The ferry pulled up to the landing and there was a loud rumbling sound as the door leading to the exit ramp opened up. Pacey turned to grin at Joey, offering her his hand as they made their way down to the dock. He wrapped his hand around hers, squeezing it gently, reassuringly. She smiled at him, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, and her smile widened considerably when they stepped off onto solid ground and he did not let go.
“Okay.” He sighed, stopping to turn and face her. “Atlantic Ave. is right up there on your left, so the gallery shouldn’t be too far from here. I’m going to head down to the boatyard now to see if I can talk to someone about getting storage permits for this summer, and I’ll just meet you back here around 2:00, okay?”
“Okay.” Joey took a deep breath, trying to sound confident, throwing the strap of her leather art bag over her shoulder.
Pacey smiled warmly at her, giving her hand one last squeeze before he released it. “Don’t worry. They are going to love you.” He said softly.
“How do you know?”
“How could they not, Potter?” He smiled again before turning to leave.
“Hmm.” The woman said for what seemed like the fiftieth time, turning the page in front of her. Joey just sat, fidgeting in her seat, and watched. Finally the woman looked up, removing her red-framed glasses.
“There is sort of a melancholy feel to a lot of these pieces…” She looked at Joey as if she was expecting a response.
“Um, yeah…” Joey stammered, “I guess I was going through kind of a dark period there…”
“Hmm.” The woman responded again, looking back down at the page in front of her. Joey rolled her eyes, mentally berating herself.
“Except for this one. This is different.” The woman pointed to the page and Joey sat forward to look.
“Oh.” Joey smiled softly, as if she were seeing it for the first time herself. “That was on a little private beach…down in the Florida Keys. It was kind of a special memory for me.”
The woman nodded. “Well, these are some very rough efforts here, but I find a lot of potential in this group. We can show your work on a limited basis at first and then work out the signing details later and…”
Joey didn’t even hear the rest of what was said, she just sat there staring at the woman in a happy daze.
Pacey bit his lower lip, checking his watch again as he leaned against the dock railing. He watched the people filing onto the 2:30 ferry back to the Cape, and then started to walk up towards the street. It was then that he saw her, making her way down the sidewalk and looking down at the ground. He stopped to wait for her and in that exact second she raised her head to see him. Pacey’s breath caught in his chest as their eyes met, as it always did when he saw her. He raised an eyebrow expectantly and he saw the grin spread across her face, her eyes lighting up.
“Yeah?” He called out as a question, his own smile growing as she picked up her pace until she was almost running to him.
“Yeah!” She laughed, nodding her head. He laughed as well as she jumped into his arms, picking her up and twirling her around on the spot. Joey closed her eyes and smiled happily, wrapping her arms around his neck as he held her just a little tighter.
Joey was still excitedly relaying the details of the meeting to Pacey as they stood next to each other on the ferry home, both leaning over the railing to look down at the swirling ocean water below. The breeze picked up suddenly and Joey shivered, wrapping her coat tightly around herself.
“You cold?” He asked, reaching over to gently rub her arm.
“Yeah. I’m still not used to this New England weather, I guess.” She shrugged.
“Here, take this.” Pacey started to unzip his coat but Joey reached over to stop him.
“No. Then you’ll be cold.” She laughed, shaking her head. “I’m okay except for when that wind blows.”
Pacey smiled at her, moving over to stand behind her. “All right, then…” His voice was low and deep in her ear as he leaned into her, resting his arms on the railing on each side of her, effectively trapping her in. “I’ll block for you.”
Joey sighed and shivered again, but this time is wasn’t from the cold. “Okay.” She whispered, immediately feeling the warmth spreading through her and the heat rising up in her cheeks. Pacey leaned in just a little more, closing his eyes and letting himself breath in the clean, achingly familiar scent of her. He sighed imperceptibly, just barely nuzzling her neck as he raised one hand up to brush the hair back off her shoulder. Lowering his hand slowly, he let it come to rest on her waist, his thumb gently strumming along her side. He closed his eyes again and swallowed back the lump that formed in his throat when he heard her sigh as well, soft and sweet, and felt her lean back to rest against him.
They pushed through the door of the B&B and Joey called out to Bessie but got no answer.
“They must all still be at the game at Alex’s school.” She turned to shrug shyly at Pacey, who had followed slowly behind her. After exiting the ferry, they had driven home pretty much the whole way in silence. She turned away again, walking aimlessly into the kitchen, nervously rubbing her hands together. She turned quickly to ask if him if he wanted something to drink and was almost mesmerized when his eyes locked on hers from where he still stood, deep and blue and piercing.
She felt herself swallow a breath as he slowly made his way towards her. He stopped when he was less than a foot away and just reached over to take her hand. Joey stared down in fascination as he took it in his, feeling her nerve endings tingle as he just barely brushed his thumb across the back of it. He went to tug on it gently, to slowly pull her into him, when the sound of the phone ringing cut through the kitchen.
Joey jumped, putting her hand to her throat and quickly went to grab the phone off the counter, her eyes still on Pacey.
“He-hello?” She managed to get out, feeling like she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs.
“Joey?” She heard him, sounding far away and broken up by static, like a ghost floating out of the phone line. Her stomach dropped with a sickening thud, the overwhelming sense of guilt the sound of his voice brought on rushing through her.
“Dawson?” She barely whispered, turning away from Pacey now and lowering her voice.
Pacey heard her say his name and watched as her whole body seemed to crumble on the spot. He took a step back as Joey bowed her head, mumbling in a voice so low that he couldn’t hear what she was saying even if he wanted to.
She turned to back to face Pacey and he saw the hauntingly familiar flash of pain in her eyes. “I…I have to take this, Pacey.” Her eyes were now pleading with him for understanding as she covered the receiver with her hand, giving him another look that he was brutally familiar with.
He stared at her a minute, biting his bottom lip. “Okay. I understand.” He said quietly, ducking his head a little as he started to head for the door.
Joey felt the sting of tears in the corners of her eyes. “Can I just call you later?” She called after him, almost begging now as her voice cracked slightly on the words.
Pacey’s hand was already on the doorknob and he barely turned around as he answered her before leaving. “Yeah, sure.” He crossed the yard and got back into his Jeep, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hand before driving away.
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