(Part I is here. Part III is coming. )
No. You've got most of it. Isn't that enough?
I rocked him. He didn't expect that and the look on his face hurt so much I started to cry. Not sure he was all that far behind me. He put his hands up, thumbs blocking my ears, fingers behind them spread out so I can't look away. He mashed his forehead against mine and asked me what he needed to do.
I gave Lochlan a verbal list while tears dripped off my chin. This is something I've thought about long and hard and have decided to not give an inch ever for the rest of my life.
I told him everything on that list, pretty sure he couldn't pull it off and I'd save myself the heartache of ruining anyone else in this lifetime but he sniffled gruffly, wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve and nodded like he had work to do.
When we went to sleep he didn't let go all night. Not even when I got warm and had a hard time breathing, my nose mashed hard against his chest. When I woke up Friday morning I was still clutched against him and my phone was going off perpetually, the messages from Caleb piling up. Lochlan told me not to go spend the day near the devil but I went anyway. I need to be busier. It helps. It helps because this is Jacob's week and it's been unseated by something I didn't expect right now, though I think it's been inevitable for a while now.
I got on a plane to New York, almost grateful for the larger space I could put between us and I never thought another thing about it. Lochlan isn't good with the follow through, it's not like anything is going to change, ever. We're going to ride this carousel until we die.
When I came back I felt accomplished. I fixed things. I saved the day and I am learning about Caleb and why he throws himself into these things so readily. It's easier than trying to exist in the here and now. Busy is an excuse to disappear and not have to deal with anything except work. It's escapism of a different sort.
I'm such a bleeding heart, I don't think I'd be good at it for long but it was worth the price and isn't it amazing how suddenly all my major players have game plans for the week when the last six years they've let me slide naked down razor blades over and over again during this week until I ran in rivers and blood and surgically-precise patterns of misery.
But when I stepped into the airport lobby, Lochlan was there. Right by the door. In the way, actually, but he wouldn't budge until he saw me. Caleb saw him at the same time and let out an indignant teenage protest (Oh, come on!) when he saw Loch and I wanted to laugh but the surprise had swallowed everything else.
He had my bag already and he gave me a huge hug. We need to talk. He took my hand and turned to greet Caleb. See you at the house. Then he turned and pulled me with him. That's why I forgot my computer. Caleb was carrying both mine and his off the plane.
When we got into Loch's truck he just sat there for a few minutes and then he put out his hand. Close your eyes and take this and tell me what it is.
I closed my eyes and put out both hands. The moment it touched me I knew what he had given me and my eyes flew open. The brass ring from Coney. The first good luck charm. You asked for it back when I married Cole. I could have used it in my life since then. Can we go home now?
Next he handed me a crumpled piece of paper. On it was written everything I asked him for. Every single one was there and they all had a line drawn through them, crossing them off as completed.
You got a job!
Yeah. Computers. It's nothing much.
Same thing as before?
Mostly. Negotiated a better rate than last time. And benefits.
He looked sheepish but happy as I went through the whole list. Oh my God. He did this in three days flat.
Turn the page over. There's one I didn't do. It might be a dealbreaker.
It said Let her keep the nickname.
I can't do that one. You're not their princess, you never were. You're my freak. You got freak blood and freak brains and a freaky sense of everything and I think the princess part was the anomaly here.
But..every girl wants to be a princess.
Not my girl. My girl's a freak. A little circus peanut. A spark. A million other names but not that one.
I nod. So many years and time is suddenly caving in all around us and soon we're swimming again in a faceless clock, a manmade lake left when the trappings of proper society fell out from under us once more and sent us under the surface.
I can treat you like a princess, I'm just not going to use nicknames that other people had for you, you know? I just can't do it. I was here first and I'm going to be here last and I have my own ways, okay? Tell me this is okay because you're so quiet it's really freaking me out and I don't know if I've gone to far or you have no intentions of being with me I just know when you got on that plane I decided it was going to be the last time forever that you leave me behind for someone else. The last time. I hope it was a good trip because there won't be any more and oh Jesus, Peanut, please say something before I burst into flames.
(I think that was what he said. His accent fires up strong when he gets going and boy, was he going right then.)
No more princess?
Fuck no. Jake's gone, Bridge. Let's leave his habits with him and start over. You need to start over with me. I got it all wrong and if I got one more shot I'm going to do it right.
Whatever works for you and me, Peanut. And he winked as I caught my breath. The last time he said that we were arguing over what to do to make more money than we were making with him busking and both of us on sideshow. It wasn't enough and I said what are we going to do?
We'll do whatever works for you and me, Peanut, he said and his pragmatism gave me comfort. He even had flying by the seat of his pants figured out. Figuratively AND literally and almost thirty-five years have gone by since I imprinted on him and refused to let go, even as I had my heart broken five times over in the meantime. Slow to learn, I said but you never believed me.
So now what do we do? I asked him as he started the truck and pulled out of the parking lot. He smiled and kissed my hand.
I really have no fucking idea, Bridget. I guess we try and pick up where we left off.
Maybe we should start over. Start fresh.
No, I kind of like the idea of people asking how long we've been together and being able to say thirty-five years without blinking an eye. That'll roll heads.
But it's not true.
Yes, it is and you know it just as well as I do.
Then all of this was for nothing. We never broke up so we can't get back together.
Fine. Give me that ring back. I can sell it for nostalgic purposes.
I'm going to sell you for nostalgic purposes.
You won't get much for me, though with the new job I am worth a little more than I was a week ago.
But we didn't get very far. Fifty yards down the road the weight of our decisions overtook him and he pulled over and turned off the truck and just wept.