“Someone’s popular,” says David as Patrick’s phone buzzes for the 4th time in 3 minutes.
“You are. My parents want to know if you’ll come up for Christmas. Or Boxing Day, or New Year’s Eve, or, and I quote ‘literally any time’.”
“Ah. Right. It’s just that, I’ve never really met anyone’s parents before so…”
“You’ve never met anyone’s parents before?”
“You know what I mean. I’ve never met the parents of a boyfriend, or girlfriend, or theatre-camp-hookup...”
“I figured. I mean, generally it comes up sometime after the 4 month mark.”
Patrick’s tone gets softer.
“Look, you don’t have to decide right now. But anyone who survived growing up with the Roses can handle my parents, trust me.”
David couldn’t really argue with that. Patrick was probably the least neurotic person he knew, which, while annoying at times (“But why can’t the foot cream go next to the lip balm, David?”), also meant that his parents were probably of the abnormally normal type. Everything Patrick had told him about Neil and Eleanor and their love of Groupon, golf and gardening seemed to support that. So, David was not worried about Patrick’s parents being soulless monsters. He was a little worried about seeming like a soulless monster in comparison. He’d have to edit his history to exclude:
- Dating assholes.
- Dating a penitentiary pen-pal for less than altruistic reasons (turns out being imprisoned makes people way more amenable to receiving essays on Julia Stiles’ growth as an actress.)
- Extending his break with Patrick in order to get a (very nice) bracelet.
- Getting drunk with Stevie and ordering 100 Atomic Kitten CDs for the store (a week ago).
- Trying to convince a near-hysterical Patrick that it was a sober decision which he had no regrets about (6 days ago).
- Playing them in the store all day, to Patrick’s growing disbelief (2 days ago).
- Taking 98 Atomic Kitten CDs to the tip (yesterday).
He also needed to figure out timing. David normally spent New Year’s Eve with Stevie, getting drunk and discussing the year’s Most Regrettable Moments. He’s pretty keen on introducing the tradition to Patrick, though there’s a fairly good chance it’ll limit the conversation to David’s Most Regrettable Moments. Moira wasn’t keen on David being “stolen away” during Christmas or Hanukkah. Eventually she conceded to David leaving on Boxing Day, despite it being “the tenth-most-important-day-of-the-year” (downgraded to fourteenth-most-important once David reminded her that it was Awards Season.)
David tells Patrick the next day.
Patrick grins. “Perfect. You’ll get the leftover Christmas Turducken.”
David can feel the dread setting in already.
Patrick stays with his parents for Christmas, so David drives up alone, freeing him up to think about the hundreds of things that could go wrong. He ends up getting lost, thus fulfilling scenario #78. Finally he finds himself at the bright blue door of the Brewers’ house.
Thankfully Patrick is the one to open it when David knocks.
“Punctual as ever,” he says, with a smile that looks like, just possibly, he expected David to bail on the whole thing.
He lowers his voice.
“I just need you to be prepared for what my mother is wearing.”
Eleanor comes to the door in a green elven cap and lime tutu skirt. This was not one of the hundreds of eventualities David went over in the car.
“Wow!” David manages, “Look at you!”
She pulls David into a hug. Neil offers him a handshake.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” says Eleanor, “Patrick has told us so much about you.”
Patrick rolls his eyes a little but he doesn’t look embarrassed. Patrick’s always utterly unashamed about being in love with David. David’s still getting used to it.
Eleanor practically drags him inside, picking up a Santa hat along the way.
“Would you like one, dear? For some festive spirit?” she asks, looking his all-black outfit up and down.
“Oh David would love one,” Patrick interrupts.
David gives him an I-will-get-revenge smile as a Santa hat is placed on his scrupulously styled hair.
When they sit down for dinner, David is relieved to find out that there is no turducken in sight. There is a lot of eggnog, which he is very thankful for. And ambrosia for dessert.
“You’re a fan as well!” says Neil, as David starts on his third serving, “as a toddler, Patrick would just dive in, eat it by hand, straight from the bowl.”
David makes a face.
“Thank God we didn’t meet as kids.”
“I don’t think we could’ve met as kids,” says Patrick, “unless you were secretly a high school baseball fan.”
“Uh-uh. I did walk through a lot of games though, so there’s a strong possibility you would’ve hit me with a baseball.”
“What a meet-cute,” says Neil.
“Oh, Patrick would never have hit you. He had perfect aim. Won the best-player trophy five years running,” Eleanor beams.
“Patrick!” David makes a face of mock-betrayal, “you never told me you had such an illustrious high school career.”
“Who feels like coffee?” asks Patrick.
“He also volunteered his time to the school crossing patrol.”
“Or tea? Anything I can get for anyone?”
“So what about primary school? Was he wearing business-casual since birth? Did he try to convince all the other kids to invest in long-term deposits?” David gasps. “Or did he have a rebellious goth phase?”
Patrick makes an unsuccessful attempt to confiscate David’s eggnog glass.
“No goth phase unfortunately,” says Neil, “But as a teen he was a bit of a hipster. Bought a lot of old records, owned underground band T-shirts that were two sizes too big for him. At one point he tried out a goatee.”
“Are there any photographs of this goatee, or…?”
“Ooh!” squeals Eleanor. “I’ll get the scrapbooks.”
“I don’t know if we have time,” attempts Patrick, “I should be driving this one home soon.”
“You can stay the night! We’ll set up the mattress in your old room,” says Eleanor, getting the scrapbooks from the shelf.
“Wasn’t he cherubic?”, Eleanor says as she pages through to the goatee photos.
“Cherubs aren’t usually so hairy, dear” says Neil.
Eleanor swats at his arm.
“He has the chubby cheeks though,” she says.
Eleanor turns the page to a photo of Patrick in his crossing patrol sash. He is smiling sunnily, whilst looking off into the middle distance with gravitas, as if envisioning the future of school crossings. David can’t decide if he looks like a politician or a housewife in a 1950s vacuum commercial.
When David, attempting not to laugh, almost spills eggnog all over the scrapbook, Patrick decides it might be time for bed.
Patrick sets up the mattress while David revels in his old room. Especially Patrick’s walls, which are covered with the ghosts of boybands past.
“What’s this?” says David, pointing gleefully at an NSYNC poster. “I thought hipster Patrick was only into underground bands.”
“In public,” counters Patrick.
He gets David a glass of water to find him snooping through shelves on his return.
“Why did teenage you own so many yoyos? This is too many yoyos, Patrick.”
“Go to sleep, David.”
David wakes up and winces.
“Oh my God. It’s so light in here.”
“It’s 10am,” says Patrick unhelpfully. “Are you ready for breakfast?”
“Um,” says David, “not that I don’t remember last night, because I definitely do…but do I need to do any damage control?”
“They love you. Although they do now think that you’re ‘bubbly’, so you may have to get drunk every time you meet up.”
“Your dad knows how to spike an eggnog,” says David defensively.
“He also makes a mean hair-of-the-dog coffee-shot. Whisky, espresso and Berocca, all in one.”
“Sounds disgusting. I’m in.”
As it turns out, Neil’s pancakes aren’t bad either.
“You should come up again next year,” he says, chuffed that David is finishing off his fifth pancake.
“Next time we can do a little campfire singalong,” Eleanor says cheerfully.
David’s face does several things in the span of a few seconds, none of them good. That is, until he sees Patrick grinning next to him.
“David goes in more for lip-synching,” he says.
“Ah,” says Eleanor with a wink, “that can be arranged”.
On the drive home, David ponders the fact that, evidently, Patrick has talked about David enough that his parents know exactly how to psychologically destroy him. The thought leaves him sort of pleasantly terrified.
Patrick looks at him curiously.
“So…do you think you can manage next year’s Boxing Day? Without getting alcohol poisoning?”
Patrick can’t possibly think that he’s going to say no, can he? To the chance that he may one day accumulate enough embarrassing Patrick facts to rebalance the long-skewed social dynamic?
He does kind of want revenge for the lip-synch comment though.
And the Santa hat.
“Depends,” he says, “will you be performing hits from your high school discography?”
“Oh you want a high school song serenade? You are in for a treat. Teenage Patrick made a lot of daring lyrical decisions. Like rhyming ‘bus’ with ‘syllabus’.”
David may not be great at this whole getting-the-upper-hand thing. He blames Patrick’s shamelessness.
“Fine. Bluff called. Promise me an area ban on guitars and I’ll be there.”
“Great,” says Patrick softly, a smile playing on his lips.
The smile remains for the drive home. Even David pointedly queuing up dozens of NSYNC playlists doesn’t shake it.