I Know Him By Heart by: Jade
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Author's Notes: Imagine Jude's I Do (as featured on #304 'Home Movies') in the background as you read the first half of this chapter. I love that song and it fits perfectly. And I also wanted to say that the character of Henry Parker is starting to grow on me bit by bit.
"Though we've never been together
We've never been apart"
-'I Know Him By Heart', Vonda Shepard
"I would like for us to remain friends."
"Friends?" He laughed cynically. "Us?"
"That's impossible." He started to walk away but she stopped him with a taunt.
"You always, always do this to me! Run away, you're good at that."
"Don't put this on me! You were the one who ended it!" he contributed to the shouting match.
"That didn't mean I stopped loving you!"
With that admission, there was a pause allowing them both to calm down.
"I loved you," he finally replied, coldly. "Loved. Note the past tense. Go home, Joey."
She opened her eyes with a start and sat up in bed in a cold sweat.
"Sweetie?" the voice beside her sleepily questioned.
"Everything's fine, it was just a nightmare. Go back to sleep."
"Hmm," he said and then there was silence but for the sound of her own labored breathing.
The last time she had this dream she was in her freshman year of college. She thought it was over and done with
But she guessed wrong.
He threw the pile of mail on his coffee table without so much as a second glance and went to get himself more aspirin before taking a shower.
For the last six weeks, he had thrown himself in his work because that was the only thing that kept him sane. And now sitting on the couch in fresher clothes, having done everything possible to keep his mind from drifting he found himself staring over the rim of his wine glass at the cream-colored envelope that brought him back to earth.
He recognized her handwriting. And he had already decided that he wasn't going to go.
"The last batch of invitations went out today, Ms. Potter. A few RSVPs have also been returned. And the caterer called to say
Joey tried to look like she was listening as the secretary that Greg's father had so kindly loaned to them during this busy time of preparation kept talking but she was spacing out more than she'd care to admit. She had chosen to address the invitations herself, which might have seemed like a good way to get into the spirit of things but when she had reached his name on the list, all of that goodwill disappeared.
"Selma-" she interrupted. "You do whatever you think is fine. Mr. Davenport trusts you and so do I."
She grabbed her coat. "If Greg calls, just tell him I had something important to attend to and I'll see him at home tonight."
"Apt 7B? Mr. Witter, right?"
She nodded before she lost her nerve.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. Mr. Witter left in a hurry two days ago and he didn't say when he'd be back."
"Did he mention where he was going?"
"No, he didn't. I'm sorry."
She walked out into the open, dejected. The weather was fine; it felt like it should be a good day.
The doorman asked if she needed a cab but she politely declined his offer. "I'm going to walk," she said.
He shook her shoulder lightly and she roused from her nap.
"Mom, go on home. I'll stay here with Pop."
She lifted a hand and lightly grazed her husband's cheek as the machine keeping watch on his vitals continued to beep in the background.
"Go on, Mom."
"Alright, dear. But you call the minute anything changes," she said. "Anything."
After she left, he sat in the chair she had vacated. He took his father's limp hand in his and started to talk to him, just like the doctor had recommended they did in order to try to awake him from his coma.
After what felt like countless hours, his resolve weakened and he whispered shakily into his father's ear.
"Pop, I know you can hear me. Please wake up."
"Well that's a load off our minds, huh?" Joey remarked, stepping out of the posh bridal store, smiling meekly at Daphne. They had just spent the better half of the morning keeping still for their fittings while the seamstresses went about poking pins into them.
"Let's go for coffee," Daphne said, linking her arm through her best friend's.
The waitress returned with their order and Joey started to stir her drink restlessly. Daphne continued to observe her silently.
"I've been a bridesmaid more times than I care to remember. You've got to be the least excited bride-to-be I've ever seen."
"I'm just bogged down by all these things I have to get done. It'll pass."
"Joey, I went to college with you. I've seen you stressed and depressed over exams and that looks like nothing compared to what I'm seeing now." Daphne sighed. "This can't be easy. Have you heard from him?"
"No." She immediately turned her face away and focused her attention on the people walking by the café. Looking back at her friend, she told her, "You should be glad I've finally taken your advice after all these years."
"I'm thinking with my head."
Daphne let out another sigh and reached over to squeeze Joey's hand.
Ashley blinked, wondering if she had fallen asleep and was still asleep. "Dad?" She moved nearer to the bed and watched his hand. "Daddy?"
It moved. And then his eyes fluttered open.
She gasped and then started to laugh and cry. "I'm going to get the doctor."
" He gulped before struggling to speak again. "I would like to talk to Pacey alone."
Pacey looked up from his corner in surprise. He exchanged glances with his mother who told him in her eyes not to let his father tire himself out, in spite of what he may say.
"Come on," she gestured to the rest of her children. "We'll wait outside."
With only the two of them in the room, the awkwardness grew. Pacey didn't know what to say to a man who had just suffered from a major heart attack and had been in a coma. Well, he never knew what to say to his father most of the time anyway.
"How you feeling?"
"Like a truck ran over me," he joked in a weak voice. He tried to follow on with a short laugh but it hurt to do so and it came out as a cough instead.
Pacey picked up the glass from the table and positioned the straw to his mouth. "Pop, here, drink some water."
As John Witter laid back on his pillow, he took in the sight of his son standing before him. He was happy Pacey had come home.
"You look like you've got older."
Pacey smiled. "Pop, I'm almost thirty-one."
"It's not that. You look tired too."
"It's the work. A little bit of New York as well." He made a move toward the door. "I should leave you to rest."
"No," insisted John, his voice surprisingly strong. "We need to talk."
"We need to talk."
"Now?" Greg asked, handing the clipboard back to the nurse.
He led her away to an empty examination room and waited for her to speak.
She took a deep breath. "Greg-"
"Greg!" Another doctor had called out urgently from around the corner. "We need you!" His grave face appeared in the doorway. "Mother and child in an automobile accident. Doesn't look good."
"Go on," Joey urged, following him out the room.
"Okay," Greg said as he turned, already halfway down the hall. "But don't wait up. I have the late shift."
She managed a small wave of acknowledgement before he disappeared into the chaos.
"I'm proud of you. Of the boy you were and of the man you've become."
Pacey remained silent.
"I feel it's important you know this."
Pacey switched his attention to the low sounds of people talking outside before he spoke quietly. "Did you ever hate me?"
"You once told Doug you were glad that at least you had him," he said, not looking at his father. "I felt unwanted." He turned his head to face him. "Unneeded in this family still. I've been feeling like this for a long, long time."
"Pacey," John's voice shook. "I'm sorry."
"And it hurt even more to find out that I might not be your son." He got up from the chair on which he had been sitting. "I'm thirty years old and I've never felt I belong." Pacey kept calm the whole time he was speaking but his father could see the tears in his son's eyes through his own, threatening to fall.
"You belong. To us. Your Mom and I were so happy the day you were born. It was me, my mistake. My fault."
"Pop, you should rest." Pacey changed the subject and went to open the door a notch, ready to let his mother in.
"Will you forgive me?"
He paused in his step. "I'll be by to see you tomorrow," was all he would say before leaving.
He spent the rest of the evening on the front porch in the family home, looking out into the darkness until he was interrupted by a phone call.
That fateful night, John Witter was declared by the doctor to be brain-dead, the rest of him kept alive only by artificial means. His body had decided that its time was up and he fell into yet another deep sleep. Except this time, he wasn't going to wake up. One by one, his family took turns to say their private good-byes before the machine would be switched off.
His youngest son walked slowly into the dimly lit room. He knew his father couldn't hear him but he kept his footsteps light as though afraid of rousing him from his peace. He got to his side and kissed his forehead. He then took his hand and fell to the floor on his knees. "Yes," he whispered as his tears fell freely down his face. "Yes, I forgive you." With that, his face dropped to his father's shoulder and he cried openly as though a part of himself had been ripped from his body.
She was determined to tell him the truth today. Since that day at the hospital, they both hadn't had a chance to be in the same room long enough to have a proper conversation. When she was up and at work, he was sleeping like a baby. And by the time she got back from the office, he was already at the hospital, slogging through another 18-hour shift.
She didn't even know what it was that she wanted to say to Greg. All she knew was that this couldn't go on any further. She felt like she was on the brink of going crazy.
She had agreed to meet him during his short lunch break and she was about to leave when Grace put a call through.
"Joey, this sounds important."
"It's okay. I'll take it." She picked up the receiver. "Joey Potter."
"Joey." The person on the other end sounded soft and hoarse, as though she had been crying.
Joey listened as Ashley related her reason for calling. "He's taking this really hard. I think it might help if he were around his friends."
"I'll be there," Joey replied without hesitation.
"I'm so sorry, Ashley."
It was drizzling harder by the second when she got there. She saw him standing in the cemetery, staring into space and oblivious of the raindrops pelting down against him.
She neared him and raised her umbrella to shelter him from getting any wetter. He continued to stare off into his imaginary spot. Finally, he spoke.
"When we were kids, Mom used to play bridge on Thursdays and everyone but me would be out. Pop would come home from work and we'd sit in front of the TV, eating cold spaghetti from saucepans. I always looked forward to Thursdays. I would run home as quickly as I could after school and wait for the sound of him entering the front door. That was the only time when things seemed
Her eyes watered. She felt the pain in his words and her heart broke. "I wanted to be here for you, to help you understand."
He turned to her, his eyes almost pleading for a reason. "So help me," his voice begged.
"It didn't mean you loved him any less, not being by his side."
"But I should have been!" he cried out angrily into the rain. "I should have been home those times he asked!" He broke down in tears. "We spent more time apart than we ever did together."
The tears fell freely down her face. "If you didn't love him enough, didn't love him when you weren't there
you wouldn't be feeling so empty right now and it wouldn't hurt to take just a breath."
He brought his hands up to cover his face as he wept.
She dropped the umbrella and wrapped him in her arms. "He understood, Pacey," she told him, hugging him tightly in an attempt to bear the brunt of his pain. "He understood."
The sky cleared up in time for the service and throughout, she held onto his hand. When it was over, he smiled sadly back at her. "Thank you," he said and gave her hand a squeeze before letting go of it. She watched him as he was stopped by relatives and friends and offered condolences and managed to feel a tad of genuine joy when she saw her old friends approaching him. He hugged them both and Jen decided to walk with him and his mother back to the car while Dawson made his way toward her.
"Hey there, stranger," he said before taking her in his arms.
"Hey," she whispered.
"You look exhausted," he added after he had a chance to take a good look at her.
"You could lie to me and tell me I look terrific."
He smiled. "Wanna go?
"Wait," she replied. "There's some place I want to visit first."
She stood at her mother's grave, silently asking her for advice. Am I about to do the right thing, Mom? Please tell me.
Dawson put his hand around her shoulder and hugged her to him. "Are you all right?"
"No, not really," she admitted.
A few moments passed. "I knew, Joey," he said.
She looked at him blankly.
"How you and Pacey felt about each other."
"You knew?" she asked in surprise.
"It wasn't very difficult. But I chose not to see it."
"I was shocked, Joey but I wasn't angry. I won't deny it hurt like hell for a long time, seeing you look at him the way you used to look at me."
Her troubled eyes reflected her distress.
"You don't know if you should marry Greg," he read her thoughts.
"Tell me what to do."
"I can't do that," he replied, grazing her face with the back of his hand. "Ultimately, it's something you have to decide on your own."
"I can't do this." She shook her head, her voice quivering and she leaned into his offer of open arms and rested the side of her face on his shoulder. "Not by myself."
"Oh Joey," he said, "You once told me that life's all about changes." He stroked her hair. "It's only hurting because you already know what to do."
Dawson drove them back to the Witters' in his rental car and Jen was the first to greet them at the door.
"Hey, you holding up fine?" she asked Joey.
Joey nodded slightly. "How have you been?"
They settled themselves down on the chairs in the kitchen before Jen answered.
"Henry and I just bought a house down in Connecticut. We'll be moving in the fall."
Joey couldn't help but break into a grin.
"I was just thinking about something I told Dawson when you first came to Capeside."
Jen raised her brows. "Nothing horrible, I hope."
"I did tell him that you were going to lead a life of perfect existence in suburban Connecticut, raising three perfect children."
"Well," Jen drawled on cautiously, "You're only half right. It's not in the suburbs and I only have two children."
"And what does your husband do for a living?" Joey asked knowingly.
"He's a banker," she replied, almost reluctantly.
"I think I made my point sufficiently to Dawson."
They both laughed but turned somber within seconds when they remembered what it was that brought them back here in the first place.
"Where are your twins?"
"I left them with Grams. They're teething and they're irritable. So they're not exactly perfect at this moment."
Joey shook her head in light humor at Jen's lame attempt to refute the prediction made about her.
"Enough about me. How's the wedding coming along?" Jen was not prepared for the look that passed Joey's face before she evaded her gaze awkwardly. "Did I say something wrong?"
Her question was never answered.
She was sitting on the front steps when he came to sit beside her. It felt almost like old times except nothing was quite the same.
"You can stay, you know."
"Thanks," she said, biting on her lower lip. "But there's something I need to get back to."
He nodded in understanding. "The wedding," he said softly.
She twisted her hands in her lap and focused on her shoes, unable to tell him. She only looked up when she heard her cab arrive.
She got to her feet. "My ride's here." She didn't know what else to say.
"Hang on," he said, lightly grabbing her elbow to stall her. He straightened and his eyes bored into hers. "I'm not going to make it for the wedding. I'm sorry."
A part of her longed to tell him the truth, the truth of what she was going to do. But the timing was all wrong.
"I don't know when I'll ever see you again," he mused ruefully. "I wish you every happiness in the world. You deserve it." He leaned forward and planted a kiss at the corner of her mouth, which left her heart pining.
The finality of his words rang in her ears. Suddenly she wanted to hold on to him and never let go.
"Goodbye," she heard herself say.
She didn't remember getting into the cab or telling the driver her destination. She didn't remember leaving. All she could see in her mind was his solitary figure slowly fading from her view as she looked back through the glass.
To be continued…
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