Hearts on Fire 8: Saving C.C.(6)

By: Dixie Lynn Dwyer

She held the tray and looked around to make sure none of the other tables needed anything. It was crowded still, and she was so busy she hadn’t had a chance to eat dinner. She’d only grabbed a chicken finger and guzzled down a bottle of cold water.

“But you’re young, beautiful, you should be going out on dates and having a good time,” Sanchez told her.

Brandon then smiled and caressed her arm. “I’ll take you out on a date.”

She smiled at him nicely as she covered his hand and then gently moved it off her arm.

“I’m sorry, Brandon, but I have a lot going on in my life right now, and I just don’t have the time. But thanks for the offer. I’d better get back to work. Just wave when you need me again.”

“She says no to every guy that asks her out, Brandon. Why would she say yes to you?” she heard one of the guys tease him.

“Because I’m sexy.” He then nearly fell off the chair.

They all started laughing, and C.C. moved along to the next table. That was the one major negative about working at a place like the Station and living in a town like Treasure Town. It was filled with first responders, soldiers, the true heroes of society, and that was part of the reason she had to leave New York. She couldn’t deal with all the sadness and the negativity. If she’d stayed any longer, she would have been raising her sister’s babies and feeling guilt for wanting to have a life again after everything that happened and all she’d lost. It just wasn’t fair.

Things hadn’t made sense and still didn’t make sense. Had she been so self-absorbed in her work with the Red Cross that she really hadn’t picked up on Parker’s depression? They had been dating only for a couple of months. She shook her head and tried not to think about it as she took another set of drink orders from some off-duty police officers and then headed to the bar.

Unlike her sister, Clare, C.C. didn’t want to live with the tragedies that struck her family year after year. She didn’t want to live in that negative state any longer, and going away had to be done, even if it wasn’t permanent.

She took a deep breath and forced the negative thoughts from her head. She’d tried to get her sister to take back her life and live again. But losing Lionel in that fire had changed her sister’s world forever. Losing their brother, Banks, too, had made it a double tragedy that destroyed multiple families. Then Parker died.

She quickly swallowed the lump of emotion in her throat. She’d left the Hudson Valley and headed south. She had to move on. She couldn’t live with everyone saying her boyfriend had committed suicide and set his house on fire and was a disgrace to the Marine Corps, all while they praised Lionel and Banks and minimized her emotions and her loss. The fire was still labeled suspicious, but nothing more had come out of the investigation.

“Hey, C.C., are you all right?” Burt asked her.

She quickly cleared her head and smiled. “Sure thing. I need a few drinks.” She rambled off the mixed drinks and then looked around the bar. It sure was extra crowded tonight. Maybe she would be able to look at some small places to rent after all. She did like it around here. Maybe she could settle in a bit more? That thought made her heart ache and rattled her nerves. She didn’t want to get too comfortable. She didn’t want to make friends, get close, or establish roots. She was fearful, especially when she thought about the letters she’d gotten after her brother, brother-in-law, and then her boyfriend died. Most of the letters showed support. They were encouraging with prayers, understanding, and empathy, but there were a few others that had come from strangers. Ones that said odd things that the police and investigators thought were from mean, trouble-making people. It seemed that, when tragedy struck and people found out your name, where you lived, and ways to contact you, you were exposed to both good and bad responses.

But it had been the one strange letter she got a few weeks before she decided to leave town. She shivered just thinking about the words. She felt the anger, the tone, the depth of seriousness and threat. Any man you get close to will die. They aren’t your destiny. I’m watching you.

C.C. placed the drinks onto the tray and tried to clear her head. Her brother’s friend, Detective Chris Factor, had told her that there was nothing to worry about. The investigators had tried to look into the letter and its origin but came up empty-handed. Seriously, how could they find out who wrote the letters when there was no return address? They chalked it up as some sicko trying to make matters worse and that it was probably nothing. Chris held on to the letters and placed them into the file as potential evidence if the investigation continued, but he didn’t think she had to worry. She wasn’t so sure. Or maybe she was just trying to hang on to the idea that she hadn’t been so blind that she couldn’t tell that her boyfriend, Parker, was depressed. If she had, she could have helped him seek counseling.

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