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Author’s Note: I’ve just been catching up on programs that I asked a friend to record while I was away from England. All I can say is that I bawled my eyes out when Bobby Simone passed away. NYPD Blue seems to get better with each season. Okay, time to return to Dawson’s Creek. [All right, I’ve just heard about Wayne Gretzky retiring: my horrid day is now complete.]
“H-hey,” the latter managed to say before having to draw another breath.
“Slow down,” he advised.
“Joey didn’t make it- couldn’t make it, for last period Spanish and I can’t get the notes to her because I’m due to see Mrs. Forbes about my English project-” he paused to look at his watch, “-right about now. Could yo-”
Dawson didn’t need to finish his sentence. Pacey had grabbed the notebook out of his hand and was in the process of putting it in his backpack. “Of course, I’ll do it. Anything to help out, right?” he said, giving Dawson a regretful smile. “How is she?” he added, as an afterthought.
“Joey’s been helping out more now than Bessie’s down with the flu. Let’s just say that at times, Mrs. Potter looks even better than Joey.” He sighed and started to back up. “Look, I have to run. Thanks for doing this.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to get these to her,” he said loudly, as he watched Dawson hurry up the stairs and back into the school building.
“Hello?” he called out. “Anyone home?”
When there was no answer, he took a step into the seemingly empty house. He closed the door behind him and wandered into the living room. Glancing into the kitchen, he saw a load of dirty dishes in the sink but no one and decided to make his way upstairs.
From the landing, he could see clothes strewn all over the place. The laundry basket was spilling over and the ironing board, that had previously been leaning against the wall, was now half-lying on the floor.
He had his pick of three rooms. Bypassing the bathroom, he went for the one that was half-opened. Peeking in, he found what he was looking for. As silently as he could, he tiptoed to the side of the bed, and kneeled to her level. Gently, he shook her slumbering figure by the shoulder. “Joey,” he whispered.
She stirred slightly and turned her head in his direction but did not wake up.
Subconsciously, she swept her hair out of her eyes as she continued to rest half her body on the bed. Seeing that, he tried again.
Her eyes fluttered open and her expression was one of confusion as she tried to place the face in front of her. All of a sudden, she jumped up in the chair she had been occupying and turned toward the other person in the room.
When she saw that her mother was sleeping soundly, she heaved a sigh of relief. Leaning over, she tucked the blanket up to the latter’s chin. Joey stood there staring for awhile and Pacey thought that she had forgotten he was there until she turned to him and signaled that they should talk outside.
She looked like hell. “You look like you haven’t slept in days.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” She rubbed her temples as she felt a headache coming on. Worse still, her neck was beginning to ache too, from her awkward sleeping position by the bed. “What are you doing here?” she asked, tired.
Pacey held up the book in his head. “I came by to give you homework. Dawson couldn’t make it today.”
She took it from him. “Thanks,” she said and started to make her way downstairs. He followed suit.
Dumping Dawson’s notebook on the table, she collapsed onto the couch and winced as she felt one of the springs give way. Eyes shut, she muttered, “Help yourself if you want something to drink, although I don’t think there’s anything in the kitchen.”
In reflex, she touched her fingers to the area where her neck met her right shoulder as she experienced a spasm but felt Pacey move her hand aside and began to knead her shoulders. She allowed him to weave his magic as her muscles loosened and she let herself relax.
“Better?” he asked.
“Hmm..um,” she answered.
After a couple more minutes, he stopped and she silently protested. She felt the couch sink beneath her as Pacey occupied the space beside her. “Lean back,” he said.
She opened her eyes in surprise. “Huh?”
“I’m offering additional leverage,” he replied as he grabbed a cushion off an armchair and put it on his lap. Noticing her look, he added, “I’m not going to jump you, okay? I’m just trying to present an alternative from this discomfort.” He got his point across by shifting uncomfortably on the hard couch.
She was much too tired to argue with him, so she did as he said. She leaned back and got into a comfortable position, head on his lap, lying on her side, with her hands tucked under her left ear. “I would wake Bessie up but she was running a fever last night and she needs her rest.” Her voice was getting softer and softer, her eyes drifting closed as she allowed sleep to slowly overtake the remainder of her conscious state of mind.
Pacey tucked a lock of hair behind her ear so that he could see her profile. “How’s your Mom doing?”
“The chemo’s got her nauseous all the time and she can’t seem to get much food down,” she mumbled.
“I’m ok-, just want to s-sleep...”
“It’s only been two months and you’re this washed out. You know, you’re going to have to take better care of yourself if you plan on making it through this.”
She didn’t say a word. Instead, he was answered with the sounds of even breathing.
“Joey?” He bent his head slightly to look at her. She didn’t budge.
She had fallen fast asleep and it looked like she was about to stay this way for awhile. He surveyed the living room, wondering what he should do.
Not very much, he thought. So, he picked up the phone beside him and dialed the number home.
“Mom? I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it for dinner.”
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. It was dark, as if the sun had just set.
She got on her feet groggily and stumbled into the kitchen. It smelled good and it looked good.
Wait a second, she thought to herself. “Who washed the dishes?” she asked aloud.
Making her way up the stairs and into their bedroom, she was about to reproach Bessie for exerting herself when she came upon her sister in her bed, looking like she hadn’t been awake in a long time. “That medicine should is lethal,” she mumbled.
Closing the door silently, she was about to enter the next room when she noticed that the hallway was cleared of clothes and the ironing board was put neatly into a corner.
She raised a brow. In this moment of pause, low voices drifted from the room.
“I promise I’ll try my best.”
“Thank you, Pacey.”
Thank you for what, she wondered. Hoping to hear more, she continued to stand by the doorway but there was only silence.
Pushing the door aside, she was greeted by the sight of Pacey sitting by her mother, who was propped up against the headboard, her hand covering his.
“Hi,” she interrupted.
Pacey turned to look at her. She met his eyes and frowned.
His eyes looked suspiciously moist, but only for a moment as he composed himself and flashed her a smile.
Correctly interpreting her expression, he offered an explanation without being asked. “Mrs. Potter and I were just talking about how I should come by more to clean the place up.”
“You picked up the mess?”
He nodded. She believed that, but she didn’t believe for one second that was what they had been talking about before she came into the room.
“The laundry’s in the dryer and there’s pizza in the oven.”
She nodded and turned her attention to her mother. “Mom, you need anything?”
Sarah sighed. “Stop fussing over me like I’m an invalid, will you? Joey, go have your dinner.” She had resumed a strict, motherly tone, in spite of her apparent weakness.
Joey frowned even more. “Are you certain?”
Pushing Pacey off the edge of the bed gently, she gestured toward the door. “Go, go.”
They obliged and left the room. Safely on the other side, she wasted no time in interrogating him. “What did she tell you?”
He made a face at her. “Cut me some slack, will you?”
Without waiting for a reply, he ran downstairs, leaving her to chase after him.
“Pizza?” he asked when they stepped into the kitchen.
“Don’t change the subject.”
He threw his hands in the air, clearly exasperated. “Why are you so paranoid?”
She took hold of his arms to make him turn toward her. “Look me in the eye and tell me that.”
He leaned forward and looked her directly in the eye. “I wasn’t lying.”
Joey stared back at him. He didn’t flinch one bit.
Left with no choice, she let go.
He shook his head and turned away to slice the pizza. “You are so suspicious,” he complained.
She twitched her nose behind his back, a little embarrassed at her behavior. She hadn’t even thanked him for his help before she jumped to conclusions, she chided herself.
If she had caught a glimpse of the uneasiness reflected on his face right then, she wouldn’t have been so quick to feel guilty. Inwardly, he was thanking his lucky stars she didn’t pursue the matter further because he wasn’t so sure that he could lie again, without giving himself away.
“Come on in and take a seat, son.”
Pacey pulled up a chair and fidgeted nervously as he watched the man get up from behind his desk and close the door. Leaning back against the table, Dan regarded Pacey with concern. “Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“Not that I know of,” he joked, his laughter eventually disappearing beneath his obvious anxiety.
Dan Marino was the most senior of four deputy sheriffs working under his father. He was of average height and weight; a fairly healthy 40-year-old man, with a head of premature white hair and kind, hazel eyes. Unlike his father, Uncle Dan never judged anyone before he got his facts right.
That was why he was seeking the latter’s help in secret.
“You see, it’s like this.” He swallowed. “I-I have this friend whose mother’s sick right now. Cancer.”
“Joey, this friend, well, her father travels a lot and her mother’s worried ‘cause she has no idea where he is an-and- I sound really naive.” He stood up so hastily, the chair he had been sitting on fell to the floor with a bang. “I’m sorry,” he said embarrassed as he bent down to pick the chair up. “This is crazy-”
Following his fatherly instincts, he felt an instant protectiveness toward the thirteen-year-old, whom he had always regarded as the son he never had. Not that he minded having two daughters. Pacey was a good boy; his father was always complaining about how lazy he was and that he would eventually come up to no-good but Dan thought otherwise. He felt that Pacey was a lot smarter than he chose to reveal himself to be and was often misjudged, as a result.
“Son, I’m listening.”
Pacey took a deep breath and sat himself down again. He leaned forward to put his elbows on the table and covered his face with his hands. Feeling more composed, he took in another breath.
“Joey’s mother told me that her husband gets speeding tickets a lot. She’s pretty sure he’s not far from Capeside, and she really needs to see him. So on impulse, I told her that I might be able to help locate him by giving you a license plate number.” He had spoken so quickly, he found himself slurring some of his words.
Dan stared at him blankly for awhile before speaking. “Let me get this straight. You want me to type a license plate number into the computer so that I may come up with a location for-” He took the piece of paper that Pacey handed out to him. “-a Mr. Michael Potter?”
“Or maybe you might pull him up yourself.” He grimaced at the slight astonishment in Dan’s voice and conceded a “Ya” to his question.
The latter shook his head in amazement. “You must like this girl a lot. Either that or you watch too much TV.”
Ignoring the knowing look on the man’s face, Pacey chose not to defend himself on either count. “Joey doesn’t know about this. And for some reason, her mother doesn’t want her to find out.”
Dan had spoken to the young boy on several occasions but had never heard him so serious.
“I-Mrs. Potter’s real sick and I don’t think she thinks she’s going to make it. She had this- look in her eyes when I was talking to her. As if she knew...”
“I suggested I might be able to help. It was my idea. You can pretend I never said a word,” he interrupted, to explain.
The man took a long, hard look at Pacey and considered his request for several moments. “I will see what I can do but don’t get your hopes up,” he finally said.
Pacey’s uneasiness turned into a wide grin. “That’s enough for me.” He stood up and offered a handshake. “Thank you, Uncle Dan.”
Dan took his hand and patted him on the shoulder. “You take care now.”
He turned to go before he remembered something else. “Could we, er, keep this between us?”
“Your father won’t hear it from me, I promise.”
Pacey nodded in gratitude.
“Son, you are a good person. Don’t ever give up fighting for what you feel is rightfully yours, no matter what anyone says.”
Anyone, he thought. It’s never easy when anyone’s your own father.
To be continued...
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