Mia was crying. Her familiar whimpers seeped their way into Olivia’s room as she slowly woke up. With a groan, Olivia rolled out of bed and stumbled out into the living room.
Cleo was asleep on the couch and didn’t move as she passed. But as she got to Mia’s open door, she could hear Andrew talking.
“It’s alright, Mia…” he said in a singsong voice that contained only a little bit of panic. “It’s fine, nothing’s wrong…I’ll go get…”
He turned, saw her in the doorway, and jumped. “Oh, hi, Liv,” he said, his eyes darting between her and the crying child sitting in her crib. “Er, I swear I didn’t do anything. But I think I scared her.”
Olivia picked up Mia, who immediately stopped crying and settled her head on Olivia’s shoulder. Olivia gently rubbed her back as Mia started sucking her thumb. “Not your fault, don’t worry,” she said to Andrew. “She’s probably just confused and needs a diaper.”
Andrew nodded, looking relieved. “I can make breakfast if you want, while you change her.”
“Actually,” Olivia said, walking over to the changing table. “I was thinking about making pancakes for everyone.”
“Oooh, Olivia pancakes?” Cleo’s sleepy voice came from the doorway. “I’m in.”
Olivia turned and grinned at her, then turned to Andrew. “Andrew, Noah keeps his inside door unlocked. Can you run up and get him for breakfast?”
Andrew nodded, trying to keep his face neutral. “No problem.”
Mia started crying again as he left the room. The sobs faded as he walked out of the apartment, closed the interior door and unsuccessfully searched for a light switch in the dim hallway. After a moment with no luck, he figured the weak light streaming in through the stained glass window above him was good enough and made his way upstairs.
He knocked on Noah’s front door and waited.
No answer, so he tried again. “Noah?”
Like Olivia had said, the door was unlocked. He carefully opened it. “Hey, Noah? Liv sent me up to get you.”
The apartment was almost empty. He stepped into the kitchen, which contained only a small table with a couple of folding chairs. A single coffee cup sat in the sink and a half-empty bottle of whiskey was on the counter beside it.
Andrew could hear soft snores coming from the living room. He walked in to find it was as sparsely decorated as the kitchen. Noah’s six-and-a-half-foot frame was stretched out across the old sofa and he was asleep under a blanket. His work shirt lay crumpled on the floor next to him and a radio played quietly on the end table next to his head, static overpowering whatever he had been listening to before.
Andrew approached him and gently shook his shoulder. “Noah? Mate?”
Noah muttered something Andrew didn’t catch and opened his eyes. He pulled himself up a little and his groggy eyes met Andrew’s.
“Andrew? Oh, fuck.”
He pressed a hand to his forehead as if he was trying to keep his head from falling off. Andrew passed him a glass of water he found next to the radio and Noah took a few sips.
“What’s going on?” he asked after a moment. “What time is it?”
Andrew glanced at his watch. “Uh, it’s seven-ten,” he said. “Olivia sent me to get you. She’s making pancakes.”
“Oh, hell yeah,” Noah mumbled around the hand pressed to his head.
He swung his long legs over the edge of the couch and tried to stand up, immediately falling back. “Just give me a sec,” he said, his hand back on his forehead. “I’m still a little…”
“Yeah, you went hard last night, old man,” Andrew said.
Noah laughed softly and Andrew sat down next to him.
“I’m impressed you’re awake at all,” Andrew continued. “If I’d had as much as you did, I’d probably be dead.”
“What can I say? I’m a good drinker.” Noah said, a tinge of bitterness in his voice.
Andrew thought about the whiskey bottle by the sink but said nothing.
“Nice place,” he said after a moment.
Noah laughed again. “Yeah, it could use some work.”
“No, no, it’s got that sterile charm to it.”
“I just haven’t had the energy lately,” Noah said. “Too much going on to take the time to hang my posters.”
“How…how are you?” Andrew asked hesitantly.
That was a lie. “Oh?”
“I’m fine,” Noah insisted. “Really.”
He shifted slightly and Andrew caught a quick glimpse of a tattoo peeking out from under his t-shirt sleeve. That hadn’t been there last time they’d talked.
Andrew hesitantly put a hand on Noah’s back and rubbed softly. Noah seemed to melt into the touch, just for a second. Then he flinched.
Noah cleared his throat. “Um, I’ll meet you downstairs,” he said. “Just give me a minute to get dressed and clean up.”
“Do you need anything?” Andrew said, reluctant to stand up and unwilling to think about why.
“No, I think I’ve got getting dressed under control,” Noah said, rolling his eyes. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
Andrew laughed awkwardly. “Right, yes. See you in a moment.”
Noah stood up and shuffled toward his closed bedroom door. After a second, Andrew went back downstairs.