Monday, 16 October 2017

12:19 pm

Four hours and they're still in there. Claus came out for a little break with Lochlan. I got some hugs. Caleb, August and Sam never came out. On their way back in they asked if I could send in PJ and Duncan and Christian. Batman too. Now it's a family meeting without me.

Then they asked if I could order some lunch for everyone.

So I took Caleb's keys for the new Audi and I think I'll take myself out to lunch. They'll figure it out.

Flying on standby.

When the doorbell rang I was surprised but hopeful. Maybe someone has sent flowers. Or breakfast. Maybe I forgot to unlock the side door and Caleb has resorted to the bell. Maybe this is the purge. Who knows? I opened the door mid-sip of my coffee and there's Claus.

Behind him, Joel. 

Well, fuck me and also hurray. The people with actual capes have arrived, because all of those they left in charge finally caved in to me, and it's not going well at all. It's not what we need heading into Halloween, and Jacob's death day, and then his birthday, no, that's not what we need at all. 

Good morning, Bridget. Claus smiles hesitantly, kindly. He speaks to me as if I am a small child. I hold the door wide without a word, and he takes the first step with his cane. Claus is too old for this shit. Too old for emergency housecalls and bullshit games and counsel-liars. Just the girl I wanted to see. 

I'll make more coffee. 

That's a good idea. I shoot Joel a look and he frowns at me and asks where Sam is. 

Sleeping. 

Could you wake him as well, please? And maybe give August a call? Oh, and we're going to need Lochlan. He's paramount to this discussion.

Sure thing. 

I make a move to follow them into the library but Joel blocks my entrance. We'll call for you in a little while. If you could direct them here that would be great. 

I nod, and turn to head back to the kitchen, and smash hard into Caleb, who was right behind me. He doesn't smile, or say good morning. He touches my cheek, follows Joel inside and shuts the door.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

But first, God.

I was going to call it Hypocrite Sunday, as I woke up this morning half-wrapped around Sam, who was brought to me in the dark so late I couldn't wake up enough to say no and and he couldn't wind down enough to listen. He is rough and wild, wide awake and absolutely unyielding. I think they think if they're brutal and selfish that I won't fall in love with them so everything's going to be okay. I wish I could make them understand that isn't how this works.

And Lochlan leaves us alone. I don't know why. Hypocrites come in pairs, maybe. Maybe he thinks as long as Sam lies about how he feels that this is a great compromise. Sam can't be a risk, God is his first and only true love, right? 

What? 

Sam was too rough. He didn't listen. He went so far as to shake me awake when he let go for five seconds so I could breathe and I couldn't stay alert. I felt drugged. I felt betrayed. When Lochlan came back I called him names under my breath in a language I barely know but he would have understood all too well. He put his arms around me and told me he was trying, best he could, to fulfill all of my needs without breaking his own heart in the process.

Too late, I said but he didn't listen either and I'm so tired I want to throw up.

In church Sam spoke again of brotherhood and sharing the most intimate moments of your life with people you love and trust, people who share your faith, and your hope and His Word. I look at the boys as they nod along with the cadence of Sam's voice, fire and brimstone softened to sparks and shale. They're all hypocrites and yet I love them with an ache that brings me to my knees.

His eyes come to rest on me and I watch the familiar twinkle that I used to see when Jacob's eyes would land on me and he would see that I was listening to every word. Except I used to twinkle back at Jake. With Sam I just looked away.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

A breakfast, a lecture, a rescue.

Potato, Potah-to. He calls it a 'talk'. Except all he did was talk at me for one hundred and twelve minutes while I made butternauts and refused to answer any questions I did catch for the first three-quarters of our meal. Self-preservation, as Eggs Benedict with salmon and fresh melon should be eaten in only the most positive of settings and by the end of the breakfast I was forced to take my coffee cup to the bar for refills because he kept sending the servers away.

(At least he tips well, though I could use a tip on very pale people with sensitive skin and red eyes from threatening tears. Big sunglasses look a little ridiculous indoors, on a rainy day. How are you all doing this? I'm not tough enough to not react. I'm not tough at all.)

Not like he gave me a chance to pull myself together as it was. The message was there when I woke up to meet him, dressed to go to breakfast. I did, walking to his glassed-in porch around eight, and he took my arm and marched me to his car, and then we drove in silence, he ordered curtly (knows what I like, at least) and then waited for what seemed like an eternity for the food. In reality it was around fifteen or twenty minutes but try doing that without talking.

Once the food arrived, Batman started talking. He talked while he ate and he never. let. up.

Maybe the Collective isn't working. Really is anything different? August needs to be sent home for good. So does anyone who wants a chance at a normal life. Who am I to keep everyone here at my beck and call-

Wait a minute. What? I have to interrupt. They chose this life-

I'm here, I see how their choices are-

Yes, you're here. What's your excuse? 

I'm not interested in starting a family. I was married before. I've lived. Some of them haven't. 

They're all adults. 

Oh come on, Bridget. They're hypnotized. They're brainwashed. 

I didn't do that. 

This is what I'm telling you. Yes. You did. You did that. You made them that way. 

I stop listening at that point. I haven't done anything wrong. And what he's describing is some kind of selfish criminal mastermind, out collecting souls because she didn't have one of her own. Jesus. Is that what I am? Oh Jesus. I can't swallow this bite of food. I can't hang on to my composure anymore. I can't be here. I don't want to do this.

Coffee? 

Leave us. 

The server is sent away just as I lift my cup and I turn my gaze back to Batman. Abruptly I realize he wanted a sounding board to unload all of his own jealousy, wrapped in the most ridiculous discourse of blame and tragedy and that this isn't my cross to bear and I don't need to sit through it.

I tell him I'm going to find the washroom and get some coffee, that I need a moment. I dab at the corner of my eye with a napkin so he has a little sympathy. He nods, softening somewhat, sitting up and fixing his tie.

I leave my cup on the bar, asking for a refill, telling them I'll be right back or they can take it to the table for me and I head down the hall.

Once inside I pull out my phone and wonder who the heck I can call for a drive home. Who's going to be on my side at this point?

Ben.

Except Ben's phone lives on the dresser perpetually because he forgets to take it everywhere.

Daniel it is. He says he'll leave right now, to meet him outside.

I wait as long as I can and go back out. Batman is sitting straight up. His face is ashen. My coffee is full but lukewarm and I hesitate beside the chair for several seconds before sitting down.

He holds up his hand and a server practically sprints over with a coffee pot and a new cup. The coffee is now too hot to drink, the old cup is removed carefully. This right here is a metaphor for my relationships. Ice-cold, removed or too attentive, too hot. Too immediate.

Happy mediums? Not this girl. Never ever ever.

Who's coming to get you? 

I sip my coffee. Pardon?

Which one did you contact to come and pick you up? 

Daniel. 

You can't escape this, Bridget. That's the funny part. 

No, see, the funny part is that you think this is my fault. You all came to me. I didn't ask for a thing. I still haven't asked for a thing or everything would be different. I didn't do this. You did. You all did, and blaming me is a real shit move after all this time. 

I open my purse and fish out a few bills, throw them on the table and tell him to have a good afternoon. That I hope he got everything off his chest. That maybe he should book a time with Sam or with August if he wants to really dig deep and self-improve.

Then I walk outside, head high, just as Daniel is pulling into a loading zone.

Hey. 

Hey. Didn't have time to put on a cape. Sorry.

I don't need any more heroes. Just friends. 

Then I've got you covered. He winks and waits for me to put on my seatbelt. Then we're on our way home.

Friday, 13 October 2017

TICKETS PROCURED.

Guess who's going to see er...Avenged Sevenfold for the second time in seventh months?

Nah, I'm not going for them, silly.

I'm fulfilling a fifteen-year wait to see Breaking Benjamin (!!!!) and I'm so excited about that I could burst. I still remember holding my blackberry up to my old HP laptop when some internet radio site played I Will Not Bow. Ben was in the dining room laughing with the kids and I was sitting at the kitchen table under the dim lights and I recorded it when it debuted online because I couldn't actually hear it over their laughter. It was snowing and freezing cold that night. What a weirdly vivid memory.

I have a BB lyric tattoo (from Rain). I have a son who wants to see them too (Go Henry! Who hasn't seen a live show with us since Robert Plant. Or maybe it was Stone Temple Pilots. Wait. I just checked the master list I keep. It was Rush. The kid's seen more shows than most people).  I have a musical bucket list that's just about complete and we have tickets now for a night in February. I'm excited. You have no idea. Besides, this band taught me the word for what I was doing with their very first hit single: Polyamorous. 

Booyah! *Runs around pool again.*

Snort.

(My favorite song of theirs is still Breath though. Always and forever.)

Thursday, 12 October 2017

This too.

I get it. If I keep my mouth shut like Sam and PJ do, I get access. At least I'm still permitted to talk to you. Meetings move to your library. Same times. xx

That was the message I woke up to on my phone from August. Lochlan went to see him last night but came home and didn't say much, preferring to wake me up and wind me out instead. I bit down into his shoulder as he gripped my hips against his own, keeping me so close to him I almost tapped out for not being able to breathe but I stuck it out instead. Then he abruptly lets go of me, practically shoving me down as I fall anyway and I sit up and shove him back and he kisses me so hard I think he cracked my teeth. He grabs my face with both hands and tells me he loves me. Then he's gone and I hear the shower turn on a few minutes later. The sun is coming up around the edges of the dark and from out of nowhere Ben says Jesus, you two should be putting out videos. 

People have seen enough. I'm still angry from the arguments of the past couple of days. Still touchy about August. Still smarting from Lochlan's attempts to rule with an iron cock.

Thought you loved his rage fucks. 

I do. 

Then relax. He's just having a moment. It will pass. Usually takes a week or so. You always think Caleb is the possessive one. They're a lot alike, Bridge. 

Don't I know that already. I close my eyes and turn away and I hear Ben leave and then a little while later Lochlan comes back. When I turn over he's buttoning a flannel shirt over a plain white t-shirt.

You're not banned from August. You can see him here in the house for meetings. Just nothing else for now. 

I heard. He sent a text. 

He's good with that? 

Did you give him a choice?

No. 

Then he's good with that. 

Are you good with that? 

I guess I have to be. Since you're on a roll, are you going to ban Caleb next? 

He smiles curtly. I might. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Charge.

I'm holding on
I'm holding on to you
My world is wrong
My world is lies come true

And I fall in love
With the ones that run me through
When all along all I need is you
I let the song play on repeat about fifteen times. It was a means to an end.

Shut it off, Bridge.

I pretend I can't hear him.

You can hear me.

I shake my head, tilting it slightly, turning the cup over and over in my hands. It's a camping mug, metal with a painted trees logo from some outfitter company. He threw it so hard the top rim is now an oval shape. I would have thought it should have bounced but what do I know?

I get scared, Peanut. 

Join the club. We're all 'fraidycats over here. It's like a house full of trembling children. 

Don't minimize how this feels. 

Oh, I'm not. If anyone ever put too much importance on feelings, it's me. Don't ever think differently, Loch. 

I don't. He says it softly. Still scared though. 

Well, you shouldn't be. 

Remember when you were little and I would say 'Don't worry, Peanut' and you'd get so mad you'd stomp your feet and practically rip my face off. 'As if that will just make me stop like magic', you would tell me. That's how this feels and I'm sorry I ever told you to stop.

Which? 

Huh? 

You're sorry you told me to stop worrying or sorry you told me to stop going to August? 

Both. 

But. 

But it isn't easy, Bridget.

Then just imagine being me. 

There's the despair back in his green eyes. He takes the mug from my hand and bends it easily back into a rough circle shape. I forget how strong he is. I forget how weak he can be. I forget how much he loves me sometimes because he can be so cutting, so harsh with his words. I forget that he doesn't mean to hurt me even as he means every last word.

I can stop. 

What? 

I can stay away from him. From August, if that's what you want. 

I don't know what I want, Peanut. I want you to be happy, I want you to have peace in all this but when you do and things are going good I wish I could shut it all down. 

So do I. 

You do? 

My friends are using me and at the same time I'm using them. It's unhealthy. No one's happy. I don't know who signs up for this shit with such a sparse return on their investment.

You would call it sparse. Trust me, they find it worthy.

What about the ones I don't go to? Think they find it worth the effort? 

They love you in different ways. I want to keep that division. Maybe it's selfish. We've come so far. I want something for myself. 

You have it. Forever. 

He hands me the dented, chipped cup as he pauses at the door. Tell August you're going to take a break. That he needs to step back for a time. That he's not going to come back and start causing more problems just when everything seems to be smoothing out. On second thought, you don't have to do anything. I'm going to tell him myself.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Told you not to envy anything about this, but you didn't listen either.

I'm outside on the porch, blanket over my lap, PJ's barn coat over my own flannel shirt and jeans. Cold coffee on the railing, new iPad still in the box on my lap. I'm watching the tiny birds look for leftover seeds in the grass. They look weightless, lighter than air. I never wanted to fly, never wanted to skydive, never wanted to sit on roof save as a means to get away from things, never felt the urge to soar above the walking universe.

Hey. I look up and Lochlan's behind the screen door. He's got two fresh cups of what I think are coffee until he comes out and hands me one and I see that it's not coffee at all. It's whiskey.

What are we celebrating? 

Who says we're celebrating?
He looks cross. We're medicating, Bridge. I am, anyway. 

Just say it. 

I can't ban you from him, can I? 

You can limit him. 

He's already limited and it still changed. 

That's inevitable. 

Shut it the hell off, Bridget. I'm not doing this. I'm not on board with this. I said no. I asked you, no, I begged you not to go over there. I beg you to not do all kinds of things and you just go anyway, like I don't exist. 

What am I supposed to do? 

Be normal. 

I snort and burst out laughing. It's not a nice laugh though. It's not happy. It's angry and spiteful. I can't believe you just said that. 

Be monogamous. Cut him off. Cut them all off.

Never have been in my life and who has benefit the most from that? You. What if anyone else had ever said that and shut you out in the cold? 

It's different. 

How?

It's me. 

Exactly. 

I'm either special or I'm just another fucking chump you can take your shit out on to make yourself feel better. But if I'm special everyone can't be special too. 

Jealousy is such a shitty colour on you, Lochlan. 

And I didn't raise a whore. 

Yeah. You did. Remember?

He takes his cup and throws it agains the wall. I did, didn't I? My mistake. Then he's gone and it's cold and silent again. The birds have flown away too and I couldn't fly if I tried, my heart weighs a thousand pounds easy.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Might have fucked up really badly here.

The bottom of the deep blue sea
The bottom of the deep blue sea
He's back and he's incredibly angry that Sam went ahead and let the army close up my ghost adventure park, behind his back, behind Joel's, with a decided lack of preparation and forethought, truth be told. It's like they just woke up with this plan. She has her soul, let's nix the spirits while we can, before anyone can object or continue to let Bridget grieve in her slow-motion sort of way, drifting aimlessly through life pinging back and forth between destroying the living and raising the dead.

Ironic, since a huge part of my draw toward him is that he's as close to Jake as I will ever be again. And I missed him terribly, as he went back for three weeks to Newfoundland and didn't call even once.

Not once.

Who's angry?

Hey, if Sam is calling the shots, what do you need me for? He's got me pinned against him, fighting with me to take me out of my clothes while I work to keep them on. Not doing this. No rage-homecomings. We have to sort out the hurt feelings and then we can move on to all the other stupid feelings because hurt clouds everything.

Stop. I struggle with him but he's not listening. My body is so on board with this but my heart wants to fix everything else first.

Not stopping. Ever think I missed you and that's why I couldn't call?

You didn't text me either.

Are you listening to what I just said? Shirt's off now. Goosebumps all over as it sinks in along with the chill from his loft, unheated while he was gone, just beginning to warm up.

I missed you.

That's a feeling. That's an affirmative feeling, August.

One that I hate myself for.

Don't say that. There go my jeans. I cross my arms in front of me for warmth, for protection from his words.

I wasn't going to go there. I haven't loved someone in a long time.

It's not love.

What is it?

I don't know.

Then call it love until you come up with something that makes you feel better. And he bends his head down to kiss Little Miss So Much Trouble he may have been better off staying away forever.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Parental controls + Jesus, since it's Sunday.

(To be kind, this post contains spoilers for A Ghost Story, if you haven't seen it.)

Today was a little slower, a little more deliberate, a tiny bit foggy, led along by the elbow, shoved with a kind hand, coffee (regular, black, not from Starbucks, thank you Christian) held for me, purse held for me too and maybe I should have stayed home from church but I like to support Sam and it seems especially important to maintain a presence, keep the army close (if you will) when Matt is around so he knows that Sam has us and that we have Sam. I know that sounds awful but they continue to be off and on, but barely. This way Matt will someday understand precisely what it means to be a part of this Collective instead of existing alongside of it, something he asked of Sam and was refused. I've asked Matt to consider joining but he remains wary.

I can't say I blame him but at the same time it's a system that works and works well for the others so why not him too?

Ahh, yeah, I know the answer to that too.

But this isn't about Matt.

Last night while Lochlan was sleeping and Ben was sleeping too, I couldn't sleep and so I climbed out of bed and took a blanket and settled in on the couch with the ipad and some headphones. And I rented A Ghost Story. I purposefully broke a rule made for my own safety. I hit the Rent Now button and I watched it. Every minute of it, including the pie-eating scene that took forever, that I understood perfectly as only someone who has lost someone that close would.

I watched the part where he fell off the top of the building. I watched the whole fucking thing without even falling asleep like I always do and then I was really sad that I had done that because I can't un-see it or un-think it so I put the ipad back on the shelf (they're going to know what I did) and crawled back into bed in the dark and pulled and shook at both of them until they were half-awake and in as close as possible and only then did I feel safe enough to take another breath and close my eyes.

What an incredibly beautiful film.

I had nightmares all night. I woke up dreading my own brain and apparently Dalton had been up late also watching iTunes and got the first memo that it was available to watch and sent off a note to Lochlan who read his phone and swore and got up and left, coming back with a little pill and a glass of water. He sat down on the side of the bed and asked me why I seek out the misery like a sea to swim in, like a blanket I can wear.

It's familiar is all I can tell him. I know what it's supposed to feel like. It's comfortable.

He stares at me for a long time. Get ready for church, he finally says, and when I come back out showered, dressed and moving in heavily medicated slow motion I notice the ipad is gone from it's place on the shelf. Not a word from him as he turns so I can help him finish fixing his tie.

I am marched downstairs for breakfast, we're in our finest but we're certainly not at our finest, put in a chair and he fetches juice and a piece of toast. PJ starts to say something and Lochlan shoots him a look.

Sam comes down and kisses my cheek and I confess my sin to him. He gets down to look in my face, wiping toast crumbs from my cheek from eating from the middle of the slice instead of the corners.

Why did you want to do that when Jacob finally received his heavenly reward, Bridget? 

I just needed to see how other people do it. 

And?

It wasn't like that. It was about him not being able to deal with losing her. He was the ghost and he missed her. It was reversed. She moved on. 

Like you have moved on, because it's good for you and it's what Jacob would have wanted for you? 

Usually I would fight that but Lochlan's magic pills dull my defense mechanisms so I nod like a little kid.

No harm done then. I daresay it seems like it would be a beautiful film. Was it? 

Very much so. 

Then don't let it in, just leave it there as a beautiful thing that you have witnessed and take a deep breath. 

I take one and he smiles kindly.

Ready for today then? 

I nod and Lochlan is back, wrapping his hand around my head, pulling it in so he can kiss the top of it. He sits in the chair beside me and leans over. I watched it already. 

Why?

So I'd be ready because I knew you wouldn't wait and watch it with me. 

And? 

It was beautiful. But very, very sad. I felt like it would be me. And that you would be her and maybe that's how it's supposed to happen. 

It can't. Can it? 

I don't know, Bridge. His eyes are green pools of despair suddenly. He doesn't want to know. Death has gone from a certainty to the biggest, most tangible frightening boogeyman there is and I want to stuff it back into it's appropriate-sized reasonable box and put it back with the rest of the top fears of all time, like spiders, heights, abandonment and very big dogs.

But not bears, because no one's afraid of bears.

How can I be afraid of death but not of bears? I'm not afraid of my death. Just theirs. And they're not afraid of their own mortality either, just each others, just mine. It's unbearable if you let your brain go to those places but sometimes my brain doesn't let me drive.

Okay, most of the time my brain doesn't let me drive. Let's face it.

The coffee was very very good. No milk. The heat was on in church and when we came home I had all the help in the world making the most wonderful Thanksgiving dinner you could imagine, and this time I was sent away with tea while they all pitched in to help clean up.

I asked him where the ipad was when he came to collect my teacup later. He wouldn't look me in the eye. I threw it off the cliff, he said quietly. It was all I could think to do. I'll replace it tomorrow. 

You didn't burn it? 

It wouldn't burn. That's why I threw it.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Thoughts while I watch him eat. Or talk. Or laugh. Or do anything.

We spent this morning having brunch in bed with Schuyler and Daniel while plotting their sixth anniversary celebrating to be held later this month. Ben took up more room than anyone but he also had more ideas and we wound up deciding a surprise party would be better than something they actually plan, and so in between bites of fried potatoes and crispy bacon we passed folded notes back and forth all around our golden boys, who sat back and sipped their very good salt spring island coffee, feeding toast points to each other, getting crumbs all over their t-shirts and their sheets. August would have lost his mind. August doesn't believe in eating in bed. Well, not food anyway.

We got it all planned. 

Ben is good at planning fun things. 

He's been a magnet since yesterday afternoon. He gets stuck inside his head too, down in his warmly lit studio. I bring him his meals on a tray. Sometimes he stops and brings the tray right back upstairs to eat with everyone, sometimes he clears space for us to sit together and he eats quickly and gets back to work and sometimes, on the hardest evenings, he doesn't hear or see me when I come in, and so I leave the tray and when I come back to pick it up it's untouched. 

Then I cry. 

I package it all up and put it in the fridge. I try to remember he's a grown man, if he's hungry he'll eat. If he's really hungry he'll order pizza. If he's lonely he'll come find me. He'll eventually surface, but it gets hard to wait. I'm very happy when he puts down his guitars and comes to just hang out for a few days. It's kind of like old times except there's a lot of time spent in bed eating toast and planning fun things. 

Then I stop crying. 

I know I'm spoiled. You would be too if you had a Ben. Except that he's quite unique and there's only one of him. And he's mine. Still. Yes, I know I'm greedy too. 

:)

Friday, 6 October 2017

Chorus (take her, she's yours).

The sweet surrender of silence forces me to live alone
Locked and loaded, where the hell is peace of mind?
I wait on you inside the bottom of the deep blue sea
I wait on you inside the bottom of the deep blue

Welcome to my cage little lover
Time to rearrange with you baby
Still don't know your name miss honey
Let's go up in flames pretty lady
This song starts with the Devil and ends with the Fire Eater and I wouldn't change it now that the dark comes early every night, now that heaven and hell have collided in my world, now that Ben has ceased to appear at all half the time or maybe he has appeared and I didn't see him in the tangle of limbs, in the breathless blackness. If I reach out it doesn't matter who I touch. I play favourites on repeat, I held my head high and I let them hold me down and we buried the past in the possibility of the future, together.

When I wake up it's still dark. That song is still playing in my head and the memories of the night lie against me on both sides, hands claiming ownership of whatever they touch in their dreams.

I take a deep breath and turn my brain inside out.

And Jacob isn't there.

The next deep breath hurts in realization and I sit up but no one else stirs. I try to catch my breath but I can't. My brain is squealing, pushing backwards against my skull, trying to stuff itself back in, unwilling to reveal itself, trying to keep the corners inside dark and unexplored.

But it's too late.

I crawl out of bed as quietly as I can. Lochlan doesn't move, Caleb sleeps even more deeply, I could walk right down him and he wouldn't notice. I find my t-shirt and pajama pants and I head down the hall to my right, down the few steps, in through another door, where Sam bolts upright. Another light sleeper.

What's wrong?

Had a nightmare, I lie.

He lifts up the covers. He's got a faded church camp t-shirt on and pajama pants too. I climb in and he settles his arms around me, chin on top of my head.

Just sleep. Lochlan will find you in a bit. Everything's okay. 

It's so warm against him that I'm asleep within minutes, running down the path in the sunrise, wet leaves threatening to send me flying, down, down until the sun disappears and it's dark again. I run down the hall, my footsteps echoing off the walls but at the end of the hallway there's no door. It's not here. It's gone. I feel along the wall where it was. There are footprints everywhere. Right here. It was right here. But it's gone and it's place is fresh neat mortar. I can't get in. I can't get in and he's gone.

But I'm right here. Lochlan's voice cuts into the dark softly, like a sharp knife. Right here, Bridget. For you. He takes my hand and I sit up. Sam mutters something about talking later and we leave him to sleep.

Lochlan leads me downstairs. He puts my coat on me, buttoning it all the way, then he puts on his own. We head outside for the sunrise, all the way to the beach. All the way into the water. He bends down and wets his hand and brings it up to my forehead, drawing a cross.

I don't remember what he says, he grins ruefully, but it should work. Then he draws a heart around the shape of my entire face with the saltwater. That's my blessing for good measure. This is your sea. All your memories are here, Bridget. She keeps them safe, you just have to touch her and you can have them all, but you can never come to her without me. Try it now. 

I crouch down and stick both my hands into the ice-cold water. The shock of how cold it is after summer is comforting somehow. There she is. Back to normal. I lean forward until I'm sitting on my knees, up to my waist in the frigid surf and he swears and steps forward but he doesn't rip me to my feet. He waits. I lean forward and scoop water onto my face with both hands. Baptize me ten times over but I'm never going to be new, never going to different, never going to be right, somehow.

I don't care, he says, and he pulls me to my feet at last. Dumbass. You're going to catch your death.

(But I could never keep up with her either. She's so fast.)

Back in our room he gets a fire going and Caleb is gone but that song is still in my head. This time I dream of the fair, Lochlan's warm mortar- and salt-streaked hands clutching me against him while I shiver in my sleep. His talent is magic, mine is ruin. I wonder who's winning?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Avenged Sevenfold is trying to kill me and other fun Thursday things.

(This is all yelly and scattered because I'm busy and in a rush to go.)

(sorry)

It's the eve of Thanksgiving long weekend and we have run out of bread but who cares? There's a new Stephen King book out that I need to run and buy instead of responsible things like bread but besides that,

BREAKING BENJAMIN is coming!

Well, they're coming to 'Canada' they say, to be announced next week and yes, for fucks sake now I have to sit through Avenged Sevenfold again. It's as if they are trying to change my mind.

Snort. 

To the band: you better not do that thing where you only book Toronto and Montreal or I'll fucking burn the whole continent to the ground. I've been patiently waiting for fifteen years for a live show. Don't let me down.

And also thank you! Because FINALLY!

Even Relient K came here and they NEVER TOUR CANADA.

David Gilmour and Rik Emmett need to come next and then my bucket list is done, unless Wolves at the Gate or Karnivool hit the road or unless Royal Tusk or Big Wreck come back.

I could go on for days but this is a big one and now I didn't freak out completely when I read they'll be announcing Canadian dates next week. No, I didn't. I may have run around the pool a few times and come back in breathless and sat at the table grinning stupidly. You just don't understand what the songs...eh, I'm sure Avenged Sevenfold fans everywhere are saying the exact same things, just in reverse.

(*hauls out angsty goth teenage wardrobe to check that it still fits.*)

Okay I'm ready. When's the show?

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Summer of '75 I didn't know any of these turkeys, Billy. And my name's not Brenda. It's Bridget.

The only prerequisite to coming to be a part of this Collective is, if you're male, is you have to be able to wear flannel easily, if not skillfully, you need to be able to grow a beard that looks good and doesn't make you look like you're part of the Witness Protection Program (Corey. um..) and you need to be able to sing the entirety of Billy Joel's best and most perfect album Stranger, including the dramatic bits in the middle of Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.

I feel like this is something Lochlan started and the rest of them were forced to catch on quick or be left behind, but then Jacob just showed up and knew all of it too and that sort of knocked us all on our asses but here's Caleb giving it a go this morning out of the blue and he's doing great.

We're polishing silver. I use my grandmother's silver every day and my mom's too. There's a lot of it since there's a lot of us. It's an all-day job. I get to pick the next album and I don't know how I'm going to follow this up.

I'm going to have to invoke Miss Saigon, I think. Yeah. May as well kill each other softly with showtunes and knives you can see your face in.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Do you know how long a drive it is?

You're a hard girl to find. 

Not really. I stand up and stagger backwards slightly, over a tangle of plants. Lochlan throws out a hand to steady me but I'm good, and now he's dirty too.

Snort.

I'm pulling the rest of the garden before it gives me any more bounty. As it stands now there are five huge bowls of green tomatoes in the house and every south-facing window on the main floor has a sill lined with more. It was four degrees overnight last night, I wasn't going to risk them, but between you and me, I'm sick to death of them. I'm eating nothing but sugar this winter, once these tomatoes have ripened and been dispensed with. I have roasted, fried, pureed, chopped, sliced, frozen and eaten them like candy for four months straight.

Next summer I have threatened to plant a sea of sunflowers. A whole ocean of yellow directly next to blue. Wouldn't it be lovely?

Yes. I think so too.

(Don't mind me, my grocery store doesn't sell pop-tarts, but there's a Wal-Mart in Port Coquitlam that seems to have about eighteen different flavours of them. Everytime someone is over there (because Long McQuade, a music store they like is nearby, nevermind that there are closer ones, they just like that particular one) I beg them to stop in and bring me all the pop-tarts and all the new-fangled flavour Oreos too. Apparently they get their stock from America, where all they seem to have are guns and sugar.)

So I have brown sugar cinnamon and chocolate frosting flavours but I promised myself I wouldn't touch them until all of the tomatoes are gone. I hid them well too so the boys won't find them and eat them first. I can't wait. Literally. They're practically calling my name.

I have bad news. 

What's wrong? 

PJ found your stash.

SERIOUSLY? FUCK.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Stage five, Sam.

Instead of cleaning up dinner or helping or wiping down the table even I was given a whiskey and sent out to the front porch last night. It's dark and still warm. An owl is trying to talk to me softly. There's no other sounds. So, so quiet. I hear the door close softly, so even the noise of the boys talking and washing pots and pans and loading the time machine inside doesn't reach me here. Not like it usually does, I hate to tell them but I appreciate the gesture all the same.

Oh. This is really nice.

I take a few minutes to myself.

Just a few, here in the dark. A toast to the ghosts. A glass to the past. A shot for the not. I don't shed any tears, though.

For once.

Why?

I have Cole's sweater, his memories, his friends and his stupid temper that lives on in his brother Caleb, who mellows as he gets old in an intense, passionate and sort of defeatist way, forced to conform to the rules of the Collective or be denied all that he wants. That familial passion is what keeps me from missing Cole.

I have Jacob's ring, his son and his best friends too. I have his memories. I have his faith and I have his future tucked in with my own. I feel like he'll be watching over me for the rest of my life and when the time comes I'll see him again. Maybe there's a heaven. Maybe. I hope there is. There's one right here in this house, that's for sure and if this is actually it then it's enough for me.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Perfect Sunday but with milk.

When I slid across the pew this morning Caleb was already there, greeting us with warm cheek kisses and coffees from a tray he had. Yes, even Lochlan got a kiss and a coffee. So did PJ which meant the murmuring and whispering behind us was louder than usual but I don't care because I could sit down for a solid hour and drink coffee and everyone is cohesive and in love and everything is beautiful.

Then I took a sip. It's a pumpkin spice latte. Which means it's fully half milk which I can't do so I asked him to hold it while I dug around in my purse for a lactose pill and he grinned and said he figured I would like a fall-themed flavoured coffee drink and I smiled and said I did and thank you even though I don't because dairy and I aren't friends and I think mashed-up grated leaves would be kinder to my stomach but I think he realized when I took the pill and washed it down and he said oh...ah okay. Lattes. Shit. 

And I winked and said that's what I'm trying to avoid.

Lochlan laughed. Scots can eat or drink anything and never have a problem. They're like Bens. Delicate Bridgets, not so much. I have trouble with dairy, and scents and fabrics and people that are scratchy. Drives me nuts. But the flavoured coffee was a really nice touch on a stormy fall day in an ice-cold church (SAM FIX THE HEAT PLEASE) and so was the kiss. And I heard not a word of the sermon. Not a word.

After church we came home. I'm making pancakes and bacon and more coffee now because Sam should be home in a quick minute. Caleb will be back over (he gets cleanup duty since he couldn't be here in time to help cook) and then we're going to have a movie day at home. It's Ben's turn to pick and since it's October I hope it's all horror.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

All this time I was haunting them.

(That's why Cole was screaming. Because I wouldn't leave him alone. That's why Jacob was so sad. Because I wouldn't let him go.)

This is my lobotomy.

I'm in jeans and Cole's grey sweater. Jacob's ring is heavy on my thumb. I found as much armour as I could carry on this cold fall morning with my fever raging hard. My docs are creaky and heavy. I wish I brought my red mittens. The hem of my long black dress hangs below the hem of the sweater and I stand back from the boys as they pack (emotional) explosives around the opening of the door. Everyone is talking at once. Including me as the panic builds with my fever pitch.

Should she go in and say a final goodby-

NO! 

Sorry, I just wond-

Hey, where did you get all these charges?

Schuyler knows a guy. 

And he just let you have all these explosives?

Don't ask questions, okay, honey? 

But I have so many!

How do you sleep at night?

She doesn't! 

That should do it. We ready? I'm going to check inside, and then we'll all go topside save for PJ and Jay. 

WAIT!!!

What's wrong. 

I want to see them. 

Bridge-

Just- the last time. Please!

No, Bridge. Lochlan's standing in front of the door. 

Please, Lochlan. 

He shakes his head. I'm sorry but the answer is no.

I stare at him, twisting my hands. I don't know if he understands what this means, if he wants to take the fall for this, if he wants to continue to be the bad guy. If he wants to be the one who kept me out. Inside my mind is screaming at him to hand it off. Give it away to someone else, anyone else but he's going to stand his ground, the way he's done with everything when it comes to me.

You said your goodbyes a long time ago. This isn't the Cole you loved. Jacob isn't good for you anymore. It's time.

This isn't for you to deci-

Yes, it is. So help me, Jesus, Bridget, I'll take the knocks and be the bad guy but I'm not going to put you near that thing again.

You don't want to be that guy. 

I have to. 

He's not the only guy taking responsibility for this. Caleb steps forward to stand beside Lochlan. I can almost see the relief wash over Lochlan as Caleb finally shoulders some of this relentless weight.

They aren't the only ones. Wait what? There's Sam, sleeves rolled up, righteous as ever, innocence ruined. He should have run from this years ago.

We're all taking it, Bridget. PJ looks so earnest, so serious. So grown up suddenly. Are we adults now? Finally?

Nods and low confirmations now and there's an army blocking me from haunting my ghosts.

What a vision this is. A small girl with a broken heart in the dark standing up to a wall of men with broken hearts guarding two ghosts with broken hearts who are about to be blown to their respective resting places forever. One to hell, because that's where he should have been all along, and one to heaven but I wasn't ready to let him go yet. Not just yet. So not ready for this.

My eyes center on Lochlan. Without his eyes leaving mine he gives the signal to PJ.

Padraig? Blow this fucking thing to kingdom come and we're never letting her build something like it ever again. 

And then he dove for me.

CLEAR.

Our ears will ring for days.

My heart will ring for the rest of my life.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Ghosts.

I'm home and I'm weak so they're going to seal the concrete room this weekend. May as well strike while she's down, or so they say. I don't know what they say, I only know that this decision was made while I was lollygagging around Brooklyn and Brighton Beach because they don't want to wait any longer. They want it done before we slide into Halloween, and I can't say I blame them. 

Should have stayed at the beach. This is going to be rough. At least it's dark and spooky and murky and rainy and miserable and we're all sick so that just adds to the ambience. Perfect.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

104 in the 604.

Caleb isn't very good at this. He called a restaurant and had them send over some soup but I didn't want it because I'm ten thousand degrees of lava stretched over my bones and so uncomfortable I don't know what to do. Matt is here because Sam is sick. Even Schuyler came home from work. Lochlan didn't get out of bed, Ben is babying him to the point where he may have forgotten about me. Lochlan hasn't but somehow thinks the devil, who doesn't actually have a nurturing bone in his body for anyone over twenty so far, can manage it.

Caleb has offered a shopping trip (no, what?), a cocktail (Jesus Christ) and a nap (okay, maybe) and now I'm sure he's gone off to look up the steps for buying health on the Internet. Price is no object, logic no obstacle.

I'm going to crawl home in a few minutes. At least being in my own bed will be better than trying to be upright, but people seem to get nervous when I don't write so here's my check-in. Maybe see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

This time the Big Banana won.

(I know New York City is called the Big Apple. It's been an inside joke forever.)

I came home a little under the weather, and may or may have not been on my knees in my seat when the plane landed, holding my whole head, looking for the locking mechanism, trying to find a way to take it off.

It would have hurt less than leaving it. My ears have been doing that thing where when I talk or open my jaw very wide it sounds like someone is crinkling plastic wrap inside my brain.

Congestion. 

Yes, I know what it's called. Like traffic. My head is rush hour. My nose is the freeway.

Where'd you get it from? 

Probably a door handle on 8th Avenue or at the Met. Maybe Otto brought it. Maybe the Flight attendant was sick. Maybe Ben is festeringly ill. Maybe, just maybe I'm a human girl and I carry germs everywhere I go and the minute I get run down they pop out and just take over. Maybe, just maybe, Lochlan, I got it from you. Maybe YOUR nose is the freeway. 

Listen, smartass. 

Well, it's a misquestion!

A misquestion? That's great.

I meant to say a dumb question but I want to be polite. 

You're beautiful. 

No I have Rednose the Rudolph rainy day. 

Yeah. You really do. I think your fever's making you a little delirious too. I think we got home just in time though. 

Why?

So I can make Caleb look after you. 

He doesn't know-

Oh, Bridget, I might not have a choice, I'm getting sick too. 

Monday, 25 September 2017

The grandest.

About an hour after Ben left this morning there was a knock at the door. I figured he got all the way to his meeting and forgot his phone. I didn't see it but then again with Ben it could be in the shower, under the bed, in the laundry that's already been picked up, on the floor of a cab he's already exited or in his pocket and he's still thinking he's forgotten it. I find his shirt from yesterday that didn't go out in the laundry (we're so organized when we travel), wrap it around me in what I hope is an avant-garde style and fling the door open, hoping eggs Benedict are on the other side.

No, it's a man in a suit. It's a man in a suit with a name tag. Just a first name. Otto. No hotel brand on the tag. Otto is holding a hotel key card and a set of car keys. He nods and says I must be Bridget, that he was sent by Mr. Benjamin (full name) as assistance for the remainder of our stay. As our personal butler. That if I wish I can call Mr. _____ first to confirm.

I squeal and slam the door in his face.

Then I yell to Lochlan, GUESS WHAT BEN GAVE US.

Lochlan looks quizzical. Breakfast?

NO. A BUTLER.

Lochlan has no idea how much I love butlers. I thought they came with the hotels here but apparently they are just personal assistants you hire and I'm spoiled fucking rotten and that explains all the times I spoke to the hotel trying to glowingly praise what I thought was their staff and they smiled tightly and let me ramble like a crazy woman.

Whatever. We have a butler.

WHO DRIVES.

Looks like my plans for two more days of naked eating in a hotel suite just came to a screeching halt. I open the door back up, hoping the shirt is doing my modesty justice.

Otto is smiling professionally. I'm sure he was warned about my...uh...enthusiasm.

Where would you like to go this morning, Miss?

Sunday, 24 September 2017

SMS.

The best part of traveling is not only the fact that I can eat my way across the globe, or that it cures my wanderlust to a huge degree, or that I get a little privacy, or even all the one-on-one time with Ben and Lochlan but it's also the funny little text messages from back home.

PJ: Can I have a cookie? Just one. I ate my vegetables.

Dalton: Dunk's wearing your underwear. Just thought you should know. He dances around like Buffalo Bill when you're not home.

Batman: Everything okay? (I rolled my eyes)

Ruth: Do I get paid for babysitting them? 

Henry: Can I have two cookies? I ate my vegetables.

Sam: You okay? Oxo (I did not roll my eyes)

Joel: 8 am: Don't forget your meds
        8 pm: Don't forget your meds
        8 pm: Don't forget your meds
        8 pm: Don't forget your meds
        8 am: Don't forget your meds
           (Ad nauseam)

Daniel: 568 Amsterdam is the pizza place. I think. Google it. SO GOOD

Caleb: Miss you baby girl x

PJ: We made an executive decision and ate the cookies.

Gage: Did the leaves change there yet?

Duncan: Don't believe a word they say I didn't dance xo

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Beautiful things.

When I opened my eyes the bleached wood of the boardwalk seared white against my pupils. I press my hands against my chest. I'm trying to keep every last tiny detail so that I have them later when I'm not here, when I need them but I'm not good at this.

Ben glides past me on a penny farthing made of my dreams, sealed in copper, tarnished with abandoned ideas. I'm surprised it runs.

This is great, Bridge. Why didn't you follow through? 

I wouldn't have met you, I remind him.

But this, he implores.

This is a fleeting fever dream, I teach him, not a life. I catch Lochlan's eye as he ignites his fingers, tracing the wheel further down the beach, tracing that dream he wanted so badly. His expression falls through a hole into the boardwalk and I run forward and look down. It's bottomless. I call his name.

He can't hear you, Lochlan tells me as he stands beside me, he's run away to join the circus. 

The Midway was a gateway, wasn't it?

It's all about the rush, baby. You can't throw fire on the Midway. 

Sure you can. Just not in front of-

The guests. We say it at the same time. We stand back up straight, stepping away from the hole and look at each other.

It wasn't a dream, Bridget. I would have stayed here forever with you. We would have starved to death but we would have been happy. It wasn't imaginary. It wasn't foolish. It wasn't fleeting. It was the life I chose for us but it wasn't the one that worked out. 

I'm sorry. 

Don't be. We have Ben. We have the kids. And the boys. And we can come here any time we want. His smile is generous and kind, and it didn't have to be either but it is and it's brighter than the boardwalk and stronger than my heartbeat and it will be the most vivid memory of today, by far.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Lochlan is strumming Ben's guitar, humming. He nudges me. Sing it. You know the words. 

You don't know the words?

No. 

You don't know the words to Hotel California.

No. 

Wow, Lochlan.

Why does that surprise you?

I thought that was like...some sort of pre-set. Like everyone just comes with the lyrics already in their heads.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Shame? I left that back home in my boyfriend's bed.

Caleb was all bluster, no fuss, affectionate to a fault and I was sent back intact, lovingly and sweetly, with apologies for his temper tantrum no less, as he struggles with his new role as formerly malevolent, now benevolent, once evil, now kind, used to be bad, now better-than-ever boyfriend. In order to keep his permissions and not wind up sanctioned, them be the rules and he has to stick to them.

So he talks dirty but then it washes off, which is good because he wouldn't have wanted to leave it badly and I'm glad he didn't leave it badly because I'm in New York.

Yes! The big Tomato.

Just when I give up on my wanderlust and doom myself to haunt the point forever someone charters a plane and ta-DA! Ben may have come back early because he was worried but he still has back-end meetings that he couldn't do from home and he didn't want to fly back to London so the compromise was New York.  Lochlan and I have tagged along to keep him company, which basically involves sending Ben a lot of nude photos of us from the hotel while he's in meetings.

Don't worry, I always crop out my head because no one's EVER going to be able to identify me by my tattoos. Right? RIGHT?

We're here until Tuesday. That's a lot of room service. That's a lot of nudes.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

He barely made it past the week and other dumb things that are probably none of anyone's business.

Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave. I've...seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to d-

BRIDGET! Come inside before you get soaked!

It's been pouring all night and I love it. It's freezing cold. It's the perfect night for Rutger Hauer's final monologue in Blade Runner and yes I fell asleep during my third screening of the movie but not for any of his scenes, the last of which is a masterpiece of acting and reminds me of someone.

He was amazing. I cried. I hated every other part of it though and I went from being kind of sort of vaguely excited to see Blade Runner 2048 to thinking I hope something else is showing so I can skip it and go down the hall to watch something drippy and sad. Maybe Ghost Story will finally hit the theatres here. Not like it has yet, I am still waiting.

(Nevermind. I just checked and it went up on iTunes YESTERDAY. YESSSSS.)

I reluctantly sweep my eyes around the deck for tiny origami animals or Daryl Hannah in the throes of whatever and head back inside. Caleb hands me a newly-filled glass of red wine and leads me back down the hall. It's so dark. He turns back and I almost don't see him, bumping lightly into his arm. He takes my glass and continues forward. It's like he forgot who was with him. Little Miss Clumsy.

Little Miss Sub.

Little Miss Guarding Her Soul With Everything She Has In Case Last Week Was A Trick.

He hands the glass back when we reach his doorway.

I'll show you things people wouldn't believe. He grins.

Pretty sure you have already. 

His face falls. It was a joke. I swung and missed.

Maybe we went too fast. Maybe you need to learn your lessons more slowly. 

Maybe you aren't allowed to play those games anymore. 

What if you want me to, Neamhchiontach? 

Then I'm supposed to talk it out. With one of my proper counselors.

August isn't here. And I don't think Sam really wants to hear those kinds of things. Especially not now that he's moved that much closer to you. So distracting. 

Claus on Skype. Joely. Lochlan if I have to.

You can't talk to them about this. We can just roll it back a little, just for old time's sake. Remember your words, Bridgie? 

Gingerbread. Wenceslas. Toboggan. (He very purposefully chose three-syllable words so there would be no mistake, and holiday words so that I would remember them at such a young age. And then he chose to very purposefully never ever hear them.)

Don't you miss it? Don't you miss having such an easy, specific plan, having it all spelled out for you so all you had to do was show up and follow my rules? 

Can the maker repair what he makes? I trace a raindrop down the window. I'm not going to answer him. I don't want to do this. He grabs my hair and wrenches my whole head back so I'm looking at him and I gasp at the familiar expression. I haven't seen it in ages.

If you don't stop quoting that fucking film I'll do more than just ignore your safe words, Bridget.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

End of the fire ban.

This is why I love fall. Rainy bonfires on the beach, boys in sweaters, my rainboots, hauled out of the very back of the front-hall closet and passing around a bottle of whiskey in the half light like back in the old times, except now it's a forty instead of a pint. Now someone walked in and picked it up off the shelf and paid for it instead of begging Caleb's good graces. Now I still only come up to their armpits or shoulders. Now we're still thick as thieves.

My flannel shirt and jeans isn't warm enough and Lochlan sends me back for a coat just as we reach the gate. I frown and stomp back across the driveway and then break into a run, up the stairs, catching my toes and landing on my hands and knees on the top step, then picking myself up and running through the kitchen and down the hall into the foyer and grabbing the first coat I see, which is John's green carhartt jacket which is far too big and heavy but that's okay too. I shrug into it, zip up the front and run back, grabbing the rail on the way down the steps this time.

Okay.

I run across the driveway and Lochlan laughs. Ready? Think you could have found a bigger coat? 

Nope. 

Off we go. Down the slippery steps. I get the rail and his hand. He gets my hand and his uncanny balance. We don't need to rush. They've always kept their promise over the years. They never start without me.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Everything you were ever afraid of.

We went to see It yesterday afternoon (thank you rainy day empty theatre, so empty I didn't have to book it), and as the world's biggest Stephen King fan I have to say,

I didn't...hate it.

It was actually pretty good, although the horror parts were not that good. Too campy, too silly, not scary, very weirdly done.

The children, however and their relationship to one another was masterfully done.

I think that's what I love about King stories. Half the horror is some real-world psychological dread but it's softened by some campy bullshit easy-horror, almost diluted to make it something you can swallow. So the campy rotting skeletons will probably kill and you and what a relief, hey, because at least now your fear of the dark/being alone/death/whatever won't.

(Now I patiently wait for Joyland, Doctor Sleep and Revival to be made into movies because I think they'd be fantastic. Much as The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon will forever be my favorite of all time I daresay it wouldn't make a good movie because so much of it takes place inside her head.

(which is EXACTLY why the movie of my life is going to flop someday too.)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Let me ramble, I'm actually typing in church so I can't edit.

This morning Sam stood up at the pulpit and told the congregation the parable of how he helped participate in the emancipation of an incarcerated soul. How he held that soul in his gaze, naked and unprotected, how he rushed to perform the rites of baptism the moment that beautiful soul was reunited with its rightful owner. How he vowed to protect that soul for the remainder of its time within one of the most precious living entities he has ever touched.

The tips of my ears were burning so so ferociously I had visions of Lochlan leaning over and lighting a cigarette off one of them, except that 1) we were in church and b) he doesn't smoke anymore.

I could see the expressions on people's faces as they wrestled with his words. Was it a metaphor, or perhaps a warning. Was it from the old testament, maybe, or maybe something from a book or from a dream and he was going to use to to talk about Jesus. Maybe he was going to use it to remind us to be virtuous in case our souls leave or get stolen. Maybe it's true and Sam's crazy. Maybe that girl he lives with gave her soul away.

(Hey, maybe it got taken by the Devil when she was a child as a warning. As a prize. As a punishment.)

Caleb sat up stick-straight during Sam's tale, expressionless, rigid. I wondered if he thought Sam would name names or call him out properly by his rightful name to fight the ultimate war but Sam went the other way, softening until he was mush, unable to continue, trailing off with a hand indicating the hymn number written on the chalkboard.

Sam does not have his shit together since this happened. Which is to be expected. When Jake found out Caleb actually had possession of my soul his reaction was much the same.

I imagine he'll be pleased now to know I'm one hundred percent physically intact.

I imagine he'll still be completely crushed to know that I'm still batting a good sixty, maybe only fifty percent tops emotionally.

Not like it matters. You can lead a girl to her soul but it won't fix much of anything.

Abruptly Caleb picks up my hand and kisses the back of it.

Okay maybe it fixes some things.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Hands-free.

I couldn't open the big double doors today, it was too cold. I did take my breakfast out front though, to eat in the morning sun while it hits the front porch. After that it's in shade for much of the day. Plus it was where my Lochlan was, replete with fresh coffee and an old guitar.

You eat? 

I nod in a lie and hold up my own cup. I can't manage walking, plates and cups. I'm not all that coordinated so I poured a coffee and came out. I'll leave the cup and go fetch a muffin later.

He approves of my lie and puts the guitar away. For the record, I didn't ask Ben how long he would need in order to ration his time, I asked because I was trying to give him time, but I also wanted time and didn't want to crash his reunion. He offered the two-hour mark. I didn't demand it. 

I nod. I don't think he needs the validation here in daylight but he seems to. Not like we could sort it out last night. The bed was kind of crowded, as Ben was already long asleep when we went up and Sam stuck around so late we didn't send him home at all and everyone (even the dog) slept in a little bit, just enough, on a cold sunny Saturday to take the edge off the week, to fade the bruises from some days with harder edges then necessary. Sam talked me back from the anger, Lochlan gave me a soft place to hide, and between the two of them I didn't end the day the way I spent it at least and I feel better.

Can I take my bride out for breakfast?

Yeah. That would be really nice. 

Get your bag, honey. I'll put the guitar away. 

How did you know I didn't eat? 

I know you. You can't walk five feet with a plate and a mug at the same time.

Friday, 15 September 2017

My uncle died this morning.

He was the only one I've ever had, to be technical, though my grandfathers' brothers were all uncles by default as per tradition until they all died but I was so young when that happened it didn't seem so final the way it does now and I've spent much of the day in a fog, vaguely teary but mostly angry as that's how grief is for me now. Why the fuck do we even bother with stupid shit like buying tires and weeding the garden when we're all just going to die. Why pay the power bill? Why take my vitamins?

It's all just going to end abruptly and without warning and then someone's going to have to make a round of phone calls and once everyone is duly notified you stop and take a breath.

Then your brain does that awful thing where it runs down everything you remember about that person, neatly packaging it up for you into a little compartment, labelling it with their name, and it puts it in a dark corner where you won't trip over it, and it says to you quietly,

There. We'll just leave this here for you. 

And you wonder how long it will be before you forget the sound of their voice, or what they look like. And your brain tries to interrupt all those destructive lines of thinking with comforts about heaven, that you'll see them again, that there's a reunion to look forward to, but you know better because first you get to spend another fifty or sixty years on earth (if you're lucky ooooh boy next person who says that to me better be getting a head start.) buying tires, taking vitamins, and coping with death.

Like a good girl.

I hate today. I hate the fact that I didn't see him over the past many years. I hate the fact that I can't be peaceful and comfortable with death instead of seething with quiet rage over it, as if I could conjure up enough anger and make it go away somehow, as if I could scare it off.

As if I could just make it wait, because I'm not ready for any more of it.

Not yet.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Boy logic.

What if we're all just sleeping satellites?
Why do we drift so far from home?
Why do we wake ourselves from paradise?
Where we will never be alone
The drugs are a volume knob and it'd be nice if someone turned it down a little, just so I could hear myself, just so the noise could die down just a little, just so my heart would stop crawling out of my chest (we need to watch that NO YOU NEED TO FIX IT HELP ME IT FEELS WEIRD), just so I could make it past morning hellos and actually make plans or do something other than sit and look out the window, forgetting to blink until my eyes fuse into shards of stingy glass.

I'm sitting in Ben's lap, as he holds his hands up against my own. He's a mirror, a mime. Every time I move mine, he moves his. His eyes smile at me along with the rest of his face. It's a group effort and I can't get enough. His eyebrows are half-circles, his eyes bright stars, his nose spreads out just enough to lead to the wide spread of his perfect mouth. He's been shaving every day and he always looks a little strange without a beard but it makes his eyes all the more intense. That's not a bad thing.

Lochlan tried to ration my time, Bee. 

Did you throw down to sort it out?

No, I let him give me a time and I agreed to it. 

I slide off his lap and fall on my face. Ben's logic sometimes leaves me speechless.

Come back, he pulls me upright.

I thought you weren't going to let him pull alpha. 

He is the alpha. And frankly he needs this. Needs to feel like he's in charge or what does he have?

I look around. Everything. 

Tell a man he can have his wife back when you feel like it and see if they feel that way. 

I'm not into girls.

Bridget-

I don't want him pulling that on you when you've been away forever. 

It's fine. 

Then why did you tattle on him?

So you would be aware, in case you weren't, of  just how much he loves you. I think as open as he tries to be deep down Lochlan is a little boy who doesn't want to share his ice cream. 

Don't say that. He loves you. 

Not the way he loves you. 

No. 

No. It's okay, Bridge. 

I know. I just...well...um...how much time do we have? 

A couple hours and then I asked him to come hang out with us.

Then why in the hell are we still talking? Take off your clothes.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Velcroamory.

I still have hope
Though it failed me so
And now I’m weak where I once was strong
Time’s moved on
All that was is gone
My stronghold is
I live to long
I would have woken up in a panic but in my dream I smelled airplane fuel and I knew before he lifted me up that he was really home.

Bumblebee. 

Tightly I went into Ben's arms with a kiss so that he would know that I was fine, that we were fine. I didn't see at the time and wouldn't until he let go that his other hand was cradled around Lochlan's head. Lochlan slept deeply and didn't wake up at first, didn't smell fuel, didn't notice a six-foot-four dark-haired man come in a week early off his trip because he didn't like what he read and didn't want to be away any more. Two weeks was enough. It was suppose to be three and a bit. I couldn't even talk about it.

My arms flew around his neck. I might not let go until Christmas.

So much has happened. 

I see that. 

I can't see anything. It's too dark. 

Leave it dark. I can see. 

You're a vampire. 

And you've got to let Loch sleep sometime, Bee. He needs it. 

How was your flight?

Too long. 

Did you come back alone? 

No. Everyone's back. Full complement army now, Bridge. Something you probably should have waited for. His eyes flash in the night as mine adjust. I hate to get right into it but I don't trust Caleb's motives for doing this now. It was one of the only cards he still held. 

He's getting old. That's all. He's trying to fix things because we want to do right by each other. Lochlan mutters it from his pillow. He puts a hand up and Ben grasps it tightly in his.

You trust him? 

I don't know. But I wasn't going to refuse the offer. 

Ben looks at me and I shrug.

No, I don't imagine you were. He stares into my face for so long I start wondering if it would be rude to break my return gaze and go back to sleep. I'm not good at being awake. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm just going to involuntarily close my eyes any second now if he doesn't offer a little more sleep-

Let's sleep for a bit. I'm wiped. I just wanted to get back. I wanted to be here with both of you. He throws his arms around both of us and crashes down hard onto the bed and we laugh and leave him in the middle without another word, crowding into close together. I'm pretty sure they were both asleep in seconds and I wasn't far behind. Best two hours of sleep I've had in a while.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Part II: Somewhere along the way it all got mixed up together.

I woke up free. I woke up with salt crusted on my hair, my eyelashes, and on Lochlan's beard. Our clothes were stiff and we smelled like the ocean. We had slept for ten or thirty hours. We slept until we no longer felt so tired. His hands are rough around my head and he wakes up when I try to move.

Hey. 

I sit up and realize Caleb is here too. He's dry and clean. But he's here.

***

When we burst back into daylight we went running across the yard. I did a cartwheel and then a backflip right off the cliff, starting off so gracefully in the night, so acrobatic before reverting to Bridget-rusted-chicken just as I caught sight of the edge. Doubt poked me, wondering out loud if maybe I wasn't fast enough, if maybe I hadn't kicked out far enough to clear the cliff successfully.

But I had, and I hit the cold water and I woke up alive. Complete. Lochlan surfaced, clutching me, Sam a second later, almost beside me, pushing me back under before I could catch my breath, drowning me in a quick baptism for my own good, shouting about the father, son and the holy whatever just as I started fighting him to breathe again.

Spirit. That's what I surfaced with.

And he laughed as he asked the boys if they would lift me up in prayer, supporting me as one of God's own.

They answered, shouting back in shivering unison and we were already swimming around to the beach.

(Sillies. I'm not God's. I'm theirs.)

When we touched solid ground Sam put his arms around me and said a prayer into my hair so fast I couldn't hear any of it. He put his thumb on my forehead and drew the shape of a cross and he smiled as if I had been saved.

Well, you have, he nodded and handed me over to Lochlan who honestly gets credit for all of this and may or may not have been twisting Caleb's arm so hard he's been squealing for months and Lochlan finally went past humane this week. Enough.

Enough.

No, this isn't going to be the status quo, yes, you're going to put it all back the way you found it. Jesus, this has gone on long enough. Let go already. Make her whole again. Leave her be. Let her come back. Undo all of the horrible things you did to her and help her already.

And we didn't think Caleb would agree to it. I didn't think he was afraid of Cole too. It makes me sad. I reach down and touch his face from where I sit. His eyes open.

Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you. 

I haven't been sleeping, just waiting. But he looks drained.

I'm sorry. But it wasn't his to keep. 

They're going to seal the door this afternoon, Neamhchiontach.

Who is?

Your army. 

Let them. 

If they do this Cole is gone forever. 

He's been gone since I left him, Diabhal. 

Caleb turns away from me, and then nods to the opposite wall. I give him his dignity. He doesn't deserve it but I'm gracious when I don't have to be and cruel when I feel like it, just like everybody else. He turns back, slams a gentle kiss against my salty forehead and tells me he'll see us in a bit.

And then he's gone, which is good because I need to think. I need to feel what it feels like to not have him fragmenting pieces of me, fracturing off my soul to keep like a prize after destroying my childhood in a way I never expected, taking my plans and my hopes and twisting them into something dark and strange and making everything different. I need time with Lochlan, apart from the endless attempts at sabotage, from within, from without.

Is this why everyone always says 'this is the first day of the rest of your life' after something very important happens? 

Yes. This is why, Peanut. Probably never truer than today for you. 

Do you think? 

I do. 

I would have thought that was the day after Jacob died (THWACK painfully still as my heart refuses to acknowledge that word and his name in the same sentence even after all these years).

That was heartbreak. This is healing. 

Is there a diff-

You tell me, Peanut. Tell me if you feel different and you'll see that you already have the answer.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Pause.

He gave her enough Ambien that she should sleep until Thanksgiving.

She's not asleep though.

How can you tell?

She's tense. 

But I am asleep. I'm drifting in and out. I'm reacquainting myself with my life, filling her in on everything she's missed. And then I fall asleep and lose my place and have to start all over again anyway but that's okay, it's not like she's paying attention anyway. She was always so easily distracted. By lights and colors. By stars. By the smiles of the boys. I don't know if I'm in any less trouble than I ever was but at least things will be easier to manage. 

Or so I was thinking but then another wave of sleep hit me and knocked me off my feet like high tide. I didn't get up until dinner tide and then I couldn't string two sentences together anyway so they topped me up and sent me back.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Part I: Purpose-built.

(They say I have the best imagination in the world.)

Enough liquid courage to not even feel that anymore, to feel nothing at all and he took the crowbar out from between his teeth and jammed it in between the door and the frame. It's a door that's been locked up tight for over thirty years and I don't know why we listened but we suddenly realized we don't have to listen, we never really did and so we don't even have to ask for a key.

Hold him back, I hiss over my shoulder. 

We've got him, they tell me. I hear struggling and then a thump and then silence. 

I look back into the dark. I can't see my hand in front of my face back there. 

It's fine, Bridge. They whisper. Let's get this done. 

He pushes forward on the bar and braces himself but then pauses and looks at me. You ready, Peanut? 

Am I ever. I nod. Or maybe I'm just shaking. Hell if I know. I motion with my hands. Do it. Yes. Come on. 

He pulls back with all of his weight. The door splits somewhere in the middle. The lock holds but the wood doesn't and the door comes apart at the joints. Inside it's blacker than the hallway behind me. A cold rush of air hits me full on. It weighs a ton. 

He holds out his hand. Let's go. 

I take his hand and follow him in. 

His left hand is lit up in flames. He holds it out in front of us but we walk so quickly we overtake the edge too many times to count, tripping over the light, finding a hard darkness. It's slowing us down. He stops for a moment and takes my right hand, kissing the tips of my fingers. 

Trust me? We need more light, Peanut. 

I nod and he ignites the tips of my fingers too. I hold up my right hand and now we're a two-headed flaming monster coming to eat the dark. We're invincible. 

The air gets colder and heavier still. Dead leaves begin to crunch beneath our feet and suddenly everything looks familiar. 

The hallway. 

It's just a different hallway leading down to the concrete room where it's always fall. It's always cold. The leaves are always dried and brown and the stones are always wet and slippery, treacherous and dark. 

And everything always ends at the same door. Everything always seems to begin here too.

Only Jake doesn't live here anymore. I didn't have the heart to leave him down here when they stopped letting me come down here. It isn't a real place but it's dangerous all the same. 

Oh my God. 

He's left it with Cole-

Figures. 

I turn the wheel but it's rusted shut from being closed so long. Lochlan throws his weight against it and finally it turns and the door swings open slowly, just enough for us to slip inside the room, one at a time. Lochlan starts to light up again and Cole lets out an unholy scream and then I do too. 

Put them out! He doesn't like the light!

Lochlan won't look at me though, he's only looking at Cole. Cole's wings are out. Defensive positioning. Full black wings now grown to a full fifteen or seventeen-foot span. A little daunting. He's always been a little daunting. A lot intense. Frightening in a way I don't even recall being to this degree.

But he's not looking at us. He's looking behind us.

I turn and there's Jake.

White wings out to counter. Good versus bad. Light versus dark. Heaven versus Hell. I look into Jacob's blue eyes and he smiles so wearily at me.

Get what you came here for, Princess, but hurry. 

I panic, because I don't even know what to look for.

But Lochlan's already halfway there, circling around Cole.

Bridget, come and look at this.


Cole is still raging at Jacob and isn't paying attention to us. Which is good. I can't stop shaking. I feel like Caleb sent us on some kind of wild goose chase for kicks. Go rile up the angels, he probably thought. Go let them tear you to pieces, he probably hoped.

Lochlan points to the wall. High up in a nook, carved into the jagged concrete surface sits a small wrought iron cage. It's only about a foot tall, maybe less, round with a tiny door on one side and a hook on the top.

There, he says.

There's nothing in there, I tell him, disappointed.

Watch it, he says, holding my shoulders, keeping me trained on it.

I watch.

Lochlan, I don't- And then I see it. The smallest displacement of air. Almost like there's an invisible bird in the cage and it just fluttered its wings.

He turns his face to stare at me. I've never seen a look like that.

I'll be back. 

He'll kill you! 

We have to get it. 

I have to get it. 

No way. 

It's the only way. Just stay here. 

He turns but there's Jake.

Jake smiles at me again and wraps me in his wings, walking directly behind me. Bulletproof. Cole-proof. At one point I felt like I was and now I am again. It makes me sad but I have a job to do. I reach the cage but I can't lift it. Jake can't touch it either and so I open the door of the cage, reaching both hands in. Instinctively I close them around the roiling fluttering bit of air I feel and a tiny soft feeling pushes against my hands as they close, like a bird. I press my hands against my chest and then the feeling goes right inside me and I feel warm. I feel like I'm going to cry. I feel like me again. I feel like I no longer have to make that odd distinction between twelve-year-old me and now-me ever since. I have her back. My soul. The one part of me Caleb has kept from me ever since that night up until now.

This is the reason I have this army. This is why I needed all this. Everything has been building up until this moment and now it is here.

I turn and look at them.

Did it work? PJ looks so tense he's a human land mine.

Of course it did, says Andrew. Look at her!

Duncan smiles.

Lochlan bursts into tears and Jake puts a hand on his shoulder. You all have to go now. He'll find out soon that his treasure his missing. He points at Cole, who has retreated to a high corner.

We hurry to get through the door again. Once in the hallway, we're met by Caleb, who is sombre and pale.

How is he? 

Angry. 

I just took the very last think he loved in this world. 

He's not a part of this world, I tell Caleb, and you shouldn't be either for this. 

That's why I returned your soul to you. It belongs to you so you should have it back.

You should have come to get it yourself. 

He won't let me near it, Bridget, I've tried. 

I just stare at it. He's probably right. And Jacob would never have helped anyone but me.

I hate to interrupt this, Sam says, but I need to get her baptized. The sooner, the better. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

On the piper paying me.

It's a gift. Don't open it now. Do it later, when you have a little quiet. 

The envelope is white, a simple laser-cut lace pattern gracing the flap on the back. The front is completely plain, save for my name, written in Caleb's loopy penmanship.

bridget

This is new.

I nod and he gives me a hurried kiss on the forehead and a shove inside the opened back door, home. I tuck the envelope into the pocket of my skirt and forget all about it, sending it through the washing machine this morning. And then the dryer too.

I bring it to him just after lunch today as it is a hard little paper egg and I can't get it apart so I guess we have to start over. I doubt it was cash, he usually just scribbles a line or so to check my account or not even, sometimes he just lists a reason, and I have to embark on a financial scavenger hunt to find the actual 'gift'.

This is my fault, I shouldn't have asked you to wait. Just a moment. I'll make up another. 

He disappears down the hall to his office. I follow.

Can't you just tell me what it says? 

Honestly, Neamhchiontach, this gift is one that involves a rather large amount of humility on my part and I would rather not be present for any of it. I'm trying to do things I should have done a long time ago.

I frown. What are you talking about? 

He takes a deep breath and lets it out. You'll understand shortly. Have Lochlan there when you open it, maybe. Yes. Make sure he's there and make sure he's with you when you go to collect. That part is very important. If he can't then you'll have to come back for me to go with you. Promise me. 

I promise-

Now go. Another envelope, another shove and I'm left in yesterday again.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

On paying the piper without first hearing a sound.

I'm busy trying to plan a birthday party for the upcoming cool rainy weekend, but the Devil won't let go of me. He has the air conditioner turned up high and the smoky sky makes everything dim under the skylights so his room is a cozy getaway, all dark grey sheets and dark wood panelled walls. It's not a big room, the only things in it are his king-sized bed, a single square nightstand with two large drawers with a huge glass lamp set on top and an entire wall that unfolds to reveal a closet. No walk-in closet, just a row of suits and technical gym gear and flannel and jeans. No ensuite, since the bathroom is directly across the hall. It's a simple, minimal but luxuriously-appointed executive guesthouse for an exceedingly complicated man. I don't know how he lives here so happily sometimes but he loves it.

Payback is going to be exquisite for Lochlan's private birthday party Saturday night. I just had to have a lot of technical help behind the scenes. I'm not exactly technical, and also asking for a lot of help while telling people they're not invited was tremendously tough and so I threw in a Jesus birthday brunch for this upcoming Sunday after church with every bell and whistle I could ring and blow to soften the slight and it worked a treat. It's going to a busier weekend than last weekend, in a completely different way and I'm excited but also in a completely different way. I've been plotting this for a while and I can't wait. 

I really have to go, I tell the skylight with its yellowy mustard-pines framed in the ceiling above. 

Caleb's arms tighten around me and his deep-sleepy and at least still somewhat-kindly voice says Not until I'm good and ready.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The day asked for payment in blood and instead I offered six quarts of fresh dill pickles and first semester's tuition. I offered the imaginary lunch I forgot to eat (shhhhh), smoky skies that make me almost happy to forget to breathe and when the day isn't looking I inch a little closer to night, and to the next day which brings a promise of clearer skies and cooler temperatures.

Summer has taken on all the characteristics of a stubbed-out cigarette butt at this point and I'm done. Bring on the endless rivers, the raindrops, the dim, the petrichor shoved so far up my nose there's moss mixed in with my hair. Bring on the Vancouver jokes, bring on the ark, bring on the rainforest proper, bring on the mountains eroding in tiny rivulets down into the glacier beds and beneath those the icy clear lakes. Bring back the blue and green beauty. Bring it back to life. For Gods sake, I can't wait to put on a sweater. I can't wait to be cold. I can't wait to wear my raincoat everywhere. I can't wait to need a blanket. I can't wait for my deoderant to work again. That alone would be nice because wow.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Being a grownup means you can save your birthday for the weekend.

Everything's happening at once today and I'm pretty sure a bunch of breathless Happy Birthdays tossed out at Lochlan after the bazillion degree heat of yet another sleepless night into another smoky morning on the surface of Mars means we'll reschedule when things are less hectic.

And we will.

But it's still his birthday.

It's also the first day of school.

And it's really really freaking hot.

Raincheck to be issued this evening, blank date inside.

(Also OH OH OH American Horror Story: Cult starts tonight. Don't disappoint me, fuckers.)

Monday, 4 September 2017

Stones for miles.

It is the calm between birthday storms and I need...a Red Bull? Another espresso? Maybe a bump or five snorted off the back of my han-

KIDDING.

For fucks sakes, I'm kidding. I wasn't a smart eighteen-year-old, teetering my way through many a Vegas trip high on more than just my stilettos and it was the only time I had the energy to stay up late or not feel tired.

Ruth has a chance to do so much better. To be so much better, as Caleb to her is a second-generation Sugar Daddy and absolutely nothing more than that ever.

She starts university tomorrow. Someone please roll things back. I don't think I was ever actually ready when she walked out the door for her first day of Grade two after we ended the grand homeschooling experiment. And I'm definitely not ready now.