Let Me Let Go by: Jade
The duvet over her head was unceremoniously flung aside before she even had time to contemplate that there was somebody else in the room.
"That's it. You can't coop yourself up in here any longer."
She blinked several times before she recognized who it was.
"Go away," she said and reached for the blanket again.
Jen flung them further. "It's not like you to mope."
"Well, it wasn't like me to be a lot of things before this," she retorted. "Now will you please go away?"
Jen grabbed the covers.
"I asked you nicely," Joey warned.
"So sue me. I know how annoying it is to be forced out of bed but I never knew how fun it was to be the one doing it. Maybe that's why Grams enjoys it so much."
She shrugged. "So I am."
"There's Jen-", she stopped short when Jen paused in her step to hurry someone behind her.
Andie turned in time to see Pacey's face fall at the sight of Joey. She quickly looked away before he noticed she knew what she wasn't supposed to know.
"Should we go say hi?"
Smiling slightly, he said, "Is it all right if we don't? They look like they're in a hurry anyway."
Andie turned to see Jen still stopping now and then to wait for Joey who was lagging behind.
She smiled back wistfully. "Okay." Then she put her arm around his and they made for the opposite direction.
"So you pretty much have it figured out."
"You're going to spend the next two years of high school avoiding him."
They walked out of the shop.
"Why? What do you suggest I do?"
"I was just making an observation. He's avoiding you too, you know that."
Joey stopped in her tracks. "How do you mean?"
"I didn't want to say anything before." Jen stared down at her feet. "I caught a glimpse of him and Andie across the street about twenty minutes ago.
"And he couldn't wait to disappear," Joey added. It hurt her still, too much at times, to think about what they had. What they could have had. "You know what?" Her voice trembled. "Could we do this another time? I don't feel very well."
Jen nodded mutely.
That night, like many other nights before, Joey woke up with a start and struggled for breath. Each time, only after her breathing had quieted down that she allowed herself to think about what was constantly plaguing her subconscious. Had she made a mistake?
Andie wrestled with her fingers, bending them forward and backward in nervousness as she knocked on the outer door.
Joey saw her and hesitated. They stood watching each other through the translucent netting before she went to meet her.
"Andie," she started in a hostile tone, "whatever reason you're here for, I'm not in the mood to listen to it."
"I just wanted to thank you."
"Please don't do that. Just go home, please." She started to close the door on her but Andie reached out to stop it.
"Joey, you may not believe it but I'm very sorry."
The latter shook her head and let out a short humorless laugh. "What am I supposed to do with that?"
Andie bit her lip to stop it from quivering. "Yes, he came back to me." Her expression became one of extreme sadness. "H-h-," she paused for composure. "He came back to me and he said, 'I'm back now but it hurts too much to talk about why I was gone'. He was going to tell me anyway but I stopped him."
Joey turned away.
"He's a great person and every single day, I'm grateful that I was loved and cherished." She let go of the door. "I can wait. Until he loves me the way he used to." She picked up her bag on the floor and hurriedly ran off the porch.
Joey stood there unmoving from her position until she suddenly ran outside to halt her. "Andie!"
Andie swung around, surprised.
"You thought you knew him," she said. The former looked at her, waiting for her to continue.
"You do," she finally added.
Andie smiled through her tears.
Joey returned her gesture sadly. "Take care of him."
Nearly two months had passed since their last encounter. He didn't even want to dwell too much on it otherwise he might just go into town, looking for a fight and someone to punch just to vent his frustration.
Everyone at home made certain to stay out of his way whenever possible as he permanently wore a scowl. Not even his normally annoying brother wished to provoke him when he was in that mood.
Mr. Witter decided that the extent of self-punishment was enough.
"You're hurting no one but yourself with all that anger and guilt that's building inside of you."
Pacey was sitting in the dark in his room when his father paid him a visit.
"It'll just eat you alive."
"Maybe then I won't feel a thing," he muttered.
"Believe me, you will. And so will the people around you."
"Dad, you got the girl. It's not quite the same."
"What are you talking about?"
"That story. The one about the guy and his best friend. You are the guy who got the girl, aren't you?"
John laughed and walked to the window. "You got it backwards, son. I was the best friend," he said softly.
Pacey straightened in his chair. "What about Mom?"
"What about Mom? I met her when she moved into our hometown three years after Jake and Anna went off to college."
"W-wh-" he couldn't form a complete sentence at the newly disclosed information.
"Yes, Anna was the one I loved."
"What about Mom?" he asked again, his voice rising in alarm.
"I love your Mom. It took me a long time and a lifetime of mistakes to realize that, but I do love your Mom."
Maybe it was his father's tone or maybe it was what he said and the way he said it but his memory was triggered and he recalled faintly, an argument his parents had when he was about six. He couldn't remember what was said; he could only remember the look on his father's face and the sound of his mother crying and pleading. Thereafter, his father's attitude changed toward him.
He stood up slowly from his chair. "Was Mom having an affair?" The words left his mouth before he realized it.
John debated on whether to tell him everything.
"Was Mom having an affair?" This time, his voice lost its emotion.
"It wasn't her fault. I was unhappy and I was making her miserable. She turned to someone who cared about her for once."
His voice remained impassioned. "How long was this before I was born?"
"It doesn't matter now, Pacey." John walked away from the window to look his son in the eye. "It doesn't matter now."
Pacey brushed off his hand from his arm. "If it doesn't matter, why are you telling me this?" he demanded to know.
"Because I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did. You can't shut yourself off from the people who are there and who love you." John reached for him again. "I had so much hatred in me that I couldn't see straight."
Pacey moved away.
"I got a call from Anna this morning." John let out a huge sigh of regret. "Jake passed away last night."
Pacey shook his head as if he wasn't listening.
"All he wanted was for me to forgive him. I have for a long time now but I never told him."
"Am I your son?" he said loudly, almost shouting.
"You won't tell me." In his impulsiveness, he stormed out of the room in search of his mother. He found her in her room.
"What-" she began to say but was cut off by her son.
"Is John Witter my father?"
John rushed into their room and exchanged looks with this wife whose face immediately fell.
"Somebody tell me!"
"Pacey-" his mother started.
"Is he?" He was shaking from rage.
John stepped in between him and his mother. "We don't know. We've never actually done any tests. But it doesn't matter."
"Oh my God," he mumbled, backing out of the room. He turned on his heel and he started to run. This was the last place he wanted to be right now. His parents had been lying to him all this time. His whole life was a sham.
He slammed the front door against the cries of his mother.
"No, Mr. Witter. I haven't seen him."
Bessie raised her eyebrow in question when Joey tensed up as she spoke to the party on the other line.
What's going on, she mouthed.
Joey put her hand up to halt the question. "Yes, I'll be sure to call you the minute I hear from him."
Bessie stood up gingerly to go upstairs with Alexander fast asleep in her arms.
"Don't worry. He just needs time, he'll be back when he cools off."
Bessie re-entered the living room and settled back on the couch just as she put the receiver down and held on to it.
"Is everything all right?"
"I don't know," she replied, looking at the clock. "Pacey and his father had an argument a couple of hours ago and he stormed out. Mr. Witter wouldn't tell me what it was about."
She walked back and forth several times before grabbing her coat.
"And where do you think you're going?" Bessie asked.
"I don't think sitting around is going to help."
"If Mr. Witter thought of calling you, there's a chance that Pacey might actually come here."
Joey looked doubtful. "After what happened, I don't think he'll come within a mile of me."
"Just wait. I don't want to spend the night worrying about not one, but two of you."
"One hour," she said. "That's all I can promise."
Forty-five minutes had passed. She was considering sneaking out past a sleeping Bessie when she caught sight of a huddled shadow outside.
She dropped her coat and rushed out. Nearing him, she quickened her pace.
"Oh my God." She dropped to her knees and cupped his face between her palms and brushed his wet hair frantically out off his eyes.
He was soaked to the skin and he was shivering. His eyes regarded her blankly as she turned his face toward hers.
She began to panic when she saw how pale he was. "We have to get you warm." She tried to help him up but fell back with his lifeless weight.
"I couldn't think of anywhere else to go," he mumbled.
"Pacey, please." She took his arm and put it around her shoulder again and tried to pull him up by the waist. "We have to get you inside."
Bessie awakened from sleep to see what the commotion was about. She hurriedly went to the aid of her sister and the both of them managed to half-drag, half-carry him into the house.
She scrambled to get a towel whilst Bessie rumbled through her closet for some of Bodie's clothes, both trying their best to be quiet so as not to wake Alexander up.
His hands were so numb from the cold he couldn't unbutton his own shirt. She had to do it for him. When he was clothed in dry garments and his hair toweled dry, Joey sat across him on the coffee table and started warming his hands between her own.
"What the hell were you thinking swimming in the creek in the middle of winter?"
"I walked as far as I could. It was faster to swim."
"This is not a joke, Pacey." She leaned in closer. "You scared the shit out of me."
His eyes were dull. "You don't hear me laughing."
She held onto him with one hand and scooted over for the telephone with other. "I have to call your parents to let them know you're okay."
She gasped in surprise when he grabbed her hand.
"I don't want them to know."
She brought her hand back. "Why?"
"I'm not ready to face them."
"They are the reason I'm not home."
"Whatever happened, they're still your parents."
"No, they're not."
He began to tell her the whole story. "So my mother had an affair and I don't know if I'm my father's son." He scoffed. "I can't see them. Not yet," he said. He stood up and walked toward the door.
Joey recovered her composure. "What are you doing?"
"You can't do that."
"I've caused enough problems around here. I should go."
"If you're not going home, I'd rather know you'll be somewhere safe," she replied stubbornly.
"Is there anyone else you'd prefer to stay with?" she interrupted as it occurred to her that she hadn't thought to ask before.
They stared at each other.
"No," he said. "There isn't."
The room was lit by a single glow from the fireplace. She sat by the foot of the couch where he was laying, keeping him company.
"I'm sorry for the way things turned out."
"I'm sorry too."
Joey shifted in order to see his face properly.
"I don't want to spend the rest of my life avoiding you," he continued. "You are and always will be a special part of me, even if you're no longer there in my life."
For the first time in months, her smile was small but unforced. "So are you in mine," she said quietly.
His eyelids fluttered as he drifted between sleep and being awake. "Is it time to forgive each other for letting go?" he asked drowsily.
She mulled over it but when she looked over, she saw that he was already fast asleep. She got up from the floor onto the side of the couch. Taking his hand, she kissed him on the forehead. He stirred slightly.
"Sleep well. Things will be better in the morning."
She brushed his fringe lightly away from his forehead and took in his repose.
"I love you." It was a whisper, like a light breeze barely moving a leaf.
It wouldn't have changed anything, but she was relieved she finally said the words.
He woke up about five hours later in the middle of the night, completely awake. There was no one around but him. He lay there, staring at the ceiling, thinking. He then sat up and he remained like that for a long time, pre-occupied with thoughts. The next time he looked up, the sun was up.
He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. Walking in, he was met by his parents who had obviously spent the night waiting up for him in the living room.
They held back, afraid to touch him in case he rejected them. Instead, they waited for his reaction.
"No more lies," he said. "I want you to tell me everything."
Joey picked up the note that he had left on the coffee table. Her smile grew wider as she read through it. "He's gone home," she told Bessie.
Dawson saw that she was already outside her house. She was sitting on the stairs, looking into space when he approached.
He remained where he was until she spoke. "You never did finish building that white picket fence."
"I didn't think you'd want me to."
"Maybe it'd be easier to just take it down."
Dawson considered if her words hid a deeper meaning. "Why shouldn't I just continue at it?"
"It's gone through too much rain and shine. If you keep at it, it'll look out of place from the rest."
He waited for her to turn toward him.
"It might be better to rebuild the whole thing from scratch," she said. "Or not at all."
"It's really up to you, Joey."
"Give me time, Dawson."
"I can't seem to say no to you. Not now, not ever."
He was waiting for her outside her apartment and when she came running toward him in her usual bubbly way, he smiled. He kissed her and he hadn't taken the initiative in awhile.
"What was that for?" Andie asked, laughing.
"Just for being so bright on a school day, McPhee," Pacey replied.
"I don't even know why I'm doing this," Joey said for the umpteenth time that day. "They've probably already made their selection of the student intake for the year. There's no way I'm going to get picked."
"Will you stop it?" Dawson chided. "The school's perfect for you." He licked the stamp in between words. "And even if you don't get in, " he said, pasting it to the brown surface, "at least you can say you tried."
"Joey, shut up." They passed the mailbox and he slotted the envelope in. "All you're doing now is sending for an application. Relax, it's too early to panic."
"I shouldn't have let you talk me into this."
He crossed his arms and shook his head in dismay. "I may not be that great a judge of artwork but I dare say you have some talent. At least enough to try, okay?"
"I was all prepared to study English or something." She sighed. "Lots of people love to draw. It doesn't always mean they'll make it to art school."
"Come on," he said, giving up on trying to convince her and steered her across the street with his arm around her.
They met Pacey and Andie at the new coffee place Costa that had recently opened.
"Would you excuse us a minute? Andie and I have something important to discuss."
Joey flashed him a look of faked annoyance. "Dawson, I swear I'll kill you if I find out you're planning a surprise birthday party for me."
He shrugged and gave her his best imitation of nonchalance before heading for a table out of earshot. Andie laughed and followed him.
She grinned, secretly pleased. Turning her attention back to their table, she met Pacey's smiling face.
"Seventeen years old. It seemed like such a long time away before."
"I, Pacey Witter, actually am about to graduate from high school."
She smiled. "We are going to make it."
"Hey Pacey," Dawson called out. "Convince her about art school, will you?"
Pacey gave him a thumbs-up.
"Ignore him," she advised.
He leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. "He was right in making you give it a shot."
"Even if I do get it, I have to be completely sure it is what I want before I give up my other offers."
"You'll know it," he said. "In here." His hand was over his heart. "Your instincts seldom fail you."
She snorted. "I highly doubt that."
"You'll know." His eyes found Andie and they smiled at each other. Looking back, he told Joey, "You made me remember what I had and I'm grateful for that."
She gave him a regretful glance. "But I'm still sorry I lied to you."
There were things they understood about each other that didn't have to be explained in words. It seemed they knew each other better even though they were hardly together anymore. The friendship was never the same but it was as though their time together that one summer had nevertheless created an indestructible bond of deep, mutual understanding.
He didn't need to ask what she meant. He had suspected and then known for a long time now the events that must have transpired before she made her decision. He would never blame Andie. She was as much of a victim as they were. And he could never blame Joey for choosing to let go first.
"You don't have to apologize. Getting back with Dawson wasn't so much an excuse as to what prompted you to say it."
"Hope," she repeated softly.
"Hope and dreams," he said. "Don't give up on them. My grandfather used to say that was what made life more tolerable."
"And even though I eventually chose not to get back with Dawson, you don't blame me."
He shook his head. "I often also wonder if the man I call Dad is in fact my father. But he's right, it doesn't matter now."
"I wish we hadn't spent the best halves of our lives fighting so much." She grinned ruefully. "It was quite a waste of time."
"Never," he said smiling widely. "I would never have given up those sparring sessions for anything!" He reached for her hand and covered it with his own. "Joey, whatever you decide. You'll make it."
"Thank you." Thank you for everything.
She noticed the printed address on the corner of the manila envelope amongst the other mail and stopped.
She stopped walking. She stopped breathing.
Bending closer to the table, she made sure she wasn't dreaming. Swallowing nervously, she gingerly ran her fingers over the address.
It was yes or no. Now or never.
She picked it up and nearly dropped it to the floor. Tearing it open with shaky hands, she reached in for its contents. The letter was on top.
She closed her eyes for a few seconds in preparation for the verdict. Opening them again, she quickly scanned through it before she lost her nerve.
Dear Miss Potter-
She gulped. Congratulations. She read through the letter again.
Slowly, she broke into a grin and then she screamed in joy.
He wasn't set to leave for L.A. until later that afternoon. His mother had been sorting through the family photo albums when she had told her where he was. As she quickened her step to catch him up, her mind returned to last night where they had bade each other farewell.
She had hugged him and kissed him on the cheek but never once said goodbye.
Pacey and her both suspected it was the last time they would ever see each other for a very long time to come, maybe never again but it was important they kept up the illusion that they might meet sometime in the future. Because promises were meant to be kept and as they had promised each other before, even though it seemed so far back, there were to be no goodbyes.
She stopped walking.
The sky was a mass of different colors. It was a beautiful summer evening.
She saw him, hands in his pockets, looking out to the water.
As she gazed at his frame by the railings, all the memories, bad and good, came flooding back.
She crossed her arms and could not help but smile, in spite of her turmoil.
If he turns back before the boat crosses the line, I'll tell him, she decided.
She hadn't even realized she had been holding her breath until she slowly expelled it.
The boat had crossed. He hadn't looked back.
She took one last look at him. And then she walked away.
He felt his heart jump a beat. He turned around and saw no one but somehow he knew Joey was near.
Looking back to the water, he took in what he could of Capeside today. Tomorrow, he would be on the other side of the country, absorbing new sights and sounds. He had decided to spend his summer in Los Angeles with his sister whilst waiting for the fall semester at UCLA to begin.
Who would have guessed? He made it to college after all.
She touched his shoulder lightly and let her hand remain there. He reached over and held onto it.
"You don't have to say anything. I understand," she said.
Andie looked beautiful to him when he turned to face her.
He took her into his arms and they swayed gently to imaginary music. She rested her head on his shoulder.
"Time for me to let go and be on my own," she added softly.
He kissed the top of her head.
"I'll be fine," she reassured him.
He got back to the house with enough time to spare.
His mother was already starting to move his belongings into the car that they were driving to the airport.
"Pacey," she said. "Joey came by and left something for you."
He picked up the scroll and removed the ribbon that was holding it into place. Still wondering what it could be, he unrolled it and his expression was one of surprise, then amazement and finally, saddened joy.
"Is anything wrong?" his mother asked, noticing his reaction.
"No," he shook his head as he rolled it back carefully. "Everything's perfect."
End of This Is When It All Began
To be continued in the next series The Story of Us
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