You're my only home.

Epilogue

So what if I ran?

I was a scared, 16 year old with no idea what the boy I was in love with was doing. Was he kissing me to keep me in Capeside or because he wanted me?

I still remember the unsure look in his eyes when I questioned his motives. That spoke volumes to me. Almost falling down the ladder and racing to my boat, my indecisive mind had been made up.

Paris was an experience. Not one best repeated. As much as I though that running there would make things easier, because no one knew who I was, it was actually made worse by it. All the kids that had also gone knew who I was and they kindly shared it with all the other students when we reached Paris.

I suppose the only comfort was I didn't know what they were saying behind my back, my comprehension of the French language being almost nil. My host family couldn't speak English and I had been paired with the French equivalent of Abby. Outgoing, loud, bullying. Once the first week of pleasantries was over she changed towards me, insisting I didn't talk to her in school or at home.

When my feet touched American soil again 7 months later I was actually relieved to be back in Capeside. Granted, everything had changed. I was prepared for the sight of my family's restaurant burned to the ground, that my father was back behind bars and that my sister had started plans to turn a derelict house into a B&B.

Seeing the Leery house empty and bored up hurt. The ladder was gone, the doors locked and all the memories stripped from inside was something I wasn't quite prepared for.

'Dawson's parents divorced. Gail got a job in Philadelphia and took Dawson with her. Mitch lives in this grotty flat by the harbour. I'm sorry sis.' Bessie had said, patting me on the back before leaving me alone in our unfamiliar house.

School didn't get better. I didn't ever really make the friends that everyone had assured me I would. The only person I really got to know was Jack. He saved me in some respects. I kept a healthy banter with Pacey, nodded at Jen in the hall but no one could replace Dawson.

In all ways.

I never really got the nerve to ask Mitch about him, so scared that he was still mad with me. Mitch, for his part, never really asked either. He greeted me the same as any other student returning from a long summer away. Dawson never came home. Mitch always went to him. Looking back on it now it was obvious he wanted to spend as much time with Gail as he did Dawson.

And suddenly I was graduating. Standing in front of the crowd, seeing Bessie smiling proudly as I started my valedictorian speech, the sun beaming down on me. It was the perfect day.

And then college whizzed past me. I had gotten a scholarship with Worthington College in Boston, a special deal for taking a teaching relating course. It meant I had to teach when I graduated, not that I was thinking that too clearly when I signed up for it.

4 Years of studying art history and how to convey it to others wrapped up in a large party, a gift of a car from Bessie and Bodie and a slight feeling that I hadn't enjoyed it as much as I should have. My room mate, Audrey, certainly had. Having taken her to rehab on almost a yearly basis, she still managed to graduate with a degree in Musical Theatre.

'I'm going to London babe. You coming?' she had said, waving two tickets at me.

'You're kidding right? What the hell am I going to do in London?' I had said, taking the first class ticket from her hand and closely inspecting it.

'Whatever you want! See it as my parent's way of saying thank you for making sure I didn't die during my college years. I have an apartment all set for us. Even if you come for just a week bunny, it's the best offer you've had!'

The sad thing was, she was right. Handing back the keys to my car to Bessie, kissing her on the cheek and smiling bravely I headed off for another foreign adventure.

Except I loved London. I understood the language, I had no real responsibilities and I got to see some of the most amazing things. Audrey got a steady role as a dancer in a west end show and I, on impulse, ended up working for the Tate Modern as a researcher and tour guide.

One week turned into 2 weeks, which swiftly turned into 5 months which inexplicably turned into 2 years. London finally freed me to be someone I never thought I could be.

Me.

And then, I got the phone call that ended all of it.

'Joey, I've got a letter from the Association of the Future Teachers of America. It says you have to start working in a high school in the next 4 months or face having to pay them your entire college tuition.' I remember the dread in my heart when she read those words to me. I knew that my wage was never going to cover huge payments for college.

So, with a heavy heart and an even heavier suitcase I came home. Luckily, Jack worked at Capeside High and got me an interview with the principle for an available job.

And so here I am. 25, living back with her sister, broke and home sick for a country which was never suppose to be my home. Worst of all, I'm back in the place which made me the shell of a person I had been for most of my life. No amount of make up and stylish clothes would cover up the fact that I was 15 again, walking up the familiar steps in my home town.

Ready for my first day at School.