It was quiet at Keegan’s. Not that this was unusual for a Tuesday afternoon, but the quiet itself was almost distracting. With not a single customer in the store and everything beyond the usual paperwork done, the silence pressed down on Olivia as she sat at her desk in the back room.
She and Noah were the only people on right now. Bret had some staff coming in to cover for Charlie’s paternity leave, but they wouldn’t be in for a few hours. This paperwork, which she usually breezed through, felt impossible as Olivia stared at the screen of her ancient laptop. She couldn’t seem to focus on the words on the screen, typing a couple numbers, copying a few lines, then spacing out.
Then she’d refocus and realize five minutes had gone by.
She needed to get up and walk, she realized. Get some blood flowing. Maybe then she would wake up, shake the fog out of her brain, and feel awake and motivated for the first time in months.
That was a lot of faith to put into a short walk, but miracles had occurred before.
She stood up and stretched, reaching her fingers up to the low, sloping ceiling. She could almost touch it in the little alcove she’d claimed as her office. Noah didn’t even bother going in there because he’d hit his head so many times.
He hadn’t said a word to her today. Olivia arrived at ten and he’d showed up a couple hours later for his noon to midnight shift. She heard him come in and hang up his coat, but either he hadn’t seen her or he’d ignored her. And considering the fact that he hadn’t spoken to her in days, she was going to assume he was still ignoring her.
Which hurt. And pissed her off. She should confront him, shouldn’t she? But even the idea of it felt too massive and exhausting and she knew she wouldn’t be able to do it. So instead she stayed away and tried to focus on her work.
But now she stepped out onto the floor and spotted Noah in the far corner, wiping down the ancient jukebox. That was odd. She wasn’t sure she’d ever actually thought to wash it. Or even knew how to do so. But maybe he was done with his tasks and killing time.
Or not. She glanced behind the bar. There was an entire rack of glasses to be put away, and the liquor bottles were haphazardly placed on the back shelf. That was so unlike him. But really, he’d changed so much in the past few months that it was hard to say if that was the case anymore.
She started walking over toward him and, hearing her footsteps echoing through the room, he looked up from what he was doing.
“Hey,” she said, trying to smile.
He wouldn’t meet her eyes. Did he just not want anything to do with her anymore? Two weeks ago he’d been dancing her around the kitchen and sloppily declaring his love. Had it just been drunken bullshit?
And if he was embarrassed by it, why did he keep drinking?
“What’s up?” she asked, leaning against the wall beside the jukebox.
She gave him a couple seconds of silence. “Everything-”
“Everything’s fine,” he said sharply.
Right. There it was.
“Okay,” she whispered around her suddenly dry throat.
He looked like he was about to say something else, but she turned and walked away before he could.
Noah watched Olivia leave, his head throbbing. He’d been trying to avoid drinking at work. Maybe a nip or two behind the building, but not at the bar where someone might see. But today he might have to if he was going to make it until midnight.
Olivia didn’t look right. And she hadn’t fought him when he’d gone with his first impulse and snapped at her for simply asking if he was okay. Instead, her whole body had just sort of sagged. He’d been about to apologize, but she’d turned and walked away.
Probably for the better, honestly. Something was up with her lately. He’d hear her walking around late at night. Then one night he’d been about to get in the shower and had heard her crying through the vents. He’d considered going downstairs to talk to her, but had been hammered and forgotten pretty much immediately. But then it happened a few more times over the next couple weeks.
And he still hadn’t checked on her. He hadn’t asked or shown any concern, not like she had for him. And while he found it frustrating and overbearing at times, he also always knew that he had her in his corner.
For the first time in a long time, Noah wondered if she felt that same security with him.
Not anymore, he realized. Maybe at one point she had, maybe even pretty recently. But in the few months since he’d decided, screw it, he wasn’t giving up drinking, he’d given her plenty of reasons to think that she couldn’t rely on him anymore.
He wanted to go in there and tell her he was there for her. That whatever was wrong, he would help her with it. But that would only make things worse, wouldn’t it? And him being a shitty friend was probably a large part of why she was so tired and depressed.
So instead he went over to the bar, poured a shot, and tossed it back.
The headache didn’t ease. Not even a little. After giving it a couple minutes, he threw back another. That ought to at least make a dent.
Then he went back to work cleaning the jukebox.