Hello, hello. There is no place I cannot go.I sense him before I see him, not unusual since I have been crouched at the water's edge for the better part of the morning investigating the treasures the tide brings to me.
My mind is muddy but my heart is heavy. Does it show?
I lose the track that loses me, so here I go.
And so I sent some men to fight, and one came back at dead of night.
Said he'd seen my enemy. Said he looked just like me,
So I set out to cut myself and here I go.
I'm not calling for a second chance,
I'm screaming at the top of my voice.
Give me reason but don't give me choice.
'Cause I'll just make the same mistake again.
But then I see the shoes beside me. Not just any shoes, Italian leather dress shoes. Only one boy in my universe wears those, only he is never considered a boy of mine. He would like to be but I keep him segregated, separate as much as possible. He's a monster. He's a wolf. He's the devil. He holds fully a quarter of my broken heart when and if it is to be divided only among the living.
Find any treasures today, Princess?
I shake my head. I'm not really looking for treasures. I'm actually thinking.
What are you thinking about then? You've been down here for three hours.
I avoid the question. Is three hours bad? Do I have plans?
Maybe I can take you out for lunch?
I stand and wobble a little. I forgot breakfast and my stomach growls, giving me away. He smiles wide. See? Sounds like you could use something.
He hasn't noticed I haven't said anything out loud yet but he offers me his arm. I run back to the logs and collect my bag. I brought my sketchbook down but I didn't draw anything today. And my phone is still in the bag. I leave it there now, since I've dropped it in the water twice this spring already.
I walk back and take his arm and we stroll up the new, unbelievably simple-to-climb staircase cut into the rock face. At the top I type in the code to open the gate. When we get into the yard Lochlan is just coming out through the back door. He hesitates when he sees Caleb and recovers quickly enough to be spared.
I've invited Bridget to go for lunch already, but let's make it a threesome. Caleb smiles so smoothly at Loch. I am attempting to simultaneously keep a poker face for the innuendo and watch Lochlan's arm for the inevitable fist thrown when Loch surprises me by making an effort anyway.
Sure. Where are you thinking?
Caleb answers while I continue to wait for the punch to be thrown. Then he drops his arm so I let go and Lochlan picks up my other hand all at once.
Oh, I see. It's going to be one of those really weird days.
At lunch they talk about things I know nothing about while I nibble on prosciutto and the kinds of cheese I still can't actually afford. I text PJ under the table that the day is freaking surreal and he doesn't believe me and wants me to record it all on video when I notice a lull in conversation and look up abruptly.
Lochlan looks a little bit hopeful but completely alarmed at the same time but Caleb has his I'll handle everything expression on. The one we see the most, unless he's wearing his I have to have you now face which they don't see but I do.
I was just offering Lochlan a job.
I bought a company that I want him to run, with your help.
Bridget, are you wearing your hearing aids?
Nevermind. Yes, so it's a company and I think it would be fun for you to run it. Together.
We're not interested, Lochlan says, just about cutting him off but not quite.
You haven't even heard my proposal.
I don't need to. The answer is no.
Bridget can speak for hers-
And she'll say no as well. I look at Lochlan but he is staring at Caleb.
Last I heard, you were unemployed again, Pyro.
Then you heard wrong. I've been doing commissions for months. And don't call me that unless you want a taste of your own medicine.
Oh God. Here it comes. I squeeze my eyes shut.
But nothing happens. Caleb is staring at his plate, seeking composure. Lochlan's staring at him, eyes blazing, cheeks red, teeth gritted. No composure sought.
Lochlan, stop. He made an offer, that's all.
We don't need his generosity.
We live in his house.
Yes, and someday you'll have to remind me why, Bridget. Lochlan stands up and grabs my coat and pulls me up out of my chair at the same time. Then he reaches into his pocket and throws two fifties on the table and says Thanks for lunch and congrats on your purchase. Too bad the only company you can seem to keep is one you pay for.
Two hours later Caleb comes into the kitchen and drops Lochlan's money on the counter where I sit drawing elephants in the water and elephants in the room.
I covered the bill, since I extended the invitation.
He can afford it.
Oh, bullshit, Bridget. How many clients does he have right now? And then what? Lochlan lives from one fifty dollar bill to the next. I'm trying to offer him something more permanent. Something you can have a part in as well. God only knows why everyone is so generous with him when he offers nothing in return.
I look at him. Because everything you offer comes with a catch.
I want both of you to feel comfortable with me. He drops it on the counter in front of me and I watch his allusion spin in a lazy circle before falling flat. We have changed the subject into something dark and unspeakable before it stops reverberating.
But you have before-
Very incredibly rarely.
It's a beautiful thing.
And I want it to stay that way.
Bridget. He places his hands on the counter, stretching his shoulders back and down, broadly, almost popping the shirt buttons right off and I need to look away before the gravitational field around him sucks me in. You've got to give a little here. We're all trying to peacefully coexist.
I can't make him do things like that. Don't you even go there.
He does for Ben.
All I'm asking is for you to talk to Lochlan.
Don't do this. Not now. Was this all part of the grand plan? Wait until Batman is gone and then start squeezing Lochlan? Or did my tab just go up from the work on the property?
He smiles tightly but still reaches for honesty instead of evil. I'm just trying to make this life a good run for all of us. My apologies for overstepping.