Cleo left the next day. She hugged Andrew, trying her best not to see the naked envy in his eyes, an envy he was clearly trying desperately to hide.
“I’ll come back before-“
“You absolutely will not,” Andrew interrupted. “You’re leaving on tour in what, a week? Don’t you dare come back and risk getting stuck as well. Go play your show and get ready. I’ll see you when you get back.”
His voice broke a little near the end and Cleo felt tears prick her eyes. She reached out to hug him and he stepped easily into her arms.
“We’ll fix it,” she promised. “I’m so sorry.”
He squeezed her tightly. “I know. It’s not your fault.”
“If I hadn’t-“
“I’m a grown man and I made the decision to come back,” Andrew said. “Besides, it’s not like I came back selflessly, you know?”
Cleo laughed a little shakily. “Yeah, that’s true. Speaking of, I’ll get that to you soon. Before I leave on tour.”
Andrew nodded. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
Olivia walked out of the house a second later and Cleo embraced her, hard. “Thank you so much for everything, Liv,” she said.
“Have an amazing tour,” Olivia replied. “Take care of yourself. And I want to see pictures!”
Cleo laughed. “Absolutely! All the pictures of diners and shitty motels you can handle.”
Olivia laughed too, letting go of her. “I haven’t seen Noah yet today, did you see him?” she asked.
Cleo shook her head. “I was going to go up and see if he was home.”
“I think he is,” Olivia said, glancing back at the front door.
Cleo walked inside and walked up the dim staircase. The morning sunlight filtered through the stained glass window between the first and the second landing, laying faint reds and greens across the wall.
Noah’s door was blank, unlike Olivia’s cheerfully wreathed door downstairs. Cleo knocked.
“Hey, Noah?” she called.
No answer. She knocked again. “Noah? I’m heading out.”
There were footsteps, then the door opened. Noah stood there in the clothes he’d been wearing the night before. He was still unshaven, and Cleo couldn’t quite tell if he’d actually slept or not. Gray Lady weaved between his legs and he nudged her silently back into the apartment.
“I’m leaving,” Cleo said, holding her arms out.
After a second’s hesitation, he hugged her. She tried not to notice the stale alcohol smell clinging to him. “I’ll see you after my tour,” she said, looking up at his face.
He was looking anywhere but at her. “Yeah, have a good time.”
“Thanks. Um, take care of yourself.”
He nodded, still not looking her in the eye. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll do that.”
She was tempted to say to take care of Andrew as well, but she didn’t want to stir that particular pot. Neither she nor Olivia knew what had happened last night. Just that they’d gone inside to make tea, then come back out to Andrew sitting alone by the fire. He’d just shrugged and said he didn’t know what had happened.
She looked up into Noah’s face for another moment, trying to catch his eye. Finally, he unintentionally looked at her.
She squeezed his hands. “I’ll see you soon,” she said, looking him directly in the eye.
He finally smiled. It was small, but she’d take the triumph. “It’s good to see you, Cleo,” he said, his voice raspy.
“You too, Noah.”
She let go, dropping her arms to her sides. Then she winked, turned around, and walked downstairs.
Jamie stormed into the boys’ locker room, letting the door slam shut behind him. Several of his teammates sat on the benches, eating snacks or on their phones. They looked up as he came in. Jason was among them.
“What the fuck, man?” Jamie demanded as he reached Jason.
“What?” Jason said, looking up from his phone.
“Have you assholes really been calling my dad to order pizzas over the town line?”
A couple of the guys snickered, and Jason smirked. “Yeah, I guess we did,” he said.
He took a sip of his energy drink and Jamie slammed it out of his hand. It hit the floor, spraying everywhere.
Jason shot up from the bench, stunned. “What the fuck, Beckett?”
“Why’d you do it?”
“It was a joke, dude, lighten up. We thought it’d be funny. It’s not like we were being serious about it. It didn’t mean anything.”
Jamie’s face was burning. He clenched his fists, trying to resist the urge to punch Jason.
“He thought it was me,” he said, somehow keeping his voice even. “My dad thought I was doing it too.”
“Just tell him you weren’t.”
This wasn’t going to work. He didn’t get it. Jamie shook his head, his anger turning into disgust as he walked away.
“Beckett!” Jason called after him. “Come on, man, don’t be mad! It was just a joke!”
Dad was home when Jamie got back from practice. That wasn’t anything particularly strange. Mom and Dad tended to work opposite hours at the shop. But what was weird was the way Dad seemed to be sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him.
“Hi Dad,” Jamie said, dropping his backpack in an empty chair.
“Hey, bud,” Dad said. “Hey, sit down for a sec.”
Jamie sat and Dad looked at him. He squirmed a little. Was this still about the other night?
“I just got a call from your coach,” Dad said finally. “He said you got in a fight in the locker room before practice?”
Crap, Jamie had forgotten the coach’s office was in there. He must’ve seen everything.
“Dad-” he started, but Dad held up a hand.
“I know, you and Jason didn’t actually fight-fight,” he said. “But the coach said he heard you yelling about the phone calls.”
“I swear it wasn’t me, Dad! I swear I’d never-”
“I believe you, Jamie,” Dad said. “I told you the other night I believed you. Why do you think I don’t?”
“You were still so mad,” Jamie said. “You said that, but you sounded so mad that there was no way you actually meant it.”
“I did,” Dad said. This should have been encouraging, but Dad sounded so tired. “I know it wasn’t you. But you can’t go getting in trouble at school over this. Sometimes people are going to be shitty and you can’t sink to their level and let them win. It’s hard, I know. But it’s important. And it’s something I struggle with too.”
Jamie was trying not to smile at the fact that his dad had just casually sworn in front of him. He nodded.
“Go get a snack and start your homework,” Dad said. “I’m heading to work in a few.”
Jamie got up and started heading toward the pantry. “Oh, and Jamie?”
Jamie turned around and Dad smiled at him.