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.
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.
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.