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How It All Got Started 039: Lina

Saturday, June 23, 1984

Lina felt like shit.

It didn’t matter. She had to keep it together.

Car was slumped on his living room couch. She stood next to the arm, one hand on his shoulder.

He wasn’t saying anything. He hadn’t said much all morning; he was cried out.

He was everything’ed out.

Her parents were in the kitchen, speaking… what was the term from choir class? Sotto voce. All under-the-voice and muttering, them and Car’s Uncle Mic.

Her brother, Tim, sat on the couch and simply stared at Carson with wide eyes. Lina chased a vague thought through her head: Tim wasn’t digging this scene. He shouldn’t be here.

Lina had trouble focusing, mentally and otherwise. No real sleep. Impossible sadness.

Oh, and fucking Eric drugged her last night and apparently tried to rape her. There was that.

It didn’t matter. Not right this minute.

She had to keep it together.

A memory bubbled up through the sludge in her brain: the summer between junior high and high school. Her parents had sent her to art camp in Lake Arrowhead. When they dropped her off, she watched the car pull away, the air smelling incredible and her feeling free, and older, and scared, and excited. She knew the next two weeks were going to be awesome. For the first time, she felt like the artist she wanted to grow to become.

Three nights later she came down with a summer flu. Her head ached and her eyes felt like they were going to pop out of their sockets. Her bones felt like iron bars.

She didn’t tell anyone that night, or the next day. If she said anything, they’d make her stay in her bunk or in the infirmary until her parents made the long drive up the mountain, and that would be that. Back to stupid Abbeque Valley and boring Orange County and a long dumb summer.

That morning she skipped breakfast, made it through oil painting, and then everything went south. South of her belly button, not to be too totally gross about it.

She spent the next hour and a half in the bathroom while her parents came to get her. It was mortifying, but it could have been worse.

Today; this wasn’t a flu. This was like being drunk, or maybe hung over. She’d get over this; and no one could really tell she was anything other than really, really bummed out over what had happened to Mister and Mrs. Meunetti.

And she was.

No faking that.

God.

She squeezed Car’s shoulder. He moved a little under her hand and let out a tremulous sigh.

Tim moved to the other side of the couch and started saying, “Hem. Hem. Hem. Hem. Hem. Hem,” the random word slipping out with every exhale.

Yeah, her special brother was not built to handle this much sadness.

Thankfully, her parents came out of the kitchen with Carson’s uncle. Tim stood up and strode to the front door. Lina let go of Carson and looked at the adults. Car stirred, but didn’t get up.

Lina’s dad’s face was gray. “We should go.”

Tim reached out and didn’t quite touch the doorknob. He wouldn’t; he wasn’t at home. “Go. Go. Go. Go. GO!”

Lina’s mom went to him. “I’ll get him out to the car.” She looked at Uncle Mic. “We’re… it’s unbelievable. We’re so sorry.” To Carson: “Honey, we’re so sorry.”

Tim lightly and repeatedly slapped her forearm. “GO GO GO!” It had been a really long time since Lina had seen him get even gently physical. This was bad.

Carson’s voice was wet cardboard. “Thanks…”

Her mother eased Tim outside. Lina heard him bark “GO!” two more times after the door closed.

Lina’s dad said to Uncle Mic, “We’re not far; just twenty minutes up the freeway, if that. If you need anything.”

Uncle Mic had curly salt-and-pepper hair. His eyes were puffy. “Thanks, Graham.”

They shook hands.

Her dad went to the door. “Lina? Ready?”

She nodded, knelt down in front of Car, and drew him to her in a hug. He managed to get one arm on her shoulder.

She put her mouth against his ear and whispered, “Thank you. I’m so sorry. Thank you.”

She felt him tremble in her arms. His breath was warm on her neck.

“If you don’t go I’m going to fall to pieces. You have to go…”

That nearly broke Lina. But no. She had to keep it together.

She gave him one more squeeze and stood up.

She saw Uncle Mic looking pretty damn broken, himself. She didn’t have anything left in her; nothing would come out of her mouth even though she knew — she knew — the right thing to do was to say some consoling thing.

She felt awful about it, but she was empty. She managed to nod at him before she followed her father out.

~

In the back seat of the car next to her, Tim was quiet, if still tense and jittery.

Join the club, little brother.

No one spoke until they were headed north on the freeway. Then her father, his voice level and sad and not sounding at all like he was in Dad Mode, nevertheless said something entirely in Dad Mode.

“It’s good you were there last night.” He was quiet; Lina could feel the displaced pressure of the other shoe, hovering. “We’ll have to talk about why you were there so late. Why you didn’t call until so late.”

Lina watched her mother lay slender fingertips on her father’s shoulder. Lina wondered if her own hands would ever be so graceful and delicate.

“But not right now,” she said to her husband. “Lina, it’s good that you…” She paused. “It’s good he wasn’t alone.”

Lina didn’t know what to say. No one did.

So, no one said anything.

The car rumbled and hummed up the freeway.

The Porters and Meunettis had known each other since forever. How many conversations, over the years, had their parents had while Carson and Lina played or watched TV or rode bikes around the neighborhood?

That would never happen again.

So weird.

And Carson. What was going to happen to Carson?

Nobody said anything, some more.

Lina studied her mother’s hand.

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Copyright 2003 ~ 2018 Matthew Wayne Selznick.
The Sovereign Era, The Shaper's World, Daikaiju Universe, Protector Universe, Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights, How It All Got Started, Thing, Carson Meunetti, Lina Porter, Alex Kent, Crystal Dubois, Abbeque Valley, Dana Cove, Pinnacle Records, Hagar's and related characters, institutions, situations, and representative depictions in media are trade marks of Matthew Wayne Selznick.
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