Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Butterscotch Ripple with a waffle.

I'm going to backpedal a little bit here, maybe take a little of my courage everyone is always marveling over and dilute it in a little river of gasoline. I'll swirl my finger around in it until it's good and dissolved and then I'll throw the match. When it burns a good hot sparky line down the brick I'll run back inside and slam the door.

I got my comeuppance this morning in Caleb's lawyers' office for writing about things I am not supposed to write about. They are so gentle and kind about it though. As instructed by him. 

Bridget, we've been monitoring your social media and-

I don't have any social media unless you mean doughnut recipes and Alexander McQueen accessories on Pinterest-

Your blog-

Oh, that. I suppose he wants it taken down.

He just doesn't want you writing about specifics of the case. The broadest of mentions is as far as it can go and you've now been incredibly detailed as to point out that there was a start point and a settlement reached in a judge's office. That's too far and he would like you to stop.

Why couldn't he tell me?

Your... Lochlan keeps punching him and no one listens when that happens. He thought this might be more peaceful.

But I smile inwardly. ("Your Lochlan").

Do I have to remove anything?

No. Just don't write anymore about the specifics.

Fine.

He said including this conversation.

Bullshit, no he didn't.

He did, he even said if he didn't, you'd post it verbatim.

Tell him I'm doing that and then I'll cut him some slack.

Also if Lochlan continues to strike or make contact there will be police involvement.

The hell there will.

He says he knew you would say that and his response is 'exactly'.

Tell him if the tables were turned Lochlan would be dead already.

He says to tell you he knows. He says 'Sad face', he is sorry. Can he make it up to you?

Tell him no.

He already knows that as well and thanks you for your time and understanding and says to have this twenty to get an ice cream on your way out of the building (Lawyer holds out crisp green Queen).

Awesome! How much did you bill him for this twenty?

That's confidential.

Probably three...three-fifty, right?

Have a nice day, Ms. C____. 

Tell Mr. C_____ what my name is one of these days, would you? 

I've tried. He insists we call you this to agitate you.

Is it even legal? 

The paperwork is correct so that's all that matters.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Argh.

King of hearts will break me
Makes me feel like Judas, baby
Does he ever float through your mind?
King of hearts is aching
Silent like a fucus, baby
Does he ever shoot into your mind?
Too many punches thrown, shoves against doors, walls, fences, trucks, other people and I've had it. I get it. This is serious. I'm trying to give a pass to someone but Lochlan doesn't seem to have a merciful bone in his body anymore. He's fed up. Worn out. Done. He tried to coexist for years and suddenly now that he doesn't have to for Henry's sake, he's certainly not going to do it for mine.

So I had to put the dogs on him. August and Sam. Not a nice term but so far I've held them off a bit. They've wanted to talk to him for a while. They think he bottles things up. Holds them inside. Doesn't have many proper channels for blowing off steam, and that maybe his inner sixteen-year-old still running his moral compass based on what he thinks is best using classic America fiction is maybe not going to work so well at this stage in his life.

Or maybe it works just perfectly and that's why he remains so weirdly uncomplicated and sure of himself. Maybe that's exactly what it is. I knew I should have stuck with Anne of Green Fucking Gables and Little House on the Prairie and I would have been fine all along.

Christ on a pancake.

August, however, wound up sitting on Lochlan somewhere between the studio and the fountain just to be able to finish a sentence because Lochlan wasn't even going to stop to give him the time of day. He doesn't want his brain analyzed, thank you very much. He's just fine. Maybe he's the last one who needs a tune up in the head department, don't you think? And there's August trying so hard not to laugh but at the same time yelling for help because really that's all they want to do is keep him safe. One of these days the Devil's going to stop taking these sucker punches and throw one back. So far he's been good about not doing it but everyone reaches their breaking point and that seems to be what we're all about over here.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Standing room only.

Church this morning was packed to the rafters, and boy was Sam ever pleased, as we were three rows deep, me in the front, smack in the center and two rows more behind and around us, as every single man I know was there just to make sure I had no more unwelcome visitors and then everyone else seemingly came out too from the surrounding areas and yet they all seemed to be familiar faces, people I see all the time in the neighborhood and at church though I go two or three times a month, tops. So Batman is right. If his people are there, I would never have known.

What a gong show though. It was fun, as Sam took the extra attendance to embark on one of his rare call and response sermons that Jake used to do too, telling him it kept people awake, engaged and excited. The boys love that. They embellish the heck out of response. It's very entertaining.

Afterward we went out to eat but since the whole crew went we were divided on where to eat and so broke into smaller groups to find restaurants all over the place. I opted for a hole in the wall that makes epic Monte Cristos and we jammed into a booth in the back and I cleaned my plate. Then we came home, changed and I went out into the garden to putter around, cut some roses, tie up some branches and tidy up a little from the storms that seem to have passed, for now. From the corner of my eyes, more than once I saw Caleb on his front deck or in a window. If I caught him directly I would wave even though he would disappear before he would be able to respond. It's only polite.

After an hour or so of necessary vitamin D Lochlan wandered out to find me.

Caught up? 

Yes. I think. 

Good. You'll burn if you stay out here any longer. 

I'm not sure if he means without sunscreen or under the watchful eyes of the Devil and I smile at either scenario. I hand him my bucket of tools and he takes them and holds his hand out for mine. We need to do some relaxing apparently. It's all the rage. 

I know. 

The pills are being unkind. I am anxious, jumpy, breathless and really tired. Doctor's orders are to take it easy until I catch up and hopefully the side effects will ease up soon. I run full bore all the damn time. I do too many chores. Work too hard. Stay up too late. Wake up too early. Let people get away with too much. I'm trying so hard to get used to letting things go and I'm failing miserably so he's taken over at doing it for me, or at least making sure I do a little, here and there.

Let's go then. Have a plate of snacks and some Netflix waiting for you. 

Is it Chef's Table???

It is! 

Yay!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

In which my army gets its instructions from an old book in a nightstand in every hotel across America.

I'm touched that she chose a life with me in your little exercise the other day. 

I'm listening inside the door as Caleb and Sam sit on the covered front porch in the rain.

She didn't. I asked her to visualize a life with you and tell me about it and the first thing she did is conjure up Lochlan, inserting him into it, pushing you into the background, and letting her emotions overwhelm her. No time had passed between them in spite of actual years going by. 

I know who's corner you're in, then. 

Bridget's. I'm in Bridget's corner. I want to help her heal from what you've done to her. 

I had a little fun with her. She's a big girl now. She can give as good as she's gotten at this point. 

I'm not going to split hairs with you on this today, Caleb. It's a beautiful day out. God's giving us rain to ease the fires you seem to stoke up around us and for the moment things are peaceful in her worried mind. Let's leave it at that and work together to make the second half of her life more tranquil than the first. 

It's not just me, Sam. 

I'm aware of that, Caleb. Will you help, is what I'm asking?

I'm doing everything I can here. 

That's a gift in itself. Take heart in your efforts and God will shine a light within you. 

I roll my eyes and walk back through the house. God won't be shining any lights on his forsaken son any time soon. Not sure why Sam chose now to pretend to encourage Caleb but Sam likes to keep the peace all the way around. He likes to feel useful. He likes to minister to us even as we buck and arch and spew pea soup all over him, our heads spinning three hundred and sixty degrees around in a comical display of gentle censure.

We wouldn't actually. We're very respectful toward Sam, just as we were toward Jake. Some of us more than others. Some of us are very spiritual. August, Andrew, Dalton. Maybe I used to be or maybe I tried to be because of Jake. He framed God in a way that made me question how I saw the world and not how I lived the bible. Very open to interpretation. Sam is a little tiny bit more literal and I resist ever so slightly more and he knows it. Sam is an aw-shucks God-fearing very old-fashioned kind of sweet baby preacher. I love him to pieces and I'd follow him off the cliff any day but when he yells IN LEVITICUS... and pauses I turn and start running away, I swear.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Princess of Stockholm.

And then what happened?

Oh, he recognized me instantly but since he's a professional he finished his exhibition and thanked the crowd, passed the hat and packed up his things before he came over.

And then?

And then he said "It's you". He recognized me in my McQueen dress on an unfamiliar street in yet another unfamiliar country in an unfamiliar time. Maybe he felt the Devil before he saw me. I don't know. I'll never know, I guess.

And what did you say?

I asked him if he was okay and he did that thing he always does where he looks off and upwards, squinting at the sun or the stars, whatever happens to be handy and he said "Still singing for my supper, as it were. How about you?"

"Still burning in hell. I like the clothes though."

"But are you happy, Bridget? Was the grass greener? Was it all less painful with the promises that money could buy that one thing you wanted? Did he stop hurting you? Did he make up for the past? Did he brainwash you just a little more so you could forget all about the part where you loved me more? Did you actually move on or did you think about me every time you lit a candle like you always said you did?" He recognized me. In his mind twenty years was the same as a week.

And then Caleb is beside me, having straightened out the issue with the restaurant valet and he's all shits and grins and fake delight. "Who do we have here? Lochlan! How long has it been? You're still busking for a dollar? Well I'll be!" And he pulls out a hundred and tucks it into Lochlan's breast pocket and steamrolls the conversations back to the good old days on the point and then they both look at me with horror and I didn't even realize that tears had begun to roll heavily down my face in a death march off the edge because they didn't want to exist suddenly either-

And abruptly Sam snaps his fingers.

Your imagination is a force to be reckoned with, Fragile Miss b. No wonder he worries so.

But I can't catch my breath.

Bridget. Sam puts his hands on my arms and starts to count so I don't hyperventilate.

Why does my head want one thing when my heart knows exactly what it wants, Sam? 

Bridget, Jesus Christ! Caleb's been brainwashing you for three decades. You are programmed to go to him. This is how he's designed your brain from a young age in going back to him time and time again not matter what he does to you. It's just lucky that you imprinted on Lochlan before that so he can call you back. The problem is I think it's going to take the rest of your life to undo the damage. 

I don't think I have that long, Sam. 

You don't have a choice. The longer you resist conventional therapy the longer it takes. No magic bullets, just hard work.

Give me the bullet instead. I can be a vegetable. Lochlan can spoon feed me and then I'll never argue with him. 

Bridget, keep talking like that and I'll quit this gig too.

Name one thing that's been easy to come by in this life of mine and we'll call it a day. End on a high note for me, please. I need a cheer-up. 

Love. You fall in love in the time it takes most people to brush their teeth. 

This is not a flaw, Sam, it's a perk.

It's the reason you're in this mess, Bridget. 

Which mess?

I rest my case.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Hold the door.

We're talking, the Devil and I.

Because for years, he cared for my son, out of a sense of duty. Out of a need to watch over us. Because for years he's furnished a means for me to have this collective, to keep the circus going, keep it close. Because for years he's provided me the good parts of Cole. Because for years he made the world smaller that anyone else. Because for years he taught me to be brave. To face my monsters. And that the scariest monsters sometimes wear Tiffany cuff links and Valentino suits, and call you Sweetheart, and offer you the moon.

And because even if I continued to cut him off cold it won't bring Jacob back. Jacob isn't coming back. Jacob made the choice that he did and I don't agree with it. How could a technicality overshadow what is right in front of you? And then I remember how easy it is to become overwhelmed by what we feel and I don't blame him at all.

But you're supposed to find a coping mechanism. He had so many. God. Friends. Getting drunk and quoting Winnie The Pooh. His band. Singing all the time besides. Sex. Good. hard. sex. Running, even though he HATED running. Take out food. Long drives. Camping. Horses. Motorcycles. Helping others. Hospice. Chaplain duties. Teaching. Jesus. He had so much to take his mind off his own troubles, it's hard to believe he had time to be troubled.

In contrast to cope Caleb sits in a chair and looks at his brother's artwork.

Which is all of me, I might add.

Healthy.

But he's still here. And he needs more than a chair. More than some photographs and paintings and a dead brother and a surrogate not-your-family-after-all but we used to be related by marriage and a bunch of sometimes/former friends (they're trying, bless their hearts) and I am generous as always because to be anything else at this point just breaks more hearts and we've had enough of that. I have to set an example. I'm the toughest, so it makes sense.

“And I know it seems easy," said Piglet to himself, "but it isn't every one who could do it.” ~A.A. Milne

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The man with a song for everything who sings for no one but me.

Don't think sorry's easily said
Don't try turning tables instead
You've taken lots of chances before
But I ain't gonna give any more
Don't ask me
That's how it goes
'Cause part of me knows what you're thinking
Especially if it's progressive rock, and distantly related to Pink Floyd, or so I was educated after his acoustic arrangement of the song, sung as I washed my hands at the sink in the half bath just off the side door where you enter from the driveway. I was marched there in tears after being caught in the garage lying on the floor trying to sort out guilt, obligation, and rage.

Sort it out with me, Lochlan tells me.

You won't let me. I tell him.

Right. Don't sort it out. Leave it be.

I can't leave this be!

Do it anyway! He yells in my face and we burst into fresh sets of tears for each other to admire and regret.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Try not to worry you.

I will try not to breathe
I can hold my head still with my hands at my knees
These eyes are the eyes of the old, shiver and fold
I love the internet when it serves as a dysfunctional respite, a mirror to my crazy, as since it's spring again the requests for a rundown of my beauty/makeup/fashion routine outweigh any concerns that a mafia henchpin-lynchman-kingturn-head of some syndicate something or other that Caleb is used to be messed up with found me alone and offered me their services after once trying to take me as a payment on a loan Caleb was paying back (on time, I might add. They now say it was all in good fun. What the fuck.), somehow deciding they can protect me better, obviously because, heh, where is everyone?

Newsflash. I don't require bodyguards. 

Maybe you do, they suggest.

Maybe you do, I counter, trying to tilt my head in a slight display of danger that might give them a little doubt but instead they see it as endearing and I can't win so I stamp my feet and that brings laughter. Laughter all around.

My comic instances, always so charming.

Ben, who finds gravity in nothing and nihilism in everything, thought it was sweet that they want to protect me. Like the rest of us, he said in stark contrast to the way he usually talks. Lochlan wants to know why they're back now, what they want, what angle they're working, if they're watching us/me/Caleb. Caleb no longer cares about them and tells me not to worry, that I haven't done anything wrong and he stopped all dealings with them anyway the moment I became a target the very first time and that if I would sleep easier we could go together and explain our history and explain our present and they would know that we've sorted it out.

Batman tells everyone he has it covered.

Does it involve even scarier people?

Oh, probably
, he laughs, but they won't come visit you at church. You'll never see them, he promises and I believe that too.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Victoria Day plans.

Brrrrr. It's a jeans and flannel shirt and boots kind of day. Too wet to mow. Too wet to garden. Too wet to hike. Too cold to ride. Too miserable to play with the bears.

A perfect day to spend in bed with Netflix and pizza and just t-shirts, Ben says and he lifts his eyebrows waiting for my response while I sip my tea.

Danny and Sky made me the same offer an hour ago, I tease him and laugh and he reacts with mock horror and then waggles his tongue and tells me to message them and find out the times.

I push him off and tell him I don't think he was invited, just me and he pouts, saying I'm not going anywhere, lifting me up into him arms, pinning me against the counter, placing a tiny kiss underneath my ear with a smile. We had a rough week. Hit and run. Touch and go. Torch and flee. Flay and pray.

He sets me back to the floor and waits for confirmation that I'll stay with him.

I nod.

I'll go order the pizza then, he says. You get the redhead.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Went for God, found the Iron Curtain.

I went to church early with Sam this morning. He likes company, I get free coffee.

Once there, he turns up the heat and leaves me to pass out bulletins and set up while he runs for the coffee. We're a good team. I'm still a preacher's wife and a damn good one. The door opens far too soon, no way he could have made it all the way to Starbucks and back so I head down the sanctuary to help him with his purchases and just as I make it through the door I'm greeted by two Russian bodyguards and the kingpin himself, or whatever they call him. Papa is actually what they call him but I don't think any of them are related.

I take a step backwards but then one is taking my arm, walking me back toward him.

Don't be afraid, Papa orders as we reach him.

I'm not. 

Such a firefly, he says softly.

Caleb is on his way. 

No he isn't. 

Are you here for the service? 

No, this is personal, actually. I need to know if you need help with him. 

Caleb? No. 

He hurt you as a child. Does he continue to hurt you? Think carefully before you answer me. 

No. And I have no reason to protect him. 

Bridget, I'm going to give you a card. 

I have one already. 

This one is different. It reaches me directly. 

Who does the other one reach? 

My people. 

Oh. 

If you need anything you call the number on it. Anything. Twenty four hours a day. You call me. I will send someone or I will come myself. Twelve people have this privilege in the world but I like you. You ask for nothing. 

I nod.

Don't let him hurt you. You're worth more than that. 

I nod again.

How much are you worth?

More than that. 

Good girl. Have a nice day, okay? Don't show that card to them. I don't care if you tell them you saw me but the card stays with you at all times okay? It's not for them, it's for you.

Okay. I whisper. He bends down and kisses both my cheeks, the left one twice and then they're gone.

I'm still standing in the hall shaking like a leaf when Sam comes in with coffee and croissants ten minutes later.

Bridget, you're as white as a sheet! What's wrong?

Nothing. I just had a visitor. 

Who? 

Papa. 

The Russians?

The Russians. 

What did they want?


They apparently have my back.

What?

'Save the Bridget, save the world', I guess. 

Man, you charm everyone. 

But I DON'T. That's the thing!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Vicarious Dalecarlian.

By eleven thirty the party has wound down and everyone has wandered off into small groups. Dalton has stuck close by me and I him. Good. Three months without this one was rough, though I'm not sure who had it worse, me or him, or possibly Duncan, who shed every ounce of cool and had tears in his eyes for most of the evening as he hung on his little brother's every word. We abandoned the cold table in favor of the warm and cozy fire pit early on in the evening while Dalton regaled us with stories of..kale salads and bed every night by eleven alone. No women. No Netflix and no merch. Free days were spent in art museums and cathedrals. Free nights he had his Kale early and got extra sleep.

Wait. What? Where are the girls? Where are the broken hearts scattered all over Europe? Where is the love? 

Here with my family, he smiles. I'm so happy to be home.

He already got an offer to go back in the fall. He's not sure. 

He brought us all Dala horses from Sweden, in colors and sizes that correspond to our sizes and favorite colors. Ben's is the size of a cat and dark. Mine is palm-sized and teal blue. Loch's is red and covered with the most ornate filigree and about ten inches around. The rest of the boys got horses in their favorite colors somewhere from the same size as Ben's down to Lochlan's. The children's horses have inlays of enamel in them with their initials. He did amazingly well. They're just beautiful.

***

One forty-five and I have been summoned by the Devil, briefly for a check-in. Loch waits in the driveway, not because of the bears but for the demons. Caleb sits in his candlelit kitchen, all windows open to hear the roar of the surf washing over the rocks, and feel the cool night air washing over our skin. He's got three fingers of bourbon warming at his hand, the bottle close by. It doesn't look like it will be a pretty night (for him anyway). My night is almost over. I'm hardly awake still and Ben waits for me upstairs. A nice surprise after a week of veritable strangeness.

Neamhchiontach. 

I'm expecting a verbal flaying. Maybe some legal threats. I went where I haven't gone before.

Yes?

Are you...okay?

Pardon?

I mean...do you need anything?

I'm..okay. Are you...okay? Is there something I can do for you?

I'm...are you going to list my mistakes now for all to see?

Absolutely not. It serves no purpose. But it also serves no purpose to sugarcoat our relationship. 

Like we do now. 

Exactly, like we do now. 

We do, don't we, Bridget?

It works best, I think. I need to go. Loch is waiting-

How is he with this-

He didn't do anything-

He was there too-

He wasn't an adult-

Oh. I forget sometimes how much younger he is. 


He was seventeen. You were twenty, Diabhal. 

I'm so sorry, Bridget. 

Goodnight, Caleb. 

When I get back outside Loch is right there with his head pressed against the cedar shakes waiting for me, out-loud counting seconds into minutes, eyes closed.

Locket. Let's go.  

What did he want?

He asked if I was okay. 

Really?

And he wanted to know how much I was going to write about. 

There's the lawyer. Gearing up, I suppose. 

Of course. He tried to implicate you as well. 

Me?

Until I reminded him of how old you were. 

Lochlan thinks for a moment. And then what did he do?

He apologized. 

And?

I left.

Loch puts his arm around me and pulls me in close. He's going to try all sorts of approaches now to keep in your good graces. Run your own show, Peanut. 

I nod. I don't know if that means actually run my own show or let Loch run my show but it's late and I'm done thinking about anything save for colorful horses and the fact that tonight, we're all home and the gate is closed and it's my favorite moment of all when that happens.

Friday, 20 May 2016

One. Single. Theme. and it's sex.

Dalton just called from Denver. He and Dilly are almost home! Just three more hours and then freaking long weekend Friday afternoon traffic and they're mine.

And look. I need to address something. I don't often give a voice to things in the past between Caleb and I unless it's to complain about the amount of time I have spent bored in Vegas. I don't often point out that one of the hazards of being a little girl anxious for approval in a sea of close-knit teenage boys is that she often becomes a target for inappropriate behavior or far, far worse. What good comes of that? Want me to make a list of those who touched me without asking? Or who still does? I daresay it'd be easier to list who didn't/doesn't.

Here:

1.

Let's move on from there because it escalated anyway, because things like that always will and Lochlan couldn't always protect me. He had to work. He tried so hard. He lied to everyone we knew, including parents, teachers and bosses. He changed his life. He brought me with him to keep me safe and still it wasn't enough. He holds so much guilt for trying to save me and instead putting me in the line of fire. He can barely breathe some days because of that guilt but we manage and we'll be alright because we're so much tougher than we look. I love him. I always will. Like I said, we're tough.

We must be as I suddenly realize it's noon on a Friday and I'm about to throw a homecoming dinner for twenty people on four hours notice. I asked PJ to take me to the store. I can't drive on these pills, these ones make me ridiculously zonky-quick-sandy. He agrees and I wonder out loud what Dalton brought me home for souvenirs from Europe.

STDs. Really exotic ones though, because...Europe.

Nice. 

I know, right? Tres beaucoup!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Speaking of courage, I found a speck of it in my cheerios.

If I can get through tonight
I'm waking up with my wings
There's no way I can sleep my way through a fight
And I think I'm gonna like what tomorrow brings
Look at my eyes
Don't even know who I am
That's how I spend all my worthless time on the floor
Waiting for you to tell me I'm a man

But you and your face of light
It's a brilliant roman candle that separates the day from the night
It's that clean, clear truth that sorts our the wrong from the right
You and your face of light
Caleb wanted a Mea Culpa breakfast on the beach with me this morning and deferred when I tried to clarify.

Sorry, I'm having breakfast with people who don't hurt me and call it love.

I don't think there are any people like that on the point, Bridget.

You might be surprised, Diabhal. Also? FUCK OFF.

PJ's eyebrows go up and he asks very quietly under his breath if it's time to burn the boathouse down with Caleb in it and call it an unfortunate accident.

Of course not. We'll do it and call it Even-Stevens.

Sam snorts milk out his nose and almost cries from pain and sad-laughter. It isn't funny but I fare better than most. I mean, Caleb and Cole had years to patch me up so I didn't grow up fucked up and stunted, unable to hold down a relationship or hold a spoon so I guess there's that.

Ben might even stick around though he's made no promises. Seen him lately? I haven't. He wanted a partner in crime. Someone to be fucked up and depraved with. I don't want to be fucked up. I want things to be right. I want things to be fixed. I want things to be better than this. I deserve better than this. I have earned better than this and if the entire collective becomes collateral damage in the process then so be it. The winners will be those who took their knocks and hung on tight. The losers will be those who lied. Those who got greedy. Those who took advantage of me when I couldn't help myself. Hope you all rot. Because what horrible things to do to a little girl who wouldn't hurt a fly and certainly couldn't fight back.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

You'll never believe what I've been up to.

(When I'm getting tired at the end of the day I get cranky and start trotting out the Buzzfeed-style headlines because why the fuck not?)

Things move so quickly around here, it seems. I was so busy yesterday I just didn't have time to sit down and write and the headache made sure of it. We got groceries for the long weekend. Four people, three cartsful. These boys eat so much.

The good news is I have enough points from the reward program at my grocery chain for an aircraft carrier.

Well, not really but close. I'm waiting for the ipads to show up again. Haven't paid for one yet.

We finished the spring planting in the garden yesterday too. Soon we won't need grocery stores. Well, as soon as we find a chocolate chip cookie tree and a dairy cow or two and possibly a lamb that won't mind being slaughtered. A perpetual pig for bacon and a frozen gyoza bush to round things out.

Yup, just need those things and I'm probably good. Gyoza are like some sort of heavenly snack only everywhere I go they bring me five on a plate and I always ask if they have a platter or something. I can eat about sixteen in a sitting, I swear to God and I would but they only bring me five. Oh well. I will keep looking for that bush.

The grapevines and cherry trees are already fruiting, as are the raspberries and strawberries and we've planted peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, corn, carrots, sunflowers and radishes in the big vegetable garden. I'm excited.  Every morning I go out and check the progress but the nights are still cool and there isn't as much progress as there will be next month, or so Sam reminds me every single day. In the meantime I will busy myself trying to keep the grass alive under water restrictions already in place. The boys tell me I care too much but it's such a beautiful place, I want it to look like the utopia it feels like.

I also put the ghosts to rest and possibly one more of the living.

Things change, people change.

People age. 

All of it a trial. Temporary. Let's see if it works. Let's see what happens. Let's see where it goes. Let's see how it feels. Presented as a idea we can change at any time but when I look back it's being carved in stone, sure hands wrapped around hammer and chisel, marking it down for all eternity, one more chapter written and finished in Bridget's own messy handwriting, there on the shelf for all to see.

Today I went back to the doctor for another round of demoralizing experimental migraine prevention-management with a side of sexual harassment. Young Russian MD didn't disappoint with any of the above and I ducked a few more offers of underground plastic surgery in favor of some new pills that might work better but sadly the big side effect is weight loss, which he doesn't like but if I am closely monitored we'll give it a try. Also I can triple my pain meds if I need them. I only allow myself one per twenty-four hour period, for a maximum of three times a week.

Well, that's probably not going to help, he pointed out.

Oh, I said.

Caleb just shook his head. He's the reason I won't take medicines very easily but boy is he happy to be here today and he was pretty great at deflecting the sexual harassment on my behalf. I'm pretty sure he would have taken a bullet (or an aircraft carrier) for me but I'm not going to ask. I just would like for things to eventually settle and we can figure out where we stand but for now being in the same room without throwing sharp things at him is an incredible milestone for me and I'll take it. I'm afraid the early part of this week wasn't nearly so pleasant.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Quiet the foundling/Feed the beast.

I gave them my body
Now my memory won't let me sleep
Now I lay beside you
And when you touch me
I feel I don't deserve you
That's when you remind me

I say how could you love me
When you know where I've been
Time caught up with me yesterday and I never made it to the pool. I spent a quick six minutes with Caleb, who is fine, just a little tired and zoned out from the new meds he's trying out. He doesn't like side effects any better than I do and so the search continues for something mild but effective to help kill the burgeoning anxiety he feels now that his life has shifted gears once again. He doesn't have work to throw himself into anymore to ride it out. Now he gets to feel every jarring bump.

Good.

I asked him to call if he needed anything at all, repeatedly refused his requests to stay with him or come back or make plans and then as I was leaving I was thoroughly and magnificently ambushed by August, who wanted to show me some photos. We went back over to the gatehouse and up the back steps. He keeps his home neat as a pin. He's happy Joel is gone, as he likes his solitary time, unlike the Devil. He's hung some beautiful tapestries over the skylights so the light is diffused and the tiny fairy lights are on all the time. He's a walking oasis in a lifetime of desert.

While he's showing me things on his laptop that is haphazardly set up on the island countertop, he hooks his thumb through the string of my bikini. It's such a habitual move to keep my attention until he's ready to release me. Finally he runs out of show and tell and walks me to the door. I ask him if he wants to come swimming in the clouds since the sun isn't coming and we have extra space as a a result and he grins and says it's too cold.

You're not cold. I look up at him just inside the door.

He swears and lifts me up against the door, hands wrapped around my hips, lips against my ear. Strings are pulled, wishes granted and he isn't gentle at all. I shift instantly into someone I'm not sure I even am anymore, gearing right down to pull myself out of the hole I just fell into.

Jake-

Shut up, Bridge. He wraps both arms around me and carries me back across the room to his bed. The beautiful bed suspended from the ceiling. More fairy lights. More tapestries. More Jake-time, I don't care if he lets me say his name any more or not. They do things the exact same way. Touch me like I'm a mirror. Kiss me like it's yesterday and nothing ever went wrong. Claw my brain back to the start and I'll never finish the race if I can't get anywhere. Best damn thing.

He pulls me up to meet him, sitting in the middle of that big hanging bed, arms strong, eyes open, beard growing in full now, wavy hair too long and wild, hands warm, lifting me up against him. Then he holds me out so I fly, touching nothing, leaning back against his hands as he bends his head down, kissing a line up my throat to my mouth. Brushing away the tears, giving me nothing to have, hold or keep. Bringing a memory within reach only to move it higher up again at the last second.

More, Jake.

No more, Princess. This ghost is getting too old to keep up with you. He whispers it as he kisses my ear. Now go. I think you're out of time.

I frown and get up, finding pieces of my outfit everywhere, bikini top hanging on the corner of his laptop screen. I tie it hastily in the easy bows Lochlan taught me when I was nine. He's going to be so angry. I can't seem to fix this.

Will you come for dinner later?

August nods but doesn't look in my direction. The bed sways gently against its ropes and as I watch he closes his eyes.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Slipping into pools of medium blue.

(I sound so devious, but I'm not.)

I was up in time to have breakfast with Sam, who got up when PJ did to see Bailey off to the airport. PJ planned to drive her but she ordered a taxi late last night to arrive this morning instead.

Lochlan is still sleeping. Ben is downstairs probably facedown on the mixing board. He didn't even come to bed.

Sam was off in short order to go to church, offering me a ride. Naw, I need to spend the morning in hell instead and find out how the devil is doing. I indicate the boathouse and Sam frowns and asks PJ to make sure he watches my time. I have a momentary tantrum, stamping my feet and pointing out I won't conduct personal business with an hourglass and PJ tucks me under his arm, squeezes my neck really gently and points out that I will do whatever he tells me to do.

I wonder how many days it will take for Bailey's influence to wear off this time? It's usually a couple of days max and then they collapse in the face of my helpless charms and the need to be rocks instead of soldiers.

Works for me.

Sam texts me once he gets to church.

I hope you know how much I love you and that I would never ever hurt you. 

It makes me smile. He's letting God speak through him so I don't believe him for a minute.

PJ calls out to Duncan as he heads out to his truck. He is going golfing with August (who surfaced shortly after Bailey was gone) and Corey, who hates me ninety-nine percent of the time and loves me so hard the other one percent that it's twisted as fuck. He tells Duncan not to let me out of his sight. The slyest smile washes over Duncan's face that had I not been expecting it I would have missed it completely.

Crank up the heater and go for a swim, Babe? 

If I can defer you for half an hour so I can check on Cale, I promise, no longer than that?

Sure. Okay. See you in a bit. 

I almost roll my eyes in delight at how easy that was but instead I bite my tongue until it hurts and smile as he kisses my forehead and heads back down the hall to brush his teeth and find his swimsuit. Duncan isn't good with keeping track of time. He's the most laid-back spirit that ever lived. I promise myself not take advantage of him or get him in trouble and give myself twenty minutes to make sure the Devil is intact and then I'll head back to change. Twenty minutes is not enough time to get in trouble anyways. I'll be fine.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

History-lite.

Bailey is here. She's stripping off our skin, leaving us all naked and raw, or so it seems. She's come to get her pound of flesh as an Aunt from Caleb for hurting her nephew (Henry isn't hurting, really. The only thing that he's concerned about was Caleb's interaction with me that he interrupted. It was the first and only time that's ever happened and since then they've been as thick as thieves once more. Kids are resilient. I tell you time and again, brain, but you don't listen.) and beg me and Loch to be normal for once.

Ha. 

I don't think that's a distant possibility even.

Her concerns are interesting to say the least and though she was the same age as Cole, being in all of Cole's and Lochlan's high school classes while I foundered in elementary school, she doesn't know them past when they were teenagers. She disappeared into a world of tupperware parties and interior designing and we packed up and hit the road to sing for our supper.

No two sisters could have been more different and yet when she showed up on the doorstep to kick ass and take names I felt a relief like I don't think I've felt before, even knowing nothing will change when she leaves, which is tomorrow morning, because she has her own life which constitutes changing flower arrangements according to season and booking trips and being busy.

Caleb however, looks thinner and more haunted as the days go on. He got the absolute worst of her ire. Good.

Sam and Duncan were told privately to each back off. She worries about them. Sam the surprise outlier. He's your confidante, Bridget. He's a given eventuality. 

Well, I know that and everyone else knows that but I didn't think she knew that. And he isn't because I love him too much to wreck him. He isn't shallow. It wouldn't end well. It's not like any other relationship I have with anyone.

Exactly, she points out.

Duncan tells her point-blank over breakfast that he isn't into relationshits anyway. She laughs. He can charm her so he does and I think she's ever so slightly unnerved by that. It's understandable. I mean, look at him.

August understandably just...left for the day. Ha. He doesn't want to be under a microscope. It's a long story.

She and Lochlan fight like sister and brother. That never changed. They bicker and square off and then make lunch together.

Bailey and the others are highly civilized and get along well. She treasures PJ for his role here, and John. She and Gage and Keith got along very well. Andrew and Christian gave her a warm reception that she echoed and I think Batman might be in love. Should I tell him her custom draperies will be more important than his feelings?

She can be cold and distant. Not like me.

She's not a sex addict like me. I remind them all. She won't hook up with anyone. It's not contagious or genetic.

It could be contagious. Ben wags his eyebrows. He's actually been on his best behavior. She can't understand where I get my insistence that he's wild and undomesticated. I feel uptight and like I'm on review. She tells me repeatedly that since I won't invoke the powers that be then they (the boys) need to know that others are watching and they won't get away with things they think they can get away with.

I think it's too late for that, Bay. 

It's never too late, Bridge. No one here has any control over you. Nothing is keeping you here. You can leave any time you want but you seem to like playing commune. 

That's when things shift back and I know she doesn't think too deeply or care too much but it looks good. A feather in her cap if you will and maybe some decorating inspiration, as well as her big-sister-duties completed for another year.

I love you, I tell her in a rush of regret because had I gone to her in the beginning things might have turned out so different. I would have a tupperware collection to rival the housewives of Edward Scissorhands instead of a collection of fucked-up men caring for a fucked-up girl.

But she doesn't hear me. She's watching Duncan wash the trucks. She's in her own world and that world isn't here.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Dangerously close.

I hoard some weird shit. Ben asked for a bandage this morning after biting a hangnail while we sat in stupid traffic on the bridge and I pawed through my bag, eventually dumping it out in my lap because I couldn't find one. Amongst the usual suspects we counted fourteen lip products, nine guitar picks and a whole stack of unused giftcards.

DAMN. Sephora, I'm coming for you.

Also the Keg. Maybe this weekend?

I finished up my call with Caleb quickly. He called to tell me that the results of his heart monitoring show that he's only healthy when I'm with him. Flattering and frightening. My favorite.

Eventually I found the band-aids in the tin with the Cambia packets and several dozen bobby pins. I'm prepared. He won't bleed out on my watch.

He picked up a lipstick and applied it expertly. So not your color, Benny. 

Not yours either. Why did you buy this one? 

It was in the Give Me Some More Lip set from Sephora. You can't choose the shades. 

You should give me some lip, Bridge. 

Right now? 

Sure. I think we'll be stuck in traffic a little longer. 

Gimme a second to put all this stuff back. 

Leave it all out and we'll play hot mess. 

That's gross. Such an apt description though. 

It is.
He laughed. So is that a yes or....?

I loaded the bag back up and whacked him with it but he just smiled and kissed the back of my hand, holding it up against his lips. Then he licked it for good measure and said maybe we should go be a hot mess at home with Loch.

Agreed. 

At least now I know where all my guitar picks wind up. You're like my little magpie. 

I smile at him but I don't say anything.

You know they're going to say it hasn't hit you yet. 

I know. I look at the floor.

Loch is really worried, Bee. 

When is he not?

True. But it's only because he loves you the likes of which I have never seen before. 

You seem so sure about that.

Why do you bust his balls so hard all the time, Bridge?

Eyes back to the floor. I don't like getting called out any more than anyone else.

We've got a lot of history, Benny. 

It isn't his fault. 

I know. 

So why do you shove him away so hard?

To make room for you. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Instead of a rabbit, he pulled out a girl. Comte would be proud.

My lion uses his top hat for courage.

He puts it on and he's bulletproof, ten feet tall. Dark as night. Loud as thunder. Strong as steel. He holds my soul aloft in the morning sun. He stole it while the Devil was sleeping. Sometimes we borrow it. Sometimes he paints it gold and sells it for cash and then steals it back again. Sometimes it's counterfeit, a substitute soul left out by mistake but on purpose to keep the original safe.

It's a fake, he proclaims, turning it over. A tiny Made in China sticker on the bottom gives it away. He holds it up over his head and smashes it on the tiled floor. When it shatters a tiny barn swallow flies out, finding safety in the rafters. She begins to sing and is soon joined by others. I go to clean up the mess and Loch tells me to leave it. That we need to find the original and soon, because maybe this is the small window in which I may be able to get my own soul back for good.

But what if he wakes up and finds it gone? 

It doesn't belong to him, what's he going to do? Courage makes Lochlan cocky, bold. I reach up and take the hat and put it on my own head. I get it. It's striking. It's his armor. On me it falls down to my nose, covering my eyes and he takes it back with a laugh.

You can't even see with it on. 

I don't need to.

We do. We need to keep our eyes open, Bridget. 

For what?

The bad guys.

What do they look like? 

They look like him, he motions ahead of us. Caleb is standing on the steps of the boathouse. He nods in return as Loch nods to him.

Definitely a bad guy. But you're safe because you're with me. 

The hat is a weapon. It's a shield. It's a wall that neither the Devil nor the Memory thief can knock down and that's okay with me.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Princess Outlaw (something about grown men and Patsy Cline).

I think it brings out their inner outlaw, or something close to that, anyway. In the exact same way that Def Leppard brings out my inner stripper.

Yes, just like that.

Only to be an outlaw you just sit back and wish you were in your rode-off cowboy boots, threadbare jeans and a leather jacket, unshaven for four or five years and able to kill a man with ease. To be a stripper you've gotta move, though leather and cowboy boots are fine. You can be unshaven for an hour tops, though waxing is better, and you can kill a man with your gaze but then he'll toss a five dollar bill in your direction, wink, and walk the fuck out to his truck and leave. Because that's what outlaws do.

So we split everything down the middle around here. They can be outlaws but no strippers and no draws. I can be a stripper, but only after midnight, as Patsy instructs.

What was I here to write about again? Because I can't remember.

Oh, yes. That. The lawyer meeting yesterday that almost saw an Avengers-caliber level of destruction before my baby lawyerling managed to get the floor long enough to put everyone in their place. I call him a lawyerling because he must be eleven, tops. But he has expensive taste and encyclopedic knowledge and he's too naive to actually be afraid of Caleb. He has no idea who Caleb is (was?) which works well in my favor but he also has no idea who Patsy Cline is either so sadly, while this kid will always be the law, he'll never be an outlaw, that's for certain.

He advised me to sue.

I already did that, I reminded him. Look where it got me. 

He throws a net worth statement at me with his eyebrows raised.

There's more to life than money. 

The eyebrows turn to question marks. Sigh. I need a lawyer who at least was alive when the Challenger blew up. Or at least saw the inaugural broadcast of Muchmusic. Something.

He suggested a bond of limitations, similar to a peace bond except that I can contact Caleb at will. Or I could block him completely. The settlement would continue but with much harsher restrictions. Or better yet, follow the advice of every lawyer, psychoanalyst and professional mental rearranger I've ever met who all say the same thing: Bridget, you won't get better until you get him out of your life. Cut off all contact. Excommunicate him forever.

I can't do that.

Or rather, I won't. 

So the meeting as mostly to finish up extracting him from the remainder of Henry's official paperwork and mine and to reassure him that I'm not cutting off his access to anything. This is where Lochlan lost his mind. Lochlan wants this to be done. He wants Caleb finished. He wants me to save myself.

And I can't. 

There won't be any punitive damages this time around, except to me once again and like Patsy my heartbreak will swell up around us like a song. If I explained it any further you'd hate every last one of us and I have enough enemies these days. Most of them claim to be in love with me. I never know for sure. I guess that makes me the outlaw. I have the cowboy boots but they're pink and I have the killing part down cold.
 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

All systems go, the sun hasn't died
Deep in my bones, straight from inside

I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my system blow
Welcome to the new age
How do I go about making this up to you? He speaks softly into the top of my head as I sit in the crook of his arm in front of a roaring bonfire. It's freezing but I agreed to go for a drink. I was allowed on the basis of it taking place outside. Beach is fine as long as I am escorted closely down and back up. He'll agree to anything at this point and so off we went, his flask in his breast pocket of the jacket he put around my shoulders before we even reached the stairs.

Lagavulin. I'm warm on the inside, at least.

Except I've had Ativan.

FFS. One drink hits like three and soon I'm sleepy, easy to hold.

Be truthful.

I'm trying my best.

You're not trying at all. I scold him but my eyes are heavy. I'm nine again and he is eighteen and I'm falling asleep on the beach, in front of the warm fire and I shouldn't be here so late. He pulls me full into his lap, wrapping my legs around his waist, my arms around his neck. I rest my head against his shoulder and feel his arms lock around my back as he stands up. He carries me home, allowed to come right inside and gently put me in bed. I'm asleep the moment his lips touch my forehead.

I wake up to rain on the skylights. It's still dark and he's still there and then I realize we're sinking. The water is up to my knees and the furniture slides crazily down to the other end of the room as he grabs for my hands.

I can save you! He yells. The water is already up to my neck. There's no time for a fight. No time for reason and soon I'm treading hard, coughing up seawater, fighting his hold on me. He pulls me in tightly against him and exhales easily but I've already drowned. Water fills my lungs and I forget what I just realized.

It's not important any more anyway.

Everything is black. Everything is finished. All done. Gone. Over.

When I open my eyes it's still raining, the skylights making little effort for the clarity of the sunrise through the heavy tree limbs about the boathouse. And the Devil is nowhere to be found.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Complicated grief.

The Devil has called for me and I practically fly next door, pulling the starter on my broom so hard it snaps off but that's okay, it's running. Sam swears. He just got home from a wedding and I took his tie off him with such great ceremony before pouring him a glass of lemonade and asking for all the details.

He's a boy and so the details were the following: He wore a suit. She had a dress. I don't know. It was white. It's so hot out. I was just trying not to pass out. Yes, they cried. People always cry at weddings, Bridget. Hey, where are you going? 

When I arrive the doctor is packing up his things. There is a small bottle on the kitchen counter. Caleb is fastening his shirt buttons. The Holter monitor is back. Funny how their heartbreak is a physical response to emotional sanctions on my part, always.

Cut them off, they die.

I don't want him to die. I don't want to talk to him either though so I address the doctor.

He motions to the bottle on the counter. Mr. C____ said you both were having some profound distress. I went ahead and brought some Ativan for you. You know how to take it, if you need to. 

Thank you. I take the bottle and stare at it while the Devil stares at me, boring holes in the side of my head with his blue eyes. They don't let me keep this stuff. I could slow down my whole world with this. It's pharmaceutical quicksand.

Is he okay? 

We'll be keeping a close watch. Can you be my eyes while I am not here? If anything changes call me. I'll give you my other numbers as well. 

If something goes wrong I'll call 911. For Christs' sake. 

She's perfect for this. The old doctor grimaces at Caleb.

I know. Caleb is as reluctant as I am to meet eyes so we don't.

Is something wrong between you? I have people who talk to you and work it out. 

We have people-
we say at the same time and stop short.

I will leave it. Take care of him and call me if you need anything. Hopefully you won't need to call 911. He just needs to take it easier. I'll be back on Monday for the monitor.

Thank you. I see him out and come back for the bottle.

Bridget-

Call me if you need anything. I scoop the bottle off the table and leave.

When I come back across and into the kitchen Sam is on a second glass of lemonade. Everything okay? What's that? 

Some iron pills. Yeah, he's fine. False alarm, I guess. I tuck the pills in my pocket and wonder where I can hide them but Sam pins me against the counter and takes the bottle. He reads the label and frowns at me.

I'll keep these and give them to Loch later. 

Fine. 

Bridget-

It's FINE. I was going to give them to him when he got home anyway so it doesn't matter.

Caleb isn't going to die, Bridget. The Devil isn't as fallible as the rest of us. 

Cole died of a broken heart. They're brothers so it would be a genetic thing, I guess.

Who told you Cole died because of that?

I saw it happen. I watched it happen! What if it happens to Caleb too? What if it's me? What if I'm doing something that kills everyone the same way?

Sam doesn't ever break his gaze as he opens the bottle and shakes one single white pentagon-shaped chip out into his hand. He passes it to me and I take it obediently, swallowing it dry and then sticking out my tongue so he can make sure I swallowed it.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Malafide.

Caleb was nervous. Expectant. Ever so slightly skittish but contained as I refilled his glass as he held it out. One bottle of Laphroaig, three friends divided. Their tug of war for my heart has been painful but he dug his grave and stuck one foot right in it and I still, up until now, haven't spoken directly to him since I realized that Henry wasn't his. Henry is Jake's. Sadly Henry enjoys his time with Caleb, got fed a line or two about how hard we try to get along and not to worry and now I'm still stuck in this weird place where I always am, somewhere hard and fast between euphoria and suspended grief.

His speech buckled my fucking knees. He was unequivocally adamant that I take his birthday gift to me as a symbol of his efforts to remember the bottom line of the collective. The common goal they all share.

Love her hard, keep her safe, it reads sometimes.

Sometimes it says Tear her apart and keep the pieces. We can probably rebuild.

Every now and then it reads Share and play nice.

I never know which creed he's using on any given day but I locked my knees and nodded and Lochlan squeezed my hand and stared intently at the sand and Ben thanked Caleb, which was generous but Ben doesn't give a fuck. Maybe Caleb is sincere. Maybe he tries, best he knows how. Maybe he understands at last the damage he continues to do but I don't know for sure. I don't know anything right now except I'm sticking close to whomever is safest and the Devil isn't on that list currently, as if he ever was, and he probably never will be. Not at this rate. I can take a lot but when he touches on one of the hearts of my children all bets are off.

I can't forgive him. I'm trying and I can't.

Sorry.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Collected.

I was woken up around five this morning, Lochlan turning me over in his arms, kissing my face, my mouth, bringing me up with him into what was left of the night until I fairly screamed with all of my nerves standing at attention. Happy Birthday he whispered as he pulled my hair back, making me submit to his strength, and then he let go and I fell back to earth where Ben caught me handily.

Oh God, I said, and they laughed and Lochlan went to get ready while Ben tasted the spoils of the night, bringing me back up for more, enjoying the control he wrought from my early spend of energy. He held me down. I never fought but he never let up and when he finally leaned down for one last kiss I was almost in tears from the overload and he said, Happy Birthday, my little bumblebee.

We got ready together, making round two (three?) a showery affair with shampoo in owie-places and hardly the strength to towel-dry after. By the time I made it out of there Lochlan was dressed and waiting patiently. Holding the new Laphroaig and pulling at his collar slightly. He hasn't put in all the studs in his tux so the neck is open. Hope he skips the tie. His hair is tied back in a low knot. Hope he undoes that too. As promised, no shoes.

Ready?

I'm naked.

That's fine by me.

I smile and head to get my dress. Forty-five is a travelers map across my being. Highways mapped around my eyes and maddeningly enough one deep line between my eyebrows but only on the right. Skin that's been bruised and kissed. Bones broken and set. Ears there for decoration only, to hold back my hair or sport earrings or hearing aids. Veins drained of their blood and refilled. Blood poisoned and renewed. Brain electrified and reset. Heart mended. Over and over and over again. But outwardly I am still me, stuck somewhere between twelve and seventeen in the place where I once had a soul, even though my drivers' license says forty-five,  newly today.

Still can't believe it. Loch says, as he mashes another kiss against my cheek.

Me neither.

***

Dinner is Monte Cristos and french fries.

How do you serve french fries on a beach that is a half-hour climb down a sheer cliff face with a staircase blasted into the brink? You pay a lot of money to have it catered, that's how, and they arrive in big insulated wraps that keep everything superheated.

I did not cook, I drank champagne and then I drank Laphroaig and then at some point I wondered if the scotch and the bubbly would either work in tandem to ruin me or cancel each other out (surprise twist: the second one) and I excused the kids after their dinner so they could go and do homework and finish gaming with their friends. John walked them up to the house and got them settled, for they are also not allowed to solo climb those stairs and then I sat back and listened to the speeches, knowing that cake is going to be on the other side of all that crying to be done.

I cry too much. Maybe I need a birthday resolution, a reminder inked in blue around the margins of this map I carry.

Cry less, it will say.

Fuck that.

***

There's something fundamentally exquisite about well-dressed men on the beach. Tattoos and tuxedos and hair pulled back or combed flat. Groomed beards and bare feet. The flutes in their hands, or tumblers. Scotch or juice. Moonlight and stars and waves and the ever-present heaven of the white noise of the ocean. I stepped back shortly after midnight and watched. Just for a moment, alone before being noticed. It usually takes less than .00005 of a second before someone is looking for me these days but every now and again the magic of their brotherhood is remembered and they close in and become taken with one another and I am a rewarded audience of this camaraderie. That's the best birthday gift of all.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Apocryphal dawn.

At five this morning, I dash back across the driveway, still in August's flannel shirt. It's pouring. It's barely light out and I hear the Devil before I see him, his cloven hooves scraping against the brick. I stop up short and the rain soaks through to my bones, the very same ones he is holding in his reddened gaze.

Bridget. The word comes out singed, streaked with soot.

Yes? I'm going to approach this showing no fear, same way I do with the wild animals that come onto the property that I encounter with such alarming regularity I should probably turn the electric fence back on myself but I don't because I was taught to love playing with fire.

I turn and his darkened wings are out. They are so much more magnificent than Cole's but I only see his in shadow so I'm not one hundred percent sure. Anyway, doubt is a weakness so I'll go with impressed disinterest. He smiles slightly. It's an angry smile. I'm aware. But my head aches with broken sleep.

Then I realize we're not alone.

Go inside, Bridget. Don't stop and talk to monsters. Just keep going. Hurry. I whirl around and the owner of that accented voice is sitting on the edge of the fountain playing with a flame. His fingertips are black to match his top hat, upon which the rain is beading around the brim, giving him a netherworldly appearance. His red curls stream out from underneath the hat. I can't see his eyes but he's watching the flame, which spits and sputters and blooms in the steady deluge.

Who's the monster here? You farm her out to whomever she wants. That isn't giving her a home, just an addiction of her own that she can't control anymore. And yet, I take that blame when I should reject it. The Devil's voice comes out double in his rage. An undercurrent of deep tones I can barely hear.

Go inside, Baby. Quickly, now. The flame speaks, drawing me in the right direction with warmth.

I cast one more glance back at those glorious wings and I run. I run up the steps and I fling open the door and Ben is waiting. I try to tell him about Caleb and Lochlan and he kisses the top of my head and tells me to go up to bed, that they will deal with this. That everything is okay. He squeezes my head between his hands and then lets go and I fall off the cliff into the sea.

It's so cold. So cold but I'm so sleepy and scared and paralyzed and waning. Then a hand reaches down, pulling me back to the surface and I take a deep breath when I wake up, a gasp for air and I open my eyes and August is staring at me.

It's five, Bridge. You gotta go home now. 

But I can't. I'm afraid to leave now. He winds up taking his shirt back and putting it on over his t-shirt. He walks me home in the nearing daybreak but the houses are silent and still in the steady morning rain and I think my nightmares might be the death of me yet.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Waiting for him to go borrow a movie and then I'm getting major cuddles.

(Though I'll probably fall asleep again here shortly.)

I brought leftovers up here to August's loft to leave in the fridge. I didn't see him today, figured he was busy so when I walked in and he turned the light on I just about screamed.

He jumped up and began to stack up photo albums quickly, as if being caught reminiscing is a crime or something. He must not have met the memory thief. He should. It helps.

August, I-

Hey. Thanks for bringing this over. I really appreciate it. He takes the food after sweeping the whole stack of albums under the coffee table and stands up as if we are casually discussing the weather.

How did the dentist go? 

He winces. It wasn't the dentist. I needed a top-up of my own, Bridge. 

The program? 

Sort of. Seeing a guy I can talk to about stuff. 

This is ironic. My therapist is seeing a therapist. 

Hey, we're all human. 

No. PJ's a robot. 

True. He never stops, does he?

No, and he said if you want chocolate pie you'll have to come get it yourself. 

August laughs. Like Jake. A great big loud guffaw with a grin that's so contagious you're stricken down midbreath. Noted. Want to stay for a bit? I'd like some company.

I would love to. 

How long can I have you for?

I have no plans for tonight other than being here.

I did Ben's toes with glitter too.

Things are coming together nicely for Thursday. They've already managed to carry the big table from the garden down to the beach. The chairs go this afternoon. I've got the meal plan all ready to roll and am not even allowed to ask about a cake.

I hope there is one.

*visibly frets*

I have a beautiful dress to wear. It's a black tie event because I'm awful. We're going to ruin our clothes but I also have specified absolutely no shoes are permitted on my beach. The tides will not be cooperating but I think there are enough of us to manage everything up and down the stairs quite handily even once we have to climb over the bigger rocks closer to the cliff. Oh, I hope it rains.

I wanted some white horses to run past us while we sip champagne and listen to speeches but Lochlan said if I didn't get my head out of this dream world sooner than later it might keep me there forever. But he smiled when he said it and that's how I know he was telling the truth.

For the occasion I painted my toenails with glitter. Ten different shades of glitter polish because I'm a very low-key rebel like that-

No, I'm not, actually. Because of the next bit you'll read.

I invited the Devil. That's the hallmark of a professional rebel right there. Especially since I'm still not speaking to him and this table won't be bolted down. PJ already assured me they would tranquilize the lot of them if necessary to keep the peace but I know they'll keep it anyway. It's my birthday on Thursday, you see, and everyone always makes an extra effort to behave. Or at least they try to play nice. It's right up there with Christmas in this household.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Smell the roses? I think I'll become one instead.

Yesterday we were getting ready to head to a thing, and were dressed nicely for a summer afternoon event. Not too dressy, not too casual. All in black as usual. Hair looking long as my little bob has passed my earlobes and is heading for my chin. Eyelashes for days.

(Sorry for boasting but I never ever look pulled together. I always resemble the haphazard almost-polished younger sister of a supermodel. The one everyone passes over with reassurances that someday she will catch up. It's maddening. So when I do look good I FUCKING KNOW IT, BABY.)

But the boys were taking too long.

Way too long.

So I grabbed the bag of recent purchases from the gardening shop and headed out around the side of the house. The roses we planted last year had some black spots on the leaves so I picked up some sulfur to clear it up quickly.

Lochlan said several times to wait, that we'd deal with it later but really what's the harm? I'll sprinkle some on. No need to get out the sprayer and mix it. Who has time for that?

I emerged back to the house fifteen minutes later covered head to toe with a moderate-to-heavy layer of yellowish-white powder. PJ swore and said I smelled like burnt matches. Lochlan just laughed so loudly I almost punched him. Ben said I won't get black spot disease and John smiled as wide as he could (bet his face hurt) and said simply Goths gardening.

Had to change. Then that turned out to be not enough and I had to shower. Then I looked as I usually do when we go out, not at all pulled together. I looked like the butt of a joke I played on myself because as usual I didn't listen.

At least I still entertain! I crowed to Loch who wouldn't let it go. Ever.

He leaned in and smelled my hair. That attempt at a burn you just made? I can still smell it, Bridget.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Never came close enough to consider getting away.

I never came back. After talking to Dalton and deciding it was too warm to hang out by the pool after all I went up to see August, as promised. He is awake and reading. Drinking coffee. Messaging a little on his phone and generally such a leveling force in my life that if I had any brains at all I would assign myself as his wingman and simply follow him around all the time.

Like a wife but without any commitment. August isn't into commitment. He likes to come and go like a leaf on the wind, he says, but he looks happy to see me anyway, even as I bust him for quoting freely from Firefly.

Leave it to Loch to raise such a little sleeper nerd, he says as he laughs. Then he gets serious. How long do I have you for?

Until almost lunchtime. We can eat together now though. If you like.

He smiles and holds out his arms. I get the best hug and then he leaves me to perfect his Monte Cristo-cooking skills while I stretch out full on his bed, under the huge fan. His bed is suspended from the ceiling at all four corners, a triple hammock but with more substance. He says it's better for his back and he gets a great rest. I just love the giant swing aspect of it. I brought him three cases of tiny white lights to string up everywhere and it's positively magical in here, pinned in by the trees in this hidden loft above the garage. Not hidden, so much, but full-fledged living quarters painted in shades of white and gray. Tiny kitchen. Walk-in closet. Office. Huge bathroom with a tub that rivals mine.

Before I know it he's waking me up, trailing his fingers from my shoulders to my fingertips.

I wave him away. Just leave me here for a few weeks. Come back when summer starts. I don't open my eyes but I feel him smile.

I would but we need to be sociable sometimes. He laughs. Come on. Brunch is ready. He pulls me out of his bed with both hands and I go reluctantly.

Try it and tell me it's getting better. 

Oh God. This man. He tries so hard to make me happy and then in the next breath he'll shove me right out the door. I take a bite and feign death. It's wonderful. You've got it. 

It's dipping the entire thing and then frying it. 

Yes. This is amazing. 

So are you. Now finish up quickly. You slept too long and I have an appointment. 

Haircut? 

Dentist. 

Want company? 

I'm fine on my own. 

That's the sad part. He totally is. I frown but keep eating. It's so delicious even mild rejection and abject disappointment don't alter the flavour. He eats his own sandwich in three bites.

I'm actually getting tired of these, Bridget.

Turncoat! 

I'll still make them for you though.