Author’s Notes: Carson’s theories are probably worse than his reality.
“You’re still feeling last night, aren’t you?” Mackenna asked, watching Carson as he made slow progress up the path to the car shed. He’d been quiet all morning, drank down a bunch of water and ate without a word, the hangover making him more of a mute than Mac was half the time. She’d figured he’d come out of it after breakfast, but he’d managed to spend the whole meal that way.
“I don’t know that I’m still hungover. I’m just… I think I remembered something more last night, and I’m not sure what it means. I have been trying to figure it out, but I don’t know. It’s not bad, not necessarily, and so I shouldn’t be so worried, but I can’t help obsessing over it, either. I don’t know what to do.”
“What was it?”
“Dad gave me a toy car—oh, wait, I guess the important thing is I know for sure when that happened. Well, almost for sure. It was after Chambers and his friends decided to shave my head, and my hair was short. Dad noticed, and I pulled away from him when he touched it. So… That means I was definitely eight at the time. It’s something, right?”
Mackenna nodded. “Yes, of course. Now you’ve got it narrowed down to a specific time, and that is important. Why are you so upset by that?”
“I don’t know. I thought that we moved back before school, that her breakdown might have been because of Dad’s death, but isn’t necessarily true. I don’t know. Maybe it was after. Maybe… Maybe she decided we had to move back because he wouldn’t find us otherwise.”
“Maybe. It does seem like he found you after that, so… yeah, it could fit.” She studied Carson’s face for a moment, trying to decide if he needed to keep pushing or to let that go for now. She glanced toward Mac, who pointed to the car. She let out a breath. “So, today we get to finish prepping Shadow for the run. You up for that, Carson?”
“Um, I do not recommend me as a mechanic, not at all.”
“You can use a rag, can’t you?” Mac asked, and Carson turned to him with a frown. “Car needs to be cleaned. Get all the grease off of it. You can do that, can’t you?”
Mackenna smiled, stopping at the door and pushing it open. She looked in at Shadow and started around to the back to push it out.
“Get over there and help her.”
Mac gave him a look. “Don’t remember you doing that last night. Not to me or any of the others. You don’t have to say ‘sir’ all the time. That because you drank too much last night?”
“Uh… No, it’s I… I used to do it with my grandfather. I think. Wait, I…”
“Carson?” Mackenna asked, moving closer to him, even though she thought that maybe she might get puked on. His skin had washed out, and either the hangover was back or he’d gotten sick real fast. “You okay?”
“I just had probably the worst thought of my life.”
She frowned, and he shuddered, wrapping his arms around himself. Mac frowned, and Carson lowered his head as he tried to calm down.
“That sounds strange, doesn’t it? I mean, I’ve got the whole thing with thinking my father’s dead and all, and he might have tried to hurt me. I was wondering if the toys were a bribe or something, if he was just working up to…” Carson shook his head. “Then I heard myself doing the ‘sir’ thing, and Mac called me on it, and for no good reason that I can see, I started wondering if it was my grandfather. If he killed my father because… he was the one that molested me. I don’t understand that. I know I’ve thought my grandfather was a killer before, but never because of that. It can’t be possible. I was never scared of him. Of the farm. I went back there on weekends to see him and help out until more recently. I loved being there, loved spending time with him. How could I do that if—No, it’s not right. It’s not possible. I’m just being… ridiculous.”
She swallowed. It made her feel sick, every turn in their theories making things worse, but it didn’t have to be that. She didn’t want it to be that, and maybe they’d find it wasn’t. She had to hope that was the case. “It’s a possibility, I guess, so it’s not ridiculous, but you can calm down and look at it the way it really is. You just listed off why it’s unlikely, so maybe if you went through and accounted for the time or made sure there were no gaps in your memory for visits with him—”
“I just need a shower. I can’t believe I had that thought. Look at what I’m doing. I can’t let myself trust anyone or anything. I’m determined to ruin it all.” He started walking away, and when she grabbed for his arm, he yanked it free.
“Let him go, Mackenna,” Mac advised, putting a hand on her shoulder. She frowned as Carson went back toward the house, hating this. “He needs time.”
“You were friends with Henry. Tell him he’s wrong. Tell him that it wasn’t what he thought. Make it so that he’s not… tormenting himself with that. If what he said was true, if he was that close to his grandfather, came here often, he’ll start thinking he… encouraged it or something stupid like that.”
Mac grunted. “Henry didn’t tell me about the car. If he was doing things to his grandson, he sure wasn’t going to say anything to me. He talked the most about that one, worried about him, but never gave me any sign to think his interest was wrong in any way. That’s the best I can do.”
She sighed. “I just… I wish we could get his memories back so he didn’t have to keep wondering, to doubt everyone he cares about.”
“You’re trying to fix him.”
“So?” She couldn’t deny it anymore, much as she might want to. She was caught up in Carson’s problems and was going to do her best to help him.
“It won’t fix you.”