Olivia stood in line at the New Winslow House of Pizza, wondering if this was a mistake. It was one thing to talk ghosts when neither of them were working and both in a neutral place. It was an entirely different thing when she was invading Celine’s workplace.
Not to talk right now, she tried to reason with herself. To ask if it would be alright to talk later on. And she didn’t have Celine’s phone number, after all. So this was the only way she could reach her.
Plus, Mia loved pizza. So this was a convenient excuse to pick up pizza for dinner for the two of them and whichever friends happened to be around. Andrew was likely to be there if he wasn’t at Iris’s. Cleo tended to be in town a little more these days, maybe she’d drop in. And Noah…
She’d rather just not think about it.
She rolled Mia’s stroller back and forth absently as she waited in line. Mia chewed on her fingers and reached for the brightly colored chip bags on the rack beside them.
Roman was running the cash register when she reached the front of the line. “Hi,” she said, trying to push down her nerves.
He leaned over the counter and smiled at Mia. “Hi Mia,” he said, waving. “What can I get you two?”
“Um, two large cheese pizzas, please. And an order of fries. Um, small.”
Roman punched the order into the register. “Anything else?”
“No, that’s it. Um, to go.”
He took her credit card and ran it through the machine, then handed her a receipt and a pen. “I actually was wondering if Celine is working tonight,” Olivia said as she scribbled down her signature.
“No, she’s home with the kids,” Roman said as he picked up the receipt and slid it under the counter. “Why? What’s up?”
“I just had a couple questions to ask her,” Olivia said, suddenly conscious of how much she was shifting around.
“Sorry,” Roman said, and he looked like he meant it. “Anything I can help with?”
“No,” she said. Then glancing around, she added in a lower voice, “It’s, um, ghost related?”
Olivia cringed, waiting for Roman to roll his eyes. But instead, he just nodded.
“Seems to be the theme of the week,” he said.
He pulled out a scrap of paper and a pen and handed them to her. “Give me your number and I’ll pass it on to her.”
“Thank you so much,” Olivia said, writing down her phone numbers. “I don’t have cell service all the time at home so I put both my cell and landline.”
“Perfect, I’ll give that to her tonight.”
Roman tucked the paper into his pocket. “Anything else I can do for you?”
He smiled broadly and for a second, she was almost flustered. She smiled back, then took her copy of the receipt.
“Give us fifteen minutes on the pizza,” Roman said. “I’ll call you up.”
“Baby, what’s wrong?”
Shit, she’d thought Edie was asleep. Cleo quickly wiped her eyes and looked up at Edie, who was standing in the kitchen doorway, squinting in the dim light. “Nothing,” she lied.
Even she wasn’t able to convince herself that it sounded real and not like she’d been crying for the past half an hour.
Edie stepped into the room, their sheer bathrobe shifting over the sleep shorts and tank top they’d worn to bed. They wrapped their arms around Cleo, who closed her eyes and leaned against Edie’s warm stomach.
“Cleo,” Edie said softly, running a hand through her hair. “What’s going on?”
She sighed and sniffed. “It’s just…I’m so tired.”
She half expected Edie to try to bring her to bed at such an obvious statement. But instead they let go and pulled out the chair next to Cleo. They sat down, gripping Cleo’s hand.
“You’re working too hard,” Edie said.
They said it neutrally, no trace of judgment or pity. Cleo nodded. There was no point in denying it.
“But I have to,” she said. “I quit my job and I can’t find another one. If I don’t work as much as I do, I’m going to get evicted.”
“And I’m spending every hour I’m not here or at my mom’s working shifts. And when I’m at my mom’s, I’m too stressed to enjoy our time together and we just fight over her memory anyway. And Andrew’s still stuck. And every time I go there I risk getting stuck too. I don’t know what to do, Edie.”
“How much time is left on your lease?”
That wasn’t what Cleo had expected to hear. She thought for a second. “It’s the end of September,” she said. “So a little under three more months.”
“Would you consider going somewhere else?”
“I don’t think there’s anything cheaper in Boston, honestly.”
Edie was silent for a second. Cleo sniffed. Her eyes were still stinging a little, but she felt like maybe she was done crying for now.
“I guess I just keep applying for jobs,” she said. “This is temporary. I just have to suck it up for a little while longer.”
“Hopefully something comes along soon,” Edie said.
They leaned over and kissed Cleo softly on the temple. “I want to help,” they said. “Cleo, you mean so much to me. I know it hasn’t been that long, but anything I can do to make things easier, please just tell me.”
Cleo closed her eyes and squeezed Edie’s hand. “Thank you,” she said, unsure what else to say. “That means a lot to me.”
They sat quietly for a moment in the dim kitchen. Then Edie yawned. “Back to bed?” they asked.
“Yeah,” Cleo said. “Yeah, I think I could sleep now.”
Without letting go of Cleo’s hand, Edie stood up, then tugged Cleo to her feet. Cleo was a head taller than Edie, but Edie pulled her up easily. “Come on,” they said. “Let’s get some sleep. I’ll make us breakfast in the morning before you leave. What time’s your shift?”
“I signed up for a ten AM,” Cleo said. “But it’s in Boston, so I’ll have to head out a little early.”
“That’s no problem,” Edie said. “I’m working at nine-thirty, so we’ll head out at the same time.”
Cleo’s stomach was still heavy at the thought of working tomorrow, but it felt a little lighter just being here with Edie for tonight.