New Winslow S3E34
The next night, Andrew was sitting alone on the front step, watching the sunset. Cleo was back again tonight after driving a delivery shift in Worcester, and they’d just had a quiet dinner at Olivia’s. Andrew understood that Cleo was distressed about her mother and overwhelmed in general right now, but he was starting to get frustrated by the cagey way she looked at him when she thought he couldn’t see. Like she felt guilty that she had the option to leave and he didn’t.
He didn’t need that. He had enough guilt of his own right now that he didn’t feel like he needed to feel guilty about her guilt. And if he brought it up, it’d just cause a fight. So instead, he had slipped outside and was now taking a few minutes alone as the sun went down.
The door opened behind him and Noah walked out, absently swinging a hammer and oblivious to his presence. He walked past Andrew, then jumped, startled.
“Sorry,” Andrew said. “Didn’t try to scare you.”
Noah was looking anywhere but at him. “It’s fine,” he said. “Bye.”
He started to walk away and Andrew felt a sudden impulse to keep talking to him. He seemed, if not sober, at least stable.
“Wait, where are you heading?” he asked.
“Got some work to do, and my supplies are in my truck,” Noah replied.
“Want a hand?” Andrew offered.
“No, I’ve got it. But thanks.”
He still hadn’t looked at Andrew. Andrew tried not to let it bother him. It failed, but he did try.
Andrew stood up to go inside. But as his foot hit the step, a tiny toy car he hadn’t seen a moment ago sent him flying backwards. There was a bright flash of pain as his ankle bent awkwardly beneath him and he went down hard, hitting his head on the walkway.
Noah was at his side in a second. “Fuck, fuck, are you okay?”
Andrew nodded as he sat up. He brushed his fingers against the tender spot where his head had hit the pavement. No blood.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Do you think you can walk?” Noah asked.
He tried to get to his feet, but a white-hot bolt of pain shot through his ankle the second he put pressure on it and he went back down hard.
“Fuck,” Noah muttered again as Andrew groaned.
His eyes were squeezed shut as Noah pulled him up and placed one of his arms around his own shoulder. He opened the front door, then slowly steered Andrew toward Olivia’s apartment door.
They stepped inside, the smell of leftover stir fry and strawberry bubble bath reaching Andrew as he kept his eyes tightly closed. He couldn’t even remember the last time Noah had been in here, but Noah didn’t seem at all tense as he moved Andrew toward the couch.
Olivia appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Noah?” she said, her voice laced with caution.
Then she seemed to notice the rest of the situation. “Oh shit, what happened?”
“I slipped on a toy car,” Andrew said as Noah laid him on the couch with uncharacteristic gentleness.
Olivia came over as Noah stepped back toward the door. She started unlacing Andrew’s shoes. A hiss of pain from Andrew and she moved much slower, gingerly pulling the shoe off his injured foot.
“Can you wiggle your toes?” Olivia asked, examining Andrew’s foot.
He could. That was a relief, Andrew realized. He wouldn’t have to worry about getting to the hospital or what Dr. Degas and her staff might or might not be able to fix.
He closed his eyes and heard Noah explaining everything to Olivia, his voice a little scratchy, but soothing in its familiarity.
That same voice had told him to fuck off last night. What the hell was wrong with Andrew?
He felt Olivia slide a pillow under his ankle. “I’ve got some ice packs and ace bandages in the first aid kit,” she said. “Cleo, do you mind grabbing that?”
Cleo had apparently come in while his eyes were closed. “Andrew, are you okay?” Olivia said, nudging him.
He opened his eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“He hit his head,” Noah said softly from near the doorway.
“Shit,” Olivia muttered. “You forgot to mention that, Andrew.”
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “I didn’t hit it that hard.”
“Just stay awake for a little while.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I can do that.”
Andrew looked over at Noah, who seemed to be trying to make a break for it. “Thanks,” he said.
Noah shifted awkwardly. “No problem,” he said. “I’m gonna go.”
Olivia’s voice held a tinge of desperation that Andrew had never heard before. She clearly heard it too, because he could see her cheeks flush, but she kept her gaze on Noah.
Noah was frozen in place. He looked like he wanted to bolt, but instead his eyes were locked on Olivia’s. “Just for a little while,” she continued. “Just stay with us for a little while.”
Noah opened his mouth to respond, but Cleo started steering him toward the empty recliner before he could say anything. He sat down, looking confused about how he’d gotten there. He then made eye contact with Andrew and looked away immediately. But in that second, Andrew could see that Noah’s eyes looked clearer than they had a while.
Was he sober? Andrew knew that asking was the quickest way to get Noah to immediately leave the apartment, so he kept the thought to himself. Meanwhile, Cleo moved over to Andrew. She held his head in place as she looked into his eyes.
“You seem fine?” she said a little uncertainly. “Your pupils are fine. So I don’t think you got a concussion? But let’s keep an eye on it tonight.”
Andrew smiled. “Thanks,” he said.
Everything that has been happening in the kitchen moved into the living room now. Olivia brought Mia, who was now washed up and in her pajamas, into the room. She immediately crawled over to her little designated toy corner and laid down to gaze up at some lights on the shelf. Olivia brought Andrew some painkillers and then turned on some cute Disney cartoon. She and Cleo settled in on the other couch while Noah sat awkwardly in the recliner.
Andrew felt like he should say something, but as he started to shift his body toward Noah, it jarred his ankle and he hissed in pain. So instead he laid back down and tried to focus on the show. It was something about robots? Maybe magic robots? He couldn’t keep up with Mia’s shows, even in the best of health.
As soon as the credits started rolling twenty minutes later, Noah stood up.
“I’m going to go.”
“Stay,” Olivia said. “Whatever repair you’re planning at eight o’clock at night can wait.”
Noah opened his mouth to argue, and Olivia looked sharply at him. “Please,” she said. “I’m about to go make a pot of chamomile and we’re all going to hang out and just be friends for the night.”
“I’m not feeling great, Liv,” Noah said. “Seriously, I’m exhausted and my head is pounding.”
“Then grab a blanket and lie down,” Olivia argued. “Please, Noah.”
Andrew watched as Noah sighed and nodded, admitting defeat. Something felt different tonight. Like there was an energy in the room that Andrew couldn’t quite place. Maybe it was just the fact that Noah was in here at all after months of avoiding them, but Andrew could still feel it. There was a change.
“I have a few Motrin over here,” he offered, gesturing toward the almost-empty container next to him.
“I’m fine,” Noah said stiffly.
“I’m going to throw on some tea,” Olivia said. “Do you need anything in the kitchen? Andrew?”
“All set, thanks,” Andrew said.
“Tea, Cleo?” Olivia offered.
“Yes, please,” Cleo said. “Want some help?”
Cleo followed Olivia into the kitchen. Olivia filled the kettle, set it on the burner, and sighed.
“You okay?” Cleo asked.
Olivia nodded, then jerked her head in the direction of the living room. Cleo nodded back.
“Do you think maybe this is a good sign?” she whispered.
Olivia’s eyes flicked toward the living room again. “I don’t know if I can get my hopes up,” she said, so softly that Cleo had to strain to hear her.
She took Olivia’s hand and gave it a squeeze.