Christmas morning, six am in Capeside. Not a creature was stirring. That’s a lie. Joey had not even gone to bed. She was deep in thought, not even acknowledging that it was Christmas. She was due to arrive at the Leery’s at eight, but if the truth was told, she really didn’t feel like it. She was sat in the living room of her lonely, empty house. Crying to herself in a fit of self-pity. The truth had set in. She was alone again. After all these years, she had woken up alone in her perfectly decorated five-bedroom house in the knowledge that she would be like this for years to come. The fight with Max in the car hadn’t been as bad as it could have been. It had never come out that she was sleeping with Pacey, but he knew that she loved someone else. He’d been humiliated and said he wouldn’t stand to be the cuckold. He’d said he’d leave her. To save face, they’d put on that performance yesterday. She was going to keep the house and the car. She had her own business. She wasn’t reliant on him and his money anymore. Joey was going to be truly independent.
But that wasn’t what she wanted. Joey wasn’t stupid. She knew that this was a huge mess that she would never escape from fully. Her heart told her to fight for Pacey. But they weren’t carefree teenagers, having a quickie in the back seat of the car. She was nearly thirty. She has married, and so was he. Her marriage was over, but his wasn’t. For all she knew, he and Sue might be entwined right now, sweat glistening as they moved together, racing towards the release that made lights appear. The thought made her feel sick. She wasn’t going to be able to ask him out on a date. That time had passed many years ago. For them to be together, he would have to leave Sue. They would have to confess their relationship to her sister, her father, Alex, the Leerys, Dawson … The list was endless. They’d be outcasts in the town. They’d have to leave. And that was assuming he wanted her. Sure, they’d had sex and talked a lot. But they’d never talked about the future. He didn’t even know that she and Max had broken up yesterday. How did she know if everything would be ok? And she’d have to spend the day with Dawson and all the others, with her heart breaking and her eyes welling with tears every time Sue and Pacey hugged or kissed. The tears began again.
Self-pity mixed with self-loath in the salty tears that ran down her cheeks and rolled off her chin onto her top.
Pacey pressed the off button on his cellular phone. He was frustrated beyond belief. He’d spent the past two hours trying to phone Joey. Her end would ring and ring; yet nobody picked up. He needed to talk to her; needed to sort out what was happening; needed to hear her voice. The others would wake soon. He’d spent the night at the Leerys, on Gail’s insistence. She’d tried to get them all to stay, but Joey had refused, arguing that Max might phone her at home. The words had stung Pacey to his very core. And for the first time in his life, he wanted to disect his feelings like Dawson always did. He suspected that the whole thing at the table last night was a fabrication, but he couldn’t be sure. Why had she been so insistent on going home? Even Dawson had seemed surprised. Today was the worst possible timing. It was the one day in the whole year that he would have to pretend to be completely happy. They’d have every body around them. It was only his second Christmas married to Sue. Things had been so different last year. But now he just wanted rid of her. As callous as it sounded, he knew he didn’t love her. Not the way he felt for Joey. He wanted Joey more. He wanted her in every way.
But did she feel the same? He didn’t know. He needed to talk to her.
Upstairs, Sue stirred in her sleep. Her arm swung across and hit empty space in the bed. She raised her head, wondering why Pacey wasn’t in bed. A rush of concern overtook the initial confusion, but was quickly beaten by a flush of anger. He’d been moving away from her recently. She could feel it; she wasn’t stupid. But she didn’t know why. She’d hoped that spending this time with his friends would make him closer to her. But it wasn’t working. If anything, he seemed more distracted. She wanted to know what was going on in his head. They’d only been married a year – she had been so in love with him. That part was easy. Pacey Witter was easy to love. Sure, there had been men that she had felt strongly for, but Pacey was definite husband material. He made her laugh, and she looked forward to growing old with him. But ever since she’d moved to this pokey little town, he’d been cold and distant. And now she was lying in bed on her own on Christmas morning. She wanted to know what was going on.
Joey smiled as she walked in through the Leery’s front door. She was on time, and Dawson had opened the door for her.
"Hey! Happy Christmas!" she said, hugging him.
"Same to you. Come on in, we’re desperate to open the presents!" he said, taking her coat off her.
"Dawson," she laughed. "You’ve always been the same. You’re nearly thirty, and you’re like an overexcited Labrador."
"Oh don’t be such a grouch. Besides, you’ve got the biggest present this year under the tree." Joey smiled despite herself, and followed him into the front room, closing the door behind her. Her heart stopped as she saw him sat on the couch staring into space. Dawson walked over to the tree and turned back round to see her. "Joey?" he asked. Pacey snapped out of his trance as he saw her stood in the doorway, alerted by Dawson’s words.
"Hey, Pacey," she said, her voice finally returning.
"Hey yourself," he replied. "Happy Christmas." He got up off the seat and walked towards her. They hugged awkwardly.
"Was that the door I heard?" Mitch said as he and Gail entered the room. "Hey Joey."
"Mitch, Gail," she acknowledged. "Merry Christmas. Is Bessie here yet?"
"Forget Bessie! I want you to open my present!" Dawson cried. Joey smiled.
"Dawson Leery. You’re twenty nine years old, and more excited than you were when you were nine," Gail scolded him, laughing.
"That was the year I got my first camera. God, I’d run out of batteries before noon. Don’t we have that video somewhere?"
"Yeah, I transferred it from Beta Max a couple of years ago," Mitch remembered. "How about we try and find it?"
"OK. I’ll be back soon, guys," Dawson said to Pacey and Joey. "There’s some coffee in the kitchen, if you’re interested."
Joey stood in the kitchen, staring out of the window with a cup of steaming coffee in her hand. She felt someone come up behind her, and an arm wrapped its way around her waist.
"Hey, baby," said a deep voice she recognized.
"We need to talk," she said, not turning around.
"I know. I barely slept last night. What happened with Max?"
"We’re separating. He doesn’t know about us – it’s obvious even to him that we’re falling apart."
"What do you want me to do?" he asked. She paused for a moment, then turned to face him.
"What do you mean? You think that I expect you to just drop everything because Max and I have faced up to the inevitable?"
"That’s not what I meant Joey. What and I have… I mean, I… You… We’re…" Pacey stumbled, not finding the words to express what he felt. Joey sighed.
"Just say it, Pacey!" she cried.
"Say what?" a voice said from the doorway. It was Sue, who had just come down all dressed up.
"She’s desperate to know what I got her for Christmas," Pacey fabricated on the spot. Sue laughed, an annoying tooth wrenching sound that made Joey want to tear off her arm so she had something to throw at her.
"Josephine," she said, causing Pacey to wince – he’d learnt over the years not to use that word near her – "You’re just as bad, if not worse than, Dawson. Honestly, the two of you are just like kids!" Joey shrugged.
"Yeah, just like kids," she echoed, the irony lost on Sue.
Will Pacey and Joey ever get to talk alone? Will they confess their feelings to one another? Will anyone find out? How will they find out? You'll just have to wait and see. However, I like getting feedback from people who've read the series, so please keep it coming in!
2nd May 2000
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