Author’s Note: So much for writing ahead of where I’m posting. Then I hit Three Word Wednesday and end up posting four scenes instead of one since the one with the words comes after all the others. Well, if people are reading this, they get spoiled by extra today. If not, they can’t really complain, can they?
Today’s words: pale, naughty, and douse.
“You still look pale.”
“I still feel queasy,” Carson said, looking out at the fields. He didn’t think Mac did that work, but then again, he didn’t know anything about this family. He didn’t understand that. Mac was his grandfather’s friend, wasn’t he? Why had he kept so much from his friend? Why hadn’t he told anyone about this? Why was it all some sort of… game?
“We can go back. Maybe you should splash your face again, get some water on your face, douse whatever is turning around in your head that makes your stomach so upset,” she said, and he gave her a slight smile, wishing he could summon something within him to counter what he felt, to keep going like she always seemed able to do. Sure, all of that was behind her, had been for a while, however long she’d lived with Mac, but his should have been behind him, too. All of that was at least as far back as high school, so why couldn’t he just leave it alone?
“Show me Phantom,” he said, trying to force himself to work through it. Ironic, wasn’t it? He had called in sick today, and it wasn’t even a lie. He wasn’t home in bed, but he’d thrown up at least once, and that kept threatening to happen again, so he wasn’t lying.
Sanders had to figure he was. He knew how Carson felt about handling the Myers claim, and he knew that Carson wanted no part of another attempt to take the land rights from another family, so there was no way he’d believe that Carson was sick.
Maybe he should have said he was crazy. He was. He could probably call himself certifiable by now. He didn’t want to excuse it with stress or trauma. He could have killed his father, and if he had, if he had a reason for that… Crazy sounded good. He almost liked it.
He bet the sharks on his socks would agree. Of course, he’d changed them for the monkeys, so they might not forgive him, but he didn’t care about that right now.
“You do look sick. We don’t have to work on the car today. Don’t even have to discuss it. You can sit inside and rest up a bit, think about innocuous things that have nothing to do with your past.”
He gave her a slight smile. “Is there anything that keeps that sort of thought at bay? Honestly? I have been pretending for a long time that I’m okay, that I’m not stuck back there, but I have been. All my life I have been. There’s this part that broke and splintered off when that happened—whatever it was—and I’ve never gotten it back. I went to college, I got a job, I stopped needing medication to get me through the day, but I don’t sleep much and it doesn’t take more than a stray word to bring up that image that I can’t forget, and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t understand why I can’t just face it for good and all.”
She shrugged. “Some things don’t work that way. My aunt could be singularly blind to things going on right in front of her, to things she already knew.”
Carson had the urge to hug her after she said that, but he didn’t know her that well, and since when did anyone in his family do hugs? Not that Mackenna was family, she wasn’t, but he couldn’t remember the last time anyone in his family had hugged anyone. Not even Nick and his wife. Weird.
“If we had a pond or something, I’d suggest taking you out to skinny-dip.”
She laughed. “Anything to change the subject and get that look off your face. You’re starting to get scary—in the sense that my uncle was before he killed himself. So I figure, hey, pick something off-the-wall to say, get your mind off whatever it was that put that look on your face.”
“I’m not sure that bringing up skinny-dipping is the right choice.”
“Well, I was more enjoying the idea of tricking you into it and stealing your clothes,” she said, still smiling. “Not that I want to see you naked, but the whole idea of playing some naughty prank… I should have had a sibling, you know. Someone to play with so that I was more of a kid when I was a kid. Did you have a lot of fun with your brothers?”
Carson thought about that for a moment. “I don’t remember. It’s… After the nightmares started, everyone treated me differently. They didn’t… It was like I was fragile, something that might break, might go insane at any moment. I don’t have a lot from before then that’s clear at all.”
“Being protected would have been nice.”
“For me, it was smothering, but for you… I’m sorry there wasn’t anyone to help you back then,” he said, and this time he did touch her, just a hand on her arm, and she gave him a grateful smile before she leaned against him, letting out a breath.
“I like cars,” she said, eyes going out to the fields. “Cars have order, pieces that fit together, and when they’re in their right place, they run like a dream. Humans don’t get to fix themselves the same way. There’s no part to order from the store to replace what gets broken in us.”
He considered bringing up organ transplants, grimaced, and let the idea go. “I wish there was. Maybe that one last screw would put it back where it should be so I knew what happened and could finally deal with it instead of this… limbo I’m stuck in because I just don’t know.”
“Hmm. Now I want a conga line.”
“Thank you,” he told her, not sure what else to say, not now. “For all of this. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have you to talk to.”