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Come to Me, Come to Me

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     What was he doing here?

     It wasn’t the first time that thought crossed David’s mind when he ended up in the town of Belleville. After the night he had, he needed to have a quick nap before he continued driving. The truck David had borrowed from Roland had run out of gas a half-hour outside of town (honestly, what kind of a cheap-ass leaves his truck in the driveway with the gas light on?) and it was partially David’s fault that he didn’t bother to get gas on the way out of Schitt’s Creek, but he just needed to get out of there. He had to.

     He thought he was running back to New York, but after that traumatizing incident of David being stuck in the truck in the pitch dark in the middle of nowhere, with a dead phone, for five hours before help came (in the form of an overly-friendly farmer riding his tractor up on the road because only in this part of the world they fucking do that), David realized that he was just running away. To anywhere else.

     Anywhere but New York and Schitt’s Creek.

     Anywhere else where he wasn’t wanted.

     Belleville was a slight upgrade from the dingy town of Schitt’s Creek, perhaps twice the size of Elmdale, yet there was something quaint about this town.  

     Something that made David stop.

     Something that made David look up places available for rent as he charged his phone in a café and found a room available in the basement of some middle-class couple's house. The home looked like it could use a bit of paint touch-up on the outside, but when David saw the pictures of the room for rent, and that nice little clawfoot tub that reminded David of the one he had in his old life and a fucking queen-size bed, he called the number on the listing.

     He wanted anything but a motel.

     “...and the water may get a bit too hot, so you’ll have to be careful and check it before you get into the tub,” Mrs. Brewer was saying. David had already forgotten her first name.

     He turned from the tub to the woman next to him, her auburn hair in a classic bob, and he gazed into her soft welcoming brown eyes. Her eyes suddenly made him think of Adelina.

     They didn’t look alike at all, and the woman didn’t even have a Spanish accent but...there was something about her that tugged at David’s heart and made him miss his old nanny.

     He craved for her.

     Craved for someone, anyone, to want him.

     “Right.” David tried to work through the lump in his throat. Why was he still emotional? He blamed it all on the lack of sleep. He hated how his next question came out high-pitched. “And how much is rent again?”

     “About two-hundred seventy-five a month.”

     David turned toward Mr. Brewer behind him, wearing a cozy sweater that screamed: Typical White Middle-Class male.

     “Mmmm-kay. That’s really cheap.”

     Mr. Brewer’s struggled to form a smile, but the man restrained it. “I’m going to assume you moved from somewhere where rent was really high?” When David didn’t answer, he added: “Did you get a job in town?”

     “Hmmm. I’m oscillating between several jobs at the moment.”

     Mr. Brewer’s mouth worked and he shared a look with Mrs. Brewer.

     David couldn’t read it. He didn’t know what that meant. Did they not want him either?

     What was he doing here?

     “You know what? This is a really nice setup you two have here,” David gestured with his hands across the bathroom and bedroom down the hall. “But...I think I’ve made a mistake. I shouldn’t be here. I’ll, um, show myself out.”

     His cheeks burned with shame.

     Before he could move, Mrs. Brewer laid a hand on David’s upper arm and he tried not to stiffened nor ease into her touch, surprised that he yearned for someone to see him.

     “Why don’t you stay here for the night and see how you feel in the morning? Let’s do a trail run. Besides, I’m whipping up my famous chili and you’ll be saving my husband with a week of leftovers for dinner.” She smiled up at him and for a brief moment, he saw Adelina.

     David felt his eyes watered and he blinked the tears away. Ugh. He must look like a hot mess right now. He wondered how big the bags were under his eyes. He still had a bit of that eye serum he ordered from Paris left somewhere in one of his bags. He was going to need it.

     He bobbed his head and smiled at Mrs. Brewer. “That sounds delightful.” He rolled his head back, swallowing the lump and the tears. “Um,” he glanced back between the two of them. “Thanks so much.”

     Mr. Brewer clasped his hand on David’s shoulder and David tried not to pull away from it. Why were they both so touchy-feeling? Sure, it was nice, but ugh, he didn’t deserve it.

     They must recognize him. They must want to do him a favor and get something in return. Did he tell him his full name? He couldn’t remember.

     “Come on. Let me help bring your bags inside,” Mr. Brewer said.

     “Um, I don’t think there’s enough room down here for all of them. Do you have a spare room I can keep them?”

     Stevie came to his mind, offering him the love room to store his clothes, teasing him that she’ll wear them.

     The couple laughed and David shifted uncomfortably. Well, maybe they’ll revoke that invitation when they realized he was not joking.

     They didn’t.

     And somehow, they laughed even more when they saw he was serious. Who were these people? And why did he get himself roped into this?

     Later that evening, David curled up on the queen-size bed downstairs and dug through his toiletries bag.

     The Brewers were nice. Thankfully, not Stepford Wives creepy-nice, but genuinely nice, and it kept throwing David off. He wished he could find a glaring flaw in them like Roland’s ‘I’m way too comfortable in my own skin’ attitude, or Twyla’s long string of ridiculous childhood stories that couldn’t even be remotely true, or Jocelyn’s ugly sweaters that diminished her overall beauty.

     The only flaw David could think of was that they were too nice it set David’s teeth on edge.

     Or rather maybe, it relaxed David.

     Or both.

     Ugh.

     He strolled through his phone. Alexis still hadn’t replied to his frantic text from last night before his phone died.

     He wondered if Johnny and Moira were able to sell town.

     How much money were they able to get?

     His thumb hovered over Johnny’s name. He could call his dad.

     “Well, if I'm gonna be going to New York, by myself, then I'm going to need a little bit more money.”

     “Well, that's not going to happen.”

     “Well, it has to happen.”

     “It's not going to happen.”

     David threw his head back onto the pillow. Well, obviously, it has not happen, because David was here and not New York and...

     What am I doing here?

     He should take Mrs. Brewer’s advice. Get some sleep and figure out the rest of his plans in the morning.

     He grabbed his toiletries bag and headed into the bathroom. He eyed the clawfoot tub. He hadn’t had a decent bath since he’d left New York. And he refused to soak his body in the vomit-induce motel’s bathtub because he’s sure drug mules probably shat their trades out in there.

     He found some of his old eucalyptus and peppermint bath salts he had left over from last year and tossed it into the running bath water.

     The room was nice and steamy and cozy and David sighed in pure relief.

     He didn’t have to worry about getting panic attacks here if he had this piece of heaven to soak into every night. All that was missing was a nice glass of red wine, hmmm maybe a ruby port.

     As David leaned his head back on the edge of the bathtub, he could heard someone up in the kitchen above him getting some ice out of the freezer.

     Guess the vents from the bathroom are connected to the kitchen upstairs.

     He felt like a kid again, eavesdropping on his parent’s conversations from his and Alexis' play room.

     At least the walls weren’t as thin as the motel where he could hear his dad clip his own freaking toenails.

     He heard a door open upstairs and then an exclaimed: “Patrick! What a nice surprise!”

     “Hey, Mom,” a warm soft voice said.

     David didn’t know Mrs. Brewer had a son. He should have snooped some more upstairs. He wondered how many children they had. If this was going to be a Von Trapp situation, he was booking it out of here tomorrow morning.

     Ah. There’s the glaring flaw.

     “Is everything okay?” Mrs. Brewer said. “You and Rachel aren’t fighting again, are you?”

     Alexis would’ve loved to get some gossip on that.

     “Oh, no,” Patrick denied, a little too quickly. The door clicked shut. “Rachel’s out of town, and I’ve been craving your Friday night chilis.”

     “I can reheat some up for you.”

     David lost what was being said as the sounds of the dishes clinking, refrigerator opening, bags being scuffled and moved, and footsteps overlapped their conversation.

     He tried to phase them out, like a smoke alarm. He sighed as the knotted muscle in his lower back finally unloosen.

     “...truck outside,” Patrick said. “You found someone to rent the room downstairs?”

     “Possibly. We’ll see. I think the poor boy is going through something. He looks so lost. I think he’s lonely.”

     David’s throat worked. How did she know? Nobody in Schitt’s Creek knew he was lonely! God, David didn’t even want to admit he was lonely.

     “Mom, I think the purpose of renting out a room is to charge them for it.” It didn’t sound like Patrick was chiding her for it. It almost sounded like he was teasing her?

     Mrs. Brewer tsked. “Oh, I’ll charge him when he finds a job.”

     “He doesn’t have a job?”

     “He’s oscillating between jobs at the moment.”

     David lowered his chin into the water. Oh, god.

     “Oscillating?” Patrick said. “Is that what they call unemployment now?”

     “Patrick!” Mrs. Brewer laughed.

     Wow. They sounded like they had a really great relationship. Sure, David teased Alexis and his parents, but it was usually biting or with sarcasm.

     “I think you may like him,” Mrs. Brewer said. “He’s an interesting young man. Though, your father doesn’t really understand his clothes, but I think he looks rather dashing.”

     “What?” Patrick exclaimed, aghast, yet all in fun.

     David has been called interesting before, but usually in a condescending tone, yet Mrs. Brewer acted like as if she really did find David interesting. As if she really wanted to know more about him.

     Fuck.

     That's it. Their glaring flaw was that they were too nice.

     David's leaving tomorrow.

     He didn't know what he would do if people who were genuinely nice realized that David didn't deserve their kindness.

 


 

     It was near noon when David finally made his way upstairs. He hadn’t heard any movements in the house when he woke up so he assumed the Brewers must be out. Good. He could leave without any awkward goodbyes. He had all his bags packed, but his rumbling stomach told him to raid their kitchen for brunch before he left and went...somewhere.

     He cracked open the door and heard a soft grumble in the kitchen.

     “Aah! Why is this so hard?”

     David pursed his lips and poked his head around the door.

     A man stood at the kitchen island, brows furrowed as he struggled to rehearse something. David took in his light-blue long-sleeve work shirt tucked inside his mid-denim jeans. Were those Levis? He held back a snort. He stared at the man’s round cheeks as his jaw’s clenched while he worked out something in his head.

     Was this Patrick?

     The man exhaled and talked again. “Rachel, we’ve known each other for so many years and we work well together.” Yep. That’s Patrick. Patrick groaned and pinched his brows. “Ugh no. Not that.”

     David finally noticed the jewelry box on the island counter, displaying a silver ring adorned with a single diamond. Was this guy practicing his proposal?

     And who said romance was dead?

     “Rachel...” Patrick tried again, his brows still pinched.

     David thought the man looked so disgustingly adorable when he did that.

     “You’re...Um.” Patrick’s nose scrunched up. “Marry me?”

     “Mmm, wow, that was beautifully articulated,” David said as he fully stepped into the kitchen.

     Patrick jerked his head toward David, eyes wide and red colored his cheeks.

     “If I can add a director’s note, I think you need to work on that constipated expression. In my experience, it means you’re either a gold digger or you knocked the girl up. Soooo, which are you?”

     A flash of anger, or panic, flashed in Patrick’s eyes. A retort was ready at his lips, but he paused, taking in David’s demeanor and something shifted. “Gold digger. She has a collection of baseball cards that’s worth millions if I can sell them.”

     “Cute that you think they have any value.”

     “Aww, you think I’m cute?”

     Warning bells sounded off in David’s head, and he knew that he should change the subject, but by god, he was not going to let this denim-wearing man get the last word. “Well, now I’ve realized you’re the unspoken third option in this scenario which is you’re very pretty, but not that smart.”

     “Ah, well, glad you’ve figured out why I’m so constipated.”

     “Lucky for you I’m both pretty and smart.”

     “Ooh, lucky for me.”

     “Then again, it could be your mother’s chili.”

     Patrick barked a laugh. He lowered his head a bit, rubbing a hand over a wide smile. When he glanced back up at David, his eyes twinkled with mirth and warmth. “You must be David.”

     “Guilty.” David stepped further into the kitchen. Should he shake this guy’s hands? What was he supposed to do? “And I’m...er, and you’re Patrick.”

     Patrick smiled. “Guilty.”

     They shook hands, shy smiles gracing their features. Hmm. Soft hands, David realized. He gazed into Patrick’s inviting warm-brown honey eyes. Was he shaking Patrick’s hands for too long? Pull yourself together, David!
     He cleared his throat and took his hand back.

     Patrick blinked and leaned back against the counter, crossing his arms. “Um, my parents left to run some errands, but you can help yourself to anything in the kitchen for lunch.”

     “It’s too early for lunch,” David said.

     Patrick stole a quick glance at the clock. “It’s eleven-thirty?”

     “Yes. But I decided to grace the remaining morning with my presence which means I should be welcomed with breakfast. At least a continental one. Perhaps even a mimosa.”

     Patrick’s smile spread, and David didn’t know if the smile was mocking or if Patrick was simply enjoying this. “Mimosa?” Then his tone turned teasing, almost a playful taunt. “Oh, well, if I knew you wanted that I wouldn’t have finished all those off earlier this morning, you know, the normal time people generally eat breakfast, but I’ll be more than happy to whip you up a Bloody Mary?”

     David grimaced, utter repelled by that suggestion. “Only the undignified drink Bloody Marys. I’m insulted by the mere suggestion.”

     Patrick covered his mouth with his hand, lowering his chin.

     David curled his lips inward. Wow. He liked this banter. Sure, Stevie teases him back, but it was usually dry or with equal sarcasm. With Patrick, it was like he just ran with whatever David said. Like improv. He shuddered at that thought. He needed a different comparison.

     Patrick lowered his hand. “My mom has some sticky buns if you want those.”

     David tilted his head. “Mmmkay. Your mom is a nice lady but I don’t know if I want to eat off of her. I’m not really into that anymore.”

     Patrick widened his eyes comically. He grabbed the plastic-wrapped pan from next to the coffee maker. “I meant these?” His voice was high-pitched as he showcased sweet rolls that looked caramelized and topped with pecans.

     “Oh. My. God,” David exclaimed. He pressed his fist against his mouth, eyeing the rolls with shock. He winced and forced a chuckle as he smiled weakly at Patrick. “Can we pretend I never said that about your mother?”

     “Oh, it’s been forgotten already.”

     “Oh, god,” David muttered. He wanted to sink into the ground and die. He’d never been so mortified.

     Patrick cleared his throat. “I’ll heat these up real quick for you. You can, ahem...” He pointed at the squared kitchen table that seated four. “Make yourself comfortable.”

     He could hear Stevie cackling at him.

     David slumped into one of the seats at the kitchen table. His eyes swept across the newspaper and he debated whether or not to read them. He pulled out his phone instead, scrolling through Insta.

     Patrick set a cup of orange juice in front of David. He smiled. “Here’s your virgin mimosa.”

     David twisted his lips, feeling his cheeks grow warm.

     A couple minutes later, Patrick set two plates of sticky buns onto the table. He took a seat next to David and used his fork to cut into his own roll.

     David inhaled the whiff of cinnamon, caramel and brown sugar. That smelled delicious. He tore off a piece and took a bite. He moaned in contentment. “Hmmm. I haven’t had a decent breakfast in forever. This is better than anything I’ve ever eaten in the café the past year.”

     Patrick chuckled. “Yeah. These are one of my favorites. My mom does make some mean cinnamon rolls, but she usually makes them at Christmas.”

     “Maybe I’ll charm her into making some tomorrow.”

     The corner of Patrick’s lips tugged. “Hmm. You probably could.”

     They settled into an awkward silence as they ate their breakfast. Awkward, but a silence that David didn’t feel the need to fill. God. This sticky bun was soooo good. So sweet and fulfilling and just what David needed.

     He flicked his gaze over to Patrick and saw that Patrick had only eaten half of his roll, his attention focused on the ring on the counter. His brows were pinched again.

     “When are you planning to propose?” David asked. Why did he ask that? It's not like he even cared!

     Patrick startled and snapped his head toward David as if he’d forgotten David was there. He glanced down at his roll and scrapped at the dough with his fork.

     “I don’t know. I came home to get Rachel’s parents blessing.”

     David grimaced. “Please tell me she’s not your sister.”

     Was this one of those small towns that encouraged incest? Ew. And he was warming up to Patrick!

     Patrick threw David an unamused glare and set his fork down. “Not my parents. They live on the other side of the neighborhood.”

     Tension filled the awkwardness. David shifted in his chair. He wasn’t good with this, with genuine human emotions. He had an incredible urge to leave, but... David glanced down at his cuticles, inspecting them. “Do they, uh, not like you or something?” David flicked his gaze up to Patrick. “You seem very tentative of the whole thing.”

     Patrick pouted. “No, I’m, they’re fine. I’m confident about the whole thing.”

     “Okay,” David said. He didn’t really believe Patrick, but he also didn’t really want to press either. He only knew this man for ten minutes.

     Patrick groaned as if he cracked under pressure. “How would you propose to someone?”

     David blinked. He was not expecting that question. “Um, I’m the wrong person to ask that inquiry. The longest relationship I’ve ever had was three months. Maybe four if you count the one where he saw other people.”

      Patrick frowned at that. “Oh. Well. You’ve never really thought about it, or...”

     “Um...” David held his breath. Should he ever tell the man? David slowly lowered his guard, for once, he just wanted to be seen. “I did go through a bit of a phase where I watched nothing but romantic movies and ate mall pretzels for almost a year. I mean, it was mostly Bridget Jones’s Diary. But, um, yeah, I let myself fantasize it for a bit. Being proposed to or doing the proposing.”

     Patrick nodded, clearly listening to every word David said.

     It felt weird sharing this part of himself. “In my head, I didn’t really care how the proposal was done as long as it was sincere...” David swallowed a lump. “And came from the heart. I mean, this person is someone you want, that you chose, to spend the rest of your life with, and like Harry said, when you know that, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

     A soft smile touched Patrick’s lips. “You make it sound like it’s so easy.”

     “To be fair, in my head, the other person was usually Matt Bomer or Julia Stiles, so maybe that’s why.”

     “Ah. That makes sense now.”

     “Hmmm.”

     They returned their attention to the remnants of their sticky buns. Patrick glanced back up at David, as if trying to read him. “What brought you here, David?”

     “Uh.” David licked his lips. “Just passing through.”

     “Oh? Where’re you heading?”

     “New York?” David quickly answered.

     “You seem a bit tentative about that.”

     This time David cast him a scathing glare.

     Patrick threw his hands up in a placating manner, lips curved in a mischievous smirk. That snarky little bastard, David thought. Something swelled in David’s heart at that.

     “I wouldn’t be disinclined if I thought to stay for a little while,” David found himself saying. He clasped his mouth shut as he realized his words. No. He needed to leave. He only had two hundred bucks to his name.

     “Oh, well, a few of my cousins were thinking of getting together tonight for a pre-bachelor party for my cousin, Sandy.”

     “A pre-bachelor party? Is that a thing?”

     Patrick continued as if David didn’t speak. “So, uh, if you wouldn’t be so disinclined, would you like to join us?”

     David pursed his lips. “Hmmm. Does it involve a strip club and an orgy?”

     Patrick quickly suppressed his incredulous look into a laughing smile. “Ah, no. It involves drinks and a karaoke bar.”

     David rolled his head back, closing his eyes as he pretended to think about it. “Mmmm. It’s been a while since I’ve belted out Mariah Carey. I acquiesce your invitation.” He looked back and grinned at Patrick as the man chuckled.

     “Can you even can hit Mariah’s vocal range?” Patrick faked a grimace. “Could you spare us the torture?”

     “Prepared to be astounded.”

     “Cute that you think I will be.”

     David smiled. Maybe it’s a good thing he ran from Schitt’s Creek. Maybe it’s a good thing he left his family. Maybe he’ll find what he’s looking for here.

 


 

     What kind of karaoke bar does not have Mariah Carey?

     David felt personally offended by this outrage.

     Worse, this bar didn’t even know how to make polar bear shots, just like the one in Schitt’s Creek. Did nobody have any sense of class anymore? Or did high class only exist in New York?

     Your friends had certain class...where are they when you needed them? His inner voice taunted him.

     David jutted his jaw and chugged the Cosmo drink, wincing at the excessive use of triple sec. He exhaled through his teeth as he set the drink down and glanced around at his tablemates: Patrick and three of his cousins. All the names blurred together and David found himself not really caring about who’s-who’s and their backstory. He just wanted to get drunk and sing.

     He was a bit buzz, so it was almost singing time. He still hadn’t found a song to sing karaoke to yet. Most of the selections were Backstreet Boys or NSYNC. He wanted to find the karaoke bar manager and tell him that the 90s called and wanted their music back.

     David flipped the page of the song selections book and half-listened to the conversation around the table.

     “...out of town again?” the red-hair next to Patrick groaned. Ah. Right. That one was Sandy, which perplexed David because who named a redhead Sandy? “That’s the only time we ever seen you!”

     “You saw me last weekend,” Patrick said. “We had lunch.”

     “That was a double-date. That doesn’t count.”

     Patrick raised his brows.

     “You know what I mean.”

     One of the guys that looked almost like Patrick scoffed. “So is she really out of town or is that code for you guys broke up again?”

     The man next to David that smelled too much like cedar leaned in toward David and said in a loud mock-whisper: “They’ve broken up at least seven times since high school.”

     Patrick rolled his eyes. “It’s serious this time.”

     The man snorted and leaned in further toward David that he recoiled at the stench of whiskey on the man’s breath. “That’s what he said last time.”

     “Don’t breathe on me,” David said in disgust and found himself taking a step toward Patrick.

     “You know what your problem is?” the Patrick-look-alike said. “You need to be like Beyoncé and put a ring on Rachel.”

      The lines tightened around Patrick's eyes. Yikes. That must've hit close to home since he was considering that option. 

     “Yeah,” Sandy agreed, throwing his arm around Patrick's shoulders. “Maybe that will help with your commitment issues!”

     "I thought we were here to celebrate your upcoming wedding in a couple months!" Patrick snapped.

     Bad-breath guy added: "Does that mean we'll be celebrating yours in..."

     “Okay!” David threw his hands up. He had enough of this group. He didn’t even want to hang out with them in the first place. The group, collectively, turned to him. “First off, you disrespected Beyoncé and you need to give her an apology. Second, these wonderful backwatered advices you’re all giving makes me concerned for the person you’re all in a relationship with, and as a feminist, the term putting a ring on it is in fact incorrect, woman are not on the market.” David grabbed the song book. “I’m going to find someone that knows how make a polar bear shot, but the fact that no one in here does is a travesty.”

     David went to the bar and flagged down the bartender who was busy helping a group of women at the other end. A new bartender. Maybe this one would know. The bartender nodded to David as he continued on to finish up serving the women.

     David thumbed the flaps of the songs book as he waited. Ooh. There was one he liked.

     Patrick approached him, a sullen look in his eyes. “Sorry about them. They mean well. I think they’re just worried about me.”

     David huffed. “I don’t expect you to apologize for your family. You should meet mine.”

     Patrick leaned against the bar, a conflicted look upon his features. “Maybe they’re right. Maybe I do have commitment issues.”

     David took a look at Patrick’s rosy cheeks and deduced that Patrick was drunk or at least border-line drunk to be admitting a deep flaw of theirs.

     “I mean, I’ve known Rachel since high school! We’ve been on and off for years. Maybe there’s a reason we keep running back to each other?”

     “There was this girl I dated, well, not really dated, but we would go years without speaking and one of us would text the other an eggplant emoji and we would go to the other’s place and get a really nice laid. I usually texted her when I was lonely, she texted me when she needed me to be the guy her boyfriend would walk in on...I was really good at breaking couples up. Hmm, even marriages up.”

     Patrick stared at him with a slight frown.

     Where was David going with this? Why was he handing out emotional advice as if he had the answers to everything? Huh. Maybe he was a little drunk. “Maybe the reason you two keep ending up back to each other is because it’s comfortable?”

     Patrick’s eyes flickered down, pondering thoughtfully. “Yeah. Maybe.”

     “Do you love her?”

     Patrick glowered up at David. “What kind of question is that? Of course, I love her!”

     “Hey, like I said, I know nothing when it comes to love. I’ve never even been in love. But...” David grimaced as he remembered Sebastian Raine. “I have been in love with the idea of someone.”

     “I don’t want to talk about this,” Patrick snapped. “I wouldn’t even told you about Rachel if you hadn’t walked in on me working up on how to propose to her!”

     David flinched. He gritted his teeth. Patrick wanted to fight with words. David could do that. “All I’m saying is there’s a difference between loving the idea of someone and actually loving them for who they are!” 

      That's all everybody ever did to him in New York. Everybody was always in love with the idea of David, of who they thought he was, of who he could be, of what he could offered. Nobody every actually loved him for who he was.

     Patrick spun toward David. “You don’t know our relationship!”

     “Ugh.” David squeezed his eyes. “I don't know why but for a brief moment, I got it into my head that I could actually life coach a human being.” He sighed and looked at Patrick. “Sorry. Like I said. I'm the wrong person to go to for romantic advice. I should hardly declare myself an expert in this field."

     The fight seemed to deflate out of Patrick. “Yeah. Well, as someone who’s broken up and gotten back together with the same girl seven times, I hardly declare myself an expert too.”

     David flashed him an apologetic smile and Patrick returned it. Okay. All was forgiven.

     The bartender finally came over and asked for their orders.

     “Can you make a polar bear shot?” David pleaded.

     The bartender shrugged. “I don’t know what that is.”

     “Half of ounce of mint liqueur and other half is chocolate liqueur. Do you have anything like that?” Patrick said, turning around to face the bartender.

     The bartender pursed his lips. “I think I can do that.”

     “Give him two.” Patrick ordered. “And two for me.”

     David glanced at him, surprised.

     Patrick smirked. “I want to see what all the fuss is about.”

     “You know that shot?”

     “I may Googled it. Don’t act too impressed.”

     “Oh. Good. I can lower my standard of expectations from you back down again.”

     “That may be wise.”

     Patrick leaned back against the bar and David found himself stealing a quick inhale of Patrick’s cologne. Hmm. Vanilla and...citrus? Nice combination.

     Something twirled in David’s stomach and he found himself wanting to surprise Patrick in return. All the talk of rom-coms, and the terrible music in here that made him think of the Wedding Singer sparked an idea.

     “Do you want to settle the whole Rachel thing? Do you want to know whether or not she’s the one you want to spend the rest of your life with?”

     “I don’t want to worry about that tonight, David. I just want to forget about all of that.”

     “Trust me.”

     Patrick sighed and glanced up at David, with a cocked brow. “Fine. What did you have in mind?”

     “We're going take some shots and we’re going to sing a song together.”

     “Are we?”

     “Yep. You’re going to pretend you’re singing this song to Rachel.”

     “Am I?”

     “Hmm-hmm. If you find yourself cringing while singing this song to your imaginary-Rachel, then you know she’s not the one.”

     “And if I find myself getting into the groove?”

     “Ew. Don’t say groove. If you find yourself lighting up and wanting to dedicate this whole song to her with every fiber of your being, then you know she’s the one.”

     “I don’t know, David.”

     David rocked on his heels. “It’s only a song. It’s not like she’s going to hear it. And I demand you to sing a song with me. You dragged me here. You’re think I’m going up there alone?”

     “Okay. Fine.” Patrick faced him. “What are you planning to sing anyway? Single Ladies?”

     “Ha-ha. Choke on your drink, Patrick.”

     Patrick laughed.

     The bartender gave them their shots, and it was very, very close to the polar bear shots David was accustomed to. They tossed back their drinks and talked a bit more as they waited for the alcohol to settle, because as David told Patrick, he refused to feel any ounce of sobriety if he ever did karaoke.

     When he got a bit too giggly and happy, David went up and signed them up for the next karaoke slot as Patrick made up with his cousins. David cringed and fake-retched for the couple singing Don’t Stop Believin’. That song has been sung to death in karaoke bars that it should be hung up and retired.

     Patrick stumbled up to David as the couple was wrapping up the song in a terrible glass-breaking rendition. Ugh. He needed to bleach out his ears.

     “What song are we singing, David?” Patrick asked, for the umpteenth time.

     “You’ll find out. One of my favorites.”

     As the couple exit the stage, David took Patrick’s hand and pulled him up with him onto the stage. He grabbed one of the microphones and handed it off to Patrick. He snatched his own and whooped into the microphone. “Get ready to have your socks rocked off.”

     “I don’t think that’s the expression, David,” Patrick teased.

     David scrolled through the selection before clicking the song for them to sing. Thank God, they had a few sparse fine classic selections that suited David’s taste. He hadn’t listened to this song in a long time.

     The first few beats began to play and Patrick raised his brows. “Is this Tina Turner?”

     David grinned. “For your beloved, Patrick!”

     Patrick’s smile was a mixture of disbelief and amusement.

     “I call you. I need you. My heart’s on fire,” David sang.

     Patrick shook his head, hiding a laugh behind his hand.

     David wiggled his eyebrows. “You come to me, come to me, wild and wired.” He doubled over, pouring everything he had into this, because this was Tina Turner and for the first time in a long time, he didn’t feel quite so lonely, he didn’t feel invisible, and he wanted to be unselfish for a change, even if it’s just for a brief moment, he was going to savor it all. “Oh, you come to me. Give me everything I need!”

     David glanced over at Patrick who still watched him with barely concealed amusement. “Come on, Patrick! Who are you singing this for?”

     Patrick immediately sang the next verse, and ugh, damn that bastard, he sounded so good with that buttered-voice. He made David sound like a Disney-star singer. “Give me a lifetime of promises and a world of dreams.”  This time, Patrick wiggled his eyebrows for the next line: “Speak the language of love like you know what it means.” He closed his eyes as he poured out the next words. “Mm, and it can't be wrong. Take my heart and make it strong, babe.”

     Patrick opened his eyes and extended his arm toward David and they both sang the chorus:

 

     “You're simply the best!

     Better than all the rest.

     Better than anyone, anyone I ever met.

     I'm stuck on your heart. I hang on every word you say.

     Tear us apart, baby, I would rather be dead.”

 

     ”In your heart I see the start of every night and every day,” Patrick sang.

     David crooned, “In your eyes, I get lost, I get washed away."

     “Just as long here in your arms I could be in no better place,” they cried out together.

     Whoever this Rachel was, she was lucky. The way Patrick sang for her, with such depth and emotion that seemed to free him as the words exit his lips, revealed how deep their relationship went.

     David found himself wanting that. Love.

     An unconditional love where someone sees you for all that you are and chooses you. A love full of fondness and respect. A love where David was a high priority in someone’s life.

     A love where if David ran away, the person would chase after him, or heck, send him a frantic text.

     And so David sang, out of need, out of want, pleading that he would find his simply-the-best.

     Maybe a tiny part of him imagined he was truly singing it to Patrick, imagined that maybe this Patrick man could be the one. David could only allow a small portion of him to delve into that. Because Patrick was besotted by another, because Patrick was straight, because even though Patrick was smart, and witty, and beautiful, and nice—there’s no way he would even fall for someone like David.

     People only wanted David if he had something to offer.

     And what could David even offer this man if he even had a chance with Patrick, nanoscopic as it was?

     Maybe David should stay here for a couple months.

     He knew he should return the truck to Roland eventually. And see what happened with his family.

     But maybe David could find himself in Belleville.

     Maybe he could find love.

     Maybe someone will choose him.

 


 

    

     David groaned as he rolled over on the bed, twisted and trapped in the cotton sheets. He smacked his lips, trying to work saliva into. He slowly peered open his eyes and winced at the morning light peeking through the cracks of the window blinds.

     His head pounded with each thrum of his heartbeat.

     He slowly untangled himself. What happened last night? They sang Simply the Best and ordered a ridiculous amount of appetizers and talked the night away.

     David didn’t even remember talking to someone all night without trying to get sex out of it. He ran his fingers through his hair. What time was it?

     Didn’t he and Patrick say they were going to look around town for a job for David before Patrick left? Where did Patrick say he lived again? Kingston? Which was only a half-hour from here, right?

     It was just past ten and David remembered telling Patrick that he wouldn’t be ready until after ten because he was not a morning person.

     Hmm. David stretched and popped a bone in his spine. Maybe he’ll cut down his skincare and shower routine so he’ll be ready by then.

     It was ten after eleven when David finally made it up the stairs, dressed in a light-cream leopard sweater and tight white pants. When he entered the kitchen, Mrs. Brewer looked up from reading the newspaper at the kitchen table. It made David feel better for his tardiness when he saw that she was dressed in a floral robe.

     A quick glance around the kitchen.

     No Patrick.

     “Um, good morning,” David greeted, adjusting the sleeves on his sweater. He glanced around again. Maybe Patrick was hiding from him.

     “Patrick left early this morning,” Mrs. Brewer said. “He seemed a bit distraught. There was something he said he really needed to do.”

     Propose to Rachel.

     Of course Patrick left. Everybody left.

     You left.

     David cringed. “Oh. That’s okay.”

     “He said you two made plans? He wrote down a list of job suggestions. I’ll be happy to drive you around town and help.”

     “You don’t have to do that.”

     “I want to. It’ll give me an excuse to skip church,” Mrs. Brewer said with a wink. “Oh. He wanted me to give you something. I think he borrowed something from you last night? He said it wasn’t what he wanted?”

     David searched through his drunk-infested memory. He didn’t remember lending Patrick anything. Was it an eye serum or something?

     Mrs. Brewer had gotten up and grabbed a manila envelope from behind the coffee maker. She handed it to David.

     “I’ll go get ready and change and we’ll head out! Sounds good?”

     David worked the lump in his throat as he took the envelope. He’s not going to have Patrick leaving change his mind. He smiled at her. He would do this. He would stay for a couple months.

     He will find what he was looking for.

     What he was running toward.

     “Yeah. Thanks, Mrs. Brewer.”

     “I’m glad you decided to stay, David.”

     She left him with those kind words and David tried to ignore how it ate away and melted the armor around his heart. He inhaled sharply, trying to build the armor back up.

     “Me too.”

     Mrs. Brewer laid a hand on his arm. “Help yourself to some breakfast. I was going to reheat some sticky buns for you, but Patrick said I shouldn’t be the one doing that for you?”

     David’s cheeks burned. That sly bastard. “Yeah, I can get that myself. Thanks.”

     She patted his arm. “I’ll be back down shortly.” And she left.

     David glanced down at the envelope. He opened the flap and glanced inside. Did Patrick really need that big of an envelope for a small trinket? What exactly was in there?

     He poured the object from the manila and it slid out onto his palm.

     David inhaled sharply.

     It was Patrick’s engagement ring.