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Seven: True lies
Pacey was true to his word. From the moment they walked out of the apartment he transformed himself once again into the perfect fiancé. Taking her hand in his, they went out to meet Hayley and Aden who were waiting for them with a taxi. On the way to the restaurant he chatted to Joeyís friends like nothing had changed. When they arrived at The Lakeview and were greeted by the other senior partners and Alec Peterson, Pacey was as attentive and loving as he had been at the party. But the ruse hurt her now, making her feel worse than she had that morning. Joey knew the entire act was completely false. At the party she had deluded herself that maybe some of the feelings and emotions he expressed were based on truth. But after their confrontation the night before, Joey knew she was mistaken. Pacey didnít care about her anymore. Pacey had a girlfriend back in Boston. Pacey would never be in love with her again.
Joey remained subdued as they sat around the table eating brunch. The other partners and their better halves were chatting and laughing, not noticing her dark expression. Pacey was keeping them entertained with stories of his students, but she couldnít join in the merriment. When Pacey casually slung his arm around the back of her chair and squeezed her arm, Joey couldnít stand it anymore. There was no use pretending, she couldnít sit there and return his amorous glances. With a murmured apology, she rose abruptly and headed for the bathroom, eager to escape the curious looks from her co-workers.
Pacey smiled at them, trying to excuse her behavior, but Alec Peterson was still frowning slightly. The last thing Pacey wanted to do was spoil things for Joey, so he made up an explanation.
"I have to leave in a couple of hours. This weekendís just gone too quickly for us," he said.
"It must be so hard on the two of you," said one of the partnerís wives sympathetically. She couldnít understand how Joey could let a man like Pacey out of her sight, and had been quite taken with him herself.
"Carrieís right, you should be here in Chicago, Pacey," Alec Peterson joined in.
"Iíve got to see out my contract with the school first," Pacey replied, hoping someone would change the topic of conversation. He didnít need Peterson starting up again about him moving from Boston.
"Work, workÖ thatís all you young people think about these days. Some things are more important in life."
"That why you have us working 50 hour weeks, Alec?" Hayley asked in a joking voice, though her intent was serious. She smiled and excused herself from the table so she could check on Joey. Even if no one else had noticed, Hayley could see how distracted she was today.
She found her outside the restaurant, standing with a bunch of smokers who were banished from inside. Joey was staring absently over the river, oblivious to the haze of tobacco smoke that enveloped them.
"Jo? You all right?" Hayley asked with real concern. She led her away from the others so they could talk privately.
"All right? No, I donít think you could say that," she answered dully.
"What happened last night? Pacey seems perfectly normal."
"Thatís because heís a better actor than I ever gave him credit for."
"Jo, tell me."
Joey smiled bitterly to herself. "I made a complete fool of myself, thatís what happened. I canít believe how conceited I was. I actually thought he meant it when he was so attentive and caring last night. I thought we had a second chance together. But it turns out Pacey was doing exactly what I asked him to do, and nothing more."
"I take it things didnít turn out the way you planned back at the apartment."
"Not exactly," Joey said ruefully. "He has a girlfriend. I didnít even bother to find that out before I dragged him all the way here."
"I canít go back in there, Hayley. I canít pretend anymore."
"What choice do you have, Jo? Do you want to tell Peterson the truth, knowing what the consequences will be?"
"No," she said in a low voice. "But I also donít want to hang off Paceyís arm and have him act like my fiancé when I know Iíve lost him for good."
"Jo, itís a only a little while longer. Donít be a foolish and throw it all away. If Pacey can still keep the act up, surely you can."
"He can do it because heís not in love with me. Iím not in that fortunate predicament."
"Donít tell me youíve fallen in love with your pretend fiancé," Hayley groaned.
Joey had to smile at her voice of doom. "No, I just realized that I still love him, even though I tried to convince myself otherwise when I moved here."
"What are you going to do?"
Joey sighed tiredly before she had the strength to answer. "Go back inside, I guess. Finish things like we planned and everything will go back to the way they were. Except I know things will never be the same again, not with Pacey. I donít think I even have his friendship anymore."
Hayley didnít know what to say. Joey took a final deep breath and walked back inside the restaurant to face the music.
* * *
Pacey forced himself to smile as Carrie was recounting the story of her courtship with her now-husband, Michio Yamagawa. She was a woman who obviously loved being the center of attention, and when someone had brought up the subject of engagements and marriage, she immediately dominated the conversation. She was in the middle of a rather embarrassing tale that was slowly turning her husband red, when Joey and Hayley returned to the table. Pacey looked up at her as she took her seat beside him, searching her face for some kind of explanation. Joey just diverted her eyes though, and smiled to a few people who nodded at her return. Pacey dropped the fiancé act for a moment and took her hand in his, making sure she was all right. He did it without thinking, prompting her to raise her eyes to his immediately, confusion written in her gaze. Pacey just smiled slightly at her, trying to put her at ease. He was concentrating on her eyes so intently, he didnít hear Carrieís question.
"Pacey? I said, how did you and Jo fall in love?" she repeated in a loud voice. "Come on, itís your turn."
Pacey looked at her, startled. Everyone else around the table was watching him expectantly, including Joey.
"UmÖ Joey and IÖ" He turned to face her again, looking at for guidance, anything. But Joey had nothing to contribute. Pacey was on his own. "Well, I canít speak for Joey, but I can tell you how I knew she was the one.
"Iíd had a crush on her since I was fifteen. One of those adolescent phases full of angst and unrequited love. She was in love with my best friend so I had to worship her silently and from afar," he explained, keeping his tone entertaining. The others listened intently to his every word. "By the time we finished highschool and went away to college in Boston, I thought I was over her. We were great friends, and did everything together. I didnít expect anymore from her than that. It wasnít until one day that I realized I was still in love with her, that I always had and always would be.
"It was nothing extraordinary, no poignant moment in time when youíre hit by the proverbial lightning bolt. It was just an incidental action on her part that opened my eyes to my own feelings. I canít even remember where we had gone or what weíd been doing. I just remember we were standing at a bus stop together and it was cold. Unseasonably cold, we werenít dressed appropriately. Joey didnít have any gloves and her hands were freezing, and without feeling she needed to ask me first, she put them in my jacket pockets to keep warm. We were just standing there together waiting for the bus, and suddenly I knew I was in love with this woman."
Pacey smiled shyly as murmurs of "How sweet!" and "Thatís adorable!" swept around the table. He glanced at Joey, curious as to how she would react. He was surprised to see tears in her eyes. She smiled faintly at him, her fingers still entwined in his. Neither of them were pretending anymore.
Joey couldnít believe her ears. Pacey was telling a true story, she knew that with all her heart. But if it was the truth, if that was when he had fallen in love with her, he was talking about a time two years before they started going out. Joey couldnít believe he had felt that way about her all that time, and hadnít said or done anything about it. It was only their mistaken one-night stand that had brought them together. The more she thought about it though, the more it made sense. It explained why Pacey had been so keen to pursue a relationship after they had slept together. Joey wondered how she could have missed it all those years. She had had no idea he felt that way about her.
Pacey was aware people were still looking at them, and kissed Joeyís hand for effect. They were both very uncomfortable, and he immediately regretted speaking so personally about themÖ speaking the truth. He knew he should have made up some clichéd tale of moonlight and long-stemmed red roses, but the truth was the first thing that popped into his head. It was the first time he had told anyone of the moment he had realized his true feelings for Joey ó he had never even told her. Now she was upset and he wished he had never opened his mouth. Checking his watch, Pacey realized he only had a couple more hours to survive before he could get back on a plane to Boston and try and put the whole weekend behind him.
* * *
When the time came for them to leave, Pacey and Joey made a hasty retreat. Her co-workers bid warm goodbyes to Pacey, making him promise to come back soon, making arrangements for weekend trips and squash games. He had systematically charmed each and every one of them. Joey was not looking forward to explaining how she and the perfect fiancé had broken things off when it came time to tell. She almost wished Pacey hadnít given such a winning and convincing performance.
He insisted on getting a taxi straight from the restaurant to the airport, having had the foresight to bring his overnight bag along. Pacey did not expect Joey to come with him, but she took her seat silently in the cab, not giving him the opportunity to protest. They did not speak on the journey, both of them dreading the moment they would have to say goodbye. It wasnít the parting so much, but the inevitable conversation they would have before he boarded the plane. Their confrontation the previous night and Paceyís subsequent revelation that morning forbade an easy farewell.
They waited at the gate for the boarding announcement, silent and withdrawn. Both of them wanted to be anywhere else in the world but there together, and yet neither could bring themselves to leave yet. Joey had so much she wanted to say to him, to explain and apologize, to defend and make him understand why she had treated him the way she had. But she stood there without saying a word, unable to begin what would be one of the most important conversations of her life. It wasnít until his flight was called that they were forced to face one another.
"I guess thatís it then," Pacey began, as other passengers began filing through the boarding gate. "I should get going."
Joey nodded mutely. He wondered if she was ever going to speak to him again, and with a sigh decided he couldnít wait around forever. Pacey picked up his bag and began walking to the gate.
"Is that true, what you told them?"
Pacey turned around reluctantly. Just when he thought he had gotten away from Joey, something always stopped him. "Was what the truth?"
"That day in Boston when we were waiting for the bus. Did you really fall in love with me then?"
"Joey, it doesnít matter anymore. It was just a story."
"It matters to me," she said quietly.
"Yes, itís the truth," he replied, walking back towards her quickly. Pacey suddenly felt himself grow angry at the sight of her saddened visage. He could feel her manipulating him again and he was falling for it once more. "Is that what you wanted to hear? Fine, Joey, I confess. I was in love with you for years before you even looked at me twice. Feel better?"
"No," Joey murmured, her throat constricted. "That doesnít make me feel better at all. It makes me feel all the more despondent that you never told me, that I never noticed. We wasted so much time."
"One of us had other priorities in life, remember?" he said harshly.
"Are you ever going to stop punishing me for that?" Joeyís tone was accusatory, causing him to back down.
"Iím not punishing you, Joey. It doesnít matter anymore. Itís all in the past now."
"It is for me."
"Why donít I believe you?" asked Joey. "Last night at the partyÖ"
"Last night I was acting, I was doing exactly what you asked me to do," Pacey finished for her, but his voice sounded less than convincing. Joey looked deep into his eyes and knew she had not been imagining things. Last night had been more than an act, as had that morning at the restaurant.
"Pacey, we know each other too well to keep lying to each other. Why canít you admit that things are not black and white between us? Why canít you face up to the fact that we still have feelings for each other?"
"I have two very good reasons, Joey. One, I made a promise to myself never to get involved with you again. I donít deserve to play second best to a career, and I wonít do it ever again. Two, I have Lucy. She may not be the most intelligent or brilliant person but she is kind and caring, and for some reason she loves me. Sheís good for me, Joey, sheís easy on my life. And I know she wonít wake up tomorrow and announce sheís leaving me for a job thousands of miles away. They are my reasons for not admitting anything to you. Donít ask me to do it, because I wonít."
Joey looked crestfallen, but Pacey hardened his resolve. He kept reminding himself he was doing the best thing he could to protect himself, to ensure he didnít lose his heart to her all over again only to have it broken once more.
"Well, I guess thatís it then," Joey said, repeating his earlier words. She blinked back tears that threatened to fall, not about to give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
"I guess so." Pacey swallowed with difficulty. "Good luck with everything, Joey. I hope you do well with the project."
"Thanks," she nodded, barely able to say the word.
"You can blame me for the break up. Tell Peterson I cheated on you or had a secret drug problem or something, I donít care."
She nodded again. Pacey waited in case she was going to say something else, but her eyes remained downcast.
"Iíll see you," he ventured.
"Sure," replied Joey, knowing full well it was a lie. "Take care."
Pacey backed away from her a few steps, before turning completely and walking through the boarding gate. Joey watched him go, wondering desperately what she could say to stop him, to make him realize that she was sorry, that she never meant to hurt him. But there were no simple words to say all of that. Too much had happened to just wipe the slate clean with ĎIím sorry.í Pacey was walking quickly, keen to get away. But he paused before disappearing down the tunnel, glancing back to look at her. Joey smiled slightly, though her heart felt like it was breaking. He held up a hand, an apologetic gesture which she returned. He did not move, as if trying to decide whether to go ahead and board or not. Joey held her breath as he looked at the plane, then back at her. After a few more endless seconds, Pacey disappeared down the tunnel. He had made his choice.
Joey shivered as she stood there alone at the gate. He was
gone. For a moment she couldnít move, somehow knowing she would never
see him again. The thought depressed her more than she ever thought possible.
Joey felt the engagement ring poking into the soft flesh of her middle
finger, and she slid it off her hand. There was no point wearing it now,
the charade was over. She didnít wait to see the plane take off. Joey
turned and practically ran out of the airport, eager to be home.
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