Posted on 11/07/03
Pacey waited while his mother handed over the phone.
“Son?” his father asked.
“Hey Pop,” Pacey said brightly. “How are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m fine. Your mother’s fussing - you know what she’s like.”
“Yes,” Pacey admitted. “But she’s right to fuss, Pop.”
Behind him, Audrey shifted on her bed. Her skirt crept upwards, exposing a tanned thigh.
“Nonsense,” the Sheriff disagreed. “There’s nothing to worry about. Between her and Carrie I can’t get a moment’s peace. And your brother’s here all the time.”
“Be thankful Doug doesn’t play his music.”
His father gave a genuine chuckle. “I’ll pass that on to him.”
“Thanks Pop,” Pacey said sarcastically. “When’s your next doctor’s appointment?”
“Thursday. He wants to go over my diet again, and add more physical therapy to the schedule. I’m sick of all this pansy nonsense. I want to get back to normal.”
“You…” Pacey trailed off, thinking it wouldn’t be normal again. “I can understand that.”
Audrey sighed loudly, and let one arm drape across the pillow.
“Mm.” There was an awkward silence. “So…are you enjoying your job? At the Gallery?”
“Museum,” Pacey corrected lightly.
“Right,” his father said hurriedly. “The Museum.”
“I love it. Kids come through on tour groups, and there’s always one hyperactive kid who asks obnoxious questions.” Pacey laughed softly. “Reminds me of myself at that age.”
“Yes,” was his father’s only response.
“Jack came in the other day,” Pacey continued. “With a group of kids. We had a really great time. And Joey works there, too.”
His father seemed more interested. “How is Joey? I haven’t seen her for a long time.”
“She came down with me. When you were in hospital.”
“She did? Nobody told me that.”
“We were a little distracted Pop. But Joey’s great. She’s busy. She works with the curator on some important stuff. She even got some extra work, because Dr. Patel was so impressed. Right now, she’s co-ordinating with the artists on the catalogue for an exhibition that’s opening next week. It’s Native American art.”
Audrey sighed again.
His father cleared his throat. “But you and Joey…you’re…”
“Friends?” Pacey filled in the gap carefully, avoiding the word ‘just’.
“I know that. I just wondered if…” John Witter trailed off again.
“Nothing.” The Sheriff hesitated. “I should go. Do you want to speak to Doug? He’s hovering.”
“Pop,” Doug protested faintly in the background.
Pacey laughed. “No. You take care of yourself.”
“I do.” There was a silence, and Pacey deliberately didn’t fill it. “Or I did. My friends have heart problems, and bad blood pressure, and even problems with the waterworks. But that wasn’t me. I was always fit.”
“Witter men have bad hearts. Grandpa died of a heart attack when he was fifty-eight.”
Pacey continued, feeling like there was something important happening here. “You can fix it. You’ve been given a second chance. Think of it that way.”
“Mm. You’re probably right.” His father laughed. “Ain’t that unusual?”
Pacey realized nothing had changed. “I’ll let you go.”
“You…you didn’t ask obnoxious questions, when you were a kid. You asked perceptive questions. That’s why everyone got annoyed.”
“Oh.” Pacey smiled softly. Maybe something was happening. Maybe. “Do you want - should I call, on Thursday? After the doctor’s appointment?”
“Sure.” His father’s deep voice deepened. “I’d like - sure. If you want to.”
“’Bye, Pop.” Pacey hung up and turned to face Audrey. “Something bothering you?”
“No,” Audrey replied innocently.
“You were sighing loudly and obviously for no reason?”
Audrey pouted. “You were on the phone for ages.”
Pacey flopped back onto the bed. “Mom kept talking - you know what she’s like.”
“Um, yeah,” Audrey said in an uncertain voice.
“When we were thirteen, Joey once said that Mom could talk all four legs off a donkey.”
“I didn’t…I didn’t think your Mom was that talkative.”
Pacey looked over at her with surprise. “She is when she’s stressed.”
“Oh, okay.” Audrey rolled onto her hip, until her body was pressed up against his.
“Then I spoke to my Dad.”
“How is he?”
“I don’t know. He’s more worried than he’s letting on. Stiff upper lip and all that crap. He’s always been like that.”
“Mm-hmm.” Audrey’s finger traced a path down Pacey’s jaw to the space behind his ear. Her mouth took over, pulling at his earlobe.
“It’s just…” Pacey pulled away from her. “Before all of this, I probably wouldn’t have called him just to chat. And he wouldn’t have called me. But now…I think about - well, I think about him dying. And I feel - I don’t even know what I feel.”
“Well, that’s okay.” Audrey’s finger was making lazy circles at Pacey’s collarbone.
“It’s not,” Pacey insisted. “There are so many reasons for me to hate him. And now - what? He could have died, and I’m supposed to just let it all go?”
“Don’t stress so much,” Audrey said softly. “You should take your mind off things.”
She started to unbutton his shirt.
“Audrey,” Pacey said impatiently, putting his hands over hers and stopping her.
Audrey’s voice was bothered. “What?”
“I…I have to go to work.” Pacey rolled off the bed.
She smiled coyly. “Surely you’ve got time to…”
“I don’t,” he interrupted. “I want to talk to Dr. Patel about the new exhibition.”
He stared at her. “What?”
“You said Joey was working on the exhibition,” Audrey elaborated.
Audrey sat up, her mouth a hard line. “Nothing.”
Pacey dropped a kiss on her forehead. “See you.” He flew out the door.
Audrey stood up, and nearly tripped over something. She looked down at Pacey’s shoes. “Pacey!” she yelled, pulling her door open.
“Forgot my shoes,” Pacey finished, ducking under her shoulder to get them.
“Idiot,” Audrey smiled affectionately.
He gave her a proper kiss in the doorway, and then raced down the hallway.
She’d only been at the Museum for fifteen minutes, but Joey was already tired. She’d slept badly the past few nights, and her body was protesting. Her head throbbed, her back was stiff, and her eyes were gritty. Sighing, Joey turned back to the information she was preparing for the new exhibition.
She twisted to see Dr. Patel walking towards her. “Dr. Patel. How are you this morning?”
“I’m good, thank you Joey. How are you? You look tired.”
“Oh, no,” Joey replied with false brightness. “I’m great.”
“I want to talk to you about the catalogue for the new exhibition.”
Dr. Patel hesitated for a moment. “Let me make something clear - I’m not being critical of you Joey. Far from it. But you’ve seemed a little distracted lately, and I think it may be affecting your work.”
Joey frowned with confusion. “What do you mean?”
“This catalogue - it’s a little disorganized.” Dr. Patel sighed. “In fact, it’s very disorganized, Joey. Some of the artists have indicated to me that you’re a little scatty. That you don’t follow things up.”
“Which artists?” Joey demanded, suddenly irate. So she was a little tired - who were these people to complain about her work?
“That’s not important.”
“Well, I think it is,” Joey replied. “And I haven’t been distracted.”
“Looking over the catalogue Joey - a lot of this information is wrong,” Dr. Patel told her. “There are some silly mistakes here.”
“What do you mean?”
“…and, that’s the final scene. I’ll probably fade to black, with just the silence. I think that works better.” Dawson finished up. He smiled confidently at the rest of the film class.
They were staring at blankly at the storyboards that were displayed across the board at the front of the class. A few of them had raised eyebrows.
“Okay,” Tony said, nodding at Dawson. “Thank you. Any comments from the group?”
“Yeah,” said the tall redhead guy at the back of the class. He was a Tarantino fan, and Dawson could never remember his name. “I don’t understand the sequence of the second act. Are you trying to illustrate the diverging paths of your two main characters?”
Dawson frowned. “Yes.”
“But that’s not clear at all,” argued Lisa, a blonde film noir nut. “You’ve had them all happy in the first act. Suddenly they’re apart?”
“There’s an argument at the end of the first act,” Dawson said, pointing to the appropriate storyboard.
“But they have another fight at the end of the third act,” the redhead pushed again. “Which one is your climax? And why have you got a split screen in the fourth storyboard, third box along? It looks gimmicky. You’re not filming 24.”
Andy spoke up. “I agree. It seems very out of focus to me.”
“It’s a love story,” Dawson said, with an acorn of disbelief in his voice.
Andy shrugged. “I don’t find it believable. I’m not interested in what happens. So they get together in the end - I don’t really care.”
“They’re just storyboards,” he replied. “You know - a rough sketch.”
“You have bad storyboards, you’re going to end up with a bad film,” said Redhead.
“Also,” Tom added, “I don’t think that montage in the fourth act works. You’ve mostly followed the female character - suggesting she has to undergo the greatest journey.”
“Yes,” Dawson hedged.
“Then you have a montage that tacks on the male character’s path. I think you’re better off only going with the female.”
He frowned. “What?”
“There’s no need to get defensive,” Dr. Patel continued. “It’s just disappointing, Joey. You’re work is usually excellent. You set a high standard. This sort of thing - you can correct it. But you let yourself down by not getting it right the first time.”
“I don’t...I was happy with my work on the catalogue. So there were a few factual errors. I can’t get everything right all the time.”
Dr. Patel sighed. “No, but these kind of mistakes are unusual for you. You have the potential to do a lot better.”
Joey looked at Dr. Patel. The older woman was looking at Joey with a genuine expression. There was no anger or condescension. The brunette realized that Dr. Patel was right. She had been unfocused lately. She just didn’t want to admit it had been affecting her work.
“You’re right,” Joey said, her strident tone gone. “I can do better. Much better. And I have been distracted.”
“Is it - do you need some time off?” Dr. Patel asked with some concern. “If you have any problems Joey, you know you can talk to me.”
“I - I know.” Joey bit her lower lip uncertainly. “It’s nothing. I haven’t been focusing.” She picked up the catalogue. “I’m going to get right on top of this. I promise.”
“Good.” Dr. Patel smiled and walked down the hallway to her office.
“But then I lose the male character’s storyline,” Dawson argued.
Lisa shook her head. “Tom’s right. You’ve focused on the female character’s storyline. Either you split the storyline between them, or you stick with one character.”
“And why is the female more important?” Redhead asked. “Why doesn’t the male character have to change in any way?”
“Yeah,” Lisa smiled at Redhead. “It’s as if she’s the one with all the problems.”
“I…” Dawson began, but the Tony interrupted.
“Sorry guys, this is some excellent constructive criticism, but time’s up. I’ll see you on Thursday. Andy and Mariah, you’re presenting your storyboards.”
The others collected their stuff and joined the stream of students emerging from tutorial rooms and lecture halls.
Dawson collected his storyboards, fuming. Who were they anyway? Had they won any awards? They were taking the class for the credit points, for God’s sake.
“You’ve got some good basics to work with. And you’re filming an ambitious script,” Tony said, standing near the door. “You just have to refine it. Listen to your peers.”
“Am I supposed to listen to them when they attack me?” Dawson asked petulantly.
Tony frowned. “They weren’t attacking you. They were pointing out flaws. If they can’t understand something, it’s likely that your audience will be similarly confused.”
“There’s a fine line between expressing your opinion and ripping a peer’s storyboards apart.” Dawson shoved his folders into his backpack. “But as long as it’s constructive criticism, right?”
Dawson walked out of the classroom.
In forty minutes, Joey had fixed up a large number of the errors. She’d already called two of the artists to chase some information, and she’d apologized for her lack of organization. She’d also been at her most charming, hoping to win back their confidence.
She was flagging another piece of information that she’d have to verify, when her cell phone rang to the tune of My Girl.
“Joey speaking,” she answered it.
“It’s me,” Dawson said.
“Hey! How are you?”
“Terrible,” Dawson replied in a tight voice. “My storyboards were ripped apart by the rest of the class. It was Gang Up on Dawson Day. And Tony said it was excellent constructive criticism. I mean - what the hell? Was he even in the same tutorial?”
“Dawson, slow down,” Joey interjected. “What happened?”
“I gave my presentation, and then it started. Everybody had a complaint. I was unfocused, they didn’t like the split screen, the character’s directions were confusing, and the male character apparently comes up smelling roses.”
Joey hesitated. “Well, actually, I did think that when I read them. The thing about the male character.”
He groaned. “What? You too?”
“No,” Joey reassured him hurriedly. “No, not at all.”
Dawson sighed, and leant up against the wall. Other students walked past him, chattering loudly. “What do any of them know about film anyway?”
“They are in your film class,” Joey pointed out logically. “They probably got a little carried away. Don’t take it personally.”
“It is personal!” he exclaimed. “And then Tony said that they’re just like my audience, and if they don’t understand my audience won’t. But storyboards are just a rough sketch.”
“True,” Joey agreed. “But anyway, have you got any other classes today?”
“Plus,” Dawson continued, “You liked the storyboards. Right?”
“Sure,” Joey said. A slight fission of impatience shot through her spine. What did he need her reassurance for? “Absolutely. I loved them.”
“Then screw the lot of them,” Dawson shrugged. “It just pisses me off, you know. Who are they to sit in judgement?”
“They probably - they just…it doesn’t matter,” she said, flicking her pencil against the desk in a continuous drumbeat.
“Yeah. You’re right. I know.”
“Well, my morning’s been fine,” Joey offered.
“Huh? Oh - good. Why don’t I pick you up from the museum tonight? We can get some dinner.”
“And you can complain some more,” Joey teased.
“I don’t complain,” Dawson said, taken aback. “Do I?”
Joey paused half a second. “No. You don’t complain. No more than me.”
Dawson smiled. “Okay. I’ll see you tonight.”
Joey turned back to her catalogue. Why didn’t I just tell him what I really thought?
Because she agreed with his class - the ale character was seemingly perfect.
Jen walked out of the radio station and squinted against the sunlight. Often, she got so distracted by her work that she forgot what time of day it was.
“Jen - Jen!”
She looked around, and saw David walking towards her. “Hey,” Jen said, meeting him halfway. “How are you?”
David smiled. “I’m great. You?”
David pointed back to the station. “Getting some work done, huh?”
“I was just doing some reading on gay-bashing cases. There are some disturbing verdicts. Juries who all but approve the defendant’s actions. It’s just…horrible.”
“I - I know.” David hesitated. “It’s not…I don’t want the whole article thing to be a problem. You know, me saying no, and…”
“It doesn’t matter.” Jen flapped her hand. “It doesn’t affect our friendship.”
“That’s good,” he said with relief. “I just - I didn’t…”
Jen touched his wrist lightly. “Forget about it. Where you heading?”
“Student Admin building. I have to fix up some fines on my library card.”
“Well, aren’t you a bad boy?” Jen grinned.
“Yep. Next thing you know, I’ll park for two hours in the one hour zone,” David riposted.
“Or worse - you’ll start jaywalking.”
They walked towards the Student Admin building, weaving around other students, who walked, skated, cycled, and rollerbladed around the campus.
David shook his head sadly. “I knew you would lead me down the path of sin, vice and corruption, Jennifer Lindley.”
Jen nodded. “That’s what I do. I’ve led many men astray.”
“They’ve all fallen under your spell.”
“Speaking of spells,” David continued, “Are you getting that witchy feeling?”
Jen stopped up dead in the middle of the path. Her eyes went wide and her mouth fell open. “What? Who - what? The hell?”
David laughed, and laughed until he was clutching his stomach. “I have no idea what it means. But Pacey told me to say that to you.”
Jen growled. “I’m going to kill him.”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about this stupid place we went to, in junior year. Witch Island. It’s nothing.”
“Watch out,” David said, pulling her towards him. A cyclist flew past.
“Thanks,” Jen said.
“Oh, before I forget,” David began, “Some people from our class are getting together for dinner tonight. Do you want to come?”
She was momentarily distracted by the smell of David’s aftershave. “Um…I can’t. I’m having dinner at home. It’s a family thing.”
“Okay. Another time.”
Jen took a step back from him. “Definitely. Can you ask Pacey something for me?”
David made a face. “Uh…why do I feel like I’m about to become a pawn?”
Jen had a malicious glint in her eyes. “Ask if he’s heard from Tamara Jacobs recently.”
Dawson climbed the steps of the Museum two at a time, not looking where he was going.
“Hey, watch out!” Pacey exclaimed.
Stopping short, Dawson found Pacey on the step above him, sipping coffee. “Sorry.”
“That’s alright. I just didn’t want hot coffee spilt all over the crown jewels.”
Dawson rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it’d be a sad day from women everywhere.”
“I’m a one-woman show these days,” Pacey replied. “You’re here to see Joey?”
“She should be out in just a minute. She’s been working on the catalogue all day.”
“Oh, right,” Dawson said vaguely. “For that new exhibition.”
“Native American art,” Pacey confirmed.
Dawson prevaricated, and then sat down next to Pacey. “Joey told me about your Dad’s operation. I’m sorry.”
“I mean…I gather it was pretty serious.”
“It was a bypass, Dawson. So, yeah, it was serious.”
Dawson nodded. “How’s your Mom coping with it all?”
“The same way my mother always copes.”
“She’s fussing?” Dawson asked dryly.
Pacey half-smiled. “Yep.”
“Still, with all those feelings between you and your Dad - it must make things difficult.”
“Yes.” Pacey took a sip of his coffee and didn’t elaborate.
Dawson frowned. “I thought Joey had finished most of the work on the catalogue.”
“I think there were a few problems with it,” Pacey told him.
“With Joey’s work? That’s unusual.”
“She has been a little distracted lately.”
Dawson nodded quickly. “Her Dad.”
“Mm. At least I know where I stand with my Dad. Joey has no idea. There’s no certainty. It was bad enough when he wasn’t in her life. Now he’s back, and she doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know how she feels about him. Joey hates that kind of insecurity.”
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Dawson said slowly.
“Yeah, well.” Pacey sighed, but gave Dawson a loaded glance. “She’s been upset, but I’m sure you know that. And when she’s upset, she’s distracted.”
“I…” Dawson trailed off, thinking back on their argument. “God, I was so horrible.”
Pacey looked at him sharply. “What?”
“I…I was really horrible to her about her Dad.”
“I didn’t think about how she was feeling. I just…I didn’t think.”
“Didn’t think about what?” Joey asked brightly from behind them.
Dawson stood up, but Pacey just stretched his neck back and looked at her.
“Hey,” Pacey said.
Joey couldn’t resist - she bent down to tap his nose. “Hey yourself.” She turned to Dawson. “Didn’t think about what?”
“Nothing,” Dawson smiled, kissing her. “Hello.”
Joey kissed him back. “Hello to you.”
“My break’s almost over,” Pacey said. He stood up. “I’ll see you both later.”
“Pacey?” Joey said, as he began to climb the steps. “Thanks for your help today.”
He shrugged. “My pleasure. Have a good night.”
“You too. Are you seeing Audrey tonight?”
Pacey nodded. “I’m picking her up from the theatre troupe.”
“Say hello for me.” Joey smiled and turned back to Dawson. “Ready?”
“Yes. ’Night Pacey.”
Pacey half-smiled, and watched them walk down the steps, arms linked.
“Could somebody pass the salt, please?”
“You’re closer,” Jack told Jen.
Jen threw him a dirty look and handed the salt up the table to her grandmother. “Butter, please,” she says.
Jack frowned. “You’ve already got butter.”
“I want more.”
Jack sighed and handed the butter down the table to her.
“Mrs. Ryan, this meal is fabulous,” Eric said divertingly.
“Thank you Eric. It’s nice to have a well-mannered young person sitting at my table.”
“How was your day, Grams?” Jen asked with a bright, pointed smile.
Grams dabbed her lips with her napkin. “It was lovely. Thank you, Jennifer. Clifton and I had lunch out, and then I came home and wrote my correspondence back home.”
“Jack said you visited Capeside last week,” Eric said. “Did you have a good time?”
Grams shot a look down the table at Clifton. “It was certainly an eye-opening experience. I saw my friends in a very different light.”
“Oh?” Jack asked curiously. Grams had seemed different when she returned last week, but everyone had been too busy to discuss it.
“Yes. I didn’t think it would be easy,” Grams admitted. “But I didn’t expect such close-mindedness from people I once regarded as my closest friends. It made me wonder what kind of person I was a few years ago.”
Jen thought carefully. “You’re different now. You understand things differently. That’s a journey that not many people make. Isn’t that important?”
“Of course,” Grams acknowledged. “But I think about my friends, and wonder if they’ll ever see things differently or if they’ll go the rest of their lives without ever stopping to think. Or question.”
“But they don’t think they need to question,” Clifton said quietly. “They don’t believe they treat me differently. They don’t believe they hate me - and they don’t. They don’t believe that black people are inferior. They simply belong to a generation that was taught that blacks were separate - that we needed to be separate. Not because we’re wrong, or evil. Just because we’re different.”
“Isn’t that the belief that you’re inferior? If you’re different, you’re naturally inferior. Implicitly inferior to the person calling you different,” Eric asked.
Clifton tilted his head. “Maybe what I mean to say is that it isn’t a violent prejudice. I don’t feel threatened by Evelyn’s friends. It’s an ideological prejudice. It’s inculcated.”
“Does that make it any better? Or easier to deal with?” Jen argued. “Does it make it okay? Prejudice is prejudice, no matter what form it takes.”
“Well, it’s frustrating,” Grams admitted. “They’re my friends. There are parts of their character I love very much. I want them to understand. To see things the way I do.”
Clifton shook his head. “You can’t make anybody see something differently, if it hasn’t occurred to them that need to, Evelyn. I can’t tell your friends that they’re wrong.”
“I disagree,” Jen said. “I think you can tell people they’re wrong. If the belief they hold is so entirely abhorrent, you can tell them it’s wrong.”
“Wrong and abhorrent according to whom?” Eric asked pointedly. “You?”
“The general public.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s usually time to step back and question it.”
“But look at my campaign,” Jen continued. “Surely everybody around this table can agree that it’s entirely wrong to beat somebody up because of their sexual preferences. To abuse them, and threaten them, and put them in fear for their life.”
“Two of the people around this table are gay,” Clifton pointed out softly. “We wouldn’t be at this table with them unless we didn’t accept their lifestyle.” Jack smiled at Clifton.
“That’s what I’m saying!” the blonde exclaimed. “Can’t people be taught that their values are wrong?”
“It’s very arrogant of anybody to say that their belief is right, or better,” Clifton said.
“But in this case it is!”
“I agree with you,” Clifton admitted. “You’re a very compassionate person, Jen. But you have to be careful. Be passionate - don’t be dogmatic. Fight for peace, and love and acceptance. Don’t fight for vindication.”
Jen exhaled slowly. “I’m sorry, everyone. I get a little heated-up about this issue.”
“We have noticed, Jennifer,” Grams said, with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
Jen smiled reassuringly at Grams and Clifton. “Thank you for your support.” She turned to Eric and Jack. “And I’ve been meaning to ask you both if you’d like to get involved in the campaign? It would mean a lot to me.”
Eric looked down at his steak. “I - I haven’t told my family, Jen. You know that. I…I don’t think I’d feel comfortable. Or even genuine.”
Jen looked over Eric’s head. “Jack?”
To his credit, Jack held Jen’s gaze. “Remember the soccer team, Jen?”
“This would be different.”
“I support your cause. I think you’re using your voice in the media in a very positive way. I’m just not ready to go into battle again.”
“You can’t hide, Jack,” Jen pointed out.
He shook his head. “I’m not hiding. I’m just lurking in the background for a little while.”
Jen nodded, schooling her features to hide her disappointment. “I understand.” She returned to her dinner. Eric changed the topic, but she wasn’t listening.
Would nobody support her? Words were fine - she needed action.
“Is your pasta good?” Dawson asked.
Joey nodded. “It’s lovely.”
“Pacey said you were working on the catalogue today. I thought you’d finished it.”
She nodded again. “So did I. But Dr. Patel came to see me this morning, and told me she wasn’t very happy with the work.”
“You too? God, it sounds like we were both attacked today.”
Joey shook her head. “Dr. Patel was right - my work on the catalogue was sloppy. Very sloppy. I expect more of myself.”
Dawson looked surprised. “That doesn’t sound like the Joey I know - you wouldn’t take criticism lying down.”
“Isn’t it more adult to admit when somebody is right? To acknowledge their point?”
“But half the people in my film class have no idea what they’re talking about!”
“I…” Joey trailed off. “It sounds like we were in different situations, Dawson. In all honesty, Dr. Patel was right. I should have done better.”
“Was it a lot of extra work for you?”
“Not really.” Joey took a sip of her soda. “I just made a lot of silly mistakes. And Pacey helped this afternoon - verified information for me. He was very helpful.”
“He seems to like the museum,” Dawson commented.
“Mm. He’s a good tour guide. Funny and interesting. And he knows his stuff. People are starting to ask for his group. They wait an extra half an hour, just for him.”
“That’s good for Pacey. Good for his self-esteem.”
Joey made a face, but didn’t say anything. “I should be finished with the new and improved catalogue by the day after tomorrow.”
“Dawson - just spit it out. You’ve had that expression all night - that ‘I want to tell you something’ expression.”
Dawson cleared his throat. “I - I want to apologize.”
She frowned in confusion and put her fork down. “What for?”
“The way I acted about your Dad.” He sighed. “I didn’t think about how you were feeling. I flew off the handle, when it was more important to listen to you, and help you deal with the situation. I feel bad.”
Reaching across the table, Joey captured his hand. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does. It matters to me. Please accept my apology.”
“I accept it. But it isn’t necessary .Me and my Dad - it’s bound to remind you of your own father, Dawson. It’s understandable.”
He smiled softly at her. “You look beautiful tonight.”
Joey rolled her eyes. “I’ve been working all day. I look exhausted.”
“No. You look beautiful.”
“Thank you.” She stroked his thumb, and felt much less tired.
Pacey could hear the music before he opened the door. It was a Jackson Five Hit - ABC- and it brought back memories of his sisters standing in the bathroom, singing into their hairbrushes, whilst Doug and Pacey stood in the hallway and laughed their asses off.
When he opened the door, and stepped into the hall, he thought he’d stepped into his Sixth Grade Disco. Kids were dancing, singing and laughing. Standing in the middle of it all, was Audrey. Her face lit up as she put her hands on her hips and swung them in wide circles. One of the boys imitated her, and Audrey laughed and scooped him up into a hug.
Pacey took another step forward, and Audrey caught sight of him. She waved and blew him a kiss, and put the boy down. Enthusiastically dancing her way over to him, Audrey grabbed his hands and tried to pull him into the group.
He resisted, pulling against her. “I don’t want to dance, Audrey.”
Audrey clapped her hands and spoke above the music. “Everybody! This is Pacey.”
“Is Pacey your boyfriend?” asked one of the girls with a giggle.
Audrey grinned. “Yes. But Pacey is refusing to dance with us!” The children made noises of disappointment. “So, what are we going to do about it?”
Three seconds later, Pacey found himself covered in children, being dragged into the centre of the rehearsal space. Sighing with resignation, he began to dance. He glared at Audrey, across the children’s heads, but she just laughed and poked her tongue out.
“You dance like my brother,” said a little girl with big blue eyes.
“Yeah? Can your brother do this?” Pacey started his Saturday Night Fever routine. The kids standing around him started to laugh. Then they started to copy him.
Ten minutes later, the kids were gone, and Pacey was sweaty.
Audrey was bouncy. “Wasn’t that fabulous? I was trying to get them to move around - to be comfortable with the idea of being in such a large space.”
“They were having a great time,” Pacey commented, helping his girlfriend into her coat.
“Well, they were with me,” Audrey laughed, twirling around. Her hair flew in every direction, catching the light. “I’m just so excited. I love working here.”
“I can tell.”
All the way home, Audrey told him about the rehearsal - about the different children, their stories, the funny things they’d said. She talked about the things she wanted to do with them, the things she wanted to teach them.
“I like the kids the best,” Pacey as they arrived at Audrey’s dorm room. “In the tour groups. They ask the best questions.”
“They’re just…so natural,” Audrey said, closing the behind her. “If they don’t like something, they’ll tell you straight to your face.”
“I only had one group of kids today. There was also a group of high school students. It was funny looking at them. Reminded me so of what I was like in high school.”
“Jen said you were the class clown,” Audrey grinned. She reached up to kiss him softly.
“I was. I was also a troublemaker.”
“You beat boys up, huh?” She kissed him again.
Her fingers began to play with his buttons. “They tease you?”
“No - this jerk, Matt Caulfield ruined a painting Joey had done. So, I beat the crap out of him. Joey says hello.”
“Uh-huh.” Audrey kissed his neck.
“Oh,” Pacey exclaimed, remembering. “There’s this woman I have to tell you about. She was in my group after lunch. We were in the Revolutionary War paintings exhibit, but she started to tell me that Monet and Manet were the same person. I have no idea why she was talking to me about French artists in an American Revolutionary War exhibit, but anyway. Joey was in the room, and she started to do that thing where she laughs, but she tries to cover it up. This woman was saying that there was only one different letter, and they’d painted at the same time, so they had to be the same person. I tried to point that they didn’t really paint at the same time, and Joey kept laughing…” he trailed off.
Audrey was unbuttoning his jeans. “Audrey, are you listening to me?”
“Why are we talking about Joey?” she asked huskily.
Pacey frowned. “We’re not. I’m just telling you about my day.”
“You can tell me later,” Audrey murmured. She pulled her top off. He reached around for her bra clasp, and knew that he wouldn’t tell her later.
Afterwards, Pacey fell asleep. He usually did, giving into the cliché. He was lying on his side, one arm flung across her stomach, the other tucked under his body. Even in repose, he kept some of his defences up.
Audrey leant on her elbow and watched him. He looked different when he slept. Not younger. Audrey had told him that once. He’d nodded, and said, “Joey always said I looked placid.”
Joey was right - he looked placid. Joey was often right, and often present, Audrey thought. In conversation, in implication, in body. These days, around Audrey, Pacey seemed tense. Anxious. And Audrey didn’t think it was just about his father.
Pacey mumbled something and pulled her closer. Audrey closed her eyes, and decided to enjoy what she had. But sleep was a long time coming.
Pacey awoke slowly, his body telling him it was pre-dawn. Funny how your body could always tell. Almost time to get up. He needed to go back to his place, change clothes.
He rolled onto his side and bumped up against Audrey. She was breathing heavily - almost snoring - and her hair was spread across the pillow. When she slept, Audrey didn’t look very different. Her features were still marked with the animation Pacey would forever associate with her. She’d been so alive with those kids last night. More alive than he’d seen her in a long time.
Audrey shifted, creating more of a tangle out of their legs. Pacey ran his hand through her hair, and it was that simple movement that made him realize it was time. He couldn’t avoid it any longer.
“Audrey,” he whispered, tickling her ear. “Audrey?”
“Mm,” she moaned from the back of her throat.
“Can I come over tonight?”
He kissed her neck. “I’ll see you then.”
“Ye…” the word was swallowed as she went back to sleep.
Pacey pulled his clothes on as quietly as possible, and left.
It was barely light when the phone rang. Mumbling curses under her breath, Joey grabbed it. “Wha?”
“Morning,” Bessie said cheerfully.
“You’re missing an F,” Bessie laughed. “Aren’t you up yet?”
Sitting up, Joey rubbed her eyes. “No. I need coffee.”
“Sorry to wake you. I’ve been up for an hour, making breakfast.”
“What time is it?”
“Almost seven o’clock.”
Agh!” Joey exclaimed. “You’re so lucky we’re in different cities.”
“You can hardly call Capeside a city.”
“You know what I mean,” Joey groused. “What the hell do you want at not-even-seven-o’clock in the morning?”
“You. Your company.”
“Bess, it’s too early to be oblique. Whattya want?”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a few days, and I think we should go and visit Dad. I feel like I need to talk to him. I want - I just want to see him, Joey.”
“I…so you’re calling me at seven in the morning to tell me?”
“I was making breakfast, and I was thinking about the soldiers he used to make. Do you remember? He’d cut the toast into thirds, and call them soldiers, and…”
“I remember,” Joey interjected. “You want to see Dad because of toast?”
“No! Well, yes. I miss him. I think I want him back in my life. With the baby on the way…can you imagine how horrible it would be if she or he never met her grandfather? I want to see him. And I want you to go with me. We’re in this together.”
“Bessie, I’m not sure…”
Joey let her head drop back. Her stomach was already churning. But her big sister was asking. “Okay.”
“Great! I’ll pick you up in two hours.”
“I - what? We’re going to the variety story today?”
“We’re going today. I want to be there by lunchtime. And Dad’s not working at that variety store anymore - he’s working as a waiter in a luncheonette nearby.”
“I…how do you…”
“Wear your purple shirt - it looks good on you. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Bessie rang off before Joey could say another word.
Pacey closed Audrey’s door behind him, and walked straight into Joey.
“Jeez, watch where you’re…oh, it’s you,” Joey realized. “Sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry.” He looked her up and down. “You look nice today.”
Joey looked at her purple shirt and her black skirt. “Bessie and I are going to see Dad.”
Pacey raised an eyebrow. “I see.”
“Bessie’s idea,” she sighed. “Bess…well, she didn’t really twist my arm. She broke it.”
He smiled. “Sounds like Bessie.” He reached out to touch her elbow. “How do you feel?”
“I…I want to see him. I think. Maybe. I’m not sure. I have butterflies.” Joey gave a nervous laugh.
“You should eat something,” Pacey insisted. “Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?"
“I was going to do some research, but if you want to get something to eat…”
The cafeacute; across the road was full of students making their daily prayers at the altar of caffeine. Pacey ordered eggs and a latte, and Joey ordered raisin toast and a macchiato. They found a table at back. Neither said a word until they’d half-finished their coffee.
“Much better,” Pacey declared. “Did you say yes just because Bessie asked?”
“Would you go by yourself?”
Their food arrived. Without thinking, Pacey scooped a spoonful of eggs onto Joey’s plate, and she handed over half a piece of toast. Looking at each other, they laughed.
“Old habits really do die hard,” Pacey commented.
“Too many years of sharing meals,” Joey added. “But I’m not complaining.”
Pacey finished the toast in two bites. “Me neither. What do you want to say to your father?”
“I’m not sure. I think this is more important to Bessie than it is to me.”
“Don’t you want to know where you stand?” Pacey asked. “The confusion must be killing you.”
She nodded and tucked her hair behind her ear. “It’s nice…that someone gets that.”
“You like black and white. You’ll put up with grey, but you’re not a huge fan.”
Joey finished her toast. “I always thought I’d see him again. I thought we’d sort things out. I figured, in ten years, when I have kids, he’d be around. I never thought about how difficult the first step would be.”
“Do you think it’s worth saving?”
Joey answered without hesitation. “Yes.”
“Then, go to. And there’s no point telling you not to be scared. You are.”
“And I thought I hid so well,” Joey mockingly.
He rolled his eyes. “I’ll pay for breakfast. No arguments.”
“No arguments.” Pacey pulled his wallet out.
“Where…where are you going to be this evening?” Joey asked awkwardly. No matter how things went, she knew Pacey would understand.
“At Audrey’s,” he replied absently, mentally calculating the bill. “Why?”
“Oh, no reason,” Joey said evenly. I’ll talk to Dawson instead, she told herself. I mean, he’s my boyfriend, and he’s…
Out on the sidewalk, Joey said, “See you later.”
“See you.” As Pacey left, he turned and flashed a 100-watt smile. “Good luck.”
“I’m not jiggling.”
“You’re jiggling. You’re jiggling your leg up and down. It’s distracting,” Bessie said.
“I’m…” Joey rolled her eyes. “Sorry. I’m a little nervous, you know.”
“Strangely enough, I do know.” Bessie flicked her indicator for a left turn. “If you don’t want to…”
“That’s not what I said,” Joey interrupted. “How are Bodie and Alex?”
“You asked me that already. Twice.” They pulled into the car park. “Thank you for coming with me.”
Joey half-smiled as Bessie parked the car. Forget butterflies, she thought. I’ve got elephants stomping around. “Let’s go do this thing,” she said, though, as bravely as she could.
They climbed out of the car and made their way into the luncheonette. It was crowded with the lunchtime rush, waiters hurtling everywhere, and the clatter of the kitchen covering everything, so they heard their father before they saw him.
“…You wanted the salmon on rye, with no mayonnaise, salt, no pepper. And for the lady, the fish of the day.”
“Thank you,” the young man said, as their father ripped the order off his pad and made his way over to the kitchen. He said something to the cook and turned back around. He saw Joey and Bessie, and froze.
“Hi Dad,” Bessie said cheerfully.
“What are you doing here?” Mike Potter asked harshly.
“I…we,” Bessie corrected, “Wanted to talk to you. Can you take a break?”
Their father clicked his pen incessantly, and that small sign of nervousness actually reassured Joey. “Not really. We’re very busy, as you can see.”
“Five minutes. Please.” Bessie used her best pleading face - the one that had earned her fairy floss, a ten-minute addendum to her bedtime, and pierced ears at the age of eleven.
And, as usual, their father caved. “Okay. Come out back.”
He led them through the kitchen, shoulders tense and hunched. Joey was glad Bessie had taken the lead - she had no idea what to say. Just seeing him brought a thousands things to the surface. Things she’d fought hard to control.
The backdoor of the kitchen led out to a paved courtyard. There were stacks of empty boxes, mismatched furniture, and a dirty canvas awning stacked against the dilapidated fence. Their father crossed his arms and said, “Talk.”
Bessie licked her lips, obviously taken aback now that she was actually here. “Look, Joey told me how she saw you. Earlier this year.”
Mike Potter’s eyes swept to Joey. “You did?”
“Yes,” Joey spoke for the first time.
“You didn’t…I didn’t see…”
“I know,” Joey interjected. “I saw you with…with a lady, and some children. I didn’t want to get the in way.”
“Joey only told me a few days ago,” Bessie said. “And I know…there’s a lot of history. There are no easy answers. But we lost contact with you, and I don’t…we don’t want that to happen again.”
“What do you mean?” He was back to that flat tone.
“We want…we would like to see you. I’d like you to come and see Alex, to see the B&B. There are all these things we want to tell you. Joey’s at college now and the business is doing great. And we want to hear about you.”
Bessie fumbled. “Well, we…”
“I’ve got nothing to tell you,” Mike shrugged. “Nothing to offer you.”
“You can’t believe that,” Joey said.
“It’s true,” Mike said shortly. “It’s better for everybody if I stay out of your lives. Don’t come here again.”
“Dad,” Bessie said, “Can’t you at least - can’t we talk about this? Can’t we have lunch? This can’t be it.”
Mike shrugged again. “What do you girls want from me? I screwed up. I hurt you both. I was a terrible father.”
“That’s not true,” Joey insisted. “It’s not.”
His held out his hands, palms out. “I have nothing to offer you.”
“You’re our father,” Bessie said in a low voice.
“You don’t need a father. Look at the two of you. Your lives are on track. You’re happy. You’re living out your dreams. I’d just destroy that.”
“Oh, but those little girls - you can be their Dad, huh?” Joey asked harshly.
“Joey…” Mike said in a hopeless voice.
“I…we love you,” Joey finally said in a small voice.
“I have to get back to work,” Mike said,shaking his head.
“Dad,” Bessie said again.
Mike bit his lip, then turned and walked away.
They made it ten miles before Joey suddenly began to cry. Bessie took one look at her, and pulled over to the side of the road.
“Don’t cry,” Bessie said, scooting over to hug Joey. “I’ll cry now.”
“You’re pregnant - you can blame it on hormones,” Joey said tearfully.
“True,” Bessie half-laughed, half-sobbed. “Joey, that’s not the end of this. He was surprised to see us. We didn’t handle it well, we can…”
“He wants nothing to do with us.”
“I don’t believe that. I don’t think that it’s anything we did. Anything you did.”
“I…” Joey trailed off and rested her head on Bessie’s shoulder. “He was just so…why does he think he has nothing to offer us?”
“He does have a track record of letting us down,” her sister pointed out. Bessie ran her fingers through Joey’s hair. “We’ll go back. We’ll try again. That’s what you do, when it’s family. If that was you - if you turned me away - I’d keep fighting for you.”
“I’d never turn you away,” Joey whispered. “Never.”
“I know, sweetie,” Bessie said, kissing her forehead. She eased into the driver’s seat. “There are tissues in the glovebox.”
As Bessie pulled back onto the highway, Joey rooted around in the glovebox. She’d just found the tissues when her cell phone began to ring.
“Hello,” Joey answered, her voice slightly strained.
“Joey?” Dawson asked, concerned. “Are you okay? Is something wrong?
He could tell from just her voice, and Joey felt immediately comforted. “Things didn’t go too well with my Dad.”
“Oh, Joey, I’m sorry.”
“Where are you?”
“About forty minutes away. Bessie’s dropping me back.”
“Get her to drop you at my place,” Dawson suggested.
“I - I don’t know. I think I want to be alone.”
“You shouldn’t be,” her boyfriend insisted. “I want to be with you. We don’t have to talk. We can just sit together.”
Joey bit her lip, an unconscious imitation of her father. Pacey was at Audrey’s, and Dawson seemed so concerned. “I…okay.”
“Good. I’ll be waiting.”
Joey pressed end.
“That was Dawson?” Bessie asked.
She nodded. “Can you drop me at his place?”
“Sure.” Bessie shot her a sideways look. “You didn’t seem convinced. You don’t have to go to Dawson’s.”
“Well…I want to.”
“You wouldn’t rather talk to someone else?” her sister asked leadingly.
“Just drive,” Joey told her sister firmly.
“Audrey?” Pacey said, opening her door.
“Hey!” Audrey said, pulling a top over her head. “Give me your opinion. Is this colour any good on me?”
The top was a deep red.
“It looks fantastic,” Pacey told her. “You look great in red.”
“You’re not just saying that?” Audrey asked.
“Good. We should go out for dinner - I can wear it."
“Um, Audrey?” Pacey asked carefully. “Can we sit down?”
“Uh…sure,” Audrey said. “Is something wrong?”
“Let’s just sit.” He sat on the end of the bed, and Audrey sat beside him. “I’ve been doing some thinking. For a while now. About us. I’ve been thinking about us. Lately, I feel like we’re coming from different places. That we have different ideas about our relationship. About relationships in general.”
“Do we have to talk about this right now?” Audrey asked. “Because that shirt you’re wearing? I like it better off.” Her hands moved towards the buttons.
“Audrey!” Pacey grabbed her hands, irritated. “That’s part of the problem.”
“Sex?” Audrey asked disbelievingly. “Sex is a problem? Because you don’t usually complain. In fact…”
“No,” he shook his head. “I feel like every time I try to talk you - about work, our relationship - you try to avoid it by having sex. There’s more to a relationship than just sex, Audrey.”
“I don’t think we’re…”
“You know we are,” Pacey interrupted. “You know it Audrey.”
The blonde twisted her fingers in her lap, looked at them. Her hair fell across her face. “I feel like sex is the only way I can hold onto you. You’re moving away from me.”
“And you’re moving away from me,” he replied softly.
“I - I know.”
“Hey,” Dawson said, enfolding her in his arms. He held her tightly.
“Hi,” Joey whispered against his neck. He didn’t let go of her for a full minute. “I needed that,” she said, pulling away from him. She looked around. “You tidied!”
Dawson nodded. “And I ordered dinner in.”
“Dawson, you didn’t have to go to any trouble.”
“I beg to differ,” Dawson grinned “You’ve had a terrible day. I plan to make the last part of it relaxing and enjoyable. And whilst my presence alone does that, I felt other things were needed as decoration.”
“Your presence alone?” Joey teased, feeling better already.
His eyes twinkled. “Yes. Allow me to take your coat.” Joey handed it over. “You look nice. I like that skirt.”
“Hence the liking,” Dawson rejoined.
Joey tilted her head. “Are you flirting with me?”
“I’m always flirting with you.” He took her head. “The food won’t arrive for a few hours. We can talk, or watch videos…whatever you want to do.”
“Actually, I’d really like to go for a walk,” Joey decided.
Dawson about-faced and collected their coats. “A walk it is.”
He took her hand and led her out the door into the twilight.
They’d sat in silence for five minutes, because Pacey knew what was coming next, and it was awful.
Pacey finally spoke. “I feel that our differences aren’t something we can overcome. Because it’s not really about sex, or the lack of communication.”
“I know,” Audrey said again. “We have different ideas of what this relationship is. We want different things right now.”
“Yes,” he agreed.
Audrey finally looked up. “Maybe we could give it some time. Get some space.”
Pacey spoke softly. “I don’t light you up anymore, Audrey. Last night, with those kids, you were so animated. I used to do that, but not anymore.”
“No, you do. I - you…” Audrey trailed off. “Can’t we try?”
“It’s about to turn bad. You know it. Isn’t it better to end it now?”
Audrey sighed. “I know you’re about to say it. I know we’re about to break up. But just…don’t say the words. Just...go.”
“Please,” Audrey begged, her voice beginning to break.
“That was great,” Joey said, pushing her plate away from her. She stood up and moved over to the bed, flopping onto it. “I’m stuffed.”
“Good.” Dawson flopped beside her, their faces inches apart.
“Thank you. For everything. I’m just…it hurt, you know. That he would reject us.”
Dawson laid his hand over hers. “He’s a fool. He’s going to wake up tomorrow morning, and realize he made a huge mistake. He let the Potter girls slip through his fingers.”
Joey cracked a smile.
Dawson continued. “Only a fool would cut you out of his life.”
“Then you’ve been a fool a few times, Dawson.”
“I have,” Dawson admitted. “But I’m right. You’ll see. And Bessie’s right. You have to keep trying. Your father loves you.”
Joey twined her fingers through his and shifted closer to his body. “Thank you.” She sighed. “I should get going.”
“You don’t have to,” Dawson said.
“I’ve got an early class tomorrow morning. And you probably want to go to bed.”
“I am in bed,” he pointed out.
“Without me in the way,” Joey corrected.
“You’re not in the way.”
Something in his tone made Joey pause. “What do you mean?”
“You should stay,” Dawson continued. His knees knocked hers. “With me. Here. Tonight.” He moved his free hand until it was resting on her hip.
Joey’s eyes went wide. “Oh. Stay…like that.”
“Like that,” Dawson repeated.
Joey looked him - at those familiar blue eyes. Without stopping to think - because she was too angry, and hurt to think - she kissed him harshly.
Dawson's hand moved from her hip to her hair, and he kissed her back.
“Audrey,” Pacey said again.
“Go,” Audrey said.
Pacey captured her chin and kissed her. “Good bye, Audrey.”
“Good bye,” she whispered.
Audrey waited a moment, and began to cry.
Outside her room, Pacey sighed. He banged his head against he wall twice, and heard Audrey begin to cry. He longed to comfort her, tell her that the whole thing was a mistake, a joke, that they could sort it out.
But he pushed off the wall and walked away.
The kiss deepened, until they broke for air.
Their legs were tangled together now, and Dawson had unbuttoned her shirt. Shifting, Joey let him pull it off. There was a purple flash in her peripheral vision as Dawson blindly tossed it towards his cupboard.
She kissed him again, and his kisses moved down her jaw as they kept removing clothing. His top, his belt buckle, shoes landing haphazardly, her pantyhose falling like gossamer to the floor. The kisses moved down Joey’s neck, nipping at the skin, and Joey twisted her fingers through Dawson’s hair.
His hands were pulling at her skirt zip, sending her off balance. She laughed and put her hands over his. “Like this.”
They disposed of her skirt, adding it to the collection of clothing.
“You’re beautiful,” Dawson whispered against her collarbone. “So beautiful.”
Joey’s hands swam up his spine, unable to respond. She didn’t want words. Warmth and heat grew, and Joey forced herself to stop thinking, stop analysing. Soon, they were both naked, with bruised mouths.
Dawson pulled back. “Are you sure?”
Joey’s smiled, and lifted her hips. “I’m prepared.”
Joey tugged at her skirt, and cursed its shortness. She hadn’t put her pantyhose back on - Dawson had ripped them when he’d pulled them off, and the early morning wind was chilly against her bare legs.
She entered her dorm, and walked down the hall. She bumped into very few people. It was only six-thirty, and most normal students were asleep. She’d left a note for Dawson, and crept out quietly, not wanting to disturb him. She needed a shower. She felt sweaty and tired, and her muscles ached.
But that was no surprise.
Her eyes down, Joey didn’t see Audrey until they walked into each other.
“Oh, Audrey,” Joey said, looking up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.”
“That’s…that’s okay,” Audrey said in a subdued voice.
“You’re up early,” Joey commented.
The blonde nodded jerkily. “Ah-ha.”
Audrey’s eyes were red, and her face was blotchy. “Audrey, is everything okay?” Joey’s stomach suddenly lurched with fear. “Is it Pacey? Pacey’s father? Has something happened?”
Audrey frowned. “Pacey’s fine. So is his Dad. We just - we broke up last night.”
Joey couldn’t speak for a moment. “Last night? I…oh. I’m sorry.”
“Was - was it mutual?”
“I guess,” Audrey shrugged. “He initiated the conversation. He’d been trying to say it for days. I just kept changing the topic. I mean, I knew it was coming.”
“That doesn’t make it any easier,” Joey pointed out.
Audrey shrugged listlessly again. “No.”
“Look, I’m going to have a shower, and then I’ll come to your room, okay.”
Flapping her hand, Audrey said, “No, no. You’ve got an early class today, don’t you?”
“Yes, but it doesn’t matter."
“Go to your class. You know me - I’ll find some good-looking boy and get over Pacey Witter and his damn smile. I’ll be fine.”
Joey’s brow furrowed. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. Plenty more fish and all those stupid clichés. Go on, go have your shower.”
Joey smiled softly, and then headed down the hallway.
Audrey wandered back to her room, too distracted to wonder why Joey wanted a shower when she was already dressed.
It was almost lunchtime when Jen left the radio station, balancing a collection of files, her bag, and a stack of books.
“Hey,” David said, standing at the bottom of the steps.
“Hey,” Jen said. “I’m beginning to think you lie in wait for me here.”
“The other day was coincidence,” he told her. “I am waiting for you today.”
“Well, what can I do for you, Mr. Peterson?”
David grinned mysteriously and held up a newspaper. “Read the top article.”
Jen stepped closer, and began to read. “‘We apparently live in a time of multiculturalism, tolerance. We apparently live in the most socially and intellectually advanced century of human existence. And yet, three weeks ago, enlightened readers, at a local high school, a young boy was harassed, belittled, and finally, beaten so severely that he was hospitalized for over a week. Why? This young man is gay’.”
Jen’s flicked up the by-line and her eyes went wide. “David Peterson…you wrote this?”
David nodded. “I did some reading on the subject, and looked at the figures, and they horrified me. I couldn’t believe it. And I kept hearing your voice in my head, and before I knew it, I was jotting down the start of the article on the back of an envelope. I took it to my boss, and…”
But David was cut-off quite suddenly, when Jen dropped her bag, her files and books and threw her arms around his neck. Startled, he dropped the newspaper.
“Thank you,” Jen said. Her chin was hooked over his shoulder, and her voice vibrated somewhere below his ear.
It was shockingly intimate, and David found he was wrapping his arms around Jen’s tiny waist. She was so small. “I…my pleasure.”
“I mean, everyone else just said supportive things…and you actually did something, and…it’s so fabulous.”
After a moment, David closed his eyes, revelling in the feel of her - little limbs, her ribs pressed against his torso, her silky hair brushing his chin. She smelt like musk.
“Thank you,” Jen said again. She turned her head, tucking it into his neck.
And they stood like that, as students walked, skated, cycled and rollerbladed past.
“My pleasure,” David said again.
Except he wasn’t talking about the article.
Joey walked quickly through the main exhibition space, her heels making a tango-like rhythm against the parquet floors.
She made a beeline for Pacey’s tour-group. It was due to finish now, and then he had a break. All through class that morning, her thoughts had drifted to him. She wanted to see him, make sure he was alright.
Joey reached the back of the group in time to hear him finish up.
“…that completes the tour.” Pacey saw Joey and smiled at her. “Are there any last questions?”
A little girl put her hand up. “What’s your favorite piece of art?”
“Favourite piece of art ever?” Pacey clarified. The little girl nodded. “See that lady, with the brown hair standing there? Wearing the black dress?”
The tour group twisted and saw Joey. She felt as if she’d become part of the exhibition.
“Yes,” the little girl nodded.
“That’s Joey. She works here. And sometimes, she draws pictures. One of her pictures is my favourite piece of art ever.” He smiled at the girl. “If you move down that hall and take the first left, you’ll be back in the lobby, where you can find information on our upcoming exhibitions and events. Thank you for coming today, and I hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves.”
The tour group filed past, thanking Pacey, until and he and Joey were alone.
“What’s this picture you’re talking about?” Joey said.
“That self-portrait you did, in senior year.”
The brunette screwed up her face. “It’s a terrible picture.”
“I like it,” Pacey countered. “How did things go yesterday?”
“Why don’t we head across the road and get some coffee? You’re on a break, right?”
Pacey nodded, and they began walking towards the Museum lobby. “But how did it go?”
“Not well,” Joey admitted. “He said he didn’t have anything to offer us, and refused to have lunch with us.”
Pacey’s hand came up to squeeze her elbow. “He’s afraid of failing you, Joey.”
“I don’t need him to be the perfect father,” Joey insisted. “But I want him in my life. I want to be able to call him and tell him important news, you know?”
“So you’ll keep trying.”
“That’s what Bessie said.”
Pacey cupped Joey’s elbow again, guiding her around a knot of students cavorting on the steps. He kept hold of it as they crossed the road, Pacey walking on the side of the traffic. She’d forgotten how he made those small gestures.
“Bessie’s right,” Pacey said. “Your father will overcome his fear. You have to be patient. It’s worth fighting for, Joey. You’ll work at it, and you’ll be frustrated, and there’ll be miscommunication and awkwardness, but you’ll keep trying.”
Joey shrugged. “Mm. That’s not actually what I wanted to see you about.”
They entered the cafe and joined the queue. Pacey released Joey’s elbow, and for a second, she missed it.
“We’ll have to get coffee to go,” Pacey said, pulling change out of his pocket.
“I saw Audrey this morning,” Joey said in a low voice.
He stopped rattling his coins. “Oh."
“She looked spaced, so I asked what was wrong. She told me you broke up last night.”
“I’m sorry,” Joey said. “I had no idea that things…that things were like that.”
“They’ve been like that for a while,” Pacey said evenly. He couldn’t meet Joey’s gaze, though. “We’ve been moving apart for a while. I knew it, and she knew it.”
“Knowing doesn’t make things any easier,” Joey pointed out. “Every break-up is hard. My…my last break-up was terrible.”
Pacey made a confused face. Then he realized. “Oh. Us.”
“Yes,” Joey nodded. They arrived at the counter. A harried teenager asked them what they wanted. “Two lattes, to go, thanks.”
They handed over their money and moved around the other side of the counter, where another harried teenager was manning the espresso machine.
“It was…it was terrible for me, too,” Pacey said quietly.
Joey smiled crookedly at him. Pacey collected their coffees and held the door for her. As they crossed back over the road, he held Joey’s elbow again.
“I hope you’ll still come and see me,” Joey blurted out, his hand warm against her skin.
Pacey frowned. “What?”
“Now that you won’t be dropping by at Audrey’s. I hope you’ll still come and see me.”
“Of course,” Pacey said, surprised. “I’m enjoying being part of your life. Having someone who understands me. I like…being friends again .Real friends. Not just two people loosely associated by history and mutual friends.”
“Me too,” Joey agreed. “Of everyone…you understood about my Dad.” Pacey shrugged. “No, you did. How’s your Dad doing, by the way?”
“I spoke to him the other day. It went…well,” he told her. “He was surprisingly congenial. He asked after you.”
Joey smiled. “Let me guess - you told I’mdoing great at the local strip club.”
“You think I’d say something like that?” She arched an eyebrow. “I told him you were doing great.” Pacey grinned. “At the local strip club.”
Joey hit him with her free hand. And after a moment’s hesitation, she hooked her arm through his, their elbows knocking together.
They entered the Museum, their laughter echoing in the wide lobby.
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