New Winslow S2E31
It was freezing at the town line and Iris adjusted her scarf as she stood outside her car at the side of the road. The sun had been down for a couple hours now and after a little while of preparation at the store, they were now an hour into attempting to get Andrew over the town line.
“I still feel like we’re missing something with the hotel,” Iris said as Andrew approached the Welcome to New Winslow sign, holding a red taper candle and desperately trying to keep it lit in the winter wind. “It’s shown up a couple times, but never in anything official or major.”
Andrew stopped short at the town line, the candle going out abruptly as he hit the invisible barrier.
“It showed up again in a diary that the Boston Athenaeum had digitized in their collection,” she continued as he shook his head, disgusted, and relit the candle with a cheap Bic lighter. “So that makes two diaries or civilian histories that mention the fact that a hotel was going in before the Quabbin flooded. And everything else in those books matches up.”
Andrew nodded as the candle lit, then immediately went out. He muttered something under his breath that Iris didn’t catch, then tried again.
It took a couple of tries, but finally he could shield the weak flame from the wind. “Should we try something different?” he asked. “Maybe burn something else?”
“No, that won’t make any difference,” Iris said. “This is directly connected with the spell we did back at the shop. We’ll try one more time and then I can keep looking if this one or the curse-breaking bath satchel doesn’t work.”
Andrew nodded, but didn’t look impressed. He lifted the candle, muttered some words over it with a skeptical look still on his face, then walked directly into the boundary. He grunted as his head made contact and the flame went out.
“I’m done,” he said, shaking his head and gently touching the fresh red mark on his forehead. “Let’s call it a night. I’m freezing.”
“Sure,” Iris said. “Let’s head back to the store and I’ll get you that satchel if Roland hasn’t tossed it on the roof or something.”
Andrew nodded and followed her back to her car.
An hour later, Andrew was walking into Olivia and Noah’s house. The stairwell was dark, and he fumbled clumsily with the door to Olivia’s unit.
It was dark inside. Right, she was working tonight. And her mom had taken Mia at her house for the night.
He shivered. After a couple hours outside, the chill had settled firmly into his bones. A hot cup of tea would help.
Or maybe a bath. And he could try the satchel Iris gave him. Then he could try to break the curse while relaxing in a hot bath. A method that seemed much more appealing than running at the border in the freezing cold again.
If he had the house to himself, a bath was sounding more and more appealing.
He walked into the bathroom and started running the water. It ran icy cold over his hand and Andrew flinched. He left it running to warm up as he walked back out and got the satchel out of his coat.
It smelled good, fresh and herbally. Chamomile, basil, rosemary, and a few other things he didn’t recognize. The idea of breaking the curse through a bath was pretty unbelievable, but, like Iris has said, it wasn’t like he wasn’t already in an unbelievable situation.
By the time he got back into the bathroom, the water was running warmer. He gave it another moment to heat up, then plugged the drain and set the satchel in the water.
Five minutes later, fragrant steam was coming off the full tub. Andrew turned off the water and stripped off his damp, frozen clothes. He piled them by the sink and stepped into the tub.
So much better, he thought as he sank into the hot water with a sigh.
Iris had said to soak for at least half an hour to let the herbs really take effect. When that half hour was up, the water was still hot. Andrew had nowhere to be, so he might as well stay in.
He closed his eyes, waving his hand lazily back and forth in the water over his chest. It had been so long since he’d taken a proper bath and weeks of tension had melted into the hot water.
He took a breath and slipped under the water, letting the fragrance of the cleansing herbs surround him. He stayed under until his lungs began to burn, then slid back up, breaking the surface of the water over his face, and opened his eyes.
Just in time to see the bathroom door open and Noah walk in.
Andrew wasn’t sure who yelled first. He scrambled out of the water, breathing it in and choking as he stood up. Noah dropped the wrench in his hand as he jumped backwards.
“What’s the fuck?” Andrew sputtered as Noah let out a yelp of pain, the wrench hitting his booted foot.
“Sorry!” he exclaimed, eyes meeting Andrew’s, quickly dropping, then shooting back up again. He turned a violent red as he turned away.
Andrew snatched the towel off the rack and wrapped it around his waist as Noah rushed out of the bathroom.
“What are you doing?” Andrew demanded as he secured the towel in place, deeply aware of exactly how wet and naked he was and how much Noah had just seen.
“Fixing the hot water!” Noah exclaimed from just outside the door, rubbing his foot and still not looking at him.
Andrew stopped and looked at him. “What?”
“The hot water pressure!”
“Why? Noah, are you-”
“Because it’s broken and I’m the frigging landlord!” Noah yelled, face still scarlet.
Andrew’s heart was pounding so hard he was sure it was visible through his bare chest. He cleared his throat. “Er, right.”
“I told Liv I’d be doing it while she was at work,” Noah continued, his voice quiet again.
Andrew nodded. “Right. I’m going to…yeah…”
He walked out the door and past Noah, who was now sitting in a kitchen chair, untying his bootlace and tugging his boot off with far more concentration than the task needed.
He went out to the living room, grabbed his clothes from the neatly folded pile beside the couch, and ducked into Olivia’s room to change. His hands trembled as he pulled on his pajamas.
Andrew took a moment to breathe once he was dressed, then walked back out. Noah was still in the kitchen.
“Oh,” he said when Andrew came in. “I left…I mean…I wasn’t sure if you were done.”
Andrew looked past him into the bathroom, where the tub was still full. The satchel floated on the surface of the water.
He cleared his throat. “Um, yeah. I’m finished.”
He went in and pulled the plug, then stepped back out of the bathroom as the water gurgled down the drain. Noah was looking out the window into the backyard. Andrew could smell his spearmint gum.
“All set,” Andrew said.
Noah jumped and turned around. They locked eyes for a second, then Noah looked away. “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll just…I’ll get on that, then get out of here.”
“I’m going to go do some work,” Andrew said awkwardly.
He’d been considering going back to the town line after taking the bath, but now the thought of trying and failing was even more draining than the idea of not knowing if it had worked at all.
“Oh, okay,” Noah said.
He turned and unlatched his toolkit, which Andrew just noticed sitting on the counter. When he lifted the lid, Andrew saw the flask sitting in it, but said nothing.
“It was for the curse,” he blurted out.
Noah turned and looked at him. “What?”
“The, um, the bath? With all the herbs? It’s supposed to be cleansing or something. Like, able to break curses. Iris gave it to me.”
“I don’t normally take fancy baths just because.”
Noah nodded, clearly not sure how to take this information. “I mean, it didn’t seem that weird,” he said. “I didn’t notice the herbs.”
His eyes widened and he turned red again as the implications of what he said sank in. “I’m going to go fix that hot water pressure now,” he said, and hurried into the bathroom.
Andrew turned and put the kettle on.