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There Was a Boy

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Autumn 1900

Only weeks before the warm, languid days of summer had shifted to cooler, crisp weather, signaling the arrival of change. It felt like the perfect metaphor for our own lives. Over the better part of the last year we had put the harrowing ordeal of Sebastien behind us and now it was time to let that fall away to make room for new things.

David had chartered a carriage for us to spend the day together celebrating my birthday. He said he wanted to show me some more of the countryside and tour the unique farms there. When David shared his plans I protested and insisted we could have a nice day closer to home. The corners of his mouth twitched and his eyes had a telltale sparkle at the word ‘home’ but he said nothing about it.

All day he had been acting odd, even for David. He had woken up before me which never happened. A tray full of countless tea varieties and plates of any breakfast food I had ever mentioned enjoying was waiting for me. While I ate, he alternated between flitting about like a hummingbird or sitting and fidgeting, his knee bouncing under the table. The carriage ride seemed to do nothing for his nerves. With every stop on his itinerary I could tell it was a struggle for him not to rush us through. Normally he would have been meandering through the markets we visited, chatting with the owners about anything and everything. Today he was cordial, but the conversations seemed a bit stunted, like he was trying not to spend too much time at any one place. No moment was more bizarre than when he tied a navy blue scarf over my eyes, after returning to the carriage, and told me to keep it there.  

“Where are we going, David?” 

“You’re blindfolded - on your birthday - I’m not just going to tell you where we’re going.” He squawked.

I threw my hands up in defeat. It was clear he wasn’t going to answer and nothing we had done so far had given me any clues. The gentle trit-trot of horse hooves soothed me while we rode together in comfortable silence, occasionally discussing some of the farms and markets we had visited earlier. 

It was always amusing watching David out at the local farms, closer to the village, when I could go with him to gather supplies for the theater or the small inn Stevie had taken over. Today, venturing further out, was no exception. He would delicately step through the grass and complain about the dirt getting on his clothes. Then he would get to talking to the families about the unique goods they produced and temporarily forget all about his opinions on nature. His body language would become more animated, hands flying around as he spoke, and the enthusiasm in his tone was addictive. By the end of our visits he was always walking away with baskets of cheese, wines, soaps, candles and other homemade items. People were naturally drawn to him, which I could certainly understand. Every time he would protest that these things should be more readily available to the village. Stevie frequently ribbed him, saying he should find a way to make that happen instead of whining.

When the carriage pulled to a stop a light breeze rustled the grass around us and David put a hand on my shoulder, “Patrick, I’m going to help you out but I need you to keep that blindfold on.” The latch on the door clicked and the door creaked lightly when it was opened. 

“I promise, David.” His large hand took mine, a reassuring gesture, and guided me out of the carriage to the firm ground below.

“Now walk a few steps this way.” Leaves crunched underfoot and water babbled off in the distance. I could feel David practically vibrating out of his skin, giving my hand light squeezes while he directed me where to go. When we stopped he stood behind me, putting his hands firmly on my shoulders and leaned in close. “You can look now … Welcome home.” His voice came in a choked off whisper. Was he crying?

When I pulled the scarf off I thought I had to be imagining things. “David, what is this?” 

He hooked his chin over my shoulder, pressing his cheek to mine. I could feel the broad smile on his face and picture the way his eyes were probably dancing with excitement. “It’s the cottage we dreamed about. I had it built for you. For us.” 

It was exactly like we’d talked about, down to the last detail. Mums and dahlias were planted in colorful patches and small saplings stood valiantly at different points around the property. 

I spun around, squeezing him close. “David, I-” I wanted to say more but the words wouldn’t come, trapped in a tangle of emotions forming in the back of my throat. 

David chuckled softly. “Do you like it? I know I should have said something but I really wanted to do this for you.” 

“Do I like it? No.” His eyebrows flew up exactly the way I expected they would.

“David, I love it. I love this. I love you.” I reassured him, pressing my lips to his for a gentle kiss.

His face relaxed, but not before giving me a playful shove. “You’re such a menace.”

“When did you do this?” 

“Do you remember the night we said ‘I love you’?”

My brow furrowed, how could I forget that? “Of course I do.”

“That night I fell asleep listening to you talk about this.” He gestured toward the house. “About what our lives could be. And you sounded so content and so peaceful and so … sure. The next morning I sketched it out in my journal and started talking to some people.”

Suddenly a collection of little details began falling into place. Shortly after we had first discussed our imaginary cottage David had started asking me questions, pushing me for more details about what I thought it would look like or what we would do if we lived away from the village. Sometimes I would get frustrated at his line of questions because I didn't have the eye for detail in the same way he did. I could see elements that weaved together to create a story, but David was the one who could take an empty space and turn it into something elegant. Honestly, to me the idea of a home was anywhere I could be together with him. Not long after the questioning had started David would disappear for the day, insisting he had some business to attend to for his father or something to help Stevie with the Inn. I had been so busy - at first finishing the show for the Moulin Rouge, then beginning work for another local theater - that I hadn't pieced it all together until now.

I huffed out a disbelieving laugh. “So that’s what all those talks and errands were for. I guess I should have known you doing all that for your father, and Stevie, wasn't completely altruistic.” 

“Well, I wasn’t going to just tell you what I was doing!”

“Mmhmm. So, you said you started this after the night we said I love you. Did you really know then? About us?”

He worried with his bottom lip, “No. I think I, uh, knew much earlier than that. Probably even the night you said you wanted to know me.”

“David, that was-”

“The night we met? I know. It’s probably ridiculous but I already knew there was something about you. Something different. Special.” 

Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes while I swept him up in a kiss, thanking whoever was responsible for leading me to him. 

David pulled back slightly, “As much as I’m enjoying this I have one more surprise for you.”

“David, there’s a house here! That you designed and had built because you believed in us so much. How many more surprises can one person take?”

He gave me a knowing smirk and pulled me towards the cottage. “I think you’ll like this one, too. Come on.” 

I chased behind him, laughing and gleefully kicking up leaves as we went. Watching the curves of his face when he smiled, how his body just relaxed with no one else watching left me awestruck. He had an unguarded openness that I knew he reserved just for me. I wanted to make sure I could always be a safe place for him to just be David.  

When we reached the house I crowded him against the door before he could open it. I tilted his chin, leaning in for a kiss, pressing urgently against him. David relaxed into it, hungrily kissing me back, little sighs and moans escaping between. Before it could go further he tapped against my chest, pushing me lightly back.

“Where did that come from?” 

I brushed the back of one hand over his cheek, letting it rest behind his head. “I just needed you to know how much I love you. That’s all.”

“That’s all? Mmhmm.” He wrapped his lips around his teeth, suppressing a smile but the way his eyes sparkled told me what I needed to know. 

“Come on, David. I believe you needed to show me something.”

He rolled his eyes and turned to depress the latch on the handle. The front door swung open, inviting us in. The rooms were bare but I knew David would make them perfect. 

“I know there's not much here yet, and I’m going to give you the full tour, but there is one thing in the back for you to see.” He grabbed my wrist, hurrying down the main hallway and turning into a back room. David beamed, excited like a child on Christmas morning. An intricately carved desk, one I had admired often during our trips into town, sat in front of a large window overlooking a pond in the backyard. Our backyard. The late afternoon sun splashed vibrant pinks and oranges off the rippling water, like liquid fire. Shadows stretched across the room, dancing playfully on the walls. 

Centered on the desk was a typewriter with a single sheet of paper loaded against the roller and already typed on. It looked suspiciously like the one I had sold. I had gone back to the shop, trying to find it after the disastrous opening night at the show, but it was already gone. I had bought a new one out of necessity but it was never quite the same as the original. 

In the opposite corner an easel was propped up, ready for David to bring his ideas to life. I can write and you’ll sketch… he had really remembered everything.

I pointed to the typewriter, “David, is this what I think it is?”

He bounced on the balls of his feet, twisting his rings. “The typewriter you sold? I may have tracked it down and bought it back. It took a little longer than I thought. I hope you don’t mind that I, uh, used it first. I just had something I really needed to say to you.” 

I shook my head before walking over to read his message. My fingers reached instinctively for the back right edge, finding the familiar grooves where I’d etched my initials years before. I couldn’t believe he’d actually found it. How I ever got so lucky to meet this amazing, beautiful man I’ll never know.

Patrick,

I’ve never liked a smile as much as I like yours.
I’ve never felt as safe as I do when I’m with you.
I’ve never known love like I have when we’re together.
It's not been an easy road for me, but knowing that you will always be there for me at the end of it makes everything okay.

You are my happy ending.

Love,
David

The words on the page blurred as I read. “David-” I whirled around to find him knelt down in front of me, a rose gold band held up between his fingers. 

Before I could say more he held a single finger up as if to silence me. “Patrick Brewer, I spent a lifetime not trusting anyone. Building walls so high that I was sure no one could get in. My story was that I was nothing more than a- a damaged man that couldn’t afford to love. But then you walked into the Moulin Rouge and took away all of my excuses. Now I’ve built new walls. Not to keep you out, but to keep you in. I want to write a new story. Together. Will you do that with me?”

“Yes, David. Yes. I promise I’m going to make you so happy here.”

“You fucking better,” he teased, pushing off the ground to stand. Then his features shifted to something more serious, almost nervous. “Just, uh, one thing before I- before we. Just look at the inside first.” 

I plucked the ring from him, turning it over in my fingers. Tiny script letters glinted in the light of the setting sun: To Love and Be Loved

He watched me apprehensively, “I, um, would have had the whole thing put in but the jeweler said there was a limit. So, I thought this would be okay.”

Waves of bliss and love and feeling … right swept over me. I looked up at David, wanting him to see how much I meant what I was saying. “David, it’s perfect. It’s absolutely perfect.”

“May I?” David looked at me hopefully, indicating he wanted the ring back.

“Yes, sorry. Here.” I apologized and held it out to him.

David took the band from me and slid it onto my finger, his eyes welling up with tears. He settled his hands over my shoulders, using the leverage to pull me in. Our lips met, soft and sweet, filled with promises for the future. I pulled back, just enough so I could get lost in looking at his deep brown eyes, resting my forehead against his. Being here with David now, given everything we had overcome, I couldn’t help but remember our first night together. I recalled resting my head against the bare skin of his thigh, already anxious to experience more of him and hoping he wouldn’t send me away. I thought of the way my heart had thumped in my chest when I looked at him, naked in every sense of the word, bathed in slivers of moonlight.  I remembered my simple question, with his simple answer, and how it had changed absolutely everything.

“Do you want me to leave you now?” I asked, a mischievous smile on my lips so he knew what I meant.

He answered with a single eyebrow raised and playful smirk, “Do you want to leave?”

“Never, David. Never.”