“Hey.” Pacey let out a breath, then quickly smiled and leaned over to give her a little hug. She was wearing a bulky coat that obviously wasn’t hers, and he was surprised to find how tiny and thin she felt underneath it. “How are you?”
“Good, thanks.” She let out a little half sigh/half laugh as he hugged her, almost a sound of relief. “How are you?”
“Good, good.” Pacey smiled and nodded, his eyes just taking her in as if he couldn’t believe she was standing right in front of him. “So…it’s been a while, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess it has.” She smiled.
“When did you get into town?” He tilted his head, feeling like he couldn’t stop smiling if he tried. He knew that the details of why Joey was back in Capeside probably were not supposed to be public knowledge just yet, so he was careful not to sound like he knew too much.
“Um. I guess it was yesterday...the time change still has me a little out of it.” She shrugged, tucking her hair behind her ear again. Noticing that Pacey’s gaze had moved up to the knit hat she was wearing, she reached her hand up and fingered its floppy edge. “I know…it’s stupid. I have no winter clothes anymore, so I had to dig this out of some of my old stuff that Bessie packed away.”
“No…” Pacey said softly, his eyes shining warmly at her. “It’s just that…I remember it.” He shrugged as well. They held each other’s gaze for a moment before he spoke again, clearing his throat. “So…you’re staying with Bessie?”
Joey nodded slowly, looking down at the ground. “Um…yeah, for a little while.” She looked away and then back down at her feet again. “I’m, uh…going to be looking for a job here on the East Coast.” She looked up at him finally. “LA wasn’t really for me.” She said simply.
Pacey just bit his lip and nodded, asking the question he knew he had to ask. “What about Dawson…?”
Joey shrugged. “His career is really taking off. He has made a lot of important connections out there.” She looked away again, her voice changing a little. “We kind of decided it was time to go our separate ways. Our lives were starting to kind of move in opposite directions.”
Pacey waited a beat to see if she would say anything more, but he could tell that he was starting to make her uncomfortable. “Hmm. So, have you seen Jen yet?” He asked brightly, trying to change the subject.
Joey gave him a grateful smile. “Actually…that’s kind of where I was headed. Bessie has been telling me all about the store she opened up. I wanted to take a walk by and check it out.”
“Yeah, you should.” Pacey smiled, motioning up the street. “It’s right around the corner of Front Street. I think she is probably still there working.”
”Oh. Okay.” Joey looked at him, biting her lower lip. “Do you want to come with me?’
“Eh. I think she sees enough of me.” Pacey grinned.
“Oh…that’s right.” Joey said softly, shaking her head with a smile. “I keep forgetting.” She giggled a little. “Doug and Jen. That’s still so weird to me for some reason.”
“Hmmpf.” Pacey chuckled. “Imagine how I feel.” They smiled at each other again.
Pacey let his eyes just drift over her face, noticing her cheekbones seemed a little more prominent than he remembered and that there were just the hint of dark circles under her eyes visible in the fading light of the late afternoon. But she was still - as always - the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
He sighed. “Well, I’ll let you go. I should get back to work.”
“How’s that going for you?” Joey asked quickly. “You’re working in the Deputy Harbormaster’s office now, right?”
“Oh, no.” Pacey said dramatically, shaking his head. “I’ll have you know that I have been given the official position of Harbormaster by the fine people of this town. None of that ‘deputy’ stuff anymore.”
Joey’s face brightened up. “Really? I didn’t know that. That’s great, Pacey!”
“Yeah, well…” He shrugged, chuckling in self-deprecation. “I think that my father might have intimidated a few people into giving me the job, but whatever.”
Joey smirked, then smiled at him. “I’m sure that you do a great job. They are lucky to have you.” They held each other’s gaze for another brief moment until Pacey finally spoke.
“Well. I don’t know about that, but I’d better get back there if I want to keep it, anyway.” He smiled at her again, slowly closing his hands into small fists at his side to keep himself from reaching out to hug her again, suddenly gripped with the irrational fear that if he did, he might not let go.
“Okay, then.” Joey nodded. She looked up at him and opened her mouth to say something, but then quickly dropped her gaze to the ground. Pacey watched her, but could not really see her face as dusk was beginning to settle on them, the sun slowly disappearing behind the buildings to their left.
“It’s really good to see you again, Jo.” He said softly, letting his eyes linger on her while she still looked down. “Maybe we can get together while you’re home.” He coughed lightly. “You know – you, me, Jen. We’ll even get Jack down here for a night.”
She looked up him, nodding. “I’d really like that.” She almost whispered the words and her eyes were shining.
He smiled and started back down the sidewalk. “Okay. I guess I’ll just see you then.”
“Yeah. See ya, Pace.” She looked over her shoulder, watching him walk away as she slowly started up the street. When he had finally disappeared around the corner, she stopped and looked up at the wall in front of her. She was still standing there when the sun finally sank below the horizon and the streetlights of Capeside came on.
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