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Joey rolled over in her sleep and felt the hot sun hit her body. Stirring from the discomfort of it, she glanced around sleepily trying to get her bearings. She was home in her own bed but it took her a few seconds to remember how she got there.
"You’re finally awake," Bessie said from the doorway, smiling kindly at her. She walked across the living room and perched on the edge of Joey’s fold-out. She waited as her sister stretched and pulled herself into a siting position.
"What time is it?" Joey mumbled, rubbing her eyes.
"What?" cried Joey, startled she had slept so late. "Why didn’t you wake me, Bessie?!"
"I figured you needed the sleep. What time did you get in anyway?" Bessie’s voice was concerned. Fatigue was still etched in Joey’s face and she knew it must have been a long, difficult night.
"About four, I guess. I don’t really know."
"Why is Pacey’s truck in our yard? I couldn’t find him."
"He asked me to drive it back. He wanted to bring his mother back himself." Joey remembered the distant manner with which he had addressed her with after he, Doug and Mrs Witter finally returned from filling in the necessary hospital paperwork. Pacey barely glanced at her, and had said nothing more. It still hurt when she thought about the way he had shut her out when all she wanted was to be there for him.
"Did his father…" Bessie didn’t like to ask.
"Is Pacey all right?"
"I don’t know, Bess. He won’t talk to me about it," Joey replied glumly.
"It’s probably just the shock of it."
"I’m not so sure."
"He still needs you, Joey," Bessie reassured her. She could see how upset Joey was getting just thinking about him. "Why don’t you take a shower, it’ll make you feel better. Then I have a casserole you might want to take over to Mrs Witter for me."
Joey’s eyes snapped up quickly at the proposal. She smiled gratefully at her sister for giving her an excuse to check on Pacey. Instinctively she hugged her around the neck. Bessie smiled behind her, rubbing her back.
"Just go and be with him, Joey."
She didn’t need to be told twice.
* * *
Joey couldn’t remember the last time she had been to the Witter house. She and Dawson tended to steer clear of it during their childhood, and Pacey had rarely invited them since. She clutched the baking dish in her arms awkwardly as she walked towards the front door, suddenly losing her courage. She was afraid that Pacey wouldn’t want to see her, that he would be cold towards her. Joey wanted desperately to be near him to make sure he was all right, so if he rejected her efforts she would be crushed.
Climbing the few steps to their porch, she rang the doorbell and waited. There was no answer for a long time and she was afraid they weren’t home. Disappointment welled in her chest and she had almost turned to leave when Pacey suddenly appeared behind the screen door.
An automatic smile formed on her lips, but it was not returned. "Hi," she said softly.
"Hi." Pacey waited several seconds before he finally opened the screen and stepped out of the darkened house onto the porch. She got a good look at his face for the first time and realized he had not slept all night.
"Bessie sent this casserole over for your mother with her condolences." Joey felt silly having to explain her presence to him, but he was still uncommunicative.
"We should start our own restaurant," he commented, attempting to be light-hearted. "My father’s only been dead half a day and already the food packages have started arriving. Should have known this kind of news travels like wildfire through a place the size of Capeside." Pacey realized his voice had turned hard and his words sounded ungrateful. With some effort he managed to soften his tone. "Tell her thanks."
"Okay." Joey fought back tears as Pacey remained closed off from her. She hadn’t expected him to fall weeping into her arms, though she wouldn’t have complained if he did. At least then she could do something to help him, but he stubbornly refused to open up and face his emotions. "Are you all right, Pace?"
"I’m fine, Jo," he answered quickly. ‘Too quickly,’ Joey thought to herself.
"Is there anything I can do for you and your mother?" She was almost begging him to include her in some way, but his expression was unwavering.
"We can handle it, it’s okay. The big boys in the state police department are planning the full funeral rigmarole, burial with officials, dress uniforms and everything. It won’t be until Thursday," Pacey explained dully. "My sisters will start arriving tomorrow so I’m going to stay here with Mom and help her out."
"Oh." Joey knew she was being selfish, but she couldn’t help thinking that with Pacey’s family here she would be left out. The funeral was still four days away and Joey was due to leave for Brown on Saturday. It didn’t leave much time for she and Pacey to sort anything out between them. With a sinking feeling, she wondered if he even wanted to anymore.
Pacey glanced inside the house and she could tell he was eager to get back to his mother. It wasn’t an intentional rebuke but it hurt just as much.
"Well, if you think of anything I can do just call…" her voice drifted off, hoping he would suddenly come to his senses and urge her to stay.
"Thanks, Joey," he answered impersonally. "I’ll see you Thursday then?"
"I’ll be there, Pacey."
He nodded slightly at her and turned away. Joey did likewise and almost stumbled over her own feet in her haste to get away before she began crying.
Her heart thumped in her chest as she turned back to him.
"There is something you could do for me."
"What?" she whispered expectantly.
"Could you apologize to Bessie and let her know that I won’t be able to work at all this week. Tell her I’m sorry about the short notice but…"
"Don’t worry, I’ll tell her." Joey tried to smile but the lump that had risen in her throat prevented it. Pacey shut the door behind him, locking her out once and for all.
* * *
Joey was miserable as she walked home alongside the creek, eyes permanently on the ground. She was utterly confused about how she felt — annoyed, disappointed, betrayed, lonely… Most of all she was worried about Pacey but couldn’t do anything about it. Since they had become so close he had shared his family problems with her, and just about everything else. Now all of a sudden he was leaving her out in the cold, desirous neither of her help nor her company.
With extra staff on at the Icehouse that day, Joey couldn’t even lose herself in her work to avoid thinking about it all. If she went there now, Bessie would know something was wrong and would try to coax it out of her. She knew her sister meant well, but Joey didn’t feel up to an interrogation just yet. She had too much to sort out on her own. She had not even let herself think too much about what had happened with Pacey when he brought her home from the Yacht Club. Joey decided it was time she sorted out how she felt before she could even contemplate what might happen now.
More than anything, she wanted to talk to Pacey about it. She wished she could discuss things with him like she would normally. If this had happened with anyone else she would have gone to him as her best friend with it. Joey was afraid she had already lost the closeness they shared, and she felt overwhelmingly lonely. Luckily she made it home before she shed any tears. There was no need to give people any more to gossip about her.
She entered the house and listened carefully for any sign of life. When she heard none she knew Bessie had gone to the Icehouse as promised. Joey was relieved and saddened at the same time. She wanted some privacy to think things through, but at the same time she felt she needed the company. The problem was the company she really wanted was Pacey’s. Before she had taken too many steps inside the door, the telephone rang, startling her. Joey snatched it up before it had the chance to ring a second time.
"Hello?" she said expectantly, wondering if she and Pacey were so connected that he had known she needed to hear his voice.
Joey’s voice tightened from the disappointment. "Dawson?"
"I know it’s been ages since I called, don’t be mad. I finally snuck away from the set for a moment and I wanted to see how you are." Dawson was as bright and cheery as always, and after the initial shock, Joey was glad to hear his voice. He was still her good friend after all.
"I’m fine, you know me."
"How’s Pacey doing? He hasn’t been picked up by some wealthy old dowager on holiday, has he?"
"Um, actually, Dawson…" Joey realized she couldn’t even say how Pacey was because she didn’t really know herself. "Pacey’s father died last night. Heart attack."
"What? Oh my God… How’s he taking it?"
Joey took a deep breath and swallowed back tears once more. "He’s taking it harder than I thought he would. He’s staying at home with his mother and the rest of the family are arriving tomorrow. The funeral’s set for Thursday."
"I’ll try and get the day off work," Dawson said more to himself than her. He was worried for his friend. Even though Pacey and Chief Witter never saw eye to eye, causing him to go the extreme of getting an emancipated minor order, he had still lost his father. Dawson wanted to be there to show his support.
"I’m sure Pacey would be grateful if you’d come." Joey didn’t add that she would be too. At least then she would have one of her friends back. Dawson did not know the full history between Pacey and his father, especially about the violence. But she suspected Pacey would be thankful if his close friends came to the funeral. "Do you think Jen might come up too?"
"She went to San Francisco a week ago to visit her cousins, I don’t think she’s coming back until next week sometime."
"Doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you’ll try and come. I miss you, Dawson."
"I miss you too, Joey. I’ll see you Thursday. Look after Pacey, okay?"
"Okay," Joey replied in a hushed voice as Dawson rang off. She wished it were as easy as that. Joey hung up the phone and finally allowed herself to cry.
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