Author’s Note: Since we’re about 10 episodes behind in England, I only just found out the first name of Joey’s mother from transcripts on the WWW; unfortunately I have written too far into the series to make a change so I’m leaving it as it is. Just pretend Mrs. Potter’s first name is *Sarah* not *Lillian*...after all, this is fanfic, pretending is mandatory. ;P
“Let’s face it. We’ve called everyone in the book, we can’t find him.”
Bessie stopped rummaging through the drawers long enough to cast her an exasperated look. “Could you try to contain your optimism? I’ve got enough to cope with.”
Joey remained silent in response and returned to flipping through the phone book as her sister searched for what ever useful information she might stumble upon.
“I’ve had enough.” She slammed the book shut. “I’m going over to Dawson’s for awhile.”
Joey was out the door before Bessie could protest in any way.
“Joey, I’m really in no position to say anything about this but what I can say is, if Bessie feels that there is a chance, you shouldn’t stop trying.”
“Why shouldn’t I?” She got up from the bed and walked to the window. “He doesn’t even know Mom’s sick.” The bitter tone in her voice was not lost on either of them.
Dawson looked to the other figure in the room, who was standing by a corner, deep in thought.
“Pacey!” he called. “What’s up with you, man? You’ve been so distracted lately.”
The more Pacey listened to Joey talk about her father, the more he understood why her mother did not want her to find out what she had asked him to do.
He was in the midst of a moral dilemma when Dawson interrupted his thoughts. “I’m all right,” he replied. “Don’t bother about me.”
Joey raised a brow at Pacey’s apparent change from his usual self. Normally, he wouldn’t hesitate to make a few insulting remarks at her expense but today, he just seemed different.
They both waited for a further explanation but he offered none. Pacey was so out of sorts, he missed the inquisitive looks they exchanged.
In reality, Joey’s mind wasn’t really on the present either. Whether she was physically at home or not, her thoughts were never far from her mother who was getting sicker by the day. Her running to Dawson’s now and then was only a temporary escape.
“I have to go.” She picked up her sweater and got ready to climb out the same way she came in. “I’ll see you guys in school on Monday.”
Dr. Carrie Harrison stepped out from the shadows and smiled. “Sarah, I was hoping you were resting.”
She made an effort to sit up as Dr. Harrison hurried to help her. “I am rested,” she replied. She mumbled a weak word of thanks as she laid back against the pillow.
The latter backed up to survey her patient’s progress. “You look good,” she concluded.
Sarah let out a chuckle. “Bullshit. I look a mess.” She instinctively raised her hand to feel beneath her head scarf. “I used to have such beautiful hair.”
“Carrie, you have always been honest with me. Don’t stop now.”
Dr. Harrison took a long look at the medical chart she was holding and ran her finger down it. Then she raised her gaze to meet Sarah’s.
“The chemo’s not working as well as we had hoped.”
She nodded silently in response.
“I have conferred with my colleagues and we’ve decided that it’s best if we-”
“I beg your pardon?”
“How long do I have?” she repeated, with every ounce of strength she could manage.
“Sarah.” The doctor paused as she saw the stubbornness etched in the latter’s eyes. Sighing as she sat herself on the bed beside her patient. “You have one month, two possibly. But if you continue treatment, six months even.”
Sarah closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them again, she had already made up her mind.
“I don’t want to sit here and wait to die.” She covered Dr. Harrison’s hand with her own. “Carrie, I want to be home when the time comes, with my girls near me.”
“You can’t give up now.”
“I’m not giving up.” She swallowed with difficulty as she spoke. “I’m letting go.”
“Sarah, you’re talking silly. What do you think they’ve been doing all this time? These girls can take care of themselves.”
Sarah was brimming with pride. “They’re brilliant, aren’t they?”
Joey wrapped her arms around herself as she shivered from the breeze that had blown by where she was standing on the porch.
Bessie came up behind her and put a coat around her shoulders. Hugging Joey close to her, she whispered, “I know.” Her grip instinctively tightened. “I know.”
He heard the phone ringing and then his mother’s voice.
He waited in anticipation for good news.
Within seconds, she was at his door.
“Honey, Dawson’s on the line.”
Those were the last words he wanted to hear.
She watched the clock on the wall and as the hour hand struck eight, the bell for first period promptly went. Teachers and students scurried past her and she quickly tucked her legs inward before someone tripped over them.
She heard a door slam shut in the background and then it was total silence. She thought about the woes of the rest of the world and wondered how many people were just like her, waiting to see the principal to explain their situation and request a further week of absence with permission.
She jumped in her seat when the secretary called out from behind her desk.
“Joey, Mr. Ellis will see you now.”
She waited for him to catch up and flashed him a quick smile. “Hi.” She continued her way toward the exit, with him beside her.
“How are you?” he asked.
Joey let out a brief laugh. “I just spent the last hour trying to convince Mr. Ellis that I’m fine and I have everything under control.”
He stopped her with his hand on her arm. “You haven’t answered my question,” he said quietly.
“Pacey, there’s really nothing to say,” she stressed. “My mother’s the one dying of cancer and she’s the one in pain. It doesn’t matter how I feel.”
She turned to go but he stopped her in her tracks again with his next words.
“I know you have Bessie and Dawson. But if there’s anything I can do...”
“Thank you,” she said. And then she exited the building and left him watching the door swing back from the impact of her forceful push.
Joey, who had just come in the door, hurried to the makeshift bedroom they had made out of the small dining room as she heard the noise. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed, throwing her bag aside. “Mom! What’s wrong?”
Tears were streaming down her face as she cried out. “I can’t stand this!”
“Bessie!” Joey screamed. “Where the hell are you!” Then she realized that Bessie must have just left for her own appointment as she had promised to be back from the principal’s by half past nine to take over. It was a quarter to ten.
Sarah groaned again.
“Mom, you have to let go of my hand. I am going to get you your medicine.” She spoke in the calmest voice she could manage under the circumstances when all she wanted to do was break down and cry. “Mom, the medicine will help.”
Sarah loosened her grip on her daughter. Joey took the opportunity to hurry into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle off the counter top. Her hands were shaking as she poured some water into a glass.
Rushing back to her mother’s side, she turned the latter over and tried to sit her up against her body. She slipped two pills into Sarah’s mouth and gingerly tipped the glass to her lips.
Joey continued to hold her until the pain appeared to have subsided and drowsiness took over. She carefully laid her mother back on the bed and wiped the sweat off her brow.
Walking back into the kitchen with the bottle and a half-empty glass in her hands, she put them down before sliding into a sitting position in a corner, where she finally allowed herself to cry.
When she was done, she prayed for only the second time she could remember in her entire life.
He ran to where the police patrol car was parked.
“Uncle Dan, please tell me it’s good news!”
“He’s staying in a motel, 45 minutes from here.”
“ I have to let Joey know.”
“She has to know.”
Pacey was too caught up in the news to pay any attention to the worried look on Dan’s face.
“Can you give me a ride to Joey’s?”
Dan hesitated but was eventually swayed by the boy’s excitement. “I can take you over to Joey’s but you have to promise that you two won’t go anywhere until I get off from work and take you there myself.”
“Let’s go, Uncle Dan.”
He held Pacey by the shoulder. “No, Pacey. Promise me first.”
He was caught off-guard by the man’s serious tone but was too impatient to question him about it. “I promise, sir. Please, can we go now?”
He paused to catch his breath. “I’m sorry I didn’t knock but this is important.” Looking from Joey to Bessie and back again, he realized that he must have interrupted a rather serious conversation but he couldn’t hold his news back.
“We found your father.”
“What?” they chorused in unison.
“How did you do that?” Bessie demanded.
Pacey explained in a flurry of words as he watched their expressions change from incredulous to solemn.
“She didn’t want me to say anything.”
There was silence as the three of them tried to digest what they had learned. Bessie was the first to speak.
“Pacey, we need a favor.”
“Could you go with Joey to look for him?”
“Well-” He didn’t finish his sentence as he noted the hope in Bessie’s eyes. “Yes, I could.”
Joey who hadn’t said a word for awhile, shook her head. “No, Bessie. I won’t know what to say to him.”
“Joey, you have to go.”
“I will stay here with Mom.”
“You’ve gone through enough for today. I will stay here with Mom.” She stood up to look at the bus schedule pasted on the refrigerator. “The bus leaves in 20 minutes, you have to hurry.”
Joey didn’t move from her position.
“Joey, please,” her sister pleaded.
That was enough to get her moving up the stairs for her sweater and some money.
Bessie took hold of both Pacey’s hands. “Please take care of her for me.”
“I will,” he promised.
He rapped a couple more times on the door. “The guy said Room 24. This is Room 24.”
“Well, he’s obviously not in. We should go.” She started to walk away.
“Whoa, wait a second,” he said, making a grab for her arm. “What’s going on here? You haven’t said more than two words to me since we left your house.”
“Let go, Pacey.”
“I’m just trying to help. I’m sorry if you think I’m being-”
She wriggled free from his grasp. “I appreciate your help.” She lifted her chin defiantly. “But don’t you ever keep anything like that from me again.”
Pacey stood, stunned and then shook his head to clear his head before quickening his step to catch up with her.
“What do we do now?” he asked.
“We go home.”
“We can’t just give up!”
She stopped to face him. “What do you suggest we do then, Pacey? My mother has little time left and I’m not going to waste any more looking for a man who left us when we needed him the most!”
“Joey, he’s your father. Give him a chance.”
“And who’s giving my mother a chance?”
To her great consternation, she felt tears welling in her eyes. She had always been careful not to let anyone see her cry throughout this whole ordeal but after what happened today, it was hard not to be knocked off her feet.
Pacey could see she was clearly distressed by her display of emotion. Trying to ease her anxiety, he put his arm around her, half-expecting her to coil from his touch but when she didn’t resist, he tightened his grip slightly. Though surprised, he managed to keep his tone neutral. “All right, let’s go home.”
They had been walking down the road from the motel for about 10 minutes when they came upon bright neon lights.
“Should we? This is the nearest bar from the motel. I say, there’s a possibility he’s having a drink in there.”
When Joey didn’t offer a further opinion, he took a step toward the entrance.
He turned around, waiting for her to finish what she had to say.
“You’re not just going in like that!”
He gave her a look. “Should I be wearing a hat?”
“This place just looks so sleazy.” She made a face. “Are we old enough to enter?”
Pacey raised his hands in exasperation. “Who cares? I’m not drinking anything. Are you coming with me or not?”
“What if he’s really in there?” Her voice drifted off as she contemplated the possibility. Pacey began to see that she was scared stiff of confronting her father again in so long a time.
In a softer voice, he said, “ Joey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll just take a look. He might not even be in there.” He moved toward her. “Do you want me to go in first?”
She shook her head. “I’ll go with you.”
Pacey reached out a hand and she returned the gesture. He held her clammy hand securely in his as he pushed the door open, only to be immediately greeted by a cloud of cigarette smoke and music playing loudly from the jukebox.
As expected, heads turned to stare as they made their way to the bar. Intimidated, Joey moved closer to Pacey.
The bartender raised a brow when he caught sight of the two at his counter. “You’re tall, son but you sure ain’t no 21-year-old.”
“I don’t want a drink.”
“That’s a relief.”
“We’re looking for someone, a Mike Potter.”
His attention was diverted for a second as someone yelled for an order of beer. “Sorry,” he replied. “Don’t know no Potter.” Seeing the disappointed look on the boy’s face, he added, “But I’m new around here. You could try looking in the back.”
They squeezed through more crowds of people until they got to the back of the fairly large bar.
“Do you see him? Joey asked, tugging at his sleeve.
“No, do you?”
“I can’t really see with all this smoke.” She coughed and wiped her eyes as they began to tear. And then as if by magic, the cloud cleared and the mass of people in front of her left their seats, leaving her with a perfect view of the table behind theirs.
She stood there, transfixed.
He had been looking in another direction when he noticed Joey staring. “What are y-” he stopped in mid-sentence when he was greeted with the same view.
They found him, all right. Mike Potter was seated at a table, drinking his beer. But he wasn’t alone. He had his hands all over a blonde woman, who was wearing a tight shirt with the words “Larry’s Place” emblazoned across her huge chest.
Pacey shut his eyes for a second as he let the feelings of dread wash over him. It was just like waiting for a time bomb to go off, watching Joey.
She was still staring.
He was about to suggest they leave when she turned around and started running back the direction they came.
“Joey,” he called out as he tried not to lose sight of her. “Joey, wait!”
He was hit by a blast of cleaner air and dust as he made it out into the open.
She was standing, with her back facing him. As he approached her, she spoke in a shaky but determined voice. “My Mom never hears a word of this.”
“I agree,” he replied. It was clear that she had shut herself off once more and would not appreciate sympathy of any sort.
Any acknowledgment that she had heard him was in the form of a small nod before she continued on her way, with him keeping a slight distance behind her.
Pacey cringed at the reprimand in Dan’s voice as he tried to explain himself. “Her sister looked so hopeful. I couldn’t say no.”
“Pacey, I don’t think you realize just how serious this is.” Dan calmed down enough to sit down. “Mike Potter is no ordinary citizen of Capeside.”
“What do you mean?”
“Joey’s father is a suspect in a narcotics case. He’s under surveillance from the NYPD, that’s how I found him in the first place.”
His jaw dropped. “You’re kidding, right?”
“He’s just a pawn in this game. They want his supplier and they’re hoping he’ll lead them to him.”
Pacey had his hands over his face as he mumbled, “Oh my god, what have I done?”
“It’s not your fault. I’m just glad both of you came out of it okay.”
“First, she finds out he’s cheating on her mother. Now she hears he’s a drug dealer. Argh!” He laid his forehead against the wood and hit the desk once with his fist. “If I had minded my own business, we wouldn’t need to know all this right now.”
Dan cleared his throat noisily. Pacey looked up in response.
“It’s much worse, isn’t it?”
“Potter is scheduled to make an exchange this week-end. If all goes as expected, they might give him immunity if he gives up the name of his boss.”
“But if he doesn’t...”
“He goes to jail.”
Her mother was talking in her sleep again. She reached over to wrap the blanket more securely around her.
Leaning back, she surveyed the latter’s face as she tried to remember what her mother had looked like before. It seemed so long ago when Sarah Potter was a happy and healthy woman.
Dawson came into the room just then and their eyes met. His were filled with understanding as he came over and sat himself beside her. Silently, he took her hand and held on to it.
“Mike isn’t coming, is he?”
“I’m sorry, Sarah.”
“You know, my parents never did approve of him. My father and I had a big argument before I ran away and married him.”
“He doesn’t blame you for it.”
“How could he not?”
“Trust me, Sarah. He and your mother are waiting for you to come home.
“Jean, is it time to go?”
“Only when you’re ready.”
“I’m ready now. Will you take me there?”
“It will be my pleasure, dear.”
Bessie awoke with a start at 5 am the next morning. Her stomach in knots, she made her way downstairs. As she stood by the doorway of the room, she saw Joey, still sitting in the chair. When the latter heard her sister, she looked up. Bessie choked back a sob when she met her gaze.
He remembered that today would be the day the trap was set for Mike Potter. He pushed his toast aside as he gradually lost his appetite.
End of Long Ago... Series
To be continued in the next series, entitled “This Is When It All Began”...
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