Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Changing the subject.

It's for Groundhug Day. Ben holds up a new flannel shirt. His old ones are all on nineties life-support.

I am trying so hard not to laugh. And what is this groundhug day, exactly?

A day where you get a lot of hugs and if you get enough, spring is just around the corner.

Around the corner, like six weeks away?

Yes. About that.

I wonder what a groundhug looks like.

I can give you an early preview, if you want.

Yeah, I could use one right now. The hug part anyway.

I'll try and get a picture of the elusive groundhug before Thursday though. So you know exactly what to expect.

Oh, thank you. I bet it's cute.

It is. Just like you.

Haha. Do I have to be dragged out into the light to confront my shadow every year?

Pretty much, little bee. It's quite a spectacle, actually.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Death by pop lovesong from the king of fire and easy listening. Christ.

I warned you. Criteria for living here is that you must be thoroughly and hopelessly afflicted with Romantic Tourettes.
I just want you to know who I am.
He's been singing all day, at top volume, from his place flat on his back on the floor. Every twelve minutes he raises himself up on his elbows and takes a big gulp of whiskey* and he makes that stupid noise, some sort of Scottish click-version of tsk, and then he flattens himself to the floor again.

So he can keep singing Iris.

I think I hate this song. I didn't used to but I do now.

*(For the record Lochlan isn't drunk anymore, the kids did not see him, I would have started drinking too had I been told what he was told (nothing to do with the children, in case you were jumping to conclusions) and Caleb is still evil.)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Das modell.

I'm a little bit insolent today.

I'm shooting another single cover this morning for a band, friends of Ben's (and sadly Caleb) from overseas (Industrial death metal. I can't spell or pronounce their name. I don't even have those characters on my keyboard.) Same group as last time though, they want to keep the theme.

I don't know why they don't just use any picture they already have from the last shoot and change it in post. They add so much I never recognize myself. I'm fascinated that the photographer can take a relatively pretty photograph of me standing on a cliff and then it goes off to Los Angeles or Berlin and a team makes it into the angel of death or the harbinger of pain or something totally freaky and I become unrecognizable.

I like that. I really do. So today I'm in concrete false eyelashes and hair blown out to the rafters and some white gauzy number that I have been sewn into because it was miles too big when I tried it on. The makeup artist is a poet. I'll give him that. I've been put into a raincoat and given a cup of coffee for a quick break while they see if the snow will come back or if we can resume working outside. Oh yes, being outside on the cliff edge in zero-degree wind, rain and snow is total fucking glamorous.

While fourteen total strangers take over my house and driveway no less.

While Lochlan stands in the kitchen drinking whiskey for breakfast and frowning at the spectacle.

Soon he will be the spectacle and I will be scrubbed of my look and returned to the house while the boys remark that people will think it's someone's child on the cover of the album. And what happened to using tall models? The tall models cost too much, let's just use Bridget again.

Thank you. So much. Really. Herzlichen Dank. Clearly discount death metal is the most hardcore of all. Didn't you know that?

Yeah, let's just use Bridget again. Forever the prize of consolation only I'm the one who needs consoling most of the time because I may look like the creepy little angel of death in the record store but out here in the rain I am soaking wet with a freakishly sweet scowl and a massive terror that I'm going to slip. That's what the wire is for. Just like the circus only I'm not permitted to walk on this one. Instead of holding me up, it holds me down.

That's probably the only thing that fits today. That sentence, right there.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Outsider (thirty two years and three months in).

I need something to fly over my grave again
I need something to breathe

I will try not to burden you
I can hold these inside. I will hold my breath
Until all these shivers subside,
Just look in my eyes
Yesterday morning he wordlessly queued up Automatic for the People on the stereo, since he gets easily tired and tense of the endless heavy metal, the endless noise I perpetrate against the relative solitude of the house. He wants to hear more beautiful words today. I don't hear anything and so I block it all out of spite. He sings it under his breath, accent unmasked. Not often that happens. I believe it's only detectable now in his frustration. People are surprised when they hear it, still.

Ninety days since the last big shift in the collective and not enough has changed except that he has kept most of his promises and others he broke deliberately, immediately. I am left in awe of his ability to rule the emotions of the whole household with such few words. Surely there's a name for a gift such as this. Surely it means something so very important it's starred in red and marked at the top. Confidential. Top Secret. Keep this, but we don't know why yet.

Yesterday morning in the cold wind I turned my face into the neck of his hoodie, and his arms came up around me out of habit, a kiss landing on the side of my head. I'm sure the scowl from across the driveway came and went unnoticed as Caleb waited for the children to buckle themselves into his car for the short trip to school. I was turned out again just as quickly and rushed back to the house behind Lochlan as he walked faster than I ever could. Once inside I asked what day it was. Not quite yet, he laughs, three months being a sort of hallmark, a date anticipated on the calendar in which we would be settled and organized and not frustrated anymore.

That has not happened as of yet. Maybe one hundred days. Maybe a thousand instead. Maybe never. I know the thought of that made him want to run. I know him through and through. Family keeps him here. Promises keep him here. Otherwise he would already be gone. He is a balloon tethered to the ground by his heart strings and nothing more.

I can't breathe with him here, Bridget. When did you start being able to exist with him so close all the time?

When I stopped fighting him.

Fire flooded his eyes with light and then as quickly as I saw it it was gone. Bridget-

But I have already turned and gone back outside to the wind. We don't finish conversations anymore. Caleb's car is back already. I told you it was a short trip to make the loop to drop the children off outside the school grounds. I walk around the truck parked closest to the garage. PJ's big red Ram. It's a darker richer red than Jacob's flaming cherry one was. PJ parks so that I have to hold my breath to get the key in the lock of the garage door, as I stand wedged between the filthy bumper and the cold morning.

I slip inside.

I can hear Lochlan calling my name and I step back out. He comes around the side of the truck with relief on his face.

Let's get out of here.

What do you mean? For lunch?

Forever. Let's just go. Cash in our chips. Find something better. He said this word for word when I was thirteen and look where it got us. Fractured. Lost and never found again.


You, me and the kids.


I can raise another man's child. I love Henry. You know this stuff, Bridge. Let's just go. We can start again and do it right this time.

Have you been drinking?

No, nothing. Why?

You always ask me this when you're drunk.

I know. He says it steadily. Uncomfortable as the truth is he's owning it right now. I give him credit for that.

You only want the fun parts of life, Lochlan.

That's not true.

You told me yourself you can't take the way my brain works most of the time now.

I said that to hurt you. He winces but holds his ground.

We need to talk about this later. I take a page from his best habit and start to head back to the garage but he grabs my shoulders and stops me.

We need to talk about this NOW, Bridget! Color me surprised. This NEVER happens and I am rendered speechless. Again.

Caleb steps to the bottom of the stairs from the boathouse but lingers there. Everything okay, Bridget?

Lochlan turns and starts to head toward Caleb but I grab onto the front of his hoodie and try and pull him back. You need to go back inside. This doesn't concern you.

You just yanked someone far smaller than you off her feet, and you won't let her leave. That's my business, Loch. Caleb says it with measured control.

She's safe with me. Can't say the same for you.

Let her go. Now.

Or what? What are you gonna do? You're in over your head here, you know that? You're not welcome here. She'd be better off if you just went away.

Last time I went away Bridget spiraled into a tailspin because none of you are capable of looking after her. How many chances would you like, Lochlan? Do you want to risk her life like you used to? Does nothing ever change for you?

We would have been fine if it wasn't for you, Caleb.

Caleb laughed and I braced myself for Lochlan in ballistic missile form. Only he never launched. He left. He's predictable like that. He won't engage. He makes his point and walks the fuck out and that's why I won't go with him. I've done that. I've been there. All he does is leave a thousand frayed loose ends and a lot of unfinished business, a lot of unfinished conversations filled with unspoken beautiful words. I am still waiting for those, in spite of knowing they'll never come.

For thirty two years and three months now.

(You're not the only one, Locket. )

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Late night + Redhead + REM = Certain Disaster.

I will try not to worry you
I have seen things that you will never see
Leave it to memory me. Don’t dare me to breathe
I want you to remember, oh (you will never see)
I need something to fly (something to fly)
Over my grave again (you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)
Baby, don’t shiver now. Why do you shiver now?
(I will see things you will never see)
I need something to breathe
Something to breathe
(I have seen things you will never see)
I want you to remember

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Come stand a little bit closer.

Oh, hey, a little bit of everything.

Ben is just fine, thanks for your concern. For the record he doesn't believe in that sort of thing and just says he felt so incredibly sick for a moment he thought it was the end and also for the record he didn't want to go to the ER. I did. He's so strong and brave and capable all of the time I didn't know what to do when he had a minute where he just needed to sit down and catch his breath. Point taken.

The fairy boys are here today. They've been around more now that they've had a few months to settle into their cozy home (or as we say, they're coming up for air at last. Snort.). It makes me laugh. Though I'm going to start referring to them as Savage Garden because...the haircuts. It's just...uncanny (photo is of the actual band. I'm still trying to talk Schuyler into letting me post a pic because oh my God, it's so awesome how much they look like those two.)

What can I say? The boys like their privacy. That's why I write a little about all of them, instead of everything about one or two of them. I learned my lesson with that, once upon a time.

Speaking of lessons, yes, my brain indeed chooses to make Jacob age in my head because I couldn't deal with keeping him at 36 forever because no one else gets to stay the same age forever.

But that's a tangent and clearly this is how the day is turning out. One big deviation called Wednesday by name, featuring sun, rain, some epic wind and the bitter end of the snow I didn't want in the first place. And I can't make my brain stop long enough to focus. Or my eyes, but I don't want to talk about that because they will worry.

And I don't like to make people worry.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Made sense of it myself, since no one else could.

(Over the weekend Ben had some sort of episode. An acute anxiety attack, they say. He had some tests and he's fine. Fine. Still 95% goofball, 5% big scary metal rocker. I thought he was having a heart attack and I'm afraid I did not deal with things very well at all.)
I've been watching you with my terminal view
As you struggle to rise to your end
I laughed hard at the insults we threw
As the weight of the world found revenge
I sit on the floor, my back up against the concrete wall, one bare light down at the end by the door swinging gently, failing to cast enough light for warmth or safety or vision. In my arms he sleeps. Sprawled across my legs uneasily. Maybe he doesn't know I am here. My chin hits my chest and I bounce awake abruptly. I will not sleep for as long as it takes.

I will remain here with my hands pressed over his heart and search for the pattern that allows me to breathe when otherwise I will hold my breath tightly until the room turns black without even realizing it. Right now my hips and my head ache but you can't take him. Oh no, not on my watch. He may be, we both may be beaten down and tested and scarred and ruined and afraid and maybe you won this round but you will not take him from me.

On the other side of a sunny afternoon the showman removes his hat and grins. He'll be fine, it wasn't anything, he reassures. I shake my head and turn away from the bright lights. I don't believe you, I say. He laughs and fades from the moment.

In his place sits Jacob. I am startled. He is sitting in a chair. New lines extrude from his eyes and mouth. Today his shirt is grey, bringing out the ashes in his hair, muting the twenty-four carat gold crown that fits perfectly. He is silent and serious. The chair is new, I didn't put that here.

I did, he says gently.

Oh, I think. You can do that?

You need to let go of him, Bridget.

Don't even fucking start with me, Jacob!

Put your arms down. You think that declaring vigilance over the spacing of Ben's heartbeats will give you comfort? In order to have that you need to accept what God gives and what he takes away.

God doesn't interest me tonight.

God gave him back to you, as he does each and every morning, and you fail to appreciate your gifts because you are too busy making up stories and worrying about the wrong things.

I was scared. My voice is defensive and annoyed. Jake laughs and rakes his fingers through his hair. It's so long. How did it get so long?

You react with the knees of a jerk, princess.

It's an old in-joke and it stings to hear such funny words from him after all this time. I clutch my arms tighter around the heart I am holding and Jacob shakes his head. Your energies are misdirected.

Did I ask for help?

Sure. I heard you pray to God for a break. You have it. So let go.

And then what?

Then take a breath.

Why would I listen to you? You bailed, preacherman.

I'm the only one rooting for the two of you, princess.

That actually makes three of us.

It won't be enough. You're outnumbered, and I don't think some days that he's as tough as he wishes people think he is.

You don't know him like I do, Jake.

I can't protect you from here.

Protection? I'm not asking for protection!

YOU SHOULD BE! He roars and I flinch a thousand miles away and back. Life doesn't hold any guarantees, Bridget. Shit happens. And you need to let go so you don't get hurt.

I put my head back against the cold cement and closed my eyes. He keeps going.

Are you listening, Bridge?

You need to stop talking now, Jacob. I got to my knees and then stood up shakily, leaving Ben sleeping on the floor. You need to stop telling me what I should be doing and just help me.

I am. I'm trying to help you. You don't listen.

Surprise. No, I don't. Is everybody happy now?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Passive archaeology (moment for the thief).


A place high in the mountains with the streets made of stone and the sunshine and the bunting flags strung across the laneways. There is a lot of laughter and songs but not in English.

What will we eat?

Pizza. With garlic and goat cheese.


Lemonade. Homemade. With ice. In a tall clear yellow glass.

What else do you see?

I'm wearing a ring. It's a pale pink faceted stone and a gold band. And a sundress. White with pastel drawings. Braids. A lady did these elaborate braids in my hair.


You. You're in all white and you're laughing and entertaining a group of children near the goat pen. You're juggling eggs for them. And their hats.

How many goats are there?

I don't see any.

Anything else?

There's a old blue bicycle with a basket on the back. Three fat baguettes stick out. No one seems to own the bike, it's been there the whole time, but no one has stolen it.

Why not?

They don't do that here.

Would you stay?

No, it's a little too perfect. It's better as a brief memory. Passing through, that's all.

Do you remember that we stole the bicycle and ate all the bread?

Yes. Did we ruin that place for them?

I don't think so. What's one bicycle?

And the food for a week?

Do you think that was food for a week for them?

No, maybe just bread to go with food they already had.

So does that make it okay?

No, but we didn't have a choice.

How does that make it okay, peanut?

Call it the price for an afternoon's entertainment?

Good girl.

We should have taken a goat instead.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

An absence of sound.

Listen, hear, he is inside
One who lives while others lie
I close my eyes and walk a thousand years
A thousand years that aren't mine
It seems he's near me as I walk
One who loved what love denied
He lives these years that I walk blind
All these years cannot be mine
Softly, I hear him begin counting. Under his breath the whispers are dispensed in turn, in order. It's a simple system. He starts at six and works backwards, and I have until he gets to one to be in his arms, nowhere else. It's a game that makes my blood run so cold I shiver. It's a game that absolutely no one approves of but we do it anyway.

I extricate myself from the loose grasp of the sleeping circus and slip into his arms before he reaches four. Woken up out of a sound sleep by a scarcely spoken number I am mindful and quick, obedient to a rash degree.

My reward is a long hard kiss, squarely on the mouth, his breath held, senses alert, skin flushed, eyebrows tensed. Envy wakes him in the night, nightmares that masquerade as a potential new reality forcing him to seek confirmation in spite of the hour or the desperate dwindling supply of rest I fight for every night.

His hands slide up around my neck, fingers locking under my ears, thumbs under my chin. He forces my face up to his for another long and breathless kiss. I could die here, I think to myself, but he has other plans. I am turned away, turned over, rearranged in the position of the perfection he creates for himself. I am disarmed and fragile now.

The night shifts from his demand for my loyalty to his need to prove his worth. His breath catches in my hair now, held fast as his hands slide down over my legs. Searing pleasure takes me over. I can't breathe. His hands are everywhere at once. Pulling my hair back, sliding over my lips, digging into my ribs, locked around my neck and finally they settle, one between my shoulder blades and one around my hip. He holds such an incredible balance here between forcing me out of consciousness and holding me on the cusp of heaven, burning me against the rim. I hold my breath and let him make the decision on my behalf. I am rewarded with a gasp of rich oxygen and unimaginable bliss. A bliss that lasts for the time it takes the stars to work their way across obscurity. A bliss that wears us to pieces.

Slowly he labors to a standstill and I am pulled over onto my back to face him. His shaking fingers trail down my face and I smile in the dark and kiss him softly on the cheek. He pushes me away and then pulls me back in against him, chin on top of my head, goosebumps fading quickly from my skin, cool flesh replacing fire. Sleep substituting for reality, dreams taking over from their unwelcome counterparts, numbers returned to their lull until tonight.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Never make a companion equal to a brother. ~Hesiod

I found the first three Great Brain books by J.D. Fitzgerald in with Lochlan's boxes of artwork. Lochlan used to read them to me at the lake. Yes, I could read when I was ten but I always thought it sounded better coming from him. I have put them on the shelf in Henry's room and can't wait for him to 'find' them. I'm not sure if he'll be able to, Henry's room is all planets and magic tricks. A magician's tophat rests on a post near the door and everything inside is mysterious and eclectic. He is so not a typical boy, instead he is an old soul borrowed from a different, darker time, perhaps.

Maybe we're all that way and we're living out the same lives over and over, our interpersonal relationships predetermined and...

No, I'm not drunk, but thanks for wondering. I should be, after such a long week but I didn't even steal a glance at the wine and poured a glass of ginger ale instead, failed to taste my food even though it was right in front of me, abandoned the plate half-finished for a doorbell rung in the pouring rain and stood in the front hall staring at an envelope held by a face who only told me scary stories I didn't want to hear and pretended he would make everything better but I am still waiting.

The envelope was white and I didn't take it, I just stared at it as he held it out to me.

Your mail. It was in my mailbox, princess.

Oh, thank you, I am finally shaken out of my reverie. I look at the envelope. It's an interest statement. It isn't important so I roll it up in my hand and raise my gaze to him once more.


I shake my head again.

What's the matter?

I'm tired! I snap at Caleb. It's been a really long week.

Do you want to come down to spend a little time? Unwind a bit?

I put my hands up to my eyes and spin in a circle. He puts out his hands and stops me. Bastard.

No! I just want to be left alone.

He stares at me for a long minute. An endless minute. I alternately want to dig a hole and bury myself in it to get away from the uncomfortable misery of his gaze and hit him over the head with the shovel until he falls into the hole and stops staring at me.

I'm sorry.

Don't be. He's right.

Who is?

Batman. We spread you too thinly and put too much pressure on you. And I knew you didn't like toast. I've known since that time in Breckenridge when you threw it off the balcony and asked if you could have a croissant because toast was boring and you needed to go the extra mile because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.



Stop showing off.

I turned around and walked back to the kitchen to my now-cold plate and an empty table. If Caleb and I knew each other in a past life, I wonder if we are fixing things as we go or making things worse? Do we follow the same steps to the same dance every time or do we make improvements in some areas and forget the moves in others and change everything? Maybe the music is different and maybe the love is all rearranged and backwards and unexpected.

Maybe I broke something major, this time around.

Oh, right, nevermind. I remember what was broken.

My heart.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Half-hearted vigilantes and other tales from the big frozen book of unintentional winter.

If you need me, Batman has all the pieces since he tore them off early this morning as I stood in his office while the sun came up grey and cold over the frosted harbour. The look on his face. I should have turned and left but he probably would have stopped me. There's nothing more horrible than being chastised like a child when one already feels like one in spite of the lies on the calendar page.

You need to take that down, Bridget, you don't even know what you're talking about.

I know what I saw.

You heard not one word of the conversation that took place and for Christ's sake, we would not have taken you to a place where there were people who wanted to hurt you.

I remain silent, swallowing any protest since he's clearly in the mood to teach and not to listen to my views.

Stop picking at your nails.

I'm not. I put my hands behind my back defiantly. I rock my shoulders. If he's going to infantilize me then I will exploit it to the fullest. It works. He softens.

I'm sorry, Bridget, I just don't think it's wise to write about things you don't know anything about when there are people outside of your..household involved. Caleb had a partnership with some folks and I bought his interest because he is retiring. That was all. Nothing more. It has nothing to do with you. Okay? I'm sorry. Perhaps I should have explained it better.

I'm sorry too. I said it quietly.

No harm done. It's not like you ever name names. You have quite a gift for sharing the various personalities around you so truthfully and openly without giving anything away. I wish more people would respect privacy in the same way.

I nod. It serves no purpose to share names on a journal that is personal. It's about relationships, not careers anyway. But at the end of the day I am incorrigible, and I will spin it however I see fit.

So would you say that you bought me fair and square or did Caleb work out a repayment schedule with you?

He was dumbstruck briefly and then he laughed. Okay it seemed a little forced but it usually is when he laughs. He hardly ever laughs. He's a very serious person most of the time. Instead of answering my question he thumbs through his phone rapidly, and points out the unfortunate scheduling of the day that prevents him from taking me to breakfast. I tell him it's fine, that I'm going to go home and ask Caleb how much he owes and who holds the title to me now because I lose track all the time and who can figure this out without a flowchart and a map but the map should be drawn on human flesh since that's what we are trading and Batman frowns and cuts me off. He tells me to go home and go straight to the house and make some toast.

I hate toast, I point out.

I didn't know that, Bridget.

There's a lot you don't know about me but you never ask.

Because of the rush I left sad on the floor, along with dull turmoil, criticism and curiosity too. They can replace mesmerism, safety and objectivity because he doesn't offer those anymore.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Parlay (but not coated in sugar this time).

(So much trouble.)
In fact you've got your hands tied behind your back when somebody chooses to take a low road in to you, there is nothing you can do about it, and so you just live with it and move on.
~Robert Redford
I'm sitting in the club watching all of the men watch the girls. Peelers thinly disguised as quasi-burlesque performers and I'm the only girl in the room who isn't onstage taking off her clothes, or waiting for a turn to do so.

This is great. Glad I flew all this way for this.

The club is a private gentleman's club. I don't even know what that means, except it probably involves under-the-table deals and escort services, or maybe that's being too generous at this point. Hookers and blow but there's a dress code. My drink is so strong my eyes are watering and my throat burns, or perhaps that's just a visceral reaction to Lochlan's facial expression right now. He hasn't taken his eyes off the girl closest to him. She looks the most like me. He looks hard, pained and disappointed. He looks so fucking angry and I know he worked his way through his first few drinks quickly to dull his reluctance to be here, or maybe to dull his rage.

I'm afraid to be drunk. I'm afraid to be out of control in this place, with these people. Our only saving grace is that Batman, Ben and Caleb all asked for coffee and then stood silently while attempts were made to talk them into something stronger, and finally another server was fetched and dispatched to brew a pot of good coffee. I'm wondering if even that is a good idea. What if they drug us? What if I wake up on the other side of the world with my passport held for safekeeping by an unnamed benefactor who tells me I will pay him back my travel expenses by selling my talents of the flesh and giving him every last penny?

What if I never see my kids again?

I deliberately spill my drink and make a huge fuss. I need to be sober. I am waved away while the mess is attended to, another drink placed on the table in front of me in seconds. Fuck it all. The men are talking, hardly paying attention to one another, watching the girls with the dead eyes while they attempt to renegotiate deals Caleb made while he was more evil, more vindictive and more depraved. I am told one of those deals involved me, and that's why I was requested as his plus-one at this party, which isn't a party at all. He was supposed to leave me here.

Merry fucking Christmas, or whatever they say in Russian. I was collateral and there was a margin call.

I had great faith in Batman being able to fix this, since the laws of planet earth say you can't give away what doesn't belong to you. Ben and Lochlan are here because neither one would stay behind (thank God). Batman only came because the deal involved me. Had it been Caleb's life on the line he would have let them kill him. Happily so.

Last I heard we were artists and we had a lovely collective in the mountains by the sea. How quickly things change. It's surreal standing in a dark smoky lounge with a locked and guarded door, fifteen hundred kilometers from home. Everywhere, men with guns. I check my watch which elicits a frown from the same man who did the tango with me last time I saw him. Or rather, he tried to teach me the tango. He is three hundred pounds and smells like roses, but he could crush any of us in seconds. He was uncharacteristically graceful.

And I called it. Almost two years ago, I said I wondered if Caleb had gotten backing from the Russians. Right here.

We were back on the plane at two a.m. No one wanted to sleep, no one wanted to stick around for breakfast either. Lochlan had one of my hands tightly in his, and Ben had the other. I could skip along three feet off the ground but it was neither the time nor the place, instead I just ran to keep up with how fast they walked across the tarmac.

Batman glowered at Caleb the whole way home. I didn't really understand the new vitriol until the plane was in the air and he pointed at Caleb and said now the Devil was going to understand precisely what it feels like to not be in control of one's own destiny. More than ever. I believe Batman bought back my life at a margin of 700 to 1, or some such inflated price over what was actually owed.

The Russians knew before we got there that the price on my head would be met, no matter what. Which either makes me a huge liability or very very very very special indeed.

Or maybe just quite a bit more happy to be home than you might realize. I drank everything I could find on the plane on the way home. When we landed I just remained in my seat, numb and worn out. Ben finally picked me up and carried me to the car. I don't think he understood how frightening this was for me. Maybe that's a good thing. I am still permitted to spend time with Caleb, but the rules are that it be here, within reach. This is one of the caveats that led him to move onto the property. Another one is no more deals.

You know, I wasn't going to write about what happened before Christmas when we flew to Tahoe, not to this extent anyhow, but I grow weary of people wondering why the tides shifted so abruptly with Caleb, and attempting to predict when they will shift back. If this is not proof that they won't be swinging back to the old ways, I don't know what is.

Fear, as it turns out, is one of the strongest motivators.

I should know.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Feeling better/Business as usual.

Hahahahaha. The boys who live here have flooded my inbox with videos of themselves singing. I am so lucky. Or cursed.

Let me wade through the submissions and see who gets to stay.

(I'm KIDDING! PJ can't even sing Happy Birthday properly. And he already left and then came back so no one's going to go through THAT again, thanks.)

They have requested something of me though. That I stop dancing around the kitchen punching the air and bleating along with the stereo to I Want it All while I bake for them. Apparently I am 'embarrassing'.

Well now.



Monday, 16 January 2012

The benchmark for showmen the world over.

Someone asked in an email what the criteria was for joining my 'hippie commune' as they so sweetly called it.

Easy. You have to sing this song. A cappella. Without your voice breaking at the 2:32 mark, after the bridge, naturally.

Send video submissions to my email. We're always looking for new victims entertainment.


Sunday, 15 January 2012

Open ticket.

I'm sorry, Bridget. I really think you're spreading yourself too thin. I worry about you. I fear for your heart and your continued improvement when you degenerate into trying to please all of them.

All of us, don't you mean?

No, the houseful you have. I am a separate entity.

It's the same thing, Cale.

I didn't invite you here to argue, I invited you down for a bite to eat and a drink. What would you like?

Scotch, bourbon. Whatever you're drinking is fine.


Oh, how fitting. Pour me a big one, would you, please?


I turn and look at the water as he heads inside. A cigar rests in the tray on the table. All it needs is a brief hint of oil paint and I will be in 1995 again. Memories are a time machine and we are just too chicken to get in so we watch them like a movie through the windows of our minds. Because you can't go back. Time machines aren't real. I go back inside.

Here, baby girl, a little ice for you too.

Thank you. I take a huge gulp and stare up at him up over the rim of the glass. He's smiling at me slightly, curiosity in his features. He's so handsome my knees start to tremble lightly. I didn't ever in a million years want to acknowledge that but I may as well. Time is short and he's got a defective ticker and a death wish. Sort of an odd conundrum for Satan, but I don't see Satan around anywhere right now. Oh well, the night is young, now, isn't it?

Where is Ben tonight?

Downstairs in the studio.

Anything new?

Maybe. Yes, I think so.


Why don't you find him and ask?

I see. How long can you stay?

I'd like to stay for as long as it takes me to drink this without rushing and then I'm going up to the house to go to bed. I'm still not a hundred percent but worlds better through the weekend. We settled in at the kitchen island despite his protests and chat about the children for a while. I include discussions on Ruth because it's a habit and because I'm not dividing my life or their lives down the middle just because Caleb and Lochlan stand on opposite sides of the yard most days and scowl each other down.

Eventually he sees that I am three-quarters finished and brings the subject back around to shared interests. He remarks that he's almost glad the offer on the property up North fell through. Whistler casts a magical spell around those who visit, imploring us to stay. In reality we won't get up there any more than once every few weeks.

Instead he suggests some changes to expand the boathouse and I shut him down, pointing out the permit headaches with the dock already and the fact that I like the boathouse the way it is, and can't deal with any more change. I tread carefully, his name is on the mortgage contract and I don't own this house after all. I tread confidently because he is in my good graces and I am as generous, if not more, to try to keep us equal. It's easier.

He suggests a home in the country, then. A luxurious retreat with horses, near the lake where the children like to swim, a getaway but still within a couple hours drive. I veto that, we have plenty of room, he can go and buy whatever he likes but this house makes me happy and I don't want a second, thanks.

I am trying to figure out what Caleb is up to when he abruptly changes gear again.

A trip, then. Somewhere warm, a break from this weather.

Where? (I am humoring him and curious besides).

Maldives? Montserrat? Spain? Pick somewhere and we'll go.

Who will go?

You and I. Maybe the children if you wish.

My drink is finished. I get it. He wants to score points, hell, he just wants to score and has reached the desperation stage where he would give me the moon if only I would view it in his presence, exclusively. I call him out because I can't stand it anymore.

Why do you do this?

I'm making sure you have an escape this time. Something I didn't give you before and I should have.

An escape from what?

Men like Cole. Men like me.

I drink the last of my bourbon in one giant gulp and let it burn right down to the ends of my toes while I consider his confession.

You're right, Caleb. You should have done this years ago. Why the fuck didn't you do this years ago?

Would you have taken it? Would you have accepted rescue from someone like me?

I left the question hanging in the cold night air, letters smeared in the fresh snow, words chilled to just above freezing, almost imperceptible in the dark. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Friday, 13 January 2012

He's going to kill me for telling you this but sick people get bored eventually.

When I said he had no nickname you didn't actually believe me, did you?
aluminum, tastes like fear
adrenaline, it pulls us near
I'll take you over
it tastes like fear, there
I'll take you over

will you live to eighty-three?
will you ever welcome me?
will you show me something that nobody else has seen?
smoke it, drink
here comes the flood
anything to thin the blood
these corrosives do their magic slowly and sweet
phone, eat it, drink
just another chink
cuts and dents, they catch the light
aluminum, the weakest link

I don't want to disappoint you
I'm not here to anoint you
I would lick your feet
but is that the sickest move?
I wear my own crown and sadness and sorrow
and who'd have thought tomorrow could be so strange?
my loss, and here we go again
He's scrubbing his hands. Outside at the tap, kneeling on the grass in front of a bucket. His shirt is filthy and his skin and hair is streaked and blackened. It makes his teeth look unnaturally white. Lochlan is so focused I'm hoping the sound of my stomach growling as I sit ten feet behind him in the sun interrupts his efforts so that we can go and eat now. He's used half a bar of soap already, grinding the little brush against the surface and then pressing so hard I worry but this is part of his wind-down and it takes as long as it takes, while he replays his performance and makes mental changes or notes for the next one, on the next day.


I say it so softly I don't know if he hears. Abruptly he reaches up and turns off the water and then rinses his hands one last time and wipes them on the hem of his shirt. I frown. He goes through five triple packages of plain white t-shirts per season. So wasteful.

What did you say, peanut?

I laugh. I said Locket. Because you need a nickname.

I don't need anything. I have a name. What does that mean anyway?

You're very important to me, and you keep everything hidden on the inside, locked up tight but once you open up you share your secrets and surprises with me.

Surprises, huh?


Locked up tight? What do you mean?

You never tell me you're afraid or mad or worried until it's over.

Yeah. You know me too well.

So I can use it?

Only you. And not in front of anyone, okay?

They wouldn't catch it, I don't think. You don't have to worry.

You're loud. They'll catch it.


It's okay, peanut. I like it, I always know where you are because you're noisy. As if on cue, my stomach rumbles again. Hey, want to go in town for lunch? The diner has minestrone for the special today, and all the bread you can eat.

Maybe you should phone ahead so they can start baking more.

He laughs out loud. Run and fetch the helmets, then. And no thinking up any more nicknames along the way, okay?

No deal. You do it all the time.

He smiles and turns to inspect his fingernails to see if he is decent enough for lunch. I turn and run for the camper to collect our gear.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Masquerading as a man with a reason.

Still sick. Kind of really sick but being treated and soon to be good as new. Or better than ever. Okay, at least no worse off than before.

In other news, Lochlan's compiling the Time Life Collection of Quintessential Songs From The Past That Paralyze Bridget Like Nothing You've Ever Seen, Physically, Mentally and Emotionally.

I thought the Rock Band game had that covered, since both collections open with Carry on Wayward Son.

I'll be dead by Saturday at this rate. Or frozen in place. Meh, nevermind, it all feels the same right now anyway. Back to convalescing and looking amazing while doing it.

Oh scratch that, Ben just said I look so pale I'm green. So I match my eyes at least. Here's to color-coordination in fever dreams!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

In a room with the unwell feral child at noon on a cold sunny Wednesday.

So...if you could...who would you bring back first?

Freddie Mercury.

I test Caleb's patience so. Bridget-

I was just teasing. John Bonham for sure. Or Peter Steele. You know what? I'm not sure now.

Are you going to make jokes all day?

Jokes? That's the holy triad of unrequited bucket lists right there. Three bands I will never see intact, Queen, Zeppelin and Type-O Negative. You need to get with it.

I meant Cole or Jacob.

I'm only answering that if you're prepared to invoke your evil powers right this second to pull it off. If we have a deal, I'll give you a name. If you're not playing Satan than fuck you for asking. AGAIN, I might add. I don't understand why it even matters so much when they're both gone.

They aren't gone. You conjure them up in the fucking garage on every day that ends in Y. If they weren't in our faces all day every day we wouldn't wonder so much.

No one told you you had to live here. I reached past him and pried the honey dipper out of his hand as he spiraled the golden liquid into his tea. I stuck it in my mouth, then pulled it out and held it up over my open mouth to let the remainder drip onto my tongue.

No one told me you were such an incredible pain in the ass when you're sick, Bridget.

I'm worse when I feel well.

Yes, yes you are.

Gee, thanks.

Don't mention it.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Smoke and mirrors.

She dreams in color
She dreams in red.
Ten minutes after eleven I make it back inside, slip off my shoes by the door and tiptoe upstairs. Cole is sitting in the hall on the top step in the dark.

We'll have to add some hot water, he says as he gets up and walks back into our room.

I follow him right into the bathroom where he has a million candles lit and a deep steaming bubblebath ready.

He turns to kiss me but stops just as I close my eyes.

What in the hell is all over you?

He walks back to the door and flicks on the light while I face the mirror.

Well, fucking SHIT.

Handprints. Carbon, charcoal-black sooty full handprints on both sides of my face, my neck and my hands. Cole starts to pull my clothes off and there are more. Everywhere, just everywhere.

The look on his face would have killed a lesser human but I have something to live for now. To get back at Cole for giving me to Caleb I upped the ante and started to see Lochlan behind Cole's back. Loch will never say a thing, he will look Cole in the eye and lie so convincingly it's easy to see how he can charm a crowd.

It's also easy to see how careless we can be when rushed, when desperate.

I look back at my own expression. Wild-eyed surprise. I look..happy. I look crazed and exhilarated and satisfied. I look amazing, like a living work of art, almost like when I become covered with paint when Cole paints a study of me or wants to use me for figure painting except this is in black and white so it's as if I have been molded and shaded by Lochlan's hand.

That's exactly how I became who I am. I was created by him and finished by Cole. Cole took a work in progress and tore me back a few layers to make changes and broke some unique features and I was never the same.

I am hoping to circumvent him now with Lochlan to finish myself. To complete Bridget and not have any more teardowns or revisions. I am defying him with every step I take, burning the memories in the flames, extinguishing my loyalty to him in a bucket of water that I ran and fetched at the tap behind the barn, crying the whole way, big hitching blubbering sobs because I thought Lochlan was going to burn.

It takes exactly five days for the marks to wear off my pale skin and another three for Cole to speak directly to me. I don't notice. I keep seeing my face in the mirror that night. Full of life. Loved. Wanted. Taken.

Vaguely singed.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Game of chance.

He's down on the back patio practicing with his torches. Eating fire. Slow burn tricks and human lighter stunts that make me smile. Showy stuff. His arm still hurts. They refused to cast it anymore. He refused to let them anymore. He said it will heal on its own, eventually.

I am inside, washing pots and pans, watching closely since he is out there alone. I turn and quickly scan the room for my phone in case he goes up in flames and I have to call emergency. My face hits Ben's chest squarely and I bounce back against the sink.

Ow. You really have to stop sneaking up behind me.

You really should wear those tiny things that help you hear me, bee.

When I wear those I can hear Mars sneaking up behind me, Benny. Possibly Jupiter too.

He laughs and spins me back around so I can keep washing dishes while he puts his chin on my head and leans forward to look out the window.

Fuck, I gotta learn to do that.

Why? I'm guessing you have enough talents.

Oh really. He leans down and plants a kiss directly behind my ear while squeezing me so tightly I hear popping noises in all sorts of different places.

Crushing me should not be one of them.

Depends on the circumstances. He wraps his hand around my throat and pulls my face to the right to kiss me. I struggle, pointing out that I would love to cuddle as soon as I'm finished the dishes and Lochlan comes back inside.

Why? Do you have plans?

I always watch him to make sure he's safe.

Too bad he couldn't do the same. It's out before he can censor himself.

Low blow, Benjamin.

True story, Wee-Bee.

We engage in a thousand-yard staring contest. I'm not going to continue to defend Lochlan, my position on that is well-documented. I'm allowed to point out Lochlan's epic failures and he's allowed to point out mine, as they pertain to each other. No one else will get that privilege. Ben changes tactics, because he doesn't think it's worth continuing either.

How about we rendezvous at eleven then? A hot bath with some rose petals, just for my beautiful bride.

I nod but my eyes flick toward the window again, checking the patio. Ben misses nothing.

Eleven then, he frowns and shoves me toward the back door. He points at me. Why the hell is everyone doing that lately? Don't get too close to the fire, okay? You'll get burned. He does the Kurgan impression again, winks and turns away, walking out of the room.

I stop long enough to pull on my shoes and then I run out the back door and across the deck toward the steps. If there's a show starting I don't want to be late.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

I didn't mind the wait. I was watching the sunlight kiss the waves. All the way out past the sandbars where the whitecaps threatened even the best of swimmers. I swam out there once and only once. It was exhilarating, terrifying and life-changing. I'd like to do it again only that sort of courage is hard to muster and harder to maintain.

I can feel my skin starting to burn. I frown and pull out my sunscreen. SPF 15. I don't think it's working so I slip my sundress back on over my bathing suit. I don't own any sunglasses. I pull off the ribbon from my braid and let the wind comb my hair. That will protect my shoulders, ears and neck at least.

And then I see him, hurrying down the boardwalk, arms tight with the weight of the canvas bags he is carrying. He jumps off the high end of the step and slogs through the deep sand between the dunes to where I sit waiting, my bag full of sketchbooks abandoned beside me.

He drops down and scrutinizes me.

Sorry for the delay. The lineups are incredible with the tourists here. He frowns slightly. You're burning. Let's go back.

Can we eat first and then go right home? Always hungry. My stomach growls for effect and Lochlan laughs.

Look what I found for you. He reaches into the bag and pulls out a small bottle of Orange Crush, and then a second. It's like a scavenger hunt in every little town for us now. And this, he pulls out two bags of chips and then two sandwiches. I am busy spreading out the quilt that was in the other bag and then I check to see if there is anything else to be unpacked. At the bottom of the bag I find a folded up piece of notebook paper. Not so much folded, but crumpled.

I take it out and begin to open it up when Lochlan reaches out and takes it from me. He is abrupt and rough.

That's a list I made for my birthday plans, I should keep that. No worries.

But he's lying and we both know it.

He stands up and shoves it deep into the pocket of his cargo shorts. When he sits back down everything has changed. The sun runs to hide behind the clouds. The seagulls cease their cries along the cliffs. The waves smooth themselves and lurk under the surface.

He opens my pop and hands me the bottle. Eat, Bridget. We have a busy evening ahead. I think we can manage a quick swim though. He smiles gently now.

I nod and tilt the bottle up to take a sip. He is unwrapping the sandwiches. Egg for me, Montreal smoked meat for himself. They are from the deli beside the corner store. In exchange for the free lunch Lochlan will allow the owner's children to ride the Ferris wheel all damn weekend long, whenever they please. It's a small risk with a big reward: food. Something that is always too scarce on the road. No matter what we do we're always vaguely hungry. When I see deer at the edge of clearing behind the campers I don't want to feed them, I want someone to shoot them so we can barbecue them and then sleep deeply instead of fitfully, woken by pangs of hunger.

I have become a tiny carny, savage and with bloodlust in my eyes. At least that's what Lochlan describes me as in the stories he tells me late at night while we watch the stars through the little window above our bed.

I should have asked about that piece of paper again. I know what's on it now but it would have made all the difference back then.

Friday, 6 January 2012

A year of living dangerously.

(Oh, hello, she says as she turns around to acknowledge your presence. I don't know why you jumped. After all you were the one who went looking for her. And you always find what you're looking for.)

I was going to come in here and distract you with flighty, nonsense words. I was going to show you my resolutions for the new year. I was going to share my hopes with you, and my plans to become a better, new and improved princess, starting the year off right but then two things happened.

Thing one was that Lochlan and PJ got into it. I mean, really got into it. They took us all by surprise and since the dust is still settling I can't say too much yet. This is one of the hazards of an intentional family, in reality. In fantasy, this was a terrible, horrible no-good fight.

Thing two was that I looked at the list of resolutions I have typed up and I noticed that there are only two things still on the list that I haven't already broken.

So fuck that, I guess.

And no, one of them wasn't to swear less. Jesus, people. The rest of the world can mind their mouths, I like mine the way it is, thanks. Filthy as a Sailor, twenty-four seven.

And now since we've done nothing but watch four entire seasons of The Wizards of Waverly Place in the past two days while sick with the second round of the holiday flu, I need to go. The final movie starts in an hour, and I need to see who the family wizard will be.

I know who it is in this house.



Thursday, 5 January 2012

I really need to be wearing this right now.


It's seven in the morning and Ben and I are sitting on the cliff, legs swinging.

What do we do now?

Live in the moment, baby.

I don't think I like this particular set of moments.

Okay then, let's drink some coffee and watch the sun come up.

And then what after that?

You plan too much. What about just taking things as they come?

What about actively seeking your dreams?

Tell me your dreams.

I don't know what they are anymore. Things have changed so much. I used to know. I used to have a plan.

And what happened?

Life happened and my plans fell apart.

Right, so maybe plan less and watch more sunrises and maybe a new plan will come about.

How much time did you spend with Jacob again? You sound just like him.

More than you might realize. I kind of liked the guy.

Shut the fuck up.

I cross my heart, pig-a-let.

Hey Ben?

Yeah, Bridget?

You're totally ruining this moment, imitating him.

But you're in it now, at least. And that's what I was aiming for.

Well you got it. Straight through the heart.


Yeah what?

Oh nothing, I was waiting for you to break into that Bryan Adams song.

I said straight

Close enough.

Not even.

If we keep bickering we're going to miss the part where the colors fade.

You need to stop reading my blog.

I can't help it. It's fascinating. It's like the junk drawer of your brain.

Really? How so?

A scrap of REM lyrics, some love letters, a paperclip bent into the shape of a heart, some dead birds, a thousand seashells, some faulty, unlit stars and a Slipknot CD you didn't tell anyone you still had. It's a shadowy drawer though, hard to see everything in it. I bet it keeps going forever, you can just keep pulling it out and you never reach the end.

Sounds perfect.

Kinda like you.

My eyes filled up and I shook my head. Not even close. But I know what's in your junk drawer, Benny.

He wagged his tongue at me, Kurgan-style. Yeah baby.

No, not that junk drawer.

Okay, what's in it? Serious now.

It's empty save for a guitar pick and a pair of rose-colored glasses.

Exactly. Now tell me, Bridget. What the fuck is cerulean?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Hush, now.

Bury all your secrets in my skin
Come away with innocence, and leave me with my sins
The air around me still feels like a cage
And love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again

So if you love me, let me go.
And run away before I know.
My heart is just too dark to care.
I can't destroy what isn't there.
Deliver me into my fate
If I'm alone I cannot hate
I don't deserve to have you
My smile was taken long ago
If I can change I hope I never know

I still press your letters to my lips
And cherish them in parts of me that savor every kiss
I couldn't face a life without your light
But all of that was ripped apart
when you refused to fight

So save your breath, I will not hear.
I think I made it very clear.
You couldn't hate enough to love.
Is that supposed to be enough?
I only wish you weren't my friend.
Then I could hurt you in the end.
I never claimed to be a saint
My own was banished long ago
It took the death of hope to let you go

So break yourself against my stones
And spit your pity in my soul
You never needed any help
You sold me out to save yourself
And I won't listen to your shame
You ran away - you're all the same
Angels lie to keep control
My love was punished long ago
If you still care, don't ever let me know

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A wild night and a new road.

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I'm choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this the hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me to my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
I've said too much
Ben confronts me late last evening in the upstairs hall.

What's the point, bee? Why are you still trying to reconcile Cole and Jacob's war anymore? It doesn't matter now.

Good, they're all still reading. That makes it easier.

I'm not doing it for me, I wrote that for Caleb. Just because I give someone a cookie doesn't mean they are forgiven.

o? Who isn't forgiven?

But I didn't answer, I just walked around him out to the balcony to say goodnight to the sea.

Monday, 2 January 2012

As if no one is watching/Disinformation.

(The pearls and cameo pinks competed with the cerulean and cyan streaks of blue for attention this morning and they had it from darkness onward. Rapt. Hypnotized by a moment and she went back for more, standing on the back steps watching the pinks dissolve and the brightest blues fade into pale representations of themselves. The culmination of warm light with such vibrant colors is a gift, albeit a fleeting one, like life itself. She spins and spins and hums to herself even though she can't hear it. She can feel the vibrations. That's enough.

Dreams are popped like balloons, words thrown around carelessly, regret and frustration remain bookmarked right where we left them, ready to pick up and carry along. These days are hard, she said, and he knew exactly what she meant in spite of the fact that she's on a different page. He has already read that one and can advise her of excitement or sorrow to come.
No, don't tell me! She implores him not to give away the surprises, if only that she can discover them on her own. Otherwise there is no point.

The rain threatens to melt away her transparent facade so that all can see, voyeurs clawing at her emotions. Blatant, curious stares returned to her instead of comfort.
She shakes her head in denial and she goes and does what she was going to do anyway.)


Dance, Bridget.

I was! Sorry you missed it.

More, then. I can wait.
I want to watch you.

Suddenly I'm embarrassed but I push my chin up and tell him
the moment has passed. Sort of like the sunrise.

I saw it. It was beautiful, no?

It was.

Thanks for the cookies in the kitchen.

Oh! You're welcome. How many did you have?

The plate.

You ate them all?

Yeah, they were so good...I'm
sorry, was I not supposed to?

I was hoping Cole would get a chance to have at least one.

I didn't know. Look, I can say they were taken to the station and enjoyed. I've been talking to Cole anyway. Letting him know that if he has any concerns or if he needs to talk to someone I'm here. If I can help him-

It's okay. Everything's alright.

My mind is racing. He's talking to Cole? Oh, maybe this is not okay and I just try and do things the way I think they should work and then if they don't work I wait for help. But I don't know who will help with this. Andrew is always away. Lochlan? Are you kidding? Don't even ask. Christian might feel as if he is forced to pick sides. Daniel is a big monkey, he throws food and makes me laugh but he's not strong enough by half. Duncan is too busy with his rhyme-less poems and his minimalist image and Caleb could buy a fix but then his shadowy private backers would come looking for payment with interest and I can't even go there. Ben? I try not to complicate his life, he does that enough for both of us and he's never home either so here I am, knees dirty, tape in hand, trying to refasten the corners of what used to be a pretty picture to the heavens, keeping it level with the horizon.

But I didn't know that Jacob was trying to reach out to Cole. That's unexpected. Unscripted. Mindbreakingly touching to me. It leaves me almost as warm as it makes me angry. A surge of courage brings me to my feet and I am back in charge of my emotions for a precious few minutes. His words will be useless anyway. Thrown against Cole, who will swat them away unread. Unwelcome. Unnecessary and suspicious. It would be believing war strategies told to you by the enemy you are trying to defeat. Cole isn't stupid. This is only going to make it worse.

I'll make more cookies. Cole will like that.

Jacob nods but he's not buying it. The expression on his face has been upgraded from mild chagrin at not saving any dessert to overwhelming concern at my excuses. I reach up with both hands and try to form his cheeks into a smile. I pull his beard gently, tugging on his face but he only winds up looking darker and more dismayed. I turn away.

If cookies can serve as a catalyst, it's time you leave him, Bridget.

I turned around again and smile with what I hope is a light scowl. Bright and fake as anything
. It's not that. I'm just still embarrassed that you almost caught me dancing in the sun.

Such a bad liar, princess. I hope you never fix that.
His eyes soften now. The color matches the sky I witnessed this morning and I am humbled. I see God in his eyes. How fitting for a preacher to show this to me.

I shake my head. Would you believe me if I told you things are better?

He watches me struggle to maintain my position, perched on a slab of subterfuge so sharp it's leaving deep grooves in my skin. They begin to bleed.

No, Bridget. I wouldn't. It's far too late for that.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

On a Tuesday it's an accident, on a holiday it's on purpose.

(The crush has loomed long on the beat poet too, but we mostly ignore it. I still worry about him though.)

Duncan is standing outside in the pale sun. Cigarette dangling from his mouth, sunglasses in place, he strikes a casual pose on the edge of the lower cliff on the opposite side of the backyard, where I rarely go because the view is better on the right side, away from the city, toward the open ocean. He's in his vintage swim trunks. They fail to make him look any more modern for his retro-ness, he's still as close to a real live lizard king as I will ever be again because he's one of three who eschew haircuts until the others start referring to him as a girl. It puts his appearance squarely in 1972.

He is staring at the water and shaking his head.

This is going to hurt. He doesn't seem concerned though. Maybe he isn't right for his role here. You see, Duncan is normally second in command around the house, after PJ. (Yes, it takes two full-sized men to look after one tiny princess on a regular basis. One because she's fast and two, because she's hypnotic.)

He flicks his cigarette to the ground and tells Ben Time is money, friend. Then he takes a swan dive off the edge. I yell his name with alarm, they had yet to clarify whether or not it's safe to jump off this side. It's all been theory and conjecture up until now! I jump up and go racing toward the edge and Ben puts his arm out and when I hit it full on and bounce back he catches me nicely, and then Dalton and Christian are over the edge too and I say something about waiting to see if Duncan has survived when I hear him calling to me from the water.

And then oddly, Lochlan says Ben, don't you dare.

Cue the screaming.

Too late I figure out what Lochlan means, as Ben throws me off the ledge.

I scream all the way down and when I hit the water Duncan yanks me to the surface instantly. Good thing too, since the cold water takes my breath away so I open my mouth to breath. A reflex or an instinct, I still don't know.

I look for an angel to come and envelope me in warmth to carry me to the top again so I can go inside and stand inside the fireplace until my flesh dissolves into lava but none appears. I ask Duncan if there's a fast way back and he says no, we have to swim around to the other side, to the beach.

Oh what? Really? I won't make it.

Sure you will, come on.

He tucks me under one arm and sidestrokes easily along the rock wall and I sort of feel warm suddenly. Not because he's cute but because I have hypothermia and I stop talking and sort of become distracted watching the clouds. We're at the beach now and I hear Ben hollering the whole way down and then a giant splash somewhere behind me and PJ is standing there with an armload of blankets and boots and coats. I swear at Duncan while I am wrapped up like a mummy, shivering.

He declines the offered warm clothes and shakes his head like a dog.

There. You wanted new traditions.

Not those kind. Not death-defying, dangerous, crazy ones.

What other kinds are there, Bridget?

He's grinning at me, dripping wet, shaking like a leaf, eyes wild and it suddenly dawns on me that Jacob must have been a mirage. A representation of all the pieces and quirks of the rest of the boys, all wrapped up in a pretty package. I can almost see exactly which facets of his personality and his demeanor match each of the others in turn and sometimes I am floored by the similarities, the familiarities involved.

I meant m-maybe I would m-m-make some different foods or we would s-s-switch to opening presents on Christmas Eve or s-something.

Oh. Then you'd better talk to Benny. He said you seemed sad that there wasn't more excitement lately.

That wasn't w-what I was t-t-t-t-talking about, Duncan. Besides, I already had a s-s-s-swim this w-w-winter, remember?

Ben is out of the water. He's as white as a sheet. He shakes his head too and said that was invigorating but he won't be doing it again because it will take him more than a year to pry his balls out of his throat with a dull fork.

I start laughing and shivering while the boys cringe at Ben's description. He's never been one to censor himself. We make a great pair.

We chalk the whole thing up to a bad idea with flawless execution and resolve never to try to make it a tradition again. Some things just don't fly, like Bridgets off cliffs. Something tells me I'm not the only one relieved to find this out.

(Tonight the only one who isn't still cold is the only one who didn't jump in. Go figure.)