“Look, you may not give a shit, but we do.”
Andrew couldn’t remember a time he’d ever been this angry at Noah. All he’d planned on doing was bringing the garbage out to the side yard. But then he’d nearly tripped over Noah as the other man was sitting in the grass in the backyard, barely holding himself upright. The smell of whiskey coming off of him made Andrew’s eyes water, and he’d stopped before he quite realized what he was doing.
“You know what you’re doing to Olivia, right?” Andrew demanded, standing over Noah. “There’s no way you don’t know. You’re not stupid.”
“She shouldn’t care,” Noah muttered, his gaze sliding right over Andrew and back up toward the darkening sky. “Tell her to stop caring.”
“Just like you did?” Andrew asked. “Because it’s so easy, right?”
He sat down next to Noah, wincing a little as the wet grass soaked through the seat of his pants. “Noah,” he started. “You need to stop. You’re hurting yourself.”
There, he’d said it. Maybe not as eloquently as he’d practiced in his head while he lay awake late at night. But he’d said it. Maybe hearing it from someone else would have some kind of positive impact on Noah right now.
Then Noah shrugged. “I really don’t care.”
He took a swig of whiskey from his ever-present flask. Andrew clenched his fist and took a breath, barely resisting the urge to slap it out of Noah’s hand. “You’re fucking unbelievable, you know that?” Andrew snapped. “We’re trying to help you, all of us are. Why won’t you take the fucking help?”
“I don’t want your help!”
Noah tried to stand and immediately fell, landing on his back. “I don’t…need your help,” he said, breathing heavily.
Andrew let out a bitter laugh. “No?”
Noah pulled himself back up into a seated position and shook his head. “You think I haven’t tried?” he asked, looking at Andrew with bloodshot eyes. “You think I didn’t try to stop? I’ve tried so many times and I can’t do it.”
“Then let us help you,” Andrew said, his voice shaking with the urgency he suddenly felt.
This might be his in. If he could keep Noah focused on this, on the idea of stopping. This might be his chance to get something past Noah’s booze-soaked barriers.
“You don’t get it,” Noah said. “There’s no point, nothing’s going to change.”
He shook his head and reached for his flask again. He unscrewed the top, then paused and looked at Andrew. “You know the only reason I haven’t killed myself?” he asked, voice soft.
Andrew’s stomach dropped. “Noah…” he started.
“Don’t look at me like that, I’m telling you why I haven’t done it, not that I’m gonna,” Noah said, waving a hand. “The only reason I haven’t killed myself and just gotten it over with is because I own the house. It’s all in my name and the mortgage isn’t going to be completely paid off anytime soon.”
Andrew stared at him. Noah sounded so reasonable, but nothing about this made sense.
“I know Liv can’t cover it,” Noah continued, sounding almost sober. “And if the bank takes it, she and Mia will be homeless.”
Noah laughed and took a shot. “Might as well stick around until that’s taken care of, right?”
Andrew had no idea how to respond to that. But Noah stood up and stumbled away before he could figure it out.
“I need to talk to you two.”
Olivia and Cleo were sitting in the living room. Mia was watching some kids’ movie while they sat on the couch, half watching and half scrolling on their phones. Both looked up when Andrew walked in.
Olivia noticed he looked paler than usual. He’d just been taking out the trash. What could have shaken him like that?
“Listen,” he said. “I spoke to Noah-”
“Oh?” Olivia said, raising an eyebrow. “You actually saw him?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Liv, I’m really concerned. Not just about the drinking. I’m worried he’s going to hurt himself. Intentionally.”
Olivia felt her irritation sharply pushed aside by something else. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“I mean, he was talking about killing himself. But, not exactly. More in a, why he hasn’t done it yet sort of way.”
“Did he say why not?”
She felt awful wording it like that. This was suicide, not passing on a job opportunity. Beside her, Cleo looked like she might throw up.
Andrew hesitated for a second. Then he sighed. “I doubt he wants you to know, but I also doubt he even remembers telling me. He said he hasn’t done it because the bank might take the house and kick you and Mia out.”
She could hear a dull screaming in her ears and briefly wondered if it was coming from her, if she was actually screaming, and if Andrew and Cleo could hear it.
“What do we do?” she finally asked.
He sat down on her other side. “I have no bloody clue. I’m scared, Liv.”
“So what options do we have?” Andrew asked.
It was about an hour later. Mia was in bed, chatting with her stuffed rabbit. Her cheerful babble floated through the open door of her bedroom, a distinct contrast to the tension in the living room.
Cleo sighed, rubbing a hand over her eyes. “Considering all of us have approached him and it hasn’t worked, I’m guessing an intervention wouldn’t work either. And if we can’t even get him to talk to us, he’s not going to listen if we try to get him into therapy.”
“What about his family?” Andrew asked. “Has anyone heard from Erin? Or his mom?”
“Considering his mother didn’t come back when his dad was dying, I don’t think she’s going to care that her son has a drinking problem,” Olivia said, her voice more bitter than Andrew had ever heard it. “We could try, but my guess is she won’t have anything more than a passing thought to give.”
“Maybe Erin though?” Cleo said. “I know they’re not that close, but…”
Andrew vaguely knew Noah’s older sister. She was about ten years older than Noah, so she’d moved out of New Winslow well before Andrew and his family had arrived. He knew that they got along well, but they didn’t seem to have a particularly strong bond.
“It might be worth trying,” Olivia agreed.
“And maybe…maybe his mom?” Cleo said. “I don’t know. Maybe she’d care more about her kid than her ex-husband, you know? She’s not a bad person.”
Neither Olivia nor Andrew jumped to agree with her. After all, Mrs. Kelly had left her family and moved halfway across the country, keeping minimal contact with her children and no contact with her ex-husband. Olivia’s own father had done essentially the same thing, so Andrew wasn’t surprised by Olivia’s apparent skepticism.
“I’ll run it by Erin and see what she thinks,” Olivia said.
She sighed, squeezing her eyes shut. “This really sucks.”