Monday, 31 December 2012

Point Perdition.

Finally, our peninsula/headland has a name. No one likes it. I think it's fucking perfect. The big gates have been moved up to the top of the road and now it's all mine.

I'm supposed to write my resolutions now but instead I'm foggy, down and out from these stupid allergy pills that I have to take or my skin becomes a sea of hives and crawls right off my bones, shrieking as it slides across the floor and down into the heating vents. I'm at the point in winter in which I can no longer tolerate fabric softener, shower gel or perfume or in some moments plain old air.

At least it isn't exacerbated by incredibly dry Prairie air though. So I still win, right? Sadly my body shuns my native damp seaside air too, no worries. There will be no winners today, we've called a draw.

Shriek. Shriek. Shriek. It's silent but I feel the screams. 

And Lochlan has put Wish You Were Here on repeat to soothe my brain at least, if my body is unwilling to unclench. It's the unintentional lullaby he chose for me when I was too young to appreciate it. It has changed for me over the decades, from not even knowing what the heck David Gilmour meant as he sang to knowing all too well.
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
It's still more of a comfort than most things, same as Lochlan is.

I will still end 2012 with no apologies. And I do have a handful of resolutions. The usual ones to eat better, but eat more pizza. Read more but read less online. Take better care of myself. Allow for more downtime. Draw more cartoons and draw less life. Drink more tea and less...erm..Everclear (BLAME MATTHEW). Wear the hearing aids to wring every last note and every breath out of all these songs and always, above everything, keep close to my boys. Get more Ben-time, somehow. Forgive my redhead when I said I have but then I act like I haven't. Be a better human.

I can do these things.

Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for reading. I'll be back next year, or tomorrow, as it were.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Low maintenance.

I spent today eating wasabi-flavoured edamame beans. Every sixth one was a nostril-burning, oxygen-gasping event that would cause me to vow to never eat another one again but then I would reach back into the bag for another handful to crunch on while I read.

I'm reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

It's been on my bedside table for several years now so I thought, what the heck?

I'm into it, and I'm alternately stunned by the beauty of his words in places and prepared to stab myself in the eyes with a fork for how stilted, bleak and forceful it is.

I also painted my nails a lovely shade of medium slate blue and then for fun I added a few coats of this silver glitter polish with huge flakes. I love it. Caleb's going to hate it because it isn't tasteful or age-appropriate. Lochlan will hate it because it's makeup, period and he can't tolerate any of it even though I have persisted with the lipgloss for thirty years now. Ben might not notice, but if he does notice he might try to eat it off my fingers.

Maybe he'll think they are blue edamame beans. Sparkly ones. My nails look like radioactive jellybeans.

Caleb is planning a small soiree on the boat tomorrow night, headaches be damned, a proper host to the bitter end of the year. He's invited the occupants of the point (AKA both households), plus Matt, Sam, Keith and...oh my fu...BATMAN down for an early dinner and drinks and some music to kick off the night, maybe a few sparklers at midnight and then we'll begin 2013.

I hope.

I still have to write my resolutions. I still think it's too cold to hang out on a boat at this time of year and I'm pretty sure this nail polish clashes quite mightily with my Valentino dress that I save for this time of year and haven't worn yet because as I told you already, I've decided that living in my Hello Kitty pajamas is the shit, but only during the day.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Currents.

Very happy today to be reminded that I live in a country that has had same-sex marriage laws in place for almost a full decade already and watching as the same rights are passed into law by popular vote (!) in another handful of states in the US today. Slow and steady, guys, keep up that march toward equality for all.

And DAMN, you should have seen the little look that passed between Sam and Matt (over for early weekend breakfast) as Dalton read aloud from the paper this morning about this subject.

But for the record! And I know the answer to this one! Sam cannot officiate at his own wedding. Should Matt propose, that is.

I know this because I married Sam's mentor once, a minister just like him. At one point Jake thought he could marry us because he couldn't find any paperwork to the contrary and finally had to make some calls to get an answer.

I don't know if you knew Jake but he left around five hundred letters for me to find after the fact but he certainly wasn't all that good about having anything important in order. I still don't have everything of his sorted out and I'm finally at a place where I can speak of his shortcomings without wanting to hurt everything in sight. Let's face it. He was a lot like Sam. Paper EVERYWHERE.Thank heavens Sam seems more organized with his personal life.

For the record, Sam is sure I still don't have all of the letters Jake wrote to me.

Ow.

And for the record Sam and Matt are still not living together. I think Sam could possibly be the runaway bride, his feet are so cold all the time. He's terrified of commitment.

I show him commitment. Commitment is a death certificate that you carry in your wallet because things keep coming up. Commitment is a day carved in bronze on a plaque bolted to the rocks, worn shiny by the salt and constant battering of the sea. Commitment is dreaming about Jacob's touch and waking up and saying nothing but vowing to never sleep again because it's frightening how bad I want to feel that touch again. Commitment is choosing to put your trust in someone again when you trust nothing, not even the nose on the end of your face, to still be there when you wake up from those dreams.

So stop stalling and fucking jump already, Sam. It's been over a year now since you started dating Matt exclusively. You once told me I could be happy. It would not be the same but it might be just as wonderful and I'm telling you that right back: Matt is a Good Human. It's okay.

Jump.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Coffee beans and pitchforks. Just another day on the point. Oh my God. Come back when I'm awake.

(Never give a girl a keyboard outlet when she's still in dreamland.)

Tomorrow will have forty-six seconds more of daylight than today, if you're interested.

That's how he taught me to measure seasons. The amount of daylight left. Daylight featured an abrupt shift in how games were called and how marks were targeted. In the dark all bets were off. In the dark we were different people.

Who isn't?

Wait. Should I name names here?

Lochlan is not working today as self-scheduled. He's pretending to be sick because he's irritated that I once again called out his inherent lack of empathy for my emotional well-being, or whatever the hell he called it. I don't remember, it was before coffee. You see, life is cognitively divided into Before Coffee and After Breakfast. If you talk to me BC you will be treated to confused, sleepy looks and tiny noncommittal grunts. Talk to me AB and...you'll probably get the same thing so nevermind, I forgot where I was going with this.

Anyway! He is home so that he can follow me around all day, harping on my insensitivities to his efforts, and because he seriously needs to blow off some steam because yesterday almost did him in, being kind to the Devil while the Devil tries to dance around him to stick his pitchfork in Lochlan's back. Metaphorically speaking anyway. Lochlan's like that. He will save his worst enemies and then spend the rest of his life plotting to ruin them.

The difference is Lochlan only plots. The Devil carries things out.

So there you go.

Doer versus Dreamer, I guess.

Still have no idea where I was going with this. Bear with me! I'll figure it out eventually. Maybe after more coffee.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Someday I'll share all the codes with you.

I secretly think that Caleb's short, quiet bursts of pure evil are responsible for his now-debilitating headaches.

Very early yesterday he 911'd himself on us (he didn't call 911, the emergency service, he called us with a code that we use amongst the group for various things. An SMS shorthand known only to the collective. In this case it was for help.) and then asked me for a raincheck*, which I gladly gave, seeing as how he was down for the count from the time he woke up until late into the end of the afternoon.

Today I'm just happy he is feeling better and today we actually had to work, though it was greatly reduced thanks to his continued need to rest and look after himself. He isn't the rabid CFO he was in the early two-thousands, clawing his way through hundred-hour work weeks, keeping his toothbrush in the office, loathe to waste a minute in which he could be making money instead of spending it.

I'm not actually sure where the balance tips back to reasonable favor but I'm guessing it's now. He just can't work all the time, not anymore but he tries to. Caleb will never be accused of giving less than 500% when only 75% is ever required.

Due to my fears of a repeat of this incident, Lochlan took the lion's share of Caleb's care throughout the day yesterday, oddly great at illness triage where he fails so stupendously at the injurious or emotional types. Practice makes perfect, I guess and by the time I returned with Henry and Ruth to say a quick hello and thank Caleb again for their presents, Loch was reading aloud to Caleb, who was interjecting with some anecdote or another and they both laughed, quite gently. The children walked in and did double-takes and then threw themselves on their dads before I could remind Henry (easily the size of me) to take it easy. That his father wasn't feeling well.

You would never have known he was sick while Henry was present.

In any case, we were royally spoiled this Christmas. I am busy tonight taking down everything (with lots of help I might add) save for the tree itself and the outside lights. Both can remain up another week or so. Maybe less for the tree but forever for the lights because I like them. They remind me that in between those practiced bursts of evil and the inevitable catastophes, calamities and chaos, things can be calm and peaceful, downright wonderful even. We had a good Christmas, all things considered. I hope you did too.

(* There won't actually be a raincheck shopping date. There were other gifts I did not share here that he squeezed in around the edges when I wasn't looking. Mystery deposits and things done around the house that were on a list that I never thought would be complete (thanks to Ben's own workaholic tendencies) and things are falling into place now with a few well-placed phonecalls. Things that help me and help all of us, frankly. Much better than a pretty pen, I think.)

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Psychic circus.

The box was empty.

I look up at him, slightly confused.

Your wishes were to put any funds I had allocated for a Christmas gift for you in Henry's University account. I followed your directives to the letter. I want to know what to do next. He says this with his maddeningly handsome, bemused smile fixed in place.

Then why the box? Why the ribbon?

Because I wanted to confirm that you only said that to be difficult, and that secretly you hoped for something anyway. Maybe earrings or a pen or....a diamond ring?

A pen..I had hoped for the pen. 

The pink one we looked at? I'll buy it for you tomorrow then.

No...I stammer. I don't want you to buy it. I just think you didn't need to do this, with a box and everything. I got the car service and-

What would you have done if there had been a ring in the box?

Nothing. You can't give me a ring. 

I can do whatever I damn well please and we both know it. You'll have your pen before lunchtime tomorrow, or perhaps if you wish we can make use of your actual present and be driven downtown to make it a shopping and lunch date. Do you think Cartier does Boxing Day sales?

I shake my head.

He walks over to the door and opens it, waiting. Thank you for a wonderful day. I'm just glad I still know you better than you think I do. 

I walk to the door. I can buy my own pen. It's just-

-not the same. Yes, I understand that quite well. He smiles and softens, becoming so quiet it hurts to listen. Merry Christmas Babydoll. Neamhchiontach. 

I knit my brows in confusion and follow his lead, right out his front door. Merry Christmas, Diabhal.

 See you at ten sharp. We'll get an early start on our bargain hunting. 

I put the box in his hand, ribbon and all and walk out into the rainy Christmas night. I feel humilated, caught redhanded. I feel childish and I feel tricked into making Boxing Day a day spent with him now. I feel unprepared and sometimes I wish I could read his mind as easily as he reads mine.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Exchange or credit only (let me tell you something, baby).

You don’t know how hard I fought to survive
Waking up alone when I was left to die
You don’t know about this life I’ve led
All these roads I’ve walked
All these tears I’ve bled
By the size of the box I assumed he finally caved in and bought me the Diabolo (hahahah) pink lacquer pen I have been lusting after for the past several weeks.

I couldn't have been more wrong. I suppose remaining on my own guard would have been wise but he's so good at this, you see. We don't stand a chance.

I walked him home tonight since he said my present was on his desk. I was so proud that everyone behaved. So proud that he got a little bit buzzy but had cut himself off, asking permission to make tea for himself and the other tea-drinkers since he wanted to restore his sobriety before the evening's end. He's not supposed to drink, thanks to his merry-go-round of prescriptions right now and when I reminded him of this he gazed at me and told me I was right.

No one flipped any tables, shoved anyone else into the Christmas tree or left the room in man-tears (which is when you leave the room, punctuating it by punching the wall or doorframe on your way out but also fight back tears squeezed out by rage and the fact that you may have broken your hand with that punch because fuuuuuck it hurts so bad).

I know all their tricks. Wish I knew all of his.

Caleb gives me a neat foil-wrapped package and inside is one of those delightful red leather boxes with the gold trim, tied with a red and white Cartier-branded ribbon.

My brain starts thinking Pen! Pen! Pen! while he stands there wearing a dangerous smile, ducking his head down slightly, his thumb and index finger under his mouth as if he was about to laugh when he shouldn't be laughing. I pulled the bow with a flourish and started to talk as I opened the box.

This will be great to use every day when I'm...oh my God.

It was not a pen.
 

Monday, 24 December 2012

An early Christmas gift.

The ultimatums began shortly after school started in the fall.

Wear your hearing aids, Bridget.

No. Not to be rude, but I really don't like them. They amplify my heartbeat, your fingerprints and the guy fifteen blocks down swearing under his breath at a broken photocopier. I can hear people's ideas, regrets and deepest longings when I wear them. I hear grass grow. I hear the stars clinking off, one by one by two.

They're exhausting. They're startling. They're just plain stupid. They cost two thousand dollars apiece and they're worthless hunks of utter shit. They've been adjusted, changed, swapped out, serviced, and tested.

But it's not them, it's me.

So I haven't really worn them much past the six week window I promised the boys earlier this year. I wore them all the time and at the end of forty-five days I slid my back down the wall in the corner with a big bottle of vodka in my hands, my nerves shattered to bits and I swore to myself I would never wear them again. I've learned to deal with what is missing in other ways. I feel. I see. I taste. But mostly I just feel, as you well know already.

And now I fill my ears with so much music that enough might get through so that I am okay with it all. It's not that hard to cope when you've been doing it this long, so no sympathy is required. It's very matter-of-fact to me and as long as everyone doesn't talk at once I'm okay with that.

Except that a couple weeks ago I was driving Lochlan's truck and I missed a siren, not knowing there was an ambulance there until the last possible moment. I got out of the way but I like a little more notice than that. I owned up to it, when asked how my day went. I promised to turn the music down when I drive alone. I promised to pay better attention/get more sleep/be careful but this day was sort of very long in the making, especially here, where every trip is a dark rainy night on a high-speed highway, and that's just to buy milk.

But instead of revoking my driving privileges, this morning I was given a present of sorts.

Caleb's driver, Mike. On call for me now as his primary charge.

Because Caleb likes to be independent here, driving himself virtually everywhere. Mike is on retainer and bored out of his skull. Caleb wants him to have work to do and everyone wants me to be safe and not constantly stressing over driving and hearing or the lack thereof.

And privately I was pulled aside and told I would have to get over whatever creepy stalkerish impressions I have had of Mike up until now, that he is a consummate professional who is just doing his job. That job at one point being spying on me at close range for the Devil who used to be so terribly misguided and now is just simply terrible and misguided and I am no longer spied upon, though I fully understand the ramifications of enlisting someone who reports to Satan himself.

I am not permitted to use the word goonage anymore either, Caleb told me.

I guess I simply bring out the visceral side in everyone, my mere presence being enough for them to somehow feel safe enough to unload all of their deepest darkest secrets, fears and wants on me. To do things they wouldn't normally do and say things they wouldn't dream of saying to anyone else. I'm not sure why that happens but it does, and I'd like to turn it off.

Maybe in a few years time Mike can listen to music on my behalf and tell me I really liked that song, or something.  

In the interim, I have a number I call when I want to go out and Mike will be idling out front in fifteen minutes or less to take me wherever I want, and that goes for taking the children to school or running errands for me. As in, I don't have to do it, he will do it for me. I was assured it's part of the job, that he is already paid handsomely and enjoys his job, there just hasn't been enough for him to do since we moved here. Caleb hopes that will change, that this will be helpful to me and better for Mike.

Helpful doesn't begin to cover what it is. It's positively decadent, something reserved for film and music stars and people..well, people like Caleb. People who are important.

Not me. I'm not important. I'm just a girl from a town so small there wasn't even a wrong side of the tracks because there were no tracks. Just ocean, as far as the eye could see. That girl never thought she'd see the day where she had a permanent driver assigned to her. I'm not sure where I should go first but I'm guessing it should be somewhere pretty significant.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Lists.

(Right now it feels as if each moment contains a secondary pause in which to second-guess or simply take note.)

I watched as Ben reached out and very tenderly pressed his hand to Lochlan's head. Ben's abrupt peacefulness makes him patient and loving and sweet. His eyes linger over me, over Loch and he bends down and kisses my forehead slowly and then for good measure he kisses the top of Lochlan's head too. Slow days give them a chance to find their places on the same page, it gives Ben a chance to practice his tenderness, it gives him time to show us who he is instead of who we think he is. The picture we hold in our hands is not the same as the one in our heads. He is generous, open, and loves to be silly, his wounded brown eyes softened by his oversized goofy grins.

Lochlan sheds his false outsider confidence, opening up once he feels safe enough to do so. I watch as he smiles softly towards Ben's touch before dropping his eyes to me. He has settled back into his leadership role within our collective, common sense and comfort coming first, a well-oiled machine of a man who allows for whimsy and honest effort equally, simultaneously. He has an enormous capacity for navigating this unconventional life, expending as much affection to Ben as he has to me in the past while. His arms keep this together. His endless, flexible embrace draws in and out with the moon, a tide on which we float, the compass by which this house finds its bearings.

I watched the unequivocal joy in Sam's eyes as he pressed his hand on my shoulder,  praying spontaneously for me in the sanctuary as I brought him the cookies he adores but won't request. I told him I already received the best gift anyone could ask for. My children are happy, healthy and both have living fathers. I want for nothing else. Sam's enthusiastic bliss is contagious, bubbling over onto everything and everyone, his mouth perpetually stretched into smiles that remain endless. His mood will carry all of us, I hope, straight through until daylight. Just as soon as he has finished all the cookies.

I see the battle for composed control in Caleb's face as I present to him early, cleaned and brushed and shining, a generous, pretty smile fixed in place. It's my own effort to step out of our endless past and into the present to invite him to spend Christmas day at the house. That he will not be under any microscopes, that all of the boys from the other house will be around and Henry wants Caleb there. I don't want Caleb to be alone, and frankly the only way this whole bucolic, utopian creation is going to fly is if we all work a lot harder to get along than we have. Please come, I whispered and I watched as he tried and failed to keep tears at bay and finally resorted to nodding vigorously before breaking into a a huge shaking grin of pure relief. He puts his arms out and I hesitate just briefly before throwing myself into them. I'll make things easier, he promises my hair. I pull back. Good, I tell him and head back over to remain on my side of the new line, drawn in the rain on the pavement in faint chalk.

I see the uncertainty in August, as I knock softly on his door and after a short while he finally opens it and I can see that he has been sleeping, again. In the middle of the day for no reason. I ask him if he is feeling okay and remind him that we are getting ready to head out to dinner and that I hope he is still up for it. He catches my diplomacy and chooses to blow it wide open, telling me he knows he's been useless lately and he's going to try and participate more. I let him off the hook anyway by telling him I'm so excited he's coming with us. That I want to see his face more and he frowns because he knows he's such a ringer for a ghost of Christmas past and I shake my head. No, I miss YOU. You aren't around much and I feel like one arm is missing when that happens. He smiles with glassy eyes and shoos me out so he can change.

I see need in Daniel, who finds this time of year so incredibly difficult and makes his hugs twice as hard and conversations four times longer just to avoid being alone with his feelings. I see him fighting harder than I usually do to keep a relaxed and completely contrived Christmas cheer going at full speed until Schuyler pulls him in and without speaking lets him know that he is here. No matter what. I see the way they talk without saying much and sometimes get no more than five feet away from each other in a day, looking for each other the moment they let go.

I see the steady strength in Duncan, who is relaxed and aware of everything in a way no one else ever truly is, bringing up the back behind Lochlan's charge, content to sip coffee, write his poetry and encourage the rest of us almost unconsciously to glory in our new and old traditions alike. He is uncannily tuned in while seemingly perpetually tuned out, missing nothing from within his own head, content to spend hours by the fire, pen in hand, absorbing and neutralizing the moods of an entire household. He's the charcoal filter for our fishtank souls.

I see the sporadic rise and fall of Padraig's chest as he sleeps, a little more easily every day as we get further out from the worst days of my life and the youngest ages of my children. For a while I wonder if he didn't sleep as little as I tend to, his tired eyes betraying a patience he wore like a shield sometimes just to muddle through. He jolts suddenly, startling both of us but doesn't awaken. I reach out and hold his hand and he settles quickly, holding my fingers firmly, a little boy with big boots and a beard needing comfort from his dreams. I wait patiently until his breathing changes, and as PJ shifts position again he releases my hand. Only then do I move.

They will all tell you that my emotions rule this house, the barometer by which each day is played and spent in turn but I think their unique, beautiful hearts are what show us the way, points on the map that shows my own soul the path home.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Forgot what he looks like in the daylight.

I woke up this morning to find Ben's head between my thighs. I could think of worse ways to begin a day, frankly, and after a brief struggle in which I implored him to investigate for himself precisely how much stubble burns sensitive skin, I gave in, or rather, he continued to hold me down sufficiently to accomplish his purpose.

Nothing better than a man with a purpose.

(Snort.)

I actually had something like five purposes before he let me up again and then he surprised me with the news that he's home until hopefully Wednesday, and that if he has his way we'll spend Christmas just. like. this.

Santa always gives me exactly what I ask him for.

Two hours later Ben went out to pick up the toffee syrup I put in my coffee that I love so much and usually deny myself, all of the mail that's been piling up at the miniature post office that he has to duck to stand inside, and some bakery-baked cake, because Lochlan ate that piece the other day and I'm still surprised it wasn't poisoned or cursed or somehow hexed.

Ben is home again and has made another pot of coffee, warmed up some cake, hit the button on the wall to start the fire and and grabbed the blanket from the library. He's made a nest for us in the living room on the couch and I'm not leaving it until he leaves it first so if you need me I'll be right here.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Winter (picking sides).

Yes, I realize that for the first time not one but two self-made millionaires have told me to leave their presence quite harshly in the past several months. Through no fault of my own. Therefore, both came crawling back.

Case in point, Batman arriving unannounced late last evening which meant he was treated to my Hello Kitty pajamas which I put on while I brush my teeth, check the kids, boys, pets, windows and door locks and then rip off before getting into bed because the human torch and the cryogenic cowboy function as full-service climate controls.

But I digress, because Batman caved (we're taking turns), just a little over a week shy of when he said he would officially contact me in person again. Not like I care, I've been accused of minimizing Caleb's aggression on Thursday by you readers and my boys alike. Lochlan said his hands are tied and the others are attempting to teach him the difference between serious and non-serious because we appear to become upset over the wrong events while the major Oh-my-fucks sort of slip under the wire and go running across the field in the dark yelling homefree!

Oh yes they do. This is my story so I get to tell it any way I please.

Batman brought a bottle of Dom. He wanted an early toast to Christmas and then became frustrated instantly, telling me he couldn't have a serious conversation with a girl in cartoon cat pajamas.

So I deadpanned, asking him if naked worked better.

Definitely, he quipped.

Well, forget it, I reminded him. 'Tis the season for disenfranchising the Princess and all that, I told him and he frowned.

I still have a huge stake in your life here, Bridget.

No, the boys work for you or for people who are owned by you. That has little to do with me.

I only do this because of you.

Then that will be your downfall.

On the contrary. It makes for quite a drive to succeed. A necessity, as it were.

I don't need anything from you.

He does. He needs the checks. The supervision, the reminder that he is being watched.

I don't need him either.

God. Your comic cat outfit makes you downright fearless.

It's Hello Kitty. Japanese phenomenon? Pop culture icon? Jesus, Batman. Open your eyes.

You want to go to Japan? I'll take you. You'd love it-

No, I don't want to go anywhere except to bed.

He smiled and said nothing.

Oh my God. I give up. You hate my guts but you're here offering me trips and seduction. I think I'm going to go upstairs now. I'll find someone to see you out.

I can see myself out, Bridget, I just needed...to see for myself.

To see what?

That you were okay. Too many brushes with the Devil lately for my comfort.

Well then you'll be pleased to know I haven't been striving for your comfort.

Where is Ben?

You should know.

Oh, you're angry with me because of the workload? Idle hands, Bridget. You know what they are.

I also know the shenanigans of someone who uses corporate grindstones to isolate, divide and ruin, Batman.

I'm not that kind of boss, Bridget.

Like hell you aren't.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sedation by chocolate.

Stop, tell me where you going
Maybe the one you love isn't there
This morning I was called out for my recklessness in following Caleb into what I knew to be a shitstorm when no one else saw it coming. I did absolutely nothing to protect myself from him and that is now a cardinal sin, where so many things aren't, and gosh, it's really hard to continue to be childish while still being able to parse all of the assumption and innuendo that flies through the air out here on the windy, isolated point by the sea. It's like this is our planet, and we're cut off from the rest of the solar system, forced to depend on each other, and maybe failing.

Lochlan is trying so hard to be hands-off. That's what Ben has asked for. Hands off. No fighting. Let Bridget figure out her own shit and unless things are dire, don't run in to fix a damn thing for her.

Because to Ben, I am my actual age. To Lochlan I am forever twelve years old. Forever.

And ever.

And ever.

Sigh.

The doorbell rang just before lunch and there is Lucifer standing in the rain with one of his good plates, and on said plate is a piece of cake. Warm cake, for I can see the steam rising from the top.

Oh, well, hello there, Dream Come True. 

It's a peace offering, but damn, you know how to make a monster feel good. 

Lochlan appears over my head and asks Caleb if he thinks dessert can smooth this over. Caleb's face falls. Of course not, rat. This is just the beginning. 

Lochlan tries to get around me so I grab the doorframe to buy Caleb time to at least put my cake down so it doesn't become a casualty. I holler for PJ because no way are they continuing this today.

Caleb, thinking fast for once, passes the cake over my head to Lochlan and tells him maybe he needs it more than I do. Lochlan, to his credit, takes the plate so that it doesn't fall and land on my skull.

I don't think so, I protest and jump for it. Lochlan keeps it up high. Bastard.  

I really really want to flatten this motherfucker, peanut, he whispers and I see the control fights from all sides suddenly. We're either really good or we're really fucking damaged now.

Then Caleb says again that he's sorry and he turns and goes back across the driveway. I watch him and when I turn back around Lochlan has eaten the cake.

All of it.

What the fuck.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A very messy execution.

They barely survived the Christmas concert, choosing to drop an almost-altercation right between Little Drummer Boy and Jingle Bell Rock as sung by the grade two classes. PJ had a hand on Lochlan's shoulder. I think he was waiting for Loch to explode up out of his seat and tackle Caleb, who sat there looking smug and then when Henry's class came out and sang Caleb looked proud but gave me the briefest side-eye, since I sent Henry to school in a flannel shirt and jeans, same as ever, and most of the boys were dressed up.

Henry Jacob isn't comfortable dressed up and since it's grade fucking six, I'll make sure he's comfortable and everything else can follow afterward. To add insult to injury, Henry's stubborn cowlick was standing straight up, making him look like he fell out of bed and ran up the hill to school without even brushing his hair.

Afterward we went by the classroom to give our regards to the teachers and Henry ran up and hugged Loch and then told everyone this was his uncle (we left it alone) that can throw and swallow fire, that he came from...(dramatic pause)....the circus.

Oh, well, shit.

Caleb didn't react that I could see. He just exclaimed with the kids that it WAS cool and then we made a hasty exit. We walked back down to the house and then he told PJ that I needed to come work for a few hours and then when the kids were done school I'd be free. PJ, who is suddenly my mother, said that was okay while I protested that I had nothing to do and I thought I was done until New Years.

Caleb smiled patiently. Year end can't be done after the end of the year, Princess.

I rolled my eyes and followed him up to the boathouse. Lochlan walked the other way, jamming his hands into his pockets for the zippo lighter to flick, something to do, anything so that he wouldn't blow up at Caleb and get in trouble with everyone even though it isn't his fault by any means. Some jobs are just cooler than others.

And sorry but when you're eleven lawyers are boring.

I remind Caleb that I told him this myself when he started university when I was eleven.

I am smiling at the memory when he loses his fucking mind and pins me up against the wall. Which is exactly the sort of unpredictable violence that drove me to leave his brother.

How much time do you spend building Loch up to MY SON? He roared in my face.

I stare him down. I don't have to build him up and I don't play games when it comes to my children, Cole.

I called him by the wrong name on purpose so he would snap out of his rage.

Caleb lets go and I land on my feet. He grabs my shoulders and pushes me against the wall, pressing his forehead down against mine, closing his eyes. He starts to apologize and I tell him to save it, that I don't want to hear it, that maybe the judge should hear about it and maybe Caleb needs some human being classes because his demon is showing and he laughs and asks me when I'm going to give up calling him evil.

When you stop being this way! I squeal. My voice is hoarse from yelling back.

I think you'd better go. I don't feel as if I have any control right now, Bridget. He lets go abruptly. The last thing I want you to remember about me is something like this. Walk out now, okay? Go quickly, now, okay? 

I think I should stay and not leave you alone right-

GO BRIDGET! JUST GET OUT!

And he spun me around and gave me a shove toward the door. I tripped over my own feet and landed with my hands on the glass, still upright. I turned the knob and burst out into the night, gulping in lungfuls of air, wondering where he found all that sudden resolve and then remembering that he's trying to learn how to keep a promise. He succeeded.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Grounded (the good kind).

Henry's grade six Christmas concert is tomorrow. The school gave me two tickets. I went back and asked for at least twelve more and was summarily turned away due to space issues.

Eventually (today) the office scraped together two more for me.

So four tickets for myself, Caleb. PJ, our surrogate-everything who gets any child-related honor I can give him for what he does for us and one very busy stepfather who doesn't want to miss it but will have to due to time constraints.

That leaves one free ticket so Loch said he would go in Ben's place if we would have him. I asked him to check with Henry because this is Henry's show and he came back grinning a few minutes later.

That would be a yes.

Monday, 17 December 2012

(Love the living while they're still alive.)

We didn't spend our life together
and I will miss you forever

The choice was mine
To long for a time that will never come
Though we leave the world apart
I still went peacefully, quietly
with you still firmly in my heart

I will wait forever
I wait.
I call them fire and ice mornings.

When I wake up half-broiling and half-frozen, wedged into the middle of the Emperor bed with the big frame that I have come to love draping huge scarves over, yards of gossamer, translucent tulle in shades of flames and water. It's a fort, okay? Something that's impossible to build in a camper. And I always wanted one.

Lochlan's a thrasher. A hot-sleeping, blanket-stealing, dream-driven, night-enduring moonbeam when he sleeps. I have no doubt someday he's just going to up and burst into flames from the inside out. That will be the way he goes. I carry a big water bucket now everywhere I go. Just in case.

And Ben is a corpse who night after night scares the ever-loving fuck out of me. He's a vampire, his skin cooling, heartbeat slowing, not-moving-a-muscle, rigid nightmare-suffering blackout-dark nightcrawler soul dissolving into the early morning hours until you can no longer tell him apart from the skies. If it weren't for the sheer need to protect him from himself as he slumbers I might run screaming the other way.

***

I'm back in the creepy/spendy/famous grocery store, shopping amongst the only Glitterati who don't send their staff to buy groceries each week. I suppose it makes them feel human.

Me too.

Mondays will invariably find me standing fully perplexed in front of the cheese display. Because I don't understand. I don't understand what you do with most of this stuff and I don't understand why it costs so much.

(Here's where I should point out I pull the same face in front of the lightbulbs now, desperate to find the lightbulb that doesn't cost $27 a piece or have that stupid cold faint light that you can't read by).

And the Devil is still stalking me. Not sure why he doesn't shop any other day. And I don't bring him anymore because some times I just want to get something accomplished. If it's grocery shopping then that propagates into all other facets of life.

(Here's where I point out what I mean is PJ is cranky when he isn't fed regularly).

Caleb is standing beside me again while I hold this tiny seventy-dollar wheel of fancy cheese.

Good choice, he says.

What do you do with it?

Melt it in a little pot in the oven and then dip things in it. It's delicious.

I do that with Cheese Whiz.

Yes, I know. I had them stock the stuff in California so that we could have late-night cheese toast.

We didn't though.

We did not. Too bad, too. Should I get some today and we can have it at home?

No. Leave it here. I am impatient suddenly. Tired. Not in the mood to banter about products or dredge things up. And worse still is that I got caught this morning. My truancy from the place I'm supposed to be is glaringly obvious but this morning Lochlan said we needed things and we would go right away. I obeyed him because that's what I do. If Caleb dropped an order right now I'd obey that too. Because that's how they taught me to be. And that's how I am.

***

Lochlan wakes me out of a sound sleep.

You were talking.

I try to pull away from him but he has me pinned on my back. If sleeping is the only time I have with Jacob then Lochlan is interrupting my dreams and must be stopped.

Sorry. Find some earplugs. Let me sleep.

He stared at me in the dark as I lightly ran my fingers over his face feeling his features because I couldn't see them. He waited patiently and when I was finished I could feel his expression of resignation and helplessness and I closed my eyes again and returned to my dreams to finish the night in a place that wasn't hot or cold.

It was just right.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Dimachaerus.

John is all moved now. He seems relieved. He seems quite thrilled to be closer to Christian, in the house next door and a little further removed from PJ. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of love there. They're also two big lumberjacks who like their privacy so in order to reward both for their patience I bought them both sets of real towels.

The towels were not the hit of this little indulgence but the warming racks I got for their bathrooms were. And it has nothing to do with Christmas. I believe in housewarming presents too when people move because moving just sucks and warm towels are the fucking shit, you see. I used Caleb's black Visa card to buy everything. You didn't think I sent that back when I couriered his wallet back to him, do you? He has other cards. It's okay. I'll give it back eventually.

PJ is...struggling a little bit. As usual he has approached his newfound romantic interest with a little deception. He told her he rents a room in a big house. Which technically he does.

But.

But.

I'm just going to keep out of it. But you know? I'd probably drop the commune-bomb by the second date. Otherwise you're just not being honest and why wait until it's going to hurt to know where someone else stands on that whole subject. People are either for it or against it, from what I have seen. He's had ten official date-dates. It's time.

In other news, Caleb did come back early Friday, as anticipated. He wanted to know how I did it, how I got the key for the car without him noticing, how I went a week without touch when I could have had whatever I wanted. How I maintain such a distance from him sometimes and other times I'm so close I breathe the fires that hell maintains in anticipation of my place as the future bride of Satan.

Okay, so he didn't put it like that but still.

And yesterday when he and Lochlan got into it just a little too much Ruth stepped in, putting herself in between Caleb and her father.

(Please know we have shielded the children magnificently up until now, but they're aren't dumb. They're smarter than all of us put together).

She told them to knock it off and she told Caleb that he wasn't allowed to hurt her father. She told Lochlan that he shouldn't provoke her brother's father, because it upsets her brother and that is no longer allowed. She is thirteen years old and she has the bravery of a Gladiator and the heart of a poet and all she wants in this house is peace. She wants her mother to be happier and the fathers to work together and she would also, since we're on the subject, like it if Ben were around a little bit more.

I knew this day would come. What I didn't realize is how proud I would be of her when it happened.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Ascetic. Autodidact.

(baby)
I will be your father figure
(oh baby)
Put your tiny hand in mine
(I'd love to)
I will be your preacher teacher
(be your daddy)
Anything you have in mind
(It would make me)
I will be your father figure
(Very happy)
I have had enough of crime
(Please let me)
I will be the one who loves you until the end of time
It was when our eyes locked that he kissed me. Slower than molasses, hotter than the fire he throws as if it can't hurt him. He pushed himself back up with his arms, ducking his head down again for more kisses. He runs his thumb across my upper lip. He smiles softly, red curls covering his eyes.

Then he stands up, pulling me up with him, pushing me down to my knees, pulling me in again, my hair held fast in his fist as he looks down at me. I look up past the sinewy muscles under flushed skin and marvel in the wonder on his face. Sheer love written all over it, ownership, obsession.

You belong to me, he tells me as he looks down at me. And I nod, even as my knees begin to burn.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Okay so the devil is homeand allegy pills and martinis just dont mix. the lobster was fucking stellar thoguth. yay! Tomorrow sobeer words. Okay, no internet for bridget.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I really really hope from now on all I do is write about PJ but let's just say 'we're cautiously optimistic'.

And when I'm gone
Who will break your fall?
Who will you blame?

I can't go on and let you lose it all
It's more than I can take
Who'll ease your pain?
Ease your pain
Six days without affection and I walked through the front door and into the kitchen, dropping my things as I went. Unannounced. Almost two days early.

At least five chairs were knocked over backwards in the rush to get to me first. I think Henry won. Someone bumped the Scrabble game they had going and all of the tiles slid from their spaces as I was ambushed with a giant group hug. (Later I looked and noticed that WHEN and ORE had gotten mixed up together and you know what THAT spells). Then everyone traded places and again I was crushed in the center of my life by so many arms it almost made up for such a lack of human closeness so far this week already.

My hives went away, which goes to show you it isn't the shellfish, it's stress or that glaring lack of touch. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining that my boss acted..like a boss (Jesus, bad spot to trot that colloquialism out), I'm complaining that I am so used to being happily smothered all damned day long I was ice-cold and completely miserable walking around with no one to hold and no one to hold me.

Lochlan was so proud of me (for what? Apparently for not sleeping with the Devil. It TAKES SO LITTLE TO PLEASE CERTAIN PEOPLE YOU SEE AND BOY ARE WE EVER PATHETIC). Ben was less thrilled (because he actually doesn't mind when I sleep with..oh NEVERMIND) and more cautious, wanting me to explain how I came to commit what is probably grand larceny when all I had to do was ask him to come get me at any minute of the day and he would have arrived in just under four hours.

(I'm kidding about the grand larceny. I think I am, anyway).

This morning I woke up in my favorite place, am back to very very little sleep and really really glad that I don't have to depend on push-buttons and total strangers for basic comforts like coffee, safety and common sense.

I got the coffee and the safety right here. Not doing so well with the common sense but whatever.

And while I was gone, PJ done got himself a woman. HOLY SHIT. I think we'll have to move John to the quarters vacated by Gage in order to give PJ as much space as possible to fuck this one up too have some much needed privacy. So the Christmas tree acquisition(s) will be delayed while we throw some stuff across the lawn.

Maybe this year I'll post pictures.

Of the trees, not of John's stuff scattered all over the backyard.

Geez, people.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Mistakes were made, Mostly in the airport.

The Devil should have realized that I have had thirty years to develop my own skill set of sorts, trained under the watchful eye of someone who flies so far under the radar you only see a flash of red and he's gone.

So when Caleb tried to set me up last evening I saw him coming from a mile away. The mark. The target. The only way I could see to deal with him anymore, shifting into my alter ego as he spent the better part of the week being kind, patient and sweet. I could see the bottom swinging free for me to fall right through while I clung to the edge, the sharp metal cutting my fingers straight through to the bone. His sweetness was a trap, the whole trip a kidnapping attempt and his efforts spent in vain, because I'm not for sale. I'm not for rent and I'm not free to a good home either. As inwardly feral as I can be, I have value to someone, and that someone isn't him.

Caleb pulled a Jacob, of all things. Tiny twinkling lights. Dinner. The white tablecloth. The suit coat. Everything I love most right there. Setting me up using my most beloved history as a template for his new design. He pulled a Lochlan too, choosing eighties lovesongs as audio poison, drawing me in to kill me slowly.

I ate. I drank. I danced in his arms under the moonlight and then I picked his pocket, taking his wallet and the keys for the rental car we never even used until I took it. I excused myself and went inside the house and then for good measure I locked the door from the inside, trapping him on the patio, making for a lovely head start.

I drove to the airport, abandoning the car in short-term parking and I flew home on a flight that was only half-full. I sat on the plane in my cocktail dress and heels, holding a man's wallet and a boarding pass. The flight attendant asked me if I wanted a drink and I just kept saying yes until he brought me something he thought I might like. For courage, I thought to myself, and drank it in one go.

It turned out not to be necessary. I might still be on Santa's Nice list after all.
Now the miles stretch out behind me
Loves that I have lost
Broken hearts lie victims of the game
Then good luck it finally struck
Like lightning from the blue
Every highway leading me back to you
This morning I express-couriered Caleb's wallet back to him. He will have it before he goes to his first meeting of the day tomorrow. It cost me almost two hundred dollars. Tomorrow is his most important meeting of the week.

Lessons learned?

1)Next time just take the unlimited credit card and not the whole wallet. You save a lot of money that way.

2)It's probably not a good idea to sabotage someone who knows where you live and is coming home Friday morning.

3)Always always wear underwear since you just never know when an entire airline terminal will watch you attempt to retie the ankle bows on the heels they made you remove while you're wearing that dress, the one that seemed long enough when you tried it on but now is just wholly inadequate.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

In between.

He walked back over to the other side of the counter, across from me and placed his hands flat on the surface. He leaned in, eyebrows up, eyes wide and he said to me,

I want to be a Good Human again, Bridget. I want it so much it hurts, and it isn't something I can acquire. It isn't something I can have built to my specifications, it's something I have to ask for from you. 

It doesn't work that way.

He starts to talk and his voice just stops. He is frustrated and angry. He sits down wearily. I've tried everything and I'm tired, Bridget.

I wait. I'm thinking.

Say something. 

This is a trick to let me think I have all the power right now. Why should I say anything?

It's not a trick. It's honesty. You wanted me to be honest, that's what I'm doing. When you were little you told me about it and it's true. You're so bright. Even back then you just knew the difference. There has to be a way to switch sides again. 

There isn't.

                                                               ***

 I am standing in front of him as he leans against the fence. Eventually I get tired and lean too. Against him instead of the fence. He's wearing jeans and his necklace. A black leather cord with a Pisces symbol on it. I am sliding the pendant back and forth, back and forth while he talks. I'm hardly paying attention, I'm too young to be involved in much of their conversation at ten-and-a-half. He is eighteen and has an odd amount of patience for me. He must have wanted a sister.

What were the words you used, Bridgie? 

Good Humans. 

That was it. Good Humans. I think you're right by the way. People are inherently good or inherently bad. 

Good Humans, I repeat and pat the pendant against his skin firmly.

Am I a Good Human, do you think, there, little one? 

I look into his eyes and answer honestly. I don't know yet, Caleb. I watch his blue eyes as they stare back curiously. He finds me intriguing. I don't know why exactly. I think he's my friend though.

                                                                 ***

We order in pizza. He cracks a bottle of red wine and pours two glasses and we take it all outside on the back patio without turning on any of the lights.  We're watching the water, chewing thoughtfully and not talking for so long I start to get sleepy.

Good Humans, he says wistfully.

I am startled out of my doze. I still can't believe that you remembered that. 

He finished his glass of wine in one large swallow. I can't believe I had to make myself a Bad Human to fully understand your definition of a Good Human. 

And now you're looking for absolution from a Grade-schooler. 

She's the only one I will ever want acceptance from, he whispers.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The devil is in (the details).

Sunday was more of the same. Slightly removed, highly amused almost unspoken direction as I scribbled notes and kept track of Caleb's day. Only he kept upstaging my tasks by doing everything for me. Arranging breakfast, then lunch. Then dinner too. Carrying my bag which I kept having to stop him to dig into for my pen or his Blackberry or my planner. He made ridiculous small talk all day long and never once did he offer his arm, in spite of uneven paving stones and a rush to get to the next meeting. Traffic indeed. Not sure exactly what the merits of this place are unless you invest heavily in plastic surgery technology or despise actual seasons with a passion. Christmas looks like Easter here. Same tans. Same fake breasts and pastel pumps everywhere.

And so by dinnertime I was out of my mind. Stop it. 

Stop what?

Being fake. This isn't you and it's not going to work. You don't change. 

Maybe I'm trying. 

Bullshit. It's a challenge. I am poking around, risking certain peace for familiarity.

His eyebrows go up and he leans across the table. What do you want me to do?

Be yourself. 

The shutters come down over his face as it hardens and I watch with fascination. He sits back in his seat gazing at me. Amusement abandoned in his expression in favor of slightly guarded desire. He continues to sit there for a few moments and I stare back, never once breaking his gaze.

He breaks it first to signal to the server. I watch this unfold. Something has come up, could we have the bill please?

The server looks at our glasses of water and frowns and Caleb hands him a bill for the trouble. They can flip a coveted table that much faster tonight. No harm done.

He stands and comes around to pull out my chair, I stand up and he motions for me to lead the way. We leave and the car is already outside. I'm guessing he has a doomsday-driver button in his pocket or something.

We don't say a word on the seventy-five minute drive back out to the shore. Not a word. I look out the window. Sometimes I text Ben. Caleb takes several phone calls but I don't actually listen in.

When we get to the house Caleb sends everyone home for the night.

And then he turns to me and asks me exactly what it is that I want. And then he turns away as if he doesn't want to know.

I tell him I want to go home.

His answer was spoken clearly in the silent room. 

No. 

No? 

No, Bridget. I'm not finished with you yet. 

I knew he was in there somewhere.
 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Angel, second class.

At seven last evening I was officially dismissed for the day, not harshly but kindly so. Told that I was free to do whatever I liked for the evening. No more work. No more notes or coordinating or paying attention. I just sort of stood there looking up at Caleb. He waited quite patiently for me to acknowledge my release. I am not used to this.

What..well, what should I do?

He repeated himself. Whatever I liked, whatever I wanted to do.

Oh. I see.

I had him call the driver and I was taken back to the house. I called Ben and then I spoke with both children and then Lochlan took Ben's phone and shut himself in the library and spoke to me quite patiently. Asking seven thousand questions. Telling me to come back. Pick an emotion, he dealt it and I cried and then when I finally hung up I sat on the edge of the bed with the sea in front of me and I still didn't know what to do with myself.

A text from Caleb told me to remember we have another earlyish day planned for Sunday so I should mind that info when I made my plans and I replied with two words and then I turned off my phone.

Fuck you. 

I went down to the kitchen and picked up the doomsday button and wondered if Gregory could fix my loneliness. I wondered if I should ask him if he'd watch a movie with me. I wondered if I should just ask him to call the driver back to take me to the airport so I could go home and end this charade, this bizarre alternate universe. I lasted less than thirty hours. I concede. I give up.

I sat there holding the button so long the evening ended in the blink of an eye and Caleb was standing there smiling. Maybe not smiling. Doing that kindly-staring thing, almost gazing at me.

What time is it, please?

Eight. 

(Oh, the evening hasn't even started.) You're back early. 

He smirked slightly. I came back as soon as you sent me that lovely 'Fuck you' message. I would have been faster but the traffic here is nothing short of pure insanity. 

I raised my eyebrows. There is no more to the message. Sorry if you cut your evening short for that. And I don't know why you brought me all the way down here for this. What the fuck is this? Some sort of lesson on what life would be like if you were the perfect boss? 

He smiled wide. You got it. I'm being the angel now, George. 

Did you just call me George? What? What are you talking about?

It's a Wonderful Life. The movie. I'm showing you what life would be like if it were the way you asked it to be. A perfect opportunity. At Christmastime even. 

I stand up, balling up my fists. He looks at them and bursts into laughter.

You're angry! Oh my God, this is so perfect. Bridget, darling, you wouldn't want me to be anything different. You can't cope. You don't know what to do with yourself. I've never seen anything so amazing in my life.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Notes from the City of Noisy Surf.

I could have remained home but something in me knows better after twenty-two years of traveling with Caleb and five years of fighting with him in front of lawyers and judges. Sometimes things are better off left alone.

Something in me also knows that I can't control the moderate full-body trembles that begin when he opens the car door for me in our driveway and end when I make it back alive.

However, as usual the Devil has many surprises in store. Like when I asked which hotel and he just smiled and kept looking out the window. I put my head back and closed my eyes. So tired all the time. When I opened them I smelled the salt air and saw the ocean. He has procured a giant private house overlooking the bluff. We're in Malibu and outnumbered by the help, five people, who (including the driver) will be seeing to our every whim.

No, not those whims. The other ones that involve food or directions or my first question, which was How do I open these blinds? after fifteen minutes of fruitless effort. I posed that question to some young man named Gregory, who attempted not to smile as he walked back to the door. I thought he was leaving but he pressed a button on a bank of controls inside the door and the blinds slowly rose.

He said he would show me which button so I could close them at will and I looked at him curiously and asked why I would ever close them again?

He smiled then.

Later Caleb showed me a small device that looks like a pager. Actually it looks like a doomsday button. There's nothing else on it. Just a button. No screen. No screws for battery removal or anything. He said that device is mine while we're here, and if I need anything I press it and Gregory will attend to me.

Anything? I ask and Caleb rolls his eyes. Will they listen to safewords? Is he protection detail?

Bridget. It's a warning so I drop the device on the counter and leave it there.

We drive two hours to dinner. It's pretentious. Everyone in the restaurant is tall, blonde and tanned. Caleb knows someone. I eat something only if I recognize it and make an effort not to bulldoze the vertical construction too soon. We make small talk and I fidget alot to control the trembles. I drop my knife twice. I only drink water, even though Caleb ignores me and orders wine which will be wasted. He frowns and then asks me if I'm feeling well.

I say fine, how about you? and he looks confused and disappointed. I guess he still expects the relief his trips used to bring to me. Well, they don't anymore.

When we return to the house I go upstairs to see the view again from that wall of windows and I notice that only my things are in the room. My dresses in the closet. My cosmetic bag on the counter in the bathroom. My book placed on the table beside the bed, which has been turned down already with a rose and a chocolate on the pillow.

I head back downstairs. I forgot to even look at the ocean. Caleb is on the phone and so I wait. When he's done I ask if he's leaving me here or what the fuck is going on exactly.

What do you mean?

Where are your clothes? They're not in the room. 

Who's room?

Ours. 

That's your room, Bridget. 

Yes, where is your stuff?

In my room. 

I don't understand. 

This is not a pleasure trip. You are here as my assistant. 

I still don't understand. 

You've asked for boundaries. I'm giving them to you. 

Oh whatever. 

You don't want your own room? 

Do you have a doomsday button-thingie for me too that you'll just summon me later?

No, Bridget. I don't. He just stood there. I wanted to flee. Then he said Go get some sleep, tomorrow will be a full day. And he leaned down, kissed my cheek and returned to his phone.

I turned and went back upstairs. I took a hot shower, stripped and got into bed and lay there in the dark wide-awake all night, button in my hand, wondering if Gregory was still around because I can't fall asleep when I'm alone. At some point I believe my brain must have shut itself down using some built-in safety mechanism, because when I woke up, the sun was shining and the ocean was still there and I was no longer shaking like a leaf.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Graceless (I can see through you).

My headphones are on loud while I wash dishes. I'm singing Outside. Because it's a sad song and because I can easily cover it. Kitchen Karaoke. Tuning out. Pick something. The children are watching movies with August and John and everyone is keeping their distance from me.

I'm angry. Really, really angry. First Caleb has the nerve to bring up the horses. Ben demands heaven for Jacob but isn't there to fill in the gaps and now this. Being accused of setting us up to fail? When I was twelve? What the fuck. I don't even know how Loch arrived at that level of desperation.

Then his hands come around my shoulders and his head lands on top of mine, his sharp jaw cutting into my skull. He takes one of my earphones out and puts it in his ear and he begins to sway against me, keeping me captive in his arms as he reaches around me, taking the brush and the bowl I was washing out of my hands, putting them back in the sink, turning the water off. Turning me around. Pulling my hands up around his neck, putting his arms around my waist, tucking me in against his chest.

We're dancing in monophonic. We're not resolving anything falling into familiar comfort patterns but three-decade habits can't be broken overnight, oh, no. They just can't.

I pull back and look up at him. I want to tell him to fuck right off. To go away. To not do this and just let me figure out how to live but then he looks directly at me and in his eyes I see so many nights and so many stars and so much pain. I see agonizing worry. I see how he taught me to live safely, loved, in the dizzying lights and the power ballads and the blistering heat, every moment a thrill, every ride a masterpiece. Every sky brand-fucking-new, every day. Every time I fall in love with him I ricochet back to this.

I want to concede. I want to tell him he wins but I don't take risks anymore. No one gets one hundred percent of anything except for me now.

He pulls me back in until my head is cradled in his heartbeat and my breathing slows, knees weakening, hopelessness taking over in the dark where reckless abandon and sweet youth used to be.

You can't go.

I can't stay either.

Let me fix it. 

I don't think you can now, Loch. It's too late.

It's not. Trust me. He brings my fingers up to his lips and stupid hope inside me surges forth, as if it's going somewhere. It should know better by now but that's the thing about hope. It's a promise of change.

There's twenty of us and one of him, Bridgie. 

Yes but he's Henry's father. And he's the Devil too.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Because everyone emailed to ask, including my mother.

He is forty-four now. It hardly seems possible that this is the same completely irresponsible maniac I met in my early twenties who couldn't stay out of trouble long enough to take a full breath but he might still turn out to be the best of all of us, bar none.

Ben's birthday was last weekend, celebrated somewhat quietly and without public spectacle. He doesn't like to be fussed over or written about these days. I can't help that but I can attempt to respect it so if he appears to be perpetually absent, it could be that he is, or it could be just that I sometimes listen after all.

But as for his birthday, there isn't actually much to share. He worked through it. We worked on Christmas decorations until he came home. I made his favorite dinner, we watched him open his presents and I think he was asleep by nine, fully clothed, and by eleven I was wrestling his things off his unconscious form so that he could try sleeping in the bed instead of on it. I didn't succeed and he woke up with his T-shirt and watch still on and I had a huge scratch on my back from where he slid his arm out around me sometime during the night.

He does not like forty-four, he said the next morning and I reminded him that he might when he can see past the work he has to finish. Birthdays don't always come at convenient times, or maybe life doesn't always allow for proper celebrations and then we're left feeling ripped off and delayed, forced to celebrate on the run like outlaws. Maybe when the pressure eases on him a little we will celebrate properly but for now, this is the way life happens.

Now you can stop emailing me about not writing about it, because I have. Back to the war I go. The red side is winning, though, in case you want to ask about that too.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Fight club.

He's listening to Lifehouse, singing under his breath.
I never meant to let you go
Why did I leave maybe we'll never know
But I'm a man now broken on the ground
I'm in need and I think that it shows
And I need to pick a fight or something because I feel defensive. Because I'm afraid of his feelings. Only I didn't pick the fight, he did before I could get a whole sentence out.

He sounds like-

Jake. Yes, I know.

But you're-

Playing it anyway? Sure. Why not?

Because everyone else-

I'm not going to make a Bridget-approved playlist like everyone else. It won't actually kill you to hear some of these songs. You used to love some of them.

I think about this. I'm staring at the ground now seeing if courage will arrive on the wind. 

I need to talk to-

To me? Surprise surprise. Maybe you should have talked to me before you agreed to go.

It's part of my j-

Your job? You don't need a fucking job, Princess. He's playing you. He's playing all of us. Don't you think for a second that he's just making amends. He's making it worse.

Lochlan, I-

You know what, Bridge? Ben works a thousand hours a week because he can't stand the way he feels while everyone else gets their cut of your heart. And you run right over him with that implied permission. Well I'll tell you something. You don't have mine. I don't want you going with Caleb on this trip and I don't want you acting like you owe him a damn thing. So go and tell him you're staying home. Oh, and while you're at it, tell him you quit.

So you can order me around but he can't?

Damn straight. You're old enough to listen now. 


I listened to you before! 

No, you didn't. You never ever listened. I told you to stay away from him and YOU DIDN'T LISTEN. 

I didn't know! I was a child!

In some ways you were, but in others sometimes I think you knew exactly what you were doing, Bridget. Sometimes I wonder if you set it all up on purpose so I could take the fall because you resented me for keeping you down when all I was trying to do was KEEP YOU SAFE!

I have to go in. I have to start packing. I don't want to go but he could take my son from me and I can't ever let that happen. And Lochlan? You're an asshole. 

He dropped his tools and stood up and just stared at me as I walked back to the house. I only know that because his eyes burned holes right through me.

Monday, 3 December 2012

It snows nine months of the year and hails the other three.

It's official. We are four months behind in Keeping Up With Life.

Tonight everyone dropped everything they were doing to gather round ye old television set to watch Dragons: Riders of Berk because, you know, we just found out about it.

It's the series companion to How to Train Your Dragon, which was a masterpiece of a film in that every single person who lives here loved it. That never happens.

We needed a replacement for Revolution anyway, which has gone on a four-month hiatus because NBC is run by narrow-minded fools (I buy your channel. If I miss a show I expect to be able to watch it online the next day. Don't tell me it's not available in my country and won't be back until the end of March.

So instead of watching the antics of Charlie and Miles, we'll watch those of Hiccup, who is way too much like Lochlan to be a coincidence.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A very small window without rain.

The fever finally broke early last evening, helped along by Matt, who generously offered to make me his favorite cure, a lethal concoction he dubbed Polish Tea, which was more rum than tea. It took off my nail polish and I wasn't even wearing any. I worried that if I breathed through my nose, fire might come out. It might have, I don't know. I didn't have the lights off to check.

But it worked, strangely enough and today I feel a little bit better. I also won the Christmas light contest we held in-house but it might have been rigged out of sympathy. That or everyone truly does love my freakishly stark, minimalistic new decorating style. The winner of the draw gets to choose how the outside will be decorated. The losers have to do the decorating as per the winner's instructions.

So today I am standing out in the backyard, bundled in my thick plaid wool coat, scarf tied up tightly three times around my neck by the Scottish Cabinet Minister for Appropriate Outerwear, as I called Lochlan as he tried to talk me into mittens.

Mittens.  It's six degrees out in British Columbia, for crying out loud. I still don't know why I have a coat on. (Or underwear but that's COMPLETELY unrelated.)

He called me stubborn.

Snort.

My two favorite losers of the contest (Duncan and Dalton, who wanted to get an eighty-foot inflatable snowglobe for the front yard and yeah...no) take turns climbing up into the dead trees in the orchard to string the tiny pure white LED strings through the branches.  The only other decorations will be the matching white fairy lights lining the railings of the master balcony, the front porch and the steps down to the water.

Pretty!

Kinda wish I had mittens though. It's chilly.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Good ideas, bad executioners.

You'd better let somebody love you
Before it's too late.
We've reached the part of the illness where all I do is drink tea and listen to sad songs while I look out the window at the perpetual rainfall. Too sick to enjoy the melancholy awesomeness of my self-loathing, even.

Christ on a biscuit.

Caleb came to the door this morning, complete with crazed maniacal quiet-grin in place. I raised my eyebrows at the expression substituting for an envelope and he said Not while you're so sick, Bridget.

Peyton?

No, why?

The look on your face.

I'm drawing up a few more plans for the property and I wanted to run some things by you.

I can't work today. I'm clearly disintegrating here.

Not work. Just ideas. What about...stables?! He looked so proud of himself.

You...um. You sold my horses. Remember?

And I'm trying to come to terms with everything so I can fix things.

Buying new horses won't fix the betrayal if that's what you're hoping.

Balloon popped. The look fades into very slight doubt. We'll start over. That's all I want to do. Make you happy.

You want to make me happy.

Yes. Very badly, in fact.

Happy.

Yes, Bridget.

Happy?

Bridget? You're going to implode, aren't you?

Maybe. I don't know yet but you might want to step back just in case.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Yardage.

Because we're so awesome, Friday nights are just the pinnacle of entertainment here at the house, as the boys broke into a impromptu game of tackle football. Indoors.

I was the football, taking off at a flat run to get away, bouncing off PJ and heading in the other direction until Duncan cornered me in the library. I screamed and ran right up over the back of the chair, back out into the hallway, heading up the stairs.

SHIT.

Ben was waiting. He wrestled me down to the floor, held my head very still and squirted Otrivin up my nostrils. I hate nose spray.

Oh the other hand I don't sound like a walrus when I breathe now! Hey!

Too sick to tell you anything important.

When I wake up next (holy Dayquil, Batman! Er...) Lochlan has his head resting on the pillow beside me. He's staring at me and suddenly I'm afraid. This was how I woke up the first day knowing full well that Jacob was gone forever. Only it was Ben staring at me because the Red Chicken didn't want to take the blame for the bad news and it backfired on him and oh well, I wonder what day it is now?

I calm myself as I try to focus on his eyes, the 'completely unremarkable compared to yours windswept-isle green', as he calls them to me. Bleak-green. Brean. Gleek. Something something fever. If he had my color of green eyes, I would walk around throwing my panties at his face all fucking day long.

Hey, is it warm in here or do I still have a fever?

It's Friday, sleepyhead. Want some breakfast? You can't have my crow though, I have to eat it all. 

Huh? I sit up on my elbows. What do you mean?

I did not mean to imply that you were retarded because you physically look for your memories, Peanut. I actually love seeing it. I just ran with a moment and tried a zinger and it was insulting and childish. I'm really sorry, love. 

Apology accepted. I didn't take it personally, Loch. Your timing was priceless.

He half-smiles and moves in to kiss my forehead and I sneeze right in his face.

ACK! Bridget! 

Sorry!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dammit listen to me good.

Maybe Lochlan's bad mood was residual, contagious, but I was summoned from my bed (sickbed, if you will) by a text from Andrew this morning.

It said Need you. S&D are at it. :(

If Andrew puts a sad face on it you know it's not good. If Andrew, of all people feels the need to call in reinforcements then it's definitely not good.

However, I was feverish and hallucinating so I went over to the house next door in my pajamas. In the pouring rain. I must speak to Satan about building an underground tunnel for the weather, or for fast escapes, as it were.

Up until now Schuyler and Daniel had enjoyed a long period of relative calm. Still in their post-honeymoon phase, with the pressures of housing prices off their backs they were settling in quite nicely. Until today, anyway.

When I arrived it was quiet. False alarm maybe? I walked down the hall and made my way straight upstairs to the master suite. Daniel is a hider. Andrew meets me halfway down and points the other way to let me know Schuyler is in the kitchen but I have a bond with Daniel and I want to see him first. He's my third child and he's just like Ben: tissue-thin and prone to cognitive ruin twice as fast so I went up and knocked on the door. I hear music.

Come in.

I went in and the music was loud. And then I see that Lochlan (who was called first by Christian, unbeknownst to Andrew) and Daniel are lying in the bed fully-clothed singing along and Daniel is crying and laughing a little bit and oh, I get it.

I'm dreaming.

I shake my head and pinch my arm but they're still there. They don't morph into Chris Broderick from Megadeth magically so dammit, I must be awake. (Shhhhh. We won't go there. Feverish! Hallucinating!)

I head over and climb into bed between them. Lochlan reaches out to feel my forehead but I push his hand off. Daniel looks concerned. Why are you out in the cold? Did he call you?

No, someone else did (I never give up names until well..now). What's happening?

Loch is using sappy love songs and quiet conversation to bring Danny around and I'm guessing it worked and I can go back to bed, only I'm in a bed and so I close my eyes and listen for a while. I push my butt up against Loch and rest my head on Daniel's arm which is bent up under his head. He slides it up out of the way and the moment I land on the pillow I'm out.

Out.  

BOOM.

Asleep before I had a chance to find out what happened.
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar-bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You're a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye
When I woke up it was getting dark. I sat up in the bed and Lochlan turned to look at me from where he had been staring out to sea. The music was off, Daniel was gone and my fever seemed to be waning slightly. I coughed and Lochlan told me that the boys sorted things out.

You gave them both Big Picture talks, didn't you?

Yeah.

It's too bad we can never seem to take our own medicine, isn't it?

We're strong. We'll be fine, Bridget.

But I am still shaky and weak and somewhat out of it and I forget to soften the blow. No, we won't be fine. The way you consoled Danny was the way you used to look after me. Only you said you couldn't do that anymore and yet here you are. It still works. Just not with me I guess. 

He turned back to look out at the water and I lay back down, finishing the song in my head. See, unlike Schuyler and Daniel we no longer yell at each other until we're both in tears, we just sweep it all under the rug, shoving memories aside to make more room for all the new moments, and then pulling the edges tight hoping the coverage is enough, but it's not, exposing all the oldest ones. I keep hoping for the right love song to play that will tie it all together and make it possible to breathe. Knowing that we've played them all and it never has and probably never will. 



Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sister Golden Hair Surprise.

Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?
This morning I walked into the kitchen and Lochlan played a few notes on Ben's guitar, which he tinkers with every chance he gets. (It's electric. Apparently that's a big draw.)

I immediately turned around, cocked my head and tried to place the song. I know that song. I know it well.

See? he says and Teflon Jesus nods. She totally moves her eyes when she's rooting around in her brain for memories. It's unbelievable. 

Maybe it's a sign of something, I tell him.

Mental retardation?

Well, SOMEBODY'S in a bad mood this morning. 

He passed the guitar to Dalton and walked out. I looked at Dalton and waited for an explanation. Dalton just shrugged. He needs a little more beauty sleep, I think. He stays awake when you're sick. 

If he's so concerned he has a terrible way of showing it. 

Hey, it's his Scottish bedside manner. 'Go fuck yourself', or something like that. Right?

I suppose. And then I cough some more.

Here's the rub: Ben will keep me awake late each night whether I should be or not (so that we get time! We never have TIME.) and Lochlan does not agree with that, nor does he abide by the None of your business response to his direct orders to sleep and not play. The fucker.

On the other hand I am sicker today. So instead of I told you so, he just acts all miffy and put out for like the entire day and then just as I plan to sweeten him up and make everything better, he starts giving orders again. It's preschool by day, army by night.

See, this is why I go looking (literally, LOOKING WITH MY EYES, BOYS) for those midway memories. Daytimes on the show were pretty much the only time in my life I wasn't treated like a child.

No worries, Bridget. He'll come around. 

When I feel better. 

Yeah.

Hey, do you have that song on your phone? I want to hear the rest of it now.

No, you'll have to go ask Loch. He probably does.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

No spirit yet.

Well, that's it then.

Daniel, Schuyler, Christian and Andrew have become the Griswolds.

Their house looks a little bit like a rave party standing still. They have four, count 'em, FOUR Christmas trees up and decorated inside and outside I believe I stopped counting at something like thirty strands of lights.

In this house we...have a huge poinsettia in the corner of the kitchen, but only because the creepy grocery store dude ran after me to take one because it was free if you spent a certain amount. I always spend over that amount so I get a lot of bonus products. This was the first time I've ever been forced to strap one of those products into the passenger seat of my car.

We may have non-Christmas this year. Everyone is too busy. And I'm sick now with a lovely throat thing and fever that makes me not care all that much about whatever happens a whole month from now.

I will still shop though. And wrap. And bake. And then make a cup of tea Christmas evening and exhale. That's my plan.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Break on your horizon.

I've had a slightly awkward morning yet it gives me so much hope that at least one person in my life still marches to his own drummer instead of falling in line behind mine. It also reminds me that absolutely nothing surprises me anymore.

And my drummer doesn't share, for the record. He's dead. He was the first one to vacate earth under the pressure from leading so many. But I don't miss Cole, not anymore.

I went to work this morning (how formal, geez. I walked over to the boathouse, coffee and phone in hand). I function as Caleb's frequently sexually harassed personal assistant while he pretends to be a venture capitalist/mogul/financier. It's very exciting, oh, yes it is. Mostly I schedule conference calls and file statements and listen to music.

I figure he is already working when I walk in this morning. I don't knock and he hardly ever locks the door so it's sort of an expectation that I am always welcome.

Except that when I walk in this morning, there is music playing and I smell perfume. It's lingering in the air and I say his name, switching to professional because I don't know what to expect.

Mr. C____?

I hear him laugh and then he walks out into the hall wearing only a towel wrapped around his hips, his straight razor in his hand, and the remainder of his face to be shaved.

I'm alone now, Bridget. You don't have to be formal but I appreciate the lack of implied complication if I weren't.

Someone was here?

Yes. Her name was Peyton. Medium height, brown hair. Very attractive, actually. I sent her home in a car around one this morning.

And you had a good date?

We went to dinner and a show and then came back here for a nightcap.

And you're going to see her again?

No, Bridget, I'm not. She was an expenditure I didn't want, but I can't live like a monk so I contract services to look after my needs. I'm not like the boys in that house. I can't live like that.

I know. We're down to whispers and thanks to the look on his half-shaven face I change the subject out of a sudden need to feel better. Coldplay this morning?

It's beautiful, isn't it? 

Yeah. I nod and point back behind me. I'll make some coffee for you, okay? 

That would be great. I want to get a lot done today. He steps back into the bathroom and resumes his routine. He starts singing along with White Shadows and he sings it well, I know it's a favorite but I sort of forget sometimes what Caleb sounds like when he sings, too. I have to lock my knees so I don't hit the fucking floor.

When he finally comes into the kitchen, fully dressed and ready for some work, I can't resist the dig. He's in a good mood (fancy that) so I know I can get away with almost anything this morning.

You realize her name probably wasn't Peyton, right?

I'm well aware that that was not her name, Bridget. 

What name did you use?

I'm not going to talk about this anymore, okay? 

You said your name was James, didn't you? James Bond but not THE James Bond?

So busted. Against his efforts not to, he breaks into a grin. Can we PLEASE get to work, Bridget?

Yes, Mr. Bond. Right away, sir. 

Please, call me James. 

Depends. What's the going rate for me to call you that?

Bridget! 

Hey, you left your virtue at the door with one phone call. It's open season, Diabhal.

He smirks through the grin. Fine, I'll give you until noon to get it out of your system and then I will exact payback. 

Oooo. Payback. Will it be shaken or stirred?

Christ. You're impossible. 

Come on! I'm just having a little fun! No one ever lets me have any fun! 

He stops smiling abruptly. It's as if I have thrown a switch.
Maybe you get what you wanted
Maybe you stumbled upon it
Everything you ever wanted
In a permanent state

Maybe you'll know when you see it
Maybe if you say it, you'll mean it
And when you find it, you keep it
In a permanent state
A permanent state

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Batting.

His arm is tight around me as I sit wedged into the corner of the couch beside Loch. He is reading things on his tablet and I am playing a word game against Matt on my phone. Matt is in the kitchen.

The fuck. Oh, I wish you wouldn't document every goddamned thing I've ever said. 

I'm sorry. 

But you're not!

Okay, I'm not. 

Please point out that you were also a major pain-in-the-arse who would bat your eyelashes and get whatever you wanted, so people don't feel sorry for you, 'oh the wee 'lil Bridget'! 

Oh, I think everyone knows. 

Hope so. Nothing's changed either. You're still exactly the same.

Everyone knows that also, Lochlan. 

(Snort.)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Charge.

(Sorry, this one became rather long.)

I am waiting for him on the grass at the edge, but not on the concrete because he said to stay ON THE GRASS and he yelled it very slowly in what I am now calling his Worried voice. It's never angry exactly but he yells when he is afraid something will go wrong, it's almost as if all his nerves bunch up and force his voice out of his body very loudly.

(It took me precisely four days of spending time with him to figure this out but interestingly enough the only other time I heard him yell was when he got mad and threw himself at Caleb. That was a different yell by far. It was his Angry-Frustrated voice. That one happens when his nerves snap completely instead of bunching up.

I'm really glad he has more patience with me than he seems to with Caleb. Especially since everyone tells me I don't listen most of the time. I try to, I think they speak in the other direction and their words must get swallowed by the hungry wind before I can hear them.

He's the only one who saw right off that I'm not attention-deficit or anything, I'm just a daydreamer. He said I was imaginative, and he did so with admiration in his eyes. By the time it was dark out on Tuesday he had told me a whole raft of his own dreams. I said I couldn't wait to hear about them when they came true, because they would and he stopped talking in surprise because I was the first person to expect those dreams to eventually take place instead of dismissing them as impractical, fantastical, impossible.

I asked if that wasn't the whole point of dreams, to make a set of plans and reach for the stars, instead of hoping someday to come across a talking rainbow elephant in the bushes outside your house? He grabbed his head with both hands, his eyes open wide and said EXACTLY! But it wasn't in his loud Worried voice, or his Angry-Frustrated voice. It was a new one. I christened it his Astonished voice. We both like that one best.)

So as I stand ON THE GRASS waiting, he turns and looks at me suddenly. I turn around and look behind me (maybe someone is there) but when I turn back Lochlan is making his way back across the dam. They are walking across the top, where the water rushes over the edge into the river below. He went to see if it was safe enough to bring me too or if the water is still too strong like it usually is at the beginning of the summer. There is a camp on the other side, in the woods by the lake. The tire swing is there that Bailey told me about. I want to go. Very, very badly.

His face is stern when he reaches me. No way, Bridget. Sorry. You're too young and if you die I'll be in so much trouble. 

I can do it. I can get there. 

Not today. Maybe in a few years when you're older. Sorry. 

It's okay, Lochlan. Maybe I'll see you later then. I am crushed. I want to be with the big kids and he's going swimming at the swing. They don't always stay on the beach, like today and as usual I am too little to do the fun things. I turn away and start to walk across the grass to head up to the road and walk home (if I can remember which way) when Lochlan calls out for me to wait. He'll be right back. DON'T MOVE (worried voice). I sit down on the steps leading up the hill and wait, drawing patterns in the sand with a rock, my head on my knees.

He comes back and tells me that Caleb has to go to work so he's going that way and he will drive me since Lochlan doesn't want me going home alone but also doesn't want to give up a chance to see my sister and her friends in their bikinis. Then he says he will see me later and Caleb will be back across in a minute. He crosses the dam again and waves goodbye when he gets to the other side. I ignore him, not waving my Angry Frustrated arm, always too young, too small, too inexperienced, too much of a pain to be included in anything it seems and then I see Caleb. Lochlan turns and points to me and Caleb nods, clapping Loch once on the shoulder and then waving to me as he crosses the dam.

I sit in the front seat on the way home (secretly thrilled, since no one ever lets me sit in the front). Caleb asks me what music I listen to. I tell him I like heavy slow songs and he laughs and shakes his head. Interesting, he says. He finds a good rock station on the radio and we listen in a comfortable silence. I study him while he drives and every now and then he looks at me and smiles and says What? Then finally he asks if he has something on his face and I shake my head and then I blurt out that I really want to go to the rope swing and I know it's a long path and I know crossing the dam is dangerous but maybe since Caleb is the oldest, HE could take me there. When I'm done I am so surprised at myself I clam right up.

He just smiles at me and says Sure. When do you want to go? 

Tomorrow. 

When we arrive at the lake the next day (that was fun as my mother told Bailey when to be home and then told me I couldn't go and Caleb was ready for her. It's okay, Mrs. Lund. I have a younger brother I'm used to taking care of so I can babysit Bridget if it's okay with you. I know she wants to go too.) Lochlan starts over, all no-ways and she's-too-youngs and Caleb ignores him.

He has my attention and he takes my bag with my towel and stuff in it, slinging it over his shoulder and then he reaches back and holds out his hand. I want you to stare at my back, hold my hand tightly and cross without stopping, okay? Don't look down, don't stop walking.

I grab his hand, holding it tightly. I hear Bailey warn him but her voice disappears. Cole tells me I'll be fine but then shoots a doubtful look at his brother. Caleb turns away and I focus on the freckle on his left shoulder blade as I follow him across the dam. The water rushing over my feet scares me but he pulls and I squeeze and then in the middle I stop. No! I cry. I can't do this! He turns and tells me I have to, that he can't switch places with me so we have to keep going. I shake my head. I can't budge. I'm terrified. I'm hyperventilating.

There is only one solution.

He looks back to the grass and calls to Lochlan, who has already realized what's wrong and is making his way across the concrete divide. When he reaches me he puts his arms out and turns me around and then takes my hands tightly. He orders me to look into his eyes. Not down, not anywhere but directly at him. I do and he squeezes my fingers and starts to walk. Backwards.

Turn around! I tell him in a shaky voice.

Just look at me. That's all you need to do. I keep looking at him and he smiles and winks and I feel all of the fear rushing with the water away from me. In studying his face I see a handsome, boyish charm between the chaos of the red curls and his quiet green eyes. He doesn't miss a thing. I think I like his face alot. He doesn't have the easy cookie-cutter handsome of Caleb, he has his own look. His jaw is strong and the expressiveness of his eyes is magnetic. His smile makes me feel warm on the inside. I don't even know what that means.

My feet touch grass and he doesn't loosen his hold on my hands until he has pulled me right up to him and into his arms. Oh. Warmer still.

Caleb is right behind us. Bridget, are you okay?

No, idiot. She's EIGHT FUCKING YEARS OLD. She can't tell you she can make that walk. You have to decide for her and you fucked it up. I'll look after her from now on. Jesus, Cay. You could have gotten her killed. 

She asked me to take her-

THAT DOESN'T MEAN SHE SHOULD GO! From now on she's MY Responsibility. Got it? MINE.

Caleb nods. He is clearly pissed off and I think it's directed at me.

I'm sorry I got scared, Caleb. 

You're eight. He snaps back at me.

I nod. I can't think of what to say back.

Come on, Bridgie. You and I will swim here. We'll catch up with the others later. Okay? He ignores Caleb, who heads out across the dam once more.


Don't you want to be with your friends? 

I am. He gave me a sort of annoyed expression and then reached up behind his neck with both hands and pulled his t-shirt off over his head. I just stared while my brain told me in a whole new voice: HE'S FOURTEEN! WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

Lochlan?

Yeah?

I really want to go across. If you walk backward again will you take me tomorrow?

Yes, but only because I can actually get around you if you decide halfway through to go back. Caleb doesn't know how to do that.

How can you?

I'm really crazy-good at balancing. Now. Are you ready?

For? I break out of my reverie. He's strong and beautiful. The perfect teenage boy.

Swimming! COME ON! Oh, there's the Astonished voice again. I like that one best.