Days Like These
Part 7
by DeepBlueSea

Joey walked around the small store, slowly perusing through the clothes racks and every so often glancing over at Jen, who was flipping through the black leather binder sitting on the counter in front of her.

“Wow.” Jen said finally, looking up. “This is really amazing, Joey. You are really talented. I know you are going to impress the people at this gallery.”

Joey smiled at her, wrinkling her nose. “Do you think so?” She shrugged. “I can’t even really believe I’m going through with it, but I just figured…why not give a shot right?” She walked over to Jen, looking down at her portfolio. “And – as Pacey said – the worst they can do is say ‘no’, so…” Her voice drifted off with a sigh.

Jen looked up at Joey’s bowed head, smiling a little to herself. “So, um…you said that Pacey is going with you tomorrow?”

“Yeah.” Joey looked up quickly and smiled. “He’s been great with this whole thing. I don’t know if I ever even would have done it without him.” She smiled again, looking back down at her portfolio as her voice softened a bit. “And he’s always coming by to get me out of the house or just to hang out - I mean, I know he’s just doing it because he feels like it is his job or whatever to cheer me up but…” Her voice drifted off again as she shrugged her shoulders.

Jen opened her mouth to say something else when they heard the bell over the door chime. Looking over Joey’s shoulder, she smiled at the man coming over to them with two coffees in his hand.

“Hey, Brian.” Jen greeted him. “How’s business?”

Brian Russell worked in the hardware store next to Jen’s shop. He was a couple of years older than them, and had grown up in Capeside as well.

“Okay.” He smiled. “But I needed a coffee break and figured I’d pick you one up too.” He handed her a cup and turned to Joey. “Hi. I’m Brian.” He held his hand out.

Joey smiled as she shook his hand, thinking he might look vaguely familiar. “Hi. I’m Joey Potter. Nice to meet you.”

He smiled again. “Likewise.” He tilted his head slightly. “You went to Capeside High, too, didn’t you? I’m pretty sure we had a class together.”

Joey squinted her eyes, trying to remember. He had those kind of pleasant, nondescript looks about him that made it seem like she could know him from just about anywhere. “Yeah…maybe we did…”

“Joey just moved back to town from LA.” Jen explained.

“Really?’ Brian’s face brightened. “I was out in California for a few years in college…”

The phone rang then and Jen slowly excused herself to answer it as Brian and Joey discussed life on the West Coast. She was gone a few minutes and they were both still chatting away pleasantly when she returned.

“Well…I should get back to the store.” Brian sighed, running his hand through his sandy blond hair. “It was really nice to talk to you, though, Joey.” He gazed at her with a smile, and Jen quickly looked back and forth between them with a raised eyebrow.

Joey just shrugged and grinned. “Yeah, you too, Brian.”

They watched him walk out and then Joey strolled over to the rack of clothes she had been looking at earlier. “I really like these jeans, Jen. I think I might get a few pairs…none of my clothes fit me right anymore.”

Jen looked over at her, considering whether or not she should say anything. “Yeah, you look like you might have lost some weight…not that you ever needed to or anything.”

Joey nodded. “I had some stomach problems this past year…” She said quietly. She looked over at Jen, “An ulcer, if you can believe it.” She said dismissively with a little laugh.

Jen looked at her sympathetically, wondering what would cause a young woman like Joey to develop an ulcer. “Really? Um…those are caused by stress sometimes, aren’t they?”

Joey just nodded again. “I guess you could say it was a hard year. A tough couple of years, really.” She sighed softly. “I realized I made a lot of mistakes in my life, Jen. I hurt a lot of people.” Joey’s voice caught in her throat. “Some I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fix.”

Jen went over to her, patting her arm gently. “Well – I guess what Pacey told you holds true here as well, Joey. All you can do is try.” Jen smiled. “And take it from me, you can’t spend your life beating yourself up for things that happened in the past. You just have to move forward.”

Joey turned to smile at her and give her a quick hug. “Thanks, Jen.” She sniffed, glancing at her watch. “Uh oh - I should really get going now.”

“Okay – well, call me to tell me how tomorrow goes.” Jen called after her as Joey left the store with a little wave, her portfolio tucked safely under her arm.

Joey was starting down the sidewalk when she heard her name being called out. Turning, she saw Brian jogging behind her to catch up.

“Hey.” He smiled, slightly out of breath. “I know that you are probably busy settling in from your move, but I’d love to get together for dinner or something sometime.”

Joey winced a little. “Oh, Brian. I’m sorry. I, ah…just got out of a really long relationship and I just don’t think I’m ready…”

He held up his hand with a smile. “Don’t feel like you have to say another word.” He pulled a small business card out of his shirt pocket and handed it to her. “My home number is on the back. There’s no pressure involved. Just feel free to call me if you would like a little friendly company some time, okay?” He said kindly.

Joey bit her lip, but smiled and nodded as she put the card in her bag. “Sure.”

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