Cleo and The Blossom Step were sharing a suite for the few nights they spent in Nashville. A friend of Ryan’s had hooked them up with three shows in Nashville and the surrounding area. So rather than try to get hotels all over the place, they’d decided to just set up a home base for a few days and come back and rest in between.
Cleo set down her book and stood up, glancing at the clock on the wall across from her. Seven fifteen and they had the whole night off.
Edie was stretched out on the couch nearby, listening to a podcast with their eyes closed. Occasionally they’d chuckle, but seemed to be in no mood to be interrupted. So Cleo walked out of the bedroom they were sharing and into the main area of the suite, just as Ryan was stepping out of the room he was sharing with Tyler.
“Hey,” Ryan said, straightening his tie.
He was dressed in nice clothes Cleo hadn’t seen in their two weeks on the road. She raised an eyebrow. “Where are you off to?”
“Picking Beth up at the airport,” Ryan said with a smile. “Then last-minute reservations at a very nice restaurant. Don’t wait up for me.”
He winked and picked up his wallet off the side table. “We’re staying at the Marriott for the night, only call me if you’re bleeding.”
Ryan left a second later, leaving Cleo in the quiet suite. It must be nice, she thought as she pulled a beer out of the mini-fridge. She couldn’t imagine Jenna making plans to see her anywhere outside of Boston, let alone flying halfway across the country for a few days.
Her stomach twisted a little. Shit, should she text Jenna and apologize? Was she wrong for wanting an actual relationship? Maybe it was Cleo being overbearing and not Jenna being flakey.
Instead of reopening that discussion with Jenna, she texted the question to Olivia. As soon as she hit Send though, she regretted it. And the fact that Olivia didn’t answer made her regret it even more.
Cleo waited patiently as her mom paused mid-sentence. She’d been telling Cleo about how she was settling into the mobile home park and getting to know Minnie Jensen next door. Then, halfway through telling Cleo about Mrs. Jensen’s cookies, she seemed to drift off. Thinking maybe she’d been distracted by something in the house, Cleo gave it a second.
“Mom?” she said finally.
“Are you okay?”
“What? Yes, I’m fine,” her mom replied.
“Okay, so what happened then?”
“With Mrs. Jensen,” Cleo said, frowning as she shifted her cell phone from one ear to the other. “You were just telling me about the cookies.”
“What cookies?” her mother snapped.
Cleo took a sharp breath. “Mom? The cookies you were just telling me about. You started saying something about her cookies and then you stopped talking.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s nothing,” her mom said quickly. “It’s fine. I just lost my train of thought, that’s all.”
“I think I need to hang up now,” her mom continued, as though Cleo hadn’t spoken. “I’m very tired and you should get some sleep too. Lots of shows, lots of traveling, I bet you don’t have a consistent sleep schedule right now. Send Jenna my love. Is she there?”
Cleo’s stomach sank, but before she could answer, her mom said, “Good night,” and hung up the phone.
Cleo laid down on the bed and closed her eyes, trying to will away the nausea. This was bad. This was so bad.
Cleo opened her eyes and saw Edie standing over her.
“You okay?” Edie asked. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I heard you on the phone with your mom.”
Cleo sighed. “I’m fine.”
Then she sat up. “No, I’m not,” she admitted. “My mom’s got some memory problems and they’re getting worse. And she either doesn’t see it or refuses to.”
Edie winced and sat down next to her. “I’m sorry.”
“And now Jenna’s not answering my texts,” Cleo continued. “And everything’s been really awkward with her and I’m afraid she’s going to break up with me. And I live two hours from my mom so I’m not close enough to help her if she’ll even take my help. And my hometown is cursed anyway and people get trapped there, so I’m terrified of getting trapped. Which is so, so selfish because one of my best friends is trapped there right now. He went with me to help my mom move and got stuck and I was going to stay, but he insisted I go on tour. So he’s stuck somewhere he hates and it’s all my fault. And he can’t even step over the town line. So he’s staying with our other friends and one of them has a drinking problem and it’s getting worse and he’s ignoring everyone and I can’t help him and oh my God I’m so sorry.”
Cleo clamped a hand over her mouth as though that might stop the words from spilling out of her. She figured Edie was about to completely dismiss her, but instead, Edie stayed where they were.
“Shit,” they said quietly after a long moment. “Cleo, I didn’t realize things were that rough.”
Cleo laughed. “Me neither, honestly.”
They sat for a second. “So you’re not even going to ask about the cursed town thing?” Cleo asked.
Edie shrugged with a small laugh. “I mean, I’ve heard weirder?”
Cleo snorted and started laughing. A second later, Edie joined in.
“It’s so hard,” Cleo said finally. “And I feel guilty because all of this is happening and I’ve never been happier than I am on the road. But I feel like I need to be back in New Winslow, at least for right now.”
Edie nodded. “I don’t blame you,” they said. “But remember that your needs are important too. And your friend insisted you go, right? The one who’s stuck?”
“Yeah,” Cleo said.
“Do you think you could actually help if you were physically there? Like, any more than you are right now?”
Cleo sighed. Edie had a point. It wasn’t like she could carry Andrew over the town line or get her mother into treatment or make Noah stop drinking, even if she was in the room with them.
“And your friend,” Edie continued, “The one with the problem…”
They sighed, fiddling with something in their pocket. “It sucks,” they said after a second. “But he won’t get help until he’s ready to get help. Trust me, I know.”
Edie pulled a small metal coin out of their pocket and handed it to Cleo. Cleo took it, turning it over in her hands.
“Seven years sober last month,” Edie said. “It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Just, if you can, try to be there for him when he’s finally ready.”
Cleo nodded and handed the coin back to Edie, who slid it into their pocket. “Anyway, Tyler just texted me,” Edie said. “We’re ordering pizza. You want anything?”
Pizza suddenly sounded amazing to Cleo. She smiled and sat up. “Absolutely,” she said. “I’ll be out in a sec, I just have a quick call to make.”
Edie smiled back, then got up and walked out. Cleo sat for a second, then pulled out her phone and called Andrew.