Thursday, 10 January 2013

Cold reading.

He said, 'Love I leave, but only a little, try to understand
I put my soul in this life we created with these four hands
Love, I leave, but only a little this world holds me still
My body may die now, but these paintings are real.'
The sun lingered today, just long enough light the clouds up like spring as it waited near the horizon for me to notice but I was busy watching Lochlan paint. When I looked up into the sky it was so abrupt and beautiful I almost started to cry. I could only point to it and so he stopped, putting his brush down and he watched with me until it faded back behind the clouds and he pulled me into his arms and I watched the sun go to sleep over his shoulder, my arms locked around his neck.

You've been doing this since you were a little girl.


Maybe I just remember things a little better that you would. 

Why, because you were older?

Yes, so I knew day changing to night freaked you out and I chalked it up to your overactive imagination. 

And now?

I don't know, Peanut. Night is when the monsters come and maybe you knew that before the rest of us.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Keep your silence or
Reach for life beyond the stars
Save your mercy
For someone who needs it more
I'm the guilty
All the feelings come crashing down on me
I'm taking you with me
I couldn't get all of the writing off my arms and so I was forced to wear a cardigan with my dress today, which brought comments from Caleb within minutes of me walking through the door this morning.

How long, exactly, is the Ringmaster's speech, Princess?

Seven minutes, sometimes as short as five
, I reply.

And what did you generally do while he gave it?

I was still in makeup, usually.

He stands there staring at me for several uncomfortable minutes and then asks to see the words so I shrug out of my sweater and stand on display while he makes two circles around me, frowning, his head cocked dangerously to one side so he can read all of it, though it is faint now from the thorough scrubbing I did in the shower last night and again this morning. Lochlan's handwriting is gorgeous and illegible and hasn't changed at all since he was sixteen because he isn't a book-learner so things like penmanship and cursive writing are afterthoughts instead of efforts. He spends nothing on them and so he gets little in return.

Caleb swears under his breath and instructs me to put my sweater back on. He holds his hands out as if to take it and hold it up so I can be put into it. I ignore his hands and pull it on without help. He's in a hurry to cover up any trace of Lochlan's predictable defiance.

Aren't you a little old to be writing on each other? Says he who wrote oblivion on my fingers and Neamhchiontach across my back, one very recently and one decades ago.

No, I reply in a dull voice. This subject is off limits. I'm not doing this today.

Today my task is to file all of Caleb's souls by Justification for Purchase. It's cross-filing, since they are always filed alphabetically immediately upon acquisition. He likes to peruse the arguments, he likes to absorb the lingering desperation and he delights in the elation that emanates from those he enters into transactions with before they can realize the true gravity of what they've done.

These contracts are kept locked up tight. None can be broken, none have ever been dissolved, for he is the Devil and once you give him something, you can't ever take it back. I have the key only as long as it takes me to get the job done and then I will return it in exchange for unparalleled, unwarranted attentiveness.

I'll sit here in the semi-darkness and make neatly-printed labels for the multitude of color-coded files spread out on the floor around me in an ever-widening circle. Labels that say things like Financial Independence, Talents, Indemnification, Vanity, Comfort. There is also a label that reads Innocent, and it is the thinnest, for the one file that rests within it, the one with my name on it. Because the Devil not only purchases souls, but he can acquire them through other means, by mere proximity to someone young enough to not understand that their soul must be protected.

He can appropriate it when no one is looking and keep it forever, but the price he pays is that the soul's original bearer gains access to everything he has to offer. They will hold those respective positions in a virtual deadlock for time eternal, with holes forming on both sides at various intervals throughout their lives through which coveted promises fall. Currently he doesn't have the loyalty part of my soul and it's been a hell of a long time since I've had any comfort, and that's just where we stand right now.

But by far the thickest file is Requited Love. As I thumb through it I see all of my boys' names, alphabetically from Ben right through Jacob and everyone in between. Because in their rush to exchange what seems like a valueless anchor, a myth for something they desperately want, they fail to obtain the most important thing: the definition of what they are asking for, for all love is not created equal.

Some love is brotherly, some fatherly, some distant and some benign. Because vanity means different things to different people, and comfort comes in so many forms if you have something in mind, you might just be disappointed. Each of these things the Devil can twist and shape into something that barely resembles what you wanted most. This is his greatest deception.

And so by the time you realize what you have done, it's usually too late.

No, wait.

Let me correct myself.

It is always too late.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The scorched earth policy.

(If you're looking for the Part II of yesterday's post, or even the second half of what was posted yesterday, it has been removed. Some memories are safe, warranted and welcomed while others are the nostalgic equivalent of swimming in lava. I was cautioned not to proceed. My apologies. Perhaps another time.)

While I'm on the phone with Andrew, Lochlan picks up the sharpie from the counter. Before I can stop him he begins to write all over my arm. Before I can read what he wrote he admonishes me for not paying close enough attention to my conversation. As if he had nothing to do with distracting me.

Is it Ben-safe? What you are writing?

Jesus, yes. Is anything not Ben-safe? Or rather, is there anything safe from Ben? He'll probably think the words are food and try to eat them right off your flesh. 

I laugh and Andrew thinks he is clever, on the other end of the line that travels across Canada and underneath the Atlantic to get to him. They are in Ireland and I've progressed past mild jealousy and straight toward seething, rabid envy. Dalton is collecting women, they say and they haven't seen him since yesterday or he would have a turn on the phone too.

I ask that they maybe keep a better eye on each other and Duncan laughs over the speakerphone on their end and says, But it's Ireland, Bridget! It's safe enough! And then Andrew howls and I realize they are mildly trashed and having a blast and I ask them just to be safe and look after one another and they promise me they are but I don't want to know how and by the time I hang up Lochlan has written all over my other arm as well and is capping the marker, quite satisfied with himself.

He holds up the sharpie. I think you might need a new one. This one's worn out. 

I have dozens. 

Oh good. I'll do the rest of you later on. 

PJ snorts over his cereal at the island. I....forgot he was there. Apparently so did Lochlan.

Hush, you, I tell PJ and he laughs out loud and mimics Lochlan's words in Lochlan's accent but then he adds all of this crass stuff I won't even repeat. Why the boys didn't take him overseas I don't know. He might have been useful. Oh, right. Bodyguard duty here, though technically he is the nanny. That's right. I said it.

What did you write? 

The Ringmaster's speech. 

Oh fuck. You didn't. The whole thing? I am spinning in a circle, trying to see the backs of my elbows. He did. The whole thing.

Lochlan! Why couldn't you have just written the lyrics to a Pink Floyd song or something. Now I feel like the freak that I am! 

Good. He said and broke into a crafty, peculiar smile. Might make you less appealing to the more conventional types around here.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Proving ground.

You said that you love me
And that you always will
Oh you begged me to keep you
In that house on the hill
Looking out for love
Big, big love
I wake up alone with it all
I wake up but only to fall
Today I tied my hair back in a messy little knot at the nape of my neck. I shrugged into my blue velvet leggings and a very long black sweater and I slid my rings onto my finger, grabbed my phone and my coffee cup and walked next door. Barefoot. In the pouring rain. In January. Because January here is a laughable winter compared to every other place I have lived. Because I haven't even gotten my boots out at all this year, let alone most of my shoes. Caleb now has a big sisal mat outside his door and inside a nice plushier one to catch all the leaves and sticks I track in. I'm like Ben without the size fourteen boots, undomesticated and clomping all over the house making a mess before we call to him to take them off already. I ignore the rug and track leaves right through into Caleb's office.

Caleb frowns when he sees me. He's already at his desk with coffee close by and pen in hand. I thought you would be running errands this morning. It's Monday, is it not?

I can't do this.

He stands up and comes around the desk. Can't do what? What's the matter? He frowns when he sees my dirty bare feet and I smile. It illustrates perfectly the point I am about to make.

I'm not the sort of girl who has a driver.

You can be any sort of girl you want. We've already proven this. Last week you were extolling the virtues of sleeping in furs and now-

There's a difference between a night of luxury and a life of one, Diabhal. 

I know, Neamhchiontach. That's why I want to give you that life. 

What if I don't want it? Any of it?

You'll come around. You always do. It's just the pain talking today, making you doubt everything. Go get some sleep. All of this will keep until tomorrow. If you need anything call me. 

If I need anything I'll call Loch. 

His hand tightens around the back of the chair but he says nothing.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Heart of clay.

If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would let it go
Surrender, dislocate
Lochlan's out there in the pouring rain practicing. Maybe for a show in his memory. He's on the unicycle and he's juggling dry torches, keeping the cycle rocking slightly in a back and forth circle about fourteen inches across. Sometimes he does a loop around the fountain.

I stand at the window and watch. After a minute Ben speaks and I jump seventy-five feet. My headache hurts worse as I unclench my whole body bit by bit.

Think when he comes in we should put money in the hat?

Definitely. But only a tenner because there was no fire.

Tough customer.

Go ask him to light them up and we'll make it twenty.

Ben pulls me back to lean against him, putting his cool hand against my forehead. I close my eyes and when I open them again Lochlan has fallen and Ben has torn away from me to run outside.

It's the stupid bricks Caleb had put into the driveway in a pattern to make the driveway sort of tie the whole property together. They form a square with the fountain marking the center, and as you drive around it the brick connects the boathouse and garage to the house. It looks pretty but it's somewhat lethal if you only have one wheel under you instead of at least two or hopefully four for best results.

I watch as Ben reaches him, as he was out there before I even realized what had happened and Lochlan is sitting on the driveway surrounded by the tools of his other life, the one that he would trade everything to go back to sometimes, when life was so much simpler. Ben claps him on the back and pulls him up onto his feet. They look at the window where I stand with my hands pressed to the glass. Ben nods and smiles. Lochlan's okay.  Lochlan waves toward the window without meeting my eyes. His pride. Oh, goddamn his pride all to hell sometimes. He begins to pick up the torches. Ben helps and soon they have all four plus the cycle and they head toward the garage and I go to the kitchen to make another pot of coffee.

Lochlan just needs to practice more. Maybe on the concrete instead. I reassure myself as the side door opens and Ben walks in, followed by Loch. He is soaked, bleeding from one elbow and his lip too where he bit it on the way down. I grab a clean towel as he tells me he just needs more practice. Maybe on the concrete. Because those fucking bricks. My brain smiles in response but not my face as he assures me he is fine. He puts his soaking wet arms around me and pulls me in close, resting his bleeding lips against my forehead. I close my eyes.

I told him about your headache not being any better, Ben apologizes as if he had crossed a line and I reach out without opening my eyes and take his hand. He squeezes it gently and then moves in to surround us both in a hug. Dripping and all. My pajamas are wet and the boys are both freezing now but if you think I'm going to move from this embrace first then you don't know me at all.
This desperation
In temptation

Let it go.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Bacon fixes everything.

Yesterday's entry brought a little bit of that thing I hate almost more than when Lochlan swings at Satan and misses. Yeah, that thing called pity that wells up in spite of their efforts to keep it quashed lest I see it. I don't say a lot about Cole, overall. I never have. We were seen as a somewhat idyllic match at one point. They all crushed on him. They worshipped his passion. He ruled this collective in a way that would blow your mind. I didn't want to be the one to ruin their image of him.

I still soften things. Habits this old are hard to break.

So between the pity and the newly-missings, this is shaping up to be a wonderful day. We took Dalton, Duncan and Andrew to the airport this morning. They are headed overseas to work on a thing and God love them, my only hopes are that they don't take anything offered to them unless it's a hamburger, they wear protection so they don't bring home anything...untoward and that they just hurry up and get home, only it looks like it will be March Break before that happens, as they go and work their butts off to see that things run smoothly for everyone else. They have promised to bring me as many skull tanks as they come across in merch, too. Awesomesauce.

They also said they will call and check in every Tuesday and Friday night at ten pm local time, which will be morning for them there. Duncan's promised to not come back in the same shape he did last time and Dalton I've never worried about. If anything I worry for the girls he will leave with broken hearts all over because he tends to lay it on really thick. He's like that. Andrew was never as crazy as the rest so he'll do just fine.

Since Ben had to drive to the airport, he organized another breakfast out for himself, Lochlan and I. He really loves going out for breakfast, mostly because I am slow to awaken and refuse to use the stove in a sleepy state. We went back to the same place he took the boys the other day and they got me a Lumberjack! Which I demolished!


And then they told me not to worry about anything.

(Always the inevitable ambush. Always in some place that has the super-thick white coffee mugs that I adore but won't purchase for home use because then it won't be as fun to use them when we go out.)

They both promised that everything will be fine, because we are the three musketeers.

They made me cry. The waitress thought something was wrong with my food and I couldn't get a grip long enough to tell her that it was great (Lochlan did it for me) and then we came home and piled downstairs into the big couch to play Halo and I almost fell asleep because I don't like very many of the games but I do like it when the other two musketeers are close by. Yes, I really do, in spite of how much my stomach hurts now from all that grease I ate instead of my usual banana for breakfast. It was so good though.

Also an important note on grudging: PJ has finally come around after Lochlan's New Year's Day teardown of his bouncer skills. They have hardly spoken to one another since and finally Lochlan grabbed PJ in a big hug and told him he was sorry. Out loud. PJ pretended not to react for so long we could see Lochlan's hopefulness waning mightily and then PJ threw his arms around Lochlan and kissed him on the mouth. I love it when that happens. Lochlan said he lost control out of worry for me and PJ accepted that and said he hoped he would never be lumped in with those who have any less than my very best interests at heart and that he wouldn't see me hurt for the world.

They shook hands, which seemed a rather formal after that kiss and then PJ only asked Lochlan to change one thing in the future: to make sure PJ gets invited to all these breakfasts out because he would like to have a lumberjack too.

I asked PJ if he was coming out of the closet or something because..that kiss... and he looked at me sweetly and told me If it has bacon on it then yes.

Remind me to have Loch brush his teeth before he sees PJ again.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Lamp black.

I am working diligently on tax forms for 2012 this morning when Caleb appears beside me. With a goofy smile he slides a small box in front of me. It is wrapped professionally.

I had one more gift for you, which I'm afraid was lost in the shuffle or the haze of the pain from the headaches over the holidays. I discovered it this morning. 

You don't have to-

Just open it, Bridget. Please. It's only small, but it's something you will love. 

It's a mink key ring. A little round ball of fur with a clip. I smile and stroke it across my cheek and then his. So soft.

Do you remember the Danish mink blanket I gave you and Cole when you got married? What happened to it anyway?

He burned it. 

Caleb's eyes go from pleased to saddened in a blink and I'm sorry I didn't censor myself but I seem to always speak first and think later.


Cole is listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer and painting tonight. It's pouring outside but he has opened all the windows and put a fire on. He's in his customary darkest-blue paint-flecked jeans (that match his eyes so closely it's frightening) and nothing else, it's his painting uniform. The black leather cord with the German cross dangles against his chest and he grins at me through his dark brown curls as he tips my glass up to his lips, finishing the rest of the whiskey that I left because it burns too much.

Take off your shirt, he instructs.

It's freezing and it's the only thing I have on.

Wrap that around yourself. He indicates the mink blanket from the daybed. It was one of the gifts his brother bought for us for our wedding. I didn't have the heart to tell Cole that Caleb bought it because of a room we stayed in in Vegas that had a fur-covered bed that I couldn't bring myself to leave. Sleeping naked in fur should be on everyone's life list if it isn't already. I'm not sure if Cole would be actually be upset however, since he was the one who made me go on the trip in the first place.

I unbutton my shirt slowly. I don't want to model anymore. I just want to sleep. I don't know why he doesn't know me by heart enough to paint without me having to sit here for hours, days on end while he spirals down into the darkness that is his gift. I don't know if it's worth it. Who in the hell is going to buy paintings of a girl they aren't in love with?

He pours another glass of whiskey for himself and comes over to me, ripping the shirt apart and sliding it off my shoulders. He pulls the mink blanket around me and gathers it in front, pulling my hair back so my face tilts up toward his for a kiss. His mouth burns too. He holds his glass up to my lips but I try and turn my head away. He turns it back and gazes into my eyes for what seems like an eternity before letting go and taking the glass back to the easel.

Sit on the floor, Bridget. By the fire. Warm up there. 

I do as I'm told. I sit for hours. Excruciating execution. At three in the morning he cleans his hands and comes over to me, pulling me to my feet. He's tipped past his breaking point. He's frustrated and I'm going to bear the brunt of his creative block or whatever is wrong now.

WHY are you like this? He roars at me, ripping the blanket off and throwing it into the fire.

Like what? I'm terrified and tired and confused.

So fragile. I can't paint fragile. This portrait isn't you. I don't know who it is. But I can't get this right. Why can't you be stronger? 

He turns around and storms out of the room and I look down in time to see smoke pouring off the blanket from where it landed inside the grate, underneath the mesh screen, and is now singeing around the edges, melting. I drag it away, onto the hearth and smother it up into a ball. It's ruined.

I put more wood on the fire and close the windows. I twist the caps back onto the whiskey and the paints that Cole missed  in his anger. By the time I'm finished cleaning up the room is warm and I can't stay awake any longer. I fetch the ruined blanket from the floor and lie down on the daybed, pulling the blanket over me, ashes and all. I'm asleep in seconds and in my dreams Cole is burning, having tried to throw me in the fire when his hands were still stinging from the paint thinner he used to clean up with. I could not be held by him though, I disintegrated when he touched me and he burned instead.

He would spend the rest of his life capturing the fragility he saw in me. Through paintings, in photographs, in his minds eye. In his heart that finally broke from the effort. He sold his soul to his brother and figured it out and his creative world exploded into accolades and recognition for something I thought was so very ordinary.


Caleb (by purchasing his soul) and then Batman (facilitating exposure to the right people) made Cole famous.

I just drove him mad.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here.
Ben took Lochlan, Cale and Batman out for coffee this morning. Or breakfast, I guess because they're not really coffee types, honestly. They went to a pancake place and Caleb pretended he was cool with ordering something called a Longshoreman or Lumberjack platter or something like that. This was described to me in great glorious detail because apparently Caleb seemed very ill-at-ease in a three-quarter star restaurant. Batman was not, he just magically fits in everywhere. They set about eating like it was very seriously business once the food arrived. I think they were all probably terrified.

 All three of them assumed Ben was going to crack heads but Ben is vastly underrated and does more than eat the contents of my purse and pretend that he is home more than he is.

He's quite the talker, once you get him going and he rarely fails to make perfect sense. I have no problems with getting him to talk a blue streak but most of the others have never heard him say more than a few sentences in the same week. He's not even considered quiet. He just tends to hold back for the most part. Giant rhymes with silent, he always tells me with a wink. still don't think it does...

Each of them were addressed in turn and I believe they're all on the same page now and again no one is going to make any sudden moves, Batman is still agreeing to the space I requested and has left it as such. He will interfere if he feels it is required. Caleb has agreed to stop with the fucking envelopes already and take his cues from me (which is such utter BULLSHIT but whatever, I don't think anyone believed him.). Lochlan (who called Batman in the first place, after New Years Eve) agreed to shitfuckall, because he's still royally pissed at everything and everyone. Ben apparently had him step outside and cooled him off with even more soothing words, after which Loch went back inside and split a piece of apple pie with Satan. I don't even..what?

I think the Longhaul Trucker platter maybe slowed them all down a little or simply weighed down their arteries enough that they're going to be able to sort of possibly almost maybe get along as things stand right now. Well okay, Ben's making a great effort. The rest of us are fucked. 

Just fucked.

Completely and utterly fucked.

Because let's face it. I can charm the pants off absolutely everyone anyone but my juggling skills are rudimentary at best.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

What a weird and beautifully terrible place I'm in.

You don't need to bother
I don't need to be
I'll keep slipping farther
But once I hold on
I won't let go 'til it bleeds
We are toe to toe, hands to hands, fingers knitted, eyes focused, foreheads pressed together and he pushes me right across the polished tiles of the kitchen floor and into the hall.

Ben thinks this a riot.

What part?

That I'm angry. 

Ben doesn't understand the fuss, maybe. 

Do you? Jesus! Do either one of you see how fucked up this is? GARGHHH! I can't STAND this.

Loch. Stop it. I wait for him to get control of his fury. He drags his hands down his face and focuses on me and I can continue. There's no room here for judgement, especially from you.

Oh but there is. Especially where the Devil is concerned!

PJ comes to the door, every inch house enforcement. Princess protection detail. Care, in bearded form. You okay, Bridge?

Lochlan whirls around on him. Jesus, Padraig! She doesn't need protection from ME. If you want to be useful you should have stuck around New Year's Eve when the vultures set about her!

PJ reddens and turns away, saying nothing. I jump back into the fray. Jesus, Loch! Leave him alone!

Maybe he wants in! Maybe I'm the only one with any common sense anymore, baby!

Instead of standing up to him, I shrink like a violet in hot water. I feel very small suddenly and not very powerful. Just very ashamed. I don't like it when anyone makes me feel that way. I shut down, stop talking, stop meeting his eyes.

Aw, Jesus, Bridge, I'm sorry. He pulls me into the front of his shirt and I disappear against the flannel, blending in with the plaid. Shutting down because it's Lochlan yelling at me and all I ever wanted and all I ever seem to fight against is his approval and the moment I step out of his control he can't handle it. I put my head up against his cheek as he bows his head down and I wrap my arms around his neck.

I'm sorry, Locket. I don't mean to hurt you.

Do you do it for Ben? Is that what it is?

Oh God. The rage, it's emanating off him in waves.

I wait long and hard to answer that question, weighing the truth against an easy way out. And then I give him my answer. He has to accept it because he knows it's the truth and he knows that I would never hurt him intentionally. He doesn't let go. He doesn't cast me away and hurry out the door. He doesn't yell anymore or admonish me or try and force me to bend back the other way, he just holds on as tight as ever.

Abruptly he pulls away, looking down at me, reaching up to smooth away the hair in my eyes (fucking bangs). He laughs so ruefully. You age me, Peanut. And you're not ever going to do that again.

I age myself, Locket. And you don't get to decide these things.

Like hell I don't. You've been through enough. It's done.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Bombshells and curveballs.

The reminder was more of a warning, a clean cut, slicing night into day, 2012 into 2013 and right into wrong but no one found it sinister. Only compelling. Hauntingly so.

This is about Bridget. It's about what she needs. 

(Only I'm right here. I can hear you speak. I can hear you breathe. I can distinguish between your heartbeats and between the voices in your own heads and I'd better do it quickly because my own heartbeat is thumping between my ears, pounding a rhythm to a dance I don't think I remember all that well or maybe I do and maybe I would have liked to forget.)

A head bends down and kisses the space between my nose and my mouth. Softly. No razor burn. No expectation. Butterfly kisses in the new darkness. The fireworks have ended, the sparklers have fizzled out and the guests have all gone home. Black takes over, cool sophisticated black the color of unstrung bowties and tuxedo jackets. Everything else is pure white gold. The champagne. My earrings. The stars, I bet, but I can't see them because of the clouds in between the earth and heaven.

Breath against my lips, waiting for a sign. I exhale slowly, nodding my head up higher still for a kiss on target. The breathing excites me, held in control, anticipating, halted and measured. My hands are brought behind my back and held as lips trace along my neck. My shoulders. I lean back against a wall of solid muscle. I am kept there. My shoulders are squared, my neck extended and my eyes are slow to focus through the haze of sparkling bubbles.

No regrets, little Bumblebee, mumbled softly, a kiss planted on top of my head as if I might grow from it. Surrounded by love, enveloped in their hearts, I don't need a net right here because they are the net. I reach up, taking the end of a tie. I pull it away from a collar in exchange for a smile. I tie the bowtie around my neck and pick up my glass to finish that one last drink that's been refilled twice since. The glass is taken away, handed off. I don't know where it goes, I have champagne-brain again and don't have to be responsible. Instead I feel powerful. I say the word. I want to test it. Immediately all movements stop, concern replacing need.

I say it was a test and feel the relief replace the brief concern. Hands slide around my head until my face is held up close to another and I reach up and free another tie for my stylish new collection. Everything will be fine, Babydoll, I am told as I am turned away once more. This is my own private carousel where I can stand amongst the prettiest horses where the music is the perfect volume only the lights are leaving tiny trails in my eyes as I turn faster. I reach out to hold on. To keep balance.

I nod. I understand but this is only the beginning so I might test again.

My hands are released and I am handed into arms and held tightly. Possessively. You're okay, Peanut? I am asked. Wanted is the reassurance I was just looking for. I nod again and pull another tie out from under a collar but it is taken back from me, stuffed into a pocket. Included but continuing to be kept apart. I go to work on the shirt studs and fail miserably as kisses rain down along my temple, as I am held so tightly that if I didn't have to breathe I might never let go again. I put my head down against a shoulder and the hold is further tightened until I am gently pried away. This night will come so easy for some and so haltingly slowly for others. This night will never ever happen again.

In the morning I have two bracelets, one earring and two bowties still on. I look in the mirror and the night stares back, judging me. I tell it harshly to walk a mile in my shoes and it tells me with contempt that it wears my shoes every time the sun goes down, until it comes back up again, to not even pretend that I will be absolved for this, that when the bubbles wear off there will be hell to pay.

I lean in very close and remind the night that I have been saving up for years, that I have more than enough to cover whatever price it can come up with.

I want to remind it that it should pay me for my cost. That the scales are tipped in its favor and that isn't right. That the curses of favoritism and dignity and terror and need are all at price points neither one of us can even touch.

But then I remember there were moments. I made it from one end of my high wire to the other intact. So many moments. I take one more look at the carousel before I turn to leave. I turn back to the mirror and I stand up on my tiptoes, reaching up with my lipstick, writing NO REGRETS on the mirror in Dior's 752 Cherry Red. I smile at myself and for the briefest moment I feel like I conquered the world.

Then I reach up again and smear the words until you can't read them anymore, because I know better than that.