The mission

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"What's going on with you?"

It was Denis. For a week now Patrick had been stuck in a rut. He got to work late, barely talked to anyone, missed dinner with the family and went to bed early. It was too hard to notice that something had changed. Everyone had noticed. Maria Valdez had taken it upon herself to figure out why Patrick was moping around, but Denis had beaten her to it. He knew his mother wouldn't "enquire". She would either manipulate or force the truth out of Patrick.

"What do you mean?" Patrick asked, knowing very well what his oldest brother meant.

"You are like a bear with a sore head. You've been like this the whole week", Denis said taking a seat on one of the lounge chairs on the mansion's balcony. He'd been lucky to find Patrick there, considering that he appeared and disappeared like smoke.

"Nothing is going on", Patrick said. His voice was dry and empty.

"Could have fooled me", Denis said. "Patrick, do you miss the United States?"

Patrick shook his head. He did miss the United States, but that wasn't the cause of his sullen mood. The reason he'd run off to the United States was.

"Okay look, would you rather tell me or would you rather tell mom? She's noticed how you mope around too. She's going to investigate", Denis said, hoping that did the trick.

"Okay. I miss the US", Patrick lied.

He didn't feel good lying to his brother, but he couldn't tell him the real reason why he'd been down of late. He and Denis weren't that close, but of all his siblings, Denis was the least judgmental. He was more like Patrick, but Patrick couldn't trust him with this one secret. He'd never told anyone about his sexual orientation and he wasn't about to start now.

Denis patted him on the shoulder. "You could always go back".

"And give mama a heart attack?"

"She'll get over it. There's no point being here if you don't like it. We could always have vacations in Madrid like we always do and you could visit", Denis advised.

Patrick nodded absent-mindedly. He hadn't been truly happy in the USA, but of late it sounded better than Warlington. Every day he was getting more and more miserable. After the incident with Charlie, Charlie had decided he didn't want to see Patrick ever again. For days Patrick had tried to talk to him –hence his appearances and disappearances – but Charlie had refused, going as far as pushing Patrick out of his house.

"So what do you miss up there?" Denis asked.

"My friends", the words just slid off Patrick's tongue.

"I was starting to think you had a secret girlfriend you left behind", Denis said with a smile.

Patrick chuckled humorlessly. "There's nothing of that sort".

Denis's words reminded him of something. One of Charlie's reasons for the letter was Anna, Patrick's fake girlfriend. Charlie truly believed that Patrick had been cheating on him. If only he knew that Anna was as much his girlfriend as that squirrel they'd kept as a pet before Charlie's mom busted them.

"I have to do something", Patrick said and stood up, not caring the least if Denis heard him or not. He had an urgent call to make. This was the last trick he had up his sleeve. It had to work.

*

"I came as fast as I could. What's up?" Anna said breathlessly as she collapsed on the seat Patrick had reserved for her at Steve & the Blue Bottle.

"I need a favor", Patrick said quickly.

"I'm all ears", Anna said with a smile.

"I need you to confess something to someone", Patrick said.

Anna couldn't help but frown. "Confess what?"

"That we were never in a relationship", Patrick said confidently.

He'd gone over this meeting over and over again. He knew Anna would want to know why it was important that Charlie knew that she and Patrick had never been in a relationship. If it came down to it, he would tell her the truth. Although Patrick knew that Anna wanted him as a fake boyfriend so she could hide her relationship with Andrew, Anna never knew the real reason why Patrick had agreed. Sure doing something good for someone was part of it, but there was more. He was hiding his own relationship.

"To your sister?" Anna asked.

"No, I need you to confess this to someone else", Patrick replied.

"A love interest?" Anna asked with a knowing smile. "Look at you, you are blushing".

"No, no. He's...I need you to just tell him, okay?"

"Oh...kay", Anna said uncertainly. She smiled. "I'm sorry if that thing between us caused..."

Patrick interrupted. "It's okay".

There was silence.

"Ah Patrick, you kind of have to tell me who I have to confess to and where", Anna said sheepishly.

"Right. Um...let's go", he said standing up.

He'd made a decision to go to Charlie's house that afternoon. He didn't know if Charlie would be home, but he hoped he was. He couldn't delay this any longer. Maybe if Charlie knew Anna had never really been his girlfriend he'd let him explain the other issue they had.

"Now? How far? I left Christina with my mum. They don't get along so well", Anna said.

Patrick stopped moving. "It's a bit far, but I really wouldn't ask you to do this now if it wasn't important to me".

Anna nodded and stood up. "I can let mum go crazy for a little while longer".

*

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