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Two: Say hello to yesterday
Joey pushed open the door to her loft with her shoulder, her arms full of grocery bags. The door had always stuck slightly and it took all her weight to force it open that night. She stumbled into the darkened apartment and sighed tiredly. There was a heavy silence in the loft that depressed her tonight. Usually she loved the peace and quiet, but her thoughts were in turmoil and she needed some distraction. After flicking on the lights and dumping the groceries in the kitchen, she turned the stereo on and allowed the music to blare loudly. Almost as good as company, she thought to herself.
Her friends at work had been disappointed when she’d refused to go out and celebrate her promotion. While Joey was still excited about the partnership, she was too preoccupied with the mess she’d gotten herself into to feel like partying. She had no idea how she was going to ask Pacey to come all the way to Chicago just so he could pretend to be her fiancé in front of her co-workers. The more she thought about it the more ridiculous it sounded, and Joey was annoyed with herself for allowing it to go this far. It had started out as a small falsehood, and now she found herself drowning in a lie. It was all her own doing too, which just made her feel worse.
Pouring herself a glass of wine, Joey slipped her shoes off and padded around the loft. Her tiredness was replaced with sudden nervous energy as she started thinking about calling Pacey. She would have to do it tonight — the very least she could do was give him enough notice to come all this way. She wondered distractedly how he would react to her request. Their relationship had remained amicable enough after she moved to Chicago, so she hoped she could still call upon him for this all important favor. Her career was depending on it.
As she paced the floor with eyes downcast, Joey started to think about her relationship with Pacey, and how she had gotten herself into this situation in the first place. They had been friends as children in Capeside, but adolescence had driven a wedge between them. Joey still didn’t know why. She had been so preoccupied with Dawson Leery anyway to have paid him much mind at the time. It wasn’t until she, Pacey and Jen went off to Boston after graduation that they really became friends. Dawson had gone to school in California and Joey had never liked Jen very much, so Pacey was her closest companion in those days. While she was at the Boston Architectural Centre and he at UMASS, they still saw each other almost every day. They had begun hanging out together because they didn’t really know anyone else at first, and after a while they just got used to each other’s company. Joey helped Pacey with his English studies while Pacey showed Joey how to enjoy college life. He made sure she wasn’t permanently stuck in the library or tucked up in her student housing room the size of a shoebox. Without him, she doubted she would have had any social life at all that went beyond her part time job in a design firm.
It wasn’t until Joey’s final year that anything more happened between them. Pacey had finished his diploma of education and was teaching English at a local highschool, while she still had six months to go on her architecture studies. After her mid-year exams they had gone out to celebrate, and for reasons she could not fathom, both then and now, they had ended up having too much to drink. It was quite out of character for her, but Joey had been studying so hard and for so many years that she needed a release. It wasn’t until she woke up in bed with Pacey the next morning that she remembered anything that had happened. She could recall vague images of wild dancing and finding herself in a darkened corner making out with her best friend, then coming back to his apartment.
Joey had been mortified she had done something so stupid — getting drunk and having a one night stand with her closest friend was definitely one of the biggest mistakes she’d made in her short life. She had been tempted to flee the scene, change her identity and pretend the whole thing had never happened… but then Pacey woke up and she had missed her chance. Like Joey, he was pretty embarrassed by what had happened, but he wasn’t regretful. He cared about her, he knew she cared about him — why shouldn’t they be together? It was Pacey who’d convinced her that maybe it had happened for a reason, and they agreed to start dating. But Joey wasn’t entirely sure they had not just decided to have a relationship because it was easier than admitting they’d made a terrible mistake.
They did start dating, and they stayed together for six months while Joey finished her degree. She admitted now that she did like being with Pacey, she just wasn’t sure they were in love with each other. So when the offer came for her to work at one the best architectural firms in the country, Joey had no qualms about accepting. She knew it meant having to relocate to Chicago and Pacey’s job was in Boston, but the opportunity was one she couldn’t pass up. She accepted the job before even talking about it with him, proving to herself that her career took priority over her social life. Joey was determined to shake off the small town mentality that had plagued her for years. She was going to make it in the big, bad world far away from Capeside. She was going to make it in Chicago at Peterson-Waterhouse.
Pacey had been taken aback at her announcement, but hadn’t seemed surprised that she’d accepted the position. Joey had wondered if he would offer to move with her, but when he didn’t, she had not brought it up either. She just supposed their relationship had come to its inevitable denouement. There were no tears or protestations of love and devotion when she left. Pacey had helped her pack up her car and had seen her off, giving her a brotherly hug before she left. Joey had missed him when she arrived in Chicago, mainly because she was on her own for the first time in her life. She didn’t have someone to turn to for comfort and support. She was forced to be independent and strong, and that was what she became.
The lie about her engagement had come about so innocently, that Joey had not given it much thought at first. When she spoke to Pacey after starting at Peterson-Waterhouse she never mentioned what she had told her co-workers. It didn’t seem important somehow. The Pacey she had described to the people at work wasn’t really the Pacey she knew. Not entirely, anyway — Joey had embellished things about him as the lie deepened. She’d always had a fertile imagination and couldn’t resist adding her own little touches to his character. It was somehow easier this way, she didn’t feel like she was implementing him in the falsehood. The stories continued. Joey had even started wearing her mother’s engagement ring she had given her before she died, just so it looked official. Flowers on Valentine’s Day and her birthday, jewelry and other presents… Joey had done a thorough job of convincing people she had a devoted fiancé living in Boston.
Now it had all blown up in her face. Joey sighed and flopped onto her couch, shutting her eyes to try and block out the thoughts rushing through her mind. It didn’t work though, there was no use trying to put this off. Pulling out her address book from her bag, she leafed through until she found Pacey’s number in Boston. She ran her index finger gently over his name, thinking about the last time she saw him. It seemed like years ago, though it was really no more than six months.
With deliberate calm, Joey downed the last of her wine and lowered the volume of the music until it was just a murmur in the background. It was a nice touch — the call would sound more casual that way, like she’d just been sitting around and suddenly decided to call her old friend out of the blue. Joey picked up her cordless phone and punched the numbers in quickly so she wouldn’t lose her nerve. She waited impatiently as it rang — willing him to pick up… praying that he wouldn’t. She waited for what felt like a long time, and with a sudden rush of relief she decided to hang up. Well, it wasn’t like she hadn’t tried to call, he just wasn’t home. Joey pulled the phone from her ear to press the cancel call button. But before she had a chance to complete the action, she suddenly heard a voice.
"Hello?" Pacey said breathlessly. Joey didn’t say anything. Her mouth was open but no sound was coming out. Pacey’s voice grew more insistent as he caught his breath from running to catch the phone. "Hello? Anyone there?"
"Pacey," she forced herself to stammer before he could hang up.
"Joey, is that you?" She could hear the surprise in his voice.
"How are you? Is everything all right?" Pacey was glad to hear from her, but he sounded worried. Joey supposed he might be, considering she hadn’t contacted him for so long.
"Everything’s fine. I just wanted to call to see how you’re doing." She was glad to hear that her voice came out normally despite the nervous butterflies in her stomach. Hopefully he wouldn’t suspect she had an ulterior motive.
"Oh, you know, same old same old in Boston. School’s good. The kids are giving me hell, but that’s nothing new. But what about you? How’s the hotshot architect doing?"
"Not bad actually. That’s also why I rang… I got a big promotion today. Junior partner."
"Joey, that’s great!" he said enthusiastically. "Wow, I didn’t think you got to be junior partner after only six months."
"Well, there was this big proposal that I was worked on and we got the account… I guess my boss felt like spreading the joy."
"I’m really proud of you, Joey. I knew you’d do well in Chicago."
"Yeah, things could be worse," Joey smiled, remembering how much she liked talking to him. She missed having someone to talk to, to share things with. She felt guilty for losing touch with him. "Listen, Pacey, I’m sorry I haven’t spoken to you in a while. Things have been crazy at work and I guess I just lost track of time. I hope we’re still friends after all that’s happened."
There was the briefest of pauses on the other end of the phone, but Joey still heard him breath out heavily as he contemplated his response. "Of course we’re friends."
"Good, because I have something I need to ask you. Actually it’s a very large favor I need from you."
"So, the truth comes out… this is why you called me," Pacey teased, amusement in his voice. "You pretend like you’re missing me but all the while you just want something from me. Ah, what a fickle thing is woman."
"Okay, the favor may be the motivation behind the call, but I have been thinking about you," Joey countered, knowing she couldn’t start verbally sparring with him if she was going to get through this without chickening out. "See, the thing is, my boss is giving this party the weekend after next for our big new client and also to celebrate my promotion… I was hoping you’d consider coming out to be there."
"Come to Chicago?"
"Yeah, my boss will pay for your plane ticket and everything. You can stay with me in my loft… I’ve got a fold-out couch."
Pacey paused, confused for a moment. "Not to sound suspicious or anything, Joey, but why would your boss pay for an old friend of yours to come to some client-schmoozing party? That doesn’t sound like any boss I’ve heard of."
Joey sighed, she knew this wasn’t going be easy. "Well, he doesn’t think you’re an old friend… he kind of got the impression you were my fiancé."
"What?!" Pacey laughed incredulously. "Where on earth did he get that idea from?"
"Um, me actually… I told him we’re engaged." Joey squeezed her eyes shut as she waited anxiously for his reaction. Her words were met with silence initially.
"Joey, what’s going on?" Pacey asked, his tone low and serious.
"When I came to Chicago I made up this story that I had a fiancé in Boston. Someone saw a picture of us from college and after that… I don’t know… the story just snowballed." Joey didn’t stop her words from tumbling out. "The thing is, if I tell my boss the truth now, he’ll probably kick me off this project. I won’t get my promotion and I’ll have wasted the past six months... Please, Pacey, I wouldn’t ask if this wasn’t extremely important. I need you to come to Chicago for the weekend and pretend we are engaged."
Pacey was silent again, deep in thought. Either that or he was just torturing her, Joey couldn’t be sure.
"Suppose I do this," he said eventually. "What happens afterwards? Am I supposed to marry you then?"
"No, of course not," she almost snapped, annoyed that he was baiting her. "They’ll all meet you, we’ll play the happy couple so no one suspects otherwise. Then you’ll return to Boston and things will go back to normal here. I’ll start on this new project and settle into the partnership, then I’ll just announce that we broke up. I promise you won’t have to do this again, it’s just this one time. What do you say, Pacey?"
"And what do I get out of this little ruse?"
"A fun-filled weekend in Chicago, all expenses paid?" Joey said hopefully. She could hear that Pacey was about to acquiesce. She could talk him into just about anything if she really tried, she remembered. "We’d get to catch up, we haven’t seen each other for six months. It’ll be just like the old days… Okay, if that doesn’t persuade you, how about the undying gratitude of an old friend? Is that incentive enough?"
Joey bit back an impatient cry and squeezed the phone tightly. He was just pushing her buttons now.
"Okay, I guess I could do with a weekend away."
"Thank you, Pacey." She breathed a sigh of relief. "I owe you big time."
"I’ll remember that."
"So, I’ll call you with flight details and everything in a couple of days."
"In the meantime, should I be practicing any terms of endearment, honey?" Pacey was grinning on the end of the line, she could hear it.
"Just ‘Jo’ is fine, sweetheart."
"Okay, Jo. I’ll talk to you soon."
"Okay, ‘night Pace." She smiled to herself. "And Pacey? Thanks again. I mean it."
Joey listened as he hung up, and slowly put down her own phone. She was relieved he had agreed to come — at least the first part was over. Now all they had to do was convince all of her co-workers they were engaged so none of them suspected the truth. Joey had no idea how she was going to achieve this, but somehow knowing Pacey was coming to Chicago soon was making her feel calmer. She realized how much she had been missing her friend. Joey was keeping herself too busy to even notice how lonely she had become in the last few months. She glanced around her empty apartment and was suddenly very grateful that Pacey would be there soon.
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