Yes, we went to the party last night. Like I said, everyone who was anyone was there, and I'm not sure if the fire code allowed that many people in one factory loft at a time or if it just felt like it was that full but as I moved around I spent a lot of time reaching up and tapping shoulders and saying Excuse me, can I slip through here?
We were late of course. Instructions to the sitter ran long, Henry had a meltdown from being all jacked up on Halloween candy and then Ben couldn't find his hat. He was Clyde, I was Bonnie.
Caleb made a speech about welcoming people to his new home, in his new city, and then he thanked everyone for coming, said that it was important to him to honor my efforts with a small, intimate celebration (nothing small or intimate about it) for my work in a difficult year, and he also formally announced that I would be coming to work for him, starting this month, as his assistant. That he is so lucky to be graced with my organizational skills and my beauty besides. People nodded and murmured and I briefly wondered who the fuck they all were to be affirming his nonsense? I kept thinking, nobody knows me. I mean really knows me.
But after the first hour of clinging to Ben's hand like the ultimate wallflower I ventured out a little on my own. Spoke to some people that I had not seen since Cole's memorial. Spoke to a few people who had met Ben in Toronto and spent time with him and were thrilled that he had settled down. Danced with just about every man there. Forgot all about my medications and took the champagne when it was offered by a server. Drank it too fast and got a little dizzy. Realized how tired I was and I looked across the room and saw Ben talking to some guys and right at that moment he looked at me and he nodded and rubbed his eyebrow which means we'd leave in a few moments, because our brains are now tethered and we can sense when we need each other and oh my God, when did this all happen? I decided fresh air would be good, so I went out on the balcony. The first thing I noticed was a bistro set that wasn't there before, two chairs and a tiny glass table, reflecting the string of white lights along the balcony railing. It's not even a balcony, it's a generous fire escape. I pulled out one of the chairs and sat down facing the river.
The cold worked nicely to clear my head. I was glad. I stood up to go back inside and turned around and Caleb was just opening the door to come out. He had a cup of coffee for me. He put it on the table and then stepped back. I could feel eyes on us. Good, they're watching him. Better still, they're watching me.
I took a sip of the coffee and thanked him for his attentiveness, as that table is for me to write at while I work for him, as long as it remains this mild.
He really loves you, princess.
Benjamin. He loves you.
And you love him.
Yes, of course.
But you don't think you do, not enough. You think he deserves better because your loyalties are divided.
How nice of my brother-in-law to drive me to tears at my own party.
Do you want to know something interesting, Bridget? Something I've never told you before?
I just stared at the river and nodded because I've learned never to try and anticipate the moves that the devil will make.
When you came to me last year, when you wanted me to take the pain away and I did, and when you'd start crying again and I'd give you more and make you feel better, do you know what you asked the most?
I closed my eyes. I would have to walk the gauntlet of dozens of happy partygoers in a minute, I didn't want to do it with tears streaming down my face but thinking back to those two days after Jake died and I asked Caleb for something to help me forget I had to keep living without Jacob and he complied, naming his price and for two days I was his prisoner, not feeling anything but numb and then sometimes fear and then that would go away too. I didn't say anything, I just waited for him to keep talking.
You asked for Ben. You never stopped asking for him. You were so fucked up and yet you weren't asking for Jacob, you asked for Ben. I find that interesting, don't you? I think your feelings for him run deeper than you realize, princess.
Whoops, everything was swimming now and I turned to go back inside because there was some sort of breakage in my head again and his arms closed around me and I tried to shove him away but then I looked up and it was Ben's face there, it was Ben, the brain tethering worked and he came out to get me.
Caleb asked quietly if maybe we wanted to stay, that we could continue the celebration, but just for three, that he would end the party now and then we could take part in another, more sordid one. Ben declined, for once. He's accepted in the past. And I realized that he's kept me on a long leash in hopes that I would never stray very far, and he's gone out of his way to not be as possessive as Jacob or Cole. He's made sacrifices to ensure success for us. He's smarter than you think he is. He's as depraved as anyone could ever get, but he knows when enough is enough.
Caleb made several more offers, but Ben was no longer listening. He got us into our coats, and then he took my hand in his and we left by the fire escape, walking carefully down the four flights of steps and then at the end, Ben pushed the ladder down and made his way to the bottom, had me throw my shoes down and then descend into his waiting arms where he held me off the ground while he lined up my shoes and then put me into them again.
Hey, that was neat.
What do you mean?
Like your memory thief.
I looked up and grinned at him. Rescue from such an wonderful and unlikely source. Seen in a whole new light which is how I keep catching glimpses of Ben and being surprised. Grateful.
What did he say to you?
He reminded me of when I came to him last year. The needles...
Okay, let's get you home and then I'll come back and hurt him.
No, it's not like that.
Then what is it, baby?
He...he told me when I'd come to, I'd always ask for you. He said I wanted you and that I loved you more than I realize I do.
You would ask...for me?
Do you think he was telling the truth?
Yes. When he's lying, he smiles.
Ben wrapped his arms around me and lifted me off my feet, out of my shoes. He kissed me so hard he took my breath away. Then I quoted our characters, since we watched Bonnie and Clyde a few nights ago. He remembered.
I ain't good. I'm the best!
He grinned the whole damned way home. Me too, though he said I was still drunk, that I must have been since my shoes are still in the alley where I was lifted out of them. That's okay, I don't need them anyway. I have something better now.