Author’s Note: My grandpa has a ritual for driving down to New London, always stopping at the same restaurant. I didn’t have Mac do that, though.
“That was a long five and a half hours, wasn’t it?”
“Just a little. It would have been nicer if the Woodsman had an extended cab,” Carson said, rubbing at the back of his neck. He and Mackenna had traded out being in the middle of the truck—and she’d ended up there for much longer than he did—but it had still felt like a much longer drive than it had been because of the cramped quarters. Mac was one of those who tried to make the trip shorter by stopping as little as possible, and it might have helped in the overall duration of it, but it still felt like forever after the night he and Mackenna had spent on the couch.
“You’d rather have been in one of those crappy fold down chairs?”
“Maybe. I could have stretched out across the back, maybe, or you could have, rather than be stuck all cramped in one spot. I know I elbowed you at least twice, and then somehow you fell asleep on me toward the middle of it…”
She looked away, and he wondered if he’d seen her blush or not. He thought there was a bit of red, but she’d turned so fast he could have been wrong about it.
“Does it matter that you’re parked in this empty lot?”
“Oh, we could park up in the school’s lot, but this is closer to the registration, and we’re not the only one who settles in here. Both lots will fill up if there’s enough cars, and there’s been eighty registered in the past. When we get Phantom going, we’ll drive two cars. One for Mac, one for you.”
Carson winced. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. I couldn’t drive either of the ones you have. I’d break something, and I am not wrecking a family legacy.”
“Don’t be silly, Carson. Phantom belongs to you. If you break her, we’ll fix her, and the same would go for the others, but you don’t have to worry about it driving yet. We’ll get you trained eventually.”
He nodded, but he had to admit, her talking like that bothered him. He didn’t know that he could stick around, as much as he needed her and liked being with her and feeling like he belonged, like he was a part of their family, but he knew Mac didn’t see him that way. He also knew that this was an expensive hobby that he couldn’t afford. He wouldn’t have the money they needed to repair Phantom in the first place.
He would look for a new job after this trip, and giving up his apartment would cut back on some of his expenses, but he still didn’t know how he’d be able to keep going now. His degree didn’t exactly make him in demand, and there were still a few lingering debts that he had yet to repay from college. He didn’t have the resources to be doing this, and he had his own mind to worry about as well.
“Carson? Something wrong?”
“No. I just… I was thinking. Nothing terrible, I promise. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life after this week.”
“I thought we were turning you into a car nut,” she said, reaching for his hand. “Come on. They’ll have this year’s t-shirt inside, and you need a name tag, too. We’ll get you all the ‘official’ things you need. Maybe even a ticket for the raffle. There’s been some really nice quilts in the past, but we never win, so don’t be surprised if you don’t.”
“I never win. I figure raffles are more like donating to a cause—or a rip off. I guess it depends on who’s running it and why. I’m not a gambler, though. I never try the lottery, never play bingo, never go to casinos…”
“I should tease you about that, but I don’t do any of those things, either. We’re still getting you the t-shirts. Ooh, I wonder if those ladies that make the quilts would make you some socks…”
He stared at her, and she laughed before she tugged on his hand, dragging him forward. He should have known better than to try and resist. He never won with her, either.