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Don't Write Me Off

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June

Patrick got out of the water, noticing little bumps lining down his arms. He was cold. The lake had been especially refreshing, but the sun would warm him up rather quickly. He looked in his backpack and found a bottle of sunscreen. His mom always told him he had to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours so he wouldn’t ruin his “perfect porcelain skin”. He wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but either way, he knew she was right remembering the baseball game he missed after a sunburn a month ago. He had spent the day in bed, resting, which was no fun when your team had just qualified for the playoffs. After that incident, he stopped fighting his mother by wearing a rash guard when out in the sun.

Rachel, his best friend, came running toward him. “Paddy, why did you get out of the water?”

Rachel stood right over him with her hands on her hips, her long auburn hair flowing in the breeze. She was cute, with little freckles that lined her nose and parts of her cheeks. All the boys thought so. She didn’t pay any attention to them if Patrick was in her presence.

“I wanted to get out.” Patrick sat up on his elbows. “Hey, let’s go get some ice cream? My mom gave me some money.”

Rachel nodded with a smile. They finished drying off, gathered their belongings, and got onto their bikes, pedaling down the street toward the ice cream shop.

“I’ll race you,” Rachel shouted as she gained speed.

Patrick started pedaling faster as he sped right past her. He looked back and laughed.

Rachel lived down the street from Patrick, and their moms were good friends. Patrick and Rachel had been inseparable since they were old enough to walk. Her family went to most of Patrick’s baseball games and Patrick’s parents went to most of Rachel’s softball games.

They went back to Rachel’s house after ice cream a little while later. Patrick crashed down on Rachel’s bean bag chair. He looked over and found a magazine on her nightstand within arm’s reach. He picked it up and started flipping through page after page. The magazine cover was full of pictures of all kinds of people, maybe singers or actors? Patrick took a peek while Rachel was helping her mom with the dishes. As he scrolled through, he found a page called, “The Penpal Connection.” It was a page listing names of people, their interests, and their addresses. Patrick glanced through all the names and their locations, stumbling upon this person, David Rose, from New York City. Patrick found a piece of paper and wrote down his address. Patrick had been watching the New York Yankees on tv and hoped this boy would be into baseball even if his listing didn’t state such. He wanted to hear all about the Yankees. They were playing well this year and would likely make the playoffs. Patrick tucked the piece of paper into his pocket as Rachel entered the room.

“Paddy, let’s play Yahtzee,” Rachel demanded more than asked.

Rachel and Patrick had a lot of fun together, but she really could be bossy. Most of the time Patrick just let it go and did what she wanted because he really loved to spend time with her. They had so much in common, but now he just wanted to go home and write David a letter, hoping he would write back.

“I’m going to head home, Rach.” Patrick got up to stand.

“Paddy, it’s not even dinnertime.” Rachel stood in front of him, crossing her arms over her shoulders.

“I know, but I just want to go home.”

“Please Paddy, please? Just one game of Yahtzee?” Rachel begged, batting her eyelashes at him.

“Okay, okay. One game and then I’m heading home.” Patrick compromised as he always had trouble saying no to her.

“Thank you, Paddy!!” Her eyes lit up, and she opened her closet to pull out the game.

He stuck to his guns and only played one game, eager to go home and send David a letter.

When he got back home, his parents weren’t home from work just yet, so he’d have a few minutes to sit down and write.

By the time Patrick finished, his mom was home from work. He walked down the hall toward the kitchen, where she was working on dinner. It smelled so good. Patrick and his buddies always talked about how they dreaded dinnertime because their parents would force them to eat whatever was on their plate. That was the rule in the Brewer household, but Patrick liked everything his mom cooked. She was an excellent cook and sometimes would let Patrick help in the kitchen.

“What’s for dinner, mom?” Patrick asked, surveying the pots and bowls covering the stovetop and counter.

“Barbeque chicken with potato salad and corn on the cob sound okay?”

Patrick nodded. “Can I help with anything?”

His mom always made the best potato salad, not too much mayonnaise, plus she made barbeque sauce from scratch. Mrs. Brewer made the best BBQ sauce.

“I just peeled the potatoes, would you like to cut them up into small cubes?”

Patrick nodded and pulled a cutting board out of the drawer. Patrick hesitated for a moment, but knew he needed to tell his mom about David. He wasn’t sure where to find stamps. It probably wasn’t hard to locate them, but she typically got the mail so if David wrote back, she’d see the letter and likely ask Patrick about him.

“Mom, I need a stamp.”

“Oh, and what for, dear?” Marcy looked down at Patrick as she was cutting up celery for the potato salad.

“I want to mail a letter to David. He lives in New York and I wanted to ask him about the Yankees.” Patrick was speaking quicker than he could think.

“Who is David?”

“I found this pen pal page in one of Rachel’s magazines.”

“He likes the Yankees?”

“Mom, he lives in New York City. Everyone loves the Yankees.”

Marcy laughed. “Oh, my sweet boy. Remind me to grab you a stamp after dinner and we’ll put it in the mailbox.”

“Thanks, mom!” Patrick grinned. He would’ve run over and given his mom a hug if his hands weren’t covered in potatoes.

++++++

David had been sitting quietly in his bedroom at his desk drawing, sketching a landscape. A serene place that he didn’t think existed, but he wanted to find. Something away from all the noise of the city.

David’s family lived in a mansion outside of the city with everything a child could want. A home movie theater, tennis courts, swimming pools, basketball courts, a golf course to name a few things.
David had a huge obsession with romantic comedies, so he used the home theater often. He liked to swim also so he used the indoor pool when it was cooler outside and the outdoor pool in the summer. Both pools were Olympic sized.

He wanted for nothing. His mother kept him styled in all the up-and-coming designers, and if he wanted anything else, all he had to do was ask and his parents provided for it. He should’ve been happy, but he wanted more than material things. He craved love and understanding. Something he struggled to find in his own home.

His parents were away more than they were home. If his dad wasn’t off traveling around the country for Rose Video and his mom for Sunrise Bay, they were off vacationing in Europe or somewhere tropical. At least he had Adelina, who also managed the house. It was Adelina who hugged and kissed him goodnight, Adelina who greeted him after school, Adelina who would try to help with homework. He loved her so much, even though he really craved this attention from his mother. David’s father was an avid sports fan with season tickets to the New York Yankees and the New York Jets. He’d try to tell David it was more for entertaining clients, but David knew better. Deep down his father loved sports. Something David couldn’t relate to at all. He had no interest in them whatsoever.

David was working on a drawing when he heard a knock at the door. He turned around and found Adelina standing in the doorway with a smile on her face.

“Mijo, can I come in?”

David nodded as he continued to draw. He felt her presence over his shoulder, just watching him, which she did from time to time. She had become a fan of his artwork and framed a few of David’s drawings or paintings in her own room, just like any proud parent.

“Is this a special place?” She asked softly.

“Someplace quiet and peaceful. A place that doesn’t exist.” David looked up over his shoulder. David spotted an envelope in her hand. “What’s the letter in your hand?”

“Oh, this came in the mail for you. Who is Patrick Brewer?” Adelina asked, furrowing her eyebrow.

Adelina handed the envelope to David, and he studied it for a moment. It was from Elm Glenn in Ontario, Canada. David was intrigued. He tore open the envelope, carefully trying to avoid a paper cut. The envelope revealed a hand-written letter. David just glanced at the bottom and saw the word, “pen pal.”

David had been waiting for someone to write to him, anyone, really. He thought for sure that when people saw his name in the magazine that everyone would want to be friends with David Rose, but then again, David’s parents worked very hard to keep him and his sister out of the spotlight. Away from the paparazzi. Maybe most kids thought he was just some kid with the last name Rose. No one except Adelina had known that David put his name in the magazine, so when he didn’t get a letter from anyone after a few months, he cried on Adelina’s shoulder. Except now someone wanted to talk to David.

“Someone finally wrote to me, Adelina. I have a pen pal!” David exclaimed, as he couldn’t hide the smile he felt crossing his face.

“Oh, that’s so exciting, Mijo. What does the letter say?”

David read the letter and felt his face fall as most of the letter talked about baseball. David knew nothing about baseball. His father persuaded him to try little league when he was younger, but that didn’t last after one too many balls to the face. He even tried to watch a Yankees game with his father once and that seemed worse than waiting for his facial mask to harden. Baseball was too slow. David just didn’t have the patience for it. Not that he watched basketball, hockey, or football. He had no use for team sports. He just didn’t do well with group work, especially despising team projects at school.

Adelina rested a soft hand on David’s shoulder and asked, “Mijo, what’s wrong?”

“We have nothing in common.” David crumpled up the letter and threw it across the room. It was almost like the disappointment had settled back in. David didn’t have many friends, so he had hoped he’d make some kind of connection with a pen pal.

Adelina walked over to the corner of the room and picked up the piece of paper, and read the letter to David.

Dear David,

My name is Patrick, and I'm 11 years old.

I stole my best friend's magazine and found your name. You live near the Yankees. That’s so cool.

I hope you're still looking for a pen pal. I want to hear about baseball. It must be so cool to watch the Yankees play.

Do you like summer? I like to go fishing with my dad or swimming in the lake with my friends. What do you like to do?

Do you play sports? I like baseball and hockey.

Hope you write back!

Your New Penpal,

Patrick

“He plays baseball and hockey. He’s not into music or art. Dad would probably love him.” David rested his elbows on the desk and rested his face in his hands.

Adelina knelt down next to him and removed his hands, turning his face toward her. “You don’t know what this boy likes. It’s only one letter. Tell him what you like, you might be surprised. He wrote to you, Mijo. You should at least respond.”

David nodded, and Adelina kissed David’s cheek and left the room. David knew she was right. Maybe he should give Patrick a chance.

David sat down at his desk to write a response and turned on one of his Mariah Carey’s Daydream CD.

+++++

July

It was a warm summer day in Ontario and Patrick had just come back from the lake with some friends. He parked his bike in the garage. He checked the mailbox. It had been a couple of weeks since he had written to David. He didn’t know how long it would take David to write back or if he would write back, but he hoped.

Patrick opened up the mailbox, emptying its contents to find a letter from David. He settled himself on the porch swing on the farmer’s porch outside his parent’s house.

Patrick loved to just sit outside and swing, rocking back and forth. The gentle sway always calmed Patrick after a rough game, or maybe a fight with his parents. Not that Patrick fought with his parents, but he was 11 now and would soon be a teenager. Sometimes they just didn’t give him the independence he wanted.

Patrick tore open the envelope from David.

Dear Patrick,

So I'm not sure that we're off to a good start if you're already stealing things. So you might want to think about that. I'm not sure that your mom would like that you're stealing things, but anyway, I'll let it slide because we just met.

I'm David, but you know that already. I'm 13 years old and I live here in New York City. I live with my mom and dad who are never around and my younger sister who is very annoying. Do you have any brothers or sisters?

You like the baseball? My dad goes to the baseball performances for some team that he has season tickets for or something. I can’t remember the name of the team, but he’s always there for work, I think. I don’t really know. I don’t like sports.

I like to draw and paint. We have a gigantic pool, so I swim a lot too

Thanks for writing!
Your Penpal,

David

Patrick started thinking about what he knew about his new pen pal. He knew he was older. He didn’t seem interested in baseball. David liked music, though. Patrick unlocked the door to his house and sat down at the desk in his room, pulling out a piece of paper and a pencil. Patrick turned on the radio as “Wonderwall” was playing. Patrick loved music. Maybe they had other things in common? He certainly hoped so.

++++

David was taking in the sites in downtown Paris. He was on a mission to find a postcard. It wasn’t long after he sent Patrick’s letter that his parents swept him off to Europe on a summer vacation. David worried about missing one of Patrick’s letters and then not responding. The last thing David wanted was to ruin this possibly new friendship. Isn’t that what a pen pal was? A friend? David thought about bringing Patrick’s address with him and sending him a postcard from every place he visited, but David worried that would be a little weird too soon. Instead, he collected postcards while he was traveling, thinking he might send them to Patrick later.

On his way back to the hotel his family was staying at, he stopped by a cafe and picked up a cafe au lait and a chocolate eclair because if he was going to spend time in Paris; he was going to enjoy the sweets. He wondered what kind of food Patrick liked. He wasn’t sure why he thought about Patrick. They had exchanged one letter, but that didn’t change David’s mind about wanting to know more about his new friend. He’d ask about food because food was very important to David. Maybe it was important to Patrick too.

When David walked back into the hotel room, his mother greeted him.

“David dear, there you are! Where have you been?” She looked at him sternly, but there was something in her eyes that David hadn’t seen before. Was it worry?

“Out. I was out-side.” David managed.

“Yes, dear, obviously. Where did you meander off to in this big city?” She insisted as her gaze never left David.

David wasn’t used to this much focus on him from his mother. He wasn’t sure if he liked it or not.

“Um, I picked up some postcards at one shop down the street.” David shrugged his shoulders.

“Oh, how quaint. And what do you plan to do with these postcards?” His mother’s face softened, her voice sounding more fond, which was new.

“Send them to people?”

His mother let out a slight laugh. “Cute.” She sat down on the couch in their hotel suite and signaled David to come over, “Come sit.” She patted the seat next to her. “Do you know what’s next week?”

“Fashion Week of course. Maybe we could go shopping?” David asked, hoping for some time with his mother. He knew there would be all kinds of opportunities to shop with fashion shows all over town.

“How would you like to accompany me to one of these fashion gal-as?”

“Really?” David asked, hardly able to contain his excitement.

He and his mother had several conversations about fashion week in Paris in the past. David knew one day he wanted to go. His mother had taken him to a few fashion week events in New York, but being in Paris was on a whole new level.

“Yes, I got two tickets, and I’d love to take you. I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like with my eldest child.”

David jumped into his mother’s arms. Finally, he had a reason to be so far away from home. Finally, his mother made time for him. Just him and her. He couldn’t have asked for more at this moment.

++++++

August

Patrick parked his bicycle next to the mailbox, and Rachel stopped next to him. He had made it a daily ritual to check the mailbox. He had never been so interested in mail before since he wrote to David.

“Whatcha looking for?” She asked curiously as Patrick opened up his mailbox.

“I was looking for a letter, but it doesn’t look like it's here.” Patrick replied, not trying to hide the disappointment in the tone of his voice.

It had been a busy summer. Patrick’s family had gone camping with Rachel’s family several times. Patrick had met up with groups of friends at the lake several times and he had even joined a summer baseball league just for something to keep him busy. And as busy as he was, he still found himself disappointed day after day that he hadn’t received a letter back from David. He had only received one letter, but he really liked this penpal thing. The excitement of opening up his mailbox to find a letter just for him.

“Do you have a penpal or something?” Rachel asked with a little laugh.

“And what if I did?” Patrick turned around and got back on his bike, riding it down his driveway.

Rachel followed.

“Didn’t your mom tell you never to talk to strangers?”

“He isn’t a stranger if I know who he is and besides, it’s fun to open up your mailbox and get mail.” Patrick got off his bike and parked it in his parent’s garage.

“Okay, yes, but I’m not sure I’d want to write to a stranger.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter now. I don’t think I’ll hear from him again.”

+++++

David had spent most of the day unpacking, neatly placing his clean knits back in his luxurious walk-in closet. When he was younger and he wanted to hide from his parents, he’d grab a blanket and a pillow and fall asleep in his closet. It had become a private space for him. His own little room that he could hide inside of his room. Not that he didn’t love his bedroom, but his closet had become a place where he kept some of his most prized possessions, his clothes. He was very excited to hang the pieces his mother had purchased for him in Paris in his closet.

It had actually been a better summer than David had expected. David got a taste of celebrity life while in Paris. His parents let him attend glamorous parties with beautiful people and delicious food. Never many children in attendance at these parties, but the few that were there always made David feel welcome. He had more fun in Europe than he did back home, probably because he experienced so much more than he probably should have at his age. David wasn’t sure if kids experimented more in Europe or he just hadn’t found the right crowd in New York. He hoped it was the latter.

When he finally put everything away, he wanted to lie down and take a nap. The jet lag kicked in. He changed into a comfy pair of sweats when his stomach growled. He made his way down to the kitchen and found a stack of mail on the kitchen table. His curiosity got the best of him, so he looked and sorted through the mail until he found a letter.

Patrick wrote to him. He looked at the postmark. It was dated July 7th. David sorted through the pile just to make sure there was nothing else. He grabbed a couple of cookies out of the fridge and some milk and went back upstairs to his room. He immediately sat down against an empty wall in his closet. He wanted to read Patrick’s letter with no distractions.

Dear David,

I didn’t steal the magazine, but can you keep a secret? I did steal a pack of gum from my mom a couple of years ago. Don’t tell anyone.

I love baseball. One of these days I want to see the Yankees play the Jays at Yankee Stadium. Maybe you can meet me there. You never told me if you liked baseball, but since you call baseball games, performances and you don’t like sports, you probably don’t like baseball.That’s okay. I have some friends who don’t like baseball and they’re pretty cool.

You said you like art and music. I love music. I’m taking piano lessons weekly. What kind of music do you like? I’m listening to “Wonderwall” by Oasis right now. It’s a good song.

I don’t have any brothers or sisters. It can get lonely sometimes. You’re lucky you have a sister.

Write back soon!

Your Penpal,

Patrick

David had a lot of thoughts about this letter, but the one standing out in his mind was the fact that Patrick had written back. Patrick wanted to talk to David. It was more than he thought he got from any of his other friends. David knew this could be fun and thought he could take this on as a personal project. One where he could reform Patrick’s musical tastes, because “Wonderwall”, really?

David got up out of his closet and sat down at his desk as he wrote Patrick back, hoping he wouldn’t be too upset with David for taking almost a couple of months to write back.

+++++

September

The first day of school had come and gone. It was Patrick’s last year at the elementary school. He was one of the big kids now, which meant everything was going to get harder. More homework, more studying and possibly less time for friends, which meant he’d have to pick up another sport. Hockey would start in a couple of months, but he wanted something to fill his time. He had never run track before and thought that it could be fun.

“Anyone doing track?” Patrick asked, munching on chicken nuggets during lunch.

“You aren’t playing hockey this year?” George, one of his friends, asked.

“Oh, I am. I just thought it would give me something to do. I want to skate faster on the ice.”

“You’re the fastest player on the team!” Michael chimed in.

“I want to be better.”

Patrick’s parents had always pushed him to do better. To be better. They were very proud of him, but always encouraged him to keep working.

Patrick had the time and wasn’t worried about his grades in school. He was already getting straight A’s, and as much as he enjoyed spending time with Rachel, she had become a little extra clingy lately. Patrick wasn’t sure why. They had most of their classes together and they walked home from school together when Patrick wasn’t at a meet or practice. He definitely spent a lot of time with her. More than any of his friends, actually. His buddies at school had teased him about Rachel being his girlfriend, but the thought had never crossed this mind. The more he had thought about it, he hadn’t been interested in any of the girls at school as more than a friend, including Rachel. He wasn’t too worried about it. He was more into sports right now. He wasn’t worried about impressing any of the girls.

Patrick got home from school, he walked into his parent’s kitchen to grab a snack and found a note on the table letting Patrick know his mother would be home soon. He looked down next to the note and found a pile of mail. Right on top of the pile was a letter from David.

It had been a couple of months and Patrick certainly didn’t think David was going to write back. Patrick sat down at the table and opened the letter.

Dear Patrick,

Sorry, it’s taken me a while to write back. My parents took me and my sister to Europe for the summer. It was a lot of fun and I met alot alot of people. My mom took me to fashion week, and I got new clothes. I brought back some postcards that I could send you.

You play the piano? That is good. My mother wishes I’d play the piano, but I’d rather draw.

So while I draw I listen to music and I have to say that if we’re going to be friends, please don’t reference “Wonderwall” in a letter to me again. I may not write you back. :) Might I suggest Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey?

My sister isn’t always so bad. She’s just annoying at times, but I might miss it if she wasn’t around. I’m sorry that you are an only child.

Did you go back to school? I go back next week.

I hope you aren’t too upset that I didn’t write back.

Write me back soon!

Your Penpal,

David

+++++

October

“David, we’re going to be late.”

“Just a minute,” David shouted back to his father. He wanted to give his hair one more once over before they left the house, pleased with his outfit for the evening. David had lined himself in head to toe black for the evening, including his back high tops.

David had never stepped foot inside a baseball stadium, but since Patrick, he wanted to know what all the fuss was about. It mattered to him and it mattered to his dad, so he figured why not? David and Patrick had exchanged a couple more letters. The Yankees were now in the playoffs and Patrick had so much to say about baseball. David was pretty sure it was more to annoy him because by now Patrick understood David did not have any interest in baseball. David would not complain because he enjoyed getting a letter from Patrick even if he rambled on about Derek Jeter’s RBI for a page and a half... what is a RBI?

David rambled about clothes. Patrick almost seemed to pretend that he was interested in everything David had to say, even if he wasn’t. Patrick asked about what kinds of clothes David wore and David sent magazine pictures and a couple pieces he had found on the internet. Patrick would comment on which ones he liked best, and even though it wasn’t likely they would ever meet, David wanted to wear those pieces more often. It reminded him that someone cared about how he dressed, even if that wasn’t entirely the truth. David chose to believe it.

David walked down the stairs and got into his father’s car. His driver, Mr. Jones, was taking them to the ball field.

David had brought a small backpack with him and a notepad. He was due to write Patrick a letter, right? Or did Patrick owe him a letter? Either way, David was going to write Patrick a letter right from the game. It would be a nice surprise for Patrick, David thought.

David got up and started wandering around, inhaling all the sweet and salty fragrances of the various concession stands. It didn’t take long before he sat down at his seat happily munching on popcorn, nachos, cotton candy, french fries, and sausage. He was as happy as a clam sitting there and eating. Patrick had gone on and on about the sport itself, but had left out the most interesting part, the food. Knowing how much food was available at each of these games had David considering going to more games with his dad. Maybe he could learn to like baseball, time with his dad and the food. It was a win-win.

David sat down and ate for a while before starting on Patrick’s letter.

David got home and placed the letter in an envelope to get ready to mail tomorrow. It had become almost therapeutic to ramble to a perfect stranger. He couldn’t do that with his mom and he didn’t always feel comfortable doing so with Adelina, but with Patrick he had no filter. Once he got going, he didn’t stop. Patrick couldn't judge him. He was just a person on the other end of this piece of paper. He could go on and on about how much he loved Mariah Carey and Patrick would either just ignore the subject altogether or indulge him. Hopefully, he wouldn’t stop writing altogether, but that was not his worry for today.

It was getting late, so he got himself ready for bed when his father knocked at the door.

“Hey son, do you mind if I sit down?” Johnny asked with a smile.

David slid over making some room. His mother followed in closely after and sat down on the other side of him.

“What did you think of the game tonight? Great game, huh?” His father asked.

David knew this was his attempt at bonding with him. David didn’t have the heart to tell him that really hadn’t paid as much attention to the game as he had the food.

“I suppose, but I especially liked the food.”

His father laughed. “Does that mean you’ll come to another game with me sometime?”

“I’ll consider it.” David responded matter-of-factly.

“Fair enough. Son, we’ve been noticing you’ve been moping around the house. We’d like to see you join the track team at school. Some kind of sport.”

“You mean like running?” David asked in a much higher tone than he had intended.

“Or hurdles or shot put?” His father tilted his head gently.

“Have you seen me run?” David insisted. His eyebrows shot up at the mere suggestion.

“David dear, you need to be more social with people your own age.” Moira insisted. “You were so engaged with the children on our international sojourn. What caused such a vicissitude?”

David knew what changed. The kids in Paris were much more adventurous, but he wasn’t about to go into those kinds of details with his parents. The drugs, the fooling around. He planned to keep that locked up…at least for now. He somehow suspected those activities weren’t the norm for someone his age.

“Um, I have just enough friends.” David tried to convince himself more than his parents.

“There’s always hockey.” His father shrugged his shoulders.

“Ew! Okay, running is fine, but don’t get mad at me when your club friends talk about your kid who can’t run.” David waved his hands in the air.

“That’s fair David. Get some rest.” His mother dropped a kiss on his cheek as his parents got up and walked out of the room.

David couldn’t help himself and wrote Patrick another letter.

+++++

Patrick had gotten back from an especially long hockey practice to find a couple of letters on this bed. He quickly jumped in the shower and sat down on his bed to read.

Dear Patrick,

You owe me like alot alot of letters right now. I’m not counting or anything… okay, maybe I am.

My Dad wants me to do the running. Help! I think you were doing this or I would know if you’d write back! Tell me about the running!

Your freaking out penpal,

David

Patrick laughed at David’s first letter and opened the second. Patrick had run track. He enjoyed it more than he thought he would, which worked out because it increased his speed on the ice. Hockey season was in full swing and his first game was coming up in another week. Patrick had been so busy that he hadn’t made as much time for David, and it wasn’t that he didn’t want to. Between school, friends, and sports, he just didn’t have as much extra time, but he wanted to make time. It wouldn’t take a lot of time to write David a letter. He could watch one less Power Rangers episode or maybe he’d skip Boy Meets World this week. He wanted to do that. Getting a letter from David was always the bright spot of his day, and he hoped it was the same for David.

Patrick opened the other letter.

Dear Patrick,

You’ll never guess where I’m at tonight. Nope…..try again. Nope….come on, you can do better than that. Ugh! Okay, okay, I’ll tell you. I’m at the Yankee’s show. My dad dragged me here kicking and screaming. I bet you’re watching this on your television? Wait, can you get the Yankees in Canada? My parents want me to take a foreign language in high school so I’m leaning toward French or maybe Spanish.

Anyway, the Yankees are playing the Rangers. I likely won’t pay attention to this game, but I thought you’d like to know I was here. I keep seeing these big screens around the stadium so who knows if I’m on camera. My dad just left me here to hang out. So if you’re watching and you see the kid with the dark, asymmetrical haircut looking strangely out of place, that’s me.

So what sport are you playing now? The hockey or the running? I don’t like running. I just look weird when I run. I’m going to put my notebook down for a bit and I’ll write more later. My tummy is telling me it’s time to eat.

So as you probably know, the Yankees are winning right now, but you didn’t tell me about the food, Patrick. The food! I’m embarrassed to say how much of my father’s money I’ve spent. Nachos, Popcorn, Fried Dough, sausage. I tried all of that. I’m hoping they have a to-go container somewhere.

So enough about baseball, because I’ve gone on about food, one of my favorite things, and baseball, one of yours.

So did you end up listening to Mariah? One of my favorite Mariah songs is “You’ll Always Be My Baby.” I love her so much. You must listen to Mariah. Please report back once you’ve done so. My mom took me to her New York Show last spring. It was so amazing. Have you ever been to a concert?

Well, the baseball game is almost done, and I believe you owe me a letter.

Hope to hear from you soon with confirmation you’ve listened to Mariah.

Your penpal with great musical taste,

David

Patrick looked at the date on the envelope. It was postmarked on October 5th. Just about a couple weeks ago. The Yankees played some good games last weekend and because they were playoff games; he could watch them. Patrick wondered if he saw David on the screen. He likely wouldn’t have been paying that close of attention.

Patrick wondered what David looked like. Could he ask him to send a picture? Was that okay? He didn’t want to make David feel uncomfortable. Maybe at some point he would ask, but for now, he tried to picture a dark-haired boy with an asymmetrical haircut. He couldn't quite picture what that looked like, so he decided to ask his mom about it tomorrow. She knew about David and had encouraged Patrick to keep writing to him as she thought it would be good for his writing skills.

+++++++

November

David had been trying to find a school activity other than track. He didn’t understand why his parents were pushing so hard for him to get involved in school. The kids weren’t very nice, or maybe it was more that he didn’t feel like he fit in. He thought about Paris again. He wondered what 8th grade was like there. He felt so much more comfortable over there. Kids were more open to how people dressed and just more accepting. Maybe he could talk to his parents about shipping him over there. Maybe there was a boarding school he could enroll in. He didn’t hate school, he just didn’t like the people he was surrounded by day after day. He just wanted to feel like he belonged.

As the colder weather approached and the first snowflakes flew, David knew Christmas was just around the corner, which meant lots of holiday parties. The holiday parties would bring a mix of crowds. Some elegantly dressed while others only attended for the free alcohol and delicious food. The best part of the holiday parties was that maybe David would reunite with some of his older friends that he had gotten along with. The friends who had been shipped off to boarding school who may be home for the holidays.

David spent a year at a boarding school in Switzerland when he was ten. It was only a year because his parents tried to tell him they missed him too much, which he didn’t believe considering he saw them about as much as he did when he lived in Switzerland.

David came home from school the day before Thanksgiving and found Adelina baking away. She was likely baking pies and planning the meal for Thanksgiving. The Rose Family typically entertained some of his parent’s closest friends and on rare occasions members of some of his parent’s families. His parents hadn’t disclosed who they would host this year, and David didn’t really care too much. He liked Thanksgiving because of the food. It didn’t really matter who was here.

“Mijo, I made some chocolate chip cookies. Thought you might like some milk and cookies to go with the letter from your friend?”

“Letter?” David asked, surprised yet excited. It had been about a month and a half since he last heard from Patrick and David had just assumed he got sick of David.

“Yes, from your friend Patrick?”

“Oh!!! Yes, please.” David smiled.

“Go sit down and I’ll bring it to the table.”

David sat down as he ripped open the envelope.

Dear David,

That was an amazing game you went to! I’m jealous. I also like the team here, the Toronto Blue Jays. They aren’t as good as the Yankees. I’ve been asking for tickets for one of those games for a long time. My parents keep saying they can’t get them. When I get older, I’m going to go to a Blue Jays and Yankees game.

You made me so hungry in your letter. I had just gotten home from hockey practice and hadn’t eaten dinner. My mom would’ve been upset if I had a snack. But Hotdogs and nachos certainly would’ve tasted better than Shepherd’s Pie. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t ask. I don’t like it, but I have to eat what’s put in front of me or no dessert.

So I’m playing hockey now, but I just finished up the fall track season. It was a lot of fun and some of my friends were on the team. I was hoping it would help me run faster for hockey season. Hockey is hard. I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched a game. Maybe the New York Rangers? You should go to a game. They have nachos and fried dough there too I bet.

I think you should do track. My parents say that running is very good for your heart.

I have not been to a concert yet. What are they like?

I asked my friend Rachel about Mariah Carey and we listened to her all afternoon one day while we were doing our homework. She sings nice. Who else do you like to listen to? I like alternative-type music. Something tells me you wouldn’t like any of the songs I like.

Your penpal catching up on letters,

Patrick

David put the letter down and looked back up at Adelina, who was watching him.

“Mijo, you look so happy when you get a letter from Patrick. Why is that?”

“He pays attention to everything I say. My friends at school don’t.”

“Oh, David, things will be different when you go to high school next year. Just hang in there. What did Patrick say?”

“He says that I should do the running because it’s good for my heart.”

“Very smart boy. He’s right, you know. Are you going to try the track?”

“I don’t think I have a choice. Dad said I have to do something and I am not interested in any kind of thing that involves balls.”

Adelina laughed. “Maybe running would be a good idea.”

Adelina, besides Patrick, maybe the only person in David’s life that pays attention to what he says, David thought. He hoped things would be different when he got to high school next year. At least they couldn't’ be worse, David hoped.

“Yeah, I guess.”

Maybe it was just that David needed to make a better effort to be sociable. He could handle a couple of months of running. At least David hoped so.

+++++

Patrick’s dad picked him up early from school that day and the fact that it was his dad and not his mom didn’t seem to be a good sign.

Patrick got into the car and buckled up. He looked over at his dad, whose face was very serious. Patrick knew something was wrong.

“Patrick, remember last night how we talked about Bailey being sick?”

Patrick nodded, feeling his little body tighten, sensing what his father would say next. His parents had sat him down last night and told him that his cat was sick and they were bringing him to the vet today. His parents had taken extra pictures of him and Bailey. Patrick would always have those memories. Bailey was their only pet and the only animal that Patrick had grown up with.

“Is Bailey okay?” Patrick asked as a couple of tears fell from his eyes.

“No buddy, he’s not. I picked you up early because I want you to have a chance to say goodbye to him.”

“Why, where is he going?” Patrick asked, and now the tears weren’t stopping.

“He’s very sick, and he’s not going to get better. The vet is going to give him some medicine that will put him to sleep forever and when they do that, Bailey won't feel any pain. The vet said Bailey is in a lot of pain.”

“No, not Bailey!” Patrick exclaimed.

Mr. Brewer pulled Patrick into a hug and Patrick let himself go as he burst into tears.

“I’m going..to miss him… Dad.” Patrick managed through sobs.

“I know, buddy. I’ll miss him too. He loved you so much. You were definitely his favorite.” Mr. Brewer said as he rubbed Patrick’s back. “Let’s head home to give you a few minutes with him and we can talk about him all night if you’d like.”

Patrick nodded after he pulled away from his father’s embrace. Patrick looked out the car window as they drove home. One of his best friends was gone. Patrick wasn’t sure how to handle this. Maybe David would understand, but then again, he wasn’t sure if David had any pets. They talked about brothers and sisters, but not pets.

When Patrick walked into the house, he dropped his school bag and found his cat on the floor sprawled out. Patrick laid down next to him and started lightly petting him. The cat leaned into the touch as he purred and purred.

Patrick stayed by Bailey’s side till his dad told him it was time to go back to the vet.

“Paddy, it’s time for Bailey to go.” Patrick’s father knelt down next to him and the cat.

“No, dad. I can’t say goodbye.” Patrick argued.

“I know buddy, but we need to let him go. If I or the vet could make him feel better, we would.”

Patrick knew that if his father could make this better, he would. He just couldn’t picture not cuddling with Bailey on the couch at night. Not having Bailey maneuver around him when he ate ice cream on the couch, but Bailey hadn’t been doing those things more recently and Patrick never knew why.

Patrick leaned over and kissed Bailey’s soft fur. “I’m going to miss you, Bailey. I hope you feel better. I love you.” Patrick gave him a few additional strokes and got up. His mother was right there to take him in his arms as his father placed Bailey in the cat carrier.

His father carried Bailey out the door, and Patrick looked up at his mother, bursting into tears. She held him in her arms until he was ready to let go.

When Patrick finally did, Mrs. Brewer grabbed Patrick’s shoulders and tipped up Patrick’s chin.

“I have something that will cheer you up.” Mrs. Brewer said and kissed his forehead. Patrick watched his mother pick up an envelope from the stack of mail. She walked back over with a slight smile on her face.

When she handed the envelope to Patrick, he kissed his mother on the cheek, allowing a ghost of a smile to cross his face. He picked up the letter and ran upstairs to his room, collapsing down on his bed, tearing open the envelope quickly.

Dear Patrick,

How was the shepherd's pie and what did you get for dessert? My nanny Adelina makes the best desserts, like cheesecake and tiramisu.

So I took your advice and joined the running team, which was not a great idea because the kids laughed at me. They laugh at the way I run. It’s not very nice, but I’m doing it for my heart. That’s what you said.

So concerts are amazing. Lots of music and lights. They are loud though, especially if you’re near the stage. I was in the front row and Mariah smiled at me!! I almost fainted! She’s so beautiful!!

So Christmas is only a few days away. What does your family do for Christmas? My parents always throw a big party every year on Christmas Eve and I have to sing with my mother. I don’t like it and I'm not even sure that she does. I think people only come for our little show or something because many people seem to leave after it's over. I didn’t really ask for much this year for Christmas. Maybe some new clothes or just some money? What about you? What do you want for Christmas?

Merry Christmas Patrick!

Your Penpal,

David

As Patrick finished reading the letter, he laid down and thought about the day. He wasn’t sure if he should be happy that he got a letter from David or if he just wanted to cry. He wasn’t just sad for him, but sad for David. He didn’t like that kids were making fun of him. Even some of Patrick’s friends at school made fun of other kids, and Patrick always tried to get them to stop. He couldn’t understand why his friends couldn’t leave kids alone. He was always taught that if you had nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all. He wished he could be at school with David. Maybe he could help him with his running.

He put the letter aside and rolled over to the side of his bed. Tears started falling down his face as he noticed a couple of cat hairs on his bed.

Patrick turned over as he heard a knock on the door.

“Can I come in?” Mrs. Brewer asked quietly.

Patrick nodded.

She came over and sat down on the edge of Patrick’s bed.

“Oh, my sweet boy, need a hug?”

Patrick got up and curled into his mother’s arms. There was nothing better than a hug from his mom. Those hugs always made everything better. Although it was possible, that was true of all mom hugs, Patrick believed his mother’s hugs were especially the best.

“I miss Bailey,” Patrick said in between sniffles and tears.

“I know, honey. I miss him too, but you know what?”

“What?”

“He’s always going to be with us. He’ll always have a special place in your heart.”

“I love when he purrs. He always used to purr when I pet him.”

“He loved you so much. You know cats only purr when they’re happy, right?”

“Um, yeah.”

“He was a very happy cat.” Mrs. Brewer smiled and kissed her son’s forehead. “How about we go make a couple of cat ornaments to hang on the tree?”

“I’d like that.”

+++++

Another night, another Christmas Eve party. David jumped into the shower to remove the chunks of product in his hair that he required to keep it still for their annual performance. This party seemed especially dull. None of the kids he had hoped would attend did and Alexis was especially annoying, asking him to play with her and her dolls. He just wasn’t in the mood.

Normally, he wouldn’t mind playing with Alexis from time to time. He would braid the doll’s hair. It was almost therapeutic. Every once in and awhile Alexis would ask him to braid her hair and he really liked to do that for her. He thought about doing hair professionally for five minutes but knew for sure that Johnny and Moira Rose would never approve of that career path for their son. For David, he liked the idea of helping people feel better about themselves. He always worked to feel better about himself even if other people didn’t like him or the way he looked. He liked the way he looked and didn’t care what everyone else thought.

When he got out of the shower and changed, he walked back into his room, finding Alexis sitting on his bed.

“Ew! What are you doing here?” David asked.

“Adelina asked me to give this to you on my way up to bed. It looks like some kind of letter? Who's it from?”

David ripped it out of her hands. “None of your business.” David turned his back toward her. He certainly wasn’t going to explain Patrick to his eight-year-old sister.

“Oh, is it a loooove letter?” Alexis teased.

“Isn’t it past your bedtime or something?” David accused.

“Everyone’s asleep. No one realizes I’m even awake. Adelina was on her way to bed when she gave me this letter.”

“Well, I’m older and I say you need to go to bed.”

“Come on David, what’s in the letter?”

“It’s just from a friend. Now go.” David gestured toward the door.

“Ugh, fine.” Alexis huffed as she scampered off toward her room.

David crawled into his bed and opened up Patrick’s letter. He let his body relax as he soaked in Patrick’s letter.


Dear David,

I love cheesecake. Sometimes I go to restaurants with my parents and get strawberry cheesecake. It’s so good. What kind of cheesecake do you like?

I’m sorry to hear that your friends aren’t being so nice. I wish I could talk to them for you. Are there any other sports you like? High school is just a few months away. Maybe running is not your thing. That’s okay too.

Going to a concert sounds like a lot of fun, one of these days I’m going to go. Maybe I can ask for my birthday. I love music. I listen to it all the time, especially when I’m sitting in my room. Right now I’m playing “You Learn” by Alanis Morrissette. Do you listen to anyone else other than Mariah Carey?

Christmas is going to suck this year. I didn’t really ask for anything. My cat died. He’s gone. He was my buddy. He’d cuddle with me every night when I fell asleep. He’d cuddle on the couch with me when I watched tv. He always greeted me at the door. Now he’s gone. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I miss him. I miss him so much. Do you have any pets? I’ve asked my parents to get another cat, but they keep telling me to wait a little longer. I don’t understand why we need to wait. Something about scent. I don’t know. I just know I wish he was still here.

Do you have school dances? Rachel asked me to go to a school dance in February. My mom says I should go with her. Should I go with her? All my friends are going with other girls and they don’t understand why I haven’t said yes to Rachel. How does this whole girl thing work?

Merry Christmas David!

Your confused penpal,

Patrick

David lay in bed thinking about Patrick’s letter. David wanted to cheer up Patrick, but needed a little help. He’d talk to Adelina tomorrow. Tomorrow was another day and he couldn’t wait to share with her the ideas he had come up with.