AN: Thanks, once again, to all my reviewers. I'm glad the teaser went over so well! Alright…here goes with chapter three…
It wasn't ten seconds after I spoke when I felt a shadow fall over both of us. We looked up, only to find Patrick's mother headed down the alley toward us.
"Holy mother of God…doesn't she evah give up?" Dutchy asked as we both stood.
"Let's just get out of here."
We turned to go the other way, only to find the way blocked by a huge man headed in our direction from the other side of the alley. I looked back and forth in a panic, which developed into confusion when the man pushed right past us and grabbed Patrick's mother by the wrist.
"Where have you been? I've been looking all over for you!" He said, his voice sounding more concerned than angry. She tried to pull away from him, looking past him to see if we were still there. I was frozen in place from a morbid curiosity, and Dutchy wasn't about to leave me there.
"But I found Patrick! I finally found Patrick!" She insisted, her voice at a fever pitch. The man looked at us for the first time, his eyes settling on me for a long moment before he turned and looked back at Patrick's mother.
"Why don't you go sit down by the deli…I'm going to talk with him," he said.
She looked at me one more time, and at his gentle push, she turned and walked out of the alley, looking back over her shoulder one last time before turning the corner.
A soon as the man turned around, I began to back up. He had to be over a foot taller than me, and he looked like he could snap my arm like a twig.
"I'm sorry about that, boys," he said, and I stopped backing up. I felt Dutchy's hand on my arm and I relaxed a bit, wondering who this guy was and why he felt he had to apologize to two newsboys.
"What's going on? Why does she think I'm Patrick?" I asked, and he smiled weakly.
"I'm so sorry about that. I honestly don't know why she thinks you're Patrick. It's not possible."
I shot a confused glance at Dutchy, who quickly asked, "What do ya mean?"
He laughed, a sound that was shaded with obvious sarcasm. "There is no Patrick. There never was." He looked at the ground, laughed once again, and then sat down on one of the many wooden crates piled up against the wall of the alley. "She wanted a child…a family…so bad. She saved every penny, picked out the best crib we could afford, even picked out the clothes the baby would wear first."
"Hang on. I'm not seeing where this is going," Dutchy said.
"Sshh…let him talk," I snapped, not really meaning to sound as harsh as I did.
The man seemed unfazed. He continued speaking as if we hadn't even interrupted.
"But it never happened. She never got pregnant. We went to the best doctor we could afford, but he had no answer. No one had an answer. And eventually, I gave up hope…but she didn't. In fact, she was determined to have a child."
He ran his hand through his hair, glancing back at the alley entrance to make sure his wife was not overhearing things. Then, after taking a long look at us, he continued.
"She started buying things…things a newborn child would need. She started setting an extra place at the table during meals. She would hold a conversation when no one else was in the room. She even called up a school and enrolled our…our son…in the first grade," He took a deep breath, his eyes locking on the ground.
"I figured it was a phase she would simply pass through fairly quickly, but things only got worse. I would have to print up fake report cards from school so she didn't worry about how Patrick was doing in school. I had to convince waiters to set up a meal for no one at restaurants. I dealt with this insanity for 17 years. 17 damn, wasted years. And I guess I got sick of it. I lost it."
I felt like I was listening to a fairy tale. All this couldn't be true. And yet, as he neared the end of the story, I felt myself wanting to know how it ended. And I wanted to know where I came into the picture.
He looked truly ashamed as he continued, his face turning a pale shade of red. "We got into a fight. And in the midst of it, I told her that Patrick had run away to be a newsie. That he was never coming back. And she believed me. She actually believed me," he stood up so suddenly that I stumbled back a few steps, startled by the sudden movement.
"That's why she's gone to that cart every morning for three years. That's why she looks each one of you in the face, every day. And that's why she thinks you're Patrick. I don't know how you did it…but you personified what she saw in our son."
Silence fell between us for a full minute. My mind was racing at a million miles a minute, trying to figure all this stuff out.
This woman honestly thought I was her son. And there wasn't any chance of finding the "real" Patrick to prove otherwise.
"So…what do I do?" I asked quietly, meeting his empty, exhausted stare.
"I don't know. This time, I just don't know."
AN: Woohoo! Insane people are fun!
What's really fun is that this is a true syndrome. This isn't a fake disorder…this can really happen…but I'm going to embellish a bit in further chapters for sake of plot. You know me…I must have ACTION!
"Specs…I'm scared. This is getting way out of hand…and I don't think she's just gonna let you walk out of this alive."