Author’s Note: I don’t think I’d want to go into the water off that bridge. There is a swimming area in part of it, but I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve never tried that. Then again, I’m usually in a dress and doing something with an antique car. 🙂
Carson jerked, startled, and Mackenna took the last few steps toward him, wrapping her arms around him. She didn’t know that he would have done it, jumped off the bridge and into the pond, and even if he had, it might not have been fatal or even that dangerous, but he’d scared the hell out of her, bolting out of the store like he had. She’d had to give some cash to the clerk before she ran after him, and to find him out here, looking like he might just plunge into the depths—okay, she didn’t know how deep that water was, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t scary all the same.
“What just happened?”
He trembled in her hold. “I… The car set off a memory… My father gave me one of those cars, and I… The last part of it was me asking him if he was going to hurt me.”
She tightened her grip. “It’s okay. We know that’s a possibility. We’ve known that from the beginning. Try and calm down, take some deep breaths, and we’ll go through the whole thing like we have the others, try and find out what you’re really remembering. Don’t panic. Even if it was the worst scenario that we could imagine—and we’ve imagined plenty, you have to admit that—you can handle it once you know what it is.”
He nodded, but he was still having a hard time getting his body to relax. He shuddered. “I know we’re close because I’ve never gotten as much back as this before, but it’s so hard to be sure of what it means and what I should do about it.”
She moved a hand up to his cheek. “All right, there’s a diner over here behind the bank, so we’re going to go ahead and get a table, get some water, and talk this through, okay?”
“Yeah. That sounds good.”
“You think you can walk that far?”
“I don’t know. I feel sick.”
She stepped back, wrapping an arm around his. “Are you sure that’s all that happened?”
“My mind is ready to make what I did remember a lot worse. I don’t want to, but I keep going toward that, and I think I need something besides a bit of water. I can’t do this. It’s not like I can say I need air—we’re outside. I feel like… Oh, I do miss the medication right now. It helped with this feeling.”
“Well, then, how about a bit of self-medicating to take the edge off of things?” Mackenna didn’t wait for an answer. She used the arm she had around his to help him across the street, dragging him forward. “The Legion will be open, and you can have a drink to take the edge off things. I’m only suggesting one, and only because of the whole depressant thing in the alcohol that might relax you a little. You need to calm down before you break down.”
“This isn’t going to be like seeing Granger and all the other guys. Well, we might run into some of the locals and the tow drivers, but we don’t have to sit with them if you don’t want.”
“I don’t know that I can deal with people at the moment. I’m doing what I can not to hurl at this point. I’ve… I guess it’s a breakthrough that I’m remembering the flashbacks now, but it’s so hard to cope with them. How do you do it?”
“Well, you seem so calm all the time, and you have plenty of bad memories, so… how are you not a wreck like me?”
“I fix cars.”
“You don’t have to try that to work through this, though I think when we get started on Phantom, you’ll do a lot better. It’s good to keep your hands and mind occupied. It helps. A lot. It’s not for everyone, though. I admit that. It saved me. I know that. If not for the cars… Well, I don’t want to think about that.”
“Me, either. I need you too much,” he told her. She smiled at him and opened the door, letting him go inside first. He stopped on the other side of the door, leaning against the wall. “Hmm. Not sure I can take the smoke, but the air conditioning is nice.”
“Mac! Over here!”
Carson winced. She put a hand on his arm. “I’ll head them off. Just go order your drink, and I’ll meet you in a minute. Find a quiet corner if you can.”
He looked around the room, rolling his eyes before heading to the bar. She forced a smile and tried to find a way out of drinks with the gang so that he could have his privacy and they could talk through what he remembered.
This was going to be a long day.