Despite the fact that Cleo had played with tons of local bands and The Blossom Step had invited her onto the tour, she had never actually played a show with them. All she had known was that they were extremely accomplished, toured semi-regularly, and had a drummer who wasn’t returning her emails with days to go. And now she knew that they were extremely accomplished, didn’t actually tour nearly as much as Claire had given her the impression they did, and now had a drummer who made her stomach flutter a little too much when they brushed up against Cleo in the van.
She respected how serious they were about touring. Sure, they obviously had fun with it. But she’d wondered how the rest of them could take a month away from their lives. She’d done it the irresponsible way by quitting before her boss could fire her. And that was something she’d have to deal with when she got back to Boston because she’d insisted on not having a roommate at thirty-three and her job had made that just possible enough. But for now, her illegal Airbnb covered the rent and her dwindling savings covered her other expenses.
She had wondered how the others covered it and had been delighted and intimidated to realize they covered just about all their touring expenses through ticket sales and merch. Everything else was apparently covered by Ryan’s graphic design side gig and the jobs the other two held to cover their own expenses and the rest of the tour costs.
Despite the fact that she was likely the oldest person in the van, Cleo felt like a kid as she watched the others smoothly settle into touring life. The first day had been mostly driving, with them arriving in Buffalo in the late afternoon. They’d scheduled it so that they got to town the night before the show instead of pulling in at the last minute. So they’d had a night to get to know each other more. Or, more accurately, for Cleo to get to know them.
“I have actually seen a couple of your shows,” Tyler said to her over boxes of greasy pizza in his and Ryan’s motel room. “That was the main reason I thought of you for our opener. I just thought that your style was awesome, you know? Minimalist to a point, but you’ve got these layers to it too that seemed like they’d mesh well with ours.”
“I appreciate your faith in me,” Cleo said with a laugh as she took a slice of mushroom pizza and set it on her plate. “I would have met up with you guys sooner, but I had some things to take care of back in my hometown and they ended up getting kind of intense. So I got back, like, right before we were leaving.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Ryan said, waving a slice of pepperoni at her. “I mean, it’s not like you weren’t trying. It was just Claire apparently forgetting she had any responsibilities whatsoever before she left.”
“What happened there?” Cleo asked.
Tyler shrugged. “We just wanted different things,” he said. “She’s great, but she’s more into the art side and didn’t care at all about the business side. Which is okay to a point? But we’re so close to being able to do this full-time and her mindset just didn’t fit right with ours. We ended on good enough terms though. Just had different needs is all.”
Cleo thought about Jenna. Different needs. She hadn’t heard from Jenna at all since she’d left, and it was starting to bother her the same way it had bothered her back in New Winslow. Maybe it was a similar thing there?
She cringed a little as she remembered the night before. Maybe it wasn’t so much that one of them was wrong. Maybe they were just looking at their situation from different angles. But what did that mean? And how could she fix it?
Certainly not by blurting out that she was in love. Especially when she was becoming more and more convinced as the day went on that it wasn’t love, it was fear.
“Alright, that ought to do it.”
Noah set down the wrench and wiped his hands on his blue jeans, then pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead. The showerhead had been dented and put up a fight, but it was finally fixed.
“Thank you so much,” Olivia said from the doorway where she was holding a sleepy Mia. “I knew it was on the list, but getting sprayed sideways every morning this week moved it up in urgency.”
Noah laughed and Olivia caught the strong scent of spearmint on his breath. Her heart sank a little, knowing that it was likely to cover up the scent of whiskey.
“You want to stay for dinner?” she asked.
His smile faded. “I’m good, thanks.”
Before she could protest, he picked up his toolbox. “Let me know if there’s any more trouble. If the water pressure stays low with the new showerhead, I can come down and look into that more.”
“I’ll see you later. Bye, sweetie.”
He blew an absent kiss at Mia and walked out of the room before Olivia could say anything else. A few seconds later she heard the front door close.
There was a dull ache in the center of her head as she walked out of the bathroom. She’s been coming in to get a face cloth to wipe Mia down before bed while Noah worked, but now the task seemed both monumental and pointless.
“Let’s get you in bed,” she murmured as Mia lifted her head to look at her, then settled back down on her shoulder.
Mia went to bed easily, snuggling up under the light blanket Olivia tucked over her. The soft lights and music coming off her mobile were soothing and Olivia laid down on the daybed for a moment.
She closed her eyes, letting the soft melody swirl around her exhausted mind. Six pm was late enough to go to sleep, right? It’s not like anyone would miss her. Noah wanted nothing to do with her and Andrew was out at the town line again. Cleo might text later, but Olivia wasn’t expecting her to actually chat.
She lay there for a little while, waiting for the dark cloud in her mind to dissipate. She knew she needed to eat something, but even the simplest meal seemed like too much effort right now.
Finally, Olivia opened her eyes. Mia was out cold in her crib, sucking her fingers as she softly breathed in and out. Olivia stood up, walked over, and gave her a gentle kiss. Then she went out to the kitchen.
There was a little bit of leftover stir fry in the fridge, so she heated that up and sat down at the kitchen table. She kept catching herself listening for any sounds from upstairs and finally took her phone out and opened some mindless mobile game, desperate for a distraction.