One True Thing by: Jade
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we're going to keep changing our minds and ... and sometimes even our hearts. And through all of that, the only real thing we can offer each other is forgiveness
- Joey Potter, Homecoming
"You disappeared on us yesterday."
The hems of his pants were folded to his knees and his bare feet were soaked in the mixture of sand and salt water as the tide came in. He continued to throw stones into the ocean as though he hadn't heard her come up beside him.
"What's the matter?" she asked this time.
"Nothing," he muttered, watching the ripples he was creating.
Before she could say more, the water had threatened to come up to her knees and she quickly moved out of the way before her jeans got wet. She folded up its ends and took off her sandals, rather piqued.
"Pacey, are you throwing a tantrum?"
"No," came a single word.
Her patience had been tried and she decided it was best to leave before she started screaming at him.
He sensed it and grabbed hold of her arm before she could go.
She allowed him to do so and waited for his explanation.
"Do you realize you say my name a lot when you're mad at me?"
"Shut up, Pacey."
He dropped her arm and cradled her face with surprisingly tender hands. "Are you sure about this?"
His tone and demeanor puzzled, and to an extent alarmed her because she was frightened of what he was going to tell her.
She needed to know. "What happened between last night and today?"
"I just need for you to tell me you're sure."
She stared into his face intently. "Yes," she replied, not looking away for a second. "I'm still waiting for you to answer the question."
His arms fell to his side and he avoided her piercing gaze.
"If you're not going to be honest with me, there's no point," she said.
He stood with his back to her, watching the ocean.
I love you too much to make you stay if it's not me you want. He put his hands in his pockets. "Andie is coming back two days after the start of school," he finally said.
He looked down at the sand and squeezed his eyes shut, his facial expression one of anguish.
She let the silence between them settle for a good while before she stepped up beside him and linked her arm through his.
"Let's go," was the only thing she could think to say and they continued to walk the length of the beach.
"Where are you headed?" Bessie asked, stepping in and out of the two connected rooms, trying to clean the mess off the floors and baby-talk with Alexander, who was sitting in his cot whilst chatting with Joey who was packing an overnight bag, at the same time.
"Awfully hard to get some peace at this time, don't you think?"
We're going a little out of the city. We saw a sign for this place on our way back the last time and we're checking it out." She stuffed the last of her clothing into the bag and grabbed a couple of things off the dresser. "We'll be back Friday night."
Bessie walked up to her, arms filled with toys. She was about to speak when her attention was caught by something else. "Joey, what's that on your neck? It looks like someone bit- is that a hickey?"
"No!" she denied, turning red rapidly. "It was a mosquito bite."
"Uh huh," her sister replied, eyebrow raised.
"Ok - Alex, take that out of your mouth!"
While Bessie ducked into the other room, her arm automatically reached out to rub her neck and her eyes wandered around, checking that she hadn't forgotten anything. They settled on an old teddy bear sitting unnoticeably on the top of a chest of drawers. She picked it up and fingered the string of beads around its neck.
In her mind, she could still see his awkward smile when he first put them on her.
Looking up again, she found herself face to face with a framed photograph of the three of them. She shook her head as if to disperse her thoughts and then she reached out and put it facedown, away from sight.
She didn't know why yet but she took the necklace off the teddy bear and put it in with the rest of her belongings before zipping the bag up.
"Bessie, I got to go. Pacey will be here any minute," she said and headed downstairs.
The latter stuck her head out from the doorway separating the two rooms. "Be good!" she shouted.
They followed the rickety signs to the out-of-the-way inn and as they had hoped, the place was only half full.
They had an early dinner before they decided to ask for directions to venture further into the suburbia and stopped by the reception counter. The innkeeper's wife looked sympathetically at Pacey's yellowed bruises.
"Boys these days are always getting into fights over nothing," she said loudly to her husband, who shushed her promptly.
"Martha, leave the poor kid alone."
Joey reached for Pacey's hand and gave it a squeeze. He smiled reassuringly at her.
Martha grumbled audibly and left her husband to take care of their enquiry.
After exchanging friendly advice and banter, they received the directions they required and set off on their way.
"Turn left here," she instructed, reading from the map. "It'll be ten minutes before we get to another sign." Then she folded it back into fours and put it on the dashboard. She dug deep into her pocket for a tube of fruit pastilles and popped one into Pacey's mouth before her own and started to fiddle with the radio.
"You know, I've been waiting to bring it up."
"Bring what up?"
"Your erm-interesting taste in music."
She smacked him on the shoulder. "I have eclectic tastes. What's wrong with the kind of music I like?"
"Alternative?" he said, as if it explained it all.
"As compared to?"
"Now rock is an entire thing altogether."
They began to badger each other about likes and dislikes and launched into heated debates. Over the next twenty minutes, Pacey even threatened to stop the truck and abandon her a couple of times and she in turn, dared him to.
For once in a long time, it seemed like things were normal again.
"Wow," they breathed in unison.
Joey grabbed her sketchbook and a box of pencils from the back seat and was the first one out of the truck. Pacey followed, clearly stupefied by the sight that laid before him.
"I could stay here forever to draw," Joey said, taking in the grand expanse of green - trees, bushes, plants of all types and a lake. They could hear birds chirping loudly and happily from all directions and behind the big picture they viewed, the sun was setting off a warm glow. It was almost
"Mr. Robert Firth arrived in America from England at the age of 19, made his money and met his wife 10 years his junior in Boston. Together, they built their life in the suburbs and raised three perfect children."
Joey looked at him in surprise.
"I read it somewhere." He continued his commentary. "After the death of the missus, Mr. Firth isolated himself from the outside world in that huge house over there."
They both turned to look at the "huge house" a short distance away.
"Mausoleum is more like it," Joey commented.
"He died in 1981 and his children decided against selling a legacy and opted to open his estate to the public instead."
"I'm glad they did." She ran further into the field, started twirling and let out a shout of excitement. Her hair was blowing in the wind and reflected highlights from the sun. She winked at him and grinned.
Her joy was contagious. He ran after her and caught her in his arms. She dropped her book and pencils and clung on to him while he lifted her and whirled her around until he fell back to the grass, taking her with him. She laughed and he drew her closer to kiss her.
She had sketched until it was no longer possible to see without more light or imagination. Looking over her shoulder, he was impressed with what he saw.
"Joey, that's really good."
"It's hardly anything." She closed the book, slightly reddened. "You're just saying it to make me feel better."
"Hey, not when it comes to this." He moved to a sitting position where he could see her face. "You have a real talent. What were you planning to study at college?"
"I don't really know yet," she answered honestly. "All I've ever thought about was fleeing Capeside."
"Who hasn't?" he agreed. He got to his feet and helped her up. "Come on, let's go before it gets any darker. I don't want to be sharing a bed with whatever's howling in the background."
She persuaded him to return the next day before they headed for home.
She was out of the vehicle before he had even come to a complete stop. By the time he got out of the driver's seat, she was well settled on the grass and had continued her sketching. Pacey didn't wish to interrupt her and went on to the grounds as far as he could without crossing the boundary between exploring and trespassing.
He found his interest held by the design of the mansion as he neared it and imagined how he would design his own if opportunity, talent and money ever concurred. He had no idea how long he'd been standing there when he heard her calling his name.
He turned back and saw her signaling that she was going back to the truck to leave her things. He waited for her to do so, after which she joined him.
"What were you looking at?" she asked.
"I was imagining a lonely 90-year old man, living all by himself and never really getting over his wife's death."
She shrugged. "At least he loved once and was loved in return."
"When did you ever become the romantic sort?" he teased.
She stuck out her tongue at him.
"Shall we go for a walk?" he asked, offering his arm.
She took it. "Why not."
As time passed, their moods got more and more sombre with the knowledge that soon, they would have to face reality again.
A tree along the path they were taking momentarily diverted her attention. It stood out from the rest but she couldn't pinpoint the reason. Maybe because it seemed smaller due to its huge trunk. She went nearer to investigate and rubbed loose bark and dirt away to reveal engravings in the wood.
"K.F. loves E.G," read Pacey.
"There's more." She bent and spotted five more at the lower half of the trunk. "Some of these must have been carved by Firth's kids."
"I wonder how many of these couples actually stayed together," he added without thinking. When he realized what he had just said from the look on her face, he tried to lighten the mood by trying to come up with a witty remark. Unfortunately, he couldn't think of one.
"And look at this." She got down to her knees and held aside the grass that was obscuring her view of something she had been stepping on.
It was a plaque:
My beloved wife, lover & one true friend
I was lost but you brought me home
I Love You
Joey lethargically fell back on the ground and leaned against the tree. Pacey followed suit.
"We have to go back soon," she mumbled, suddenly feeling drained. "I wish we didn't have to."
"You know what's weird? Neither of us brought a camera."
On some level, he knew that he hadn't done so because he didn't want to be faced with any physical memory of the time spent with her when they were inevitably to part. It would be too painful.
She felt the same way.
"Do you think Robert Firth knew that his wife was his one true thing when he first met her?"
"If I have to forget everything that's happened, I want to at least remember this place and that we were here."
Her voice quivered when she spoke as she felt the toll of what she had been holding back all this time.
He took her hand. Looking about them, he spotted a fairly large rock by the tree. Pulling them both to their feet, he walked over to survey it. He started pushing at it and with Joey's help, pushed it aside quickly. Getting onto his knees, he started digging with his hands and lifted chucks of dirt to the side to make a hole.
"What are you doing?"
He lifted more dirt off the ground until he was satisfied. "We'll make our mark right here. We'll bury something of ours."
She got to her knees beside him. "But what?"
They looked at and then around each other.
"Do we have anything in the car?" he asked.
She was playing with the waistband of her pants when she felt them jiggle in her pocket. She had nearly forgotten she'd brought them.
"Beads," she whispered.
She lifted them out slowly and Pacey was surprised to see them again.
"I thought you'd have thrown them away by now."
She shook her head. "Never."
His expression hadn't changed. He didn't know what to say as he watched her lower the plastic necklace into the hole. It seemed so inexpensive and yet priceless.
She reached for his hand.
"No matter what happens," she said as she started to tear up. "I don't want us to ever say goodbye. Please promise me that."
He swallowed against the lump in his throat. "I'll always remember there was us, even if it was only for just awhile."
A single tear fell from her eye and onto his hand. He leaned over and kissed the top of her head as she rested it lightly on his shoulder.
They stayed like that until Joey moved away and wiped her tears with the back of her hand. "We should go."
Pacey nodded slightly and Joey helped him lift the portions of the ground he had removed back to where they had come from. When that was done, they pushed the rock to its original position.
They made their way back to the truck, arms around each other. And the place where they had been only moments before remained as it were and looked completely untouched.
He sat on his front porch, his mind never far from her smile and the difference she had made to his life in just three months. He had to teach himself to stop thinking about her because it wasn't going to last. It couldn't.
A car pulled up in front of the house and the person he was expecting came out the passenger side.
Dawson was home.
He embraced his best friend, afraid to look him in the eye because he was certain every bit of emotion he was feeling would be written clearly on his face.
His eyes dulled as he made the customary remark that this one and only time, he didn't mean.
To be continued
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