Love and other catastrophes
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Five: The abyss

Two days later, Joey arrived home from the hospital to find the apartment absolutely spotless and littered with several vases of flowers. Pacey closed the door behind them and shrugged her bag from his shoulder, waiting for her reaction. Joey put on her best smile for him, but she really didnít give a damn about any of it. She felt strange in her own apartment, uncomfortable that she was back as if everything was the same. She saw her computer sitting on the desk that was still covered with her latest thesis research. The potted plant she had been trying to resurrect from the dead still wilted in the corner. She hated the sight of all of it.

"Are you thirsty? Want me to make some coffee? Tea?" Pacey asked, picking up on the uncomfortable vibe in the room. Joey just stood a few feet in front of the door as if she didnít want to be there. "I went to the bakery and the deli this morning so I got all your favorites. You hungry?"

"Iím tired," she said dully. "I think Iím just going to go to sleep."

Pacey nodded but he was disappointed. He had prepared everything so carefully for her homecoming but she wasnít interested in any of it. He followed her into the bedroom and set about pulling back the bedclothes for her. Joey pulled off her boots and coat but she made no move to change from her overalls and sweater. She snuggled down under the covers and buried her face in the pillow.

Pacey sat down beside her but he felt more than a little awkward. Joey had recovered physically from the operation so she had been discharged, but he was worried about her emotional state. He didnít really expect her to weep continuously and mourn the loss of their child, but he did expect some emotional reaction. So far there had been none. Joey was just withdrawn and remained closed off from him. He was not used to this side of her ó when Joey felt something she had no problems expressing it, whether it be anger, happiness or sadness. Pacey was worried.

He was also a little hurt that she seemed to take no interest in how he felt. He had tried to explain to her how scared he had been when he found her, and how anxious he was while he waited to hear her prognosis. But Joey had been indifferent to him the entire time she was in the hospital, which was quite a feat because he had barely left her side since she awoke from the anesthetic. Pacey had managed to arrange some Ďpersonal daysí from the hospital, despite the fact he was an intern and expected to devote his entire life to the job. Now he wondered if it had been worth it, because Joey acted as if she was sick of the sight of him.

"Iíll just be out on the couch reading then," he murmured as she pretended to go to sleep. When she did not reply, he sighed and hauled himself to his feet. Slumping on the sofa with a thick pediatric text book, Pacey wondered what the hell he was supposed to do to help her.

* * *

Joey lay in bed all day, hoping that she would sleep. Despite the fact she gave Pacey the impression all she did was slumber all day, she had never actually lost consciousness. A pity too, she thought, for oblivion sounded quite appealing to her. But instead she lay there and thought about why it was she was so depressed, and why the mere sight of Pacey hovering by her bedside was enough to make her scream in frustration. He was constantly checking on her, asking if she wanted anything, asking if she was feeling okay. Joey had to bite her tongue every time so she didnít say something she would regret. She just wanted to be left alone so she could think.

It was frustrating work. Lying in her darkened room, she felt the four walls closing in on her and there was no escape. With an exasperated sigh she shoved back the blankets and got up gingerly, still sore from the operation. She winced as she stood up, taking her time before she straightened her back. She could see snow falling outside the window but she did not enjoy the view. Christmas lights twinkled in the distance but they held no beauty for her now.

Suddenly cold, she pulled Paceyís thick cardigan from her drawer and pulled it on over her sweater. She had appropriated the garment soon after he bought it, and at one time she would have smelt his familiar aroma in the wool and be comforted by it. But not today, now it was simply another layer she added to her freezing body. The heat was on in the apartment but she could barely feel it. She was tempted to hop back into the warm bed, but she had not gotten up all day and couldnít bear to lie down again so soon. She had to get out of the room all together before she lost her mind.

Walking slowly out into the living room, her eyes were drawn to the soft yellow glow of the desk lamp that Pacey was reading by. He had a wordy clinical text perched in his lap, the kind he hated to read unless he had to. She knew he must be either completely bored or worried about something and using the text to take his mind off it. With a sinking feeling she knew it was the latter. Moving into his line of vision, she waited until he noticed her.

"Jo," he said with a start, not hearing her footsteps. "How are you feeling? Want me to get you something?"

ĎAh, the familiar conversation,í Joey thought bitterly.

"Still fine," she replied through gritted teeth.

"I was beginning to think you were going to sleep all day," he continued with false cheer, tossing the book beside him. "You ready for some dinner? Because you missed lunch. You really should be eating something to keep your strength up."

"Yes, Doctor," she sighed, moving over to sit in the window seat. Normally it was her favorite spot in the whole apartment, where she spent countless hours reading and working on her thesis, talking on the phone with Bessie or her best friend Claudia, or Pacey when he was stuck at work during long, lonely shifts. It was her favorite place to just sit and think because it gave her a great view of the park across the road from their building, with Bostonís city centre peeking over the tree tops. It had always been the best place to remind herself how far she had come from poky old Capeside, and how much she had accomplished in that time. Joey leaned her head against the cold glass of the window now and looked listlessly out into the gray evening. The somber view matched her mood perfectly.

Pacey had been in the kitchen reheating some lasagna for her, but his attention was drawn away when he saw her in her favorite spot. He couldnít count the number of times he had come home from work at ridiculous hours of the night, only to find her curled up asleep there because she had been trying to wait up for him. He would awaken her with a kiss or a loving caress and she would open her eyes and smile the sweetest smile she saved just for him. Coming home to her like that was almost worth the long hours he pulled at the hospital. But it had been some months since she had waited up for him. Pacey guessed the novelty had worn off.

He didnít like to admit that he missed those small, intimate moments. But they were both busy people and had been together for a while now. It was only natural that some of the passion and spontaneity of their relationship was replaced by more mundane aspects of real life. He loved her more than ever of course, a fact which had been driven home by recent events. He wanted her to know that, but for some reason she didnít seem to want to hear it.

Pacey watched her as she closed her eyes now, her forehead resting against the window pane. He walked quietly over to her, not wanting to disturb her. He smiled as he saw the familiar scene and reached out to brush her cheek tenderly. He was waiting for her to smile back at him and hold out her arms to him, to whisper in his ear that she loved him. Instead, Joey jerked her head away from the window and stared coldly at him. He recoiled at the reaction, and stood there in confusion.

"Joey, are you all right?" he managed weakly.

"I swear to God, Pacey, if you ask me that once more I'm gonnaó" Joey stopped herself from saying any more, letting out an angry breath.

She looked away from Paceyís hurt expression, which only served to make her more annoyed. Luckily the microwave beeped in the kitchen and Pacey moved off to retrieve their dinner. Joey glanced fleetingly over her shoulder at the front door, wondering if she could make a break for it. She knew she had to get out of there, away from the apartment and away from Pacey. Before she could move though he was back carrying two plates of food and some cutlery over to their dining room table. Once he had poured two glasses of red wine he looked at her expectantly, but without any hope. Trying not to roll her eyes, Joey walked over and sat down at the table opposite him. They ate in a complete and devastating silence.


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