Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Not drawn that way, just bad.

I know you've got it in your head, I've seen that look before
You've built your refuge turns you captive all the same
I'm trying to talk to you about important things and life things and you're all so incredibly concerned about PJ's bed instead.

 It's that time of year again. The last time of the year. The time I make giant impossible resolutions to do things like eat way less sugar (two cups on average per bowl of Shreddies (if it ain't white, it ain't right, I say when it comes to a sprinkle of sugar versus a straight pour.), and get back in shape because I stopped running and basically can't get up the steps from the beach without great ragged breaths so my lung capacity is ridiculously tiny now. Drink less. Worry less. Be less fragile. Be less victimish. Less quiet. Be less me and more Fake/Together Bridget. Be someone, anyone, just not this.

Be better? Be less worse. Be easier for everyone. Be.

But really you should be more concerned because fuck Disneyland, PJ's bed is the Best Place on Earth.

(Granted, I've never been to Disneyland. Never needed it after the things I have seen. The whole world is an amusement park, FYI, complete with the bright lights and the seedy underbelly. Just look around you.)

PJ's bed is the stuff of dreams. Sometimes he's still in it. Not awkward. Dreamy, I told you. We sorted ourselves out years ago. I may have thrown myself directly at him, overhand no less, after Jacob. After Joel. Sometime before Ben. Things happen and I was foundering for someone to hold on to.

In the end he decided he wanted me as a friend and we all briefly wondered if maybe he was gay (because no one turns down a Bridget, are you mad?) but he's not. He just loves me too much to fuck with me like that. Which is oddly the best gift I've ever received. My Christmas gift to him this year is a trip. A big trip so he can see the world and then decide if he wants to keep his as small as it is now. He is not obligated to be here. No one is but PJ is different. PJ is trust on two legs and absolute faith incarnate.

He's also an amazing lover. Ladies, fucking line up here, to the left. But so help me God, if you hurt him I'll kill you.

Happy New Year in advance. We're making bacon and maple butter sandwiches for breakfast and then putting away Christmas for another year. Then I need to start getting ready, beginning with painting my toes bright red (expressly, specifically forbidden) and then finding a dress that shows off my Neamhchiontach tattoo* (also not allowed unless he specifically requests that it is visible) for Caleb's little 'intimate' party tonight.

I almost choked on my own breath when I saw him use that description on the invitation. He's invited a sparing handful of us down to his place. It's too cold for the boat but the flames of hell flicker high in the Boathouse, let me tell you. From a distance it looks like it's on fire, I bet. That's because it is. Or it probably will be, by tomorrow. New Years isn't a celebration, it's an endurance event.

Don't feel bad for me, though. I go willingly enough. I go with my eyes open, hoping for Different. Hoping for New. Hoping his resolution includes less Bridget, but let's face it. He isn't PJ. He doesn't have the strength of character. He's weak to his own desires.

Kind of like me.

*(People think I skip around and many have questioned this tattoo. I explained it years ago.)

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Solid state, Bitches.

Hours spent offline: 28
Kilometers driven to procure new hard drive: 78.
Money spent on said hardware: 300.68
Value of having fixed it by myself: PRICELESS.

Granted, I've had tech support (Lochlan) on the phone for like, five hours straight because I forgot to format it first but I'm good to go now. And he made me replace it myself because he's weird like that. Oddly proud compartmentalized happily within completely parental.

I mean, he still folds my soft tacos for me up from the bottom and then in on the sides so all of the filling doesn't wind up in my lap because it did once, when I was nine or so and people thought I had pooped my pants when I hadn't.

Until yesterday when the hard drive in my five-year-old secondhand Macbook died and I hadn't done a backup in about three weeks. Then yes, I figuratively shit my pants.

But I fixed it myself. And it's fucking SNAPPY as FUCK.

Go Bridget!


Monday, 29 December 2014

Full Ganzfeld/No spoilers.

Of course he made me take down that entry. With more death and dismemberment threats, ironically.


Nothing, and I swear nothing beats lying in PJ's bed in the pitch blackness listening to Bathory's Twilight of the Gods through my new headphones. It's warm and comfortable and akin to a sensory deprivation experience. It's also exceedingly rare and mostly used for sanctioned escape from the world. It's my new pantry, maybe. A place where I am perfectly safe but can lock myself away from everything until I can get my head back on straight. An emergency rubber room.

Now with metal.

And the rest of the jersey sheets we've abandoned living here because it's so mild.


I didn't talk about Christmas. Ben did a magnificent job singing in church late on Christmas eve. I struggled so hard to stay awake. Sam kept looking at me during his sermon and smiling at me gently and I finally just put my head against a shoulder and closed my eyes.

I did much the same thing yesterday during The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. We saw it in AVX/Atmos and while glorious, the moment I stop moving I fall asleep. I managed to only doze off once and fought through it so I wouldn't miss anything and I wasn't disappointed. It was beautiful. The fight on the ice was my favorite part and I cried. Oh, how I cried. It was very metal. Go see it if you can. Besides, I'm pretty sure that the only reason I didn't check out completely during the movie was that the AVX seats are so high I have to brace my legs against the chair in front of me in order to recline it and so no. Sat straight up the whole time.

I wish Cineplex would fix that. The cheap seats are far more comfortable but we no longer watch movies with the serfs.

Oh my God. I'm KIDDING.


The total lack of meaningful posting on my part has nothing to do with any of your conspiracy theories and everything to do with the fact that at the last minute August came out to spend the holidays with us and I'm not done talking his beautiful face off yet. I'm not done hanging out in the crook of his arm and I'm never ever going to be done listening to his accent heal my heart up nice and tight.

He isn't done loading up on the kind of endless affection one can't get anywhere but here on the point and no one will ever be done wishing he would come back for good. Except then things would be hard again but watching him shut down Joel and then Caleb too is oddly satisfying. I'll spend the week trying to absorb him and then begin a pointless campaign to keep him close and fail and get all strung out all over again but in the meantime he's home with us and that's all that matters.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

It's early in the morning and his first gift to me is an admission I never wanted to know. It sent me to the garage where I stood in the dark calling softly for Jake. I didn't want Joel to hear me, but I had to take the chance anyway.

He finally shows up. The dust motes all around him from the windows into the dark make him look like he was buried on a shelf all this time. He looks faded but alert. And sad.

You're finally getting better, I haven't seen you for a long time.

I don't even tell him that every day I want to come here and summon him. That every damned day still hurts like a hot poker through my heart with every breath. Guilt doesn't affect ghosts though. That's one of the perks.

Caleb said that the night he came to the camper he was going to kill me afterward and hide my body in the woods.

Why did he say this?

He said it would have been better for all of them. Better for him. Lochlan would have been blamed for it and I wouldn't have been there to fight over anymore.

Bridget, I think you're in over your head here.

But he didn't do it because in the middle of everything he decided that in case maybe he can come back that it would be nice to keep hurting me throughout my whole life. That I would be his darkness and depravity and that he would just hold Lochlan at bay with threats, fill him with doubt, keep him down. Hurt him worse this way.

That's not okay, Bridget. I think it's time you sound the alarm.

I haven't done that after every single thing he's ever done. Why would I do it now?

Because he gets away with things.

He didn't get away with murder.


He won't kill me. He's had every chance there is. He loves me too much.

Is that what you want to call it?

That's what I have to call it.

Then go back to your pretty little delusional life, Princess. You seem happiest there.

I'd rather stay with you.

Then push him just a little too hard and let him fulfill his destiny.

But do you think Lochlan will get his soul back if I do that?

Yes, but he'll have no use for it if you're gone.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Just fast, I'm up to my elbows making turkey stock for soup.

 Caleb would like me to clarify that the swing was not my Christmas present, it was just something he noticed that I needed. So he had one made and installed for me. He also noticed that Henry needed a new skateboard ramp so he had a better one sent to us (also not a gift). It came on a flatbed truck and they used a crane to get it off. Henry's been outside ever since. With Andrew and Keith. I worried briefly about helmets for the adults but then nope. They pay their own dentist bills. Henry's wearing a helmet, however. That's part of the deal.

The old plywood ramp that Lochlan made for Henry has already been dismantled and put in the stack of scrap wood in the garage. It had BL + LM carved into the side and I'm pretty sure adolescent Caleb hated that every time he saw it.

Loch said, No matter. I'll carve it into this one too.

I pointed out it might ruin it if he did and he shrugged and said So what?

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Something for the girl who has nothing.

My gift from the Devil this year is the news that he's turning the electric fence back on.

I should be happy he told me.

But he is creepy and inside my brain and did really well in the Impress Bridget category. He had a swing installed in the orchard. It's weathered grey but new and it's securely tied to one of the bigger trees which is in better condition than the rest and it's a very thick board with two ropes with big knots tied underneath each end and it only holds one on purpose and is only wide enough for me besides and maybe Ruth if she is so inclined. I like to have alone-spots. I like swings. I like flying up to try and touch the clouds any chance I get and I like childhood adventure of the simplest kind.

The electric fence is reinstated because the orchard is on the far western side of the property, down a slope underneath the boathouse and the stables. More secluded and vaguely wild and he would prefer that nothing is able to sneak up on me.

I can understand that. My hearing isn't great (understatement).

Try it out, he says. Smiling genuinely, as he only does when I am little.

I grab the rope and turn and sit down. The board is sanded smooth and weatherproofed. The ropes are soft but strong. I put my arms up high and begin to sway.

Would you like a push?

Yes, please. 

He walks around behind me and gives me a gentle shove and soon I am soaring into the grey rainy day, holding tight, the tree creaking softly as I try and pump my legs to get past the cloud cover into space. I can't do it quite yet but now I have the means. I have a chance. I could touch heaven if I tried.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Oh my GOD.

This is great. I walked in on Lochlan and PJ sorting out their arrangement for Mr. Heatmiser, a song from the movie A Year Without Santa Claus. Which, if you haven't seen it, you should, for it might scar you for life.

Of all things.
I'm Mr. Green Christmas
I'm Mr. Sun.
I'm Mr. Heat Blister
I'm Mr. One Hundred-And -One
They call me Heat Miser
Whatever I touch
Starts to melt in my clutch.
I'm too much!
Such a dramatic rendition too. It's outstanding. I don't think I have to point out who is which but Lochlan really poured it on for the second half of the song.

PJ broke in at the end and pointed out that he read my entry from yesterday and that I alternately fueled his nightmares and crushed his dreams. Lochlan cut back in and said I might be losing my wi-fi access for the holidays because some songs just don't need to be sung. But he looked so helpless when he said it I started to laugh and they began the song all over again.

Not sure if he was giving up on trying to censor me at last or is satisfied that I didn't tell you everything.

Let's go with both. 


Caleb messages me bright and early which is why I wound up walking in on the boys singing. Otherwise I would have slept for another couple of hours and missed all the fun. Ben is still asleep. This surprises no one. No one at all.

Santa left a present here for you. I think you should come open it. 

That typo fits perfectly. 

What typo?



Well it DOES. 

And then he goes to radio silence until I show up. That's how he works.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The first part, unnecessary but I started it. The second made me cry when I wrote it.

Make them laugh, it comes so easy
When you get to the part
Where you're breaking my heart (breaking my heart)
Hide behind your smile, all the world loves a clown
Oh, well, let me just cover my smile with both hands.

I think I'm getting sex for Christmas.

Also for days that end in y (because I'm a raging addict and it's one thing no one's ever going to try to fix, I promise you that).

And that isn't anything new. Some of you seem so damned surprised that we manage so easily. So let me get some things straight. Because you have so many questions and some of them a a bit over the line even for me. But I understand the curiosity too. I was once a norm and it was so brief you might have blinked but I tried my best and then I went, yeah, fuck it and here we are.

Yes, we sleep in one big bed. Well, no, not all of us. Geez! Though Sam and PJ are both so cuddly when they sleep I could easily..wait, what? It's a California King size bed, which means Ben almost fits into it and Loch and I still sort of perch on the side together but we're used to sharing a twin bed in a forty-square-foot camper so there you go.

Okay it was slightly bigger than that. Maybe forty-five. Sixty?

No I don't mind sleeping hot.

Have you met Lochlan? Or Ben?

(Hey, it's entirely possible. They both have performed for money.)

We don't tuck in blankets so my toes can stick out the bottom and I don't burst into flames. Sometimes that means I wake up freezing because the blankets are all over on the floor somewhere.

Neither man moves a lot when they sleep though. They say it's me.

It probably is. I'm a total thrasher. Loch says it's like greasing up an octopus and then trying to squeeze it really hard. He tells me one of these days he's going to hold me too hard in a dream and I'm going to shoot out of his arms into the dark and stick to the wall on the other side of the room. The first time he described this I laughed so hard coffee came out my nose and it hurt.

Ben just rolls his eyes. Ben can barely stand to touch anything while he sleeps, which is bullshit because I've told the stories of precisely how many times we went camping pre-children and he would bring nothing but his charm and then sleep in our tent and I would wake up wearing him on my back and Trey would laugh and decided that Ben wanted me.


God. Are we this awesomely dysfunctional?

Yes. Yes we are. 

Since he stopped drinking he needs to sleep like a vampire. I think it's psychological. he says it's pathological and waggles his eyebrows and says he's just waiting to pounce but then he falls asleep instead

Tea hurts when it shoots out one's nose too.

But for the record, since this seems to be the most-asked question and I'm only going to answer this once. Yes, they take turns because trying to do it all at once with both is a little too much for me. I'm more fun-sized than full-sized. Five feet tall to Ben's six-four. We tried it once. Exactly once and never again. There. Happy now? We tried it with other people (shhhhh the Devil) and it just doesn't work. I can't. Just no.

(I said Trey back there. Holy shit. Been a while. That's what we called Cole. Long story, but aren't they all?)


I'm going to buy a fifty pound turkey today. I'm pretty sure it will come with pop-off wheels, a pull-up handle and maybe built-ins. The wishbone will be so big we'll be able to turn it into a swing to use to try and touch the moon. The wings we'll use to fly to heaven to share leftovers with the boys.

I can't wait.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

My sea of dreams.

This world has turned to dust
All we've got left is love
Might as well start with us
Singing a new song
Something to build on
He brought me back down slowly, carefully, shaking ever so slightly, his hands wrapped around my upper arms. I am bathed in sweat and firelight and he smiles. I can see the fire reflected in his brown eyes. He drops his arms to my waist and pulls me in close. He lets out a long breath and leans his head back against the headboard, closing his eyes.

I love my goodnight kisses. They always start as a kiss and end as a personal hazmat situation. I was explored over every inch, inside and out. Ben is easy to rile up and tough to calm back down. Sleep? What's that? Except that he was tired and when he fell asleep finally it was flat on his back, hands on his chest and I was relegated to sleeping in the fire.

I don't mind, though the fire made a little disgruntle or two about sleeping dirty, as he calls it. I didn't care, I couldn't keep my eyes open either. It was two in the morning. Lochlan wrapped his hands around my back and fell asleep on his side, his mouth against my forehead, nose in my hair, arms locked tight against my shoulderblades. He will sleep until five and then wake up as he always has in a long-developed habit to start work before the gates open, except that there are no gates and he doesn't have to leave and so he will crawl onto me and my breath will evaporate with the darkness, his hand around the back of my neck, pulling me up against him, whispering things in other languages, cutting into my eyes with his curls and my skin with his nails until he drops back beside me and falls asleep again until a more reasonable hour, never once letting me get more than an inch away from him.

Ben's hand reaches out to hold mine as I drift off again, my arm flung out behind me to bring him along.

The fire dies down as the sun came up but we don't notice. We don't care.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

I'll be your fire when the lights go out.

Maybe it was all too much
Too much for a man to take
Everything's bound to break
Sooner or later, sooner or later

You're all that I can trust
Facing the darkest days
Everyone ran away
But we're gonna stay here, we're gonna stay here
I swear to God Ghosttown is the first single from Madonna that I have truly loved in twenty years. Not since Take A Bow have I been so happy to sit and press repeat. My inner twelve-year-old who wore out her copy of Madonna's very first self-titled album is so incredibly happy to hear this, you don't even know.

But you want to know about my evening.

That's why I started with the song. PJ kept me in Fireball and eggnog, just barely level until Lochlan got home and then he handed me off and went out to dinner with the rest.

Lochlan started to lay into me about eating something and getting straight and I finally told him to stuff it. That I'm not a child. That if I miss a meal what's the worst that will happen? Ooo. For fucks sakes.

He stood there trying not to laugh at me because I'm being very serious while I waver all over the damn place. Then he smiled and said he had something to show me. He dialed through his phone music and turned on the speakers in the living room. Then he turned off the lights, put on this song (he knows how to bring out Twelve, she hides until he does certain things, you know) and we had a slow dance. Just us. Me and him. Like the bad old days only it felt like home. It felt like it used to when things were easy.

I thanked him for being the king of easy listening and he corrected me and said pop, and I said No, you can't be the king of pop. That's Michael Jackson and he's dead too. 

After that we just shut up and kept hitting repeat until Matt got home and broke the spell. By then I was straight. Straight and hungry.

Lochlan said I told you and made me a peanut butter sandwich. Also like in the bad old days. I hate peanut butter. HATE it.

I ate it anyway.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Oh, I know my adversary, she says with unsteady convcition

Because she's DRUNK! And we haven't even had dinner yet.It's the Devils night withmy childnre.

I love PJ. Did Imention that?

i do

a lot.
I had the unfortunate honor of standing in a long lineup at a store today behind someone talking loudly to their friend about how disgusting and sick cremation is, that you should never disrespect a human life by burning it down to ashes and putting it in a jar like a trophy, that it's for control freaks and people who want to hide evidence.

They started laughing and making jokes and I couldn't tune them out and so I turned to PJ who was with me and he put my head against his coat and covered my free ear while he talked nonsense to try and just drown them out. Finally he let go when they left but somehow it just got right under my skin and I wanted to track them down and say it isn't disgusting and it isn't human life. It's human death and to me it's far more respectful to properly reduce someone to a size that enables you to hold all of them with your two hands than it is to buy a big fancy wooden box to dump their bones into to be buried underground.

So fuck you, I'm done with today.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

My get out of jail free card.

I'll float above the ocean
the sun above is burning my head
I will grow wings and fly everywhere
Sam was supposed to be my wingman today but he and Matt had a bit of a bickering session over breakfast this morning and so Sam stood me up in favor of make-up brunch and a stroll on the seawall downtown with Matt before they both spend second shift working.

(The fight was nerves, that's all. Their very first wedding anniversary is this Sunday. I don't mind being stood up in that case. They need more time together.)

So the only one left, since PJ is out and about and Loch is working and refused to leave me here alone is Poet. Duncan who pawned me off on Joel long enough to go to a meeting and then he stopped at the store on the way home and brought me pixi stix because he feels bad. Pretty soon I'll be making excuses to sidle past New-Jake once or twice a day for a hit off his insulin pump but in the meantime I said thank you and offered to share them. I was taught to be a good girl. I was also taught that the way to a girl's heart (through her clothes) is with candy. Ask Loch about that too, if you want.

But I don't think Duncan is leaning that way today. He wants to bicker too, it seems but I'm not biting. I'm sure by now he's noticed I'm agreeing with things I wouldn't agree with if I were on fire and you were holding the hose until I caved but I'm doing it to keep the peace and wow, is he ever annoyed.

I'm annoyed too. He ruined a perfectly good rainy Thursday with a heaping dose of Joel. When I was waiting for Joel to tie his shoe in the garage I wondered if I could just hit him on the head with a shovel, drag his body over behind the other jeep and forget he ever happened to me but then I remembered that I have no poker face and if asked point-blank I always tell the truth.

(And so I had to spend the rest of the morning inside out to keep that peace intact.)

Yes, Detective, it's true. I killed my former psychoanalyst but in my defense he had it coming. I've just been biding my time until it was right and I could get away with it. But the jig is up. Lock me up and throw away the key, I'm not fit to walk amongst the innocents, not anymore. 

*Later, during medical evaluations*

What does this tattoo say across your back, Mrs. Reilly? 

It says Innocent in Gaelic. Neamhchiontach. 

Oh, well, then, you're free to go. Sorry for the trouble. Have a nice day. 

Wh-what do you mean? 

Obviously the owner of your soul is someone who can see the future so this was put into your skin as protection against an adversary you didn't know yet. It means you're safe. You don't have to go to jail for life after all.



I collect my small pile of clothes and my belongings. Thank you and good day. 

Good day, Mrs. Reilly. See you again. 

Gosh, I hope not. I do believe I'm running out of men. Those who are left are precious. 

Take care of them, then.

I will. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

There's no such thing as small talk. Not here. Not ever.

You... He points at me with his chopsticks, are possibly the worst wife in the world. 

No. If I was I would have spent all your money gambling or been poisoning your food. 

He looks into the container of rice and makes this ridiculous expression of horror before becoming serious again. So repeatedly breaking my heart doesn't count?

You started it. 

I was twenty years old. I made a mistake. 

Well, that's what I'm doing. Making mistakes, Lochlan.

You're diluting your affections to protect yourself.

Yes, that too.

I'm not going to die, Bridget. 

Bullshit. Everyone dies. We start the march the minute we're born. You've almost bit it a few times now. 

I'm still here. 

I can't go through that again.

What everybody? What happens when Caleb dies?

You do your happy dance. 


Shut up. 

That's my point. 

You know what I'm most scared of? Not that someone's going to die, but that someone's going to die and I'll go to someone I love and he'll flatly refuse to help me when I need him most. 

That's me. The lightweight. The one who can't help you. 

You could have but you wouldn't. 

I was reeling. I couldn't function. 

Poor baby. 

Bridget, don't. 

Not like Jake was your friend. You hated his guts.

No, he hated mine. I tried. I tried to give him what he wanted, what you wanted. I kept my distance. 


Yeah. Mostly. (He stares at me. Right into me. I can't even breathe when he does that.) Maybe I'm there when you need me after all. 

What if you're not?

What if I am? 

Then my dreams will have come true. 

I hope so, because that's what I've been aiming for all my life, Peanut. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Children. All of us.

Caleb's standing in the kitchen. We've all trying to be civilized though I never make it easy. He's talking about something I did when he switches the subject and tells Lochlan that he couldn't help it. That she's 

Lochlan, who has had enough, says I heard her say the same thing about you. 

It was fucking glorious. Ben and I tried so hard not to laugh but if you want to be burned, Lochlan is the man to see.

Swimming in the frozen sky (not religious, just superstitious).

We're holding very tight
I'm riding in the midnight blue
I'm finding I can fly so high above with you
Ben is singing Walking In the Air this year at the end of Sam's service. He's practicing. It's a difficult song to sing but not as much as O Holy Night so he's not having trouble. I tried to sing it but I just need to hear it ten or twelve more times first because I rush. Ben's version is haunting.

Okay, that pretty much describes everything he puts his spin on, from baking cookies to showering.

Did you have a good shower, Ben?

Yeah, it was haunting.

I'm KIDDING. He usually says something crass about taking care of business when he's in the shower and don't want to know. It's Christmas.

Or maybe you're thinking, Come on! It's Christmas! Tell us everything.

Okay, here:

Ben is mad too. Everyone's mad, because I called their bluffs and they failed to follow through when I told every minder/keeper/husband and subsidiary man that I was going to the boathouse and that I'd be back late. Later? I can't remember what I said but barely anyone reacted. Lochlan's eyebrow went up. Maybe they thought I was posturing or phishing or testing them.

So how did I fail? I was honest, they fucking failed. They didn't bother to clarify anything and it was early the next morning before they bothered to put the pieces together.

No harm, no foul, Lochlan always used to say. Ben says I'm playing with fire and when I remind him I'm a professional at that he freaks right out and says he told me not to go by myself. And I misinterpreted that as him missing out on the show, not being protective.


No harm though. No harm. 

This time, Ben says. What happens next time?

You'll be there, I tell him. I'm a good girl. In the daylight.

He nods. You still need to sort this out with Loch. He's never going to like this, Bee.

He never has. You would think the exposure would wear him down eventually. 

He can barely tolerate me, what makes you think he'll ever be okay with this?

I'm not okay with this. This isn't supposed to be some big dinner-table debate issue, this was supposed to be something rare. Something quiet and suspected but never confirmed.

Lochlan walks in and manages to pick up the conversation so easily it's like I threw it at him. Well, if you were the type of person anyone could take their eyes off, then maybe that would be the case but since you continue to be raised in the spotlight, Bridget, don't bet on it. 

I think you're done raising me, Lochlan. Jesus Christ. 

I think I've just begun. You still won't listen worth shit. 

This isn't your job. 

I'm not going to stand here and let the wolves tear you apart. I'm not going to let the Devil catch you, or keep you, Peanut. That's not in our cards and you know this. Do you remember or were you too young?

I remember. 

Remember what? Ben said.

We were told we share a soul. I've never doubted that for a second, and she's ashamed that she sold the whole thing, without my permission, to the Devil. 

Are you guys for real?

Sometimes I wonder. 

But no one can take your soul, Bridget. Except the actual Dev-


Monday, 15 December 2014

They called it a revelation and then they called it a sin.

Both Sam and Joel fought for my morning today, because clearly I've gone off the deep end again. I can be very reckless. I can hold grudges and I can pretend I'm punishing Lochlan all I want but he tells me with the meanest, most incredulous laugh this morning that the only person I'm hurting is myself. That he's done taking the blame for being high-scorer in the broken heart game, that maybe if I could think of someone besides myself for even half a second I would realize that I passed him and got a trophy in that game years ago, and that he's got hardly enough left to form a whole beat inside his chest. He got louder and louder and his accent got thicker and more incomprehensible until I couldn't separate the words any more, but I could see everything on his face.

Everything. Right there. Spelled out so easily in his eyes, in the set of his teeth. In his shoulders drawn tight and his fists clenched up.

Sam said my name but I couldn't take my eyes away from Loch's.

I'm sorry. 

But you're not sorry, Bridget. 

I don't do it to punish you. I do it so I don't get so attached. 

I'm not the dumb kid I was when I was twenty, don't you see that?

Nineteen and three-quarters. 

Semantics, Peanut. I'm not even the dumb kid that I was at thirty. Or forty. Why can't I make you see this?

It isn't you. 

Then what is it? Please, God, tell me what it is and we'll fix it. 

I don't trust anybody, including you, and I'm sorry but that's never going to change. 

I can fix this, Peanut. I can fix it with time. You'll see. 

I'm not worth the effort. 

I'll be the judge of that.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Tearing through the firmament.

I went to fetch some ice cream in the middle of the night and was struck by the view. I stood there until I got cold and then he appeared behind me, telling me the view of me in my tank top and underwear was better than that of the entire Pacific. I could agree with that. I like visiting the Pacific but she's stingy with her treasures and brings more turmoil than charm. She's no Atlantic, that's for sure.

We take our bowls of chocolate ice cream back to bed and he asks very seriously if I want to go home as he traces his ice-cold spoon down my knee. I nod. I'm busy giving myself the world's biggest, dumbest brain freeze and I don't really want to talk about very serious things. I came here to have fun, with caveats that if it isn't fun I won't come back because he has managed to mess up or completely destroy just about every encounter we've had this year. He marvels that he likes to test me, that he enjoys letting go a little now that there are no secrets.

I tell him there are still secrets, that there will always be secrets. That life is short and difficult and delicious, as I finish the last spoonful in my bowl and hand the empty bowl to him. He takes both bowls and puts them on the bedside table before stretching out flat on his back and letting out a long sigh. I curl up beside him and he pulls the blanket up around me, wrapping his arm around me until I am flush with his chin. He kisses the top of my head and asks what would happen if we just fell asleep like this, would it be so bad if I extended my visit and made my plans to include sharing dreams? Just for tonight?

I tell him we don't break the rules. That bad things happen if we do. He said we can change that and I shake my head. He asks how anything happens, that it is through planning and solid intent, determination and drive, muscle and tears. That's how things happen. I shake my head again and he asks what then. What makes things happen in our lives?


So is it fate that you're here? He asks me as he pulls my tank top over my head and pulls me underneath him once again, kissing all along my throat, bearing his weight with his arms as he works to get me out of my underpants too.

No, it's stupidity and bad judgement and I'm gone in one more hour so make it count, Diabhal.

And he laughs, because that's what the Devil loves to hear.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

On building a better mouse trap.

This morning I was standing in the driveway talking to Lochlan, who is still restoring project campers when time permits so a day off sees him working more. He doesn't actually stop, never has. I don't know if the profit matches the hours. I know it surpasses the materials he buys but by how much he won't tell me. I know he's saving for the future but I wish I knew the cost of that too. He was telling me something about Boxing day when his expression grew more and more pained and finally his eyes flickered up over my head and I turned my head to look just as Caleb's car touched the backs of my knees.

Lochlan climbed down off the roof and charged so fast I only saw a blur of flames and then sparks rising up in the morning fog. Caleb opened the door and got out instead of locking it. He left the car resting against me. I don't think I moved for so many precious seconds it as like the world drifted to a crawl just for me.

The shove sent Caleb against the window glass. Not hard enough to break but he dropped his coffee, not his laptop bag.

Priorities. A one-handed shove back and Lochlan staggers back three steps before I say his name.

He won't listen so I text PJ but there he is coming out the side door in his bare feet, hair sticking up all over. He was looking out the window when he saw the car get too close. He was going to do some shoving of his own.

My own personal bouncer.

But Loch won't let him get a crack at Caleb because Loch would prefer there to be nothing left when he's through.

Caleb laughs. I wasn't going to run her over. I was reminding her of what happens when she won't wear her hearing aids. 

You let her worry about that and fuck off with the stupid stunts. You could have killed her! 

I could do that any minute of any d-

Whoops, there's another shove.

And now, a crowd. Finally he holds his hands up in surrender and turns to me, telling me he's sorry. That he didn't mean to scare me or anyone else, he was illustrating the dangers of running around without all my senses functioning but he used poor judgement and it was a bad idea.

He asks for a minute of privacy. Pointing out that I am safe. That he's sorry. Everything is okay. Stand down, motherfuckers. 

He waits until they all leave, Lochlan so begrudgingly you can see the daggers from a hundred yards and then he asks if he can make it up to me with a nice early dinner for two. The kids are off at a birthday party and a hockey game respectively and Saturday nights see everyone left to their own devices for meals so I say yes before I realize he tricked me into it. That the whole thing wasn't a safety bulletin but a well-executed ploy and I fell right into it, eyes wide open.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Like the army but with baking soda and no weapons save for an oven mitt and an overcooked pie.

Oh well, uh. New Jake told a fib to Sam (of all people) and said I had recruited him to help with baking all next week. Sam wanted him to help with some construction projects at the church. Instead of calling Jake out on his lie I confirmed it in spades and 'reminded' Jake we start at six in the morning each day because then we can be mostly cleaned up by three when the kids get home so it's easier for everyone to make lunches and then to get dinner started if we aren't still washing things and letting things cool. He shook his head and pushed his luck a little further, saying that I must have forgot that we agreed he would come over whenever he got up.

There's always a place where covering for someone stops, though as I pointed out yes, he did say that but then remember, I told you that wouldn't work after all so you agreed to six? PJ nods and confirms that yes, Jake said he would be here every day at six.

Then I went and called Dylan and Ben (who was on his way home anyway) to find out if maybe they could help Sam. We don't actually need baking helpers, so New Jake is going to get a five-day-long lecture on helping out where it's needed most, rather than where he prefers.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Hot Damn.

Someone asked what my favorite song was. It sometimes changes by the hour and sometimes it sticks for weeks or years even, but right now?

It's this. 

(I would imbed the video but I'm a Luddite and mobile readers just see a blank white space. I don't know how to fix that so click through and watch. It's worth it!)

Growing up, love was contagious.

My dance card is super-full today and I love it.

 Nothing like everyone noticing I was starting to fall behind. Christmas is stressful. There's extra traffic/calories/projects/chores/errands/shopping/ and of course, bills.

I pay bills, thanks. In blood, sweat and tears, no less.

There's extra stress when you get bad news or when you can't just gather up every single person you love in one room. There are teenagers with broken hearts and men hanging on to a wagon with all their might. There are assumptions and expectations and there is ruinous greed. There is pure selflessness. There is heart. Magic. There is something.

There is something.

I always try to figure it out. It used to hit mid-Elementary school concert like a wallop from a fluffy snowball but now there are no more concerts because high schoolers. Picky, funny high schoolers who will hopefully love their presents and while I wanted to give them everything they've ever wanted, I didn't. Because you can't. You shouldn't, anyway.

And then there are the boys who have given up so much but yet take so much at the same time. No more motorbikes, loads more affection. No leaving at the end of the day/meal/activity traded for the glaringly obvious privacy issues. All the juggling and balancing I could ever want for in practice watching over a house full of different personalities even as they sometimes are not all that different, right down to having the same clothes, as I discovered when I went to put away laundry yesterday and found three of the same flannel shirts. I thought someone had lent his out. I thought they were playing tricks on me. I didn't realize maybe they are that much alike sometimes.

Makes them easier to love. I know what I'm up against.

They all kind of stop and wait at once, reaching back with encouragement and smiles and hands held out. Waiting for little Bridget to catch up, tripping on roots and scrambling over rocks as fast as her short little legs will carry her, face and knees filthy, shirt ruined, shoes and braids caked in mud.

It was one of those times where I just came to a skidding halt in the half-light, standing fifty feet back underneath and slightly behind the trees. Frustrated. Incompetent. Not as capable. Scared. And I would wait because I knew he would come back and then I would get a piggyback ride the rest of the way to the ball field and that would be easier than trying to keep up.

Late last night I finally had a chance to go and check on the Devil, who is settling back in and loved the special touches I took in preparing for his return. He kissed my cheek and told me my arrival called for something special and he opened a bottle of champagne, pouring two glasses. He brought one to me and suggested we take them outside to look at the lights.

Outside it was cool so he put his suitjacket around my shoulders, telling me to close my eyes.

Then he disappeared.

I waited forever, starting to shiver. Now it's raining in my champagne and yeah. I told him I could only wait another moment and I started to count. I heard him come back before I got to twenty-five and he said Open your eyes, Neamhchiontach.

When I did, the whole cove was lit up. The boat was lined with lights, the dock, the roof, the path (from what I could see) and then along the beach right around to the end of the point. Tiny white fairy lights, like the ones from Sam and Matt's wedding but on a much grander scale.


Caleb held up his glass and said To being with family for the holidays, as if we are related. I clinked my glass to his and drank it all, even though I knew it would give me a blistering headache in the space of five minutes.

He watched my face until he couldn't bear to watch me struggle with my expressions any longer, and then he walked me back to the side door of my house, took his jacket back, kissed my cheek and shoved me inside.

He was always the one who came back for me. The one with endless patience and kindness and generosity where the others would be caring but anxious, always in a rush. always fed up with having to wait or go slow or keep checking. Caleb took it upon himself to carry me. He was the biggest, the oldest, the nicest.

Until the day Lochlan decided it was his job, and that's when everything changed. Now they struggle with who is allowed to care. Who is allowed to help or play the jester or who is allowed to occupy my time, what lines are drawn in front of which shoes and who is bad touch and who is not. Adult problems and childlike solutions. Nothing ever changes here.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Factory reject.

I'm not very good to myself.

I ration things for myself like coffee, warm baths, painkillers, alcohol, sleep, sweet dreams and breaks like a drill sergeant and then I wait until I'm hanging by a thread, til the nightmares catch up with me, til I'm not sleeping through the night more often than I am, until my nerves are riddled with holes, until I realize I walk around holding my breath and the headaches have reached critical mass and then I implode slowly, from the inside out, a distant scream sounding faintly in my ears that just grows louder and louder until I can't hear anyone anymore, can't do anything right and can't pull myself up over the edge of the hole I fell into because I'll suddenly weigh tons instead of ounces and it's too much for me to deal with by myself.

I wish sometimes that the screaming would just start on the outside and drive them crazy instead of me. They would hear it long before I do, before I even know what's happening.

That would be so nice.

But my brain doesn't work like that. Sometimes I think it doesn't work at all. Sometimes I think it was a practice brain with a wiring diagram posted beside it but no one checked to see that it was done right and hoo, boy, will they be surprised someday, when it's cracked open like a coconut and they will peer into its depths and nod somberly.

Yes, this explains everything. 

I donated my body to science after I die but at this rate I'm going to give it to them early, just rip off my skull and hand it to them and say here, it's a present. Just tell me I was right. Tell me you'll never let a practice brain go off the assembly line without being inspected ever again, because it really wasn't fair to me or to the people I love. 

But they're not real so they'll just stand there unfeeling, still nodding robotically like mass-produced bobble-heads. Like me. The test subject. The practice girl. The not-quite-ready-for-the-real-world girl after all.

With no off switch, no filters, hearing messed up completely and the weird uncanny ability to conjure up imaginary holes that she then falls into for real, breaking all her limbs and all of her resolve too.

Why would you fight over that? 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Hooks and loops.

I didn't realize how much I was missed until Caleb came home last night and then proceeded to show up bright and early for breakfast today and after helping to clean up he has proceeded to follow me around for half the day.

My reaction to this? Horrifically, brutally flattered.

I'm that awesome? DAMN RIGHT I AM.

Ben actually told him to skedaddle at one point. I wonder if anyone even uses that word anymore. Oh wait, BEN does. Ben was as impressed as Lochlan was with Caleb's attempts to 'catch up' and 'get ahead of all the news here at home' and various sundry bits of information about how much Henry grew in the few weeks Caleb was away and what the kids got for marks and how Duncan is doing with being home from camp.

(They call it 'camp'. Ben does. Caleb does. Pretty much everyone does as if you can drink your face off, go on a nice cushy woodsy vacation and then come home and be coddled forever. It makes me want to cry. You should have seen the dirty looks when I corrected them by saying re-hab-il-it-ta-tion really slowly like a little asshole.)

Duncan is doing great. As long as *I* don't talk to him he does great. If I talk to him he gets all shaky and weird and 911s someone else to take him to a meeting.

Because camp. Maybe he should have stayed longer. Unless this is going to be one of those things where we spend the money three times over before it takes. I think they throw a wrench in the works just before they send everyone home the first few times just to keep the money train rolling.

But like I said, I'm a little asshole.

Especially when I'm trying to catch the Devil up on news about his son and everyone keeps redirecting me, or telling him to leave. Let me get this done and then I'll send him home. All it did is drag it out for the whole morning and then finally I ran out of news and told Caleb that any further information could be had from Joel who did his due diligence in Caleb's absence and probably has a host of interesting 'notes' about me.

But Caleb looked so sad when I said it and there, I should just wear a sign that says 'Little Asshole. Enquire within'.

I'll make it when he leaves, which at this rate will be never. I missed him a lot too but YEESH. He's doing that thing where he's super-perfect and he's smiling and that's how we know he's up to something. Couldn't even make it a whole day before that happened.

Well. Wow. Here's a longtime wish coming true.

U2 tickets-CHECK.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Devil is in the details.

Ben calls it Loched. 

The way I wake up barricaded in Lochlan's arms. Stuck against him. Overheated. Completely limber, fluid. Hot. He doesn't let go, not anymore and I sleep wrapped up in his arms with his hand cradling the back of my head, my cheek against his collarbone, my eyes heavy and seeing in dreams.

My toes stick out the bottom of the quilt in the middle, though. I wouldn't be able to do it otherwise. I would self-immolate. I would perish.

In spite of Ben's cutesy term for it, I still don't think he appreciates it at all even as he says he doesn't mind, because he can't sleep any way but flat on his back like a vampire. I don't think that's exactly true because I remember things differently and he often revises small bits of history just to keep the peace.

And it was peaceful but now the Devil is on his way home, having been picked up at the airport by Joel, eager to report, no doubt, trying and failing to straddle the line between trusted and turncoat.

This exasperates me and at the same time I had a great weekend and am looking forward to seeing Caleb because it's been several weeks and I've had more than a few moments where I felt very cold and open, sick to my stomach thanks to his absence only because I can't stand to have anyone missing.

He will take it personally.

I'll let him.

He is on his way (any minute now) and I'm beating double-time from the inside out, fairly thrumming with anticipation. He says he bought all our Christmas gifts overseas and that he can't wait to give them to us. He says he can read and that we didn't have to have his house cleaned and stocked in his absence, that he's decided to extend his time off until the beginning of the new year because enough is enough and his exhaustion was barely touched by a week of rest. That maybe he will let go of some things.

I wonder if he means me.

The boys here are not as anxious to see him, stuck between loyalty to the one who pays the lions' share of this life altogether (me) and the need for autonomy within. Torn by their strong desire to protect me while at the same time respecting history and my own desires to flout the past and find a future in this, somehow.


We shall see.

I have a proposal of my own to present. And while absolutely no one is going to like it, I think it's perfect.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Naughty or...yeah, you know how this goes.


While the team of people are cleaning all three houses (because Merry Christmas, guys) I had New Jake help me cart all of the boys and kids presents into the library (cleaned first) and I'm wrapping and labeling today, up to my neck in ribbon, having gone through four rolls of tape already.

The doors are locked, the music is loud (I'm playing Pallbearer's version of Gloomy Sunday on a loop) and I still have half a thermos full of coffee. Yay! 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

He's a hunter.

I feel like the universe is trying to tell me something today. My lipstick is called 'Underage Red'. My nailpolish? 'Black Out". 


Christian was over bright and early to scope out the kitchen before going to work. I'm not sure how his, Daniel's and John's first turn to cook involved wrecking MY kitchen when they have a larger one next door, technically speaking. Ours is more of a great room with a whole open seating thing plus a den with a fireplace so you can actually hang out there all day and be perfectly content. I have normal sized appliances. There is never enough fridge or oven space and we'll fix that in the future but not until something breaks because I'm not one of those people who just magically decides they hate what they have and replaces it all.

It has to be necessary.

But next door they have a butler's pantry and a separate station for baking and a cold storage section in the cupboards and a giant double fridge and a gas stove. Marble-topped everything. It's a cooks dream.

I never go in there.

Christian tells me dinner is pork tenderloin, grilled. Rice and maybe turnip. Fresh tomato slices and cake for dessert.

I did stick around for the meal last night and it didn't disappoint. I wasn't sure Keith had any kitchen skills past opening beers. I filed that away for future reference because when I ask for help usually he is magically busy or 'not so good with that stuff' as he told me point blank once.

The big LIAR. It was perfect.

I actually think they're easily intimidated by two things. Firstly, the sheer number of people sitting down to a meal here. In two shifts no less so not only do you cook for a dozen or two but you have to figure out how to keep enough and make sure it's still hot for round two without drying out.

Secondly, Caleb and Ben over the years have taken me to some pretty exciting places where I have proven myself to be both adventurous and discerning when it comes to dinner so there are standards to keep.


This is at odds with my incredible love of breakfast sandwiches and deep-fried anything and Kraft Dinner, I know.

I can have both, can't I?

And PJ wasn't watching porn when I went down to see how he was enjoying his break.

He was watching Pitch Perfect. Which just about made my day. That's where the title of my post came from. Worth it just for that one line.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Rises and sets. Rises and sets.

Here I am
Playing with those memories again
A final set of x-rays this morning and Lochlan has gotten his all-clear. No permanent damage that we know of. No lasting effects from inhaling fuel at Ruth's birthday party during his fire-breathing show and most important of all, no well-meaning lectures about considering putting his torches away for good. It won't happen. This man is made of flames.

The relief? Palpable. Tangible. Heavy. I was crushed underneath it just walking out of the hospital and then was pulled out by my hand just as my last breath began to leak my life away.

Told you I was fine, he says. There's no room for gratitude here, he has already moved on. I run to catch up.

There's no harm in feeling grateful that you weren't hurt worse. 

What purpose does it serve? I'll take responsibility for what I do to myself. 

I trip on his words and fall behind but I don't think he's even noticed. He's done with this. Done with doctors and hospitals and machines and instead of thanking his lucky stars that he's in a time and place where he can get help if he needs it he just laments the wasting of the time that he could have used in a better way. When he drops me off in the driveway at home before heading in to Schuyler's office he tells me I worry too fucking much and he doesn't know where I get that from. I turn around ready to tell him exactly where it came from but then he drives off before I even get an I love you or a See you soon out of my mouth, if I would have picked something nice to say instead.

When I go inside Keith and Gage are...making dinner.

And not just any dinner. They are making coleslaw from scratch, eggplant parmesan and actual bread. It's rising on the windowsill with my favorite Irish linen tea towel over it. Duncan is slicing cabbage at the sideboard and Dalton is filling ice cube trays. I am speechless. Gage smiles and elbows Duncan who starts talking as if he is a little kid reading from a cue card, words all mashed together and robot-like. It's adorable.

We decided as a group that since you do so much for us and work so hard that we're going to take turns cooking dinner each night in order to give you the break that you deserve. We love you, Bridget.

Ben appears from the side door. He has some jars of spices stolen from Caleb's house. He doesn't know where I keep mine. I'll need to fix that.

Where is PJ? 

We sent him to a spa. 

No, seriously. What have you done with him?

I don't know, Bridge! He's probably downstairs watching porn. 

Why would you think that?

Wouldn't you be doing that if you didn't have to cook dinner right now?

Yes. That's exactly what I'd be doing. Watching porn.

Ben shoos me out of the kitchen. Then get at it. We have work to do. 

I look at the single casserole dish that Keith is layering food into and ask How many for dinner? 

Huh? He asks.

What's the headcount for tonight?

 Twelve. Give or take John and Loch if they make it home in time. 

You're going to need two more of those pans then. 


Dude. This is like a prison kitchen.

Told ya, Ben says. (So proud, this one.)

I have a headache, I tell him. I think I'll skip the porn and quite possibly the meal if that's okay. 

Five sets of eyes tell me the disappointment they show won't be worth the break I get.

Okay, maybe I'll stay for a little. 

Five sets happy.

Loch is better, I point out. Eyes shoot all over the place.

Just in time for the Devil to come back, Duncan says.

Yeah, I know.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Don't pinch me, he's perfect.

Actually pinch him, because his birthday is today.

Ben is forty-six and hasn't matured past midteenage levels, at best but I wouldn't have him any other way. He can be incredibly detail-oriented, deep-feeling and thoughtful when the mood strikes and when it doesn't he's like a force of nature. Who ever said There's a storm coming probably saw him at the end of the road.

He still thinks it's possible to live on chocolate and fast food and that anything healthy is fair game to be thrown, overhand if need be, at someone else. He has learned to curb that over the years, but only by a little. He's the only member of our family who could put the Christmas lights around the edges of the front roof without needing a ladder or a helper and he's insistent that he's going to go to another meeting even if he's been to ten already this week because he promised himself he would be forever straight. He refuses to get his cholesteral checked because Yolo and double Big Macs, Little Bee. 

And then he grins and he stops looking like Frankenstein's monster and instead looks like the handsomest man in the history of all time and it's hard not to hand him whatever he wants.

I'm pretty sure that's why Lochlan is with us and that it has less to do with me than you think.

I'm sure of a lot of things with Ben.

But I still treat him with kid gloves even as he shoos me away to go find Loch or Sam or whoever (just not Duncan right now, not these days until I tell you it's okay, Bridge) and he'll frown because he says he doesn't need to be coddled but I know he likes it in the same way he tells me he's far too manly and big for 'lady' bubble baths until I lead him right into one and he settles back with his arms out wide amongst the candles and he puts his head back, closing his eyes before asking if I have any of the lilac soap I love so much and could I wash his shoulders for him and so I swim around to one side and scrub him down and he smells so good and is so relaxed at the end he's usually asleep in seconds and then I tell myself I'm never running a bath for us ever again because it saps his energy.

When he awakens the next morning smelling like lilacs and sunshine he makes up for it without fail.

Who am I kidding? He's a night and a morning guy but only for me. Half the time when they think he's able to somehow sleep for twelve or fifteen hours at a stretch I don't have the heart to point out he hasn't/didn't/can't and we were up all night positively fucking each other into oblivion. I can't say that. Pretty sure it's obvious though and that's fine too.


Tonight is the big huge dinner with both houses here, and yes, I'm making corn dogs. PJ is making lamb (whole legs and all I can picture are fluffy sheep blobs dotting a mountain field) and I am well-prepared for any food fight that may ensue. For the first time in the history of anything I let PJ talk me into having the same company that is coming to clean the boathouse while Caleb is still away do the main house too. It only upped the bill by like a thousand dollars.

Jesus Christ.

Happy birthday Benjamin. I love you so much it's gross. Just like us.

Monday, 1 December 2014

BRB, carving an x in my head.

This begins with food and ends with conviction and bullheaded stubbornness. I don't care what anyone says. This subject isn't up for debate.
Yesterday is nothing
I have half a life to rewrite
So far so good for a Monday. Caleb called to thank me for having flowers and cheese toast delivered to his suite shortly after he checked into the resort. He forwarded a few pictures of his view and I may have proceeded to spend the next half-hour snapping and frustrating my way around the house until Joel appeared out of nowhere and asked me if I still make butternauts.

Of course, I snapped at him, too.

But then I nodded kind of slowly because I do, I make them every chance I get.

He took me to a place where nothing is under two digits  (even a half-glass of juice) and we had a big fancy psychotherapy breakfast but I don't know if I felt better at the end, just full and tired and then we came home and he asked if I would hang out with him for a bit and help him nail down Christmas present ideas for his family. That maybe we could make some more coffee or some popcorn and watch a movie or something. If I wanted. If I was free.

I did and I was but I said no anyway and asked if he wanted to come hang out with PJ and I for a bit, that he was welcome to. He said no but he kissed my cheek and thanked me for the company over breakfast. I hesitated before asking but then just steamrolled ahead. Was this for a report? What does Caleb need now? I blurted it out before I could pretend I was oblivious when I know all along.

Joel looked surprised. That was breakfast. If you think I only speak with you when Caleb is concerned about you then you're mistaken. I care about you, Bridget and I want to help. So if I can still listen or guide you a little bit so you stay in a good place then it's the least I can do and you're a generous soul for allowing me the honor.

I don't have a soul but if you're telling the truth then maybe we can make this work, but only if he remains honest.

Only if you do, you mean.

I don't know what you're talking about.

Bridget, you've left a big black hole in your discussions with me. At first I thought it was a time constraint issue. Then I wondered if it was a conscious effort and now I see that you are willfully redirecting every conversation I start with you about Lochlan. Why is that?

He's not up for discussion.

He's fundamentally responsible for your upbringing and possibly for some of your issues now. If you don't see through some of your illusions about him then he'll continue to hold power over you-

Joel, you could have just come right and said you were still sniffing around on Caleb's behalf. Not sure how I wind up trusting you so easily but I'll be sure not to make that mistake again. Have a good day. 

I walked to the main house and PJ opened the side door just as I reached it. Everything okay?

Sure. They think Lochlan is Charles Manson now and that I'm under a spell. It's just a typical, average day. Call me a disciple. Feed me a line and keep me in another.

But did you make butternauts? (PJ is just thrilled I can extrapolate Joel's deceptions so easily)

Of course. I made whole armies of them.

Then nevermind the rest. Come in and we'll make some more coffee.

If you don't mind I need to make a few calls.

Okay, I'll start without you.

I kiss PJ's cheek because he has the perfect blend of ironclad guidance and generously-granted privacy for me. Then I go to the library and close the doors to call Lochlan.

I relay the conversation with Joel to him and he asks me what I think. I tell him the truth, as he has always instructed me to do. That Joel is probably right and this isn't a commune, it's a cult, only it doesn't revolve around me, it revolves around Loch (which is what I always say anyway), who calls the shots and somehow managed to get someone who hates him to bankroll enough space to have all of us live together as a family and everyone defers to him and it's pretty weird, isn't it? Let's not even begin with the fact that at a young age I was separated from my family and friends in order for him to have one hundred percent control of me. I was taught to steal, taught to listen to him and no one else. I've worshiped him ever since.

He didn't say much. I could sense him smiling though. He'll let me believe whatever the hell I want until I move on to the next idea. If he never confirms Joel's fears then he doesn't have to answer to them and then he can forever feign ignorance even though never once has a single human that we've met ever thought of any of this as normal.

Why would they? It isn't.

And then I realized exactly what Joel was trying to do all morning, most likely as per the Devil's instructions. In Caleb's continued absence? Drive a wedge.

Sorry, Diabhal. It won't work. The sun rises and sets by the redhead and that ain't ever going to change.