Ten in the morning and it's pouring rain and I find Lochlan on the beach. He's in a sweater and a raincoat and boots and he's got his best friend whiskey with him. He doesn't acknowledge me until I slip on the rock I try to step up on to stand beside him and he reaches out an arm to steady me.
I'm sorry. We didn't speak much the rest of yesterday.
Maybe Caleb's right and I'm a fool.
I'm the fool.
No one's debating that today, Peanut.
Then what are we doing?
Toasting the one who didn't make it to his birthday, maybe.
I thought you didn't care.
What I care about is that the person I adore most in the world had someone pretty important to her pass away and it fucked her up good and so I'm going to mark the day with respect and then get on with my life. He's gone. I'm still here and I love you.
Any bitchy assholerish false composure I had just drowned itself into the sea. I love you. I just feel weird and abandoned and betrayed. And I miss him. He was big here. Like so big he blocked out the sun.
What happens if you put it away? You think somehow that will dishonor his memory?
Maybe. I don't know.
I get that I failed you and then I ran but I came back. He failed and ran and never came back. So he gets hero status and I get pummeled into the ground? I don't get it.
You're a safe place to take it out on. All my fears. Everything stupid. You never told me it was dumb or blew it off.
So I'm not safe but then I'm safe?
It's an easy event to use against you in an argument. That's all.
I get it. But I'm not going to live in the shadow of a coward. He couldn't love you the way I can. No one can but me.
But I'm an asshole. How can you love an asshole?
No, you let things get to you and had an asshole moment. If I thought you were an asshole for wearing your grief so transparently then I would be the asshole, now, wouldn't I?
How did you get so smart?
I'm not. I just had to grow up fast. I had you asking questions all the time. I had to be ready with answers, you know?
So can I ask you something?
Bridget, he's not coming back. He's gone. I'm sorry but the men in front of you who put up with you, we're the ones who love you. We're going in circles here. We need to stop doing this. I love you. Just stop.
I nod. He's right. I'm lucky. And at the same time I can't handle this outpouring of support that I somehow push away. Claus isn't working. Sam isn't. Not Joel. Christ. No, he's not working either. Help me, please. I'm drowning in the sea I made.
Loch is still staring at me. What about Caleb?
I take the bottle from him and take a long burning swallow and then pour the rest out on the rocks. Happy Birthday, Jacob. Forty-five. What a milestone. What a waste.