Olivia woke up to a knocking at her front door. Her head burned and her stomach lurched as she sat up in bed, looking around for the source of the sound before she even realized what was happening.
She stood up and walked out into the living room, finding it empty. Andrew must have eventually gone into Mia’s room last night after Noah stormed out. She wasn’t quite sure where Cleo had gone. She’d been in the bedroom when Olivia had finally fallen asleep last night.
Another knock. She picked her cardigan up off the arm of the couch and pulled it on over her thin tank top. As she did so, she opened her apartment door, expecting to be opening the front door of the house from there.
Instead, Noah stood in her doorway. He looked even worse than he had the night before, face pale and sickly looking under several days’ worth of stubble. His eyes were clear, but exhausted and haunted.
Olivia stood there for a second, waiting for him to speak first. She was still mad about last night. And all the nights before that. An apology wasn’t going to fix things. She’d still be mad and scared and fed up with being mad and scared.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She sighed. “Noah…”
“Can you drive me to Worcester?”
The words stopped in her mouth. “Excuse me?”
He took a deep breath. “There’s a…there’s a program in Worcester. I called this morning and they have a space. Today.”
His voice caught on the end of the sentence, and she could see tears shining in his eyes. Her own started to sting.
“I don’t trust myself to drive there,” he continued. “I understand if you…if you don’t want to. I’ve been…”
The tears were coming down his face now and she felt some on her own cheeks. “I’ll get my keys,” she said, stepping aside so he could come into the apartment.
Noah shook his head. “I’ll wait out here.”
She went to close the door and saw a spark of fear in his eyes that she wasn’t even sure he was aware of. So instead, she left it open as she went into the kitchen to get her car keys.
Cleo was coming out of the bathroom as Olivia walked in. “Everything okay?” she asked in a low voice as she poured a mug of coffee from the coffeepot.
Olivia tried to speak, but her throat was blocked. She coughed, then tried again. “I’m driving Noah to rehab.”
Cleo froze. “Really?” she said, her voice small but hopeful.
Olivia nodded, a smile starting to creep across her own face. “Really.”
“Now. He’s waiting outside. Can you watch Mia for a couple hours?”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
Olivia scooped up her keys and wallet, then took a shaking breath.
“Let Andrew know when he gets up,” she said. “I have to go.”
She laughed a little giddily, then went back to the front door. She could see Noah still standing in the hallway, his worn backpack on his shoulders. He looked scared.
“Come on,” she said, sliding her hand into his. “Let’s go.”
He flinched at the contact at first, then gripped her hand and followed her to her car. She waited until he was in the passenger seat before sliding in the driver’s side and starting it up.
“Do you have an address?” Olivia asked.
Noah nodded and rattled off an address in a hoarse whisper. She plugged it into the GPS, knowing full well that it wouldn’t actually connect until they were out of town. Then she pulled out of the driveway and onto the empty road.
Olivia reached over and flipped on the radio. Quiet jazz was playing on the first station she found. “This good?”
Noah didn’t answer. At his silence, she glanced over and saw him staring down at his shaking hands.
She was still mad. Months of worry and anger and thoughtless, selfish behavior. But maybe this was it. She’d spent all night last night trying to convince herself that she was done caring what Noah did. And even right now as they drove, she couldn’t help feeling that tiny flicker of apprehension beneath the relief.
But he was still Noah. Her best friend who had been there for her their entire lives. He’d fucked up over and over and over, but he was trying to fix it.
She put a hand on his knee and he jumped, then finally looked at her, eyes red-rimmed.
“They said detox plus thirty days. Maybe more. I don’t know.”
“I’ll feed Her Majesty.”
He looked away, face crumpling. “I called a service.”
“You can cancel it. Of course I’ll take care of her.”
“I shouldn’t ask you for anything. I shouldn’t have asked you to do this. I’m so sorry.”
She slid her hand over to his, which was trembling in his lap. “It’s going to be okay.”
The car passed over the town line without incident. Olivia steered with one hand on the wheel, one firmly gripping him as they drove in silence for a while. Noah was shaking in what Olivia realized was a mix of nerves and withdrawal. She continued to hold his hand, reassuring him as much as she could.
Finally, they pulled up to a bland brick building on the outskirts of Worcester. Olivia parked and turned off the car.
Noah was frozen in the seat next to her. “Are you okay?” she asked.
She reached over and wrapped her arms around him. It was an awkward reach, but he turned and held her.
“It’s going to be okay,” she whispered
“I’m sorry,” Noah said again.
He let go of her and got out of the car. She followed and he looked surprised.
“I’ll walk you in,” Olivia said.
“You don’t have to.”
He stopped as she stepped over to him. “It’s going to be okay,” she repeated.
Noah nodded, looking everywhere but at her.
Olivia took his hand again. “Come on.”
For a second she thought he might bolt. But instead, he took a shuddering breath and walked toward the entrance.
The lobby was clean, but unassuming. A window opened to a reception desk, where a young woman sat.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
Noah cleared his throat. “I’m Noah Kelly?” he said. “I called this morning.”
She smiled at him, warm and welcoming. “Oh yes, I’m Laura, I’m the one you spoke to. Are you ready to come in?”
Noah turned to Olivia, panic barely hidden on his face. She wrapped him in a hug that he returned desperately.
“You’ve got this,” she said, feeling tears in her eyes.
She felt his breath hitch and never wanted to let go. But then the door opened and Laura stepped out.
“Call me when you can,” Olivia said.
Then, with a final squeeze, she let go. Noah gave her a shaky smile.
“Thank you,” he said.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
He turned and followed Laura through the door. Olivia waited until she heard their footsteps fade, then turned and walked outside.
Andrew woke up slowly. He’d laid awake for hours last night after Noah left, the other man’s words ringing in his head. Finally, around three in the morning, he’d limped into Mia’s room in hopes that a change of scenery might help him sleep. It worked somewhat. But now his head hurt and his mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton.
Andrew glanced at his phone and blinked at the time shining off the screen. That couldn’t be right. He rarely slept past eight in the morning.
But no, it was apparently right. Oh well, nobody seemed to be looking for him.
He set down his phone and lay on his back, putting off the moment when he’d have to get up and face anybody else. Not that he figured Noah would be out there right now. But maybe they could talk tonight or something. Maybe last night was a little bit of a wake up call.
Andrew finally got up a few minutes later, gingerly putting a little weight on his injured ankle. It still hurt, but not in the hot flash of agony he’d felt when Noah helped him inside the night before. He steadied himself, then carefully limped out into the living room where Cleo and Mia were sitting on the sofa, watching a cartoon.
“Hi,” Cleo said.
“How’s your leg?”
“Coffee’s still hot. Want me to get you some?”
Andrew shook his head. “Nah, I’ll get it myself.”
Andrew went into the kitchen and was surprised to find it empty. He’d expected to see Liv sitting at the table and hoped that the devastated look would be gone from her eyes. But instead there was just the coffee pot. He poured a mug of coffee, loaded it with cream and sugar, then went back into the living room.
“Where’s Liv?” he asked, sitting down next to Cleo and running a hand through Mia’s soft hair as she snuggled up to him. “She’s not working, is she?”
Cleo smiled at him, but it was bittersweet. “She’s, um, she’s giving Noah a ride to a rehab clinic.”
Andrew froze, his mug gripped in his hand. That was amazing. That was Noah getting better, getting his life back on track.
That was Noah gone without a word.
Cleo frowned. “You okay?”
Andrew shook himself. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. It’s just…”
“I know,” Cleo said, saving him from having to find the words.
“Do you know how long?”
“No idea. But this is good.”
It was. Even if his stomach was twisting a little. He knew he didn’t have the words to express what he was feeling, so instead he sipped his coffee.
About an hour later, the front door opened and Olivia walked in alone. Cleo and Mia were in the backyard, but Andrew was still sitting on the couch, his coffee long gone cold.
Olivia smiled when she saw him, but her eyes were red. “Cleo told you?” she asked, dropping onto the couch beside him.
“It was his idea. I think – I think it’s a good thing.”
“How long is it for?”
“As of now, a few days of inpatient detox, then a month.”
Andrew felt the coffee rising back into his throat, but nodded.
“Noah put me as his emergency contact. They’re going to call in a few days and let me know how he’s doing.”
Andrew tried not to think of Noah, alone in a sterile hospital bed. He knew from very vague experience that rehab clinics could be comfortable and cheery, but the thought of inpatient detox unnerved him more than he expected.
“How was he?”
“Scared,” Olivia said, gazing straight ahead. “He was scared. Scared to ask for help, scared it was too late. Scared of getting better. But I think it’s good that he was scared, you know? I think maybe this will be what finally brings him back.”
Andrew nodded, not trusting himself to speak. The back door opened and a moment later, Cleo walked out of the kitchen and sat down with them. Then Mia stumbled her way over to Olivia, who picked her up and gripped her tightly, blinking away tears.