The next morning
As Patrick woke up, his body had this restful heaviness to it. He hadn’t slept that well in months, and it usually took a few days off with no responsibilities for his mind is able to let him doze without being constantly on alert. Taking a few deep breaths through his nose, he burrowed down into the somewhat heavy pillow for just a moment more. On one inhale, he caught the faint whiff of a deep, spiced scent that eluded his sleepy brain for a moment, conjuring up warm skin, gentle touches, and soft words too mumbled to make out.
Patrick finally let his eyes open to see the beige striped wallpaper and pastoral framed hotel art next to the bed on which he only took up one side. Turning his head, he saw that the other half of the comforter was tucked neatly with the pillow placed on top as if it hadn’t been disturbed at all. Was… was it all just a really intense dream after a long and harrowing year?
Patrick’s semi-conscious mind only had a few moments to panic before he heard a keycard being slid into a door. His door. He jolted up to a sitting position to see that dream return to reality as David walked in, wrapped up in a bulky dark gray sweater with black jeans, perilously holding two plates and a coffee carrier laden with breakfast.
David’s face traveled through a few expressions of warmth and confusion before landing on concern. “Uh, hi,” he walked back over to the empty side of the bed and placed the food on the nightstand, while glancing back at Patrick warily. “Um, are you ok?”
Patrick could only watch David as his brain caught up before he let a grin spread across his face. He reached over for a croissant hanging off the edge of one of the plates.
“I've never been better,” before he shoved half of it in his mouth.
After a breakfast interspersed with making out, which led to David giving the still-naked Patrick the hottest and fastest morning handjob of his life, they both packed up their belongings and let the front desk know they needed the van return to the airport. This time as they stood in the elevator packed with travelers ready to resume their trips, Patrick reached his hand out to take David’s, lacing their fingers together with a squeeze.
Once checked in and updates texted to family and friends, they were finally boarding. While Patrick was forever grateful for his cousin’s passes, they found themselves seated a few rows apart. David, who had spent so much time trying to act aloof much like when he first got on the shuttle bus last night, kept looking over the seat and smiling at Patrick while the rest of the passengers boarded, as if he was afraid Patrick might just up and disappear on him.
Patrick was entertained by how David’s face spoke volumes in his expressions, an eyebrow raise for the lady with the yappy puppy in the carrier, his mouth sliding to the side in annoyed disbelief with the man who insisted his rollercase would fit in the overhead compartment, and an eye roll for the lady complaining that she most certainly had a first class seat, no matter what the computer said.
“Did you not book together?” the elderly women sitting next to Patrick said.
“I’m sorry?” Patrick responded, trying to read David’s lips about something.
“You and your boyfriend. Did you not book your seats together?” she gestured towards David with a nod.
Patrick froze in place.
David Rose, his boyfriend.
It had been just over 12 hours that he even knew David, but he had never heard anything so right. By the time he got his wits together, the kind lady offered to switch seats with David which they thanked her profusely for and they got to lean against each other and talk for the next hour and a half in the air.
Toronto Pearson was overrun with people once they were back on the ground. David had said this morning after they realized they lived about 2 hours apart the same direction from Toronto that he could get them a ride home. With their hands once again locked together, they hurried out into the cold parking garage, David’s brow furrowed as he searched the numbers on the concrete poles.
“Ah, I see her car now. I apologize for any snark from her in advance.”
That is when Patrick finally got to meet Stevie. While they huddled closely in the backseat of the car, she randomly peppered questions at Patrick while they escaped the stop and go traffic surrounding Toronto. Once they hit smoother roads, she left them alone, only for David to promptly doze off on Patrick’s shoulder.
As they approached Bern Hill, David woke up once they exited the highway, his hand gripping Patrick’s thigh tighter the closer they got to Patrick’s parents’ house.
“Uh, Stevie, do you mind maybe pulling off here. I’ve got a gift card you can grab a coffee with?” Patrick indicated towards a quiet plaza with a Tim Horton’s in the front. Stevie looked in the rearview mirror without a word before parking a respectable distance away from the restaurant and any other cars. She took the card from Patrick before hopping out and leaving them be.
There wasn’t much more to say between them, besides making sure for the fifth time that David’s phone saved Patrick’s number, promises for FaceTiming and visiting after Boxing Day, and that Patrick would get them flight passes from his cousin back for January. The rest of the time, Patrick’s hands imprinted themselves on the back of David’s head, his neck, his cheeks to wipe away a few tears, and his jaw while their lips did the rest of the talking without saying a word.
3 months later
“I don’t know how you think that is going to help,” David said as he took a bite out of his grilled cheese seconds after they sat in a booth towards the far end of the dining hall.
“Well it certainly can’t hurt,” Patrick tried to hide his continued amusement at David as he unwrapped his straw and stuck it into his unsweetened iced tea.
“But it’s ‘Cheesy Friday’, Patrick! I can’t believe my boyfriend thinks a side salad is going to balance all of that out. Why bother?!”
“What did you say?” Patrick looked up from shaking pepper on his macaroni and cheese to see David’s eyes widen.
“I said, ‘I think you got way too much marinara for the mozzarella sticks’,” he tried to deflect.
“Huh. I thought it was something about how my boyfriend doesn’t want me to eat this salad. I guess I won’t,” Patrick started to push the bowl to the edge of the table.
“I will have you know that wasting salad is just as incorrect as getting too much marinara,” David got up to slide into Patrick’s side of the booth, bringing his towering plate of food with him.
“We do what we have to do,” Patrick couldn’t hold in his grin anymore before kissing David. His boyfriend.
A year and a half after meeting
“David, are you ready?” Patrick stood by the doorway, his gown and cords draped over his arm.
“Coming, coming,” The lights in the bathroom flicked off and David came back into the main room, his mortarboard already perched on his head. He cut an elegant figure in a black and blue striped suit with crisp white shirt which complemented the gown and hood for his Master’s degree. Patrick couldn’t tear his eyes away from the beauty or pride he had in this man.
David had decided to take a maxed out course load the spring after they met plus an intensive summer session so that he could catch up to finish his Bachelor’s and then be a part of the inaugural cohort for the one year Master’s of Design and Business add-on while Patrick finished his senior year and a lucrative internship in the spring. They had chosen to work hard now to secure their futures, even though it meant weeks apart in the summer as Patrick went home, hours studying both together and alone, and a maturity to know that they both had the same goal in mind and the sacrifice would be worth it.
“Before you say anything, I didn’t want to take the chance of putting this thing on without the benefit of a full mirror or hair products, so I am going like this,” David shoved his phone in his pocket.
“I wasn’t going to mention a thing, except that you look so handsome and that I love you," Mindful of the cap, Patrick leaned up to kiss his boyfriend, looking forward to them leaving school behind and heading towards building something deeper and even more meaningful together. He would always be grateful that he found David here in the most obscure of circumstances, but after a lot of work, they were both ready to stop saying “When” and start saying “Now”.
As they broke the kiss, the look on David’s face indicated he was having similar thoughts. “I love you and you look amazing too, honey. But we better get going before my mother turns the family seating into a Sunrise Bay autograph session.”
They headed out the door of their small off-campus apartment, prepared to take on the world together.
3 years later
Time flies when you are having fun, or working your ass off.
Patrick stood behind the counter, the sun shining through the gleaming windows looking out on the town, their town. They couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.
He watched as David flitted around, turning labels outward, eyeing the color arrangement of the scarves, checking that the holder for the twig pencils wasn’t going to fall over. A monochromatic flash in his zebra print sweater and white jeans, he just never stopped moving.
Patrick should probably be doing something too, but he already looked over the POS system three times, ran a couple of test transactions, and wrote himself a post-it that said “first sale receipt!” and stuck it to the bottom of the screen.
Instead he had time to think of things, like the package that had been delivered to his parents’ house, a long velvet box and four rings. His mom had let him know it had arrived and they were going to discreetly pass it along to him tomorrow when they came by for opening weekend. He was thinking of finally taking David on a hike, with plenty of Marcy’s trail mix to accompany the important question Patrick needed to ask David.
He could also imagine that little cottage on the outskirts of town. David always longingly stared at it when their vendor meetings took them nearby. While they weren’t in a position right now to purchase with the new business, he wanted to make that dream of David’s come true, too. After all, it was David that gave him everything just a few years ago, starting with one look down the dreary aisle of a shuttle bus.
Patrick glanced at his phone. It was time. David had finally stopped moving around, pausing just between the front door and the counter. He turned his head back towards Patrick after taking in the line gathered outside.
“Are we ready to do this?”