35. Brazen Brunch
This couldn’t be any more awkward.
We get to the family brunch at his parent’s house. It’s a huge house built on an old horse ranch with over fifty acres of land, a private pond that boasts nothing but exuberant wealth over the rest of the civilians living in this small town. There are two large iron gates that open for us upon arrival as we drive up the winding driveway to the massive renovated farmhouse that awaits.
His father is standing at the top of the stairs on the large wrap around porch, waiting to greet us. Patrick and I exit the vehicle with the bag of groceries in hand. It’s funny how with all this money and help, they still like to act like a potluck somehow grounds them and makes them more normal. It’s truly odd.
Patrick’s father, Dean, welcomes us with hugs at the door, quickly throwing an arm around his son and showing me to the kitchen with the rest of the women. This is how it is. The guys go off and have their cigars and whisky and the women find the kitchen.
I greet some of the other women with a polite smile, saying hello as I place the ingredients for the potatoes down on the kitchen island to prepare. They continue their discussion about one of the ladies being upset over not getting the lead vocal in the church choir, when Patrick’s mother, Linda, walks in. She smiles her charming smile, her perfectly styled hair thrown into a gorgeous twist with a few stands hanging out. Approaching me, she gives me a big hug, immediately asking about work and what’s going in in my life.
As much as I appreciate her apparent interest in my life, I know better than to assume she’s not judging me for my life choices. Telling her I work at the hole in the wall bar for fun doesn’t exactly fly with their family.
The other women begin talking about the devotional club they attend every Wednesday night, and Linda informs me all about it with enthusiasm before telling me I should definitely join them next week.
I keep a tight lipped smile, nodding, and agreeing, when I know in my heart I’ll never make a devotional class. I’d rather burn in the depths of realistic hell then fake a life with plastics.
I truly can’t believe I spent so much of my life before this wishing I’d be accepted by Patrick’s family. All I ever wanted was for him to propose to me so we could make things official and finally feel like I belonged. But I never belonged here. I’d never fit in with the likes of them because I’m not like them at all.
“Nicole, dear, won’t you grab the homemade coleslaw and bring it out back with me? I’m setting the table now,” Linda says, taking two trays of freshly baked buns out towards the door.
I ignore the fact that she calls me Nicole and bring the oversized crystallized glass bowl out to the table.
The elongated, chippy, white, wooden table, the farmer’s market flowers in vases along the center, the table runner made with burlap and lace, every bit of this set up belonging on a magazine cover. It doesn’t even look real. If I hadn’t made some of the food, I’d think those buns were made of cardboard.
Patrick smiles at me as I approach him and his brother talking nearby with some sort of mimosa drink in hand. I can’t say I’m excited to see Sean at all. The prick was literally spying on my whereabouts while Patrick was out of town. I’m still heated behind that.
“Babe, come here!” He ushers me over with a grin, pulling me into his side once I’m near. “You gotta hear this, Sean went to the cities last night and actually got to meet Neil Lambright.”
“Neil Lambright! The author of My One Chance At Faith? You should know him, you are familiar with books and authors,” he declares as if I know him but can’t remember. “Well, anyways, he was holding a reading of his new book last night and Sean got to talk to him and take pictures.”
“He’s an amazing guy,” he adds in, like he knows him now.
“Ah, that’s great.” I force a smile at Sean, then back at Patrick as they continue talking about this Neil guy who is apparently the new big deal in the Catholic community.
Pretty soon his mother is ushering everyone to the table to begin the brunch. I sit between Patrick and his father, his brother Sean, directly across from me, as his mother runs to sit between Sean and a few of the other women who are here with their husbands as well.
They begin the meal with a prayer, then we begin eating with light conversation.
“The potatoes babe, phenomenal.” Patrick declares with a mouthful. “Aren’t they amazing Sean?”
“Haven’t tried them yet,” he replies, looking up at Patrick from his plate. “But I’ve heard great things about Nicole’s potatoes.”
He looks over at me with a sly expression. “From what I’ve heard, everyone loves them.”
His eyes narrow at me slightly as a grin creeps across his face. I stare back, trying to figure out the double meaning behind his statement. He made it awkward as hell, insinuating something sexual. Is he being the disgusting pig that he is? Or does he know about me and Hawke?
“Oh honey, they’re fantastic,” his mother comments, interrupting my thoughts while trying them.
“So how long have you two been together?” an older woman with short, curly hair asks me.
“Coming up on three years now,” Patrick answers, nudging into me lovingly, making me bite my lip awkwardly.
“I see a big wedding in the future, Linda,” the lady grins at her. “I’m sure you’re excited.”
I feel like I’m being choked by an invisible hand. Breathing is difficult as I listen to them plan my future without me.
“Oh we definitely are.”
The conversation quickly flips over to work as Dean and Patrick discuss the business dealings with their account in Colorado. By the way the conversation is going, I can tell his father is really pushing for him to take over the account and potentially grow the company statewide. Patrick begins discussing the city as his mother has a keen interest in property value in and around the Denver area. They’ve clearly had the discussion about us moving there and I’ve not once been asked what I think.
“But what would you do with the house then?” Sean asks Patrick’s father.
“We’d probably just sell it. See if we could get any type of return on it, it’s not like it’s been really well kept,” Dean scoffs.
“Wait, are they talking about our place?” I whisper to Patrick.
He opens his mouth to say something, then, twists his lips and doesn’t.
“But don’t you have an agreement? Isn’t he supposed to get it?” Sean asks his father, leaning forward.
Dean sits up in his seat, clearing his throat while adjusting the collar on his button up shirt. “That doesn’t really concern you, Sean.”
I sit there, listening intently as they seemingly discuss things I’m clearly unaware of. What agreement? And who is he? Hawke?
“I’ve heard things,” he comments, tilting his head to the side, eyeing Patrick’s father.
“Well, don’t listen to gossip,” Patrick joins in, siding with his father, not looking up from his plate.”
“I can’t believe you’re about to give that junkie his house back. He doesn’t deserve it. After what he did!?” Sean’s voice becomes louder.
I clench my back teeth at his words. I’m feeling extremely heated, angry, upset. I can’t sit here and listen to him bad mouth Hawke anymore.
“He’s not a junkie,” I declare, trying to breathe calmly before I snap.
“Sean, honey, let’s not raise our voice at the table, please,” Linda begs with a sweet smile and light chuckle, clearly uncomfortable with this happening around her guests.
“It’s really not your place to discuss Sean.” Patrick speaks, looking from his father back to his older brother again.
“Whatever. How you two can just let him off is beyond me. How you can live under the same roof as a murderer is crazy in and of itself.” Sean scoffs.
“A murderer?” a woman sitting on the other side of Linda gasps.
My gaze narrows in on Sean, sending nothing but knives and daggers in his direction with my eyes.
Patrick seems anxious. Nervous in his demeanor. He’s continuously fidgeting with the silverware next to his plate as the conversation continues.
“That’s enough now,” Linda scolds, attempting to nip this conversation in the bud.
“It was the right thing to do,” Patrick growls through his teeth, scowling at Sean, then exchanging an odd look towards his father again.
I’ve heard that statement before. The right thing to do. But the right thing to do by whom?
“He’s a drugged out junkie who murdered his best friend! A kid who actually had a bright future ahead of him. He was messed up out of his mind and crashed his car. It literally doesn’t get any worse than that. There’s no right thing to do but leave that dumpster to burn!”
Murdered his best friend? Ben? Crashed his car? Vehicular Manslaughter? My chest is rising and falling as my eyes dart around the table. Everyone is looking at Sean shocked, except for Patrick and his father who are looking down at the table.
“Like who does that? His best friend? Killed in the seat next to him because he wanted to be doped up like the addict he is? He deserves to rot in hell,” he continues.
I stand abruptly from my seat, my chair behind me falling in the process. All eyes are on me now as my fists are rolled so tightly into my hands, the nails about to break skin. I’m practically blowing smoke through my nose. I can’t take it anymore.
“I won’t sit here and let you talk about him like that,” I direct my anger at Sean, turning to scowl at Patrick for letting this go on.
Patrick’s head snaps up at me from his seat, cocking a brow at my statement.
“I’m just stating the facts, babe, he’s a washed up loser who’s not only dangerous but reckless. He shouldn’t be given any handouts,” Sean comments, cooling down a bit at my outburst.
“This is ridiculous,” I announce to the entire table. “For all of you who preach about being Christian and Catholic, then sit here at your fancy dinner in your fancy house, trolling on people whose lives aren’t as privileged as yours, judging people who may have made bad decisions or mistakes when they had no help or guidance, you’re truly the worst. It’s literally disgusting to me.”
I begin backing away from the table when Patrick grabs my wrist firmly.
“Sit down Nicole,” he grits through his teeth.
I rip my hand away from his painful grasp, rubbing it with my other hand, shaking my head at him in disapproval.
“I’ve had enough of this,” I state, feeling overwhelmed.
His parents look at me in disappointment as if I was the root of the problem here, but I don’t care anymore. This isn’t it for me, these people, this place. This isn’t a home. It’s a display. A sickening display of wealth and status with no substance underneath.
I need to go find Hawke.
I stomp back towards the house finding the keys to the car on the counter, willing to take Patrick’s car and just leave him to figure it out.
As soon as I get to the car, I start it up as Patrick runs towards the window, tapping aggressively on the glass. I stare forward, gripping the wheel with white knuckles before reluctantly rolling it down. I don’t even look at him as he begins talking.
“What was that all about, Nic!?”
“I can’t do this anymore Patrick,” I say, my heart racing, the beats practically pounding out of the middle of my chest. “It’s not right. None of this.”
I’m not only referring to the situation, but to us.
He leans forward, his hands against the top of the window of the car. “You’re just stressed. I know you’re struggling with the idea of things changing, but I promise you it’s for the best.”
“Pat, first of all, you never even talked to me about moving. It’s like I don’t even have a say in a future with you,” I sigh, exacerbated. “Did you not even notice where I was last night!?”
It’s all coming out, I’m losing control.
“I know you slept on the couch again. I just assumed you needed a little space to get your head right.”
“My head right!?” I scoff at this ludacris assumption that I need to get it together.
He doesn’t even know I wasn’t home.
“Let’s just calm down, go back inside and apologize for the outburst and continue on with lunch. This was supposed to be a special day.”
“Special? Allowing Sean to just bad mouth your roommate, who is supposed to be your friend, while discussing what to do with the house? Selling it out from under him? I’m confused Patrick. What happened? There’s something you aren’t telling me. What happened between you two?”
He looks down at his feet before looking back up at the house with squinted eyes from the sun’s direct exposure on him. It’s like even the sun is putting him on blast.
“Some things are better left in the past where they belong.”
I shake my head. It’s not good enough.
“No. Not this,” I reiterate. “Not this.”
“Get back in the house,” he says calmly.
“No.” I put the car in drive.
“Get back in the house, Nic,” he says through his teeth, clearly annoyed.
“I’m leaving. Have Sean give you a ride.”
“GET BACK IN THE HOUSE, NIC!” He screams, grabbing for my wrist on the steering wheel.
He opens the door, pulling my arm, attempting to remove me from the vehicle. I twist my wrist, removing his grasp from me as I stumble out of the seat onto the gravel driveway, then push up off my heels back against the car, a look of complete shock and hurt taking over my face.
“Patrick!” His father yells sternly from the house.
Immediately tears fall from my eyes. He’s never once screamed like this at me before, he’s never once touched me so roughly to where my wrist is now red from his grasp. His father steps out from the door, walking down the porch towards us. He grabs Patrick’s arm, slowly pulling him away from the vehicle, whispering something into his ear.
Patrick looks defeated and entirely upset, but nods his head, looking back at me with a sorrowful face. He starts walking towards the house where his mother is waiting with her arms crossed by the door, the wrinkles on her forehead from her worry never more present, as opposed to her previously poised face.
Dean leans down to the window of the car and a chill runs down my spine at his calm and cool demeanor. He’s a powerful man for a reason.
“I think it’s best if you go now.” He nods, dismissing me, clearly upset at me for this disturbance.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do,” I comment back with a snippy tone.
I glare at him, as he turns back towards Patrick, wrapping an arm around him and patting his shoulder as they walk back inside.
Their whispers continue like little leaves tumbling through the wind, leaving tiny piles of decaying life all around. It’s more than obvious now, somehow, Patrick and Hawke’s stories are deeply and darkly intertwined. There are secrets buried beneath the superficial surface of the most prestigious family in this little Podunk town. As to how deep, I’m bound and determined to find out.