Author’s Note: The last scene I did for these two sort of almost led into this and ties in a bit I wrote ahead of things. I’ve decided to include that, at the last second, though it doesn’t fit the part I wrote prompted by the second song on the album, Between the Road Signs.
In between the road signs and the white lines
And all of the comforts of home
In between the road signs and the sad rhymes
And all of the comforts of home
They’re not on a car run this time (that would have fit well, I suppose) but out in the Maxwell to see Mac, and this happened and it fit. Mostly.
“You’re singing again.”
“If you had a problem with my singing, you probably should have told me a long time ago,” Mackenna said, shrugging. She didn’t really think it would bother him, since it never had before, though others would argue they hadn’t had that much time to know each other before they hit the point where they were now.
“I didn’t say I minded,” Carson told her, shaking his head and almost losing his hat. He grimaced. “Remind me next time not to let you talk me into this even if I am riding in the Maxwell with you.”
She grinned at him. “Remind me, and we’ll put a strap on it like Mac has for his bowler, okay? I really enjoy the look of you in hats.”
“I think you have warped taste, but fine, I’ll try and remember to remind you,” Carson said. He took the hat off and set it in his lap. “Not going to let the natural air conditioning take the hat, since you’re so very fond of it.”
She laughed. “It’s not the hat. It’s the man wearing the hat. The one with his car and damaged memories and wonderful taste in socks and music as well as women.”
He snorted. “Oh, I see. Flattering yourself, are you?”
“Someone has to. I don’t get nearly enough of that.”
“Oh, please. If we played a drinking game with the guys at the Legion including where we had to drink for every time one of them praised you, even the battle-hardened marines would be down under the table,” Carson said. “They adore you, and you know it.”
“I do,” Mackenna said. They were sweet old men, and she had given some thought to maybe staying with one of them if anything ever happened to her own grandfather, but now she had Carson to think about, and he already had issues staying in her grandfather’s house despite the fact that his apartment was impractical for them.
She had to have a garage no matter where they lived, and she liked being where Mac and the Maxwells were.
“I just was wondering if you always have to sing in the car,” Carson said, and she looked at him. “I mean, I know you don’t do it as much around Mac, but it seems like if we’re alone, you always have a song, even if we don’t have a radio, like now.”
She grimaced. Mac enjoyed the silence a lot more than she did. She couldn’t. It took her back to the way everything had gone still after that shot but before she opened the door, and she hated it. She could cope with the quiet, but she preferred background noise, especially music.
“I suppose I can admit that’s one of my many issues. I don’t like white noise or silence very much. Mac is firmly of the school of discipline where music is a distraction, especially if you’re messing with the radio constantly, but I need it, so… I sing. And music with lyrics is almost always better when you sing along. Unless there’s something wrong in the lyrics, but that’s an entirely different matter.”
He nodded. “It is. That song was nice, though I’m not very familiar with it.”
“I have got such an eclectic collection thanks to all the random people I’ve met over the years,” Mackenna said. Between her older friends at the Legion, her grandparents, and everyone on the car runs, her music was a very interesting mix. She didn’t mind. She liked variety. “Should I pick one you know this time?”
“I don’t know about that. You know I don’t have as good a singing voice and… well, it’ll be all weird and like some bad movie montage, us driving along singing to that Willie Nelson song or something.”
She laughed. “It’s fun for road trips even if it’s about singing tours and not road trips themselves, but that’s not what I had in mind.”
She was about to tell him when she saw the Airstream and grimaced. She started slowing down, needing to make the turn up ahead.
“What’s wrong? Why are we going to the cemetery?”
“Because I’m an idiot,” Mackenna said, now aware that she’d been overcompensating for her own feelings all morning without admitting anything to Carson despite last night. She stopped Shadow on the lane, keeping them back and out of view of the man at the grave.
More songs came to her mind, but she didn’t sing them, the reminders already too painful.
“I should have known he was out here,” Mackenna said, grimacing. Carson frowned, and she knew if they were closer, he would have understood completely. For some people, going to this place would be a daily or weekly routine, but some people weren’t Mac Gilreath. Her grandfather was a strong, proud man, and he wouldn’t speak of things that bothered him, even when they still hurt.
“I didn’t—your grandmother, right? I guess I didn’t figured Mac for the type that went talking to headstones.”
“He isn’t, not usually,” Mackenna agreed. “Just sometimes… Well, the not-so-funny and not-so-romantic story about how they met is that it was actually here. Generations of my grandma’s family were buried here long before she married my grandfather. She was here with her parents putting flowers on her grandmother’s grave and he was dragged over to do that to his grandfather’s. She got spooked, ran away from her parents, and bumped right into him. First time they ever met. They didn’t start dating for years afterward, but on their anniversary… he starts way back at their beginning and retraces their years.”
“That is… adorable and surprisingly sentimental for your grandfather,” Carson said, and Mackenna looked at him. He shrugged. “The man rarely does more than grunt in my presence. Sometimes he could pass for a mute. I never once got the impression he liked the idea of me marrying you or moving in here with both of you.”
“If Mac was really unhappy about it, you would know,” Mackenna assured him. She shrugged. “He was different with her. It was like… Well, in cliché terms, she was the light of his life.”
“He change that much when she was gone?”
Mackenna shook her head. “No. He was still taciturn and stoic, all those things that belong to men of his generation. He just… relaxed a bit around her. She got him laughing and smiling and making jokes. You just haven’t seen much of that side of him.”
“He really doesn’t like me, does he?”
She laughed. “That’s not true. He likes you fine. I think the more he sees how much we make sense and how good you are for me, then he’ll start warming up again.”
“I think he’d warm up a lot faster if I had a job and wasn’t—”
“Carson, stop it. Please. You quit that job for a good reason—it was forcing you to ruin lives. You were taking farms away, farms just like ours. No. I can’t support you having stayed there or trying to get that job back. I think you did the right thing, and I don’t care if you don’t make any money at all. I think he respects why you left, even if—and I stress the if—he has an issue with you being unemployed,” Mackenna insisted. He gave her a look, clearly not pacified, but she wasn’t going to argue more here.
She took his hand. “We should go. Mac likes to be alone when he does this. He would never want anyone to know he cried.”