Bath couldn't stop herself.
“Bathsheba ! How are you?”
“You enjoying the party?”
“You avoided the question. And this party is amazing. Thank you, I know how much this must have taken to put together and to close the pub off for a while. Just wow!” And Joe hadn't been lying. He really did look fresh faced and rosy, as if this was the best birthday gift he could have been given. He looked miles better than the last time she had seen him...but that time didn't bear talking about not in this atmosphere, not when he was the Joe she had come to know and enjoy. They were sitting down at a table near the pool table watching the others across the room laugh amongst themselves as they helped divide the cake into smaller pieces arguing about who would get the bigger and best bit. It was when Jenn yelled that the best bit was for Joe because it was his birthday you utter pricks did the bartender dare to turn away to face the boy beside her. The boy still smiling.
Bath almost bad for spoiling the demeanour.
“I wanted to ask you something, well not really ask but tell..actually I'm not sure what I mean. Just...Joe I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry. Sorry about Sue, sorry about me and about my reaction, and not for not being there, and Joe I'm just. I'm just sorry!”
Joe's smile fell at that name. At the same time he saw her internal battle as she wrestled to get the words out.
“Is this about your relationship..past relationship with Frank?”
“Maybe” At the surprised look in her face he continued on.
“Bath, you've looked glum for a good few hours and it's not a surprise. I told you I recognised the signs, even now, and I just wanted to help, it..just hurt when you didn't accept it. But I've been where you are and I did the same to Jenn, to Henri.... even to my family. Jenn and Henri don't like talking about it because it makes them angrier and it causes them to worry about me for weeks on end, and even though I love them, there are some things that I just don't want them to see like the time in your room...I'm still technically getting through what happened and it just brought back bad times. And I never want someone to go through what I did”
“That's exactly it! How did you get out, how did you get over it? How did you even continue to be my friend when I must have brought up such bad memories? When I screamed at you for just helping? I can't just move on within minutes and Joe, he said something was wrong with me. He's not wrong! And he lied. He LIED. How the hell can I even trust another person after this, and...and.. Jesus Joe! Do you know how bad I felt for hurting you like that?!”
Joe took it all in knowing how badly she needed to get the words out, the words she probably couldn't have spoken to anyone other than him right then. This time she kept her voice down except for a few words which he appreciated/ At what he assumed was her finishing her sentence he went to reassure and calm her as she started to tighten her fists on the table. He patted them reaching over to squeeze one before letting go placing his own back on his drink. Bath needed this, and maybe so did he.
“It wasn't easy. In fact sometimes it felt like the worst possible thing to happen to me. As for getting over it I didn't get over it exactly, it's like what I just said, some days I end up remembering the best and other days the worst but I...therapy was a big help for me, and it might be for you but only if you think you'll benefit from it. Everyone's different and sometimes one therapist might not be the right one for you but another might be. Bathsheba it's like I said, I'd been there before, done the whole yelling thing, hurt people in the way you did however we don't stop being your friend because you were going through a hard time, maybe we were a little frightened about your situation but friends stick by each other especially in those times.
Don't believe in anything Frank told you, there's nothing wrong with you, you just got in a bad situation and didn't realise how bad at the time. Outsider goggle privilege. Y'know it's going to be okay, you're going to be okay. Not instantly, not all at once but in the long run, you will be. And I hurt you at the time although I didn't notice it. I know I tried to help that day but I couldn't help but think I'd made it and you worse. You can't believe how sorry I feel about that. I'm just happy you're away from Frank, and out of that situation”
“You're a lot smarter than I give you credit for Joe. You know that right. You're probably smarter than Gabe”
“Everyone's smarter than Gabe!” Henri yelled across the room having caught the end of the sentence causing Gabe to nudge his arm and tell him to piss off. Chuckling, Joe looked straight back at his boss and more importantly friend as he stood and pulling her up as well.
“Bathsheba I'm sorry you had to go through what you went through and that the help you got wasn't more than an ambush at the time although I would have done it ten times over to break free the struggle for you. Things will get better though. I promise you. A-and if you need a chat about any of this or just a chat in general, I'm here for you”
“Thank you, I know you don't mean that lightly. Really Joe, thank you. We're okay, aren't we?”
“Of course we are. We never weren't” At that Joe opened his arms up as an invite for a hug which she gladly accepted.
“Your wish was sweet by the way”
“What w-oh. The birthday wish?” A nod and then a tighter hug happened, Joe understood. Bath stepped back from him afterwards feeling a lot lighter and a lot happier. God she was glad to have come to Weatherbury.
“Come on let's get back to the party, they'll be missing us and I need to show Henri just how bad he really is at pool and I want to get the bigger slice of cake before he eats it and we never hear the end of it” And with it, Joe fist bumped her shoulder wandering back towards the group grabbing hugs off of Jenn and grabbing the pool cue off of Boldwood. Bath smiled to herself as she watched on.
She walked over to Gabe who instantly grabbed her for a hug as Boldwood for some odd reason gained a scowl on his face as he also watched the group interact.
She sucked in a breath and breathed out saying Joe's words like a calming mantra.
“More days like these”
“Sorry Bath, what was that? It's sort of hard to hear you when you're y'know buried underneath my arm” Bathsheba snorted getting out of the hug and sticking her tongue out as she wandered over to Jenn.
She hoped there would be.