Just between friends
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Four: Map of the human heart

"Joey? Joey, get your butt out of bed, now!" Bessie’s sharp voice rang out across the room. Joey groaned, still half asleep. She could hear the annoyance in her sister’s voice. What was her problem now? Joey woke with a start, remembering what had happened, and why Bessie would be so angry. She sat up and whirled her head around, looking for Pacey. Joey panicked slightly when she realized that he wasn’t there.

Bessie frowned at her from the doorway, taking in her startled state. "What’s your problem, Joey? You’re gonna be late for school if you don’t get a move on."

Joey did not wait to be told twice. She could not see any sign of Pacey, and she knew Bessie would be hitting the roof by now if she had. Joey grabbed some clothes from her dresser and hurried to the bathroom so she wouldn’t be late for school. She just hoped that Pacey was already there, and that nothing had happened to him. Obsessed with the idea that he had gone home to face his father, she fled the house without stopping for breakfast or to say goodbye to Bessie. She just wanted to find Pacey and make sure he was all right.

"Hey, Joey," Dawson said when she sped up to his locker. He took in her disheveled appearance with amusement in his eyes. "Late night, was it?"

"Have you seen Pacey this morning?" Joey asked quickly, ignoring his comment.

"‘Good morning to you too, Dawson. How are you today?’ Fine thanks, Joey. How are you?"

"Dawson, this is important."

"What’s wrong with you?" he frowned.

"Hey guys, what’s up?" Jen Lindley said as she approached them behind Joey. Without the characteristic roll of her eyes, Joey turned away from Dawson and asked Jen the same urgent question.

"Yeah, he’s right over there," Jen answered slowly, wondering what all the fuss was about. She motioned over towards Pacey’s locker where he was unloading some books into his knapsack.

Joey did not give either of them another thought as she rushed over to him. Dawson and Jen stared after her curiously. At least, Jen was curious, Dawson was a little annoyed. It wasn’t like Joey to be so rude to him and totally ignore him to talk to Pacey instead. He began to wonder if Pacey’s boasts of his torrid night of face-sucking with Joey didn’t hold some element of truth after all. He had never seen her acting like this. Jen took in his confused and hurt look as he watched Pacey and Joey together. The jealousy written all over his face was unmistakable, and all she was doing was talking to the guy. Jen sighed and tried to hide her own disappointment that Dawson was increasingly becoming aware of his feelings for his best friend.

Pacey was just closing his locker door when he saw Joey out of the corner of his eye. She came towards him quickly, but then her steps began to falter as she neared him. Smiling shyly, she waited for him to turn around and face her.

"Hey, Pacey."

"Hi, Jo," he replied evenly, acutely aware of the busy school hallway.

"Where did you disappear to this morning?" she asked, tucking her hair behind her ear. She could feel Dawson and Jen watching them and Pacey had just noticed them too.

"Um, I thought it was better that I leave before Bessie saw me. I didn’t want you to get into any trouble."

"I was worried about you. Are you okay?"

"Under the circumstances, I guess so."

"Good." Joey smiled slightly. She knew she appeared nervous to him, and he seemed to be almost as uncomfortable.

"Have you decided what you’re going to do now?"

"Not a clue. Listen, Jo, I’d better go or I’ll be late for class."

"Okay. See you later?"

"Sure." Pacey couldn’t get away fast enough. He walked past Jen and Dawson who were still staring, giving them only a nod hello. Joey had turned around to watch him worriedly, and her troubled gaze met Dawson’s piercing one. She immediately dropped her eyes and headed off in the opposite direction, leaving Dawson to consider what ever he wanted to.

* * *

Joey was preoccupied all morning. She was still tired from the long night and her thoughts were distracted because of her concern for Pacey and his situation. She made it to lunch having only been yelled at three times for not concentrating in class, and she made her way to their regular table in the cafeteria. Jen and Dawson were already there, and they smiled at her when she joined them. Joey set her tray down and slipped into her seat, her eyes already skimming over the other students in the room. She couldn’t see Pacey anywhere.

"So, how’s it going, Joey?" Dawson ventured as she began to pick absently at her lunch.


A look passed between Jen and Dawson as she relapsed into her reverie.

"Hey, did you hear about the beach party on Saturday night?" Jen asked, trying to catch Dawson’s attention. But his ‘Joey frown’ had already returned to his face.

"What’s going on with you, Joey?" he asked, ignoring Jen.

"What?" she murmured, staring at her plate. When she became aware they were both staring intently at her, she made herself focus. "Oh, nothing Dawson, I’m fine. Listen, have you guys seen Pacey?"

Dawson let out an annoyed breath. So she was back on the Pacey bandwagon. Jen turned and addressed one of the students seated at the next table.

"Glenn, did you have History with Pacey last period?"

"Yeah, but he wasn’t there. Must’ve ditched."

Jen turned back around to take in Joey’s reaction at the news. She just looked even more worried now. Tossing down her fork, she grabbed her bag and stood up.

"Joey, what on earth is going on? What’s with you and Pacey all of a sudden?" Dawson blurted out.

"Nothing," she replied dismissively. "I’ve gotta go."

She stalked out of the cafeteria without giving them another glance. Dawson sat back heavily in his chair, slouching in frustration.

"Is it just me or is there something going on with Joey and Pacey? Neither of them have said more than two words to me today. What’s happening?"

"Who knows?" Jen said quietly. Whatever it was it must be pretty important, if she was correct in assuming that Joey was ditching too in order to find Pacey. Joey just wasn’t the truancy poster girl. Jen wasn’t particularly concerned about them, but she was put out by how much their behavior was affecting Dawson. Jen wondered if she’d ever be able to remove him from Joey’s spell.


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