Olivia had the lights off and the shades down in her living room as she lay on the couch. Her head was pounding and her body felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. She’d collapsed onto the couch the second Mia had fallen asleep in her playpen and half an hour later she was still there. She’d briefly considered getting a blanket and taking an actual nap, but couldn’t summon the energy to get off the couch.
Dr. Degas’s comment about postpartum depression had been lingering in the back of her mind since the appointment a few weeks ago. Olivia was depressed, she wasn’t going to deny that. But it wasn’t so bad that she needed help. She was just overworked and stressed out. She was a single mom, her daughter was teething, and she was in charge of an underfunded bar with an absentee owner. A solid night’s sleep and a chance to just catch up would work wonders.
If only she could get those things.
Oh well, she had time now. She wasn’t working until five tonight and it was only one o’clock. Cleo had gone to Worcester with Noah a few hours ago and she wasn’t sure where Andrew was. No one would miss her if she napped for a bit before work.
She adjusted the throw pillow under her and closed her eyes, tossing an arm over her face. The room was quiet, with just the hum of her washing machine and Mia’s soft breathing.
And then the front door creaked open.
“Hey Liv- oh, sorry,” Andrew said as he closed the door behind him. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
Olivia sat up. “You didn’t,” she said. “I was just dozing while Mia slept.”
“Sleep while the baby sleeps,” Andrew said. “That’s the thing, right?”
“In theory. Though sometimes there’s a lot of other stuff that needs to get done while the baby sleeps.”
“I can leave you be,” Andrew said, inching toward the kitchen.
“No, it’s fine, really,” Olivia insisted. “I’m up. Mia’s probably going to wake up in a few minutes anyway.”
She stood up, stretched, then sat back down. “What have you been up to?”
Andrew shrugged. “Driving around a little bit. I didn’t realize Cleo wasn’t going to be at her mom’s today. I was going to go bring some bags out for her, but the door was locked.”
“Yeah, she and Noah were dropping some stuff off at a thrift store.”
Andrew nodded, then shifted uncomfortably. He clearly had something on his mind and was trying to figure out how to word it.
“What’s up?” Olivia asked.
Andrew sighed. “I have a really awkward question for you.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
He shifted a little. “Look, it’s not my business, but if anyone would know, you would. Does Noah have a drinking problem?”
Well, that wasn’t what she had expected.
“What do you mean?”
He groaned. “I’m sorry, I sound like an absolute prick. I just…I don’t know. I know it’s only been a few days, but it seems like he’s been drinking heavily and I saw the whiskey in his flat and I don’t know. I was just…concerned.”
Olivia wasn’t quite sure how to react to this. “I don’t think so,” she said after a long pause. “I mean, I know he’s just getting past a rough patch so maybe he’s drinking a little more than usual? But I don’t think it’s to the point of being a problem.”
She knew she didn’t sound confident, but the idea of Noah being an alcoholic seemed far-fetched. He clearly enjoyed drinking, but it didn’t seem to be an addiction. At least, not that she’d noticed.
“Yeah, I’m sure he’s fine,” Olivia said.
Andrew nodded, but didn’t seem fully convinced. He looked like he was about to say something else, but closed his mouth as they heard keys jingling in the front door.
Seconds later, Olivia’s front door opened and Cleo and Noah walked in. “Hey!” Cleo greeted, pulling off her hat.
“Hey, how’d it go?” Olivia asked.
“Good. I don’t think we’ll need to do a second trip. Which is good because Worcester was chaos.”
Noah blew out an exaggerated breath. “I’m not sure what Christmas celebration was going on, but we drove right through it. And I was reminded over and over again why I do not ever drive in the city.”
He shook his head, then looked at Olivia and Andrew. “What are you guys up to?”
They exchanged a guilty glance. “Just resting before work,” Olivia answered.
“I just got back,” Andrew said.
Just then, Olivia’s phone rang. She glanced at it, said, “Right back,” and ducked into her bedroom.
“I didn’t realize you were going today,” Andrew said to Cleo. “I was going to go over and start moving some bags out for the trash service.”
“Sorry!” Cleo exclaimed. “I completely forgot to tell you. But I appreciate that! I think I’m going to go back tonight or tomorrow and get those done.”
Andrew nodded. “Sounds good.”
“Fun Christmas Eve,” Noah commented.
Cleo shrugged. “It’ll be quick enough.”
Olivia came back into the room a minute later. “Everything okay, Liv?” Cleo asked.
“My mom’s sick,” Olivia said. “She had to call and cancel babysitting tonight. And I get it, I really do. But I have a trainee tonight and Mia’s not sleeping through the night and my idiot boss won’t get back to me about anything and I’m just so fucking tired.”
She sat down on the couch, exhausted tears brimming in her eyes. Cleo sat down next to her and put an awkward hand on her shoulder.
“Liv, I’ve got Mia,” Noah said.
She frowned at him. “What? No, you’re-”
“My shift tonight was cut, remember?” he said. “I have Mia and it’s absolutely not a problem.”
“And we’ll be here too,” Cleo added.
Olivia sniffled, and Cleo wrapped an arm around her.
“Go lie down for a little bit,” Noah said. “If Mia wakes up I’ve got her.”
Olivia nodded and stood up. Every part of her still felt like she was dragging a boulder behind her, but she felt slightly better already.
“Thanks,” she said in a hoarse whisper. “I’ll be out in a bit.”
“Take your time,” Cleo said.
Olivia smiled, then turned and walked into her room. She closed the door behind her, let out a long breath, then climbed under the covers.
When Olivia woke up three hours later, she felt better than she had in days. She took her time getting up, sipping from a glass of water she’d left on her bedside table the night before.
She got dressed slowly, buttoning her plaid shirt and putting on her makeup. Then she walked out to the living room.
Andrew sat on the couch with Mia, both of them watching some bright, fast-paced cartoon. “Hey!” he called over.
“Hi,” she said, walking over. Mia wriggled out of Andrew’s grasp, thrusting her arms up toward Olivia. “Ma!”
Olivia scooped her up, and Mia nestled into her shoulder. “How’s she been?”
“Great,” Andrew replied. “She woke up a little while ago and we’ve just been playing and watching TV. Cleo and Noah are in the kitchen. How are you?”
“Better,” Olivia said. “I feel a lot better now.”
Andrew smiled. “Good.”
Noah came around the corner a moment later. “You heading out?” he asked as Olivia set down a squirming Mia.
“In a minute, yeah. I can’t believe I slept that long.”
Noah shrugged. “You needed it. I hate that I can’t come in tonight and help.”
“I know,” Olivia said. “But you saw the message from Bret. He might actually make an appearance if anyone hits overtime. It’ll be fine. I’ve got a new kid on as waitstaff and what’s his name from Bret’s other place is coming in to do the bar. So depending on how quickly the kid picks up the job, I might actually have a good amount of help tonight.”
She picked up her car keys off of the hallway table. “I’m going to head out. You’re sure you’re all set with Mia?”
Noah laughed. “How many times have I watched her before?”
“I know, it’s just a long shift…”
“It’s fine, I promise.”
A few minutes later, Olivia walked out the door. Noah glanced over at the couch and tried to shove down the feeling that swelled in his chest as he saw Andrew casually pull Mia onto his lap.
“Alright, little lady,” Noah said. “What are you having for dinner?”