Author’s Note: Sometimes the aftermath of what people remember is harder to take than the memories themselves. At least Carson has Mackenna to see him through that part.
“Carson?” Mackenna asked, shaking his shoulder. He’d spaced out on her there, and she was worried about him. Honestly, she was scared. She didn’t like this. When he’d had his panic attack in front of her, he’d babbled. When he had his nightmare, he’d screamed and whimpered and whispered. This time he was quiet. Way too quiet. She didn’t like it.
Maybe he’d remembered everything, which would be good, but if he didn’t start paying attention to her soon, it wasn’t. She didn’t want him going catatonic on her. That was not okay.
“Come on, Koslow, talk to me. Wake up over there. I don’t care what you say, but say something,” she said, shoving him this time. He hit the door, and it seem to jar him. He frowned, blinking a few times, and she let out a breath in relief. “You all right over there? Did you see something?”
“Yeah,” he said, swallowing hard. “I saw my father.”
She frowned. What exactly was he getting at? Was it the same old image, the one with his father’s dead body? That wasn’t helpful, but it also shouldn’t have put him in a fugue like that—supposedly it never had before. “Just now? The whole body on the floor of the barn or something else? We’re not talking supernatural here, are we? We’re not speak of something like… a ghost?”
“No, like a flashback.” Carson drew his legs up against his chest. “I have to say if there were such a thing as ghosts, I’d be someone they’d haunt, right? I’ve never seen a ghost, not once. I’ve got nightmares and flashbacks and holes in my memory, but I’ve never heard the dead talking to me.”
“I never said you did.”
He let his head rest on his knees. “I’m still not sure how old I was—between six and eight, I’d guess—but I don’t know for sure. Still, my father was there. It must have been the first time we met. I don’t know if I saw him again, either, but… he told me I looked like him and… he told me not to tell anyone he’d been there.”
Mackenna winced. Now he’d let guilt eat at him for not telling someone or for telling someone and getting his father killed. Either way, it wasn’t good. “You were a kid. An adult tells you not to tell, you probably won’t. Or you do, but they don’t listen. For all we know, you ran in and told everyone what you’d seen and who’d you’d talked to, and they thought you were just as crazy as when you said he was dead years later.”
Carson nodded. “I know. It’s nothing. It’s not proof of anything either way, just something I already knew—that I’d seen my father. I met him. I don’t know how or why he came back or what he was doing after he disappeared without a trace, but he came back, and I saw him at least once.”
“What’s wrong? Other than the don’t tell anyone part?”
“I can’t decide if his interest was just that of a father who was looking at a son he hadn’t seen in years or something… worse.”
“Did he do anything that made you uncomfortable?”
“He touched my face, but then he hadn’t said he was my father yet. He was a stranger, and that part scared me, but I don’t know if I trusted him after he said he was my father or not. I only got as far as him making me promise not to tell anyone I’d seen him, which is really, really unsettling after the theories we came up with.”
“Yeah, but we don’t have any proof that your father did anything to you. He might honestly just have come back to reconnect with his family, but maybe he wasn’t ready when he met you. It’s not necessarily the worst thing you can think of.”
“I know. I just wish I didn’t only have pieces. I’m sick of feeling this way.”
She put a hand on his shoulder, and he jerked. She sighed. “At least now you have more of the pieces than you ever did before.”
He let out a breath. “Yeah. I do. I just… Maybe it’s a bad idea, doing all this. Maybe I shouldn’t be around anyone for a while. I should just go find a shrink and—”
“Medication didn’t help the last time. At best, it suppressed everything so you functioned, but that doesn’t heal you one damn bit. You need to do this. You need to see it through so that no matter what is locked up in your head—and remember, there are other family secrets besides sexual ones—and when you can get all the pieces together, then that’s when you heal. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t even know what it is. You can try, but it won’t work. It’s like assuming you’re just out of gas when your fuel line is plugged up. You’re not going to fix the problem by filling up your tank.”
“Come inside now. Please. You can shower if you need to, or you can just sit in the kitchen and keep me company, but I don’t think you should sit there any longer, okay?”