He held the bottle out slowly until it was resting against my bottom lip, his eyebrows raising in a silent question, offering me Stoli. Stoli at one o'clock in the afternoon.
I shook my head. He frowned and took a swig from the bottle without taking his eyes off me before resuming pointing it at me like a glass finger of accusation.
You're so uptight. You need to relax.
Drinking in the middle of the day isn't going to do that for me, Lochlan.
The kids are with Caleb, you can do whatever you want. He's baiting me now and I'm not biting.
I don't need that. You don't need it either.
Maybe it helps me cope. It's this or I throttle your little neck and go crazy wanting you at the same time. So instead I drink. Your husband does too, only too bad, he can't control how much. Sucks to be big Ben, I guess.
Stop it, Lochlan.
He put his hand to my face.
You write what you feel, Bridge. And it makes me fucking sad. Sad that I can't be who you want me to be. I never did enough. Never sought retribution. Never got rid of him. I know. I did everything wrong. I didn't protect you and I have paid for that my whole life. I took you when you were still a child and made you worry about things no child should have to worry about. I was selfish and now I don't get to have what I want ever again. Just rewards, hey? Karma for the guy who could have had everything if he had waited for it to be given to him, instead of taking it. And you call Caleb the self-gratifying one. Jesus.
He took another drink. I'm watching the bubbles rise to the bottom of the bottle and thinking he's going to finish it. He looks at me and puts it down, screwing the top back on, putting it up in the cupboard.
I'm staring off into space, fighting to escape from his confessions. It makes me so uncomfortable when he isn't perfect. Like everything is lost and we're doomed. If Lochlan can't deal with something, no one's going to be able to.
Two and a half years, Bridge. You don't love him the same way. I know that. I can see that. Just stop this. The longer it goes on the more you're going to hurt him anyway.
Escape isn't handy, this is going to happen the hard way.
Go tell your brother you're trying to undermine your joint investment.
He's not my brother, he's the only thing standing in my way.
I said nothing more. I'm standing there mentally drained. Lochlan is waiting for me to dissolve this marriage because I am rightfully his.
First come, first served. Finders, keepers.
Ben isn't standing in your way, Lochlan, I am. It comes out in a rush and I begin to cry because God, this is so fucking stressful and I feel torn apart twenty-four hours a day and they pretend it isn't happening and hardly speak sometimes and then other times I feel like an experiment that they are watching for progress, or maybe watching for failure, united against me. This sucks. This really fucking sucks.
End it then. Choose.
Don't even go there, Lochlan. Don't become a martyr like Jake.
I'm stronger than he was. I've been looking after you since you were afraid of the dark.
The dark back then was nothing compared to the dark now, Loch.
I know, baby. I can deal with it.
Someone needs to protect her from you. I go to the cupboard and get the bottle back out, unscrew the top, fumbling, the cap drops and rolls away under the counter. I take a long drink too. It burns like hell and then it doesn't burn anymore at all.
Protect her? Who?
That was a lifetime ago.
I am well aware of that.
Then stop it.
He grabbed the bottle back from me and took another long swallow. He got right down in my face and pushed the bottle at my hands and waited to speak until we were eye to eye and I would look at him.
Leave him and I will.
I took the bottle and left, reeling. Not paying attention. Smashed right into Ben on the way down the hall and dropped the bottle between us on the floor. Vodka and glass smashed against our legs and the walls and all over the floor. He orders me not to move, since I am barefoot. I wait while he heads to the kitchen to get something to clean up the mess.
When he comes back I am sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor, holding all of the glass in my hands, blood dripping between my fingers as I clutch the pieces tightly, blood landing on the floor in circles, dots that mark the places on the map of my life, to show where I have been.
I pack the glass into my left hand, holding it tightly, it is piled high and pieces keep sliding off. With my right hand I connect all of the dots. Ben drops the broom and the dust pan and reaches out, squeezing my elbow which makes me drop the glass and I swear at him as he lifts me out of the circle of sparkling carnage that I have created. I put my arms around his neck and look over his shoulder at my handiwork.
I hope they leave the broken heart that I drew to connect the dots. That was something I really didn't expect.