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It was after midnight when I finally got to bed. Bessie, Bodie and I had stayed up talking. We didn't have much to say, it was mainly stating our disbelief that any of it had happened. And yet we somehow managed to talk about it for hours. I wanted to check on Joey, but I figured she would have been asleep and I hadn't wanted to wake her. I also didn't want to push the friendship with Bessie. It was enough that she had let me stay here, I didn't want her to catch me sneaking into Joey's room in the middle of the night.
Which is why I was surprised when Joey sneaked into mine less than an hour later. I had not been asleep - that had seemed like an impossibility. She slipped in silently, and shut the door behind her. Still dressed in the clothes she had worn that day, I realized she had not slept at all either. I felt guilty for not having checked on her earlier, but Bessie had assured me that she wanted to be alone. Apparently that wasn't the case now.
"Joey, are you okay?" I asked quietly, aware that Bessie and Bodie were only a few doors down the hallway.
"I'm cold," she whispered, before climbing into bed beside me.
Without hesitating, I wrapped myself around her in a familiar embrace. I couldn't count the number of times I had held her like that, but every time I felt a combination of peace, gratitude and love that I only ever felt in her arms. She was shivering slightly, so I held her tighter. I wondered if she was ready to talk, but when she did not speak further, neither did I. I didn't feel like breaking the silence between us, partly because I didn't know what to say but mainly because I was worried she would leave.
Instead I stroked her hair gently, enjoying the silky coolness between my fingers. I smelled her shampoo and it conjured a flood of memories that engulfed my senses. I remembered our summer on True Love and the simple happiness of those days when there were none of the complications that would later destroy our relationship. We just enjoyed one another. I had never been happier in my entire life.
I wondered if she was thinking the same thing as she rubbed her fingers over my neck. We used to hold each other like this on the nights when neither of us could sleep below deck. We would take our blankets and pillows and sleep under the stars, the whole night in each other's arms. My heart ached when I remembered those nights. We would never experience them again. Too much had happened in the months that followed our perfect summer.
I don't know when it had happened, or why, but we had started to drift apart. There was Dawson in the beginning, but then when he and Gretchen began dating, I knew he wasn't the cause of our problems. There was the fact Joey would be going to Worthington whereas I was looking at repeating senior year at Capeside High, and dealing with the embarrassment and disappointment of that particular scenario. Looking back on it now, they hardly seem like good enough reasons to give up the woman I loved, but then I'm not exactly known for my intelligent choices, am I?
I was wrong to give up on us, to give up on myself. Because she was the one, ladies and gentlemen. Joey was it for me, and I knew - I know - deep in my heart that no one else will even come close. Maybe it's because we grew up together or because she knows my secrets and my fears. She understands me, and to use an oft repeated Cameron Crowe quote, she completes me. (Hey, it may be corny, but you wouldn't say that if you felt what I do.)
I knew all this the night we spent at the ski lodge. It wasn't that we slept together for the first time, although I admit it helped. It was the way she trusted me and was so open with her love for me it was overwhelming. I knew she loved me, but until then I had never seen it, never allowed myself to really believe it was true. In that one night she showed me just how much she loved me, how right we were together. Trust me when I say I have not been the same since.
I couldn't help but think about that night as she lay there in my arms, so when I felt her lips on my neck I thought I was dreaming. It took me a few seconds to realize that the sensation wasn't a memory, it was actually happening. I don't think I stopped to consider any implications of the situation before my lips found hers and I kissed her deeply. It was like we were back in the ski lodge she kissed me with the same intensity she had before we had sex for the first time. We had blocked out everything around us and gave ourselves to one another, as if we existed only for each other.
As I felt her fingers tug at the buttons of my shirt and her leg wrap around mine with determination, I suddenly realized that's exactly what we were doing we were blocking everything out. We could make the previous day disappear, even if only for a short while. I felt betrayed for a split second. Joey instigating sex had always been proof of her feelings for me, but this time I doubted her motivation. She was looking to forget about Jack, not reestablish our relationship. I should have stopped there and then but her hands were on my chest and I realized that she was not the only selfish one. I wanted to forget as much as she did. I wanted to feel something other than grief, even if only for a moment.
So I didn't stop. I tugged at her top and with effortless ease pulled it up her back. She raised her arms and withdrew her lips from mine only long enough to strip it away completely. When I unclasped her bra she responded by rolling over on her back and pulling me on top of her. We said nothing to each other. No words were necessary. I paused as she removed my shirt and looked deep into her eyes. Her gaze locked with mine and for a moment she looked scared. I frowned, my face hovering above hers, as her eyes pleaded with me not to stop.
I knew it probably wasn't right. Maybe it wasn't what we really needed. But these thoughts faded from my mind as I watched her face, lit only by the moonlight filtered by the curtains. I still loved her, I still wanted her. And she needed me as much as I did her. There would be no regrets. I bent and kissed her lips again before moving to her neck, shoulders and breasts. She moaned softly, and I realized how much I had missed that sound. It was reserved only for me.
And at that moment, that's all I cared about.
* * *
I had no idea what time it was when I woke. I knew it was later than I had intended. The sun was fully up and the room was bathed in the bright warm light. I stretched contentedly, remembering what had happened with Joey. I rolled over onto my back and sat up, realizing I was alone. It was then I remembered about Jack and everything that had happened the day before. I was surprised that I had forgotten, even if only for an instant. The grief and anger hit me again, and I felt lost. I wanted Joey but she was gone.
Getting out of bed and finding my clothes which were strewn on the floor, I dressed quickly so I could find her. I wasn't surprised that she had left after what had happened. If Bessie had caught us together there would have been hell to pay. At least, I knew that would be Joey's thinking. Something told me Bessie would have understood, even if she wouldn't have been ecstatic about it.
I stopped long enough to use the bathroom and change my shirt before I went looking for Joey. Her room was empty, as was Bessie and Bodie's. I really had slept late, I realized.
"Good morning," Bessie said with a slight smile as I entered the kitchen quickly.
"Morning. Sorry, I didn't mean to sleep so long," I said, scanning the room. Joey wasn't there.
"It's only eight thirty. Not so late."
Bessie poured me a cup of coffee and I noticed there was a look in her eyes, like she felt sorry for me. Or maybe I imagined it, I don't know.
"Do you want some breakfast?" she asked.
"Where's Joey?" I asked, ignoring her question. My stomach growled in protest but I couldn't think about eating.
Bessie busied herself some papers on the kitchen bench, avoiding my eyes. "She left early this morning. She took the boat out."
"I think she wanted some peace and quiet. She didn't say much to me," Bessie continued quickly.
I looked up and held her gaze a moment until she looked away. I knew as well as Bessie where she had gone. It was the only place she ever went in her rowboat. I was aware of Bessie's awkward attempts to cover for her sister, which I think made me feel worse. Did she actually think I didn't know Joey had gone to see Dawson?
I knew Joey, and this was a no-brainer. I handed the coffee back to Bessie, trying to decide what I was supposed to feel or how to react. I suppose what I felt was only natural, considering we had just spent the night together. But the reaction part was another story.
"Bess, can I borrow your truck?" I asked after a few moments. I did my best not to sound upset.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" she asked worriedly. "Maybe you just wait until she comes back."
I realized the worry was for me, not Joey. Maybe she didn't want me to make a fool out of myself. Unfortunately there was nothing anyone could to do to avoid that. I knew it even before I went after her.
"I won't be long."
Bessie reluctantly handed me her keys and I left without
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