Down So Long by: Becci


Capeside, June 1st 2001.

Joey Potter looked at the sleeping form of her lover and best friend, Dawson Leery. Normally it was something that made her happy. Not today. He had satisfied himself within her, and had drifted off to sleep, unaware of the conflicting emotions of his girlfriend. Joey didn't blame him for that. He didn't know what she knew. And even she couldn't put a finger on her feelings. But recently, she had felt like there was something missing. Sometimes her heart felt like it was about to burst out of her chest. She felt like she had a big announcement to make, but she didn't know what it was. Of course, last week, she had discovered that she was pregnant. But that wasn't it. She still felt unsettled. A tear rolled off her face as she sat up, and then got out of the bed. Mitch knew that she and Dawson were sleeping together, and allowed them to as long as they were responsible about it. They hadn't been careful that night almost two months ago. She still had to find a way to tell Dawson. She didn't plan on having the baby. Not even for a moment had she considered caring for the child she was carrying. She would have an abortion as soon as possible. But even so, she knew Dawson should know. And she dreaded telling him, 'cause he'd propose marriage, and he'd want them to live in Capeside as a family. And that wasn't what she wanted at all. She quickly got dressed and climbed out of Dawson's window. He'd wake and find her gone, but she didn't care. She needed to think. She sat on the dock outside his house. It was just gone midnight on a Friday night, and the moonlight reflected off the still waters of the creek. Reaching into her pocket, Joey found the calling card of the abortion clinic her doctor had recommended when Joey had gone for the pregnancy test. She fingered the card delicately, as if it would bite her. Biting her lower lip, she put it back into her pocket.

She felt someone sit beside her, and a turn of her head told her it was Jen. The two girls had a sort of bond now, but they weren't particularly close.

"What are you doing out here at this time of night?" Jen asked, reaching into her coat pocket.

"I was at Dawson's," Joey explained. "He fell asleep, and I needed to think."

"Wore him out, eh?" Jen asked, jokingly. Joey sighed.

"Something like that," she replied. Jen opened a packet of cigarettes, and took one out. She offered Joey one and, to her surprise, Joey accepted.

"Since when did you smoke?" Jen asked, incredulous.

"A couple of years… about the time Dad went back to prison," Joey said. She reached into her pocket and produced a lighter identical to the one Jen was using. Lighting up, she took a deep drag, and let smoke slide slowly out of her nostrils.

"What are you thinking about?" Jen asked. Joey looked at her uncertainly, and then produced the card once more. She handed it to Jen, who read it. Her mouth dropped open.

"When…you're…?" Jen asked. Joey nodded.

"Seven weeks," she confirmed. "But I'm not having it."

"Does Dawson know?" Jen asked. Joey shook her head.

"No. I'll tell him in a couple of days, but there hasn't been time recently. I just hope I can make him understand."

"But why don't you want his child?" Jen asked. "I thought you were in love with him?"

"I don't want a child, Jen. I don't want my life. Why would I bring another child into it? As for loving Dawson, I'm not sure I know who I am. How can I possibly love him?" Joey got up, and walked away. Jen stared after her.

Capeside, June 3rd 2001

Dawson frowned as he dipped a French fry in ketchup. He was sat in the school cafeteria, with Pacey, Jen and Kaye, who had joined the school a year ago.

"Does Joey seem preoccupied to you?" he asked them.

"What do you mean?" Jen asked.

"She doesn't seem her normal self. She's so defensive all the time. She seems so tired, and she doesn't talk to me anymore. Well, not real talk. On Sunday morning, when I woke up, she was gone."

"I still can't believe your Dad's cool with you sleeping together," Pacey said. Gail had moved away a couple of years ago, and Mitch was far more relaxed when it came to parenting. After Dawson's 18th birthday, he had allowed them to spend nights together at the house.

"Joey talked to me the other night," Jen said quietly. Dawson looked at her, surprised.

"What's up with her?" Dawson asked. Jen shifted in her seat, obviously uncomfortable.

"Dawson, she'll tell you when she's ready. I can't betray her trust. She's just got this whole bunch of things going on in her head, and she probably feels unsettled about leaving school and everything…she'll be OK."

"Well why can't she explain that to me? I feel like she's cutting me out entirely! I'm just so worried about her…" Dawson explained.

"About who?" Joey enquired, sitting down at the table with her friends.

"Um…mom. I haven't heard from her for a few days," Dawson bluffed. Joey seemed satisfied by that answer.

"Where's your lunch?" Kaye asked Joey, who had no tray.

"Umm…I didn't feel like eating," Joey said.

"I don't blame you. Not with this crud that they pass off as food," Pacey joked, prodding his meat suspiciously.

"What are you doing tonight, Jo?" Dawson asked. Joey shrugged.

"I guess I'm babysitting Alex," she answered.

"How abut I come over, and we could watch some movies?" Dawson offered. Joey shrugged once more.

"I don't know, Dawson…I'm not in the mood for watching movies."

"Well we could go out for dinner or something," he suggested. Joey shook her head.

"Dawson, I'd prefer to stay at home tonight. You and Pacey do something," she insisted.

"Joey…" Dawson began. Joey stood up, and began to shout.

"Look, Dawson. Don't you get the hint? I don't want to go anywhere with you tonight! I want to be alone for once! Why won't any of you leave me alone!" she screamed. She paused for a moment, realising the whole cafeteria was staring at her. Then she ran off, leaving her drawing pad behind. Dawson ran his hands through his hair.

"See? I'm used to her mood swings, but she's never up anymore, always down," he said.

"Oh no!" Pacey said in mock horror! "Joey Potter refused a movie night!"

"No, it's more than that…you don't understand," Dawson argued. Noticing Joey's abandoned pad from art class, he picked it up and opened it. The top page showed her latest piece. It was of a darkened prison cell, with a young girl visible, huddled in the corner of the small room. Dawson could clearly see it was supposed to be Joey. In the bottom right hand corner, the title 'My Future' was scrawled in pencil. Dawson got up, and walked out of the room wordlessly.

'Settle down
Keep your two feet on the ground
Sit up tall
Stand up straight
Never falter
Never fall
Stay in school
Make the grade
Never fail'

Curtis Steigers - To Be Loved

Late that night, probably around nine o'clock, Joey was sat on the dock amongst all the moored boats. She had sat there for hours, but she didn't care. She was thinking, and she was alone. She craved the peace and quiet that she had received in the past few hours. She knew that she had to tell Dawson about the baby. And soon. But she didn't want to. She knew that he would love the idea. He would ask her to marry him, and then they would get married right out of high school. She'd then lead the most boring and humdrum life imaginable. She'd tried to be so strong for years, getting over the burning wreckage that was her life. And what was it all for? To get knocked up at 18. She wanted so much more than that. Or did she? For once, Joey began to look at the expectations everyone else had of her. It was Dawson who had suggested they apply together for Harvard. It was her Dad who had been thrilled when she got accepted. Bessie had been so proud of her when she was offered the scholarship in France. What if she couldn't make a success out of her life? She'd let all these people down. And she couldn't bear that. But she had to create a life she wanted. She couldn't just live the life others wanted. She needed to break free, and create her own expectations. And that meant not having this baby. And maybe that meant leaving Dawson. It was as if their future had been preordained at birth. Everyone expected them to marry young and have kids and careers. But Joey didn't know if she was strong enough to do that. After all, half the town believed that she was 'trailer trash'. They expected her to have kids with Dawson, but they didn't expect her to be free. They thought she'd be tied down. And that's what she feared. She feared that one day, she would stop dreaming. So she had to be alone. Alone to aspire and alone to want.

"Joey? What's going on between us?" Dawson's voice called, cutting through the tranquillity of the night air. Joey stiffened. She didn't know that she was being watched.

"What do you mean?" she asked, pretending she didn't already know.

"You know, Joey. You've confided in Jen over me, and it's like you hate me. You don't want me touching you. You don't want me kissing you. You don't enjoy our lovemaking anymore. It's as if you don't want me anymore. Why?" Joey stood up, so she was at Dawson's height.

"And why does it have to be about you?" she asked. "Why do you assume that it's something you've done? Why can't it be something I'm worrying about?"

"Well tell me then. Maybe we can sort this out together. Just please don't shut me out, Joey. We've worked too hard to be together to let some insignificant whim separate us!" Joey was furious. Anger flowed through her veins.

"What do you mean, insignificant?" she barked.

"I didn't mean insignificant. It's just it's obviously nothing major, because I would have noticed." Dawson was putting his foot further and further into his mouth.

"Oh, would you! I forgot my pal Dawson had lost his oblivity to life's problems!" Joey said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Joey…" Dawson said, stepping towards her.

"The problem was created by us both," Joey said, her tone calmer. "But the major issue at hand is within. After all, isn't that where all evil lies? Our inner demons are far more dangerous, aren't they, Dawson?"

"Joey, you're scaring me…What's wrong? What do you mean?" Dawson asked.

"I'm pregnant, Dawson. What do you have to say about that?" she asked. Dawson was visibly shocked. He put his hand over his mouth. "Oh! So that's how we silence him!" Joey continued. "I'll tell you what. You come back to me with a comment once you've lived with that little secret a while, OK?" and with that, she walked off, leaving Dawson to conjugate the idea.

Capeside, June 4th 2001

Joey woke to the sound of the doorbell being rung. She waited a few moments, and then realised that the house was empty. Bessie and Bodie were at the Icehouse, and Alex was at the babysitters. Reluctantly, she got out of bed. Once standing, the full impact of her fight with Dawson the night before set in. The doorbell rang again. She left her makeshift bedroom-cum-living room, and walked to the door. Opening the wooden door, she saw Dawson standing in the rain. He was soaked, and wore a puppy dog expression on his face. His face showed signs of a sleepless night, one that Joey could identify with. She had barely slept in the past month.

"I'm sorry," Dawson said. Joey let him in the doorway. He followed her into the kitchen.

"Would you like some coffee?" she asked. He nodded, and she filled the kettle, and then put it on the stove.

"Joey…I've been up all night thinking…what you said last night was a shock."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have told you like that," she apologised.

"You shouldn't have felt like you had to keep it a secret," he countered. She nodded, and sat down at the table. "How are you feeling…have you been sick?" he asked.

"No. I've been lucky. Bessie was sick for hours on end," Joey said, trailing off.

"It was a shock, Joey, to learn that I'm going to be a father. I'd always pictured us having children, but not at 18…"

"I don't want to keep the baby, Dawson," Joey interrupted.

"What?" Dawson said, incredulous.

"I've thought about it, and I think an abortion is the right choice. We're far too young to raise a child, Dawson. And I'm not sure if I'm strong enough, even if I wanted to," she explained.

"But Joey, this is our child! It's a little early, I agree, but I want this. I want you and me and this baby to be a family. We can get married after we graduate, and everything will work out. It'll be hard, but it will work!" Dawson insisted.

"What if that's not what I want, Dawson? What if I don't want to marry you, not ever? What if I want more from my life than to be stuck with a kid at 18?"

"Then we won't get married right away."

"Our relationship isn't stable enough for that, Dawson. We fight so much. And one day, you'd want to follow your dream, and I'd be stuck here with a kid. I've seen it happen, and I don't want that."

"So you want to kill our child because you don't want me to leave you?" Dawson asked, not understanding her.

"No. I'm saying I don't want that life."

"But this is my child too!" Dawson pointed out.

"It's my body, Dawson. I've made an appointment already," she admitted.

"When?" Dawson said, suddenly disgusted by the woman he was in love with only moments before.

"The day after tomorrow," she informed him.

"How can you do this?" Dawson asked.

"I have to. It's me or the baby," she answered. He looked into her eyes, trying to find some emotion. He found none. Disgusted and appalled, he stood up, left the kitchen, and walked out the door, slamming it behind him. The kettle began to whistle furiously as it boiled.

End of Part One

As I said earlier, feedback is eagerly awaited. I have the story planned out, but I'm open to suggestions! Do you agree with Joey? Or with Dawson? Tell me! As long as you don't send abuse, I'd be willing to have comments on the subject sent to me.


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