One Week by: Jade
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He sat at the edge of the dock, stalling as he tried to figure out what to say to her once he saw her. *****
The day before, they had parted in front of his house and she had hurried home before Bessie could call out a search party. They hadn't spoken to each other until this morning when she phoned him.
"We need to talk."
He couldn't tell from her tone if she was regretting what had transpired between them but either way, her words posed an ominous threat to his peace of mind.
"What am I going to do?" he asked himself as he pictured Andie crying her eyes out and throwing eggs at him after he told her.
Told her what exactly?
Her footsteps were quiet, her voice soft. She had seen him from the window and came out instead of waiting for him to knock on her door, that is if he was ever planning to.
He got to his feet awkwardly. "Hey," he replied, not sure where his hands should go.
Her face fell a little when she noted his uneasiness but she quickly covered it up with a bright smile. "So, let's forget yesterday ever happened. What say you?"
"Is that what you want?"
She sobered. "Isn't that what you want?"
"This is ridiculous. I- I asked you first."
She seemed to mull it over as she looked down at her feet.
"I don't know," she finally said.
"What do we do?"
He remained silent.
"But it doesn't matter," she hastened to add. "I'm not forcing you to make a decision. I know we can't-"
He had walked up slowly to her, his face a contortion of emotions. He bent his head to hers and whispered against her lips. "Let's just worry about now."
She closed her eyes and nodded mutely. Relief washed over her and was reflected in her eyes when she opened them briefly again. Tilting her head, she parted her lips against his and tried to forget everything else but the moment.
Her living room was dark except for what little natural light was filtered through the windows. It was almost ten in the evening. The television set flickered in the background. Pacey was propped against the arm of the couch and the length of his body stretched across it. Joey was lying on the inside, her head on his chest with her fingers gripped to his collar. Her face was half-hidden by her fallen hair and she hadn't moved much in the past ten minutes.
"No," she murmured into his shirt. "I was just thinking."
He twirled his finger around a strand of her hair. "I haven't been watching the movie either."
She shifted her body to look at him and her expression was one of sadness. He reached out to touch her cheek.
"Wanna tell me?"
"Seven days. One week before Dawson comes home and our actions haunt us."
"From where we've started, we've got nowhere to go."
He inhaled deeply. "Do you want me to leave?"
She shut her eyes and shook her head adamantly. "It's not going to solve anything."
"Joey, right now my mind's a blank but I do know I don't want to run away from this and I don't intend to."
She moved away from him and brought her legs toward her, sitting upright. She used the remote to turn off the television set.
"We never actually had that talk."
Pacey sighed and straightened. "Okay, I'll go first." He turned toward her. "Look at me," he asked.
She met his gaze.
"What I feel for you is, is complicated. I don't know any other way to say it. I want to tell you things but I stop myself before I say too much. I want to be with you but morally, I can't."
"Andie," she whispered.
"Dawson and I are over."
"No," he laughed softly and without humor. "You and Dawson will never be over."
"And you and Andie have so much together." She felt like crying. "So, this is a mistake. Why are we even discussing it?"
"Because," he took her hand, "what my head's saying, my heart isn't listening." He touched his other hand to her face and smiled ruefully. "Andie is an incredible gift but-" He paused. "But."
"You know this is the longest chat we've ever had that didn't involve a sarcastic remark."
"I pour my heart out and that's all you have to say."
She laughed in spite of her tears and kissed him.
"My turn." She gave his hand a squeeze. "I haven't thought about Dawson and me in awhile," she confessed. "I don't know what that means but I don't want to overanalyze it."
He waited for her to go on.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is," she said, taking a deep breath. "I don't have a problem with it if you don't."
Pacey was taken aback by her proposition. She was asking for a short-lived romance that would last only as long as they could or would let it
whichever option came first.
"I can't promise you anything-"
"I'm not asking."
"Just say the word and it's over."
Pacey was overwhelmed with turmoil. He lost his ability to think straight and speak coherently. So instead he did the only thing he could. He put his arm around her and let her settle her head on his shoulder and breathed in her scent.
What have I done, she questioned herself. This is not me. She buried her face further into his shirt to stop from rationalizing.
From the bottom of the stairway, Bessie had heard enough of the conversation to thank her lucky stars she never had to go through the experience of being in love with two people at the same time.
By the corner of the street, they stood watching some people hurry by, some people walking leisurely, others just sitting down enjoying the sunshine. Sadly, they couldn't do any of those things together for risk of being seen by someone from school or knew.
"I'll pick up some things for Bessie and then I'll meet you in two hours."
"Okay," he nodded his agreement and ruffled her hair affectionately. "I'll miss you."
She rolled her eyes. In return, he kissed her lightly on the mouth.
She started to go in one direction and he, the other but they were tugged forward again when they didn't let go of each other's hand.
Reluctantly, she made the first move of releasing her grip. "I'll see you later."
He let go and went on his way, hands stuffed in his pockets. She turned back to go on her errand and gasped softly in surprise.
There was no doubt in her mind and from the latter's expression that Jen had seen the whole thing.
She stirred her coffee distractedly.
There were a couple of ladies whispering to each other and pointing at her from the table across but Joey wasn't paying much attention to them. Jen, however, was getting increasingly annoyed and looked back pointedly and glared until they quieted down and turned away grudgingly. One of them shot her a rude look but she was used to those and simply raised her brow.
Joey was healing nicely and there was only a slight semblance of injuries that had marred her face before. As a matter of genuine concern, Jen asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," she said, looking at her. "I think." She put down the spoon and rested her elbows on the table, crossing her fingers under her chin. "Until now."
"You have nothing to worry about. I'm not going to say anything."
"That's the least of my worries."
Jen could empathize and tried words of comfort. "It isn't your fault. Things happen."
"Things like that don't happen to me." She covered her face with her hands and allowed herself a short cry of frustration.
"How long have you and Pacey-" Jen stopped talking when Joey looked up at her. "Hey, you don't have to tell me."
"Just two days," she surrendered the information.
"It could have been a lot sooner," Jen noted without thinking.
"What are you saying? It's not like we planned to hurt-"
"Joey," she said. "Calm down. I didn't mean it the way it came out." When the latter had been sufficiently placated, she continued, "Remember the video I shot of us that day in the park and later at the house?"
"I think you should watch it."
Joey raised a brow quizzically.
"Any fool could have seen, you know, there was-," she paused, searching for the right word to use. "Tension. And then so many things happened and I became more and more sure."
"Does Jack know?"
"Well, he's the exception, so I guess," she drawled on, "that makes him a fool. Jack's confused about a lot of things."
There was a stillness and then Joey laughed.
"I really shouldn't have said that," Jen said, embarrassed.
Joey laughed a bit more and then she sobered up. "Do you think he would tell Andie if he found out?"
Jen shook her head. "He would understand that things never happen the way you plan them to be and a hundred fingers pointing accusingly at you is not going to help ease the pain of trying to figure them out."
She shut her eyes briefly. "I know in my heart that it'll never work out. Not now. Not yet."
"Shakespeare's right. Love and reason keep little company these days."
She was quick to interject. "I don't know if what I feel for him is love."
"How does he feel about you?"
"I know he loves Andie."
"That wasn't what I asked."
"I don't think I want to answer any more questions."
"Okay," Jen replied and dropped the subject as though it had never been brought up.
Neither of them had ever voiced declarations of love and forever, whether intentional or accidental, jokingly or seriously. She was careful not to let her tongue slip and if she had sensed that he was about to say something he might regret, she would have stopped him.
But he didn't.
They were non-committal. Just the way they liked it whilst they were trying to figure things out.
There were another four days to go before Dawson's return.
"Yippee!" Pacey said, swinging Alexander up and down like a toy plane in flight.
"Pacey, put him down before he throws up what's left of his lunch," she warned.
"Come on, the little guy loves it." He held the baby securely under its arms and wriggled its body from side to side. "Right, Alex?"
Alexander chuckled and reached out to touch Pacey's nose. "Dada," he said, in childish mischief, attempting to talk.
"This shouldn't take too long." Bessie walked into the living room and started rummaging through the drawers and under the cushions for her keys. "Pam and I are just going to have a chat and I'll- You sure you can handle Alex and dinner?"
Joey looked up from her novel. "My cooking skills well surpass the art of heating up TV dinners in the microwave, you know."
"Okay, I get it." She grabbed her keys off the floor where she spotted them. "I'm out of here."
She made it to the front lawn before Joey counted down the seconds to when she would return. "Three, two, one," she muttered, not looking up from her book this time.
"Get lost, Bessie."
"All right! Pacey, be careful with him!"
"Don't worry. I'm just going to bounce Alex off the floor a couple of times on his head to improve his IQ."
Joey chortled and Alexander let out a fit of giggles.
Bessie gave up. "Why do I even bother?" she said and finally left.
When she came home a few hours later, Alexander was already asleep. Stepping around the toys on the floor to get to them, she gently unclasped his fingers from Pacey's shirt and lifted him from the latter's chest and into her arms. "Alex, time to go to bed," she whispered.
Pacey's head lolled to one side of the armchair he was in. He stirred when the weight was taken off him but didn't wake up from his slumber.
After putting her son in his cot, she turned on the baby monitor in the room and carried the other one with her, wondering where Joey was. She found her sister at the back of the house, her opened sketchbook kept close to her while she appeared to be daydreaming.
"Would you rather have the sun or the moon?"
Joey turned her gaze on Bessie. "The sun or the moon. If you had to choose, which would you rather have?"
"Let's see," she replied, leaning against the door leading to the yard. "One's bright with zest all the time, even when it feels like rainy days are ahead. Seize today is its motto. The other is a little dull but dead romantic and full of sentiment and lives an almost-perfect existence." She settled into a chair. "Hard choice to make."
"Bessie, I was asking a serious question."
"And I was seriously considering it."
"You know, I'm not about to lecture you on doing the right or wrong thing because believe it or not, I was sixteen once. Everything is a blur when you're that age, especially when it comes to matters concerning boys. And in your case, two great boys."
"One who hates me for letting him go when it most mattered. Another who already has a girlfriend he adores and I've become the third party."
"Nobody ever said growing up was easy."
"Trust you to make me feel worse than I already do."
Bessie got up to sit next to her. "Enough of talking. Just say what you feel from the top of your head. Don't even think."
"How do you feel about Dawson?"
"Love him," she replied without hesitation.
"How do you feel about Pacey?"
She opened her mouth but no words were spoken. She closed it again.
Pacey shut his eyes against what felt like a stab through his heart. He shouldn't have been surprised but he was. He walked away before he overheard any more of a conversation he had accidentally come upon.
What he didn't see was Joey break into a slow smile after her momentary pause.
"I stopped only because I didn't know how to verbalize what I felt. When you asked me the question, this warm glow and this whole mass of feelings came over me."
Bessie beamed slightly and covered Joey's hand with her own in reassurance.
"Ask me the question again."
She obliged. "How do you feel about Pacey?"
"I could grow to love him very much. I think I might already be halfway there."
To be continued
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