Their destination was a small duplex on a heavily wooded road. Cleo pulled up behind one of the three vehicles already in the driveway and turned off the car. The night was eerily still as they got out and headed toward the front door.
When they stepped inside the downstairs apartment, Olivia’s mother was sitting on the couch with a baby asleep on her shoulder. She smiled when she saw them come in.
“Cleo,” she greeted in a whisper. “Oh my goodness, it’s good to see you. And Andrew! Hello, both of you!”
Cleo leaned over to kiss her hello while Andrew hung back awkwardly. “Hello Mrs. Walker,” he mumbled.
“How was she?” Olivia asked, leaning over to pick up the sleeping baby.
“Fine,” her mother replied. “She drank two bottles and fell asleep around ten. A little late, but nothing too unusual.”
Olivia nodded and kissed the baby on her forehead. “Andrew, Cleo, this is Mia,” she said.
Now Cleo was the one hanging back a little. But Andrew stepped in and looked at the little girl. She looked like a mini-Olivia. “Hello Mia,” he whispered.
Mrs. Walker stood up and stretched. “I’m going to head on home. I don’t imagine you’re all going to bed anytime soon, but this old lady needs her rest.”
Olivia laughed. “Thanks, Mom,” she said. “Love you.”
Her mom hugged her. “Love you too, sweetie.”
She hugged all the others on her way out the door and left, leaving them all standing awkwardly in Olivia’s living room.
“I’m just going to put her to bed,” Olivia said. “Um, there’s beer in the fridge, help yourselves.”
She walked into a bedroom right off the living room and closed the door. Noah went into the kitchen, then came back with four open beers. He passed them around and they all sat down.
Andrew picked at the label on his beer while Cleo tried to think of something to say. Meanwhile, Noah drank his, sitting stiffly in the recliner next to them.
“So what’s new with you, Noah?” Cleo asked finally.
Noah shrugged. “Nothing really,” he replied. “Just working.”
Cleo shrugged too. “Same. Working and playing shows.”
Another pause. “Where do you work?” Noah asked.
“A seafood place in Back Bay.”
“You like it?”
“It’s fine,” Cleo said. “It’s not sales, but it’s fine.”
Noah frowned. “You want to do sales?”
Cleo laughed. “Fuck no. But he does sales.”
She pointed at Andrew, who suddenly felt Noah’s eyes on him. He stopped picking at the already-destroyed wrapper and cleared his throat. “Yeah, I work in sales.”
“It pays the bills.”
Another awkward silence. “So you’re here to see your mom?” Noah asked Cleo.
“Yeah. Um, she’s moving and it’s too much work for her to clear out our old house on her own. So I told her I’d come back.”
Noah took another sip of his beer. “Good call. Let me know if you need my truck at all.”
Cleo smiled. “Thanks,” she said. “But yeah, then I asked Andrew to come back too.”
Noah looked at Andrew again, one eyebrow raised. “And you said yes?”
Andrew shrugged. “She asked.”
“That’s all it took?”
Andrew was saved from having to answer by Olivia coming back into the room. “She’s settled,” she said, accepting her beer from Noah and sitting down on the couch across from them. “So, yeah, welcome to my home,” she said with a nervous laugh.
“I love it,” Cleo said, looking around the cozy living room. “It’s so…peaceful, you know? It’s very much your space.”
Olivia smiled. “Thanks,” she said. “We’ve put a lot of work into it.”
Noah laughed. “Mostly you,” he said. “I just tore up the ugly parts.”
“I love it,” Cleo repeated.
“It’s fun,” Olivia said. “I know I’m not really a creative person or anything, but I like decorating.”
Cleo frowned. “What do you mean you’re not creative?” she said, gesturing toward the room in general. “Look at this!”
Noah looked meaningfully at Olivia and she sighed. “I guess. But it’s not the same as, like, you, Cleo. I don’t create any kind of art, you know?”
“You don’t need to,” Cleo said, unsure how to best approach this conversation without sounding condescending.
Olivia gave her a half-smile and shrugged. “Sorry, I don’t know why I’m even bringing this up. It’s fine, really. I’m just in a weird place and trying to figure it out, that’s all.”
Cleo reached over and squeezed her hand. “I get it,” she said. “Whatever you need though, you’ll figure it out.”
Olivia smiled for real this time. “I missed you,” she said.
“I missed you too.”
After a moment, Olivia stood up. “You guys hungry?” she asked. “I’ve got a whole bunch of leftovers in the fridge, come on!”