Release Date: January 25th, 2013!
Colleen Frasier and Bradley Patrick may not like each other very much these days, but neither can imagine loving anyone else. She’s irrational. He’s crass. She wanted out of South Boston. He never wanted to leave. She keeps him at a distance. He refuses to leave her side.
Colleen wakes up the morning after her 35th birthday married to her best childhood friend, Brad, in a Las Vegas hotel room. It was only supposed to last for one night to fulfill a birthday wish, but when one of their wedding guests takes it upon themselves to publish the news to Facebook, Colleen asks Brad to pretend it’s the real thing…
"Like Fire" South Boston, 1983
The cold, metal badge felt large and heavy in his clammy hand. It was hot and humid out, typical, for a Massachusetts summer. Bradley Patrick was all of six-years-old and already hell on wheels—literally. With his father’s policeman’s badge in his hand and his brand-new two-wheeler bicycle under foot and rump, he readied himself for a celebratory lunch after he beat his best friend in this dang race.
His muscles tightened as he squeezed the handlebars until his knuckles turned white. With red eyebrows knit together, partially covered by his dark red locks, he let out a huff of determination. He would not lose again. The last time he lost to his lifelong best friend had been a week ago and he’d lost his temper with his mother afterward.
Bradley’s father, a third-generation South Boston native didn’t take kindly to backtalk in his young son and was determined to scare the attitude out of him. Years later John Patrick would resign himself a more lax position, but at the time, a paddling the boy seemed the right thing to do. Bradley’s hide had felt sore for hours after the incident and he vowed to himself that there would not be a repeat. It hadn’t been his fault, after all. The stupid girl was a cheat!
The stupid girl may have been a cheat, in that she was lighter in weight than Bradley, but that was the sum of it. Six-year-old Colleen Frasier was no cheat and she had beat Bradley fair and square. He just couldn’t accept losing to a girl. After the paddling he’d received a week prior, John Patrick had issued words of wisdom to his son: get used to it. But that was obviously a betrayal. Bradley and John were men. Men didn’t lose to girls. One day, around the time puberty hit, Bradley would succumb to losing to Colleen. But not this time.
Colleen Frasier was a messy little girl who idolized her big brother, James. Ever thinking, Colleen had clipped her father’s policeman’s badge to her jean shorts, knowing that keeping it in hand would slow down her control of the handlebars. She gripped the handlebars which once had brightly colored streamers poking out the ends, but had been cut off some weeks ago. Safety scissors were a crock, Colleen had determined. It took her forever to cut through one streamer with those stupid things. Growing impatient quickly, she snuck her mother’s kitchen scissors and was able to complete the job in seconds. When her mother had discovered the makeover, Colleen calmly explained that she couldn’t be a real racer with streamers getting caught in her hands and slowing her down. Losing was not an option for Colleen Frasier, and definitely not to the hot-headed Bradley Patrick.
Though the pair had known one another since birth, and their parents before that considering their fathers were partnered on the force for over a decade now, they fought like cats and dogs. But you couldn’t separate them. Even as infants, they hated to be apart; but soon enough they would be clawing at one another and would need to be separated. Their mothers had decided they were perfect for one another and were destined to marry. Bradley never had much of a problem with the idea of marrying Colleen. He wanted to be just like his dad and that included becoming a cop and marrying a pretty Irish girl. Colleen was perfect as long as she didn’t win any more races, the cheat!
James, the official racing judge, screamed that it was time to take off. He was born a loud kid and his mother’s only wish was that he would quiet some with age. He would not.
Bradley took off with lightning speed, he thought. His little legs pumped on the pedals as he dodged pieces of raised cement that he’d known would slow him down. Behind him, Colleen trailed with a casual ease that bothered Bradley. Why wasn’t she trying?
A few houses up ahead was Mr. Greene’s place. He hated the kids riding past his house because he’d suspected the pair of troubling his garden while he was at work. In all fairness, they hadn’t meant to, it just happened, but neither would admit to it. Loyalty was something to be honored in Boston Irish households.
Bradley knew that Mr. Greene scared Colleen and he hadn’t wanted her to have to worry about him. Bradley made sure nobody messed with her, except for him. The girl made the best worm and mud pies in town and she didn’t even cry the time he stuck one of the worms in her ear. He wasn’t sure he knew what love was at the age of six, but Bradley was pretty sure he’d found it in his bossy friend.
As Colleen came speeding up on Bradley’s right side, right by Mr. Greene’s fence and the scowling man himself, Bradley saw trouble ahead. The last time Colleen had been that close to Mr. Greene she had cried for the longest time and he just couldn’t take any more crying. If there was one thing Bradley knew about girls it was that they cried a lot and it drove him crazy. He decided to avoid the tears and he darted right on his two-wheeler, effectively cutting Colleen off from her route. But she was quick and smart; she had laid off enough and expertly swerved around Bradley, heading for the finish line. He pedaled as quickly as he could, but it was no use. Colleen had won the race.
The scowl on Bradley’s face was so intense it nearly hurt to look at him. When Colleen had tried to tell him he did a good job, he knew she hadn’t meant it. She was a pain in the butt through and through. But she was still his best friend. Something about a girl who offers a man comfort and then tells him to shut up right after was a prize to hold onto. A masochist early on, was he.
That night Bradley had been thinking long and hard about why he didn’t want Colleen around Mr. Greene. So she’d cry, so what? When he’d thought about it long enough and couldn’t come up with a solution, Bradley crawled out of his bed, dinosaur footy pajamas hitting the floor, and he was off to see the man who knew everything: his father.
John Patrick was in the living room in his favorite chair, looking over case files. The faint sound of curious breathing and little feet made him look up. His only son, with sleepy eyes, and messy dark red hair stood before him.
“Why are you out of bed, son?” John Patrick asked young Bradley. The child took that as an invitation and crawled onto his father’s lap, practically sitting on the case files.
“How do you know if you love a girl?” Bradley asked. A warm, loving smile appeared on John’s face and he wrapped an arm around his boy.
“You think you’re in love?”
“I might be, but it could be mom’s meatloaf,” Bradley said, rubbing his belly. This earned a hearty laugh from John. He wasn’t a mean man, he just believed in a firm hand with children or they’d run all over you. He would know, having dealt with so many young delinquents on the job day after day.
“Tell me how it feels,” John said seriously, curious to see what love felt like to a six-year-old. John knew his son was talking about his partner’s daughter, Colleen. The girl drove Bradley crazy, but even still, she was the one he wanted to play with. And no matter how many times Bradley purposefully made things difficult for Colleen, she never could say no to him.
“She makes me mad but I still want to play with her. And she beat me in the race today but that was her fault.” John tried to suppress his laughter. Bradley hated to lose and he didn’t want to have to tame another temper tantrum.
“And?” John prompted him.
“She’s funny. She let me put a worm in her ear. She wouldn’t eat it, but that’s okay. I didn’t eat it, either. Do you think that’s love, dad?” John held his son tighter.
“That’s love, son. It’s like friendship but,” John searched for an age-appropriate explanation. “It’s more than friendship. It’s deeper.”
“Deeper?” The boy was lost and looking at his father like he was crazy.
“It’s intense.” Another look of confusion from Bradley and John was close to calling in his wife for help. “What’s something really big and cool that you can think of?” John asked.
“Fire!” Bradley’s response worried John for a moment and he decided he would talk to his wife, Emily, about keeping matches from the boy. If he had a thing for fire it wouldn’t be long before he and Colleen were miniature pyros.
“Love is like fire, son. It’s intense and hot and the best thing in the world.” Bradley just shook his head and slid off his father’s lap.
“I don’t get it. I knew I should have asked mom.” And with that, the boy was climbing up the stairs to his bedroom wondering what fire was really like and if Colleen knew.
To find out more about Colleen and Brad’s story, visit their very own page!