But just tonight I won’t leaveBatman was thoroughly amused when I ducked into this little hole-in-the-wall exclusive grocery market on our shopping trip.
I’ll lie and you’ll believe
Just tonight I will see
It’s all because of me
I held the can high when I came out. Cranberry jelly at last! We'll need a little bit, just a taste, with turkey or it isn't Christmas. And I've been looking everywhere. Sadly it didn't fit in my handbag, so he had to carry it until we bought something else and could put it in a bag. He looked ridiculous contemplating the Breitlings holding a can of preserves. Or at least the clerk thought so.
(We didn't buy any watches.)
Batman flew up to see what was going on with Caleb and also to help me shop for Ben, which I'm not going to say much about because Ben will read it. So we walked and shopped and talked and he prodded and poked my brain and asked his ridiculously blunt questions. I'm used to it, he talks a lot like Lochlan most of the time, there is never any attempt made at grace or tact, the questions are shot at me like bullets and my armor deflects all but the biggest one. That one goes right between the eyes.
I don't know.
He paused and looked back at me, shaking his head. I am never less than one hundred percent honest with him. I don't ask him to call. I don't invite him to visit, I don't ask for or need the annual envelope that assures him of my discretion, as if I would give him anything less, and I have no need for his influence. He gives it freely. He cares. We're become friends.
Maybe you can find out.
He doesn't talk to me about the right things.
He picked up a sterling silver bauble and frowned at it, showing me. I nodded and said he should take it home. To his family. He bought it for his Christmas tree while I picked up reflective ornaments and studied the girl in the concrete room. He startled me out of my examination with a hand on the small of my back and I jumped a hundred feet into the air, catching my coat on a sharp cloud, hanging by a thread before dropping gently back to the ground, falling in step with him as he hurried down the sidewalk with purpose.
Bridget. I can end this. Is that what you want?
I had lost track of what he was talking about. End our visits? End Christmas shopping? End impromptu brunches at overpriced restaurants?
Caleb playing these fucking mind games with you. You want it to stop, you say so.
I choked on my breath in the middle of the sidewalk, stopping only to be jostled by people trying to pass. Batman grabbed my elbow and pulled me out of the traffic.
Look, if you want it to stop, I can do that, but you can't play games either. You can't spend time with him. Only Henry can. You won't work for him anymore. You won't be ruled or punished by him but you can't want him either.
He isn't Cole. He will never be Cole and that's a damn good thing because one monster in your life is enough and Caleb tries but he falls short. Only he seems to keep you coming back. So I'm going to give you a little time to think about this and I'll contact you when I come back up in a few weeks. Either you cut him out of your life as much as possible under the circumstances or you admit that you're playing his game and we stop worrying about you where he is concerned. Does that work?
Yes. I am nodding slowly. I am twelve and overwhelmed with information and I just want the talking to stop. I want the concern to stay. I want everything and I don't want to feel guilty for it. But then I see myself in the shop window and I am not twelve. I'm in my thirties and I have a brain and a nice coat and expensive shoes and men are stopping to stare at me on the sidewalk and I'm giving my power away to someone who's taking this for granted and he can't control me anymore because I'm NOT TWELVE.
But my voice betrays me, just like it always does. Heart, in pieces, ruling over mind. I become twelve when I can no longer process horror, hunger or true love.
Batman has just become the babysitter. He sees this in my eyes, and he takes my hand and leads me back to the car.
Just under three weeks, Bridget. Let's meet again then and see how things are. At New Years.
You're going to have a terrific holiday, Bridget. I can feel it.
I nod again and he stops trying. It's too late. This girl is gone in a blur of cranberries and adjuration.