Trying to make it to six pm. I woke up on the wrong side of myself and can't seem to get my act together. By nine Ben stepped in with fresh arms, a Xanax for me to take and an offer to go hang out in the sauna for a little while and then get ready for the day. I snapped at PJ, hung up on Caleb, cried for Lochlan to hurry up and come home and then the pill kicked in or the heat or maybe the coffee and I feel like a turtle now, only with a mild undercurrent of screaming noises dulled by every other effort to see this through.
Caleb came over when he saw us heading back to the house in our pool robes.
Bad day, I tell him. I'm so informative. Useful. My lip is quivering and I'm trying not to cry and I just want to curl up and dissolve. Ben hasn't let go and won't let go. Lochlan's working double-speed and trying to call in reinforcements. PJ deservedly told me to go fuck myself and took off for the day, since it's Valentine's Day and he was put off to begin with and Sam is hovering like a bumblebee, trying to be near if we need him and away if we don't. August left for the East Coast before the storm. Duncan and Dalton are probably both sleeping.
And I have lost my mind.
Maybe we should watch a television show, maybe distract her just a little bit.
Too far for that now, Ben says quietly, as if I'm not even present.
You need to go. You look too much like your brother today, I tell Caleb. Part of this was a valentine memory that came raging back at me in my dreams last night and I woke up unsettled and afraid, dreading breathing. Dreading standing up. Ben's policy is one foot in front of the other. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time.
Caleb nodded at Ben and Ben tightened his hold on me and I asked if we could have a walk on the beach once we got ready.
See if I let you out of the shower, Ben smiles. He's up to no good. He's the king of distractions and sometimes immersion. Whatever works. Get through it and then figure out what it was and what worked or didn't but right in the middle is not the time and while that seems incredibly logical, no one else subscribes to that method and so he's just as thrilled to be taking charge and I'm grateful it's him and not Lochlan, honestly. Lochlan takes it personally. He takes everything so hard.
The shower was long and hotter than the sauna by far. I felt like I couldn't get enough air and Ben held me tight, washing my hair from within his arms, scrubbing me all over and then lifting me up against the wall. His visceral distractions worked wonders and by the time he switched us to cooler water so we could rinse I felt somewhat renewed. I need sleep and maybe a stiff drink but I don't feel like the world is coming apart at the seams right this minute. We went down to the beach, joined by Caleb again (to prove he's no one but himself) and by Christian, who said I was fast and tricky and Ben puts too much faith in my promises while Christian always expects me to run right off the rocks. So all three hovered while I bent low at the water's edge to find a few treasures but it was suddenly cold and I didn't want them to worry so much so we came back up quickly enough. Then Ben went to a meeting and left me with Sam (because I had to ask Caleb to go again) and Christian for a bit and I mostly read while they ignored me, ears open, ready to move but otherwise content to catch up with each other.
I fell asleep halfway down every page but I stopped thinking about Cole and then Jake too and by the time I finished the chapter Lochlan was back and promising that from now on he'll wake me up before he leaves, that he can make sure I'm okay before he's gone off somewhere. I try to tell him that Ben did really good, that Ben always does well with me but Lochlan's guilt won't let him listen hard enough. He holds me close and then shakes Ben's hand when Ben comes back and they both say that dinner will be fun, that the day will get better. That nervous fake assurance that no one ever believes but everyone invokes all the same. Maybe it works anyway.
I know it will. It already has, actually. I just wish my brain had an off-switch, and that my memory had cloud storage. So I could keep it all offsite until I decided that I wanted something, instead of being ambushed by it.