Las Vegas, August 8th, 2004
Dawson entered the bar with a couple of his college friends, and looked about. Joey wasn’t in sight, but he could see Rob. He walked up to the older man.
"Is Jo here tonight?" he asked. Rob turned to look at him, and immediately his face broke into a smile.
"Hey, everybody," Rob said loudly enough for everyone at the bar to hear. "This here is Dawson, Jo’s young fellow. And guess what they were doing when a policeman knocked at the misted up window of his car last night?" The regulars all burst into laughter, and shouted various crude comments. Dawson went red, knowing that his friends were stood within earshot. He turned around slowly. Sure enough, they were laughing and nudging each other. He turned back to Rob, and the older man saw the mortified expression on his face. "Sorry, bud. But she had to tell me. And I had to tell a few of my closest friends," he said, gesturing towards the dozen people gathered.
"Is she here tonight?" Dawson repeated.
"Yeah, she was around here somewhere. She’s due to sing in about ten minutes."
Dawson was just about to order his drink when a pair of hands landed over his eyes.
"Guess who?" said a familiar voice.
"Umm… that’s a tough one," Dawson said, smiling. He turned around and hugged Joey. She responded by pulling herself up against him, much to the amusement of the men at the bar. She pulled back, and smiled at Dawson. Then she launched herself at him, giving him a kiss and forcing him to lift her off the ground.
"Hey honey," she said when he finally put her down.
"Hey yourself," Dawson replied.
"So, who are these nice young men?" she asked, pointing her head at Dawson’s friends.
"Um, this is Jason, this is Darren and this is Aaron," he replied. Joey greeted each of them, and made small talk for a few minutes, keeping her hand on Dawson’s rear.
"Much as I hate to break up this lively debate, are you gonna sing, Joey? That is what I’m paying you for," Rob said in a warm tone.
"He’s right, gotta go. It was nice to meet you all. I’ll come back after a couple of songs," Joey said, before getting on the small stage.
<Song – http://www.gurlpages.com/writing/becciw/Neighborhood.html Neighborhood>
Joey opened the toilet cubicle door and went to the basin to wash her hands. As she was washing off the soapsuds, the door opened and Rob’s wife came in. Joey smiled at the kind older woman. Betsy and Rob had become like family in the past few years.
"So spill the beans," Betsy said, walking over to the sinks and sitting on the surface top. Joey mirrored her actions, and swung her legs.
"I’m quite sure I don’t know what you mean!" Joey teased, but her smile gave her away.
"I want to know all about this man who’s finally got you happy," Betsy prompted.
"His name’s Dawson. He was… he is… God! I can’t stop smiling! Dawson and I are so complicated. We were best friends from the cradle to the age of 15. I had the hugest crush on him, and finally he got a clue. We were never simple though… too many problems and break ups and arguments… But when we were together… it was incredible. I guess the only way I can describe him is to tell you he’s the love of my life. The One. But that doesn’t even come close to how I feel about him." Joey broke off, smiling happily. Betsy frowned.
"So why did you come to Las Vegas?" she asked. Joey’s smile broke, and she paused before answering.
"We were so sure that what we had would last forever… we found a new activity in the summer before our senior year at high school," Joey said. Betsy nodded, understanding her meaning perfectly. "During the last spring at school, I got pregnant. We’d been so careful, but we were young, and it’s difficult. I wanted an abortion. As soon as I heard the words pregnant and baby, I knew that meant saying goodbye to all that I’d worked for. I’d been so determined to get out of that town, so I kept my grades as high as possible. And I mean high. I wouldn’t be satisfied unless my results were at least 98%. I’d been accepted into college and everything. And having a baby would stop any of that happening.
"But Dawson wanted the baby. You know about my depression, Betsy. This was the first time it showed itself. My older sister, Dawson and his father all seemed to be ganging up against me…I felt I’d let my mother down…I wanted to lead a normal life… I moved out to live with some friends and one night… I lost the baby. And that night, I knew that I’d lost Dawson." Joey paused for a few moments to catch her breath and compose herself.
"I hadn’t gone through with an appointment I’d made to have the abortion. I was confused about it all, but didn’t want to lose Dawson over it. The night before I miscarried, I said goodbye to him. We finally put an end to us. It was like a sign. And I felt so guilty. If I’d stuck with Dawson, maybe I’d have kept the baby. And by then, I wanted the baby.
"I was hurting the people around me as well as myself, and I became obsessed with the belief that I needed to stay away from those I didn’t want to hurt. I spent the last couple of weeks at school in a drunken haze with the popular crowd, or reading Bible passages that condemned my behaviour as various sins against God. I stayed in Capeside long enough to get my diploma, and then I left. I couldn’t stand to live there separated from my sister, my nephew and Dawson. So where did I end up? Las Vegas.
"Look at me, Betsy. In my 21 years, I’ve lived. I’ve lost a parent, had another incarcerated… twice… I’ve helped to deliver my sister’s baby in Dawson’s living room. I’ve come top in my graduating class, got pregnant, had a miscarriage. Now I sing to a bunch of drunken men who pinch my ass to make a living. And Dawson’s come back. And Dawson appears to love me. So I think I’m gonna take that chance." Betsy nodded for a few moments, thinking.
"So what do you see happening?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Dawson’s at college, isn’t he?" Joey nodded. "So you’re gonna take a chance on a man without an income, who hasn’t had the experiences you have, and would probably want you to go straight back to Capeside, which is what you spent eighteen years trying to escape?"
"Uh-huh," Joey mumbled, and then realised what Betsy was saying. "Do you mean that I should give him up?"
"I just mean be careful. Don’t give up on him, but don’t give up on yourself either. But if you two go walking off into the sunset together, what’s gonna happen tomorrow? You’re completely different people now to what you were three years ago. If you couldn’t survive then, what chance do you have now? There’s too much unresolved. Be careful honey. That’s all I’m saying."
Betsy walked out of the room, leaving Joey behind to ponder her future.
Dawson smiled as he saw Joey finally come out of the bathroom. He nodded at her, and she walked over to him.
"Are you ready to go now?" Dawson asked. "I figured we could go out to dinner, catch a movie or hit the casino. What do you think?" Joey did not respond. In fact, she wasn’t even looking at him. "Jo?" he asked. She finally looked up. "What’s wrong, honey?" he asked. She paused for a moment, then shook her head.
"Nothing," she said. But her voice betrayed a deeper meaning. Dawson frowned.
"OK, I’m not feeling too good. Could we do this tomorrow or something please?"
"Sure. Do you want a ride home?" he asked. Joey nodded.
Dawson parked his car outside the house as he’d been directed. Joey didn’t get out of the car.
"Joey? What’s going on. Please don’t cut me out again," he pleaded. Joey started to chew on her lower lip.
"Dawson, can you answer me a few questions?"
"Sure, go ahead," he said, not fully understanding her.
"What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to go through?"
"Losing you," he replied without pausing.
"Losing the baby."
"And after that?"
"My parents separating."
"But they’re back together, right?" Dawson nodded. "And you’re sat in your car with me, right?" Again, Dawson nodded. "goodnight, Dawson," she said softly before getting out of the car. Dawson frowned again. She was making little to no sense tonight. Once he’d seen her enter the house safely, he drove away. Joey watched him from the window, tears of sadness filling her eyes.
She lay on her bed deep in thought for hours that night. This new revelation hurt, but she knew she had to think seriously. Before, she’d been in the midst of a mental illness. But now? She felt fine. She knew that nothing could ever be sure – she’d felt fine before – but the suggestion had come from an actual person, not a voice in her head. She loved Dawson. She knew that. She couldn’t explain it – there was no specific thing about him that she loved. She just knew that they would be together one day. But need it be now? When they accepted their fate, Joey knew it would have to be forever. And if they did it now, things would go wrong, and they’d break apart. Joey didn’t know if she was ready for that commitment yet, and she was certain that Dawson wasn’t. Throughout his life, Dawson had always believed that love was forever, and had always believed he was ready for that love. And Joey had always been cynical about that faith of his. She knew that, realistically, things went wrong, even when people were very much in love. Love was never perfect. Her mother had loved her father, and he had cheated on her. Joey had loved her mother, and her mother had died. Mitch had loved Gail, and yet they had known that at that moment, they couldn’t live together. And Joey had loved Dawson, but had run away.
There was still so much Joey wanted to do. When she’d left Capeside, she’d reasoned that it was ‘cause she wanted to search out the excitement and live a little. But what had happened? She’d ended up in Las Vegas, singing in a bar and living under another family’s roof. She didn’t feel any more an insider. She felt just as lonely as ever. She’d go down to the bar each night, and sing a little, flirt with a couple of customers, and then drink. She’d got drunk there more than once. She’d pretended that she was happy with that. She knew right from the start that she’d need to move on one day, but always thought of that day being in the distant future. But now? Now, after having seen Dawson, she was filled with regret. She wished that she’d gone running off to college, instead of Las Vegas. She could have sought help there for her depression, and still have done something. Right now, she’d have left school with a degree, maybe a job, and maybe an apartment of her own. She needed to move on. Because at the moment, she was just another singer in a bar. She had graduated high school, but that was it. Her only qualification. And to get a job, she’d need something more on her CV than failed prostitute and impoverished singer.
She needed to leave Dawson again.
As much as it would break his heart, and hers, she knew it was the right thing to do. Otherwise, she’d get dragged in again by the current. She needed independence. She would go off and find her own life before settling down with him. She wanted to have his children one day, get married, and maybe even live in Capeside in his parent’s big house. But right now, aged 21, she would go out and get an education. She would make herself happy (no pun intended!) before letting herself settle. She would seek the adventures before living her life.
Las Vegas, August 9th, 2004
Dawson looked at his watch. Joey had told him to meet her here at 3pm. It was currently 2:58, and he’d been waiting over half an hour. She’d sounded upset over the phone, and he was concerned. Tomorrow was his last day in Las Vegas. He was going to take her with him, or stay here and live with her here. But by the end of the year, he would make her his wife. He was determined not to let her go again. He didn’t even care about finishing his degree at college. He loved her more than anything. Of course, it helped that a degree wasn’t a necessity to a filmmaker.
She watched from the bus window as Luke walked up to Dawson. Dawson’s face immediately portrayed concern, mixed with a knowledge of what was to come. Luke handed him the letter, and left quietly. Dawson scanned the letter, and Joey’s heart broke as he looked at it in anguish. The bus started up, and Joey watched as his figure became tiny, wiping away the tears that fell, betraying her façade of indifference. She set off on the route to New York broken, yet knowing this as right.
I’m so sorry. I’m going again. But this time, I will succeed. And I’ll find you again. And then, if you’ll have me, I’ll be yours forever. The next time we meet will be after our last separation. I love you.
I was meant for you. And you were meant for me.
I’ll be in New York, but please don’t come and find me. Let me do this alone.
That’s it folks! The end of ‘This Girl’s Life’. But fear not, the story will continue in ‘Eternal Flame’. Will Dawson try to find Joey? Will they meet other people? Will this story ever end?
Thanks for this series go to Meaghan, Ines and Michelle. Without their help and encouragement, I would never have got past part three.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series.
Thank you all so much for reading this.
13th November 1999
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