New Winslow S2E4
The beauty of Keegan’s was that while there was definitely lunch service, there really wasn’t much of a lunch rush. By some miracle, Olivia was caught up on her paperwork. So she finished the last couple of orders and brought them out to the table herself. The two men, construction workers who regularly came in for lunch, thanked her politely and she made her way back toward the bar.
Noah was there, scrubbing at something under the counter. “What’s up?” Olivia asked, leaning on the bar and peering down at him.
“Old spill,” he answered gruffly, not looking up from what he was doing. “It’s something sugary and I’ve been meaning to get it cleaned.”
“Oh. Well, thanks.”
Noah nodded. He hadn’t looked up once and Olivia recognized the dismissal for what it was. Trying not to take it personally, she pushed off the bar and walked away.
Then she stopped. No, wait. Why was she just obeying his mood like that? She should try to pull him out of this funk, not enable it.
Olivia turned around and went back to where her best friend was still on his knees, scrubbing intently at a stain that had been there for at least a decade.
“Come eat,” she said.
“Not hungry, but thanks.”
“Then take a break at least.”
“I need to get this done.”
Olivia walked along the bar until she reached the end, then stepped behind it and went to stand behind Noah. She stared down at the top of his head until he froze.
“That stain’s been here longer than either of us and you know it,” she said. “Come on, take a break. Come relax with me for a few minutes.”
Noah stood up, and she was momentarily startled to find him suddenly looming over her.
“I’m fine,” he said, looking somewhere over her right shoulder. “I’m going to step outside for a few minutes.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but he walked away before she could say anything. So instead she just stood silently behind the bar.
Olivia sighed. “Hey, Charlie.”
“I guess? I mean…”
She trailed off, but Charlie nodded. “He’s not talking to me either.”
“‘Course I heard,” Charlie said, chewing absently on his thumbnail. “Rafaela wasn’t feeling good, so we weren’t there. But someone falls down drunk on the common at Christmas Eve, it’s getting around.”
“I’ve been trying to give him some space,” Olivia said, straightening up an already-straight pile of napkins. “But I don’t know when it’s too much or when I should be trying to talk to him instead. And like, he’s an adult. I can’t force him to do anything.”
Charlie opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again.
“What?” Olivia asked.
Charlie sighed, slumping his broad shoulders. “I just…it’s none of my business.”
She felt her voice getting a little more stern, like something she’d use when Mia was misbehaving. Charlie flinched, and she felt slightly guilty. But not guilty enough to drop the subject.
“I just…” Charlie started again. “I saw some nips out in the parking lot earlier. Not a lot of them. But it kind of seemed like they were hidden?”
“Empties?” Olivia asked.
Charlie shook his head and Olivia sighed. “Charlie, you should have told me anyway. Even if it’s not, you know, that. I need to know if there’s alcohol in the parking lot.”
Charlie nodded sheepishly. “Sorry, Liv,” he said. “I saw it on my way in, then forgot about it until just a minute ago.”
“It’s okay,” Olivia said.
“I’ll go clean them up.”
Olivia was about to tell him she’d go out and do it, but then one of the construction workers flagged her down from across the room. “Yeah, if you could,” she said. “And see if Noah’s still out there.”
Charlie nodded and grabbed the broom and dustpan from under the counter. He walked outside, squinting as the afternoon sun bounced off the snow. The bottles had been tucked under a bush by the side of the building earlier that morning, so he made his way back over in that direction.
As he turned the corner, he saw Noah leaning against the side of the building, head tilted back against the wall.
“Hey Charlie,” he said as Charlie approached.
“What do you need?”
“Just cleaning up the parking lot.”
He gestured to the broom and dustpan in his hand, and Noah nodded. “Great, thanks,” he said.
Charlie started sweeping up cigarette butts that had been tossed carelessly onto the pavement. “How’s the house coming along?” he asked, making his way toward the bushes with the broom in what he hoped was a completely casual way.
Noah shrugged, looking straight ahead. “It’s coming,” he said.
Charlie nodded, dipping the broom underneath the bush. He swept a crumpled coffee cup, some wrappers, and a few small bottles into the dustpan. “Good, good,” he said. “Let me know if you have anything you need help with. Photos of that stone wall in your yard have actually gotten me some extra work.”
Noah smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Great. Yeah, I’ll let you know.”
“You okay, bud?”
Noah closed his eyes. “I’m fine, Charlie.”
Charlie knew he wasn’t always the most sensitive person, but he could tell now wasn’t the time to push. “Cool. I’m going to head back in.”
Noah didn’t answer as Charlie walked away with his full dustpan. He went back into the building, where Olivia was waiting at the bar.
“Did you find them?” she asked.
Charlie nodded, walking around the bar. Olivia met him at the large trash can in the entrance to the back room.
“They’re full,” Charlie said, reaching into the mess and pulling out a nip of whiskey. He lifted it up and looked at it thoughtfully.
“Just chuck them,” Olivia said. “We don’t know whose they are. Anyone could have left them there.”
She walked away, leaving Charlie standing over the trash bin.