Dawson Leery entered the MGM studios, a bit covertly. Ever since his films hit, the paparazzi had been stalking him. It had a lot to do with the fact they couldn’t seem to dig up much information on the now famous director Wade Leery. In fact, most of their leads fell through. Because that was Dawson. Dawson was Wade. He had his reasons when he’d changed his name. Now it didn’t seem to matter as much. With his fact out there, they could find him any time they wanted to. But this wasn’t occurring to him this particular day. This Tuesday, April 5th of 2011, he was thinking about his newest project.. a television series in development. Definitely a medium it had never occurred to him to enter, but he loved the idea when he had come up with it.
He entered his personal office through a maze of doors, sets, and people, a few waving to him occasionally. He returned these with a brief smile. As he entered his office, dressed in a directors casual jeans and pullover, he let his smile turn into a grin for his good friend and personal assistant, Madelyn Phillmore.
“Hello, Wade. What’s up?” She grinned back from behind a computer.
“Not much, Madelyn. Did John call back yet about the pitch to Fox?”
“Yep,” she smiled silly.
“Well?” Dawson asked anxiously.
“What do you think, Mr. Leery?” She smiled even bigger and ran from behind his desk and gave him a huge hug. Dawson whooped and swung Madelyn around.
“They’re really going to go into production with the series?” Madelyn nodded.
“Call goes out tomorrow to the New York and La agents.”
“Madelyn, I love you..”
“Yeah, Yeah, Mr. Charming,” Dawson felt so good. He couldn’t believe his own television series was going to happen. And he was thankful he had been with Madelyn when he found out. She was his best friend. It was true, there were murmurings around Hollywood and Paramount that the two had an “extracurricular relationship” but it simply wasn’t true. Madelyn was very pretty, and young, but Dawson wasn’t interested. He hadn’t dated in a long time, and Maddie truly was just his best friend. Unlike someone from a long time ago…
“Oh, Wade. You have a piece of mail here,” Maddie had returned to her desk. “ A personal letter.”
“Just put it with the others. Jan will be here to answer my mail in an hour or so, I think.”
“I really think you need to read this one,” her expression turned serious.
“Why? It wasn’t addressed to me at home, so it can’t be personal correspondance. And since my mom lives with me…” he waved Madelyn off with a hand. As he was about step into his office, his back to her, when she called out,
“Dawson?” His shoulders tightened first, the rest of his body followed. “That’s who the letters addressed to..?”
“No one had called me that in years,” he said quietly.
“That was your name? Dawson Leery?”
“A long time ago. I changed it when I came out to LA. A new start.. people didn’t know where I was and that’s the way I liked it.”
“But someones found you.” Dawson knew that he was now going to have to tell Madelyn the whole sordid story.
“So, Dawson,” she stressed the name. “Whose Wade Leery?”
Dawson smiled a little, “My middle name. Maddie.. I am so, so sorry I’ve kept this from you. You’re my best friend.”
“Well, I would hope so, Mr. Director, for all the work I do for you!” She smiled. “Listen, Wade.. Dawson.. Leery, I know if you kept it a secret, you must have had a good reason. But to tell you the truth I’m kinda realizing here, that I don’t really know anything about you. I don’t. You tell the press you come from the east coast and that’s about it. And I don’t get much more than that, either.” Dawson looked at Maddie.
“How long have you got?”
“However long my boss will let me have,” she teased.
Dawson grinned, but quickly sobered. Glancing down at the floor and then at her again he asked, “You want to hear a story?” She nodded and they went into his private office.
This was all a long time ago. You have to keep that in mind. I was 17. Things in my life were tumultuous to say the least. I lived in a small town in Massachutsetts called Capeside. My parents were newly divorced, everything seemed very unsure. I had a group of five friends: Pacey, Andie, Jack, Jen, and.. and Joey. Pacey and Joey I had known since I was five. The three of us grew up together. Pacey dated a girl who had moved to town the middle of sophmore year. Her name was Andie. Andie’s brother was Jack. Jack and Jen, by many convulted plot twists, ended up living together in Jen’s grams’ house. This didn’t worry Jen’s grams because Jack was gay, so he was of not threat of further corrupting her daughter. Ahem. Ahem. When Pacey and Andie got together, Joey and I were just breaking up. We had been best friends and started dating sophmore year. We got back together again towards the spring of ’99 and broke up once again that summer. I swore to myself I wouldn’t date her again, after that. I knew that another year of breakups and even our friendship wouldn’t be intact. But when we got back together Spring of Junior year, I thought we’d be together forever. I really did. And of course, we weren’t. But we really were happy, for a long time..
“Dawson Leery! Get your hands off of me!” Joey squealed as Dawson chased her up the stairs to his bedroom.
“Aw, but Jo, you’re so much fun to tickle. It makes you produce the coolest noise.” Joey batted at him, as he pushed her up against the wall outside his bedroom and began to kiss her. She easily succumbed to the kiss, but she slowly began to creep her hands and fingers up to his stomach until…
“Josephine Potter.. haha..ha. ha… haa.. stop it!” Dawson managed to gasp out.
“What? You can dish it out, but you can’t take it?” She grinned and pulled his t-shirt off his body. “This will make you even more fun to tickle!” She said.
Dawson pulled her with him, into his room, and slammed the door shut, even though Mitch was staying overnight at his new girlfriends. Joey raised her eyebrows as she got into his room.
“Dawson, are you planning to take advantage of the fact your father isn’t home?”
“You know I am.. the rebel in me is dying to come out.”
“No,” said Joey teasingly. “I think something else is dying to come out.” She began to unbutton her shirt, and Dawson groaned.
“You’re killing me, Joey.” Her bright laugh permeated the room.
“C’mere, lover,” she whispered.
I knew at that point, I think, that things were too good to be true. I was in love, and I was most definitely being loved back. The entire groups dynamic was working. Pacey and Andie had hit a rough spot in their relationship and were no longer dating, but instead of it being ugly between them as it had before, they seemed to be amicable. Jack and Jen were the best friends Joey and I were. It was something I think they both needed desperately at that time in their lives. Plus they were always hosting these idiotic “Friends Nights” that the rest of us pretended to scorn with disgust, but that we loved secretly.
“Tonight’s game will be..” Jen drew a slip of paper from a hat that held over 20 ideas of games or activities we could do on “Friend’s Night.”
“Truth or Dare.”
“Oh, no…”Dawson groaned. “I hate that game. Whose idea was it to put that activity in there?” Jen sheepishly raised her hand. “Jen!”
“I’m sorry.. but I’m just dying to get certain details on all of the rest of your lives!” Pacey threw a kernel of popcorn in the air and caught it.
“For those of us who have lives,” he said wryly. Joey laughed.
“What’s wrong Pacey? Not getting enough action?” A glance over at Andie, told her that this was making her uncomfortable. “Um, never mind, don’t answer that.”
Jack decided to cover up the tension. “Well,” he said, “since this is all Jen’s brilliant idea, I vote she goes first. Don’t you guys think?”
Jen blushed but said, “Hit me with it. I don’t have anything to hide.”
“So, Jen,” Said Jack. “What were all those squeaking noises that sounded like bedsprings coming from your room the other night?” Jen blushed even deeper and hit Jack on the shoulder.
“You know perfectly well there were no such noises, you ass. He’s a liar.” She said to the rest of the group. A chorus of “Uh huhs..” and “Yeah, We KNOW..” followed.
“You ass!” Said Jen, trying to hide a grin. “He is.. he’s a liar!”
That was around the middle of senior year. We were, of course, applying to colleges at that time, and trying to plan out a future. I suppose it had never occurred to me that Joey wouldn’t want to do something conventional for college. It probably should have. She always talked about getting out of Capeside, far out of it. Anyway, we were applying to mostly the same schools and we both had the idea of New York University being our number one choice. When I got accepted to the film school and she got accepted to the art program, we were elated. But then a letter came for her. And it changed everything..
“What happened now?” They were sitting outside on his roof in the warm June air.
“I don’t know, Dawson. It’s so weird. I guess someone dropped out the program at the last minute and my grades and SAT’s were the next highest. God, can you imagine Dawson? An entire semester around the world on a cruise ship?”
“But, Joey, I’m sorry for sounding selfish, but what about us?” She touched his cheek.
“Dawson, I’ll be back after Christmas. I can’t not do this Dawson. I have wanted something like this my whole life.. to see the world, to know what it has to offer. I need the space to figure the world out, to figure it all out. To know what I want out of life.. and who I want out of life.”
“Jesus!” Dawson yelled. “ I knew it! I knew that you would do this again!” He jumped up and climbed in his window, pacing around the room.
Joey followed, her face held a look of anger. “What the hell do you mean, you knew I would do this? What do you mean by THIS?” She yelled.
“This. This, I can’t be with you right now. I need to know who I am first..” he hissed. “Three times Joey! For three years you’ve broken my heart! Over and over again you’ve stamped on it.”
“Yeah, because you live in a world that’s Dawson-centered. Don’t you care at all about my happiness?”
“Not care about your happiness!” He couldn’t believe she was saying this. “All I’ve done is care about your happiness. It was always about what you needed, what you wanted.”
“Fuck you Dawson. That’s not true. I have done everything in my power to be worthy of being your best friend and girlfriend.” There was a silence for minutes, at least. Neither looked at each other.
“You’re right,” he said quietly. “You need to go. And I hope when you find yourself, you don’t end up finding the selfish brat I see.” Her eyes widened with hurt.
“Dawson, please.. I want us to always be best friends. I want you to always be in my life. I want you there when I get married, even if it’s not to you. I want you there when I have my first baby, even if you’re not the father. I want you.”
“That’s the thing Joey. It’s always occurred to you that I might not be that person for you. And that has never occurred to me. And I think that means something. I just haven’t been willing to take the hint.”
“Please, Dawson. I do love you.” Dawson shook his head and looked her straight in the eyes.
Quietly, not maliciously, only sadly, he said, “There’s no love left between us, Joey.” She shook her head.
“No, no. That’s not true.” The tears were streaming down her face. They were starting to well up in his own eyes.
“Yes, it is.” Dawson turned away. Out of the corner of his eye he watched her, her body shaking, climb out of his window.”
That was the last time I ever saw her. And it was ten years ago, almost exactly. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what happened in that room. All I know for sure, was she broke my heart so badly that it has taken me a long time to recover. She was my first love, my first lover, my first best friend. And she was none of those things after that. I didn’t aknowledge her existence. I left, five days later, and got an apartment down here with my mother, who was just itching for a way out of Capeside. I asked my mom to use her maiden name, Walter, and I took my middle name. We don’t speak of her. And that’s how it’s been ever since.
Dawson sighed, looking down at his desk blotter, which had smatterings of wet spots from his tears. Madelyn had picked up a tissue of her own.
“So what happened?” He looked up.
“What do you mean? I just told you.”
“I mean, to the rest of them? Did Joey go around the world? Where’s Pacey and Andie? Are Jen and Jack still best friends?” Dawson frowned deeply.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “My dad and I still talk, but his information is meager. The only thing he knows for sure is that Joey did get on that boat. He thinks the other four left town, because he never sees them. Pacey came looking for me a couple days after I left. But.. my father had made a promise to me. I didn’t want to be connected to Joey in any way. That meant not being connected to any of them. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t right, and none of them deserved to be hurt that way. But at the time I was so hurt, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I hear Jen’s name around occasionally. I know she’s somewhere in Chicago and that she produces a couple of indie films. I don’t know enough to find her. I don’t know if I want to know enough to find her.”
“Wade,” Maddie cleared her throat. “I am so sorry.” She leaned over and gave him a long, hard hug. “That is so sad.”
After a few more moments of holding him, he cleared his throat and held up the letter.
“And so now,” he said. “ I have this letter. This letter addressed to a Dawson Leery. A Dawson Leery who doesn’t exist any more.”
“It’s a girl’s handwriting,” Maddie observed.
“Is it hers?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t looked at anything she wrote me in years.”
“You kept it all?” He nodded. “You know, the only way you’re going to know what that letter says is if you open it.” He nodded again.
“I know that.”
“Here,” Gently she took the letter from him and slid open the flap of the envelope. Pulling out the letter, he could only gulp and stare at the piece of white stationary with firm slant printed in blue ink. From the Desk of Josephine Potter. The very top. It was there.
“Read it or I will,” threatened Maddie. Dawson took the sheets of paper with a shaky hand and began to read aloud in a similarly shaking voice.
Well, you’ll never guess who this is. Or maybe you will, I don’t know. I’m probably the last person in the world you ever expected to hear from at the offices of the great “Wade Leery”, director. I always believed in you Dawson. When I saw Spaces I knew it was your work before I saw the credits. I have never been more proud in my entire life..” Dawson broke the reading.
“She saw my movie.” Maddie nodded encouragingly. He continued.
“God, I don’t know why I’m writing this. I can only hope that when you open this letter, you won’t rip it up.” His voice caught. “Dawson, I know that you haven’t kept in touch with anyone. There is so much you don’t know about all of our lives. About Pacey and Andie. Jen and Jack. Dawson, they’ve gone on to do amazing things, and frankly, I think they’re hurt you’ve never wanted to find out what they are.” He stopped again. “But I know that’s mostly my fault. I never meant to hurt you the way I did. I didn’t. I was young.. and stupid.. and naďve. I really thought what I did was for the best. Maybe it was. But I miss you every day of my life, Dawson. That last thing you said to me that last night has haunted me for the past ten years. I refuse to believe that there is no love anymore between us. And if you don’t love me, then I don’t know anything about this world.” This was becoming unbearable. “I remember another thing you said to me though. Ages ago, when we were fifteen. You probably think I was too drunk to remember but I distinctly remember you saying 'If you ever need me, all you have to do is ask.’ I’m asking.
Dawson, I’m getting married. That will probably hurt too. But after seven years of not hearing a word from you.. I lost all hope. I need you here. I need someone to walk me down the aisle. Please, Dawson. I know things didn’t end up good between us. I want to rectify that. And I want my best friend at my wedding. I can’t imagine having another person give me away.
Pacey offered, but that buffoon would trip me in front of all the guests.” Even in his shock Dawson let out a laugh at that one. “Pacey and Andie are coming into town next week and Jack and Jen are already here. The ceremony is May 6th. Please come Dawson. Come soon. We all want to see you. All of us, but especially me. Call me. Write me. Come.
“Wow,” Maddie let out a deep breath. “What are you going to do?”
“What do you think Maddie? I can’t .. I can’t watch her get married, watch her marry another man. And I can’t go there, wherever there is, what’s it postmarked?”
“I can’t go to Seattle and see them all and pretend everything will be the way it was. I can’t do it. I won’t.”
Maddie took his hands in hers. “It won’t be like it was. But it can be a start.”
“No,” Dawson shook his head firmly. “No. I can’t.” Maddie sighed. Somehow she was going to convince him to go to Seattle.
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