Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Yesterday, part two.

This is mine, because what's yours is mine. Mmmkay? And I picked up the champagne bottle and walked out Caleb's front door.

(Don't worry. He owes me. Everything. Anything I want. That's the deal.)

I brought the bottle back to the house and told PJ we were having a champagne lunch.

Sorry, Bridge, you're having coffee and maybe a sandwich. 

Well...what kind of sandwich? PJ's the best parent ever. Take the coveted item and replace it with delicious possibilities.

What kind would you like? 

Radish sprouts, pickles, ham and havarti. 

Jalapenos too?

Did I ever tell you I love you so much? 

Yes but sadly only when you're drunk. 

That's not true. You're my favorite metal God. Plus you use conditioner so you have great hair. It's so shiny.

Don't ever change, Bridget. 

Because you can totally fucking tell which bands don't use conditioner, right? I mean they could all have great hair but they just don't give a fuck. If you're going to make the effort to maintain it long you should nourish it, shouldn't you?

A sandwich is slid under my nose. And a coffee. Just like that. Magic.

And then actual magic walks through the door and I realize there's an extra plate.

Lochlan! Are you off early?

No, just home for lunch and to see my baby. 

Huh? Ruth's at school. It's Tuesday. Oh, wait. I get it.

Drunk Tuesday?

GOSH. How'd you know?

A little birdie told me. 


One with really shiny hair? 

That's the one. 

(I didn't realize until much later that it was August that called him. August also uses conditioner.)

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Oh, God, whatever you do please don't tell me you're lonely.

Kir Royales for breakfast and I can see what the Devil is up from to a mile away.

Through my Tuesday drunken googles, mind you.

I can't drink on Tuesdays, I guess but I can brunch any day and he found a free moment that wasn't taken up by Lochlan, Ben or PJ, who is drugging my food as I found out when I was slurring after one drink.

Caleb noted this as well and quickly made me a second, because nothing says love like incapacity, right?

Then he shoves me out the door and across the driveway in the rain because he's all about the Big Gestures, this week. The Look, I didn't hurt her (much) and the Hey, if she can still walk then clearly we're still friends kinds of declarations that only Caleb can get away with, the ones I don't think I ever actually recover from, in spite of his insistence in their harmlessness.

Though I think he would be much happier if I actually couldn't walk and then I would have to stay instead of stretching out to spread myself so thin I have broken through in places and it's getting hard to hide the patched areas again.

On my way back I stop in at the loft to see August. Unrequited needs or something something we'll make sure we put our friendship first and I find him right where drunken-Bridget wants him. Flat on his back in bed, fully clothed, staring at the ceiling, the bed swaying gently against the huge ropes that suspend it from the vaulted ceiling, a look on his face that says Look, I won't hurt her (much) and I don't know if we can still be friends, actually. He's a walking contradiction and the first thing he says when I come in is So?

So...Happy Tuesday! 

Have you been drinking, Bridget? 

I purse my fingers together to mean only a little and trip over his boots, landing on the floor. It's funny though. Everyone loves a vaguely drunk Bridget and he jumps up and comes over, picking me right up off the floor, standing me on my feet, vaguely amused at how hard I went down (because if I can still walk then clearly we're still friends), making sure I am steady before he lets go.

Or making sure he is steady before he lets go, because even drunk Bridget saw that before he could cover it up.

We need to talk about Sam. 

Sam is none of anyone's business. 

Sam is everyone's business! August shouts it at me and I flinch hard enough to shock my system into tears again. Was having such a good drunk too and now we're going down this road. Christ.

Don't cry, Bridget. I'm trying to protect you. 

Then don't let Caleb anywhere near me. If you could all start with that, that would be great. 

We've tried but you won't let us. 

Oh. Of course. I'm dumber than I thought. 

He's your outlet for missing Cole the same way I'm a stand-in for Jake. That's all. Dangerous maybe, but not unexpected. Completely understandable. 

So I get a pass? I waver slightly and he puts his arms out to steady me again.

Of course, he says, not realizing I just talked him into a trap.

Okay. Thank you. I have to go. 

Where are you going? 

There's free drinks down at the bottom of the hill and it's Tuesday, didn't you hear?


Monday, 28 November 2016

I hate airports, volume #4657362748595021615354219.

I never told you then that I'd be easy to love
Supposedly I'm a man but I felt like a cub
I wondered if the planes flying farther away
Not ever knowing I would never come back the same
As my lungs gave way, I swear I felt something burst
It's been 13 days and now I'm dying of thirst
For the birds who prey I pray that someone else will get here first
I am not alone, I'll be alright
Just take these bones and bring them back to life
Ben called early this morning and asked if I would send PJ or Chris to pick them up for ten.

No problem, I told him smoothly.

What are you up to today? Can I book dinner, just me and you or is it taken?

Oh, I'm so busy today with errands and Christmas shopping. I'll let you know about dinner. I played it cool. Gotta practice on someone.

In reality I was standing on the stupid grey carpet by the arrivals hall at nine-forty-five with tears threatening to fuck my composure over completely.

The tears won. I saw him coming down the hall and his whole face lit up when I yelled his name. Sorry to all the other people waiting. People look so annoyed before lunchtime. I feel bad for them. But not too bad. Because Ben. He walked really fast and then I was off the ground in his arms and the tears anointed him as mine.

Busy bee, huh?

Busy being with you.

That so?

It is.

You are the best thing about my life, you know that?

Might go both ways.

Might?

You've been gone four days. You'll have to refresh my memory.

I can do that.

Since we got home I've been in a haze of plane fuel and overwhelm, in his arms as he did indeed remind me all the things I know about him, all the things I love, and everything I missed so much while everything else threatened to distract me away from someone who does nothing but give while everyone else takes.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

It has rained for 55 out of the past 59 days so you may as well just give in, already.

(I like to make Sundays not about me.)

I am the ship that will carry you to safety.

I am the ship dashed upon the rocks.

I am the anchor left behind, heaving against the rock shelf, unable to be broken out.

I am the sea that drowns you.

I am the surf that will wash you in with the tides.

I am the grains of sand, that can be molded, swept and tossed into the wind, or hardened into glass by lightning. I will sift through your fingers, falling back to the earth.

I am the rocks upon which the waves break.

I am the tall grasses waving in the wind, my shallow roots unable to hold fast.

I am the shore.

I am your peaceful place.

I am your secret hideaway.

But I am not your respite, nor your despair.

Each sentence carried a short story and each one tied in with the next. Each one was at once profound and destructive. Each one hit home with a resounding *thwock*. Each one hurt like a son of a bitch and each one was perfectly placed, perfectly told.

Each one, relayed by Sam from his place at the edge of the sea, and then from within as he waded in up to his knees for effect, in the pouring rain, the pages of Jacob's bible becoming wavy and crinkled, his hair curling from the humidity, and the water absorbing up his pantlegs until he was mostly soaked to the waist and still not truly noticing how effective his sermon was.

Until he was finished, holding the first candle of advent aloft as it sputtered in the rain, wading in from the surf, pulling himself along with his hand out for his congregation, using their momentum to bring himself to shore.

Maybe weights have been lifted. Maybe we had a really good talk last night. Maybe he just figured he's got to go one step further to keep interest in church at this time of year, when things get crushingly formulaic for him with advent beginning and he just said fuck it and did something else. He can do that, if he wants. It's a very easy church to helm.

And he's good at it.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

I went Christmas shopping with Batman today. We didn't buy a thing, we didn't talk much at all and we hardly ate, short of grabbing a coffee and a pastry, eating as we walked, which was awkward to hold everything for me. I need to ditch the purse and find clothes with more pockets because this is dumb. 

What's dumb? 

Dragging around all this...stuff. I point out. I show him the bag. 

What's in it? 

My wallet, phone, headphones, hearing aids and seven lipsticks. 

Only seven? 

It's my thing. I like lipstick. 

And bobby pins. 

Oh, yeah. There's ten or twenty at the bottom. How did you know? 

I remember them. I thought you had morphed into a porcupine the first time I touched your hair. 

I did, actually. No pins that day. I shrug and then laugh, giving myself away. 

He grins. So pare down. 

I suppose I could leave my wallet home. 

Bridget-

I'm kidding! 

No more sugar for you. It makes you silly. 

I shoot a look at him sideways to see if that's a euphemism. It isn't. He means actual sugar. 

I think it's the coffee, not the sugar, I tell him as I dispose of the wrappers and napkins and then the cup too. 

He stops and waits. I don't know what for so I wander a little ways and then walk back to him. 

Are you coming?

I was waiting for you to stop and reapply your lipstick. 

I'm not wearing any. 

Why on earth do you need seven with you then? We reach the car and he opens my door for me. Chivalry burns so brightly with this one.

Just in case of emergencies. 

What constitutes a lipstick emergency, Bridget?

Well, if I don't have a pen then I'm fully prepared to take a lot of notes on the backs of cocktail napkins. 

I didn't see napkins in your purse. 

At some bar. 

'At some bar'. What bar are you going to? 

None, I don't like bars. 

So where are you going to get the napkins then? 

Oh my GOD. If I have to justify my lipstick hoarding then I'm done for the day. Take me home, please. 

Can you mark down the route on this map? Wait, I don't have a pen. 

I take out a lipstick and draw all over the map, and then the inside of the windshield and then his face, for good measure. 

We clear now?

Yes, ma'am. Is this my shade? What do you think? 

I think you're warm-toned, so no, probably not. 

Well, try one of those then. 

I don't have any of those! I'm cool. 

Yes, yes you are, he says under his breath, as he pulls out of the lot. I can't believe he left all the marks I just drew on his face but suddenly I love him for it and I realize that the 'errands' trip was more to get me away from the house for a day because I needed it and didn't realize. 


Friday, 25 November 2016

Well, the Rev's out of the bag now, so to speak.

Ben, Daniel, Gage and Schuyler have gone to Nolan's for a few days. It's hovering just below zero there with a week's worth of snow is on the way and Ben couldn't get a satisfactory answer from Nolan about whether or not he had his property winterized sufficiently already. Nolan is getting old. He forgets things. He's having a bit of trouble keeping up and I daresay we're going to double our efforts to get him to move to the city after one false start and change of heart already. His sons have their own lives and he seems to tell them even less and they have neither the time nor the cash to drop in on him and check and all of his neighbors are gone, haing sold their own properties and moved to assisted living. Nolan will never ever give up without a fight, even if he can't remember who he's fighting with. 

So we packed up a huge hamper full of notes, presents, food and goodies for him to enjoy and Ben checked it through at the airport and they're off. 

It was like a satellite army of flannel and purpose and I'm so proud. It also gives Ben time with his sponsor that he hasn't had in a while and it gives two sets of very close brothers time to hang out with each other, which doesn't happen enough, sadly. 

When we got home, Sam found me putting away wrapping paper and the extra luggage that the boys didn't need and asked if I wanted him to make some lunch for us. That we have turkey left, and ham too, that he could make a mean Monte Cristo given enough space. 

I didn't know that. 

Well, I can make a mean french toast and this is the same but it's rare for us to have both ingredients on hand and a virtually empty kitchen so we may as well do it sooner rather than later. 

I don't think he's talking about sandwiches anymore and I'm such a brat, I want to see where he's going with this or if he's just grasping at...at...I don't know what. 

So I smile really big and ask if he needs help getting it together.

No, sit up though and we'll talk while I cook. 

So I did and we did and I forgot he was being innuendo-ish or maybe I just read something into it that wasn't there (blame the boys for making me such a flaming deviant) but we had a nice afternoon and the sandwiches were amazing. I even took one out to Lochlan afterward, who was thoroughly enjoying a day outside in the sun working on replating the exterior of the camper while it wasn't raining. He was grateful, starving and completely unaware that yet another minister is making a not-so-subtle play for his girl, right under his nose. I said nothing and just went back to collect the plate later on. 

When I brought it into the kitchen I had my confirmation as Sam made an incredibly awkward, yet profoundly sweet offer to fill in for Ben if I missed Ben enough to consider doing something I might have been waverish on thus far. If I needed an extra sleeping person for the night or if I needed anything. If I wanted anything.

Oh, Sam. 

Literally the least evil of all the souls here on the point, he smiles bravely but he's trembling behind it. 

I know you are. 

Then just keep it in mind. 

Your openness is something new. 

Matthew, of all books, chapter seven. 'Take the plank out of your own eye and then you can see to remove the splinter from your brother's eye.'

Which brother? 

I don't think I have to clarify that. I just don't know what to do, so I'm starting with being honest.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Short weeks, tiny birds.

It's turky without an e. Like murky.

He's lying on his back. All teeth and whites of his eyes in the dark. Grinning like a fool. It's five a.m. and we can't sleep. Or rather, Loch couldn't so he woke me up too and now that I'm flushed and breathless he's talkative and silly.

I'm the one with the spelling skills. 

Not for this, I reckon. All these years, Bridge, and we've let it go, living with that extra e. It's time to finally set the record straight. 

I wonder what other words we've done this to. 

What, added an extra e? Hundreds of thousands of words. Like cooki, hairdryr, and Bn. 

Bn? So it's...bun? 

No, it's still pronounced Ben but there's no e in his name.

What about me? Is it actually Bridgt? 

That's a single syllable. Too abrupt and harsh. Not at all like you. He laughs and turns his head to the side to look at me. You should have an extra e to draw it out sweetly. 

Bridgeet? I sound like a bird. 

Sometimes, ye-

PEEP.

Okay, this isn't going where I thought it would AT ALL. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Midway to Christmas.

Okay! The lights are up finally. All eight-point-three kilometres of beautiful multicolored vintage bulbs on all-weather strings that I special ordered and spent a small fortune on so we could cover the house, the garage, the stables and the boathouse too and as Dalton flicked the switch inside the front hall and it all lit up like an airport in a snowstorm I told Ben we were never ever taking them down again, that I would consent to turn them off for the month of July, maybe, if it went to a vote first but otherwise can't we just leave them up? 

Besides, it's dangerous and Daniel shouldn't be up there. He is damaged and already fell off the roof once and broke something so they keep sending him back up, as he's defective now and who wants to risk a second?

Nice, boys.

Lochlan asked if I still liked the lights and I smiled at him with an uncharacteristically self-satisfied smile, chin up high. Of course I still like them. I'll never stop. 

He grinned back and kissed my forehead. Now he's gotta go. He and the Batman and Schuyler have work and then the rest of the week beginning tomorrow is American Thanksgiving and we opted to celebrate it this year just for fun. Because we need more fun around the point and less suspicion, less pushing and shoving, less shouting and shelving and sweeping things under the rug. We need a break from each other maybe. Maybe we all need lobotomies. But that's unlikely. I've been asking for one for years and I CAN'T WAIT until the day I can come and sit here in front of this unfamiliar laptop and be already logged in and type simply:
Hello? 
Anyone out there? 
I don't know my name but I'm here anyway.
instead of the story of my life.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Still soaked in petrichor, still wavering between worlds.

Because you're both so stubborn, I brought the world home to you. He takes a sip of his drink. His eyes never leave the fire. My eyes don't leave him.

Part of me thinks this is touching, romantic even, that he would want to ensure the comfort of those he cares most about, making good on a childhood promise to conquer the world together and in the end the only thing they conquered was a few really (really) good investment strategies, an underground freakshow and me.

***

Batman hands me back a thick folder stuffed full to splitting with papers.

Bridget, I went over every line three times. I can't see a thing wrong with this. The funds are clear and without obligation. Honestly I wish I could find something wrong with it but I can't. Maybe double-check with a third party to be certain but somehow I think Lochlan has hit the lottery here.

If he pulled a gun on Loch to make him listen then he'll be worse when he decides it's time to get moving on his proposal. This just frees him up from the paperwork.

Should I have a talk with him? Batman is Caleb's conscience, if he were to have one. He keeps him in check.

No, let's wait and see.

Keep me in the loop, and don't wait until it's too late or I'll pay him a visit without your blessing. But he softens the threat with a smile and I feel tired. Tired of juggling their feelings, their suspicions. Tired of managing this. Tired of spreading my time to keep the peace. You wonder why it's easier to give in? This is why. If I just go and make the Devil happy he leaves everyone else alone.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Can't take me anywhere, can't figure out how old I am.

But I don't mind
But I'm not surprised to find that you do
I'm not surprised to find that you do
I know you do

And I feel fine
But I know the same does not apply to you
I know the same does not apply to you
So I guess that I'll curl up and die, too.
I'm awash in petrichor and misplaced good intent today and all of it's disguised, dipped in black, mimicking shadows, fading into inky darkness so that once I can't determine the outlines anymore, I forget any of it was ever there.

And that's okay, or so I'm told.

Caleb bought me an ice cream cone and didn't say a word as I managed to get a big blob of it on my robin's egg blue threadbare coat. He hates this coat. It's one of my favorite things. He went and fetched soda water and used his handkerchief to try and get it out but I said I would wash it instead and it's clean now, on the drying rack with the flannel shirt brigade.

(Nothing changes. I did the same thing to a brand new sundress in 1980. He wet his towel in the lake and tried to get the ice cream blob out then too.)

One scoop of chocolate, one of coffee. That's my order. Sugar cone as long as it isn't more than a dollar extra, because sometimes it's two-fifty and that's a hell of a markup on a single cone.

He still gets butter pecan, or plain vanilla. One scoop, in a little bowl with a throwaway spoon.

Ice cream is an event. That's a cop out. I indicate his bowl with disdain. Why bother? It's like asking for one plain chip when you could have a whole bag of salt and vinegar chips. Or ketchup ones!

Well, to me the event here isn't the ice cream, it's the company. The ice cream is just a cover for time with you. 

Oh. 

Did you honestly think differently?

I give him my patented nine-year-old's shrug. Well...I mean...it's ice cream...

Neamhchiontach, I need you to convince him that I'm doing this in earnest. 

Eating ice cream?

Bridget-

I'm kidding! I'm also not going to pick sides in something that's between you and Loch. 

You're the only one he listens to. You rule his heart. Have a go at his mind. 

No. 

I beg your pardon? 

I said no. You can't convince someone to trust you. They have to believe in you. The problem is your words and your actions never match. 

When did you grow up, Neamhchiontach?

When you two were busy fighting. Guess you missed it.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

(Last time I'm talking about it so stop emailing me about Sam.)

Early Jesus Beach this morning in the rain. It was perfect. Ice-cold, profound and the last service before Advent begins. My skin hissed in the rain from God's disapproval, though his son forgives me for whatever crimes I committed this week alone. Confession is a mental conversation you can't hide from it in this religion. I don't know if that's good or bad, and so I hold my head higher and wait for Sam's assurance that I will still have grace, even with wet eyelashes and the smell of salt stinging my nose.

Sam preaches directly to me today. I do not know if it's for my benefit or for his. I never know if his words are for me, about me or because of me but he moves to a whole other plane of existence once he has a crowd so it becomes an unanswerable question.

It reminds me of someone so dearly my nose stops stinging and my eyes pick up the torch and run with it. It's a sensual relay with no clear finish line and Sam is one of the last holdouts in whatever race right through redemption and back to sin takes place. I am auditioning for the Devil every moment of every day and I stand here trying to be so good all the while watching Sam's mouth as he speaks.

But it's just a crush.

I clutch Lochlan's hand, who doesn't seem to mind one bit anymore as long as it isn't Caleb. I don't know when that shift began. Sam was off limits to all and suddenly he's only off limits to one but I can't pull the trigger on that because I need Sam and I need him clear-headed and not addled by thoughts of what we did (that we haven't done). I need him to talk me down when I throw plates or eat ashes or go to the Devil anyway. I need a voice of dissent when I fight with Lochlan, to remind me that I'm awful, impossible and difficult so that I am aware of what I am. But in Sam's gentle way, that reminds me I'm still deeply loved.

Besides, I'm a little perpetually worn out and my schedule is full. August seems random and rare but he really isn't any more, just to enjoy life while its mine to enjoy. Loch told me not to apologize for it so I said I wouldn't and he laughed. He followed in Ben's footsteps to a point here, allowing things that should never see the light of day in a generous attempt to engineer my peace of mind and it works and it's not backfiring in that I don't want to be with Caleb constantly or even much past collecting him for a group dinner or seeing if he needs anything before I make the long arduous drive to run errands. (We try to stack as much as we can, it's a long drive to actual civilization.).

When we get home from JB I change into warm leggings and a big skull sweater and my docs and head across the driveway anyway. Caleb opted to sleep in and didn't show for church and I like to check on him. When I let myself in to the boathouse he is sitting reading the paper on his iPad, a cup of coffee in his hand and an empty plate beside it. He's in flannel pajama bottoms, bare feet and a dark blue t-shirt.

Just the girl I wanted to see.

Is that a fact?

It is, indeed. I wanted to know if you were free this afternoon for an ice cream drive.

(He knows. He KNOWS how to get me.)

I'll double-check with Loch but I am free as far as I know, until five anyway.

Wonderful. I'll collect you after lunch. Dress warm. And with that I am dismissed as he goes back to reading. He looks up once more as it dawns on me and smiles gently and I take the cue and make my exit.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Wish list.

(The dance at this stage with Loch is a constant river of aegis, stability and preservation.)

Perfect-sized, overly-warm, determined to take the night just for himself, he put his arms around me and pulled me beneath him, keeping me held close, kissing just underneath my ear before returning to my mouth.

I don't care. I don't care about anything but you. The whole world can cave in and I don't care as long as you're here with me. 

He's said that before. At seventeen. At twenty. At thirty-one. At forty-six. At fifty. And still. I kiss him back and his stubble tickles against my lip. He pulls my hips up against him and we're instantly in rhythm, immediately going through a long-choreographed but always new and desperate dance and he finally can't breathe either and tucks his head down against mine, driving hard, breathing steady, biting his own lip because I feel so good, or so he whispers.

My arms are locked around his neck and I can arch my back by pushing my shoulders down. It makes him groan and go harder still and then with a wicked smile he pulls way up and turns me over, putting me down on my stomach, kissing my cheek as he puts his forehead against my temple. He slides his hand under my hips, pulling me up off the bed, making me cry out. Instantly he backs way off and I shake my head not to, so he resumes cautiously, rolling to his side, bringing me with him. He leans up on his elbow over me, one hand on my forehead, the other holding me against him and he drives steadily onward through the dark into the morning.

I sleep from four to six, facing him, pressed against him, his arms tight around me. A suffocating level of closeness I have grown to crave once again, missing it from forever ago and I'm not alone in that, judging by how deeply asleep he is without ever loosening his hold.

At six we are awake again to watch the sunrise. By eight we had made more love, enough to last the rest of our lives, so he promised me (but that won't stop us) and by eight-thirty he had resolved to ignore everything that serves as a distraction. The Devil. The bank account. The preacher. The benevolent friends. The weather. The past. And the future, too.

At nine he asked me what I wanted.

You, I tell him. I didn't hesitate. I don't want anything else. 

Then tell that to the Devil and see what he says. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Nevermind anything else, the point is that it's Friday. And that's a blessing without a disguise today.

We've got Switchfoot/Relient K tickets!!

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

I can't believe I'm going to see Deathbed performed live. Never thought THAT would happen.

***

I had a lovely nap in Sam's room, uninterrupted and just the perfect temperature, since Lochlan has a habit at night of flinging all of his covers off and onto me. I don't need them. I broil.

Then I helped with dinner, went over schedules and homework with the kids and then got five different lectures from seven different people on being cheeky. I say five from seven because it got repetitive, and because I know all the words already to these songs. I know right from wrong. I was taught by the master illusionist and so all of this depends on the day, the light, the means and whether or not it justifies the ends. So I totally get it and I don't understand at all but at the end of the day I made a sick joke with perfect timing and I wish I hadn't said it. Been thinking it for years. Never going to do it again. I wonder when it'll happen next.

We clear as mud? Okay good.

***

Caleb sent another request for my Christmas list.

I don't have one. I can't give something I don't have. 

Then please jot down a list of things you would like and I can finish my shopping. Make them count. 

(Caleb doesn't shop, for the record. I used to shop for him, otherwise he gives cash and gift cards. So he needn't buy a damn thing, technically.)

I don't need anything. 

Bridget-

What? 

If you could have anything right now what would you do?

I answered this yesterday and got in trouble! 

I cover my face laughing. He rubs a hand over his face wearily. I can see why Lochlan calls you impossible. I don't know where he gets the energy to keep up with your games. 

Excuse me? I don't play games. 

Your verbal games, Neamhchiontach. 

He taught them to me! And then he gets all out of sorts when I invoke them. 

Please make me a list. Nothing ordinary please. The others can get those things. Keep it dreamy. 

Diabhal-

Just try. I don't get to spoil you often, anymore.

It's not your job to spoil me at all. 

Right. Because I don't consider it a job, I consider it a welcome obligation, a penance that will someday be my absolution. 

Oh, if you're ticking off the years in hopes of breaking even, stop it right now. That isn't what Christmas is about. 

And what is it about?

Spirit. Family. 

He sets his mouth in an angry line. Right. Make the list. Stay away from Sam. I'll check in with you tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

BRIDGET! 

What?!

Prodigal daughter.

I am squinty and achey today with a whopping hell of a hangover. PJ made me another goddamned drink for breakfast saying it would help but I just teetered away from the table wondering what it would feel like to be sober again someday, if it ever happens again. At this rate it will be sometime in the new year.

2017, I'm coming for you.

At least, I think I am.

I walked right into Sam, and in spite of the fresh booze infusion he put his arms around me and I pointed out we were ten days into the tenth year without Jake and this is a milestone of a different sort. This one really screams MOVE ALONG NOW or stop being paralyzed by his memories, stop playing house (or at least bed) with his best friend and pull your bootstraps up already, Pigalet.

Fuck that. Imma wallow instead. In the mud. Like a piglet. Jake would be so proud. I've done so much with my life. I conquered a whole house full, a whole army full of men who all wondered if they would be the one at some point or another and in the end I made sure a lot of them knew precisely how much trouble I would be. I remained mired in a disaster from a long time ago and I'm still the cause of every bit of strife in my world. I'm still attempting to take on fully half of a bottle of alcohol to save Lochlan/prevent a worser disaster only to end up a disaster in my own right and I still couldn't fight off the Devil with a wooden spoon.

I just need to get rid of this headache. Sam tells me to go crash in his room where it's quiet and since he's going to be back in less than a couple hours he'll bring us some fancy coffee and that, coupled with the nap, will help.

But I am drunk and inappropriate and totally fucking shameless so I crack a joke about something else helping more, since I'll be already drunk and in his bed and he blushes like he's never blushed before and gives me a quick kiss on the forehead before he's gone.

He didn't say no, though, so there's that.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Never going to dry out. Never going to change.

I got it. Lochlan gets to his feet unsteadily from where he sat in the dark thinking, in the garage. A bottle of Glenfiddich keeping him warm in the damp. Rain beats steadily against the windows high up in the door and both ghosts watch him silently from their corners.

Got what? Caleb says from the door, light spilling into the room suddenly from the lamps in the driveway.

A trade for you. I have a trade for you. I'll keep the money if you give me something in return. 

Interesting logic. 

You know what I mean! He's wasted on indecision and pressure. I'm just wasted because I'm small and I've been sitting on the cold floor for three hours sharing the bottle with him while he sorted this out.

What do you want, Lochlan? 

Lochlan staggers forward and stands up very straight. Bridget's soul, he says with a deep bow that almost sends him face-first into the cement. He corrects himself and I am stunned into paralysis.

So you will keep the money if I give you her soul. What do I get out of this arrangement? Caleb is still smiling but I'm too plastered to feel the dread that I should with a look like that.

Whatever the fuck you want, Lochlan says and tilts the bottle vertically into his mouth. It's empty and he lets it slam into the floor, shattering into a million sharp tiny stars.

Caleb smiles generously. If we shake on it, it's a done deal. He holds out his hand but Lochlan walks right past him, out the door, weaving in a slalom course, uninterested in making anything permanent today. It's an idea, one he will most likely regret and thus they aren't technically allowed to agree to anything unless sober. Consent and all that. New rules I wish we had had in the eighties when everything went wrong.

Trying to trick him isn't nice, I scowl at Caleb, trying to be tough because now we're alone and I can't fend for myself like this.

Better run along and put your boy to bed. The point's a dangerous place when you're halfwitted. I'll see you to the door.

Nice, Diabhal.

Indeed, Neamhchiontach. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Solid scold.

Lochlan got right down in my face, one hand wrapped around my upper arm, the other cupping my chin as he rubbed his thumb across my bottom lip, trying to wipe away the kiss he saw. Caleb doesn't care who sees him touch me.

My knees caved in from the gesture and he held me up.

Too close, Peanut.

(He said the same thing after I stepped into the circle he had drawn in the sand while practicing and a torch knicked my ponytail, singeing the end black. He cut my hair with his pocket knife so no one would ever be the wiser and told me, Too close, Peanut. That's why I draw the line.)

I know. That's why you draw the line.

You're not the one who crossed it. He was. His fingers flex against my skin, tightening without conscious effort and it feels bruisy and tight. He loosens his hold when he sees my face.

Lochlan is newly minted today. The freshest millionaire on the point, because the Devil put his money where his mouth is. And I'm not sure where the money keeps coming from when he said he gave me everything but it just kept coming after he admitted he didn't but he let me play with one tiny fraction of what he actually has and more just keeps rolling in.

We didn't agree to a thing and he went and did it anyway.

But you're not supposed to talk about that and so let's just say conflict is at the forefront today because money makes you feel different, once it's yours. Especially when you never had any before (like we didn't) and then suddenly you do (like we do now). It makes you dream up a list of things you suddenly need. It reminds you of things you want. There's a weird kind of pressure to make it work all the while you expect the weight to lift and it doesn't. It singes the ends of your hair with its expectations and it always feels too close. Too close and you need to leave the line, because you won't trust anyone anymore, least of all yourself.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Right here.

My heartbeat pounds in my skull as he steps closer. He holds my face up to his, cupped in his hands.

Neamhchiontach. Forgive me but this is taking longer than I thought. I want to start to rebuild your trust in me but Lochlan is guarding your heart so closely these days I can't even think about you and he's on my back. So I'm working on his trust first and once I have that under control I can work on you. 

He started off so well before slipping back into devilspeak that I almost believed him. But then he throws in words like control and working on me rather than with me or with us, even and that's how I know he is lying.

This is confirmed within seconds by his smile as he gazes at me. I'm the only one who's even instantly gratified anymore. I swing back against his hold and smile in return and he kisses me.

This is why I never miss Cole, truth be told.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

When the only way out is through.

They are talking. That's all. Everything is being put on the table this time, with no lies, no embellishments and no deceit. They're going to work through what they both want from each other and then what they want from me. There's shouting sometimes but no violence. No weapons. No Bridget either. I will be privy to conversations later, whereas right now I am out in the cold.

Well, not exactly in the cold. I'm nice and cozy-warm watching movies with the others all weekend, tucked under PJ's arm. Lochlan checks in every little while or so and appeared briefly today to take me to lunch, but otherwise maybe they're getting somewhere.

Or not.

Don't get your hopes up, he told me anyway.

They're not. 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

We got the grifter right but the mark and the shill were mixed up.

Watch them carefully. 

Batman tells me what I already know as I pick glass out of the rain today on the beach. It's harder to see. It's my very own I Spy book. It's a puzzle I will never finish.

I think Lochlan and Caleb have come to some kind of agreement, I think Lochlan is ready to forgive Caleb or at least let him make more concrete amends, I think he's ready to hear the confession and mete out the punishment as he has always wanted to but no one would let him. I think they're getting old. I think Lochlan sees what he didn't really want to see before, which is a genuine and heartfelt attempt on Caleb's behalf to fix this. To fix everything he broke, only Lochlan is hard-headed and stubborn to a fault, and wouldn't listen until Caleb forced him to listen, at the point of a gun. I think we're getting somewhere finally. I think things might be okay.

Of course, it's a good day, so maybe it's all just sleight of hand and maybe it's an illusion and maybe I'm still on drugs and maybe devils don't change their spots and grifters don't give up their games.

This makes me the mark.

Friday, 11 November 2016

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.” ~ William G.T. Shedd

(I know you best.)

When I woke up this morning, Ben was lying beside me, turned to face me, smoothing my hair out of my eyes. Smiling that quiet little content smile that he has.

Our boy hit the ground running today, he says. We might have to tie him up to get him through the rest of the day. 

I sit up and Ben explains that Lochlan got up early and went to see Caleb to probably tell him to fuck off. That vague threats parlayed through Bridget weren't going to be acceptable under any circumstances. Enough already.

You went with him? 

No, he whispered all this at me before he even left. 

Did anyone go with him?

Not to my knowledge. 

Ben! Did he come back? Has anyone checked on Caleb? Jesus! You know better! I jump out of bed.

He's an adult and so is Caleb. If they were going to kill each other they could have done it ten times over. Let them sort out their issues with each other by going to the ground a few times. Maybe they can get it out of their systems. 

Someone gets really hurt every time they do this. 

Yeah, but who are you running to save? 

Caleb's bigger-

Yes, and he's the one who somehow holds back and takes the hit. He hasn't hurt Lochlan yet. So I don't worry anymore.

What if he does? You assume a lot but maybe he's waiting for the perfect time. You weren't there when he had his gun out-

Bridget, he's not going to do anything. 

He has a GUN-

Okay, let's go. Because running into a volatile situation when you know things are tenuous is the best plan you and I have ever had. 

No, that was getting married. I'm pulling on yesterday's clothes as fast as I can while I try to be sweet to Benjamin on the fly but he's decided he waited too long. That or opening my eyes just incites fear all by itself these days.

We run to the Boathouse, falling up the stairs to find-

Wait for it-

Caleb and Lochlan enjoying a whiskey out front, leaning against the railing, side by side, watching the sea while they have a quiet conversation. 

The look on both their faces right before the surprise registers at our rush to get to them is victory. Yes, both their faces. Which I see right away and Ben doesn't see at all. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

It's Remembrance Day weekend and I'm going to see the Trews but otherwise I'm going to sit on the front porch in the rain, drinking hot chocolate and eating lentil sprouts and garlic-stuffed olives.

The fun part about the sprouts are that I can stuff my face with a whole package without blinking. August was like 'spread a thin layer on your sandwich like this' and I grabbed a volleyball-sized chunk instead and it was so delicious I closed my eyes as I ate my sandwich. Usually my eyes are wide open so I can appreciate my sandwich. I love sandwiches. You don't know how much I love sandwiches. They're like cake but so much more complex, and also salty and really filling so who has room left for cake anyway?

So if the sprouts are bad for me please do not tell me today. You can tell me tomorrow but not today.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Tangible reality.

You seem more concerned with tattoos than current events, Neamhchiontach. 

He isn't happy at all. Firstly for the surprisingly stark and visible tattoo on my hand, and secondly because he's right. I am more concerned with tattoos than with the state of the world because the world is a terrible place full of bullshit and assholes and I've made my Utopia in spite of it. My American boys gave up their birthrights years ago and became Canadian because of me and we're safe and happy and completely fucking ignorant and I'm pretty sure the Devil is the only one who would have that any other way.

(I don't plan to talk about Outside-World News. I'm busy living Lord of the Flies right here, thanks. We have our own pecking order, our own politics and that's enough to handle on a daily basis. I'm happier without newspapers ninety-nine percent of the time and the one percent I stray from that I always end up regretting sooner rather than later.)

They're my souvenirs, I remind him. I'm not sentimental, truth be told. I don't keep things, per se. Just people. Just thoughts. Just memories all locked up in the zoo inside my head. Sometimes they break loose and go on a rampage. Otherwise I feed and water them, give them toys and let people see them, for a price. Sometimes they eat me alive.

Let me see. He wandered in briefly at the beginning, while Mark drew outlines the other day and got caught up on news but didn't come back after that. He hasn't seen me.

I'm not dressed for-

Let me see, Neamhchiontach. 

I regard him for several minutes without breaking his gaze. I'm in a dress and tights. Combat boots. Sweater. I struggle out of the sweater, letting it drop to the floor and then unbutton the dress, finally letting it fall to the ground too. Tights and underwear remain on. I turn around and wait.

Oh my God. This is beautiful. 

I look at the floor and then lift my arms so he can see what happens when I do a Jesus Christ pose.

I don't believe it. He sees it. Everyone's name has a place. Every last one, scripted into the feathers. Invisible until I raise my arms and then they're horizontal and clearly readable.

My name..

Right there with the rest. 

Bridget-

I drop my arms, turn back around and shrug back into my dress, buttoning it haphazardly, balling up my sweater in my arms, tears of..I don't even know what stinging my eyes. Happy now? I snap at him.

Hey Bridge, I-  Ben walks into the kitchen and stops halfway through his question. Everything okay? 

He wanted to see it. 

And?

He's seen it.

Ben watches us both and kisses the top of my head, telling me he'll be in the driveway if I need him. Caleb nods to him as he passes and then resumes his stare.

I didn't know. 

Right, well, you would have seen it eventually anyway. 

I'm sorry for my tone. I'm a bit on edge since Lochlan has decided to make me wait indefinitely for his decision. 

I think you should probably stop waiting. 

Have you talked to him? 

Many times. 

And? 

I think he should bleed you dry, personally but he wants to take the high road. 

Lochlan and his ridiculous integrity. 

Integrity is never ridiculous unless you don't have any, Diabhal. I say it quietly, cringing slightly. He doesn't like being reminded.

Tell him to come see me when he gets home, then. If he thinks I'm going to languish while he ignores the offer he's mistaken. 

He won't come to you. 

Then I will come to him.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Of course the Roman Numeral for one hundred is C but I have no room left. (Literally or figuratively.)

Mark was back over the weekend. We treat him to comfortable space while he guests around town but mostly he comes to work on me. Last July I got him to tattoo a huge filigree X on my stomach and this week I spent most of my time lying on that tattoo while he worked on my wings. Long overdue wings. He did a beautiful job. They cap my shoulders and extend down my arms around and under other tattoos right to my elbows and make their place behind the cameo on my back and all the lyrics.

I feel complete now. Never thought I would but I also never thought I would be finished.

For funsies he also tattooed LOCH across the knuckles of my left hand. I wanted to forever but I wasn't sure I wanted to be that out-there, since I can hide this entire suit under the right clothing and have a long history of covering everything with makeup for special occasions because I get tired of the stares.

This is out there. It's on my hand. Mark did a beautiful set of very feminine lettering and I love it. I love the wings too. I sat for nine hours total, bringing me to a total of one hundred hours even. So I'm done and I'm beautiful. Finally.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

My day.

Deep breath. Open eyes. Nine years and I'm still doing it. I'm still going, Jake.

Deep breath. Try and keep some coffee down.

Deep breath. Church. Every time Sam looked at me I could feel the lump in my throat growing.

Deep breath. Lunch out at the greasy diner. We sat in random booths and filled the whole place. Batman paid for everything. Yes, I ate.

Deep breath. The drive home. Lochlan holds my hand.

Deep breath. Look at garage the whole time he's parking the truck. Don't go inside.

Deep breath. Take PJ's pity-hugs without absorbing them, for self-preservation.

Deep breath. Plan the afternoon. A movie. Maybe a walk in the rain. Maybe a run to see if I can leave the screams inside my brain far behind me. Maybe just a cuddle by the fire.

Deep breath. Didn't do anything. It's raining and dark. So dark. I set all the clocks back last night, and as many watches as I saw. And the house alarm and the trucks.

Deep breath. Day's almost over and then I have tomorrow and then I'm in the clear. Birthday tomorrow. He would have been forty-six. Somehow the after is more easy to navigate than the during. I'll get through it. I'm tough. Tough and raw. Tough and pillowy-weak. A mess.

Deep breath. Every time I take one I bump into someone. I have no personal space. I wouldn't want it but I also need to take that breath soon.

Deep breath. Thank you for shifting an inch to the left, Ben.

Deep breath. I can sleep now.

Deep breath. It's not so bad. It's been so long. It's going to get better. This is fate. This is history. This is the future in which things that happen shape who you become and maybe I'm better than I was. Maybe I'm worse. But at least I'm taking my knocks and trying my hardest. At least I stayed for the character. At least I remained a freak. At least I have the other freaks now, and they keep a circle around me. Not to keep out evil, but to keep in everything else.

At least I can take a deep breath.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Slow (Only took nine years for me to figure this part out.)

Today is just the day before, that's all. It should be a harmless day but instead it's loaded with hollow points and it will bring nothing but death. Death and pain that always seems sharper and more final right now, each year and time keeps passing but it still feels the exact same. Sam can't explain it, Lochlan can't help it, Ben can't fix and Caleb can't have it. It isn't their place. This time is for me and Jacob and it feels like it did right at the beginning.

I took the children out for lunch and shopping and we laughed and I could feel myself starting to slide toward the end of our time out together. I brought them home and then it just rushed away like an avalanche and I can't keep it up anymore, and so PJ made me a drink so stiff it mightn't have needed the glass and August came over to 'hang out' and so did Joel, so I put on the hockey game and retreated to the library to look out the window and have my drink. Lochlan and Ben have taken up positions on either side of the library door, out in the foyer.

Sam is sleeping. When August heads home across the driveway, Sam will take night duty. They're trading twelve hour shifts, which is unnecessary but it's what they have worked out.

Caleb paces at the boathouse and calls Ben or PJ every half hour to see how tonight is going.

How is the night going?

Okay, actually. I'm feeling sad. Defeated, actually. As if I couldn't do enough and then I was forced to stop, because there wasn't anymore I could do, not then. I would have done anything he asked but he never asked. He just left and then he was gone and I didn't get a chance to fix the holes.

OH.

This is how they feel.

Holy smokes.

Friday, 4 November 2016

(Sometimes what you need is what you fight.)

My heartbeat, my oxygen
My banner, my home
My future, my song
He lay there in near-dark, tucking my hair behind my ear, his face just inches away in the tiny bed in the camper.

Why is it still so hard, Peanut? You're perpetually in shock and the rest of the time you'll give your heart in exchange to whoever gives you the time of day. I want it all back. How do we get it back? We are whispering. His eyes fill up and spill over into mine.

We've burned all our promise tickets and are back to square one. We've used up all our good fortunes, bought for a big tip and a promise not to call the cops about the still out behind the fortune teller's trailer. We've come to our year of reckoning and it isn't going our way. So we'll have to use this new map and figure out how to go in a completely different direction. We'll reinvent ourselves again. Not freaks but adventurers. Not children but adults. Not done yet but working on making sure it all turns out okay.

I don't know what he did. I don't know why it still hurts like this. If I did I would stop it. I don't want to feel like this. I want to love you and love Ben and live in the Collective and just be happy but I can't and nothing works.

(The closest we've ever had to normal was that little kitchenette room in Atlantic City. He lost his mind there and I hated it. I hated everything about it. That wasn't living. It was waiting to die.

What if we tried harder?

I feel like I haven't tried at all since our honeymoon. I'm sorry.

Don't be, peanut. You're doing so good.

Doesn't feel like it or I wouldn't make my husband cry almost as much as I do.

He pulls my hands up between us, kissing my knuckles. I hurt for you, bridge. If I could take this pain from you I would. Just tell me what to do.

Take the deal. Take the money. Pit them all against each other if you have to but don't waste an opportunity that's only going to come around once.

What if you-

I'm not leaving you.

We are nose to nose now, eyes wide. I can feel him shaking. I don't know if its fear or the chill in the camper since the heater isn't hooked up and I'm not much enough to keep a whole man warm.

He closes his eyes and lets out a long breath. Sleep, peanut.

I nod and my eyes close too, against my wishes to continue to study his face.

I love you, Bridget.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Operation Make Bridget Happy seems well underway.

Dalton didn't even pretend he wasn't put up to it. He just dove right in. Not even a Good Morning to be had first. 

If you could watch any movie today, which movie would it be? 

Practical Magic. 

But Samhain is over. 

That's fine. I watch it whenever, it's not a holiday movie but more of a lifestyle choice. 

He nods. He's making notes. If you could eat anything what would it be?

Vietnamese food. Fried noodles and stuff. Or Thai. Chinese. Anything that comes with chopsticks. 

If you could have one question answered what would it be? 

Can we use Mystical Fire in the gas fireplaces too? 

That isn't the question I thought you'd ask. 

Ah. You thought I was going to ask if we could put up the Christmas trees now, right?

Is that a thing? 

Yes, and I am always told to wait one more month. It's a long wait, you know. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Sweet little minutes.

His knees, elbows and the top of his head were black with mud. My entire back from my hair down to my boots matched. It was so obvious when we came back inside from cutting back the grapevines and stripping bark that Dalton asked if we had 'fun'.

Ben smiled a very big smile and said Well, duh.

We called for a clear path, which means everyone has to leave the kitchen/great room and back hallway in order for us to strip outside on the patio and then make our way upstairs to fetch warm, dry clothes.

Except that mud was everywhere so Ben started a hot shower and pulled me in in through the doors with him under the spray, holding the back of my head, mud streaked all over our faces, dirt grinding into my skin as he kissed me. I would have felt my knees go out except that he was holding me up.

Cue round two because he is as beautiful as he is insatiable.

He gave a final kiss to the top of my head as he dried my hair and then when I put on clean pajamas he said we need to head back out and do the leaf-raking maybe this weekend, and we can bring Lochlan. He didn't mention Caleb or anything else. He focused on the moment, which helped me do the same. Once he had a clean t-shirt and his own pajama pants on I threw myself into his arms and asked if I could just stay right here forever.

Naw, Bee. You get so restless. If I said yes, you'd think it was a trap.  You're a funny girl like that. A homebody with a constant case of cabin fever.  Let's go make some soup and then soon Lochlan will be home and we can show him how much work we put in. Maybe we'll get out of dinner duty.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

And always, always with that rueful smile.

What do you mean? 

I mean what I said. I'm not going to do...anything, Bridge. I'm not going to acknowledge or further entertain these ridiculous stunts by the Devil to get to me and to you. I didn't hear it. I'm not accepting it. I'm just going to keep going forward. 

What if he gives you a time limit?

A what? A limit? I'll feign ignorance and ask him what he means. Or are you being ironic and playing dumb now? I can play dumb too, Peanut. 

What if-

What if WHAT? 

What if...I go to him anyway? Then you don't get your due. It's all for nothing. 

Well then I guess the only way to prevent that is to not go to him. Then we're square. Right? 

I nod. He's always been smarter than the rest. Not by choice or by design but purely out of necessity.

Caleb is going to come looking for you.

Let him come. I'm ready for anything. You forget I have the upper hand here. 

He says that and I take it all back. It's naive and pie in the sky and exactly like Loch. A walking contradiction. All logic one minute, all magic and foolishness the next. Right from wrong depends on the day. God help you if you get the days mixed up.