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The first time Patrick and David came to visit--that was what you called it now, she was pretty sure, coming to visit, though surely you could also say Patrick brought David home--Marcy might, perhaps, have gone a bit overboard. If you’d opened the freezer to find the pie, the lasagnas, plural, the log of cookie dough, all ready to bake off in a moment so she could feed her sons well without hours away from them? She’d have smiled, a little sheepishly, embarrassed not for her exuberance now but for the thoughtlessness with which she’d conducted Patrick’s childhood, the resulting years she hadn’t been able to be his mother.

After the greetings, she opened the bottle of wine David had brought her while the boys took their things upstairs. Then they came back down and Patrick reached into the cupboard for some glasses and his fingernails were painted a dark and glittering blue.

“That’s very dashing,” she said, a bit of a joke.

He followed her gesture, curled his hands around the glasses. “Oh, yeah, we did them the other night.” He didn’t seem fazed by it. Something he hadn’t hidden from her, she registered, and she felt a small swoop of relief. “Suddenly when we’re watching a sports movie, distractions are acceptable,” he added with a grin.

She chuckled and poured the wine and saved her own reactions for bedtime. Maybe I could have done those things with him, she’d thought in the dark of the end of the cul-de-sac. Then: No, Patrick? As a boy? He never would have-- Then: He might have, if we’d known it was an option. But the kids might have teased him--if we’d known it could be ordinary. She’d lost years in aborted, half-true phone calls, just because she hadn’t imagined.

To Marcy, wanting a girl had been straightforward, had meant something different and more specific than simply wanting another. When she was pregnant with Patrick, far enough along to hope, she’d let herself wander from the baby section of Penney’s into the little girls’, picked up dresses with flowers at the hem and put them back. At Target, on impulse, she’d bought a white baby headband with a big pink flower, and then after Patrick she’d set it aside for the next baby, and after a few years, when they’d agreed to move on, she’d made the practical choice, wrapped the unused headband to give to Clint’s sister Claudia at her shower. And then baby Hannah had become the kind of girl who played with dolls, who took a ballet class at the same time as Patrick’s basketball practice at the rec center, so Marcy drove them both. She’d been the kind of teen who made cookies with her friends, had Marcy help her do her hair for her first school dance because Claudia was hopeless with that sort of thing. A girl. Patrick had baked with her at Christmas, but his friends were always moving, playing, wrestling until they knocked into the dinner table. He’d certainly never shown any interest in ballet classes--though she’d never suggested them. He’d copied Hannah’s little toe-points, serious as he always was about correctness, but basketball was what boys did in the winter, on the nights when they didn’t have hockey. She was sure Patrick had requested basketball, specifically, or at least that she hadn’t signed him up without asking whether he wanted to. The team was full of his friends.

In the same way, she’d thought Patrick’s inattentiveness to his body was just how boys were, the way he’d concentrate for hours on putting together a Lego spaceship from the instructions but she had to keep his hair short because he wouldn’t stand still to have it brushed. A boy wouldn’t have sat in place long enough for nail polish to dry. But David’s mother--who didn’t seem the most attentive, though Marcy was sure she’d done her best--had raised, well, she didn’t know how you’d say it. A boy who painted his nails during a sports movie. She hoped he did it sometimes without Patrick, then milked the my nails are drying excuse for everything it was worth. He deserved to; she doubted Patrick would take full advantage of drying nails.

She sent them off the next day with the other lasagna and a bag of cookies. It was a generous gesture from the boys, driving all the way here when they could only get a day off of work. A peace offering, maybe. Maybe Patrick just wanted his mother.

 

Mrs. Brewer got to the motel early, which David had said would happen. He was still dressing Mom; Alexis was a lot nearer ready to go. She paid attention, okay? When David said “Patrick’s parents are punctual people,” she’d already known that. But it wasn’t like she could tie this bow on her back by herself; that was why people had friends, and staff, and brothers.

The ladies’ lunch had been Mrs. Brewer’s idea. It was cute, sort of charmingly old-fashioned, like Mother’s Day teas. With, like, big Kentucky Derby hats, which other people would wear while Alexis sported a little tiara or something. She could rock a hat, obviously, but not inside. Anyway, David hadn’t been invited, which was perfect because they were going to the bakery in Elmdale where they sold the cake with the chocolate, and he’d wanted to know why he wasn’t invited to lunch, because they were raised in the present, by people who didn’t have lunches for girls only. “Because, David,” she’d said, “this lunch is for girls only.” He’d made a face and told her that if she was going to Elmdale, the least she could do was pick up Patrick’s cufflinks; he’d given her the name of the jeweler, as though there would be more than one. He’d also asked for cake, but Alexis was not ordering cake for him because Alexis was not going to be the one paying for lunch; the moms could work that out between themselves, which was to say, Mrs. Brewer would get it. It was her idea, anyway.

Now she could hear Mom in the next room saying, “Oh, I’m not presentable,” and poor Mrs. Brewer was all alone in there. “Heyyy!” she called, gathering up the ends of the ribbon, “could you come help me with my bow?” She gestured behind her back, but when Mrs. Brewer came up and took the ribbon from her, she stood still as a doll. That had been a very important part of her training as a Gap Kids model, how to stand still and let herself be dressed, and it had never failed her. “Usually I make David do this,” she said by way of conversation. Mrs. Brewer stepped away, and she turned before the mirror. “Oh, great! Thank you! But he is otherwise occupied.” She leaned in conspiratorially; making somebody feel like they were in on a secret was one of the fastest ways to get them to like you. “He gave us all a speech before you came about being punctual. But, well.” There was only so much you could do with Mom. “Don’t take it personally. One time when I was like five I had a nightmare, and Adelina wasn’t there because she went back to her kids after bedtime, and David was at a sleepover with Frankie Muniz, which was a really tragic friendship for him, honestly, Frankie was like two and a half years younger, and this was when he was like ten.” Mrs. Brewer was very short, enough that it made it kind of weird to talk to her; Alexis sat on the edge of her bed. “So anyway, I had to go to our parents’ room, which was all the way in a different wing of the house, you know, and her side of the bed was closer to the door, so I woke her up like Mummy, I had a bad dream, and she made me sit in the hall until she was dressed for company.” Once she’d grown up, Alexis had always thought it was a funny story--mean, sure, but very Mom. But Mrs. Brewer was frowning, confused. Maybe she was trying to figure out whether Alexis was joking. Maybe she hadn’t known that this was how Mom was--maybe she hadn’t known that this was a way moms could be. Patrick, Alexis imagined, would always have been invited into bed, soothed with a hand on his back.

Mrs. Brewer recovered herself. “What did she do then? Once she was--dressed.”

“Oh, she came out into the hallway and walked me to the closest guest bedroom, and she got me into bed, you know, and she sat next to me, and she asked me about my dream, and she critiqued its narrative structure.”

Mrs. Brewer’s eyes went wide; her face didn’t seem to know whether to laugh or not.

“Apparently just running away until I woke up didn’t develop real emotional stakes.” Alexis didn’t know why she was saying this. The whole thing wasn’t as funny as it had been. Once, she knew, it had been hilarious. “Then she told me a story,” she said, to make Mrs. Brewer feel better, though the story had turned out to be the plot of a Sunrise Bay episode. Alexis had assumed, obviously, but she hadn’t known for sure until a couple months ago, when she’d started watching the show, after she...had all that free time. “Anyway,” she said. “Thanks for fixing my dress.”

“Oh, it’s no problem,” said Marcy. “Patrick would never sit still for this kind of thing. Don’t tell, but I always wanted a girl.”

Alexis thought about saying she didn’t, tilting her head in at Mom, but she’d already brought the mood down enough.

Alexis had to drive them to lunch. Apparently part of the concept of “ladies’ lunch” was that you had to do it someplace better than the Cafe Tropical, and she was not going to complain about that. Mom sat in the back with her legs across the seat, and Mrs. Brewer sat in front, which meant chatting. They were going the way David had run away, and David was the only one of them Mrs. Brewer had any reason to actually care about, though she obviously liked Alexis already. But anyway, she told the story about when David ran away, this same direction, not too long after they came here. “Way before Patrick got to town,” Alexis clarified, because Mrs. Brewer seemed sad about the story, and Alexis thought it was a pretty good one. “He ran away,” Mrs. Brewer said, and she looked back at Mom, but Alexis knew Mom would still have her eyes closed, though she wouldn’t be leaning her head on any part of the inside of the car, not when they were still on their way out and her hair was freshly done.

“We found him,” Alexis reassured her, though that was kind of obvious, from the fact that he was here.

 

The restaurant wasn’t much by their former standards, the standards to which she intended to return, but it was a half-star above their current accustomed fare. Moira ordered a bellini immediately and was appropriately engaged when Marcia asked about her impending remotion. It was only polite, after all, to engage the in-laws. Moira rather fancied the idea of being the sort of star who remained on good terms with such quotidian relatives. So she talked about how she’d been cast over Clifton’s objections, how Nicky Kidman would be joining to bring new life to their practiced routine, the city pleasures she was looking forward to that she hadn’t encountered since they were all unceremoniously abandoned in this veritable wasteland, where she had not encountered a kouign amann even once.

Marcella gave a soft smile--she was about to say something sincere, Moira could feel it. She was right. “You’ve been so lucky, though, to spend this much time with your kids.” There was a melancholy to the statement. Since Moira had never driven her children away, she wasn’t quite able to relate. But if she found herself needing to play such a feeling of self-imposed loss, she would be able to recall Pat’s mother.

“Oh, sure,” she said generously. “We’ve certainly never spent this much time together before. It’s been good to get to know them. I’m quite fond of them both. But now Alexis is off on her own professional escapades.”

So Margo asked, and Alexis gave the details. Of course, sure, she was nervous to leave her family after all this time, but she was bolstered by their time together and pleased to escape the small-town drudgery, and who didn’t love New York? Besides which, Alexis had serious work lined up. “She made quite a stunt of my premiere,” Moira mentioned.

“Oh, yes,” Mercy said politely, “I heard about that.”

“Honestly, it’s a lot like this one time in Buenos Aires,” Alexis told her. “I was down there with Klair and Albany and Jitney because that’s where Albany’s plastic surgeon lives, and she has needed, like, a lot of work, poor thing. And Klair met this guy who was having a party on his yacht, and she wanted us all to come too, since we were there together, but I’d met this guy who was having a party in the jungle and we were all getting there on his helicopter, and honestly, especially after my experiences with David Geffen, I just feel like yachts are, I mean, no offense, but they’re kind of for old people. And Klair was really mad that I was leaving her, but I was just like, no, babe, this time I have to go off on my own.” Alexis put a hand to her heart. “Anyway, it turned out there were only three of us getting on the helicopter, so I was like no, thank you, because either he’s just trying to kidnap us or that is going to be a really boring party. And he got, like, really mad about it, and he had this security guy--they all have security guys,” she clarified for Marseille, “and it’s very annoying because you usually can’t pay them off unless they want to leave the country, and sometimes you can seduce them, but the girls I was with were, like, not up to the challenge. So I ended up having to drug the guy, and I was just really nice to the security guys, and I helped them break their handcuffs so they could pretend we’d escaped ourselves.” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, Klair said the party they went to was really boring, which, duh, like I said about yachts, so I made the right choice in the end.”

“Of course you did,” Moira said approvingly. She hadn’t heard the story before, but Alexis was impressively capable. Conscious of her talents and limitations. It was well done, and it was good for a girl to have her mettle tested on occasion.

“That’s a lot to handle,” Margaret suggested.

“Oh, it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t even have to call David.”

“David?” said Maris. 

“Yeah, sometimes I had him send me, like, cash, Brazilian passports, colored contacts, you know.”

Oh, dear, Moira thought. “Is that why my colored contact lenses were never anywhere to be found?”

“Ew, Mom, they touch your eyes, I don’t think he was sending me used ones.”

“Mine weren’t used!”

“They were used! By you!”

Alexis had some commission from David to attend to, and Moira was still nursing her third bellini. “It’s not too crowded,” Patrick’s mother observed. “I don’t think we need to turn the table.” She flagged down a server for the check. Moira contemplated making a halfhearted feint for it; she contemplated simply paying it. There was a certain pleasure to be taken from the role of the benevolent fairy godmother. But--a ladies’ lunch. The very idea was like something out of the small-town memories she’d tried to repress.

“She’s lovely,” said Maggie. Probably one of those women who didn’t know how to talk about anything but their children. She had probably dreamed of grandchildren--Moira hoped she knew about David. Still, she was quite right. “So self-possessed.”

“Yes,” Moira could agree. “David was always mine. He took any time I could give him. Not that Alexis was John’s. She was just hers.” It was how she had thought of herself, relative to Dee Dee and their parents, but she wasn’t just projecting. “When she got old enough to start sneaking out, I’m told it cost a veritable mint in overtime. But you can’t let an eight-year-old wander the streets of Los Angeles alone! Inconceivable, what might befall her.”

Maurice blinked; Moira returned her attention to her cocktail, such as it was. But she was not to be left to her leisure. “I always wanted a girl.”

Moira looked up at her. Oh, it was clear as day. “You wanted more children.”

She nodded, with that frankness people have when they’ve learned that a hurt won’t be healed. “But we--accepted that it wouldn’t happen.” She looked at Moira like this might form a kinship between them. But Moira had enough trouble with the two children she had; she didn’t have energy or reason to join in Marnie’s tragedy. “Left the church, though. We’re Catholic; I couldn’t take it.”

Moira gave a knowing mm. Her reasons for leaving the church had had much more to do with simply not wanting to attend, but still, there was a sort of kinship.

“That part was probably for the best, in the end,” Marla continued. She shrugged, ready to move on. “Everyone has hopes that don’t pan out, you know.” Moira had outgrown dashed hopes; she was offer only now. But she understood the sentiment. “And Patrick was--busy. Always going. So alive!”

Definitely the sort of parent with nothing else to talk of. But Moira could offer her a little help. “David was barely alive,” she said. “I didn’t even make it to seven months.” This kind of parent, she imagined, would love and hate hearing about a premature birth. It was a tragedy Marcia could understand. She talked for an audience. “I always wanted two until I had him. Two boys. David and Alex. But after the--exertion of that first child-bearing, I thought, no, one was enough!” She sipped her drink. “I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen--he looked--” this part was true-- “he looked like he was going to die. And we didn’t have as much money back then. We had to do it ourselves.” She gulped the rest of her drink and waved the story away. “But by the time Alexis came along, the staff ran like clockwork.”

Marcia nodded sympathetically. “It must have been terrifying,” she said. “I can’t imagine.”

“Well, when that sort of thing happens, they give you all kinds of pills. You know, I managed to keep some of those prescriptions right up until we were forced from our home.”

“I’m sure you’re going to miss them.”

“The pills?” She certainly had, but that was years ago. “Oh, the children. Well, David has chosen to remain, and while I must acknowledge it as his prerogative, I couldn’t possibly join him. And Alexis will be nearby, really, just in New York.”

“Aren’t you moving to Los Angeles?”

“Yes, exactly.”

Alexis, God bless her, just stood by the table when she finally returned from her escapade. Moira linked her elbow into Alexis’ and got a hissing in her ear for the trouble: “You didn’t have to look that relieved.”

“I was just glad to see you, dear.”

 

“You’re Patrick’s mom!” It was the kind of responsibility she’d taken on when she married the future mayor, to welcome people with a connection to the town. Patrick’s parents seemed very nice, the kind of people who would have made Patrick. She recognized her from the party, of course, but also Patrick’s parents were the only people not from town who were standing out here in the rain. 

“Marcy Brewer.” She smiled indulgently as she held out her hand. Of course she was happy to be recognized as Patrick’s mom, on the day of her son’s wedding.

“Jocelyn Schitt.”

Marcy recognized her name, but she didn’t say anything. Maybe Patrick and David had told her about the time Jocelyn tried working at the store.

“I guess this wasn’t the day you were expecting,” Jocelyn continued, gesturing around them at the rain.

“No,” Marcy said, chuckling and shaking her head. “Not the day I was expecting at all. But it’s nice to see so many people turning out to help. Have they decided where we’re moving to?”

Patrick came up just then. “Hey, Mom,” he said. “Jocelyn.” But he turned his attention to his mother. “We’re moving to the town hall,” he told her. He looked amused, but not nearly as nervous as Jocelyn had felt on the day of her wedding--certainly not as nervous as she’d feel today if she had to be the one to tell David he was now getting married in the Schitt’s Creek town hall. “Ronnie’s going to get a lot of flowers delivered over there, and if you want to help, that might be the right place? You know what David likes.” Marcy’s smile just grew. “But you definitely don’t have to, if you need to go--get ready, or whatever. We’ve got a lot of people here to help us.”

“I can pitch in for a while,” Marcy said. “You’re the one who needs to get ready.”

Patrick ducked his head, bashful. “I have to call the DJ and a few other people, but then I’m updating David and making myself pretty, I promise.”

Marcy patted his cheek. “All right,” she said. “Jocelyn can show me to the town hall?” She turned, made it a question. Jocelyn nodded. “See you in a little while, sweetie.”

Patrick made a perfect mom, you’re embarrassing me face; Marcy just laughed. “Do you have any kids?” she asked Jocelyn.

“Two boys. One about Patrick’s age, and a little miracle baby.”

“Oh,” said Marcy, “how old?”

“Eighteen months.” 

She was sure Marcy would be comparing herself with Jocelyn, thinking how odd it would be to have a toddler just now, realizing how young she must have been when Mutt was born. But what she said, just the casual conversation of the day, was, “Your older son, is he married?”

“No! Oh, God, no!” She couldn’t imagine. “I mean--I would be very surprised.”

“You don’t talk much?” Marcy said it gently.

“Every few weeks,” Jocelyn said. “But just me and him. He--chose a different life than my husband expected.”

“He didn’t take it well?”

“He has a hard time accepting that it’s not something we did. It’s just how Mutt is. You know?”

“I do,” Marcy said kindly.

Oh, that could have been insulting, Jocelyn realized. “Of course you do. You get along so well with Patrick.”

“We’re very glad he’s happy here,” Marcy told her. Jocelyn couldn’t quite tell why, whether it was a kind of thanks or a kind of confession.

“Well,” Jocelyn said, “he is a very good citizen. Here we are, this is the town hall.”

They stepped out of the way to let Ray and Ronnie carry the last desk down to Ronnie’s truck. Inside, Alexis was directing Bob in the hanging of some kind of fabric--“Oh,” said Bob, “Ray uses it for his photography business”--over the back of something Jocelyn was pretty sure didn’t qualify as a chuppah, but she was not an expert. It definitely wasn’t in the town hall most of the time.

“I’d better text Clint and tell him where to meet us,” Marcy said, and Jocelyn went to join Lena in setting up chairs from the supply closet. There were marks on the floor for an aisle. Jocelyn saw Marcy go to Alexis for instructions, but then the flowers arrived, and people were getting up on ladders to hang them and placing bouquets and she didn’t talk to Marcy again until the reception.

“It was a nice wedding,” said Jocelyn.

“Yeah.” Marcy smiled. “It’s good to see him celebrate.”

Then Alexis, dragging Moira behind her, reached for Marcy. “Come dance!” she said. Marcy seemed to make a token effort to look put-upon, and she turned back to Jocelyn, but Jocelyn said, “Go!” Everybody should get to dance with their family at a wedding. They crowded Patrick and David on the middle of the dance floor, and Marcy took Patrick’s hand, and she danced.