N.B: In order to understand the story, the following information is pertinent. Joey left Capeside (the reasons are revealed during the story) shortly after she and Dawson broke up. So pretty much everything after "The Dance," isn't counted. While I love Andie and Jack, I haven't included them in my story; maybe next time.
Don't Forget to Remember
Dawson looked around his room, trying to commit it to his mind, his memory that was taking in so much this auspicious day. He could see it any time he wanted, but he'd never see it in the same way. His eyes would never see what they saw now, their outlook would change as he did; as he grew and learnt and changed and became this adult he was destined to be. He would never feel the same way about his small room. His sanctum, his private place-- where his dreams had been born and killed, where he'd lived through every triumph and humiliation of high school.
The posters were staying where they were, adorning the walls. For some reason, Dawson couldn't bear to see them any other place then his bedroom and he didn't want to pick and choose over them. Mostly he was taking his clothes and photographs-- things like that.
His photographs. He had pictures of him and his parents-- God, he was going to miss him. They were almost ready to throw him out into the world without so much as a goodbye. He knew they loved him, but they wanted him to go out there and experience all those things he couldn't in Capeside.
He had an old favorite photo: him and Pacey when they were six. Pacey had Dawson in a headlock; both were smiling at the camera, infectious young grins in the sun at the sea. Finally he had a picture of him and Joey. Joey…
The sound of a rattling ladder broke through Dawson's thoughts. He stared at the window until Pacey's head appeared. In an easy motion, Pacey swung himself inside Dawson's room.
"Hey, man," said Pacey in his usual every day style.
Pacey had been torn for months over the choice of his career. What did he want to be? He'd spend months bugging Dawson with possible suggestions. An astronaut-- Dawson had laughed at that one. An English teacher-- Pacey had discarded that one by himself. Things had been completely up in the air when Pacey had been told he was valedictorian. When Pacey told Dawson, he'd laughed himself silly at his best friend, until he'd realized Pacey was deadly serious.
So now, Pacey was pre-med at the University of California to the extreme delight of his surprised parents, shocked sisters and frankly disbelieving brother. As Dawson had said, when he'd finally stopped laughing: 'We never really thought you'd apply yourself that much.'
Pacey sat on the stripped bed, suddenly cold and lonely against the empty, yawning room. If he faced facts, the bed had felt like that for a while now-- and on Saturday's it was worse, the bed somehow knowing. Dawson flopped down beside him. Dawson looked at his hands for a long time. He finally spoke.
"You know, when I thought about doing this-- about leaving, and we always knew we were leaving. We knew we'd have to leave Capeside to go to college, I always saw the three of us doing it. You know, going down to the beach where we played as kids, and sitting in the sand, and promising to write and phone, and hugging and crying and laughing together. "I never thought it'd just be the two of us." There was a silence and Dawson said in a low voice. "I never thought I'd be doing anything without her." He could feel a lump in his throat, and fought to keep it back.
"You weren't the only one. It was always the three of us-- the Three Musketeers. But that was the deal, Dawson. It was Alex or us and we promised never to blame her for choosing Alex. Dawson, what she gave up for him-- what she went through in those two months was incredible Dawson.
"I wish she was here-- I wish with every bone in my body. You know she pissed me off and everything, but she was my first friend; the two of you were, and she was the first person that ever got my isolation. The first person who ever got me."
"But I promised her I wouldn't begrudge her for her decisions."
"At least you got to promise her something," Dawson said a little sharply.
"I wasn't the one with my tongue down someone else's throat at the time," Pacey bit back. "It's time to let go Dawson. Time to look ahead."
But Pacey gripped Dawson's hand and held him in a headlock just like when they were six. The two of them said their goodbyes that afternoon. They stood at Dawson's boarding gate-Pacey's flight was ten minutes later over at the next gate.
"Final call for Chicago," the man said over the speaker.
"Well, see ya man," said Pacey, gripping Dawson's hand, giving him a mock salute. "I'll call you when I manage to find a phone. Don't hold your breath."
"I won't." Pacey backed away a little and turned, starting to walk away. Dawson forced himself not to watch. Dawdling as much as possible, he began to walk towards the ticket machine. "DAWSON."
Dawson spun and there was Pacey. Dawson dropped his bags and grabbed Pacey in a bear hug. They hugged each other in a vice grip as both realized they wouldn't see each other tomorrow. Or the day after, or the next week or month.
"This doesn't make me gay," said Pacey gruffly. "I'll find a phone as soon as I get there."
With a smile, Dawson boarded his plane.
Tiredly, Joey opened the door, pushing hard to get it unstuck. No matter how many times she told Will the super, he never fixed the damn door. Struggling with her bags, Joey flipped the lights, dumping the mail on the couch, the bags landing on the floor.
"Come on sweetie," she said, turning as Alex made it up the last step. He toddled along on his short legs, finally making to his aunt, who scooped him up, with a little groan. "You're getting too heavy," she said to the two-year-old. It was his birthday in a week.
"No I'm not," he replied, tugging at a loose piece of Joey's hair.. "Not at all." Joey decided it was safer not to argue.
"Okay, you're not. Now, I'm going to run the bath. You play with your blocks. They're over in that box."
Joey crossed the living room to the far left door off the living room. The small bathroom wasn't cosy at all-- it was tiny, and annoying. She turned the squeaking taps, on listening to the complaints of the plumbing before water spurted out. She checked its temperature. Sometimes the cold tap dispersed hot. Tonight, it had decided to be nice.
The clattering of Alex's blocks echoed throughout the tiled bathroom. Joey leant over half a foot and flicked on the heater. Even at the beginning of fall the entire apartment was freezing. Strategically placed heaters circumvented the problem.
"Alex," she called.
"Coming, Mom." Joey wondered again why he'd started calling her that. When he'd started to talk, she'd made sure he called her Aunt Joey.. About a month ago, he'd called her Mom out of the blue. She hadn't the heart to try and explain the situation.
Truth be known, Joey was pretty much swimming in the dark when he came to her parenting. Everything she did for Alex, every decision she made was made out of instinct, done with gumption. She had no one to point things out, no one to reassure her, no one to help her.
Alex arrived, and Joey pulled his clothes off. He was humming a song.
"What's that you're singing?"
"Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star."
"Would you sing it out loud for me? I'd really like that." Alex climbed in the bath and began to sing while Joey soaped him up,
"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky…" he petered off as Joey cupped water in her hands and let it run over his head. The dark hair grew slick, sticking to Alex's scalp.
"Who's Dawson?" he said as she was helping him out of the bath ten minutes later. Joey nearly dropped the poor boy.
"Sorry?" She forced herself to take control. "What did you say Alex?" She wrapped him in a large towel, holding him to her and rubbing him so he didn't get cold.
"I said who is Dawson? You said his name last night when we were in bed. You were asleep." Joey took the door adjacent to bathroom that led to their shared bedroom. It was the second largest room in the house, and fitted the cupboard, the two beds and the dresser easily. She placed Alex on the bed and grabbed his pyjamas.
"Well, you met Dawson. He was there when you were born. He was my best friend before we left Capeside."
"Now we don't talk to each other. Guess it's too hard for us both. Now, let's go eat our dinner."
"What are we having tonight?"
"Bodie's special pasta. Come and give me a kiss."
Alex complied, and followed it up with a few others.
His dorm room was four blocks away from the university and surrounded by fascinating shops filled with antiques, and strange books. The movie theatre was across the road and Dawson wondered if it was a coincidence or deliberate. A few cafés were dotted throughout the rows of stores, and a couple of restaurants charging a varying range of prices were very close to him. He found that most people he met were nice enough. He wouldn't have called them friends, but he talked to them and sat with them in lectures, and went and saw movies with them. The film school was taking up most of his time, anyway. Dawson loved it. To be completely, utterly and totally immersed in making films, in directing was and always had been his dream. Here he met minds like his, he was taught by people that saw his talent and made him use it. They challenged him and forced him to be better then he could on his own.
Pacey had found a phone almost twenty minutes after landing and rung Dawson. They talked every day on the phone, commiserating over each other's daily problems. Dawson almost felt like he was there with Pacey, but to not be able to see him was still a little raw.
Winter came by very quickly and Dawson learnt how severe Chicago winters were. The Windy City-- it was a fair statement. The snow was awful and the four blocks it took to get from the dorm to the college and back always left him numb no matter how many layers he wore. The first thing he'd done was put his photos up. His parents sat on the wall, Pacey and him sat on the desk, but Joey was on the beside table. It was a picture of them before she'd had to leave. They sat on the swing, beside each other. Joey lay curled up against Dawson's side. His arm held her tight, her legs hanging over the swing, long and brown. She wore her beautiful smile, with the wide lips, white teeth and shinning eyes.
Her face was the last thing he saw when he went to sleep and first thing he looked at when he awoke. And his heart always twisted when he did.
She'd taken drama on a whim, really. She'd never grown out of her Saturday night Movie viewing, and she figured drama would be a nice easy subject. She was pre-law at the University of Chicago. It was a good college, not very far away from their measly apartment. They even had childcare facilities. She dropped Alex off in the morning, took him out for lunch and picked him up in the afternoon. Every chance she got, she went and saw him at the childcare centre. She didn't want Alex to grow up without at least somebody.
So, she took drama. The rest of the students in it knew a lot more then her, and were far more experienced, so she kept quiet most of the time, wrote the essays, was very thankful that they hadn't actually done much acting.
It was the first month of winter when their teacher finally announced their first big assignment.
"Now," he said in his booming voice, "we have actors and the film school near the old movie theatre has the directors. You'll work in conjunction. One director for one actor. Next lesson they'll be coming here, so be on time. "You'll get your assignments then."
Dawson looked around the lecture room. The rooms were bigger here at the University of Chicago. Large windows, almost floor to ceiling were to his right. The door was behind him, opposite the windows, at the back corner of the room.
Outside, in a view lent to him by the large windows, swirling eddies of snow that never seemed to touch the ground in their pure, white form blew through running students, frozen teachers and settled on trees. When the snow did touch the ground, it fell in a slushy, grey color and form.
The path outside the window was one of the main ones in the college, and large, stripped elms bordered it on either side. The trunks were so huge, that people were lost from his vision as they walked past them. The branches of one tree never touched their neighbour, meaning there were large gaps between each of the large trunks. Patches of pale green grass could still be seen and in the spring, Dawson knew people would be scattered all over them. Studying, talking, eating, listening to music, their clothing a riot of colors against the vital green of new leaves and healthy grass. He loved to watch large groups when they didn't know he was observing them. Each group told a different story-- each couple was a different kind.. Voices could never be distinguished, so it was body language that told every tale. A good director had good observation skills. That was one of the first things they'd been told.
He glanced at the people in the room. Half he knew, half he didn't.. He was in the middle of the room, surrounded by his friends. Both teachers stood near the blackboard, laughing at a private joke. Dawson's own teacher Mr. Cornwall was a swarthy, well-built man, with a fast mind, wicked sense of humour and no tolerance for lazy students. In contrast, the other teacher was almost as tall as Dawson was, with a lanky frame, drooping mouth and blue eyes that took everything in.
Both teachers turned to face the class and the students grew silent after a few moments. Dawson had his pen out, ready for his assignment. He couldn't wait to work with a real actor. He hoped he got a woman-- his story idea would work better then. The class door opened and closed and Dawson resisted the urge to turn around. It was time to pay attention. And the person who'd just arrived was late. Joey found her seat in a hurry-- the only seat left, and took the disapproving glance of Mr. Farson, her teacher without an ounce of guilt. What would he know anyway? The man was childless. He didn't have a three-year-old who'd thrown a tantrum this morning.
Alex was moving into a phase even Joey knew a little about. Mothers always talked about the terrible two's. For some reason Alex's tantrums had started coming late-- he was three now, ready to push the limits with his aunt. He wanted to know how far he could push Joey before he was severely reprimanded. And even Joey, without her ounce of guidance knew she had to lay the ground rules.
This morning he hadn't wanted to eat his breakfast. He'd started to throw a royal tantrum. Stomping and kicking the bench, crying and wailing. Quite calmly, Joey had picked him up, narrowly avoiding being kicked in the stomach and carted him to the bedroom.
"You can stay in there until you come out and eat your breakfast," she said in a loud voice and went back to the kitchen. She read the newspaper and finished her own breakfast. There was nothing in the bedroom he could do any damage to. She knew he was jumping on her bed, but after a while that had stopped. Fifteen minutes after she'd put him in the bedroom, he was back. He'd eaten his breakfast in contented silence and apologized afterward.
"Sorry, Mommy." Joey hadn't said anything, but she'd smiled at him.
Mr. Farson spared her another glance-- he knew about her situation. It seemed most people did. That fact didn't bother Joey. It never had back in Capeside, and it didn't now.
Capeside. She never really thought much about her hometown these days. She just didn't have time. And the thoughts always bought back painful memories. Memories she'd rather avoid thinking about. Most of the things that reminded her of it were kept in a box. Thousands of photos and old belongings, all the other things she'd had in her bedroom. Bessie and Bodie's things were also in boxes, though some of it was used. Most of it she was keeping for Alex. Most of the time Joey felt like her life was in boxes. Everything that had once been in their house by the creek was stored up. Firstly, it had been because her cousin in Seattle had everything they needed, and now it was because there just wasn't the room. That was what she wanted to give Alex the most. A house-- their old house. They still owned it. It had cost next to nothing when Joey's father bought it, and miraculously he'd paid off the loan. It was one of the codicil's to the will that she could not be forced to sell it, and a small sum had been set up for it's upkeep. She wanted to give Alex a back yard and a small town mentality. She wanted to give him the ocean and the sea, and even grumpy Grams across the creek. She wanted to give him a Mom who didn't try to balance raising a three-year old and getting a degree at college. She wanted to give him every second of every day to spend with her; she wanted to give him a Dad.
She even wanted to give him the stupid things like a TV, and a large bathroom. She wanted to give him all the expensive toys he couldn't have, and all the holidays and trips they couldn't take.
The teacher began talking. He had a very pleasant voice. Low and filled with humor: like he knew something you didn't. It was time to pay attention. Capeside and her life there was another one of those things that she had to give up thinking about. She couldn't have it back, so she shouldn't think about it. Life had taught her that much.
Mr. Farson and Mr. Cornwall spent most of the lesson talking about the basis of the assignment and how they would be assessed. "The first part will take place next lesson," Farson was saying. "Those from the directing class will be using an interview technique with those from my acting class. My actors have to be themselves, and the directors have to try and bring out some secret or hidden part of a personality. This will be done in the next class on Wednesday.
"Part two is when you'll be doing your films. A silent film-you'll be given the plot line and then working together, you'll make it into a short film. "That's all. Dismissed."
Joey quickly exited. She had to go and take Alex to lunch and buy him some new shoes-- his boots wouldn't last out the winter. Hopefully, they wouldn't be too expensive.
Peter Farson and Jack Cornwall had been best friends for years. They'd grown up in the same middle-- class urban area of Chicago, had gone to the same high school, attended different colleges and both come back to the Windy City to teach after their careers never made it off the ground. It was there they bumped into each other again and had simply carried on where they'd left off.
Jack had helped Peter through two failed marriages, a sister who died from renal failure and countless financial crises. On the other end, Jack probably wouldn't have made it through his prostate cancer scare or his own divorce after fifteen years of marriage.
Now both single men, they lived in apartments a block away from each other and regularly went to dinner together. The night after the lecture was the night they usually went to the local pizza joint, a family restaurant that was more often then not frequented by couples without children or single people.
They met at seven, both hurrying in from the snow five minutes apart, Jack first, snagging their usual table at the back of the restaurant. "Hey Pete," said Jack, as his friend sat down, discarding his coat, scarf and beanie, signalling Sarah the waitress for his usual hot coffee. Jack was drinking his lemon, lime and bitters.
"Hey Jack. How's your mom?" Jack's mother was the bane of his life. She lived in Brooklyn and called her son almost everyday.
"She's doing just fine today. Only complained about a leaky roof, a noisy dog next door and the cold. She didn't even pull the usual guilt trip about me living so far away."
"Lucky you. Of course, the fact that your brother lives in Rhode Island is something she continually ignores." Peter rolled his eyes as he spoke.
"Come on, you know Eddy. Never visits mom if he can get away with it." The waitress arrived with the coffee and Peter warmed his fingers. "Even when he was growing up he spent more time out then in," Peter said, remembering Jack's large family very well. He still saw a lot of them. All of them, except for Eddy in Rhode Island and Anna in Atlanta lived in Chicago. Jack's parents were Catholics and like good Catholics had produced a large brood. Jack was one of four boys and three girls. Peter who'd only had his two sisters had always envied Jack's large, happy-go-lucky, teasing family. There had always been someone had Jack's house, including countless aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jack was speaking again.
"My insane mother aside, we've paired up half the class, and the rest is going to be pretty easy, but I need to talk to you about one of my students.
"Name's Dawson Leery. Comes from a very small town somewhere up past New York. Cape River or something like that. He came to us with three award-winning films, mostly in the genre of horror, but I know he can do better thing.
"To cut it short, he's very talented. Aspires to being a Stephen Spielberg and quite frankly, he is going to go further. This boy's got fame written all over him.
"He finds my class unchallenging. He loves it, pays attention, hands in very good work, but he finds it boring. I can't cater for everyone-- he's the only one that'll probably get anywhere. But I'm trying to get him to come to me. He needs to get his blood racing-he needs a project that's going to challenge him.
"Point is Peter, I need him to be paired with your best student. I don't mean the one that follows the book, plays things properly in theory.. I want the one with the rawest, greatest talent. I want the one that'll intrigue him and make him work. He needs an actor or an actress who pushes his limits. One who he has to draw out. The one he can make a brilliant five-minute film with."
Peter let his breath out. "You think this Dawson's that good?"
"Shit yes. Let me put it like this-- I'd give the kid an Academy award now to save the time. The first film he makes is going to be brilliant, and he's just going to get better. I may be waiting for him to come to me with the goods, instead of me pointing it out to him, but I can't have him bored for too long. Otherwise, he's going to lose interest and my chance to shape his talent will be gone.
"I never had the talent of this kid, and I'll never be half as good as he is, but I can teach him, Peter. I can teach him stuff he doesn't even know exists." Peter's muddy brown eyes stared at Jack's blue ones for a long moment.
"Okay, Jack. This kid's as good as you say, there's only one student in my class that could do. "She intrigues the hell out of me. Got this smile that weakens the knees. She didn't take drama in high school, but she's better then anyone I have. Her talent is absolutely untouched, and I don't think I could teach it.
"If this kid is that good, he'll make it work-- he'll get her doing what he wants, because he can direct. She'll follow his lead, but she'll make it better then he ever dreamed."
"You sure?" In a similar fashion to Peter, Jack was a little doubtful, not wanting his best talent on a wild goose chase with an over-estimated actress, but for the sake of his friend's good judgement he was willing to go with it. After all, Peter was the one who'd said his wife got bored easily. And he'd been right-- she'd been so bored she'd run off with the plumber.
Joey looked at her reflection in the mirror. It was a full-length mirror, but it was spotted with rust, and irremovable stains. A crack ran all the way down, a little to the left of the centre. It jarred her image, creating a sense that half of her was broken off from the rest. Alex sat on his bed, talking nonsense to his teddy bear. Shortly after she'd started at Chicago, she'd realized that the childcare center at the university was under-funded, in desperate need of responsible child-minders and facilities. So, she'd removed Alex taking him a local child-care center that was next door to the kindergarten. Tonight, Annabelle Ryan, the woman who ran the center, and was responsible for the children along with three other minders, had organized for the parents of the children to go a dinner together. The parents would come along with their children and meet each other. There were only twenty places at the center, and Joey had had to practically kiss Anabelle's feet to get Alex the last spot. Annabelle in truth had taken pity on the eighteen-year old girl, trying her hardest to give Alex everything in life. If nothing else, Joey loved that boy like he was the most sacred treasure in the world and Annabelle respected that. Annabelle would have bet that on Joey's list of priorities Alex was number one, two and three. Joey hadn't really wanted to go, but Alex had said that everyone else's parents would be there, and he'd pouted, and that had made the decision for her. As well as the fact, that inadvertently Alex had played to her greatest feeling of guilt. Her fear that she wasn't an adequate mother, let alone fulfilling the duties of a father was something that plagued her a lot. So, here she stood, looking at her dressed up reflection in the mirror. She would never admit it, even under pain of death, but she felt a tiny bit insecure about meeting these people. Not only could they legally drink, but also most of them had proper careers. They were all married-- Joey knew this for fact, all of them had left college, and most importantly of all, they made her feel like a young, immature, inept person, incapable of looking after a human life. In a bid therefore, to counteract her insecurity, she'd made herself look good, hoping it would make her feel good. She felt slightly more confident, though inside, her stomach was kickboxing with some butterflies.
"You look pretty, Mommy," said Alex, looking at her from where he sat, little legs hanging over his trundle bed.
"Thank you, Alex. You look pretty good too. You make a good date for Mommy. We should go."
"Let me put teddy to bed." It was a nightly ritual Alex always performed. He put teddy to bed. The old ragged, half-eaten, fur-deprived teddy that Alex cherished had once been Joey's and she herself had performed the act of putting it to bed. The bear had actually been a gift from Dawson when the two of them were about three, but Joey forced herself not to think of that.
She looked at her reflection again, while Alex pretended to brush teddy's teeth. She'd dragged out the best clothes she'd owned, which was probably not a good thing if she thought about it. She wore a dress that went to her knees, following her body all the way down. It had a black under layer, with a dark green chiffon layer over the top, black stitching on the bodice. Her shoes were black, high-heeled, with a slender strap and a pointed toe. Her hair was on top of her head, and she wore minimal make-up.
"Ready, Mommy," said Alex. "Kiss teddy good-night," he ordered. Joey crossed the room, and bent, kissing teddy's lopsided face.
"Good night, Teddy," she said. "Now, let's go and have some dinner. Are you going to have pizza?" Joey asked her nephew as she locked the door behind her.
Taking Alex's small hand, they began to descend the stairs. Their neighbour Gemma looked fondly at them from her doorway. That girl Joey was so good with her nephew, Gemma sometimes wondered if he couldn't be her son.
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