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"What are you doing Saturday night?"
Joey opened her eyes but kept her head rested against the back wall of the Icehouse. It had been another long day and they still had a few hours left on their shift. She and Pacey had snuck out for a break while Bessie wasnít looking.
"Um, I donít know. Whatever we usually do on a Saturday night."
"I was thinking maybe we should do something different," Pacey ventured casually. "Weíll be leaving in a couple of weeks, so I thought we might go out somewhere. You know, to celebrate our escape from Capeside."
"Okay, sounds good." Joey tried to sound convincing.
As their departure for college grew closer, however, the prospect of getting out of Capeside was losing its former appeal for her. She would be leaving her home and her family, and she would be leaving Pacey. Joey knew he would only be in Baltimore and she in Providence ó the distances werenít insurmountable. But they would both be working to support themselves, spending breaks and summer holidays in employment rather than enjoying themselves on the beach. Despite their pact with Dawson and Jen to have regular reunions in Capeside, Joey knew they would probably not eventuate. In two weeks she would be saying goodbye to her closest friend and she didnít know when they would see each other again. It was a thought she tried not to contemplate too often.
Pacey was relieved that she had accepted the dinner invitation. It had taken him nearly a week since the shopping expedition to build up the courage to ask her. He knew it was silly ó they had dinner together all the time ó but this would be different. He wanted to make it special for them. If Joey had remained oblivious about the change in their relationship he might have let things lie and not tempted fate. He would have gone off to college, perhaps regretfully, perhaps always wondering Ďwhat if?í But she had noticed, in fact sheíd been fairly awkward around him all week. Pacey decided to bite the bullet and do something about it, even if his efforts were shot down in flames. At least then he could comfort himself with the knowledge that he had tried.
"Great, Iíve booked a table at the Yacht Club for 7 oíclock."
"The Yacht Club? Why on earth do you want to go there among all those inbred patricians?" She and Pacey had always ridiculed the patrons of the Capeside equivalent of a local country club. It didnít make sense that he wanted to go there now.
"Hey, itíll be our last opportunity to see what weíve been missing out on all these years," he joked. But his eyes grew serious in case Joey thought he just planning a night of scheming joviality. "Itís the nicest place in town. I wanted us to go somewhere nice."
"Okay," Joey replied quietly, trying to determine what was going on in Paceyís mind. Usually she had no trouble guessing because she knew him so well, but not this time.
"Only donít tell Bessie I disparaged the good reputation of the Icehouse. I just figured we eat here all the time and should go somewhere different."
Almost on cue, Bessie poked her head out the back door and spied her two servers still on a break.
"Hey you guys, Ruth canít handle this all on her own. You about done?"
"Iíll go, you finish your soda," Pacey told Joey, before flashing his boss one of his patented smiles.
Even Bessie could see that Pacey was happier than he usually was, so after he disappeared inside the restaurant she decided to question her sister.
"Whyís Pacey in such a good mood? I thought these long shifts were supposed to break your spirits." She leaned on the wall beside her sister, enjoying a breath of fresh air herself.
"Huh? Oh, who knowsÖ itís just Pacey," Joey murmured, not really concentrating. "Bess, have you got a nice dress I can borrow?"
"Whatís the occasion?"
"Pacey and I are having dinner at the Yacht Club on Saturday, so Iíd better dress appropriately."
Bessie eyed her sister carefully, surprised she was being so casual about it. "Pacey is taking you to the Yacht Club?" she asked incredulously, ready to tease her sibling. "Is there something youíre not telling me, Miss Joey?"
"What?" Joey stammered, her cheeks blushing slightly. "He just wanted to go somewhere special because weíll be leaving soon."
"So heís taking you the most prestigious and exclusive restaurant in town, not to mention the most expensive," Bessie said sarcastically. "Are you sure thereís nothing going between you two?"
"Weíre just friends, Bessie, we always have been."
"It sounds suspiciously like a date to me." Bessie teased in a sing-song voice.
"No one ever said the word date. Itís just dinner."
"Uh huh." Bessie remained unconvinced. "And you always thought Dawson was the clueless one."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Doesnít this little scenario have a familiar ring to it, Joey? Two best friends, secret yearningsÖ"
"There are no secret yearnings between Pacey and me," Joey reminded her hastily.
"Itís just dinner, Bess, thatís all." Joey didnít like the look of the mischievous twinkle in her sisterís eyes. "Iím going to get back to work."
She quickly tossed her half-full soda can into the trash and made her way to the kitchen door.
Bessieís tone was no longer mocking. "Donít worry, weíll find you something nice to wear."
Joey smiled faintly. She was beginning to feel excited about Saturday night, not to mention completely nervous. Somehow she knew, just as Bessie did, that this would be no ordinary dinner.
* * *
Saturday night arrived quickly, and Joey soon found herself standing in front of her bathroom mirror, frantically fanning her flushed face.
"Oh," she moaned pitifully as she eyed her reflection. She was as red as a tomato, and no amount of makeup was going to hide it. "Why did it have to be so hot tonight?"
"Itís not that hot, Joey," Bessie replied coyly, bringing in a portable fan. "Iíd say this hot flush is more about nerves than anything."
"Iím not nervous. Why should I be nervous?" she cried defensively. She patted more powder on her face so she wouldnít look so shiny.
"Gee, letís seeÖ Maybe because youíre about to go on a date with your best friend and you have no idea whatís going to happen."
"I already told you, Bessie, itís not a dateó"
"I know, I know. ĎItís just dinner.í Well, you keep telling yourself that, kiddo, and maybe it will come true." Bessie retreated into her bedroom where her sisterís dress was laid out.
Joey remained in the bathroom, staring at herself in the mirror. It was only dinner, wasnít it? But if that was true, it didnít explain why she had been so nervous around Pacey since he had proposed the outing a few days ago. The idea that this evening could turn out to be more than that was a nerve-wracking thought. What made things worse was that Pacey didnít appear affected at all. He had still joked and laughed with her as always, seemingly unfazed by the prospect of Saturday night. Joey wondered if she wasnít blowing things all out of proportion, thanks to Bessieís needling. ĎIt couldnít possibly be more than dinner, could it?í she asked her reflection.
Lost in her thoughts, she wandered into the bedroom and saw her new dress lying on Bessieís bed. If it wasnít a date, why had she gone out and spent some of her hard earned tips on a dress she wasnít likely to wear ever again? Joey was annoyed at herself for wanting the dress, for wanting to look nice for Pacey. He didnít care what she looked like. She knew she would never be as beautiful as the other wealthy women at the Yacht Club, so it was pure vanity to even try. Joey had no idea why she suddenly needed to impress her friend so desperately.
Bessie sat on the bed watching her as she mulled over these thoughts in her mind. She smiled at her little sister, amused at the turmoil written all over her face. Joey just had to make things difficult for herself, when Bessie could see how easy it really was. All she had to do was sort out how she truly felt about Pacey and everything would be resolved.
"Are you sure about the dress?" Joey asked anxiously. "Do you think I should have gotten the shoes too? I mean, mine donít really matchÖ Maybe I should just wear something else all together."
"Joey, calm down or youíll have an aneurysm," Bessie ordered. "Take a deep breath and try not to think for five minutes."
"How can I not think about it?" Joey asked, exasperated.
"Maybe you should be thinking about why youíre getting so worked up if all you feel for Pacey is friendship."
"Of course I only feel friendship for him."
"Are you sure? It seems to me that you two have been through more than most friends do. Have you forgotten how much you sacrificed to help him with his classes in your sophomore year? You gave up most of your free time to get him back on track. You supported him when he had all those problems with his family. Even when you were dating Dawson, you always put Pacey first."
"He needed me," Joey said simply.
"I think you needed him just as much, if not more." Bessie spoke kindly so as not to put Joey on the defensive. "Itís different isnít it, the way you feel about Dawson and Pacey? Itís different when you know youíre needed."
Joey didnít answer her, she just picked a few pieces of invisible lint off her dress.
"It surprised me that you were in love with Dawson all those years. I always thought it was Pacey."
"Why?" asked Joey hastily, a little shocked at her sisterís frank observation.
"Because youíre so alike, I guess." Bessie waited as Joey slipped the sleek dress over her head before she zipped her up. Standing behind her in front of the floor length mirror, she smoothed her sisterís hair and looked at her reflection carefully. "I also think that Paceyís feelings run a lot deeper than you pretend to notice. They have for three years now."
Joey remained quiet, but her mind was a hive of activity. Was Bessie stating the truth? Did Pacey care about her more than he let on? Joey couldnít believe it, but she realized that somewhere deep down, she desperately wanted to. She glanced back at her sister and blushed imperceptibly.
"I guess the only thing you have to figure out tonight is how you really feel about him."
"You say that like itís any easy thing, Bess." Joey smiled ruefully.
"Maybe not, but itíll be worth it in the end."
"Will it? Weíll both be gone in a week."
"A week can be a long time to some people," Bessie smiled back at her. Giving her shoulders a quick squeeze, she decided to leave Joey alone to contemplate things before Pacey arrived. She had done enough meddling already, but she did it because she wanted Joey to be happy. Bessie just happened to believe that she would find that happiness with Pacey, even if she couldnít see it herself just yet. "Listen, forget what I said. Maybe you should stop analyzing everything and go have a wonderful time with Pacey."
"Now you tell me," Joey murmured under her breath after Bessie left the room. She looked miserably at her pink face and knew she couldnít ignore her feelings anymore. Joey just wondered how on earth she was supposed to resolve them all in one night.
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