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[Previously in "Places in the Heart": Natasha and Dawson grow closer, and decided, despite the obstacles that they may face, that they will try to date. Natasha speaks with her brother on the phone, and tells Dawson that he is spoiled and wild, and nothing else. Dawson tells Pacey that he should tell Joey how he feels, because they are obviously in love, but Pacey refuses. Joey and Pacey mend their friendship when they both apologize, profess how much they need each other, and Pacey does what Joey wants by laying part of the blame for the accident on her.]
It was Friday night, and Pacey was tired. His first week back to school had been a little too much for him. No one could tell though, because he hid it very well. As he sat on Dawson's bed, he closed his eyes, and was close to falling asleep. "You all right?" he heard.
"I'm fine, Dawson," he said, opening his eyes.
"If you feel bad, I will give you a complete repeal from having to stay," Dawson said.
"I wish that everyone would stop worrying, I'm fine," Pacey said.
"Is it going to take getting hit by a tractor trailer for you to slow down?" Joey asked as she climbed through the window.
"Are you going to drive it?" he asked her, as she sat next to him on the bed. By her joke, it was obvious of the progress that she and Pacey had made since their talk last Saturday. They had put most of the baggage from the accident behind them, and they were almost back to being the friends that they were before. It was much more difficult this time around, because their feelings of love were much stronger, and it was growing more difficult for each of them to suppress them.
The doorbell rang, and Dawson ran downstairs. "Seriously, how do you feel?" Joey asked.
"Okay," he said. "I'm just a little tired."
"I know that's only partially the truth," she said.
"Well. . ." he said, letting her know that she was right, but not adding anything.
A smiling Natasha walked into the room. "Hi guys," she said.
"Hey," Joey said.
"What's up, Tash?" Pacey asked.
"Nothing really," she said. "Dawson said he'll be right up, he's waiting for Jen, and making popcorn."
"He's really getting into this, isn't he?" Joey asked. Pacey nodded his head. This was Dawson's first attempt at integrating Natasha into the circle of friends. He really was anxious for Joey and Jen to openly accept her, because after a week, he was already very happy dating her. Jen seemed okay with it. Everyone had noticed a change in her attitude, but only Pacey and Natasha knew it was because of the deadly news she had received. She was working very hard to be a good person, and her first goal was to be nice, accept, and not resent Natasha's presence.
Moments later, Jen and Dawson walked in, each carrying a bowl of popcorn. "Hey guys," Jen said, smiling.
"Hey," they all said in unison.
"What are we watching tonight, D?" Pacey asked.
"Horror flicks," Dawson said. He saw Natasha make a face. "What?" he asked her.
"I don't like horror movies," she said.
"You're not scared are you?" Dawson asked, laughing.
"No," she said. "I just think that they embody all of the wrong things. I mean a horror movie is the perfect place to find tons of gender stereotypes."
"You can't be serious," Dawson proclaimed.
"She's right Dawson," Joey said. "The women in those movies are all the same."
"How so?" Dawson asked, challenging them.
"Helpless little frail women, who are always waiting for some man to come and save them," Natasha said.
"Always attractive, petit, stupid," Joey added.
"They never know where to hide from the axe murder/crazy man/killer doll, whatever. They don't know how to pick up a knife, or a cast iron frying pan, or a bat, or a heavy blunt object to defend themselves," Natasha said.
"They get cornered because they lock themselves in a room where they can't get out, and then are dumb enough to turn their back to the shadows, or perch themselves in front of a window," Joey said.
"They are always in some tight dress or short skirt, with these huge, clunky, six inch heels. Which, by the way, they aren't smart enough to take off, so that they can run faster," Natasha said. At this point, Pacey and Jen were laughing uncontrollably.
"And when they do run, their asses always fall down," Joey said.
"Thank you," Natasha said, approving of Joey's statement. "Not to mention that because of the attacks they have torn their clothes to shreds, but miraculously enough, their pantyhose don't have a run in them! I can run my pantyhose, by taking too deep a breath."
"And then when the boyfriend finally does kill the bad guy, they are always too dumb to make sure he is dead, and most of the time, he comes back, after them once again," Joey finished. She looked at Natasha, and they both had looks of satisfaction. They looked at Dawson seriously, and he looked back just as seriously, despite the fact that Jen and Pacey were still laughing.
"Okay," Dawson said. "I'm sorry. But it's still entertainment."
"Poor entertainment," Joey and Natasha say simultaneously.
"Well, we can watch something else," Dawson said.
Jen began looking through Dawson's personal collection of movies, as she wiped her tears of laughter away. "'The Mighty Ducks'?" she said to Dawson, surprised he had that movie.
"We are not watching that," Joey said. "That movie freaks me out." Pacey and Dawson began to laugh.
"The Mighty Ducks freaks you out? Why?" Jen asked.
"That one kid in that movie looks way too much like Pacey," Joey said. "It's spooky."
"You're overreacting," Pacey said, giggling. "He doesn't look that much like me." She shot him a look to let him know that he was horribly mistaken.
Natasha joined Pacey and Dawson at the lunch table in the cafeteria, just as she had become accustomed to. Every day, a red-haired girl at the next table would shoot them a dirty look. Today Dawson decided to surprise her, by leaning over, and giving Natasha a peck on the cheek. He would've preferred giving her a normal kiss, but was still uncomfortable with public displays of affection. His kiss pleased Natasha, and she let out a little grin, when she saw the girl grow even more pissed.
"Please guys, I am trying to eat," Pacey joked. They both looked at him seriously. He smiled back, "What?"
"Pacey, you are insane," Natasha said to him.
"Hey, it's not my fault that women just don't seem to realize how attractive that I am. I guess that I just scare them away," Pacey said, jokingly.
"I'm sure that's it," she said sarcastically. She took a bite of her chicken salad sandwich, and turned her attention back to Pacey. "So I see you're on the agenda for culture night."
"Yeah," Pacey said. He was trying to keep it a secret, and hoped Natasha would drop the subject. She didn't.
"So what are you doing?" she asked.
"Just reading this thing that I wrote for English class. I'm only doing it so I can get extra credit," he said.
"What's culture night?" Dawson asked.
"Some new creation by the teachers to get the community involved more in the school. They'll be lucky to get ten people to come," Pacey said. "What are you doing at it?" he asked Natasha.
"Showing a painting that I did in art class, and they want me to be there in case anyone has any questions about it. As far as I'm concerned, it's self explanatory," she said.
"I know," Pacey said, "just how I want to spend an evening, listening to empty compliments."
"Well, I can't wait to see your stuff," Dawson said.
"That's nice D," Pacey said, "but I was kind of hoping to do this on a solo basis."
"What?" Joey asked as she sat down.
"Why, Pacey? You should be proud that they picked something of yours," Dawson said.
"It's not that big of a deal," Pacey said.
"What?" Joey asked again.
"Culture night," Natasha told her. "Pacey's doing a reading."
"Of what?" Joey asked.
"Nothing," Pacey said, quickly.
"It might be hard to read nothing," Joey said.
"Something he wrote," Dawson said, "and he doesn't want us to go."
"Why not?" Joey asked Pacey.
"It'll just make me more nervous than I already am," he said.
"But having people who you care about there might make it easier," Natasha said.
"No it won't," Pacey said, showing his aggravation with her.
"You don't want us to come?" Joey asked him sadly.
"No," Pacey said.
"Okay," Joey said, respecting his wishes. "Whatever you want."
"You're giving in that easily?" Dawson said to her.
"Yeah, we need to respect what he wants," Joey said. She had learned in the past that was best, and she just wanted to make him happy, no matter how miserable she was.
Natasha was making her way through the busy hallway, trying to reach the parking lot. She briefly turned because she thought that she had heard her name, but dismissed it, and kept walking. She flinched when she felt a hand on her shoulder. "Natasha," she heard.
"Pacey, you scared me," she said. She recalled his obvious anger from earlier, and quickly said, "I've gotta get to the hospital, so I can't talk."
"Please Tash, it's important," he said.
"Okay," she said. "I'll give you a ride home, on my way, but I'm not promising a stop. I might not even slow down."
He followed her, and climbed into the passenger seat of her black Neon. "So what's this life or death matter?" she asked, backing out of the parking space.
"I'm sorry about how I acted at lunch. But, I'm really trying to downplay this whole culture night thing," he said.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because they can't come, and I don't want them to."
"Pacey they are supposed to be your friends."
"But the thing that I wrote was not exactly something that I wanted to share. I just thought I needed the credit. I thought that I could just do it, and keep it from them, but now they know, and I need you to try and help me keep them away tomorrow night."
"What's it about?" she asked. "You know, I could help you so that it might be more comfortable."
"Look," he said. "I just don't want them to hear it. It will change things."
"I'll help," she said, "but you have to let me read it first."
"Okay," he said, rolling his eyes. He began to dig through his backpack, and handed her a piece of paper. "Here," he said. She grabbed it, as she pulled into the Leery driveway. She turned off the car, and began to read.
"I thought you had to be somewhere," Pacey said.
"I just said that because I thought you might leave me alone," she told him honestly. She read through what he had handed her, and she looked at him when she was finished. "So this is about your little jones for Joey, and you don't want her to find out about it."
"I don't have a jones for Joey," he said. "I just don't want her to get the wrong idea, and she'll make me nervous if she's there."
"Please Pacey, everyone can see it but her," she said.
Pacey was growing disgusted. "Are you going to help me, or what?" he asked. "Look Dawson is okay, but Joey cannot come. Please help me, you are my last hope."
"I'll help," she said.
"Thank you," he said with a sigh of relief. "Thanks for the ride," he said leaving the car.
"I'll help you, Pacey," she said to herself. "Now whether you like the way I do it, or not, I have no idea."
Through the crowded hallway, Natasha was happy to spot Joey exchanging books at her locker. Natasha had a plan to finally get Joey and Pacey together. As much as she detested lying, she conviced herself that this was best, and that if she didn't intervene that they may be waiting on fate for the rest of their lives. "Hey Joey, you got a second?" she asked.
"Sure," Joey said. "What's going on?"
"Look, I know that Pacey told you not to come tonight, but I think that you should. I mean, Dawson told me about how you helped him, and tutored him so that he could turn his academic career around, and I thought that it might be a proud moment for you," Natasha said.
"It would be," Joey said. "And I would like to go more than anything, but I need to do what he asked, because that's what he wants. I'm sure there's a good reason for it."
"Well," Natasha said. "He's scheduled to go last, and you could just wonder in after it's started, and hide in the back, and he might not know that you're there."
"Why are you doing this?" Joey asked suspiciously.
"I heard from the coordinator that his piece is really good, and despite what he says, I think he wants you there. It could go over very well, and I want you to at least know that you were there for his moment in the sun," Natasha said.
"Thanks," Joey said. She was impressed, and it was getting more and more difficult for her to dislike Natasha. Joey wondered what Natasha knew that she didn't. It was obvious she was hiding something, but Joey didn't know her well enough to know what it was. She didn't want to spend her time being skeptical, because she did want to hear Pacey present his writing.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the temperature even seemed to be warming up. Joey was wiping the counter at the empty Icehouse when Jen approached. "Hey, Joey," Jen said. "What's going on?"
"Well, I'm not exactly performing brain surgery, but I guess I'm doing a job critical to mankind. If any of mankind were here. What can I get ya?"
"Can I have a soda?" Jen asked. "And some fries?"
"Sure," Joey said, writing down her order. She filled a glass, and handed it to Jen. Jen was already fifteen minutes late taking her pills, and just decided to do it. She pulled the bottle out of her purse, and swallowed them down by taking a drink.
"What was that?" Joey asked.
"I'm just getting over a cold," Jen said. "It's an antibiotic."
"Are you feeling okay?" Joey asked.
"Yeah," Jen said. "I'm fine. I just need to take the pills to stay that way." Joey shook her head, pretending that she understood.
Watching the two girls from afar there were two guys. One was a tall, light-skinned black guy with a neat-looking, short fade. The other was slightly shorter, dark-skinned, with a shaved head. They were both attractive looking, and seemed to be around fifteen or sixteen, just like Jen and Joey.
"She is fine," the tall one said.
"Who? The blonde?" the short one asked. "She's not all that."
"She is," the tall one said. "Let's go talk to them."
"I don't know," the short one said. "That brown haired one looks like she has an attitude."
"It will be challenge for you then," the light-skinned one said with a smile. He walked over to the counter, and took the stool next to Jen, and his friend sat next to him. They both put wide grins on to look at Joey. "Can I help you?" she asked them.
"Yeah," the tall one said. "Could we get a couple of burgers?"
"Okay," Joey said. "You want fries, or a drink, or something?"
"Yeah," he answered. "That sounds good." He looked over at Jen, and put a huge smile on his face once again. "You know," he said to her, "I really wasn't hungry. This was just some pretense for me to come and hopefully meet you." His friend rolled his eyes. "The truth is, I think you are a classic beauty, and if I could get to know you, I would feel so privileged." He licked his bottom lip, as he slowly moved his eyes down her body.
"Do you rehearse that in the mirror?" Jen asked.
"Baby, I am real. Even if that was a line, I still meant every word of it," he said.
"So what's your name?" she asked, sounding interested.
"I'm Nate," he said. He pointed to the other guy, "this is Malcolm. And you are. . ."
"Bored," she said. "Nate, may I offer you some advice?" Nate shook his head. "Your little mac-daddy, aspiring player act is not going to work. You should find a new approach," she said, as she smirked.
"Naw," he said. "I'm not a player. I was just trying to be sincere, and that obviously doesn't work," he said, scrunching up his nose.
Joey emerged from the kitchen, handing Jen her fries, and Nate and Malcolm their hamburgers. Nate looked at Joey. "How can I get your friend here to like me?" he asked, attempting to be sweet. To Jen it was very transparent, and she could tell he didn't attempt to do it much.
"I don't know," Joey said. She looked at Jen, "what does he need to make you interested?"
"A trash can," Jen said. Nate looked at her, confused. "You need to throw those tired lines away. Any woman that has any sense will see right through them."
"Okay," he said, acting scorn. "I get the message." He was nowhere near ready to give up, but he thought that it might be good to give her a little time, before he moved further.
Malcolm looked at Joey. He held out his hand and said, "I'm Malcolm," with a smile.
"Hi," she said.
"Are you going to tell me your name?" he asked.
"Joey," she said.
"It's nice to meet you Joey," he said, in a sweet voice. He was obviously more experienced than Nate, and played sweet much better. He smiled at her, and went back to his food. Malcolm thought it would be easy to perk her interest, but she surprised him when she walked back into the kitchen.
Nate looked at Malcolm. "She's emotionally attached."
"I think you're right," Malcolm said.
"What?" Jen asked.
"She has a boyfriend, right?" Nate asked.
"No, she doesn't," Jen said, pleased that she could say so.
"Hmm," Malcolm said. "Maybe this damned fresh air has my game off a little."
"You could be right," Nate said.
Jen was chuckling as she stood up, and handed some money to Joey when she resurfaced from the kitchen. "I'll see you, Jo," she said.
"Are you coming tonight?" Joey asked.
"No," Jen said. "I'll see you tomorrow in school." She began to walk away.
"Hey," Nate called to her. "You never told me your name."
She turned around, walking backwards. "I'll see you around. . .Nate," she said, as she turned away once again. Joey began laughing, and shook her head, as she saw the priceless look on Nate's face.
He looked at Malcolm and said, "She'll be back." Malcolm shook his head, patronizing Nate.
Pacey was nervously pacing back and forth in front of a row of lockers just outside of the library. He was quite striking, wearing a pair of tan dress pants, a heavy, navy blue dress shirt, and a plaid tie. He watched as people were filing into the library where the art exhibit was, and in ten minutes, the English portion of culture night would begin. He could not believe that dammed Mr. Marx had talked him into this. He was not proud of what he had written, and had never intended to share it. The thought of him sharing his most intimate thoughts with these strangers was sickening him. Mr. Marx had gone over the order that they were going, but Pacey couldn't remember what he had said, so now he was actually going to have to listen.
Dawson emerged from the library. "Have you seen Natasha?" he asked Pacey, sounding concerned.
"No," Pacey said. "She's not here?"
"No," Dawson said. Before he could say anything else, he was distracted by the rapid tapping coming from Natasha's heels. "Are you okay?" he asked her.
"Yeah," she said, catching her breath as she met Dawson and Pacey. "My brother has disappeared, and my parents are frantic. They had to go to the city to look for him. Nobody knows where he is."
"What are you going to do?" Dawson asked.
"I'm just waiting for them to find out something," she said. "There's nothing else that I can do. So I finally decided to come."
Mr. Marx, a middle aged man, dressed in a navy blue suit interrupted, "we're going to get started in a couple of minutes."
They shook their heads. "You ready?" Dawson asked.
"Yeah," Natasha said. "You go ahead, and save me a seat."
"Okay," Dawson said. Natasha watched him walk away.
"Are you ready for this?" she asked.
"Yeah," Pacey said. "You do what you said you would?"
"Yeah. I tried to do what was best," she said, trying not to lie. "You look a little pale."
"I'm nervous," he said, "but I'll be okay if she isn't here." "Let's go inside," she said. They both walked into the library. Natasha took a seat near the door next to Dawson. Pacey made his way down the aisle between the rows of folding chairs. He walked past the small podium, and took a chair on the far right that faced the crowd. He sat up straight, and was rubbing his knee nervously. He watched as he saw Mr. Marx take the podium. Now all he would have to do was wait to hear Mr. Marx announce his name.
Mr. Marx stood, and took the podium once again. "And finally, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Pacey Witter, a sophomore, will read a piece of prose poetry. Mr. Witter," he concluded, yielding to Pacey.
"Thank you," Pacey said, standing behind the podium. He looked out into the crowd, and saw about forty people, instead of the ten he had estimated earlier. Natasha flashed him a reassuring smile. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm a little nervous." He looked down to his paper. "She Doesn't Know." He paused after reading the title.
While he was looking down, Joey quietly snuck in the door. Natasha and Dawson moved down, so that she could have a seat.
Pacey began to read. "She is something to me. She is strong. She is beautiful. She is intelligent. She is eloquent. She is kind. She is honest. She is my life, but she doesn't know.
"Her smile is beautiful. Her smile melts my heart. Her smile makes my heart pound like crazy. Her smile makes me miss her. Her smile makes me nauseous. Her smile is the most beautiful thing that I've ever seen. I love her smile, but she doesn't know.
"I want to know what he has done to deserve her love. I want to know why he is so lucky. I what to know why I am sitting here pining away for her, while he is with her. I want to know why he knew what to do, and I don't. I want to know why he is worthy of her, and I am not.
"I want to be the one she spends her time with. I want to be the one who dances with her. I want to be the one who she would change for. I want to be the one who would never ask her to change. I want to be the one who lifts her up when she's down. I want to be the one who is there for her always. I want to be the one who she would rather be with than anyone else in the whole world. I want to be the one who she loves, but she doesn't know.
"She makes me do things. She makes me crazy. She makes my imagination go wild with "what ifs." She makes me admire her from afar, because I don't have the courage to do it any other way. She makes me mad, because she has this unexplainable, uncontrollable power over me. She makes me feel like some ten-year-old with a crush. She makes me feel like this, but she doesn't know.
"She is inescapable. She is my shattered heart. She is all that I see. She is my world. She is my heart. She is my soul. She is my life. She is someone that may never know what she has meant to me. "I love her, but she doesn't know." He looked up when he was finished, and the crowd began clapping. When he looked back at Dawson, he spotted Joey. He nodded to the crowd in acceptance of their applause, despite his look of anger, and began walking. He couldn't get out of the room fast enough.
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