even wants to listen to you about anything.”
“I don’t have a—”
“Yeah ya do. Donkey lover.”
“Michael,” Pam says warily, “maybe we should try to get back on track.”
“Thank you,” Toby mumbles.
“Yes! Pam! Thank you! She’s got my back. She’s always got my back. So anyway. The point is. People. Let’s not be judgy. Let’s be open to new experiences. When love looks us in the face, who are we to turn the other cheek?”
Kelly glances at Erin, who’s spent the whole meeting with her mouth a little bit open and her head flying back and forth, following the conversation like it’s some crazy tennis match of doom. Which it kind of is.
“Oh my God,” Kelly whispers. “Are we like surrounded by total crazies or what?”
“Oh, be nice,” Erin whispers back, but she says it in a sweet way, and her breath is warm against Kelly’s ear.
Kelly went through a phase where she was really in love with Matthew Goode, until she saw Watchmen and he was all yucky blonde. She watched a whole bunch of his movies – or, well, Chasing Liberty like eight times, and Match Point once (too depressing, jeez) and Brideshead Revisited once (huh? She should have known; she remembers them reading it for The Finer Things Club awhile ago) and Imagine Me & You a few times. Imagine Me & You is about this girl who gets married to this amazing guy who she’s been with forever, only to catch the eye of the girl who did the flowers for the wedding as she’s walking down the aisle and suddenly realize that that girl is the, like, ultimate love of her life.
Kelly always thought it was sort of stupid, because she doesn’t care whether you’re gay or straight or destined to be with somebody else or whatever: nobody marries Matthew Goode and then decides they don’t want any more of that. That’s like denying God or something, if God just so happened to be this total British sex bomb.
But she kinda liked it too, because Piper Perabo and Lena Headey are both totally gorgeous and Piper Perabo had amazing hair and there was all this pretty stuff like dancing in bright lights and kissing in roses. It just made the whole lesbian thing seem, like, so incredibly beautiful. When it’s two pretty girls, there’s no scratchy beards or sweat or nasty Axe smell. (Yeah, that’s right. Kelly doesn’t like the smell of Axe at all. She doesn’t tell anybody because that’s weird, but honestly, it sort of just makes her want to gag.) Everything’s all soft and romantic.
Kelly is kind of drunk when she thinks about Imagine Me & You. The whole work gang’s at Poor Richard’s again. Dwight chose to come tonight for some crazy reason, so Jim is pretty much glued to his side and Pam is sitting around talking about books with Toby. Ryan, Kelly notices, doesn’t really waste any time in heading over to them. What, like Ryan is suddenly Finer Things Club material? He’s so desperate it’s sad. Like, Kelly would feel bad for the stupid idiot if he was anybody else. Even Hitler.
It turns out that Oscar’s new guy is actually a bartender at Poor Richard’s, and Oscar met him on one of these depressing Dunder Mifflin bar nights in the first place. He used to work at some awesome club in New York so he knows how to make all of the fun girly drinks, like the ones on Sex & the City, and so Kelly and Erin decide to try as many of them as they can. Andy keeps hovering around taking sips of everything and butting into the conversation, but even lame should-be-straight Oscar is in a really good mood and doesn’t seem to mind.
Erin’s got her hair back in a clip but some of it’s starting to fall out so it frames her face and brushes against her neck. Kelly keeps wanting to push it back, which doesn’t really make any sense because it looks totally cute just the way it is, like, it doesn’t look messy or anything. She has such silky hair. Kelly can’t stop wondering what her neck might feel like, which is such a weird thing to wonder, right? Sometimes Kelly thinks Dunder Mifflin has made her totally nuts and she’s just one of the loonies now, like Creed or Dwight. It’s not very sexy but maybe that’s just the truth of it. She hopes Erin doesn’t get sucked into the crazy because Erin is really nice just the way she is.
They sneak off to the bathroom to freshen up their makeup. And because Kelly just so happens to need to make one little thing all clear to her gal pal because she doesn’t really think Erin’s getting it.
“I think Andy might have a thing for you,” Kelly says matter-of-factly, because why else would he be hanging around them all night? Poor Andy.
“Oh, God,” Erin says, smearing Kelly’s lipgloss across her mouth a little gracelessly. “But – but Angela! Emotional damage! I can’t fix emotional damage! I can’t even change a tire.”
“I’m just sayingggggg,” Kelly sings. “I bet he’s going to ask you outtttt.”
“Noooo!” Erin almost doubles over giggling. She hands Kelly her lipstick back and has to grab onto Kelly’s wrist as she does it so that she doesn’t lose her balance. Her fingers are warm.
“Why not? He’s cute! Andy’s cute! And he’s so nice and he was so good to Angela even though she was a total bitchy-mc-bitch queen to him, so if he had a girlfriend that was nice to him too, I bet he’d be perfect—”
“I know! I know! I just don’t want a boyfriend!” Erin squeals. “I don’t want a boyfriend!”
“Why not?” Kelly asks, frowning. It’s like the weirdest sentence she’s ever heard. For some reason it makes her heart pound really hard.
“I don’t know,” Erin says, laughing and shrugging in this loose, pretty way. “I’m happy now.”
“I always want a boyfriend,” Kelly says, because it is only like the #1 most true thing about her ever. She almost feels like it’s tattooed on her forehead or her soul or something. The forehead of her soul.
Erin’s still laughing a little. “Why?”
And it’s like – it’s like … that is such a good question.
Kelly thinks about Piper Perabo and Lena Headey and their really pretty kissing and she leans forward and she puts her hands on either side of Erin’s face. Gosh, her skin is really soft. Like, reeeeeeally soft.
Erin’s forehead wrinkles, all confused, but she’s still smiling. “What’re you—”
And Kelly kisses her.
It seems fitting that they’re in a bathroom. Like symmetry or something. If she’s remembering what symmetry is right.
“Oh wow,” Erin says when they break apart, her eyes huge. “Wow.”
“Sorry,” Kelly says, because she suddenly realizes that, okay, maybe she should be sorry. “Was that gross?”
“I don’t know,” Erin says, eyes still wide. “I can’t tell. I was so surprised I didn’t really – wow. Why did you do that?”
The thing is, it totally makes sense. If somebody knows the whole story.
“There’s this movie,” Kelly begins, “called Imagine Me & You. Okay, so. This girl is getting married, but on her wedding day—”
Except then she doesn’t get a chance to finish explaining, because Erin leans in and kisses her. Her lips are kind of slick and really fruity, because she just borrowed Kelly’s lipgloss. It’s weird – this must be sort of what it’s like to kiss Kelly. And okay, technically, she is kissing Kelly. A Kelly. Oh, gosh, it’s weird. But not bad weird. She doesn’t immediately shove her tongue into Kelly’s mouth which is oh God such an upgrade from certain Ryans that she knows, like, it isn’t totally in this big stupid hurry to turn into sex.
Erin breaks off and takes a really deep breath, like she just came up from underwater or something. She starts laughing really hard. “Oh, God, I’m so drunk.”
“Me too,” Kelly says, giggles bubbling up in her.
They laugh and laugh until they sort of laugh their way into each other’s arms, and then they kiss some more, and oh my God, it’s such good kissing.
The next morning, Kelly vaguely remembers Oscar giving her a ride home. She also vaguely remembers asking him, “Oscar, how do you turn gay?”
“Wanting to live in Katy Perry’s image isn’t the same thing as being gay, Kelly,” she’s pretty sure he replied. But pretty patiently, for Oscar.
With this thought in mind, she turns her computer on and she goes to Facebook. She can’t call Erin about it. The thought makes her want to chop off her own head. But she can’t text her either, that just seems tacky. It’s like how you can’t text message breakup. You can’t text message apologize for kissing your friend in this totally gay Katy Perry way.
She goes over to her inbox and then starts a message.
“Hey. Oh my gosh I’m so sorry if that got weird or whatever I totally don’t want things to be weird it’s just that wow was I ever really really really drunk and having a really good time, and I don’t know I think I just went crazy. I think maybe I listened to I kissed a girl too many times if that’s even possible because I went through a period where I was majorly into that album I didn’t even take it out of my car for like a month. So anyway. I was drunk and I kissed a girl is a really good song and I think it was mostly just that, I’m sorry, I hope this doesn’t make things totally weird and we have to not be friends anymore or something, because that would suck. I’m glad we’re friends.’
She signs it ‘xoxo Kelly’ by default, like she always does with everything, but then that seems wrong. She takes the x’s out, but then it’s just ‘oo Kelly’ which, for some reason, turns into ‘Ooh, Kelly!’ in her brain, and she thinks maybe at one point Erin said that last night in the Poor Richard’s bathroom. And then she said it back, because they’re both Kellys, and then they both laughed a lot because the whole thing just seemed funny and bright and special.
Her head is pounding so hard, and she feels like crap, and now she’s ruined her relationship with like her greatest friend ever all because of her stupid drunk lips.
She finally just signs it ‘Kelly’ and sends it.
She takes a shower and when she comes back, there’s a reply in her inbox already.
‘I’m glad we’re friends too. :) It’s totally ok, I promise. Katy Perry is wonderful, her play count is so high in my iTunes library. I like Hot n Cold better than I Kissed A Girl though. The beginning of it always reminds me of Boy Hangover. You know that song from the cafe disco thing that you and I danced to? I thought it was really cute and I went out and bought it that same day from iTunes actually. Hehe sometimes I listen to it while I’m cleaning the apartment or whatever and it gets me all energized and happy. (Yes I dance. It’s alright, nobody is here to see it except my cat and I don’t think he’ll tell anybody. I know I’m a spazzy dancer.) That was a really fun day. I’m glad you and I started the dancing back up again. You and Andy’s danceoff was amazing. I think that day was the first time I really felt like I would feel at home here, and I do.
We’re totally ok.
They spend a week acting really normal and pretending the whole thing never happened. Then Erin says they should rent a movie and Kelly says okay, because hi, she’s not going to be the one who stops pretending it’s all cool and goes nuts or whatever. Not after Ryan’s told her she’s crazy like a flobbity billion bajillion times. She is not crazy.
Even if it means sitting alone together on one couch in the dark for a really long time.
It gets sort of weirder, because Erin says maybe they should watch Imagine Me & You.
“Um,” Kelly says. “Totally. That movie’s awesome.”
“It sounds good,” Erin says lamely.
“It is,” Kelly says. “Totally.”
They do watch it. Kelly’s so preoccupied by feeling weird and sort of twitchy during all the girlylove parts that she can’t even swoon over Matthew Goode.
“Oh my God, he’s amazing,” Erin says, staring in rapture at the TV as the credits roll. “I would never, never leave him for anybody.”
“I know, right?” Kelly says, and tries not to pay attention to the amount of space between them. Which is like three centimeters, tops.
Then it’s two.
Then it’s none.
They somehow wind up making out on the couch for like an hour. Nobody’s even drunk this time. Kelly doesn’t really have any clue what’s going on, like, at all, but it’s weird. She doesn’t want to go change her Facebook status to ‘Interested in: Men, Women’ or, like, sneak a picture of her and Erin kissing with her cellphone and then make it her new MySpace default pic. Being bi is awesome, so she’s always sort of wanted to be. But this is just—
She kind of wants to never tell anybody ever. And it’s not because she’s ashamed or whatever. It’s because she just wants to keep this hers.
“Hey, Kelly,” Toby says, with his routine pleasant lack of enthusiasm. “You do anything fun last night?”
“Nope,” she says innocently.
Jim and Pam announce that they’ve got a date set for the wedding – the middle of August. Michael cries.
Kelly gives them both hugs, and when she says “Oh my God, I’m so excited for you guys!!!”, it’s totally true.
Ryan shakes Jim’s hand and hugs Pam.
Erin tears up. “I can’t help it, they seem so happy.”
“Yeah,” Kelly agrees. She knows she must look like a complete freak smiling so big, but she can’t help it.
There is maybe a storage closet rendezvous or two.
Until one day Creed walks in on it.
“Ooh,” he says, watching with unabashed interest. “Whaddya say we turn this into a three man operation, chickadees?”
“We’re girls,” Kelly points out, all ‘duh’.
“Huh,” Creed says. He grabs a box of pens and walks out.
They decide that maybe it’s time to take things to the next level. This is mostly because Kelly bought a new Cosmo this morning and she really misses feeling like any of the sex articles have, like, any relevance to her life whatsoever. Granted, they aren’t really any help in this department, but still.
They’re both sitting on the bed in their underwear, facing each other. Erin’s bra is lavender and really cute and Kelly just wants to ask if she got it at Victoria’s Secret but right now doesn’t really seem like the time to talk about shopping. If Kelly ruled the world, every time would be the time to talk about shopping.
“Okay,” she says briskly. “How do we do this?”
“I don’t really know,” Erin replies with a nervous little laugh.
“We could ask Oscar,” Kelly theorizes. It seems like kind of a stretch.
Erin frowns. “Would he know?”
“I’m not sure.” Kelly frowns too. “Maybe Lindsay Lohan did a myspace blog about it. I’ll check—”
“Or,” Erin suggests, “we could watch a movie instead. My Best Friend’s Wedding is on TNT in fifteen minutes.”
“Ooh!” Kelly says.
Eventually, they figure it out.
“Oh my God,” Kelly says with this drunk-sounding laugh, even though she’s not drunk, just really, really happy and, like, pleasantly sexed out. It turns out Ellen’s totally known what she was doing all this time; this teaches her, at least, never to doubt Ellen. “If my parents knew about you, they would die. Like, actually, absolutely, honest-to-God die.”
“I think my dad might have a heart attack,” Erin replies, giggling, and she leans in to kiss Kelly’s hair.
“So it’s just like this secret?” Kelly muses. She’s never had a secret relationship before. She always wanted one, because could anything be more romantic?, but she also really, really likes telling people about it when she’s in a relationship. She’s always liked to make sure that people know she’s not all undesirable or whatever.
“I don’t know what it is,” Erin says thoughtfully.
“Well, whatever it is, it’s good,” Kelly decides, snuggling against her. “It’s really good.”
“Yeah,” Erin agrees with a happy sigh.
They just lie there and bask, and Kelly still can’t get over the idea of having someone who’ll cuddle for as long as you want. Erin’s cat Truffles is purring away at the foot of the bed, and somehow that just makes everything even better.
One big happy family, she thinks, and smiles like a dweeb. She always swore she’d never get a cat because the last thing she wants is to turn into a freaky cat lady like Angela, but to be honest, she does love them. Anyway, Erin’s not a freaky cat lady. Erin’s a nice cat lady.
Ryan darts across her mind for a split-second. She doesn’t even get why. It’s not really bad like it used to be, though.
“You’re so nice to me,” Kelly says, her words all sleepy.
“Why wouldn’t I be, silly?” Erin murmurs back.
Jim and Pam’s wedding is beautiful, of course. It’s small and they have the ceremony outside, then do the whole typical dorky reception hall thing. The camera crew cuts the summer hiatus short to capture the whole thing. (“You and Erin seem like you’re getting along,” says Phil the camera guy. She’s sort of missed being interviewed. “Yeah, I guess,” she replies, all offhanded, and hopes her eyes don’t sparkle too much.) Michael makes a weird speech. Dwight makes a weirder speech. The weirdest thing of all is that Jim actually gets all legit choked up at it. Pam and Pam’s mom hug a lot and cry. Jim and Pam kiss like a zillion times and look so happy that Kelly can’t feel anything besides good for them. It’s like their whole love story has been this long crazy complicated road and finally they’re here, and she guesses that some people deserve those out-of-a-movie romances, because, well, the movie stories have to come from somewhere, right? Maybe Jim and Pam will become this total beacon of hope to everyone else, like, maybe there’s still a chance for McGosling, since Jim and Pam finally made it here after Roy and Karen and art school and everything.
Ryan dances with Pam three times and spends the rest of the time sitting around drinking. At almost eleven, he gets up and walks out. Erin’s up dancing with Andy at that point and Kelly’s not doing much besides watching her. She can’t help feeling curious, so she gets up too, and she follows him.
Turns out she doesn’t have to go very far. Ryan’s sitting out in the little entry hall, his back against the wall. He’s staring down at his knees.
“Ryan?” she says timidly.
He looks up at her. “You look nice.”
She thinks she should probably say it back, but he doesn’t, really. He looks sad and drunk. “You fixed your hair,” she finally manages.
“Yep. Special occasion, or whatever.”
She knows she’s going to start babbling. She can’t help it. “Thank God. Ugh, Ryan, it was so horrible. Like, seriously. You look so much better now. I can’t even tell you.”
“Thanks,” he says dully.
He doesn’t really seem like he’s in a chatty mood or anything, and Kelly thinks about just going back inside. But something about him looks so totally, just, ruined, and it suddenly it hits her that it’s Ryan. Her Ryan. She loved him really hard for a really long time.
And so she sits down next to him. Their shoulders rub together. It’s the first time they’ve touched in ages.
She can hear that dorky Come On Eileen song playing in the reception hall.
Ryan’s head drops onto her shoulder. Which is a seriously big surprise.
“I’m such an ass, Kel.” It’s kind of scary the way he says it. It’s not like a tormented moan or anything. It’s really blank and simple.
“Yeah,” Kelly agrees. After a second, she reaches over and starts brushing her fingers lightly over his (back to normal, thank God) hair.
“I don’t think I’m ever gonna do it.”
She feels like she missed something. “What?”
“Anything. Like, any of the stuff I wanted.”
She feels a twinge of pity. For some reason she doesn’t think about him coming back to Scranton with his fancy suits and his stupid little I’m Important beard. Instead, she’s struck by the memory of him sitting at her kitchen table, poring over his business school textbooks. She used to get up in the morning sometimes to find him there already, and it would make her mad that he’d rather spend his time reading a bunch of boring books than cuddling with her.
“Maybe it’ll just happen,” she suggests. “Sometimes stuff just happens and it turns out awesome.”
“Yeah?” Ryan says bluntly. “When?”
“Just sometimes,” Kelly replies, a little bit of sing-songiness in her voice. She thinks about getting ready this morning, and the brush of Erin’s fingers against the back of her neck, fastening her necklace.
“Not fucking likely,” Ryan mumbles.
She doesn’t really know what to say. It’s quiet for awhile.
“You always smell really good,” he mumbles then, pressing the words right into her neck, almost. “When I was in New York I’d have dreams about you sometimes, and when I woke up, just for the first few seconds or whatever, I’d think I smelled you next to me. It was weird.”
The idea of him thinking about her in New York really hits her hard for some reason, like, she suddenly feels more awake or something. She spent like a whole stupid year wanting him to be thinking of her, in this total ‘Damn, I had it so good and now she’s moved on and she’s with Darryl and my heart is broken and I shouldn’t have been such a blind, insensitive loser and now it’s too late’ way. And she always knew, in the back of her mind, that when he came crawling back, she’d have mercy on him or whatever, and it wouldn’t be too late. Not really. Not for them.
Even now it just seems unfair somehow.
“You never even really liked me,” she reminds him. It comes out sounding really clear. She’s so used to being, like, on the verge of an emotional breakdown when she talks to him.
“Yeah, I did.”
She scoffs lightly.
“I did,” he repeats. “I really didn’t want to. But after awhile, I just did.”
She thinks maybe it’s like the truest thing he’s ever said to her.
“That’s horrible,” she says. She’s not talking that loud, but her voice sounds really sharp in her ears. “No girl wants to hear that, Ryan Bailey Howard. I totally didn’t deserve that, not ever.”
It’s quiet for a long time.
“Yeah,” he sighs.
He falls asleep on her after awhile. She keeps on stroking his hair.
Erin comes out, all flushed and smiley. She’s barefoot, holding her shoes by the straps in her right hand. She kind of does a little double take when she sees Ryan all slumped over on top of her, but that’s it.
“I think I want to go walk around in the grass with my shoes off,” she says in a whisper, and smiles at Kelly. “Wanna come?”
Kelly pulls her wrap from around her shoulders and folds it up, then sets it on the floor. She eases Ryan from her shoulder down to the floor, making sure his head is cushioned okay – or, well, as okay as it can be under like five feet of gauzey fabric. She figures it’s better than nothing.
“Kelly?” he mumbles, not opening his eyes.
She’s gonna say something back – the “Yeah, Ryan?” is on her tongue in like .2 seconds – but just as the words are about to come out, they suddenly seem really pointless.
So she doesn’t. She sort of rubs him on the back once, and then she stands up and stretches a little. God, he’s bony.
Erin’s swishing her skirt back and forth and singing under her breath. “You in that dress da da da da da da da dee dee … come onnnn, Eileeeeen …”
Her smile widens when Kelly comes up next to her, and she grabs her hand and drags her to the front door.
Kelly was sensible with her footwear for once and went with these really cute flats, but once they step outside, she takes her shoes off anyway. The cement of the front steps is still warm from the sun. Erin sort of flings her shoes down – Kelly so knows that feeling, the how-could-you-do-this-to-my-feet? feeling – and pretty much sprints like a major dork down to the lawn. She’s a spazzy runner, too. It even kind of looks like how she dances.
Kelly sets her shoes down next to Erin’s, taking the time to straighten both pairs. Then she skips down the steps, her feet already tingling to meet the grass.