Olivia pulled up in the driveway behind Noah’s truck and shut off the car. Mia was awake and babbling in the backseat, telling her stuffed rabbit an elaborate story. Olivia turned and smiled at her.
“Ready to go inside, little one?”
Mia squealed and threw her bunny on the seat. Olivia laughed and got out of the car, opening the door and unhooking Mia’s car seat straps. She picked up the baby and a canvas bag of groceries, then turned to the house.
Noah was standing in the driveway, leaning against the hood of his truck and drinking something. Her heart sank as she looked at him. He looked exhausted, and she had a feeling he wasn’t just taking a water break during truck repairs.
She plastered on a smile as she walked up. “Hey, you,” she said, trying to keep her voice cheery. She smelled the alcohol immediately.
Fuck, it was barely dark.
“Hey,” Noah mumbled, trying to hide the water bottle behind his back.
“How are you?”
Olivia nodded, shifting Mia on her hip. Mia had three fingers in her mouth and was staring at Noah, who was looking everywhere else.
He looked terrible. Even beyond the glassy look in his eyes, he hadn’t shaved in days and his shirt was dingy and stained from some home repair job he’d started and abandoned yesterday.
“Are you sure?” Olivia asked gently, knowing she was poking the bear. “Want to come inside and have some dinner?”
“I’m fine!” Noah snapped with enough force in his voice that Olivia stepped back, and Mia’s lip began to tremble. “Will you just back off for once? Jesus Christ, I’m a goddamn adult, Liv! I don’t need you hounding me all the fucking time.”
By the end of his outburst, he was yelling. He stopped abruptly, then turned away from her.
Olivia sighed. “Okay then.”
Mia had started crying at the noise, squirming in Olivia’s grip. Olivia tightened her hold. “Okay. I’m just going to-”
She nodded toward the door, then turned and walked inside. Adrenaline made her shaky, and when she got to the couch, she immediately dropped down onto it. The grocery bag fell to the floor and she held Mia, who was starting to calm down, and tried not to cry herself.
This was bad. This was so bad. She needed to do something, but what could she do? Olivia didn’t know, but she knew she had to fix it if she was any kind of a good friend.
Which she wasn’t. If she had been a good friend, she would have noticed Noah’s drinking was getting out of control earlier. And she’d been so wrapped up in her own bullshit that she didn’t notice anything. She couldn’t even see through the fog in her own brain. A fog that she should be able to get rid of herself if she wasn’t so weak, so stupid-
Andrew was standing in the kitchen doorway, holding a bowl of cereal. He swallowed the mouthful he currently had as he walked into the room. “Liv, hey, what’s wrong?”
Olivia was crying now. She hadn’t realized it, but tears spilled into Mia’s hair as she took shuddering breaths, trying to stop.
Andrew sat down beside her and gently pulled Mia off of her lap. Mia stopped fussing and settled onto his shoulder, sucking her thumb. Olivia wiped furiously at her face.
“It’s nothing,” she muttered. “It’s so stupid. I’m so stupid.”
“Hey!” Andrew said sharply, but then he smiled. “You’re not, not by a long shot. Come here.”
He wrapped an arm around her, and she took a deep breath. The tears were still streaming down her face, but it felt good to let someone hold her.
“I just don’t know what to do about Noah,” she managed to choke out. “I got home and he was…and I asked him if he was okay…”
Andrew frowned. “Did he do something to you?”
Olivia shook her head. “No, of course not. He just yelled at me. But then Mia started crying and I just- I just don’t know what to do. He’s not doing good, Andrew. And I want to help but he won’t let me and I don’t know how to. And I’m so scared he’s going to do something to himself and I can’t stop him. And I’m so tired! I’m always tired and I should be able to just get past it. But I can’t. And I need to be stronger for Mia. And Noah. And you. God, you’re still stuck and I’ve barely helped you try to get out and-”
She stopped, and Andrew gave her a squeeze. “Listen, it’s not your job to fix things for us. You have Mia and yourself to focus on and that’s plenty. You’ve done more than enough to help me. You’re literally housing me right now. I can’t even imagine what I’d be doing if you didn’t offer that. And Noah…”
He sighed. “I don’t even know what to do at this point. But he’s not your responsibility. You get what I’m saying?”
Olivia nodded. There was a lump in her throat and she could feel the tears starting again. “Are you feeling okay, Liv?” Andrew asked.
She nodded, then laughed and shook her head. “No, not at all,” she admitted. “Dr. Degas said I might have postpartum depression and I think she might be right.”
Mia grabbed the front of Andrew’s shirt, taking a fistful of chest hair with it. He winced, but clearly tried to ignore it. “What can you do about that?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” Olivia admitted. “I guess I should make an appointment and talk to her.”
Andrew nodded. “Right then,” he said. “So take a break and in the morning, give her a call. You feel okay with that?”
Olivia nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good with that.”
She straightened up. “Thank you.”
Mia squirmed and rolled off Andrew’s lap, crawling back onto Olivia’s. Andrew stood up, brushing remnants of Mia’s car snacks off of his shirt. “Do you need anything?”
Olivia shook her head. “No, I’m all set. I’ll get her in her playpen, then go get the rest of the groceries.”
“I can do that.”
“No, but thanks. I need to get up and move if I want to clear my head.”
Andrew nodded and picked up his cereal bowl, heading into the kitchen. Olivia held Mia for another moment. She was about to get up when she heard the front door open and Noah’s heavy footsteps going up the hallway stairs.
She waited until she heard his apartment door slam shut before getting up and going back outside.