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Nine: Chances are
Joey sat staring out of the window in her small dorm room, watching the sky as it grew darker with storm clouds. The dismal gray matched her mood as the first drops of rain hit the window pane, streaking her reflection like tears. She had been in Providence for a week now yet she still felt small, provincial and intimidated in a place the size of Brown. Everyone appeared to be so sophisticated and sure of themselves, and Joey still felt like the gangly girl from the wrong side of the creek. She pulled her legs up to her chest as she watched the rain, wallowing in her own misery. College was not what she had expected it to be ó she hadnít anticipated feeling so out of place.
Joey was certain that her misery was compounded by the fact that she missed Pacey dreadfully. She would get used to college life, but she didnít want to get used to missing him. Things were much simpler when he was around. She felt safe, she was neededÖ and she was loved. Now she was all alone in her darkened dorm room, wondering how she was ever going to get through the next few weeks before she saw him again. He had made plans to come up for the weekend to see her, but both of them knew it wouldnít be long enough. Joey wasnít supposed to fall in love with him ó neither of them had needed the complication ó but she did not have any control over the situation. She had been in love with Pacey much longer than she realized, so it was no wonder that being apart from him now was unbearable.
She glanced at the papers by her side ó on top was a transfer application to the University of Maryland. It was probably too late to change her enrollment for this current semester, but Joey was already thinking about the next. She didnít want to face three years away from Pacey. She might have seen him during the holidays if he was going home to Capeside, but there was very little incentive for him to go home now that his mother was no longer there. There was no reason for him to go home for Christmas and Spring Break, in fact he didnít even have a home to go to anymore after giving up his apartment. And like Joey, he would have to work during the summers to help fund his next year at college. There was little possibility of seeing Pacey at all, and the prospect depressed her more than she ever imagined.
If she were to transfer to UMBC their problems would be solved. Joey had not told him of her intentions and hadnít planned to until all the arrangements were made. She just hoped he would be as happy about the transfer as she was. Joey didnít like to think about the alternative. She had to trust that Pacey did indeed love her as much as she loved him and that he wanted to be with her. Even if it took a semester, she was going to make it happen.
Joey was about to resume filling in her application when the phone rang. With a sigh, she reached over lazily to pick it up, knowing she would just be taking a message for one of her roommates. Their social life was certainly much more exciting than her own.
"Pacey, is that you?" Joey gasped, hearing the deep familiar voice. Her heart swelled with joy.
"Of course itís me. You were expecting one of your other admirers then?"
She could actually hear the grin on his face. "Well, you know how hard it is to keep track of them all," she smiled, settling back against the window frame. She rested her head against the cool glass and cradled the phone next to her cheek. "Itís so good to hear your voice. Howís everything in Baltimore?"
"Couldnít be better. The sunís shining, the birds are singing, people are walking around with smiles on their faces. Iíd say itís a pretty good day to be alive. How about you?"
Joey didnít want her words to reveal the melancholy she felt. She felt slightly betrayed that Pacey sounded so happy. Maybe he wasnít missing her after all. She tried her best to sound convincing. "Things are great here. I signed up for classes, and Iíve got a few interviews for a part time job."
"Yeah, me too. A guy in my dorm thinks he can me work at the campus club. It would be great getting a job so close by. Everyone hereís been really nice. The other night we all went to this nightclubÖ"
She stopped listening as he started to recount the tale of their wild night out, and just concentrated on the sound of his voice. She didnít want to hear about how much he was enjoying himself. It just reminded her how much she wasnít.
"And how are the roommates?"
"Huh?" She realized he was asking her a question.
"I said, how are your roommates?"
"Fine. Really friendly. Weíre getting along great." It was a bald-faced lie, but Joey didnít want to get into her sex-crazed roommates who had so far proven to be less than conscientious students. Besides, it was getting more and more difficult to keep her voice from cracking as she hid her real emotions from him. The pause on the other end told her that Pacey could hear it.
"Jo, are you sure everythingís all right?" he asked, his voice growing softer. Tears pricked her eyes as she pictured his concerned face in her mind, his tender gaze reading her true feelingsÖ
"Iím fine, honestly. Itís justÖ I miss you, thatís all."
Her words were met with silence again. Pacey cleared his throat slightly before he answered her. "I miss you too."
Joey closed her eyes, causing a single tear to escape. She sighed with relief, but her hidden fears were not allayed. If he missed her as much as she missed him, then why wasnít he miserable like her? Was she making a mistake in thinking that he would want her to transfer to Maryland? Joey felt foolish, pinning all of her hopes on her own feelings without considering the consequences of her actions. She decided that if she was going to do this, then Pacey had to know.
"When I say I miss you, Pacey, I mean I really miss you. I thought Iíd be okay once I got here and settled into life at Brown, but I canít stop thinking about youÖ about what happened between us."
"I thought we agreed not to let it affect us when we got to college."
Joeyís anger flared. "Itís one thing to say that Pacey, but itís a different story when you have to really do it. I just canít forget it, or pretend it didnít mean anything. Maybe you can, but I canít."
"I didnít mean that, JoeyÖ of course it meant something to me."
"You sound so sure of yourself too," she replied sarcastically, her eyes sparking with tears again.
"You know what it meant it me, JoÖ what you mean to me." Paceyís voice had grown solemn on the other end. She wanted to believe him so much. If it was true, then she was doing the right thing by transferring to be with him.
"Pacey, I donít want us to be apart anymore. Iíve decided to transfer to UMBC," she said decisively.
"What?" The incredulous exclamation was not the reaction she had been hoping for. "Jo, what are you talking about?"
"Iíve been thinking seriously about this and I want to transfer to Baltimore."
"But youíve had your heart set on Brown for ages," he argued.
"Well, maybe I have my heart set on something more important nowÖ I always wanted to come here, Pacey, but the truth is I am so miserable without you. Nothingís the same anymore. I donít have anyone to share things with. I donít want to spend the next three years like that."
"Jo, youíve only been there a week. Youíre just lonely. In time youíll meet people and things wonít seem so empty. You have to give yourself a chance to settle in before you go and uproot yourself again."
Joey was so stung by the words that she couldnít find her voice immediately. She had hoped he would be excited about the prospect of being with her again, not trying to talk her out of it.
"I donít think you should give up your dream of studying at Brown, Joey. Iíd hate for you to do this and regret it. It would just make you hate me in the end."
"I could never hate you, Pacey," she said with real sincerity.
"You may not think so now, but if you have to sacrifice your ambitions then you might one day. I couldnít live with myself if you didÖ You are going to do so well at Brown. Youíre going to shine, Jo, and I canít stand in your way."
Joeyís throat was tight with emotion. She could see the wisdom in his words, but she was hurt deeply by the rejection. All she wanted was to be with him again, but apparently it wasnít what he wanted. At least, he didnít want it enough.
"I guess it was a silly idea, wasnít it?" she murmured. "Iíll just stay here at Brown where I belong."
"Youíll be happier in the long run, I promise you." Pacey said assuredly. Every utterance was like a knife in her heart. "You just wait until you make some friends there. Who knows, you may find someone else whoíll share your dreams and passions."
Joey heard a knock at the door as she wiped the tears from her face. She couldnít talk to Pacey anymore without losing it completely. The interruption was a godsend.
"Pacey, thereís someone at the door. I have to go."
"Wait, Jo, we should probably talk about this some more."
"What else is there to say? Youíre right about all of it. Maybe whoeverís at the door is the new friend you talked about." The bitterness in her voice was evident.
"Okay, well I guess Iíll talk to you later," he sighed. "Jo? I meant what I said, I do miss you."
"Yeah." But not enough, she added silently.
"Iíll see you soon."
She couldnít bring herself to use their agreed farewell. "Bye, Pacey."
Joey replaced the receiver and let put a shaky breath. None of it had gone the way she planned. Instead of feeling better after talking to Pacey, she felt ten times worse. She heard another knock at her door and sighed tiredly. Pulling her stiff body from the window frame, she padded across the room and pulled open the door.
When she saw who it was she was instantly frozen to the spot. Standing there in front of her, large as life, was Pacey. He grinned at her uncomprehending reaction. She couldnít even find the words to splutter out a question. With a shrug he held up a cell phone.
"Told you Iíd see you soon," he said mischievously.
Joey let out an exasperated gasp before throwing her arms around his neck. Enveloped in his embrace, she pulled him into her dorm room. It was some minutes before she would allow herself to let go, afraid that it was all in her imagination and she would awaken with a jolt to discover she had been dreaming. Pacey eventually laughed and peeled her arms off him so he could catch his breath.
Joey recovered from her surprise and thumped him across the arm for tricking her on the phone. "What are you doing here? Why arenít you in Baltimore?"
"Well you know, UMBC isnít all itís cracked up to be," Pacey replied casually, as if he had just dropped in from down the road. "Here I was thinking it was the greatest place I could be, but it was missing something."
Joey smiled shyly, her anger draining completely. The sincerity in his words and visage embarrassed her, though deep down she loved the fact he could be so openly romantic with her. "Youíre supposed to be starting classes next week."
"I still am."
She was glad to hear it ó although it still meant they would have a few days together. A few days was better than nothing, even if it meant having to say another painful goodbye. Joey hugged him to her again, relieved to have him so close a little longer.
"Only I wonít be taking them in Baltimore," he whispered into her hair. "Iíve transferred to Rhode Island College."
"What?!" Joey pulled away from him abruptly. "Pacey, what have you done?"
"Nothing that you werenít willing to do five minutes ago. I just beat you to it. I made the application to transfer to RIC the day after my dad died. I knew I wasnít going to survive three years apart from you. This way Iíll be in Providence too."
"But your social work studies, you worked so hard to get into the school at UMBC!"
"RIC has a School of Social Work too," he replied, smiling at her shocked tone. "It was one of the first places that accepted me, only I never told you about it."
"Pacey, you canít do this!" Joey cried, taking the exact same tack he had used with her. "You canít give up a better college just so we can be together. Think about all you are sacrificing! I canít let you do this for me."
"Before you paint me as some martyr, Jo, you should know that I am doing this for utterly selfish reasons. I want to be with you. I made this decision without even considering if you wanted me around," Pacey said quietly. "The truth is when I got here yesterday I started having doubts whether youíd be happy about this at all. It was Doug who convinced me to stop listening to that annoying voice inside my head and to just come see you. He said Iíd know straight away if Iíd done the right thing or not."
He took her hands in his. "Have I done the right thing? Are you sure you want me around for the next three years?"
"No." Joey waited as his face registered the shock at her response. She smiled coyly. "I expect you to be around a lot longer than that."
"Then Iím happy to oblige." Pacey kissed her tenderly. She moaned in protest when he suddenly pulled his lips away from her own without warning. "Oh, before I forget, I have something for you."
He pulled put a small, flat box ó one that she recognized immediately. With a grin, she pulled the string off and opened it to reveal another key.
"My new apartment," he said by way of explanation.
"But how can you afford this?"
"Turns out the Chief had a life insurance policy that no one knew about. And Mom has decided to sell the house in Capeside. She wanted to dole out the inheritance now rather than later."
"You mean youíre an heir to a fortune?" Joey grinned mischievously, running her hands possessively over his chest.
"A fortune? No. But it means Iíll be able to go to graduate school," Pacey replied, folding his arms around her. "And it means Iíll have an apartment off campus. I should warn you though, I sold the Joey Potter Memorial Couch."
"Somehow I donít think weíll be needing it anymore," she whispered as her mouth sought his again.
"Think you can put up with our all night study sessions again?" he murmured between kisses.
"What about my penchant for sports movies and bad driving?"
"Uh huh. Iíll even put up with your taste in cereal and your snoring," she breathed against his warm lips.
"I donít snore."
"What ever you say, Pacey." Joey smiled and tightened her arms around him once more as the kissing became more passionate. Neither of them had a care in the world now that they were together ó just as they should have been all along.
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