One morning I woke up and the guard had become the thief. Jacob could always see things that much more clearly than the rest of us. Divine foresight through God. Yahweh for the win. Dumb Newfie luck.
We beat him to it last night and managed to reach a new level of understanding in the process. If only it serves to bring some comfort to Ben. I think he needs it very badly.
Perhaps I do too.
Lochlan and I got into it during dinner. He asked Ben if he knew of anymore concrete plans. When Ben is leaving. What the dates are. Was it before Christmas or right after? Perhaps through the bitter end of the cold weather and onward to spring? Let's talk, brother.
This, after I specifically asked for a moratorium on any talk of change for just one night. Please. One night of peace. One night of no bullshit so I can breathe deeply.
So I called him on it. I asked him what the fuck his problem was and if he was just going to be completely absent from me all the time while he was here he could go on ahead because I don't need his crap. He asked me if that's what I really wanted and what I really wanted was to stick it to him so I said yes. Go. Get the fuck out already. Give me some peace and quiet and stop doing whatever it is you do that unsettles everyone because you're judging us.
I'm making you unsettled.
Holy Christ, Bridgie. Let me find you a mirror.
What the fuck, Lochlan. Where have you BEEN? Why are you doing this?
Because HE asked me to, and I'm trying to give the ape the benefit of the doubt.
We both looked at Ben. Okay, everyone at the table looked at Ben. Ben looked at the floor.
Benny, what have you done?
He checked the ceiling for holes and then he looked at me.
He'll have you all to himself. I wanted to know what that felt like.
You know, Benny. Christ, you already know.
No, I don't, Bridget. I've never actually had that.
You never wanted it, Ben.
He just stared at me while the revelations clanged into place all around me.
You asked him to leave?
No, I asked him to just back off and give me a chance. Baby, I don't know what I'm going to come back to. This is all I have.
You'll be coming back to me.
That's not what he says.
He doesn't know me anymore.
When I looked at Lochlan next, his eyes were glassy and he was staring at the table like it could put his composure back together on his behalf. I went and got the bourbon and I took his hand and pulled him outside, on the porch where it's freezing cold and we could be alone.
I thrust the bottle at him and he took a drink and passed it back. I took a drink and gasped because yuck. I could never understand how people can- warmth flooded me right then and I understood perfectly.
What really happened?
I offered to lay low.
Did he ask you to?
So why did you offer? Why did he lie?
Ben is terrified he's going to lose you to me.
So then why does he tolerate you at all anymore?
Because you want me here.
By now every sentence has been punctuated with a gulp and my knees have begun to vibrate. Lochlan's eyes are permanently glassy (he is a beer drinker and even then, not a good one) and we're losing the train of conversation.
But do I?
You tell me, princess.
I'm using you.
Because I know it hurts you and I want you to feel like I felt when you broke up with me.
Jesus, Bridgie, that was in 1986. You going to hold that against me forever?
I loved you.
I still love you but I'm not leaving Ben for anybody. Not you, not Jake and not Batman either.
I think Batman's chance expired years ago.
I do love you, Loch.
I know, Bridget. I love you too.
So stop being a fuckhead, please. You guys are impossible.
I think that was the end of the discussion. I remember seeing Ben's face and I remember telling him I loved him more and holy the house was warm inside and I don't feel so hot and he got me undressed and into the sheets and bam. Lights out.
But I keep my appointments because precisely at five before the sun even thinks about coming up I woke Ben and left Lochlan sleeping. I stretched my aching legs and we dressed quietly in darkness and went to see Jake. Because Jacob had asked for Ben. Because I go no matter what.
Princess, you look tired.
I didn't sleep. I used the Jack Daniels equivalent.
Something moved to my left and I looked and Lochlan was sitting with his back to the wall just inside the door.
What are you doing here?
Bridget, I've known you your whole life. I know where you keep them.
How did you beat us here?
I don't walk as slowly.
Is this your concern?
Lochlan needs to hear this too. You both need to let Bridget lead because she's drowning in the crap you guys are throwing around. Did you notice she doesn't sleep? You fight over her twenty four hours a day and then you both give up to punish yourselves and she's the one who pays. Meanwhile, Caleb has become a refuge and no one even sees that. It has to stop.
They all looked at me. I looked from one face to another. Faces I know. Faces I love so much it's unbelievable.
What do you want, princess?
Ben, asking kindly in the way that he does because he's not above pointing out that he's going to put me first, and he probably does more than anyone else. To the point of overbearing claustrophobia and then he'll vanish in a fit of self-doubt. He permissions himself so strictly with me instead of letting himself be free to love me without guilt or second-guesses or a sense of entitlement. I wish he could do that with everything else, and not with me, but this isn't how Ben is designed, and he has to be told sometimes.
Lochlan has to be told things too. Since he doesn't listen to me.
Lochlan, can you do this?
If you mean can I be there for Bridget when Ben is away, preacher, I can.
Without pressuring her, without expectations? She isn't going to have a magical change of heart.
I laughed. It was nerves, or maybe I was still drunk. You don't describe things as 'magical' to Lochlan or you'll lose him completely. He deals in black and white.
I know, preacher. I've come to realize that things are different now. Bridget and Ben, well, they just work together. I'm not going to fuck with that. I love them both too much.
Ben reached over and squeezed my hand.
Then keep her safe and happy. Because she's come to me in tears every day for a long time now and I'm tired of being blamed for it.
And I woke up with a start.
Ben was flat on his back and I was wedged against him, my forehead against his elbow. Lochlan's arm wrapped around my shoulder. Unbelievable heat and I'm about to vomit and I didn't understand how Jacob could stand there with his wings and have a long parental conversation with the three of us so pedestrian-like. It was a sour-mash dream probably brought on by the stress and the fear and the fever and the arguments and it was odd to frame the resolution to a long-running upset in that light at all but I did it for a reason.
I was sick and while I was sick Ben woke up and he came and stood just outside the doorway. He would not hold my hair or he would probably throw up all over me because he's skittish about things like barf and cat poo and it's okay because he's fine with blood and he's great with zombies. Choosers can't be beggars and I can deal with the former if he can handle the latter.
I ignored him and went straight for the toothpaste and aspirin and then when I felt human again I asked him why he was up.
In case you needed me.
He put his arms out and I went straight into them. Because we work together. And we do not work apart.
Watching you lay into Lochlan at dinner last night was the best entertainment I've had in a long time, princess.
Careful or you'll be next, Benny.
No, see, I was smart. I gave you all my shit up front so any behavior I exhibit is an improvement over what you're used to. Lochlan isn't as bright as he looks, I guess.
I laughed. In spite of myself I laughed and then I went and threw up again. Oh my God, hungover. This time, Ben held my hair.
For brownie points, he said.
I awarded him seven million and twelve.