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The Rumours are Terrible

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The town is awash with curiosity and gossip.

Nobody could have seen it coming. They’d always seemed so healthy, so obsessed with each other. For it to be a woman of all things that would bring David and Patrick's marriage to a breaking point was just unthinkable.

It all starts on an otherwise innocuous Thursday morning. Jocelyn has run out of hand cream, and Rollie’s feet have been playing up again, so during her break from work she heads down to Rose Apothecary, intending on stocking up on all the essentials.

As she approaches the front door of the store, however, she picks up the sound of voices. Jocelyn lingers outside, looking at the various fresh fruit and vegetables all the while listening to the sound of Patrick Brewer’s voice coming from around the side of the building.

“I didn’t even know you knew your way here. You’re getting adventurous now, aren’t you?”

Jocelyn tries to approach the corner of the building, trying to get a glimpse of the person Patrick is speaking so softly to. Before she can, she sees David catch sight of her through the windows and, not wanting to alarm him unnecessarily, she pretends to refocus her attention on the bunches of organic carrots in the crate in front of her.

“Are you coming home with me or not? You can’t linger out here forever.”

 David is frowning at Jocelyn through the window, looking confused by her behaviour, so she picks up a bunch of the purple carrots and waves them at him. He nods, though his expressive eyebrows are still furrowed in frustration.

“David won’t be home for hours yet, Rose. Come on, come and get in my car and I’ll take you home. It’s been a while since I caught up on the documentary series I’ve been watching, you can come home now and cuddle with Daddy.”

Jocelyn gasps, dropping the carrots on to the floor as she hears the sound of Patrick’s car doors shutting, twice. She startles again when the front door of the store is wrenched open, and David’s disgruntled face fills her view.

“Can I help you with anything, Jocelyn?” he asks, looking annoyed.

“Oh, David. I’m so sorry,” is all she can think to say.

“It’s just carrots. If they aren’t damaged you can just buy them?” he suggests, looking confused.

“Oh, of course. I’ll be right in.”

She turns to watch Patrick’s blue Sedan pass the front of the store, craning her neck to try and catch sight of someone in the passenger seat, but there’s nobody that she can see. The woman, this Rose, must have ducked down as they passed so that David wouldn’t see her.

David frowns again and shakes his head hopelessly at her as he heads back into the store, and Jocelyn picks up the bunch of carrots, following him in, shooting him sympathetic looks all the while. David seems relieved to see her leaving the store, which she understands, as she had spent the entire time dropping items and generally making a nuisance of herself as the revelation sinks in.

Jocelyn doesn’t mean to spread gossip. It’s exactly the thing that she has been teaching her students to avoid, in fact. It’s just that she’s so upset by what she’s discovered that she can barely hide her reaction, and Twyla always was very good at getting information out of people.

She heads to the café after finishing up with David, who had seemed confused by her constant looks of sympathy. Oh, to be so clueless. Hasn’t David been through enough already? And so soon after their wedding; they only got married six months ago, for Patrick to be straying already is just so disappointing.

“Are you alright, Jocelyn? You seem distracted,” Twyla’s voice brings her out of her reverie. Jocelyn smiles and nods, accepting the refill of coffee and looking down at the menu.

“I think I’ll have the French toast,” she replies, still half zoned out from pure shock. “And could you bring over a pot of chocolate sauce to go with it?”

Twyla frowns, looking up from her pad of paper. “Oh Jocelyn, but that’s your-- You don’t think that Roland is--”

“No, no, not Roland,” Jocelyn reassures the concerned looking waitress. “It’s, it’s Patrick.”

“Patrick?”

If Jocelyn weren’t so lost in her own thoughts, she might have noticed Bob and Gwen sat a booth down, both of them suddenly perking up and looking very interested in her conversation.

“What’s happened to Patrick?”

“It’s not-- I overheard him, outside the Apothecary,” Jocelyn mumbles, taking a long, dramatic sip of her coffee. “He was talking to a woman, inviting her to come home with him. Saying that David wouldn’t be there for hours.”

“Oh--”

“He called her Rose? Don’t you think that’s just awful? That he would cheat on his husband with someone called Rose? I mean, he took David’s last name and everything, he works at Rose Apothecary, and he’s having an affair with a woman called Rose.”

Jocelyn suddenly notices that the entire café has gone silent. Across the room, she spots Ronnie sawing furiously at a slice of bacon that was cut in half long ago. Twyla’s eyes are wide and upset and she shakes her head.

“Are you sure you got it right, Jocelyn. It just doesn’t sound much like Patrick.”

“I know what I heard,” Jocelyn says sadly.

“Poor David.”

“That thumb-shaped whore of a man--” Jocelyn hears Ronnie muttering under her breath. “I’m gonna kill him.”

The bell jingles and David walks in, a blue scarf tied tight around his neck which simply must  belong to Patrick, and stamping his feet on the floor. He looks around in surprise when he finds a silent room, all the diners looking over at him with a mix of pity and rage.

“Um, did I miss something?” he asks.

Twyla shakes her head and rushes over to the counter. “Your usual, David?”

“Yeah, just nothing for Patrick,” he answers, still looking around the room in a mix of fear and confusion. “I gave him the afternoon off; poor thing has been working his ass off on all the winter workshops, I figured he could do with some time off to unwind.”

“That’s very kind of you, David. I hope Patrick knows how lucky he is to have you.”

Twyla is sniffing furiously and wiping at her eyes as she turns her back on David and faces the coffee maker.

“Um, I hope so too.”

His food is quickly prepared and passed over the counter, which he takes with a hesitant smile, and heads out of the café with one final look back of confusion.

“Poor thing has no idea,” Jocelyn says, sniffing sadly.

“Right, that’s it. I’m going over there,” Ronnie announces, scraping back her seat and standing up from the table. “There is no way, no way I’m going to let this stand. The boy was shooting above his weight as it was, if I find out that he’s throwing David Rose aside like yesterday's leftovers... they’ll be finding pieces of his bodies for centuries.”

Ronnie,” Jocelyn admonishes.

“No, it’s unacceptable. Nobody does that to one of our own.”

Ronnie bundles her way out of the café and heads straight towards her truck. She climbs in, slamming the door shut behind her, and heads down the narrow country road to the Rose residence. Once parked, she shoots out of the truck and heads to the front door, banging on it with her fists and listening to the dull echo ring out.

She bangs on it again when there is no reply but soon hears the sound of footsteps. The oak door swings open to reveal Patrick, his appearance crumpled, as if he had been asleep, or--

“Ronnie?” he says in surprise, his non-existent eyebrows shooting up. She glares as he looks behind him as if to check that nothing suspicious is visible, and Ronnie clenches her jaw. “What are you doing here?”

Ronnie doesn’t respond, instead leaning past him to peer into the hallway. It’s spotless, no different to the last time she was here, and she narrows her eyes as Patrick looks at her with confusion.

“Ronnie?”

“I need to check the boiler,” she makes up on the spot.

“What?”

“David, he asked me to come round and look at the boiler.”

Patrick’s face smooths out in understanding. “Oh for- I told David it was just the sound that boilers make when they get turned on, but he was sure that it was broken. Come in then, let’s get this over with. You could call next time, though, I was in the middle of an episode of--”

Ronnie elbows past him, quickly pausing to toe off her shoes (as per David’s request), and wanders into the open planned kitchen and living area.

She looks around, spotting a blanket wrinkled on the couch from where Patrick must have been sat before he had gotten up to get the door. An episode of some nerdy documentary show is paused on the large flat screen tv, and there are no obvious signs of a visitor.

“Um, the boiler is upstairs--”

“I know,” she replies.

“O-kay. Can I help you with something Ronnie?”

“You tell me.”

They eye each other for a moment, and it’s Patrick who breaks first, his shoulders dropping from exhaustion as he gestures towards the stairs they had passed in the front room.

Ronnie leads the way, taking care to shove Patrick just slightly as she passes, heading up the stairs quickly and taking another sweep with her eyes. She frowns when there is the sound of something moving behind the door that leads to the bedroom.

"What was that?” she asks, heading slowly towards it, her gaze not leaving Patrick's face all the while.

“It was just Rose,” Patrick answers simply.

“Rose-- You would, that’s-- You’re not even ashamed of yourself!” Ronnie exclaims, as Patrick reaches the bedroom door before her and holds it closed.

“She’s not good with--”

“How dare you, how dare you. You know, David Rose is the best thing that has ever happened or will ever happen to you. I always said you didn’t deserve him, but I trusted that you wouldn’t do something so disgusting so soon after you got married. You’d better keep an eye out, Brewer--”

“It's Rose--”

“Not anymore. You don’t get to claim that name, not when you’re treating your husband like this. You’d best watch your back; you’ll have the whole town calling for your head within a week once they find out--”

“Ronnie what are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about Rose, you disgusting, uncultured--”

Patrick is blinking at her in surprise, and they both turn their head when there is another sound from behind the bedroom door.

“You make me sick,” is all Ronnie can think to say as she turns on her heel and heads towards the door.

“Ronnie, you didn’t even check the boiler?” Patrick calls after her as she stomps down to her boots.

“I’m not doing you any favours, Brewer.”

“What-- Ronnie--”

The rest of that sentence is cut off as Ronnie shoves the front door closed with as much strength as she can physically muster and continues her tirade all the way to her truck.

Still completely lost and confused, Patrick opens the bedroom door and ignores the pain shooting up his leg as their cat Rose immediately attacks his ankle and digs her tiny nails into his skin. It's exactly the kind of treatment he had been trying to keep Ronnie away from, afraid of getting on her bad side any more. He crosses to the bedroom window and peers out, frowning as Ronnie chucks the truck into reverse and skids out of their drive.

“What the hell was that all about?” he asks, but the cat just continues to chew on the bottom of his pyjamas, clueless to the drama she had caused.

 

David (ex-boyfriend)

Any idea why Ronnie just barged her way into our house and yelled at me?

What? What was she yelling about?

I haven't even asked her about the boiler yet, is she psychic?

Are you sure you haven't mentioned it to her? She said that was the reason she came round?
I saw her today at the cafe but I didn't get a chance to talk to her because they were all acting weird when I went in. They all seemed upset about something, especially Jocelyn, and I didn't want to interrupt.
You don't think there are rumours about Roland cheating again, do you? Funny, as if Roland could find anyone better than Jocelyn
You know, that was almost a compliment to Jocelyn
Don't you dare tell anyone [IMG.1130]
Lady Rosalind says hi by the way!
Is Madam the reason that Ronnie yelled at you? She didn't get out and bite her did she? Nope, I kept her hidden in the bedroom. Figured it was for the best, she's been mad at me ever since I found her loitering outside the Apothecary and forced her to come home in the car with me
Smart thinking, honey
And you know, she doesn't mind car rides as long as you let her pick the music Of course, how could I forget.

If she's calmed down later I'll bring her with me when I pick you up from work. I think she misses you.

Give her a kiss from me
But don't let her scratch you, I don't want her to ruin your lovely lips
Lovely, huh? Wanna go into more detail about that?
Maybe later if you're lucky ;) Got to go, customers. Love you Love you, David

 

Patrick sighs and puts his phone away, shrugging and deciding to put the drama with Ronnie behind him. She’s always been talented at finding something wrong with his character, and it’s best that he just puts it behind him if he wants to enjoy the rest of his day off.

He throws himself back down in his cocoon of blankets and switches on his Ken Burns documentary on the American Civil War. Before long, Rose gets sick of her isolation and returns to his side, curling up in a ball next to his leg. Patrick lets on hand rest gently on her back and smiles when he doesn’t even receive a nip of teeth in warning, instead, he takes the gentle rumbling of a purr emanating from the curled up ball of fluff as permission to pet her lightly.

The afternoon passes in almost no time at all, and before long, Patrick is changing back into his jeans and a button up and pulling his coat on. He steps into his shoes at the door and turns around when he hears the sound of Rose’s jangly bell following him to the front door.

“You can join me but be aware that it requires a journey in the car.”

“M-ow.”

“Your funeral,” Patrick mutters, swinging his keys casually around his finger and locking the door behind them, raising his eyebrows in surprise when Rose jumps up into the passenger seat without complaint and doesn't move as he presses play on David's playlist. "Ridiculous cat," he mutters scritching her forehead and earning a happy noise in response.

Across town, David is just turning the lock of Rose Apothecary. He stamps his feet impatiently as he looks around for the tell-tale sight of his husband’s car.

“David?”

He spins on his heel and is surprised to find a small group of towns people huddled behind him. Ronnie leads the group, followed by Jocelyn, Roland, Twyla, Bob, and some unknown woman that looks vaguely familiar.

“Um, yes? I just closed up, if you want anything you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”

“We’re not here to buy anything, dear,” Jocelyn replies, looking upset. “We’re here to talk about Patrick.”

“What? Has something happened to Patrick?”

“Well--”

The group seem to be looking at each other, and David can feel his stomach drop. He’s about to start demanding an explanation for their weird behaviour when he sees Patrick’s car rounding the corner, his husband safely sat in the driver's seat, singing along to the radio.

Patrick pulls up by the curb and hops out.

“Hey.”

“Hi, baby. What’s all this?” he asks as he heads over to kiss his husband on the cheek.

“Um, the town wants to talk to me, about you?”

“We know about Rose."

Both David and Patrick turn to Ronnie with a frown, whose expression could kill a man if it was armed with the necessary weapon.

“O-kay. Is there a problem here?” David asks, shuffling just slightly in front of Patrick, not liking the way the group seem to be glaring at his husband.

“David, Jocelyn overheard Patrick over talking to Rose and- look, I’m sorry to say this, but Patrick is sleeping with her.”

David’s mouth drops open, and he turns to Patrick, who is looking equally as surprised. David can’t help but let out a small laugh and turns his face away from the others to hide his expression, a move that Patrick immediately notices and elbows him in the ribs in retribution.

“Do you not have anything to say to that? No apology, no explanation?”

“Um--"

The attention of the group is drawn to the car parked by the road, where a sudden spur of movement causes them all to look through the windshield. Rose has hopped up from her seat to stand on the dashboard, looking out at the crowd of strangers with curiosity.

“What is that?” Ronnie asks, staring blankly at it.

“Um, that’s Rose, our new cat. We’ve had her a couple weeks but she’s a bit difficult, so we weren’t ready to start introductions yet.”

“I’m sorry, Patrick is sleeping with a cat?” Roland asks, only to be shushed by Jocelyn. “Pat, come on, that’s disgusting.”

“He’s obviously not sleeping with the cat, Roland. Clearly somebody got something wrong when she made the announcement to the town that Patrick was cheating on his husband,” Ronnie counters, turning her stare on Jocelyn who is looking distinctly guilty.

“If it makes you feel better I never thought you were really cheating on David, Patrick,” Twyla chips in.

“I’m sorry, you all seriously thought I was cheating on David?” Patrick asks, the realisation hitting him like a tonne of bricks. “With a woman?”

“Okay, that’s not the detail we want to be focusing on here, honey,” David intervenes. He’s preening just a little at how quickly the whole town had come to his defence, which earns him an exasperated look from Patrick. “What? It’s sweet that they all came out to defend my honour. At least now you know why Ronnie was shouting at you earlier?”

Ronnie scoffs. “Yeah. I’m not apologising for that.”

David has to bite down on his lips to stop from grinning as Patrick turns to him, his face contorted in frustration, as if expecting David to jump in and defend him.

A muffled “M-ow?” pulls them all from their confrontation, and the group that had been so determined to start a confrontation all turn to leave.

“Is that it-- Is nobody going to--?” Patrick asks, holding his hands out in annoyance as David opens the car door and moves to pull the cat onto their lap.

“Sorry Patrick,” Twyla and Jocelyn both mumble as they head in the direction of the café. Patrick seems unhappy still but gets no other response.

“Pick your battles, honey. Come on,” David responds, already closing the passenger side door and leaving Patrick to round the car and climb into the other side. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m sure the town would react the same way if they thought I was cheating on you with a mysterious woman named Rose.”

Patrick snorts and shakes his head, reaching out to pet Rose’s head who swipes at him with her paw but allows him to pat her lightly before putting the car into drive. “Thank you, David.”

“Hey? I love you.”

Patrick lets the tension drain from his shoulders. “I love you too,” he replies, smiling as David leans over to kiss him. As he pulls away he spots the various towns people all peering out the window of the café. “Hey, David?”

“Mhm.”

“Let’s give them a little show--”

Before David can reply, Patrick is swooping in again and catching his lips in a sloppy kiss. He cups the side of David’s face and tilts his head, pressing kisses and biting at his neck and earning a low groan in response. When he pulls away, the faces in the window have gone, and Patrick smiles victoriously.

“That should solve any doubt they might have that I am still completely obsessed with you,” Patrick says to a breathless David.

“Always nice to have a reminder,” David mutters, grinning and pulling Rose tighter onto his lap as they head down the road towards the cottage. His loving, faithful husband smiling at him all the while.