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Author’s Note: Nothing much to say at this point, really...just maybe I’m glad to be back from the dreaded flu after being stuck in bed for what seemed like forever. I had finished this part slightly over a week ago but unfortunately, I fell sick before I could get to a computer to have it posted. This week spells loads of work as I attempt to catch up with missed lectures and tutorials. Luckily for me, I have the mid-weeks to look forward to as Pacey and the gang are back on TV on Wednesdays in the UK!
She closed her locker and looked it up and down. Convinced it belonged to her, she opened it again.
Someone had slotted a red envelope into her locker.
She slowly reached for it and gingerly touched the corners, as though it might suddenly bite her. Taking back her hand and examining the tips of her fingers, she concluded softly, “Doesn’t look like there’s poison.”
Next, she reached for the envelope and opened it. It was a handmade card, cut in the shape of a heart. “Doofus Dawson,” she grumbled.
Joey turned around to make sure noone was looking; she wasn’t about to get caught with a valentine in her hand. She was about to flip it open to read it when a voice startled her from behind.
With a reflex a poker player about to cheat would have been proud of, she flung the card and the envelope back into the locker, slammed the door shut and leaned back against it, as if she was done and had been about to leave anyway.
“Hi!” she said, too quickly and too cheerfully.
Pacey gazed suspiciously at her. “Are you feeling all right?”
“Fine,” she continued in a highly-strung voice. “Never been better! Got to go!”
She walked off before he could tell her she had forgotten to lock up.
He lowered his voice as he realized that people had stopped to stare. Smiling awkwardly, he acted as if all was fine. Hastily, he turned his attention back to the source of his outburst.
Grabbing the envelope, he opened it and read its content softly aloud: “Please meet me in the yard by the last bench after school. Enjoy today. Your Secret Valentine.”
“All I did was criticize his sense of color,” he mumbled, “he didn’t have to play such a big joke on me...”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” Hands on hips, she scrutinized the entire classroom for a suspect. Some of her classmates were snickering as they wondered who on earth would bestow Joey Potter, whose bad temper and hands-off attitude was renowned, with a Valentine’s Day gift.
Dawson chose to walk in at that moment. Immediately, he was pounced upon as he took his seat.
“Hey!” he protested when Joey smacked him on the back of his head. Rubbing the spot where she had hit him, his face scrunched up in pain as he asked, “What was that for?”
“This,” she said, throwing the card on the table, “and this!” She grabbed the box of chocolates and the flower off her desk and thrusted it at him.
“Someone gave you candy?” he asked, amazed.
She glared at him. “You should know!”
“Joey, if you think-.”
She took another step forward and he automatically moved backward.
“It wasn’t me!” he denied. “I swear!”
The menace in her eyes died down a little. Dawson could never lie to her and he wasn’t lying to her now.
She got back to her seat and flopped into it. Head in her hands, she mumbled, “Fabulous!”
Dawson turned around, the card in his hand as he read the words softly, “Hope this cheers you up. Your Secret Valentine.”
Joey was slumped face down on her desk.
“This is way too surreal...” Dawson continued to say.
She took the card from him just as their teacher walked in.
“You, me, after school. I’m going to find this guy.”
He quickened his step; he gave Dawson enough time to say, “H-” before hitting him on the head with the card. Joey watched, wide-eyed as she tried to bite back a smile at her friend’s expense.
“Frankly, I’m a little hurt. Okay, so I insulted your taste and maybe, chipped one of your heads, but that was honestly an accid-”
Dawson was rubbing the back of his head as he looked from first, Joey, who shrugged her shoulders at him, and then to Pacey, who was waiting for an explanation of some kind.
He was practically shouting when he asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”
Pacey waved the card in front of his face. “This!”
Dawson grabbed it out of his hand and read it; his eyes widened as they scanned the words.
“Not you too!” he exclaimed.
“Not me too what?” Pacey asked, less angry and now, confused as well.
“Yeah, what?” Joey quipped.
Dawson snatched Joey’s card from her hand and gave it to Pacey and handed the latter’s back to her.
There was a moment’s pause before they both burst out laughing at the same time.
Pacey was visibly struck by the hilarity of it as he grinned from ear to ear. “Who in his right mind would send you a valentine?”
“I was thinking the same about you,” she challenged, a hint of a mocking smile, still on her face.
“I’ll have you know I’ve got plenty of admirers.”
Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Oh, I see. And is that why you thought Dawson was your secret valentine?”
“At least I didn’t let it go to my head! Being my modest self, I was willing to check it out with him first.”
Joey was indignant. “And what do you think I did? Kiss every guy in sight?” She was vaguely aware that she had probably just insulted herself with the insinuation that noone would even think about her romantically.
“Hmmm...” Dawson was intrigued by the mystery of it. He drowned out the sounds of their argument as he thought out loud, “You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d guess that the two of you were responsible for each other’s card.” He laughed. “But that’s ridiculous!”
As he watched their faces, his chuckles faded to a sudden halt. “Oh my God!”
Pacey snorted. “I have better things to do with my life. I did not send her that card. Although, I’m beginning to wonder-”
“In your dreams, buddy!” Joey interjected, before he managed to complete his sentence. “If I had to do something like that, believe me, you’d be the last person on my list.”
“You say that now but-”
His brows wrinkled as he frowned at Joey. Unless she was practising to become a ventriloquist, he was sure she hadn’t said a word. Slowly, he turned around and came face-to-face with Karen Lipton, who was standing a couple of feet from them.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said, in a soft and barely audible voice.
Pacey turned back to look at his friends. They were staring at Karen, speechless. Seeing that they could offer no help, he swallowed before asking, “Y-, you sent me the valentine?”
He evaluated the situation: well, it ain’t so bad. She looks nice enough, probably better without those huge glasses. Smart and geeky is good. In fact, it’s terrific, he reassured himself.
His smile came belatedly; about ten seconds too late. “W-would you just wait a second for me?”
She nodded again.
Joey felt like she was about to die from the effort of trying not to explode into, what was sure to become, unstoppable laughter. Fortunately, a male voice stopped her.
Her first reaction was a blank look, followed by an appropriate “huh?”.
Now the boys’ attention was turned to the person behind her. She was frightened out of her wits.
The unfamiliar voice walked up to her side. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out.
“It’s Gary Mullen. I’ve just moved here from Holyoke.” The boy was a fairly good-looking one, with light brown hair and as far as she could tell, green eyes. Up close, she could see that he had a light spattering of freckles across his nose as well.
She only managed a “I-” and then she was stumped once again.
Dawson intervened by introducing himself.
Pacey also shook his hand, then he added, “You’re new, huh? Then you won’t know our Joey is seldom at a loss for words. You see, she’s- ouch!”
Dawson had pinched him in the motion of swinging an arm around the latter’s shoulder. That shut Pacey up for awhile, which gave him enough time to separate all of them.
“Pacey, why don’t you go join Karen?” he said and gave him a shove in her direction. Then he patted Gary on the shoulder and advised, “Maybe, you should take Joey out for a drink. You guys must have a lot to talk about.” With that, Dawson pushed himself away from the table and stepped off the bench onto the grass. “I see Laurie. Have to go.”
He didn’t dare look back as he ran across the yard for his life.
“She was sweet. But don’t ask me to ever do it again.”
“If I didn’t feel as big a fool as you right now, I’d be rolling on the ground in sarcastic laughter.” He raised his brow. “He didn’t look too bad to me.”
She crossed her arms. “You can have him then. If he wants you.”
“Snappy,” he complained. “Well, actually I’m not surprised. We both know that this guy is nothing compared to our beloved friend Dawson.”
That got her undivided attention. “What the hell are you talking about?” she demanded.
“Come on, we both know how much you wanted that valentine to be from Dawson. I bet you were thinking maybe he’s starting to see you in a new light and hoping that things might just change that little bit, beyond friendship.”
“That is not true!” Her voice was seething with anger.
“Try saying it with less conviction,” he suggested. “Joey, you ain’t fooling anybody, least of all me.”
“Pacey,” she warned. “This isn’t funny!”
“Don’t worry,” he said, looking her in the eye. “This remains a secret. It’ll be interesting to see how long he takes to realize it.”
She stood up and returned his look icily. “No matter how right you think you are, you’re not.” And then she left him in a huff.
He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “If it’d make you feel any better, I wish I wasn’t right either,” he whispered into the cool breeze.
He was talking as he paced restlessly back and forth.
“She is so pretty and great to talk to. We have so much in common really-”
“I had fun with Gary as well. He is very sweet,” she interrupted.
“I want to see her again-”
“Me too. See Gary, I mean.”
Dawson smiled. And then he settled himself by her side. “But,” he continued, “she said something about you that I didn’t like, so I told her that’s it.”
Joey was caught by surprise.
“Nothing will come between us and our friendship.”
She had been about to grin when the significance of his promise hit her. With an awkward smile instead, she reassured him with as much optimism as she could muster. “You’re absolutely right, Dawson.”
To be continued...
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