Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Devil has a data plan (an SMS exchange).

Will you be prompt this evening? I was planning on having the cheese toast ready when you arrive. 

No. 

Can you give me a time then? 

No. 

Bridget.

What.

Put on a pretty dress and come to me. 

No. 

Single words? From you? Who is this?

Bridget.

Prove it. 

In Vegas in 1995 you won 30k and they gave us free champagne. Worst and best collective hangover of our lives. Still surprised it didn't involve any Russian ganglords or any transvestite showgirls considering where we stayed. 

Okay it's you. And in 1995 that was a nice hotel.

Depends on your definition of nice. 

My definition of nice has a picture of you beside it. 

That isn't charming or clever. 

My apologies. I need more cheese and then I'll be at the top of my game. 

No more games, remember?

Fine. Your picture is actually filed under O. 

Wow. Crass. 

No, CHEESE. and it's O for Obsession. Mine. You win. I'll be honest. And if it makes them feel better I'll make sure to deliver you home before midnight. 

I'm not putting on a dress. It's cold and pouring rain outside right now. 

Fine, arrive naked. All my dreams will come true at once.

I'm staying home. 

OMG ITS GROUNDHOG DAY BUT WITH SMS. 

Did you know in Vegas they gave us free champagne?

Did you know the waitress that brought it to the room was a transvestite? 

NO. HOLY SHIT. 

THATS WHAT I SAID WHEN I TIPPED HIM AND HE MADE A PASS AT ME. 

You never told me that. 

I had you in my room and we were getting drunk, I wasn't about to spoil the moment. 

How would that have spoiled the moment?

I would have had to dwell on his offer.

You know what helps with dwelling on things, Caleb?

What. 

Cheese Whiz. Goodnight. 

Goodnight? What? COME OVER. 

Goodnight Diabhal. 

Do I need to order you to come to me?

Don't do that. 

Oh but I will. 

I'll send a transvestite instead. 

Can I pick who it is?

WHAT? TELL ME WHO YOU'D PICK. 

LOCH. It would be the only rejection he's ever had and I want him to feel it, just once. 

The only one, eh?

You don't reject him. 

Of course not. 

Then, yes. The only one. 

I'll dress him up and send him to you. 

I know Ben would do it but Loch probably wouldn't. 

You would be surprised. 

On second thought, keep him home. Last thing I need tonight if you're not stopping down is Pyro, in a dress and on my case. 

He's on it from here. Can't you feel it? Not the dress, I mean your case.

You're so LITERAL. 

It's the cheese. 

BUT YOU HAVEN'T HAD ANY YET BRIDGET!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Dacryphilic and the damned.

Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold.
You see everything
You see every part
You see all my light
and you love my dark
Previous years saw Halloween come and go in a whirlwind of lights, skulls, ghosts and parties, costumes, themed and elaborate, and Caleb's legendary party, which involved hired staff and from 2007 on, an afterparty that left me unable to show my face for days for the literal shame I felt just in knowing that the others knew I had remained behind. Back when I still had a face to save, that is.

Now that the ghosts are real there are no parties, no lights and no costumes. I don't feel up to celebrating what has become a macabre display of death by people who clearly don't know that death is forever, that doing the zombie shuffle and catastrophic-injury face-painting is a crass celebration of someone else's agony. That skulls are what remain when we lose the precious features of the ones we love.

Besides, Caleb doesn't feel well enough to host a party, let alone an afterparty and I am granted a reprieve from the digressions he has come to expect. Obedience he draws power from, sucking the life right out of me as I try to put on a brave face and stand up to him as I attempt to plot his inevitable death.

Another ghost, albeit as malevolent as Cole and as passionate as Jake, or maybe he really is immortal. I would expect no less of Satan.

I would still like to see you tomorrow night after the children are settled in, if you would join me for a nightcap. 

I frown at him.

We'll have some juice and toast with Cheese Whiz. 

I burst out laughing. Classy. 

I'll use the good plates. 

Do you have bad ones?

No. 

I can't come. 

Why not? 

Lochlan won't like it. 

So don't tell him. Just like you didn't tell him you've forgiven me for failing to confirm what you already knew. 

Oh, have I forgiven you?

You're here, aren't you?

Because you won't release me. 

Because, Bridget, he stood up and walked around my chair and then brought his face down beside mine, you aren't ready to go just yet. 

I'm fine. 

You still talk to the dead, Bridget. You can't be left unattended. You devastate everything in your path and you can bring a man to his knees in under six seconds without so much as flinching when he falls. That sort of power has to be controlled and you can't manage it. 

And you can? It's a whisper. I clear my throat and he stands back up.

So far so good. 

What happened to honesty and illness and a kinder, gentler Diabhal? 

Sometimes you function better when I simply order you around.

He smiles so kindly I want to agree but I shake my head. That's a myth. 

We'll test your theory tomorrow evening. Say around ten?

Monday, 29 October 2012

Paper.

Daniel and Schuyler have been married a year yesterday. After three hundred sixty-six days of bliss, they're settling in nicely. They're very committed and old-fashioned and glorious well-dressed. They've been a lot happier living back on the point, albeit with a lot more privacy than before, being next door and they've been good to me as usual, tucking me under their arms when they are free and I need hugs and rubbing the top of my head for luck every time they leave the room. I hate that. They call me their mascot, their good luck charm, their biggest cheerleader and I remain devoted to supporting them in any way I can.

(I was disappointed that Gage left before their festivities but Gage, as you probably see by now, has a history of ducking out at the strangest moments. He missed their wedding last year. He comes and goes like the wind, actually and it's something everyone but Schuyler really needs to get used to.)

I'm very proud of them. I'm proud of all my boys but Sky and Danny deserve every happiness. They are amazing separately but even more amazing together.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Vacancy.

My ghosts have found their way back home
I have every right to kill my own
I am something now that never could exist
My anguish conquers all
Pay the price and watch me fall
My only key is broken
My broken key is only me
This is Gage's last weekend. He's heading down South and may or may not swing back around in early spring. That's okay, he's a nomad at heart where Schuyler is a true homebody, content to bake gourmet delights for Daniel and sooth his nighttime fears in a way that still makes me green with envy. While Gage and Schuyler share the same father, their mothers were two vastly different people, from what I hear, and that brings me back to even in my nature/nurture argument on child-raising. It's a whole lot of both, in the end.

I'll miss him but we never did become very close after all. I'm more mindful of Schuyler's omnipresent disappointment that Gage did not opt-it to our idyllic lifestyle here on the coast, instead choosing a harder road.

But you either fit in or you don't and while Gage is a wonderful addition to the point, I daresay it just doesn't feel as if he belongs here. Even though he left last fall too. He was here longer than the last time, maybe we'll just be lucky enough that he will come around every now and again and grace us with his smiling presence and endless patience for lightweights and fuckwits. Besides, he won't find a girl here.

I have an empty room again.

And I still hate goodbyes.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Carpe minutus.

Wage no war thou brutal sea
I laugh at you
You can't have me
You will calm and carry me
I collect lip gloss, sketchbooks and hearts.

I'm still waiting for Restaurant Day. That's the day I don't have to cook at all. Not a thing.

Rain makes people edgy and mean. That, I am learning the hard way.

***

Lochlan is a thief of opportunity and has not let me out of his arms in at least the past thirty hours, making protest grunts when I said I had to use the bathroom and demanding that I bring my plate closer at dinner so that he would not lose direct contact. Daniel moved down a little more.

Things work better this way, Loch proclaims quietly and I nod now as I sit typing at the end of his desk, my feet in his lap because he pulled another chair over close by while he does some concept stuff. I'd rather take my laptop to the couch and curl up by the fire where Andrew and Dalton are both reading but he just says maybe later.

He replaced the Rip Van Winkle I took from PJ with Glenmorangie Lasanta, a gesture that soothed the savage beast. He told everyone else that if Ben wasn't going to come up for air that I would be right where Lochlan was until further notice. Somewhere Ben has bent his head back down over the strings, earphones blocking out the world, his absenteeism and meticulously cultivated oblivion a force to be reckoned with in this life and one I do a piss-poor job in handling.

August came around. Someone told him what I wrote and told him to man the fuck up and for the first time in ages he showed up at dinner with a brief smile on his face and an offer to help clear afterwards.

Caleb is suitably disenfranchised until further notice, a lethal cat pacing in a cage of glass and designer coverings, candles lit, skylights holding back the dark weekend rain. I sent a message saying I was considering continuing as his assistant only because the pay is good but otherwise he is to stay away from me, also until further notice. He did not reply. He gave me some ground, which I needed, for I was falling into the sea. He took a hit. A big one. He stepped back far enough to concede on several points at the risk of losing his edge and lose his edge he has.

But like I said, the rain will give it back to him. This rain, it never seems to stop anymore.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The devil's in your head
Filling in the stance
God is playing dead
So save your breath

Take me all the way to the end
Show me how you want it to end
Keep dancing with the dead
Go ahead
Keep dancing with the dead
I told Lochlan that Jake was dead and then I reached over and grabbed the forty, tearing open the tin cap with wet hands, cutting my finger, telling him he could either help me or go get someone who would. He swore and took the bottle from me, winding up and throwing it overhand right off the cliff with his good arm. Next spring I'll have some lovely pale blue seaglass to collect at low tide. We've thrown a few glass things off the cliff as an experiment to see what comes back when. So far nothing.

I am less than impressed and I swear right back and he laughs and throws up his hands.

Bridget, if I let you drink yourself into a corner then I'm not doing enough. If I stop you I'm parental. I don't know what the fuck you want from me anymore but I know I'm not going to take my cue from Ben and go disappear into a fucking job or whatever but I'll be around. I'm just not so good at soothing you. 

But you are! 

No, I WAS. I used to be. And then I could hardly touch you and everything hurt so bad and it still hurts. Every fucking time it hurts like I've burned myself but I'll be damned if I'm going to let them gain ground anymore just because I'm afraid because it seems like that's our only roadblock.

What are you afraid of?

You. Jesus. You. Your feelings are so big. I don't even know how they stuffed it all inside, you must be bursting. Half the time when I hug you hard I fear you might explode and I'll be left with pink feathers. 

What a visual. 

Tell me about it. Now, the rain is getting worse so we're going to go inside and dry off and I'll make you a proper drink if you still need one but I don't think you do. I think you know what is right and wrong and maybe it's a relief to let go of Jake just a little more because it's safe to do so.

Maybe. 

Maybe's enough, Peanut. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Good girl.

I have a new favorite place. I like to sit on the low rock wall, which is less of a wall and more of a dividing line between the two lawns behind the houses on the point.

The wall itself is four feet high and three feet wide and the perfect place to sit, overlooking the sea, high enough that the wind will braid your hair but the rain will somehow miss you in favor of soaking the grass.

I've brought sketchbooks and picnics and headphones out here. I've been out here in my pajamas and in a dress and heels. I've been mostly out here in jeans and a hoodie because lately it's been freezing cold and rainy and damp and typical, which seems like a jaded, cynical expression for someone who has been here a scant two and a half years. I'm learning to fit in, I'm trying to let go.

Jacob never brings anything here. He said he liked the sun and the rain and so I moved him from his hiding place in the garage and when Sam made a few noises about coming down to sit with me on my wall, I almost took his head off. No one comes to spend time here because this is my time with my thoughts.

It's not a question of crazy, it's a question of Jake. Jake spends a little more time hulking around in my tiny shadow than I let on. Ben knows, and therefore Ben has now issued a few (dozen) gentle ultimatums about it being time to give Jacob up, or some ridiculous notion therein. As if you can put an expiry date on mourning. He, of all people, should understand this. No one calls him on being an oversized toddler when he can no longer bottle up rage or despair or loneliness or whatever demons haunt Ben now while he sleeps because he won't let me comfort him. And I don't ask him to change a thing. He issued a few ultimatums about giving up all kinds of things and I mostly hung on for dear life to whatever good moments we found on the farm and I left the rest on the floor, neatly swept into a small pile by the door.

Two can play this game so well that it's become a choreographed dance, set to a melancholy jazz standard, ripped from the forties from a quiet smoky club where people go to forget their troubles in the bottom of a glass of liquid gold.

I'll show you my ghosts, I challenge, changing all the words until the song becomes new, unrecognizable and heard instead of tolerated. Don't ask me to change things now, I plead.

He insists that I am ready and made sure Joel and Sam were both nearby, after yesterday's explosion when I came back across the driveway slowly, in bits and pieces and I headed straight for PJ's room where I knew he hides the good stuff and PJ made a few alarmed shouts about me being too small for fifty-proof or something  (TRAITOR) and I threw one of the bottles at his head and then Lochlan locked me in a hug while Ben called Joel and then Sam.

I don't know why, I fucking hate Joel and I don't want to ever hate Sam. Sam is practically all I have left of Jake some days, since August still hasn't come out of his shell and maybe he never will. Maybe this is where people come to self-destruct. Maybe this is hell.

I lit the cigarette while Jake watched me, the rain battering us sideways but not enough to force me back indoors. My ears are buzzing and I look at him. Can he hear the buzzing or am I just lighting up like a Christmas tree? Electrocute. Whatever.

Where did you get that stuff?

Huh? Oh, I stole the cigarette from Joel and the lighter from Loch.

Do they know?

Of course not. I place a forty on the smooth flat rock. Jake laughs uneasily and glances toward the house.


You and your pockets. (I always have my hands in people's pockets. I keep up my skills in case the opportunity ever presents itself again that I can run away and never come back. Would I? You betcha.)

I shrug and take a drag. So where are you really?

What do you mean, Bridget? There is no formal purgatory, because Jesus atoned for all of our sins. Keeping me here is not for my benefit, but for yours.

What if Caleb is wrong?

About what?

You being dead after all.

Hey! A sudden yell makes us both turn and look toward the house. Lochlan is coming down across the wet grass. He looks cross. He looks rather alarmed that I am out here alone and that I'm smoking. I don't smoke. I get headaches when I smoke but for some reason it's a lesser but just as effective act of defiance as presenting to the Devil was before I wrote him off too. I'm also drunk (still) but nobody cares about that right this second.

I continue to smoke while I watch Lochlan approach. I think he might explode, the rage on his face is funny. Just what I need. A little levity. I've had some bad news, you see.

(Oh, that came out of my head in Winnie The Pooh's voice. My poor Pooh. I loved you to death.)

What the fuck, Peanut? Put that out! He takes it from my hand and takes a drag, making no move to put it out or extinguish it. I laugh and he looks at me carefully, pockets his lighter and picks up the bottle. It's still sealed. I was only considering starting a new one because there wasn't nearly enough in the other one I found. Why are you out here alone?

I look at Jake and Jake puts his finger to his lips. I look at his fingers. His huge hands that knew every inch of me and I wish he was here to look after me but he's not. Not anymore.

I was trying to think. I can't think inside right now. Everyone's freaking the fuck out and it's too loud. 

Lochlan comes right up to the wall and wraps his hands around my elbows. He presses his forehead against mine. I know, Bridge. I just don't want you to make yourself sick. Jake wouldn't want this. He wouldn't have wanted any of this pain for you.

Jake is just sitting there with a look on his face that is half-amazement that Lochlan is attempting rare comfort and half-incredulity that Lochlan is attempting to pretend he knows what Jacob would want at all. I see the look and I realize I don't know what Jacob wants either but he is fading and I have no time to ask now.

He always leaves when someone else comes around. I should take that as a hint but really I've been hoping all this time that we were having some sort of mind meld, and that he was far away, filled with regret and missing me so much he could venture into my thoughts like he used to when we lived in the castle and he was still breathing. There are things I still need to talk to him about, things I can't sort out on my own, things I need him for.

My voice comes out harsh, flat, slurred and quiet.

No one knows what Jacob wants because Jacob's dead, Lochlan. 


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Between the buried and me (bring him back).

(Out of all the days I have endured, I did not expect the development that took place today. I'm drained and soon to be drunk so fuck everything and then fuck it some more.)

He threw a legal pad down in front of me and placed a fountain pen on it. The lapis lazuli one. My favorite one.

Write your own proposal. 

What? I sat up and put my wine on the table. I'm sticking close to the patient in case he starts choking again. I am assured he's fine but my head has trouble with things like promises and...words. What are you talking about? I was daydreaming, caught between the whitecaps and the clouds somewhere no one could find me. I followed his voice back. I should have stayed where I was.

Write down what you want and I'll do it. I'll either buy it or arrange it or make it or find it. 

Caleb, I-

He got down on his knees in front of me. Jesus, Bridget, I'm begging you. Do you know what this does to me? You're so close I can taste you. His thumb is rubbing against the back of my neck, his lips somewhere near my nose because he's still taller on his knees than I am sitting here on his sofa and when he says taste an electric shock kicks into my brain and gives me away.

Please. He closes his eyes. Anything you want. Just tell me and I'll give it to you. 

Since I am twelve I want to ask for a baby elephant and a candy apple but since I'm also an adult I marvel in silence at what power feels like and how sad it is in real life and I don't say anything.

He mistakes my helplessness for deep thought and looks so encouraged.

So encouraged.

I get up and scoop up the paper and pen. I write one sentence down on the page and I throw the whole pad at him in some sort of newfound rage. He is so shocked he doesn't duck and it hits him in the chest and lands on the floor. I put the pen gently down on the glass table and I watch him pick up the pad, smoothing out the pages. He orients it and reads my sentence. With incredible satisfaction and more than a little curiosity I watch as all the color drains out of his face.

There's your fucking proposal, Diabhal.

Oh, Neamhchiontach,
he says.

With that my hopes are dashed. They weren't so much hopes as they were longshots. Like everyone I love. Like love itself. A fucking longshot.

It was part of the game, he whispers as he closes the distance between us in three strides, I'm so sorry.

I throw myself into his embrace and press my face against his shoulder. I hate you,  I tell him as I sag against his arms. I hate you so fucking much for everything you've put me through. 

I know you do, Bridget.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Boy on fire.

Oh, what a delicate balance I hold today on my rope as one side of the tent features a red-headed nightmare, loathe to embrace the new tenderness of my attempts to care for Satan. Yes, why do we fortify him so that he will become stronger than the rest of us once again?

That's a very good question, Lochlan.

On the other side of the tent rests Mr. Convalescence, who did in fact return to his side of the drive late this morning, and assures me that his medication was simply fucked up and too strong and no, he did not have a heart attack, even though I wondered if I was being protected, jaded in my acceptance of just about everything they ever tell me, keeping my childhood view of the world because it was safer there, for a time.

Caleb is being forthcoming. If anything, had this been more serious he might have proclaimed he could be dead before he turns fifty, thus opening the door for me to hesitate at the center of the tightrope just briefly enough for everyone to gasp with anticipation.

(That was for show, by the way. The redhead never would have let me off the ground if he thought for even a moment that I couldn't pull it off.)

Anyway, the Devil said he is feeling a million times better today (see what he did there? No? Argh.) and isn't that devilish at all right now. He's humbled, grateful and appropriate and I even went ahead and cancelled his upcoming meetings, rescheduling them for next week and I paid his bills listed on the ledger and I made a couple of phone calls on his behalf to explain he would be indisposed at least for next week to people expecting his schedule. I shopped for some groceries for him and cleaned up the boathouse. He was very pleased.

So pleased he put me back on the payroll.

Cue more redheaded indignation right there but really beyond, oh, saving Caleb's life, Lochlan's being a creep about this.  He's conflicted, surprised and shocked by how quickly he jumped in and took over the whole situation as if he does it every day.

He doesn't. He was never a volunteer firefighter with the others. He's never had any first aid training past laughing and telling me that what to do when he burns himself is swear because 'it bloody well hurts' and we all know his ability to Be There in an emergency is staggeringly lacking.

And yet there he was. Making sure Henry doesn't lose any more fathers. Making sure Bridget doesn't lose anything either because it would be too much. Too soon. Again.

So back to my leisurely unpacking of clothes I didn't wear on our break at the farm, waiting for Gage to decide if he is going to stay on past the end of next week, since Halloween was his departure date, planning for upcoming anniversaries and listening to Loch talk about how glad he is that the devil is out of his house, our makeshift circus tent, our sideshow stage, my highwire so far up you can't actually see it until the lights come on.

Your house, Lochlan? 

Oh, the look.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Shiver like a chickadee.

(It seems the only dull moments around here are the ones in which I blink. Also, I'll now be playing the role of Personal Assistant to Satan. Again. Indefinitely as requested. Sorry.)

Caleb's thumb continued to trace my ear for two more songs and then he sort of tapped my face and I looked up at him and he asked for help.

Help because he felt so sick and he didn't know what to do. And it's not like I knew what to do. Just because I'm a mother doesn't make me a general practitioner but it seems as if I'm the expert most of the time on all these things.

He said he felt as if he would throw up and I managed to get him up and was leading him to the bathroom when he fell to his knees in the middle of the hallway, taking me down with him and he threw up on the floor.

The first thing I thought was, so he really is sick and the second thing I thought was OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK. And then I slipped and fell because his weight was incredible on my shoulder and he just kept on dry heaving. He couldn't catch his breath. He was struggling and I just started to scream.

For the record, I have an epic horror-movie-calibre scream.

Loch was the first one there and by now I had Caleb on his side, propped up against me and I'm trying to hold him there. The rest of the boys show up and within moments Caleb has color again. I was sent back to the main house to clean up and I stood in the shower and cried and cried and cried.

And then I couldn't cry anymore and the water got cold and I realized Ben was sitting on the other side of the shower door holding a towel for me. I realized I am paper-thin, water-soaked and torn. Fragile like a little bird with too many choices. Eat? Fly? Hunker down in the nest and ride out the storm? I don't know, for my brain is the size of a pea, my lifespan a whopping two years, if I'm lucky.

Caleb is sleeping now. Here, in the main house because I'm loathe to leave him alone and Henry is worried too but we have assured him that Caleb is okay. It was a reaction to some of the medication they keep changing to try and circumvent the headaches he's been having, which was already a bad reaction to the medication. And the bourbon he keeps drinking, even though he said he wouldn't. He'll be okay. You know, for now. Whatever that means. He's mildly dehydrated and exhausted but I know just what to do for both of those.

He will be livid that I wrote about this at all. I don't think he minds being viewed as evil, but he would never want to be seen as weak. But I had to put it somewhere or I might have exploded from the tension and from the strange turn of events that saw me go over there on a night where normally I would have chosen not to go at all.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Capitu-early, Capitulate.

But I don't know how to leave you
And I'll never let you fall
I found the envelope later than usual. Lying inside the front door on the floor where I would find it easily but no one else would look and I waited and waited forever, past dinner and tea and guitars and a short meeting with Sam and some cuddle-time with Ben and then when they had all drifted away on books, music, film and quiet talk I slipped out across the driveway to the boathouse.

The door was unlocked and I slipped in quietly. No lights on. I wondered if maybe Caleb was out but I passed his car in the drive.

I walk into the living room and I see him. He is lying on the couch, blanket bunched up around him. Not just dozing but deeply asleep. The stereo is on low, abandoned to an easy-rock station singing songs from 1983 that remain seared into my brain for how ridiculously profound they were to me when most people considered them little more than pure drivel.

I sit down on the floor close to his head and reach up one hand to stroke his cheek.

He isn't scary like this.

He isn't aging like this.

His heart is perfect, like this.

It's so incredibly rare to see Caleb sleeping, it's like a gift that helps me not be so afraid of him or so quick to condemn his motives. He can't hurt me when he's sleeping. He can't inflict the damage that leaves scars that last a lifetime when he doesn't even have his eyes open. He can't unnerve me with his insistence that he isn't evil. His unconscious soul poses no threat and in the growing darkness of the unlit room his slumbering form is a comfort to remind me that I won't be alone if I don't want to be. It's a promise of a different sort with a weight that feels different. The three decades between us stretches down a different road and is so much more painful than you could possibly understand from a few recollections on a screen, written at my kitchen table with total and utter disapproval from all sides, lest I get too close to the truth. Once you arrive there, you can never leave again.

I put my head down on the couch beside his chest and close my eyes. With half an ear exposed I can no longer hear the music but my brain is filling in the lyrics with the melody just fine, a skill I continue to work on for the inevitable day when the music stops on the outside and never returns.

Caleb's hand comes down over my hair and his thumb strokes a curved line across my ear while the song swells into the final verse in my skull.
I can make tonight forever
Or I can make it disappear by the dawn
And I can make you every promise that has ever been made
And I can make all your demons be gone

But I'm never gonna make it without you
Do you really want to see me crawl?
He is not asleep after all. Never was.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

All technically roses.

Every Saturday morning, early-early when the sun came up and we made lunches with fifteen minutes to spare because there was never enough time to come all the way back out to the lot to eat, I would take the strawberries outside the camper to hull. I sat on the bottom step and carefully used Lochlan's pocket knife to flick the caps into the grass. Every town we left saw a neat little pile of strawberry stems left on the grass. Composting on the run.

Once Lochlan had washed up he would return quickly to me. I slide over so he can make it up the steps around me. He turns to tell me I might be taking off too much of the good stuff. He crouches down to sit on the top step, his legs and arms coming down around me as his hands reached out to guide my fingers with the knife. Like this, Peanut, he would say, and he would curve the knife upward just a little to scoop out just green, leaving behind red and a tiny little bit of white. Then he would let go and watch as I tried to duplicate it and when I had it he would steal a single berry from the bowl between my knees and smash a soft kiss against my ear, saying we should hurry a little, that he would go make the sandwiches.

And I would go back to chopping the tops off straight across because it was so much faster and less dangerous to my fingertips and because I didn't like strawberries the way I do now. I liked apples because I could pick them up off the ground underneath almost any tree, polish them off on the hem of my t-shirt and take a bite right where I stood. A whole one would make me feel full and still I could pick up as many as I could carry back to the trailer any time I wanted, which was actually only late at night when I could hardly keep my eyes open and even the rumblings of my belly didn't lend to wanting to carry anything home other than my body on rubbery legs.

***

We now eat strawberries every single morning because they're a treat. They're still pricey in that decadent way that says you wouldn't pay four dollars a pack for anything else that would only keep for two days and because a whole bag of apples, five pounds at least, is the same price and will go that much further.

Lochlan is in the kitchen at the sink, hulling a big bowlful for the day for everyone, because he has strawberries again after I went away and didn't buy any, and he wouldn't go buy any in some sort of solidarity move to me being away and unable to share his breakfast. When I went to the store yesterday and came home, holding them up victoriously so he would have some comfort he said póg ma thoin (which means kiss my ass) under his breath but loud enough that I caught it and fired back tóg bog é (which was a warning for him to watch himself) and Gage walks in and asks what language again and Lochlan says Romanian and laughs.

Asshole.

I frown at him and tell Gage we like to keep our Gaelic up because nothing says immaturity like a secret language used around everyone else. To me it's akin to walking right past someone to whisper in someone else's ear. Gage said he didn't mind, he's seen enough in-jokes and odd allegiances here to hardly notice. I bet. Lochlan laughs again but it's bitter. He recovers enough to offer Gage some berries and Gage accepts. He's hungry.

In any case, when Ben and I came back midweek, Lochlan was waiting nervously around the front of the house, flicking his lighter, pacing in circles, juggling rocks from the garden and then the tennis balls we throw for the dog. He walked up quickly when we pulled in, opened my door and pulled me out of the truck straight into his arms. Not a hello, not a once-over, not a word, just a crushing blow of a hug that left me breathless and I held him tight as I felt every single ounce of tension rolling out of his limbs in waves. He squeezed tighter and tighter until I saw stars in the daytime and then he let go and shook Ben's hand as if he was greeting a firing squad. Ben pulled him right in and kissed the top of Loch's head and told him he was sorry for staging such an obvious coup but we would talk with Sam maybe and get past the rough parts as a team instead of factioning off. That he made a mistake but that we had been apart for so much of the summer he kind of panicked.

Kind of, he said. Huh.

Lochlan kept his nervous relief in check. He scratched his eyebrow and looked from Ben back to me, nodding. Saying we do need a little more regular help to live this way with such strong personalities in play and so many emotions involved. We all nod. This will take work. They fight for time and we need to fix this and Boom, the switch is flipped back from temperamental, demonstrative back to practical because that's how Lochlan works. No in-between, no balance. Just always getting every bit of usable strawberry or not having any at all.

Friday, 19 October 2012

We are home. I'm sure that's obvious. Eventually I always turn into a pumpkin, for moments as a princess are fleeting and happen in dreams. I can see the glitter washing away, the rivers of water slowly clouding in with streams of dirt, mud caked into the seams of my dress as they become the ribs on the rough skin on a gourd left to rot in a field somewhere.

Ben laughs when I say this but he looks sad because he's frustrated that his charm couldn't override my stubbornness.

Someone should have warned him.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

I come in and he's washing dishes again. I frown. That's my job, Jake. You don't need to do those.

I want to, Pigalet. 

Okay but when you wind up with dishpan hands you're not touching me. 

I let you touch me with your hands. 

I wear gloves when I wash pots. But that's not a fair comparison because your hand is so big it covers my whole face. You wouldn't feel mine the same way.

He smiles sadly and then I abruptly realize I have conjured up one of the most bittersweet memories we have.

Sorry, I tell him.

He shakes his head. It's okay, Pigalet. I'm just killing time while you kill everything else.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

He presented a blindfold and I balked.

It's morning, I'm so tired and I don't think-

Bridget. Relax. This isn't what you think.

I wait, back against the wall, dress in my arms because I was busy finding all of my things when he walked into the room, impeccably dressed, not a hair out of place.

Would you relax? Please, babydoll? This is a good thing.

He's said that before and it was only ever good for him. Well, that might not be entirely true but I had to be broken in first. And we all know that's never a fun prospect.

We have a flight to catch, Bridget. Your things are already in the car, I had them sent over, and when we land, you will asked to put this on so that our destination remains a surprise until the moment I choose to reveal it to you. No worries, the flight crew is well-versed in discretion.

I have school and work and Cole won't-

Cole has his show. Does he ever have time for you during those? And school can be made up. I've taken care of everything.

You can't take care of my job.

What job?

You quit my job for me?

If you need things, ask me for them.

I need a job. We don't have a lot. We're trying to save for-

Just ask and I will give you what you need.

This has nothing to do with you.

If that were true we wouldn't be here. Now put your dress on. He ties the blindfold around my wrist and turns to leave but then he comes back and holds out his little mobile phone. I don't even know how to use it.

You will have to call Cole to tell him you love him. Some things I can't do on your behalf.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

But then last night this happened.

This is not cooperation, Ben, I tell him from the table where I have been ignoring the dinner we made in favor of throwing out desperate half-thought-through ideas in an effort to get him to stop moving long enough to talk to me past the chit-chat of what we should cook or do or fix at any given moment.

(Us, Benjamin. Fix Us.)

He would tell me he's trying and then he'd turn and do something different.

He ignores the comment and instead asks if I want any more mashed potatoes. I look down at my full plate and give in.

Sure. Load me up, I say to his back and roll my eyes.

And I missed the smile and the wind up, and a big ball of mashed potatoes hit me in the face. I was so surprised I ate fully half of what he threw, just by virtue of where it landed and then I burst out laughing and jumped out of my seat, grabbing my plate and chasing him out the front door and down the steps where he inexplicably turned and I ran right into him, dumping my dinner against the front of his shirt.

The plate hit the ground and he's still laughing but he says Go back inside, Bridget, hurry. There's a fucking bear in the driveway. I turned and ran back up the steps and at some point I was too slow or the bear was too close because Ben grabbed me and ran the rest of the way across the front porch and inside where he closed and locked the door. We looked at each other and laughed because we're covered with potatoes. Ben has a green bean balanced at the top of his shirt pocket. When we look outside the bear is licking the plate.

We have not gone back outdoors since. Which is fine by me, because we finally started talking. About bears and elephants and the future, too.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Memories play through while I sleep now and I can't make it stop.

His fingers trailed down my hair, tracing my ears, lips, and chin. Collarbone. Elbows. Fingers. Breasts. I'm breathing shallowly, evenly, flat on my back in the quilts, having invoked my non-slip grip, as they call it, goosebumps on top of goosebumps. He is all eyelashes and desire and yet he's made no move to change position. He finally puts his head down in frustration against my ice-cold skin.

I can't make you warm, Bridget. Why can't I make you warm? 

***

In my dreams Jacob and Ben have squared off in the snow again. Ben is not as strong or as emotional but he has so much more to lose. His pride. His stake in our friendship. His place in my life.

You fight like a girl, Preacher, he laughs and gives Jake a shove. Jake returns the favor with a roundhouse and Ben hits the ice, crumpling like paper, unable to defend. But the smile never leaves his face. Why don't you take some of this enthusiasm out on him? He points into the house where Lochlan sits in the center of the couch, one arm flung out wide, the other flipping the zippo half-strength so he doesn't ignite it, and I am curled up in that open arm, watching a movie from the thirties, parroting the dialogue while he tries not to smile at how I sound in my starlet voice.

Jake looks at the window just long enough to miss Ben's return throw and takes one right on the jaw. He staggers and goes down on one knee and the opposite hand, putting up his other hand in a motion to stop.

I don't need to be able to fight, Benjamin. I only need to know how to love. And that, he points back through the window, is something I don't even think I could begin to challenge.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dress/Code.

For my next item on my bucket list I want Ben to twist my waves into a funnel shape and then roll me vertically between his hands until my hair fans out like a troll doll.

I never stood by the logic that a bucket list need only be populated with lofty aspirations or magnificent achievements, because I also want to pee-write my name in the snow someday, like the boys can do. I just can't figure out how.

In any case, I did get my clothes back because it's very incredibly stupidly-cold here, as one expects in the Prairies in October. Stupidly stupid cold. When I was finished my motorcycle ride I could have etched a lovely design in the glass doors. I might still have that ability because I haven't warmed up at all and blue lips and rock-hard nipples really isn't a great look for me, in spite of what you might think.

Trust me.

We finally went shopping. Ben is gigantic and we needed groceries that Nolan doesn't keep here, living alone. I think he lives on coffee and instant oatmeal and we tried that and I was okay but Ben ran out of energy quickly. He has new callouses on his hands from splitting wood and sore muscles from working hard after living such a soft life in the studio. He loves this. I think if we didn't have obligations he would stay here forever.

We called home. Spoke with the kids, and all the boys. All is well. They wanted to know how we were doing. Ben ignored the question after I fumbled an answer because we haven't addressed anything past getting the chores up to date and being together.

I made chicken pot pies and tea and we didn't talk, we just ate. I yawned and we went to bed and slept and slept and slept and Ben woke up smiling and I threw my arms around him and he said he liked being alone with me but I had cold skin and he was going to get my clothes for me.

I did not have the heart to point out that my usual heat is from convection from Loch, or that there's an elephant here in the room with us and we haven't fed or walked it yet.

But he does not need to be told these things. He already knows.
She stood in the doorway, the ghost of a smile
Haunting her face like a cheap hotel sign.
Her cold eyes imploring the men in their macs
For the gold in their bags or the knives in their backs.
Stepping up boldly one put out his hand.
He said, "I was just a child then, now I'm only a man.
Do you remember me? How we used to be?
Do you think we should be closer?"

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Friday, 12 October 2012

Banishing Point.

An hour away from home,
The lights come on.
Standing at the side of the road,
I am in awe.
Amongst the snow and trees,
The freezing cold,
I thrive on each sorrowful note.
For the moment, all is still,
A tranquil pace.
The ease of being stranded,
In this compassionate place
Amongst the snow and trees,
The air is cold and clean,
and for the moment, I am at peace.
I would have helped with the farm chores today. I would have stacked wood and fed and watered the horses and mucked out the stalls and cleaned up the gardens, harvesting the remainder of the pumpkins and squash. I would have gone for a ride maybe to picnic rock and brought a thermos of hot chocolate and maybe we would have gone and bought some groceries since we don't have much here. I would have helped spread manure (yes, me, I can do these things) and I would have washed curtains and done some fall cleaning chores inside while Ben was winterizing the tractor and the trailers into the waning afternoon light today.

I would have done all kinds of things but Ben hid all my clothes.

Bring me the motorcycle.

I need to ride around the yard.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Commitment to purpose.

(We're here. Back on Nolan's farm.)

Just for added effect this morning, Ben drove past the castle and my breath caught in my throat. He looked at me but I pretended to regard it somewhat nonchalantly, pointing out the fact that they still haven't done anything about the windows or the hedge, for that matter and that the whole street looks broken down and tired now, in comparison to the fresh view of a modern Pacific neighborhood where hope lies in every wave on the ocean and in every ray of sun that makes it through the fog to hit land.

I hate it here. Those final three months living here alone did something to me, something on a level with angels and violence and history that permanently altered my psyche.

We hit the highway and drive far outside of town, continuing long past where any sane person would have already turned and gone back, loathe to be out in a rural area at dark. We have a rented truck, and it smells like cigarettes and loneliness, like low-grade depression and contented discontent.

Ben absently tells me to stop writing descriptives in my head and I smile in spite of myself. He is smiling but it's one of those anticipatory, nervous sort of adrenalized almost-hopeful smiles that make me want to scream simply for knowing exactly how he feels.

It wasn't until we pulled into the driveway that I allowed myself even the same smile. There's the woodpile. There's the tire swing. There are the horse trailers.  A little farther down the drive and the grove of trees thins out just a little and then the garage looms and then to the left, the house, a modest, open post-and beam constructed oasis in the deep woods.

Beyond the house is my beloved picnic rock and the creek and the trails and more woods. I jump out of the truck and take a deep breathe and the cold air rushes into my lungs and Ben gets out and pulls our things from behind the seats. We packed light. We have seven nights to fix what is broken. Seven nights to try and reaffirm whatever it is we have that we can't quantify but it's there, it's there like a concrete wall bursting out of the ground and blocking out the sun.

He turns to me and tells me we'll be okay. I nod. 

It isn't until we reach our room and he puts the bags down on the bench behind the door that I see him in that funny dim mid-afternoon, sun-beaming-in-at-knee-level light that the thud abruptly starts up in my chest, my heart hammering a million miles an hour, the tell-tale lurch of a broken organ when I look at Ben that signifies that I am still alive and I still love him in spite of my ability to sabotage everything that's good. In spite of our plans to tear everything apart.

He saw that lurch and the relief flooded into his eyes, further softening them into something beautiful, something I know so well and something I keep throwing away as I chase the past, hoping if I can somehow catch it it might save me from the future.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Miss Universe (Underdogs and overdrive).

Ben came over and rested his chin on the top of my head, standing directly behind me as I looked out the window into the dark. I leaned back against him and he put his arms around me.

Why aren't we packing?

It will only take a half hour or so.

True. Are you looking forward to it at all?

I twist around so I am facing him. Of course I am! Are you?

Yes. Though it's fucking cold there I think. Why else would Nolan leave?

He's not going on a tropical vacation, if that's what you mean.

It was a joke. A very bad one, considering.

Nolan is going to a funeral in Colorado. He needed someone to take care of the property for a week. We need a break and so we were selected to fulfill this duty. The only caveat? Only bring each other.

I was so excited until it sank in, exactly and now I'm not so sure. And he can see that without my pointing it out and we are mostly deluding ourselves here and clearly we really need this trip to sort some things out and then we'll be back for the big First Anniversary parties and whatnot.

But still.

I turn back around and stare out into the night. I count Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak.  Betelgeuse. Saiph. That one I never forget. It's the same as safe.

He's not coming, Bridget. You can count all the stars you want but you already had a break with him and I know it wasn't ideal but this is our time now.

I turn back around. I know. 

Maybe we shouldn't go.

We need to go, Ben.

I think we do too. But I have to wonder if I'm delaying the inevitable. Same sky, same place and all that. I've reached a point where it's finally beginning to sink in that I am the first runner up here and he's the fucking beauty queen. 

In spite of myself I burst out laughing and clap both hands over my mouth but it's too late.

You think that's funny?

No. You just never do that. 

Do what?

Make analogies. 

Sometimes the best parts about you rub off on me, Bee, but it's the worst ones that I need to learn to live with. 

Those are the ones you figure out first, not later, Benny. 

What do you mean?

I married you knowing you had issues but I can live with them. 

I have issues, do I?

Tons. 

But you married me anyway. 

Yes. 

Thank God for that, Little Bee. 

But do you? Do you thank Him or do you curse Him for the strife he has brought along with the unanimity?

You know something, Bridget? I have stood by and watched as you have fought to make peace with the dead and the living alike and I watch you struggle and fall down and get up again only to be knocked down and I don't know why you don't let me help you.

So you don't get hurt. 

See, I don't think you'll hurt me. I don't think you could hurt me. 

Oh, Ben, you don't even know what I'm capable of. 

See, that's where you're wrong. Because I've seen it all and I'm STILL HERE.  

Maybe that's a mistake. 

No, that's the only thing that's right. He smiled at me, and his eyes were shining so bright I thought they might explode into a million new constellations but instead they gradually softened back into the warm brown that I know so well and I tried to smile back but it's hard because I don't trust myself. I was raised to be wrong and to be nimble and fickle and old habits are so hard to break it's like they're made of stone.

This world is only going to break your heart.

The world was on fire and no one could save me but you
It's strange what desire will make foolish people do
I never dreamed that I'd love somebody like you
And I never dreamed that I'd lose somebody like you
He's on a roll presently and I don't know what to do about it short of wait for his intensity to wane. Like it always does. He'll get distracted by bright lights and the remains of the day and forget what he was so focused on.

He was fooling around with the guitar and stole the opportunity, singing a song I haven't heard for a while and my goosebumps rose up and he laughed softly and asked me why I was invoking my no-slip grip when he hadsn't even touched me yet but the song had left me rather speechless, lobotomized and frozen stiff.

Exactly the opposite of the effect he thought it was having.

I shook my head. He further capitalized and kept on singing. And he sang it over and over again, almost five times until on the fifth time Duncan called down the hall for him to Can it already. We get it. 

He put the guitar on the floor and settled back in, pulling me in close, kissing the top of my head.

Just like old times. He whispered.

We couldn't afford a guitar back then, Lochlan. Or a couch. Or a roof that didn't leak, for that matter.

Do you have any good memories of life before obligations? 

There were always obligations, we just had fun fulfilling them so it didn't seem like a burden. 

It was so simple. Everything is so complicated now. 

Only if we let it be that way, but yes, all of my memories are good memories except for the ones that are bad. 

Thanks for clearing that up. 

Anytime. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Boys.

I took another sip and swallowed very slowly and I watched them over the lid of my chocolate milkshake because Christian said if I went any further in I might wind up in the line of fire.

They've squared off in the center of the field and I'm watching Lochlan stand with his fists clenched, his whole face contorted into the friendliest rage ever. Because he couldn't look scary if he tried but oh, boy is he trying. I kick the toes of my All-Stars into the sides of Christian's feet and ask him to stop them but he said it wouldn't do any good, they've done this at least once a week forever and they've been best friends for such a long time now everyone just waits them out.

But why? 

It doesn't really matter, Bridget. Maybe you should go home. Your mom will be pissed at us if she finds out we let you stick around and watch a fight. 

I've seen fights before. I try to sound non-committal. I try to sound older than eight. Of course I fail. I'm eight years old.

Right, Bridget. Run home. You'll probably see everyone later on our street. Please, go before we get in shit. 

And then Lochlan throws a punch and Caleb wasn't expecting it and down he goes. I find this suddenly fascinating. Caleb is a head taller than Loch and he definitely looks scary when he's mad. I think it's his hair. It's brown and barely wavy and he's got future-movie-star looks happening. Lochlan's red-blond springy curls are going to be his downfall. That's totally what it is. That and the fact that he's the shortest of the boys means I don't expect anyone to take him seriously but for some reason he seems to run the entire neighborhood. Caleb is two years older and resents Loch for that in a way that burns but he doesn't let on to the others. I can tell though. I'm really good at figuring people out already.

Lochlan backs off and lets Caleb stand up again. There is blood on his lip and he wipes it off on the back of his hand. He says a swear word and when he looks up he sees me and points in my direction. I can't hear what he's saying but Christian whispers Thank God under his breath. Lochlan turns and looks at me and shakes his curls and then motions for Caleb to go ahead. I guess the fight is over so I take another sip of my milkshake and wait for them to come to me.

Caleb reaches me first and puts on a softer expression. Sorry you had to see that, Bridget. Everything's okay. Cole snorts from somewhere behind me and Caleb shoots him a look that only a big brother can exact. See you later, he tells me and they leave, walking home or probably anywhere where Lochlan isn't, right now.

Lochlan comes over and the others sort of fall in around him. A natural born leader who doesn't want the role but takes it anyway. He stops directly in front of me and holds out his hand for a sip of my milkshake. It's a test so I pass it to him. He takes a long sip. Then another. I hold his gaze.

You sure don't act like any girls I know, Fidget, he tells me.

I'm not like any girls you know. I'm like no one you've ever met before or will ever meet again. 

Lochlan laughs as he considers my words. I'm going to hold you to that. 

Fine by me. You could have left me some of my own milkshake though. 

We turn and start walking back to our street. How about I buy you another one?

Not right now, I'll puke. 

No, not right now. How about on Saturday afternoon? 

It's a deal. Do you have any money?

Yes, I have money. I help out at the plant. It's not allowed so they pay me in cash. 

Why is it not allowed?

You have to be fifteen to work there. I have another year left to go. 

Where are you going to get a job once you're old enough?

I don't know. 

Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?

I don't care, I just want to make enough money to live a simple life. But it won't be around here. I don't want to be near Caleb.

I thought he was your best friend. 

Well, he is. Lochlan shrugs, I just don't like him and he doesn't like me either. 

That's weird, Lochlan. 

Yeah, I know. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Planning a perfect day.

A breakfast of eggs Benedict and Vietnamese coffee and then lunch of a toffee mocha and red velvet cupcakes and then dinner consisting of Monte Cristos-the sandwich and the coffee.

And then a horror movie marathon for two.

Hopefully it will be raining, for the added cozy factor and it would be wonderful if I could venture into the movies knowing I would still be awake halfway into the first film and it would be lovely to not have any repercussions to staying up very late, the next day being easy instead of painful from lack of rest.

It would just be amazing.

Don't you think? 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Four.

(Looking at her is like waking up.)
He pauses and then takes a deep breath. Here we go. The memories about Jacob remain so close to your surface and yet nothing about Cole. Still. This summer it will be going on seven years, Bridget.

I know. I say it softly as if that excuses my behavior.

I would like to make a...separate proposal, if you will. I'd like to commission you to write some of the better memories down for me so I can make it into a book with some of his works. 

Is seven years the magic amount of time within which one passes from villain back to hero? I stare at him in sudden total chagrin. Scorn is not permitted.

He looks up sharply. No, I simply want some good memories to help offset everything I know. 

Paint him in the prettiest light possible? 

No, Bridget. Make a record of the times that things were good. The times your love grew instead of the times it was tested. 

I don't know. 

There's a ridiculous advance involved. 

Money doesn't buy me, Caleb. 

I'll do it piecemeal then. He winks and goes back to scrubbing food off the plates in the sink. He spoils me sometimes. He cannot cook and yet today he invites me down to the boat for scotch and bruschetta and we had a little sunshiny picnic, our legs dangling over the side of the wharf. I took off my shoes and then he did too and for all of fifteen seconds we were children again. Well, I was. When I first met Caleb he was sixteen, not a child anymore but barely a man. And now he's on the verge of fifty and just figured out how to chop up a few tomatoes to put on toast, sprinkled with a little bit of basil and a whole lot of absolution.

I drank my scotch in one gulp and waited while it burned the whole way down. At least I was not cold anymore. He frowned and we finished our lunch in silence and then we walked up the path together, I in my bare feet, kicking up dust every time I slid backwards, Caleb's patience tested as he repeatedly put out his arm to stop me from passing him on my way back down.

I offered to help clean up and then I'm out of here.

This amount of money and a guarantee to spend a certain amount of hours doing what you love best will serve to undermine us both, Princess, he winks at me and I pretend I don't see it. The water gushing out of the tap is loud and I unconsciously reach up and turn down my hearing aids until they're almost off. I've promised to wear them until it gets easier.

I don't know why I lie.

If I have memories I'll write about them on my own time, without a deadline. 

Okay, Bridget. I give. You're going to keep refusing all offers of help no matter how well I disguise them, I'll just go back to a cash allowance on a regular basis or direct deposit or something. 

For what? I don't do anything for you. Presently. 

That changes on a dime. Literally. He smiles to himself. I shrug. He is leaving me speechless often these days.

And yes, Bridget, seven years seems like the perfect amount of time for one to turn back into a hero. Especially when it's multiplied by four.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Why aren't you in the garage? 

I like it better out here in the sun.

What if someone sees you? 

Then you'll have all sorts of explaining to do but I think you've been doing it anyway. And they aren't listening anymore because it's growing dark. 

What are you talking about? It's only four o'clock.

I was being analogous.

He is sprawled in the Adirondack chair on the right. The one on the left is empty, waiting for me so I sit in it, falling all the way to the bottom, feet off the concrete. I look at him. He's in his fraying so-pale-blue-they-match-his-eyes jeans and a threadbare rust-colored t-shirt because that's what my brain put him in today. Then I realize what's missing and add a worn plaid flannel shirt in shades of dark blue and grey and now he looks like Jacob should.

I can't give this up. I'm not the crazy one.

He has a flask and he's drinking and the words are pouring out like fire. What's the definition of Adapt, Princess? Changing yourself to suit the conditions. Ben is right, you know. I'm sorry, I listen in. He isn't as dumb as he looks and he seems to only be the one who ever has your best interests at heart. 

Which weighs more, my best interests or my needs?

Are they different? They shouldn't be different, Pigalet, unless you are mistaking your wants for your needs. God will show you the difference. 

God isn't here, Jake. 

Sure he is. But he's a ninja. So you just can't see him. He takes another drink and laughs. I take the flask and erase it and Jake looks disappointed briefly and then sits up and leans forward, elbows on knees, all serious and attentive like he used to do when he was going to talk to me for a long time and a little thrill would run down each of my ears and converge on the back of my neck, lighting up my mind.

God is a Ninja. There's my next book title, Jake. 

Awesome. 

You can ghostwrite it with me.

He frowns. Did you just make a pun at my expense?

I grin ridiculously. Yes. Suddenly I wish he was still here. So badly. When he looks out to sea I re-tie all the knots on the ropes that hold him down to earth, making them even more complicated and tighter than before.

Bridget, that's a waste of effort. It's almost time. 

NO IT ISN'T! I am so fast I'm the ninja now, running up the steps as he makes a grab for me, his hands closing on air.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Ghost protocol.

Of all the nightmares that ever came true,
I think that gravity is you
There's a moment two minutes and thirty-five seconds into Type O negative's live performance of Gravity in which Peter Steele yells "I can see God!"

It remains one of my favorite moments in music, giving me chills.

***

Ben stands by the door and I am all the way across the yard on the other side of the wind. He is not nervous, he likes to play out a lot of rope and I will take my end and run with it until I reach the end and get yanked right off my feet. It is taut between us but I keep pulling. It's low tide and I want to blow kisses to my ghosts while he says it's now time the ghosts went away because we're not going to get anywhere now until we lighten the load enough to actually let the wheels turn.

I love his analogies. They're always about mechanics and physics (Fuck me, I wrote psychic about fifteen times until my brain kicked in right there) and things I know very little about. Last night he launched into this incredibly complex description of how Eddie Van Halen gets his sound and I likened it to when I try to explain to him why I need an eighty-seventh lip gloss (because it's matte, non-sticky and an eighty-first shade of rose red that I don't already have) and while it makes perfect sense to me, I may as well be speaking French to him.

Likewise when he talks about soldering guitar pickups and I have no clue what he means but I figure they are matte, non-sticky pickups in different sounds and it's sort of like lipgloss except he creates music and I create distractions from the wrinkles around my eyes and whatever other flaws are there.

Like the fact that if any more color leaks out of my eyes I'm going to have freaky white irises. They assure me this cannot happen, and I'm all LOOK AT ALL THE RECORDS I CAN BREAK WITH THAT STATEMENT and everyone drifts away again to watch from the edges while I stand in the wind, my hair sticking to my lipgloss, because this one is too sticky.

Maybe Ben can solder pickups over my mouth and I can make music instead of just filling in colors.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

May you rot in heaven.

When cold water's on her skin
I can feel how long it's been
New World is on repeat in my ears and the wind finally died down. I stand at the top edge of my world. To my right I hear sirens but there's no road there so I know it's my ears playing tricks on me as they always have.

The sun is so bright. So bright I have squinted my eyes up into tiny half-moons, peering out under my bangs, blinded by the rays. I'm almost wishing for rain at this point. That's cracked but so is the ground beneath my feet. I'm out in the grass at sunup watering the carnations and roses (still going strong) and I'm looking at the faded green grass wondering if it really will come back or if somewhere we went very wrong in letting it go with less watering than we should have done. You can't water a lawn this size, you just can't. On the other hand, it would look better green. So I don't know where I'm going with this.

The raccoons took all the grapes save for a bowlful and that was a disaster. The roses had a blight of some kind and the lilacs are so long over I almost forgot about them. The orchard is a shell game, and no one knows where the prize is. It's a relic, a tree ghost-town, a bark army failing to advance against the salt wind.
I got a lot I gotta do
Just to get through the end of the day
It hardly ever happens
But I go to sleep the same anyway

And you can't believe in yourself
You can't believe in anyone else
So why sit and wait
For the new world to begin
We need to get the snow tires out, I think to myself. Jake would have done it by now. They would already be on my car if he were here, just in case. He would have the shovels out and be ready, even though he would stand here every day and remark how mild the day is, every day like clockwork only his clock is broken now and in the process it fucked up my sense of time. I can't tell anymore whether it's nighttime or daytime or dinnertime or time for sleep until I drop. I can't tell if an hour has passed or a minute.

I can't tell you anything but that's okay today because it's beautiful out. So beautiful I can't even see.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The more they stay the same.

Can I buy a mechanical pencil when we go to town? I am down to a stub, one that Lochlan painstakingly sharpens for me each night with his knife. If it gets dull before he's done his shift I have to wait. Sometimes I forget to ask when I see him and then I can't write or draw at all when I wait for him to come back to the camper. He was late and so tonight was endless.

Sure. It's a good week so far. Unless you blow it all on candy apples. 

I won't do that. 

Yes, you will. 

I promise I won't. I make my eyes very big and I shake my head slowly side to side.

He bursts out laughing. You'd be more convincing without the ring of red sugar on your face, Bridget. He turns stern again. I told you to get a hamburger. You can't live on candy. You're still growing. Do you want to be this tiny when you're older?

The apple was cheaper. Plus it's fruit! Fruit is healthy. I'll grow. At least I hope I will.

Fruit doesn't fill you up. Now your growling belly is going to keep me awake all night. He thinks for a minute. I think I'll run out and get us something now, and I'll get you some pencils at the same time. 

No! It's too late now. Don't go out. 

Growing peanuts have to eat. He says it softly. Just lock the door and don't let anyone in and you don't go out, okay? Besides, it's good practice learning to love the dark. 

I only love it if you're here. 

He thinks for another minute. Okay, let's try this instead. He pulls me over to the bed and we look out the tiny window. See that star there? In Orion's belt?

Mintaka...right?

Good girl! Okay, you keep watch on that star, and so will I and it will be as if we're together. Same sky, same place. And I'll be back in an hour. 

What are we going to eat? Not hamburgers. They're all drippy and greasy and then we'll smell like mustard in our dreams.

Ham sandwiches then? With mayo?

Okay. The good ham with the black edges?

I'll see what I can do. He smiles and crushes a kiss against my hair and then leaves, coming back three times in thirty seconds to make sure the door is locked.

*** 

Purgatory is a track and Jacob is running, running, running circles around me as I stand in the center, whistle around my neck, clipboard in my arms.

You always finish with the same time, I tell him with a frustrated smile as he crosses the finish line for the eight-millionth time.

I'll never get faster or slower. I'll just remain the same. Forever, Bridget. No amount of encouragement or training is going to change this. You KNOW this, Pigalet. But still you make me run. I'd like to go home to the Lord now. 

Not gonna happen. You don't belong there. Go back and do one more lap. Let's see if the headwind will make a difference. I take a bite of my ham sandwich and shake my head at the page of results. The same number on every single line.

Pigalet, you're going to run out of room on that page soon. Then what will you do?

***

You're different with everyone. Don't you see it?

Apparently Wednesdays are for open wounds and gaping holes.

No, I don't see it. If you have something to share then just get it over with. I shovel a grilled black forest ham sandwich onto Lochlan's plate. PJ looks at the plate and then looks at Loch. If Loch decides to pick a fight and then leaves without eating lunch PJ would probably like to reap the benefits while the benefits are still warm.

Oh, now I get why they fight over me. I'm usually still warm.

(I'm kidding. Fuck, cut a girl a little slack. Like I said, it's Wednesday and Wednesdays have become strange days indeed.)

Yeah, well, with me lately you're a fucking goddamned little bratty child who won't listen to a fucking thing.

Except in bed. Then I am the same with all of you, so no one's missing out.

Bridget! Lochlan growls it across the counter at me but if he wants bratty he'll get bratty.

PJ stands up. He's really gunning for that sandwich so he tells Lochlan to watch himself. Lochlan ignores him just like he ignores the plate.

Are you going to eat that? I ask him. Because if you aren't then I think PJ is still hungry

Lochlan frisbees the plate gently down the island to PJ, who puts his hands up in a football-dance sort of victory celebration.

You should eat. You're still growing. I tell Loch.

I'd like to think I was, he says, but like you, I'm stuck in 1983. And gets up and leaves.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

BOOM. He's home.

:)

Jumping guns.

And the fear burns away
The sky breathes it in
So why sit and wait
For the new world to begin
The phone rings at 5:30 this morning, 8:30 New York time. I am not awake. I'm not caffeinated. I'm not sure it wasn't some sort of massively vicious prank or, at the very least, a dream.

Jesus fuck, bee, a guy makes a shitty comment and you run with it and now I've given away my life without even knowing it. Is my stuff outside in a smoldering heap in the driveway? 

Who is this? 

Oh my FUCK. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Bridget. I love you. Perfect comeback.

Then why are you all like 'You don't need me.'?

Because you don't. But that's a good thing. We have a healthy relationship, it's just unconventional. Well, except for the fact that I regularly lick you all over but if we were any healthier you'd be whole wheat. 

Then why won't you come home?

I had a meeting that I wanted to go to. And I have a surprise.


What surprise?

You'll just have to see when I get there.

I roll my sleepy eyes toward the ceiling. I don't think I can stand another day without you. When will you be home? 

How does tonight sound? 

Better than good.

Okay so in the meantime? Don't listen to Caleb. Don't listen to anyone. We'll sort it out. We always do. Just don't listen to any of them.

Do I ever?

That's my girl. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Hi. I hate everybody.

My dreams are all just throwaways
My superstitions lack
I'm just unlucky anyway
All of my cats are black
Don't let the sun pass you by
Don't let it fall from the sky
Don't let the the sunshine pass you by
Don't let the tear fall from your eye
Another morning, another gorgeous heavyweight silk embroidered swing coat, tights and respectable-heeled boots, another attempt to pin my hair up and another attempt by yet another man in a suit to steer my life in a way he sees fit, instead of in the way I want.

(Did I mention I don't know exactly what I want?)

Batman halfheartedly shoots a cuff and checks his watch.You going to bounce around for the rest of your life here? Ben's given you a clear sign. Change is necessary and I don't think he'll come back until he gets something.

What would he prefer, that I overthrow Loch for Caleb?

Well, at least you're not sleeping with Caleb anymore.

Boy, are YOU ever out of the loop.

He stops whatever admonishment he was about to make and just stares at me. I shrug.

So why would Ben stick around at all? Why would he put up with this, Bridget?

We made a family out of what we had and some other arrangements too. We're not perfect.

By far.

Wow. This is a fun breakfast date. Thanks.

Bridget, none of this is normal.

And your point is?

You need to decide what you want and leave everything else behind.

Oh, so what you're saying is, for the past twenty years as long as you were getting some it was great but since that no longer happens I should behave now?

 There's too much at stake now.

The time for stakes has come and gone. I'm just..well, I don't even know what I'm doing now.

Exactly. I can't believe you have sustained this so long. How many at a time?

Okay, so now you're basically asking me if I sleep with all of them?

He looks around and back at me. Yes.

No, I don't do that.

It was an almost visceral sigh of relief that came from his demeanor but I didn't wait around to see what he was going to ask me next.