“Remind me,” David asked, “how exactly are you related to this kid, and why has he decided to spend his winter break in Schitt’s Creek?”
“Farley’s my cousin—my mom’s brother’s son,” Patrick said as he pulled into a parking spot and turned off the car. “He’s not getting along with his parents right now, so I asked if he wanted to visit us instead of going home to Toronto for the holidays, and he accepted.”
David took in the scenery: the snow on the ground, the bare, sad-looking trees, and the boxy brick dormitory. There were only a handful of other cars in the parking lot; most of the other students had probably left already.
“But he’s 15 years younger than you,” David said.
“And he’s in his first year here at Lakehead—”
“His second year.”
“—where he does curling—”
“And he was homeschooled, and so were you, apparently, which I can’t believe you never told me.”
“It was only for a couple years in junior high, David. It’s not something I talk about a lot.”
David started to reply, but he was immediately struck speechless by the sight of what appeared to be a younger version of Patrick exiting the dorm. His curly hair peeked out from under his toque, and he was dragging a battered suitcase behind him.
“Oh, there he is!” Patrick quickly opened the door and hopped out of the car. “Hi Farley!” he shouted, waving to get his attention.
“Oh, hey, Patrick!” said the weird, younger version of Patrick as he waved back. David watched in a daze as Patrick’s doppelganger approached—Farley, his name was Farley, David reminded himself. And David knew he was probably imagining things, but as Farley approached, he could almost hear music, like a film soundtrack. Then Farley opened his mouth and began to—
But Patrick gave Farley a look, the same kind of look he gave the teens who loitered in front of the store, and the moment was over.
Shaking his head, David reluctantly got out of the car to greet Farley; he’d much rather stay in the car where it was warm, but that was probably rude.
“And you must be David,” not-Patrick said, turning towards David and extending a gloved hand. “I’m Farley. It’s so nice to finally meet you! I’m really sorry I couldn’t make it to the wedding, but I had a game, and the coach would’ve kicked me off the team if I’d missed it.”
“Um. It’s nice to meet you, Farley.” David shook Farley’s hand, then stood there awkwardly, unable to think of something more appropriate to say than “you look exactly like my husband must have looked when he was 19, and it’s freaking me out.”
“Well,” Patrick said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “Let’s get going. Farley, can I put your suitcase in the trunk?”
On the drive back to Schitt’s Creek, David learned that Farley had chosen to go to Lakehead because that’s where his friend Moose, who also played hockey, had decided to go. (David didn’t ask if “Moose” was a real name or a nickname, because he was scared of what the answer might be.) He also learned many things about hockey, although “learned” may not be the right word, because he made a point of forgetting everything about sports as quickly as possible so that it didn’t take up precious real estate in his mind.
He also learned that Farley’s parents disapproved of pretty much every choice Farley had made in the past few years. Farley listed their complaints as if he was ticking them off a checklist. They didn’t like that he played hockey; they’d assumed it was a phase he’d grow out of once he went to university. They didn’t like that he went to Lakehead; it was “embarrassing” and too far away from home. They didn’t like his major; in fact, they refused to believe “Outdoor Recreation, Parks, & Tourism” was a real major at all, and they weren’t thrilled by Farley’s double major in geography, either. It made David wonder if there was anything Farley’s parents did like.
It was clear that Farley was pretty upset by all of this, even though he was trying to play it cool. David wanted to try to change the subject, but he didn’t know how to make small talk with a 19-year-old kid whose main obsessions seemed to be hockey and his friend Moose.
Thankfully, Patrick stepped in. “Hey, Farley, how’s your girlfriend? Eve, right?”
David was startled. Farley had been talking a lot, and he hadn’t mentioned that he had a girlfriend?
“Yeah, Eve. Um, she’s okay. I haven’t seen her in a few months, it’s hard to find time to visit, since she’s in Boston.”
“Is she back in Toronto for the holidays?” Patrick asked.
“Yeah.” Then Farley fell silent, which was weird; until Patrick had brought up Eve, he’d been rambling pretty much nonstop.
David glanced at Patrick in surprise. He knew Farley was avoiding his parents, but wouldn’t he want to go home and see his girlfriend? For that matter, why hadn’t Farley invited Eve to come to Schitt’s Creek, too?
Farley’s silence continued, but eventually, Patrick managed to get Farley talking again by asking him some questions about hockey. David did his best to tune them out, occasionally nodding or saying “mmhm” as if he actually understood what they were talking about, and hoping that counted as a sufficient contribution to the conversation.
Once they arrived back in Schitt’s Creek, they stopped by their house so that Farley could drop off his suitcase. The plan was to let Farley have some time to himself to get settled in, but he insisted on coming by the store with them.
“It will probably be kind of boring for you,” Patrick said. “I’m sorry we have to go, but we left Stevie in charge and she’ll be mad if we don’t head straight over.”
“No, I want to come, it sounds really interesting!” Farley said. David had never heard someone as earnest as Farley, and he still couldn’t decide if it was annoying or not. Mostly it was just baffling. “I’ve never been to an apothecary before!”
Okay, maybe it was annoying. “Um. It’s not actually an apothecary; I know it’s in the name, but it’s really more of a general-yet-specific store featuring a carefully curated selection of products from local vendors?”
“Oh, okay. Well, I’ve never been to one of those before, either. I’m looking forward to it!” Farley said, wide-eyed and nearly bursting with excitement.
“Hey, Patrick,” Farley said as he picked something up off the shelf, “is this—”
“Oh, that’s, uh—I know it looks edible, but that’s not something you should drink, Farley,” Patrick said, immediately rushing over towards Farley.
“Oh, I know that; it says ‘body milk’ right there on the bottle, it’s very clearly labeled,” Farley replied. “I was wondering if it’s organic?”
“David,” Stevie whispered urgently, her eyes darting back and forth between Patrick and Farley in bewilderment.
“I know,” David hissed.
“It looks like there’s two of them!” Stevie said, a bit too loudly. She rolled her eyes as David shushed her.
“Believe me, I know,” David continued in a hushed voice. “I’ve been freaking out all morning. I don’t think I can handle this.”
At that, Stevie got a glint in her eye.
“Wait, are you… attracted to him?”
David’s eyes widened as he frantically shook his head.
“He’s a child—”
“Didn’t you say he’s in college?”
“—and he plays hockey—”
“Patrick plays baseball.”
“—and he’s so sheltered, he’s like a little lost puppy—”
“Who looks just like Patrick.”
“Because he’s his cousin. His 19-year-old cousin.”
They both fell silent for a moment and watched the two men at the other end of the store, who were now deeply engaged in a conversation about whether the store’s plastic packaging was environmentally conscious (conclusion: no) or ethically sourced (conclusion: unsure, more research needed.)
“Well. Good luck with...that,” Stevie said as she gestured at Patrick and Farley. “I should be headed back to the motel to check on your dad, he was tinkering with the coffee maker this morning when I left, and I need to make sure nothing’s exploded.”
“You can’t leave me here alone,” David pleaded. “I already had to spend half the day trapped in the car with them, learning about hockey against my will!”
“Sorry, I’m out. Bye!” Stevie headed for the door, but was stopped by Farley before she could escape.
“Oh, hello there! I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself. I’m Farley.” He reached out to shake Stevie’s hand.
“Hi, uh, Farley. Nice to meet you.” Stevie glanced at David as if to say, please rescue me, but David had absolutely no intention of interfering; this was bound to be entertaining.
“It’s nice to meet you too!” Farley said. “Do you work here at the store with Patrick and David?”
“Um. No. I own the motel.”
“Oh, that’s neat! The other day I read an article about how the hospitality industry is being increasingly threatened by the growth of the gig economy and online marketplaces like Airbnb; I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on that.”
“Wow. Okay. So, I need to get back to work,” Stevie said, “but maybe we can talk about that later. Um, maybe a lot later, actually. I’m pretty busy, with, you know. Motel things.” David stifled a laugh.
“I’ll see you around!” Farley said as Stevie ran out the door. He went back to perusing the store, and his eyes lit up when he spotted a small wooden carving of a mouse. “Hey, how much does this cost?” he asked, picking up the mouse. “It’s a long story, but Moose and I have an inside joke about a mouse, he’d love it. Oh, and what’s for dinner? I’m starving!”
The answer to “what’s for dinner?” was, apparently, Patrick’s famous spaghetti and meatballs; and the answer to “who’s joining us for dinner?”, a question David had not thought to ask, turned out to be “Alexis and Ted.”
“Hi there!” Ted said cheerfully as he walked through the door carrying a bottle of wine.
“Thank you for the wine, although you really didn’t have to bring anything,” David said, taking the bottle from Ted.
“It’s not a problem—I had an extra bottle, and I figured, wine not!”
At that, Farley laughed out loud, which caught Alexis’s attention.
“Oh my god, David, you didn’t tell me that Patrick had a younger brother! You are a button! ” she exclaimed, and—wow, she’d just met Farley and was already going straight for the nose-boop; apparently a close resemblance to Patrick was all it took to become an honorary member of the family.
“Uh, hi there,” Farley said, wide-eyed. “I’m Patrick’s cousin, actually. My name is Farley?” He phrased it as a question, as if he’d momentarily forgotten his own name.
“Farley, this is my sister Alexis, and her fiancé Ted; I’m sure they’d both love to chat with you once we’re all seated at the dinner table, where in just moments Patrick’s will be serving us his delicious spaghetti and—”
“We get it, David, you’re hungry,” Alexis said. This irritated David, even though Alexis was right; he was starving. Patrick had refused to stop for lunch on the drive home from Thunder Bay, fearing Stevie’s wrath if they took too long. David had been forced to make do with a granola bar for lunch, eaten in the car while enduring Farley’s incessant hockey ramblings. Of course, Alexis didn’t know any of that. Alexis had just met Farley; she had no idea what she was in for.
During dinner, Alexis kept staring at Farley and Patrick, then looking pointedly at David as if to say, “can you believe this?” She even attempted to wink a few times. David wished that she’d stop being so obvious, and kept trying to get Ted or Patrick’s attention so they could help distract her. But Ted was completely oblivious; once he’d figured out that Farley liked his puns, he’d been unable to stop making them. And Patrick was inexplicably preoccupied with the way Farley was reacting to Ted’s puns. David agreed it was annoying, but he didn’t see what the big deal was; Farley was just egging Ted on by making truly terrible rhymes. Every time Patrick gave Farley a dirty look, he’d look chagrined for a moment; but then a few minutes later, he and Ted would be back at it.
By the time they were done eating, David was beginning to think that maybe Patrick was right after all; Farley had just rhymed “pasta sauce” with “Atlas moth,” which, in addition to not even being a real rhyme, was disgusting; moths should never be mentioned at the dinner table.
“So, this was a lot of fun,” Farley said, fidgeting in his seat, “but I promised Moose I’d call him tonight, and I think Eve is gonna call me later, too? So I should really—”
“That’s fine, Farley, go ahead,” Patrick said, looking relieved.
Farley practically jumped out of his seat. “Thanks for dinner Patrick, it was fantastic! And it was nice to meet you, Ted and Alexis ; maybe I’ll see you tomorrow for breakfast!”
“Farley,” Patrick snapped. “Behave yourself.”
Farley mumbled an apology, but he didn’t look sorry at all as he smirked and headed down the hallway to the guest bedroom.
“We should probably get going, too. I’ve got some early appointments tomorrow, and I wouldn’t want to have a ruff start to my day,” said Ted.
“Ted, Farley’s not here anymore, you can cut it out with the puns,” Alexis sighed.
“I’m sorry,” Ted said, with a serious look on his face, “but I’m afraid that’s im-pasta-ble.”
“So... what’s the deal with your family and Farley’s family?” David asked as he and Patrick were getting into bed.
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve never once mentioned him or his parents until a few weeks ago when you told me he’d be visiting.” David began rearranging the pillows as Patrick watched him from the other side of the bed, his arms crossed and an amused look on his face. “Is this… does this have to do with…” David realized he had turned the same pillow over three times, and sighed, finally climbing into bed and looking up at Patrick. “Is this another weird family thing for you? Like, when you were so nervous about coming out to your parents. Is this… something like that?”
Patrick smiled sheepishly. “No, it’s definitely not something like that. I think that ship sailed when we got married. You know, in front of my parents and extended family?” Patrick climbed into bed and rested a hand on David’s thigh. “In fact, I think some of your family was there, too? But it was a pretty busy day, I might not be remembering clearly.”
David laughed. “Okay, you have a point. I’m not really worried about that, anyway. I don’t even know why that’s where my mind went. I guess I’m just confused by the whole situation.”
Patrick smiled, then pushed gently on David’s hip to get him to roll over so he could curl up behind him, pressed tight against David’s back.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better,” Patrick said, his breath hot against the back of David’s neck, “this definitely has nothing to do with you.”
“Mm. Well, you know I love hearing about other people’s family drama.” David fidgeted under the covers to get more comfortable.
“Oh, I know; it makes you feel better about everything your family’s been through. I’m not sure you’ll exactly identify with any part of this story, though.”
“Mmm, tell me anyway,” David said sleepily.
“Well, you know I’m close with my dad’s side of the family. But my mom is kind of the black sheep of her family. She grew up in Toronto, and both her siblings still live in the city; they think it’s weird that she moved to a small town. They’re also really, um, scholarly, I guess? My uncle—that’s Farley’s dad—and my aunt both have PhDs. They travel a lot, too. My mom’s not really like that.”
“Patrick, your mom is a librarian, isn’t that scholarly? And your parents took that big trip to California last year.”
“She’s a children’s librarian who’s never traveled outside of North America; as far as her family’s concerned, that’s like being a high school dropout who’s never left the province you were born in.” Patrick sighed. “They don’t like my dad, either.”
“Let me guess. He’s not good enough for her?”
“Pretty much. They think he’s the reason she ran off to a small town, which, admittedly, he kind of is.”
David thought about generations of Brewers—wait, no, Gordons, that was Marcy’s maiden name—disappointing their parents by leaving home to go someplace too small and too far away. First Marcy running off with Clint; then Patrick escaping to Schitt’s Creek and settling down with David; and now Farley, who had left Toronto for Thunder Bay. He wondered if Farley would work things out with Eve, or if he’d find love at Lakehead, instead. The thought made him smile.
“So basically, your mom’s family is a bunch of judgmental academics with sticks up their asses,” David blurted out. “Um. No offense.”
Patrick laughed. “None taken. The homeschooling thing was a problem, too. I mean, my mom was homeschooled, and my parents weren’t opposed to the idea. But the local schools were pretty good, and there wasn’t much of a support system for homeschoolers, like there is in Toronto. I was, uh…” Patrick trailed off, and David reached back to stroke his hip soothingly. Patrick placed his hand over David’s, then continued. “There were some kids who—bullied me a bit, I guess, in junior high, so my parents pulled me out of school for 7th and 8th grade.”
“You’ve never talked about that before,” David said softly, pulling Patrick’s hand up to his face and gently kissing his fingers.
“It was—it really wasn’t that bad. Junior high was… weird.”
“You’re telling me,” David muttered.
“Anyway, you know how I went to a private Catholic high school? My aunt and uncle actually stopped speaking to my mom entirely for a few years because of that. They’re not fans of organized religion.”
“Wow. That seems… extreme.”
“Yup. So, anyway.” Patrick nuzzled the back of David’s head and tightened his arm across David’s chest as if to pull him closer; not that he could, really, since they were already snuggled as close as they could get. “That’s my family. My mom’s side, at least,” Patrick said, his voice muffled by David’s hair.
“I think I like your dad’s side better,” David mumbled. “None of them look like a younger version of you.”
The next morning, Patrick took Farley with him to open the store while David ran errands. He showed up at the store around midday, his hands full with boxes of goat cheese and a few sandwiches he’d picked up at the café.
“I brought lunch!” David shouted, trying to push the door open with his hip. “A little help, here?”
“Coming,” he heard Patrick shout, and a moment later Patrick was there to pull the door open the rest of the way. “Wow, that’s a lot of stuff.”
“Heather had some new types of cheese for us to try,” David said, kissing Patrick and handing him the boxes. “Where’s Farley?”
“Oh, he’s in the back. He’s been hiding there all day.” Patrick cringed, and lowered his voice. “He was fine until I asked how his conversation with Eve went last night, then things went downhill fast. He’s in a pretty bad mood.”
“That’s not good. Do you think a sandwich will cheer him up?”
Patrick smiled. “It’s worth a try.”
“Farley?” David said as he walked into the stockroom. “I brought sandwiches, do you want turkey or salami?”
“Not hungry,” Farley grunted. He was sitting on the floor in the corner of the room, leaning back against a stack of boxes. His knees were pulled up to his chest, and his nose was buried in his phone.
“Alright, well, I sincerely doubt that, so I’m just going to leave a turkey sandwich here and let you think about it,” David said, setting a sandwich down on a nearby shelf. David waited a moment for Farley to acknowledge that he’d heard, but he didn’t respond; he didn’t even look up from his phone.
“Okay, you’re right; something is definitely wrong with Farley,” David said in a hushed voice, as he and Patrick stood at the counter eating their sandwiches. “I mean, I only met him yesterday, but he seems seriously upset. Is there anything we can do to help?”
Patrick had a fond look on his face, the one he had every time David expressed concern about someone he cared about. Except David wasn’t sure he even cared that much about Farley, not yet, anyway—like he’d said, he’d just met the kid yesterday. But Farley was Patrick’s cousin, and Patrick cared about him; that meant David cared about him, too.
“I don’t think so. He wouldn’t tell me what’s wrong, I think we just have to let him—”
Patrick was interrupted by the jingle of the bell on the door. They both looked up to see who it was, and David almost didn’t recognize him at first, because it had been several years, and he’d gotten a terrible haircut and a lip piercing, but then he realized it was—
“Connor!” David exclaimed. “You’re, wow, you’re here. In my store. Um. Welcome?”
Patrick looked from David to Connor then back at David. “Hi Connor,” he said, still looking at David. “I’m Patrick. David, how do you know…?” Patrick trailed off, unable to find the right words to convey what he was likely wondering: “How do you know this random kid who’s half your age?”
“David was my mentor when I was in high school. He was a very big influence on my life,” Connor said.
Patrick raised his eyebrows. “Oh? David’s never told me about that. Right, David? You’ve never mentioned that you used to mentor high school students,” Patrick said, grinning wickedly. “You’ll have to share that story with me later.”
“Sure, mmhm, fine.” David tried not to think too hard about how that conversation would go. “So, Connor, why are you here? Didn’t you… um, leave Schitt’s Creek?”
“I did, in fact, move all the way to Thunder Bay. And things are going very well there, thank you so much for asking.”
It took David a moment to recover from the sarcasm and realize what Connor had just said. “Hold on, do you go to Lakehead? Farley, did you hear—” As David turned to call Farley out of the stockroom, he saw that Farley was already peeking his head through the doorway.
“Connor?” Farley said, confused. “What are you doing here?”
“‘Here’ as in this store, or ‘here’ as in Schitt’s Creek?”
“Um, both, I guess.” Farley slowly emerged from the stockroom and leaned against the counter.
“I’m in Schitt’s Creek because I live here. Or at least, my family does, so unfortunately I’m stuck here for winter break.”
“Mmhm, that’s very unfortunate,” David agreed absent-mindedly. This situation was confusing; David couldn’t imagine a reason why Connor and Farley would know each other, even if they did go to the same university. It didn’t seem likely that they had many things in common. But regardless of the explanation, Connor had gotten Farley to come out of the stockroom for the first time that day, so David wanted to keep Connor in the store as long as possible, and that meant keeping this conversation going. “So. How do you two know each other?”
“Drama club,” Farley said, at the same time that Connor said “none of your business.”
“Oh, that’s, um, that’s really great. Drama club. That sounds… fun. What kinds of—”
“Last semester we put on an experimental production of Hamlet,” Farley interrupted, his eyes lighting up. “I played Yorick, and Connor played both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and I even got to—”
“Yes, it was a lot of fun,” Connor interrupted loudly. “We do lots of... things. Fun drama things.”
At that, the conversation stalled. Farley shuffled his feet. Connor crossed his arms. David glanced at Patrick, who looked as bewildered as David felt.
“Well, since you two are clearly such close friends—” David began. Connor raised an eyebrow as he said “friends,” but David was not deterred. “Since you’re friends, maybe you can both go hang out in Elmdale this afternoon. You could get dinner, or go to the, um, the movie theater? Or something.” David was rapidly realizing that he had no idea what someone in their late teens or early twenties would want to do for fun in Elmdale.
Farley’s eyes lit up. “That sounds like fun!”
“I don’t know, that sounds awfully expensive,” Connor said. “I’m not sure if I can afford a trip to Elmdale on top of all the Christmas gifts I need to buy.” David could tell exactly where this was going.
“Patrick? Can I have a word with you in back?” David asked.
It didn’t take too long to get Patrick on board with the idea; David knew that no matter how concerned Patrick was about their lost profits, he was even more concerned about Farley.
Getting Connor on board was a little more difficult. Things almost fell apart when Farley asked if they could go skating on the pond near Heather’s farm (“I have an extra pair of skates you can borrow, and Patrick told me it’s pretty much frozen over!”, Farley had said, oblivious to the look of sheer horror on Connor’s face).
But in the end, David thought that Connor’s gift basket was perfectly reasonable. He even threw in some extra lip balm, just to be nice—maybe the holiday spirit was getting to him.
“Farley, please behave yourself,” Patrick said as Connor and Farley were finally headed out the door.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Farley blinked innocently in a way that made it clear he knew exactly what Patrick meant.
David, on the other hand, had no idea what Patrick meant.
“Just—you know—don’t—” Patrick stuttered, then sighed. “You know what I mean. Don’t do that thing you do.”
“Fine,” Farley sighed. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”
“What was that about?” David asked once Farley and Connor were gone.
“You really don’t want to know,” Patrick said.
Farley seemed less sullen when he returned home later that night, but he was still uncharacteristically quiet.
“Hey, Farley, how did things go with Connor?” Patrick asked, pausing the movie that he and David had been watching.
“Fine.” Farley stood awkwardly in the living room, crossing his arms and pointedly avoiding eye contact with David or Patrick.
“Do you want to join us? We’re watching A Christmas Story,” David said.
“No, thanks, um—I don’t like guns.”
“Okay, so usually I’d agree, but the BB gun isn’t really the point of the story? It’s actually about—”
“David,” Patrick admonished gently. “Let it go.”
They all turned and stared at the TV and the paused movie in silence.
“Going to call Eve again tonight?” David finally asked. Patrick elbowed him, and David glared back; it was a reasonable question, and maybe Farley would be willing to open up a bit now.
“No,” Farley said glumly, crossing his arms even more tightly across his chest.
“Okay, um, I’m sorry I asked, but you seem—” Patrick elbowed David again, harder this time. “Ow!” David said, rubbing his side; that one had hurt.
“It’s just—” Farley began. He paused for just a moment, and then the words spilled out of him. “Connor says I talk about Moose too much. And, he says I never talk about Eve, and it makes it seem like I like Moose more than I like Eve. That’s ridiculous, right?”
David thought this was a very accurate observation and not at all ridiculous, but he knew better than to say that out loud. Unfortunately, he couldn’t think of anything else to say, so he looked at Patrick expectantly.
“Um. Well. That certainly sounds… like a difficult situation, Farley,” Patrick said diplomatically.
Farley sighed dramatically. “There’s so many thoughts bouncing around in my head. It’s all too much, I think I should go to bed.”
Patrick narrowed his eyes. “Farley, I know you’re upset about whatever’s going on with you and Eve, but don’t —”
“Yeah, I know,” Farley grumbled. “I won’t, I promise. Anyway. Goodnight, you guys. Enjoy the movie. Even if it glorifies violence.”
Once again, David had no idea what Patrick and Farley were talking about, but he didn’t think Patrick would explain even if he asked. So he just snuggled closer to Patrick, grabbed the remote, and pressed play.
Farley’s bad mood continued into the next day, which he spent hiding in the stockroom again. What was even worse was that his mood seemed to have rubbed off onto Patrick, who also spent the day sulking. David tried his best to give them both some space, but it was hard. The store seemed too small to contain both Farley and Patrick’s bad moods.
“Farley, will you join us at the café tonight?” David asked as they were closing up the store. “The Jazzagals are hosting a bake sale to raise money for their tour next spring.”
“I guess,” Farley said, shrugging.
David had surprised himself with how much he’d been looking forward to the bake sale. Normally, hanging out in the café making small talk with half the town would not exactly be his idea of a fun evening. But the promise of baked goods was too good to pass up; he’d been hearing everyone rave about Ronnie’s famous Christmas cookies for weeks. Plus, maybe the baked goods and holiday merriment would cheer up Farley, which in turn might improve Patrick’s mood, too.
It was just beginning to snow as they walked over to the café. “If it snows enough, maybe we could have a snowball fight,” David suggested.
“David, I don’t think that’s a good idea; the last time you were in a snowball fight, you and Alexis wouldn’t speak to each other for three days.”
“Well, maybe Farley would want to have a snowball fight.”
“I don’t like fighting,” Farley said miserably.
Then again, maybe trying to cheer up Farley was an exercise in futility. David just hoped that he was still able to enjoy himself tonight, even if Farley and Patrick refused to do the same.
The mood in the café was festive, and even though he was usually ambivalent about Christmas, it cheered David up immediately. Twyla had decorated with excessive amounts of mismatched, multicolored Christmas lights; it should have looked terrible, but David begrudgingly admitted to himself that the resulting effect was endearingly whimsical. The room was filled with the smell of cookies, cakes, and pies—inhaling deeply, David could smell ginger, molasses, and just a hint of peppermint. He made a beeline for Ronnie’s cookies, assuming that Farley and Patrick would follow, but when he looked back to check, they weren’t there. David knew that he should probably go find them, but he decided that cookies were more important. He’d track down Patrick and Farley later.
David mingled for a while, munching on cookies while chatting with Twyla and Jocelyn, and sipping on some surprisingly good mulled wine. It was pleasant. Fun, even. He was having a good time, and he’d nearly managed to put Farley out of his mind.
Then he saw his parents approaching him from across the room, and from the looks on their faces, David had a feeling this might ruin his evening.
“Oh fuck,” he muttered under his breath. “Excuse me, Twyla, Jocelyn; I need to go deal with something.
“David,” Moira said, “why didn’t you tell us that a charming young relative of Patrick’s would be joining us for this soirée? He is truly the spitting image of his elder cousin. Do you know if young Freddy has experience in theater? It would be so lovely to cast him alongside Patrick; they could play brothers, or father and son, or even the same person at two different ages! There are so many options; maybe Joseph, or perhaps Follies—”
David really, really didn’t want to know his mom’s ideas about casting Patrick and Farley in a musical, so he interrupted before she could continue. “Mom, his name is Farley, and I have no idea if he acts,” David lied, putting Farley’s comments about being in drama club with Connor out of his mind. “All I know is that he plays hockey and has a friend named Moose.”
“He’s friends with a moose?” Johnny asked. “Well. That’s, that’s quite interesting, son. He does seem like a fine young man, you know—”
“Okay,” David said, cutting his father off, too. This conversation had gone on long enough. “I know Farley’s around since clearly you’ve both met him, but I haven’t seen him since we got here. Where did he and Patrick go?”
“They’re right over there, David, behind the Christmas tree; honestly, can’t you keep track of your own husband—”
David didn’t hear the rest of his mom’s response because he was already headed in the direction his mother had pointed. The Christmas tree was truly massive, which explained why he hadn’t seen them earlier. As he got closer, David saw that they were in the midst of an increasingly heated argument.
“Farley, if you’d just tell me what’s wrong—”
“No one understands me in this town! You’re all fools who barely know an adjective from a noun!”
“—then maybe I could help you calm down, so you don’t—”
“I don’t need to calm down, Patrick!” Farley shouted. “You’re too old to understand, you’re practically geriatric!”
Farley’s shouting caught everyone’s attention, halting the din of people chatting and glasses clinking. The room fell into a near silence, with all eyes on Farley and Patrick; the only sound was of Roland somewhere off in the distance singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Patrick cleared his throat and glanced around the room nervously. “Farley, you don’t have to yell, okay?” he said soothingly. “Let’s go and talk about this outside where there’s a bit more, um, privacy.”
“It’s freezing out there, are you out of your mind? To going outside I’m quite disinclined—” Patrick’s attempts to get Farley to calm down seemed to have had the reverse effect; if anything, Farley was shouting even louder. Well, maybe not shouting, but his voice was certainly projecting. Actually, it almost sounded like he was singing.
“Okay, yeah, that’s enough of that. We’ll go talk in the store.” Patrick grabbed Farley’s arm and marched him out of the room.
“Well, that was certainly a commotion; who would have anticipated such a hullabaloo during our holiday festivities? Patrick’s cousin is quite the dramatist; are you sure he doesn’t act or sing? Whatever do you think could be wrong with dear young Finley?”
“His name is Farley, mom.”
“Well, are you going to go check on them, son?” Johnny asked.
“In a minute. I should give them time to cool off a bit first.” David also wanted to grab another glass of mulled wine before dealing with either Patrick or Farley, but he didn’t think he should say that part out loud.
Armed with two to-go cups of steaming hot wine and a small bag of cookies shoved in his pocket, David walked briskly through the snow and back to the store. He opened the door carefully, not wanting to ring the bell, telling himself it was because he didn’t want to startle Patrick or Farley—but really, he was hoping for a chance to eavesdrop on their conversation.
The main lights in the store were still off, but Patrick must have turned on the Christmas lights when he came in, because the store was lit with a soft yellow-white glow. David could see the light in the stockroom was on, too, and he could hear Farley’s voice—
“I just love Eve so much, you know? She’s like my sister.”
“Farley, is she your girlfriend, or your sister? Because those are two very different things.”
“I don’t know!” Farley said, distressed. “I’ve known her since we were kids, so we’re just… really close, you know? No one knows me as well as she does.”
Patrick cleared his throat. “Well, trust me when I say, dating someone just because you’ve known them a long time and you’re comfortable together is not a good idea. I wish I’d realized that sooner.”
“But isn’t that what a relationship is? Being comfortable with someone?”
There was a long pause. David tried very hard not to make a sound.
“It should be more than that,” Patrick said. “It’s not just about—being comfortable. In fact,” he said, laughing under his breath, “sometimes David makes me very uncomfortable. He… challenges me. I like that.”
“Oh,” Farley said. “So it’s kind of like hockey. Even though I don’t always like the conflict inherent in competitive sports, it’s more rewarding if there’s a real challenge.”
David could imagine the exact look on Patrick’s face at what Farley had just said, and he had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at the thought.
“But I still really care about Eve, you know? Even if she doesn’t, um, challenge me.”
“I’m sure you do.”
“And she’s made so many new friends since she moved away. I’m always worried, what if she meets someone she likes better than me?” David heard Farley take a deep breath. “Do you ever worry about that? With David, I mean. Do you worry that he’ll meet someone else?”
“No,” Patrick said immediately. “Not for a long time, at least. But… you remember Stevie? She and David dated for a while, before I met him. Now she’s his best friend.”
“And you’re okay with that!?” Farley exclaimed.
“It’s not my job to choose David’s friends. That’s not how relationships work. And Stevie’s my friend, too. Because she’s an important part of David’s life, and anything that’s important to David is important to me. Besides—” Patrick paused, then continued softly, “if David ever did leave me, for Stevie, or anyone else, I’d—I’d just want him to be happy. So if that’s what would make him happy, that’s what I’d want, too.”
“Wow. You must really love him.”
David took a sip of wine to hide the smile spreading across his face, momentarily forgetting that there was no one to hide his smile from.
Patrick cleared his throat. “Alright. I think it’s about time we head back and see if there’s any cookies left.”
David startled as Patrick and Farley came out of the stockroom, nearly spilling the wine.
“Um, hi David, I didn’t realize you were here, did you, um...” Farley trailed off, eyes widening.
“I just got here,” David lied. “And I brought wine—” he handed one of the cups to Patrick, “—and cookies,” he said, reaching in his pocket for the bag of cookies and handing it to Farley.
“Thanks. I’m—I’m just gonna head back to the café. I’ll see you guys over there!” Farley said, running out the door.
“Sorry for eavesdropping,” David said the moment Farley was out the door. “I know I shouldn’t have, but I was really curious.”
“It’s alright,” Patrick sighed. “I mean, you shouldn’t have done that, but… Farley tends to bring out the worst in people sometimes. How much did you hear, anyway?” Patrick asked, setting his wine down on the counter and placing his hands on David’s hips, pulling him closer.
“Enough.” David set down his wine next to Patrick’s and put his arms around Patrick’s shoulders. “You’re good at this ‘mentoring teens’ thing. Much better than I was.”
“We all have something to offer," Patrick said, smiling. Seeing Patrick’s smile made David want to kiss him, so he did. He tasted like wine, and spices, and cookies; but most of all, he tasted like Patrick. David didn’t want to stop. He wanted to stay here all night, surrounded by the soft glow of Christmas lights, kissing his husband.
Then he remembered something from Patrick’s conversation with Farley; something important. “You know I don’t want to leave you for Stevie, right?” David whispered in Patrick’s ear.
Patrick laughed. “Oh god, so you heard that part. No, I definitely don’t think you want to leave me for Stevie. It just seemed like something Farley needed to hear.”
“Mm, that makes sense,” David said, nuzzling Patrick’s neck. “But also—you know I don’t want to leave you at all, right? Not for anyone. Not ever.” David pulled back, holding Patrick’s face in his hands. “You’re the one for me, Patrick. Only you.”
Patrick swallowed. “I know,” he said, and David believed him.
They kissed some more, but after a few minutes, David reluctantly pulled away. “We should head back soon.”
“You’re probably right. I need to check on Farley, make sure he’s not—” Patrick cut himself off, his eyes widening, as if he’d almost said something he shouldn’t.
“Okay, what is the deal with all this? There’s something really weird about Farley, or at least, about the way you interact with him. Farley’s not actually all that weird, even if sometimes it seems like he’s about to burst into song—”
Patrick shook his head vigorously. “We don’t talk about that, David.”
David sighed. “Fine. Let’s go back. I didn’t get a chance to try Gwen’s cookies yet, and they look even better than Ronnie’s.”
When Patrick and David walked through the door of the café, they were met by the sight of Johnny, Moira, and half the jazzagals gathered around the Christmas tree, singing “The First Noel.” They were accompanied by Farley, who perched on the edge of a table, grinning widely, and playing—
“Is that an accordion? Where did he even get that?” David exclaimed.
“Who knows,” Patrick said, heaving a sigh of resignation. “When it comes to Farley, it’s best not to ask questions.”