The phone rang behind the bar as Noah was carrying out a rack of clean glasses. He set it down and picked up the receiver. “Keegan’s Pub, this is Noah speaking,” he greeted. “How can I help you?”
“Is Charlie there?”
The speaker was a woman. She sounded scared or like she was in pain. Noah frowned.
“Yeah, hang on.”
He cupped the receiver against his chest. “Hey, Charlie! Phone.”
Charlie moved from his position by the door with a speed Noah had never seen from the younger man. He snatched the phone from Noah’s hand before he’d even stopped moving.
“Hello?” he said, then paused. “Okay, how long ago? Okay, it’s okay, babe. How far apart are the contractions?” Pause. “Okay. Okay, I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. I love you.”
He hung up the phone, then looked wide-eyed at Noah, who was looking at him with the same expression. Then he darted out back.
Olivia had been dumping an order in the fryolator when the door swung open and Charlie rushed in, eyes wide and face pale. She jumped and dropped the frozen fries, scattering them across the floor.
“Ah! Charlie, what-”
“I need to go!” Charlie said. “Rafaela just called. Her water broke.”
“Go!” Olivia exclaimed, pointing toward the door with the tongs in her hand.
Charlie froze for a second and looked at her, his eyes bright. “The baby’s coming,” he said, voice awe-struck.
“It’s going to go fine,” Olivia said, taking a few steps towards him. “Now go. Send Rafaela our love, then don’t even think about this place until everything settles down.”
Charlie nodded a little frantically, then bolted out of the bar.
Olivia’s phone rang at about nine the next morning as she was putting on her makeup. She picked it up. “Hello?”
“Yes! Rafaela had the baby!”
Olivia felt her face split into a huge grin. “Congratulations!” she exclaimed, setting down her mascara brush and standing up.
“Edward Rafael Gulbenkian,” Charlie said, his voice simultaneously proud, choked up, and exhausted.
“That’s beautiful,” Olivia said. “How’s Rafaela?”
“Exhausted,” Charlie said. “They’re both sleeping, so I wanted to call a few people.”
“Well, congratulations,” Olivia said. “Go get some rest too.”
“I got four more people to call and then I will! Bye!”
Before Olivia could respond, Charlie hung up. Olivia took a second to sit quietly. A new baby.
She should go let Noah know.
Olivia scooped up Mia, who was playing with a makeup brush beside her. She headed out of the door and up the stairs to Noah’s apartment.
She knocked, slightly hesitant to open the door after. Six months ago she should have thought nothing of it.
Noah opened the door a few seconds later. He looked like he’d just woken up with his hair everywhere and eyes bleary.
“Hey,” he said. “What’s up?”
“Um, Rafaela had the baby.”
“Hey! That’s awesome!” Noah said, rubbing his face. “And everything was good?”
“Yeah,” Olivia said. “She and the baby are both healthy and I could hear Charlie beaming over the phone.”
Noah smiled and shook his head.
“Owa?” Mia said.
They both looked at her. She was trying to squirm out of Olivia’s grip, holding her arms out to Noah. “Owa!”
Noah took her little hand, but didn’t pull her over to him. They stood awkwardly in the doorway for a moment.
“Anyway, that’s all,” Olivia said after a second. “I figured I should let you know.”
“Thanks, yeah,” Noah said, nodding and still holding Mia’s hand.
“I’ll um, I’ll leave you alone,” Olivia said, snatching Mia as she tried to slide out of Olivia’s grip.
Noah’s face fell. “Liv-”
Whatever he’d been about to say was interrupted by Mia’s indignant shriek. Olivia pulled her tighter and Noah let go of her hand.
She gave Noah an awkward smile, then turned and headed back downstairs, throat suddenly tight.
And just like that, five weeks had gone by and tour was over. It was the last night on the road and, as usual, Tyler was driving while Ryan dozed in the front seat. Edie and Cleo sat in the middle seat, with their laundry and luggage taking up the far back.
Cleo glanced over at Edie, who was reading something on their phone. Their short black hair kept falling in their face and every time, Edie would grimace and push it back behind their ear. After three or four times of this, they finally caught Cleo looking at them.
“What?” Edie asked, a smile visible on their face in the passing streetlights.
Cleo felt a similar smile spread over her face. “Hmm?”
She didn’t know exactly why she’d been staring, just that something in Edie’s face had captivated her.
“So, home tomorrow,” Edie said softly.
“Last night in the hotels.”
“It’s been fun.”
“Ready for your own bed?”
Cleo laughed. “Yeah,” she admitted.
“Same here,” Edie said. “Depending what time we get back tomorrow, I might just crash at Tyler’s place before I drive home though.”
Cleo frowned. “I thought you lived in Boston,” she said.
Edie laughed. “No way, I can’t afford Boston rents,” she said. “I live in Fitchburg.”
Cleo felt her stomach drop a little. “That’s…far.”
Edie shrugged. “Not really,” they said. “An hour maybe. Aren’t you from out there?”
“A little further out,” Cleo said. “Out past Worcester. But I don’t go back much.”
“Because of the curse?”
Cleo glanced up front, but neither of the guys seemed to have heard. “Yeah,” she said. “Just the idea of getting stuck there…”
Like Andrew is right now, a nasty part of her whispered. And now you’re heading back to Boston and you don’t plan on going back to New Winslow at all, do you?
She hadn’t decided yet. Or, she knew she would go back. It was just a matter of when. Would she go straight back like she really felt like she should? Dive right back into life in New Winslow, contained, stressful, and miserable, right after having a life-altering five weeks of freedom on the road? Maybe it would be fine if she took a few days at home first. Maybe a couple weeks?
And leave Andrew alone there.
Andrew was fine, she told herself. He’s got Olivia and Noah. And Mia, he adores her.
His lease was coming up in a few months. She wondered what he was going to do now that his apartment was sold and there was a chance he would still be stuck in New Winslow when the day came.
Her thoughts were broken by the feeling of Edie’s head resting gently on her shoulder. She glanced over, heart suddenly pounding.
“You mind?” Edie asked, already clearly comfortable. “I’m tired and I’m too far from the window to rest my head there.”
“Wha-yeah, of course, yeah. I mean, no, I don’t mind.”
She could smell Edie’s shampoo, a strawberry scent with the cut of something herbal in it, and resisted the urge to touch their shiny hair.
“So, Fitchburg?” she said, trying to distract herself from how good Edie’s presence felt.
“Yeah,” Edie said, eyes closed. “By the airport. It’s cheap and I’m never there, so it works out well.”
“Just busy at work,” Edie said. “I do a lot of overtime.”
Cleo suddenly realized she had no idea what Edie did for a living. Had they told her at some point? Or had that information never come up, the same way where Edie lived never had?
“What do you do?” Cleo asked, bracing herself to get called out.
“I’m a security guard,” Edie said, her voice light, eyes still closed.
Well, that wasn’t what Cleo had been expecting.
“Mmm. I’m going to quit soon though.”
She felt Edie shift softly against her as they fell asleep. Cleo settled back, carefully steering Edie’s head with her so that they wouldn’t fall.
She glanced up front to see Tyler watching in the rearview mirror and smiling.