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a rose for the holidays

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When his manager at Rose Video told him they had won the quarterly sales competition, Patrick Brewer was thrilled. Their location had the best late fees, highest video retainment, and even helped open another location on the other side of town. Patrick’s manager, Joanne, had been more than complimentary toward his work, having promoted him to assistant manager at 17 years old. It blew him away when she handed him a ticket for the grand prize: a trip to New York City. He thought she’d be using the second ticket for her husband.

“My husband didn’t help us win the quarterlies this year,” she told him. “Of course I’m taking you.”

The trip was sponsored by the company’s founder, John Rose, to attend the family’s annual Christmas party. They’d always heard amazing things about the annual Christmas party: celebrities, acrobats, live animals, gift bags filled with diamonds… A lot of it was probably gross exaggeration but to Patrick, a high school senior in rural Tennessee, anything seemed possible. The Roses were filthy rich so even if the party had none of that, just being in a mansion in Manhattan was exciting enough.

The ticket hung above his headboard for the entire month before he stepped on a plane for the very first time. He was nervous to be flying and being that high in the air, but that didn’t stop him from pressing his face against the window as they descended into LaGuardia. The skyscrapers shimmered through the large snowflakes billowing through the air. It wasn’t the first time Patrick was experiencing snow (Tennessee saw its share), yet this was the first time he thought it was truly beautiful.

It was a trek from the airport to the hotel where the company was having them stay for the extended weekend. Neither Patrick nor Joanne were used to the bustle of a metropolis so by the time they arrived at the hotel, both were too exhausted to do anything but retire to their separate rooms and order room service on the company’s dime.

Patrick spent the whole evening curled up in a chair watching the fat snowflakes whip past his 14th floor window as the city sparkled below.

It was the most magical thing he’d ever experienced.

He was in New York City.

He’d dreamt about coming here for years, wishing so badly to do all the things he’d seen in his favorite movies. Wandering around Times Square, shopping at a bodega, riding the subway, walking through Central Park, riding the rides at Coney Island… Okay, that last one wasn’t possible given the season, but all the others were on the table.

Patrick could picture it:

He’s around 21 years old, sitting on a blanket in Central Park in late spring, studying for his next marketing exam at Columbia University. It’s a beautiful day and suddenly, someone stands over him, blocking out the sun.

‘May I join you?’

He finally looks up and his breath catches in his throat. It’s the most beautiful man he’s ever seen.


The man smiles and—

And that’s when his phone buzzed cacophonously against the glass side table.

He nudged his plate over to reach his battered Nokia cell phone. It had taken several tumbles out of his truck onto the pavement and still worked perfectly.

There was a new text message from Rachel.

He groaned. He’d told her to stop texting him because his plan didn’t include a lot of texts and they were broken up. This was supposed to be a vacation from all that drama. He didn’t need to read her begging for him to take her back in tiny font on a khaki green background. She’s the one who kissed Bobby Dietrich at Chelsea Goering’s birthday party and, from what Shannon and Jenee told him, he knew it wasn’t a drunken mistake. He had to miss the party due to work and had a pile of drama loaded on him Monday morning.

He was not going to miss high school.

Patrick had a plan. He was going to graduate, go to a school in a big city (maybe New York), then go to business school. Then he was going to open his own business – whatever that would be – and get far, far away from the chaos of his life back in Tennessee. He’d finally get to be who he really was instead of who everyone wanted him to be. His college applications were sent and now it was the dreaded waiting period.

He pitched the phone into his suitcase. It was a problem for another day.

Back at the window in the city below, Patrick could see ice skaters, small specks of black circling around an oblong canvas of white. He imagined himself down there with his skates tied tight around his feet, his scarf wrapped around his neck, his gloved hand holding the one of the imaginary man in Central Park.

He smiled. He was in New York City. He was going to be at the Rose Video holiday party tomorrow evening. He was free to be himself, if only for the next three days.

Patrick spent the whole day in New York City doing everything he’d ever wanted to do and more. There was ice skating and visiting The Met and riding the Staten Island Ferry and walking through Times Square and eating their weight in bagels.

Joanne was kind enough to let him have control over what they did. She felt it was a fair enough exchange for having to be his chaperone for the trip, despite he had already turned eighteen. (He was still in high school, after all.) He promised to repay her after the party by being her chaperone back to the hotel so she could actually let loose. It was literally the least he could do.

Back at the hotel, Patrick changed into his party attire. He didn’t really know what to wear to a fancy Manhattan holiday party. He was eighteen and didn’t own anything particularly expensive. He did, however, have a navy suit jacket that cost him a pretty penny at Macy’s and a tie with a tiny reindeer pattern on it. ‘Wow them with your personality and smarts and they won’t notice what you’re wearing,’ his mom told him as he packed. He thought he looked smart in his jacket and tie with a black button-down and slacks. He dropped off his shoes earlier with the in-house shoe shine at the hotel and when he picked them up, Patrick could practically see his face reflected in the shine.

Excitement and nervousness coursed through his body. He knew the likelihood that he’d bump into Mr. Rose himself was next to zero, but he wanted to impress him just in case. There was a soft knock on his door.

“Are you ready to go? The car should be here soon,” Joanne asked. She was wearing a conservative gold cocktail dress appropriate for country clubs and corporate holiday parties alike.

Patrick glanced back into his room. His eyes landed on his Nokia poking out of his suitcase. It had 12 new text messages since the previous night and he hadn’t read a one. He knew what they were about.

“Yup, totally ready,” he replied with a smile.

The Rose family’s mansion was huge. Whatever Patrick imagined previously was tiny in comparison. He surmised the home took up nearly an entire city block. The exterior was all columns and white stone and intricate carvings that were clearly tended with care. It was intimidating to stand before this residential behemoth knowing they were about to step inside because anything could be in there.

“Wow,” Joanne gasped beside him. “Have you ever seen anything like it?”

“No, never,” he said.

“This could be your house one day,” she said with a grin. “And you’ll have your old manager over for drinks once a month and let her house-sit for you when you and your family are out of town.” After his family, Joanne was the most supportive person in his life when it came to his dreams to own his own business. She was always telling him about all the potential she saw in him. Sometimes it was a little much and hard to believe because what did she know? She only managed a video store in rural Tennessee. It’s not like she had the acumen Mr. Rose had to acquire all this wealth.

Tonight, Patrick would fantasize with her.

“Naturally,” he laughed.

He offered his arm to her and led her to the front door where a young woman with an earpiece and clipboard was posted.


“Um, Patrick Brewer and Joanne Tongo?”

The woman gave them a hard stare before finally sifting through her list. She flipped a few pages and finally found their names on the last page. Patrick didn’t know what to feel, knowing their names were close to the bottom. If it were alphabetical, his name would have been much higher. He tried not to think about being last minute additions to the party and instead focused on the fact they were here.

“Ah, yes, the Fall Quarterly Sales winners,” she said tersely. She nodded to the tall suited men behind her who opened the large wooden doors.

Once inside, Patrick forgot how to breathe. It was the most incredible place he’d ever been. The ceilings were massively tall with ornate carvings and what he assumed to be actual gold leaf finishing. An enormous portrait of the family – Mr. Rose with his soap opera star wife Moira and their two teenage children – hung above the grand staircase that rose up from the swell of people at the bottom. For the holidays, the interiors were decorated with wreaths and ribbons that made the room seem impossibly bigger.

Patrick was lucky Joanne was still holding onto him because he nearly bumped into four different people as they made their way into the party. He couldn’t stop looking up at everything. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before.

“Patrick, pay attention,” Joanne warned as she pulled him away from stepping on a fifth and sixth person. He did as she said, finally bringing his eyes down to where the people were. They stopped near a fireplace, kind of tucking themselves in a corner.

As Patrick’s eyes scanned the room, he took in just how fancy this event was. Women’s dresses were adorned with actual diamonds. Men had Rolexes Patrick had only seen in catalogs. There were people with faces Patrick recognized from the box covers at the video store.

That’s when it really hit him.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but they were also severely out of place.

“Okay,” Joanne said as she straightened his lapel and tie. Her hands were quivering, and she seemed to be bursting with both excitement and anxiety. “I’m going to mingle with the adults and talk about boring work things. I think I saw some kids your age around here that I’m very sure you’ll have a better time with tonight.”

Patrick didn’t know what she was talking about.

“Where did you see teenagers?” he asked dumbly. He hadn’t seen a single person who looked his age.

“Over there.” She pointed to a small cluster of five young people who were lounging coolly on one of the large fainting couches. It was as if they mistook the invitation for a funeral. They were all dressed head to toe in black with matching solemn faces. They also looked like they were at least a decade older than Patrick.

“I’m not sure those are teenagers.” Joanne made a noncommittal sound.

“Even if they aren’t, you’re wise beyond your years,” she said with a smile.

“Are you trying to pawn me off so you can drink and not feel bad?”

“Yes. Yes I am.”

Patrick laughed.

“Sure, sure, I’ll go talk to them,” he said.

“I have my phone on me if you need me, but let’s meet at 10 o’clock to leave, okay?”


Joanne patted his lapel one more time before heading to the first available waiter with a tray of wine.

Patrick glanced back at the teenagers. They weren’t at all like his friends back home, but he was friendly enough to talk to anyone, regardless of their background. It’s what got him promoted. It’s what got him here.

So why was he so nervous?

He didn’t have to pretend here. He could just be himself.

Patrick took a deep breath and exhaled. As he walked over to the teenagers, he grabbed a drink off a waiter’s tray to have something to occupy his hands.

The five teenagers – three boys and two girls – didn’t acknowledge him as he approached. Instead, their noses were buried in their Razr phones, all tapping away. Well, except one. He had perfectly coiffed dark hair and thick dark brows to match his oversized black sweater and black skinny jeans. Patrick could feel his equally dark eyes evaluating him. He hoped he liked what he saw because this boy was cute.

“Can we help you?” the boy asked coolly.

“I’m Patrick,” he said with a casual wave. The boy appraised him for a moment before replying.


It was then that it dawned on Patrick.

“Oh, you’re David Rose,” he said, smiling. “You’re the one in the portrait above the stairs.”

David’s eyes widened in panic.

“It’s okay! It’s a good portrait,” Patrick said.

“Every time I see it I’m just reminded of how bloated all the sashimi I had at lunch made me,” David replied.

Patrick had no idea what sashimi was, but the self-deprecation was admirable.

“Well, you look great.” David’s lips tightened. “Is the party too exciting for all of you?”

He glanced to the other teenagers and none of them were paying attention. Whatever they were doing on their phones was more exciting.

“Are you doing like, a Tetris competition or something?” Patrick asked, staying as friendly as possible. No one replied. “Snake? Pong? Oh my god, are you all on the internet? My mom almost killed me when I accidentally went online on my phone!”

One of David’s cohorts finally looked up from her phone only to grimace at Patrick’s question.

“No,” she said bluntly before rolling her eyes and going right back to her phone.

Well, Patrick felt dumb. Worse, he looked dumb in front of the cutest boy he’d ever seen. He stared at his shoes, suddenly very aware of who he was and where he was and the dissonance between the two. He came to New York City wanting to be someone else but instead he was still the hick from Podunk, Tennessee who was so underdressed and uncultured to be in this space.

An awkward silence fell over the group. Patrick glanced over his shoulder in a vain attempt to find Joanne. Maybe he could convince her to leave the party right now. Fifteen minutes was enough time to say they’d been there, right? It was certainly enough time for Patrick to make a fool out of himself.

It should’ve been easy to find a tall willowy black woman in a gold dress, but Joanne was nowhere to be found.

“So, uh, why are you here?” David asked. Patrick jerked his head back to look at him. “I mean, like, are you supposed to be working catering, or…?”

Oh god. David thought he was one of the servers. Patrick was mortified, but he played it cool.

“Oh! Um, I, uh, my store won the quarterly sales competition,” he responded. Cool. Right.

Yet David still leaned in.

“Really?” he said, his interest piqued. “How did you get picked to come here? You don’t seem desperate to meet a celebrity or get one of our gift bags.”

“Oh, no. I met Sarah Jessica Parker on the subway, so that’s out of my system,” Patrick said smoothly. “And whatever’s in the gift bag won’t compare to the giant Sex & the City snow globe I bought at a bodega near the hotel.” Jokes were the best method to calming his nerves.

“Obviously,” David said with the smallest smirk on his lips.

Patrick blushed. He couldn’t handle David’s quiet interest. He stuffed his empty hand into his pocket.

“I’m one of the assistant managers,” he finally explained.

“And you wanted to come.”

“Yup, and I’m really glad I did.”

David bit his lip and smiled.

Patrick was straight giddy. Here he was, flirting with a cute boy out in the open for anyone to see.

This could be all the time. This could be every day. He just had to graduate high school and leave Tennessee.

“David! David!”

David looked ready to run and hide.

“Shit!” David checked his watch. “How is it that time already?”

A tall, lanky blond girl appeared, pushing through the crowd, teetering on ridiculously high heels. Patrick immediately recognized her from the portrait.

“David! Mom needs you for The Number,” David’s sister said.

Finally, David’s friends tuned into the world outside their phones.

“You’re still doing The Number?” one of the girls said.

“I thought you got out of it this year,” the boy next to David said. He seemed more incensed David was still doing it.

“What’s ‘The Number’?” Patrick asked.

David’s sister turned to Patrick and her whole demeanor changed. She smiled flirtatiously as she tossed her hair back.

Patrick knew this. Patrick was familiar with this. He’d had plenty of girls flirt with him and he felt bad that he’d never feel the same way back. He wanted to tell her he only wanted to talk to her brother, but the words stuck in his throat.

“The Number is the highlight of the holiday party entertainment,” she said. “I’d be happy to help you find a great spot to watch…” She trailed her fingers down his arm.

“God, Alexis, stop,” David said. He stood up, physically putting himself between her and Patrick.  “Can you fuck off, please?”

Alexis’ whole demeanor changed into attack mode. There was no doubt they were siblings.

“I’m coming to get you for Mom, David,” she argued. “She says you’re the only one who knows where her nativity headdress is.”

“It’s right next to the mannequin with the chiffon robe.”

“Go tell her that.”

“No, now you know where it is, you go tell her.”

“You’re going on stage in like, five minutes, David.” She spun on her heel and started back in the direction she came from.

David groaned loudly before glancing at his friends, then Patrick with a look of trepidation. Having realized he wasn’t following her, Alexis had turned back around.

“David!” she whined, stomping her foot as she did. David groaned loudly.

“Fine!” David said, then stormed off with Alexis. Patrick’s heart yearned to follow him. They were starting to have a good conversation and now he was left with David’s friends… who were gathering their things?

“Wait, where are you going?” he asked. “The performance is going to start soon.” One of the girls scoffed while the others snickered.

“Exactly,” she said dismissively.

Patrick was so confused, and it must’ve read on his face. The girl rolled her eyes and huffed.

“Once their little number is over, you’ll understand why we don’t want to be seen with him,” she said. With that, they left.

Patrick was mad. First, they weren’t talking to him at all, and then this. What kind of friends would just up and leave before their friend’s performance? It didn’t make any sense to him. And they were so adamant about doing it, too! He refused to believe whatever David and his mom were about to do was as bad as they said.

He took a seat on the now vacant couch. He could see the stage perfectly, which was perfect considering he wanted David to find him after the performance. Logic dictated that if he wandered away from that corner that he’d never find him again, right?

Regardless, Patrick was the lonely teenager again. He could’ve easily gotten up and mingled with the adults (he was often described as gregarious), but he only wanted to talk to David. He wanted to learn more about him, really get to know him, while fantasizing about what his lips would taste like.

On stage, a short woman with an effortless smile and cute bob took to the microphone.

“Hello, hello!” she said cheerily. “Happy holidays, Rose Video family!” The whole room turned their attention to the stage and many folks from the other rooms began filing in from the many doors.

“As many of you know, I’m Elaine Chau, and it’s my honor to introduce to you the man of the evening, the reason we’re all gathered here, and the best boss an assistant could ever ask for: Mr. Johnny Rose!” The crowd erupted in cheers and applause as Mr. Rose took the stage.

“Thank you, Elaine,” he said as he took the microphone and turned to the crowd. “Happy holidays!”

“Happy holidays!” the crowd called back.

“I’m glad you could all make it tonight to what will be our sixteenth holiday party,” Mr. Rose said. “We couldn’t be here without the fine work of our thousands of Rose Video employees and customers across the continent. Give them – and yourselves! – a big round of applause.” The crowd did as instructed. “And now for the main event. Your holiday entertainment, star of stage and screen, and my wife, Moira Rose! And our son, David!”

Johnny applauded as he exited the stage for David to take his place. Between the time Patrick saw him and now, David looked very different with a more festive black-and-white sweater and… had he straightened his hair? Whatever happened, Patrick was glad he had seen David before this hair folly happened. Had he not, his opinion of David might have been different. (His upswept hair was to die for and Patrick wanted to run his fingers through the thick strands.)

“Brr! It’s awfully cold out there,” David said with a fake grin plastered on his face. “Oh, hello.”

Then there was a knock on a door upstage.

“I wonder who that could be?”

The door swung open and Moira Rose appeared in what could have only been described as Snow Miser meets Jetsons.

“It’s television’s Moira Rose!” David exclaimed.

“That’s television’s Mom to you!” Moira corrected sassily.

Thankfully, David’s jarring laugh was masked by the actual laughs of the crowd. Patrick was surprised at how much people seemed to be into this. It wasn’t great by any stretch, but he certainly wasn’t going to complain about being able to openly fawn over David.

Well, until a gentleman who, judging by his broad shoulders could have easily been a professional linebacker, decided to stand right in front of where Patrick was sitting.

“Are you kidding me?” he muttered under his breath as he shifted to see the stage.

He stood up and tried desperately to peer over shoulders and heads. David and Moira started singing and Patrick could only hear them, catching small glimpses of them between people. Anywhere he stood, he couldn’t see part of the stage and there was a lot of blocking apparently.

Patrick groaned in frustration. If asked, he’d say it was because he wanted to see the performance. He’d never seen a celebrity perform in such an intimate venue before. Really, he was in a space where it was okay for him to thirst over a cute boy and didn’t fear getting the shit beat out of him when he left. He wanted to shamelessly watch a boy with hungry eyes without feeling weird.

And that was especially difficult when it seemed literally every person in that room was working against him.

He kept glancing back at the couch as if there were an invisible tether between him and the piece of furniture. If he got too far, David could never find him after the performance. There were easily over 500 people in attendance and it’s not like Patrick was wearing anything that made him particularly stand out.

They were on the fifth song in the medley when Patrick finally broke away from the general area of the sofa. He needed to see David and hopefully run into him again. In his desperation, he had magically gravitated toward the stage right steps where David entered.

When Mrs. Rose finally cut off the final note of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, the room burst into applause and cheering. Patrick missed the entire performance. David and his mom took their bows to an adoring crowd. He watched David’s eyes dance across the room with a deflating hopefulness. He wanted to yell and wave his arms to get his attention, but very quickly Mrs. Rose was leading David offstage on the other side.

Patrick sighed. He wasn’t going to get to talk to David again.

His head hung low, Patrick turned around to find Joanne and walked right into Mr. John Rose.

“Oh, I’m so sorry—”

“Excuse me there, son—”

Patrick sucked in a deep breath when he realized who he bumped into.

“H-hello, Mr. Rose,” he stammered. “I’m Patrick Brewer. Can I just say it’s such an honor to work for Rose Video?” He held out his hand and Mr. Rose readily took it.

“Oh, you must be the young assistant manager from our quarterly competition!” Mr. Rose said as he shook Patrick’s hand. “I was talking to your manager earlier about all the great work you’ve done. Very impressive, very impressive.”

“Thank you, sir,” Patrick said. “It’s inspired me to major in business when I’m in college next year.”

“That’s great to hear. And then an MBA, I’m assuming?”

“Crossing my fingers for Columbia.”

Mr. Rose laughed and patted Patrick on the shoulder.

“With your natural business acumen? You could do Stanford. Or Harvard.”

“Yeah?” Patrick’s eyes lit up.

“And if you need a recommendation for Wharton, I’m sure the dean owes me a favor or two,” Mr. Rose said with a wink.

Patrick was warmed from his head to his toes. His business hero, John Rose, just offered him a recommendation to Wharton. That was a few years from now, but still. The offer was there.

“There you are,” said a voice behind Patrick.

“Ah, David!” Mr. Rose said, looking to his son whose hair was (thankfully) fixed. “Fantastic performance as usual.”

“Thanks,” David replied blandly even though his eyes danced with delight taking in Patrick.

“Where’s your mother?”

“She’s talking to Mariska Hartigay,” he answered with a wave of his hand toward the opposite side of the stage. Sure enough, there was Mrs. Rose and Mariska Hartigay, just chatting like two old friends. It was wild.

“I should probably go save your mother. You know how pushy Mariska can be after a few glasses of wine,” Mr. Rose said to David before turning to Patrick. “It was very nice to meet you, Patrick. Keep up the good work.” He smiled at Patrick before leaving the two boys alone.

Patrick was buzzing. Mr. Rose knew his name!

“Sorry you had to experience all of... that,” David said, gesturing generally to the stage and his parents.

“I didn’t really get to see much of the performance,” Patrick said. “There were a lot of tall people who stood in front of me. I was trying to stay at the couch so you could find me later…” He trailed off as he realized what he was saying and who he was saying it to. “I-I-I mean, there aren’t any other teenagers here since your friends left, and I really liked talking to you and-and wanted to get to know you better.”

Ugh, that was somehow worse.

Luckily, the smile on David’s lips alleviated Patrick’s fears.

“Well, I do have a certain charisma that draws people in,” David said loftily. Patrick smirked.

“Really? Is that why your friends left, then?” he said sarcastically.

“Okay,” he said, mildly defensive.  It was clear David understood it was sarcasm by the way the corners of his mouth turned up. He was appreciating the attention Patrick was giving him and it made Patrick’s heart speed up. With David standing closer to him, Patrick was able to really study his face and take in the gentle curl of his eyelashes and the faint blush on his cheeks.

“Do you want to go back to the couch and talk?” Patrick asked. “I don’t have a cell phone to ignore you with, so I hope that’s okay.” David chuckled.

“That’s very okay,” he said. He stared at Patrick for a beat before asking in a vaguely suggestive tone, “Do you want to go up to my room? If we’re the only teenagers here, we shouldn’t have to be subjected to adults all night.”

Now Patrick’s heart was really racing. Did… did David just invite him to his bedroom? He’d been in many of his male friends’ rooms – including a select few whom Patrick had minor crushes on – but never had any invite him like that.

“Sure,” he replied, the word sticking in his throat.

The smile he received in return was so cute. David began to smile brightly, then drew shyly back, as if someone might just catch him being so happy.

“C’mon,” David said softly, taking Patrick by then hand.

When Patrick felt his hand slide into his own, his whole body flushed and warmed, like he was suddenly dunked in cold water. It woke him up. He was holding another boy’s hand. And that boy was leading him through the crowd, weaving between chattering groups of adults, to bring him to his bedroom.

David led Patrick up the large staircase and Patrick couldn’t help but look up. It was like he was living in a dream. The cute boy in the portrait was alive and real and right in front of him and holding his hand.

They wandered down a hallway, then turned left down another, past sitting rooms and an office and open bedrooms and bathrooms. Patrick merely caught a glimpse into each room, yet he could tell they were all lavishly decorated in a style that could only be attributed to Mrs. Rose. He wanted to take his time and really explore this home that was so foreign to him. He wanted David to give him a grand tour and tell him about each and every room.

But David seemed determined.

Soon they approached a closed door. It was one of the few.

David swung the door open and gestured inside.

“After you,” he said.

Patrick stepped into the room and was immediately blown away by its size and grandeur. It was triple the size of Patrick’s own room and twice as tall and the closet could fit his family’s Chevy Silverado.

The room was rather tastefully decorated with more modern design than some of the others he’d seen. There were posters on the wall of Sarah McLaughlin, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, and Madonna with crystal strings and scarves. It was clear David was on top of the hottest designs because Patrick was sure he’d seen similar something similar on MTV’s Cribs. (Though, from what he’d seen, David had probably actually been to those celebrity houses.)

David shut the door behind him and the noise from the party below nearly disappeared. They were suddenly very, very alone.

Before, Patrick was excited. Now, he was nervous.

“Is this from her Onyx Hotel tour?” Patrick asked, pointing to the Britney Spears poster. “I wanted to go but her Nashville show was canceled due to her—”

“—knee injury,” David finished with him. “I went to fourteen of her European shows. The flight back from her last show in Ireland was very quiet.” He sat down on his bed. “You didn’t strike me for a Britney fan.”

“My little sister is,” Patrick said. “She’s the one who got me into her music.”

He carefully sat down on the bed next to David, leaving a respectable yet enticing distance.

“As you can imagine, being a Britney fan as a teenage guy in Tennessee is not necessarily the smartest idea,” he added. Like many of the guys he had talked to in the anonymous AIM chatrooms, Britney’s music was the first time Patrick realized he liked boys. He related to her in a way he couldn’t describe.

“I could definitely see that,” David said. His eyes kept landing on Patrick’s lips and Patrick could feel himself grow hotter every time.

“How long have you lived in New York?” he asked, trying to keep the conversation going as distracting as David was.

“My whole life, so 20 years.”

Oh, and he was older.

“Do you like it?”

“Mhm. Do you like it?”

“I-I really do,” Patrick replied shyly.

David’s fingers brushed over his on the bedspread. Patrick could feel his heart racing in his chest when David leaned ever so slightly closer to him. He’d seen it so many times before with girls that he knew David wanted him to kiss him. God, he wanted that. But what if that wasn’t what David wanted? What if he was just being friendly? He’d never been in a situation like this with a boy who he got the feeling liked him back, but what if David already had a boyfriend? What if he already had a girlfriend and Patrick was reading all the messages wrong?

…but what if he was reading everything right?

He took the leap of faith and leaned in. Their lips pressed tenderly together, so sweetly that Patrick wanted to sob. His lips were so soft and sure, and Patrick could feel the lightest bit of stubble against his skin. He smelled like a blooming forest after rain, floral notes with the comfort of petrichor.

He was in a mansion in New York City, kissing a boy for the very first time and it was everything he ever dreamed.

From what Patrick could tell, David was a skilled kisser. He gave and gave, allowing Patrick to set the pace. David’s warm palm cupped his cheek and guided him to press harder, to really take, and when David’s lips parted to let Patrick in, take he did. He was able to taste David and draw him in. David shifted closer to him, his leg now pressed against Patrick’s. He was warm and firm, and Patrick couldn’t help placing a hand high on his thigh. The heat from David’s groin radiated to Patrick’s fingers; it was intoxicating.

Patrick whined against David’s lips as David kissed him harder, gradually easing him to lay back on the bedspread. Once his back was against the plush mattress, David straddled his hips and Patrick felt David’s hard-on pressing into his.

“Is this okay?” David asked, his voice deep and husky.

“Yes,” he exhaled. He needed David’s lips back on his now.

His hands gripped David’s thighs, the muscle tight and firm under his fingers. David’s hips moved so slowly, rocking his erection against him, and making Patrick so, so dizzy. He wasn’t going to last very long, not with David kissing him so hotly and grinding his cock against him.

Experimentally, Patrick rolled his hips to meet David’s. David groaned loudly and ran his fingers through Patrick’s hair, holding him still as the desperation in their kiss grew. Patrick did it again and again, and soon they were uninhabitably humping each other with wild abandon. They were young, and the skills weren’t evidently there, but it didn’t matter because it felt amazing.

The heat in his gut was so new, so different, and he had to chase it. He listened to his instincts and with shaky fingers, traced around David’s body to nervously cup him through his pants and squeeze.

“Oh, fuck,” Patrick swore as David drew in a sharp inhale. He had another boy’s erection in his hand. It was hot through the fabric and oh, how Patrick wanted to see it and feel it bare against his skin.

Then David cupped Patrick through his slacks. Patrick gasped in surprise at David’s gesture. It was too much, too much, too much. He was pinned to the bed with a very cute boy’s erection in his hand and that boy’s hand on his, kissing said boy. It was absolute heaven.

And then Patrick came in his pants like the teenager he was.

David smiled against his lips and humped hard and fast into Patrick’s hand. Patrick opened his eyes to witness David’s brow crease and then a second later the fabric in his hand became damp.

Typically, Patrick would be grossed out by something like this. But now, in this moment, he felt another boy cum in his hand and just wanted to do it again. He did that! He made David do that!

David kissed him gently on the lips, slow pecks that made Patrick feel oh so desired.

“Can I tell you a secret?” Patrick whispered.

David nodded.

“I’d never kissed a boy before tonight.”

Patrick didn’t know why he suddenly braced for David to panic, but he did. When he saw David’s soft smile, he exhaled.

“And I’m guessing this was a first too.” To punctuate, he rocked his hips, pressing his softening cock into Patrick’s hand.

Patrick blushed.

“It was great,” David said.

“Good distraction from the party?”

“The best.”

David kissed him again.

Then again.

They kissed for a while, trading slow, lazy kisses that made Patrick want to move to New York City and live with David forever. It was sudden, but this was the happiest he’d been in a very, very long time. He never wanted to return to Tennessee.


“Oh shit,” Patrick cursed under his breath. He turned his head to check David’s enormous wall clock.


He was late to meet Joanne.

“I have to go,” he said as he reluctantly untangled his legs from David’s. David whined and drew him in for another kiss. God, he could stay here forever. He felt like Cinderella at the ball. Except he didn’t have a glass slipper to leave behind.

“Do you have a pen?” he asked.

David reached over to his nightstand to retrieve a pen to give to him. Patrick took the pen and David’s hand and in his neatest handwriting scrawled his phone number on David’s skin.

“Text me.”

“I will.”

He kissed David once more in an attempt to sear the happiness into his body before crawling off the bed and rushing out into the hallway. He followed the sounds of the party below for when to turn, the noise getting louder. He arrived at the grand staircase and was immediately hit with a wall of sound. It was nearly deafening compared to the quiet solace of David’s bedroom.

At the bottom of the stairs, he spotted Joanne. From the tension in her shoulders he could tell she was worried. He hustled down to meet her.

“Hey Joanne,” he said. “Sorry I’m late.”

She turned around and sighed with relief.

“There you are. I was so scared I’d lost you,” she said. “Where were you? Why were you upstairs?” She quickly took in his ruffled hair and slightly wrinkled blazer, then gave him a knowing smile. “Did you sneak off with Mr. Rose’s daughter?”

Patrick chuckled, but he felt a bubble of panic in his throat. He knew he should lie to Joanne, say he did sneak off with Alexis, but he’d be betraying everything he felt with David.

“Son,” he said nervously. Joanne’s eyes widened. There was a beat as she took that information in, as if she were trying to decide the best way to respond.

“And did you have a good time?”

He exhaled and grinned.

“The best.”

She took his arm and guided him toward the door.

“C’mon, you can tell me all about him on the ride back to the hotel,” she said warmly.

Joanne was very kind listening to him babble and get shy over talking about David, though Patrick could tell she was a bit drunk and ready for bed. After he walked her to her room, he went back to his, floating on cloud nine.

He quickly stripped of his clothes, finally removing his underwear with the proof of his activities. He stood there for a moment in his pajamas as he contemplated what he should do with them. If he left them in his bag, he’d run the risk of his mom finding them when he got home the next day. If he washed them in the sink, well, it’d be like washing his hands after meeting someone famous.

Wait. Was he seriously considering his cum-soaked briefs a sentimental souvenir of his time in New York City?

Just before shame could set in, his phone vibrated from deep in his bag. His heart skipped a beat.

Underwear still in one hand, Patrick dug around for his phone. It vibrated again.

A text from Rachel.

And another text from Rachel.

And another.

And another.

And fourteen more.

Just when Patrick was about to give up and wash his briefs, he saw it.

A text from David.

Best holiday party yet xx David

I love New York City. xxx

I want to visit Tennessee. x

They exchanged a few brief texts, all with a lot of kisses, and then Patrick went to sleep, dreaming of David.

The texting virtually stopped about a week after Patrick got back from his trip. Every time he got a text from David, he’d light up and then someone would invariably ask who the text was from. He was running out of creative ways to avoid saying, ‘Oh, the guy I made out with and dry-humped in a mansion in Manhattan.’

It stopped indefinitely the moment he and Rachel got back together.

It was years until Patrick finally heard from David again.


He entered the living room where Ray was taking photos of a couple and saw him.

He’d recognize those eyebrows anywhere.