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"Brrr! It's like the Antarctic out there," Dawson Leery said as he stepped into the S.S. Ice House and slammed the door shut. He stamped his wet, booted feet by the door and shivered before he spotted his friends, Pacey Witter and Jen Lindley, waving him over to their table. It was easy to find them; the restaurant was empty on this freezing, wet, late Monday afternoon.
"The iceman cometh," Pacey cracked when Dawson approached their table. "You look like you were just discovered by archaeologists and thawed out from an iceberg."
Jen smiled, putting down her menu. "He's right. Did you swim over here or what?"
"Practically," Dawson said as he sat down. "I can't wait until I get my license so I don't have to walk everywhere."
"Can you say raincoat? How about umbrella? Repeat after me," Joey Potter chimed in as she swung by their table. "Um-brel-la."
"Hey, Joe," Dawson said in what he hoped was a nonchalant tone, as he pulled off his drenched ski jacket. Usually he could take her chiding, but today it just annoyed him. Joey looked so beautiful and...dry...and...unobtainable in her chartreuse turtleneck and work apron. It seemed that every time he willed himself to get over her, he started to miss her all over again.
Not that he didn't see her all the time. They were still friends. But things were different now, not like they used to be. The days of easy teasing, comfortable conversations, or her spending the night platonically in his bedroom were over. All of that changed when they started to get involved. And now that they weren't together anymore, it was hard to go backward and resume their lifelong friendship like nothing hadhappened.
"What does one have to do to get served around here?" Dawson asked the room in general.
"Hey!" Joey said. "I wouldn't try that tone of voice on the staff if I were you."
Dawson slung his jacket on the back of an extra chair, in the process sending drops of water flying.
Joey jumped back. "That's it -- special sauce for you!" she said, her tone half-annoyed, half-kidding.
Dawson smiled a tight smile. "I'm hungry. Anyone want to split some fries?" He cocked an eyebrow in Pacey and Jen's direction.
"Um -- " Pacey said uncomfortably, tugging at the collar of his unseasonable bowling shirt. "I think I'll get my own..."
Dawson laughed. "You don't think she's serious about the special sauce stuff, do you?"
"Well..." Pacey started, shooting Joey a cagey look.
"I wouldn't worry about it, Pacey," Joey said as she pulled out her pad from her apron. "It's never bothered you before. I think you actually like the 'special sauce.'"
Pacey's eyes widened in horror, while Dawson and Jen burst out laughing.
"Why...what...what did I ever do?" Pacey stammered.
"You exist. Your mere, vile presence automatically qualifies you for the chef's special. The chef, by the way, has a nasty flu bug today," Joey answered, deadpan. Then she poised her pen over the pad, and asked cheerfully, "Now, what would you guys like to order?"
"Cheeseburger, fries, the usual," Dawson said.
"I'll have the chicken fingers," Jen added. "With honey mustard -- no barbecue, please."
Joey scribbled down their orders. "Okay. Pacey?" she asked politely. "What can I get you on this fine winter afternoon?"
Pacey threw his menu down on the wooden table. "Nothing, thank you," he said tersely. "I don't seem to be hungry anymore. I lost my appetite."
"Oh," Joey said in mock surprise. "Too bad." She turned toward the kitchen. "I'll go wake up the cook now." she muttered as she walked away.
"I don't know why I even bother coming here," Pacey grumbled.
"She was just kidding," Dawson said. "Lighten up."
"I wouldn't put it past her," Pacey insisted, furrowing his brow. "Think about what goes on in the mind of a screwed-up, sexually repressed, misanthropic, maladjusted chick in charge of food. The possibilities are endless...and quite frightening, my friend."
Dawson shook his head and chuckled again. Pacey always managed to make him laugh -- even when he was wet, grumpy, and cold.
But Pacey wasn't laughing at all, Dawson noticed. If possible, he was even moodier than Dawson these days. "All this freezing rain is depressing me," Pacey said, changing the subject. "When is it going to snow?"
"Yeah," Jen agreed. "I think the rain is giving us all the winter blahs." She twirled a lock of blonde hair around her finger. "I never used to get them back home in New York," she added.
"No," Pacey quipped. "There, you just got tuberculosis from the rats in the streets. But never the winter blahs."
"Very funny," Jen shot back. "I just miss winter in New York. There's nothing like walking down a tree-lined street in the Village, just to see the new-fallen snow on the iron banisters and stoops of every townhouse. Or the skaters in Rockefeller Center, with the gigantic lighted tree looming up behind them. It's like a wonderland," she went on nostalgically. "And nothing ever shuts down. Even when there is a snowstorm, you could walk to a local restaurant, and it would be full of people, chattering about the weather in good spirits. Or you could go to the movies, or rent a video -- "
"Or go to school, since you barely have snow days," Pacey finished. "Or go to work after school, and walk there in the miserable, freezing storm since there won't be any cabs available. Or you could take the subway, where eight million people will cough twice as many diseases on you in tight quarters."
"All right already, you made your point, beach bum. You really are in a mood today," Jen said defensively. "What's your problem, anyway?"
"My problem? My problem is that yet another winter is going to go by where I have no one to warm up my bones," Pacey snapped. "And no offense, Jen, but the girls in Capeside are growing awfully tiresome. That's my problem."
Realization dawned on Jen. "Just where is Andie, anyway?" she said.
Pacey shrugged. "Don't look at me. Andie asked for space -- so I'm giving it to her."
Joey passed by, carrying a tray. "Food will be up in a sec," she said. "And Andie and Jack went to Providence with their mom to visit their dad."
"I hear what you're saying," Dawson said to Pacey. "We need a change of personnel on this movie set, that's for sure. I could stand to meet some new girls." And he did want a change of scenery where the female persuasion was concerned. Sitting right next to him was Jen, the first girl in Capeside to dump him. Waiting on their table was Joey, dumper number two. Maybe it was time to check out another town...
That gave Dawson an idea. "We have a long weekend because of President's Day. Why don't we go on another road trip?" he suggested, his hopes high for better luck than they had on their past adventure in New York. He did get lucky and met a fabulous girl in Providence when he was glum after Jen dumped him. But he wanted to go somewhere else. Somewhere wintry and snowy. "What about Vermont? We could go skiing!"
"That's a great idea," Pacey said. "If you're Donald Trump. Do you have any idea how much it costs to get a place to stay on a holiday weekend? Too much, that's how much. Especially last minute."
"Yeah," Dawson agreed glumly, all visions of mountaintop romance dissolving. "I guess you're right. I don't even have enough saved from the video store for gas to get there."
"I love Vermont," Jen said wistfully. "It's so cozy and fun. We used to go up every year to our cab -- " Her face suddenly lit up. "Hey! My parents have a cabin in Steep Mountain! They hardly ever use it anymore," she said excitedly. "In fact, they're going to be away this weekend...Dawson and Pacey hung on to her every word. "Did you say cabin? In Steep Mountain?" Pacey repeated.
"Sure did," Jen said happily. "I can't think of a better way to get rid of the winter blahs than skiing. What do you guys say?"
"I'm in," Pacey said, perking up for the first time all afternoon. "I can even drive -- "
Dawson held up his hands. "Whoa! Wait a minute. I don't know if I want to subject myself to two and a half hours of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride -- especially in the ice and snow," he said.
"Hey, it's all legal now. Or did you forget that I finally passed my driver's test?" Pacey said proudly. "I am officially licensed by the state of Massachusetts, which is more than I can say for you, chump. Unless you feel like hitchhiking, I'm it."
"Good point," Dawson said, backing down. "I guess I'm willing to risk it. As long as we get out of here."
"Risk what? Going where?" Joey asked as she set down a tray full of food. She placed a cheeseburger and fries in front of Dawson, and the chicken fingers in front of Jen.
Dawson dove into his food right away as Pacey eyed the goods warily. "Mmmm, good sauce today!" Dawson teased with his mouth full. "Next time I plan on being extra obnoxious. Such flavor!"
Joey laughed and searched the empty restaurant. Not a customer was in sight. She grabbed a seat and sat at the end of the table. "Really -- where are you guys going? Somewhere fun?" she asked again.
That's when it hit Dawson -- the freshly fallen snow. A roaring fire. Maybe even a horse-drawn sleighride. Vermont in winter was definitely one of the most romantic places he knew. Maybe instead of meeting new girls, whose intimacies he couldn't count on after a whirlwind weekend, he could respark a little romance with Joey and win back the girl of his dreams. After all, he'd never seen that girl in Providence again, though they'd e-mailed each other. What was the point, when he could be with Joey.
"We're going to go skiing this weekend," Dawson explained. "Jen's parents have a cabin in Steep Mountain -- so we can stay for free. Can you come?"
Joey raised her eyebrows in interest. "Steep Mountain? Sounds fun...but I have to work this weekend."
"That's too bad," Jen said quickly, as Pacey shot her a skeptical look . "It would have been fun for all of us to be there."
"But it's so slow," Dawson cut in. Bessie couldn't give you the weekend off? With us gone you won't have any customers at all."
"I don't really know how to ski, but I always meant to learn..." Joey continued thoughtfully.
"It's a great place to learn!" Dawson said eagerly. "There's a bunny hill there for beginners -- right, Jen?"
"Right," Jen answered, not too enthusiastically.
"Well...I guess there's no harm in asking for time off," Joey said. She rose from the table in search of her sister. "I'll be right back."
When Joey walked away, Pacey glared at Dawson. "I knew it," he said, shaking his head.
"Knew what?" Dawson asked. What was Pacey's problem all of a sudden? He found it hard to keep up with his moods. One minute, he was psyched about Dawson's idea to go skiing. The next minute, he seemed angry with him.
"What happened to 'change of scenery'? What happened to meeting new girls? I knew you would lame out on the babe hunt, just to moon over your old friend," Pacey accused. "Or did you suddenly forget why we were in desperate need of a road trip?"
Dawson gasped in protest. "I am not mooning over her," he said indignantly, though he privately knew Pacey was right. "I was merely including her. We're all friends, right?"
"Right," Jen said flatly, sticking a chicken finger in her mouth.
"Oh, yeah," Pacey said mockingly. "Best buds. Now I know I'm going to be stuck ski-bunny hunting alone. While you're making 'friends.'"
Their conversation reached an abrupt halt when Joey trotted back to the table. "Guess what?" she said excitedly. "I can have off! I can go!"
"Great!" Dawson said enthusiastically, pushing aside all of Pacey's remarks. He could picture it now: Joey wobbling helplessly on her skis, falling right into Dawson's capable arms.
And so what if Pacey was right. He had to take every chance he could get. Pacey just didn't understand, Dawson mused.
"Okay, see you later," Jen said to Joey as she walked out of the Icehouse and got into Pacey's father's truck with Dawson.
"Crank up the heat!" a shivering Dawson said between chattering teeth.
"All right," Pacey said, as he threw the gear into reverse. The truck lurched backward, and Pacey slammed on the brakes.
"Pacey!" Jen complained as she was jolted right onto Dawson's lap.
"There's no way," Dawson groaned, "that I'm going to be able to take this all the way to Vermont. Can't you drive like a human being?"
Jen laughed and smiled up at Dawson before she straightened herself up from his lap. It felt good to be this close to him again, Jen thought. It had taken so long for things to get back to normal with him after their breakup.
As Pacey put the truck in forward, then eased out of the parking lot, Jen admired Dawson's profile. He was certainly handsome. She liked the way his dirty blond hair framed his face. She adored the way the purposeful dark lines of his eyebrows accentuated his thoughtful brown eyes. She especially loved his down-to-earth friendly smile, that brought out the innocent little boy in him. She cherished those moments when he could turn from soft to intense in a split second, like when he talked about his filmmaking.
Dawson had no idea what hunk potential he had. That's what made him stand apart from all of the other puffed-up vanity cases she'd dated before him.
She looked away so Dawson wouldn't notice her staring. She missed him. They were great friends, but lately she missed the way he'd tail after her in the school hallway, like a puppy-dog, and she longed for the days when he'd dawdle at her back porch after a date. Most of all, she pined for his tender touch, and soft, lingering kisses. She loved how he was so full of desire, but always a gentleman.
Her love life had been one big bore lately. No one doted on her like Dawson once did. She wondered if anyone would ever again. Many times, she wondered if she had made a mistake by letting Dawson go.
That's why she, like Pacey, wasn't overly excited about Joey joining them on the trip. She hadn't planned on excluding Joey, but Jen was sure that she'd be working. While Pacey ventured out in search of a new breed of girls, Jen was hoping that Dawson would rediscover her, in the privacy of a steaming hot tub, perhaps, or at a cozy inn, over a candlelight dinner.
Jen sighed. It wasn't going to happen. He'd be puppy-dogging behind Joey all weekend long. She just had to try her best to deal with it, and enjoy herself nonetheless.
"We should leave as soon as we can after school on Friday," Jen pointed out, trying to take her mind off what might or might not happen over the weekend. "There will be a lot of holiday traffic. Especially the direction we're going."
"No prob," Pacey said.
"I'll pack all my stuff and bring it to school," Dawson added.
"Me, too," Pacey agreed.
Within minutes Pacey pulled up to Jen's driveway. She dreaded opening the door and escaping the warm comfort of the truck, no matter how Pacey drove. Bracing herself, she pulled open the car door. A stream of hail pounded her on the face.
Jen pulled her hood up tightly and stepped out of the car, Dawson following behind her. "Thanks, man," Dawson called.
"Ditto," Jen shouted, as Pacey raced away, the clunky truck fishtailing on the road.
Dawson quickly turned to Jen before he trotted next door to his house. "See you tomorrow," he said.
"Bye," she called, as she ran toward the front door, wishing that Dawson had given her one of his bone-crushing hugs or soft mushy kisses before he went inside.
But the icy rain on Jen's face snapped her out of her daydreams. Quickly, she raced up her porch, careful not to slip and fall on the slick stairs.
She pulled open her front door and felt a wave of heat envelop her body. "Grams!" she called out. "I'm home."
Lately, since Jen's social life had been so poor, Grams didn't have the occasion to peek out the window at her when she came home. Sadly, Grams knew that Jen was perfectly safe with Dawson these days.
How pathetic, Jen thought. But while Grams was loosening up in some ways, and she and Jen had grown closer since Gramps died, she was still incredibly old-fashioned and overprotective in plenty of other ways.
That's when it hit her. Jen drew in a short breath of panic.
Jen completely forgot about her and didn't factor her into the equation of the weekend.
How was she ever going to get permission from Grams to go away for the weekend alone with friends?
Copyright © 1999 by Columbia TriStar Television, Inc.