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There Was a Boy

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That afternoon, after Stevie left me with all my doubts, I tried to sleep. My body was heavy with the physical exhaustion of having been awake for so long. Sinking into the bed, at first, felt euphoric. The mattress cradled me, inviting me to give up, to give in. The longer I laid there, the more I realized everything was … wrong. The sheets were scratchy, the pillow was too flat, then too lumpy. The temperature in the room had a chill until I burrowed into the blanket. Then it became too hot. I threw the blanket off and stared at the ceiling, David’s words echoing in my mind.

Sebastien came to see me. He offered me everything … I’m sorry, Patrick. This is over … You can leave whenever you want … this has to end. I hope you understand ...

The cracked plaster above me suddenly became fascinating. Every speck and fissure held the possibility of distracting me from David and allowing me to finally sleep. After mentally tracing the cracks several times over it became obvious what the problem was: The trouble isn’t the bed, Patrick. It’s who’s not in it. Who’s not going to be in it. David had never spent the night in my room. The bed was tiny and the room was drafty - it was a far cry from what he was used to, but it could have been perfect if we were in it together. Stevie living just above me presented its own set of objections, but none of that had ever stopped us from taking advantage of it when David wanted to slip away from the pressures of his daily life. It wasn’t the type of place any rational person would go looking for someone like him. 

The afternoon sun cast a golden glow around the room alerting me that nightfall would be there soon. I needed to see David again. Whether he loved me, or this whole thing had been a ruse, I had to know. Fragments of solutions had already begun forming in my mind, stitching together a plan. If I was going to make it in time for the opening tonight I needed to act quickly. In spite of the crushing fatigue I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood. I pulled my only suit out, still neatly packed from the night before, and considered how to best execute my idea.

There was a shop in town where I knew I could sell my typewriter. It had been a gift from my parents the year I turned 17. I was on the verge of completing school and, knowing I couldn’t afford to go to university, it had been a respectable alternative. 

Before the Moulin Rouge had shut down for renovations David had, by his own admission, been paid for all his efforts to keep certain patrons entertained. The responsibilities ranged from simple conversation to offering his body for sex. Whatever it took to engage the highest paying visitors to make sure they returned. I wasn’t a high paying customer, but I was performing a great service for the theater. While no one had ever said it outright, it stood to reason that I might also be someone David was responsible for keeping engaged. I would take whatever I got for the typewriter and pay my bill. 

If everyone else paid to be deceived then why shouldn’t I? 

I hated the idea of giving up my most prized possession, but not nearly as much as leaving things unanswered with David. I could always replace the typewriter, but this - whatever I had with David - was a once in a lifetime shot. It either was or it wasn’t and I needed to know which. I was already positive there was no substitution for his presence in my life. 

My business at the pawn shop took only a matter of minutes. Because I had kept the typewriter in such good condition I was able to get a decent sum for it. Much better than even I had hoped for. The shopkeeper looked enthralled when I walked in with it. I thanked him for his time and pocketed the bills. Now the only barrier was making it to the Moulin Rouge and finding David. 

It seemed The Duke had everyone on high alert and I was denied access to the theater. Every entrance was heavily guarded by someone who knew they were supposed to turn me away. Thankfully all the rehearsals had taught me the ins-and-outs of the building. I knew every last way to get inside, even if they were a bit unorthodox. 

There was a higher window on one wall that I could hoist myself up to climb inside. It pushed open easily and I dropped in as quietly as possible. The dressing rooms weren’t terribly far but it was still going to take some skill to get there. Especially when I saw that Mutt was keeping watch. Damn.  

The maze of corridors was enough to keep me just out of sight until I could get to David. I spotted him in his dressing room with the door wide open. Twyla was fussing over him, touching up makeup and adjusting his costume. 

Despite the risk I didn’t even try to stop staring at him. He was so beautiful. It felt similar to our first night together when I’d watched him covertly from the dance floor. In my mind’s eye I could see him twirling around, charming everyone, head thrown back with laughter. The glaring difference was this time I had so much more to lose if things didn’t go well. 

I didn’t have to wait long for an opening to talk to him. I longed to keep watching him, not wanting to break the illusion that things weren’t falling apart. Twyla left his dressing room and I knew I didn’t have much time to do what I’d come for. I stepped from the shadows and he startled at the sight of me in his mirror. 

“Patrick?! What are you doing here?” He whipped around to look at me, a blend of worry and irritation on his face. 

“I came to pay my bill.” I clapped my hands together softly. “You did such a fine job, David, of making me believe you loved me. I can see now it was all an act. After our talk earlier today I had some time to think. I figured everyone else pays you to be lied to. Why shouldn’t I?”

He turned on his heel to leave, “You shouldn’t be here. You need to go!” David rushed at a fast clip toward the stage but I couldn’t let him get away again. I had to know. 

“Why can’t I pay you like everybody else?!”

Twyla raced behind me, grabbing at the hem of my jacket, “He needs to get on stage!” 

In my pursuit of David it was easy to escape her grasp. The stage curtain shielded our tense conversation, but I knew it would be opening at any moment. Miguel was just on the other side delivering an impassioned speech in his role as the King. I couldn’t bring myself to care. My concern for the Moulin Rouge, and this show, was the furthest thing from my mind. After being pushed aside by David Rose, any remaining dignity I had was long gone. 

David’s eyes were wide, begging me to give up as I grabbed him by the wrists, forcing him to look at me. “Please, just let me do this and I’ll go. I need to do this. Tell me it wasn’t real! Tell me you don’t love me!” I pleaded with him even as the curtain lifted, exposing our struggle. 

Miguel froze mid-sentence at the sight of us. He looked between me, David and the audience before laughing nervously. “Here he is, the very same penniless guitar player. Driven mad by jealousy!” 

I pulled David to center stage and he dropped to the ground when I let go of him. Sebastien, that arrogant bastard, sat in the front row. A large bouquet of red roses occupied the seat next to him. I assumed they were for David and already knew he would hate them. It wasn’t a detail I needed to be concerned with but I couldn't seem to stop myself, even now. I pulled the bills from my pocket and threw them down at David, looking Sebastien in the eye to make my declaration. “I’ve paid my bill. You won. He’s yours now!” 

The crowd fell silent. The smug, gloating look on Sebastien’s face burned into my mind. I was sure I would go to my grave and still remember every detail. When I turned back to David he remained crouched on the stage, his body shaking as he tried to stay in control.

“I owe you n-nothing . And you are nothing to me.” My voice cracked between ragged breaths. “Th-thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with l-love.” 

I couldn’t bear to look at David any longer and turned to walk down the steps leading off the stage. As much as I was hurting, hearing his pain was agonizing. The sharp inhales and guttural cries made every step away from him a struggle, like walking through quicksand. 

Sebastien tracked my movements until I paused in front of him, clenching my fists and gritting my teeth. The desire to punch him and tell him to go to hell was overwhelming. He stared up at me, like he was daring me to do just that. The simplest course of action was to stare him down, afraid if I moved a muscle I would lose our unspoken wager. Ultimately I was the first to break eye contact, refusing to give him the satisfaction.

 


 

Miguel had managed to keep the show going. He masterfully kept what was really happening from the audience. “The penniless guitar player doesn’t love you. See him fleeing the kingdom!”

David couldn’t be soothed in the interest of keeping up appearances. The love of his life had come for him, even though David had hurt him. On purpose. David had watched Patrick’s heart break right in front of him because of what he had said. Twice. Now Patrick was leaving, likely forever. Not that David could blame him.

The weight of his actions cloaked David like a heavy blanket. He wanted to lay down on the cool, wooden stage and drown in his despair. The idea of simply resting there until death took him was an increasingly appealing option. He lifted his head, looking between Miguel, Sebastien and Patrick. What choice did he have?

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn...is just to love...and be loved...in return!” Stevie’s voice echoed through the theater from her perch above the stage. The already hushed crowd became deafeningly silent. Stevie’s line - the most pivotal of the entire show - washed over David and he felt what she’d said in every cell of his body. 

David became hopeful when he saw Patrick slow, and eventually freeze, near the exit. Experience had taught him that life didn’t hand out second chances. The universe was giving him a gift, an opportunity to fix things. He scrambled to his feet with a renewed purpose, knowing what message he needed Patrick to hear. Hesitantly, his voice still thick from crying, the melody of their song flowed out of him.

I call you when I need you, my heart’s on fire. 

You come to me wild and wired. 

You come to me...give me everything I need. 

The rest of the world seemed to fall away except the vision of Patrick, still and silent in the aisle. 

Give me a lifetime of promises and a world of dreams. 

Speak the language of love like you know what it means. 

And it can't be wrong, take my heart and make it strong.

He paused, hoping Patrick understood what he was trying to say. David didn’t know what he would do if Patrick didn’t come back and kept walking away. The audience cooed and whispered among themselves, but time stood still for David. His entire future stood at the opposite end of the theater. Their reaction was merely background noise compared to waiting for the other half of his heart.