It's still raining. I opened the door this morning to find Caleb standing there with a beautiful bouquet of white roses and a bag from McDonalds. A big bag. When I opened it I saw a dozen egg mucmuffins and as many hashbrowns.
Flowers? What flowers? The way to my heart is a seventy-thousand calorie breakfast path.
But then he asked if he could join us and I hesitated before saying yes, always tipping toward acceptance for Henry's sake. He followed me into the kitchen and Loch stood up so fast he might have been sitting on a spring.
Caleb put the bag on the island and then apologized to him and then to me for engaging in very poor timing to rehash a very old fight. Loch is indifferent and cold but accepts it. We're trying very hard to live with this and every cog in the wheel is just one more thing that keeps this from being some idyllic dream compound like what you'd see in the movies. Caleb puts out his hand and Lochlan shakes it and PJ exhales slowly, probably glad he doesn't have to play bouncer again, always.
I get a brief brotherly hug and we are digging in.
I almost forget to put the flowers in water. The kids mow through their food so quick it's unbelievable and disappear again to play Minecraft with Christian. He is blowing up everything they make. They love it. I find a vase and point to it and Ben pulls it down from the cupboard and then he is off too and soon it's just three of us in the kitchen because PJ has joined the gamers after eliciting a firm promise that we won't kill each other with sharpened English muffins.
Caleb asks if we would like to talk it out. Formally. Maybe with an objective party or someone of our choice. If we can get past the parts that keep the resentment on the front burner why wouldn't we want to do that?
Loch says no, we deal with things in our own way (Sure do, Loch. That rug we keep sweeping things under is hella lumpy, no? It's also eight feet off the ground now) and I nod to back him up, not to agree with him but Caleb won't know the difference even though he's staring at me as I watch for Loch's almost imperceptible cues and follow suit.
How did you do it? Caleb asks quietly.
Do what? Loch's losing patience now. A breakfast sandwich only gets you so far. He passes half a hashbrown to me and I eat the rest of it instead of taking a bite and passing it back. He should know better but when he holds his hand out again and I put the wrapper in it he just stares at me like I am the smallest, most wicked potato thief in all the land.
How did you manage to get and keep her loyalty? It's not as if your overall treatment of her was all that stellar, thinking broadly.
Some things are meant to be, Diabhal, and you shouldn't mess with them. Lochlan meets his eyes and does not waver now. He holds the gaze of the Devil and he holds control. If there is only one thing in his miserable life that he can control, this is it.
Caleb returns it with a struggle but an admirable one. I have underestimated both of you.
It's not that you did, it's that you keep doing it. You need to step back and realize you can't buy this. You'll never have this. Lochlan's words are so sharp I have to fight to keep a blank expression because they're cutting everyone in the room and when I shift my gaze to Caleb he is staring at me.
You can't have her.
I don't think he even hears Lochlan but Lochlan says it anyway. His confidence in this one thing is contagious and I hold Caleb's gaze to show him Lochlan's right. There's to be no more changing teams, no switching sides. If I go to him it's on my own terms and not his and it will always be temporary. Fall asleep happy, wake up alone. What's the dream in this? Oh, right, it's better a rare Bridget than no Bridget at all but Caleb has already recovered from what tiny vulnerability he allowed to slip out just now for all the world to see.
I'll continue to make my remunerations, of course. I want you both to know I'm committed to atoning for the mistakes of my past.
Lochlan reminds him he doesn't want his money.
Well, you may not want it but you need it, Loch. I want assurances that Bridget and both children will not be forced to live within a strained budget. It brings peace of mind for both of us. Leave it, please. For now.
Loch nods, relunctantly. He's not anxious to begin the fight anew. No one is. We're old and tired and on the verge of almost being pleasant. Had Caleb not brought McDonald's for breakfast I'm sure I'd be kicking discarded heads off the cliff right now, my sneakers covered in blood. Ben, with his golf club, sticking it hard into the sides, metal sinking into soft brain matter, leaving a sticky, suction-thwock noise as each one comes away.
God. It's too early for this shit, isn't it?