The battle you picked was so one-sided.I have a sharpie headache from drawing in the truck, PJ looks like he's ten years old without a beard and I have this uncontrollable urge to keep offering him freezies and it turns out only Caleb was wearing Tom Ford, which clung to me like shame today.
Now dependent on me, the one you invited.
Beg, plead, scream.
For redemption, for forgiveness.
Beg, plead, scream.
Sorry, I'm not listening.
The best line of the morning?
If I wanted to kill her, she wouldn't be here right now.
Nice. Thanks, boys. Luckily they all managed to keep the focus where it belonged this morning and I got to soak up the excitement of being less than ten years old and knowing you have the entire summer stretched out ahead of you like a blank slate. Even though when I wasn't in the ocean or lying on the picnic table watching fireworks and fireflies I would be hidden somewhere with a book. Surprise. Little has changed. It seems like I have a set list of activities that I do now and I'm going to have to work hard this summer at managing play dates and being available for the kids in ways I don't have to do when they're in class.
And I had a treat last evening. A grown-up treat. Caleb came over to spend some time with us and he made mac and cheese with the kids and read some Harry Potter to them (we are still slogging through the Goblet of Fire) and then put them to bed with the flourish only a blood uncle can provide (which doesn't say he's better than anyone else, he simply brings more of Cole to them. If you think that doesn't mean a lot then go away, please.) and they were asleep in minutes, content with Caleb's handling of parenthood and as a reminder of their father as only children can be. They know what they want, they're at the age where they make their voices heard.
Once they were tucked in, one light left on upstairs and windows and curtains closed against the cool night, Caleb got to work impressing me. Spoiling me by pouring wine and pulling a barstool up to the counter so I could sit and talk with him while he cooked ME dinner. Ahi tuna steaks and asparagus and garlic bread and freshly-baked chocolate cake special-ordered from my favorite bakery. Caleb doesn't cook as a rule, he's content to order in and keep the bare minimum on hand but he keeps this talent up his sleeve because his mother always taught her boys that they should have these skills. Amazingly Cole cooked some of my favorite foods and he could do it blindfolded so I knew Caleb would be able to pull it off.
He did. Since the kids were asleep we could eat at a leisurely pace with no interruptions. After the cake I placed my napkin on the table and savored the last mouthful of wine and when I opened my eyes he was smiling at me. That's when the night was ruined.
Do you understand the kind of life I could give you and the children, Bridget?
I nodded. I did his bookkeeping. I know what he has.
I don't think you do.
It doesn't matter. Once again, I married someone else. Better luck next time.
Your flippancy barely masks your misery, princess. Speaking of which, has Ben called?
Oh, that's interesting.
No it isn't. He's working.
And? And I make things difficult.
Is that what he tells you.
That's what I tell me.
What does Ben say?
That it's hard and he's tired and he doesn't want to wear himself out and start making poor choices.
So if he comes home he'll drink and this will be your fault.
No. Not like that. Well, I don't know.
Tell me, does anything with Ben ever change?
Let's talk about something else.
No, let's talk about how the man now claiming my brother's family for himself doesn't have his act together any better than he did before rehab.
You don't know Ben the way I do.
I've seen you two fight.
I'm not asking for your input.
Do you want me to set him straight, Bridget?
You leave him alone.
He'd never fuck up again.
Oh, like you did with your brother? See how well that worked, didn't we?
That was different. Cole had issues.
Oh, we all have issues, Cale. Jesus Christ. Ever look in a mirror?
Touche. My offer stands. When you're done with your 'character building', call me and we'll make arrangements.
See, that's why you're lonely. People deciding to spend their lives together don't 'make arrangements'. Love is not a business decision.
It is when there are financial interests that need to be protected.
I don't want your money, Caleb.
And that's why I'm lonely, princess. You're the only one not in it for the money.
I can't help you with your problems.
Then just take what you need.
Oh, here we go.
Discretion is an art-form, Bridget.
Not in my world.
Your world is a strange place. We keep more secrets than anyone I know.
And it's killing me.
Then you'll be a beautiful corpse.
I already am and now it's time for you to go.
I got up and stood waiting. Caleb took his time, piling dishes to carry into the kitchen. Then I followed him to the front hall where he collected his suit jacket. He put it on, shot his cuffs (which slays me every single time) and then he stepped toward me. I was expecting a cheek or forehead kiss and instead he wrapped his hand around my throat and pushed me into the wall.
I can take the pain away forever. Just pick up the phone when you get tired of marrying immature romantics who can't look after you because they can't look after themselves and I'll fix everything.
And then he kissed me. A great, crushing razor-burned kiss that left my cheeks and my sensibilities burning and I put my hands up and shoved at him and he didn't budge.
I thought you were going to be kind.
Oh, I am being kind, princess. This night could have gone rather badly for you.
Jesus, Caleb, you were here to see the kids.
No, Bridget, I was here to see all three of you. Don't think I'm not keeping an eye on everyone involved this time. Jacob may have kept me out of the loop but Ben isn't nearly that bright. Too many pucks to the head, perhaps. But overall he's doing okay. Surprised me most of all. I thought he would crumble ages ago. So maybe things are to be left alone for now. For now.
You speak like you have a say in the matter.
Pay attention, princess. I've had the final word for a while now.
He walked out the door then, and I saw the headlights come on as Mike started the car and slowly edged up in front of the house before putting the car in neutral and coming around to open the door for his boss.
Caleb stopped at the car and turned.
If Ben doesn't call by tomorrow evening when the children go to bed I want to know.
I nodded, even though I doubt I would have to tell him. He'll know anyway. Maybe before I do. That's the funny thing about blackmail. If I could do something about this I would but I can't.