Olivia was making tacos tonight. She browned the beef, breaking it down in her cast-iron skillet over the stove as the radio played. The station was a little staticky, but not bad enough to be worth going over and changing it. Plus it was Sinatra Hour, so the static added some charm.
She heard Mia giggling in the living room and smiled. Andrew was in there with her and last she’d seen, he was giving Mia pony rides around the room. Judging by the gleeful laugh, followed by his own, he was still doing so.
He’d been trapped in New Winslow for six weeks now. Nothing he and Iris had tried had come even close to getting him out, and the curse showed no signs of letting up on its own. She knew the apartment sale had fallen through, but he seemed surprisingly okay with things right now, though he was very open about the fact that he was planning to leave the second he could.
She knew he had trouble sleeping some nights. She’d wake up to change Mia in the middle of the night and find him sitting on the couch, reading a book. She’d asked him about it once, he’d said he was fine, and she’d picked up the meaning and never asked again.
She texted Noah again to let him know she was making tacos. He’d been outside all afternoon, repairing the railing on the staircase up to his apartment. It had seemed fine to her, but he clearly disagreed. For hours she’d heard him hammering out there, but now it was quiet.
She started chopping tomatoes, and then her phone buzzed.
She squinted at the text for a second. That was…a strange text for him. Not that Noah was overly concerned with grammar in texts, but this was incoherent.
She glanced outside. It wasn’t completely dark yet, but the shadows were long across the yard.
A few minutes later, Olivia was setting the food on the table. She and Andrew had just started eating when the back door opened and Noah staggered in.
“Heyyy,” he said, walking unsteadily into the kitchen.
Olivia stood up as he made his way toward the table. He gave her a sloppy grin and swept her into a wobbly dance to the music crackling out of the radio.
She laughed a little as he dipped her, then pulled her up and staggered backward, still holding on and nearly tipping them to the floor.
“Strangers in the niiiiight…da da da glances,” he sang along to the radio as he let go of her and gripped the table for support.
“Everything okay, mate?” Andrew asked.
Noah looked over at him and his face softened in a way Olivia hadn’t seen in a decade. He walked over and pulled Andrew to his feet, leading him in that same clumsy dance. He sang along to the music, missing most of the words, then attempted to twirl Andrew and fell into his arms instead.
Andrew staggered backward and Noah started laughing.
“Hey, how about you sit down and eat something?” Olivia said, pulling Noah to his feet.
He looked fuzzily at her. “God, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Noah looked over at Mia, who was giggling at him. “I love her so much,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m not good for her.”
He started to walk out of the room. Andrew and Olivia exchanged a look, then both followed him to the doorway.
Noah stood in the middle of the living room, gazing out the window. But with the lights on, the entire room was reflected back, making it impossible to see out. Instead, Olivia could see the three of them in the frosted window.
“Noah?” Olivia said, gently laying a hand on his elbow.
He looked at her and smiled. “I’m going to go finish fixing the…the railing,” he said.
“Come eat something first,” Olivia said, steering him back to the kitchen.
“I’m not hungry,” he murmured as they passed Andrew.
“You need something in your stomach.”
They went back into the kitchen and sat down at the table. Andrew sat down on Noah’s other side.
Noah clumsily scooped some meat, cheese, and tomatoes onto a plate while the other two went back to their food.
Olivia reached over and dropped a few small pieces of avocado onto Mia’s tray. Mia looked apprehensive as she poked at it.
“Try it,” Olivia encouraged with a smile.
She picked up two pieces of avocado and popped one in her mouth. Then she placed the other on Mia’s sticky palm.
“Yum yum,” Olivia said, swallowing the avocado.
Mia crammed the piece in her mouth and giggled.
“There you go!”
Olivia turned at the sound of Andrew’s voice. “Hmm?”
She looked beside her. “Oh.”
Noah was asleep with his head on the table. His food hadn’t been touched and Andrew was watching him with an expression Olivia couldn’t quite place.