"It doesn't make a difference to me. You know what, Pete? You've changed. You've become the jerk I read about in the papers."
"Great. Do you want me to just cut you a copy of my house key?" Patrick asked, sticking his head around the kitchen door. Lately, Pete had been coming around a lot more often than usual. He refused to talk about the fact Rachel had left, and Patrick had a strong suspicion that he was pretending nothing had happened. The truth in Pete's eyes was, that venturing around to Patrick's satisfied the craving of the family life he himself deserved. The family life that he, would probably now never get the chance to enjoy.
"Nah, that's okay. If you could just leave the door open between the hours of 4 pm to 11 pm, that would be great." Pete grinned, while Patrick rolled his eyes. Pete walked into the kitchen and stopped at the sight of Patrick with his sleeves rolled up, his hands covered in paint.
"Redecorating?" He asked.
"Finger painting." Patrick said with a laugh. "Josh's idea. I wanted to teach him the piano but he wanted to do this instead."
"Ah." Pete nodded, as Josh bounded into the kitchen, paint splattered all over his face, different colors dripping down his clothes.
"You didn't get any paint on the carpet, did you?" Patrick asked.
"Nope." Josh said, while clambering up onto his seat again.
"Good." Patrick said, sitting down too.
"Uh, hello?" Pete said, offended Josh had sauntered past him.
"Hi!" Josh grinned, but still stayed sitting. Pete sighed and flopped down next to him.
"Where's...?" He broke off as Danielle danced her way into the kitchen, immaculately clean, in contrast to Patrick and Josh who were covered in all colors of the rainbow, she was primly shining white
"Ah. The girl herself." Pete said.
"Why are you so clean?" Patrick asked, bewildered.
"I'm a girl." She said, sounding as though Patrick had just asked the stupidest question in the world.
"So when's the girlfriend coming around?" Pete teased Patrick, who glared at him.
"Shut up." He muttered.
"I'm bored of painting." Josh said.
"Okay. Why don't you go upstairs and play together?" Patrick asked. Danielle twirled around and danced her way upstairs, while Josh hopped off his seat and followed her.
"You want some tea or coffee?" Patrick asked Pete as he washed his hands.
"Coffee, please." Pete said.
"So how is the girlfriend?" Pete asked.
"She's good. I dunno if we're really calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend, though." Patrick smiled, waiting for the kettle to boil.
"Aw, come on. You've been dating for like, two months now."
"And how goes the relationship?" Pete asked, ignoring how hard it was for him to acknowledge that he didn't have a relationship anymore.
"It's great." Patrick nodded. "Addison's amazing."
"Really? When are you seeing her again?"
"Well, today's Sunday so I guess tomorrow morning."
"Remember your cologne." Pete teased him.
"Haha, very funny."
"Can I ask you a question?" Pete asked, as Patrick handed him his mug and they made their way into the living room.
"What are you playing at?"
"With this Addison chick."
"She's not a chick. She's a woman. There is a difference."
"Aren't you being a little bit hasty, here?" Pete asked.
"Excuse me?" Patrick's voice had a sting to it now, he could tell Pete was edging in to confront him.
"I'm just saying that, what if this whole thing doesn't work out and she leaves, or you leave, and your kids are in the middle of it all?"
"That's not exactly any of your business, Pete."
"Since when is nothing my business?" Pete retorted. "You involve me in so much of your little domestic scenarios, I might as well move in to help you."
"Well why don't you? 'Cause you weren't exactly much help when Rachel was around with your five month old baby!" Patrick shot at him. "You were always complaining you thought Rachel was pushing you out, right? So maybe it's because she had hardly any help from you. No wonder she left you!"
"Leave her out of this."
"I'm sure you want to. Were you actually ready to be a dad, Pete, seriously? Or did you just think it would be fun to play with them and feel like the powerful one? It's not so fun when they're asleep and don't want to play, is it?"
"What about you? Got a shock when daddy had to do everything, did you? When mommy wasn't around and you couldn't just sit back when you wanted to?"
"For your information, I've been ready for all of this since I was 18." He growled. "See, when you know you want a family, you realize nothing's about you anymore. I'm totally fine with me taking a back seat. God knows I'm used to it."
"Really? 'Cause the amount of times you've called me up, it seems you wanted to be the center of attention."
"Wow, deja vu!" Patrick exclaimed. "How about you? When all the attention was on Rachel, because, after all, she was having the Pete Wentz's baby."
Pete stood silent, glaring and waiting for him to go on.
"Couldn't hack it when nothing was about you anymore, could you, Pete? So you constantly came round here, where my kids think you're God's gift, because the rest of the god damn world have realized you aren't!"
"You shut your mouth." Pete whispered. Both men stood, their eyes fixated on each other as they ignored the anger bubbling in their chests. Inside, Patrick was shocked he was acting like a jerk, speaking like this wasn't in his nature. On the other hand, Pete was getting ready to throw any insult he could at Patrick, any payment for raising every single doubtful issue he'd had over the past.
What goes around comes around. He thought.
"What? You can't handle the truth?"
"Can you?" Pete spat. "Can you handle the fact Amanda liked me first?"
Patrick nearly spilt his cup as his hand fell to his side.
"What?" He stammered.
"Oh, yeah." Pete said, in relish. "Remember the first date you went on, when Joe, Andy and I left? When I called Amanda up to see if she wanted to go, she was ecstatic."
"You don't mean that." Patrick replied, his voice shaking. Pete had to be lying, he had to be. Anything he'd thrown at him so far he could take, but Amanda. He couldn't have.
"Yeah!" Pete said. "When I explained it was for you, she felt pretty damn stupid."
"Am I? What about the night you spontaneously ran to her apartment and kissed her? Remember the T-Shirt she was wearing?"
Patrick frowned against tears as he remembered the night.
/Patrick braced himself and knocked on number 5. He waited for a reply and felt his heart beat faster in the silence, driving him crazy. Then the door opened and he looked up into a beautiful pair of green eyes.
"Patrick! What a surprise. What can I do for you?" Amanda smiled. Patrick looked at her. Her hair was straightened, falling down over her shoulders, and she was wearing a too-big T-Shirt that he swore he'd seen before, and a small pair of shorts./
"Hah, fucked her first." Pete hissed.
"You didn't..." Patrick started.
"No. Unfortunately, I actually didn't." Pete replied. "Because by then, she'd realized she liked you. So I came home and ended up baby sitting your kids while you went off to fuck her."
Despite the anger surging around his body, Patrick felt a sense of relief.
"You're a bastard." Patrick breathed.
"Don't call me a name that you can call your kids."
"Get the fuck out of my house." Patrick said. "Before I call the cops."
Pete glared into Patrick's own icy stare, and knew he meant it. Patrick didn't even regret what he'd said. He could handle insults about himself, God knows he'd done it for so long. But taking a dig at Amanda and his children, that was beyond the rules.
The walk to the door seemed to last forever. He knew he'd gone over the top, Amanda was the one thing Patrick never talked about, but to use it as a retort to him, he should have known better.
"Patrick, look. I went over the top, that stuff about Amanda was a lie. When I did call her, she was way too interested in you to even give me a second glance."
Patrick watched him as he turned to look at him on the doorstep, worry in his eyes, while Patrick's still burned with fury.
"Maybe so. But that doesn't make up for how much of an asshole you are." Patrick said, shoving Pete down the steps.
"I didn't mean that to come out."
"It doesn't make a difference to me. You know what, Pete? You've changed. You've become the jerk I read about in the papers." Patrick hissed, closing the door in his face. He turned around, breathing heavily, to see Josh and Danielle standing in front of him by the stairs.
"Where's Petey going?" Josh asked.
"Home." Patrick replied, his voice still shaking and breaking.
"Can't he stay the night?"
"No. Pete's not coming over for a very long time."
"Never you mind." Patrick replied, a little too sharply.
"Why did Uncle Pete shout?"
"That doesn't matter. Pete said some stupid things he didn't mean."
"Because we had a bit of an argument." Patrick told them. "Go back to bed, please."
Josh and Danielle turned around and started to walk up the stairs, whispering to each other. Patrick stood at the bottom and watched them. He caught the words 'miss' and 'Petey'.
"And I don't want any mention of Pete in this house for a while." He called to them. "Now go to bed."
"Oh, Amanda. If you liked Pete so much, you should have told me." Patrick sighed as he hung his head, making a rare appearance by her graveside the next day. He usually only visited on the anniversary of her death, but today he had to talk to her face to face. Or, face to stone. He shivered as the cold bit at his exposed face.
"You shouldn't have had to settle for second best." He whispered, the winter wind creeping up around him. "I'm used to being second best, I can take it."
Patrick turned around to see Rachel standing a few meters behind him, the stroller by her side.
"Rachel? What are you doing here? I thought you were going back to Australia." He said, as he walked towards her.
"I leave next week. We've been staying at a hotel." Rachel told him.
"So how did you know I was here?"
"I had to talk to Pete about some arrangements. When I saw him he looked... awful. He started begging me to take him back, saying he's lost you and he doesn't think you'll ever forgive him. He thinks you've lost your friendship, added to losing his fiance."
"Rachel, you guys breaking up is not my fault. You can't turn that around on me."
"I came to talk to you, and you weren't at your house, I thought you'd be here. I heard what Pete said to you."
"Oh." He said, peering into the stroller, smiling at the sight of how big the five month old had gotten.
"Hey, fella. God, you're so big now." He said with a slight laugh.
"Pete told me everything." Rachel told him. Patrick stayed silent as he straightened up and wrapped his arms around himself from the cold.
"Are you okay?"
"No, I'm not okay, Rachel. I thought of all people, Pete would never use Amanda to hurt me."
"Look, I know that was a bit too far..."
"But when Pete's angry, he aims to hurt. And then he targets the heart."
"Yeah, well, just my luck he got a bulls' eye."
"Patrick, you guys have to apologize to each other. Pete's miserable. He didn't mean to say those things about Amanda."
"So he should be." Patrick said, folding his arms. "Look, Rachel, I know you think we're both being assholes, and I know he has a lot going on right now, but I'm not going to apologize until I mean it."
"What use is an apology when you don't mean it?"
"What if Pete apologized to you?"
"Then he should mean it."
"Patrick, please, stop trying to be big about this. Pete's getting sick again. Breaking up is hard enough, but this huge fight with his best friend in the whole world is bringing him down further."
"I'm not trying to be big!" Patrick said, offended. "I'm sorry, but I need time to get my head around what he said. And it's not fair to turn it all on him."
"You hurt him too."
"I know I did. I accept that, and I'm not proud of it, trust me. But I don't want to apologize just to make myself feel better. I have to mean it."
"Anything you say right now will go right over my head." Patrick told her. "This is between me and Pete."
Rachel made to argue, but Patrick looked at her and shook his head.
"Okay. Fine." She said. "But just remember, Pete's your best friend."
She pushed the stroller away and left Patrick in the cold, watching her leave, feeling worse than he had done. He exhaled and took his hat off his head before running his hands through his hair, looking around the graves. He froze as he noticed, for the first time, a small flat stone on the ground to the left of Amanda's grave.
/"Kyle Walker. Aged 3 days.
Mommy's little miracle.
Taken too soon,
Sleep well, my baby."/
Patrick's mind raced back to a conversation he had had with Amanda while sitting at his kitchen table.
/"I lost a baby once." Amanda said, stunning Patrick into silence.
"God, Amanda, I don't know what I can say..." He started, but Amanda shook her head.
"It's OK. I mean it's shaped my life completely, you know? But it's in the past, and I can't let it stop me from having the chance of being happy."/
So this was the baby she'd lost. A child that, had they both lived, would be a part of his life.
He bent down and lifted out a single flower from the bouque he'd set down at Amanda's stone. He placed it on the flat stone, and turned away, lost for words.
Until now, Pete hadn't had a drink in years. He hadn't needed to. He had better things to do than wake up in the morning with a hangover, or become so intoxicated he had no recognition of what he had done the night before.
But that was then.
This was now.
And he was alone.
So what is Rachel left? He began to think. I love her. That was his answer.
he tried to kid himself that it didn't bother him that he was alone. Tried to tell himself Rachel would come back. And he whispered to himself over and over that he was happy for Patrick getting his life back on track.
But he was concealing his true feelings in bravado.
Yes, he was happy for Patrick. He was. But he was jealous. Of course he was. Why was he always miserable when Patrick was blissfully happy? Why else had he said those things and hurt Patrick so badly when he knew he only said it because he was hurting himself?
And why did Rachel think she could take his son away from him?
Fuck her. He thought, downing his fifth shot of straight vodka.
/I don't need her. I need my son. If she thinks she's leaving the country with him, she can think on.
I don't need her./ He repeated.
What I need, he thought, pouring another drink, is to get laid.
So that's exactly what he set out to do. It wouldn't be hard, after all, this was LA. People were clamoring for sex. This city was full of shallow women who dreamt of becoming a star. Unfortunately, Hollywood had no time for bimbos who couldn't act to save their life. So the closest they could get to the big screen was by sleeping with the first actor who was lonely enough, or horny enough to fuck them. And if there were no actors, well, there were always drunken rock stars...
And Pete was certainly lonely enough. Certainly drunk enough. And god damn it, he was horny enough.
Surely he could find someone who didn't give a fuck that he was absolutely out of his head with alcohol.
He stumbled from one club to another, kissing one beautiful woman who looked like she'd just come out of a magazine, to the next. They were beautiful, but God, were they stupid.
He continued until he finally found one drunk enough to fuck.
"You ain't a hooker, are you?" He slurred, trying to fix his eyes on her, but he swayed and grabbed the wall to stay standing. She was just as out of it as he was, laughing, even though he hadn't made a joke.
"Only if you want me to be, baby." She purred back.
Stupid woman. Every female in LA was just after money, drugs, booze or sex. They went crazy for a chance to be an extra in some shitty movie. And they were animals at the suggestion of getting laid. Pete could almost sense how wet she was getting from his smile. Whore.
And he was too drunk to are.
He didn't care how stupid she was. As long as she remained too drunk to know who he was, and he could spent the rest of the night unrecognized, he could fuck her brains out and give Rachel the punishment she deserved. He would get her back in the worst way.
"Let's fuck." He said, taking the girl's arm haphazardly and tugging her away, trying not to stumble.
That was the night Pete started drinking again.
And the first night in a long time he came.