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"What?" Pacey looked at her as if the last shred of good sense had just escaped her brain cavity.
"My stage name. Isn't it supposed to be your pet's name and the street you live on?" She smiled in amusement at his frown at the bent this conversation was taking. Pacey had been at her locker after school, waiting to talk her out of going to the strip club to ask for a job today. Joey had paid him no mind, but he'd insisted on at least going with her to lookout for shady characters. Of course, it wasn't necessary, but Joey had to admit she was starting to enjoy his company. She'd spent the entire summer working at the marina, pumping gas, with pretty much no human contact, other than angry customers, Bessie, Alex and her slimy boss Rob, who didn't really qualify as human.
"I thought it was your middle name and your-hey when did you have a pet named Trixie?
"Goldfish. Fourth grade."
"Oh yeah, Dawson overfed it when you went to your grandmother's for a week, then dragged me all over town for a replacement fish." He groaned at the memory. "And you weren't home for more than 5 minutes, before you announced it wasn't your fish, it was too orange and it was three times smaller than it should have been for all the food Dawson used up."
Joey smiled, remembering and wishing things could be that simple again. Her nostalgia was interrupted when Pacey stopped and clapped his hands together. "Alright, this is it. Your destination of debauchery, Ms. Potter."
She looked at the faded concrete facade of the unassuming one-level building with the faded, peeling sign on top reading "Pure Gold" in gilt lettering the color of pea soup, looking neither 'Pure' nor "Gold" by any definition of those terms. For a moment, she wondered what she was doing here, as trepidation and disgust crept up her spine.
Pacey must have seen her doubt, as he gently took her by the shoulders and turned her away from the door, looking seriously at her. "Joey, you don't have to do this you know. You have nothing to prove. You and I both know this thing with Eve is just a temporary, sowing-his-wild-oats thing. Dawson loves you; it's just not the--"
"Not the right time for us," she said in a sing-songy tone at the same time as Pacey finished. "Yeah, so I've heard. Well, you know what Pacey, what if it's never the right time? The only thing you and I both know is that Dawson rejected me. He loves me, but he wants her. Once again, a busty blonde vixen rolls into town and I'm relegated to being the boring, bitchy, best friend who's just one of the guys."
She blew out an exhausted breath and turned slightly to regard the drab exterior of the club again thoughtfully. "This plan is going to work. Dawson's going to see that even if he may think I have about as much sex appeal as his ET doll, there are men out there who find me attractive. I can play the siren just as well as little miss biblical temptation." She squared her shoulders, combed through her teased out hair with her fingers, flipping her head down then quickly back up to get some extra volume. As she bent over, Pacey had no doubt of that last statement. In fact, he was so distracted, Joey slipped inside the club before he could lodge a final complaint.
Rolling his eyes and sighing he yanked the door open and trotted in after her. He didn't get very far however because he walked right into an awestruck Joey who was staring at the woman gyrating on stage with bewildered amazement. Pacey followed her gaze to see a stripper clad in only a thong, twining herself around a brass pole in the most obscene human pretzel he'd ever had the good fortune to witness. Simultaneously, they slowly tilted their heads to the right, as the woman arched gracefully, swinging upside down on the bar, and began simulating a gesture that made Joey's eyes pop and Pacey grin foolishly.
"Hey this ain't a free show, we got a two-drink minimum here!"
Surprised, they both turned quickly at the bark to see a heavyset scowling bald man coming towards them from behind the cash register at the far end of the bar. The guy was dripping in fake gold, three wide chains were looped around his thick neck and he had a chunky pinky ring on not one but both hands. His white dress shirt was looking a little wilted and his tie was loosened, the knot lying askew.
Quickly surmising that he would be the man in charge, Joey strutted forward, purposely swinging her hips a little in a way she hoped made her look sexy, rather than off-balance. She made a mental note to practice her walk later at home as she grasped the man's predictably sweaty hand and tried not to grimace. "I'm Jo-uh Trixie. Trixie Cinnamon," she purred the name in a sultry voice. "And I'm going to be your next star."
The guy laughed harshly, taking his hand back and looking at her incredulously. "Honey, the only stars in this place are the ones you can see through the holes in the roof. Now if you want to strip for me, that's another story. But this ain't Hollywood and I ain't in the star-making business." Despite his gruff tone, he had to bite back a smile. Who'd this kid think she was fooling with that pound-and-a-half of makeup and phony name? She couldn't have been a day more than 16, 17 at most. Still, she had a sort of fresh-faced appeal despite the getup, and it wasn't like he didn't at least a couple other underage girls working for him, not that any of 'em would ever admit it.
But he was no idiot. He'd been in the business longer than most of his girls had been alive, even the legit ones. Still, ever since that little teenybopper in the catholic girl outfit made that video, his biggest nights were when those young ones danced. Sensing some serious potential in front of him, he nodded at the girl, who was obviously nervous from the way she was fiddling with her hands. "Name's Lou."
Pacey watched the guy blatantly do a once-over, taking in Joey's outfit, or lack thereof, and was sure he saw a hungry glint in Lou's beady little eyes. Without really being aware of it, he moved slightly in front of Joey, planting his feet solidly, crossing his arms and glowering at the guy. Lou, looked at the tall dark-haired boy with barely concealed humor. From the baby fat on this one's rosy cheeks, he knew he'd been right about the girl's age. Ah well, it wouldn't be the first time he'd dealt with a jealous boyfriend. Lou shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned against the bar, clearly not intimidated by Pacey's posturing in the slightest. He raised his eyebrows at Joey. "This your bodyguard?"
Exasperated, she elbowed Pacey out of the way and walked around him to stand next to Lou. "No, just a nuisance I couldn't shake," she said in a clearly peeved tone, before she lambasted the boy with a scorching warning glare. Lou chuckled softly, he liked a little spunk in his girls, it usually helped if a customer got out of line. This one looked like a spitfire.
Catching Joey's silent admonition, Pacey uncrossed his arms and looked a little less hostilely at Lou. "I'm a friend of...Trixie's," he cooed the name, clearly mocking the girl's nom-deplume, only to get a glare that would freeze a lesser man's extremities. Lou again had to hide a smile; it was obvious this boy didn't like his friend's new career aspirations. These two certainly had a lot of tension. Lou wondered why the kid hadn't pulled her right out of here by now. He may be jealous, but he obviously wasn't her boyfriend…yet. The kid stuck out a hand to him now, his manners overcoming his dislike of the situation. "Pacey. Pacey Witter."
Lou shook his hand, not missing the emphasis on the last name. "So you're the Sheriff's youngest boy, eh? Seen you in here quite a bit this summer, Mr. Witter. Always a pleasure to meet a satisfied customer."
Joey rolled her eyes at the veiled threats being passed back and forth and slipped in front of Pacey to get Lou's attention again. "So when can I start?" She cocked one hand on her hip, striking a pose that she surely thought was seductive. It was Lou's turn to roll his eyes; the girl had a lot to learn. Still, she did have potential. He motioned for her to pivot slowly in front of him, which she did, though it was clear from the distasteful look on her face that she didn't enjoy it any.
"Alright, honey you got yourself a job. First things first, what's your name? And don't give me that Nutmeg stuff. That's fine for the stage, but I need your real name." She looked at him in surprise and swallowed anxiously, but answered him anyway. "Joey Potter." Lou recognized the last name, but chose not to comment. Hey, he was in no position to judge anyone. Maybe the kid was doing it for the money what with her daddy in jail and all. From the look of unease and loathing on her face as she surveyed the club and its few early bird occupants, Lou was sure she wasn't doing it for her own enjoyment. Some of the girls really liked the job and not just for the money, but for the power they had when they were on the stage. Sometimes they surprised you, the meek little kittens could turn into raging tigresses once they were in costume and strutting down that runway. Lou ran a hand over his five-o'clock shadow and watched Joey, wondering if she would be one of those.
"Okay, Joey. Be here at six tomorrow and every night this week for rehearsals and Saturday'll be your first show. We'll do all the paperwork tomorrow." He shook her hand firmly, sealing the deal and started to head back towards the register. Pacey and Joey turned and walked towards the door, when Lou called out to them. "Almost forgot to ask. You are over 18, babydoll, aren't ya?" Inwardly, he thought Don't screw it up now kid, you're in the clear. He'd already taken a liking to this girl for some reason.
She blinked and faltered for a moment, but then nodded "Sure, sure, turned 18 a month ago." Pacey shot her a look and opened his mouth, only to howl when Joey stepped backwards onto his foot as subtlely as possible.
Quick as a wink, Lou didn't miss the exchange. He broke into a broad smile. She'd do all right this kid. "Then we'll see you tomorrow Joey, and feel free to leave the bodyguard at home." Lou ambled back over to the cash register and reached under the counter for one of the expensive Cuban cigars he had imported in every month. His wife Marta would kill him if she knew about this stash. As he lit up and savored the first puff, the kids' bickering floated over to him as they exited the club. The girl was giving the boy hell for almost blowing the whistle on her. Lou smiled; he had a hunch that this one would definitely be a tigress.
Dawson clicked off the TV in exasperation. There was never anything good on anymore it seemed. He sighed and flicked a glance toward his open window but all he saw was the creek in the distance and the night sky studded with stars. Eve was turning out to be more elusive than Spielberg's first Oscar, and Joey, well the way he'd left things with her, he wouldn't expect to see Ms. Potter climbing through his window anytime soon. He squelched a pang of regret, telling himself firmly that he was the one who'd turned Joey away. He refused to be a puppet to whatever Joey wanted any longer. All last year, she had jerked him along, flaunting the whole Jack thing and then finally letting him believe in the happy ending at last before she cruelly stepped on his heart and crushed any chance they had at a future. Dawson didn't understand why she hadn't realized he'd only had her best interests at heart. He'd just wanted to protect her, knowing that her father's involvement could've meant danger for Joey. She had apologized at the party, said she understood but Dawson doubted it.
Her words last June had been so cold; she'd said all he could see was the black and white, while she lived shades of gray. He'd thought about that a lot over the summer in Philadelphia. Tried to understand what was so wrong about his way of seeing things. Once, Joey had felt the same way. Sure, she'd tried to hide her idealism with sarcasm and cynical comments, but Dawson knew the real Joey, the Joey who believed in happy endings and still loved ET just like he did. At least he thought that was the real Joey. Sometimes it was hard to tell anymore. She'd changed so much in the last year. If he hadn't realized that before, the way she had taken off her shirt and offered herself to him at the party certainly proved that.
He rolled over and his eyes caught sight of a photo on his desk of he and Joey on the creek taken a few summers ago. They looked so happy, so uncomplicated. Where were those two kids now? Everything was so … heavy between them. He couldn't remember the last time he and Joey had just had a conversation…no analyzing their relationship, no trying to figure out where they were or where they were going. He missed that most of all.
The phone rang piercing through his overladen mind. "Hello?"
"Hey, D, how they hanging?"
Dawson smiled in spite of himself. Pacey, of course, crude as ever. "Hey Pace. What's up?"
"Well, my man, you wouldn't believe this chick I saw tonight…." Dawson listened as Pacey described in vivid detail, the figure of some woman he'd seen earlier today. Finally he cut in. "Is this the new Pacey Witter I'm talking to? The Casanova, so devoted to his lovely girlfriend that he spent the whole summer celibate, anxiously awaiting her return and writing her some rather gushy love letters, if I may say…"
"Leery, I'm taken not dead, and when are you gonna stop ribbing me about those letters? I told you they weren't meant for public consumption you know?"
"I thought they were nice. A tribute to romanticism that showed that although considered an antiquated concept, the flame of true love can never be extinguished."
"Uh...sure, D, whatever you say. I'll just be glad when Andie's back. And uh, speaking of romance, may I surmise from our lunchtime encounter that you and the lovely Eve have been getting better acquainted?"
Dawson sighed. "Would that it were true. Unfortunately the lovely Eve is also the elusive Eve. Our sojourn to the strip club last week seemed to be luck. I've called the place and the owner told me she's just a temp and doesn't work there anymore."
"Ah Lou, charming man, ain't he?"
"You're on a first-name basis with the guy? Geesh, you really did get around this summer."
Pacey quickly realized his mistake. "Oh yeah, well you know being lonely, girls can't resist a wounded soul crying in his beer."
"Hey, Pace, what was going on with Joey at lunch? She barely spoke two words and now that I think of it, her attire wasn't exactly Joey Potter-style."
"Well call me crazy, Dawson, but the lack of scintillating conversation was probably due to the fact that I don't think she was too thrilled about seeing you with your new paramour if you get my drift." His voice dripped with irony then switched over to pure innocence. "As far as the clothes go, you know me, my idea of style ranges from Hawaiian shirts to football jerseys."
"Yeah, but something seemed, I don't know, off. Wrong. Has she said anything to you lately? Is she doing alright?"
Pacey was silent for a moment, then finally he spoke. "Joey's a tough girl. She's stronger than we give her credit for I think. She'll be all right. But, Dawson, if you're that concerned, maybe you should talk to her, rather than sending me in to be some kind of peace treaty mediator."
"I don't think I'm what she needs in her life right now. Pace. But that doesn't mean I don't want to make sure she's okay. I mean, do you really mind, just checking on her now and again? I'm not trying to cramp your thriving social life.
Pacey was silent again. "No, Dawson. I don't mind. Look, man, I gotta go, Dougie's bitching at me to use the phone again. I'll see you tomorrow, okay.
Dawson said his goodbyes and hung up. He thought about what Pacey said, about going to Joey himself, but he couldn't see what good it would do. They'd probably just get into another long-winded play-by-play about what was going on between them that solved nothing and only resulted in hurt feelings and angry words all around. He was sick of relating to Joey that way. Maybe, the fact that they couldn't talk without it coming to that anymore was an indication that they really were growing up and growing apart. Dawson wasn't sure, but he did know he couldn't spend another year doing this crazy dance with Joey. He'd realized in Philly this summer that there was a lot out there to be explored and he'd been wasting time. It was a new year and Dawson was ready, more than ready, to be a new man. Without further ado, he reached up turned out the light and rolled over, quickly drifting into oblivion.
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