Cleo stepped into her empty apartment and closed the door behind her as she glanced around. Whoever had stayed here last definitely was getting a good rating. The place was immaculate, and even the blankets were carefully folded on the back of the couch and her chairs.
She dropped her bags, sat down on the couch, and closed her eyes. Alone for the first time in weeks. The stress of returning was knocking on the door of her mind, but she wasn’t quite ready to let it in. Breaking up with Jenna, finding a new job, everything back in New Winslow, it could all wait for a few hours.
The apartment still had that Boston apartment smell. Horsehair plaster and paint mixed with something unique in the city air. But outside of that, the homey smell was missing. The familiar scents of candles and shampoo and perfume were gone. It felt sterile, impersonal. Even with all her carefully chosen decorations still everywhere, it didn’t feel like she was really home yet.
Cleo suddenly missed the hotel rooms. Even if they were sterile, at least that was what they were supposed to be.
And at least Edie was there.
As she thought that, her phone dinged. She glanced at it.
Cleo smiled, unlocking her phone to reply.
Just walked in. You?
Staying at Tyler’s in Somerville. I’m too tired to find my car and drive home.
Three dots appeared as Edie typed something else. Cleo waited.
Miss you already.
Cleo felt tears forming in her eyes and felt ridiculous, but giddy as she responded.
I miss you too. Get some sleep.
She glanced at the clock. Eleven pm. She usually didn’t go to bed for another couple of hours. But this was way past Edie’s ideal bedtime.
Her phone buzzed.
Already in bed. Don’t stay up too late. Good night.
She set down her phone and smiled. Then her stomach rumbled and she remembered she hadn’t eaten anything since lunch at some rest stop in New York.
Cleo didn’t even bother checking the fridge. Instead, she picked her phone back up and ordered pizza. A small with spinach would get her through the night. As she placed the order, she was tempted to try and get a bottle of wine delivered too. But then she remembered she was home. Massachusetts liquor stores had already been closed for hours.
As she closed out of the delivery app, Cleo thought she should probably text one of the others back in New Winslow and let them know she’d made it back safely.
She squirmed a little as the guilt edged into her stomach. She just wanted one more night at home to pretend that everything was normal. She wanted to eat pizza, drink whatever was in the fridge, and sleep in her own bed. Then tomorrow, she’d get back to it.
Plus, it was eleven. Olivia had to be asleep by now.
Olivia was awake, lying in bed and expecting another spirit to make itself known any second. While last night hadn’t been as terrifying as seeing the specter in the general store, she was still shaken at the idea of an actual ghost in her room, communicating with her.
Could it hurt her? Or Mia? She didn’t think so. But what did she know?
She really needed to talk to Celine. Olivia didn’t have her number, but tomorrow was playgroup so she’d likely see Roman. Would he think it was weird if Olivia asked him about it? He didn’t seem like the type to really go for ghosts and magic.
Wait. She stopped her train of thought, internally rolling her eyes. Roman, who’d been under a literal spell for decades? Maybe he just might understand the unknown forces in the world.
She rolled over, closing her eyes and pulling the blankets close. The pillow beside her still smelled like Noah, which was kind of odd but kind of comforting. If anything, she would have expected the pillow and sheets to smell like whiskey, given how smashed he was and how the scent seemed to be coming out of his pores last night. But instead, she just smelled the faint scent of his shampoo. It was nice. For a moment she could imagine that they’d just gotten tired and fallen asleep there. Like the time he’d come to visit her at UMass and spent the night in the dorms.
Wait, they had both gotten extremely drunk that night. Maybe it wasn’t the best example.
Something seemed to move in the darkness beyond her eyelids. Olivia’s eyes flew open. But there was nothing there.
She wasn’t falling asleep in here tonight. Not when the memory of the man and Clarissa was still so vivid. She got up and immediately shivered in the cool night air. There was a soft blanket at the foot of the bed, so she picked it up and wrapped it around her shoulders before walking out to the living room.
Andrew was awake, reading something on the couch. She could see a spaceship on the cover and he seemed absorbed, not noticing her until she was fully in the room.
“Hey,” he said, setting the book aside but leaving his glasses on.
“Hey,” she returned, sitting down on the other end of the couch.
She shrugged, unsure if she should tell him about the ghosts. “Yeah, I just can’t sleep.”
“Any specific reason?”
She might as well tell him. Noah already knew whether he remembered their conversation last night or not. He’d been gone before she got up this morning, so she hadn’t had a chance to talk to him.
“Can I tell you something that’ll sound ridiculous?”
Andrew made a sweeping gesture. “I’m trapped in a cursed town,” he said. “You’ll have to sound pretty ridiculous.”
She laughed a little, but her face felt hot. “I’ve been seeing ghosts.”
Andrew was silent for a second. “Oh?” he said after a moment.
“Yeah. And it’s not, like, part of my depression,” she added quickly.
“Which you’ve talked to Dr. Degas about?”
She flinched and Andrew looked disapprovingly over the rim of his glasses. “I know, I know,” Olivia said. “I’m going to call tomorrow.”
“So ghosts then?”
“Yeah. I thought I was losing it, but Celine saw it too.”
“Celine Beckett? From the pizza place.”
She nodded. “But I saw one last night in my room and now I’m constantly waiting for another to pop up.”
Andrew didn’t answer right away and Olivia cringed. “You think I’m nuts, don’t you?” she said finally.
Andrew shook his head immediately. “No, no, I don’t think that at all. It’s just…ghosts?”
She shrugged. “I guess so.”
“I have no clue. One day everything was normal, the next…ghosts.”
“Yeah, the old man in the kitchen,” she finished for him. “That was a ghost.”
They sat in silence for a couple minutes. She wasn’t entirely sure he fully believed her, but he didn’t seem tense or uncomfortable about it.
“If you want to take the daybed, I can sleep out here,” Andrew said. “I don’t think I’ll be going to sleep for a little while.”
“Are you okay?”
The words were out before she could stop them. But instead of getting snippy, Andrew looked thoughtful.
“I’m okay,” he said. “Just…starting to get concerned. This is starting to feel worryingly permanent by now. Eventually my work is going to start asking questions and I have to get all my things out of my flat. And you. You don’t want me on your couch for the next…”
He faltered, as though any number that might come out of his mouth was too terrible to say out loud. “Anyway, I’ve just got a lot on my mind,” he finished.
Olivia nodded, not quite sure how to respond. “You’re welcome here as long as you need,” she said.
Andrew smiled slightly. “Thanks.”
She squeezed his knee over the blanket he was wrapped in. “If you’re sure,” she said, “then I’ll take the daybed. You’re welcome to my bed if you want. If you’re cool with the, uh, the ghosts, that is.”
Andrew laughed and picked his book back up. “I’ll take my chances out here, thanks. Good night, Liv.”
“Good night, Andrew.”
She walked into Mia’s room, which was lit with a soft pink glow. Mia was asleep in her crib with her back to the door. Olivia went over, kissed her gently, then climbed onto the daybed and laid down.
She was asleep in seconds.