Monday, 9 May 2016

Sunday, 8 May 2016

All systems go, the sun hasn't died
Deep in my bones, straight from inside

I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my system blow
Welcome to the new age
How do I go about making this up to you? He speaks softly into the top of my head as I sit in the crook of his arm in front of a roaring bonfire. It's freezing but I agreed to go for a drink. I was allowed on the basis of it taking place outside. Beach is fine as long as I am escorted closely down and back up. He'll agree to anything at this point and so off we went, his flask in his breast pocket of the jacket he put around my shoulders before we even reached the stairs.

Lagavulin. I'm warm on the inside, at least.

Except I've had Ativan.

FFS. One drink hits like three and soon I'm sleepy, easy to hold.

Be truthful.

I'm trying my best.

You're not trying at all. I scold him but my eyes are heavy. I'm nine again and he is eighteen and I'm falling asleep on the beach, in front of the warm fire and I shouldn't be here so late. He pulls me full into his lap, wrapping my legs around his waist, my arms around his neck. I rest my head against his shoulder and feel his arms lock around my back as he stands up. He carries me home, allowed to come right inside and gently put me in bed. I'm asleep the moment his lips touch my forehead.

I wake up to rain on the skylights. It's still dark and he's still there and then I realize we're sinking. The water is up to my knees and the furniture slides crazily down to the other end of the room as he grabs for my hands.

I can save you! He yells. The water is already up to my neck. There's no time for a fight. No time for reason and soon I'm treading hard, coughing up seawater, fighting his hold on me. He pulls me in tightly against him and exhales easily but I've already drowned. Water fills my lungs and I forget what I just realized.

It's not important any more anyway.

Everything is black. Everything is finished. All done. Gone. Over.

When I open my eyes it's still raining, the skylights making little effort for the clarity of the sunrise through the heavy tree limbs about the boathouse. And the Devil is nowhere to be found.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Complicated grief.

The Devil has called for me and I practically fly next door, pulling the starter on my broom so hard it snaps off but that's okay, it's running. Sam swears. He just got home from a wedding and I took his tie off him with such great ceremony before pouring him a glass of lemonade and asking for all the details.

He's a boy and so the details were the following: He wore a suit. She had a dress. I don't know. It was white. It's so hot out. I was just trying not to pass out. Yes, they cried. People always cry at weddings, Bridget. Hey, where are you going? 

When I arrive the doctor is packing up his things. There is a small bottle on the kitchen counter. Caleb is fastening his shirt buttons. The Holter monitor is back. Funny how their heartbreak is a physical response to emotional sanctions on my part, always.

Cut them off, they die.

I don't want him to die. I don't want to talk to him either though so I address the doctor.

He motions to the bottle on the counter. Mr. C____ said you both were having some profound distress. I went ahead and brought some Ativan for you. You know how to take it, if you need to. 

Thank you. I take the bottle and stare at it while the Devil stares at me, boring holes in the side of my head with his blue eyes. They don't let me keep this stuff. I could slow down my whole world with this. It's pharmaceutical quicksand.

Is he okay? 

We'll be keeping a close watch. Can you be my eyes while I am not here? If anything changes call me. I'll give you my other numbers as well. 

If something goes wrong I'll call 911. For Christs' sake. 

She's perfect for this. The old doctor grimaces at Caleb.

I know. Caleb is as reluctant as I am to meet eyes so we don't.

Is something wrong between you? I have people who talk to you and work it out. 

We have people-
we say at the same time and stop short.

I will leave it. Take care of him and call me if you need anything. Hopefully you won't need to call 911. He just needs to take it easier. I'll be back on Monday for the monitor.

Thank you. I see him out and come back for the bottle.

Bridget-

Call me if you need anything. I scoop the bottle off the table and leave.

When I come back across and into the kitchen Sam is on a second glass of lemonade. Everything okay? What's that? 

Some iron pills. Yeah, he's fine. False alarm, I guess. I tuck the pills in my pocket and wonder where I can hide them but Sam pins me against the counter and takes the bottle. He reads the label and frowns at me.

I'll keep these and give them to Loch later. 

Fine. 

Bridget-

It's FINE. I was going to give them to him when he got home anyway so it doesn't matter.

Caleb isn't going to die, Bridget. The Devil isn't as fallible as the rest of us. 

Cole died of a broken heart. They're brothers so it would be a genetic thing, I guess.

Who told you Cole died because of that?

I saw it happen. I watched it happen! What if it happens to Caleb too? What if it's me? What if I'm doing something that kills everyone the same way?

Sam doesn't ever break his gaze as he opens the bottle and shakes one single white pentagon-shaped chip out into his hand. He passes it to me and I take it obediently, swallowing it dry and then sticking out my tongue so he can make sure I swallowed it.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Malafide.

Caleb was nervous. Expectant. Ever so slightly skittish but contained as I refilled his glass as he held it out. One bottle of Laphroaig, three friends divided. Their tug of war for my heart has been painful but he dug his grave and stuck one foot right in it and I still, up until now, haven't spoken directly to him since I realized that Henry wasn't his. Henry is Jake's. Sadly Henry enjoys his time with Caleb, got fed a line or two about how hard we try to get along and not to worry and now I'm still stuck in this weird place where I always am, somewhere hard and fast between euphoria and suspended grief.

His speech buckled my fucking knees. He was unequivocally adamant that I take his birthday gift to me as a symbol of his efforts to remember the bottom line of the collective. The common goal they all share.

Love her hard, keep her safe, it reads sometimes.

Sometimes it says Tear her apart and keep the pieces. We can probably rebuild.

Every now and then it reads Share and play nice.

I never know which creed he's using on any given day but I locked my knees and nodded and Lochlan squeezed my hand and stared intently at the sand and Ben thanked Caleb, which was generous but Ben doesn't give a fuck. Maybe Caleb is sincere. Maybe he tries, best he knows how. Maybe he understands at last the damage he continues to do but I don't know for sure. I don't know anything right now except I'm sticking close to whomever is safest and the Devil isn't on that list currently, as if he ever was, and he probably never will be. Not at this rate. I can take a lot but when he touches on one of the hearts of my children all bets are off.

I can't forgive him. I'm trying and I can't.

Sorry.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Collected.

I was woken up around five this morning, Lochlan turning me over in his arms, kissing my face, my mouth, bringing me up with him into what was left of the night until I fairly screamed with all of my nerves standing at attention. Happy Birthday he whispered as he pulled my hair back, making me submit to his strength, and then he let go and I fell back to earth where Ben caught me handily.

Oh God, I said, and they laughed and Lochlan went to get ready while Ben tasted the spoils of the night, bringing me back up for more, enjoying the control he wrought from my early spend of energy. He held me down. I never fought but he never let up and when he finally leaned down for one last kiss I was almost in tears from the overload and he said, Happy Birthday, my little bumblebee.

We got ready together, making round two (three?) a showery affair with shampoo in owie-places and hardly the strength to towel-dry after. By the time I made it out of there Lochlan was dressed and waiting patiently. Holding the new Laphroaig and pulling at his collar slightly. He hasn't put in all the studs in his tux so the neck is open. Hope he skips the tie. His hair is tied back in a low knot. Hope he undoes that too. As promised, no shoes.

Ready?

I'm naked.

That's fine by me.

I smile and head to get my dress. Forty-five is a travelers map across my being. Highways mapped around my eyes and maddeningly enough one deep line between my eyebrows but only on the right. Skin that's been bruised and kissed. Bones broken and set. Ears there for decoration only, to hold back my hair or sport earrings or hearing aids. Veins drained of their blood and refilled. Blood poisoned and renewed. Brain electrified and reset. Heart mended. Over and over and over again. But outwardly I am still me, stuck somewhere between twelve and seventeen in the place where I once had a soul, even though my drivers' license says forty-five,  newly today.

Still can't believe it. Loch says, as he mashes another kiss against my cheek.

Me neither.

***

Dinner is Monte Cristos and french fries.

How do you serve french fries on a beach that is a half-hour climb down a sheer cliff face with a staircase blasted into the brink? You pay a lot of money to have it catered, that's how, and they arrive in big insulated wraps that keep everything superheated.

I did not cook, I drank champagne and then I drank Laphroaig and then at some point I wondered if the scotch and the bubbly would either work in tandem to ruin me or cancel each other out (surprise twist: the second one) and I excused the kids after their dinner so they could go and do homework and finish gaming with their friends. John walked them up to the house and got them settled, for they are also not allowed to solo climb those stairs and then I sat back and listened to the speeches, knowing that cake is going to be on the other side of all that crying to be done.

I cry too much. Maybe I need a birthday resolution, a reminder inked in blue around the margins of this map I carry.

Cry less, it will say.

Fuck that.

***

There's something fundamentally exquisite about well-dressed men on the beach. Tattoos and tuxedos and hair pulled back or combed flat. Groomed beards and bare feet. The flutes in their hands, or tumblers. Scotch or juice. Moonlight and stars and waves and the ever-present heaven of the white noise of the ocean. I stepped back shortly after midnight and watched. Just for a moment, alone before being noticed. It usually takes less than .00005 of a second before someone is looking for me these days but every now and again the magic of their brotherhood is remembered and they close in and become taken with one another and I am a rewarded audience of this camaraderie. That's the best birthday gift of all.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Apocryphal dawn.

At five this morning, I dash back across the driveway, still in August's flannel shirt. It's pouring. It's barely light out and I hear the Devil before I see him, his cloven hooves scraping against the brick. I stop up short and the rain soaks through to my bones, the very same ones he is holding in his reddened gaze.

Bridget. The word comes out singed, streaked with soot.

Yes? I'm going to approach this showing no fear, same way I do with the wild animals that come onto the property that I encounter with such alarming regularity I should probably turn the electric fence back on myself but I don't because I was taught to love playing with fire.

I turn and his darkened wings are out. They are so much more magnificent than Cole's but I only see his in shadow so I'm not one hundred percent sure. Anyway, doubt is a weakness so I'll go with impressed disinterest. He smiles slightly. It's an angry smile. I'm aware. But my head aches with broken sleep.

Then I realize we're not alone.

Go inside, Bridget. Don't stop and talk to monsters. Just keep going. Hurry. I whirl around and the owner of that accented voice is sitting on the edge of the fountain playing with a flame. His fingertips are black to match his top hat, upon which the rain is beading around the brim, giving him a netherworldly appearance. His red curls stream out from underneath the hat. I can't see his eyes but he's watching the flame, which spits and sputters and blooms in the steady deluge.

Who's the monster here? You farm her out to whomever she wants. That isn't giving her a home, just an addiction of her own that she can't control anymore. And yet, I take that blame when I should reject it. The Devil's voice comes out double in his rage. An undercurrent of deep tones I can barely hear.

Go inside, Baby. Quickly, now. The flame speaks, drawing me in the right direction with warmth.

I cast one more glance back at those glorious wings and I run. I run up the steps and I fling open the door and Ben is waiting. I try to tell him about Caleb and Lochlan and he kisses the top of my head and tells me to go up to bed, that they will deal with this. That everything is okay. He squeezes my head between his hands and then lets go and I fall off the cliff into the sea.

It's so cold. So cold but I'm so sleepy and scared and paralyzed and waning. Then a hand reaches down, pulling me back to the surface and I take a deep breath when I wake up, a gasp for air and I open my eyes and August is staring at me.

It's five, Bridge. You gotta go home now. 

But I can't. I'm afraid to leave now. He winds up taking his shirt back and putting it on over his t-shirt. He walks me home in the nearing daybreak but the houses are silent and still in the steady morning rain and I think my nightmares might be the death of me yet.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Waiting for him to go borrow a movie and then I'm getting major cuddles.

(Though I'll probably fall asleep again here shortly.)

I brought leftovers up here to August's loft to leave in the fridge. I didn't see him today, figured he was busy so when I walked in and he turned the light on I just about screamed.

He jumped up and began to stack up photo albums quickly, as if being caught reminiscing is a crime or something. He must not have met the memory thief. He should. It helps.

August, I-

Hey. Thanks for bringing this over. I really appreciate it. He takes the food after sweeping the whole stack of albums under the coffee table and stands up as if we are casually discussing the weather.

How did the dentist go? 

He winces. It wasn't the dentist. I needed a top-up of my own, Bridge. 

The program? 

Sort of. Seeing a guy I can talk to about stuff. 

This is ironic. My therapist is seeing a therapist. 

Hey, we're all human. 

No. PJ's a robot. 

True. He never stops, does he?

No, and he said if you want chocolate pie you'll have to come get it yourself. 

August laughs. Like Jake. A great big loud guffaw with a grin that's so contagious you're stricken down midbreath. Noted. Want to stay for a bit? I'd like some company.

I would love to. 

How long can I have you for?

I have no plans for tonight other than being here.

I did Ben's toes with glitter too.

Things are coming together nicely for Thursday. They've already managed to carry the big table from the garden down to the beach. The chairs go this afternoon. I've got the meal plan all ready to roll and am not even allowed to ask about a cake.

I hope there is one.

*visibly frets*

I have a beautiful dress to wear. It's a black tie event because I'm awful. We're going to ruin our clothes but I also have specified absolutely no shoes are permitted on my beach. The tides will not be cooperating but I think there are enough of us to manage everything up and down the stairs quite handily even once we have to climb over the bigger rocks closer to the cliff. Oh, I hope it rains.

I wanted some white horses to run past us while we sip champagne and listen to speeches but Lochlan said if I didn't get my head out of this dream world sooner than later it might keep me there forever. But he smiled when he said it and that's how I know he was telling the truth.

For the occasion I painted my toenails with glitter. Ten different shades of glitter polish because I'm a very low-key rebel like that-

No, I'm not, actually. Because of the next bit you'll read.

I invited the Devil. That's the hallmark of a professional rebel right there. Especially since I'm still not speaking to him and this table won't be bolted down. PJ already assured me they would tranquilize the lot of them if necessary to keep the peace but I know they'll keep it anyway. It's my birthday on Thursday, you see, and everyone always makes an extra effort to behave. Or at least they try to play nice. It's right up there with Christmas in this household.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Smell the roses? I think I'll become one instead.

Yesterday we were getting ready to head to a thing, and were dressed nicely for a summer afternoon event. Not too dressy, not too casual. All in black as usual. Hair looking long as my little bob has passed my earlobes and is heading for my chin. Eyelashes for days.

(Sorry for boasting but I never ever look pulled together. I always resemble the haphazard almost-polished younger sister of a supermodel. The one everyone passes over with reassurances that someday she will catch up. It's maddening. So when I do look good I FUCKING KNOW IT, BABY.)

But the boys were taking too long.

Way too long.

So I grabbed the bag of recent purchases from the gardening shop and headed out around the side of the house. The roses we planted last year had some black spots on the leaves so I picked up some sulfur to clear it up quickly.

Lochlan said several times to wait, that we'd deal with it later but really what's the harm? I'll sprinkle some on. No need to get out the sprayer and mix it. Who has time for that?

I emerged back to the house fifteen minutes later covered head to toe with a moderate-to-heavy layer of yellowish-white powder. PJ swore and said I smelled like burnt matches. Lochlan just laughed so loudly I almost punched him. Ben said I won't get black spot disease and John smiled as wide as he could (bet his face hurt) and said simply Goths gardening.

Had to change. Then that turned out to be not enough and I had to shower. Then I looked as I usually do when we go out, not at all pulled together. I looked like the butt of a joke I played on myself because as usual I didn't listen.

At least I still entertain! I crowed to Loch who wouldn't let it go. Ever.

He leaned in and smelled my hair. That attempt at a burn you just made? I can still smell it, Bridget.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Never came close enough to consider getting away.

I never came back. After talking to Dalton and deciding it was too warm to hang out by the pool after all I went up to see August, as promised. He is awake and reading. Drinking coffee. Messaging a little on his phone and generally such a leveling force in my life that if I had any brains at all I would assign myself as his wingman and simply follow him around all the time.

Like a wife but without any commitment. August isn't into commitment. He likes to come and go like a leaf on the wind, he says, but he looks happy to see me anyway, even as I bust him for quoting freely from Firefly.

Leave it to Loch to raise such a little sleeper nerd, he says as he laughs. Then he gets serious. How long do I have you for?

Until almost lunchtime. We can eat together now though. If you like.

He smiles and holds out his arms. I get the best hug and then he leaves me to perfect his Monte Cristo-cooking skills while I stretch out full on his bed, under the huge fan. His bed is suspended from the ceiling at all four corners, a triple hammock but with more substance. He says it's better for his back and he gets a great rest. I just love the giant swing aspect of it. I brought him three cases of tiny white lights to string up everywhere and it's positively magical in here, pinned in by the trees in this hidden loft above the garage. Not hidden, so much, but full-fledged living quarters painted in shades of white and gray. Tiny kitchen. Walk-in closet. Office. Huge bathroom with a tub that rivals mine.

Before I know it he's waking me up, trailing his fingers from my shoulders to my fingertips.

I wave him away. Just leave me here for a few weeks. Come back when summer starts. I don't open my eyes but I feel him smile.

I would but we need to be sociable sometimes. He laughs. Come on. Brunch is ready. He pulls me out of his bed with both hands and I go reluctantly.

Try it and tell me it's getting better. 

Oh God. This man. He tries so hard to make me happy and then in the next breath he'll shove me right out the door. I take a bite and feign death. It's wonderful. You've got it. 

It's dipping the entire thing and then frying it. 

Yes. This is amazing. 

So are you. Now finish up quickly. You slept too long and I have an appointment. 

Haircut? 

Dentist. 

Want company? 

I'm fine on my own. 

That's the sad part. He totally is. I frown but keep eating. It's so delicious even mild rejection and abject disappointment don't alter the flavour. He eats his own sandwich in three bites.

I'm actually getting tired of these, Bridget.

Turncoat! 

I'll still make them for you though.