I shook my head. “That’s not why we’re out here, though. Not to talk about what I’ve seen.”
“Then why?” He asked, turning toward me, leaning casually against the bridge’s rail.
“First, to talk to you somewhere we wouldn’t be interrupted,” I crossed my arms as I turned away from the view below us. “Because there’s a lot I’ve got to say that I don’t necessarily need an audience overhearing. Walk with me.” I started walking again, heading for the far end of Little Mac and the plaza beyond. Phelan had to jog a few steps to catch up with me.
“Thom doesn’t believe in any of this most of the time,” I said slowly as we came to the far end of the bridge. “It’s like he picks and chooses what and when to believe. He’s afraid of something and I don’t know what it is. But it started a while ago and it’s mostly only gotten worse since. Every so often it feels like it’s getting better, then I realize about twenty seconds later that I was wrong.”
Phelan frowned, tucking his hands into his pockets as we veered left, walking along the ravine into the arboretum. The ruins of Au Sable Hall glittered in the sun, broken glass still hanging like jagged ornaments from metal and concrete wreckage. “Are you telling me this so I’ll step lightly around him?”
I winced. “Yes and no. Mostly I want you to figure out what he’s afraid of. None of us seem to know, and it’s getting harder and harder for…well, for everything. He can’t keep being in denial. Everything I see, everything I saw is telling me his denial is dangerous, might even kill him.” Visions of him dying hadn’t come in the past week or so, though. Maybe that was a good thing, maybe it meant something had changed.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. Could I afford to bank on that?
No. Not at this point, not now. Not yet.
“Given how he feels about my cousin, do you really think he’ll talk to me about things he won’t talk to any of you about?”
I had to smile. “I think that’s exactly why he might. Besides, you’ve got something to trade for that.”
Phelan’s nose wrinkled. “I don’t like the sound of this. What I know isn’t for sale, Marin. I give it freely, for everyone’s sake.”
I winced a little, feeling dirty. “That’s not what I meant, Phelan. Not what you know about all of this.” I gestured vaguely toward the ravine, toward the arboretum around us that was slowly starting to grow wild again, now free from the groundskeepers that once kept it tamed. “I meant about Teague and Kira. About all the hows and whys and wherefores of that relationship. That’s what I mean.”
He frowned again and finally shook his head as we walked on. “No,” he said softly. “No, I can’t do it that way. I can try to find out why he’s afraid, but I won’t use information about them to bribe him.”
Shame filled me. He was right, of course. I should be ashamed of myself. How dare I ask him to do that. What’s gotten into me? Am I really that damn terrified of what’s happening with Thom? Why can’t I just be happy that he accepts that there’s things that I can see and do and that he loves me and be done with all of it? I knew why, though—I was afraid I’d lose him, and I knew I couldn’t withstand that. “I’m sorry,” I whispered after a moment. “I shouldn’t have even suggested it. You’re right, doing something like that would be wrong, and it’d destroy any chance of a trusting relationship between the two of you.” And do worse if he ever knew that the request had come from me in the first place. I tried not to sigh and rubbed my eyes, which stung with shameful tears. Gods and monsters, what an awful human being I am right now.
Phelan touched my shoulder gently. “I understand, though. You’re terrified and desperate and it’s all right to be. If I was in your place, I have no idea what I would suggest.” A brief, wry smile touched his lips. “I’ve never loved someone that way before. I probably never will.”
I shook my head slightly and smiled weakly at him. “Maybe you will. You never know.”
He smiled wryly. “I can see why Kira likes you. Just enough optimism to not be a total downer.”
I began to laugh and after a few moments, the laughter verged on hysteria. Phelan squeezed my shoulder as I bent over double, choking on my laughter and trying to calm down.
“Sorry,” he murmured. I shook my head, eyes tearing.
“No,” I said as I gulped in air. “No, it’s okay. It’s just a lot of things.” I straightened slowly. “You said she got married. They got married. Where are they? Are they okay? Safe? Have you seen them since…?” Since this all happened, since everything we knew died and the world became something new, something foreign.
He shook his head. “I know they’re safe, but I haven’t seen them since I helped her load him into the back of her car for a very, very long drive.”
“Where did they go?” I asked softly. “Where was it safe? How do you know they’re okay?”
“Instinct,” Phelan said softly. “They went east and north. New Brunswick, Newfoundland, something Canada. I don’t’ remember exactly because Teague loves to be delightfully vague and I was a little annoyed with him at the time.” Phelan made such a disgusted face that I choked on more laughter. He smiled sheepishly.
“He’s family,” he said by way of apology. “I love him.”
I grinned and nodded. “Yeah, I know.” I squeezed his arm. “Come on. There’s a place near here I need to show you.”
“Oh?” he sounded curious as we started to move. “What is it?”
“The first place I ever ran into one of the camazotzi. It’s how I know that Thom used to believe.”