Olivia’s phone rang as she was cutting watermelon for Mia’s lunch. She set down the knife, wiped her hands, and picked up the phone. The Caller ID display read an unfamiliar number in Worcester.
“Hi, is this Olivia Walker?”
The voice was professional and warm, male with a strong Boston accent.
“Yes, it is.”
“Hi, Ms. Walker, this is Corey Johansen over at the Central Mass Recovery Center.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “Is everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah, don’t worry.”
He had a nice voice, reassuring. “I’m just calling because Noah Kelly put you as his primary contact and gave us permission to update you.”
“That’s right,” she said cautiously.
In the six days since she’d dropped off Noah, she’d been trying to keep herself occupied and not think about him. It hadn’t worked well at any point, except apparently in the past five minutes.
“Anyway, I’m just calling to update you,” Corey said. “Noah’s doing well. He just left the detox center this morning and is starting his twenty-eight days of inpatient rehab back at the Worcester location.”
“He’s doing well?” she repeated.
“He is,” Corey confirmed. “I can’t go into detail, but he made it through detox without any major issues. He’ll have phone privileges in about a week, but you may or may not hear from him.”
That made sense. To be honest, she wasn’t even sure what she had expected. “And we don’t encourage outside calls coming in,” Corey said. “I’m sure you understand. We try to keep things as contained as possible. Really let the patients focus on their recovery without worrying about external issues.”
She felt slightly guilty at the sliver of relief she felt at that. There were no expectations of her. For the first time in a long time, she didn’t have to worry about him.
“And I’m not sure if Noah informed you or not, but we don’t generally allow family visits here unless it’s part of family or marital therapy,” Corey continued.
“No, he didn’t,” Olivia said. “But I understand.”
“Anyway, that’s really all I have to share,” Corey said. “Do you have any questions for me?”
“No,” Olivia said.
That was the truth. But only because she had thousands of half-formed questions shoving their way into her head and she couldn’t possibly ask them all.
“If you need anything, you can contact us here in the office,” Corey said. “And like I said, Noah will be able to call soon. Please don’t take it personally if he doesn’t though.”
“Absolutely,” she said, knowing full well that it was impossible.
She hung up a moment later, then sat back down at the table and sighed. It was good. This was a good thing. And a month was nothing, especially if it helped Noah get better.
She started slicing watermelon again.
“So no visitors or outside phone calls at all?” Cleo asked.
It was a few hours later and Olivia, Cleo, and Andrew were all sitting around the crackling fire pit in the backyard. It was a cool evening, the sky just starting to get dark above them.
“Technically, we can call in an emergency or something,” Olivia said. “They just strongly discourage calls coming in.”
“That makes sense,” Cleo said. “Let him focus instead of thinking about what’s happening here.”
“But he’s okay?” Andrew said.
He didn’t like the sympathy he saw in Olivia’s eyes as she answered. “Yeah, he’s okay,” she said. “The guy – Corey – said he’s out of medical detox without issues.”
“Good,” Andrew said, trying to keep his voice casual, though clearly neither of them bought it.
They sat quietly for a moment, Olivia occasionally stirring the fire with an old branch she’d pulled over earlier. Andrew looked up at the sky, where the stars were starting to come out. He still half expected Noah to come walking down the stairs from his apartment, but the windows on the upper unit were dark every time he accidentally glanced up there.
“So I have some news,” Cleo said quietly.
He lifted his head and looked over at her. She was picking at the label on her beer, not really looking at either of them.
“Oh?” Andrew prompted.
“Yeah,” Cleo said. “I’m moving in with Edie at the end of the month.”
“That’s awesome!” Olivia exclaimed.
In the fire light, Andrew could see the apprehension on Cleo’s face. He frowned. “Is that good news or bad news?” he asked.
Olivia’s face fell. Cleo stopped picking at the label and looked at them. “Honestly?” she said. “I know it’s good. And I’m excited to live with Edie. But I’m really going to miss Boston.”
There was a pang of homesickness in Andrew’s stomach. And then the creeping realization. Even Cleo, who had insisted she was staying forever, was leaving Boston now. There was going to be nothing left of his old life there when he finally got out of New Winslow.
“It’s just too expensive,” Cleo continued. “I’m working seventy hours a week to barely scrape by and I’m out here all the time anyway. And especially with my mom’s… whole thing. I know it’s the smart thing to do. It just feels like giving up. I know it’s stupid.”
“Nah, that’s not stupid,” Andrew said. “I get it.”
“I shouldn’t complain,” Cleo said quickly. “I had the choice at least.”
“Kind of,” Andrew said. “Not if you wanted to be at all happy though.”
“I just feel like I failed, you know?” Cleo said. “Which is stupid. Living here isn’t a failure,” she added quickly with a guilty look at Olivia.
Olivia shrugged. “Nobody forced me to stay,” she said. “I’m perfectly happy with my life here. Well, minus a few parts. But the location isn’t the problem.”
“What about you?” Cleo asked, clearly looking to change the subject. “Any new job leads?”
Olivia shrugged. “Nothing feasible,” she said. “So I’m going to keep looking, I guess. And just put up with Keegan’s for now. Bret sucks, but at least I’ve got Hugh and Charlie.”
“So Hugh…” Andrew began.
“Don’t even fucking start,” Olivia said, jabbing a finger at him.
He could see her blushing from the other side of the fire and laughed. “I’m just saying.”
“Yeah, well, stop saying.”
“Hugh?” Cleo asked, leaning toward Olivia with a smile. “Who’s Hugh?”
“The new full-time bartender,” Olivia explained.
“He’s a hunk with a thing for Liv and wowwww, is it reciprocated,” Andrew added.
Cleo’s eyes lit up as Olivia glared at Andrew. He smiled innocently and took a sip of his beer.
“Andrew’s working in a magic shop,” she said.
Cleo’s gaze whipped over to Andrew. “What?”
“He has been for weeks.”
“Wow, thanks for telling me,” Cleo said, rolling her eyes.
He shrugged sheepishly. “It was kind of accidental,” he said. “I spent so much time at Iris’s shop that I just started selling things. And mixing essential oil blends.”
“That’s what that smell was last night?” Olivia asked. “You smelled fantastic.”
“Orchid and lavender. I’m glad you liked it because there’s a bottle of it on the counter for you.”
She smiled, and he felt his heart lift a little at the expression on her face. Cleo looked at both of them.
“I’ll only be half an hour from here,” she said. “I know you’re going to be leaving as soon as you can. But as much as I already miss Boston, it’ll be nice to be close to you again.”
“When do we get to meet Edie?” Olivia asked.
Cleo grimaced. “They want to meet you too,” she said. “I’m just worried…the curse.”
That warm, contented feeling in Andrew’s chest flickered a little. Cleo looked over at him. “Sorry.”
He shrugged. “Not like it wouldn’t be a risk. And I’d come to them but, you know…”
Cleo nodded. “Yeah.”
Olivia looked like she regretted bringing it up. Andrew took a sip of his drink, his eyes again flicking toward Noah’s darkened flat.