“Clint! That was… you missed the turn off!!”
“No I didn’t, Hon,” Clint Brewer replies, hands steady on the wheel at 10 and 2 as the car continues along the road.
“But… no! The motel is back that way!”
Clint smiles to himself. Eyes still on the road in front of him, he reaches out to gently pat his wife’s knee. “I know that, Marcy. But we’re not going to the motel yet.”
He hears his wife sigh, feels her small, warm hand on his. “Fine,” she acquiesces, but he can hear the impatience in her voice. “But I don’t see why we have to take the long way around. This weekend is going to be so busy with the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, and we’re only going to have so much time with the boys. I don’t want to waste a second of that precious time together!”
“I know,” Clint says, giving her knee a squeeze. He moves his hand back to the wheel. “Just trust me, okay? I promise it will be worth it.”
He can’t help but chuckle softly. His eyes are focused on the road, but he knows Marcy is pouting and he’d love nothing more than to plant a kiss to that pout, watch it slowly transform into the smile he’s been in love with for over 35 years. But he’ll have to wait, just like she will. He knows their patience will be rewarded and he’ll see that smile soon enough.
He hums along to the radio, tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel as they meander down the narrow road lined with farmland on one side, smaller properties with quaint homes set back from the road on the other.
“Okay, we are in the middle of nowhere now, and we are supposed to be meeting the boys at six o’clock, and if we don’t turn around now, we’ll be late!” Marcy grumbles, supposedly to herself, but she’s made sure that her voice is loud enough to carry over the radio.
“Well, we wouldn’t want that,” Clint murmurs placatingly. He turns on his blinker and carefully applies his foot to the brake as he turns the wheel. “Good thing we’re here then.”
“We’re… what? Where’s here?” Marcy asks as he pulls into a long driveway, putting the car in park right behind a familiar silver sedan. “Clint? Where are… oh! Oh!! Oh my boys!”
He hasn’t even turned off the ignition before Marcy is out of the car, her arms spread wide as she runs up the driveway. Clint takes his time pocketing the keys and unbuckling his seatbelt, watching as his wife’s petite form is engulfed by the two men who have come out of the house to greet her.
Patrick reaches his mother first and he stumbles backward at the force of her embrace. David is slower, less inclined to running unless he absolutely has to. It’s more of an awkward trot, Clint thinks to himself with a smile as he gets out of the car and closes his door. He watches as David joins the other two, placing his hand on Marcy’s shoulder in greeting before being yanked unceremoniously into one of her world-famous hugs.
Clint rounds the car to close Marcy’s door before joining the group up ahead.
“Look at you! Oh you look so good!”
“Mom!” Patrick whines when Marcy takes his face in her hands and pinches his cheeks.
“And David! Oh, sweetheart! How do you get more handsome every time I see you?”
Clint shares a smile with his son as together they watch poor David fall prey to Marcy’s pinches.
“Hi Dad,” Patrick says, and they pull each other into a hug. “No trouble finding the place?”
“Hey, Kiddo,” Clint replies, stepping back and putting his hands on his son’s shoulders. “No trouble at all. Your directions were perfect.” Cheek pinching aside, Marcy is right. Patrick does look good. Happy. Glowing, really. He looks relaxed and… settled. It’s a good look on him. And one that, not all that long ago, he and Marcy had given up all hope of ever seeing.
“Hi, Mr. Brewer.” Clint smiles at David and takes his hand, giving it a hearty shake. He’s lost count of the number of times he’s asked David to call him Clint. And well, Patrick still calls his soon-to-be in-laws Mr. and Mrs. Rose, so Clint supposes he should just let it go.
“David. Good to see you, son,” he says. “You’re looking well!” David is wearing what Clint imagines is his version of casual—a pair of complicated looking grey sweatpants with panels and zippers, and a relatively plain looking black hoodie with a red heart embroidered over the chest.
David smiles shyly at him. “Thank you,” he says softly.
“Now, David,” Marcy interjects, looping her arm through David’s and pulling him away. “Patrick tells me there’s a lovely garden out back.”
Together Clint and Patrick watch as Marcy and David make their way up the driveway toward the backyard. David is already gesturing at this or that as they chat and Marcy is enamoured of every word.
“Well… they’ll be a while,” Clint says with a grin.
Patrick chuckles, his eyes bright with affection as they follow his husband-to-be and his mother disappear around the back of the house.
Once out of sight, he gives his head a shake and nods toward the house. “Come on. I’ll give you a tour.”
Clint follows Patrick up the steps and through the front door. “So how did you swing this tour for us? You don’t take possession for another month, right?” Clint asks.
Patrick grins as he holds open the front door. “The owners are down in Florida for a few weeks sorting out their new place. They left their keys with their realtor and said we could come by to take measurements or…or whatever. While they’re away.”
They enter a cozy living room filled to the brim with overstuffed furniture in a myriad of clashing floral prints. The floors are a gorgeous dark wood covered with a thick red shag area rug. “Oh. Wow,” Clint says, toeing off his shoes along with Patrick.
“Yeah. It’s a lot,” Patrick says, closing the front door behind them. “All of this is going to go with the current owners when they leave. But the bones are good.” There’s a slight defensiveness to his tone, a wariness in his eyes. Clint realizes that it’s important to Patrick that he likes the home he and David have chosen. He wants his father’s approval.
“I can see that,” Clint says with a nod of his head. “These floors… are they original? They’re beautiful.”
Patrick’s smile widens. “Yeah. Yeah, they are. The house was built in the 50’s, and the floors, beams and fireplace are all original.”
Clint’s eyes are drawn up from the floor to the solid wooden beams on the ceiling that run the length of the room, drawing attention to the floor to ceiling stone fireplace which is, without question, the piece-de-resistance of the space. “Wow,” Clint breathes in quiet appreciation. “This…this is really something else.”
Patrick is beaming at him now, and he tugs Clint by the sleeve, leading him down the narrow hallway to the back of the house. “And here’s the kitchen,” he says.
It’s light and airy, with pale grey shaker cabinets set against stark white tile. The countertops are a marbled white and grey and the centre island is a rich distressed-wood table on raised legs which Clint thinks wouldn’t have looked out of place in David and Patrick’s store.
“Okay, do not let your mother see this kitchen, or I’ll be spending my retirement up to my armpits in renos at our house,” Clint says with a wink. He runs a hand over the counter. “Marble?” he asks. Patrick nods.
“The owners redid the kitchen a few years ago,” Patrick says, his eyes bright with excitement as he looks around what will soon be his kitchen. He offers Clint a grin. “David says he loves it so much, it may even inspire him to learn how to cook.”
“Well, high praise indeed,” Clint chuckles. He’s still getting to know his future son-in-law, but David’s love of food is the stuff of legends. As is his complete ineptitude when it comes to preparing his own food.
“I mean, h-he never had to learn for so long, and living in the motel, there was nowhere for him to…” Patrick stumbles over his words, defensive once again. “Since I moved into the apartment we’ve been cooking together a lot. He’s mastered pancakes and his grilled cheese is almost hardly burned at all anymore.”
Clint nods his head and claps his son on the back. “Did you know that when I married your mother, I couldn’t even boil an egg? And now I’m the master of the Sunday brunch.” He smiles at Patrick. “If there was hope for me, there’s hope for David. He’ll just need a very patient teacher. And I think he’s got that, in you.”
Patrick ducks his head and shoves his hands deep into his pockets. “Thanks, Dad,” he says softly.
Clint squeezes Patrick’s shoulder, then gestures around the kitchen again. “Are all the appliances included?” Patrick nods and Clint lets out a low appreciative whistle. “Your mother would kill for a fridge like this,” he says.
“Yeah, I know,” Patrick says, his face glowing with pride and happiness. “And the stove is natural gas, and so is the furnace, the hot water tank and there’s a hook up for a natural gas barbecue out back.”
Clint spins in a slow circle, taking it all in. His son has just bought a house. And it’s a good one, from what he’s seen so far. Patrick has clearly done his research, which Clint knew he would. Patrick is nothing if not methodical and thoughtful with every move he makes.
Well, every move except one. Moving here, to this little town with the strange name, had been the first impulsive thing Patrick had ever done in his life. Clint and Marcy had spent months, over a year really, worrying about him, trying to find ways to talk him into coming home. But it wasn’t until they’d made the journey here themselves all those months ago for Patricks birthday that they’d seen that all their worrying and fretting had been in vain. Patrick’s impulsive move had found him a business and a purpose, found him love in the most unexpected of people, and now, had found him a home.
Emotion hits Clint all of a sudden. Patrick isn’t coming home. Because he’s already here.
“Let me show you the rest of the house,” Patrick says, oblivious to his father’s bittersweet musings.
Clint clears his throat and blinks his eyes a few times. He knows he’s going to be doing plenty of crying at the wedding tomorrow. He follows Patrick up stairs to see three bedrooms and the tiny but very functional bathroom.
“This will be a guest room,” Patrick says as he opens the door to a small room with a window that looks out over the front yard. “And this one will be our office. And the last one will eventually become David’s closet.”
Clint peers into each room and nods appreciatively. “So you’ve got a home for David’s clothes. But where are you two going to sleep?” he asks, grinning when he sees a blush rising on Patrick’s cheeks.
“Um… there’s a newer extension downstairs,” Patrick mumbles through lips pinched tightly together to hide his smile. He heads back down the stairs, talking over his shoulder as he goes. “It was done around the same time as the kitchen. They were getting older and didn’t want to have to go up and down the stairs as much, so…”
He trails off at the bottom of the stairs, pushing open a set of double doors. Clint sucks in a breath.
While the extension is newer, the wooden beams and hardwood floors from the living room have continued in here to tie together all the rooms downstairs. The walls are painted a pale blue with white trim. French doors open onto a private patio with a view over the expansive backyard where Clint can see David and Marcy wandering through what looks like a small orchard. There’s a smaller closet here, a sitting area and a truly luxurious en-suite with both a soaker tub and a shower stall.
“Wow,” Clint breathes. The room is both cozy and open, breezy and warm. The current furnishings are a jumble of mismatched pieces with fabrics of pale pinks, yellows and greens which Clint already knows will be replaced by cooler colours, carefully chosen furnishings, maybe a piece of art.
“Right?” Patrick says, bouncing excitedly on the balls of his feet and smiling so wide, Clint's cheeks ache in sympathy. “It’s… this room is almost the size of my entire apartment right now!”
Clint shakes his head. “You’re gonna have a hard time getting David out of that bathtub,” he teases and Patrick gives him a knowing smile.
“Yeah. I know.” Patrick replies wistfully, his smile widening and Clint knows he’s already picturing his husband lounging in that tub, maybe with a glass of wine, maybe some candles.
“So, we’re thinking we’ll put that big shelving unit here on this wall,” Patrick says, gesturing to the only wall in the room uninterrupted by windows or doors. “And then maybe the chairs from beside the fireplace at the apartment can go over here.” Clint’s eyes follow where his son is pointing. “And then the um, the bed—“ Patrick indicates the space between two tall, narrow windows that look out into the side yard, “—will go here.”
Patrick’s ears go pink and he ducks his head, his hands immediately retreating deep in his pockets and Clint is momentarily confused. And then he realizes. While Patrick knows that he and Marcy are accepting of his love for David, their son still appears to harbour some reservations about how accepting they are of how that love manifests itself...physically. Not that Clint necessarily wants to know the details of what goes on in his son’s bedroom, with his soon-to-be husband. But he does want Patrick to know that—whatever it is—it’s okay.
“Yeah?” Patrick’s voice is small, hesitant. He’s staring at a spot on the floor just in front of his shoes.
Clint places a hand on his son’s shoulder, giving what he hopes is a comforting squeeze. Patrick looks up at him and Clint smiles. “Bet you could fit a king size bed in here,” he says with a wink. Patrick’s blush deepens, but he doesn’t look away this time. Instead he nods, a tentative smile spreading over his features.
“Yeah. Maybe one day. But for now we’ll make do with my bed.”
“A prudent decision,” he affirms with a nod. He can see that Patrick is anxious to move on now, and Clint could kick himself. This is not what he wants, to make Patrick uncomfortable the day before he is meant to stand beside his son on his wedding day. He wishes suddenly that Marcy was here. She always knows how to smooth the wrinkles out of these awkward conversations. She’s had 35 years of practice. “I, uh, your mother and I...we just want to make sure you know how much we love you both—you and David—and that means we accept and take pride in you and all the ways you two share your lives. Together.”
Patrick blinks rapidly, tilting his head back and closing his eyes in a gesture Clint has seen David do numerous times on their weekly Skype chats when he gets overwhelmed or emotional.
“Thanks, Dad. I...just. Thank you.” Patrick clears his throat and surreptitiously swipes at his face with the back of his hand. “Come on, I'll show you the yard, and there’s a guest house out back,” he says, closing the bedroom door behind them and leading Clint back to the kitchen. There are sliding glass doors that lead out onto a covered porch. The yard is huge, with a copse of fruit trees along one side and a lush garden with carefully labelled rows of vegetables. Along the other are two stand alone buildings. One, a much smaller version of the cottage which Clint assumes must be the guest house, the other a large garden shed.
“They’re leaving us their riding mower,” Patrick says as they survey the greenery. “We wrote it into the purchase agreement. And the furniture in the guesthouse will do for now. They’ve been using it more for storage but there’s a couch with a pull-out sofa and some shelves. I don’t know if we’ll use it for guests anyways.” He shoves his hands into his pockets again, but it’s not uncomfortable this time, and they begin to walk toward the out buildings. “David asked if I’d mind if he used it as a studio. He wants to get back into drawing and says I’m too distracting.”
“I didn’t know David was an artist,” Clint says. He knew David managed the creative side of their business, and he certainly had an eye for design and fashion, far beyond Clint’s limited understanding.
“Yeah,” Patrick says with another one of those happy, dreamy smiles. “He’s really good. You should ask him to show you some of his sketches one day.”
“Hmm. Maybe I will,” Clint says, cupping his hands against the window of the guest house to take a peek inside. It’s dusty and the meagre furnishings are covered in sheets. But it’s a good space. “He’ll get good light in here in the mornings.”
They keep walking, finally catching up to Marcy and David who are waiting for them on a bench in the small orchard.
“You get the grand tour?” Marcy asks as they approach. Clint nods. He sees David take note of Patrick’s still slightly ruddy face, watches as he moves to stand beside Patrick, shoulder to shoulder.
“I did indeed,” he says amiably. “You boys sure picked a beautiful spot.”
“Well, this… this was all Patrick,” David replies softly, and there’s no mistaking the pure love and adoration in his eyes as they linger on Patrick. “He did this for us. And I’m… I still can’t believe that in a few weeks we’ll get to live here.” He reaches out a hand to gently rub at Patrick’s shoulder, pet at his neck. Patrick’s lips turn down in that upside down smile that he gets from his mother, and his cheeks flush pink with the weight of all that love.
“Babe…that’s not true. Y-you…we both did this.”
“Yeah, but you did it first,” David says, smoothing his hand around to rub tenderly at the back of Patrick’s neck. “I just did it with more flare,” he continues, with a flounce of his hand, earning a laugh.
“Mom, you want a tour of the inside?” Patrick asks, slipping his arm around David’s waist and notching himself into David’s shoulder. Like that spot was made just for him, Clint muses.
Marcy shakes her head. “I’ll wait until you’re moved in and it’s all done up,” she says. “David’s been telling me all about the plans you have for this place. It’s going to be lovely.”
Patrick raises an eyebrow and looks sidelong at his fiancé, who feigns an innocent expression. “Oh. And what plans might those be?”
“I was just explaining my mood board for the living room to your mom,” David replies airily.
“You and your mood boards are going to be the death of me,” Patrick grumbles, albeit with a bit of a dopey, lovesick smile on his face.
“I have my mood boards, you have your spreadsheets. So I’ll thank you not to complain,” David volleys back, pressing a chaste kiss to Patrick’s temple and giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Anyway, you love my mood boards.”
“Mmm… that I do,” Patrick hums happily.
Clint looks over at Marcy, and she grins back at him. “So, um… what kind of trees have you got here?”
“Well, we’re not sure about all of them,” David says, turning to look at what will soon be their fruit trees. “I think that one is plums. And that one is apples. And I know that one is cherries.”
The cherries seem to make David deliriously happy for some reason.
“David used to go to Japan every year to see the cherry blossoms,” Patrick explains. “And they have cherry trees at the botanical gardens nearby, but we’ve never been able to get there to see them. So,” he turns his gaze on David, who is staring up at the fruitless, flowerless tree as though he’s already picturing the blossoms the next spring will bring. “This way, we’ll never miss them.”
Clint watches as David does something that could only be described as a happy little shimmy, his lips tucked between his teeth and his eyes alight with pure joy.
The sun is beginning to go down behind the trees, and a cool breeze sweeps across the yard. Wordlessly, they all turn to head back toward the house.
“We just have to lock up the house and drop the keys back at the realtor’s office,” Patrick says as they reach the back porch. ”Stevie and Mr. Rose should have the BBQ up and running already. We just have to stop by the Cafe to pick up more potato salad, because someone got into it already this afternoon.” Patrick looks pointedly at David who rolls his eyes in response.
“You know my stance on potato salad,” David replies, smoothing a hand over Patrick’s hair. “If I can see it, I can eat it.”
“Mmm,” Patrick hums, narrowing his eyes at his fiancé. His irritation is belied by the corners of his lips. They always did give him away.
“Sounds good, son,” Clint says.
“Honey, let me go lock up,” he hears David say softly. “You take the extra time with your parents.”
“You sure?” At David’s affirmative nod, Patrick smiles. “Thank you,” he replies. Clint watches from the corner of his eye as Patrick takes David’s face gently between his hands and pulls him in for a kiss. “Love you.”
“Love you too.” David waves at Clint and Marcy. “I’ll see you back at the motel.”
“Bye, David!” Clint calls out.
“See you soon, sweetheart!” Marcy says.
As David disappears inside, Patrick turns to his parents. “I’m so glad we got to show you the house while you’re here,” he says. “I know tomorrow and Sunday are going to be pretty crazy, so…”
“It’s beautiful, Patrick,” Marcy assures him. “I can’t wait to see it when you and David have got it all done up.”
“I can see the two of you in there,” Clint adds. “It’s going to be really special. I can already tell.”
Patrick tucks his chin to his chest and moves as if he’s about to stuff his hands deep in his pockets again. He doesn’t, settling instead for putting his hands on his hips and rocking thoughtfully back on his heels. “I, um...it was important to me to show you all this before anyone else. I—“ Clint watches his son frown, deep grooves etched into the space between his eyebrows. “I wanted you to feel included. I hate that I kept so much of my life here—my life with David—from you for so long.”
“Sweetheart,” Marcy says, and she reaches for Patrick’s arm, pulling at his hand and sandwiching it between her own small hands. “We really do understand. Please don’t waste any more time beating yourself up over it. What’s done is done, and we know and adore David now.” She raises a hand to give Patrick’s cheek another pinch. “You two are going to make each other so happy here. I just know it.”
Clint smiles as Patrick sighs and blinks at the wetness forming once again in his eyes. “I, um...thank you.”
Sliding an arm around his son’s shoulders, Clint squeezes him affectionately against his side.
Discovering that Patrick had kept the best and most important part of his life from his parents had stung, to be sure. But he and Marcy had discussed it and decided that they’d spent too much time already on the sidelines of their son’s life to hold on to any lingering hurt. Their son was in love, and was loved so fiercely in return. Clint still gets goosebumps, thinking about David coming to their room at the motel, ready to go to battle for Patrick. His love for their son had been so evident, so palpable, even then. Before they had even seen the two of them together. Clint will be forever grateful to David for loving his son so beautifully. So completely.
They meander slowly back toward the driveway, Marcy grilling Patrick on the itinerary for the following day, even though she already has it memorized. They reach their car, and even though they’re going to see Patrick again in only a few minutes at the motel for the rehearsal and informal BBQ dinner, Marcy hugs him tightly, letting go reluctantly and letting Patrick open the passenger side door for her. Once she is safely inside, Clint pats Patrick’s shoulder.
“See you soon, son,” he says. Just as he’s getting settled in the driver’s seat, David emerges from the front door, pulling it closed and locking it behind himself. Then he’s at Patrick’s side and the two of them raise a hand to wave goodbye.
Clint slides the key into the ignition and buckles his seatbelt. Putting the car into reverse, he glances up one more time to see Patrick tangled in the arms of the man he’s chosen to share his life with. He rests his head on David’s shoulder and shoots his parents a contented smile. Marcy lets out a happy sigh and dabs at her eyes.
“You alright, Hon?” Clint asks and Marcy turns to beam at him.
“I was just thinking...this is everything we always wanted for him, you know?” Clint nods in agreement as he slowly backs down the driveway, one arm hooked around the back of Marcy’s headrest as he turns to glance over his shoulder through the rear window. “But it’s also so much more than I could have ever imagined for him.”
Clint puts the car in drive and steals one last glance at the two figures in the driveway. David leans in and nuzzles his face into Patrick’s hair, pressing a kiss to the crown of his head. If possible, Patrick appears to melt further against David, his face—his entire body—radiating contentment, happiness, love.
Clint can’t help but agree with Marcy.