When I make it across the drive Satan is awake. Dressed, possibly from yesterday, since he remains in his bespoke pinstripe shirt with the french cuffs and his braces after more endless meetings kept him mired downtown, far away from me. I saw the car pull in. I was not waiting but I was not sleeping either.
He does not smile. There will be no lies today.
He strings his words out slowly. His voice is shaking, the trembling matches mine. Only his is rage and mine is fear.
You never loved my brother.
You engineered your false distance from each other in order to screw me over and everyone since. Cole, Jake. BEN.
On this point I remain perfectly silent but I shake my head when he gets to the second and third names. He stares at me. I stare at him.
You do realize none of the blame falls on you. You can't make life decisions at such a young age.
You can't make them at twenty either.
What is the threshold of adulthood then, Bridget?
Oh and the fucking carnival doesn't count?
No. It's a hiding place in a life game of hide and seek.
Yes it is, isn't it? And it's a place where you lose your innocence.
You should know.
I took advantage to prove a point. He can't take care of you.
You're a predator. He was doing just fine.
And then look at the convoluted mess ever since, Bridget. Is that my fault? I walked away. I protected my interests from him and clearly he has done the same and hung you out to dry over and over again. A few attempts at adolescent sabotage on both ends and three decades later we're still having a pissing contest over an insolent, ordinary little girl who isn't worth this much effort, frankly. There are women out there who know how to behave to get ahead, who have a little sophistication and style and aren't any trouble at all. Instead I have wasted my life on you and you are nothing.
I go to my knees because his words are correct and it has been a waste and there's nothing here that I have to give anyone. Never was.
Lochlan's voice cleaves the tension in two and both halves slide down to the floor and dissolve. I go clawing through my memories until I find the sunny road and I go running down the middle at full speed, flying on the wind in my cowboy boots and ragged sundress, straight to Lochlan, who is leaning up against his motorcycle, holding a bag with our lunch. He reaches down with one arm and grabs me up.
Not many men get a welcome like that when they leave for an hour to go into town.
I laugh when he describes himself as a man. He is still a boy in my eyes. He kisses my bangs and tells me he will cut them later tonight so that I can see and I scrape them back and smile purposefully. He tells me that has ceased to be effective and he laughs and tells me to run ahead back to the camper to sweep the clock parts off the table so we can eat. He is making me an orrery. I am so excited I could burst. But I am hungry first.
Can't we go to the picnic tables by the lighthouse? I give him my worried face. Only few hours off from the show so we need as much beach as possible.
Okay, peanut. Just let me stop and wash my hands.
I reward him with a hungry grin and take the bag. If I am fast enough there will be a table left. We no longer sit on the same side, he is big enough that it tilts the whole bench and we wind up bumped to the ground. I take my seat across from him and am startled when I begin to fall anyway. He has let go. I stare up at Caleb from the floor and I do what any little girl does when wronged. I ball up my fists and screw my eyes shut and I scream TAKE THAT BACK! at the top of my lungs.
I wake up in tears to the sound of his laughter. I am safe in my bed, with fitful dozing playing out on the left, and light almost-wakefulness to the right. I sit up, startled, and wipe my eyes. One hand from the left goes around my head and one arm from the right goes around my shoulders, extended to protect me but all I can do is wonder if Caleb is right.