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I can’t pretend it’s okay when it’s not

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Ronnie Lee needed a drink. Her Elmdale client had changed his mind about the wainscoting. Again. So she spent the day undoing three previous days’ work. Moira had left several indecipherable voicemails about something vaguely jazzagal related and her dog chewed through the damn garbage can. Again. So a trip to the Wobbly Elm was definitely in order.

Tonight she skipped the beer in favor of something stronger. As she waited for her margarita, she took a look around. The place was relatively empty. It was a weeknight, after all. A group of wine moms were gathered around a dart board in the back; kind of sort of playing, but mostly just venting about babies and husbands and dry cleaning. There was an older couple in a booth in the back, on what was most definitely a first date. Judging by the lingering smiles, it seemed to be going well.

The long wooden bar in the front housed a few staples of any dive bar: a couple of truckers, a guy in a suit who looked like Ronnie felt, a young woman with a short skirt and a wandering, though frankly disappointed, gaze. And last, at the far end, sat a short, pale person who greatly resembled a thumb.

Patrick raised his head and looked in her direction. Ronnie scowled and braced herself for forced conversation, but he barely seemed to register her presence. He waved his hand vaguely in her direction and went back to staring at the bar in front of him.

Of course she had heard about the barbecue. Everyone had. There were maybe two hundred people in Schitt’s Creek. What little news there was travelled fast. Ronnie had initially scoffed when Jocelyn told her. Of course the idiot would screw it all up.

Everyone in town seemed to like Patrick, and it was easy to see why. He looked like the kind of person who volunteered on Thanksgiving and coached little league every year, but Ronnie wasn’t buying it. There was something wrong with a guy who just breezes into town one day with a smile on his face and a suspiciously vague life story, looking for a fresh start. That’s how horror movies begin. For whatever reason, David seemed to like him too, so Ronnie didn’t push it. But now…

David was a good guy. Honest. The kind of guy who wore his heart on his overpriced sleeve, whether or not he wanted to. It was impossible not to know how David felt about everything and he never tried to pretend things were okay when they weren’t. He was a straight shooter. That alone was rare, and worthy of her respect.

People like David, people like Ronnie, their trust didn’t come cheap. It had to be earned. Ronnie had made a few lousy investments in her life. She’d trusted the wrong people a time or two before. She had learned. David had too. They both tread more carefully now. Trusted with caution. And Patrick knew that. And still he fucked it up.

Patrick’s elbows were resting on the bar and his head was cradled between his open palms. He periodically wiped his face with a bar napkin. Ronnie nursed her margarita and watched as two beers became three and four, not counting whatever ones came before she showed up. With each beer, he lost more and more of his ability to function. He finally stumbled off of his stool and headed into the bathroom, nearly face planting on the way.

Ronnie couldn’t remember a time when she ever let herself lose it like that. At least, not in public. When Sonya dumped her, Ronnie had the decency to get drunk alone in her own home and listen to Bonnie Raitt on repeat until she cried herself to sleep. That was grieving. This was pathetic.

But then, Ronnie also had family around to lean on in the worst of it. When things got really bad, there were people she could call. She knew that Patrick’s family lived hours away and given the fact that his former fiancé didn’t seem to know who he really was, chances were that his family didn’t either. Without David... Patrick didn’t have anyone to drink with anymore.

As Ronnie watched, Patrick returned and drained his beer. He scribbled on a bar coaster instead of the receipt in front of him. He took his keys out of his pocket and they fell on the floor. It took him three attempts to successfully pick them back up. Swaying alarmingly, he headed out the door, bumping into the doorframe as he went.

“Oh fuck no.” Ronnie muttered, throwing cash down on the bar and following him outside.

She spotted Patrick leaning against the wall, still swaying as he squinted at the phone in his hand with only one eye open.

“Brewer, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Patrick gazed at her, eyes blurry and mouth agape. He looked like shit. His face was red and blotchy, his short hair was somehow ruffled, his shirt had a mysterious food stain on it and tears were still streaming unnoticed down his face.

“Give me your keys.” Ronnie demanded, hand held out in front of her.

Patrick opened and closed his mouth twice before saying “Why?”

“You’re not driving.”

He looked confused. “No, I can’t. My car’ssss at home cuz I’m drinking.” He waved his phone. “Uber.”

Oh. She watched him try to focus on his phone for another minute before finally heaving an
enormous sigh.

“Come on.” Ronnie’s voice was heavy with defeat.

“What?”

“I’m taking you home. Let’s go.”

“No no no S’fine. Uber. Uber gets me home.”

“Patrick, get in the damn car.”

“Okay sure.” He slurred as he followed Ronnie to her car. It took him a few attempts, but he managed to open the door. He got in the front passenger seat and repeatedly jabbed his seatbelt in the direction of the buckle, missing it every time. Ronnie was once again reminded of why she never opted to have children as she grabbed the seat belt from him and clicked it.

“You din’t have to do this for me.” Patrick muttered as Ronnie started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

“I'm not doing this for you. I’m doing this for David.” Which was the absolute wrong thing to say. When Patrick heard his name, he immediately started weeping. Openly. Face in his hands and everything. Ronnie groaned and shifted in her seat, lowering her foot further the gas as they hit the Highway.

“I fucked up, Ronnie. I fucked it all up.” He said between his fingers.

“Yeah. You did.”

“I was so happy with him. I’ve never felt happy like that. It wasn’t the same with Rachel. I never loved her like this. I love David. I love him so much, Ronnie. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t know what I’ll do without him.”

Ronnie listened to him sob and wished she had another drink.

“I love him so much. So much. What if he doesn’t come back? What if I can’t fix it? What if it’s over? Forever?”

Ronnie focused on the sign ahead: Schitt’s Creek- 30km. Give me strength.

“He’s the bes’ thing that ever happened to me. The best thing. Simply the best.”

His voice broke on the last word and he sobbed harder than before. Underneath her discomfort, Ronnie felt her heart crack for him. Just a little. She tried to pass him a tissue but his eyes were closed so she set it on his lap and put her hands back on the wheel.

“I didn’t know I could ever feel love like this. My whole life. I didn’t know why everyone else seemed to get it and I didn’t. I thought something was wrong with me. That I jus’ couldn’t feel love like that. I thought I was broken.”

Ronnie inhaled sharply and gripped the steering wheel. Fuck. She knew that place. Some days she was still there. She glanced at Patrick.

“You’re not broken,” She said. “You’re an idiot. But you’re not broken.”

“David makes me feel whole. Like I’m all Patrick. The Patrick I’m s’pposed to be. And I wanna make him feel that way too. I wanna make him feel like he is the most perfec’ thing in the world ‘cause he is. And I love him so much. I just want to hold him and protect him, not ‘cause he’s weak.” His voice rose and he shook an angry finger at her, “He is so so strong, you don’t even know. He’s the strongest person I’ve ever met in my entire life so far. But he’s special and precious and he should always be protected.”

The next words were harder to make out because he was sobbing again. “And I didn’t protect him. I didn’t tell him about her and I hurt him. I hurt him. But I love him so much. I love him so much.” He repeated it quietly, again and again. Like a mantra. Like an oath. He slowly stopped crying and slumped against the window, eyes half open, still repeating the phrase.

“What if he doesn’t come back?” Patrick whispered. Then his eyes finally closed and quiet snores filled the car. Ronnie switched on her blinker and got off the highway.

Ronnie stopped the car and sat with her hands in her lap, considering Patrick for a minute. Then she sighed and got out. She knocked on the front door and waited for Ray to answer. She’d done her part. He could take it from there.