“Carolyn? J.T. said you were looking for me.”
She was sitting out by the well, not looking at all like she’d been trying to find me. Her brow was furrowed and she stared out into the dim of gathering evening, at the lights slanting off what was left of windows and glass after weeks of earthquakes.
“I’m not sure I’m ready for this,” she said as I came up behind her. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“None of us are really sure about what we’re doing,” I said, squeezing onto her perch with her. “I don’t even know that Phelan is sure about what he’s doing, and that says a lot, doesn’t it?”
She snorted humorlessly. “If he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he fakes it really, really well.” After a moment of silence, she sighed and looked at me. “Then again, so do you and Kel.”
I smiled wryly. “Oh, you noticed, huh?”
Carolyn cracked a smile. “Just a little.” The smile faded and she sighed softly. “That doesn’t help much, though. I wish it did. Maybe I’m just terrified.”
“Just like the rest of us,” I murmured, patting her knee. “But we can’t let that fear stop us from doing what needs to be done.”
“Assuming we’re right about what needs to be done.”
I shrugged. “Assuming that, yes. I don’t have any better ideas at the moment, though, and do you really think that blessing the ground we’ve buried our dead in is a bad idea? They did it for at least two thousand years before us. Either it means something, or it means nothing. Either way, I’m willing to go along with it.”
“I guess I am, too,” she said. “Not that I was ever really against it in the first place. I’m just scared.” After a momentary pause, she added, “Of everything.” Her hands curled into fists. “I thought when Phelan came, maybe J.T. would stop having those dreams.”
“He hasn’t?” I asked, feeling my heart begin to beat a little faster. J.T.’s dreams of a long-forgotten past were our only outside link to Phelan’s actual identity, our only window into his true purpose here. While I was willing to trust the strange man with my life, that didn’t mean I was any less curious about his past. He only spoke of that in offhand snippets and hints.
Carolyn shook her head slightly. “They’re starting to seem more and more like your visions. They come whether he wants them to or not. Whether I want them to or not.” She swallowed hard. “The mists that day, Marin. He said they were the ghosts of our dead. The ones that are buried out there by the theatre. He dreams of the past and he sees ghosts. How am I supposed to handle that?”
She acts like it’s her burden to carry. I just stared at her for a moment. “Carolyn, no one says you have to.”
“If I love him, I do,” she said, voice quiet but firm as she met my eyes. “Even if I didn’t, I still do. He loves me, and I can’t look at him and tell him that he’s scaring me. Not yet, maybe not ever. But not yet.”
I took a quick, shallow breath, trying to gather my thoughts as quickly as I might. “Do you want me to talk to him about it?”
“No, that’s not why I was looking for you.” She scrubbed a hand over her eyes. “Hell, even this wasn’t why I was looking for you. It just hit me when I sat down out here how terrified I am that we’re going to somehow screw up and break something. I guess you’re right, though, we can’t break anything worse than it’s already broken.”
Well, no, we can certainly make things worse, but we probably wouldn’t know we’d done that until well after the fact. I struggled to keep my expression impassive. If she noticed the struggle, she didn’t say anything. “Maybe. Why were you looking for me?”
“Kellin. And Tala. They’ve both been acting a little weird. And then there’s your brother, suddenly all interested in building some kind of forge. Do you know what’s going on?”
“Well, Matt was making noises about that a week ago. As for why he’s suddenly all gung-ho about it, I’m not really sure. But it’s a project that he’s working on with Thom and Phelan, so I’m really not that inclined to complain about it as long as they keep playing nice with each other.” I leaned back slightly, fighting to keep my balance on the rock. “I think Tala’s missing Kurt pretty hard right now. I can’t say any more than that without breaking confidences, and you know me.”
Carolyn laughed weakly and shook her head. “It must be pretty serious if you’re keeping your mouth shut.”
I tapped my nose with a grin, which faded as I thought about Kellin. “And Kel’s just a mess. I don’t know what to do to help her or even if we can. Phelan said something about her being out of sorts because of what happened to her, and I’m not sure he’s wrong. I think maybe she thinks she should be dead and she feels guilty because she’s not, because Jac managed to save her.”
“It’s kind of stupid,” Carolyn said. “She should be happy she’s alive. We’re the lucky ones, right?”
I made a soft noise. Sometimes, I wondered. Her hand brushed my knee.
“We are, Mar. Even with all of my personal fears and doubts, I know that for a fact.”
I nodded and mustered up a smile, rocking to my feet. “Yeah, well. We’d better get going if we want to wolf down some food before this hike, and I have to give Matt one last chance to try to talk me out of this.”
“He doesn’t want you to go?” Carolyn frowned in the half-light as she stood up and dusted off the seat of her jeans.
“I think he’s on the fence about the whole affair,” I said as we began to walk. She threw her arm around my shoulders.
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to convince him that there’s no harm in it. And if he won’t relent, I think Longfellow can help distract him long enough for us to get away.”
I laughed, looking around briefly for the glimmers of brown, green, and blue that signaled her tiny companion’s presence. “Where is he, anyway?”
“By the fire, of course, where it’s warm.” Carolyn gave me a little hug. “We’re going to have to bundle up or we’ll be frozen fish sticks by the time we get back. Clear night tonight.”
I glanced at the sky and nodded. “It might just be the best kind of night for this,” I said softly.
“You think so?”
“Hope so, anyway. Come on. Let’s eat.”
Autumn – Chapter 3 – Marin – 02
“Carolyn? J.T. said you were looking for me.”