Previous | Next
Bessie Potter looked up as the screen door creaked and her sister walked in with a big smile. It was hard to believe Joey was 16 already. She could still remember the day when her parents brought Joey home from the hospital.
That the red-faced screaming urchin with a shock of dark hair had grown into a stunning young woman seemingly overnight was just a reminder that time had a disconcerting way of slipping by without your notice or permission.
Of course, both she and Joey had been forced to grow up pretty fast. After their mom got sick and their dad went to prison, there had been precious little time for anything, what with running the Icehouse and the arrival of Alex.
Tonight though, Bessie thought as she looked at the easy smile on her sister's face, Joey seemed somehow…younger. It was obvious the trip to New York had done her a lot of good. It had been a long time since she'd seen Joey without a scowl or frown on her face. Not since Dawson told her about their dad, actually.
Bessie sniffed, she still harbored a bit of resentment towards Dawson for putting her sister in that position. She knew it was probably unreasonable of her, but since Joey was little, she had watched her running around with him and Pacey and later the whole evolution of the crush on Dawson. Dawson was a nice enough boy, but she had always thought it was the hair-pulling, insult-trading routine between Jo and Pacey that would lead to a romance-all that displaced sexual tension and all. But for some reason their insults had just gotten sharper over the years and Joey had spent more and more of her time at the Leery's.
Then there was the whole Jack-debacle of course, which, Bessie knew, had stung Joey and ultimately sent her running back to Dawson and her sense of security. Though she would never say as much to her sister, Bessie was glad Dawson was in Philadelphia for the summer. They were too serious together for 16-year-olds. Joey should be light-hearted and happy, like she was now, like she hadn't been for a while.
And much to Bessie's delight, from her conversation with Pacey earlier, she had a strong inkling that that the winds were changing in Capeside.
"So Joey, I want to hear more about what you did today," Bessie said, a bit of a mischievous glint in her eye. "How exactly did my darling little sister spend her sixteenth birthday?"
"I told you already. I just hung around with Pacey most of the day," Joey shrugged, unconsciously slipping into the defensive mode she always adopted when Bessie was prying. "We went to Central Park and the toy store where I got Alex's plane."
"Funny, but Pacey's version is much better."
"What do you mean, Pacey's version?" Jo growled, threateningly.
"I mean he told me about your lovely day in New York while we were changing the baby earlier." Bessie grinned. "I don't know Jo, a horse and carriage ride through the park, a rose, dancing…sounds downright romantic to me." Bessie's suspicions were confirmed by the telltale flush spreading over Joey's face.
"Yeah maybe if I wasn't with Pacey. Look Bess, just because you miss Bodie, it doesn't give you the right to foist your romantic fantasies off on me. I'm no Meg Ryan and he sure as hell ain't Tom Hanks."
Bessie frowned and stuck her tongue out at Jo.
"Spoilsport! Why are you so hard on Pacey anyway? You're always putting the boy down. You never give Dawson such a hard time."
"Um in case you haven't noticed Bess, the feeling is mutual…or used to be."
This conversation was getting worse by the second and the more uncomfortable Joey got, the faster she started talking.
"Whatever, look, we're friends and we don't insult each other nearly as much as we used to. I even had a halfway decent time with him today. Besides, when did the whole world start feeling the need to list Pacey's wonderful qualities for me? The guy changes one diaper and all of a sudden you're his personal cheering section?"
"I've always liked Pacey. I think he's a sweet kid who gets a bum rap a lot of the time."
Just then, Bessie noticed the chain around Joey's left wrist.
Joey saw where her sister's eyes were resting and she looked away.
"Just a gift…" She picked up Alex's toy plane and began fiddling with one of the wings.
"From Pacey." Bessie smirked. "Jewelry, huh? Yup, definitely romantic."
"Bessie, your imagination is working overtime. There's absolutely nothing romantic about Pacey Witter." She ignored the little voice in her head that was reminding her of the way she'd felt earlier when he'd almost kissed her.
"Besides, after the whole mess with Jack and Dawson this year, the last thing I want is another disastrous relationship."
Her sister sighed. It was obvious Joey was paddling fast down that river called denial. But who was she to pull the blinders off. Whatever was going on with Joey and Pacey would surface sooner or later.
Sighing she rose and hugged Joey wishing her happy birthday again and telling her she was going to bed. She walked to the door and paused.
"Oh by the way, speaking of Dawson, he called earlier. He said he knew you wouldn't want to talk to him so he told me to tell you he and his mom say happy birthday. His father called too.
I invited him to the party but he said he thought it might be kind of awkward and just wanted me to say happy birthday."
Joey smiled. It was nice to know the Leerys hadn't completely forgotten about her, just because she and Dawson weren't exactly on speaking terms. They had always treated her like a daughter and she'd found it much easier to forgive their part in the whole thing with her dad.
They were parents; they were supposed to have a black-and-white view of what was accepted behavior and what wasn't.
She sighed and walked into the living room to get ready for bed. In his spare time, her dad was building an extension on the house so Joey would have a real bedroom again. But for now, she was still stuck with the couch.
Her thoughts turned back to Dawson as she changed into an oversized t-shirt and started unpacking. It surprised Joey to realize that whatever remaining feelings she had of resentment towards Dawson had dissipated. The trip to New York and her discussions with Pacey had made Joey see that Dawson's actions, however ill-conceived, were simply typical of Dawson. In the Frank Capra-esque reel that Dawson called his life, no matter how dire the consequences, the right action always had to be taken and if it was, things would always work themselves out in the end. It was that inane faith that got Dawson through life, and Joey knew that while she wasn't quite ready to welcome him back to Capeside with open arms (and she wasn't sure she ever would be), she also couldn't blame him for not realizing the real world seldom worked out so tidily.
For Dawson, it pretty much did. The perfect parents, the perfect house, the perfect life…there simply was no room for non-perfection in Dawson's charmed life.
She climbed into the pull-out sofa and lifted her bag off the bed. As she did, a strip of pictures they had taken at one of the photo booths in New York fluttered out. Joey picked it up and looked at it.
In the first frame, all four of them had been making crazy faces at each other. The second showed them all grinning their faces lined up in a row, cheek to cheek. In the third, they had all struck pretentious vogue-like poses. The fourth was Joey's favorite, Pacey sat in the middle with her and Jen each perched on one knee while Jack kneeled in front of them. The four of them were all laughing at some stupid crack Pacey had made and just looked like they were having a great time. She grabbed a picture frame from the side table next to the couch and slipped the strip into one corner.
Looking at the photo, she noticed it was the one of her and Dawson taken at his house the previous year. The new photo strip covered most of Dawson's face and as she lifted a hand to adjust it, something made her pause.
How metaphorical, she thought, a smile brimming on her lips. When the photo of the two of them had been taken, Joey never would have guessed that of all the people whom she might want to display a picture of, Pacey, Jen and Jack would make the list. She smiled, putting the frame back and turning out the light as she settled down to sleep.
Stranger things have happened, she thought, who knew I'd actually have a good time with Pacey. Joey frowned slightly as she recalled how it had almost been a REALLY good time.
Forcefully, Joey pushed the thoughts of how close they'd actually come to kissing out of her mind, resolving not to think about how for a few moments she had actually considered Pacey attractive.
A good sparring partner, a nice friend maybe, but kiss-worthy? It was being in New York, Joey insisted to herself. Simply displaced feelings of pleasure and excitement at actually being in new surroundings. That was all it was.
That was all. It had to be.
Pacey pulled into the driveway in front of his darkened house and cut the motor. He trudged up the steps and went inside, checking the end table near the front door where mail usually got tossed. Nothing for him but a Columbia House catalogue. And as he had predicted no one waited to inquire about his trip. Not that he could really complain. Since their talk on the pier about a month earlier, things with his dad had been a lot better.
They weren't the Cleavers, he thought as he climbed the steps to his room, but they were one step further from the Manson family.
Pacey walked into his room and his eyes jumped immediately to the bed in the vain hope that some caring soul had brought his mail upstairs. The navy blue comforter was bare. Ignoring the lump in his throat, Pacey pulled his shirt off and dropped his jeans on a pile in the corner.
He'd unpack tomorrow. He had nothing but a long week at the video store awaiting him anyway. He climbed into bed, and squeezed his eyes tight, trying to summon a mental picture of the last night he and Andie had been together. He could just about make out her fine blond hair, and big brown eyes, eyes that thought he could hang the moon, when the image shifted like someone had turned a kaleidoscope and instead he saw flashing hazel eyes and long silky brown hair. Pacey made a strangled sound and opened his eyes.
Joey. What had he been thinking earlier? Buying her a rose, insisting they take a horse-and-carriage ride. Pacey knew he had been trying to fill the humongous void Andie's departure had made in his life, by doing things he knew she'd want to do if she'd been there. He thought maybe if he could pretend Andie was there with him, he wouldn't be so miserable.
Like he had done when he was 8 and his dog had run away and Pacey had slept with a stuffed bear for a whole week, imagining it would be like having his dog curled up next to him again. But people weren't like toys or even pets, they could talk and their hopes and dreams always ended up affecting you.
It hadn't been Joey's fault that she wasn't Andie and it wasn't even that he hadn't had fun with her. He had. That was the problem, he'd almost had too much fun. Hell, he'd almost kissed her twice! He liked the soft side of Joey that she didn't show very often. He liked it a lot.
Your girlfriend's only been gone a month and you're already having thoughts about other women, a disapproving voice that sounded a lot like Dawson echoed in his ear.
Then another voice, in deceptively sweet dulcet tones which reminded Pacey of Abby Morgan, whispered Yeah, physically she's been gone a month but emotionally, she's been gone a lot longer than that...besides it's not just some other woman, it's Joey.
That's right Joey, the love of your best friend's life, the Dawson voice said almost angrily.
But Dawson was blind and he betrayed her, he never deserved Joey's love, Abby voice cooed.
"Go away" Pacey groaned and rolled over, tugging the pillow over his head, hoping the voices would just go away so he could get some sleep.
It was Friday morning and Joey was sitting at the picnic table in her back yard, facing the creek and drawing some ducks that waddled along the shoreline when Pacey pulled up in the truck.
"Hey Jo. Miss me?"
She didn't look up, continuing to sketch the ducks as she said deadpan without missing a beat.
"Like a fish misses its bicycle," she finished the tail feathers and put her pencil down then looked up with a grin.
"So where you been all week, Mr. leave your social calendar in my hands?"
He sat down on the top of the picnic table and stretched his legs down to the seat next to her, grabbing a licorice twist from the bag on the table.
"Duty calls. I've been slaving away for Mr. Olson down at the video store. Speaking of which, want a part-time job? We really gotta fill Dawson's position soon. I can't take much more of these back-to-back shifts."
"Aw poor baby." Joey said without any sympathy whatsoever. "Consider yourself lucky, you could be stuck here babysitting for the devil's spawn all summer. You should ask Jack about the job though, he was looking for some ways to earn extra cash. I think he's planning a few return trips up to the Big Apple to see Brian." Her eyes twinkled.
"Hey score one for the cupid known as Jen Lindley," he said between chomps.
"She set that one up pretty quick."
Jen's voice filtered through Joey's mind, I saw the way he was looking at you last night…That boy is a damn good kisser. She frowned.
"Yeah, So are you here to hang out and mooch food, or is there some higher purpose to this social call?"
"Despite the fact that you should be honored by my mere presence, I did drop by to fulfill my promise and make some plans. Wanna go to a baseball game tonight?"
"Baseball?" Joey wrinkled her nose.
"Yeah, It's the first game of the season and coach is finally giving me a shot at shortstop."
"Wait, you're playing baseball. We're not talking merely watching?"
"Hey, I could use a little support from my friends here."
"Despite the potential entertainment value of watching you making an ass out of yourself, I think I'll pass. In case you didn't notice, I'm not exactly the rah-rah type Pacey."
"Come on, It's not like I'm making you wave pom-poms or do a split."
"Aren't you a little old for little league, anyway?"
"It's not Little League," he grumbled all defensive. "It's called Babe Ruth at this age."
"Well, unless you're talking about candy bars, count me out. Sports leave me cold."
Pacey shot her a black look. "Yeah, sports and everything else." He looked down and mumbled half to himself.
"Man, I wish Andie was here, she lives for this kind of stuff."
Joey's glance softened and she remembered Pacey telling her once about how he had struck out at a little league game when he was younger and his dad was a real jerk about it. But he had told her things had improved since Andie had talked to his dad and sang Pacey's praises shortly after she left Capeside.
"Did you ask your dad to go?"
Pacey looked at her for a moment, knowing she was thinking of the day he told her his little sob story about his messed-up family life and drove her to see her dad in prison. Well he didn't want her pity.
"We ain't exactly Ward and the Beav just yet. I'm going to see if Jen and Jack want to go. See ya Joey."
She watched him walk across the yard to the truck that he seemed to have permanently "borrowed" this summer and thought about how Pacey had really been there for her the night he drove her to see her dad. He'd even bribed the guard for her. Pacey had the door open and was about to climb in when she called out.
He turned and looked at her quizzically.
She picked up a licorice twist and waved it comically in the air, mimicking the shaking of a pom-pom, then smirked and raised her eyebrow.
"What time's the game?"
His eyes crinkled at the corners as a big grin spread across his face.
"7:30" he yelled, and threw the truck in reverse.
Jack McPhee rolled his eyes as Joey launched into another diatribe about the merits-or lack thereof-of baseball. Beside him Jen picked idly at a bag of popcorn, while she watched the game.
"I mean with the possible exception of golf, baseball has to be the slowest, most boring sport in the world to watch," Joey complained, leaning back against a higher step of the bleachers.
"Look at the batter, that guy is just in no rush. He spits, he scratches, he stamps his feet, he spits again, maybe I'll take a swing. Ugh, how can people watch this!"
Jen piped up. "Well, the nice tight white pants sure help."
They all laughed and Jack said, "Well Jo, you're almost out of your misery. It's the top of the ninth."
Just then the batter hit a line drive straight to Pacey, who caught it neatly.
"Woohoo! great catch Pacey," Jack yelled.
"Ok, make that the bottom of the ninth."
Out of the corner of her eye, Joey saw Mr. Witter walking slowly down the steps to the ballfield and lean against a tree a good distance away from the rest of the crowd huddled on the bleachers. She looked at Pacey who was standing next to the dugout joking with one of the other guys from his team.
It was clear he hadn't seen his father come in. Just then, a stray baseball rolled over to the two boys and Pacey bent down to scoop it up and gracefully lobbed it back to the pitcher who was warming up just over the fence.
Suddenly, Joey found herself quite appreciative of those tight white pants Jen had just mentioned.
Almost as quickly, she flushed, wondering what brain tumor was causing her to scope out Pacey's rear view. It occurred to Joey that while Dawson's growth spurt two summers ago had been the more obvious evidence that adolescence was making its mark on the three musketeers as the Leerys used to call them, Pacey had also gained an inch or two and filled out quite nicely. That scrawny kid had grown into the big feet and hands he'd been teased about when they were younger, and to her surprise and horror, Joey found herself wondering what else Pacey might have grown into.
Just then the object of her studied admiration turned slightly and caught her staring at him. He waved then shook his head when Joey hurriedly turned away as if she'd been caught doing something wrong. Women, he sighed to himself as the couch called for him to get on deck, can't understand 'em, can't live without 'em. It was a no-win situation.
Pacey's team was down by two, the bases were loaded, there was one out, and as he watched with dread, the guy before him struck out. He had a sudden memory of a time just like this when he was a kid and he had struck out, losing the game for his team and inciting the life-long loathing and ire of his father. He felt a nervous knot in the pit of his stomach as he walked out to home plate.
Jack and Jen cheered Pacey calling his name and telling him to hit it out of the park, but Joey said nothing. She'd seen that look on Pacey's face before.
He was scared stiff. She watched as he swung wildly at the first pitch, which was way too high. He paled as the umpire called a strike. He tried to shake off the nervousness he felt and saw that his hands had started to tremble.
Joey watched anxiously as Pacey's father crossed his arms, looking sternly at the field. She looked back to the diamond in time to see Pacey hit a foul that bounced off the fence behind him. He stepped out of the batter's box, and took a couple practice swings trying in vain to steady his nerves.
An expectant hush fell over the field as everyone waited for him to return to the plate. Joey saw how tightly he was gripping the bat, his knuckles white and knew she had to do something. She stood up and walked closer to the fence, ignoring the curious looks from Jen and Jack. She cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled "Come on Pacey. You can do it."
That got his attention-in fact, it got the attention of just about everyone in the park, her voice was still echoeing in the silence. Pacey looked over at her, in shock that Joey I'm-not-the-rah-rah-type Potter, his bashful friend who hated the spotlight, would yell out like that, knowing it would attract everyone's attention. Then he saw that she was smiling at him, and he could see in her eyes that she meant what she'd said. Pacey Witter had someone who believed in him again. He smiled keeping his eyes fixed on Joey, as the silence was broken and Jen and Jack yelled out cries of encouragement behind her, and he felt his nervousness fade.
"What the hell," he thought, "it's only a baseball game." He stepped back up to the plate and the last thing he heard before he saw the ball soaring over the fence was Joey's voice yelling "Kick some ass, Witter!"
He ran the bases in what had to be record time. With his grand slam, the team had won the game. After he crossed the plate, he was surrounded by his teammates slapping him on the back. But Pacey headed straight for the gate where Jack, Jen and Joey were running onto the field. He high-fived Jack and hugged Jen, then he threw his arms around Joey, picking her up and swinging her around.
As he lowered her to the ground, he whispered a sincere "Thanks Potter" in her ear and crushed her to him in a huge bear hug.
She hugged back equally fiercely, for once not protesting about her personal space or even that he was covered in sweat. When she leaned back and looked up at him, Pacey saw something in her expression he had never seen before.
Her eyes were shining and Pacey could have sworn he saw pride and admiration in her glance, but there was also something else, something different- His thoughts were interrupted when Joey started to speak. She smiled at him.
"Ya did good Pace. And uh, I think someone else thinks so too." She stepped back out of his embrace and Pacey's dad stepped forward to clap him on the shoulder, "You played a great game. I'm proud of you son." Pacey's face lit up like someone had turned on a switch. The magic words, he'd waited so long to hear.
He smiled at his father, "Thanks Dad."
His friends looked on, happy for him, as Pacey and his father walked off, chatting about the game.
"So what was that you were saying Joey?" Jack asked mock-seriously.
"Yeah, something about baseball being boring and stupid?" Jen finished for him, breaking into a big grin.
Joey shrugged and grinned. "That's funny I don't remember saying anything like that at all." She ducked, trying to dodge the hale of popcorn Jack and Jen began pelting her with.
Back to Tara's Stories | Back to Fan Fiction | Back to the Main Page|
This page has been visited times.