The sunlight cuts through the fractured windowpane. The dorm maintenance people insist they'll fix it, but it's been three months and I haven't seen anyone since my cute R.A. inspected the place.
"Drunken brawl, maybe?" he grinned. I gave him a smile almost as cracked as the window.
I came to Worthington with the somewhat twisted notion that I'd be happier here than I've ever been. It had been my dream. Here I am a blank slate, with no past involving a drug dealing father and a mother with cancer. Sure, I'm a scholarship student with a very tenuous grip on the $30,000 tuition, but nobody has to know that.
It only took three weeks for me to realize I'm out of my league. No matter what ideas I've had about being Josephine, everywhere I turn are traces of Joey.
I sift through my box of memories, filled with yearbooks and faded photographs and letters. At the bottom there's a picture, a little ragged at the edges but still perfectly and meticulously in focus. I remember without much effort who took it. Before he left for L.A. and ambitious dreams of Hollywood directing, he put down his video camera, however briefly, for a regular one. In the picture I am twisted around a young man with dark, curly hair, sea blue eyes and an infectious smile. I'm laughing and he's looking typically mischievous. I know he's tickling me. For a moment, I feel his touch like he never let me go.
Then it fades, and I'm sitting here, in a dorm room so silent I can barely breathe. It's Parent's Weekend, and I have none to see. Tonight I go home to Capeside to bury my father. I know I will see the boy in the photograph. I only wish I knew what I can say.
You broke my heart, you bastard.
And I love you more than ever.
The train ride seems interminable. It is only a few hours, but there is nothing to see but Massachusetts countryside, and I can find little to interest me in my Psychology textbook.
"Capeside," a voice comes garbled over the loudspeaker, and I find myself relieved and scared all at once.
I pick up my bag, sling it over my shoulder, and make my way off the train. My legs ache but I can't help smiling as the air, slightly salty, hits me when I emerge. No matter what I do, this will always be my home. I never thought I'd say that, but I mean it.
Then I feel as if I've been hit by a train rather than just gotten off one.
He stands before me, still as handsome as he ever was. Maybe even more so, with his tan dark and his hair slightly shorter. He has this cute sort of half-smile on his face, and I know he's nervous. We haven't seen each other in six months.
"Jo," he says softly, and I walk up to him slowly, unsure of how to approach him, this situation. He catches me up in a hug, and I almost collapse from how good his arms make me feel. "I'm so sorry," he whispers, and it takes me a moment to realize that he's talking about my father.
Right then I start crying, and I'm ashamed and grateful at the same time. I haven't been able to cry since I got the news, and I'm beginning to feel like I'm turning into some kind of automaton. I let go completely, and he hugs me a little tighter as the tears run down my cheeks.
It is the combination of my loss and my love and memories, memories, memories.
Mrs. Leery's eyebrows are raised when she sees Pacey and I come in together to their restaurant, which is still pretty and old-fashioned and homey. It's typical of Mrs. Leery and I am not that put off by it. They think I belong with their son. I know I do not.
A soul song comes on over the loudspeakers, and it is a moment before I recognize that it's Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, "I Second That Emotion." Pacey seats me at a table and takes a chair himself, smiling sort of secretively. I ask him what's up.
"Want to see what skills I picked up in the Bahamas?"
I raise my eyebrows. "Sure, Pace."
He begins lip-synching, laughingly.
"Maybe you feel like giving me kisses
but only for one night with no repeat.
And maybe you'll go away and never call,
and a taste of honey is worse than none at all.
If that's the case then I don't want no part
I do believe you'd only break my heart..."
I am giggling uncontrollably at this point. The sight of Pacey mouthing the words to the high-voiced Smokey Robinson song is almost too much to take. "Stop, stop!"
"I'm the kareoke king," he tells me very seriously. His eyes are very warm and honest, like I remember them. I wonder if he was always this perfect.
"Indeed you are," I reply, and for a moment everything seems wonderful and easy and...the way it was.
"Joey, sweetie, you're home!" comes Gail Leery's voice from behind me. I get up to give her a quick hug, and she holds me at arm's length. "Still beautiful, I can see," she says. I can almost see her imagining me accompanying Dawson down the aisle. She's probably picked out the dress.
I smile weakly. Pacey looks a little squeamish. I sit down again, and Mrs. Leery looks at Pacey rather appraisingly. "So what have you been up to, Mr. Witter?"
She says it in this way that almost translates to, I bet nothing good. Pacey doesn't flinch. "I've been working and going to Boston Community College. I'm transferring next semester to BU."
She looks surprised, but covers it up nicely. "Well, that's great." She wipes her hands on her apron and says a little nervously, "Dawson's coming back tomorrow. I'll just let you kids catch up."
When she goes, our table falls silent. I hate how she managed to ruin the moment. Pacey runs his fingers over the table top, and I notice how his hands are callused, I'm sure from work. I resist the urge to take his hand in mine, to feel how warm and strong they are. I want to touch him so badly that I'm literally aching. He's like an addiction. I haven't seen him for months and I just want to be close to him again.
He clears his throat. "So how have you been, Jo?"
I shrug. "Adjusting. I don't know. It's okay."
He raises his eyes to meet mine. "Just okay?"
I fidget. "Well, I...I miss people. And I miss Capeside. And I feel stupid."
"Impossible, Jo. You're the smartest person I know."
It's what I've wanted to hear for months, and I knew Pacey would say it. Nothing snide like, "Well, you'll catch up," or "You just haven't hit your stride." Pacey understands me and all my bizarre insecurities. "Worthington is really hard."
He shrugs. "You'll be okay. Everyone struggles at first. You're in a new place and there are new standards." He half-smiles. "I know you'll do fine. Wonderful, in fact."
"How have you been?" I ask, wanting to take the spotlight off me and my disappointments.
"Pretty good," he says. "I...I miss you."
I draw in my breath. I said I missed people, when what I really meant was that I missed him. But Pacey has always been more mature than me. He says what he means.
"I miss you too." To my embarrassment, I feel my eyes tear up again. He takes my hand.
"Let's be honest with each other right now, Jo," he says. "I spent the last six months on a boat and working long hours at a convenience store while juggling six classes so I could go to a real school and feel like I'm on the same plane with you guys. But all I really wanted was to be close to you, and you know this."
I'm having trouble breathing.
"Tell me what you thought when you saw me this afternoon," he says slowly.
I meet his eyes, and I know my answer is clear. "I'm still in love with you."
"So am I," he says quietly. His eyes have lost all the hardness that was there when he told me off on that prom boat last spring. They are clear and beautiful and loving.
I want to dive into them and never come out.
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