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"Go with everybody else," Bessie urged, but Terah shook her head.
"I can't, Bessie. Please don't ask me to."
Without waiting for a reply, she headed for the creek, choosing the opposite direction from the one the rest of us would take to get to the Elliots' where the party would take place.
The grown-ups stared after her with troubled expressions.
"I'm concerned about her," my grandfather said. "I really had hoped she would be over all that by now."
"So had I," Bodie said. "I thought that going to college would put her out of it, but so far she..."
His voice trailed off, and Grandpa Thomas finished the sentence.
"She's still depressed. Well, keep trying, kids, to get her involved with the young people again. If she doesn't liven up when she starts school, we might want to consider counseling."
I was waiting for Jen, who'd run back into my room to change shoes after a strap broke on her sandals. Nobody was paying attention to me, and I scrunched down at the end of the couch so they would go on ignoring me.
Out on the porch I could hear Bessie and Bodie talking in low tones, which probably meant they didn't want me listening.
Grandpa Thomas wasn't really my grandfather. He married Grandma Liz when Mom died. But he was the only grandfather I had ever known. Mom's father died long before I was born. Grandpa Thomas had always been generous, with great presents at Christmas and on birthdays.
I was glad when Jen finally emerged from my room and we could leave.
"It's going to be hard not to think about Abby and Doug," I said, shoving my hands into my back pockets. "You all have had a while for it to sink in, but it's still new to me. I don't think I'll be having too much fun at the party tonight. I'm going to be adjusting to the whole idea of a murder right here among the people I've known my whole life."
"Yeah, I know. Everybody was really shook up when that happened. But you'll have fun, tonight, Joey. Everybody will be there, except Terah."
And Pacey, I thought.
"There's that new family, Chris's family. And we can hang out with him if no one is there."
We walked out to where a group of people had gathered. A cd player was going, and a few guys and girls were dancing. There were feet running on the dock, a loud splash, some laughter.
Chris walked over to us and addressed me, "You mind if I steal Jen to help me with something?"
"You can help too, if you want," Jen said.
I knew he wanted to get her alone, though. I shook my head. "I'll just sit here," I told them. They disappeared in the crowds of people.
A bunch of people spoke to me, like Bill and Grant, and half a dozen others, including Nellie Olsen.
Moodily, I watched Nellie. She was flirting with Grant, who seemed to have gotten over his cousin's murder and was flirting back, reaching out to pull one of her bouncy curls. She jerked away and giggled.
I watched them for a couple of minutes. Well, Abby had been gone for almost a year, what did I expect? That her cousins would withdraw forever?
After a few minutes, it dawned on me that everyone was pairing up. I moved back away from the crowd, and leaned against the Elliots' house.
Somebody changed the cd, and now the music was really loud. It brought out the craziness in Nellie and Grant, and they began to dance wildly. Most of the others made a circle around them, chanting some repetitive chorus.
Cliff was the only one besides me who wasn't in the circle. He was sitting on the edge of the dock, and when I glanced toward him, he grinned at me, but didn't move any closer.
Not that I wanted him to join me. I liked Cliff all right, but I didn't fit in with all the jocks like him. Plus, it wasn't Cliff I wanted to sit with me, it was Pacey, but it felt pretty lonely by myself.
Suddenly the thought of sitting there any longer was intolerable. I scooted further away from the people at the party, into the shadows. Nobody was paying attention to me. When I reached the darkness under the trees, I stood up and walked toward the Witter house.
I could see the house lights through the trees after a few minutes' walking. My heart quickened its beat, but it wasn't likely I'd see Pacey.
Taking care to stay out of the light that poured from the windows, I went around the house so I could see in. The only person I saw was Pacey's mom. I eased around to Pacey's room.
I was a Peeping Tom, I thought, but I didn't move away. I wanted to go in there, but I didn't dare.
Was it possible that Pacey was in his room? To my disappointment, there was no light on in Pacey's room, though a small shaft of light showed through from the living room. It only showed Pacey's bulletin board.
Growing bolder, I took a few steps toward the window in order to see better. The curtains were open, and now I could make out the shape of his dresser.
He wasn't there. He must have gone somewhere. I exhaled. Still I lingered, eyes fixated on the bulletin board. There was a newspaper photo there, but I couldn't tell who was in it. And a strip of paper with a headline that was big enough to read. Witter Convicted, it said, in bold black letters.
Why did Pacey keep that? How could he live with that horrible headline?
I was turning to go when I recognized the only other item on the bulletin board.
The Christmas card I'd sent him last winter. The one he'd never answered.
I hadn't written much on it. All I'd done was sign my name, "Joey", with no "love" or anything like that.
I had been so disappointed that he didn't send me a card.
But why had he kept my card? There were no others on display.
I pictured Pacey lying there on his bed just trying to figure it all out after Doug was arrested. Had he cried, or was he past that kind of thing?
I remembered when my mother had died. He cried then. Cried for me.
In the distance, the boombox roared, and shouts could be heard.
I backed away, wanting to go home, but knowing I couldn't. They would all want to know why, and I couldn't tell them. I couldn't talk to anybody about anything. I wished Dawson were here. I needed to talk to Dawson.
Nobody had even noticed I had left. I walked back to the party and leaned against the house again in the same position.
Bill Bodean approached a girl that had just moved to Capeside recently. Her name was Whitney, I think. She was blonde and sort of pretty. Bill reached into an ice chest and handed her a dripping can.
Then he saw me and got one out for me too. "Want one, Joey?" he asked. I took it, not caring what it was. I popped the top and took a sip, and grimaced. Beer. I remembered the party that Dawson punched the guy out for me.
I stepped away from the group and emptied the can into the roots of a tree. I wasn't thirsty, anyway.
It seemed a long time before I could get away and walk home. Jen and Chris were behind me, laughing quietly.
Welcome back to Capeside, I told myself, and hoped nobody would be around to keep me from going straight to my room.
I sure didn't want to talk to anyone tonight.
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