Friday, 31 August 2012

Poetry as only Bridget does poetry.

My kneesocks don't match my dress and I've hardly brushed my hair today. It falls in a mass of bedheaded waves, curling underneath my chin. I did stop and put on lipstick but it turned out to be a muted red so I look like someone's fetish today. Ankle boots. I look like a doll, like a plastic doll. My teeth hurt and I'm starving too, but that has even less to do with anything so here, a bunch of stuff for all.

Lochlan's Courage At Will method of getting things done has proven to be effective only in one way, or maybe it's a complete coincidence but I have not seen Caleb all damned week. Probably a good thing as he would level judgements about my appearance and then I'd feel weird and unsophisticated and childish and we're just the opposite of that these days.

We're not?

Kidding, I knew that.

It's the final day with the kids home with me alone (or as much alone as is possible with boys coming and going). Monday everyone will be home since it's Labour Day, tomorrow is the big birthday party and I found Mexican Coca-cola at the corner story this afternoon, which is sorta neat in of itself. They say it's better. I still can't finish a whole bottle or can by myself so really I wouldn't know. Pop Shoppe I can finish. Smart/vitamin water I can finish. Pure soda spins me into a cyclone and I can't finish. Surprise.

But you know what? I feel sorry for my children today. The anticipation of a whole summer stretching out before you in which you can daydream to your heart's content is far more glorious a feeling then the last few straggler-days of August (the month, not the boy) in which school supplies and clothes start to trickle in and total strangers will ask that dreaded question, Looking forward to going back to school? and you realize that soon your mind will be too busy trying to wrap itself around textbooks, locker-combinations and bagged lunches to daydream, the weather will grow cold and the days short and you'll long for the endless summer heat and accompanying ennui, the list of things you planned to do but never got around to and the dreams you didn't even start on yet.

That's what I'm thinking about today. Also, one kneesock is really loose and keeps falling down and I'm really fucking annoyed by it.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

One more time.

A whole post in italics means it's not for you.

(He stood in the kitchen doorway for a good twenty-five minutes while I fussed around cleaning up breakfast, getting progressively louder as I slammed things around and generally found ways to drag out my chores, pointedly ignoring him.

Twenty-five minutes in, he shifted his stance, putting his arm up on the doorframe, If I say I'm sorry would you notice me? He's trying to be serious but he's succeeding in being resplendent instead and I'm trying my best to not cave in.

You humiliated me in front of the others.

No, I didn't. They think way worse on a regular basis.

Lochlan!

It's true! Jesus, Bridget. Every one of 'em, an animal in disguise.

So you just walk around dripping contempt on all of us, do you? Are we beneath you?

Hell, no. It's the other way around. I don't deserve this sort of stability or luck and I buckle at the extent to which I have changed my life. For you. For us.

Did you come in here to be resentful then?

No, Bridget! I came to apolofix (long story, made up language) and you're twisting it all around.

I stop slamming because I can't hear him and stand up straight, waiting.

I think things would be a lot easier if I didn't have to put my life to a vote every time I want to take a piss, that's all, peanut. I just want to go back to having only two people to take care of, you and myself.

That doesn't fly when you have a daughter, Loch.

I don't mean it like that. I mean when it comes to you.

Jake tried to lock things do-

I don't mean like that!

Then why don't you tell me what you MEAN, then!

Can you hear us? What are we doing? We fall in love, build it all up and then tear it all apart. It's a vicious cycle, Peanut. It's fucking stupid is what it is.

Where are we now?

Tear-apart.

Then?

I withdraw. You disengage. I don't know. We aren't together and then we drift back somehow. It's agony in between and I would spare both of us that.

Maybe that's just the way we do things.

We shouldn't. Not now. Now we have to make an effort.

I'm not the one who showed up drunk!

I'm FUCKING SCARED, BRIDGET!

I dropped the towel on the floor and just stood there. He was so loud and so honest right there. Loudly honest and honestly loud and completely unconcerned with being overheard.

Of what? What are you scared of? (Oh please answer me for once. Pleasepleaseplease.)

Not getting you back. Ben. Caleb. Batman. Myself. Pick something. I'm scared of it.

You're the one who keeps giving me away.

We don't work..together. We don't seem to have-, I don't know, it seems to be short-lived and then we're fighting and I don't want it to end. I get so scared and everything gets so dark and I can't breathe.

Me neither.

Then let's keep the lights on. Please, Bridge.

He puts his hand out across the counter and I take it eagerly. He squeezes my fingers tightly and I know we're both going to kick the lightbulbs into a thousand fragments before we find a way to circumvent the past. Too much too soon. Too little, too late. Too bad, so sad.)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Princess and the Philistines.

This morning's family meeting was a farce. Ben was absent. Not sure if he forgot or didn't care (did you notice too? Yeah, he lets a hell of a lot of things slide sometimes), Caleb sent his last-minute regrets, citing another one of his miserable headaches, and PJ opted to make the whole thing into a litany of Things Caleb is Doing that makes them worry about me. Daniel abruptly said he thinks its time he rejoin the workforce and John pointed out that since he is new to the household, should he have brought his checkbook to pay me for all the chips he ate the other night, or did I maybe take debit?

I turned around and gazed at him for a very long time before realizing he just defused the entire situation in pointing out we really never schooled him on the house rules, so everything he knows is completely skewed and anecdotal.

Lochlan made some crack about stuffing my card slot and then keying a secret number into my pin pad and losing one's shirt in the process. Oh well, WOW. Someone's still drunk this morning. Told you he couldn't hold his liquor worth three pennies. I don't know why he was drinking anyway.

Oh, right, I do.

Caleb's mid-life crisis, which has really picked up speed with incident after incident and events that we should not be having to deal with and general fucktitude that simply isn't warranted at this stage of the game and they're all sure it's just some sort of stunted maturity because he went straight from moody, driven teenage boy to millionaire lawyer and they don't know quite how one would reconcile that anyway.

At least they're debating the reasons instead of simply piling on.

I might be the lone holdout. With few startlingly vulnerable exceptions, Caleb is still pure evil and I'm pretty sure the only reason he actually didn't show this morning was because he probably saw Ben leave for the studio very early and knew he wouldn't have many fans left in the room otherwise.

PJ said he expects things to get a lot worse before they get better, since we are now counting down six months to Caleb's fiftieth birthday and I'm supposed to somehow engineer a miraculous change of heart and drop everything to be with him in exchange for his net worth.

Somehow I don't see that happening.

Lochlan isn't sure and makes a few more humiliating comments directed squarely at me. He is dismissed by Schuyler, the only true gentleman left, it seems, and one of the few not afraid to call Lochlan on his bullshit, since Lochlan still mostly rules the household and everyone in it, though if you ask him he claims to be a part of nothing solid or permanent whatsoever and leave him the fuck out of it, thankyouverymuch.

We ignore him when he gets like that. He has some issues. He gets up and leaves and it all works as planned anyway since we had a different event to discuss. The big Long Holiday Weekend Birthday Extravaganza because Ruth and Lochlan's birthdays are two days apart.

(I know. Jesus, I'm so special. I did that all by myself. Here's hoping Lochlan takes the next week and sobers up for the sake of his daughter. You don't turn thirteen (!!) and forty-seven every goddamned day. 47. FORTEE SEVENNNNN. When the fuck did that happen? No, seriously. Please tell me. I missed it. And for the record he has incredible genes and does not look a day over thirty-three.)

We hammered out plans and ideas and special things and organized the schedules a bit so everyone in both houses will be around. I will look after getting Ben there and Caleb does not need to attend, of course, but otherwise I think we're almost ready. I have a lot of baking to do. A very big whole lot. Oh God.

The meeting broke up with everyone going their separate ways. To work, back to bed, whatever the usual schedules are for Tuedays which aren't as bad as Mondays and I went to reload the coffee maker so that the late risers and still-drunks could have some when they need it.

John stopped me in the hall, his hand on my elbow.

Bridget, I didn't mean to cause any problems but that was fucking funny.

I glare at him until he disintegrates.

Sorry. I should really go tell him off for being such an ass in front of a lady and see if he need to talk or something. Get him sobered up and back to himself. I really hate it when he's like this! (By the end of his remarks, John was pretending to be me, clearly and misses absolutely nothing here.)

Oh, you're just fitting in wonderfully, John.

Heh. Thanks? I think.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Once in a while you get what you deserve.

I can't touch you but you feel so fucking fine
Let's just stay like this and waste some more time

Once in a while, you get in my way
Once in a while, you know I've got to say
I love you ninety-nine percent of the time
Ninety-nine percent of the time
Ninety-nine percent of the time
Ninety-nine percent of the time
With the darkness comes the doubt. Back in 1983 the moment the beauty of the sunset faded I was scared, homesick and weirded out by everything from the day. Lochlan called it Sensory Overload and would give me small sips of whatever he had to drink until I was sufficiently distracted or unwound and then he would breathe a sigh of relief, his arm locked around my head, breathing fire into my hair, keeping me close or I would fall asleep hyperventilating.

Now it's not so easy. (It's also EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME.)

We should have shot the fucker. Lochlan's own doubts rise with the moon as we snuggle down in the Adirondack chairs on the patio to watch the stars from home. He has something in his cup. It's not tea or coffee or pop, I'm guessing it has a proof number and a warning label. He holds it out to me. I take a sip and burst into flames.

Lochlan should have a warning label. I can't reconcile his actions.

How would you feel if he said the same thing about you?

He has.


I mean now. Today. Maybe you're just coming down from all the excitement. Maybe it's all just total bullshit. He's killing time and so are you, waiting for Ben to implode or me or whatever and you all feel like you're gaining ground with every nod of agreement from me or every side I pick in every argument and then you lose ground when I side with someone else and I don't actually play favorites nearly as often as everything thinks I do, you know that?

He takes a long drink from his mug. You done?

Maybe
. I take a big breath and let it out. He's still as pragmatic as ever, as he was when I was just as afraid and all I want to do is feel his arms close around me as I close my eyes and put my head down against his shoulder but tonight he is just out of reach, on the other side of that label, up to his neck in regret and self-doubt and maybe fear of his own.

Why do you do this?

What?

Fall apart in the bottom of a bottle when you're so together every other time.

He winks. Everybody cracks, peanut.

You don't crack. You're in charge!

I don't think I ever was. Didn't feel like it. I just kept to the manifest which was to make you happy.

Uh-huh. You wanted to make me miserable.

How did I do that?

I had to go to bed at eleven. And you made me eat vegetables.

You were ten fucking years old, and for the record, you didn't eat your vegetables. That's why you're only three feet tall now.

I was twelve! And I'm five feet tall, thanks.

Again, you done, Bridgie?

I grab the cup and take a big drink, choking on the flames. Yes.

Because we're going in circles tonight and I'd rather not if it's all the same. Even though it's your specialty.
He winks as he says it, to soften his dismissal.

Leave the mug if you're going in. My stubbornness reveals itself. Alas it's no match for him.

I'll neither leave the drink nor the girl
. He stands and holds out his free hand. I raise my hand for the mug and we have a standoff, of sorts. I lose after three minutes. I knew I would lose so I take his hand as offered and he pulls me up out of the chair, hooking his arm around my waist. Bingo. I get my hug by default.

And for the record, you play favorites whenever the mood strikes you. Don't deny something as plain as the eyes on your face.

Now you're saying my eyes are plain? Oh, and by the way, drinking to solve your problems is a bad idea.

I'm not drinking to solve anyth-...Jesus Christ, Bridget. This is why you're not allowed to stay up past eleven.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Value calculations.

Sober Duncan is doing great after an eighty-minute bubble bath (Twilight Woods has another convert over here) and a good nights sleep. He asked for roast potatoes and tea, which was a very Jacob-like maneuver. (I made it for him and watched as he picked up his plate and took it to his room to eat while he caught up on emails and reading. Jacob wouldn't have done that.) Duncan also expressed surprise that the kids grew so much in the month he was gone and he was glad to see Ben doing better since he left tour early.

He was not, however, very impressed with the way Caleb ambushed Loch and I out in the middle of nowhere but he was proud of the way we handled it.

Yeah, me too, Dunk, but I'm really glad you're back
.

Certain people just serve to make the whole mood of the house a little more laid-back and even-keel. Duncan is one of them.

***

Who was that? I saw a tall blonde with a briefcase leaving the boathouse just before noon today. My curiosity spills over so I call Caleb and ask him.

A counselor. She comes highly recommended.

A what?

A counselor, Bridget. To help me get over you.

How did it go?


It's going to take a while. Years. She was astounded when she took my history, to say the least.

I don't doubt it.

She might want to meet with you at some point.

Leave me out of this.

I think it would be beneficial to her to have the whole picture, instead of just my side.

We'll see.

That's all I can ask.

What will we spend our days doing when you're all fixed up and perfect again?

I don't know how to answer that, Bridget.

I'm...well, I'm proud of you for getting help.

I shock him so much he doesn't know what to say, and after a strangled silence, he says he'll let me go now. I fail to realize he means from the phone call and tell him he should have done it years ago. Why every single word has to be weighed down so heavily, I don't know. He gracefully avoids correcting me and says goodbye. When I hang up I instantly want to place a bet on how long this lasts and what end this is a means to, but instead I go and ask Duncan if he's hungry again yet.

Because Duncan is never ever evil and usually always hungry.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Slam Dunk.

Gage is over, we are standing by the patio door discussing boots, as he broke a boot lace and I just happen to keep laces for Docs in the utility cupboard in the hallway, along with things like emergency glow sticks, hockey sticks, fishing rods and camping supplies. Gage is surprised and I tell him I like to be prepared because Ben never is. He points out my tendencies toward minimalism and I laugh and explain the difference between having what one needs and total excess.

(Excess is Ruth, who on a recent trip to Bath & Bodyworks, bought one of every fragrance in body mist and hand sanitizer and now has a stockroom instead of a bedroom and uhhh..I blame PJ. He can't say no to her. He also likes the Twilight Woods shower gel, but I didn't tell you that.)

So I found some laces for Gage and just as he is trying finagle a lunch invitation on top of the boot supplies, we hear a massive commotion in the front hall. I go running. I never know if two of the boys are fighting or if someone's breaking in or if Henry has slipped on the stairs or what. I book through the kitchen, down the hall and into the front hall.

And there is Duncan. Back from the dead. Or at least from tour, which is a fate worse than death, if you can believe me when I tell you it's true. I hardly recognize him after a four-week absence, even though I talked to him just about every day up until a week ago when he dropped off the radar just to white-knuckle it through the hard part, which is when everyone is tired, hungover, fed-up and overly-anxious to get home.

So he crashed into the front foyer and threw his bags on the floor and sprawled out face-down, arms outstretched, prostrating to the cat who sat inside the window beside the door, licking her paws and waiting for him for the whole month long. I heard him say Hiya kittycat and then he laughed in relief that he made it back in one piece, but barely.

I run in and he looks up at me and says Bridget, Jesus, thank you God, as he rolls over. His eyes are bloodshoot, pupils dilated, he has a full beard, and he smells like he just...I don't want to know and I think I'll be burning the luggage, sort of like I wanted to do with Ben's before PJ had the great idea to pressure-wash it out in the driveway.

Gage leans right over Duncan and smiles. Rough day? Duncan rolls his eyes closed and asks me to remind him of this moment the next time he feels like hitting the road. I tried already, I tell him sweetly. You just didn't listen.

I'll listen, Mom, he says sagely. I frown. I hate it when he calls me Mom. He's drunk. He stands finally and I get a huge, breath-stealing hug, not like the kind you would give your mom at all. When he lets go there is his little brother Dalton, and five or six of the others waiting to greet him and I stand back to get out of the way and realize I have to burn my outfit now too.

Safe and sound is my favorite place for everyone to be. He'll sleep well tonight, and probably most of tomorrow too.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Candy from strangers (Buttered up and squeezed in).

(Sorry for the distractedness as of late. A)Things are still kind of weird. B)Daniel has discovered Radiohead. I think we're going to need an intervention because I'll kill him if he plays How to Disappear Completely one. more. time. C)Ruth starts HIGH SCHOOL in a week. *head implodes*. We need a little more good news for a bit. Are you up for it? Good, because I am.)

PJ has lovingly divided his living space, giving up his 'office' in order to give John a bedroom.

They will share the bathroom, it's not fully ensuite so it won't be any problem (except for John, because as I said before, PJ flatly DENIES that he is nearsighted and blames the pee drops on the floor on me. Um. Ick. I'll get back to him when I first learn how to pee standing up). They both snore, so really it's serendipitous at this point to contain them both downstairs, the filthy animals that they are.

I'm kidding.

How awesome it will be to have John back close by all the time. John used to be our second-closest neighbor after Jacob when we lived in the castle and wow, writing that made me feel as if possibly a few million words have flowed through my fingertips since those times. I would look out the window and call him on the phone, telling him he should park closer to the curb and also nice ticket and then I would watch as he ran outside in his bare feet in the snow only to see there was no ticket on his car.

Because I'm a terrible, horrible, no-good friend.

Then we had some rough times after Jake left and John deferred to Lochlan a little more than me and then he worked for Caleb for a time and then I got him back and deprogrammed him and basically we're back where we started.

And yes, ladies, this handsome lumberjack is still single. Line forms to the left.

So happy he is here now. He brought me a candy bouquet to thank me for having him. I pointed out this was all PJ's doing and John looked PJ up and down and told him not to expect any gifts. PJ shot back that he'd better use the fan when he shits or all bets are off and he's out on the street.

Ahhh. Brothers by choice. Isn't it beautiful?

Soon we'll all be wearing name tags and holding nightly Meet Your housemates cocktail parties just to keep things more familiar. We're all so formal and reserved these days. Snort.

(Yes, Ben ate the candy already. Wrappers too.)

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Part 2: Coup de grace (the part I'll probably be sued for).

From the hotel satellite
Don't look like you're living right
Here's a deal you can't refuse
You ain't got as much to lose

Can you tell your troubles to
Someone who won't laugh at you
It's all right
And as I watch you walk away
Hope a part of you would stay
It's all right
He passed it to me carefully. I snatched it out of his hands and he put them up.

Be careful. It's loaded.

Don't play games with me. Not like this.

Bridget, this isn't a game.

Why are you here?

So you can follow through
. He takes my hands and carefully wraps them around the gun and then he pulls my hands up until my elbows lock with the gun resting against the center of his forehead.

Tell my son I love him and know that I love you. Slay your demon, Bridget. I try to let go of the gun but he won't let me. Instead he roars at me. JUST DO IT!

I scream back. I don't want to! I am suddenly terrified beyond belief that the gun is going to go off and he'll be dead.

Caleb drops his hands from mine and presses forward, whispering. Just do it, Bridget. Do it for what I did to you. Get your payback. End your nightmares.

My hands begin to shake. I don't like this gun. I don't like this moment. The twelve-year-old me is screaming to DO IIIIIIIIIIIITTTTT PLEEEEEEEEAAASE and then I see Loch walk into the light. He drops the bags with dinner on the ground and I can see the confusion in his eyes but he's here. He's here on time. Help me. I tell him. He swears and lunges forward, removing the gun from my hands and his rage explodes as he ejects the clip.

NO MORE FUCKING GAMES, CALEB! Do you really think bringing a loaded weapon here would fucking fix ANYTHING? You know what? You should get the fuck out of here before I kill you you myself.

Caleb considers this for a whole three seconds and then lunges for Lochlan. Lochlan says my name so quietly I feel rather than hear him. He throws the gun to me and suddenly the tables turn and I am afraid for all three of us.

And so I do what I do best. I take off running, clutching the gun to my chest. Bad idea bad idea bad idea.

I run and I run and I run. Caleb is behind me but I'm small and fast and when I reach the edge of the clearing I throw the gun as hard as I can into the woods. Caleb cries out, smashing into me and we go down into the grass. Lochlan is right there, shoving him away. Jesus FUCK, just LEAVE US ALONE!

If you can't kill me, can you forgive me, Bridget? Caleb's voice is faint.

THIS ISN'T ABOUT YOU!
Lochlan's volume is fixed on thirteen and I flinch.

Lochlan throws his arms around me, pushing his forehead down against the side of my head. I lean against him hard. If you want me to end this, just say the word. Even with my bare hands, Bridget, just give me the word and I can-

He can screw up but he's still here. I'll take that over anyone else being d-d-de-. I can't say the word dead though and it comes out like a consonant wrapped around the blade of a knife. Cut in half. I push away from Lochlan and walk to where Caleb sits waiting for his execution. He stands.

I don't want you to die.
I say it loud and clear. I didn't know that until now. So maybe instead of all the dramatic stunts we can all just go home and live quietly and be nice to each other. There's nothing else for you. Or me. Or anyone. So stop. Please. You get another gun and we're gone. I'm gone, Henry's gone. Everyone's gone. You need to stop playing with our lives. Including your own. Enough. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

I'm not sure where I found the bravery to yell at him in the woods in the dark but Lochlan said it looked pretty magnificent to see me standing on my tiptoes, fists balled up at my sides, face right in Caleb's face and then to watch him disintegrate in response.

I don't think I was magnificent. I'm ashamed that it happened at all and I have no confidence that anything will actually change.

What did that night accomplish? We got rid of the gun (which was subsequently retrieved and Caleb has since relinquished it through the proper channels) and Lochlan finally found his Courage switch. Even if I realize now that I can never avenge my twelve-year-old self, all I'll ever have to do is say the word and he will.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Part 1: Coup de main (Angels in a cage).

(Back to the present for a wee spell. And don't worry, everything's okay.)

Every night while we were away Lochlan would head down the road to a take-out restaurant and come back with dinner. We don't go out. All he wanted to do was talk. All he wanted to do is be alone together. All he wanted to do was sort out why I dissolve so easily into mush when I profess to understand that I am stronger than I feel.

He moralized, evangelized, and taught. I sat and nodded, taking small bites of whatever dinner that was chosen for me each evening, swallowing his teachings with no salt for flavor. He reminded me to take a drink, passing me the glass. He forgot that some nights mirror the past, reflecting overinflated, frightening moments as only a child understands. We fell so easily into old routines, the worn wrinkles of time spread smooth with our fingers, the same frays and tears fussed over with promises to fix now, and if not now, soon.

So one night when the knock came on the door of the camper ten minutes after Lochlan set off foraging for our late supper my heart fell out the bottom, cleaved in half, black and rotten to the core. Twelve-year-old Bridget shrank back against the cupboard, frozen in fear. Adult-Bridget talked her out of such silly, unfounded fears. It's probably the campground operator needing something, or maybe a remote and unprepared neighbor needing a bottle opener. Maybe Lochlan forgot his wallet. It's been known to happen.

Adult-Bridget took five steps and opened the door, outward, into the night. Twelve-year-old Bridget screamed and hid under the table. She knows better. Always has, always will.

Because there stood the Devil, just as he stood in 1983. Only now he needs to shave every day and he has dark circles under his eyes matched only by the years of evil under his belt.

Forgive me, Bridget, but I'm going to fix this once and for all.

And he pulled out a gun.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

My fierce, inebriated sea.

Streets are filled with broken glass
You get buried by the past
Give me just a little taste
Lay this mess to waste
Take me home

My mind is racing take me home
My body's aching so alone
I'll make you want to stay with me
Befriended by the enemy
One more time

Every little thing about this tells me
Nothing out there is ever gonna help me
All these words that I hear spoken
Just promises broken

Looking outside from a window sill
Throw another coin in my wishing well
Never find what you're looking for
Fifteen miles
Your dim light shines from so far away
Your sad smile is all I see when I say-
A year and a half into being married to Cole, Lochlan sent a letter, registered mail from Atlantic City.

Renew your passport and come do this with me. Leave one madness for another.

L.


That was it. Two sentences and his initial along with a hundred dollar bill to get me there. I started packing instead of eating the lunch I had just made for myself. I got on a bus and I went. I was twenty-four years old and I knew enough to pack everything I would need to stay for a while.

I should have packed that lunch. When I arrived Lochlan was busking for cash on the street. He was pulling in three or four hundred dollars a day as long as he began by nine, moved around a lot and kept it up until midnight with very few breaks. The day he started after lunch and finished up early he made forty-two dollars. Eight hundred dollars in he realized how unsustainable it was, and add in the fact that I did not want to pass his hat for fifteen hours a day in the sun, having walked away from a perfectly good job in air-conditioning where I made ten dollars an hour guaranteed. You ain't got nothin' if it isn't guaranteed.

Nights we would have a late dinner in the same dive bar each time and slow dance to the music over the PA. Soul Asylum was big back then, or maybe they just put them on when they saw Loch. His strawberry blonde hair was so long now it was almost straight. He looked like Dave Pirner, but shorter. (Loch is much, much shorter than Dave, as I found out later in life.)

Promises Broken was a favorite song for keeping us in line with each other at this point. I was married, he'd moved on (whatever that means) and we liked to slow dance and talk and daydream to pass the time while we waited to hear about the actual opportunity I had been summoned for, this one in New York with the show. This was not small time carnival anymore, it was full-on freak- and sideshow, be your performance, breathe in a madness of a different sort indeed, day in and day out.

Off we went up the coast. We thought it was legit. It was, in a way. In one way it was a dream life. Nomads. On the road again together. Best life. No rules. In another way it was a muted, corrupted nightmare and we never should have gone back down the road we did. We need rules. We need anchors. We need the security that doesn't exist out there. It isn't safe. It isn't fair. It isn't the same.

We were propositioned regularly. We were offered other jobs, far outside of what we knew, in the seedy underworld of unspoken entertainment and beyond. We saw things small town people shouldn't see, and at night we split a pint of whiskey so as to keep our wits while we slow-danced to that same damned song.

Loch was playing that song this morning and lamenting just a few more poor decisions we (Or I, to be fair) have made since then. Took me two days to find him down on the beach with a guitar, a pick and an untouched sketchbook, no pencils in sight and an empty whiskey bottle bigger than a pint, though I couldn't smell it on his breath when he kissed me. When I checked his body language for cues he caught me and explained that he poured it into the water, that he found what he was looking for and it wasn't in the bottle or the water. It showed up two days late and then heard the song and stood with her arms crossed, fighting off memories that he had no business bringing back to her now.

It's a zero-sum game now, Peanut, he said, and smiled and he tipped the very last drop onto his tongue. And you're not very good at those.

Monday, 20 August 2012

BLTs and lemonade in bed.

How long till I don't feel
Like you're still right here
Reminding me of what is real?
Ben decided to stay home today, one day alone after everyone else returns to the weird subnormal house routines and work schedules we are ruled by. I move to get up and make coffee but he reaches out, wrapping one hand around my thigh, pulling back until I have no choice but to fall back into bed.

Hungry, I protest.

Me too, he says as he climbs over me, pushing my knees apart, pinning me down by the throat with one hand while the other smooths my hair back from my forehead. His eyes meet mine. I can see how hungry he is for myself. The one place I always love to be is right between Ben and his uncontrollable appetite. Only I can't breathe so I pull at his wrist until he releases my neck and wraps his arm around my shoulders instead, lifting me up until I am caught full against him.

Them he brings his full weight down on me. Yes. Yes. Yes. This.

We are climbing together, I don't know where but I just know it's a good place and I never ever want to leave. His teeth gnash against my ear and it hurts. I can hear his ragged breathing, hot against my skin, held when his hands become slick with sweat, sliding down my ribs instead of holding me. It's an exquisite agony and he keeps me there long past any remembrance of food or morning or obligations. Just when I think I can't take any more the waves of euphoria drown me. Just when I think I can no longer move Ben changes one little thing, renewing our collective energies. I can't get enough of him. I reach up to run my fingers through his hair. It's so soft, black glossy waves so thick my fingers get lost and he takes my hand down, kissing the palm, smiling.

Abruptly he pulls us up and turns, leaning back against the pillows, pulling my thighs up over his until I have him straddled. He is now my prisoner but I am not in control as he lifts my hips away and back, over and over until I beg him to stop and then he covers my mouth, pulling me back down, turning over and then once again I don't get to breathe as he starts anew.

I am face down now, nose pressed against the blanket, out of strength. Ben is just getting started and so I brace myself, balling the sheets up in my little fists as if that will help or something.

It doesn't.

Somewhere around lunchtime he asks if I am still hungry.

Yes, I croak weakly and he laughs. Starving.

I'm going to go and make us something. He turns me over as he gets up. He pulls on a t-shirt from last night and his pajama pants from the laundry I never put away yesterday. He turns back at the door and orders,

Don't you go anywhere, little bee. I'm not done with you yet.

I grin. I have no plans. None that involve clothes anyway.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pie hearts.

This whole month so far has been tough. I'm done with it and ready for September, I think.
Oh, well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I'm not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
I don't regret this life I chose for me
The song is stuck in my head. I'm hoping it doesn't become an earworm such as What's the Frequency, Kenneth did that persists for years and years but at the same time it's easy enough that if it did, it might not bother me so much. Maybe I'll just listen to it a thousand more times and then it will stop looping within my head. Or maybe not.

It's Ben's fault. He has the CD in his truck and I was a little surprised. It borders on country, no? Ben does not listen to country music. He says that sometimes expectations and pigeonholes are closer in the mirror than they appear and that I mellow him out. That I make everything so much more visceral emotionally and he isn't used to that. That sometimes he feels a little bit lost but then the moment I am beside him he feels home. Or maybe he said whole. I don't know, he has a quiet speaking voice and is sometimes difficult to hear.

I sat and thought about what he said for a helluva long time, I did. I wondered if I should agree, apologize or just pack and get the fuck out after all. Which is sort of what I did when I left with Lochlan.

Ben said he wasn't worried. He knew I was safe. He knew I was okay because I called him four times a day and sent him pictures. I should not have gone but I had to. I couldn't let Lochlan leave alone and I couldn't tour with Ben and yet look at all the rules, all the plans and all the impulsive moments that we strung together to build chaos. Look at this beautiful mess. Look at what we've done and marvel in the fact that any one of us still knows what day it is or can answer a few suggestions when asked what makes us happy.

Oh, yes, please pat me on the back for the hole I have dug is now far deeper than I am tall and a lot darker than I imagined it when I drew it on paper, held up against the glass with paper tape to trace the light.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Leeway.

A tray is placed beside me on the table. Uncovered for my approval, which I give readily. Another test. My default when pressed.

Um....a Monte Cristo and fries, skin on, sherry mayo on the side and a Jack Daniels and Lemonade, double, please. No ice. Thank you.

I just say that to see if he will do it and so far so good. It's been years now and it still works perfectly. The steward turns to leave, apologizing when he realizes Caleb is standing directly behind him.

Caleb looks at the tray and then smiles tightly. I'm surprised you don't order cotton candy or something.

This is not the place for that.

Definitely not. This is a far cry from the camper, isn't it?

Another universe.
I say it quietly, redrawing the line.

Point taken.
He says it softly, lifting up my glass and using the corner of his towel to wipe down the outside where the cool liquid has clashed with the warm evening. The boat is in dock in its new berth on the water directly below the house instead of over at the yacht club. It's more private so we don't have to take it out to be alone. I watch as the crew disembarks, their work finished and I tug at my wet bikini bottoms. They are too loose and sliding over my hip bones every time I breathe. He watches. It was too cold to swim but I lasted eleven minutes in the water anyway, to be stubborn.

I feel lucky, Bridget.

I let my head loll back against the headrest of the seat and gaze up at him. Do you? Why?

Yes. It could have gone either way and I'm surprised your feelings were as strong as they were.

As strong as they are.

Yes. Surprised and...humbled. Thankful.

Maybe I have a soft heart.

Do you?

No. Can I eat now?
The sandwich is still warm but so is my drink now. He isn't touching his own food. I make him nervous. I love being in this position. He asked for a quick swim and dinner on the boat and then I am free to disappear and he and Henry have a boy-movie night planned on board. Henry wanted to rewatch the Dark Knight series. I think Caleb deferred on Batman in favor of Iron Man instead. Henry is fine with that. They'll be making popcorn and pulling down the super-screen which is pretty neat even though it's not quite as big as the theatre in the main house.

If I can keep talking while you eat?

Fill your boots.

Are you going to fill in the blanks on your blog?

Huh?

The events of the past week. Do you plan to write about them?


I don't know. Maybe.

Can I ask that you don't?

No one reads it, Caleb.

I just wish we had some secrets left, princess.

Oh, I think there are lots of those.


Not enough.

You're looking for ground again. Already. Jesus. We're an infinite loop.

Just like you and Lochlan.


I stand up, hiking up the ties on the sides of my bikini bottoms. I'm not really hungry. Save this plate for Henry. I pick up the glass and drink the bourbon in one gulp. It's a small glass, no worries. See you tomorrow. Have fun.

What are you up to tonight?


Ruth's at a friend's for a sleepover so I think a quiet night would be good.

With Ben and Loch?

Yes.

I see.


What? What do you see?

What? Nothing. See you tomorrow.


I call him on his evil and the mirth fades from his eyes. That makes me sad. We made up some ground but it buys such fleeting peace. Damn straight I will write about it, as soon as I sort out how.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Life on the edge.

My phone became nothing more than a camera, my soul nothing more than a sponge, standing three hundred metres out in low tide.

I left my heart there if anyone needs it and I don't plan to be back here for long.

I learned that sketchy wi-fi means the ferry service will lose reservations that I might not have actually had, after all, but that's okay because they'll let you on a different one since you're there anyway. I learned that new food is fun and that Creme Brulee is just as much of a treat as a glass of wine.

I saw that surfing looks terrifying and fun, and I laughed and laughed and did not even swim. I walked. I walked until my legs hurt, and then I walked some more.

I found that my hair, like Jake's, turns completely white after being outside that long.

I noticed Lochlan still burns. (Take that any way you want.)

I discovered that when Caleb shuts up finally, I like him better.

I lost four pounds. I was hardly ever hungry.

I knew Ben could build a campfire, but I didn't know he could build one out of practically nothing and I forget how good woodsmoke smells the next day, filtered through the hoodie I wore the whole time and might burn now.

I discovered that some things change and some things stay the same:



I had an honest-to-goodness do-nothing VACATION.

I bought souvenirs.

And I cried when we left.

Monday, 13 August 2012

No woman no wifi.

Back into Oregon we go, making our way up the coast with big huge plans to meet Ben and the children and have an actual family vacation for the remainder of this week.

Things are better. Things are great. You're not missing me, are you?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Farthest point.

Laundromats in Santa Monica have free wi-fi, and I still have the same problem I had when I was a preteen and would fall asleep on long drives, waking up tremendously carsick.

I've made some headway, however. I managed to get OUT of the camper. But it was a small victory in that I still managed to barf on Loch, who was not all that impressed and then almost barfed himself.

We're doing great, thanks.

Friday, 10 August 2012

But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering
What you had and what you lost
Road trip, he said. Right now. Pack.

I wanted to ask where or how long but I know better than to ask that when he looks like that.

Yes, Loch. I said instead, and went to get my things.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Fair and square.

Ben's index finger trails across my top lip. He is on his knees in front of me, my wrists caught in his left hand, his right hand silencing my protest. He is frustrated, growing more heavy-handed by the hour in spite of his efforts to stay light. He keeps tightening and then loosening his hold on me as if his very limbs are breathing through the effort. I am held within his heartbeat.

Just once, Bridget. Face your fears and feed your demons? (It's something we tell each other sometimes when one of us hesitates just a little too long. In my case a little too long translates into days.)

The demon gets fed. Far too often. I'm not encouraging him anymore. And Loch won't like it.

Loch doesn't have a say and it changes nothing. Everything's on your terms.


That's when I feel hands on my shoulders and I am pulled backward until I am leaning against Hell. Hell is in a suit vest and matching pants, white shirt with sleeves rolled up, tiebar still fixed in place, tie loosened and bowed over the top of the bar. Caleb's chin presses down on top of my head and Ben's finger slips, his nail scraping my lip just enough to illicit a tiny cry of protest. He stands up and takes a step in toward me, pulling my face up to his for a kiss to make it better. This won't make things better, this makes Satan worse and Lochlan worse and sometimes Ben worse and yet here he is still looking for the tiny domestic thrills wherever he can get them. Still looking to watch. Still looking to bleed out on the inside while he fights and loses the battle to control his whims.

He has a sweet tooth. I am the candy store. Caleb, the sugar daddy. Nothing changes. Not money, not positioning, not the promises he made to Lochlan on a beach ten months ago to cleave their hearts in half and be NICE and not pull my arms apart as if I were a ragdoll and they were the children.

And yet the minute Loch turns his back, Ben steers us all on a collision course with the dark.

Caleb's hand slides up the side of my neck and my goosebumps betray me. I close my eyes. Fucking touch my head and my composure is swallowed whole, never to be seen again. He spins me around to face him, lifting my chin up, asking me what I want.

And I'm such a brat that I open my eyes and say Lochlan.

Just to be as difficult as possible. Just to tell the truth.

This is not the promise I made to Ben. I made it to Cole and Cole's long gone now. But according to Caleb, a promise is a promise, and according to Benjamin, life is short and according to Bridget, tomorrow's going to suck and involve things like Robax platinum and shots of whiskey when no one is looking to calm my frayed nerves and a jeans and a hoodie to hide the marks and I'll walk rather slowly and look no one in the eye and when Lochlan comes home he'll just know because I don't lie very well and he'll blame me anyway because he thinks I engineer my life and if I do then no one has told me how, I'm just along for the ride, be it on a Ferris wheel with all the pretty lights in the night or on the pitch-black rollercoaster, screaming into the dark at a high rate of speed.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Mercy wakes.

Ben is plotting ice cream sundaes and television for a rainy night. I am already asleep on my feet, getting over this stupid flu bug and not getting nearly enough sleep besides.

I fall asleep midway through the bowl, tucked into his arm. I think he ate his spoon but I forget to ask as I turn and walk down the hall toward my dream while he settles in to watch a documentary on Bob Marley. My brain is fried, my synapses firing blind, nerves shot into a target painted black with large circles and holes, clean through.

In my dream, the devil marries me and the ring he puts on my finger is the mood ring he ripped from my finger when I was twelve. In my dream the ring fuses into my bones and becomes a part of me. I put a curse on it so that you can never get away, he whispers, his face turning black in the hollows, stretching long into the dark. His voice drops to a whispery-growl and I shrink away as the thunder rolls and crashes around us.

Blessed are those who mourn! shouts Jacob into the wind, standing at the top of the path under a tree bending dangerously in the high winds. His blonde hair whips against his teeth, lips spread wide into pure joy. You will be comforted! He points down at me and I shrink back against the devil, aligning myself with the dark. The devil wraps his arms around me and I disappear into him, screaming.

He squeezes hard and all of my breath escapes my lungs in a rush. My eyes fly open and it's Ben, his face an inch away from mine, his eyes filled to the brim with concern. He kisses my eyelashes. Just a bad dream, little bee. Just a dream. You're okay. I'm here. Everything's okay. I open my mouth to tell him I'm fine and begin to hyperventilate instead. He holds my attention and counts, one arm holding me close, the other stroking my cheek until I can exhale normally again and then after a few minutes he asks what this nightmare was about. It helps to talk about them, or so they say. I'm still on the fence.

The Beatitudes.

From the bible?

Yes.

Preacher dreams?

Satan was there too.

Which one was scary?

Both.


Ben squeezes me closer against him and presses his lips against my forehead. I hear Bob Marley singing in the background and for once I'm grateful for music that doesn't ask an emotional ransom of me.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Bear sightings #19, 20 and 21 took place on Saturday as we watched a mama and two cubs make their way across a trail late in the afternoon. They moved quickly. Bears get hot too and it was seventeen billion degrees in the shade that day. Even standing in the snow on a mountain.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Get your mind together.

I know, I know
You'll probably scream and cry
That your little world won't let go
But who in your measly little world are trying to prove that
You're made out of gold and can't be sold?
Ben finally got up in time to see Curiosity land on Mars and indulge in a bit of conscious holding of the Princess before he frowned and removed my Agent P gear completely. I thought he would enjoy it but he doesn't want any affectations, no window-dressing right now, no disguises. I wondered for a brief moment if I was going to get to cross #1 off my bucket list and be herded outside to ride around the yard on a motorcycle sans clothing but no, not last night I guess.

I can wait for the motorcycle. In the meantime I will just ride the Rockstar.

Snort.

***

Today is weird. Today every time I stand up my eyes cross and I feel like I'm going head over heels, almost to blackout-stage but just not quite. I have eaten. I did sleep. I helped pass up screws while the ceiling fans were installed in several bedrooms and I felt the sweat trickle down the back of my neck from the time I got out of the shower until the rain began, midafternoon.

I opened every window in the house and relished the cool breeze. I cursed the intense heat because I no longer adore it. It just makes me incredibly cranky and tired and impossible.

Daniel asked if I would pick him up a Utilikilt too since Ben and Loch and several others have them and I said I would and Googled a shop that sells them, in addition to things I had never HEARD of and boy am I ever sheltered. I went back to Daniel with a list of questions as long as my arm and he laughed and then blushed, admitting he could only answer a couple of them, so I went to the walking fairy-boy encyclopedia that is Schuyler and he knew and then I told him he was far too worldly for my Danny. He countered that Ben could have answered any of those questions.

What?

He's worldly, is what I meant.

Well, so am I.

Not like we are
, he laughed.

Oh, Schuyler, I've done things that would curl your hair.

Sadly, you think those things give you cred, Bridget.

I need cred now too?

Bucketloads.

Hey, I think I saw something with that name on that website!


So I think I'll keep the unknown unknown for now. It's much more delicious and fun that way, imagining. But this doesn't fix the What-to-wear-when-it's-twelve-thousand-degrees-out question now, does it?

I went back to Daniel and told him to just wear his Speedo and pretend he was going to go swimming or something. Eventually.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Mini-update. It's still 38 degress and my fingerprints melted off two hours ago.

Home safe and sound and wtf is that bruise on your arm and wow you didn't shave or do laundry or possibly shower for eight days straight and Jesus Christ, just sleep now because you haven't and it would have killed you had you stayed out there any longer.

The bruise is where he backed into a piece of equipment.

The laundry because hardly any places had laundry service and when he got to the hotels he was tired. So tired.

I don't think he ate.

I don't think he knew what day was which, honestly and he's stone cold sober and clean and worn the fuck out and maybe too old to do this without a keeper and a hushed, irate call to Duncan confirmed that (because Duncan is still out there) Ben didn't do very well at all and hardly spoke and wouldn't participate past wanting to help with load out and showing up quite surly to everything else.

Okay then.

This is my fault. When pressed Ben would point out he wanted me, that I could fix his mood, his demeanor, his mean. He was angry and difficult and exactly like himself out there and the moment he walked through the door and I threw myself at him wholeheartedly we both knew that yeah, maybe we do need to be together more than we might 'want' to sometimes. He was instantly better, instantly happy, relieved and peaceful. No fake anything, no rage, no hostility. Dalton (who walked in behind him) said he saw the moment when the switch was flipped and it was the exact moment that Ben saw me.

Which is kinda...well, awesome and DOES A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT FOR MY PRINCESS COMPLEX, YOU KNOW.

So there.

He is still sleeping, having had a forty-minute steamy hot shower to wash off the road and the airplane fuel and the homesickness. Sleeping like a baby.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

GUESS who just walked through the door?!

That's right.

Ben.

:)

Friday, 3 August 2012

On playing all your cards and I have a big mouth. Or big fingers, I guess.

To keep the flow (is there a flow? Am I cliffhangering again?) I'm just going to point out that I won't be detailing Caleb's latest proposal. He makes one up every time he has a checkup or every time a day ends in y at this point and also at this point both Ben and Lochlan have chosen to ignore them completely. They aren't worried in the least.

Basically his proposals are reward packages. If I leave Ben, I can have x. If I leave both of them, I can have x and y. If I am exclusive to Caleb, I can have..like, the whole alphabet.

But this time he said if I change my mind I can keep it all. I can go back to them. I will have it all and I should do it just to secure our futures. Just because throwing away that sort of offer is absolutely wasteful and selfish. Do it for the children, he said.

Right. Um. No.

That's why this one was so different and open-ended and supposedly ironclad, as he pointed out the day he dropped it on my head. I have also decided to just wait him out. I don't believe there's any sort of threat of removal involved, I don't think he'll walk away, and I don't think things will ever change so maybe it's best to just ride the waves and enjoy the sunsets. He left himself without any breathing room on this one, so maybe there won't be any more at all.

Here's hoping.

Are we caught up now? Oh right, I still haven't told you about August coming back from the East coast with a broken heart nor did I tell you John put in some sort of wacky formal request to move here.

Also! Ben is getting on a plane in mere hours minutes (they're on the plane!) and will fly through the night and half of tomorrow to get back to us because he belongs here, not Out There and Corey? Yes, Corey is still an asshole.

Feel like you're in the loop now? Trust me, nothing's changed.

I want to stay up all night and wait for him but that might be dumb. So I'll go wedge myself back under the fireball so no one can find me. Goodnight.

Advantage.

I woke up suffocating this morning, my face wedged in tightly under Loch's jaw, his elbows pressing into my shoulders, his hands wrapped around my head tightly. Protecting me from his nightmares as we sleep. I forced my arms up through his until I could release his hold and then he turned away, leaving his hand behind, holding mine tightly.

For as analytical and as sensible as Loch is in mixed company, he's still by far the single most affectionate man I have ever met, always within reach or closer. Always ready to spend hours in a hug if that's what I want. Frankly he's destroyed most of the other boys for me, they can't understand how a hug can last for more than a couple minutes at the very most. They don't understand how holding someone can go on for days.

Thank God he isn't them, for no matter how exasperated he gets, his arms remain open every second of every day, asleep or awake. I am grateful for that.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Too.

Ben's coming home on Saturday. That turns five days left into less than two. I can get used to that kind of math and my extreme bristling over his absence has been replaced with relief. His ire at me trying to bury my head in the sand is replaced with relief. There is far too much relief going on around here for two people who literally shared a kiss at the airport and then said Fuck you at the precise same moment.

It's meant to be, clearly.

Also, my gums are bleeding, my bangs are too long already (YES!) and I've cleaned every bathroom on the peninsula except for PJ's because PJ is a slob and we just don't go there. I think he might be nearsighted.

That is all.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Six days left and six days ago.

We both made the call
But it was only my fault
Such a beautiful view with a long way to fall
I was afraid to leave the safety of above
But if it doesn't it's not love
I've grown accustomed to seeing Caleb in what I can only call 'smart casual'- clothing that is not bespoke suits, steamed and pressed within an inch of their lives, delivered every third day by a service because I think a wrinkle might ruin his evil intentions or something. No, smart casual is Caleb in lighter shirts and jeans. Sometimes even in a hoodie and cargo shorts. It's less of a surprise but some outfits are still surprises, like today's black watch plaid pajama bottoms and a tight grey waffleknit t-shirt.

So tight it made one wrinkled line straight across his chest, binding against his biceps and his chest..and hey, what do I know? 32 degrees in the shade and the sun hasn't even come out yet and I need to beat back the fuzzy little cougar inside my head because she's becoming a problem.

So is that shirt. And if I talk about his clothes I can ignore everything else, right?

Like his hair, with the waves sort of messed up in front and the tousled ends and no comb, no forcing it to conform today, more Cole than Caleb, more sweet than sinister, somewhat defeated and open and welcoming and today I took the embrace, even though I knew it wouldn't do either of us any good at all.

The moment his arms closed around me I felt like a deceitful teenager and so I ducked out of his arms, asking instead for the report he promised.

He turned away and said Follow me, walking barefoot into his office, where he dragged a second chair around his desk and placed it next to his. He sat down and indicated I was to sit beside him. I took the chair and waited.

He reached into a drawer and pulled out two files. One was grey and had hospital addresses stamped on the front. The second one was pink, labelled BRIDGET. He opened the hospital one first and then he stopped. I'm sorry for making you wait. I needed time to rest, the headaches have been so bad. He went on to explain the high blood pressure of late, the stress and inability to manage his anxiety.

I'm foundering. The devil doesn't have anxiety, does he? How is that even possible? What stress again? I'm not understanding and he turns so that our knees are touching and I realize he hasn't even shaved today and wow. Beautiful. I see cougaring is some sort of defense mechanism. I wish I could just take a break already.

He continues to explain while I stare at the places where his shoulders turn into his neck and since when was his neck this wide anyway and he's not unaware that I am not exactly paying attention and so after a few minutes of me not replying to direct requests that I confirm what he's telling me he closes the folder and sits back in his chair while I reconcile his visual perfection with his internal imperfections. How can someone that looks like this be so ruined?

Oh, right. That's what they used to say about me, before the black circles under my eyes and the black hole that is my heart swallowed the pretty alive.

I'm not going to die any time soon, Bridget.

Cole did. BOOM. He was dead. Just like that.

Cole was taking things he had no business taking, Bridget. That's what killed him. It forced his heart into overdrive and his heart then gave out. Nothing more.

He took pills for his ADHD. It kept him calm enough to work.


Caleb frowned. The quantities of speed he took moved far beyond his diagnosis, doll.

I know this and I don't want to listen but he keeps talking about how he was forced to choose between watching his brother fail miserably and at least seeing him go out on top.

You could have kept him from that life and instead you made it worse?

My point is that I don't take drugs presently and I'll be swearing off alcohol as well now. My health is paramount. Cole refused to listen to reason and refused to stay clean and he paid the ultimate price.

He wasn't a junkie.


Caleb gets down beside my chair. Bridget, I loved him too, don't you doubt that for a second. But when I realized he wasn't going to change I had to shift my energies to you and the kids. This is what the second folder contains.

What?

Read it.

Can I take it home?

I'd prefer it to stay here. You can come and read it over as many times as you need to.


My hands are shaking when I pick it up. I was so sheltered. They continue to shelter me, Caleb and Batman do. Batman was as aware of this as Caleb and yet he's never said more than a sentence or two to me about Cole though he knows almost as much about him. More proof that I made the right decision sticking close to Caleb while cutting Batman loose.

I read the first few paragraphs and my eyes cross and I put the page down.

I can't do this right now. You want to cash in on his flaws.

Bridget, he takes my hands and places them against his heart. I manage my health. I am doing everything in my power to make sure I'm still around when Henry has children. Hopefully longer than that even. But I accept the fact that I have weaknesses and I need...help.

I can't save you, Caleb.


His eyes well up but harden. Yes, you can.

I need to go now.

Bridget, please. Just stay. Stop dancing around this and take what's yours. I watch you struggle. That's what's killing me.

I'll see you later.


It's ironclad. You'd be a fool to refuse.

I've been a fool all along.