Coffee with Ben this morning, old familiar patterns in new unfamiliar feelings as we sit at another tiny unbalanced table in a noisy, busy shop full of people talking superficially about crap like clothing and top forty music and fitness while we slice into deep, cutting subjects like death and whatever the hell it is that we're doing to each other here because we haven't talked at all.
I sip my coffee and launch into the third coughing fit of the moment.
You're not fit to be out.
I shake my head. Nope. I'm not, and he will be lucky if I don't put my head down on this table and slide right off my chair at some point.
Jesus, I thought Caleb had all the answers with his Russians looking after you. He fishes his phone out of his pocket.
What are you doing?
Calling him. Just a minute, bee.
Wait. He holds up a finger. What the fuck. I stand up and reach across the table and take his phone right out of his hand. We're having coffee. You don't talk on the fucking phone. You don't bring up the devil. You SPEND TIME WITH ME, DAMMIT.
The conversations concerning yoga and Billboard comes to a screeching halt all around me. He stands up and begins to gather up our breakfast to take to the car. I follow. Neither one of us want to wind up being recorded, or even noticed for that matter.
He opens my door, puts our coffees in the console and then holds out a hand for me to help me up into the truck. I watch him trace the ground with his eyes all the way around the front of the truck and then he gets in. He looks at me.
I think I made a mistake.
He laughs. Oh Jesus. Bridget, You're going to make this tough, aren't you? You know something? I'm sick too and I don't need this shit.
I open my door again and climb out. I think I'd rather talk to my Ben and not the one who's posturing if it's all the same to you. I slam the door, curse being uncoordinated enough to even consider bringing my coffee with me and head back into the coffee shop. Because, you know, I left my purse in the truck too. He roars out of the parking lot far too fast and doesn't look back.
I ask to borrow a phone and call Mike to come and get me because if I talk to anyone familiar I'll lose it. He says for me to hold tight for fifteen minutes and so I go back outside to wait. I cross the street and sit in the bus stop. I don't feel well enough to stand. I lean my head against the glass and close my eyes. A bus comes and stops for me, holding the doors open before I shake my head and it roars away from the curb. Someone drives by and yells something at me but I can't hear it. Then I hear a familiar purr and open my eyes again.
Caleb. He leaves the car in the middle of the lane with hazards on and comes around to the bus shelter, taking my hand. He leads me to the car and shuts the door once I'm in and then goes around and gets in his side. Traffic is lining up behind his car but he flashes that million dollar smile and calls out Sorry! Sorry! before pulling away.
I just need to know who stranded you here in this condition. You don't have to say anything else because if it's one of Pyro's stupid stunts then he's done. Just done, Bridget-
I stranded myself. And Lochlan is at work. You should know. You're working him into the ground now so he can't be home ever.
You didn't get here by yourself.
No, I came with Ben and-
Don't say anymore. He fishes out his phone and asks Siri to call Ben. She dials and it goes straight to Ben's voicemail.
Caleb's message is short and sweet. When you get this, come and see me.
He disconnects the call and all I can think of is great, everyone has an ego today.
How are you feeling?
Really really bad. I burst into tears, which makes it even harder to breathe, and he drives faster still. Be home in a minute, Baby Doll. He squeezes my hand for reassurance but it only makes me cry harder. I try and wrench my hand back but he won't let go. Finally he pulls off the highway into a neighborhood I don't recognize and invokes Siri again.
Siri, call the Pyromaniac.
Okay, calling the Pyromaniac, she tells him obediently.
What is it? Lochlan answers on the first ring. That surprises me.
Can you postpone the remainder of your day and meet me at the house, please? Bridget had a rough morning with the Beast and would like to see you.
Be right there. Loch hangs up and Caleb looks at me. I told you I do what's best for you. Even when it isn't what's best for me. He pulls a u-turn and heads back toward the highway.
When we get home the gate is barely closed when it begins to slide open again and Lochlan's truck speeds into view. He blocks everyone in when he parks it right in the middle of the driveway. He pulls me out of the car, into his arms and rocks me, looking over my head. I hear him say Thank you to Caleb, or maybe he says Fuck you. I can't tell.