Author’s Note: Touching a bit more on why Mackenna is the way she is… and just enjoying a moment with her and her grandfather.
“We’re going to have a full car.”
“Is that a problem? I figured a bit of extra company might be nice,” Mackenna said, braiding up her hair. With the driver’s brunch starting at ten, she had time to dress up for a change, and she was going to do it today. She felt a bit self-conscious doing it in front of all of Carson’s family, but she didn’t want to let the boys intimidate her. That wasn’t how it worked. She had to intimidate them.
Mac leaned against the doorway. “You gonna be as close to the rest of his family as you are to him? Is that it?”
She frowned. “Are you trying to tell me who I should be friends with now?”
He shook his head. “No. Just trying to see where you stand.”
She sighed. “Is another one of those—”
“You have to decide if he’s a project or not. If this is about fixing him or the car, that’s one thing. If it’s not… You need to be sure you make it clear. If it’s what you want, then you need to say so.”
“So you think I don’t know what I want?” She shook her head. She didn’t know that she’d say that. She knew enough about Carson to know she wanted to keep him around, and that was all she needed to know. Everyone else seemed to have a problem with that, but she was not in the mood to argue about it. She was still a bit hungover, and when she thought about how much she’d drank, all she could do was wince. She didn’t want to drink that much. Ever. That put her in a bad place that she had told herself she wouldn’t go. “I do. I think Carson should move in with us. At least until he has another job. We’re going to fix the car and then we’ll see.”
Mac nodded. He didn’t say anything, and she got the feeling that he didn’t approve, but she didn’t know what he expected her to say, either. “Is him staying with us a problem?”
“Then why are you looking at me like that?”
“You’ll have to get them to agree to a schedule on who rides when. There’s one too many with me around.”
She almost smiled. “It’s your car. That means you call the shots. Not us. We’re all along for the ride. Well, I help fix it and navigate, so I’m a bit more essential, but still, you know you’re the man in charge.”
Mac grunted. “I haven’t been the man in charge in years. Never was with you.”
That was true. She let out a breath, leaning over the sink. “You know I wish you were. It’s not that she didn’t try, I guess, but the things I saw, the things I did… The way her parents treated me… I suppose I was self-medicating when I decided to keep drinking, but what I did… That could have ruined me for life, and I just… If she couldn’t do it, if I was such a burden, why didn’t she just give me to you and Grandma instead?”
“Some people are stubborn.”
“True, but she had to know that it wasn’t working. That I was getting more and more screwed up, and I hate how when I close my eyes I can still hear the floorboards creak the way they did when that neighbor of ours was in our place. If I hadn’t been so good at hiding by then… Not that he needed to find me to terrify me. He did. Every time he looked at me…”
Mac touched her arm. “You are a long way from there, and whoever he is, he’s not here.”
She cursed, hating herself for talking about it again. That bastard had given her so many sleepless nights, forcing her to stay up trying to make sure nothing happened until the days stretched on too many times and she couldn’t tell what was up or down and swore he had gotten to her even if he hadn’t. She hated that part the most. She didn’t know if she’d made it real or if it was real, and every time she started to convince herself that it wasn’t, the doubts started in again.
“If you’re going to get your friend into a costume, you probably need to do it now. Likely won’t be time between now and the parade, not with the lake tour and the root beer floats.”
She nodded, wondering if Mac was just giving her an excuse to go bother Carson, since he seemed to help her in a way her grandfather had never quite learned to do as standoffish as he was. She didn’t really care. She wanted to see Carson.