Tuesday, 27 June 2017

See you in a few days.

He's got that smile on his face. The one that says he has a surprise and I see him coming a mile away. Kids are finished school. 

Yes. Finally! 

We should take a little trip now that the dust has settled.

If we did where would we go? 

Back to Montauk. Maybe. If you're game.

Seriously? 

I might have booked our same little cottage for an early anniversary celebration. 

Who are we taking? 

Each other. 

Sold. 

You need to sort out the sunscreen thing first. 

Okay, a big floppy hat and a sweater. It worked last time. 

That it did. Better go pack. Plane leaves in four hours. 

What? Holy. Hold my plate. 


Take it with you and eat while you pack. We don't need to bring much. 

True. 

Bring a smile, Peanut. And that sweater. 

I can do that. 

You wanted a cold beach, I can give you a cold beach.

Monday, 26 June 2017

You'll know where to find me now.

(Yesterday was a big mistake, by the way. I did a metric ton of gardening early in the morning thinking I'd be safe and gave myself heatstroke and turned into a baby because of it. Things are much better after eight hours sleep. That's like a new record for me.)

Ben put up two extra six-by-sixes when no one was looking, down by the trees in the shade off the patio and strung up my beautiful hammock that I had nowhere to properly hang here. He knew I'd love it and I do. The pool area itself is now complete in phase two, with a wraparound outdoor kitchen with space for a bigger barbecue (that we don't have yet but measured for), a small fridge (whoops don't have that either), a wood burning firepit/cookout stove, and a shadier pool deck overall, with space above the pergola where I can drape my tapestries and make it look very neat. There is only one phase left to go and that's to augment the path to the pool from the house to string everything together, and landscape around the sauna and the back of the house a little better. I wanted to pave a path all the way to my house but that isn't a good idea if we want to keep the properties futureproof, to be sold separately when the time comes.

Unless we sell all three or even two houses as a package deal for searching communes. I mean, we could do that.

None of this is something we're planning either way, as we stay until Henry finishes university, so that's at least six years, maybe more. (Did I tell you I now have a university student and a student in grade eleven now? I didn't but I do and I'm so proud).

Then we'll see.

I love the hammock. And I love that today is cool enough to head out and enjoy it with my book and some lemonade and a whole pile of new sunscreen that sucks. Every single one I have tried is awful. They either give me rashes or sunburns. Christ. Any suggestions?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

HOTTER STILL.

Because I am a terrible human and furthermore very bad at life, Ben filled the soaker tub in our ensuite with ice water and put me in it early on. Lochlan brought me up a glass of champagne in the one beautiful blue glass flute I own (it was a set but they break so easily) and Ben winced slightly but cheers'd me and then sat on the floor beside the tub while I alternated between sipping my champagne quietly like a good princess and screaming because things were cold. Private things. Sensitive things.

I then got a warm shower for my promises of gold and riches to him, should he release me from this curse and we spent the day again inside, as he has paid his dues on the latest home improvement project and decided it was time for Jay and Keith to pay theirs.

Lochlan came back after supervising the completion of said task (I'll see it tomorrow) with a sunburn and a cold light beer which made him wince after every sip. I ran out of champagne but wasn't given any more and I fell asleep while they watched a movie. The ceiling fan went around and around and eventually I woke up and the sun had moved all the way around to the other side of the room and was almost over and the room was empty, save for me and I didn't mind a bit, I swear.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be a full ten degrees cooler and then I will feel like myself. I hope.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

HOT.

It's thirty-seven degrees in the sun and they're working on building a second outdoor shower and a pergola that extends over part of the pool deck. I don't know if pouring concrete at that temperature is any different than wading in the lava of an active volcano but they seem happy enough to plant six-by-six posts so deep into the ground they're never ever going to move and fire up the table saw so many times I began to hate the noise and went downstairs to watch movies with Dalton.

I ran out of pool time anyway and lazing about in the shade trying to breathe in that liquid hot exhaust wasn't that pleasant. I'm a spring and fall girl. I like my water warm and my sand cold. I like jeans on the beach and sweaters on the boat and I hate being warm.

I couldn't even stand to keep on earrings. I'm down to a t-shirt and short thin cotton shorts. No bra, no underwear. No plans to be in mixed company as we're having ice cubes for dinner and at some point if the temperature drops down to reasonable I'll come back upstairs and go to bed.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Filthy souls.

The rules are plentiful. Jay will take back his old room, his old space in Batman's garage, his old life but working for Sam, working for the church. Batman will keep a closer eye on him, as will Asher, Lochlan, PJ and Ben. Ben's going to sponsor him if he still turns out to need it (FUUUUCK) and we're getting him some hardcore health counselling because he still plays fast and loose with his disease and he can't afford to. He's going to get his health under control so he doesn't die. I'm not sure if he's trying to or what here and it hurts.

He is stiff and reluctant and ashamed.

Why do you care? He had the nerve to ask Ben and Ben pointed out that he's family, we look after each other. Jay choked up and hugged him hard and Ben asked him why he didn't ask for help.

I thought it would be better if I just left. 

Ben nods. You'll need to talk to him. 

Schuyler. One of the few adamant about not having New-Jake come back, more as a nod towards being better safe than sorry, as always. Schuyler doesn't walk the talk, he's just very protective of me and I always appreciated that. His boundaries are ironclad, his values carved in the rock at our feet. He's big on love but he doubled down on Jay because after seven years, poor Jay is still the new guy and that's not going to change, ever.

There's always a new Jake. Always a guy coming in to my life in bare feet with an easy smile and a past a mile wide. Always an unexplainable draw that I drown in the sea on a daily basis because I'm trying to do right by Schuyler and own up to my boundaries.

I usually mess up and drown the boundaries and enforce the cravings, Batman tells me but it's not like he's objective, either.

Schuyler tried to put me first and while I appreciate the sentiment, I have a great support network. Jay didn't, where he went. He does again now though.

Welcome home, Jay. This time don't fuck it up.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Home.

What's new, Bridge? 

Jay is a mess. He covered well and yet here he is, the perennial project boy, back for a complete teardown and redo. Except this time we're not going to flip him and send him back out into the world. No, this time we're keeping him. 

And his bike, because it's beautiful too. 

I changed my last name. 

To what? 

I frown at him. Weirdo. Loch's. 

Oh. Yeah, I suppose. Caleb like that? He laughs. 

He was against it. He's adjusting now. 

Don't let him be your drummer, baby. 

Let's talk about you. Because I didn't want to deal with this on the phone. 

How much free time do you have and how much are you willing to hear? 

I should make some tea? 

And maybe have Sam on standby. 

I can do that. 

Can I help? 

Of course. You're part of the family. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Reintroductions.

The best laid plans never happen.

It was after the actual solstice, after darkness fell and the sun went to bed that we went out and had a simple swim in only our birthday suits. Just Lochlan and I as everyone else wound up thankfully preoccupied with their hurt feelings and tense disregard after a brutal family meeting in which nothing was resolved whatsoever. It happens and when it does the best course of action is to leave it before we make things worse, walk away and come back when a little time and cooler heads prevail.

New-Jake is coming back. Hereafter to be known as Jay, because I can't get that k sound to come out when I say it out loud, still.

Lochlan puts his arms around me, holding me up and in from the cold water.

I don't want him to come back but I was him once and I believe in fresh starts, second chances and all that mumbo-jumbo but so help me, Peanut, if you get too close I'm drowning him.

I nod. My boundaries are well established exploited. We'll be fine.

We go back to the side of the pool where our champagne awaits.

To summer, Lochlan says, raising his glass.

To summer. I nod and drink half of it. The bubbles go up my nose along with a good amount of chlorinated water and I cough briefly. It's enough for Lochlan to decide that we should go in now, that it's late even though I had a perfectly timed coffee earlier and I bit my tongue through the whole meeting and now I'm wound up tight like a spring and need to unwind. He wraps himself in a towel and goes around the pool blowing out the candles we lit. Then he stands waiting.

I don't want to go in yet, Locket.

Why, Baby? 

This is nice. 

What if we went in and had a hot bath? 

I stare at him while I push off repeatedly from the side without letting go. It feels nice on my very very sore elbow. I stare at him until I realize he's not the bad guy here, that he is the one who recalled New Jake even though he was the last one to become friends with him, and he was the one who defended him when everyone else said to leave well enough alone. It was those words that changed an entire army's direction.

The Collective saved my life once. The least I can do is pass it on. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Two lights and a super-heavy.

Summer solstice is tonight! I'm so excited! We have big plans but I won't share them today. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about it if I ever get up after being up very late. I complain when Lochlan infantilizes me but at the same time anything scheduled after nine at night has me aghast that people actually are gearing up just as I'm usually checking out.

Not like I don't check out at eleven in the morning or two-thirty in the afternoon if I stop moving, I know. But we have Large Plans and I'm very much looking forward to it.

In other news the lipstick wars continue. Ben said enough was enough and went and put some on, and proceeded to walk around the house hugging everyone, and then planting a huge surprise kiss on their cheeks and it took forever for them to notice. It was mostly hilarious though Henry didn't like it much and Ruth went running, screaming that she just washed her face and didn't want to get anything on it. Then she laughed and got kissed anyway. She doesn't mind Ben's antics. No one does. He's dodged another tour bullet and picked up another producing gig which if I'm correct in my hunches are being funnelled directly through Schuyler but that's okay. Our network is super-tight anyway. They all work for each other half the time anyway.

Case in point, Asher took a vacation this week. A last-minute week-long getaway, Batman said. Not far, he said.

How far? I asked suspiciously, eyes narrowed.

Ontario. Batman is vague.

Toronto?

Yes, I believe, he lies.

What's wrong with Jake? The panic is approaching me like a stormfront. I see it but I can't run.

He had a little setback. He'll be fine. 

He's not fine. He's a diabetic-

Bridget, Asher will let me know what's going on as soon as he gets to Jake. 

So it's enough of an emergency to send your assistant but not enough to tell his friends that he's in trouble. 

Wait until I have word. Batman's so done with my panic.

Fuck that, I tell him. I pick up my phone to call the Devil. He can get me a plane.

Batman takes the phone and hangs it up, putting it in his pocket. I turn to go and he grabs my arm and my elbow pops right out of location and I'm on my knees.

It hurt so bad I couldn't speak and so he tries to haul me back up to my feet because he had no idea what was wrong. Mercifully, my body knew what was up and blacked me out.

When I opened my eyes I screamed because the pain was still going. PJ leaned over my face. Lochlan too.

My elbow's out DON'T TOUCH IT. 

So PJ tells me to count to three and Lochlan holds on tight and before we even start one they nod and pop it back into place with a thud that almost kills me. I roll into a ball. So sore. Oh my God. I need to go to the airport, I tell Lochlan. He's already talking to Batman and I know he's going to compartmentalize his anger until he gets everything covered.

Bring him back here permanently. We'll sort him out. Then I'm going to sort YOU out.

Batman nods and goes to call Asher. Looks like the trip has doubled, as they'll have to pack up Jake's less than three months'-long life in the hot potato to return here permanently, a semi-pariah with a mad crush, a beautiful vintage Sunbeam motorcycle and a terrible knack for letting his blood sugar control him instead of the other way around.

We'll live with it. I don't care. Sometimes people belong here and they shouldn't leave, even if they have a magnificently rough start, like New-Jake has had.

Doesn't matter. He's meant to be here. He's one of us.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Not an ad but it they want to send me lipstick I'm all for it.

I bought a new lipstick over the weekend that I adore. It's by Bite Beauty and it's called Beetroot and while it looked terrible in Sephora and terrible on the swatch that I did on the back of my hand with the tester, I brought it home and it looks amazing on my face. It's a dark purpley-red and just makes my former black-lipstick-wearing self happy. I have a lot of reds, all blue-reds but this is dramatic and awesome. 

It also doesn't hurt that it comes off on everything I touch while somehow staying put on my lips. Sneeze? Left a print on the elbow of my sweater. Hair blew in my face? Now my blonde is purpley-red. Kissed a boy? Yup, ALL OVER EVERYONE. 

I won't even mention it's on almost every mug in the house. It's on my phone screen. On the fork in the sink and on Sam's shirt after he gave me a quick hug as he was leaving and I was too horrified to tell him but then he put on his blazer anyway so now I didn't have to. It's on the window beside the front door. It's on the Devil and it's on the dog. It's on Lochlan in more than half a dozen different places and he loves it (Shhhhh).

Jesus Christ, you can't take me anywhere, or better still, you can't leave me home.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Dip her in the water and she's good to go again.

Oof. Today was a whirlwind of church services, impromptu baptisms, Father's Day shenanigans, rain and charges met with hugs, because everyone's so busy trying to be the bigger man here sometimes they don't even realize how proud I am of all of them. Caleb made amends with everyone, somehow softened by my admission that he tried to send me home and somehow hastened by the glaring proof standing in front of them that oops, he gave me exactly what I wanted and they would have happily done the same.

Nice, isn't it?

I have thanked each and every one of them for being incredible surrogate-dads and sometimes-lovers and anyone I missed, hopeful or not, has been gracious enough to let me fall on my face. Sam tries to save my soul every chance he gets and Caleb holds it high in his hands, just out of reach. The ocean purified my body and my mind and Lochlan apologized profusely for sending me reeling out the door, unable to process how we can love each other and still fight like we mean it. He's the one who taught me to fight, taught me how to stand my ground, taught me if it's worth having, it's worth knowing when to stand up and when to let go, and he also taught me the power in forgiving those you love when they (and you) need it most.

Yes, in other words, he's still really fucking mad. But not as mad as he was when I left. So that's good.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

I thank you for the hole you dug in me
Filled it with cement, sunk me in your sea
Thank you for being so obscene
I thank you for never facing me
Swimming in the mud, never coming clean
I thank you for nothing in between
Yes, I thank you for leaving
It took him upwards of forty minutes to finish his work and by then I was fighting to stay awake, having given up on the drink he poured which burned down my throat, melting all the ice, leaving a ring on the table.

He sat down and pulled me into his lap. I put my head down on his shoulder as his arms went around me, closing my eyes, putting my hands up against his shirt. I felt his arms tighten as he stood up, bringing me with him and I locked my legs over his hips best I could. I thought maybe he would toss me on his bed so I could sleep and then he'd be able to play the hero, the safe place to fall. The good guy.

But no.

Instead after throwing me down on his bed he pulls my hands behind my back. It's a fight that is over quickly. He turns me over and smiles, yanking my dress up and my whole body down hard against him before pulling me up back into his lap, releasing my hands so I can hold on to him. He likes to set the tone early. He picks me up, the cold wall meeting my back as he pushes me against it, pinning me up with nothing to hold on to except for him. The way he likes it. The way I hate it because it hurts more than it helps.

Stop making noise. He orders.

I am silent.

Arms around my neck. Another order and I comply.

Don't cry. (Can't help this one.)

Don't push back. Relax your hips. (trying. Can't manage. It's a pain reaction and I can't talk myself out of it.)

Bite, Bridget. And I do, latching on to his flesh just at the hardest point of his shoulder where it won't do any damage. It's like biting concrete, teeth gnashing against gravestones. I could feel them grind and chip as I bit down hard agains the past. I want to swallow it whole but I have to chew it, choke it down as I remember who is boss.

I am.

I beg, they fulfill. Power begets those broken teeth and aching limbs, newly reinstated stranger-souls and the abject disappointment of an entire army as I bring back the lone dissenter and smile at them all with those broken teeth, a mouth full of marbles in a world where I've never had trouble being understood. I can't hear myself. They can hear me just fine.

Look at him, I cry. Look at him! I yell mutely, my muffled plea arousing a reaction as they look on with wild disinterest. They don't hear me though, they only see the fresh strangers, the light of change bearing down on them like a fossor with a newly sharpened shovel. I don't even feel it when it halves my skull. If I can't complain they can't either.

When the sun comes up around five, he wakes me gently. Go home and make up with your Pyro, he says, as if I am being sweetly discarded. He returns to his philanthropic state, his work here finished, his masterpiece a ruined mess with nary a mark. His self-control intact, his reputation solidified once again to be careful what I wish for, always. Everyone gets exactly what they want, even if they don't know exactly what that is.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Shoulders on offer.

The argument was pointless. Needless even and yet it's like it was a test. If you knew me you'd know that I'll always call your bluff. I'd rather be stubborn than wrong. I'd rather just let you feel like shit, frankly, and then you'd know not to say such awful things.

Go over then! I'm sure you'll get a warm welcome. Get those broad shoulders all to yourself. 

Fine. It'll be nice to have a night off from trying to live up to your perfectionism!

Actually it just means you fall one more day behind in achieving it! 

Good! I think I'll stay for two days and then you'll hardly be able to stand me! 

I can't NOW! The minute he said it the regret took over his whole face. Bridget! Peanut, come back. I didn't mean it. You get me all up in arms-

It's fine. I'll see you later. 

Stay here-

No, sorry. I'll be back later. I won't stay there. 

Don't go, Bridge. Please.

But I left. 

I knocked on the door. One low light on in the kitchen and I could hear music. 

He came to the door and unlocked it. His face lit up when he saw me. Bridget! Wait, what's wrong? 

I had a fight with Lochlan. 

Would you like me to call him and have him come over so you can work it out? 

I didn't expect that. No, we'll be okay. Tears leak out anyway because the whole thing makes me sad. 

You will. Come in and have a drink then. 

I don't want to interrupt your evening.

Give me ten minutes to finish up with the paperwork I had out (forever the lawyer) and then we'll talk.

Con arts.

Not gonna lie, I had a nice day by the pool today. It was breezy and sunshiney in an early-fall kind of way but the most striking thing was realizing, during an impromptu, trash-talking throwdown of a four-lap butterfly race, that Caleb's shoulders are at least a full third wider than Duncan's. But I wasn't looking, I swear.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Love you forever.

It's cold, isn't it, Bridge? You warm enough?

I nod. I'm wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace in our bedroom. Four of the smallest lanterns are lit and the fireplace is the only light besides. He's poured us some champagne but as per tradition they're in little jam jar-style cups because that was what we had for special occasions.

We clink the cups together. SlĂ inte. I smile and take a tiny sip. He drinks his in one go and pours another. Finally, you are mine. 

I was yours from the very start. 

Officially, I mean. 

The wedding doesn't count? 

Not really, no. 

I see. 

This is outward. Obvious. 

My tattoos don't count? 

No, Bridget. Like I said, this is the big one. The one I was waiting for. Hoping for even. It's like Christmas in June. 

Juneuary, you mean. I am cold. 

Jesus, why didn't you say something! He takes our full glasses and puts them on the hearth and pulls me in closer to him. Skin to skin. He is so warm I feel instantly feverish in proximity. I get a kiss that would melt steel and then he swears into my mouth, picking me up, dropping me down on my back on the floor, putting his weight on me as he whispers things I can't hear, as his hands travel over every inch of my skin, as he ends with my new name, as if no one has heard it before, nevermind the dozens of times he caught me talking to myself in the mirror, introducing myself at the tender age of ten as Bridget MacIntosh and he'd laugh and promise that I could, as soon as we can. And he'd smile like everything is right with the world. It mostly is as far as he is concerned and he doesn't seem to mind that his bride with the new name is dragging some larger than life ghosts and a demon or two behind her. He seems like he has room for everything.

Warm now? 

I nod again. Very warm now. Holy.

He pulls me back up to a sitting position after, tucking me in under his arm, pulling the blanket tight around us. The fire is too big and he lets it go down a bit. We've made our own warmth, made our own climate here. We finish our champagne. It's bad luck if you don't.

Ready for sleep?

I nod, staring at the flames. Don't pinch me. This moment is as perfect as a moment can be.

I love you. I blurt it out like it's an emergency. It is. My heart wants to explode right now and I don't think it's ever felt like this. It feels everything so deeply but not like this. Not. like. this.

I love you, Bridget, he says as he scoops me to my feet. He takes a minute and just stares at me with a smile. His hair is a soft loopy halo around his whole face. He's beautiful.  

I get one more kiss and then I'm out like a light. I didn't even wake up once.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Ambush hour. Fuck this rain.

I feel as if all of this espresso has finally eaten right through my stomach and everything that was inside it fell out through the hole and rolled away, save for this endless, gnawing fear. 

The fear that keeps me carrying around a Xanax in one tightly-rolled fist (not to be taken because maybe it's actually a Klonopin and I don't want one of those. They take too long.) The very same fear that finds me forgetting to breathe until I have a headache and then I don't want to do anything save for sleep. 

What is the fear of? Sam asks again. He always asks as if this is a fresh question or better yet, one that might have an answer. 

I shrug. 

Does August know?

I nod. 

Why do you think he knows and we don't? 

He is singular in his separation from the Collective. 

Does Lochlan know? 

I think he does but he won't admit it. 

Why not? 

Because if he says it out loud then it's true and I am crazy after all. 

And why wouldn't he say that out loud?

Because then there's a problem. 

But there is help for that problem. 

He would rather fun it away. 

I'm sorry?

Fun it away. Forget about it for now. Distract. Let it go. 

But?

But it doesn't go. I can push it under the water but it floats back up almost right away. 

Is there a time when it didn't come back up right away? 

Yes. 

Will you tell me when? 

When I'm in someone's arms. 

Someone specific? 

I cover my face. No. Well, maybe. Lochlan. But it goes away for August, Joel and Ben too. 

Joel. 

Yes, Joel. You want honest, here it is. It sucks, doesn't it? 

How does that make you feel?

You want to know why it doesn't go away for you. I can tell. 

If you want to share anything, go ahead, Bridget. 

I don't. This is your barometer. I didn't want to come in. 

It's raining. 

And so you thought it would be a good time to pick apart my mind? 

Doesn't hurt. 

Everything hurts, Sam. That's why we're here. 

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Mrs. Mac, for short.

When I woke up and looked out the window in the stairwell Matt and Sam were by the pool, drinking coffee and eating what appeared to be chocolate croissants, sharing a newspaper, smiling at each other as if everything is right with the world again.

Maybe it is, because for a brief moment I thought we had chocolate croissants in the house. We don't because Matt brought two. TWO.

Be right back. Heading out to flatten some tires.

***

Lochlan wasn't happy that Schuyler put himself in harms way. He wasn't happy that Caleb showed up again with a bone to pick. He wasn't happy about anything and he made the rounds before coming at last to me and he wasn't happy with me either, it seems, though I listened to his instructions and haven't gone near the Devil, who, incredibly enough is really fucking angry that I went ahead and changed my name after digging in my heels for the best part of a decade since and he thought he was safe.

Yeah, so did I, once.

In any case, nice to meet you. I'm now sporting a name that's synonymous with Scottish raincoats, English toffee, American computers and one really stupidly good-looking redhead and now I'm less Irish but more of a blend and that's okay. MacIntosh is a good solid name and he is very proud that I have it now. Very proud. Kind of ego-peacock-Lochlan proud which worries me and is getting a bit annoying but hey, I signed up for this. Literally. My new license arrived and there's no going back now.

And Caleb has the nerve to say this morning that I had his last name for over thirteen years (via my marriage to Cole) so Lochlan still has to beat that. I swear Caleb has a death wish sometimes. Only it's for me instead of himself. I hope I get a croissant before he crosses that line. I'm really hungry now.

Monday, 12 June 2017

This is what frenemies means, I think.

Ben came to collect me, sharing a long brotherly hug with both his brother and with Schuyler, who continues to suffer no fools and has taken up some sort of impenetrable fortress of one in front of me. 

I don't want to see anyone get hurt, is all Schuyler said by way of explanation. He's all for people having fun. He's had some of the most fun before he grew up and settled down. What he isn't for is watching someone get hurt at the expense of someone else's fun. 

It's complicated, I shrug. 

Don't defend your devils, he reminds me before he softens his rebuke with a smile and a wink. Besides, you were like having a small human-shaped hot water bottle in bed. I don't think I can do that again now that it's warm out. 

Daniel likes it. 

I got this. He winks again and I smile back. 

I know you do. 

Go home to your redhead. 

Yeah well, stop making him pull all-nighters fixing shit. 

Doing my best. He could have said no. 

Not for that sort of stipend. 

Well, I had to make sure it was worth leaving you for. 

Wow. I guess he has a price. 

That's not what I meant. 

I know, silly. 

He went because he knew you were safe. 

No one's going to hurt me, Schuy. You worry too much. 

They don't worry enough. 

Who are you worried about? 

There's a few. 

Name names. 

The obvious. 

Right. Who else? 

Let me worry about that. You just keep your childlike innocence going. It suits you. You love everybody, Bridget. And they all love you back. What could go wrong?

I looked back to see if he was joking with me, if he was smiling but his face was hard and grim before he checked it and smiled again. It didn't reach his eyes this time. And it didn't reach his eyes a few hours later when he had to knock Caleb on his ass after being charged just outside the front door. For fucks sakes. Ben took a turn collecting Schuyler this time instead of me, getting yet another hug though it was to hold him back. 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Mind.

An eleventh-hour offering kept me from the hands of the Devil, instead given over the likes of Daniel and Schuyler, where I hung from the night by my fingertips until my arms ached and my shoulders went numb. My eyes bore witness to true love, uncensored and unabashed and my hands reached out to touch but were left cold, contact made with nothing but air, as if the dark were a mirage, an oasis in a daylight desert.

Reassurance blanketed me and I was warm. He wants to keep you safe, Bridge. He's just doing what's best. 

I nod and my eyes grow heavy from bearing witness for so long.

Sleep, Princess. We'll have you back safe and sound tomorrow. My lashes flutter closed, the last thing they see being Daniel's sweet face as he chose my right side for sentry while Schuyler chose my left. They made a Bridget-sandwich and no one went hungry except for my demon but I didn't know a thing about that until it was too late to fix it anyway.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

I'll be fine. He said he's tired.

I gave Caleb a gift today, landing in his lap on my way past him to find a towel. I'm soaked to the skin, fresh out of the pool, in a black bikini with fat string ties. It looks very wet-ro, he said, complimenting my vintage suit in an Elmer Fudd sort of lazy-voice. He's relaxed. He put his arms around me, ruining the crisp ironing lines of his shirt and smiled and I gave him a big fat kiss.

You should come in the pool with me. 

I'm tired, Neamhchiontach. 

I frown and he says he'll watch, that he'll stay here as long as I want to stay in. I remind him I only get an hour or less as it is and he vows to look into alternatives to the chlorine. I point behind us to the sea and he asks if I'd ever stay in it for an hour.

Sure,
I remind him. Anytime. 

What about whales? 

My face falls. Whales are freaking scary. Anything is, underneath you in the depths. They don't come in this close to shore. 

True. 

I need to go change. 

You feel good right here. 

Can I come back when I'm done? 

I'm heading inside. Come to the house. 

I look over at the last chair. Lochlan's book and his glasses are there but he has vanished.

Maybe for a nightcap.

For the night. 

No, Cale. 

Let's wait and see. Bring your joker. 

Where is he? 

Schuyler needed something. Come at eight? Both of you.

Okay. I trace his mouth as he smiles slightly. I can alone-

If you bring him you could stay. 

Probably not. 

Wait and see. 

I nod and climb off his lap. There's a Bridget impression in wet fabric all over him. It looks cool. Sorry about your outfit. 

I wasn't going anywhere. 

Still..

See you at eight. 

I nod again. Eight.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Fealty to a lesser god.

Matt is gone again. I don't know what they're doing. One moment they're two halves of a human heart and then I blink and they're bitter, broken pieces of a love gone wrong. I'm not sure why they see each other and throw themselves over the edge again and again but they do and I get it.

That's why we're ruled by our hearts and our minds instead of one or the other. Neither can be trusted and so everything must be taken to a vote.

In any case, he didn't say goodbye. He said See you later, Bridget as he used to when he would go to work and so I am heartened that I didn't cause a new rift between them. I'm sure I only served to sharpen the old one so that when you run your hand over it to smooth the wrinkles of your life you bleed, but only a little.

Lochlan took my arm and pulled me away from them. Leave it. This is none of our business. 

I opened my mouth to protest and he covered it with his hand. Don't say it, Bridget. Just let them be. Please. 

He would like Sam and Matt to work it out, if only for Sam to not be a threat or some degree of risk, no matter how much I point out he isn't. He's just...well, I'm curious. And that causes problems.

When I checked on Sam to see if he was okay he said he will be, that Matt is supposed to work and then catch up on some chores and then he'll be back straightaway so they can sort this out.

But? I ask.

Do you think he'll come back? 

He loves you. 

But he doesn't love you, Bridget, and that's the problem. He doesn't like this environment. He doesn't want to live like we live. 

So leave. 

I can't. 

Sure, you can. You'd be so happy, Sam. 

He knows the terms. This is where I live. It isn't up for negotiations. 

I try a weak threat. I'll pack your things myself and throw you out. 

Don't. 

Broken hearts are contagious. Didn't know that. Or maybe I just forgot.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Angry devils and hungry angels.

Matt's car is still in the driveway. Matt is still here. He brought a decent supply of clothes with him. He's not in any hurry to go anywhere. Sam is dark and craving and he's beautiful because of it. Their divorce was finalized months and months ago and...and...I wish I knew...how to stop going around quoting Brokeback Mountain every three or four hours because it's annoying and yet it makes me laugh.

They can't quit each other.

Matt put Polish courage in my coffee cup without asking and I had to pour it out after a quarter of a cup because I'm pretty sure the others are putting things in my food. I don't know. I just know that sometimes when I get uptight about being touched they drug my food and ramp right up and I wake up in strange beds, in strange arms and it's a whole other sort of reunion and I don't know, it's not a bad thing but when even Bridget is burnt out on affection maybe it's too much. 

The collective isn't based around any more than that, sometimes. 

And I can't drink because I felt like a stowaway on stormy seas, tossed from one end of my balance to a void of gravity so profound I couldn't hold the cup any longer, having to set it down. 

No one looked alarmed. That speaks louder than any accusation or started-argument would have, and that's all I need to know. Everyone needs a break sometimes. My intensity burns like fire. Not nice fire but destructive, ravaging fire. 

We can contain that fire, Sam and Matt promised. Come spend a little time. 

I shook my head too hard and it broke off and rolled out the door, across the lawn and over the edge of the cliff. My eyes stung while my nose and ears filled with seawater. My body laughed as my brain drowned.

Okay, my mouth responded to Sam, gurgling my answer as water poured down my chin. But only for a little bit. I don't want to be a distraction if there's a chance you too are getting back together. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Just a Wednesday, thank God.

Today is calmer by far. Woke up early. Stayed up late. Fought out from underneath some sort of iron-sleep-grip move Ben pulled early into the dawn and when I came back from my shower he had replaced me with Lochlan anyway. Saw Matt's car in the driveway and raised my eyebrows ever so slightly and went downstairs to make coffee, because I have a full new bag of bold full city dark roast and dammit I'm going to enjoy it. I poured a big mugful, left it black (the sweet and light was short-lived) and went for a walk to the pool to see if it and I will be friends today.

We cycled out the heavy chlorine and are attempting to see where the tipping point lies between not enough and Bridget-rash. I've told Caleb many times that the tipping point is never going to be safe for pool sanitation and my solution is a fine one (not staying in too long, showering right away when I get out) but he always tries to smother a problem with money until he runs out of ideas anyway.

(I should be more grateful. Yes I know, Diabhal.)

As I loop up to Batman's and come back through front yards I see the new fencing and it makes me sad, as if it were a possibility, the boys would just erect a full bubble over my entire world, and it would move with me as I went. I would be the centre and nothing could touch me. Sometimes I wish they could do that. I wish everything wouldn't touch me. I wish everyone wouldn't touch me. I wish I could feel safe but I do though, until my brain decides that's just too comfortable, Bridget, and talks me right back out of it.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

One, two and three.

The bears came over the fence, from the trees, just between the two main houses where the woods meet the front yard and take over. We didn't do a lot of cutting out there, leaving it the way it is, keeping it natural. They climbed down one by one, loping across the front walk and coming down around the driveway to greet me as I collected some dishes from the studio and spent a few minutes talking with August, who was just getting in.

PJ saw them from the porch and didn't know I was in the driveway. He wanted to see their pattern so he didn't shoo them out, instead coming back inside and heading to the window in the side door off just down from the kitchen to track their route. He saw me drop a coffee mug to the bricks between the garage and the door just as I realized it was a mama bringing her babies to meet me (this being the baby from last year, or perhaps the year before).

I dropped everything when I saw him and ran. He burst out of the door, running toward me. I guess he thought I would freeze like a statue so we pretty much crashed into each other ten feet from the door and while we were landing hard the bears turned tail and headed back up the way they came, mama between them.

August and Caleb both heard the first dish break and were outside in time to see me scrape my hip nicely on the edge of the brick, a meat-crayon girl, which freaked me out because all I can think is that now we need to pressure-wash the stonework again or they'll smell my blood and come back. Caleb was more concerned with getting in the house right now immediately yesterday, since he probably feared I would follow the bears into the dark wood and come out feral once again.

(I only do that for wolves.)

My hip doesn't hurt this morning and further it was nicely bandaged by Lochlan when he got home, who gets further credit for going back out in the dark. He picked up all the broken pieces of stoneware, pressure washed a large area of driveway and then sprayed some bleach on it for good measure and then dug out all the extra electric fence netting we had left over, stored in the garage. Tomorrow they'll make the electric part higher in that area, just to discourage this new breach in our perfect fortress. It's misguided. I don't mind the wild animals, it's the domestic ones that you have to worry about.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Short-lived ceasefire.

Neamhchiontach. 

I look over my shoulder from the swing. I was having a beautiful day. No headache. No rashes. No heartache. No noise. No hoverers. No beautiful helicopter men piloting around me trying to juggle space and fire, balance concern with autonomy, wage wars instead of peace. 

I exhale finally, hold tighter to the ropes and begin to pump my legs, headed for blue sky all the way. His voice breaks the horizon into bits and pieces and I allow the swing to slow, waiting for a complete stop before responding to him. 

Yes? 

Come here. 

My head is a war of its own. Little Miss Submissive screams GO GO BRIDGET GO! and Little Miss Carny screams back NO, HE'S BAD! And Bridget the adult resumes her sullen swing with a point made sharp that she's not a dog. She doesn't come when you ask. 

Yes, she does. He smiles slightly, making that finger-gun gesture, rubbing his fingers against his lips, barely covering his amusement. 

Jesus. I walked right into that one. I bite my lip and shake my head. Nothing takes this day from me. 

Bridget. Now, please. Don't make me ask again. 

My brain packs up and leaves for Stockholm as I drag my feet against the grass until the swing stops again and I stand up. 

Good girl. Caleb drops his hand and his smile. A satisfied cat. A dead little blonde canary. Did you know a deaf canary raised alone in a soundproof box will still sing a perfect song? Sounds lovely. Sounds familiar. 

Black clouds rush in to cover blue skies as the wind picks up and the temperatures plummet to ice. Caleb holds out his hand for me. 

I take it and follow him up over the hill, sliding on the ice, my fingers numb from the cold. He pulls hard. I can't keep up. It's slippery and melting and there are pools everywhere and I put my hand down in one to keep from falling and find the water warm. 

Not just warm, it's hot.

I look up and Lochlan is melting all of the ice with his fire. The ice shrinks until only steam remains, rising from the ground and he meets Caleb face to face. No one backs down. No one concedes. 

Thanks for bringing her back, Lochlan says. Then he's smiling at me. It makes my heart hurt and my knees buckle hard. I was just about to come looking for you. 

He takes my hand and loops his easy teenage affection around my shoulder, pulling me in close, keeping me up in spite of my knees, turning us around to go back to the house. The fire is the horizon now, a wall behind us that roars so loudly in my ears I never did catch what Caleb was shouting. 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Every time I yawn someone sticks their finger in my mouth because they think it's funny. Let's see what happens when I bite the next one right off.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Grr.

The seventy hour headache is finally waning and I'm due to get a whopping five hours of sleep tonight thanks to an airport run tonight followed by early errands tomorrow.

Great. That should help in spades.

And as it turns out my skin is hypersensitive to chlorine and I have to limit my swim time and shower immediately upon leaving the water. I'm just going to start spiking my OJ with hydrocortisone cream and see how that goes instead. The only thing I'm not allergic to? The redhead, I think.

Life could be worse, right?

Sure it could. I could be Caleb, who volleyed for yet another night and failed to secure one and is now pacing his warpath, plotting our ruin and being a real jerk, frankly.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Magical creatures.

I found the perfect pair of overalls today. A mid-faded blue denim, bib pocket, carpenter style with legs I can roll up a bit so that they look cute with a pink ballerina top and pink glitter flip flops. I put my hair in the tiniest ponytail but it was half out within the hour. 

Lochlan sees me and says What the hel- and then breaks into a huge grin. You look fourteen again. 

I know. I tell him with despair. Until you reach my actual face. 

Bridget, I don't know what you're talking about. He's blind to the dark circles, the furrowed pain-brow that speaks of a sixty-five hour migraine that has had around ten or twelve hours of sleep within it, not enough to conquer it by far. Blind to the fact that I gave up on all of my pain meds already, pretending it doesn't bother me one minute while the next finds me gritting my teeth just trying to brush them. I rip out the ponytail and put the tie back on my wrist. 

Ow. 

That ratchets you down to twelve. He smiles again. My bangs are in my eyes and the rest is wild waves. You okay?

Still have a headache. 

Want me to call the doctor?

He's not a doctor. 

I'll bite. Want to go to the other doctor? Clinic? ER? 

Maybe all three. 

He stirs to get up. No, stay put. I'm just thinking about it.

Bridget-

It's fine. I just have to sleep. 

So sleep. 

I hate sleeping. I might miss something. 

Now you're ten. 

Why? 

Because that's what you always used to say. Remember I said it's like you think every night is Christmas Eve and you think you might see Santa if you stay up long enough but I told you he only shows up on one of those over three hundred nights in a year so you may as well close your eyes. 

I remember. 

So close your eyes, Peanut. Sleep away the pain. 

I'm trying. 

Your eyes are still open. 

This is a long habit to break, Locket. 

Well, it's either sleep now or after you see Santa in about six and a half months. But you'll be a raving lunatic by then. 

And I'm not now?

Half loon, half circus child. I'll take it, either way. I feel like that top is a leotard (because in the nineties all ballerina tops were bodysuits. God I'm old) and if you take the overalls off you'll be ready for the swings. 

Well it isn't and I don't have any underwear on so if I take off my overalls I'll put on a show alright.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Cease & quiet.

I need some room to breath
You can stay asleep if you wanted to
They say that's nothings free
You can run with me if you wanted to
Yeah you can run with me if you wanted to
There's nothing better than waking up to hear the first Foo Fighters song I've liked in a decade. It's called Run and it's really good. Not since The Pretender in 2007 has one of their songs hooked me from the first chorus like that.

***

Sam is a song I can't hear, playing softly on the radio on the kitchen counter by the open window where a warm midmorning summer breeze lifts the curtains just enough to let the memory thief slip between them, straight back into my head.

What about the letters, Bridget?

He's codependent, enabling, needing me to need him and today I don't need anyone.

You read them. 

I have. 

Great. You can do me a book report. Like in grade five when I did one on The Great Brain and by the end I realized it was a book about Lochlan. 

That's funny but that's changing the subject. 

You're fucking gaslighting me, Sam. 

August has you in a good spot, then. Sam concedes, backing off as I think about precisely the spot August had me in last time I saw him, wedged up against the door under his hands, my head pressed against the night latch. I think I have a dent in my temple from it, truth be told, and I reach up to rub it while Sam remains oblivious.

I'll keep them for you. Someday you may change your mind. I'm just trying to keep your best interests at heart. 

God. He fits in here so nicely. So well, as they all get along like brothers, barely breaking the mold of their teenage years which came to mean passing me around like a bottle of forbidden alcohol, risking a sip here, a swallow there, hiding me away, bringing me out to fight over, angry young drunks with a bone to pick, when mine were clean and so easily plucked, bent like bows to shoot arrows through all of them until I had a stack of hearts a mile long, my arrow so weighed down it headed in the wrong direction, taking me so long to get back here I arrive bitter, tired and suspicious, resentful as hell.

(I didn't mean to write all that today but there it is.)

I reach out and turn the radio off and close the window and the silence that echoes back to me is deafening.