Saturday, 22 April 2017

Am busy! Lying in bed watching the Relient K live show on Instagram. It's so good!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Catching my death right here.

Before anyone else loses their shit emailing me pointing out what a hypocrite Lochlan can be for raising me the way he did and now demanding I be 'normal' save your words. He's frustrated. I don't take him seriously. Sometimes life is surprising easy for us and sometimes it's uphill both ways. We'll get through it one way or another. He wouldn't wish for me to be normal ever, trust me. There is no fun in that.

***

It's twenty-two degrees in the shade, slowly pulling weeds in the garden with Ben left me an uncharacteristically warm, sweaty princess (due to the large hat/shirt/scarf I need to shield my delicate and highly allergic skin from the sun. I'm a slow learner so this year the protective clothing will be put on at the beginning, AKA now) and the pool is still empty because we won't fill it until we can go in it regularly.

So ha. This expensive land stuck out over the sea here presented a habitual, comical opportunity as Ben said he could cool me down quick and so he picked me up and just chucked me off the cliff.

And he was right. The water was freezing and my teeth have been chattering since. He came in right behind me and then Sam and PJ came running and jumped (wasting a perfectly good opportunity to throw each other, mind you) and Dalton strolled out to see what was up from the screaming but declined to be thrown or to jump.

Lochlan met us at the end of the beach with big warm towels and some choice swear words for Ben. Apparently it's very bad form to throw someone with Bronchial Pneumonia into the Pacific in April just because it's 'sorta' warm out.

Ben looked at me. How do you feel, Bridge?

G-g-g-g-good-d-d. 

See? She's fine. You worry too much, he tells Lochlan.

I mean he does, but still. I might never be warm again.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Woke preachers, absent devils.

Come with me. A little getaway before your birthday. 

Now really isn't a good time. I can't fly anyway with this stupid illness. 

Caleb is stubborn but in the end he took off alone, to Tahoe to see if his house survived the winter and see if anything needs to be done. He wants to turn it into a summer retreat, a getaway for all of us and when we're not there he'll be renting it out. Which always seemed risky to me so to protect his investment it comes with a staff of two and a weekly minimum upwards of a low five figures. That will weed out anyone who wants to disrespect the roof over their own heads. But he is still cautious and not convinced that its worth the risk (me neither, frankly) and so he wants to have a look around and also probably smartly have a change of scenery from Point Perdition, which can be oppressive, suffocating and almost painful.

Besides. I'm in good hands. Sam finally woke up. For real this time! Which seems odd but maybe if Jacob had gotten more sleep he would have been able to handle things better. Pot Kettle Black. It's not like they all don't say the same about me. Sam just smiled when he appeared for breakfast, to much applause, until Duncan said we should leave him alone, that babies need their sleep and everyone laughed and that was that.

I only sleep like that when I'm tranquilized to within an inch of my life.

(I only sleep like that when I'm dead, I think.)

I said goodbye to Caleb at the car that he called to take him to the airport and he said he would call when he landed. He looked so disappointed I didn't almost change my mind but I thought about sending John with him, just for company. Then I didn't. Caleb is a loner. Always has been. He'll be fine. I almost think he has introvert tendencies like me and needs a lot of daily silence to recharge because there are so many people living here but then I remember that's not quite right. That he would love to live in the main house and be a bigger part of the group. That won't ever happen.

So Sam is ready to talk my face off for the next three days and Lochlan's fine with that because he thinks I need a refresher on common accepted behavior as if I'm a normie or someone who's lost their way when in reality I know exactly where I'm going.

To the theatre to watch horror movies and take Jesus' name in vain every freaking time there's a jump scare. That's where.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Never mean but never satisfied, either.

On my back, three in the morning. Lochlan has one hand around my neck and the other behind my back, holding my hands. He gets all fierce and in my face and then collapses his weight onto me.

I can't do this. This is fucked up. 

He sits me up and lets go. Then he pulls me in by the neck again, but this time to cuddle. Whatever lingering want I have will have to be taken out on Ben later. That's okay too.

I could have told you that.

How do I make it so you never need Caleb again? 

I told you! A lobotomy. It's the only surefire way. 

Or I could kill him. Call it a crime of passion. I'd probably be out in time to retire, at worst. If they even put me jail knowing the history here. 

Do you want to take that chance? 

Of course not. Except for most days when I do. 

Lochlan-

I'm kidding. Okay, sort of kidding. Okay, not kidding. 

I can't even do this with you right now. 

Then don't. Let's run away. 

And join the circus? I think I've heard this one before. 

He tucks my hair behind my ear. And we were so happy. Happier than we've ever been. 

You'll have to go without me and I'll catch up to you when the kids are grown. 

I wouldn't leave you again. 

Then take this horrible, terrible life and live with it! I motion around the room at the eight-hundred thread count weightless Egyptian duvet. The ocean view. The fireplace. The everything. The difference between our shitty little broken-down burned out camper and the endless fear and relentless hunger and this. 

We sold out, Peanut. 

We had no choice. This is the only way we could have survived. And I wouldn't do anything different if I could go back. 

I sure would. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Off the cliff and on to a mental trampoline.

Lochlan's patience is sometimes so thin I can hold it up to the light, seeing right through it. Other times it's an impenetrable force, a tank, a wall. An endless test. Today it's half and half, see-through in spots and thick in others. 

I mention I need to fetch my sweater. I left it at Caleb's. 

We'll get it later (which is code for 'You're not going back over there alone any time soon'). 

It's my favorite. 

He frowns at me. Fine. I'll get it. Be right back. 

He's disappeared out the door, across the driveway and up the steps before I realize what a stupid idea it is to let him go over alone and I chase after him only to be caught by Duncan, who is coming up the steps and feels like jumping right into whatever's going on. 

Bridget! Are you tied up with anything right now? I'm looking for a captive audience to try that new Mexican place. 

Is that a pun? 

Should it be? I don't know what you're taco 'nabout. 

Oh my God. Not that part. The tied-up and captive part.

Do tell. 

Tell what? Here comes Sam. Fresh off two whole days and nights of sleep. I'm so jealous of him I don't even like him anymore. He looks rested and reborn and there's not a line on his face. 

Nothing. 

Duncan bursts out laughing. Caleb's tying her up again-

HUSH, you. 

Bridget- Sam's frowning so big I wonder if I've ruined his face with his disappointment in me. They'll say 'He used to be so cute but then she let him down and his face just...well it's stuck like that now.' 

It's not a big deal and it's no one's business. 

Then why did you need to write it out? Duncan's still amused. Oh my God.

So I could deal with it. 

Which part of it? Rested Baby Preacher is sharp as a knife and ready to dive right in to my twisted brain.

The part where he isn't supposed to hurt me and we're supposed to be healthy but frankly I don't like him any way but the way I'm used to and that's wrong.

Wow. Good job. Usually it would take me a week to get you to say that out loud. 

Huh. Guess I'm cured. 

You? Never. You're just varying degrees of fucked-up. Duncan swats my ass as I resume my attempts to follow Lochlan to the boathouse to prevent the inevitable physical fight. 

But when I look up, Lochlan's coming back across the driveway, with my sweater in one hand. He looks content. Is that even a thing? He comes in to the kitchen and hands me the sweater. Sam and Duncan disappear. Wow. Just like that.

Just got a little blood on it. That will come out with some cold water. Just two spots I think. Here and here. He points and I see his hand is also slightly bloodied. Not much, just a little. 

Damage report. Fuck. I hate this. 

His nose just started bleeding. I helped him have a seat and told him if he'd stop fucking around and keep his promises he wouldn't be cursed like that. 

That's a new one. 

Have to keep it creative, since we're going through the same shit week after week here. If he can't keep his shit together, Bridget, I swear-

It's not his fault, it's mine. 

Right. Anyway. No more. He can have a break and when he remembers how to be nice we'll talk. 

I'm the one who's not nice. 

I'll look after your needs. 

What if I-

I told you. I'll look after it. 

You can't. 

Our eyes meet. He looks tired.

Try me. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

(Everything I lack in style's made up in how I feel.)

I need us undivided, I want this thing to stop
I've had the training to be overwhelmed but I'm not
Empty soul of hate but this isn't my war
Couldn't tell you how it started or where it is fought
This song was running through my head as I woke up, tried to move and couldn't. He didn't loosen the velvet ties before falling asleep and so I spent the night facedown and sideways against his chest, knees pulled up, hands behind my back. Fuck. I say his name and he startles awake.

You need to undo this.

Oh, Jesus Christ. I'm sorry. He scrambles to sit up and turns me away, pulling the bow, setting me free into a world of muscle pain. I cough and bring my hands up to my face, and my arms burn and ache from such a long time. I sit up and he rubs my arms gently but that hurts too. My eyes water and he presses his lips against my forehead.

I'm so sorry, he whispers. Let's get you into a hot shower.

I nod and he finally lets go, standing up. He bends back down and lifts me up to standing. I pull my arms in close and cringe, biting my tongue. My eyes threaten to spill over. Jesus, indeed. Even in our darkest moments he's never forgotten to let me go and I wonder fleetingly if he left me like that on purpose.

He gets right down in my face, reading my mind. I didn't do it deliberately. I knew you would stay.

I nod and he uses his thumbs to wipe the tears from my cheeks. We good? He asks and I nod again but say nothing. The pain is keeping me mute.

Once under the shower he cranks the heat and we stand there while he rubs my arms and shoulders with shower oil. It feels really good but now they just feel bruised and worn.

How are you feeling besides that? He's still right down in my face, eyes focused. It never takes Caleb an hour to construct a logical thought or get his eyes open all the way in the mornings. He's a machine. A machine who's in his mid-fifties now and managed to leave me tied up when he unexpectedly fell asleep.

But I did too, and I didn't think it was possible to fall asleep while in a precarious pose but apparently it is, because I did. We did.

I feel a little better today. 

I watch as he takes the credit and files it away somewhere under the guise doing this for me. Then I blink and he's washing my hair for me.

He's slow and gentle and even uses conditioner after. Then he rinses me down, proclaims me ready for prime time and leads me into the bedroom for my clothes. He dresses me and then I'm steered into the kitchen to sit on a chair at the island while he makes coffee and cheese toast. I lift my arms and they weigh a hundred pounds each. I lean forward and rest my head on the counter.

He turns. Bridget. I think you need to go back to bed. 

I will when I get home.

It'd be easier to stay here. If you go home now Lochlan's going to pressure-wash you, give you a conversational third degree burn, blame it all on you and then assure you it's not your fault. Then he'll give in and offer to take you for breakfast to make it up to you. It will be two this afternoon before you can escape for a nap. Eat a piece of toast and go back to bed. I'll see that you're awake by noon. You need this. Badly. 

(Who needs what again?)

We stare at each other. He's right but I also know what happens if I stay. If I stay he gets more. He gets me under his skin. He gets attached and territorial and he gets to be in control. Give the Devil an inch and he takes everything as far as the eye can see. Give him a moment and he spins it into decades. Give him any hint of encouragement and all of the hard work of being independent of him vanish in one beat of my heart.

Okay.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Jesus Easter surprise.

Sunrise and I haven't seen a bunny, a bicycle or a hint that spring is here.

Huh. 

Have to deal with that later. We're late for church.

***

The Unitarian faith is like the unicorn of modern religions to me. It is made up of a perfect blend of scripture and deep reverence which is then wound around a parable of myths, legends, ideas and basic common sense. It's sometimes insane and sometimes so fucking normal and boring you forget what you're listening to and fall asleep while listening to the sermon. Especially if it's crowded, warm and long on words in church on this, the most formal and important of church days, holidays and commercial excess. The twice a year crowd, now doubled in size.

Ben sat beside me and ate an entire bunny, quite slowly, while Sam went about trying to tie the resurrection (which is a story to teach us about living a good life and not an actual thing) to the chocolate (which lets us live a good life and is an actual thing and that's bad but not in moderation). Ben didn't unwrap the foil from the bunny first and Sam gave up early on and stopped looking at Ben for fear he might crack up. Caleb gave Ben the sternest look around and Ben held out the bunny, eyebrows up, as in Want some? 

Because moderation, right?

Then he took it back and resumed eating it while everyone watched him. It didn't take Sam's thunder, though, for it was only our row and the row behind us that were interested. 

I didn't cough at all. Lochlan gave me a huge swig of whiskey in the truck right before we went in and that worked really well. I just sat there and burned and enjoyed the unicorns and filled the collection plates with tiny wrapped chocolate eggs until people started getting annoyed that their envelopes were sliding off the top and Sam finally sent out a basket to empty the plates which he should know better to do anyway. Then he started to send the basket back around with just foil-wrapped chocolate eggs to give out and I think I'm known as the Candy Lady to everyone under sixteen at church now. Fine by me except for the terrible looks from some of the women who seem as if they are concerned that our communal lifestyle for all of its raging sinfulness might rub out their piousness via proximity. 

In any event, Jesus is back, the chocolate is flowing freely, I can almost breathe again, I'm drunk before lunch, everyone's getting along great and I'm getting really excited for Sam's mini-vacation, which always comes after a long church season and he needs it because he's been pulling double-duty, stealing memories all the while steering his flock around living in this golden age of balance and renewal. He's earned a break.

I turned around to pass the basket of eggs to the next row (I had to sit on the end due to our lateness and space constraints today. Fuck all you twice a year churchgoers) and sitting directly behind me was Batman, wearing the giant bunny head, in his tux, waving his head and hands slowly at me. I screamed, dropping the basket, and eggs rolled all over the floor.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Still sick, OMFG.

Oof. I tried once again to have a normal, everyday-day with Ben. We dropped Ruth off at her job, went for brunch, hit the hardware store and then the record store and I faded like a moonlight flower probably before I had finished my coffee, to be honest. I daresay I don't know how much I'll be able to participate in the Easter festivities tomorrow but hopefully there will be enough chocolate and Jesus thrown about that no one will notice.

Edit: They summoned the doctor back. Steroid inhalers! Bronchial pneumonia! FUCK. Not feeling better. AT ALL.

Friday, 14 April 2017

It's Good Friday and I had my cookie.

It was overly sweet. Kind of ridiculously sweet but still good in a way. I tried to pawn off the second half of it but got no takers due to my germs and then finished it with no plans to have another any time soon.

We went to church this morning, dutifully freezing in our spring finest. On Sunday this year the bunny head will be worn by Batman except he has opted for a bicycle over the rollerblades because as he said, he feels old, and so I tied the basket to the front of my bike for him and it's ready to roll.

(I don't actually ride the bike, if you're wondering. Some of the boys have road bikes but bicycles don't make me happy. I'll ride the unicycle any day any time but that tends to look bizarre on long trips and is only actually fun if you're juggling at the same time. Yes, I can juggle four or five objects and ride a unicycle at the same time but put me on a regular bicycle with both hands on the handlebars and I'll be ass over teakettle on the pavement inside of three minutes flat.

Not if you had a paying audience, I'd bet. 

That's a bet I won't take Lochlan up on. Not now, not ever. Give me a motorcycle any day. Or I mean, riding bitch, since no one will let me drive a motorcycle either.

Sam's sermon was all about the inherent victory of life over death. I half-listened, half horrified and half tired. I tried not to cough. I blew my nose once and ended up excusing myself to finish draining what seemed to be my entire head and all of my brains, and Ben kissed my forehead when I came back and said quietly that we should have stayed home. Sam clued in and actually cut the service slightly short and I love him for it and we were home and ordering pizzas within the hour.

Then we went out and did yardwork after lunch and now I get the life after death part, raking away dead leaves and dried branches to find shoots and tiny signs of life everywhere. I came in and organized my seeds for planting in a few weeks and I feel excited by the garden, excited to grow our own food, as we just ran out of pickles and are down to a handful of jars. I think one pickled green beans and some spaghetti sauce. And one bag of cherries that I plan to turn into tarts just as soon as I'm not contagious. I took it slow, in any case, as I have no energy yet but it was nice to be out in the sun and the wind getting dirty, finding hope with every turn of the soil, seeing God in all of the signs of spring around me and marvelling at the fact that I cured a massive chocolate-chip cookie habit with one successful round of lent.

Surprise, Motherfucker, I thought to myself, and in response, I laughed.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Glow in the dark Preachers.

You never said a damn thing
You never shot a warning across the bow
No, you just chose to let me run the ship aground
Three-forty-five and I wake up coughing quietly. It only hurts a little when I cough now, that or I'm so medicated I don't notice or care how much it hurts now. The Devil is gone from his watch and Lochlan sleeps with one arm thrown back across me like a conscientious afterthought. He's out hard. The light is hurting my eyes and I open them to squint at Jacob sitting on the edge of the bed. He has one hand on my forehead and the other is in a tight fist against his chest, as if it hurts his heart to touch me. He should watch as I die every time he touches me. Talk about pain.

You need to see a doctor, he says, smoothing my bangs back.

I did. It's probably pneumonia but not bacterial.

Why?

I'm coughing up clear.

I see. There has to be something else they can do for you though.

This is life, Jake. Things hurt. You live anyway. You become tough. You get through it.

You're too fragile. This is hard on you.

I laugh out loud. I sound like a strangling horse. Then I start coughing harder and Lochlan turns over and throws his right arm around around me, patting me in his sleep. His lips touch the back of my neck and then he relaxes again. If I could sleep like he does I'd never have any complaints about anything ever again.

This is not hard on me. I have a fucking cold. You want to know what's hard on me? You gaslighting me half to death and then just checking out in the end. That's hard on me. I hope guilt is the one emotion that remains in heaven for you to savour, frankly. 

I can't get to heaven because of it. That's why I'm still here. I'm glad you're angry. 

I'm frustrated because you woke me up when I need sleep now more than ever to harp on whether or not they're doing enough to keep me well. It smacks so hard, Jakey. It just smacks. 

I miss you, Princess. 

Don't you fucking do this now. 

I wish I had stayed. 

Just fucking GO! 

I yelled it and Lochlan flies out of bed, buck naked, red hair wild, half-awake. WHAT IS IT? THE FUCK! He turns and lunges at the door, which is closed and locked and puts his hand toward the bed as if he is protecting me. It's the most beautiful thing.

I had a nightmare. Jake was here and he said I was too sick to be cared for by you so I told him to leave. 

Lochlan turns, his whole face softening and he crawls back into bed, pulling the quilts up around us, pulling me in tight against his chest, kissing my forehead, now burning again and he sighs. He's not dangerous. I don't think you need to yell at him. That's how your brain deals with things while you sleep. It pulls stuff out, holds it up to the light and then decides where to file it. Looks like you need a new visit from the memory thief. 

I need a visit from the lobotomy-giver. Also you protecting me was very sweet. 

I didn't know what the fuck was going on, Bridget. I figured Caleb had come back to try and drag you off like the fucken caveman that he is. 

I laughed and coughed some more.

No. He wouldn't dare criticize your care of me at this point in his life. He's got it good. 

We all do, Bridget. 

Yup. 

Except Jacob. He doesn't have it so-

Please don't. 

Sorry. It's tough not to be a little smug sometimes when I know I set you free and you came back to me. I feel like I won the lottery. 

Ha. You won a very faulty little sputtery human. Congrats? 

Thank you. I'm blessed. Jake on the other hand, well-

No. Don't. Just go back to sleep with me. 

I love you, Peanut. 

I love you, Locket.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Barely alive and stricken with extreme melodrama.

Didn't even wash my hair today, the earrings have been abandoned on the bedside table where Lochlan left them after he took them off me. I've got the white hand of Saruman on my face today, a tiny deaf Uruk-hai and I growl at everyone who comes near (says Ben, who makes me laugh and then his face falls when I start coughing again).

Blame Jake as he came to me in my dreams, last night, taking my temperature, his huge hand on my forehead for a rest and then asked me why I hadn't read the letters yet, that he's glad Sam rescued them from the fire, that he's happy the words he meant for me to see will be seen after all.

But will they? I don't know if they will and it will take more than a delirious fever dream to get me to read them. My curiosity has been stifled like everything else right now as I focus on getting better. I think it's pneumonia. So does the young Russian doctor but I waved him away when he suggested chest x-rays. Fool me twice, those don't resolve a thing. Eventually I'll get better. I discovered Dayquil is kind of like amphetamines in that you feel so awfully bad but you don't care and you go get everything done that needs to be done anyway.

I did it and then crashed and found out Dayquil has a stupid four-hour effective period and declined to take any more. The rebound headaches are crowding in on top of everything and I've resorted to hiding behind PJ for the duration. I've cried twice today just randomly. Wait, no, once was when PJ said I smelled bad. I don't. Well, maybe I do. I don't care.

Lochlan gave up on trying to get me to stay in bed and yet that's the only place I want to be. I'm just so sick of the four walls of every room and no amount of visiting sympathizers has changed that, be they ghosts or real live men.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Told you so.

Did I catch you in the middle of getting ready?

No, this is the outfit for the day. 

But..the earrings?

I've had them on for three days. Don't worry about it. I hold the door open and Joel comes in. We're celebrating the Leafs making the playoffs for the first time in four years. He brought flowers and hopefully a catered lunch. I am quarantined, confined to the house and not allowed to even venture into the driveway and that's how the Devil ended up here the other night and I've gone shack wacky since. I get bad cases of cabin fever along with everything else, I guess. Not fun but I'll get better faster if I listen instead of talking.

As always.

I showered, dried my hair and put on clean pajamas but the earrings have indeed persisted. They're smallish hoops though. White gold with diamonds set all the way around. They make me feel fancy so they stay. They match one of my rings. Works for me.

I take a sip of juice. I'm at the point where if I cough it's going to be all over. It hurts so badly to cough. I'm just trying to drink lots and not notice their version of choreage is not nearly done to the exacting standards and military precision as mine so let's go back to talking about diamond earrings and pajamas.

And Joel.

Why are you really here? I ask him. He smiles and tucks his chin down into his collar in amusement. God. Stupidly adorable and so. much. trouble. all the time. I swear Jake just packed his life with beautiful, fallible people for me to ruin. Himself and me included.

I'm not beautiful though. Not today. My nose is raw and red.

The letters, Bridget. From Jacob. I-

I haven't touched them yet. 

You're generally curious to a fault. You must really be sick. 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Waking up different.

The change in the weather heralded a change in Sam's mind as he handed me a short stack of envelopes this morning.

Since you're sick-

Are there drugs in here? I start rifling through them and one falls out. Instinctively I grab it before it can flutter far and see Jacob's handwriting. My eyes snap to Sam's face.

I didn't burn them, Bridget. I just wanted you to have a break from him. We all did. I've gone through them and this batch is a safe read for you. If you want to. 

(If I want to. Safe for me. Is the sky blue? Wait. It isn't. It's kind of grey- Shut up, Bridget. Just shut the fuck up and read them already.)

***

Before he left the room this morning Lochlan lit some white sage and some patchouli incense so that I would have a peaceful wakeup. The ceiling fan is on and all the windows are open. Tonight is the pink moon. One of my favorites of the year.

I step into a hot shower and he's left a bottle of baby vapor bath in the shower for me. My cold rages on. I can hardly breathe but it's a rite of spring. Or maybe of passage. Or maybe both.

I pile my rings back on as I dry my hair quickly, pinning my bangs to one side so they don't cover my eyes. He'd like to cut them but I might grow them out. The pin is sterling, an antique I found in a shop somewhere far from here. It doesn't flex like the cheaper ones, necessitating a purge every few months as my hair is so heavy and the pins are no match for it. This one always works. Also a favorite. A good luck charm.

I pull on my black tights and a long-sleeved black thermal t-shirt. Then a knee-length knit black pencil skirt and tall black button boots. A short-sleeved black shirt and a black velvet choker completes my mood. I sit at the edge of the couch, grabbing a button hook to get to work. These boots will stay on until after dinner and then I will be Bridget-sized again. Three inches makes me feel ten feet tall, though, and it's always the feeling that matters, so much more than the look.

From the bed I hear a change in breathing and the Devil opens his eyes.

You look beautiful, Neamhchiontach.

I smile and leave him there. Might be a first. Might not be a last. We'll see.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

My little Toronto Maple Leafs quietly snagged a playoff spot last night. The Canucks didn't. The house is divided. I won all the long-shot bets there were to be made. Pay up, boys.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Hello Tempest.

Fight over the clouds, over wind, over sky
Fight over life, over blood, over prayer
Overhead and light
Fight over love, over sun, over another
Fight for each other, for the ones who are rising

Angels on the sideline again
Benched along with patience and reason
Angels on the sideline again
Wondering when this tug of war will end
Ben didn't care that I was sick. He came upstairs, pulled me into his lap in the dark from where I slept hard and gurgly-congested and put his arms around me. Pajamas were sent to the floor amid quiet protests. Headphones were put on my head, his music player tossed to the side and then I was unceremoniously dumped facedown where I remained for the next few hours while he held one hand around my face, over my mouth and kept the other wrapped around my lower abdomen to pull me up off the bed and against him, over and over. It was harsh and beautiful and loving too, with music pounding through my feverish skull and then finally, at long last he turned me back over, ripped the headphones off my head and brought us back up to a sitting position, with one hand around the back of my neck and the other cupping me against him and he made sure we both hit heaven at the same time in dead dark silence, my arms wrapped so hard around his neck that by the time he let go I realized I was holding him and holding myself too. He dropped me back down onto the bed and tucked me in against his chest and I slept like a baby. Until an hour later when he woke up and wanted to repeat the night in daylight.

It's okay though. After I was full of Ben he filled the top half of me with coffee so I'm good. I'm good. God I hurt.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Four paragraphs of sweet fuck all.

It's Friday afternoon and I'm letting a playlist entitled 'Sappy' play through five times or seven, I don't know. I lost count. I think I've slogged through the new Phish, Pallbearer, Demon Hunter and Jamiroquai albums enough to be released to old familiars. Right now Triumph's Lay it On the Line is on again. I have a soft squishy spot inside my head for eighties ballads, an absolute blackened hole in my brain where I keep my favourite seventies ballads and zero time at all for anything from the nineties, frankly. All of this is stuffed into a metal shell, a tough alloy overlay I'm probably allergic to but will withstand nonetheless because a daily diet of teeth-rattling hardcore LOUD is better than everything else combined.

Sweet and hard. That's where it's at.

Just in the nick of time I think I have soothed all the hearts on the point to a dull contentment, I've got Asher keeping Batman organized to a fault, New Jake has his bike and has been good about keeping in touch every few days, Caleb went away with his tail between his legs and hasn't been back, surprisingly, so Lochlan is super happy today, Ben is still sober, PJ is still mad at me for spending too long too close a morning with Teflon Jesus (that Lochlan didn't care about one bit) and Sam warned me that I'm now in my final week of Lent, that Holy Thursday is less than a week away and I can have a cookie. Soon.

Except I don't want a cookie anymore.

I think I'm cured. Well, for now until I'm hungry again and then we'll see but really I don't care. I'm trying to transition back to coffee as a snack or a meal or pretty much a standby because my throat hurts so bad right now. We went to run errands earlier (my driver's license is about to expire so YAY. Photos that suck because if I'm not smiling I look like I'm going to cry. Also shoulder length hair booooo and now I'm stuck with that new photo for the next five years fuck.) and we ran out of a few crucial groceries which wasn't good and I don't feel good enough to improvise. Every time I sneeze a glob of something lands on my hands (because I sneeze like a little kid, both hands up covering my whole face. Thank God for that.) and Dalton is now sneezing a fair bit and Oh fuck. I'm going to make the whole house sick but it's inevitable. I either get sick first or I'm stubborn and I get sick a week after everyone else is getting better.

Ben is sort of sick too. Not in that fun way, I mean actually sick. He's been sleeping a lot and coughing a lot. When I woke up this morning I croaked good morning and he laughed like a big scary donkey and I laughed like a donkey being squeezed and then Lochlan woke up and just laughed like a normal freak and now I have to sing all day along with these sappy songs because my voice sounds so weird. PJ keeps telling me to rest my voice, as if I'm saving it for some big show, but as you can see it's not important because I've got nothing to say today. Today's just a day. Everything's level. The ghosts are quiet. The demons are satiated. The monster's got her shit together for five whole minutes and is probably about to go down rather hard. But not in a bad way. I guess I can look forward to more cuddles and a cozy weekend. I probably need it. I hope there's pizza.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Sanctus chill.

I'm having morning pajama cuddles with Teflon Jesus because I have a really bad headache and because he looked very cozy netflixing on his giant iPad Pro in bed when I went down to throw a load of clean clothes in the dryer. He called me in and asked what was up, because Dalton never ever pays attention when he watches movies. We can't take him to a theatre, he's such a casual talker. The best part is that it's a perk, not a flaw because in short order you'll realize you'd rather talk to him than watch the movie anyway. I don't mind that one bit.

So he held up the duvet and I crawled in and closed my eyes and drifted while he talked gently about this and that, knowing full well I wasn't really listening. Eventually he put his hand around my forehead. It was cool and felt nice. He keeps his room cool so I was out in seconds. Then he fell asleep too and the iPad fell on the floor at some point and we both jumped out of sleep and fell a thousand feet a second until we landed in reality.

He put a new movie on and we settled back in to watch it this time. But not watch it at all, because, as I said, he talks. I think Sam finished the laundry, probably as an afterthought while looking for me. I know this because PJ messaged me five times and Dalton messaged him back with a short Got her and nothing else which will get the rumor mill jacked up and chugging hard, belching smoke everywhere as it fires up to level Extreme but Dalton shrugged, tucked his hair behind his ears, said he doesn't care, and asked me what I wanted to watch next.

I didn't answer. I was too busy falling asleep.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Cole, you would have liked this one a whole hell of a lot.

Oh my God, I dropped the ball and apparently it rolled away under something somewhere and I just found it late last night. 

Big Boat. You know, the new (new. Ha!) Phish album that came out six freaking months ago

That's what I get for not using the internet. I blame everyone on this entire point for not telling me. They're always online somewhere, reading something. No excuses. No surrender. 

It's glorious though. Better late than never.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A little ball of fire, a lot of destruction.

In the shower this morning with Lochlan. He takes me by the elbows and walks me backward under the spray until I'm drowning. Then he pulls me back out, smooths my hair back and kisses me.

I christen you every morning in boiling hot water, Peanut and we start over. I wish I could put in rules. I was I could take you with me and run. I wish to God Sam would stop falling asleep holding a lock of my hair. 

He laughs and sticks his whole face back under the spray. Then he rubs it hard and is back in front of me, where I have made a tower of my hair, full of shampoo, up into a tall soapy point. He looks up and laughs as it falls over and deposits a blob of shampoo in my eye. I yelp when it burns and he takes a damp facecloth and holds it over my face until the soap is gone and the pain with it. He then dips me back in the spray again until I am rinsed clean. He could baptize me a thousand times over and I'm fine with starting over again with every single breath. If this is the way it has to be for him then this is the way it is.

We've taken Sam in as a fixture or something at this point. He's lonely and a little unsure, a little shaky in real life when he isn't on a pulpit speaking as the representative of the Lord and he's cute to a debilitating fault. He's not a threat either. Not anymore. Not how they thought he would be anyway. At least very very few people see him as one, and Lochlan and Ben are not two of them.

Caleb and Batman, on the other hand, well, they bitch long and loud about this.

But it isn't their business.

Sure it is. You're my girlfriend. Caleb's fairly certain he can have a say in all of it. I'm certain he has a say in none of it. Also...girlfriend? He's never ever talked like that in a thousand years. He's transferred all of his energy that used to be used to bully Lochlan and figures he can do it to Sam. I don't think so.

Sure it is my business. I promised to look after you. Batman's still got one hell of a fucked-up allegiance to Cole that seems to transcend any business or personal relationship they had. He acts as if he's lost a lover and he's racked by the guilt. My brain never went there before and I don't know if I want to let it now. Neither Cole nor Batman has ever expressed interest in men but then again I run with a strangely progressive and permissive crowd-

No. You know what he's doing? He's hiding his personal distaste for any relationship I have that doesn't involve him behind his loyal duty to keep a promise to someone who's dead and can't care any more.

Hey, look. It's only the third time I've ever used that word to describe Cole since he left.

He is dead.

Dead.

God, I hate that word so much.

So if I want to fill my wakeful moments and then my dreams with as much love as I can because it feels good, it feels safe and it feels right I will and they can't do anything about it.

Sure I can. Caleb gives Sam a shove when he walks in through the kitchen archway. Sam bumps against the wall and his phone bounces off the floor. It's fine. He's fine. He says nothing to Caleb and collects his phone and heads out anyway, and I turn and stare at Caleb as he takes a seat at the island to watch  me finish cleaning up. He positively glowers with jealousy and I finally ask him to leave if he's just going to spread negative tension everywhere.

PJ stands up. PJ's never all that far away and doesn't like any of this. Not for jealousy's sake, just for peace of mind.

You can sit, Padraig. There's no drama. I promise. I just want to speak to Bridget in private.

That doesn't exist-

It damn well does! Caleb yells at him and I slap my hand flat on the counter and lean way over.

You don't get to speak to him like that. Go. Please.

Neamhchi-

GO. You can apologize to him later and I'll talk to you tomorrow. That's all.

Dismissed. Like that. He won't be over for dinner.  I won't be over later. He lost the day for his temper. I can't give him an inch or he'll take everything and there's no way I'm letting him take out his ire on people I care for just as much. Nor will he be allowed to come in here and start ordering anyone around. I balance up here on such a thin wire of keeping the demon in check with the monster and it hasn't been, nor will it ever be easy but I'm doing it anyway. I'm well-trained and I have a lot of experience staying up here forever and if civility is what makes us work then that's what will be law around here, instead of the wild west it used to be.

I hold on to Lochlan's shoulders and he leans me way back under the spray again, landing a kiss against the hollow of my throat. You get to make the rules now, Peanut. Just make sure you say very clearly what it is that you want. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Maintenance of a tender heart.

Sam. 

The word I spoke on the porch maybe had more weight than it needed to but Sam let the door swing closed on Caleb's face as they made their way past each other. Sam was going in as Caleb waited for him to clear the door so he could come out. Usually whoever opens the door outward waits and whoever is coming through comes through but Sam chose not to be polite.

He turned and held the door wide with his arm. Sorry. Didn't see you in the darkness. 

Caleb passed him with a nod and came out to sit with me. I don't know if he caught that double entendre but I sure did.

Sam is doing that thing where he's annoyed that I missed church again and even more annoyed that I haven't seen much of him as he hunkers down in preparation for the coming weeks of heavy work. The biggest season of the year for church. It kind of makes me crazy how people who show up at Christmas and then again at Easter in their finest get a pass while I'm singled out in my contentment to give up cookies and get my forehead orthodoxed out with a cross every couple of days while at the same time thoroughly corrupting my minister to the point where hopefully he won't notice my absence in front of him during the weekly sermon.

I think it's working, though.

Caleb and I sit for an hour or so until the tea is cold and so are the tops of my feet. Then he heads inside to bid the rest a goodnight and Sam is back on the porch before I've had time to register that I have the whole thing to myself.

He's here too much. 

What's wrong, Sam? 

I worry about you. I don't know how you can give him the time of day sometimes. 

I forgive easily. I can hold a grudge with both hands and not let go in a tsunami, but I still forgive him. 

Why?

It's necessary. 

But is it? Can't I or someone else take his place? 

Not the same. 

Ouch. 

Jesus Christ. I'm not here for numbers. I love him, Sam. 

Do you love me? 

He stares earnestly at me. I've never seen such hope in his eyes. Even during dark times. It makes my eyes water even as I hold my breath.

It's late. We should go on up. 

Yeah. I have some reading to-

Come with me. You can read later.

There's my answer, Bridget. 

Yes, Sam. There it is.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

TX20

Swoooooooooon.

We went to see the Tea Party last night after having listened to them for over a quarter of a century for their 20th anniversary of the release of Transmission tour. It was so good! We managed to get our usual set of tables without a fuss, the Commodore Ballroom is perfect as usual and the band was outstanding. Worth it. They made me cry once, but only when Heaven Coming Down turned abruptly into With Or Without You, which, coincidentally, I saw U2 perform live on their last show here in Vancouver.

I finally feel like I've caught up with the boys as far as attended live shows goes. Finally. And this one last night lands in my top five of all time because it was THAT good. 

The crowd sang along and clapped and we all laughed and Jeff Martin is the Lizard King if ever there was one, but in a very good way. I don't know what people think when they read that, but when I mention it I think of Jim Morrison (of course) and how any man with a shit-ton of charisma, charm and cool who also sports some nice leather jackets and long brown curls is going to wind up in that category. Jim, Jeff and Duncan (my resident LK) are just somehow far better at it (or were, for Jim anyway) than most.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

All the fools in one place.

Thank you for letting me sleep, Neamhchiontach, he says as he comes into the kitchen this morning from the living room, blanket still over his shoulders. All eyes shift over to the doorway and he salutes the room lazily.

You seemed to need it.

The house is so quiet. I didn't expect that.

We soundproofed Ben's workshop, PJ says with his mouth full of toast.

What's that? Ben says from where he sits and ignores every last one of us. Lochlan smirks at Ben but says nothing.

Can we continue our conversation this evening? Caleb's still looking at me and ignoring the banter now spreading around the room.

Yes. A group of us are going to dinner and to a concert. We plan to get along. It's working. Somehow. Holy.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Twelve years. Twelve o'clock. Twelve tries to get it all wrong.

I watched Caleb sleep today. I watched him watch the fire until his eyes grew heavy and his chin touched his chest and then he lifted his head and his eyes opened again but only for a minute before repeating his shutdown. He's exhausted. Trying to stay alive in a world like this, trying to outrun his own heart so it doesn't trample him flat, trying to catch my heart so he can add it to his Bridget-collection where for now only my soul and my past wait. Trying to be a big player in a small field. Trying to be the hero when the world is all villains all the time. Trying to win back the trust he took from that little girl in the woods, who tried to lock him out of the camper but wasn't strong enough for him. Wasn't any match for him. And now sits and watches him. Wondering if she really needs him after all. Wondering if she should kill him in his sleep. Wondering if he'd be better off far away from this and wondering if he has room under his arm for her so maybe she can just curl up and sleep for a minute too.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

On making do with cheddar bunnies. Sigh.

Here, Peanut. Eat a cookie and we'll call it a great experiment but you don't have to keep it up. 

Yes, I do. Until Easter. That's the deal. 

You're going to keep observing Lent?

Yes, I have to. 

Why? 

I've never finished it. Never kept a New Year's resolution, never followed through. 

You married me. That's following through. 

Naw, I was lucky enough that you married me. 

Bridget, you saved my life. 

After almost killing you. 

Let's not split hairs, Lochlan laughs and kisses the top of my head. The point is you don't need to prove a thing. 

I do to myself. 

Fair enough. He sits down on the step and eats my cookie right in front of me, the shit. God. This is delicious, he says with his mouth full. 

Wonderful. 

It is, isn't it? You see, Bridgie, there are benefits to being a heathen. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

On the road to Emmaus.

Today was full of good things. Like heavy soaking rains, a daughter who turns out has incredible hustling skills, a son who suddenly decided an old leather jacket was much cooler than the hoodie he lives in to wear to school (he's right), eggs Benedict and bottomless coffee. Like french fries in the oven just after five o'clock and one more episode of the Walking Dead before we're all caught up and eventual sunshine to dry things off just a little bit before the rain moves back in overnight.

I backed into Skateboard Jesus today in a storefront as I turned too quickly from a display of Wonder Pots (do I want one? Or at least four of them, for that's how many I would need to cook for this house. I'll wait until the crockpots break, I guess) and he put his hand on the small of my back and held it there for a moment so we both wouldn't fall.

Sorry! I turned too quickly.

I was too close. My fault. Hello, Bridget. I'm glad I ran into you, even if it is literal. It's been almost a year and the watch you gave me works a treat. He shoots an invisible french cuff out from where he's holding his backpack straps and I see Caleb's watch glint in the light from the burdened sun.

I'm glad to hear it. 

Every time I look at it I think of you. How goes the battle against the chocolate chip cookies? 

Thirty days without one now. I've set a lifetime record. I really want one, though. 

Don't worry. In a little over two weeks I'll be back and you can have one. It'll be a miracle if you still want one by then, I bet. 

Or it will just be a miracle. Right?

He smiles, puts his skateboard down, one foot on it and he's gone.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Staring at this yellow-haired girl.

Smiling in the bright lights
Coming through in stereo
When everybody loves you, you can never be lonely
Better today! I get down. It happens. I fall into a deep hole and then I reach up and try and pull as many people into it with me as I can, for company. I get lonely even though the house is full. I get scared behind the very army who's more than capable of protecting me and I get this weird combination of wanderlust and wanting to hunker down that makes me want to stay inside and just contemplate fleeing forever.

Of course it doesn't make sense. Time is flying. Things are happening. Life is changing even as I fight to keep us firmly wedged somewhere between 1983 and 2007. Formative years, you know. Not everything in between but those years are major players and I'll not accept it nor will I move on. I will mark them with reverence and respect for they shaped me profoundly. 

But at the same time, I'm not wallowing. John sang Counting Crows songs with me all morning while we tried and failed to make tortellini from scratch. It wasn't...good so we ordered pizza for dinner tonight. Actually five of them. The pizza was very good and more than made up for the metric ton of wasted ingredients from the pasta. 

But did you have fun?

I had so much fun. 

Good, then next time we'll add another person and we'll keep adding people until everyone is having fun. 

You're like the resident cheerleader. 

It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Can you imagine if it was Ben? 

HEY. Ben picked that exact moment to come upstairs. Actually, later he admitted he came up and heard me laughing so he waited at the top of the stairs, enjoying the sound. I'll have you know I can cheer her up just fine. But it's an easier job if she's naked. That's all. 

Nice, Benny. 

Actually it's VERY nice. But not if this is the soundtrack. This has got to go.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Bumblebee (more than meets the eye).

The children (I need a better descriptor for them, they're bigger than me and driving and university-deciding and showing up at all hours now) went back to school today. It's Ruth's last term in high school altogether and Henry has a scant two years remaining. I have a weird feeling I'm going to cry all the time when they leave home, like Mrs. Witwicky in the Transformers sequel when Shia LaBeouf went away to college until they calmed her down with a pot brownie.

Yep. That will be me, except for the grace that they won't be living in residence because they'll go to local universities. They freaking love Vancouver. I would have too, had I lived here since the age of eight or ten, because it's a cool place and you never have to wear a coat, technically. Plus things like noodles and bubble tea and pretty much whatever your heart desires, framed by beaches and mountains everywhere.

Plus, as I found out this afternoon, King of Donair is finally opening a shop here. Or at least I hope they are.

Dies. Life complete.

I'm about to get fat.

Really really fucking fat.

And I don't care because the boys will be even fatter. And we're all okay with it. We'll run it off some other time.

But where was I?

Oh yes. The children. I really missed them today when they went back to school. I filled my morning up with grocery shopping and new-windshield wiper hunting, and laundry and dishes and baseboard-scrubbing and I started spring decluttering a bit and yet it was all done with that tiny thread of unease that reminded me constantly that they weren't home. That this is an all-day every-day life and that I really need to work on my abandonment issues because I'm here digging my own grave while everyone happily comes and goes.

You're the anchor, they tell me.

I'm drowning here, wedged on the bottom and yet I'm the only one who will be able to save me, because that's how life works and I can't seem to figure it out. Now I'm getting passed by my own kids and I'm so damn happy they're successful I don't even care about me much anymore.

That's not a good thing, everyone says.

Yes, I know it isn't. But I'm honest at least. My one and only sterling trait.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

I got a big huge round beach blanket this weekend. It's a green mandala with a pom-pom fringe. I love it to bits. It has not been beach-tested as of yet because the rain showed up early and thwarted my plans and it hasn't let up since.

I can wait.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The early bird gets shut down.

Good morning. I've crossed over from mildly sleep-deprived into fully narco-haptic now, and am being watched like a late-stage dementia patient for doing things like trying to put the honey in my purse instead of in the cupboard and trying and failing to remember Ben's name when he greeted me today with the sun.

They don't take any of it personally and so Sam asked me to name three things I am grateful for this morning. I start it all off the same way, every time, by naming names and he stops me seven names in, because I can't count today either and maybe my tiny little twisted buns are too tight. Maybe my leggings are too tight. I think my skin is too tight. Fuck it. I get to the end of my list and glare at him. He says Name other things besides us, because his name was in there too.

I'm craving Pho. I think that might be a good birthday lunch this year. 

That isn't gratitude, but I'll indulge you. What would you have for dinner then? 

Ramen. 

(Because noodles. Bowls and bowls of noodles.)

Breakfast? 

Coffee and cold pizza leftover from birthday-eve. 

I like the way you snuck another request in there. 

Gotta compound these things, Sam. 

What do you want for your birthday? 

Someone to come and Feng Shui the house. 

You're serious. 

Incredibly. We need it. 

Okay. I'll uh...what do I do? This is not in my....uh...sphere of influence. 

Easy, silly. You pray for a Feng Shui master to appear. 

Like magic, then.

No, like faith. 

What's the difference? 

HA! EXACTLY. 

I think you need a nap. 

I just got up!

I think you're sleep-talking. 

That would actually be cool. 

Not from my point of view. 

Your 'sphere', you mean. 

Go back to bed, Bridget.

Friday, 24 March 2017

A little reminder because it's getting harder to read your emails again.

Pallbearer's Heartless came out this morning, in the wee hours and is a fucking MASTERPIECE. Best listened to on a windy rainy cliff with good headphones or in a car with a good sound system, driving down the highway in the darkness.

It's one of those kinds of albums and it's perfect unlike your dear Bridget, who may have broken the mold. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to, it just happened when I woke up and couldn't move, so I cracked some pieces, not realizing that it was too soon. I wasn't finished. Wasn't ready. Wasn't complete or whole or as perfect as the rest of you, the rest of them.

From down here your horses are too high, your derision cuts too deeply, your words hurt when they should bounce off, and that's how I know. My skin should be thicker, my brain should have abilities it doesn't even understand, like pronunciations, map-reading and navigating mean people. I should be able to function as more than a comfort object, more than comfort, period. I should be independent and free. I should be smarter. I should be capable. I should be better. 

I should have waited a little longer, but I was curious, like I'm always so fucking curious about every little thing and so I went exploring and I keep getting burned, cut and flayed alive on things that would be a scratch and then on the other hand I can accept very hard, very difficult and very bad things with a grace few people possess. So I've heard. So I know now in a way I didn't before.

So I'll take my gifts (and massive, unforgiveable flaws) and you take yours and don't read anymore if all you're going to do is try and pass judgement on a life you actually know very little about. This is my world and I'm happy here. Go find your own.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A classic.

Outside in the sun today. The bike was loaded onto a truck. Screw rail freight, it will ship singular, covered in a larger truck all the way to New Jake. It's insured up the wazoo and GPS-chipped as well which is new to me but Batman assured me no expense will be spared. 

Bye Sunbeam. Bye the biggest personification of New Jake that ever was. I'll miss the bike but I'll miss the man more. 

Stop wingeing. 

Stop telling people what to feel! I glare at Loch and walk past him into the house. 

He's mad because I was at Caleb's yesterday and he will forever be mad because he's Lochlan and that's how he works. 

That's fine. I'm too tired to deal with things today. Only I recognize what the crushing exhaustion means. I see it coming from a mile away. So I blow a kiss at the shiny pale green bike and exact another promise that it's going to be just fine and that's how that story ends, with a flatbed disappearing through the gates and a scowling redhead on the patio steps.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The princess of diminishing returns.

I think the rain shortcircuits my brain. This could be a good thing. Or maybe just a temporary thing. Either way I'll take it, along with this morning's steady diet of coffee, whiskey and Devil, a sleepy handsome man who decided when I was getting ready to leave, that hell, no, you're not going anywhere and offered up a lazy breakfast if I promised not to put my dress back on.

I countered that I would stay another two hours if he put on a fire.

Done, he said, but he didn't take his eyes off me.

Caleb is back in control today. Last night after the hard feelings had been softened and the house was rightened he admitted he was a bit stung, that I've hardly seen him, that August gets all of my free time that Lochlan doesn't use and that I've all but ghosted Caleb as of late. He was gracious in accepting my protests that I've been busy, that it wasn't on purpose, and he's seemed to temper his possessiveness again. It's never going to go away completely, it just comes in waves, knocking us down, dragging us out to sea before dumping us back on solid ground.

You hungry?

Starving, I admit.

Cheese toast for two? I'll get the bread, you go borrow some cheese from your house. 

How did you even run out? 

Neamhchiontach, I didn't know when you'd be back so I didn't buy any. It's been three weeks. 

Three weeks without cheese? That's like a national emergency. 

No, three weeks without you. 

You're keeping track?

Of course.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Guilt and company (Day won't last).

I was unconscious, half asleep
The water is warm 'til you discover how deep

I wasn't jumping, for me it was a fall
It's a long way down to nothing at all
Oh my God. They went from 'He was leaving soon anyway' to Caleb pointing out that Schuyler must have been watching me too, in order to see New Jake's actions. They started a shoving match in the middle of dinner clean-up and went to floor so fast I dropped my favourite serving dish in my rush to break them up. I went to block Caleb and wound up getting clocked on accident. Ben plucked me out of the fray and I ordered everyone out.

Caleb was back fifteen minutes later when the dust cleared, apologizing profusely. It's not his fault. I should learn not to throw myself in front of their fists but I always hope it'll help them find their self-control. It rarely works in time.

And I wish everyone would stop apologizing. First Sam for bringing New Jake here in the first place and then Batman for keeping him here. This blew up in my face. Truth be told I have moments here and there that scare me. I can't protect myself from them and they've taken advantage of that fact more often than not. Every. last. one. Starting with Caleb or maybe it was Loch and ending with Schuyler, who decided he knew what was best. He couldn't help it. No one can. This is what happens. And now we wade through the fallout and hope it doesn't poison us. Either way, they found their catalyst to finally get New Jake off the point. They'd like all Jakes off the point, in all honesty, while I go around behind their backs collecting more. I don't know what it is about men with that name or maybe men in general but as we all know, I'm not right in the head.

That's how Batman put it, but again, he was always jealous.

Of what, I don't know. I slept with New Jake ONE TIME, over a year ago. I've been sleeping with Batman off and on for twenty five years.

But that's not important. What's important is that someone crowded in on THEIR Bridget and God fucking forbid.

Same thing happened in high school when I tried to get back at Lochlan for breaking up with me by sleeping with the captain of the football team (Hi, Blake). They lost their goddamn minds and I was dispatched into Cole's care for the rest of his short life. I don't know how to live outside of the prison that the brothers made for me. I really don't.

In order to keep my sanity and my guilt in check and due to my need for closure at all times, I've opted to take on the role of sugar mama for a week or two. I've already drafted a severance package for Jake, as well as letters of recommendation from the boys, grudgingly or not, and I've pulled a few strings in his new (old) location that will see him get a nice cushy job being his own boss but for better people than us. I transferred some spending money to him and I said I was sorry to him so many times he finally told me to stop talking and that he was fine, that it's fine and he was indeed leaving soon because staying here was killing him.

That's how it works, I told him.

I see that now, he says, and he thanks me and hangs up.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Healthy as fuck.

Lochlan stirred my oatmeal this morning, alternating a splash of hot water with a few circles of the spoon until it was the way I like it. Solid but not dry. I don't like soupy oatmeal. He makes it perfectly. Which is good considering he won't let me make it in case I burn myself. Ruth and Henry have been making their own oatmeal for a decade.

Where is he? 

Don't worry about it, Bridgie. 

Working as a proxy and a partner for Batman, who is on his way home as we speak, Lochlan went and disposed of New Jake, who admitted under God knows what sort of duress, that when Batman is away, Jake quietly stalks me. I think Jake figured they would help him if he owned up to it right away. His mistake. Had he made up some shit about coming over and then hesitating when he saw my car not start, thinking I would think I was being saved preemptively they would have stood down but he didn't do that and now he's gone.

I'm envisioning concrete shoes and an undercover of darkness heave into the sea from the wrong side of the cliff or maybe the Russians driving up and he is dispatched into their trunk and taken away and probably chopped into little pieces to be fed to their enemies.

Such a waste.

Stop it. 

Hmmm? 

We sent him back to where he came from. 

We? 

Collectively yes. We. He was a problem before yesterday. He didn't fit in anyway. Outsiders don't fit in. 

Because we're incestuous. 

Yes, that. And remember not every person is a good person, Bridgie. 

Not every stranger is bad, either. 

By default? Yes, they are. 

He's probably safer than most supervillains. 

I'll agree with you on that. 

So what did you do with him? 

Booked him a month's stay in a flat, bought him a plane ticket and told him his stuff will be with him in a week, bike included. His flight left an hour ago. He is not to contact you or come back under any circumstances. 

Swift justice. 

I'm not Jacob, Bridget. People don't get second chances on my watch. 

I did. (I like to disarm them every chance I get. Don't you see that?)

He sits down heavily across from me with tears in his eyes.

Jesus, Peanut. Why do you have to start every day by bringing me to my knees? 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunbeam.

We were falling away
You left me with a bittersweet taste
But when I send my heart your way
It bounces off the walls you made
Ricochet
I was already late for church and so I told them all to go ahead and I would catch up with them. To save me a seat. I couldn't get the zipper of my dress up, couldn't find the earrings I wanted to wear, couldn't find a second shoe, slammed my finger in a bathroom drawer, couldn't keep up with text messaging Caleb, couldn't shake the headache and figured if nothing else I would hit the Starbucks drivethrough and then sneak into the sanctuary and sit in the very back if it came down to it.

But then my car didn't start and everyone was already gone. I gave it a little gas and tried again and then I got out and opened the trunk. It looks....well, it looks like it's not going to be something very obvious and my skills are completely limited to seventies muscle cars or seventies trucks anyway. I know nothing about a flat-six.

And all the trucks are gone. There's a motorcycle and a jeep in the garage and I have no idea on earth where the keys are.

So I try again.

I leave the lid up and try to turn it over again and nothing. Not a whimper. Not a gasp. Not a chance.

Well, shit. How come this only happens when no one is around? But then New Jake comes around the side of the house. He asks if I am having problems.

It won't start and everyone's gone. Can you jump it with your bike?

Why not just ask Batman for his car?

It's fine. I'll just message Lochlan.

No one's home?

Church started ten minutes ago.

Ah. What about August?

He's there too.

Caleb?

There.

Really.

Why?

Just wondering if you were alone.

My intuition abruptly snaps to attention. Your house full?

Batman's in London, remember? That's why I wondered if you would just ask him for his car. It's not being used.

Oh. Right. I forgot.

Or you could play hooky and come over for a early brunch.

I can't. Thank you.

You have other plans? He smiles, running his finger along his lip like it's a gun. Shoot me, please.

I ignore the question and stare at him.

I have coffee, he offers. Come over for an hour. Then go home.

It's a bad idea, Jake.

Those are the only kind I have, Bridget. He smiles again and I feel like the heat of his grin could melt steel. It probably does and I'm too stunned to notice.

He steps closer and I look up at him. Don't turn into trouble or they'll find a reason for you to go.

Not their house.

Their girl.

His eyebrows go up slightly.

You don't get to decide for yourself?

There's a hierarchy.

How do I get on that list?

Wait around a dozen years. Make yourself invaluable. Beg for me. I don't know. 

I'll beg if it means-

I got this, Jake. Thanks. Schuyler's voice cuts through the tension with a blade that's sharp and loud.

You're still here!

I have a blistering headache and I sent Daniel ahead with Gage.

I have pills for you if you'd like.

I would, actually. Bring one over? I'll make sure you get a coffee. He stares Jake down until Jake mumbles a quick exit and is gone in a flash. Meet me in five in my kitchen, Schuyler tells me, following Jake. I'm glad I'll miss whatever's next. Schuyler never suffered a fool for one minute in his life. Not sure how he ever dated Ben but it explains why they didn't last.

I run up and find the good stuff in the drawer. Percocet. Probably expired but something is better than nothing for Schuyler. They never did a thing for me.

Schuyler takes the pill from me gratefully, swallowing it with some cold tea when we get back to his house. Then he turns and smiles and asks me if I wanted to know why he came out.

Yes, actually.

Your car. When you tried to start it, did it turn over at all?

No, it just clicked. 

How would Jake have heard that from three houses away? 

I don't know, my hearing is broken. 

My eyes aren't. He was in your backyard watching you through the fence. And I fucking caught him. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Bee Keeper.

You, you and I girl
We can share a life together
It's now or never
And tomorow may be too late
I used to sit in the front seat of the truck, doors open, dirty feet up on the dashboard, sweat running down my neck and back, trying to sleep in the shade while Lochlan worked in the hot sun setting up the foundation amusement rides (the wheel, bumper cars, haunted house). He could do some of it single-handedly but he liked the company. He would sing along with the radio. Easy-listening. I used to listen to him sing and wish my name was Amanda, after the song by Boston. Then I could be someone else. Someone who was so wanted they got a song written about them. A slow-dancing song. The bridge he sings with passion. It would be twenty years before he would helpfully point out he sang about us and hardly registered the fact that the girl's name in the song was different.

That's not the important part, Peanut, he tells me, wiping my face and neck down with a clean handkerchief when he comes over to check on me. Where's your water? I had a Tupperware tumbler with a lid with a spout. It was yellow-green. I lost it in the field somewhere an hour ago when I put it down and never saw it again for all the grass. Oops.

I thought you had it, I lie.

He frowns. You're getting dehydrated. He leaves my range of view and then comes back with all the problem-solving skills of a sixteen year old boy. Here. Drink some. I just opened it.

I take a sip from his can and make a face. Warm bitter beer. I can't have this. I'm eleven.

It's liquid. Finish it. I only need fifteen minutes more and we can go. 

I drink it all after he disappears again. It's got a strange acidic bite after each long swallow. It tastes like really old coffee. It's terrible. But then it's good. Five minutes later it's empty. Chicago is playing on the radio now and I turn and fire the can in his direction. It misses by a mile. I feel dizzy and weird and kind of crazy.

Hey! Locket! 

He looks up slowly, smiling under the curls. Three minutes, Babe.

I don't have three minutes. I have to pee. 

See those trees? He points to the fence on the other side of the field.

Yes?

Go over there and pee. 

Really?

Yes. No one's around for miles, Bridge. I'm it for the early set-up crew.

It'll take more than three minutes to get there. 

It's twenty minutes drive back. Add that in. Also, you're trashed.

Oh yeah. Thanks. You gave me that beer. This is your fault.

Be careful, then. I'll watch you.

I will. I weave all the way across the field and find a tree to hide behind while I pee. It involves taking my shorts and underwear off, because I learned my lesson years ago and have wished to pee standing up ever since. I thought it was something that would work when I got older but it's still impossible to do just pulling everything down. I lean around the tree and Lochlan is facing my direction but I can't see his expression. He's too far away.

I finish, redress and walk back. On the way I see a little hill with a row of tinier pine trees a hundred yards over from the path I originally took. They're only as tall as me so I head over to see if there are any robin's nests in them. I love finding the tiny speckled eggs. Usually I get held up by someone to see them though because I'm small.

I can't see much so I duck between the trees to check out the other side. Except that I can't slip through and instead run right into a mass of crawling feral bees that I didn't see in my rush to explore. I take a step backwards and trip and fall on my back, trying to get away from this huge buzzing cloud. I cry out and a bee flies into my mouth and flies back out so I clamp my eyes and mouth shut and put my hands over my nose so they can't fly into my head. I can feel them landing on my hair and my arms and my feet and then I feel air rushing around me and it's suddenly so much warmer than it was even with the afternoon sun. I open my eyes and Lochlan's waving his lit torches around me. He looks down and says Move, Bridgie and I get up and run. There are bees in my hair, bees in my clothes. Bees everywhere.

I run until I reach the truck and then past it to the dirt road. He's right behind me, torches held back behind us, just in case. He drops them to the dirt, leaving them to burn out and checks me all over, up my shirt, down my shorts. Under my hair. He's swearing. He's scared. I look into his face and the adrenaline and beer make me laugh. I start laughing so hard I don't know if I can stop. He stares at me in amazement.

Not a single sting. 

Nope. 

How in the hell, Bridget? You were covered. 

They like me! I gesture. It's genetic. (My grandparents had bees on their farm, but organized in hives.We wear gear around them. This is different. Vastly different.)

Thank God for that. I was trying to figure out how I was going to take a drunk eleven-year-old into a hospital, covered with bees. 

What a vision. 

What a vision indeed. I found your cup, by the way. It was beside me the whole time. Next time I leave you home. 

But I can't make memories with you if I'm sitting in the camper. 

We have our whole lives to make memories, Peanut and they'll be the best ones you have, bees and all.

They already are, I tell him and he kisses me. Harder than usual. I bet this is how Amanda feels. Who needs a song? I've got a Lochlan.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Underwhelming on purpose.

It felt like a Saturday today. Out of the ordinary. Unreasonably cold and mostly rainy with a few pockets of cloudy in between. I didn't leave the house. I didn't venture out of my comfort zone. I don't think I woke up, though I know I'm responsible for the half-pot of coffee that disappeared between eight and eleven, though it did nothing to bite into this headache and even less to eradicate the exhaustion. It's been a long difficult four weeks, truth be told, with one or two left to go. I would say that I need a vacation but no one wants to read that, so instead I'm breathing deeply, having an Lagavulin in honor of Saint Patrick's Day, turned down a few offers of company and am about to go put on my pajamas and share a pizza with Lochlan and Ben in our bed. 

Which is kind of perfect and exactly what I need right now. I hope to be asleep before ten. 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Ex-pensive.

You were indifferent
I was young
We were both drinking fiction with greedy tongues
You were waiting for someone
Something to happen
Something irrational
Climbing the walls and falling in love
He holds out a glass in front of my face. I'm sitting on the bench at the kitchen table trying to mend a hole in Sam's shirt sleeve. It's flannel so it's not a total loss but he doesn't want a patch so I'm limited as to what I can do. My repair will outlive the shirt itself, that much I know. It always does.

Here. For your broken heart. His voice cracks just enough and I look up into his face. It's not a happy face.

Lochlan, I-

I don't know what my defense was going to be but he cuts me off anyway.

Every day, Peanut. Every day I wake up and I put it all away and start fresh.

He wags the drink again and I take it. I take a huge gulp and let it burn me to the ground.

How do I teach you this? Teaching you to tie your shoes and drive a car seem so easy now in comparison.

If this was equal to tying my shoes, I'd be gold, Locket.

You already are gold, Bridgie. He runs his hand down my cheek. Like he's so proud and yet so disappointed all at the same time. I can't imagine how that must feel, to have the person you molded to be exactly what you want turn out to be a resounding failure.

I have to ban Preacher from the point. How do I do that, sweetheart?

Give me a lobotomy and he's gone. Then you get your golden girl back, fresh and new.

She wouldn't be who I love.

Then maybe it's you who has to learn to live with Preacher and not me, after all.

He takes my drink from me and finishes the whole thing in one go. Flames begin to lick out from his skin, pulled tightly over his soul. I can still see right through him. Always could, always will.

I can do that. He can watch. He puts the drink on the floor, lifting me up into his arms abruptly. No more talk, just kisses that smolder and spark. He takes us upstairs, kicking the door shut behind us. He undresses us both at once and then he pulls me back in tight without pretense. I cry out and he covers my mouth with kisses.

Shhh, Bridgie. It's okay. Hold on to me. He threads my arms up around his neck and drives against me, for he truly believes if we lose our love or run out of it, we can just make more. It's been this way forever. He is mine and I am his and that's just the way it's going to be, no matter what or who happens.

And I'm right, he says as he lets go finally. It's morning now and we've spent the night with abandon, with no way to pay it back.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

You bottomless abyss.

But You were faithful in devotion
You remembered me
Out on the telescope platform in the rain this morning. Wolves At The Gate's The Bird and the Snake (and also Hindsight) so loud I worry that when I take the headphones off there might be blood pouring from my ears. My whole head is ringing. It's a cleansing action, a way to shove something else into my mind, maybe someone else's pain, to eradicate my own, take the soft landing away from it, forcing it out where it can be soaked to the bone and then eroded by the fierce wind that undercurrents the rain, bringing it sideways. The sea loves this, she can show the pale teal depth that coats the back of each wave, a surprise hue that defies the grey of the skies today.

Jacob leans against the wall below me. You going to do this all day? He squints at the rain. His shirt is damp, his faded jeans are speckled with water now too. But he's smiling in that kind, concerned way he would reserve for the most broken. I want to crouch down and touch his hair, his face but I'm afraid if I do I'll never be able to come back from it again.

If I say no will you give me an Easter miracle? 

No, Princess. I can't and I wouldn't do that to any of them if I could. 

If you could they would understand. 

You think Lochlan would understand? 

Eventually. 

Bridget, just give him-

Shhh. This is my favorite part. Louder still. My blood pushes against my skull, my heart fights to keep its own beat, my fingers flutter so hard I think they might break and I abruptly rip off the headphones and almost fall, I'm so startled by the sudden stillness around me. 

I turn to tell Jake to fuck off with trying to engineer the hierarchy from heaven but he's gone again. 

And he keeps breaking my heart.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Just don't.

I don't know what kind of life you lead there but....begins many an email from you.

You're right. You don't.

I have no post today. Henry had surgery this morning for an old issue with his foot (third surgery! THIRD!) and is recovering very well but I'm a fucking mess, as usual.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Bridge & Olufsen

Choose your words
Choose them wise
For they will lead to your demise
Take my life
Take my faith
To stop the tears that run down your face
I played Flicker on repeat in Caleb's R8and sang along all last night as I drove. I hope he plays the dashcam recording back later, as I sing and yell out Motherfucker! every time someone demonstrates shoddy Vancouver driving skills in my presence.

Especially the part at the end when Donald Carpenter yells YOUR FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE for three minutes straight. I love that part. A lot.

When I got in the car Caleb had Best of The Fray cued up. Be still my heart. I was loathe to change it. He also left fifty bucks on the dash so I could get a bubble tea while I was out. Which is interesting, oddly parental and certainly detached. A bubble tea is five dollars tops, six-fifty if you get extra pearls.  I only have two flavors of tea that I'll get. Chocolate or pineapple and I always get extra pearls. I'm guessing that was the smallest bill he had.

I put the fifty in my bag and didn't stop for anything extra after all because as I said, it was dark and raining and I don't like driving anyway, plus I can't take my car at night because the headlights are terrible and I'm too lazy to change them out. I will soon, but nights like that the boys have a point when they say they really want me to let them take over driving because I shouldn't be out alone. I only still drive, in spite of my hearing, because driving through the hemlocks and pines by the sea it feels like it did back home.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

CHURCHMONSTER.

Lochlan calls Sam's brand of worship Unitard with a serious Catholic bent. Don't be offended. He asked for help once from God and was denied. I asked for help twice and the Devil stepped in to look after me. We've been running ever since because once the Devil smells your fear he won't ever let you go. Sam says once God knows of your love he won't either but we are suspicious and reluctant and trying all the same to be good Unitarians and also throw in whatever means are necessary (crossing, holy water, rosaries, and I'm considering Mormon magic undergarments) to overcome our wants and focus on our needs (only Him, says Sam). Only all of you, my brain whispers and then my whole body blushes in response.

(I guess at this this point if you're the type of person that would be offended by polyamory or patchwork religion you would't be reading here. So I won't apologize any more.)

Sam is trotting out the big guns today. I feel as if he's threatened by my offer to August to come join us sporadically or even regularly. Hell, everyone was threatened if you want me to be technical. Lyrically, I think they'll not put weight in worry until they see him stick around late into the evening. August has a long cold history of telling me when my time is up. He regulates himself like an army of one, a habit I admire all the while trying to break him of it.

Maybe I should have given up breaking them for Lent. That probably would have been better than giving up sugary snacks. It's been twelve days since I've had a cookie though, and Sam says that nothing logical has come out of my mouth (or my brain for that matter) during that entire time period.

Let's hope morale improves. Apparently God's going to fix that like he's supposed to fix everything else. I'm waiting.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Casseiopeia, chained to a throne.

That's what August called me as I swung where I lay when he got up to get juice and bagels for us. My head is almost hanging off the bed, hair wild, quilts up to my neck, feet sticking out the side. I grin and he laughs and asks if honey on my bagel is okay.

I nod. Please. 

We're not eating in bed, Bridge. I have to sleep here. I don't want to sleep in crumbs. 

So don't. 

Then grab my shirt and come sit at the table. 

No, I mean don't sleep here. Come sleep with me. 

He smiles ruefully and says he doesn't think Loch or Ben would like that, or Sam. How will Sam feel if he just shows up?

Sam isn't there every night. I frown.

Oh. I thought he was. 

Well, he isn't and I think three is always a perfect number. 

I think Lochlan is generous in a way I wouldn't be. 

(Pretty sure Jacob said the exact same thing about Cole once.)

Take advantage of him, then. I dare August but he catches on fast.

If you need me you know where I'll be. He comes back to the bed and gives me an upside-down kiss. No smile, just ferocity.

Would you change your mind?

Doubt it, Heartache. 

That's not a nickname. Please don't.

Offering your bed is not an option. If you need me you can come to me. The moment I come to you I've lost control. 

Oh. It's an ego thing. 

Everything is an ego thing here, Bridget. You think I'm so removed that I'm not impacted by this? I'm right in the middle of it. 

So what do you want me to do? 

Come and eat your bagel, he says, and smiles again.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Terrible boys.

Bridget, you've cultivated a lifetime of impressive romantic gestures from more than one admirer. Don't settle for an ice-cold peanut butter sandwich and some magic tricks as the best, because it isn't. It doesn't even register.

(I'm going to point out the fact that the Devil is jealous. And I'll point out that's all I'm going to say about it because if I actually open my mouth to reply to him directly, my face will come apart at the hinge and a million angry bees are going to fly out.)

***

It's sunny! I've been annoying everyone by singing Fireflies at the top of my lungs but in different voices all morning long.

So far I've been offered cash, a good hard beating and a...a....dick in the mouth to make me stop.

I'm still singing, for the record.

The dick offer didn't alarm me as much as the beating one. If you only knew what offer came from which boy, I think you'd be surprised.

I haven't had a cookie in ten days. I haven't had more than five hours of sleep across any of those nights either. I'm currently treading coffee and hoping to keep my head above the surface as long as I can.

But did I mention it's sunny?

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Peanut butter kisses.

I'll show you fire, he said.

I didn't think it was a reference to anything other than his temper, his frustration with Caleb. It might be easier for me to live with Caleb if I can forgive him but it isn't easier for Lochlan, who struggles constantly with this and I try to make it as easy as I can for him, considering he's now the one shoving me out the door. Get it over with, he says. Have your time and hurry up. I can't breathe without you here. 

And I'll walk across the driveway, trying to keep my heart from cracking in half along the way. 

But I didn't go recently. Haven't gone for a week and won't be going for a bit. The deal is a handful of times a month, and I get to choose. That's the only thing keeping Lochlan from suffocating. The rest of the time I am his. 

Last night he said he had a dinner planned for us. PJ looked after feeding the few who were around. The kids were both at friends' houses and after everyone had scattered back to their comfort zones, Lochlan told me to close my eyes. 

I did with a grin, because I just love surprises. I actually hate them but he's not one to give orders without a good reason so I listened. He bends down and starts to remove my thigh-high socks. I needed them under my dress. It's cold. 

Lochlan! Not in the kitchen!

Not what you think, Peanut. He laughs. I almost lose my balance but he's there to hold. A kiss lands on my mouth and then he struggles with something (his own socks, I learned later) and he takes my hands. Ready? He starts to walk, leading me down the steps to the patio doors and then outside and down the steps into the rain. We're walking in the grass, cold and slippery. He holds tight. I get warmer and suddenly the rain stops. 

Open, he says and I look around. He's brought the small patio table with the umbrella and the outdoor heater all the way out to the camper on the edge of the cliff. The tiny coloured lights are strung all over the place, as always and the table is set for two. 

It's pouring. 

Be right back. Leaving me under the umbrella he dashes into the camper and comes out with a bottle of pop and two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

The stove isn't hooked up, he shrugs. You always liked these. 

Still do. I tell him. We sit across from each other and eat, trying not to smile big peanut butter-teeth obnoxious smiles at each other. Then he goes back to the house, telling me to wait a minute. Stay put. 

The outdoor sound system comes on, flooding the backyard with an old ballad I love. He holds out his hand and I take it and he pulls me out from under the umbrella into the pouring rain. 

To dance.

He puts his arms around me and we sway to the music. No talking, just drowning in each other's arms in the rain. The music is loud. Everything is muted by the rain save for the music.

Except it's cold away from the heater and before the song is halfway through I'm shaking like a leaf, responding to his sparse comments with chattering teeth. Lochlan pauses the dance and heads quickly around the side to the garage. I stand in the rain holding my arms close around me with the music blaring in my ears, soaked to the bone and then he's back with the most spectacular sight I've ever seen. 

He's wearing his top hat and carrying a huge black umbrella. 

The top side of the umbrella is on fire

Safe underneath, he wraps one arm around my waist and holds the umbrella above us. It's warm, but the flames are on the other side. I don't know how long we have before it burns through but honestly I don't think I even care. We just keep dancing as sweet songs keep playing. I ever get a twirl or five, one hand high above my head holding his hand while he holds the umbrella out to one side. 

When we run out of time he dips me low, kissing me hard, tossing the umbrella to one side. There's nothing left of it. He says something, his lips pressed against my ear and I look at him in surprise before he pulls me back in close. We finish the dance as the sixth or seventh song ends before running inside. Rain has become snow, my heart has fused back together again and Lochlan has won the romance wars of my life.