As Trent stood at the kitchen window watching Kelsey comfort Patrick, he sighed heavily as he dropped his head looking at his bare left hand. His heart had been so hardened that he feared he no longer had one. And in so many ways, he truly didn't. He cared about Patrick. He loved him. If he was honest, he...
"Hey, son. I'm headed out to Stagger's for a beer. Care to join?" Rick said as he slid on a jacket.
"I really need to get to the house and take care of some things, Dad. By the way, I'm really sorry about earlier. I just have been ramping myself up the last few days preparing to fight everybody on everything." Trent looked up at the window again in time to see Patrick and Kelsey walking down off the deck.
"A beer won't hurt ya. Come on, talk to your old man." Rick rested a hand on Trent's shoulder. As he stood there looking at his mammoth son that had out grown him years ago, he couldn't help but feel sorry for the big guy. Rick knew something was up. No, he hadn't put a finger on it, but he hoped to.
"Alright, maybe just a beer." Trent said.
"Where's Pat?" she asked Kelsey as she came in from the deck. Pat's mother had been so worried for the last couple of weeks since he had shown up at her door step in tears brandishing his phone with that cold email. She loved her sons, but in the grand scheme of things, Pat was her little man. And though she would never say that she preferred one over the other, she gave life to Pat. His pain was her pain.
"Oh, he wanted to be alone for awhile. He is headed home." Kelsey replied. "Where is everyone?"
"Rick and Trent went out to get a drink and hopefully talk some sense into him. Are you sure Pat will be okay to be by himself?"
"He will be. He actually is glad Trent is here. He wants to go home and get ready to talk to him tonight and maybe straighten all of this out. I told him that I'll come spend the night too just to make sure to keep the peace. I don't see them fighting, but they can cut each other apart in an argument." Kelsey mindlessly thumbed through a magazine as she settled back on the couch.
Kelsey's mind wandered as she blankly stared at pages of nothing. What a place she found herself in. Years ago, when she first met Trent, she saw in his eyes that he was running from something. Of course, back then it was the teasing of his brothers in arms. And on that drunken night when he confided in her about himself, when he finally opened up about Pat--the love he had for him--she couldn't help but feel jealous.
Trent was a gorgeous man, one whom she thought she was in love with herself for awhile. She finally realized that she did love him, but she wasn't in love with him per se. She was in love with the idea of someone being in love so much it hurt. That's why she did it. That's why she married him. That's why she fought for them.
Though it seemed like ages ago all of this happened, what didn't seem so far gone was the family. Having never had a family of her own, Trent's father and Pat's mother had welcomed her in. So, she eventually called this place home and they called her daughter.
Now, with Trent being an ass and Pat running scared--not to mention her parents being thrown to the wind--she felt like her only family was at risk. "Was there anything I could do?" she often asked herself. And each and every time she analyzed it, she always came out with a resounding no.
She kissed her mother on the forehead and resigned to her room to shower and pack a bag to go to Pat's for the night. Before leaving, she stopped and stared into Pat's room at the renowned picture frame..An Unbreakable Bond...
"We shall see..." she whispered. She looked down at her cell phone to see that Pat had texted. Whenever you're ready. See you in a bit. Be careful. Love you.
As she pulled out of the driveway, she thought of the floral shop that just a few miles out of the way. "Flowers, candles...set the mood right," she thought. She backed up a little and turned right instead of left headed to The Flower Box.
As Rick and Trent settled in at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks, Rick glanced over at Trent noticing him fidgeting with his bare ring finger. It hadn't occurred to him that Trent had stopped wearing it. It broke his heart in a way that only a father can understand as he watched his son silently hurt.
"So, what now?" Trent asked taking a swig from his bottle.
"Well, I'll be honest, I was hoping we could...talk." Rick noticed his son roll his eyes. "Son, you will get no judgment or harsh words from me. And though I know it's none of our business, your mother and I just want to know what happened. Why?"
"Dad...remember when mom died?" Trent flicked open his ZIPPO lighting up.
"Of course I do. It was the worst moment of my life. I never thought I'd get over it." Rick's eyes blurred under the weight of the tears as he thought back to his late wife, her horrific battle with cancer. "But, I did. I had to for you. And then I met...I met a woman that breathed life back into me."
"Would you have felt the same way if she'd cheated on you and not been perfect?" Trent wiped a tear from his eye and nodded to the bartender. "Patron please..." he said before taking a long drag.
"Well, I...I don't know. I think that love conquers all. I fully believe that had she or I made that kind of mistake that our love would have healed...it would have survived." Rick watched Trent down the shot before continuing as his son motioned for another. "Is that what this is about? That was more than a year ago. I thought you worked all of this out."
"Pat did...I didn't." He took the second shot and offered one to Rick. Rick shook his head as Trent asked for a third. "Pat loves me so much that he let me make a fool of him to a mutual friend, to our family. He was willing to sacrifice himself just to keep me. I don't know if it is sweet or pathetic. But I do know that I never got over it. I never felt trusted again. I never got to argue without it being thrown in my face. And though I know he loves me, I can't help but think that if he loved me enough he'd forgive me for real....or he'd dump me and move on.
Then a couple of months ago, I was doing a security detail and started talking to a bud of mine. He's been married a year. And as he went on and on about her, I realized that I never talk about my life, my love. Not to mention the fundamental difference between this guy's great relationship and my dysfunctional one. Dad, does love really conquer all?" Trent downed another shot and stood to head to the restroom. "Somehow," he said as he stretched, "somehow, I doubt it."
As Rick's mind drifted back to those days of chemo and good-byes, he looked down at his own wedding ring. "Yes, son. It does."
Before heading home, Pat stopped off at the local liquor store and bought a bottle of Crown Apple. If he was going to face Trent, he needed some courage...or stupidity at least. He drove home in silence as he thought about the broad shouldered man that sat across from him earlier. Even in this moment, as angry and hurt as he was, he still loved him, still worshipped him in every way.
"There has to be a reason, something I said. Something I did...or something he did." As Pat turned into the driveway of their home, he sat there replaying so many things in his head. The rainy days in the garden...those were his favorite. Playing basketball in the driveway, or at least trying to, just to spend time with him. Standing on the front porch and being held in the morning mist. From quaint dinners to horrible arguments to nights when there wasn't nothing but sex, love, kisses, mind shattering orgasms. And though the last two years had been more of a bliss than a nightmare, he realized that this was his nightmare...coming home to an empty house, falling asleep in an empty bed, and living with an empty heart.
He made his way inside, fixed a tall drink,and gulped it down. After making another, he headed upstairs to take a bath and get ready to face him for perhaps the last time.
As Trent stumbled into the restroom, he thought of Pat and his mind was flooded with memories of him laying in bed beside him as they laughed and played on Sunday mornings. He thought of the night that had tried to cook for Pat and failed miserably and how gracious Pat was. He thought of that Christmas morning as he placed the ring on Pat's finger. He instinctively reached into his left pocket and fumbled around feeling his ring. He couldn't wear it though. He just couldn't.
Trent found a urinal, unzipped and propped against the wall as the tequila began taking its toll. His groggy mind thought of the last time they'd had sex, the passion and the love that they had together. As a tear rolled down his cheek, the restroom door opened. "Well, well, well...long time, no see, buddy." Chad stood there with a thumb in his belt loop admiring Trent.
"What the fuck do you want?" Trent stammered.
"Calm down, dude. I just came in here to take a piss. Same as you. Since when did you bitch boyfriend make you so uptight? Last I remember, you couldn't get my cock down your throat quick enough."
As Chad stood beside him unzipping his fly, Trent's blood boiled. In a flash, he'd taken Chad to ground and punch after punch came flying at Chad's face. "Don't you ever say shit to me again, motherfucker! I swear to fucking God it'll be the last thing you get to say if you do."
As Trent zipped back up busting the door open as he left the restroom, with Chad in a bloody mess on the floor, he made a bee line towards Rick. "I've gotta go..." Rick threw some money down and nodded at the bartender as he grabbed his coat to follow.
"Hang on, son. I'll take you where you need to go." Rick offered.
"Take me to my truck...I'm ready to go home." Trent seemed sullen. Worried as he was, Rick started the car and began making his way home.
Once they made it home, Trent stormed his way to the house to get his keys. "Son, please. You shouldn't be driving. Just let me take you! I don't mind." Rick pleaded.
"No, I'm fine. I promise. I just need to get home." Trent slammed his truck door and began backing out of the driveway stopping as he passed his father. "I love you, dad. Thanks for...you know."
"I love you too, son." Rick said shakily. As Rick turned toward the house, he saw his wife standing at the front door in shock at what had just happened.
"Will he be alright?" she asked.
"I hope so," Rick responded.
As Trent pulled up into the driveway, he noticed the lights were dim. All was still and silent in the country backwoods of the county. He loved it here. He remembered the day they'd found the house. In fact, it was Pat's find. But of the two of them, Trent was the one to fall in love. All the acreage, the privacy, the potential. It was their little house on the hill.
Pat would often sit on the porch and talk about children that would one day play in the yard an tumble down the hill. Trent felt like a failure in so many ways. As his fist throbbed from the fight earlier, he knew that Chad was only one thing in a long line of mistakes. He'd pushed back on marriage, pushed back on family. It's not that he didn't want any of those things. In truth, he did. Very much so. But, Trent didn't think they were both ready. And having spent so much time apart during his deployments, he wanted to wait. The only problem was that he'd made yet another mistake. The contract.
He had put Pat last so many times. And Pat was always understanding...too understanding to a fault. So many times when they'd argue, he wished that Pat would just step up and smack him or put him in his place. "Maybe that's what I need," he often thought. "A swift kick in the ass."
He got out of his truck and started making the long awkward walk to the door. It was his home, but he didn't feel like he belonged there anymore, and it was his own fault. As he made it to the door and began fumbling for his keys, the door swung open in an instant. There stood Pat looking frantic.
He jumped onto Trent hugging onto him tightly. Patrick began to weep. "Trent, I love you. And I hope you know that I love you." Trent wrapped his arms around him comforting him. He missed having his arms around him. "But..." Patrick leaned up to look him in he eye, "we are going to fucking talk. No more bullshit."
"Okay...I wanna talk too." Trent's voice was low.
"Good. But first, you're going to listen." Pat returned to his feet and wiped his face. "Have you seen Kelsey?"
"Come on, wanna drink?" Pat walked to the kitchen and poured another Crown and Coke. Trent admired his arrow features in his button down and dark jeans, the hair at the nape of his neck and the round ass that filled the jeans. Patrick snapped. "Trent? Drink?"
"Yeah, please. Thank you." Trent excused himself to use the restroom and returned to find Patrick in the living room sipping his drink already.
"You smell like smoke." Pat observed.
"Me and dad went to Stagger's for a bit." Trent explained.
"Ah, well, have fun?" Pat asked.
"Not really..." Trent said as he flexed and displayed his hand.
"Oh my God, what the fuck happened?!"
"Oh nothing...just Chad's face." Trent chuckled inappropriately.
"You didn't..." Patrick examined the hand and got up to get an ice pack. "Do I want to know why?"
"I was defending you...defending us...I don't know. It just seemed like the right thing to do." Trent winced as Patrick laid the ice pack on his hand.
"Well...thank you...I think." Patrick took another sip and sat back to the corner of the sofa. "Trent...do you not love me anymore? Is the email the truth?"
"It's hard to explain." Trent whispered slightly.
"Nah, not really. Do you love me or not?" Pat pressed.
"Yes. I do." Trent replied.
"Ok. Are you in love with me?" Pat asked as he sat up.
"Yes. I am." Trent took a sip. "Are you, is the question."
"Are you kidding me?" Pat's voice raised at Trent's words.
"Pat, did you ever truly forgive me for what I did with Chad?" Trent downed his drink and sat it on the table. "Because if memory served me right, you used that as an ace in the hole anytime we fought. You never gave me a fair fight. And to preach to people the way you do about love and harmony....quoting fucking 1 Corinthians 13 over and over...do you show that features? Are you kind, patient, serving? Yes! But you keep a record of wrongs a mile fucking long and I can't fucking take it anymore. I could be dead and you'd have a bastard of a lover gone!"
Patrick at stunned. He was right that he used Trent's transgressions against him. "Ok, that may be so, but what about love being faithful...and true. Do you know what that did to me? To have you run off from me after loving you for years, finally get you in my life and build the life I wanted us to have and then BOOM! You are fucking a married man! I love you. With all my heart, God knows I love you...but...a part of Patrick died that day I found out. I worry. I see these friends on your Facebook...these muscular, manly soldiers. They are with you more than me. They get more of you than me. And then when you had the choice between me and them...you chose them.
And let me make it clear that I don't hold your calling. Trent I love the fact that you are courageous, and strong, and giving. I love the fact that you look at people and think of serving them, helping them, building them up. And it was these qualities that helped me fall in love with you...because you did all of those things for me.
But I was the one that you said was your soul mate. Not them. I am the one that gave myself to you. Not them. I am the one that thinks of you night and day. Not them. I want to raise a family with you...to watch you teach our son football and how to shoot a gun. I want to watch the two of your wrestle in the yard. I want a life with you...they want your life. There's a big difference." Patrick grabbed his smokes and headed outside.
Trent followed after a few seconds. "Well, I want that too, Pat. But, not right now. We are 24 years old! What's the rush? Why do you think that you have to build our entire legacy before we are 30?"
Patrick took a long drag before responding. "Because every single time you walk out that door may be my last moment with you. I know that life isn't fair. And I know that we don't call the shots. But I also know that we don't have to choose to get shot at, or blown up, or beheaded. We don't have to rush for death either...and that is what I think you are doing."
"I don't want death, Pat. I want you. But I want patience. I want..." Trent paused as Patrick's phone began to ring. "Go ahead and get that."
"It's Mom," Patrick said. "Hello?....Slow down, Mom, what? Where? We're on our way!" Patrick sat his phone down almost in shock.
"What is it?" Trent asked frantically. "Is it Dad?"
"No...it's...it's...." Patrick turned as heard sirens in the distance.