“I don’t have to listen to you anymore.”
“Oh, Mister Bigshot thinks he doesn’t have to listen to his old man anymore. What’s that, sonny? You think you can take care of yourself? You wouldn’t last a month without me to give you a roof over your head, or your mom to feed you.”
Mutt’s door slams and Jocelyn winces. It’s been like this all summer. When they’re not yelling, they’re ignoring each other at the dinner table. Her baby boy. He’s always out. Doing god knows what. If it’s anything like what she and Rollie got up to at Mutt’s age, it’s bound to result in a little Mutt, Jr.
She carefully covers the leftover casserole in plastic wrap, but has to tear off another piece because there’s a gap left on the side. Plastic wrap manufacturers know how big a standard casserole dish is, why do they make the packaging so narrow? Before Gwen disappeared, she told Jocelyn to buy Saran Wrap other than Gel-Time, but it’s fifty cents more expensive and that just seems unreasonable.
There’s nothing she can really do about Mutt. If she butts her head in, that will just end in him high-tailing it out of there and as it is, she doesn’t think he will be under their roof for much longer. It’s bad enough he’s had to have his dad as a mayor and his mom as a teacher—she can’t go sticking her nose further in his business.
She remembers when her father tried to tell her to dump Rollie, and see how well that worked out? Well, it did work out well for her. But her father didn’t let Rollie come over for dinner for months after they came back married.
No, she’ll just have to wait it out. They’ll get over it. Eventually.
And if they don’t, maybe some distance will do them some good and they’ll come to their senses. It’s the first day of school tomorrow, and Mutt will be back to a routine that keeps him out of the house from 8:30 a.m. ‘til dinner time. Everything will be just fine.
She puts the casserole in the fridge, puts tomorrow’s pot roast into the fridge to thaw out, and then gets to work packing up the green beans. Then, she retrieves the bologna, yellow cheese, Miracle Whip, and bread, and gets to work on everybody’s sandwiches. Everybody can have an Arrowroot cookie as a treat.
David thinks that, all things considered, he has been remarkably well-behaved when it comes to Patrick. There has been no biting, no dreamwalking, no compulsion, and he’s kept his hands (mostly) above the belt. It’s very responsible of him. One might even call him put-together, or self-controlled, maybe even mature.
There’s a pounding on the bathroom door. “David! Get out of there. You have been in the shower for, like, a million years!”
“Fall into a volcano, Alexis!”
“David! It’s the first day of school! I have to do my hair!”
“I have to do my hair!” David shuts off the water, and as always, the pipes offer an ominous thunk.
“It doesn’t matter if you take five minutes or five hours, your hair always looks terrible!”
David grips the towel around his hips and swings the door open. “Just for that. I’m going to do an extra five steps to my skincare.”
He slams the door in her face and is rewarded with a loud, “Ugh!”
He gives himself one last look in the mirror and is pleased with the outcome. His jawline is looking especially cut thanks to his Valentino sweater. It’s the first day of school, which is a day for statements. And his skirted pants are a statement.
There’s a knock at the door and David’s heart skips a beat. He just saw Patrick last night, but he can’t help the Jake Ryan fantasy that’s been playing in his head. Patrick, his boyfriend, is picking him up for the first day of school.
“Um. Where’s the truck?”
Patrick is standing in the gravel parking lot, looking adorable and sheepish in his t-shirt and jeans, his shoulders tense under the straps of his backpack.
“Well, my dad said that I could take it since it’s the first day of Grade Twelve and all, but my mom said that I still technically have one more day of being grounded.”
“Oh. So, that’s where you get it.”
They walk to Stevie’s next to get her and Twyla. Though, now that it turns out they don’t have a ride, there’s really no point.
Twyla comes bouncing out of the house as soon as they get there, but they have to wait around a few minutes for Stevie to emerge. When she does, she’s…well…
“What on earth are you wearing?”
Stevie looks down at her ripped shorts and black, lacey, bell-sleeved top and then back up at David, wide-eyed and innocent. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Twyla and Patrick don’t say anything, just shuffle ahead in their pedestrian caravan.
“You’re wearing a lot of eyeliner.”
She shrugs. “I’m trying something.”
“You’re wearing chunky pleather boots!”
He tugs at the very ‘90s cluster of tin chains with star and moon pendants hanging around her neck. “Is this some sort of teenage goth crisis? Should I be worried? Do you need an intervention?”
Stevie smiles at him, but it’s an eerie smile. The kind of smile that reminds David that she could burn him to a crisp with the snap of her fingers. He rushes up ahead to walk next to Patrick.
It was either this or Child Development. The chalkboard at the front of the room says “Animal Science with Mr. Osbourne” over a chalk sketch of a dog. Alexis thinks that given the option, puppies are better than babies.
Rachel and Ted are both in this room and Alexis does her best not to let her vision drop to either. They’re both sitting up front, so Alexis sits in the back. Well, not the last row. If there’s anything Alexis has learned at the tens of high schools she’s attended, it’s that last-row desks are disgusting—vandalized and covered in sticky substances. She sits in the third row, near the middle, so she’s not sitting directly behind either of them.
“Hey, Alexis.” Ted looks back at her and smiles politely.
Alexis squares her shoulders and gives him her best smile. “Hi, Ted.”
“Hey, sorry about yesterday. I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s good to see you.”
“Oh. Um. Don’t worry about it.”
Ted turns back around and settles into his seat while the room fills up around them. Alexis catches a brunette white girl making eyes at the empty chair between Rachel and Ted, and Alexis realizes that she doesn’t want her to take it. In one long movement, she migrates seats and plops herself front and center in the room. Brunette girl gives her the stink eye but moves on.
Alexis sighs into a smile when Rachel finally looks her way. “Hi guys,” she says, eyes darting between them.
“Mr. Butani, I don’t know if I’m qualified for this.”
“What? Being a courier? Don’t be silly. Small children do it for parliament every day!”
“Um. Those are pages, and I don’t think the federal government has employed kids for a few years.”
“Oh really?” Mr. Butani frowns. “That’s too bad. I always thought it would be such a good opportunity for my future children.”
Patrick tries not to make a face. The conversation is skirting way too close to Mr. Butani’s romantic life for his comfort. “I wasn’t talking about taking this paperwork to Bob’s Garage. Of course, I can do that. I’m just not sure I’m qualified to actually help Mr. Currie fill out the paperwork.”
“Oh, I’m not sure anyone is qualified, Patrick. Bob is somewhat averse to bureaucracy. The trick is just to get him to sit down long enough to try and fill it out that he finally gets frustrated enough to actually come into the office so I can fill it out for him.”
That doesn’t make Patrick feel any better, but he doesn’t feel like arguing anymore. It’ll be the last thing he has to do for Mr. Butani today and then he’ll go pick David up at the motel. They’re going to go all the way to Elmdale for pizza. Matt and Lana said they would meet them there.
When he gets to the garage, there’s an old blue car out front with its hood popped, and he can hear the sound of a wrench cranking. But when he walks around to the front, he’s surprised not to find Mr. Currie, but Mutt under the hood.
“Oh. Hey, Mutt. Sorry. I was looking for Mr. Currie.”
Mutt lifts his eyes to meet Patrick’s, and shakes his head to get some hair out of his face. “Nope. No Bob here. I don’t know if Bob ever really is here.” He says it resentfully, his voice high and gravelly.
Great. Now Patrick’s going to have to hunt him down. At least there’s some likelihood that he’s just next door at the café.
He decides to linger for a moment before embarking on that wild goose chase. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
Mutt huffs. “I don’t work here. I’m doing time here.”
Patrick’s stomach drops. “What?”
He stands and stretches into his next words. “Yep. Community service.” He throws his oil rag over his shoulder. “My dad got a real kick out of saying the words, ‘Let the punishment fit the crime.’”
He wants to say, What did you do? But that’s probably not the nicest way to ask. So instead, he phrases it like “What happened?”
Mutt shrugs. “Got busted for joyriding. I had a date. Needed a ride.”
“What’s wrong with your truck?”
Mutt smirks, but his eyes don’t engage. “She was a hot date.”
Patrick doesn’t know what to say to that.
“No, I, um. I crashed the truck,” Mutt says, more softly. “I, um, I fell asleep at the wheel.”
Patrick isn’t sure what to say. So they just stand there kind of awkwardly until Mutt says, “Anything I can do for you, man?”
“Oh. Uh, no thanks, man. I’m just gonna go see if I can track down Mr. Currie.”
“Sure.” Mutt bends over back under the hood of the car.
“Hey, listen, I’m sorry about,” Patrick waves his hand to gesture at the garage, “all this.”
Mutt turns his head to look at Patrick again. “Don’t worry about it.”
Patrick mumbles, “See you at school,” but he’s not sure he said it loud enough to register, and then he turns and heads toward the café.
“Okay, what do you want?”
“Mmm. I’m thinking it’s a pepperoni and mushroom kind of night.”
“Oh yeah. That sounds good.”
“With extra mushrooms.”
“Oh. Agreed.” Patrick is playing along, being theatrical and flirty, but his heart is racing a mile a minute. David’s not stupid. He knows it’s a physiological sign of attraction, but honestly, he used to worry that Patrick had some sort of heart condition, or an anxiety disorder.
David doesn’t realize that they’ve been staring at each other until the girl at the counter clears her throat. “What can I get you guys?”
Matt and Lana are two of Patrick’s cousins from Mrs. Brewer’s side of the family. Matt is the same year as Patrick, but only because Patrick got held back in first grade, and Lana is the year behind. They’re both nice, and wholesome, and all three of them have hair on the light-brown-to-white blonde spectrum.
They’re nice. And they’re Patrick’s cousins. And some of his closest friends. And they’re human. Not at all terrifying.
As soon as they sit down at the booth to wait for their order, Patrick puts his arm around David and squeezes him close.
“Yay! You guys are here!” Lana sighs dramatically and looks at David with dreamy eyes. “I’m so excited we’re doing this.”
David waits for Patrick to say something, but he’s making a face like he’s waiting for David to say something so David tries, “Me too.” He hopes it was loud enough for human ears.
Lana reaches over the table and grabs his upper arm and gives it a squeeze.
When the pizza arrives, David has to remind himself that humans have to wait for the cheese to cool down before consuming. Matt goes for it too early though and has to go “Ha hhhhaaa” around his slice.
Lana laughs at him and pushes his shoulder. “You’re practically a grown man. But you never learn.”
Matt groans. “That’s my middle name. Matt ‘Never Learns’ Keane.”
“How are your college applications going?” Lana looks at Matt with concern.
“I don’t know.” Matt picks up his pizza again for the second attempt, but he quickly drops it with an Ah! “Maybe I just won’t go to college. I could do something else. I have a friend whose dad flips houses. Maybe I could learn to do that.”
That’s something that David can talk about. “Oh, that’s a good idea. There are so many properties in this area that haven’t been cared for properly. And yet, there’s a housing shortage. And it can be so lucrative for somebody with the right skills.”
As he’s talking, he starts to worry that maybe he’s saying the wrong thing. But then, Matt’s mouth quirks in a small smile, and Patrick gives David’s thigh a squeeze under the table.
Lana smiles too, but then schools her face more seriously. “Are you applying anywhere, though?”
Matt shrugs. “I have a list. But I don’t know if I would even get in anywhere. My GPA is…not great.”
Lana leans over to squeeze his shoulder. “I’m sure it’s not that bad. You’re so smart!”
“Tell that to my English teacher. I’m pretty sure she wants to fail me just out of annoyance.”
Lana starts (lovingly) arguing with him about this and something about it makes David sure that this is an old conversation, one he’s not entirely privy to. He looks over at Patrick, whose hand hasn’t left David’s thigh, and whose eyes don’t meet his. It doesn’t escape David’s notice that the conversation doesn’t veer over to Patrick’s plans. David’s not even really sure what they are, exactly.
It’s not really any of his business. Patrick has such a bright future ahead of him. David knows it. He’s responsible, and kind, and brave, and so smart it makes David’s teeth hurt sometimes. Patrick can do whatever he wants to do. He has a supportive family, he knows who he is, there is absolutely nothing holding him back.
He tries not to think about their time coming to an end, but time slips by so quickly, even as he tries to savor every moment. When he’s feeling particularly sorry for himself, wandering the woods at night in search of prey, he thinks about all the ways he’s been fundamentally changed. By this little town. By Stevie. Especially by Patrick. He knows that he won’t be the same from now on. He thinks it’s good that he’s learned what being cared for is really like. What it feels like to be appreciated. He doesn’t think he can go back to living his life half-there, hanging on the arms of the Sebastiens and Irenes and Jared Letos of the world.
Maybe—if that’s something Patrick wants—they could stretch it out another year. It would be pushing it. But if Patrick wanted, he could follow him to college. No, he’s being silly. They’ve been dating just a little over four months. High school relationships don’t last a year, let alone two. He shouldn’t even think about it. He’ll just enjoy this time with Patrick while he has it. And he’ll take all the memories with him that he can.
He looks over at Patrick again, and this time, Patrick does meet his eyes. He’s holding the button on the chain around his neck in his hand, tugging at it, as is his habit. His heart rate has increased again, and his breath has shortened. So, David leans in and presses his lips to Patrick’s, trying to be soft and sweet. There’s no need to worry. They have plenty of time.
When they separate, Patrick smiles, and he has a glint in his eye. He turns to Matt and Lana. “So, guess what? I’ve been teaching David how to drive a manual.”
Stevie wishes she wore pants. She’s had to look at her pink, poky knees surrounded by loose pale skin all day. This is why she wears pants. She doesn’t need to know this much about what her body looks like. She only has a Post-It Note’s worth of space in her brain for minute insecurities. Pants also would have been better for the amount of time she’s been sitting on this bench. She can feel a red imprint forming on skin with its accompanying itch. She adjusts in her seat.
“Okay, try him.” Maureen nods to the approaching jogger.
Stevie squares her jaw and mumbles the spell. She tries to do what the book says. It describes holding the feeling in her chest and sending it outwardly from her, toward the person she wants to summon. The tentative feeling pops immediately. It was only ever as strong as a bubble.
She sighs and falls back into the bench, the jogger already long gone.
Stevie shakes her head. “You try.”
Maureen clocks somebody walking her dog. Stevie waits silently and pays attention, though she’s not surprised at all when the dog and their walker disappear down the street.
Stevie and Maureen have come a long way in their skills of witchcraft. Their locator spells and cloaking spells and defensive spells are all impressively advanced. Even Mrs. Rose talks to Maureen like a formidable opponent, if not a respected colleague. But spells like this, emotion-based spells, even simple summoning charms, she and Maureen are both—
“Complete shit,” Maureen says. “I can barely feel the spell inside myself, let alone cast it out like a—what did the book say?”
“Like a rolling ball of yarn.”
“Yeah. That. The spell does not feel like a ball of yarn. It feels like a floating bit of fuzz, it was so hard to get a hold of.”
“Oh really? I thought it felt more like a dust particle.”
“Well, for me, it feels like a germ.”
“Well, I thought it feels like an electron.”
“Well, I thought it feels like a quantum particle.”
Stevie can’t think of anything smaller than that, so she just crosses her arms and huffs. It’s not like it’s any secret why this is so hard. She and Maureen, they’re not good at the touchy-feely stuff. In the instructions for the spell they found, there was an introduction. There are usually long introductions to spells in which people describe how the spell came into their family, different tweaks they added that made the spell more effective for them, etc. Stevie usually scrolls past that part, to try and get to the instructions faster. But sometimes she reads them, and all the introductions for all the versions of this spell that she’s come across say that the essence of the spell comes from love—a general love, for humanity, for the stranger who crosses one’s path, agape.
Stevie doesn’t have much of that. And she knows Maureen doesn’t either. Their approach to magic is a lot more practical. And maybe more selfish. It’s mostly about solving immediate, practical problems. Or setting things on fire. That’s pretty easy.
“We haven’t really talked about, like, who in the family has magic,” Stevie says. She says it mostly to procrastinate on having to try again. “Like, where does the magic come from?”
Maureen shrugs, the tendrils of her salt and pepper hair falling off her shoulders. One time, Mrs. Schitt asked her why she doesn’t dye it and Maureen told her to fuck off. Stevie doesn’t think she wants to dye her hair when it gets gray. She thinks Maureen’s hair looks cool. She looks like a wise woman from a children’s book. Or a grungy Bride of Frankenstein.
“Not that many people in the family have it. Or not that many people have enough of it to use it. Or not that many people figured out how to use it.”
“Who do you know that did have it?”
Maureen is Stevie’s dad’s aunt and is the only other witch she’s met in her life that she knows of. Neither of her dad’s sisters are witches, as far as she knows, and her dad, well—she’ll never know. His half-brother wouldn’t be, because that’s on his mom’s side. Maureen doesn’t have any biological kids—just Stevie and Maureen’s ex step-son, Brandon, who lives in Saskatchewan with his mom.
“Well, I don’t know. Neither my brother—may he rest in peace—nor my sister—may she go to hell—ever showed any signs that I know of.”
They sit quietly for a while, not wanting to dig into the well that is all the layers of fucked-up that makes up their family. Stevie can count on one hand how many of her cousins she knows whose parents still talk to each other.
“I think my mom could have had it, though,” Maureen finally says.
“Yeah?” Stevie swallows around the curiosity that itches in her throat. Maureen hardly ever talks about her mom. There’s a black-and-white picture of her on the mantel in the living room. In it, she’s very young, probably a teenager. She’s standing outside in a field, facing away into the distance with a posed smile. Her messy hair is clipped haphazardly out of her face and she wears a ruffled top tucked into a pleated skirt. Her stance is wide in her simple shoes that look too big for her. Stevie doesn’t know much, except that she died young. And that she was an alcoholic.
“Yeah,” Maureen says, facing ahead of her. “I don’t know, sometimes, when she was sober, it kind of seemed like she could do things. Like, sometimes it seemed like she could pull things out of thin air. Or when I was little, sometimes she would call my name, and I just dropped whatever I was doing and would go to her. I don’t know. Maybe it was a summoning charm, like this one.”
“Is she the one who told you that you’re a witch?”
Maureen nods. “Yeah, when I was younger, she would tell me pretty regularly. She told me when I was a kid that I had to be careful and not get too angry, or I might accidentally set someone’s pants on fire. And then, later, when I started to be able to make things float, she got me some books. I didn’t read them all the way through or anything. I would rather watch TV or go hang out with people. But I would reference them. If I wanted something.”
It sucks. Stevie woke up the other day, thinking about being a witch. Thinking about being part of this special kind of person, who has this constant awareness of nature, of power, and how to tap into it. She woke up with this feeling in her chest, something close to pride. She started thinking about where she comes from, where she got this gift. But she can’t even cobble together a solitary story from all of the broken shards of her family. All she has is Maureen. And all Maureen has is Stevie. They’re going to have to find answers somewhere else.
“And how are you ladies enjoying Bob’s Bench?” The unwelcome sight of Roland Schitt comes sauntering through the trees. He stands in front of them with his hands on his hips, looking pleased with himself. He looks at them, eyebrows raised, expecting some sort of reaction.
Whatever he wants from them, neither Maureen nor Stevie give it to him.
“You know, this bench is a real hot spot for all kinds of criminal behavior. Especially with the kids. Yep. The kids. Oh, look at all this nice grass everywhere. I bet you two would know where to get some nice grass. You’re grass enthusiasts. Really into botany.”
“Roland,” Maureen warns.
Roland throws his hands up into the air defensively. “Hey, don’t mind me. I’m just trying to make sure me and my fancy guests are well entertained tonight.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “You know, the Roses. They’re our guests tonight for dinner.”
Maureen just looks at him, face impassive. Stevie turns back to Roland and does the same.
“You know, Moira Rose is really taken with me. Of course, I told her I’m married. And happily so. But they’ve really taken a shine to us in general. We hang out, oh, multiple times a week. I think old Johnny is thinking of buying the town. Could be very lucrative.”
Still he gets no response, and his demeanor turns huffy. “Come on, Maureen. Why don’t you come tonight, huh? I can’t take another night of trying to entertain the Roses. They’re so boring.”
“There it is,” she says.
Roland whines. “Please?”
“Thank you for the invitation, but I’m all booked up tonight.”
“C’mon, Maureen! Jocelyn’s making banana pudding. You love banana pudding!”
“Good bye, Roland.”
He groans and simpers, and finally walks off.
“Did you summon him?” Maureen asks.
Maureen scoffs. “Maybe we should start practicing banishing spells instead.”
The next time Patrick walks by Bob’s Garage, Mutt is there again. This time, he’s wearing one of those neon safety vests that traffic cops and people picking up trash on the side of the road use.
His back is arched over the engine of another car—newer this time. Patrick’s been thinking about Mutt on and off for the past couple of days. It’s occurred to him that he hasn’t talked to Mutt all summer. Of course, he was busy, what with making out with David everywhere, hiding from his extended family, and rescuing Twyla from a ghost cult. But still, it’s an aberration. Historically, they would see each other a few times a week during the summer holidays—playing baseball and lacrosse, hanging out at the creek, riding dirt bikes through the trails on the Warner property. And now Mutt has to do community service? He crashed his truck? He’s been joyriding?
Mutt’s always been sort of a tough guy. A tough guy in a long line of tough guys. He’s never been an angel, he’s acted out in the ways they all have—partying, staying out too late, some light vandalism. Patrick remembers Mutt’s end of the year party and how his dad arrived and yelled at Mutt in front of everybody. He made a scene and it was embarrassing, but not really for Mutt. Everybody knows the Mayor likes his high horse.
“Hi Patrick! What can I get you?”
“Hey Twyla.” Patrick puts his elbows on the counter. “Can I get a tuna sandwich, a BLT and a couple of cokes? Bottles please. To go. David and I are going to go down to the creek and have a picnic. We’re also supposed to read All The Pretty Horses, but my guess is the way it’ll go down is I’ll be trying to read the book, meanwhile David will interrupt periodically to tell me about all the things he knows about the book from the other times he’s read it and the fact that he met Cormac McCarthy at a party one time or something.”
Twyla laughs, clear and bright. “That sounds fun.”
Patrick frowns. “I’m sorry you’re working today. Otherwise you could come. Next time, okay?”
Twyla smiles. “Yep! And if it’s our last warm day, we’ll do it somewhere else.”
Patrick smiles, and Twyla excuses herself to put the order in. What Twyla said makes him happy, that he and Twyla and Stevie are good enough friends now that they know they’ll hang out soon whether it be at the café, by the creek, at the motel, at his house, or at Stevie’s. He likes Twyla and Stevie so much. And it really helps that they’re all in on the Big Magic Secret. Well, he’s lucky he’s on the secret, considering he’s the only one without any. It’s really something special. He’s known Twyla and Stevie his whole life. They have inside jokes and shared memories, and they could hold a conversation on just that alone for hours. But he’s never been friends with them. They both come from these tough backgrounds and, hell, have superpowers and he had no idea. Until this year, he doesn’t think he would even be able to ask about any of it. But now, they’re real friends. They hang out, they make plans together, they have a text chain. He wants to be there for them.
He thinks about Mutt. He’s known Mutt his whole life, too. And he knew his dad was hard on him. But he doesn’t know how to be there for Mutt.
“Hey, Twyla?” She’s pouring somebody’s coffee down the counter, and is within reasonable hearing distance. He waits for her to have a moment available to come over.
She smiles at him, and practically skips to his side of the counter. “Hey.”
“Hey. Did you know that Mutt is doing community service at Bob’s Garage?”
She furrows her brow. “No. I saw that he was over there a lot, but I didn’t know it was community service. I thought he got a job or something.”
Patrick shakes his head. “No, he got in trouble for joyriding.”
Twyla looks shocked, and then worried. “Oh.”
They look at each other, sadly, for a few moments until the moment is broken by an “Order up!” from the kitchen. Twyla goes to retrieve it, and when she comes back, it turns out it’s his order.
“Have you talked to him?”
“No, not really. He just told me a couple days ago because I was at the garage for an errand for Mr. Butani.”
She contemplates a coffee ring under Patrick’s fingers. “Maybe I could try.”
“Yeah,” Patrick says. Twyla has a really soft touch. And she’s cheerful. Maybe she could help make him feel better.
“Okay. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
Twyla texts him later that evening.
She manages to get through the first week of school without committing any major faux pas. She sits in the front of class every day with Ted and Rachel and nobody says anything snippy or passive aggressive, and she does a pretty good job of keeping her nose from scrunching in disgust when discussing any of the class’s content. Except when fecal matter or scat is mentioned. She absolutely wrinkles her nose when somebody says that.
She does pretty well, that is, until one day, Ted comes into class smelling like…well, smelling like scat. His hair is disheveled as well, and a five o’clock shadow is peeking through even though it’s 10 a.m. Alexis didn’t know Ted could grow a beard.
“Woof, Ted!” It comes out more scolding than she meant it to, so she leans in with a full nose wrinkle and a fluttering hand.
Ted ducks his head. “I know. I’m sorry. I was, uh, I got up early to help the Animal Shelter in Elmdale bring in some new dogs and I…didn’t have time to go home and shower.”
“Was it worth it?”
Her head snaps around, and she finds Rachel, glaring at her. It looks like it didn’t come across as teasing after all.
Every time Patrick passes by Bob’s Garage or the Schitts’ house, his stomach twinges with guilt. He doesn’t know why. It’s not his fault that Mutt stole a car and got in trouble. He doesn’t feel guilty about that. But maybe he feels a little guilty that his friendship with his teammates—Mutt included—fell through the cracks last year. He feels guilty because Mutt in trouble came as a surprise when it shouldn’t have. From the timeline he’s put together in his head, Mutt’s been on a downward spiral for months and Patrick didn’t even notice.
And it’s not like Patrick wasn’t dealing with his own shit, but Patrick has a cushion. He has parents who nudged him in the right direction, and gave him a soft padding on which to land, and make dinner for his boyfriend on a weekly basis. His dad would never berate him in front of the whole school, even if he had thrown a party with underage drinking. He would get in trouble, and he would have to work to earn certain privileges back, but they would never belittle him like that.
“I’m going to talk to Mutt!”
David startles, looking up from scribbling in his journal on the couch in the den. “Um. Okay. Care to share the backstory for this little announcement of yours?”
“He’s my friend, he’s going through a rough time, and I want to be there for him.”
David’s eyes soften, and then he pulls Patrick by the front of his t-shirt. Patrick lands on top of David with an oof and then David’s journal is on the floor and they get wrapped up in each other for an unknown amount of time before they’re broken apart by the sound of Patrick’s mom coming home from grocery shopping.
He tries to talk to Mutt the next day, but when he passes by the garage, he’s not there. He sees him at school, but Mutt arrives last-second to almost every class and high-tails it out early. Then, Patrick can’t even try the next day because he has to work at Ray’s all afternoon. So Patrick doesn’t get to talk to him until a day later when he finds Mutt inside Bob’s. Or rather, he finds Mutt’s legs, sprawled out from under a vehicle.
He taps Mutt’s foot lightly with his own. “Hey, man.”
Mutt slides out from under the car, his face is sweaty and smudged, and his hair looks even more bedraggled and overgrown than usual. “Oh. Hi, Patrick.”
“So I was thinking,” Patrick starts, “what if you helped me build a car?”
Mutt’s impassive face curls into something incredulous. “What?”
“Or, more specifically, what if you helped me rebuild the broken down 2005 Mazda 6 wagon that’s been taken over by weeds at my Aunt’s place. I want to give David a car and it’s the only way I could afford it.”
“You want to give your boyfriend a car?”
Patrick smirks. He knows it’s a ridiculous idea. But it’s also romantic. He got the idea because David was talking about one of the boyfriends in Gilmore Girls doing the same thing for one of the Gilmore girls and how it was off the wall but very romantic even though he doesn’t think Dean is the right one for Rory.
“I don’t know.” Patrick kicks at a scuff on the floor. “Maybe I want to get us a car. We could go places together.” Mutt just keeps looking at him, skeptically. “Whatever. It might be crazy, but I can’t do it without you. So will you help me or not?”
Mutt sighs. “I’ll think about it.”
David is trying a new strategy, now that he’s got his face buried in boy neck about a thousand percent more of the time than he used to be. He’s trying to hunt every night or every other night, mostly on small animals, as opposed to the bigger ones less often, so he doesn’t try to devour Patrick every time they’re together.
He slurps down what he thinks is his last rabbit for the night and tosses it aside. He pulls out his biodegradable wet wipes—he’s going to have to restock soon—and cleans up. He smooths down the front of his shirt, well, it’s actually Patrick’s shirt, an old capture-the-flag shirt from his honest-to-god summer camp. His pants are Patrick’s too, some sweats that say “U of T” down the side. Patrick was nice enough to loan him the clothes after David complained for the hundredth time about the effect moss, dirt and underbrush have on his jeans. He didn’t even hesitate, just pulled some shirts and sweats out of his dresser and tossed them at David. “They’re yours.”
When he gets back to the motel, he’s greeted by a mother-shaped lump under the sheets on his bed (mattress on the floor).
“Ew! What are you doing in my bed?”
Slowly, Moira Rose sits up—well, more like she pushes her torso up slightly to face him. David listens. There’s no sign of his dad or Alexis.
“Oh, David.” His mother’s voice is wet and strained. “The most terrible thing has happened.”
“What? Did you psych yourself out about playing Patty Hearst again?”
“No! David! Something far far more pestiferous!”
That’s when he notices it. It’s a smell. At first, he just thought it was a motel guest, maybe a drunk. But it’s morphed quickly into something deeper, darker. It’s on the other side of the wall, through the door, in his parent’s room.
The door creaks when he pushes it open.
“Oh my god. Mom! How could you let this happen?”
Perched tentatively on a chair sits the body of Roland Schitt. He’s dead, but he’ll be awake again in a couple of days.
Chapter 2: Teen Wolf
The morning after. Not like that.
Somebody gets hurt in this chapter but it happens offscreen and they are okay! (Supernatural creature transformation notwithstanding).
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The buzzing in his pocket doesn’t stop, so David turns off his phone and focuses again on the scene in front of him. Roland’s body is still sitting up on the chair, a slight breeze away from falling forward to the floor. His mother’s slightly less dead body has transferred in a ragdoll-like heap from his bed (mattress) to her own, and his father has finally arrived. He is standing awkwardly by the bed, holding the sack of Ethiopian coffee his wife had him fetch from the grocery store in one hand, and his shoe in the other. He was trying to kill a bug.
“I’m going to call Maureen.” His father hesitates, realizing his hands are full, then tries to transfer his shoe to the hand with the coffee in it to reach into his pocket to pull out his phone, and then belatedly realizes that his phone is in his other pocket.
David relents. “Oh my god. I will call Maureen.” When his phone boots up again there are seven more notifications waiting for him, the latest one declaring the decision that they should really start another group chat with Patrick, Stevie, Twyla, and Alexis as well since they “have to plan their group costume for Halloween that David refuses to be a part of.”
It takes Maureen less than five minutes to get there, because she was already on her way.
“Please, spare us,” whines his mother. “It was nothing more than an unfortunate accident. I had no ill intent. You must see that.” David thinks her hysterics are somewhat superficial for someone in real fear.
Maureen rolls her eyes. “Of course I’m not going to kill you, Moira. Don’t be ridiculous.” She looks over at Roland, half wary, half resolved. “But we can’t kill Roland either.”
That gets his mother’s attention. She bolts upright. “What?”
“This is not a died-of-natural-causes situation, Moira! You drank him to death!”
“But—but we can’t let him live! We can’t have a bloodthirsty Roland Schitt roaming around. Can you imagine?”
“I don’t like the idea of it anymore than you do, Moira. But we can’t kill him. He’s the mayor of this town! He has a wife and a son! We can’t kill him!”
“But, who will train him? Who will ensure that he doesn’t kill anyone? Who will teach him our ways? Our customs? Who will tell Jocelyn?”
David just looks at her, waiting for realization to dawn. His father and Maureen are looking at her in a similar fashion.
She shrieks then, bloodcurdling and desperate. Worthy of a primetime Emmy.
“Maureen is right, sweetheart,” his father tries in soothing tones. “We’re just going to have to help him.”
She shrieks again and Maureen sighs, dropping her hands to her side. “All right, where are we going to keep him until he wakes up?”
“And then Maureen said we have to keep him at the motel and my dad put him on my bed, so now not only do I not have a bed frame, but I’m going to have to have a ceremonial burning of the mattress and bed linens as well. I’m going to have to live up to my destiny. Due to the circumstances surrounding my transformation, I never actually had a coffin, but I’m going to have to find one somewhere now.”
“Do you think you’re gonna make it, though?”
David glares at Patrick. “Did you not hear me? Roland Schitt has been sired by my mother.”
“You know, funnily enough, I did hear that.” Patrick is beaming at him from his spot in the driver’s seat. Beaming. As if he can’t hear the thud of the mallet and chisel, carving the next tally mark in the stone that reads David’s Chances to Not Fuck This Up. “Your voice, it’s—you know, it carries so beautifully.”
“How are you smiling right now?” The question comes out of his chest, shaky and quiet. “You should be running for the hills.”
Patrick’s smile softens, and he reaches his hand over the center console to squeeze David’s fingers. “I’m not running, and I’m not screaming. Accidents happen.”
Either Patrick is an idiot, or he’s crazy. David jerks his hand out of Patrick’s; he needs it for emphasis, and so that he doesn’t inadvertently yank Patrick’s arm from his shoulder when he has to escape. “Accidents happen?! Yes, accidents happen! An accident, like your dog eats your homework or you assume Katherine and Audrey are related when putting together your guest list for your mother’s fundraising event-slash-birthday party. Those are accidents. Not turning someone into a vampire!” He whisper-screams the last part to keep himself from actually screaming.
“David. I’m not going anywhere. I told you. I’m not afraid of what you are.” Patrick grabs his hand again, and it’s warm and steady. “Besides, you didn’t even do it.”
“My mother—she’s—she’s not as in control as she thinks she is.” His mother. Moira Rose. The immortal, eternal, incomparable Moira Rose, who never got to live the life she wanted, who sacrificed everything only to be trapped in her own fantasy for over eighty years, who can’t stand her own reflection. His beautiful, talented, self-centered, moonstruck mother. He has never been able to convince her, never been able to escape her, never been able to make her listen.
Patrick drops his hand, only to reach up and touch the side of David’s face, to stroke at his cheekbone, and trace the shell of his ear. “It’s not your fault, David.”
“I should have fed her to the crows in Bosnia when I had the chance.”
“Well, that seems very practical.” Patrick smirks, and tugs the short hair on the back of David’s head.
“It would have been the same end her character, Clara Mandrake, received in The Crows Have Eyes,” David murmurs. “She would have appreciated the symmetry.”
Patrick hums in accordance and then unbuckles his seatbelt. “Well, time to get started.” He opens his door and hops down and out of the truck.
“No!” One day, he’s going to say that word to Patrick without whining.
“We came out here for a driving lesson. You’re going to drive.”
“Can’t we just make out in the truck bed like last time?”
“Sure, if you can get us out of the school parking lot and up the road to the observatory at Turner Farms, we can definitely make out in the truck bed. When we get there.”
David groans. And just to be a brat, takes his time walking around the back of the truck when Patrick went around the front way.
“Since your mom sired Roland. Does that make Roland, like, your vampire brother?”
“That’s not how it works!”
“You know, Roland has been mayor almost my whole life. I don’t think Schitt’s Creek has any term limits. Does that mean he’s going to be mayor forever?”
Witch Family Tree
Stevie has tried everything. And by “everything” she means typing every keyword she can think of into Google. The things she finds either have to do with Harry Potter and other fantasy media—which is fiction—and stuff related to the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition—which everyone knows were just the result of sexism and xenophobia. There’s nothing, nothing of use to her.
She thought she found a useful subreddit, but it was mostly an extension of what she already has access to—spellblogs and how-tos. There’s probably somebody monitoring this stuff, keeping the real information off the internet. She had to prove she was a witch through an elaborate survey before she could even access the page.
And anyway, she’s not looking to “network” or trade spells anyway. She wants to find out where she came from. What witchcraft actually is, what the source of it is.
There’s a full moon tonight. Vampires never go out hunting on a full moon. There’s too much going on—witches out doing spells, werewolves out trawling the place, fairies doing their special fairy dances. But Alexis knows all of the magical creatures in Schitt’s Creek—half of whom are her family members—and she’s thirsty, so she’s hunting.
It’s really inconvenient, she hasn’t had to hunt this often in years. She still hasn’t found anyone to replace Ted and Mutt. She should be taking stock at school, but her heart hasn’t been in it. It’s okay, drinking from stoners can be fun—the contact high is nothing to sneeze at.
She rounds the corner onto Shady Lane when she catches it. The smell. The worst smell. It’s a scent that makes her nostrils burn the closer she gets and she is getting closer. What has happened? Why is it here? How is it possible?
She should run directly in the opposite direction. She should tell David. They should all get the fuck out.
But there’s no time. It’s too close to the town. It’s going to bite or kill. She can’t. If it bites her, she’s done for. If it bites someone else, they’ll turn. Whatever, why does she even care?
Then, she hears it. A scream that turns her veins to ice. It’s happened and there’s no choice but to run in that direction.
The smell gets stronger and the screaming ends. There’s a whinny and the sound of hooves thumping frantically. She can see them through the trees, the broad hairy back of the werewolf standing hunched over its prey. Whoever it is, they must have been out riding, a saddled horse with no rider is trying kicking hard into the dirt and whinnying in warning.
Alexis doesn’t think about it, she just moves. The next thing she knows, she’s jumped onto the wolf’s back and gripped her arms around its throat, locking them tightly into place. She can’t bite it for fear of poisoning and she doesn’t have a silver dagger, so knocking it out will have to do. If she can keep a hold of it long enough. There’s a thud when the wolf drops the body of its prey. The monster’s claws scrabble at her arms and pain shoots through them when she feels the scratches. She grips harder. If she lets go, she’s dead.
No way in hell.
She can’t see past her arms down to the ground to see who the victim is. The wolf is so tall, it’s a long way down to the hard earth below. It’s too late, anyway. Either they’re dead or she’ll have to kill them before the next full moon.
They’re not going to be able to stay in Schitt’s Creek. Not after Roland. Not after this.
It takes a long time, but finally, the monster goes slack underneath her. Then, the world turns sideways, and they collapse into a heap on the forest floor. It sounds like a tree collapsing—the sound reverberating through the woods.
She keeps her hold on the creature, just in case, but she can see now. She can see the limp and tiny form of Rachel.
She must have been out riding. Why was she out riding so long after dark? Oh, fuck, Rachel! She can’t kill Rachel!
She makes herself count to ten—and then count to ten again because she thinks she counted too fast the first time—before releasing her chokehold. Her arms are destroyed, she’s going to have to drink something soon. It’s a good thing Rachel is blanketed in the wolf’s stench, or Alexis thinks she might not be able to hold herself back from devouring her.
Rachel is covered in blood and it takes Alexis a few beats to figure out where the wolf bit her. It’s her stomach. The wolf bit down hard on her belly. She’s not going to make it. There’s way too much blood. There are choices to be made, but she’s not going to be able to make one if Rachel dies right now. So Alexis bites down hard on her palm, and presses it into Rachel’s mouth.
At first, she thinks she might be too late, so much time passes without any change. But then she feels Rachel stir underneath her, and sees her bump in her neck move down. She’s swallowing.
And then, Rachel’s sucking, and gripping onto Alexis’ hand, and when she looks down, she can see the deep wound in her belly start to seal itself.
“Okay, okay!” Alexis wrenches her hand away, and Rachel falls back into the ground.
“Alexis? Alexis, what happened?”
Alexis looks over at the crumpled form of the wolf. Its breath is thin.
“Holy fuck!” Rachel scrambles up into a seated position. “What the fuck is that?”
“It’s a werewolf.”
“A werewolf. It bit you. And I saved you.” She thinks about holding back on the next part, but everybody knows when it comes to hard truths, it’s better to just get it out there. “It bit you. So, pretty soon, you’re going to be a werewolf too.”
David’s hair is really soft. Some nights, like tonight, Patrick can’t stop touching it. David’s head is tucked snugly under Patrick’s chin. David is either asleep or pretending to be; regardless, his grip around Patrick is locked and tight. Patrick doesn’t think he’ll be ready to sleep for a while yet, but it’s okay. It just means more time for this—holding David, rubbing his hand up and down David’s arm, kissing his forehead, breathing in his scent, tugging on his hair. Even though David’s a snob about his hair during the day, fingers through it at night makes him purr like a kitten.
God. I love him so much. Patrick didn’t even know it was possible to feel so intensely about a person. Sometimes, when he looks at David, he feels almost aggressive about it—the feeling too overwhelming to process, so it just comes out like a growl. His body is on high alert all the time, always anxious when they’re separated. He’s always waiting for him. And when they’re together, one part of him is eased, while another aches intensely to get even closer. It’s wild and it’s out of control and they probably need to bone soon or Patrick’s going to lose his mind.
But it’s not just about sex. And it’s not just the possessiveness and the aching. It’s also joy. It’s joy like Patrick has never known. It’s joy that’s compounded by the joy on David’s face—by invoking his dazzling smile. When David smiles or asks Patrick where he is or says the word “boyfriend” it takes the joy inside Patrick’s heart and doubles it. Sometimes it compounds so quickly, Patrick is worried it’ll collapse under its own weight. Or set him on fire.
“What’s wrong?” David’s voice is croaky with sleep. Patrick realizes that his grip is tight on David’s upper arm. He loosens his fingers.
“Nothing.” He sighs, and his back sinks back into the mattress.
“You were so tense.”
“I just. I can’t shake this feeling, like. I don’t know. Like you’re going to disappear.” He didn’t realize he was thinking it, until it came out. It occurs to him that he’s been worrying about it for days.
David’s lips and his nose dig into Patrick’s neck. Sparks shoot through his spine with the kisses David places there. “Don’t think about that,” David says. “Don’t worry. I’m here.”
Patrick tugs David’s hair again, pulling his head back and David moves with the silent command willingly. Patrick presses his mouth to David’s, pulling on his hair, fingers digging hard into David’s hips, pushing David further onto his side, almost—but not all the way—underneath him. Patrick inhales through his nose and he kisses deeply into David’s mouth, pushing his tongue, pulling his lips. David’s hold on his shoulders is light, gentle, patient. It’s in terrible disagreement with Patricks’ sudden desperation. Maybe tonight. Maybe tonight they’ll touch each other. Maybe if they can do that. If they can seal something with their bodies, then maybe Patrick won’t feel this way anymore, then maybe David will get to feel what Patrick is trying to say.
“Patrick.” David breaks their kiss. His voice is soft and patient too and it makes Patrick want to scream.
“David.” Patrick’s voice breaks and he clutches at David’s face, presses his fingers into the soft skin of his cheek, grabs at his jaw. “I want—”
Both of their phones buzz and light up on the bedside table at once. They both turn and Patrick sees Alexis’ name in the message preview.
“Okay, so tie the thing around the wrists—yeah, just like that, and then around the ankles—yeah, perfect. Okay, we might as well put the silver cross around its neck for good measure.” Stevie stubbornly tries to wrestle the chain over the wolf’s head, but it doesn’t work, so she relents and fiddles with the clasp.
“If mom finds out about this, she’s going to murder you.”
“Well, she’s not going to find out about it, is she David? Because no one’s going to tell her. Besides, she’s too busy dealing with the Roland situation.”
“I think Roland is going to be so happy when he wakes up. He’s definitely the type to want to live forever.” Twyla is in the dirt, holding a shaking Rachel tightly around the shoulders.
“He’s going to outlive us all.” David shudders. “Oh my god, Alexis, go feed, your arms are completely destroyed.”
“I’ll eat when we figure out what to do with the wolf.”
“Do you think the pin on this brooch will do it?” Stevie holds out the diamond-encrusted scorpion.
“We’re not going to kill it!” David shrieks.
“And why not?” Stevie looks delightfully blasé for someone plotting a werewolf murder. She’s the first friend David’s ever had who Alexis thinks is actually kind of chill, if somewhat plain.
“Because, it could be somebody we know. We just have to keep it wrapped up like this for the rest of the night, and in the morning, they’ll be back to normal.” David, as usual, is assuming his role as the overly-cautious thinks-he-should-be-in-charge older brother.
“Let’s get you home, okay Rach?” Patrick joins Twyla by Rachel’s side. Rachel flinches toward Twyla, but nods. “Don’t worry,” he says. “We won’t leave you alone. David and I will stand watch outside your window.”
“I’ll stay here.” The wolf is Alexis’ responsibility now. “I’ll watch the wolf.”
“You have to eat first,” David reminds her.
“No, not the horse!” Patrick scolds.
“Ugh. Fine. I’ll go find a bear or something. But the horse is a lot closer.” Humans and their weird animal pecking order.
It’s not difficult. It’s maybe a little scary, maybe a little boring, but it’s not difficult to sit there all night, watching the wolf. It’s actually kind of fascinating. She’s never been this close to one before, especially not a sleeping one. The enchanted silver is meant to keep its strength subdued, and her chokehold seems to have thoroughly knocked it out. So, she can just watch it breathe and snuffle. It’s a giant animal. Standing up, Alexis had to jump to get on its back. It stands like a man, but its whole body is wolflike. Only its snout is larger than any real wolf, its teeth longer and more deadly. Its right ear twitches.
Around 3:30 in the morning, the change starts to happen, though slight enough to be imperceptible to a human. A shortening of hair here, the straightening of a limb there, a shrinking appendage here.
By 6:00, Alexis is left without a doubt of who it is. And she knows she won’t be able to kill him. He’s still hairy, and still has a bit of a snout, but it’s him. She moves closer, not letting herself worry about the possible danger. He won’t hurt her, she’s sure of it. She places her hand on his naked shoulder. He must be freezing. She wishes she had a blanket, but she can’t risk leaving him alone in the middle of the woods.
She gives his shoulder a little shake. “Ted?”
His eyes flutter open, and it takes a second for them to dart from the scene in front of him, to her knees knelt beside him, up to her face. “Alexis?”
Alexis isn’t sure what awaits her on the other side of the window. Disgust? Anger? Could even be a power trip. She’s seen that before, when people turn—sometimes they get manic and wild, finally able to act out their darkest fantasies. She doesn’t think it will be that bad, but she still hesitates before tapping on the second-floor window.
There’s no answer at first, but then, the door to the room opens and Rachel is there, staring at her through the window and the expanse of the bedroom. When she sees Alexis, her face shifts from confusion to that of a DMV employee dealing with a difficult patron. Rachel doesn’t move, she doesn’t even close the door behind her, so Alexis tries to prompt her into action via gesturing at her to come here enthusiastically.
Rachel looks around, as if afraid to be caught, and then walks slowly to the window. She opens it easily, with her newfound brute strength.
“What do you want, Alexis?”
Rachel crosses her arms. “You can’t come in. You haven’t been invited.”
“Uh huh. Uh huh. Yep.” This is not getting off to a good start. Okay, regroup. “That’s no problem. I just came to, um, to see how you’re doing?”
Rachel uncrosses her arms. “How do you think I’m doing? I’m doing terribly. I just got attacked by a huge monster that turned out to be a werewolf who turned out to be Ted. And guess what! Now it turns out I am also going to be a monster like that. And according to Ted, the full moon really sucks. Like, apparently, every bone in my body is going to reshape itself. Every month. Oh, and did I mention the out-of-control rage? I’m likely to kill the first person I see. So, yeah. Life fucking sucks right now and apparently will for the foreseeable future.”
Yikes. “Okay. Well. It sounds like somebody got you up to speed.” She taps her finger on the window pane. “So that’s good.”
“Oh yeah. Somebody got me up to speed on things. Actually, a lot of things. Did you know that I got my memories back?”
“Your—” Alexis gulps. “Your memories?”
“Yeah, you know, that time you hypnotized me so that you could bite me at Mutt’s party? And then had David take me home and wipe my memories?”
“Oh.” Alexis grits her teeth. Double yikes. “Those.”
“Yeah, those.” Rachel does not look like she is about to find the humor in this any time soon.
The paint on the window pane is peeling. Rachel is wearing her Elm Valley Equestrian t-shirt, the purple one that says “Barn Hair Don’t Care,” there’s an open-side-up horseshoe nailed above her bedroom door.
“Right, so I just came over to let you know that, um, Stevie is working on trying to find, like, a spell or something to help you guys for the next full moon. So, hopefully you guys won’t have to worry about the pain. We can use silver to keep you from killing anyone, no matter what, though.” She makes herself stop talking. “Okay. Well. I’ll see you in class.” And then, she runs away.
She almost doesn’t go to Ted’s. In fact, she had all but completely decided against it, but then she pictured David’s I-Know-Better-Than-You face and reminded herself that fear is something that most people wouldn’t have to feel if they just didn’t let themselves. So, she flips her hair, squares her shoulders and walks right into Ted’s house.
It’s fine. Nobody’s home. She’ll just wait in his room. She debates between the desk chair and the bed. She picks the chair, it’s more official.
About thirty minutes later, she hears the car door slam shut, and then the keys in the front-door. And then the stomps of feet up the stairs.
“Woah,” Ted says, when he sees her.
“Everything okay, honey?” Mrs. Mullens came up the stairs with Ted, and just missed seeing Alexis when Ted opened the door.
“Oh, yes, everything’s fine, mom.” Ted is not a good actor, and he jumps through the door. “It’s just that a bird flew into my room.”
Alexis watches the terror bloom on Ted’s face. “No! Pssh. What bird? No. Not a bird. I meant, a dragonfly! Yeah. Don’t worry about it, I’ll get it. Everything’s fine. Okay.” He shuts the door a little too loudly.
He turns to Alexis, looking panicked and mouths, “Wha?”
Alexis shakes her head, worriedly. She didn’t mean to barge in on him while his mom is right in the next room. She can’t, like, talk openly with him or anything. She looks around for something she can use to communicate silently with him. Maybe Ted knows Ukrainian Sign Language? Or they could just sneak out, jump out the window.
Oh, right. Duh. Alexis pulls out her phone and gestures to it. Ted, still wide-eyed, nods in understanding, takes a seat on his bed on the other side of the room, and pulls out his phone.
It takes her a lot of deleting and rewriting, but eventually she texts him.
Ted’s phone pings loudly.
“Sorry.” Ted says it aloud, so Alexis waves her arm and makes the shh sign. “Sorry,” Ted says again, but lower. Alexis glares at him.
When Ted looks up at her after reading her text, he looks stricken. She sees now that the rims of his eyes are a little pink, his shoulders more drooped than usual.
Alexis bites her lip. She’s not sure Rachel is looking on the bright side like that.
Ted looks at her, a question in his eyes.
She’s not really sure what to say about that. It’s true, she never had to make Ted do anything, and he’s known all along what she is. She was planning on circling back and making him forget that, but hadn’t gotten around to it. And he was compelled to secrecy, so it’s not like it mattered, anyway.
She’s sure at least some of her shine has worn off, though.
Ted’s making it sound like she didn’t do anything wrong. But she feels like she should be apologizing for something, even if she’s not sure what.
Ted huffs good-naturedly from across the room.
It continues like that. Alexis and Ted, sitting in his room, trading messages back and forth silently. Ted tells her about his first full moon when he was in Hawaii and that he’s pretty sure he killed someone. He tells her about being bitten while walking back to his dorm one night and having to get a rabies shot. He tells her how happy he is that they all know about it, so he doesn’t have to go through it alone. She tells him stuff that she knows about werewolves—including the fact that a bite could kill her. Ted blanches at that.
Alexis shakes her head. It was just instinct, and she realized she could do it, so she did. If she had found herself in any real danger, she would have fled.
“Ted! Dinner!” his mother calls from downstairs. Ninety minutes have past, and Alexis realizes that they probably didn’t have to text the whole time.
“Coming!” Ted smiles in his soft Ted way and types something else on his phone.
Stevie has never been particularly good at research. During their research project for AP English Composition last year, Stevie got a 76% because she didn’t bother to ask anybody for help when she couldn’t figure out the point of the assignment. Of course, actually reading The Scarlet Letter all the way through would have been helpful. She should have picked Frankenstein; she may have actually liked that book.
“I don’t know, David. I’ve Googled everything. There’s a serious gap in the information available on werewolves.”
“Okay, well, what if you tried, I don’t know, going to an actual library?”
“Yeah, you know, where they keep all the books? And journal subscriptions? And entire books that people wrote having done a lot of research for you already?”
Stevie doesn’t know why a library would have more of the information she’s looking for than the internet. It’s the world wide web after all. Isn’t the whole point that all the world’s knowledge is at your fingertips?
“You do know that librarians’ main job is research, right? It’s not just stocking shelves and collecting late fees. Librarians are trained in finding information for you.”
“Yeah. And a lot of libraries are specialized. There are magical libraries all over the world.”
“Yeah. Did you not know that?”
“No! I had no idea.”
“Oh. Sorry.” David takes a big bite from his Twizzler. When he chews on it, his wide lips really get involved, doing a lot of work. Stevie stares at them for a moment, fascinated. “I thought you knew.”
“No, I did not know! David, I told you I was looking for stuff about my family and magical history, why didn’t you tell me?” David is the most oblivious idiot in the entire world and she’s going to strangle him. Not that he needs air. And if she broke his windpipe it would just heal itself. Maybe she should strangle him. For emphasis.
The Willow Sanderson Library is housed in Vancouver and has a large digital collection. And even better, a staff of actual witch librarians.
“David. They have a genealogy department.” She points at the little white words on the drop-down menu on her laptop screen, and then feels David’s hand, heavy and right there with her, on her head. “And a history department. And stuff about spells. Oh my god.”
They have to focus on finding out a way to help Rachel and Ted before the full moon in a few weeks. Maybe a spell to keep them docile, or some sort of talisman she can make for them to protect them from the moon. She clicks on “Magical Humanoids” in search of answers. But she knows that everything else is waiting for her.
“So, how was pizza the other night?” Patrick’s mom settles into her chair, placing the checkered napkin on her lap. “How are Matt and Lana?”
“It was fun.” Patrick is never really sure how to answer his mom’s questions about his cousins or his friends. She always knows more about them than he does anyway. Like with Stevie. Patrick has always had a notion that Stevie has had a rough go of it. But his mom knows all the dates and times relating to Stevie’s dad’s death and when her mom left and how Maureen had to move back from Windsor so that she could take care of Stevie. Patrick didn’t know any of that, and it all happened when they were schoolmates.
“Your Uncle Jimmy said that Matt’s having trouble with his college applications.”
“Yeah.” Patrick sighs and looks at David next to him, who was also there and is usually more attuned to—he doesn’t want to call it drama, but that’s kind of what it is. David just shrugs and takes a bite of his chicken orzo bake. “I don’t know. He said something about his GPA.”
“Oh,” she purses her lips and shakes her head, “yeah. He’s always had trouble in school. But he’s so intelligent. I’m sure he could get in somewhere.”
“Yeah, but—” Patrick started out confidently, but now he’s not sure what he wants to say. “I don’t know. Does he have to go to college?”
“Oh, no. He doesn’t have to. No sense in going if you’re not ready. We need more tradesmen these days anyway. Young people aren’t going into the trades and pretty soon there’s going to be a very high demand for electricians and contractors and plumbers when all the ones currently working retire.” His dad points with his fork for emphasis.
“Yes, but I don’t think he should hold himself back from going to college just because he’s a little worried about his grades. He’s so talented, what with hockey and the guitar, and that amazing science project he did last year?”
“Which he turned in late,” Patrick’s dad says.
“Why don’t we talk about something else?” Patrick’s not sure why this conversation is making his chest tighten the way it is, but he’s finding it hard to get up the gumption to eat the meal in front of him.
“You’re right, honey. There’s no sense in speculating about Matt.” She turns to David. “How are your applications going, honey?”
“Oh. Fine.” Patrick is pretty sure David isn’t actually applying anywhere. According to their conversations, whenever David feels like going to college, he just pays a visit to an admissions officer and hypnotizes his way in. So, David will probably just do that for whatever school Patrick decides to go to. Or, maybe he won’t even go to school. Maybe he’ll just be around. The way Patrick’s imagined it, and he hasn’t given it that much thought, he always imagines David just sort of always in his dorm room, waiting for him. That’s probably unrealistic. Especially because in his imagination, he doesn’t have any roommates and the dorm room kind of looks like an attic in a Victorian-era movie, which doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s probably the vampire thing. Patrick finds that the settings he imagines around David are always a little…gothic.
“How many schools are you applying to?”
“Oh, just a couple.”
“Patrick, too,” his mother says. “And hopefully, he’ll be close enough to home that he can come back on weekends.”
“But not too many weekends,” says his dad. “The websites all advise that kids shouldn’t come home until fall break, so that they actually adjust. You know, they said the same thing when we put my grandmother Marjorie in the nursing home. No visitors for the first month.”
University of Toronto. West Canthor University. University of Waterloo.
He visited all three of them and interviewed at all three of them and he has no idea which one he likes the most. But it doesn’t matter. He’s going to major in business because that’s what he’s interested in, and he’ll go from there.
He looks over at David again, whose eyes are soft with sympathy. Patrick’s not sure why, though. Everything is going to be fine.
“Are you applying to the same places as Patrick?” his mother asks, eyes alight with mischief.
“We have some overlap,” David says.
“Well, take it from me, you can’t make all of your decisions about your future based on a boy.”
“Oh, I don’t know if that’s universal advice.” His father smirks. “Pretty sure it worked out for us.”
“Yes, honey. It worked out for us. It did not work out, however, for me and Jedd Carson.”
Patrick feels David’s hand squeeze his under the table.
“Okay. Well, you’re going to have to tell her today, mom. He’s pretty much guaranteed to wake up tonight.”
“Oh, why must I herald this misfortune? He’ll be awake tomorrow; he can tell her himself.”
The thing about Moira Rose is…. The thing about Moira Rose is that she is so strong. She could lift cars above her head, throw javelins thousands of feet through the air, could kill a man without blinking (and has). She is arrogant and prideful and vain. But she is also very delicate. David has spent his entire existence emulating her, frustrated with her, worried about her.
And here she is having to face the consequences of a blunder and it has her wringing her hands like Lady Macbeth. It’s not about Roland Schitt. It’s not about Mrs. Schitt. It’s about the fact that she made a mistake. Moira Rose doesn’t make mistakes, ever. Until she does.
It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit with the way she thinks of herself, and it doesn’t fit with the way she insists upon her children thinking of her. They’re supposed to trust her, admire her, hang on her every word.
But this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. It’s not even the first time something like this has happened this year.
David sighs and sits next to his mother on the bed. “It’s not going to even be that big of a deal. Isn’t Mrs. Schitt like, obsessed with you anyway?”
“Well, naturally,” she says, her face still crinkled. “But it’s going to be a disaster. She’s going to cry and wail. You know I have no tolerance for such mundane emotions. What if she tries to rope me into planning the transformation festivities?”
“Okay. I don’t think Jocelyn Schitt has ever heard of a New Life celebration. I don’t think that’s something you need to worry about.”
“Oh David, you must come with me.”
“Absolutely not.” He wrenches his hand away from hers, horrified.
“Oh, but she will not emote too much if you are there! She will want to maintain propriety in the face of one of her pupils.”
“Um. No. There is no way I’m going to help you tell your blood source that her husband is a vampire. That is none of my business.”
“Oh, but David, I can’t do it alone!”
“I thought Dad was going with you.”
She wrinkles her nose. “He is. But you know your father. He’s never seen a foot that hasn’t gone straight into his mouth.”
“Ew! Oh my god. I’m going to need you to perform a lobotomy on me immediately. Get that image out of my head!”
When Mrs. Schitt opens the door to where David, his parents, and Maureen await, she reminds David very much of Russell Brand, only blonde.
“Oh. Hi Moira. Johnny. Maureen.” She looks at David and tears well in her eyes. “And David.” Her bottom lip wobbles. “Thank you for coming.”
They pile, one by one, through the door and into the living room.
“You know. It’s just been a rough couple of days. Rollie left the house, said he had to run an errand. And he just hasn’t come back.” Mrs. Schitt sits on her couch, her cheeks blotchy and wet. “And nobody has been able to give me any news. The police can’t find him. Nobody will tell me anything.”
“Right. Well. That’s actually why we’re here, Jocelyn,” says Maureen. She’s taken a seat on the other side of the couch. She’s trying to speak in soothing tones and she looks very uncomfortable about it. “Moira actually has something she would like to tell you.”
Mrs. Schitt looks up at David’s mother, who is standing with David and her husband at an uneasy distance, her eyes wide and frenzied. “Moira?”
His mother’s eyes dart around the room. She bites her lip. Then, after a moment’s hesitation she squares her shoulders. “Right. Well. You know, funny story. I actually ran into your husband, just, coincidentally, by happenstance, a real chance meeting.”
“Skip ahead,” David whispers from the sidelines. He used to do that for her during press events. Normally, that’s the job of an assistant, but she had a habit of firing them out of anxiety right before they were meant to be most useful. She tried to fire David once or twice as well, but unfortunately, it didn’t stick.
“So, Roland came to the motel. And anyway. Accidents happen—”
“More apologetic,” David advises.
“I made a mistake!” she cries. “Oh, Jocelyn, you will never forgive me! I—he—it’s all my fault. I throw myself at your mercy! Here. My stake. You must take it. Plunge it in my heart. I—”
“Pull back,” David murmurs. “Try to make it more about her.”
Her countenance shape-shifts at once. She approaches the couch. She doesn’t sit, but clearly hesitates about the height disparity. He watches her settle on a slight, awkward, bending of the knee. “Oh, my dear Jocelyn. You must be devastated. As miserable and heartsick as sin. What will you do now? A single woman, in this political climate?”
Her body’s position and expression transform once more and she takes a seat next to Mrs. Schitt, pulling her hand into her lap. “The unthinkable has happened, my dear. Your husband is about to cross over, to begin the second installment of his trilogy, as a member of the living dead.”
“What?” Mrs. Schitt is just staring at David’s mother, her posture contorted.
“Yes.” Moira Rose is back to business now. “Your companion, your husband, your dear co-pilot, he, like John over there, is a vampire.”
Mrs. Schitt doesn’t scream, she doesn’t wail. Instead, all the blood rushes from her face and her forehead clears. David can smell the adrenaline spike.
“Where is he?”
I miss Ted/Alexis so much <3
What is going to happen?!
Thank you yourbuttervoicedbeau and fishyspots for the beta!
Chapter 3: Vampire Academy
Thank you, as always, to yourbuttervoicedbeau and fishyspots for beta'ing!
Also, I know there have been references to sex already in this story among the teen characters, but things start getting more concrete in this chapter.
Roland Schitt wakes up on a Tuesday night. He awakens in like manner to thousands before him—in a different location from where he fell asleep. He’s in his own bed, but he fell asleep on a chair in the motel. His wife is with him, but so are his friends Johnny, Moira, and Maureen. He looks over at Jocelyn. She looks worried, and tasty, as usual. It occurs to him that he is very thirsty.
“Water,” he rasps.
The eyes of his friends are shifty. As if he said the wrong thing.
“Sure, Roland,” says Johnny. “We’ll get you some water.”
A glass ends up in his hand, though time skips for Roland between the fetching and the receiving. He drinks, but it does nothing.
“Rollie,” says his wife. “There’s something you should know.”
“Welcome to Intro to Witches, Vampires, and Werewolves, oh my!”
Room 110 at Schitt’s Creek High School is occupied by various teenage magical beings—who snuck in after dinner time to use the projector.
“'Oh my?’ Really, is that necessary?”
“What? I thought it was funny.”
“Right. Anyway. Patrick and I put this presentation together—” Stevie starts.
“With help from David and me!”
“—Right, with consult from David and Alexis—because, you know, you guys have just gone through a big transition and we want you to have as much information as possible.”
“Please know that this is a lot of new information to process. You may at times find it overwhelming. If you need to excuse yourself at any time for a break, please feel free to do so.” Patrick heard that phrase once at an afterschool program and thought it would be appropriate for this one, too.
“Okay.” Stevie uses the laser pointer. The PowerPoint switches from the title card to a slide that reads MAGIC. “All supernatural phenomena that we know of comes from magic. Magic is everywhere. Everybody has magic inside of them, but only a few—” she switches the slide again— “know how to use it.” WITCHES. “I, for example, am a witch. So is my Great-Aunt Maureen. We’re the only witches we know of in Schitt’s Creek.”
Rachel raises her hand. “What exactly does that mean, that you’re a witch? That you can use magic?”
Stevie’s body sort of slumps. To the generous observer, it’s a posture of humility. To Rachel, who is having a hard time with everything, it probably reads more like the posture of somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. “It’s sort of hard to explain? But I think for now, just kind of go with what you know from movies and stuff. You know, spells, making things float around, connection to nature, all that. We can get into real particulars later.”
“The important thing to know,” David pipes up, trying to be helpful, “is that Stevie and Maureen are more powerful than any of us. Werewolves and vampires wouldn’t exist without witches. Witches made vampires and werewolves, like, a million years ago.”
“That might not actually be true,” Stevie says. “According to my research, it’s been confirmed that vampires are the result of a curse—probably originating sometime in the sixth century on the Italian peninsula. For werewolves, however, it is unclear.”
“But what about Twyla? I thought she was telekinetic. What, she doesn’t get a slide?”
“We’ll get to her after we cover werewolves, when we go over the difference between gifted humans and magical creatures.”
To no one’s surprise, Roland tries to bite his wife. They’re in the middle of trying to explain to him his new condition, and right in the middle of Moira’s sentence about his newfound powers of strength, he’s leaning in toward Jocelyn’s throat. Fortunately, Maureen is prepared, and she casts a defensive spell—resulting in a splitting headache for Roland and a safe jugular for Jocelyn.
“You smell really good, honey,” Roland says in a daze.
Johnny’s frustration starts to bubble through, as evidenced by the nervous bobbing of his head. “Okay, the point is Roland, you have to decide if you want to drink the blood to complete the transition or if you would rather—you know…” He can’t finish his sentence.
“—Die. If you want to die.” Moira might habitually elongate words, but she tries not to mince them.
After VAMPIRES they finally get to WEREWOLVES, “and the reason we’re all here. Ted, Rachel, this one’s for you.”
They’re both ready with notepads.
They cover the obvious—full moon, painful transformation every month, a bite will incite a turning for another, enchanted silver can subdue a werewolf and make them less dangerous. “Which is good because otherwise the planet would probably be overrun right now.”
They cover new information as well, that unlike vampires, werewolves can have human offspring (offspring at all), that if a witch becomes a werewolf they maintain their powers, and that like vampires, they are immortal.
“So, I’m going to be this age forever?”
Stevie sighs. “Yeah.”
Rachel, who before was sitting at attention, slumps back into her chair.
“You bet your bottom dollar I’m drinking it!” Roland’s words echo in the minds of everyone present as they watch Roland speed giddily around his moonlit backyard.
“Woohoo!” he cries.
“Shhh! Rollie! You’re going to wake everyone.”
“Wow!” Roland halts in front of his wife, and the sudden stop makes her hair blow back. “Honey, I could hear you clear as day even though I was going so fast in other directions!” He grips her arms. “Wow. You’re even hotter in the dark!”
“I think, perhaps, I ought to take Roland on an excursion.”
“You’re going to take him hunting?” It’s the first thing Maureen has said in a while. “That doesn’t sound like a very good idea.”
“Well, we can’t let him starve. He’s going to eat Jocelyn!”
They watch as Roland leans in close to his wife and starts nuzzling her neck.
“Maybe this was a bad idea,” Maureen says.
“Really, Maureen, we cannot embark on a journey of regret now. Nothing to do but embrace the circumstances. Onward through the fog!”
“Any questions?” Patrick puts down the laser pointer, his face flush with the accomplishment of a PowerPoint presentation well-done.
Many hands go up, and they don’t just belong to Ted and Rachel. Stevie and David, oh, and now Twyla, also have questions.
“Okay, but something that you said about vampires doesn’t make sense. How can they eat human food if they only need blood to survive?”
“Yeah, and if Stevie is this all-powerful being, why hasn’t she skipped a grade?”
“If witches are the only ones who can control magic, and everybody else’s magic comes from them, and fairies can fly, then it stands to reason that vampires could potentially fly, too, right?”
“If being a werewolf can be passed down genetically but also through bites, how come the entire world isn’t werewolves yet?”
“Okay,” Patrick interrupts, “it’s clear that there are still a lot of things we need to learn. We put basically everything we know into this presentation. We don’t have all the answers. But at least we’re all on the same page now.” Patrick heaves out a sigh. “I think what’s most important to discuss is what comes next. This is a lot of information that we just covered. How is everybody feeling?” He demonstrates with his thumb. “Good? Bad? So-so?”
There’s a beat of silence as everyone gives their answers. Alexis, Twyla, and Stevie have thumbs-up, David and Ted are giving medium thumbs, and Rachel—Rachel hasn’t said much of anything for a while.
When her eyes meet his, it’s clear she was in another world. “Huh?”
“I just asked, are you okay?”
She shakes her head. “Um. I think I need a minute.” She stands, the legs of her chair and desk whining across the tile floor, and heads out of the room.
“You know, guys, I think this was maybe too much?” Alexis says. “She’s going through a lot right now, you know.”
“This is a disaster.”
“No need to state the obvious, Maureen.”
“He almost killed her! And then he just ran off.”
“Moira will catch up to him.”
“He’s like the fucking Tasmanian Devil. He’s completely out of control!”
“The Transylvanian Devil.”
“Are you serious right now?”
“I’m sorry. I thought I would try and lighten the mood.”
They stand, hunched over and distressed. They face each other but avoid each other’s gaze.
“Look. It’s his first day. So he’s a little out of control. It’s not uncommon. It’s a lot to deal with, that first rush of strength and energy. Give him a few days, he’ll calm down.”
“A few days?”
“We need a game plan. We can’t have a wild Roland Schitt running around.”
“Look, the sun will be up in three hours, and then he’ll have to go back inside. He’ll be confined to a dark room in his house. That’ll bide us some time.”
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll try to escape and burst into flames.”
“You could try and make him a talisman to protect him from the daylight—as another witch did for us.”
“Oh, absolutely not. There’s no way I’m giving that man more options to fuck everything up.”
Rachel returns to the classroom a few minutes later, but she looks the same—spacey and uncomfortable.
“Are you okay, Rachel?” Twyla asks.
“Yeah, I um—” she grimaces— “actually, I’m not.” Her voice cracks. “I just. I don’t know what I’m going to tell my mom.”
She bursts into tears, and everybody rushes toward her (at various speeds). Soon, Rachel is enveloped in an embrace, warm and heavy, while murmurs of “It’ll be okay” and “We’re here for you, Rachel” are showered upon her from every side.
Patrick lets Twyla knock on the door. He stands back at her flanks with David. It’s a good thing, too, because when Rachel’s mom opens the door, her eyes land on Twyla with a smile first, before hardening slightly when she spots Patrick.
“Hi Mrs. Watson. We’re looking for Rachel?”
“Um, come on in. Let me go check to see if she’s available.” She says available the same way every parent does when they’re unsure about the emotional status of their kid. They squeeze into the doorway and nobody makes a move to remove their shoes. “I’m not sure if we’ve met.” She holds her hand out to David.
He has to pull his hand out from inside his sleeve. “David.”
She nods and smiles, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes. “Give me one sec.”
Rachel’s house looks similar to the last time he was here. He never really paid that much attention to it, but he’s suddenly hyper-aware of the family portrait on the wall next to him. Rachel and her equally ginger little brother, standing with their parents. Rachel and her brother get their red hair from their dad. Something burns in the back of Patrick’s throat. It’s an old photo—Rachel must have been in Grade Five or Six. Her dad died when she was in Grade Seven. The portrait is somewhat dusty, as are the tchotchkes on the mail table underneath. There’s a Hot Wheels car, one of those wooden angels that his mom likes, and a ceramic bowl for keys. There’s also a stack of glossy paper—ads and magazines.
When Rachel’s mom invites them upstairs, their shoes join a pile already gathered. The silent house is shocked by the sound of their socked feet stomping up the stairs. This time, Patrick knocks on the door—well, the door frame, her door is already open.
She’s sitting on her bed next to her laptop and an open textbook.
“Hi, guys,” she sighs.
There’s a chorus of “Hi”s in return and then the three of them just stand there. Patrick shifts from one foot to the other.
It’s Twyla who speaks first. “How are you, Rachel?”
She sighs. “I’m fine.” She leans over the side of her bed and shoves her textbook onto her desk which doubles as a bedside table. She leans back onto her bed. “Considering.”
They stay in Rachel’s room for a little while. Twyla does most of the talking, and all of the soothing words, until just before they leave when David says something to the effect of, “I know that it especially sucks because you can’t really tell anybody—like, any of your real friends. But you can talk to us. Whenever. Any time.” Then he rolls his eyes and says, “Just, don’t go to Alexis unless you need someone to make you question every decision you’ve ever made.”
Rachel, whose eyes are wet and her nose red, chuckles wetly. “Okay.”
They leave her alone after that, but Patrick can’t shake the feeling of the interaction for the rest of the day. Rachel can’t tell any of her friends. When Patrick found out about vampires and magic, he didn’t have anybody to talk to. It was awful. He’s never felt more alone or scared in his entire life. And he was just dealing with the information—not the terrifying reality of becoming one of them. Also, becoming a werewolf sounds way worse than a vampire—you just completely lose control once a month? No choice in the matter at all?
He stews in his gloomy thoughts for a few days. The feeling evolves from feeling bad for Rachel to feeling bad for all of them. He should have been nicer to Rachel. He realizes that now. He had pushed her aside, wanting to forget about her. He told himself that his relationship with her didn’t really count. It was just a short-live high school relationship. And anyway, it turns out he’s gay, so it really shouldn’t have happened at all. He broke up with her, he moved on, he had other things to worry about.
But then she just kept showing up. In teasing from his cousins, in the form of a Valentine’s Day card in his locker, looking hurt and rejected at Mutt’s party at the beginning of the summer, in his boyfriend’s insecurities—and now she’s part of this life too, the weird one with witches and celebrities with powers and werewolves.
Rachel’s dad died when she was in Grade Seven. He and Rachel started dating when he was in Grade 10. The first time was very short-lived, but still. That means that her dad died less than two years before. And he never even asked her about it. His mom tried to ask her about it and he scolded her for being nosy.
He thinks about Mutt, too—getting into trouble, fighting with his dad. And about Stevie. There was a time when she lived with her parents, he thinks, but he can’t remember when. He never asked. Just, one day she moved in with her aunt and that was that. And Twyla—it’s been a running joke forever how messed up her family is and all the weird stories she tells. And Ted! Ted’s parents are going through a divorce right now.
Besides his recent attempts with Mutt, has he ever bothered to ask any of them about any of this stuff? He always sort of figured it wasn’t his business, or otherwise not a big deal. Or, no. Not that. He just thinks he always would have rather talked about something else. Sports, food, dumb jokes, what they wanted to be they grew up.
“Hi, Mrs. Brookman. Is Rachel here?”
“Is she expecting you?”
He shakes his head.
“It’s fine, Mom.” Rachel’s red head appears behind her mother in the hallway.
“Hey.” Patrick pulls the ball out of his pocket. “I was wondering if you wanted to toss the ball around?”
“I would really appreciate it if you stayed in the backyard.” She doesn’t say Where I can see you, but Patrick hears it anyway.
Rachel rolls her eyes. “It’s not like that, mom. Patrick’s gay.”
Something in Patrick smarts at Rachel announcing the information on his behalf, but it’s not like he was hiding it—and it might be helpful with the whole she-hates-him thing—and anyway, it’s not a big deal. He’s out, he has a boyfriend, everybody knows. It’s fine.
“Oh.” Her eyebrows raise momentarily, but she catches herself and schools her features. “That’s not relevant,” she says. “Stay in the backyard please.”
“Mom,” Rachel whines.
“It’s okay, backyard is great.” Rachel shoots him a look that’s both a glare and a question. “Just a game of catch.”
“Let me get my glove.”
Patrick’s rubs him clumsily in his back pocket while he stomps down the short hill that is the land around Rachel’s house.
They toss a few back and forth before Rachel says anything.
“So why are you really here?”
The ball thuds into his glove and he shakes his head. “To toss the ball around.” He launches it high and she has to shuffle backward to catch it.
“I don’t buy it.” She tosses it back. “You feel guilty about something.”
He shrugs before launching it back. “I guess I wanted to apologize.”
“For what?” Thud.
He holds the ball for a moment, considering. His next throw comes up someone short. “Not for breaking up with you.”
She tosses it back and it’s a smooth arc right toward his chest. He tosses it back.
“But for everything around it. Ignoring you, not telling you about David. I guess, not talking to you in general.” Her next toss is just a tiny bit short and he has to lean over to catch it right before it hits the ground.
“Back up a little.” They both take three steps back each and he puts more heft into his next throw. “Come on, Brewer, you can work it harder than that.”
The next ball hurts when it makes contact with his glove. “I’m also sorry for before all that. When we were dating. I don’t think I knew how to even be friends with you, let alone your boyfriend.”
She bites the inside of her lip and rubs the ball with her thumb. She rocks one of her feet side to side. She doesn’t say anything, though, just tosses it back.
“Anyway. I just wanted to tell you that I know that I wasn’t great before, but I want to be your friend now. I want to be here for you. And it doesn’t have to be about…any of that stuff. It can be about anything.” He throws the next one hard and straight and it snaps into the glove she has raised in front of her face.
They toss it back and forth some more without saying anything. Patrick’s muscles start to burn in all the right places, where others loosen. His thoughts start to quiet, too. The air is crisp and the light is golden with the setting sun. The rhythmic back and forth of the ball keeps him grounded. If his mind starts to wander to something, it is pulled back shortly by concentrating on the trajectory of the ball. He starts to smile, too. And then grin.
Rachel smirks. “Wanna see something cool?”
He huffs a short laugh. “Sure.”
She turns around, toward the field next door. She pulls back her arm and launches the ball into the sky. For a moment, it’s a black dot against the sunlight, and just like that, it completely disappears—to the other side of the world, into outer space, who knows? He runs—after the ball or toward Rachel. He stops short next to her.
“Neat, huh?” Her eyes are sparkling.
“You owe me a baseball,” he says, his chest expanding.
He ducks under the hood over the alternator, his attention split between the task in front of him and trying to answer Patrick’s question about what happened with his parents the previous night. He’s not really sure the best way to put it into words...
“So, honey. We have something to tell you.” His mom tried leaning forward in her chair, then back. She tried leaning slightly into her husband, but then thought better of it. “Oh jeez. I’m not really sure where to start. Honey?” She turned to her husband, Mutt’s dad.
“Oh I think we can just jump right in. Mutt can handle it, can’t you, boy?”
His parents never could handle heart-to-hearts. Even his mom, for all of her aggressive mom energy, always manages to bring the conversation back to getting pregnant at the end of high school and how everybody thought she was making the best of a bad situation, but did she really?
“Right. Okay.” She leaned forward again, across the coffee table, over their mugs of misguided hot cocoa, to place her hand on his knee. “Mutt, sweetie, your father has been turned into a vampire.” She paused as if waiting for something—probably for him to freak out or something. The sense of expectation kept him from doing so. He hates showing any kind of emotion in front of his dad, and he’s developed quite the poker face over the past couple of years. “I know what you’re thinking” —his mom’s voice got stress-cheery at that point, which didn’t help Mutt’s anxiety levels— “’Whaaat? Vampires are real?’”
Mutt knew plenty about vampires, having been the personal boy toy of one Alexis Rose for almost a full semester—not that he had been able to talk about it. So, he was able to answer his mother with no less than a shrug.
“I know about vampires,” he conceded. He didn’t want to punish his mom too much for something that had nothing to do with her.
“You do?” His mom shifted in her seat again. “You kids, always ten steps ahead of me.”
Mutt shrugged again.
“Well, hot shot. Since you know everything already, I bet you knew that I’m gonna live forever. How about that, eh?”
“Oh, I bet you’re thrilled.”
“Well,” his father’s smile turned mischievous, “I wasn’t at first, but then, I talked to your mom about it, and now, I kind of am.”
Mutt dreaded the explanation of that sentiment.
“Mutt, honey, I’ve decided that I’m going to become a vampire, too.”
Mutt clenched his jaw. He squeezed his eyes shut. He clenched his fists.
“Not this year,” she continued, in a tone that attempted to soothe, “but one day. I’m not going to leave your father.”
“We take our wedding vows very seriously.” His dad did that blinking thing that either means he’s pretending to be coy or he’s being sarcastic.
“Mutt, honey. We want you to think about joining us.”
Patrick’s hand stills over the battery he’s about to replace. “So what did you tell her?”
“I told her she was crazy and to forget about it.”
Patrick shakes his head. “It is a pretty ridiculous situation.”
“Yeah. I don’t know how it would have gone if I didn’t already know about vampires.”
Patrick nods and then sighs. “I still can’t believe you knew, consciously, this whole time.”
A silence ensues as they both return to concentrate on their respective tasks. Patrick wants to ask Mutt more questions. He already made it happen with Rachel. But Mutt is a different animal. They’ve spent too much time in each other’s company, have too much of a precedent of decidedly not talking about anything sincere. But he wants to try, he doesn’t want to lose a chance at actual friendship with Mutt just because he’s a got a different personality and a different idea of what he’s supposed to be in his life.
Maybe it was a good thing that the Roses came to town. Well, of course it was a good thing, David is one of them. But in a more elevated, cosmic sense. With the Roses came magic, and mystery, a new dimension of life. They brought all these crazy problems with them—their presence shaking loose the latent and unspoken. There were days when Patrick regretted ever discovering the parallel world of magic. Sure, he could do without the devastation to his friends and family—but that would have happened regardless. Ted was bitten by a werewolf in Hawaii of all places.
“So, you’re in the Dating a Vampire Club, too, huh?” Mutt’s question catches Patrick off-guard.
“I thought I was supposed to be the one welcoming you to the Knowing About Vampires Club.”
Mutt shrugs in his all-knowing Mutt way. “You’re not special.”
Patrick huffs a short laugh. “I guess not.”
“So, do your parents know?”
“That you’re dating a blood-sucking demon.”
“Oh. No. They have no idea.”
“Are you going to tell them?”
It hadn’t even occurred to Patrick. Telling one’s parents about, like, the supernatural dimension—that’s not in the Vampire Boyfriend handbook.
He starts to imagine it—a similar scenario to coming out to them—but he can’t take it very far. “Uh. No. I don’t think so.”
“But with the other thing, the gay thing. That’s still good?”
Patrick smiles. “Yeah. It’s great. They’ve been great.”
Patrick supposes that now is his best chance.
“So what about your dad?”
“What about my dad?”
“How, uh—” Well, I guess this doesn’t come naturally. “It seems rough, man.”
Mutt rolls his eyes and cranks the wrench in his hand. “That’s one way to put it.”
For a while, the only sound is that of Mutt’s wrench twisting, but then he finally speaks. “My dad and I…we don’t get along.”
Patrick just waits.
“I’m sure that’s fairly obvious. I don’t like him. And he doesn’t like me.”
Patrick has the urge to contradict him, to say something like, “Oh, I’m sure that’s not true.” But he can’t. For one thing, Mayor Schitt doesn’t keep getting elected because of likability. For another, Patrick doesn’t think he’s ever seen him address Mutt with any kind of warmth or regard. So, he can’t offer comforting words. Mutt wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.
“Do you think this vampire situation is going to change anything between you two?”
Mutt sighs. “I don’t know. It seems like just another thing that he’s gonna do. Another thing my mom is going to go along with. It might take some of the pressure off my back—him getting to live forever.” Mutt huffs. “He won’t have to live forever through me anymore.”
Is that something Mutt has to deal with? Living up to his dad’s weird legacy?
His confusion must be evident on his face because Mutt laughs. “I know. I can’t picture having a life anything like my dad’s either.”
That’s—there’s something there, something Patrick can grab onto. He reaches up to the hood of the car to shut it. They can get back to it another day.
He rests his hip on the car and turns to his friend. “What kind of life do you want?”
Even with everything that’s going on, they still, ludicrously, have to go to school. Okay, David doesn’t have to go to school, David doesn’t have to do anything. But Patrick has to go to school, and Stevie has to go to school, and neither of them will let David hypnotize his way into fudging their records to graduate early, so David goes to school.
Also, Twyla is there, and she’s also his friend and that’s nice. They sit next to each other in Pre-Calc and distract each other. And Rachel is there, and she’s sort of his friend, too, though they don’t have any classes together. But she shares her free period with them, and she’s started joining them in empty classrooms and in the auditorium to “do homework.” It’s probably mostly possible because Patrick isn’t there since his schedule is stacked.
And Alexis is there, too. She even acknowledges him as her brother now that her interests have pivoted toward something slightly more substantive than the perfect IG post composition. And Ted is…around.
“So I was thinking,” Patrick says, swinging their arms between them as they walk from Patrick’s stats class to Political Science.
“I was thinking I should take you on a date.”
David smirks. “A date? How? Where? We live in a one horse town.”
“David, I’m hurt. I would think you had sentimental feelings for the places we first hugged. And held hands.”
“So you’re taking me on a date to the cafe. Can’t wait.”
“Get ready for the best burger Elm Valley has to offer.”
“Please, the cafe doesn’t even have the best burger this side of the creek.”
The “date” arrives a lot faster than David expects. When the bell for lunch chimes, Patrick pulls him from Business II in the opposite direction of the cafeteria.
“What? Where are we going?”
“It’s been kind of crazy around here lately,” Patrick says, tugging on David’s arm. “And I just thought we could do with some alone time.”
“Okay, but aren’t Stevie and Twyla waiting for us?”
“Nope. They already know about it.”
“Oh. So this is premeditated.”
It becomes evident a minute later that they are headed to the bleachers.
“This is for you.”
“This is a tiffin lunchbox.” David hasn’t seen one of these in a long time. “Where did you get this?”
Patrick grins. “Well, after you told my mom about them, she got a little obsessed and ordered four sets online.”
David opens the small three-layered tin canister. One layer is full of raspberries, one is full of sticky rice, and the third with chicken stir-fry. “Your mom made this for me?”
A blush rises on Patrick’s cheeks and his words come out sheepish. “I helped.”
This feels like a moment. Are they having a moment? What is happening right now?
Patrick hands him a pair of bamboo chopsticks. “Dig in.”
They eat for a while in a pleasant silence. There’s been a lot of talking the past few days. A lot of screaming, frankly. This is something he never knew he could have—a pocket of his life with another person with stillness and calm and joy. He bumps his knee against Patrick’s on purpose. Patrick bumps back. They smile at each other, mouths closed and full of tasty food.
“Thank you for this.”
“Of course.” Patrick is eating his stir-fry with a fork. But he brought David chopsticks because he knows David likes eating sticky rice-based food with the proper utensils.
Patrick looks at his watch. “Okay, the bell’s about to ring. Gotta run.”
David sighs. He should’ve just moved Patrick’s schedule around like he wanted to. But Patrick insisted on taking AP Physics instead of a study hall. “Fine.” They both carefully put the tiffin stacks back together. Patrick holds out a cloth bag for David to put away the little picnic.
“So, I wanted to tell you something,” Patrick says, as they make their way back to the side door Patrick dragged him through earlier. David looks at him. He looks very serious—but there’s a twinkle of something behind his expression.
They stop just short of the door when Patrick puts a hand on David’s shoulder. “Now, I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while, but things have been kind of crazy. And you’ve been worrying about your mom and everything…”
Oh no. “Really? You’re going to do this now?”
Patrick’s lips quirks infinitesimally. “I just think it’s important that you know.”
David clenches his fist, his jaw. “What.”
Patrick grins. “I love you, David.”
David’s breath catches in his chest and his fingers curl, and his face heats up and adrenaline spikes through him. And he wants to bite Patrick’s head off.
The bell rings. “Gotta go!” Patrick kisses David’s cheek with a smack and then opens the door.
David scrambles to find his voice. “Seriously? What the hell is wrong with you?”
Patrick just chuckles, and David wants to run after him, but his feet are glued to the concrete below and his whole body is lit up like a live-wire. If anybody touched him right now, they’d probably collapse from all the electricity coursing through his veins.
“Um.” David lets out a hoo of air and turns his face to the sky. “Okay. Well. That just happened, apparently!”
He crosses his arms across his chest. Maybe that’ll keep his heart from falling out. Love. What does that even actually mean? Warm, fuzzy feelings? David has those all the time—and it usually means he’s horny or wants cuddles. That’s not, that doesn’t—anybody could make Patrick feel that way. It’s because he’s horny, isn’t it? He wants to have sex. He’s been angling for it for a couple of weeks now. David knew this was a bad idea. Now they’re just going to have sex and Patrick’s first time, for the rest of his life, will always be with David who doesn’t even really count as a person.
When you have sex for the first time, it should be with someone who you like, and who will be awkward and scared with you, and who—somebody who—somebody who can actually age and grow and learn. Love. What does it even mean if it can’t move, can’t go anywhere?
Fuck. Why does his fucking brain have to do that? Patrick just said something very nice. He should be happy—after all, he feels the same way, right? Even in his limited emotional capacity, he still feels more for Patrick than he’s ever felt. If he’s ever been in love, it’s with Patrick. It’s fine. He can be in love. It’s a high school love. High school relationships end anyway. It’s not a big deal. It won’t fuck Patrick up permanently. As long as he keeps it together—keeps his dick in his pants and his fangs in his gums. He can be a nice memory for Patrick. That was always the plan anyway.
David doesn’t go back to class. He drags his feet and slowly makes his way back to his motel.
“Oh hello, dear.” His mother is at home, sitting at her mirror touching up her lipstick. She probably just woke up. When she looks at him, she puts it down. “And why are we looking so glum?”
David sighs, and groans, and falls onto her bed. Voice muffled in his pillow he admits, “Patrick told me he loves me.”
“Well, of course he did.” Well, that’s not what he was expecting her to say. He sits up.
“Of course he loves you. You’re a remarkable, superior being. Any such creature will inevitably fall into a tangle of devotion for you, as Ares and Adonis did for Aphrodite. As Majnoon did for Layla. Besides, darling, you’re dazzling.”
“What’s the matter?” She actually stands from her chair and walks over to the bed, where she perches daintily, royally.
“It’s not like that. He’s not—we’re actually—I care about him.”
She hums. “Mmm, yes, he does seem to have a certain effect on you.”
“A certain effect?”
She hums again, “Yes. I’ve hardly ever seen you so…dare I say, light on your feet?”
“I can’t say it back.”
“Oh, David. I hate to see you agonizing over something so puerile. You are in the middle of a sweet dalliance, you are crossed in love. Why this riotous torment?” She stops for a moment, then considers. “Though, I can’t say I don’t empathize with the desire for a thrill. This bunker of a town where your father insists we squat, it is rather gray. Maybe I ought to follow your lead, David. Find some passion to get me through the days.”
He’s not sure why he came here. Of course she doesn’t understand. To her, Patrick is at most an overpaid extra for all he matters. He’s a flight of fancy. Maybe that’s why he came to his mother—he thought he wanted someone to tell him the stakes with Patrick are low. Well, he’s heard it, and he hates it. It’s not true. The stakes aren’t low because his heart is completely exposed to all the elements, ready to be squashed irreparably at any moment.
“I can’t keep him.”
“Oh of course you can.” She says it like it’s easy—worse, like it’s ridiculous David would even think otherwise.
“If he’s really that special, just turn him, and then, he’s yours.”
Time stops. A rush of—something—heat, anger, fear, hope?—he’s not sure, courses through him. He has to hold his breath to keep it from coming out in a cry.
“I can’t do that.”
“Well, I had hoped that you might find someone with, perhaps, a more established foothold in the world. Maybe one of those nice Italians with the castles where we might stay for longer stretches of time. But your Peter does have a certain wit and sparkle about him. He might make a fine choice.”
“I can’t—I’m not—I can’t turn him. Are you insane?”
“Why not? Your father turned for me. Jocelyn will turn for Roland. If this boy is your choice, and you are his, then why shouldn’t he?”
“Because! He’s a seventeen-year-old boy! He has his whole life ahead of him. He has to go to college and get married and have kids! I’m not—I wouldn’t—I could never—”
His mother puts up a hand. “No need to give yourself apoplexy, David. If this boy be not your destiny, then there’s no sense in discussing it.” She stands and pats his leg. “I’d best be off. I can’t leave your father and Maureen to plot on their own for too long. They tie themselves up in knots.”
All David can do is offer a short “Mm” in reply.
Oh. She said something he missed. “Mm?”
“I said, ‘Have you completed your preparations for the full moon?’”
“We haven’t figured out if we can stop the transformation, but we know we can at least subdue them.”
“Excellent,” she says. “Well, I’ll leave you to it, then.” The door clicks behind her.
She takes a deep breath for courage, and her nose is assaulted by the smell of must, manure, and all manner of hay and hay-related smells. And sweat. All kinds of sweat. She has to walk through a lot of soft dirt. She did not wear the right shoes for this, but then again, these Valentinos have seen worse. How they survived that bridge collapsing, she’ll never know.
She finds Rachel in the training arena, where she’s having a lesson. The horse kicks dirt up as it trots in a controlled circle. Rachel’s trainer stands in the middle of the circle, interjecting periodically with instructions.
She watches at first, waiting for Rachel to acknowledge her presence and take a break, but a whole five minutes go by and nothing. So, fine. Be that way.
“Hey!” She tries to sound nice, but like, in a stern way. When Rachel looks over at her she starts to say, “Can you take five?” but Rachel stops her by putting up her hand.
“I’ve got another twenty minutes in this lesson.” She sounds all business, so like, fine, whatever. She wants to ask Rachel what she’s supposed to do while she waits, then—if she is even going to wait—but Rachel is already back to concentrating really hard on the unmade-up woman looking up at her from the ground in her industrial down vest.
Alexis looks around. She could wait on the bleachers circling the arena, but everything is covered with a thin layer of brown dust, so, no thank you. She decides to stand, reminding herself to shift her weight every ten seconds so she doesn’t go into statue mode and freak everybody out.
Rachel is a really talented rider. Alexis knows a thing or two about equestrian because of that time she thought she could become a horse whisperer and seduce Robert Redford. It’s been a long time since she’s ridden. She didn’t used to understand the appeal. It takes a lot for Alexis to feel anything resembling a thrill or excitement. David sometimes calls her an adrenaline junkie. He’s not wrong. It’s hard to find excitement in things when you can have anything you want, run as fast as the wind, crush anything between your hands. But she did enjoy riding then. It forced her to slow down and take her time paying attention to something—namely an animal.
After the lesson, Alexis follows Rachel into the stables where Rachel untacks the horse. She doesn’t start speaking, just watches as Rachel takes of the girdle and sets the saddle on the saddle stand. Then, as she takes each hoof and cleans out her shoes.
“What’s her name?”
Rachel gently sets the horse’s final hoof down and turns to look at Alexis. She blows a strand of hair out of her face. “Dolly.”
“Oh, like the musical?”
Rachel nods, and then grabs a brush off the wall and starts running it through Dolly’s coat.
Rachel doesn’t ask Alexis why she’s here, and Alexis takes that to mean she wants Alexis to start. “So, I brought you something.”
Alexis opens her hand and lets the necklace hang from her fingers. “It’s a witch’s talisman that Stevie made. It’s ready.”
She had sort of hoped that she could get a reaction from Rachel with this news—relief or happiness would be most preferable, but she would have made do with defensive pride. But Rachel’s pursed lips and glum hesitation aren’t really anything she can work with.
She hands the necklace over, and Rachel puts it in her pocket. “I hardly ever wear necklaces,” she says.
“I’m just sorry that gold isn’t a useful substance in this type of magic.” Alexis puts her hand on her hip. “It’s really more your color.”
She just stands there for a while, but Rachel doesn’t say anything. She had hoped the topic of jewelry might spark something. She’d hoped the topic of the horse would spark something. She decides to try changing tactics. They had a budding friendship at one point, after all.
“So, remember when we used to talk about boys and stuff?”
Rachel backs away from Dolly and looks at Alexis with an exasperated expression. “I’m really not interested,” she says. “Thank you for bringing the necklace by, I appreciate it. But I really don’t need anything more from you.”
So Rachel’s still upset then. “Okay.” Alexis taps nervously on the door frame. “I guess I’ll just,” she backs away, “go then.”
“Yep. See you at school.”
“See you at school.”
David spends the rest of the day stewing. Patrick doesn’t text to check up on him. David knows Patrick well enough by now that Patrick is leaving him to process (i.e. freak out). Patrick timed it perfectly so that David couldn’t react right away and David hates him for it.
Of course he’s not going to turn Patrick into a vampire. The concept is ludicrous, completely out of the realm of possibilities. Patrick has a whole life in front of him.
He lies on his bed and stares at the ceiling. He tries opening a book, but he knows he won’t be able to focus, and he’s right. He tries scrolling through his phone and nothing on it can hold his attention. Not Mr. Kate, not Instagram, not Vine compilations, nothing. He stays agitated and jumpy for the next couple of hours and when the end of the school day comes, he jumps out of bed.
He cuts Patrick off on his way home. “What does it mean?”
Patrick looks very smug and David doesn’t appreciate it. He sighs and pushes himself into Patrick’s space. Patrick puts his arms around his waist and pulls him even closer. David pushes his mouth onto Patrick’s and Patrick lifts his face up to meet him. “What does it mean?” he says again, quieter, into Patrick’s warm lips. Patrick’s hands caress up and down David’s back. Patrick’s hips are digging into David’s. They’re so close, and it makes it difficult for David to stay scared.
Patrick smiles. “What does it mean? That I love you?”
“That you said it,” David corrects.
Patrick nudges David’s nose with his own. “It means I care about you.” He presses another warm kiss to David’s lips. “It means I’m crazy about you.” Another kiss. “It means I love you.” Another. “And I wanted you to know.”
David holds Patrick in the next kiss longer, holding them tightly together. When they separate, David shakes his head. “But—”
“No ‘buts’ David. It’s just the truth, and I wanted you to know.”
“But what do you want?”
Patrick shakes his head. He leans his forehead against David’s. “You,” he whispers.
“But what do you want from me?” It comes out small and croaky.
“Nothing,” Patrick whispers, and kisses him again.
“I—” He doesn’t know what he’s going to say.
“You don’t have to say it back. You can say it when you’re ready. I know—I know you do.”
He holds Patrick closer, tighter, hoping he won’t break him. “I do, Patrick. I do.”
Patrick’s answering chuckle is wet, and his eyes are shining. Their resulting kisses are hot and frantic and full of joy. They tug at each other, right there on the side of the empty road. Patrick drops his backpack to give David more access. Heat starts to build and David knows he should let go and back away but he can’t. It’s clear Patrick doesn’t want him to. He starts walking backward, pulling David until they end up against a tree. Patrick’s hands move from sweater to skin and the pads of his fingers feel like warm wax.
Patrick opens his mouth for David and their lips slot together more fully. Patrick lifts his hands to grab at the sides of David’s face and then he’s pushing David further into the woods and up against another tree. And then…and then…Oh, my god. Patrick takes off his jacket. David can’t help it. He jumps him. He slams straight into Patrick and they fall on the ground in a tangle.
“She hates me.”
“She does not hate you.”
“There’s no point. It’s not like we have to be friends or anything. Who even cares?”
“She doesn’t hate you, she’s just going through a lot right now.”
Ted walks Alexis to their Animal Science class where Alexis will have to face Rachel after their disaster of a conversation yesterday, and Alexis is feeling slightly agitated about the fact that she’s going to have to babysit Rachel during the full moon next week. And like, be there for her or whatever, while she goes through a really painful transformation.
Alexis volunteered to take care of Rachel and Ted that night because while they’re unlikely to hurt anyone, it’ll probably be a good idea for somebody who could subdue them if necessary. David had objected because of the dangers posed to Alexis, but Stevie isn’t experienced enough to handle this and David’s defensive skills leave a lot to be desired.
“I just don’t understand why I have to go out of my way to be nice to her when she clearly doesn’t want that.”
“Well, sometimes we just help people because it’s the right thing to do, even if we don’t get thanked for it.”
Alexis takes a deep breath out. Ted is always doing nice things for people. She wonders where he learned to be like that. He doesn’t have to be. He’s just as hot and athletic as anybody at this school; he could be a jerk and still have tons of friends. But he’s not. Instead, he’s basically as kind and wholesome as a vanilla wafer dunked in milk.
“But if she doesn’t thank me for it, then how do I even know she wants it?”
“You think she would rather wake up the day after the full moon having killed somebody? You think she would rather go through the change all by herself? You think she doesn’t want somebody to talk to about all this?”
“Well, no. But she clearly doesn’t want me.”
“As the person I think most qualified to relate to Rachel in this situation, I can say with confidence that Rachel wants all the help she can get.”
Alexis looks into Ted’s sweet brown eyes, and then down at the taut tendons in his neck, the curve of his strong shoulders and biceps. He’s so big now. And he came back this summer with a bit of an edge. She thinks about how big and scary and strong he felt when she was fighting him while under the full moon. Ted’s no longer just a human—he’s more, like her.
There’s amusement in his eyes. He knows she was looking. “I was saying that I believe in you. You’re more than capable of doing something helpful for somebody, even if you don’t get anything out of it.”
She pokes the muscle over his heart. “But you’ll thank me, right?”
He smiles his lopsided smile. “Of course I will.”
Trying to find one specific piece of information in a library, even an online database like the Willow Sanderson library, is nothing like Googling. After trying to read the first article that popped up when she typed “werewolf” into the search function, she gave up in the middle of the Introduction and then watched Bitten with Twyla. Patrick helped her a little for their presentation, but even he didn’t have enough time to get into the groove.
“Maybe I’m just not smart enough for all this stuff.”
“Hey, no. Stevie.” Twyla holds her dinner roll aloft. It’s spaghetti night at the Budd house and Twyla’s off work. She’s here pretty much every night now.
“I just need to focus up, maybe look at the family spell-book again.” She waits for Twyla to offer an opinion, but she just looks at her, wide-eyed, waiting for Stevie to continue. “I know how to read it by now. I’ll just get a little creative. Rachel and Ted will be subdued for the full moons from here on out, that’s the most important thing. Maybe I can do something with charms for healing and pain.” Twyla takes a bite of her roll. “I don’t have to unlock the secrets of the universe now.”
Twyla smiles a soft, supportive smile. “No, you don’t have to unlock all of the secrets of the universe now.”
Stevie’s shoulders relax. That night, they do their homework, they watch Bend It Like Beckham and they go to bed at a reasonable hour. Then, they fall asleep at a somewhat unreasonable hour.
It’s not until a few days later that she tries again. It’s a Saturday, and she tries to work on it in the morning, to see if that will make a difference. In the search bar she types, “werewolf transformation.” The first link is a book that doesn’t have a digital edition, so she closes out of that window. The next is a book that does have a digital edition, but when she reads the Table of Contents, it becomes clear that it’s a book primarily about werewolf physiology and the mechanics of the change during the full moon. The third link is an article, but it’s completely useless—after the third time she reads the summary, she finally absorbs the fact that it’s an article that compares the transformation from werewolf to human after suffering a bite to depictions in popular culture.
Maybe she’s approaching it wrong. Maybe she should just try and get to know the site better. There are so many menus and links, and there’s an advanced search function that made her brain bleed when she tried to look at it. It’s just like any other computer program, or getting a new phone. She just has to sit and play with it for a while—she’ll get it.
She goes back to the homepage, back to the menu on different departments. “Genealogy” catches her eye again. She had thought about it a few times since her conversation with Maureen. She wondered—wonders—if there might be answers available to her, some trail of ancestry she can follow that might tell her how she got here—and maybe help her figure out what’s next. Who knows? Maybe there are some long-lost witch cousins she doesn’t know about. It’s not like her family has any history of good communication skills. She clicks on it.
She has to go through a bunch of forms confirming her willingness to share personal information. She scrolls speedily past Terms Agreements and tutorials. If she needs them, she can always go back to look. It ultimately takes her to an interface that looks like it was probably designed before 2007. It asks just for her name. She puts “Stevie” in for first, "and “Budd” the last name. For middle name she puts “Murphy.” It’s also her mom’s last name.
Then it asks for the names of her parents, then grandparents, and then every other name she can think of, one at a time. When she fills in everything she can, she sits back to look at the resulting graphic auto-generated by the site. On her dad’s side, there’s a sad smattering of people—many of whom are deceased or whose whereabouts are unknown—and on her mom’s side, it’s just her mom, her mom’s sister and her kids and their dad. And Carl.
All the evidence suggests that the witch genes come from her dad’s side, or rather, her dad’s dad’s mom’s side. But the instructions she skimmed for the database did encourage both sides of the family to be fleshed out as much as possible, as magical connections run deep, far, and wide.
She tries to think of all the places she might find the names of her maternal relatives, but she comes up mostly blank. Maybe photo albums or records at Town Hall.
She starts to feel the familiar nudging of a headache behind her eyes and she gets up and away from the computer, opting to plop down on her bed. It’s neatly made because Twyla makes the bed as part of her morning routine. She doesn’t do hospital corners or anything like that—she’s not a sociopath—but it’s still nicer than the wrinkled pile of sheets and duvet Stevie used to have to renegotiate every time she wanted to sleep.
She pulls out her phone and clicks on the contacts, scrolling through until she finds her name. She hesitates for a moment.
“Ah, fuck it.” She says it to the room, and then taps on the phone icon.
“Stevie?” She’s not used to hearing her voice when it’s not Christmas Eve. Stevie realizes now that she associates the tinny version of her voice with a festive vibe.
“So, I called her.”
“And I asked her the names of her parents and her cousins and all that.”
Stevie sits with David in the living room at her house, lounging on the couch.
“Did you tell her what it was for?”
“I told her it was for a family tree project for school?”
“Ah yes, the old ‘school project’ excuse. It’s a classic for a reason.”
“Well, what was I going to say? ‘I’m trying to find my magical heritage?’”
“So, I take it she doesn’t know you’re a witch, then?”
“I don’t know either way, actually. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t.”
“What’s her name?”
“What’s she like?”
That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? What is Valerie Murphy like? Stevie has a handful of memories of her from when she was small, and they’re worn and fuzzy from overuse. Other than that, all she has are phone calls on Christmas and on some birthdays, and that one time in Grade Four when she came home. She arrived, apologetic and repentant, full of platitudes and affection. She vowed that she turned over a new leaf and wanted to be a mom again. She was here for a week. Good thing Stevie never really believed her.
“I don’t know. She’s my mom. She’s a person who grew up in Schitt’s Creek, got knocked up at eighteen, and then left her kid to move to Windsor, Ontario with some guy she met on a camping trip.” If she’s more than that, Stevie has never had the chance to find out.
David scoots closer to her. “So, how are you doing?”
“Fine.” It’s code for “shaken, still processing, not in the best mood.” It’s a good thing David is her best friend, because he gets it, and puts an arm around her shoulder. “I don’t really look like her.” David squeezes her upper arm. “I take after my dad’s side.” She’s a carbon-copy of Maureen. “Obviously.”
“All I know is that I kind of have her mouth. And I guess, maybe her face shape? I don’t know. She’s got light brown hair and she’s pale.”
Stevie rolls her eyes, “Like everyone around here.”
David huffs in agreement.
They sit silently for a while, and while she appreciates the warmth of David’s arm, she starts to get uncomfortable sitting up under it. She nudges her way out and turns around to lie back on the sofa’s armrest. David mirrors her and they tangle their ankles together.
“So here’s something fun.” David nudges her under-thigh with his toes. “Patrick and I almost had sex the other day.”
She jumps up from her spot and slaps him across the shoulder.
“The other day. How long ago? How has it taken you this long to bring it up?”
He cocks an eyebrow at her.
“I mean. Gross. Don’t tell me that.”
He smirks. “He told me he loved me, what was I supposed to do?”
“He what?!” She slaps him again, with some magical heft behind it.
“Oh, my god, stop doing that! You’re gonna leave a mark!” David rubs the tender skin under his sweater.
“Did you say it back?”
David closes his mouth and hides his lips between his teeth. His eyes dart around. Then he shakes his head ever-so-slightly.
Stevie grimaces. “How’d he take it?”
David’s eyes light up and he smirks.
“I told you we almost had sex! And anyway, he said that he’s fine with it.”
Sure. “He’s fine with you not saying it back.”
“Yes.” David has his smug face on, the same face he used to use when talking loftily about his ability to maintain platonic distance from Patrick.
“But that’s so dumb. You’re completely in love with him.”
“Says your face.”
He narrows his eyes.
“If you don’t say it back, you’re an idiot.”
David crosses his arms over his chest. “I can’t.”
“Because it’s making a promise I can’t keep.”
“Are you serious?”
He does look serious, and her heart aches for him. She knows how lonely he’s been. He’s been lonely like her, only for way way way way longer. And now, at least now she knows she has a future in which she doesn’t have to be so lonely. She and Maureen are a lot closer, and now she has Twyla who, while not her best friend, is certainly becoming something like a family member. And she has Patrick. Of course, she has David, but she knows that one of these days, he’ll have to leave her. Maybe they’ll keep in touch. He says that she’ll outgrow him. He might be right. It hurts too much to think about. She has all of these people now who she doesn’t have to keep any secrets from. And she is starting to have ideas about her future too. She has a purpose now, a drive. It’s something she never thought she would have.
“You know, just because your relationship has an expiration date doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it while it lasts.”
“I am enjoying it.”
“Yeah, but you’re holding a lot back.”
“I have to, Stevie. And you know why.”
She does. Not in words, but she can feel it. She’s certainly never planning on putting herself out there like that. It sounds kind of insane. But David is dating Patrick and he’s like, the most put-together person she knows—including adults. If anybody can handle the responsibility of being told that David Rose loves him, it’s Patrick.
“I don’t know, David. I think you could tell him. I don’t think he would ask anything more of you.”
“But what would I be asking of him?”
Stevie shrugs. “Nothing, I think.”
“That’s what he said.”
“Can we go back to the part where we almost had sex?”
“Yes. Sure. So, does that mean that you’re gonna do it soon?”
“No. I can’t.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“Did you know that the moon has the same phases at the same time all over the world?”
“Oh. I guess I never really thought about it.”
“Yeah. So, all of the werewolves all over the world are turning tonight, then?”
“Yeah. Fortunately, werewolves also aren’t particularly subtle, so I think most werewolves get hooked up with enchanted silver like the two of you.”
“Or killed,” Rachel says.
Awkward. “Uh, yeah.” Alexis is leading Rachel and Ted to the clearing in the woods they chose for tonight’s…camp out. She’s not sure what else to call it. “Night of torturous transfiguration” doesn’t have the same ring to it. They decided that Alexis would be the muscle of the operation. They need someone strong in case something goes wrong with their talismans or their restraints. Even though a werewolf bite could be deadly to Alexis, she’s better off than David, whose strengths are mostly limited to small-scale logistics and moping.
When they arrive, Stevie is there waiting for them. She’s already stoked the fire, and has the iron restraints laid out that David ordered online—cuffs and heavy chains. Ideally, they would be silver too, but 40-pound silver chains are surprisingly hard to come by.
“It’s just an extra precaution,” Stevie says. “Your talismans should be enough to keep you from going feral, and one chain should be enough to keep you from running away…”
“But it’s the first time we’re trying this,” Ted says diplomatically. “We want to be extra careful.”
“Um. Yeah.” Stevie looks uncomfortable. “Sunset is in two hours. You guys hungry?”
The rest of them eat while Alexis sets up. She picks a couple of sturdy-looking trees with vibrant leaves. Ted and Rachel are some of the strongest creatures in the world now, they need the support of a strong, very-much-alive plant. She circles the trees with the long chains. She does her best not to make them leash-like. David gave her very strict instructions to do whatever she can to preserve their sense of humanity. She thought he was being overdramatic, but then she talked to Ted and realized David was right.
That’s why she also brought lots of blankets that they can sleep on if Stevie can calm them enough after the transformation, and they’re going to have a big breakfast together in the morning by the campfire. And they each brought a couple of changes of clothing and their toiletries. Ted even brought his childhood blankie, “To try and soothe my hindbrain.” Alexis didn’t even tease him about it that much.
As sunset approaches, Alexis and Stevie work to carefully restrain Rachel and Ted, with Alexis in a supervisory capacity. They try to make them safe, but comfortable, with some room to move around. Everyone is quiet, and Alexis can sense three hearts racing. Then, Rachel’s heart-rate plummets. Oh no, she might pass out.
“Rachel? Are you okay?”
She puts a hand on Rachel’s forehead, and she doesn’t even flinch. She should flinch. Alexis’ very presence should piss her off—she’s a werewolf.
“I’m fine.” Her eyes are unfocused.
“Don’t hold it in,” Alexis says.
Stevie appears behind her, and leans down next. Rachel’s lips have lost their color. “C’mon, sit up.” Stevie makes her drink some water. “I’m going to be casting spells on you all night for the pain. Did you take ibuprofen?”
Rachel nods, but says in a shaky voice, “Every bone in my body is about to break, and then reshape themselves. I don’t think Advil is going to do anything.”
“Did you know that women have a higher pain tolerance than men?”
Alexis leaves Stevie comforting Rachel to go and check on Ted.
He’s sitting up on his blanket, shirtless. “Aren’t you cold?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t really get cold anymore.”
“How are you doing?”
He shrugs, and shakes his arm, jangling the chain against his tree. “Mostly just glad that I’m not going to hurt anyone tonight.”
Alexis nods. Ted told her that last month, he tried to restrain himself with handcuffs.
He sighs. “Though, I’m really not looking forward to the pain.”
She’s not really sure what to do with that, so she just nods. Nobody likes to be in pain. “I wish I could put you under my thrall again, then you wouldn’t feel anything.”
Ted smiles, ruefully. “Me too.”
Alexis is very glad they chose this spot for their camp out, because Rachel and Ted are very loud. They’re howling like crazy, and it’s making the rest of the forest act up, too.
“At least the screaming is over!” She raises her voice to be heard over the yelps and howls, even though it’s unnecessary.
“Aw, Stevie, I never took you for a glass-half-full type of girl.”
Stevie huffs a laugh. “I don’t think my spells did much.”
Alexis has been around the block once or twice, and she’s hardly seen anything like the strength and fortitude she’s seen tonight—not in a seventeen-year-old witch anyway. The transformation was terrible. Rachel stood the entire time, screaming her head off into the forest, while Ted was on his hands and knees, grunting and whimpering through it. Stevie had her magic wrapped around them for almost an hour, muttering spells the whole time. She held so fast, and when it was over, it barely took her any time at all to recover. One moment, she was hunched over in exhaustion, the next, she was standing straight and walking over to Alexis.
“I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit.”
“With aches and pains, it’s usually a simple spell. You sort of take the pain through yourself, and push it through the body, down into the earth, where it’s absorbed and dispersed.”
“You mean, you were feeling everything they were feeling?”
“—But the pain just kept coming and coming. And it was so hard to get a hold of. It was like…” she trails off “…like a brittle pain. Not fluid, like it usually is.” She takes a sip of water.
Alexis waits for her to elaborate, but she doesn’t. “So you just, like, absorbed all of their pain into yourself?” she tries again.
Stevie shakes her head. “I tried. I couldn’t get a hold of it.”
“But you felt it?”
Stevie nods. “Not as bad as them, but. Yeah.”
The howling starts to subside, as do the sounds of Rachel and Ted (the huge monster versions of Rachel and Ted) trying to break away from their chains. They’ve held up well, so far. Alexis let a little worry get to her earlier, when Rachel was resisting so hard the veins in her forehead popped.
“Here. I think they deserve these.” Stevie hands her a jar filled with—
“Are these dog treats?”
Stevie’s answer is a smirk.
“David said that we have to treat them as much like humans as possible.”
“Well, I’m not going to tell him, are you?”
Alexis rolls her eyes. “What do you take me for?”
It’s decided that Stevie will bring some to Rachel and Alexis will bring some to Ted. She gets up, ready to go until— “But. What if my presence really bothers him? I’m a vampire. We’re natural enemies, you know.”
Stevie shrugs. “You’ll never know until you try.”
Alexis feels a smile emerge on her face. That’s usually her line whenever David’s being a chicken. So, she turns on and starts tiptoeing her way over to Werewolf Ted. He’s clearly trying to pace. Maybe next time, she should just make it a leash so he can at least walk around his tree.
At the sound of her voice, he turns and growls, his yellow eyes gleaming.
She tosses him a treat and he snatches it easily out of the air, his jowls drooling. When he finishes chomping, she tosses him another before he can growl at her again. He doesn’t catch this one, and it falls onto his blanket. He plops down next to it, and then licks it up.
He looks like a really large husky, but with a weirdly human-like body shape. But like, way bigger. It’s way scary. It’s hard to imagine that sweet innocent Ted is in there. Wolf Ted sneezes. She tosses him another treat. Next time, she’ll bring a whole raw steak. That should keep him occupied for a while.
“What is this?”
“It’s an agenda.”
“What is it an agenda for? What are we, a Council of Elves?”
“It’s an agenda for our family meeting.”
David reads the first item. “Icebreakers? Are you serious? What, a hundred years of knowing each other isn’t enough to break the ice of this conversation?”
“I have read that ice breaker games are very effective for establishing familiarity at the beginning of a meeting, especially a touchy one. You know, getting to know one another a little better helps to remind us that the other people are human.”
“But we’re not human, though.”
“It’s a figure of speech!”
“I happen to know some lovely little get-acquainted games. They’ve proven useful during any number of rehearsals.”
“Okay, I don’t think an improv game is really appropriate in this situation.”
“Fine! No ice breakers.” Mr. Rose throws his hands into the air. “David, sit down. You, too, Alexis. We have a lot to talk about.”
They sit on the bed, while their father faces them, leaning forward anxiously in his chair. “Okay. We need to take stock. It has become very clear to me that the news of our,” he pauses, “condition, has really spread its way around town.”
“Ew.” Alexis says it at the same time as David, and he shoves her away.
“So, we have to take stock. Moira, can you take notes?”
His mother blanches. “What do I look like to you, a Dictaphone? No, John, I played that part once at Arthur Miller’s request, but I care not to relive it.”
“Ew, Dad! You know I hate holding pencils, they make my hands look weird and crinkly.”
“Oh, my god.” David picks up the agenda and flips it over to the blank page. “Just talk already.”
“So, the people who know. Maureen and her niece.”
“But they don’t even count, Stevie and Maureen are witches and Twyla has telekinetic powers.”
“That’s even worse!” His mother cries. “There was safety from them in secrecy. And now we must negotiate everything. I can’t even sneeze without Maureen’s say-so.”
“Okay, I think that’s a tad dramatic.”
“Did you put them on the list?” his father acts, accusatorily.
David looks down, his pen is still poised above the paper.
“Write it down, son!”
“Oh, my god, chill. I’m writing it down.”
“And then there’s your little paramour.”
“What? What makes you think Patrick knows?”
“Oh, please, David, like you would be able to keep that secret anyway.”
“Well, it’s not like they even pay that much attention.”
“Enough! Do his parents know?”
“No, god. Patrick’s parents do not know that I’m a vampire. Can you imagine?”
“Okay. Good. That’s good. Best to make sure they never find out. Maybe I should put them under my thrall, make sure they don’t share anything with anyone.”
“Right, because that never backfires.”
“Okay, we’ll table that discussion for another time.”
“Now Roland and Jocelyn.”
“And their outlaw offspring.”
“Mutt isn’t an outlaw. He’s just doing a little community service. That’s like, barely a punishment.”
“Roland. Jocelyn. Mutt. Are we sure we want to put Roland on the list? He’s a vampire now, too. And Jocelyn is about to be one as well.”
His mother snorts. “You can put a sheep in wolf’s clothing, but…”
“I don’t think that’s how that saying goes.”
“Write now, edit later.” Johnny points at the paper in David’s lap.
“And don’t forget about Ted and Rachel.”
“Of course, Alexis, why wouldn’t we want to remind our parents of that.”
“And also,” Alexis indicates upward with her finger, “Ted is considering telling his mother.”
“Yes, Dad. Ted and his mother are very close and he doesn’t like lying to her. So he is considering coming out to her as a werewolf. And then he’s going to have to tell her about magic, and then he might as well tell her about me. So, Ted might tell his mom.”
David writes Cheryl Mullens? with a question mark.
“Oh, and Maureen and I might also shortly be informing Ronnie Lee.”
“Who the hell is Ronnie Lee?” his father bellows.
“She’s Patrick’s baseball coach.”
“She is a member of Town Council, darling, and as I understand it from Maureen, the real string-puller in this town. Apparently, we have no hope of subduing Roland without her. And it’s likely we’ll have to inform the rest of the Council, as well.”
His father’s face looks like it’s about to explode. “So let me get this straight. The Budds. The Schitts. The Brewers. The Mullenses. Plus, the Town Council and a couple extra teenage humans all know about us?” His voice rises. “And you’re telling me that pretty soon, even more people are going to know?”
“Why don’t we just put an ad in the newspaper!? Hire a skywriter! Call the hospital and tell them we’ve discovered a miracle drug! Or, why not do the work for them, just go ahead and hook me up to a hospital chair right now! Locomotives travel slower than this news!”
His mother rises from her chair. “Okay! Dear. I think you ought to take a seat.” Mr. Rose is shaking and shuddering.
He mumbles his next words. “I think we have to leave.”
“Yes! That is the best idea you’ve had, John. Frankly, I don’t know why we’re still here.”
“We’ll have to bring Roland and Jocelyn with us. Tell them to pack their bags.”
“What?” Mrs. Rose shrieks. “Noooooo!”
That’s when Alexis apparently decides she can be useful.
“Okay, Dad. No. We’re not going anywhere. There is no danger for us. Half of the people on that list are either supernatural themselves or related to a supernatural person. If anything, we’re safer here than anywhere else we’ve been. Nobody is trying to steal our blood or call the newspapers or anything. It’s just a cute, quiet little town, with a larger-than-normal percentage of werewolves and vampires and witches.”
“And telekinetics,” David adds.
“And yes. Some of that may be our doing. And yes, some of them may be our natural enemies. But also, it’s actually kind of a cute look for us. A little group of all these cute, rural, magical beings. It’s almost like that time I was living in the commune with Doug Henning and Shirley Temple. Only with less manual labor. And fewer fairies.”
“I kind of thought Twyla might be a fairy, the first time I met her.”
“Oh, absolutely. I wonder if she maybe has any fairy relatives.”
“Can we please get back to the matter at hand? Are we staying or are we leaving?”
“Staying,” David says, at the same time his mother contradicts him.
“Okay,” says his father. “Let’s take it to a vote. All those in favor of staying?”
Alexis and David raise their hands.
“All those in favor of moving?” He lifts his hand.
“Would we have to bring Roland and Jocelyn with us?” his mother asks.
“Then put me down for staying. There is no scenario in which I want Roland Schitt hitched to my proverbial wagon.”
Chapter 4: Halloweentown High
A Very Special Halloween Episode
This chapter is very close to my heart. I have a lot of really important Halloween memories as a teenager and I tried to capture some of it in this chapter. I hope you enjoy!
Thank you to yourbuttervoicedbeau and fishyspots for the beta. And thank you to artsyspikedhair for sharing this link with me about Jewish vampires that inspired the first scene. And thanks to my brickspace friend for the sensitivity read she did for it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Four candles sit on the table when she wakes up Wednesday morning. It’s funny, she usually feels this time of year approaching, even if she sometimes misses the actual day, even though there’s not much to help remind her—no change in the weather, no friends making plans, no topical news stories or songs on the radio. Just the days ticking away in the same sequence every year, and when she’s with her dad, the yahrzeit candles when she wakes up.
She turns away from the little table in the middle of their room and flips her body over. David is already awake and sitting up. That’s not the only weird thing—he’s also here. It’s been a while since that was the case. He looks at her, and then at the candle, his expression solemn. Their eyes meet again.
“Today?” she asks.
“Yeah,” he sighs.
“I almost forgot,” she says.
David sighs. “Me too. It’s strange. I almost never forget.”
Unlike you, the David in her head says, even though he’s never actually said it out loud. She throws off her comforter, trying to toss the negativity with it. It’s just today, this weird day, it always feels more...complicated than usual.
“Daddy!” she calls to warn her parents that she’s about to enter their room.
When the door opens, her father is turning toward her in his shirtsleeves.
“Good morning, sweetheart.” His eyebrows and lips are lopsided with affection and sympathy. She gives him a hug and he returns it, patting her back the same way he always has.
“We’ll see you tonight?” Alexis pulls back to look at him.
He nods. “See you tonight.”
She and David get ready for school with considerably less bickering and griping than usual. And when she picks her outfit, she chooses a burgundy skirt she borrowed (stole) from her mom a long time ago and a gold chain she got as a just because gift from her dad. She has to rummage around in the back of her closet to find the silk teal scarf that David bought her for her thirteenth birthday. She uses it to tie the end of her braid.
School is fine and normal and for a while, she forgets again. She hangs out with Twyla and Ted after school and they do their homework and Ted gives them a very detailed rundown about his plans for applying to college.
And soon, the sun begins to set and they part ways and Alexis strolls back to the motel, her bag swinging at her side. She waits there for David and her dad to come back. When they do, the sun is low in the sky and the light in the room is warm. David takes his kippah from his drawer and rests it neatly on his head.
“Thanks for making sure we did this, Dad,” David says.
Her father’s shoulders relax and he looks up, his eyes darting between both of his children. “Of course, David, of course. I know there’s been a lot going on lately, but I thought we should make the time.”
A surge of something pangs in Alexis’ chest, prompting her to reach for her dad’s hand. He gives it a squeeze, his hands warm and rough and strong. A beat passes. “Shall we?” He gestures to the two chairs next to him.
They take their places and Alexis settles in while her dad takes out the matches and lights the four candles, asking that their souls enjoy eternal life. He does so as he does every year, on the anniversary of their death.
“I light this candle to bring peace to the soul of Jonathan. I light this candle to bring peace to the soul of Moira. I light this candle to bring peace to the soul of David. I light this candle to bring peace to the soul of Alexis.”
They always light a candle for their mom, even though she doesn’t participate most years. She says that it’s not a time of mourning for her, but she asked once that they light her candle too, just in case. She even bought the cups they put the candles in once upon a time, because she wanted them to be mourned in style.
They watch the candles flicker for a few moments, and Alexis tries to decide how she feels. It was a very dark time, those thirsty days, hiding from the sun. The months that followed, watching her family almost fall apart. They had been breaking for years already, and she thought it might be the end then. David couldn’t look their mother in the eye for weeks, he was so full of rage. Alexis barely left her room.
But she doesn’t feel like she died. If anything, she feels like she got more of life. More power, more energy, more time. She doesn’t even feel like she lost much. Most years, she just mourns for David and her dad, who she knows aren’t living the life they had hoped for.
“Sweetheart,” her father says, drawing her from her contemplation. “I was thinking that this year, you could recite the prayer.”
Alexis swallows and her eyes snap to his. Her dad usually recites the prayers, unless he delegates to David as the oldest son. Alexis prefers it when her father does it because his Hebrew is better, and it makes her feel closer to him and his family that she hardly ever knew.
“Sure,” he says. “Why not? You’re certainly old enough now.” He chuckles at his own joke.
She glances at David, who just shrugs.
“Um. Okay,” she says, only giving herself a split second to miss hearing her father’s skillful baritone mingling with the heat from the candles.
She stands and they stand with her. Neither ask if she needs help with the words.
“Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma di-v’ra chirutei,” she begins, Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. She tries to enunciate correctly, tries to concentrate on the meaning of the words. She worries, sometimes, that she doesn’t feel as connected to them as she should. She asks that God’s kingdom is established on the earth, “speedily and soon.” She asks for blessings, for God and everyone on earth. She asks for peace from heaven for herself, for her family, and the world. She thinks about eternity and how it means something different for her than it means for other people, but also how, maybe it doesn’t.
“Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol-yisrael, v’imru,” she finishes. “Amen.”
“Amen,” her father and brother chorus beside her.
After the anticipation and worry of the full moon, the rest of October passes in a haze of cortisol. Patrick is supposed to be thinking about college applications, retaking the SATs and the ACTs, and midterms. And he does. He thinks about them, and he does them along with Stevie, Twyla, Ted, and Mutt. At least, he thinks Mutt is doing them.
Mutt is certainly working on the car. They’ve made a lot of progress. It still looks like a deathtrap on the outside, but all the cogs and bells and whistles and wheels internally are slowly getting replaced or tuned up one by one. They hit a bump in the road when Mutt realized they needed a new catalytic converter. They either have to buy one for $250, which Patrick can’t afford right now, or they have to source a used one which is not as easy to find as Patrick would like it to be.
Things at Ray’s are okay. They’re in a lull after the end of the fiscal year and before early-bird tax season.
Patrick should be thinking about all of those things, and he is, enough to get by. But what Patrick is really thinking about all the time, and it’s nothing new, is David. Only, now instead of “When am I gonna kiss David next?” it’s “When are we gonna have sex?” and “David’s in love with me, and I’m in love with him,” and “Will David come to college with me? How long do I have him for?” Now the feelings are, “What comes next for us? How can I make it happen?” He thinks the car is part of that. The car is a symbol for him that there is a plan for after graduation. He and David—and whoever else wants to come along, he guesses—are going to drive off in it and tour something, somewhere. They’re going to have an adventure, and it’s going to be together. It’s something to look forward to.
The word “graduation” is synonymous with the phrase, “An end and a beginning.” The problem with that is that it might very well be an end for Patrick, an end to what he’s pretty sure will forever be the most important relationship in his life.
He knows that he promised David that he doesn’t expect anything—and he doesn’t. He doesn’t want David to have to do anything for him. But…he has to do something, right? Now that he has David, knows him and everything connected to him, he can’t imagine his life without him.
After graduation. After graduation, they’ll talk. They’ll come up with a plan for their future. Until then, he just has to do his homework, complete his college applications, and do well enough on these tests that he doesn’t have to take them again. Until then, he just has to make sure that he has a future to work toward.
Patrick looks up from his political science textbook at all of his friends sitting around Stevie’s living room. Stevie’s reading As I Lay Dying for English, while Twyla works on problem sets for Advanced Functions. Math really isn’t her strong suit. Patrick tried to help, but his Trigonometry brain has been replaced with Calculus and he finds himself having to relearn things to try and share them with her.
Stevie moans. “This book is the worst.” She drops it, spine open, onto her lap. “I’ve read the same sentence like five times!”
The door opens then. It’s David, back from the café with drinks and a paper bag (likely containing pastries) in hand.
”How goes the studying?” His entrance is dramatic as always. After setting his proffered goods on the coffee table, he removes his sunglasses with a flourish. ”My poor friends, they work so hard.”
“I never want to see another triangle again,” Twyla sighs. “Which is too bad, because I love pie.”
David kisses Patrick on the temple in greeting, then plops down on the sofa next to him. Patrick blushes. There’s something very grown-up about it. Like David is greeting Patrick upon returning home from work or something.
Patrick goes back to his textbook, and Stevie gets up to refill her water bottle. Normally, David works on homework he feels like working on, or scrolls through his phone, or journals. But he doesn’t go back to that. Instead, Patrick can feel his eyes darting around.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Hmm?” David asks.
“It’s just that, well, it looks like there’s something on your mind.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I don’t want to bother you guys with it, you’re working.”
“Then what are the drinks and pastries for?”
“What? I can’t make a coffee run for my friends? I do have super speed, you know, it’s not like it’s hard for me.”
“Yesterday at my house, I got up to get you a glass of seltzer and orange juice because you said it took too much effort. I had to do it for you.”
“Yeah, but that was just because I liked watching you do it.”
Oh. Patrick blushes again.
Their heated eye contact is interrupted by Twyla. “It’s okay, David. I think we’re all in need of a break anyway. Why don’t you tell us?”
David looks at her and smiles warmly. Stevie says that ever since David and Patrick kissed, he’s turned into a steaming pile of sappy goo. Patrick is inclined to agree with her. David can still be prickly and mean when he wants to—usually where Alexis is concerned. But, he uses his soft voice and his soft face all the time. He reserves it for people like Twyla and Patrick’s parents. And Stevie when he doesn’t think she’s looking. And Patrick, when he doesn’t think anyone else is.
“I’ve decided on our Halloween plans,” David declares. “Everybody has to wear a costume, and then because Stevie said we have to, we’re going to hang out here and pass out candy for the neighborhood children. This will be followed by dinner and then…” He pauses for dramatic effect. “At midnight, we will attend the Elmdale Arthouse presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Patrick’s not sure what that is. “What? Why?”
“Because it’s Halloween. It’s an important day for supernatural beings and queer beings alike. It’s our holiday. You guys have been working so hard, and we’re going to have a night off and celebrate our magical selves.”
Patrick looks at the calendar on his phone. A midnight showing of—is it a movie?—means that they won’t be back home until at least 2 a.m. and, even though Halloween’s on a Friday... “David, we have an all-day seminar the next day for AP Lit.”
“Oh fuck that,” Stevie jumps in. “There is no way I’m going to be responsible on Halloween during my Grade Twelve because of some bullshit seminar. We are going!”
Twyla and Patrick meet each other’s eyes across the coffee table. She smiles at him, her eyes lit up. He can’t help but smile back.
Patrick knocks on the door. He hasn’t actually been to this house in years. His parents started making excuses for play-dates after the roof incident. He can’t remember all the details, but when Patrick was eleven or twelve, Mayor Schitt asked if he and Mutt wanted to help replace some shingles. When his mom came to get them, she found the three of them lying up there without any supervision.
“He wasn’t holding the nails, he was holding the hammer.”
“Roland, that’s worse!”
“It’s not like he was going to use it.”
Mrs. Schitt opens the door, and her face lights up. “Oh, Patrick honey! Hi!” She opens the door wider and steps aside. “Come on in!”
He follows her into the living room. She stops and turns, looks at him sternly. “Did you come over to ask me for an extension on your paper? Because you know that I can’t do that.” She breaks into a grin. “Not unless you stay for dinner! We’re having meatloaf!”
“No, not any of that. Thanks, Mrs. Schitt. I was actually wondering…is Mutt home?”
“Oh, yes!” She looks more pleased than if he had said ‘yes’ to dinner. “Mutt, honey! Patrick’s here!”
“One sec!” It sounds like Mutt is in his bedroom.
Mrs. Schitt asks questions about his parents and extended family, about his other classes, and he answers all of them dutifully. He’s always liked Mrs. Schitt. She can be a bit intense, but she’s kind. She’s pushy, but only if you’re slacking. She never treats anyone with any criticism or judgment, and she never asks questions that Patrick is uncomfortable answering.
They’re interrupted by the entrance of Mayor Schitt through the front door.
“Well, hey there, Pat,” he says. “Been a while since I’ve seen you over.”
The mayor reaches out his hand and Patrick grasps it. Is Patrick blushing? He hopes not. “Yeah, hi Mayor Schitt, how are you?”
“Oh, you know. Just out enjoying the lack of sunshine.”
“Yeah. I was sorry to hear about—how are you doing with…all that?”
“Well, you know me. I never complain. Always trying to make the best out of any situation. You know, son…” He starts on one of his speeches about optimism and manhood, while Mutt slowly makes his way into the room. Patrick waits for a break in the conversation to talk to Mutt, but it doesn’t come until Mrs. Schitt makes the break herself.
“So, Patrick, honey. Why don’t you tell us what you came over for?”
“Oh, heh, I just came over to see if Mutt wanted to come out with us tomorrow for Halloween.”
“Oh, no can do, Brewer,” Mayor Schitt says. “Our boy’s doin’ time, isn’t he?” He chuckles at his own joke. “On house arrest!”
Mrs. Schitt slaps his belly in mock scolding. “Oh, Rollie.” Then she turns to Patrick. “That’s very nice. What do you guys have planned?”
“Um. Well, we’re going to pass out candy at Stevie’s house. And then we’re gonna go to dinner, and then we’re gonna go see Rocky Horror at midnight in Elmdale.”
Mrs. Schitt’s eyes widen in mock-scandal, and a little glee. “Oh, wow. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You know, that movie is very controversial. Especially when I’m there.”
Mrs. Schitt looks at her husband with a disproportionate amount of warmth. “You look great in fishnets, honey.”
Patrick chokes back a laugh, or a gag, he’s not sure.
“But seriously. No can do. It was nice of you to ask,” he turns to Mutt, “but people who steal cars don’t get to go out with their friends. Isn’t that right, Mutt?”
Heat rises in Patrick’s face and he avoids looking in Mutt’s direction, not wanting to embarrass him. It honestly sucks. It’s true, Mutt did a bad thing, but the amount of flack he’s gotten from his dad-he’s really taking it overboard. He can’t imagine Mutt learning much from this experience, or wanting to work to change things if his dad just keeps reminding him about messing up.
Fortunately, that’s not the end of it, because Mrs. Schitt interjects. “Okay, you can play bad cop later. Mutt’s done plenty, I think he can go out for one night with his friends.”
“He’s shown up every day for his community service. He does all of his homework. Bob says he doesn’t slack.” Patrick is consistently amazed by the calm and gentle way Mrs. Schitt handles her husband. Nothing he does ever phases her. In fact, she usually seems charmed by him. It doesn’t make any sense, but Patrick doesn’t question it. “He’s been punished enough.”
“Wait. Really?” Patrick hasn’t heard Mutt’s voice without the edge of aloofness in years. He didn’t realize. He almost sounds like he did when they were kids. He looks at Mutt and they beam at each other.
“Yeah, you kids have fun.” She turns to her husband. “And you and I are going to go have our own Halloween fun.”
“We’re going as Charlie and Maverick from Top Gun.”
The mayor reaches across the dining room table and grabs a blonde wig.
Mrs. Schitt smiles, big and bright. “Okay, boys, time for dinner!”
“Oh, I can’t, I—”
“Time for dinner!” she repeats. Patrick doesn’t argue.
“So, Ted’s in.”
“Great. So that makes Stevie, Twyla, me, you, Patrick. How’d it go with Mutt?”
“His dad said no, his mom said yes.”
“Great! So Stevie, Twyla, us, and Mutt.”
“What about Rachel?”
“Alexis, what about Rachel?”
“Ugh. I don’t know. Why do I have to be the one to invite her?”
“What do you mean? I thought you guys were like, best friends.”
“Not exactly, David. She hasn’t exactly forgiven me for using her to get back at you and for biting her that one time.”
“Well, that’s understandable.”
“It was barely a pint, David.”
“I can invite her.”
“Um, are you sure that’s a good idea? You’re the guy who broke her precious little heart.”
“Well, we’re trying to be friends.”
“Yeah, like that ever works.”
“What, you’re not friends with any of your exes?”
“Most of my exes are dead.”
“They are not dead, David. They’ve just aged.”
“Some of them are! Like Annette.”
“Okay, but would we really classify Annette Funicello as an ex, David? You went on one date. You didn’t even kiss.”
“We did so.”
“She kissed you on the cheek and thanked you for helping her with her braid.”
David considers. Stevie could ask her, or Twyla, or Ted. Those are all neutral people. Only— “I think maybe I should invite her.”
“I just—I guess—I kind of know how she feels? I mean, I’ve been dumped plenty of times. And I also know what it’s like to wake up one day a human and a magical creature the next. Plus, I’m the only one in the group she doesn’t really know. And I’m her ex’s boyfriend. I guess—I think—maybe it will mean something, coming from me.”
“I don’t know…”
“I think that’s really thoughtful, David. I think you’re right. It would mean a lot to her.”
“Okay, a lot might be a little much.”
He finds her before lunch at her locker, twisting the lock around. Something is off about the scene, but he can’t figure out what. He’s probably just nervous. He hasn’t had one interaction with Rachel that has gone particularly well. The memory of their conversation at the party—and the embarrassment of getting caught—has kept him up more than one night.
“Hi.” He clears his throat. “It’s me.” He wants to disappear. She raises her eyebrows. David gulps. “Yeah, I just came over to see how you’re doing?”
She waves her hand out between them, shaking her head. “I’m okay. I guess.”
“Yeah. Um.” He gulps. “I was just, um” —the pitch of his voice takes a long journey from high-pitched and loud, to low and a whisper— “wondering if you wanted to spend Halloween with all of us tonight?”
“Oh. What are you guys doing?”
He tells her the plan, rattling off all the details about dinner that he copy-pasted into every text with members of the quickly-developing friend group assembled, and it occurs to him why Rachel seems so out of place today. It’s because she’s alone. He’s only realizing it now, but she’s usually surrounded by a band of girl friends. But they’re nowhere to be found. “…But I totally get it if you already have plans.”
Rachel turns her head and taps her notebooks, contemplating. “No other plans.”
“So you can come?”
She purses her lips and her shoulders tense. She’s looking directly at David, but her feet are pointed in another direction. “Why are you even asking me, though?” She sighs. “What, just because I have poisonous fangs, you suddenly want to be friends with me?”
He could lie, tell her it has nothing to do with that—that he likes her anyway. But there is a difference now. She’s one of them. They’re part of the same world, part of the same level of the food chain. She’s no longer just Patrick’s ex and a friendship fling for Alexis. She’s somebody just like him, who could use a friend. “Look. I know what you’re doing, okay? It’s—I’ve been there.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, do you have to undergo a back-breaking metamorphosis into a hideous monster every month? Do you have to chain yourself to a tree to keep yourself from killing everyone in your entire town? Do you have to—”
“I. No. Not the monthly metamorphosis part, no.”
The other sentence hangs in the air between them. Rachel’s shoulders loosen.
“I can’t relate to anything. But the I’m going to be a teenager forever thing? The I didn’t ask for this thing? The I can’t talk to my parents thing? Yeah. I can relate. Also the poisonous fangs thing.” Her jaw clenches. David takes it as a good sign. He leans in closer. “And it’s not just that. I want you to come. You’re already friends with everybody. I think we can be friends, too.”
She exhales. Her head falls back between her shoulders. “Ugh. Fine.”
“Yeah, I’ll come to your weird Halloween party.”
“It’s not a party like a party. It’s a party like a small group of people. You know, like, ‘David Rose, party of three.’ A gaggle of friends moving from one pre-arranged activity to another.”
“It’ll be a ball.”
“Mmm. I’m sure.”
“What’s your costume? It’s best you tell me, to make sure it’s coherent with the vibe we’re trying to establish.”
David can be really fucking annoying sometimes, especially in the way he keeps roping Stevie into doing things that are way beyond her own expectations of herself. She surveys the dinner table. Maureen picked up candy on her way home yesterday. Stevie couldn’t find a bowl for it since she’s pretty sure this is the first time anyone in the household has attempted to do anything for anyone else on this particular holiday. She also bought some cheetos—puffy, not crunchy—and a six-pack of Dr. Pepper. Whatever, they’ll only be here for an hour anyway, and then they’ll all go to dinner at Little Nonna’s, there’s no sense in ruining everyone’s appetite. David and Alexis shouldn’t even have appetites anyway.
Twyla is still upstairs getting ready. She’s not sure what her costume is—Twyla said she has to wait for “the full effect.” It’s probably Elsa or Anna from Frozen, or some other manic princess character.
The doorbell rings and before Stevie can go answer it, David saunters into the kitchen. “Oh my god!”
David smirks and does a slow turn, his hand raised aloft, looking very pleased with himself. She’s never seen him wear color before, let alone so much. His hair is wrapped in a black turban, his suit is bright baby blue with a bright orange collared shirt. He’s wearing eyeliner. He put a little black dot on his cheek. He’s wearing dainty heeled booties that, honestly, Stevie would like for herself.
“Prince at the 2007 Super Bowl? Yes. Yes I am.”
“I just, I didn’t know you could see color.”
“Oh, fuck you.”
“That being said, this color combination doesn’t really demonstrate that you do.”
“That’s rude. But to Prince, not to me.” He demonstrates waving her words off his shoulders. He looks around the kitchen and barely glances at the table. “So, what do we need to set up?”
Stevie sighs. “Nothing. This is it.” She braces herself for—
“This is it?! Stevie, I thought you were going to get snacks!”
“I got snacks!”
“One bag of puffy Cheetos? That’s not even the respectable kind of Cheeto!”
“We’ve been over this. Puffy Cheetos are better.”
“And one six-pack of soda? More than six of us are coming!”
“I thought we already agreed that asking me to do this was a terrible idea.”
“Yeah, well, then Patrick made me feel bad about it. But now I know, I was completely in the right.”
At Twyla’s voice, David turns toward the entrance to the kitchen. “Oh my god!”
Stevie turns around too, and almost jumps out of her skin. Twyla is dressed like Twyla, only it looks like she’s just come back from battle in medieval times.
“What do you think?”
Gross, Stevie thinks, though she doesn’t say it aloud. Twyla’s face is painted a ghostly white, and she’s covered her eyes in an exaggeration of eyeliner pouring down the side of her face. She’s somehow constructed fake gaping wounds on her cheeks and throat and streams of fake blood cover her chest.
“Twyla, oh my god. You look so scary!”
She beams through her horrific makeup. “It’s Halloween!”
Stevie has a moment of difficulty finding her voice. “Those, uh,” she points at Twyla’s throat, “look really realistic.”
“Thanks! I’ve been practicing.”
Stevie’s not going to admit she’s impressed, but it’s very impressive. And creepy.
David turns to Stevie. “And how about you? When are you planning on changing into your costume?”
That’s exactly the reaction she was hoping for. “This is my costume.” She holds the sunglasses resting on her forehead, and then looks down at her watch, feigning shock.
“What? You don’t like my Marty McFly?”
David squints and growls, his hands crossed tightly over his chest. “Nobody is going to get that. You look exactly the same as you do every day.”
“That’s not true. I hardly ever wear my red puffer vest.”
“You wore it to school on Monday.”
The doorbell rings again. “I’ll get it!” Zombie Twyla’s ponytail bounces as she disappears down the hall.
A moment later Patrick appears in a baseball uniform. “Hey, Stevie—” His jaw drops when he clocks David, then lifts into the crinkle of his smile. “David!” He moves into David’s space, and grabs him by the hips. His jaw clenches and when he speaks, it’s low and—gross—sexual. “I can’t believe you dressed up as Prince” and then, “…for me?”
David sticks his lips between his teeth to avoid smiling.
Stevie turns away. “Gross!”
Behind her back, David’s voice curls up her neck. “Prince is a very influential figure in my life. I was in the front row in Long Beach during the Purple Rain tour.” He pauses, so Stevie turns around, hoping it’s safe to look in that direction again. It’s not. “But yeah, maybe I did dress up a little for you.”
Stevie shudders and averts her eyes again, but it does nothing to shield her from the kissing sound. David and Patrick have, admittedly, grown into her best friends these last few crazy months, and she’s happy for them, but their lovey-dovey energy is too much, sometimes.
“You make a great Marty McFly, Stevie.”
“Seriously? How on earth did you get that?”
Ted arrives next, in an incomprehensible store-bought costume. He’s an avocado with…wings?
“I’m Holy Guacamole!”
“Did you seriously buy a pun costume? The whole point of pun costumes is that they’re homemade.”
“My mom had a coupon.”
Small Elsas and Spider-Men begin to ring the doorbell for candy before the rest of the crew arrives. They decide to set up on the patio after the third group of children screams at the sight of Twyla. “Best to give them time to adjust,” David says as he carries two of the dining room chairs outside.
“So who are you supposed to be?” Stevie points at Patrick with her can of soda.
“Oh, I—” Patrick blushes and clears his throat. “I’m Billy Bean?”
“Is he that a canned goods mascot?”
“No, he played for a few different teams, but um, he was the second Major League Baseball player to come out.”
David’s face gets all soft then, and he rubs Patrick’s back. “Aww.”
Stevie swallows, struck, not for the first time, by how weird it is to know Patrick like this now. After so long just being stupid kids, classmates. To watch him grow up next to her and have to contend with this huge realization about himself, it’s strange. Nice, but strange. She thinks it’s different for her. She’s pretty sure she’s something—not straight anyway. She might have to work on that at some point. But she’s always been different, a little bit strange, never really fitting in. Plus, with her fucked up family, she’s had plenty of other things to deal with.
She’s glad she gets to see it now. Patrick might be this normal, popular kid. But, he’s always had an edge, something she could relate to. And now, they have all these new things tying them together. She always thought the ties to these people she grew up with would loosen and unravel after high school. But now, she and Patrick and Twyla, they’re connected. With Ted and Rachel, too. And Mutt, apparently.
Last Halloween, it was just her. Maureen worked the motel and Stevie sat at home watching Carrie. Just a year later she had plans, and not just with one person—eight people, who are her friends.
“What do you mean, nine people?” David asks when she mentions it. They’re in the kitchen, she fills up a pitcher of water while he rummages around the pantry for hidden snacks since they already ran out of Cheetos.
“Oh, yeah. I invited Jake.”
“You invited Jake?” His voice has already hit high-pitched. “Why would you invite Jake? Now we’re all going to have to pretend like we all don’t know about magic and whatnot. This was supposed to be a chill night!”
“It will be chill. You don’t have to pretend anything. Jake knows.”
“Yeah. I mean. We hook up all the time. And I’ve been using my magic for naughty reasons a lot longer than I’ve been using it for legit reasons.”
David bites his top lip. “Just. Nobody tell my dad.”
The rest arrive in between Trick-or-Treaters. Alexis is dressed as Katniss. She definitely put a lot of extensions in to get that thick braid, and her makeup is a lot, but she does look pretty badass. Even if Stevie didn’t know she had super strength, she wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley. Rachel arrives in clothing normal for a chilly October evening, save for its monochromatic brown color-scheme and accompanying dog ear headband. She also gave herself a cute dog face.
“What?” she says, when an awkward silence follows her arrival. “I’m going through something, okay?”
“I feel bad,” Stevie says, “I should’ve worn my pointy hat.”
Twyla nudges her in her side.
Jake shows up in a store-bought onesie elephant costume. Frankly, it’s more effort than she expected coming from him. “Nice costume. Very practical. Very, uh, warm.”
He slides his arms around her middle and presses a kiss into her collar. “Oh, this is just to be appropriate in front of the kids,” he says. “The real costume’s underneath.” That makes more sense.
As expected, they run out of candy before they run out of kids to give it to. She picks up the empty bowl and shoves it in front of David indignantly. “This whole evening was your idea!”
“I deserve chocolate more than the little rascals do, anyway.”
They go back inside and Stevie turns off the porch light. They’re just waiting for Mutt before they head for Elmdale. When he shows up, it takes her a second to register what he’s wearing. When she does, all she can do is sigh and roll her eyes. Ted clears his throat and shifts his gaze away.
At first she just thought he wasn’t wearing a costume. He’s in a tank top under an open plaid shirt. She didn’t think much of it. But he also has a huge, gilded chain across his chest and worn gray baseball hat with a vaguely turkey-shaped form in the front.
“Does your dad know that you took his mayoral chain?”
Mutt shrugs. “Nope.”
David, Patrick, and Ted all groan while Twyla giggles. “You look very authoritative,” she says.
“Yeah,” Patrick says, “you’re the spittin’ image.”
“Great Marty McFly,” Mutt says.
David groans again. “How did you even get that?”
“The Aviators,” Mutt says.
“Okay.” David claps his hands for emphasis. “There are nine of us, so that’s two cars.”
“You’re going to be driving the truck, right David?” Patrick teases.
“Actually, I am.”
Stevie is the other driver. Maureen let her borrow the car for the night, which Stevie thinks is an unreasonable demonstration of trust. “Twyla will make sure you both come back in one piece,” Maureen had said. Stevie tells Jake that Twyla is to sit in the passenger seat, so Jake and Mutt slide in the back with Rachel in the middle.
When they’re five minutes out of town, Rachel leans forward, her voice in Stevie’s ear. “Do you want me to drive?”
Stevie realizes she’s white-knuckling it; it’s been a while since she drove without an adult in the passenger seat. She forces her fingers and her back to relax. “It’s okay. I’ve got it.” Too bad she doesn’t know any spells for automatic driving. At least the car is an automatic. And Twyla’s in the passenger seat. She’s telekinetic. She could probably keep the car from veering off the road into a ditch. And keep the tailgating car behind them from crashing into them next time they brake.
“It’s okay. I’m okay.” The car behind them whizzes past them on their left, making Stevie jump. “Maybe later? After pizza?”
Rachel pats her shoulder. “You got it.”
As they are such a large party, they’re seated on the small second floor loft area at Little Nonna’s. In the shuffle of seats, Rachel ends up sitting next to her, which, okay. There are so many other people squeezed around this table. They don’t have to interact the whole time. Except, Ted gets caught up in conversation with Jake about rugby, and Twyla on Rachel’s other side starts talking to Stevie about a girl at school Alexis doesn’t know, and then Rachel needs somebody to pass her the marinara sauce when the breadsticks come out so Alexis has to lean over Ted to get to it and she and Rachel have to make eye contact, and Rachel’s leg keeps bumping into Alexis’ and they can’t spend the entire dinner sitting in this awkward silence like this or Alexis will go insane.
Rachel is one of the first people she’s ever had to deal with who actively doesn’t like her. Even those KGB agents thought she was funny and charming, the hostage bit wasn’t personal.
“So,” she tries, “are you having fun?”
Rachel leans back in her chair so Alexis leans on her elbow to turn and look at her. “I guess. As much fun as I could be having, considering the circumstances.”
“Becoming a werewolf?”
“No, well yes. Just, everything with it. The secrecy. Normally on Halloween I would spend the evening passing out candy with my mom and my brother, or taking my little cousins trick-or-treating, and then maybe since it’s Friday I would have a sleepover at one of my friends’ houses. But I can’t do that now. Not without lying to them the whole time.”
Alexis has never really had a problem with lying, technically. But she also hardly ever has a reason to lie. Her family knows who she is, and the humans she drinks don’t need to know much for them to have a good time, and socially, she pretty much only ever hangs out with magical beings. Maybe this is why.
Alexis taps Rachel’s knee. “Well, you don’t have to lie to any of us. I know you’re not really close with anyone except maybe Patrick, but we’ll be your friends.”
Rachel nods and takes the last bite of her giant bread stick. “Thanks.”
That conversation went better than she thought it would. Maybe she ought to quit while she’s ahead, be satisfied with making some headway. But, what headway did they really make? They’re still less to each other than they were at the beginning of the summer.
Alexis takes a deep breath, not sure what’s about to come out of her mouth. “We could hang out this weekend. What kinds of things do you like doing?”
Stevie takes a bite out of her slice of Italian sausage pizza when her phone starts buzzing in her pocket. Long irregular buzzes which means she’s getting a call. Her first thought is that it’s Maureen, the only person who ever calls her, and since Stevie has the car, she puts her slice down to fish her phone from her pocket.
It’s not Maureen. It’s her mom. It rings once more before she can say, “I’ve got to take this,” to no one in particular, and then gets up from the table, hitting “accept” right away even though she’s in a crowded restaurant and won’t be able to say anything until she gets outside.
The air is crisp enough to hurt so Stevie zips up her vest and pulls an arm across her chest. “Hello?”
“Stevie, baby.” It’s slurred. This is why their annual calls take place early on Christmas Day. Otherwise, it’s like this. “I’ve been thinking about you all day! It’s Halloween! Isn’t that like a special day for you?”
“Um. Yeah. Kinda.”
“Well.” She’s quiet for a few beats, and Stevie has to check to see if the call dropped. The numbers on the timer keep ticking. She puts the phone back to her ear. “Happy Halloween.” There’s a sloppy smile in her voice and Stevie sighs.
They both return to silence, but Stevie knows her mom is still on the other side of the line because she can hear her breaths and sniffles.
“You know, I know you think I’m a fuck-up.”
Stevie freezes. This line of conversation never goes in a good direction. A part of her, an angry, no-nonsense sounding part of herself tells her to hang up. Another, younger, more high-pitched part of herself grips the phone tighter against her ear.
“Well I am a fuck-up,” she says. “Always have been. Always will be.”
Stevie doesn’t think she’s wrong, exactly. But she also hates it. She’s had nightmares about slapping her. In her dreams, she’s screamed at her. “Wake up wake up wake up!” But she doesn’t have to do this. She doesn’t have to be this way. Couldn’t she just not?
The way Maureen talks about Valerie, it’s like Valerie is incidental. “She’s just a girl who got knocked up too young. It’s not her fault and it’s not yours.” But why does she have to disappear all the time? Why couldn’t she have stayed? Why couldn’t she have tried?
She supposes she knows the answer to that. Up until recently, Stevie’s whole life had been defined by a lack of trying.
“I didn’t. I’m a fuck-up, Stevie. I’m not a mom. I love you. But I’m a fuck-up. You’re better off without me. I know it. You know I talked to Maureen? She says you’re doing so good at school. I never did good at school. I fucking—” her voice starts to shake— “I fucking can’t do anything right. You were way better off without me, baby.”
Stevie can’t listen to this anymore. She’s in the middle of a night out for fuck’s sake, and this conversation is about to turn crisis-inducing.
“Valerie. I gotta go. We can talk about this later.” Preferably when Twyla isn’t staying over and she can cry alone in her room in the dark.
She forces the phone from her ear and hits the end button. The call screen pulses and disappears, “Mom” now at the top of her call list.
Fuck. Every time something like this happens, Stevie’s mood collapses in on itself. It puts her in a funk she can’t really get out of. She grits her teeth and wipes away the tears drying on her cheeks. Get it the fuck together. It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t matter. She’s just some girl who got knocked up, and Stevie had to put up with it. If Stevie suddenly got pregnant, she can’t really imagine any other scenario but skipping town either. Then why the fuck does it hurt so much? She sniffles, and grunts, trying to stuff the reaction back inside.
Bored, she tells herself. This is just boring. You’re bored.
She turns toward David’s voice, Twyla standing next to him by the open door.
“Oh. Hey. Sorry. I just. I had a call.”
“Are you okay?” David asks.
“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Stevie, what happened?” Twyla’s head is cocked, and there’s a crinkle between her brows.
Stevie has to sniff. It’s cold out, after all. A cloud of vapor escapes her mouth when she speaks. When she was little, she pretended it was dragon’s breath. When she got a little older, she pretended it was cigarette smoke. She hasn’t grown out of that yet. “It’s just that my mom called.”
Her face betrays her by crumpling into a mess of pain. She doesn’t have enough time to reel it back in. David reaches her first and her forehead hits his shoulder. He wraps his arms around her shoulders at the same time Twyla rests her whole body against Stevie’s from behind, squeezing them all together. She’s probably getting fake blood everywhere. Stevie’s nose is smashed into David’s armpit and her neck is at an uncomfortable angle, but she doesn’t shove them off. The warmth of David’s hand lands on the back of her neck. “I don’t know what she said, but I’m sorry it hurt.”
It does hurt. It hurts so much more than it should, in places it shouldn’t. She shrugs.
“You know, last time I talked to my mom and she made me cry, my Nana said, ‘No use crying over spoiled brat.’”
Stevie huffs a wet laugh and pulls her arms out from between hers and David’s stomachs and reaches around his waist. She gives him a squeeze. Neither David nor Twyla make a move to let go.
“Okay, this is a really long hug,” she says, after counting to ten.
“Just one more minute,” David says.
There’s a line around the block. The tiny downtown center is loud and full of chatter, and the Elmdale Arthouse is lit up. It feels like the night is just getting started even though, historically for him, Halloween is over by now. Cars whoosh past, and droves of people make their way across the street toward the marquee lights. David grabs his bicep, and Patrick realizes that he had stopped moving to gape.
He didn’t know about this. He didn’t know that this was something that could happen in his corner of the world. There are so many man-shaped people in black wigs and corsets and fishnets. There are other, more typical Halloween costumes as well—superheroes and characters from the Wizard of Oz. He blushes when a guy passes them in booty shorts and a fireman’s hat.
Once in line, they stand next to a poster for Boyhood and Patrick tries not to stare at the couple in front of them. It’s not an easy task. They are two men. It’s the first time, he thinks, that he’s seen a gay couple and instantly known they were together. That one of them has his hand in the other’s back pocket helps.
David gives his hands a squeeze. “It’s okay to look.” His voice is warm and ticklish in Patrick’s ear.
“So what’s this movie about, anyway?” Ted asks.
“Ohh, wrong question,” David responds, before launching into his practiced lecture. Patrick’s heard it before. To himself, then to Stevie, then to Alexis (even though she’d heard it before).
Patrick keeps hold of David’s hand, but separates himself slightly from the group to keep looking down the line of people. He’s never seen so much leg hair that wasn’t at the pool. And he definitely has never seen this many butt cheeks at once. Is that even allowed? Some people are in full suits and face paint, others have arrived in what looks like regular underwear. There are witches and pirates and zombies. There are feather boas and top hats and Are those Grant’s parents?! They stand three or four groups of parents ahead, wearing t-shirts. Grant’s mom’s face lights up and she waves in greeting to someone. He follows her gaze and sees the rest of their friends crossing the street. It looks like Grant’s mom was waving to Ted, because he walks over to her, leading the rest of the group.
After an exchange of pleasantries, her eyes find the rest of the group and her eyes light up, she follows Ted over to say “hi” to everyone. Something inside of Patrick squirms, and he has the sudden urge to drop David’s hand. He squeezes tighter instead.
After she fawns over their costumes Patrick hears himself ask, “You guys go to Rocky Horror?”
“Oh yeah,” she waves her hand in nonchalance, “we come every year! Have for a long time. Long time.”
Patrick finds himself in a daze, and David has to lead him around with his hand. They stand in line for tickets, and then stand in line for concessions, and David does all the talking. When David isn’t holding tightly to his hand, David touches his shoulder, his upper arm, the dip of his back. Patrick has been to the Arthouse many times, but he’s never seen it so full. Apparently, they’re later arrivals, so the only seats left are near the front, and scattered around. David pulls him through the sea of warm bodies to a couple of seats on the left-hand side. An older man with white hair and kind eyes catches sight of him and his hand in David’s and he smiles warmly. There’s a weight on Patrick’s chest, and his breathing comes short. But it doesn’t hurt. It’s hot and weighty and Patrick wants to hold on to it.
“Who knew there was such a big Elm Valley queer scene?” David remarks. He hands Patrick a brown glass bottle of root beer and keeps the large vat of popcorn on his own napkin-covered lap.
A white-painted face with red-painted lips appears at his side and says something. It takes Patrick a beat to realize the face is addressing him.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Are you a virgin?” the person says again.
Patrick is about to object to the question, when David speaks for him. “Yep! It’s his first time!”
“May I?” The person holds up a tube of flattened red lipstick.
Patrick looks to David, who nods with excitement. Patrick turns back to the person and nods, consenting, and then the proffered lipstick is pressed to his throat.
“Take a look,” David says, and holds up the camera on his phone in selfie mode. Patrick takes it and sees a small red V on his neck. “You’re a Rocky virgin!”
The significance of this fact becomes apparent after the costume contest, emceed by a very tall woman with waist-length black hair and a hot pink tutu. She announces that it’s time for the “Virgin Games” and commands that all the Rocky Virgins stand. David doesn’t warn him against it, so Patrick stands to thunderous applause, as do all of his friends, dotted around the front three rows. Jake stands triumphantly, and beats his chest and roars along with the crowd, so naturally, one of the cast members taps him on the shoulder and he’s led to the stage in front of the big screen with five others.
Patrick sits down, and he’s not sure if he’s disappointed or relieved. He doesn’t have time to feel anything, though, because his attention is tugged toward the stage, where Jake rips the elephant onesie by its side snaps and reveals his more-muscular-than-expected arms and torso, and then his more-muscular-than-expected thighs. Patrick bursts out laughing. He’s wearing nothing but a themed-thong, featuring a not-at-all modest elephant trunk.
The crowd erupts in cheers and wolf-whistles, and Jake flexes, his grin wide and toothy.
The emcee starts explaining the rules of the game, involving bananas and Nutella, but is interrupted when the security guard comes running down the aisle. He points at Jake and starts yelling something Patrick can’t hear. The crowd boos. Jake puts his hands up as if to say, “All right, all right,” and puts the legs of his onesie back on, tying it around his hips.
“Too bad,” David says, chuckling. “But probably the right call.”
After the games, the lights dim and the movie begins. A pair of red lips appears on the screen at the same time “Coach Ronnie?” appears on stage. She’s dressed demurely all in black, and as the lips on screen start to move, so do hers. And she’s singing, really singing, along. She has a nice voice, which makes sense. Patrick’s seen her in the Jazzagals during Asbestos Fest. The crowd joins in as the opening credits fade in and out on screen. So many people know the words. Patrick wonders if one day he will. It’s repetitive enough that he can join in on the chorus. As the song comes to a close, the crowd gets steadily louder. Anybody who wasn’t singing before starts to sing now.
To the late night
The movie begins in earnest and Coach Ronnie leaves the stage—Patrick wonders if she’ll be back—and the Elmdale Rocky Horror cast, in a wonderful combination of awkwardness and confidence, acts along with the movie. It’s a ridiculous movie, the plot totally contrived and nonsensical, the budget low. But the bubble of elation in Patrick’s chest keeps growing bigger. When Brad succumbs immediately to Frankenfurter’s advances, Patrick screams and laughs because he can absolutely relate. He catches David’s twinkling eyes and leans in to kiss him. Somebody behind them whoops, and Patrick laughs again, heat curling up his back.
When Brad says “Great Scott!” And streamers of toilet paper curl into the air down toward the stage, the compression of joy in his chest bursts and it spreads throughout his body. A half-unfurled roll of toilet paper lands near his feet, and Patrick picks it up, grabs a hold of the end of the paper, and hurls the roll behind him across the room. It arches in a glorious white curve, landing somewhere he can’t see, with people he doesn’t know. Or maybe he does. It’s a small town, after all.
It occurs to him that he’s grinning really wide, and he’s missing the movie because he’s just looking back at the people filling the theater. He feels connected to them all somehow, in a way he hasn’t felt connected before. They’re all just like him, in their own textures and flavors. They’re different, just like him. It’s like everyone in the room is saying to him, “It’s not your fault you didn’t know. None of us did. Nobody does.”
He turns to David and leans in close so David will hear him over the blaring speakers. “I think I get it,” he says. “It’s about…it’s something about repression, right? Like it’s saying something sex. Something about freedom. About the world.”
David nods. “It’s the world that’s fucked up,” David says. “Not us.”
He puts his hand on the back of David’s neck, and pulls him in close so their foreheads touch. “I get it.”
They pour out of the theater, giggle-drunk and stumbling.
“Leeet’s do the tiiime waaarp agaaaaaaain!” Ted, Jake, and Mutt scream-sing and jump on each other, pushing each other around as they cross the street toward the parking lot. Cars have to stop for them. “Leeet’s do the tiiiime waaaarp agaaaaaain!”
“That was awesome!” Ted yells into the night sky, his arms spread wide in a display of avocado-angel masculinity.
They arrive at their cars in a heap of limbs. Stevie leans against the truck, trying to catch her breath from laughter. She’s so alive. He’s glad she’s feeling better.
“Time to go home, then?” Patrick asks, though he doesn’t sound like he wants to. David wraps his arm around over his shoulders and pulls him close.
“Nobody’s going home!” Jake declares. Twyla and Rachel giggle. “Everybody’s going to eat!”
David looks down at Patrick, who is already looking up at him.
“I do know a 24-hour diner. It’s on the way to Elm Glen, but it’s pretty good.”
Forty minutes later, David finds himself with a stack of French toast, wedged between Patrick and Rachel at a long stretch of three pushed-together-tables at Valley Diner at 3 a.m. They’ve piled the table with hash browns and onion rings.
“Remember that time Mutt ate a raw egg off of a desk as a dare?”
“Oh my god. That was my desk. It was right in front of me. I’m still scarred.”
“Remember that time we went on that class camping trip and we had a race and Patrick’s pants fell down?”
“I have seen all of your butts at one point or another.”
“Oh my god. And Twyla! Remember that time when we had that end-of-the-year party and you got high and hit on Eric?”
Twyla giggles and then turns to Mutt, her face a mix of bashful and mischievous. “Yeah well, at least I didn’t fling my burning marshmallow into Tennessee’s hair.”
“Laugh all you want. She still went out with me.”
“Yeah, like once. Didn’t she start dating that guy from Elm Glen, what was his name?”
“Moonshine. Not his real name. She said I wasn’t environmentally conscious enough.”
David laughs along with everybody. They have such long memories. David is a hundred years old, but he doesn’t have any memories like this with anybody. Not even his family. It’s hard to collect memories like this when interaction has been so fragmented. But he can sort of imagine this life for his friends. Only part of him feels left out. The part of him with Patrick’s arm resting on the back of his chair, the part of him with his sister seated across from him, the part of him that doesn’t have to keep himself hidden around anyone at the table, that part feels connected. Even if it’s just for a little while.
“Remember that time David thought that you had to pay a mailman to get your mail?”
David’s heart stops. He stares at Mutt.
“I remember that!” Jake says, slapping his forehead. “It was in business class. You asked if anybody knew how to send mail if you live at a motel.”
David’s eyes dart around the table. There’s a beat when no one says anything, people are waiting for his reaction.
“Yeah, well at least I knew that mailmen still existed!” He points at Alexis and everybody bursts out laughing.
“Shut up, David!”
“Oh my god. Remember those go-go boots Stevie used to wear in Grade 9?!”
Warmth crawls down David’s back and he leans against his chair. Patrick pulls him closer and rests his chin on David’s shoulder. David turns closer, and Patrick presses a kiss into his cheek.
“This is really fun,” David says.
“Yeah. I really love it,” Patrick says. “Ope.” He pulls out his buzzing phone. “Looks like we stayed out too late.”
He was hoping nobody would notice. It’s just a little past 4:30. They all have to report to the school cafeteria in four hours to talk about Poetry Analysis Essays.
“Yeah, everything’s fine. We’re just at Valley Diner. Yeah, I’m good to drive. It’ll be okay.”
David hears Mrs. Brewer’s name on the other end saying, “Okay, honey. I guess you’re growing up, huh?”
Patrick chuckles. “I guess so.”
“You’re going to be dead on your feet tomorrow.”
“I guess so,” he says again.
David had been doing a good job at keeping his guilt about Patrick at bay today. He didn’t want it getting in the way of Halloween. But it comes creeping back when Mrs. Brewer says, “Love you” and Patrick returns it before hanging up his phone.
“Should we head out?” David murmurs.
“In a bit,” Patrick says. He nudges his nose against David’s and then leans in further to press a kiss to his lips.
Somebody, definitely in reaction to the kiss says, “Ohhhh!”—David’s pretty sure it’s Ted—and then everyone else joins in. Somebody pounds on the table.
Patrick breaks away. “All right, all right,” he scolds and the laughter starts to die down.
Patrick pulls into the motel parking lot. Alexis leans over the center console and says, “Thanks for the ride, Patrick!” She boops his nose before hopping out of the truck and slamming the door behind her.
His body has a weird weightlessness in it. It’s familiar, he’s pulled all-nighters before. He’s tired, but he knows he won’t be able to sleep with all of the adrenaline and anticipation of having to wake up in two hours anyway. He looks over at David. His hair is in a funny shape after being squashed under the head scarf, and then mussed up repeatedly—once by himself, once by Stevie, and once (affectionately) by Ted. He still looks great.
“I don’t want to say goodnight, yet.” Patrick says.
David smiles. “We’ll see each other in a couple hours.”
Patrick knows this, but he doesn’t want the night to end. Something has been changing between them lately, growing. But it’s fragile. Patrick wants to push it. Maybe to bursting. He wants to see how far he can take it.
“Come over,” he whispers.
“You need sleep.”
Patrick shakes his head. “Nah. Might as well finish the night.”
David looks at him for a moment, a question in his eyes. When he answers, it’s a whisper. “Okay.”
David clears his throat and speaks again, more clearly. “Okay. Just, let me take a shower first?”
He nods. “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
Now that he’s in the car by himself, and there’s no one to talk him awake, he doesn’t feel as secure in his ability to get home safely. He drives slowly, his eyes darting around.
At home, he listens for his parents, but can’t hear anything. He hopes they’re asleep. The stairs creak as he makes his way to the second floor and heads for the bathroom. He showers and pulls on a t-shirt and boxers.
When he gets back to his room, he throws his sweaty costume into the hamper. When he looks up, he sees that David is already under the covers. His eyes are closed even though there’s no way he’s actually asleep. But Patrick lets him pretend, and lifts the quilt to slide in next to him. David lays one arm around Patrick’s waist, and rests his head on Patrick’s chest. It’s not the most comfortable position in the world, but he already said he wouldn’t sleep. He wiggles to situate himself against the covers.
David’s hair is still damp and curly from his shower and it makes Patrick’s t-shirt wet. He wonders if he’ll try styling it later, or if he’ll just wear a hat. He looks over David’s head out his window. The sky is a dark navy blue, but the birds are chirping.
“I love you.”
The words pound in Patrick’s ears. He blinks, unsure if the words came from David or his imagination.
“What?” he breathes.
David shifts up onto his elbow to look up at Patrick. In his mind, Patrick tries to capture the shadows dancing across his cheeks and brow. “I love you,” he says again.
Patrick’s throat is dry. He swallows. “I love you, too.” It’s only the second time he’s gotten to say it. Will he get to say it again? Surely, this means he’ll be able to.
“I can’t promise anything,” David says. “It’s not a promise. But it’s the truth. So I wanted you to know.”
“David.” Patrick pulls him close for a kiss. David’s lips are cold. Patrick tries to warm them with his own. “It’s okay,” he says. “I’m not—I don’t expect anything.” He tries to keep his voice steady, but he knows his heart is pounding, he can hear it in his ears. He exhales to steady himself. He puts his forehead against David’s. “One day at a time, right?”
“Right.” David says it, but his eyes shift. He looks like he doesn’t really believe it.
“David, I don’t know what our future looks like. But I think we should let ourselves have this, for as long as we can.”
David lets out a shaky breath. “Yeah.”
They kiss again. Patrick’s nose is cold, and he bumps it against David’s cheek, trying to push in closer. Their position offers very little leverage, and despite sharing the same tiny bed, they’re not aligned right. Patrick can feel the frustration in David’s kisses.
“Hey,” Patrick says.
“I love you.”
David purses his lips. But it’s a smile. It’s reluctant, but soft and warm. Patrick pushes David back so that they’re lying side-to-side and face-to-face. He holds David tightly against him and pulls the covers over them, cocooning them in warmth. He kisses David again. Soft and slow, warming his cheeks in his hands.
David kisses him back, just as softly. They lie like that for a while, trading kisses, rubbing their lips together. Heat grows. There’s an ache in Patrick’s chest of joy, sorrow, and anticipation. He hooks a leg over David’s, suddenly desperate for more. He clutches at the fabric on David’s back, and David clutches back. He has to force himself not to moan.
He dips his hand under David’s t-shirt and makes contact with cool skin. He breaks their kiss to pull the blankets closer. He knows David isn’t bothered by the cold, but he can’t help it. He wants to feel David’s skin warm up under his fingers. He puts his hand back under David’s shirt where it belongs.
David nuzzles along Patrick’s jaw to expose his throat. He rakes his teeth under Patrick’s ear, and reaches down to pull Patrick’s leg to bring them closer together.
“David. I want—” He bites his lip. David said “no” before. He said he wasn’t ready.
“What do you want, Patrick?” David’s breath is warm against his skin.
Oh. He scrambles to find words. “I want you. I just want you, David.”
David lifts his head and locks eyes with Patrick. “Okay.”
David nods. “Okay.”
Patrick pulls David in for a kiss. It’s loose and warm, and sends an aching wave straight through his body. They pull and push at each other. Clothes get tossed aside. Their knees knock together, and David has to hold his hand over Patrick’s mouth to mute the sound of his giggles. They grab and they hush, they touch and they whisper, and they breathe and hold fast. Patrick takes all he can from those wonderful, delicate, brand-new moments as the light through the window changes from gray to gold.
Have a Happy and Queer AF Halloween!!!!
Chapter 5: Practical Magic
Thank you so much to yourbuttervoicedbeau and fishyspots for the beta! I added some things after they looked over it so any remaining mistakes are my own. That's true for most chapters, but especially this one.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The knee that bumps into David’s is warm and affectionate. He looks up from his book to make eye contact with Patrick, whose grin is expectant and giddy. They lounge opposite each other on one of the window seats in the school foyer, having opted for a lunch alone together instead of with everyone else in the cafeteria.
Patrick shakes his head, but his smile grows.
“Wha-aat?” David extends the words to two syllables.
“Are you sleeping over tonight again?”
“I sleep over pretty much every night.”
“Then how come I feel like I miss you all the time?”
“Those hours between finishing our homework and when it’s a reasonable bedtime take too long.”
“Way too long.” Patrick sighs. “So, are you?”
“Coming over tonight?”
“Sure. I’ll come over tonight.”
Patrick bumps his knee against David’s again. “Good.” He then reaches to push his fingers through David’s, so David has to lean forward slightly to keep their hands together rested on Patrick’s other (bent) knee while he attempts to read another paragraph of As I Lay Dying.
David had worried that sex might change things between them. Honestly, he was a little worried Patrick would go a little sex-crazed and then they would do something risky and get in trouble and he would ruin Patrick’s life forever. Or he thought it might cheapen things. And it’s true, Patrick has gone a little sex-crazed, and things have changed between them. But they haven’t done anything stupid yet, and they haven’t gotten in trouble, and nothing has been cheapened.
David sneaks a peek at his boyfriend, who has gone back to reading his own copy of the book, and he looks okay. He doesn’t look damaged or like a newly minted pheromone junkie. He looks, perhaps, content, hopeful, fine. He looks fine. David squeezes his fingers. Patrick squeezes back and looks up at David and kisses the air between them. David kisses back. Patrick bumps his knee. David bumps back. Patrick puts his book down and leans toward David, lips-first. David leans back for the kiss. Kissing Patrick is like eating ice cream, tiny scoop by tiny scoop. Only he never has to stop because he never gets full. Just wants more, more, more.
“No PDA at school, boys!”
They break apart. Mrs. Schitt is walking toward them, waggling her finger at them, but there’s no real malice in it. It’s not the first time she’s broken them apart and she always tries to make it clear that she thinks they’re cute and that scolding them is just a technicality. But today, while she goes through all the same motions she usually does, she doesn’t seem to get her usual enjoyment out of it.
“Hi, Mrs. Schitt, how are you?”
She stops about two feet away from them, her hands on her hips. She lets out a laugh, but it’s dry. “Not ideal, boys, not ideal. Things are a little complicated at the homestead due to, well,” she gestures around the room, “all of it.”
“Yeah,” Patrick says. “How’s it going with the Mayor?”
“He’s going a little stir crazy, thanks for asking. He’s not enjoying being cooped up inside all day, and at night, well, he’s ready to burst. But you know, I gotta sleep! I still live my life during the day!” She turns to David and he wishes he was looking in any other direction but her face when she says, “David, do you think you might be able to—” He braces himself for her to ask him something cringey that would involve him having to spend any amount of time with Roland Schitt “—ask your dad to take him out some night? They’ve gone hunting together. But I think he could benefit from something more low-key, too. Like a movie. Or a poker night.”
“Oh.” He wasn’t prepared for that. “Sure, uh, I can mention it.”
Her shoulders relax. “Thanks, sweetie. Sometimes I feel like when I try to talk to Johnny, it just goes in one ear and out the other. I thought you might have a trick to get through to him.”
David doesn’t have the heart to tell her that the trick is nothing more than not being a drinkable human being, so he just shrugs and says. “Yeah, he’s a bit of a sexist.”
Patrick nudges him in the knee again, less affectionately.
Stevie jolts awake sometime in the middle of the night. The first thing her eye lands on is her door frame, then the piece of carpet that runs up the side of the wall because it was a hack job, then she meets Twyla’s wide, open eyes. Something woke them up. As her breath calms she registers the sound of heavy rain echoing through the dark room. It must have been a loud crack of thunder or something.
A heavy series of thuds makes her jump. Someone’s knocking loudly on the door. So it wasn’t thunder. “What the fuck?” She stretches her arm to look at her phone screen. It’s 2 a.m. on a weekday.
She and Twyla just stare at each other. Stevie clutches her comforter and draws her elbows tight by her sides. There’s a question in Twyla’s eyes. Stevie just shakes her head.
She hears Maureen’s footsteps pass in the hallway, muted by the heavy rain outside. A rush of possibilities pass through Stevie’s mind. It’s the police, coming to arrest Maureen for something she didn’t do. Or they’re here to tell her that her mom died. Or it’s some sort of witch authority here to take away their powers. Or her access to the library. Or maybe it is her mom, showing up drunk again after their talk the other day, here to make a show about regretting all of her life decisions and wanting to come back. Or maybe Twyla’s dad finally noticed that she’s barely been home and has come to investigate.
If it’s that last one, it’ll be fine. They have more than enough power between them to change his mind.
She hears the door open and voices. She hears the door close, but the voices don’t fall away, they move to the kitchen. She can’t tell who has come to visit. She wants to ask Twyla if she has figured it out, but she’s still frozen under the covers. After a while, enough minutes go by to indicate that no one has come to murder or imprison anybody in the house. The voices fall away and Stevie closes her eyes, ready to fall back asleep. Whoever arrived on their doorstep tonight was clearly there for Maureen, and it’s none of Stevie’s business.
There’s a knock on the door, followed abruptly by Maureen’s forehead. “Stevie, Twyla, get up.” And then the light flicks on and everything sucks.
“What?” Stevie tries to feign having just woken up.
“Put your clothes on. Nobody’s going back to bed tonight.”
“What’s going on, Maureen?” Twyla asks from the trundle bed.
Ronnie’s presence isn’t odd, but the timing is. Stevie tries to gulp away the feeling of cotton in her mouth. When they make it out to the kitchen, Ronnie looks up from her chair and says, “Good. Let’s get going.”
“Town Hall,” Ronnie says. “We’ve got a meeting.”
Ronnie rolls her eyes. “Because Moira Rose turned the mayor into a vampire, so now we have things to discuss.”
Stevie tries not to take the clap of thunder that follows her statement as a bad sign.
They take Ronnie’s truck to Town Hall, but it doesn’t prevent them from squeaking through the front door, soaked from the rain.
“This couldn’t wait until morning?” Stevie grumbles.
“Nope.” Ronnie swipes past to make her way up to the front of the room.
They seem to be the last to arrive, since all the other known magical beings (and near relations) in town are accounted for. The hall is set up in like manner to Town Council meetings and the Roses, the Schitts, Ted and Rachel are already seated.
A slow creep of heat makes its way from the tip of her head, down through her arms and fingers, legs and toes. She sees the evidence of Maureen’s spell on Twyla, who moments ago was sopping wet, and now looks dry and comfortable.
Stevie and Twyla make their way to the group of kids and Stevie sits right next to Rachel. “Did Ronnie show up at your house in the middle of the night, too? Or did you get the dignity of a phone call?”
Rachel smirks. “Nope. I got vampires tapping at my window.”
David turns to Stevie. “The first rule of dealing with a werewolf is to never wake one while they’re sleeping. I risked my life for this!”
“Okay, this emergency meeting is now called to order.” Ronnie hits the gavel, but the gravity of the moment is undermined by the creak of the front door. It’s Patrick, and Ronnie glares at him.
“Sorry. Sorry I’m late.”
Alexis stands to let a bleary-eyed Patrick sit with David. They clasp hands between the chairs.
“If we’re all seated, then.” It looks like Ronnie is about to sit down in her usual seat behind the panel table, but she seems to think better of it and walks back around to the front, leaning back on the table with her arms crossed. “I called this meeting to order because, apparently, a lot of crazy sh—stuff hit the fan, and we gotta clean it up.”
David tugs Patrick closer. This is it. This is the natural consequence of David getting too comfortable, too attached. Their stay in this town probably won’t last ‘til dawn.
“I’m sorry, Ronnie. Moira and I were going to tell you sooner, but we got caught up dealing with the kids. That’s on me.”
“Well, Moira let it slip anyway.”
“I thought you already knew. Honestly, I can’t be expected to remember everything I have and have not said to the humans.” His mother looks around, expression mirthful, looking for someone to laugh with her.
Ronnie clears her throat. “Frankly, I don’t care what you all get up to on your own time. And I would rather not know. But now we’ve got kids turning into werewolves and Rolands turning into vampires, and so now this is something I gotta worry about.”
David has to stop himself from gripping Patrick’s hand for fear of breaking it. But then, Patrick’s fingers squeeze tighter around David’s.
“Tomorrow,” Ronnie’s voice is low and grave, “I’m going to introduce a motion at an emergency Council meeting to impose mayoral term limits.”
The mayor jumps from his seat. “What?!”
“You’re immortal, Roland!” Ronnie yells. “We can’t have a mayor in perpetuity!”
“Ronnie, come on, you don’t know that I’ll win the election next time.”
She clutches her forehead. “Sit down, Roland. You and I both know that nobody will run against you.”
The mayor lets out a little whine. “Ronniiiiieeeeee…”
Mrs. Schitt reaches up to tug her husband’s arm. “Come on, Rollie, sit down.”
Ronnie sighs. “So, as I was saying, I’m going to introduce a motion tomorrow to impose mayoral term limits, and all of you—yes, including you, Roland—are going to show up and vote for it.”
Alexis raises her hand. “Are we going to make the other Council members aware of this?” David kicks her chair. He’s not sure why, but he would rather not remind everyone of their presence.
“No,” Ronnie says, “I’m not telling Bob and Ray anything. That’s a terrible idea.”
“Bob would make it a sex thing,” Maureen says under her breath.
Ronnie turns to the side of the room populated with the kids. “Another thing to discuss. What do we do about your parents?”
Ted, who sits on the other side of David, shifts in his seat. “Um. Well, I’m thinking I’m going to tell my mom. But probably not my dad.”
Ronnie nods. “Rachel?”
David, along with everyone, turns in his seat to look at her, seated in the back row next to Stevie and Twyla. There’s no color in her cheeks and she seems frozen under Ronnie’s scrutiny. “Oh. Um. I don’t. I don’t want to tell my mom.”
Ronnie sighs. “Okay. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with that, but we’ll table that topic for later. Maureen, I understand you’ve attempted some, I don’t know what you call it. Safety spells? For the town?”
Maureen looks at Stevie. “Yeah, we, um, we cast one spell, almost a year ago? To help a little bit.”
“Yeah, so the vampires can’t drink anyone to death. And also, we made things for Rachel and Ted so that they won’t go feral during the full moon.”
Maureen stands. “Ronnie, can I talk to you a second?”
They leave into the back room, which… okay, ineffective surrounded by vampire ears. He doesn’t even have to strain to listen, only—okay, well, apparently Maureen has learned a sound muffling spell because they sound like adults from the Peanuts cartoons. He slumps back in his seat. He looks over at Patrick, whose face is contorted in a sweet, if heart-wrenching, expression of concern.
David squeezes his hand. He wants to ask Patrick what they’re going to do when he and his family are inevitably run out of town. Part of him wants to trap Patrick in a blanket, throw him over his shoulder, and run away somewhere no one can find them.
The second this meeting is over, his dad isn’t going to hear anything. Their bags will be packed in an uncharacteristic flurry of activity and then they’ll be on the road before sunrise. He practices his words in his head. I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t care what you think, I’m staying. I don’t care if you take all my clothes with you, I’m staying here. I’ll meet up with you later.
His thoughts of doom, and the rumbling of everyone else’s low conversations, are interrupted by the return of Ronnie and Maureen. Ronnie picks up a clipboard, her face unreadable as she looks it over. She tucks it under her arm. “Okay. Another idea. How about a town-wide curfew?”
“For the kids,” she clarifies. “We can’t have kids running around with monsters on the loose.”
“We’re not on the loose. We’re on a long leash at most.”
“Yeah, the witches guaranteed that.”
“And in the meantime, Roland hasn’t shown up to a Town Council meeting for over a month, citing health issues. Now we know what they are. The man can’t come out of the house during the day. Are we going to have to move Council meetings until after dinner?”
“We could have them at our house,” Mrs. Schitt offers. “We bought blackout curtains.”
“The sun sets pretty early in the winter. It seems like an easy temporary solution.”
“And what about you, Jocelyn, are you okay with this whole situation?”
“I’ll be fine, Ronnie. I’ll keep teaching during the day, get a little less sleep at night. And then after Mutt graduates, I’ll join Rollie on the other side.”
“And what about Mutt?”
“Oh, he’ll be fine. He’ll always have us.”
“Maybe we should reduce the age requirements for mayoral candidates, too. Then my son can run, rule in my stead.”
“I have a question.” Mrs. Schitt stands. “Can Johnny and Moira even vote for this motion to impose term limits tomorrow? Do they even qualify for voting rights? I mean, they’re from the 1800s.”
Silence. Here it is. This is it. The moment their trespass is exposed and everyone looks at them and remembers that they’re not supposed to be here, tells them they have overstayed their welcome and that it’s time to move on.
“Hey!” Stevie protests. “Vampires are people too!”
David bites on his lip to keep from screaming. Patrick’s heart is beating like a hummingbird’s next to him.
“Yeah,” Ronnie says, “all right.” She drops her clipboard from her side and sets in on the table next to her. “That’s all I got, I guess. Any questions. Comments? Concerns?”
Patrick starts the short walk home by himself. David’s last words to him were, “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.” The concern on his face, and that he couldn’t look Patrick in the eye when he said it, didn’t inspire much confidence. Then he disappeared, following his family down the street toward the motel.
He stands in his backyard, staring at the back door. It squeaks when opened, and if he’s not careful, the storm door is liable to get blown open by the wind with a terrible creaking sound. And if that doesn’t wake his parents, then the sound of him walking past their open bedroom door across the old hardwood floor will. He’s fully dressed, it’s not like he will be able to pretend that he just went downstairs for a glass of water. He never gets up for glasses of water in the middle of the night—he learned the importance of an empty bladder in the night a long time ago and his mom knows it.
He managed to sneak out by jumping off the low roof of the garage, but he can’t scale the wall to get back up. So he turns around and walks back up the street.
David is there when he turns around. They slam into each other, drawn like magnets.
“It’s okay,” David says. “Nobody’s leaving.”
“My dad says that he feels responsible for Mr. and Mrs. Schitt. He doesn’t want to leave them without helping them first.” He clutches at Patrick’s shoulders, and at his arms, strokes his face, like he wants to touch Patrick everyone.
“I know. I didn’t think it was possible.”
Patrick exhales and it comes out choked. “David, that’s amazing.” He pulls him tight against his chest and they stand together in the street holding on. “I love you,” he says, because he needs to.
“I love you, too.” David’s voice tickles his ear and he lets himself fall into David’s arms, lets his eyes close. Everything is okay, everything is okay. “You’re asleep on your feet.”
“Mm?” Patrick yawns. “No I’m not.”
“You are,” David insists. “Let’s go. Let’s get you to bed.”
David sneaks them in through the window. Patrick can now admit to himself that he would not have been able to make it without him.
She turns to find Ted jogging down the hall toward her, his new sneakers squeaking on the tile.
“Ted! Hey!” He is cozy and charming in his Fair Isle sweatshirt with snowflake details. She has learned that Ted starts dressing for the holiday season sharply on the first day of December.
“Can I walk you to class?”
They fall into step beside each other, and his wrist brushes against her hip as he raises it to fiddle with the strap of his backpack. “So I wanted to let you know that I told my mom.”
She knows he decided, but she didn’t realize he would be telling her so soon. “Oh, wow.”
“How did it go?”
His stride comes to a stop and she stops with him. “It went, okay. I mean. I think part of her might think I’m crazy, but I’m sure the next full moon will uh, help with those concerns. Although, after the full moon, she might wish I was crazy.” He should look sad or stricken, but his eyes are warm, his smile sincere.
“Ted…” She thinks about grabbing his forearm to offer comfort. And since she’s never questioned a touch like that before, her hesitation forestalls and she doesn’t do it.
“It’s okay, Alexis. You don’t have to worry.”
“Worry? I didn’t say I was worried.”
“You didn’t have to, it’s all over your face.”
She brushes a curl away from her face, which is silly because it wasn’t even that much in the way.
“Well, I’m happy for you.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Of course not,” is her automatic response, but— “Um. Why? Is that? Exactly?”
Ted’s smile crumples into one of amusement, though it’s no less warm. “You’ve been there for me the whole time. Every step of the way. And you’ve never treated me like something is wrong with me, or like I’m different. Even though we’re naturally enemies. Like the Venus flytrap and the fly.” He furrows his brow. “You rose above that, Alexis. And you took care of me, and you helped me.”
Alexis is used to people looking at her like Ted is, all serious and attentive. But the words he’s using to describe her. She’s beautiful, she knows that. And charming and intelligent and way funnier than David. But helpfulness has never been on that list. And she doesn’t even really deserve it, as much as she wants to take it. She’s been helping Ted for selfish reasons. She probably wouldn’t be helping him with anything if he hadn’t developed super strength and immortality. They’re on equal footing now. A rivalry of equals has miles of difference to a predator and prey dynamic.
It’s not just that. She also wanted Ted to look at her differently. The way he looked at her at the beginning of the summer, when he broke up with her at the barn party, bothered her so much she got sloppy drunk, which considering her supernatural tolerance shows a great deal of effort on her part. She wanted him to like her again. For no more noble a reason than her wounded pride.
“Ted, that’s not—”
He doesn’t let her state her argument. “And also, I don’t know. I also kind of got inspired when I saw you and your family together that night at Town Hall. I saw how close you guys are and how you don’t have any secrets between you. And I wanted to give my mom that chance.”
She releases a startled cough of laughter. “Close?”
“Yeah, you’re all so in sync. It’s like you guys have this secret language. Like, you can talk in front of everyone, but nobody knows what you’re talking about.” His arms hang stiffly at his sides. “It’s nice.”
Nothing like that has occurred to her. She spends most of her time with her family wishing her parents would get off her back and just let her go do what she wants to do, and the rest of it feeling like a pebble in their shoes. “Yeah, well, I guess we’ve kind of been through a lot together.”
Ted nods. “I’m sure.” He points down the hallway to indicate they should start walking and she follows him. “Anyway. That’s all I wanted to say.”
“Mhmm. Yeah.” Her mind falls back to that morning, when her mom scolded her for ‘not pulling her weight’ even though no one has had an actual job in their family since her dad sold his shares of his transportation company and her mother voiced Tamora in an unaired radio production of Titus Andronicus. She pulls herself out of the memory to concentrate on the cute boy who walks her to class even though neither of them really need to be here. “I’m really happy for you, Ted. Oh, and I’ll be there with you for the next full moon, too. So you guys won’t be alone.”
He nods. “I know you will.”
As of November 10, a mayor’s tenure is limited to two terms in Schitt’s Creek. Roland is allowed to run once more, and if he wins, serve one more term before the limit applies to him.
“So, what did Maureen say to Ronnie?” David asks Stevie as they sit at the cafe one afternoon.
“When she pulled Ronnie out of the room the other night at Town Hall. What did she say?”
“Oh. Um. I think probably something about the daylight rings.”
“Yeah, Roland has been bugging Maureen about how you guys can walk in the light and you can’t. And Maureen told him that it’s magic that we don’t know how to do.”
“Oh. But you made those talismans for Patrick and Rachel and Ted. It can’t be much harder than that.”
“That is correct.”
“So she lied.”
“We both agreed that it would probably be better to keep some limitations on Roland. At least for a while. And that’s what Maureen was probably telling Ronnie.” Stevie pulls a bright orange Halloween sucker out of her pocket, unwraps it and pops it in her mouth. “What? Why does your face look like that?”
“All gross and soft.”
“It does not!”
“It does. Stop it!”
Then a heavy, solid, bony weight drops around her shoulders and tugs her into David’s chest.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m hugging you.”
“Well, stop it.”
He releases her. “I’m sorry you had to lie. But thank you for lying.”
“Please. I lie all the time. At least I had a good reason this time.”
David pushes his smile back into himself, all that remains his pursed lips and disturbingly steady eye contact.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do about Ted and Rachel.”
“You’ve been trying really hard.”
Stevie lifts her head from the table. “I think I need to go back to basics.”
“What basics? Like Fire, Water, Earth, Air?”
“No, like. Did I ever describe to you what magic feels like?”
David pauses from licking his ice cream cone to shake his head. “Nuh uh.”
Stevie looks around. It’s 4 p.m. so there’s a lull in the cafe. It means no one sits near them, but it also means that their voices carry more. She casts the same spell Maureen used on everybody at the Council yesterday, just in case.
“Magic is everywhere,” she explains. She hasn’t really been able to put it into words before. “Magic is everywhere, but it’s not inside me. It’s not something that’s, I don’t know. Mine?” She’s not explaining this right. David nods at her, prompting her to continue. “Magic is everywhere. It’s inside me. It’s inside you. It’s in everything around us. It’s in nature. But it’s also sort of…beyond that. And it’s not mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone. Well, if it belongs to anyone, it belongs to everyone. And everything.”
David furrows his brow. “But I thought magic was something that you had. That you, specifically, had. Isn’t that what makes you a witch?”
Stevie smirks. She knew David would say that, because that’s also what she used to think. She shakes her head. “That’s what I thought, too. But the stronger I get, the more I know, the more I realize that it’s not true. I don’t know what makes me any different from you or Twyla or, hell, even Mrs. Schitt.” She takes a deep breath in. “When I cast a spell, it’s not like a command. It’s not magic words that I string together that makes fire bend to my will. It’s more like asking for permission. And if I’m not focused enough, or if I don’t know how to ask specifically for what I want, then it won’t happen. And sometimes, I don’t know. I get this feeling that even if I do all of those things right, it still might not work one day. Like at any time, the magic could say, ‘No. Not doing that.’”
David’s ice cream is still poised in front of his face, but he doesn’t take another lick. “Really?”
“So, at like, any minute, the magic could just abandon you.”
“No, not like that. I just meant that. I think. I’m not explaining this right. It’s like, Magic has will. And it’s not something I actually have control over. It’s something I have a connection to. Maybe a closer connection. Maybe that’s why I can, I don’t know, wield it? I can talk to it. I can ask it to set a fire or to bend the water the other way or. No. That’s not right. It’s like, I can ask it to use me to do all those things. Like I’m…” She has trouble finding the words.
“Like you’re a vessel,” David says.
“Sure. Yeah, I guess.”
“What I mean is, it’s not like you’re ‘doing the magic.’ It’s like the magic is going through you.”
“Yeah. That’s what I think anyway.”
“Did you find anything on it in the library? There’s got to be something on that.”
“There is. But it’s complicated. And it’s hard to know sort of what everybody thinks. Like I might be reading this article by this one witch somewhere in Nebraska. But does everybody agree with them? I don’t know.”
“Mmm. Yeah. That’s rough.”
“And also. If magic is just its own thing out there, why does it even need witches? And also, why does it let us fuck up and make wrong decisions all the time?”
“Hmmm. Good point.”
“Like you can also defy magic, like with magic. Like, there’s dark magic and blood magic. Which some people consider an abomination.”
David goes back to licking his ice cream. The swirl is gone and instead of nibbling at the cone, he sticks his tongue straight down to get at the ice cream.
“And the whole thing of magic abandoning you. I don’t know if that ever actually happens. Maureen was telling me that she thinks her mom was a witch, but that she never used her magic. You know, because she was a drunk. But I don’t think the magic left her. I think she just couldn’t get out of her own head long enough to use it. She gunked herself up.”
David slurps and then puts his uneaten, devoid of ice cream, sugar cone down on his plate.
“Why didn’t you just get a bowl if you’re not going to eat your cone?”
“Soft-serve not in a wafer cone is an abomination. But I’m not going to actually eat it. It’s basically cardboard made of mystery carbs. I have some standards.”
“Yesterday, you ate an actual rat.”
“You promised you were never going to bring that up again.”
Stevie takes a sip of her coffee.
“What were we talking about?”
“Ted and Rachel.”
“Right. Because of the pain. Pain is bad.”
“I was seven. And I don’t know how long I lasted. In my head it feels like hours, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was only twenty minutes before I ran back down the stairs to my parents’ room.”
“When did you finally sleep in here all by yourself for the first time?”
“I don’t remember. You’d have to ask my mom.”
David pictures a tiny Patrick with tiny legs and tiny curls throwing off his covers, and bounding down the steps, leaping into his mother’s arms. He wonders if she was awake, if she knew that he wouldn’t last the night and was waiting for him.
“Now that I think about it, I think I eventually started lasting the night because my dad would read to me. He would read to me until I fell asleep, and then the next thing I knew, it would be morning.”
David has more trouble picturing that. He’s never even had anything close to that. He snickers. “Did he have a rocking chair that he would sit in? Maybe some reading glasses on the end of his nose?”
Patrick’s chest rumbles under David’s cheek with laughter. “No. He would sit in bed with me. Almost like this, and I’d scoot in next to him. Sometimes reading along.” Patrick’s hand rubs up and down David’s arm and back. “When I got older, he sort of started reading himself to sleep, though. Harry Potter would not help me sleep. The Quidditch games riled me up so much. But my dad would start drifting off pretty fast. Sometimes in the middle of a sentence. One time, he was reading, he just said, ‘And Harry Potter had a license plate.’” Patrick laughs. “And then I hit him to wake him up like, ‘Dad!’” Patrick scrubs at his eyes, his grin wide. “That happened so many times.”
“When did he stop reading to you?”
Patrick purses his lips. “There wasn’t one night when he stopped reading to me. I think things started to change when I could read for myself and I didn’t want to wait for him to finish reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians, so I read it myself. But he would still read to me sometimes when I didn’t have too much homework. Or he would read to me the books I had for school. And then as I got older he let me stay up to watch games and TV shows with him and it eventually just petered out.”
“Do you miss it?”
Patrick shakes his head. “I think before I came out, I just missed my dad. I didn’t know how to talk to him. But now, we have other things to do together.”
David slips his hand under Patrick’s shirt, searching for his belly. Patrick shivers under his touch.
“Did you used to get bad dreams as a kid?”
“Yeah, of course. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory messed me up. Slugworth scared me so badly. I had so many nightmares of him showing up in random places with a chainsaw.” David can’t help but chuckle when he feels Patrick’s heart rate speed up. “How about you?”
“Of course I did. My mom was one of the original movie monsters. I saw Nosferatu way too young.”
“You have a childhood fear of movie vampires?”
David rolls his eyes. “Believe me, the irony is not lost on me.”
“That’s actually, really sad.” Patrick’s voice cracks into a vocal fry on the last couple of words and David’s chest constricts.
“It’s okay,” David says, wanting to make Patrick feel better. He presses his lips into the heat of Patrick’s neck, lets his fingers grip into his waist. Patrick turns his head and captures David’s mouth with his own. They stay like that for a while, Patrick’s nose rubbing against David’s skin, their tongues exploring each other’s mouths, their hands roaming. Sometimes, when they get like this, David forgets. He forgets that he’s different, that their time has an expiration date, about anything else going on in the world. He thinks—and god, it hurts to think this way—that it’s because somehow, impossibly, he fits so well in Patrick’s arms. He’s never felt, anywhere or with anyone, like he fits. But here, in Patrick’s embrace, in Patrick’s life, in Patrick’s heart, his edges are rounded, his points are softened, his darkness is eased. He fits.
“Do you know that I still have nightmares?”
David nods, looking at Patrick’s chest to avoid his gaze. “Mhmm.” They’ve slept in this tiny bed enough times for him to grow used to being woken by Patrick’s chest heaving in ragged breaths or distressed moans in his sleep. Sometimes, he’s tempted to pull the chain with the button he gave Patrick right off his neck and dive in there to fight whatever demons are hurting Patrick in his sleep. But that would defeat the whole point of the button in the first place. It’s ineffectual against his strength, but it’s a buffer between Patrick and David’s worst impulses, and so far, it’s worked.
Patrick’s thumb strokes the skin between the corner of David’s eye and his cheekbone, prompting David to look directly at Patrick.
“Remember how you said that if you wanted, you could be in my dreams?”
David stops breathing. “What?”
Patrick doesn’t repeat himself, but, as if he were the one reading David’s thoughts, he wriggles away from David’s arms to sit up and fumble at the clasp of his chain.
“What-what are you doing?” David pushes himself to a seated position and grabs Patrick’s wrist to stop him, but Patrick already opened the clasp, so David only succeeds in preventing Patrick from catching it. It falls from his neck, and the button slides off the chain onto the crumpled comforter between them.
“No. Absolutely not.” He fishes the button out of the sheets. He whispers to keep himself from yelling. “Put this back on right now. Please.”
“David, it’s gonna be fine.”
“Patrick. I’m not going to go into your dreams, are you kidding?”
“But you want to. You did it once before.”
“Yeah, a long time ago. And just for a second. And I made myself stop because it was an incredible violation of your privacy!”
Patrick cups his hand to gather the chain and leans back to place it carefully in an old cookie tin on his bedside table. David should really get him a dish. Mrs. Brewer probably has one. Patrick turns back and takes one David’s left hand between both of his own to play with David’s fingers. “But what if I want you to?”
“I don’t think you know what you’re asking. I would see everything, Patrick. And I would remember all of it. And I can even change your dreams. You won’t be in control of yourself.”
“David, I haven’t been in control of myself since the moment you walked into third period.”
David wrenches his hand away, appalled. “Ew! That’s so cheesy.” Patrick leans back into his pillow with a smug grin on his face. “Oh, you’re doing it on purpose.”
Patrick grabs his hand back and holds it to his chest. “Well, the truth is so much worse.”
David swallows. “What truth?”
“The reason I want you to see my dreams or my nightmares. Whichever. It’s because when I’m asleep I…” Patrick quiets, his eyes move around the room as he contemplates before his eyes reach David’s again. “I don’t know, I just miss you.”
“You…” David purses his lips. “You miss me.”
Patrick nods and takes a deep breath. “Yeah, when I’m asleep. I miss you.”
David holds his breath. He wants to say something snarky like, “You’re right. That is so much worse,” but the truth is, David sort of understands. There have been so many nights that he’s kept himself awake, just to stare at Patrick, not wanting to miss a moment of change in his features, watching his lips fall open, listening to the sound of his breath even out, the snuffles coming out of his nose. There are some nights when both will fight off sleep until the last possible moment. David’s eyes will begin to drift closed and Patrick will ask him another question regarding his thoughts about something that happened in class earlier in the day or an event he attended in the ‘50s. So because he understands, he kisses Patrick instead of saying anything—caught between thoughts.
Patrick pulls them back down until they have returned to their previous horizontal positions, David’s shoulder hooked under Patrick’s arm, his hand over Patrick’s beating heart.
“It’s okay.” His assurances tickle David’s lips. “I trust you. It’s just one night. I want you to see what I dream about.”
David should protest. He wants to. Well, he wants to want to. But he doesn’t. Because he’s a terrible, horrible monster who doesn’t—who can’t—
“David.” Patrick pulls him back to the moment with a palm on his cheek. “We don’t have to. It was just an idea. I just. Sometimes I want you to read my mind, so that you’ll understand. I love you. And I can tell you every day. But I want you to know. And this way, maybe you can.”
“Okay.” The word slips out before he can even decide. But he can’t take it back now. Not when Patrick beams at him like that. “Okay,” he says again.
They just look at each other for a moment, and Patrick’s giddiness slowly diminishes. “So, how do we do this?”
David’s lips quirk. “Well, we go to sleep.”
David scoots up so that their heads are level on the pillows. His eyes cross trying to look at Patrick from so close. “And I’ll see you on the other side.”
“Hmm. That sounds like foreshadowing in a horror movie.”
“You’re not wrong.”
Patrick tucks one hand under his cheek, and the other reaches to wrap around David’s waist and pull him closer—which is saying something. “See you in there.”
“See you in there.”
He takes the stairs up to his room two at a time. Thump thump thump. The breeze wafts in through the window next to his bed, teasing the curtains. His mom is sitting on the bed. But he doesn’t want her there. The window on the other wall, the one David usually enters through, is shut. If he opens it, David will come through. But he can’t, because his mom is there.
“Hi, honey. I was thinking we could paint your room.”
Patrick doesn’t want to paint his room. And besides, there’s nothing to paint with. There’s no paint, no rollers, nothing to cover the floor with. If they paint now, they’re going to get paint all over his bed and the carpet. He wants to tell her so.
He also wants to open the window so that David will come. But he can’t, because his mom’s here, and then she would know and they wouldn’t be able to do it anymore.
“It’s okay,” David says. He stands next to Patrick, behind his shoulder, right in his peripheral vision. He can feel his warmth on his back.
At school, Patrick stands in the hallway. It’s too early to be there, but the hallways are filled with students. Under the support beam in the foyer, Stevie sleeps in a large, plush bed covered in white, frilly sheets. Her arms and legs are spread out like a snow angel. He’s not sure how she can sleep with the fluorescent lights in her eyes like that.
On the bleachers, he sits with David. They face each other, both straddling the bench, knees touching. There’s an ache in Patrick’s throat and in his chest. He wants to get closer. He hooks his knees over David’s and pulls himself closer. If they get caught, they’ll get in trouble. The mayor will get them and he’ll scream and spit. He pulls himself closer. David looks down at him, a twinkle in his eye. Patrick knows David wants it too, but he doesn’t help. Just watches while Patrick squirms.
A voice behind him calls his name and he turns. It’s Ray, telling him he has a client. He leaves the dining room/printer room to go to the front room. It’s David. The client is David. He shakes David’s hand, and then pulls him in close for a kiss. David giggles and wraps his arms around Patrick’s neck. In the background, Ray conducts a sport-themed engagement shoot. He worries Ray will turn around and take their picture. A flush of embarrassment spreads down his back.
Patrick is in his bed, and David is on top of him. They’re kissing and he can feel it. It’s the middle of the night and no one is home and no one can hear them. He holds David tighter.
The car won’t start. And it’s the wrong color, and David is laughing. Patrick is frustrated because David is laughing to try and make him feel better but it’s not the right thing. He needs David to help him fix it. He tries the keys again.
David puts a hand on his thigh. The sun is shining. Patrick has to squint, but David is wearing sunglasses. Patrick thinks sunglasses are probably a good idea. David’s fangs are on full display. He’s smiling. Patrick is glad David is smiling, he’s glad his fangs are out and he’s not ashamed.
The car starts and Patrick can breathe. David asks if he can drive.
Patrick squints at the rusted screw he’s been fiddling with for the better part of fifteen minutes. The sun setting so much earlier isn’t a new part of Patrick’s life, so far from the equator, but it’s made working on the car inexorably more difficult.
He stands to crack and stretch out his back, and blinks a few times to chase the sting and dryness away from his eyes. He groans. Mutt rolls out from under the car to look at him. “What’s up?”
“I can’t effing see anything,” Patrick says.
Mutt stands up straighter. “Yeah, it’s not ideal. And worse? You’re about to run out of money.”
Patrick huffs. “Are you serious?”
Mutt knocks affectionately on the car's siding. “Yup. We’ve put off the transmission issues and they haven’t gotten better. But it needs a completely new system.”
“Damn,” Patrick says.
“You know, it’s not so bad,” Mutt says, smirking in that fox-like way of his. “This way we don’t have to work outside in the winter. We can take a break.”
Patrick’s first instinct is to argue. He wants to get this car finished as soon as possible. It’s been too hard to keep the secret of the gift from David. And he keeps imagining his face when he realizes it’s for him. And he wants to see it for real. He imagines David driving it so much that he forgets that there was a time when he didn’t know how to drive. He imagines realization dawning on David’s face, as he recognizes the lengths Patrick is willing to go to show David how important he is to him. How important they are to each other. And then, maybe…
But he shouldn’t argue with Mutt. It’s not his fault. He’s been nothing but helpful—and sure, occasionally condescending. He’s helped Patrick build this car from a scrap heap to something bordering on usable. And if they need a little time for Patrick to save up for various transmission parts and for the days to get longer, then fine. That’s what he’ll do.
“Yeah,” he breathes. “Okay. A break.”
Mutt smirks. “That was difficult for you to say.”
Patrick rolls his eyes. “Shut up.”
They cover and secure the tarp over the car. It always feels like they’re putting the car to sleep. Patrick has to resist saying, “Night night” every time. He pats the hood of the car as a compromise.
“It’ll still be here in the morning,” Mutt says, as if sensing Patrick’s reluctance. “My dad’s gonna pick me up. Do you want a ride home?”
Mayor Schitt is probably the only person in the town who is happy about the sun setting early. “Your dad’s going to pick you up? That’s never happened before.”
Mutt opens the back door to the garage and holds it open for Patrick to enter. They both unzip their coats, even though the garage isn’t a whole lot warmer than outside. “Yeah,” Mutt says. “Things have been, I don’t know, not so terrible with my dad lately.”
A tiny bubble of pride expands in Patrick’s chest. “Yeah?”
Mutt shrugs. “Yeah, he hasn’t been so on my ass about stuff. He’s actually having fun? And he keeps talking about all the things he’s gonna do now that he has all the time in the world on his hands. I guess it’s taken some of the pressure off.”
Patrick hadn’t considered that—the idea that immortality could be a release of pressure for some people. He mostly spends his time with one vampire in particular, and David only complains about it.
“We’ll see.” Mutt shrugs.
The rumble of a truck announces the arrival of Mutt’s dad. Mutt climbs into the backseat since Patrick will be the first to get out.
“Well, hello there Patrick Brewer!” Mr. Schitt says and he pulls out of the garage parking lot. “It’s been a while since you’ve been in this truck, huh?”
Patrick doesn’t say anything, worried about the potential consequences of each response. Talking to Mayor Schitt is like walking through a minefield.
“You know, it’s nice that you know that I’m a vampire,” he says, while he slowly turns the corner. “I’m just getting up, you know. Slept all day. That’s my life now. It’s good that you know that. I don’t like keeping secrets from people.” Patrick wasn’t expecting that. “Did Mutt tell you about his composting idea for the town?” His voice is colored with a measure of pride and Patrick turns bodily around to look at Mutt, who has an expression on his face like, See?
“Mutt’s got a lot of really good ideas,” Patrick says.
“That he does,” Mr. Schitt says. “Definitely. Indefinitely-doobie. Doobie-doodly-doobie-doo.”
“David!” his mother exclaims as she walks into his room where he lounges on his mattress, scrolling through Instagram. She’s wearing Belinda, her bubble gum pink wig. “You look like you could use some perking up! Care to go for a family hunt?”
“Flattering as always,” he mumbles. “Thank you, but no.”
“I do not understand! What do I have to do for you to want to spend a little time with us! Your begetters! The very seafoam from which you emerged, screaming and wet and full of potential?”
David slaps his hands uselessly over his ears. “I want a lobotomy! Oh, my god!”
She says his name again in needy admonishment.
“I don’t understand what this fascination is with family time all of a sudden, anyway,” David says. “You and dad are normally perfectly happy to gallivant around town on your own.”
She nods her head side-to-side and then settles with a shrug. “I just thought it might be nice.”
“No, thank you!” He shoos her away
She doesn’t seem put out in the least. “Suit yourself,” she says, and saunters out of the room.
David is kind of hungry. But he pushes it aside. As he does almost every night, he waits for Patrick to text him that his parents are asleep. He’ll eat something tomorrow.
It’s freezing and the forest floor in the clearing is covered in layers of untouched snow. She sets the blanket down and lights a few fires, but unless she does something about her butt, it’s going to go numb really quickly. Ted and Rachel are both in thin jackets. She rolls her eyes. Fucking werewolf natural temperatures.
She sets up the candles, bundles of herbs, and other supplies.
“So what are we trying?” Ted asks, his hands shift around in his pockets. “A spell? A potion?”
Stevie takes a seat on one side of the blanket and gestures for Ted and Rachel to join her. “Neither,” Stevie says. “We’re just going to ask for permission.”
Rachel furrows her brow, and Stevie readies herself to explain, even though she really doesn’t want to. But Rachel just follows Ted to sit down on the blanket.
“So I brought this.” Ted takes a greeting card out of his pocket and drops it in the center of the circle. Already there, among the sage and crystals, lies Ted’s Aquaman action figure and Rachel’s Spirit toy.
“And I brought this.” Rachel drops a locket in the middle of the circle. Stevie asked them to bring more sentimental items to add to the pile. It probably won’t make much of a difference considering what a big ask this is, but it’s worth a shot. It’s also difficult because people don’t always realize what’s actually important to them when you ask.
I hope this isn’t a waste of time, Stevie thinks. Rachel’s knee bumps against Stevie’s when she sits down. Ted gives her a small reassuring smile. Stevie exhales deeply, pushing the thought away. It’s worth a shot, she reminds herself. The three of them sit in a small huddle, Ted and Rachel pressed close to her. She opens her palms to each of them, resting her hands on her knees. Their hands are warm in hers and she casts a small protection spell around them. It’s entirely unnecessary, a small compulsion, but it eases a small corner of her mind. Ted shuffles over closer to Rachel so the triangle made with their knees becomes more equilateral.
“Okay,” she says. “Just keep holding on. And think about what we’re asking for, yeah?”
“What are we asking for, exactly?” Rachel asks, shifting in her seat.
Stevie takes a deep breath, pulling the frigid air in through her nose. “A lot,” she says, unable to find any other words. “We’re asking for a lot.”
She waits for anything else they want to add, but it doesn’t come. So she just nods, and closes her eyes and takes a long, deep breath. She starts with the feeling of Ted and Rachel’s hands in hers. With her mind and her heart, she pulls on their warmth, on their life, on their magic. She feels the ring they make with their hands, feels their beating hearts. She adjusts her position slightly so that her other knee touches Ted’s again. It’s also not entirely necessary, and it might just be an illusion, but it feels like it helps.
She thinks about the place where it meets the earth beneath her seat and she takes a moment to cast what she calls The Seat-Warmer Spell—a nickname that makes Twyla laugh. Her concentration moves below her to the earth and, as it always does, she gets that electric feeling—like she’s dropped anchor, or pulled hard on a chord bringing it taught with her heart. She can feel it at the base of her throat, in the middle of her back, at the ends of her fingertips.
Her awareness disseminates slowly through the forest. She becomes part of the roots in the ground beneath them, part of the trunks of the trees in the ring around them, and then out, and out, and out. And up into the branches and twigs. Her awareness passes over the grubs and fungi and sleeping beetles buried deep in the soil.
And then, she tries to hold herself there so she can feel everything else. The layers of magic, the folds in the fabric of the earth, the life in there, the spirit, the will. And she starts asking things. She thinks about Ted and Rachel and when she watched them try to muffle their cries and their bodies contort and writhe into beasts. She thinks about them holding back their screams until they couldn’t hold back anymore and how the sound ripped from them, ricocheting off the trees. She doesn’t know what exactly to ask for, so she asks for everything she can think of.
She asks for an end to their pain, she asks that they might be able to control their transformations so they don’t have to turn on the full moon, she asks that they be turned back into regular humans, she asks that they be shielded from the moon, she asks that their pain is lessened. She asks and asks again and again.
Let them not feel pain during their change. Let them not change. Let them control the change. Let them be safe from the moon. Let them be human. Let their pain be less.
And over and over again. She can feel Rachel and Ted asking with her. Their thoughts start bleeding into her own. They ask for mostly the same. Especially the end of the pain. Their thoughts are colored, also, by worry for their families. That Ted’s mom doesn’t have to see him like that. That Rachel’s mom find some peace. That Ted doesn’t drift away from his father. That Rachel’s brother doesn’t find out.
She takes what she can from them, and makes it a part of her spell. And she asks again and again. Until a voice—it sounds like her own voice—but she’s sure it’s not her own words.
What is done cannot be undone. What is past is gone.
Stevie opens her eyes, and the woods are dark around her. Ted’s hand in hers is no longer gripping, it just sits there, their fingers touching. She takes a deep breath in. “How long was I out?” she asks.
“About an hour,” Rachel says.
It doesn’t feel like an hour has passed, but because the sky above them is a deep navy blue, it must be true.
“So what happened?” Ted asks. His tone is curious, his eyes rueful.
Stevie sighs. There’s no point in sugar coating it. “The answer is no.”
For a moment, there is nothing but a windless silence. Stevie looks at the pile of personal effects and magical objects between them. They look small and silly now. She’s not sure why they would help. They’re just things.
“Well,” Rachel says, slapping her knees. She pushes herself up to a standing position. “We knew it was a long shot, right?” She holds a hand out for Stevie, who takes it. Rachel pulls her up to a standing position. She offers her hand to Ted as well, who takes it. “At least we have an answer now, right?”
“Right,” he agrees.
“You guys are…okay with this?”
Rachel shrugs. “It’s not ideal. But I didn’t have my hopes up or anything.”
Stevie shudders, suddenly remembering they’re in the middle of a frozen wood, and the temperature is dropping by the second. “But the next full moon…”
“I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.” Rachel kicks at the snow under her toes. “But it’s not like we’re the only werewolves in the world, right? We’re not the only ones who have to go through it. If the solution isn’t a spell, then we’ll keep looking. And we’ll keep trying.”
“I was researching pain management methods on YouTube.” Ted leans over to start collecting the supplies. He hands Rachel back her horse toys and locket and pockets his own. “Did you know that Jim Carrey had to endure 10 hours of sitting still in a chair every day getting his makeup done for the The Grinch movie? Apparently, it was so awful, a guy from the CIA trained him how to withstand torture.” Ted rolls up the blanket Stevie brought and tucks it under his arm. “Should we head out?”
Stevie’s arms are empty of what she arrived with, and her hands grasp subconsciously in the air. The snow crunches under her boots as they walk toward the buried trail to the car. “I feel like you guys should be more upset, though. Like, I’m the witch. I should be able to fix this.”
“There’s not a spell for everything,” Rachel says, like it’s obvious.
“Yeah,” Ted agrees, cheerfully. “If there were, I would be upset that you hadn’t used your magic to give us all a million dollars!”
“Yeah, or to achieve world peace.”
“Yeah, or to save the world’s endangered species.” Ted stops walking. “Only, now that I think about it, what exactly is stopping you from saving all the world’s endangered species?”
“I don’t know, Ted. What’s stopping you from saving all the world’s endangered species?”
“In the almost century of your life, have you ever gotten an A?”
“Stop, David! I asked you to help me with my homework because I’m actually trying. So you’re not allowed to be mean to me.”
“I just don’t understand how it’s possible to take Algebra as many times as you have and still not know how to do polynomial equations!”
“I have a lot to remember, David. It doesn’t all fit in there!”
David huffs. It is a lot to keep up with sometimes. He wouldn’t journal were it not the case.
“I don’t know why you have to be such an Oscar the Grouch about everything all the time. You could say something nice every once in a while.”
“I’m sorry, are you trying to tell me I should be nicer? I’m not the one who ruined Rachel Leigh Cooks’ career!”
“Oh, like I’m so innocent. You’re the one who told Jennifer Grey that getting a nose job would be a good idea!”
David gasps. “I can’t believe you just threw that in my face. You know how guilty I feel about that!”
Alexis whines and stomps her foot. “Well, it wouldn’t kill you to just like, acknowledge how different I am now. I’ve been trying really hard.”
“Okay, you’re not that different.”
“Yes I am, David! I have empathy now!”
“Oh, do you?”
“Yes! For one thing, I made a human friend like you told me to.”
“I don’t know if I would qualify you and Rachel as ‘friends.’ I think she would have to actually want to talk to you to meet that designation. And she’s not a human any more, so.”
“I saved her life!”
“You just wanted to punch a werewolf so you could say you did it.”
“I have been doing all my homework!”
“You only do that so Ted will lean over you and compulsively correct your mistakes.”
“I am very nice to Stevie and Twyla!”
“Yeah. We know. You’re charming and capable of not being a complete bitch all the time. But they’re both magical beings, that’s not exactly a stretch for you.”
“I have been there, very loyally, with Stevie for three whole full moons with snacks and blankets for Ted and Rachel. Risking my own life and everything! Ted said yesterday that I was, and I quote.” She hits the ‘t’ really hard and boops him on the nose to get his attention. He bats it away. “I quote,” she repeats, “very helpful. Unquote.”
“That’s just because he likes you and is trying to get on your good side.”
David clenches his teeth, not sure if he should give in and compliment her for doing literally the bare minimum. Should he be reinforcing her behavior or holding to higher standards? He squeezes his fists and then relents with an exhale. “Okay. Fine. I guess I can say that these past few months you have had some…learning and growth.”
“Thank you, David.” She boops his nose again, this time with more tenderness. “Was that so hard?”
“It was excruciating, actually,” he mumbles.
“And I just want to say that you, also, have learned and grown and changed so much. And I’m so proud of you with your little human boyfriend and your party planning and your little librarian job. It’s straight out of your diary from when you were twelve.”
“I’m putting a timer on. You’re not allowed to talk to me for at least another four hours.”
She only lasts thirty seconds.
“So you really think Ted likes me?!”
Thank you all so much for your comments and kudos for this season and all the others. I really appreciate it so much. I especially love hearing all of your insights into my versions of the characters, it's always spot-on and makes me feel so seen!
See you next time for Vampires Are People Too!: A Holiday Special!