Hugh was mopping the floor when Olivia got into work, clutching her thermos of coffee. He was on the far end of the room and clearly didn’t hear her walk in as he sang along absently to the radio.
“Good morning!” she called as she walked in.
He stopped, then turned and smiled at her. “Hey!”
The warmth in his smile caught her off guard for a second. After her breakdown last week, she’d thought he might want to take a step back and maybe get some distance from her. She knew they were friends, but she also knew that having your boss sobbing in your arms might turn anyone off.
But if anything, he seemed happier to see her and spend time with her.
And sure, the feeling was mutual and sure, she could never act on it since it would be completely unprofessional. But she could still enjoy the company. She deserved that, at least.
“How was last night?” Olivia asked, pulling off her coat.
Hugh rolled his eyes, leaning against his mop. “Bret’s new manager…” he started, then let out a low whistle.
“Not awful, I guess?” Hugh said. “But he’s got a whole lot of confidence for someone who can’t even operate the fryolator.”
“Again?” Now Olivia was rolling her eyes. “I have left him detailed instructions every single time he’s here. It’s a fryolator. You turn it on, you put food in it, you take the food out. It’s not that hard.”
He raised his eyebrows meaningfully, and she laughed. “Sorry to leave you with him,” she said.
“You’re allowed to have nights off,” Hugh said with a shrug. “I’ll live with a lesser manager for a few hours.”
Her cheeks got warm, and Hugh laughed.
“So, any word from your friend yet?” he asked.
Olivia shook her head. “No,” she said, the warm glow fading just a little. “I heard from the center that he’s doing well, but I haven’t actually talked to him yet. He might not call, they told me not to take it personally if he doesn’t.”
“That’s good at least,” Hugh said.
He set the mop into the bucket. “I’m going to go do the kitchen,” he said. “Heads up, he didn’t do a great job cleaning it and I realized it as we were on our way out last night. Oh, and there’re some messages for you in the book. Something about food costs and a couple of customer complaints last night.”
Olivia sighed as Hugh started wheeling the mop bucket away. It was fine, whatever. It wasn’t like she could really bring herself to care. She could read the notes, solve the problems someone else had created, and then spend the afternoon fantasizing about the autumn line of drinks she would serve in her imaginary coffee shop. Where nobody would ruin the kitchen on her night off.
He couldn’t tell what was rain and what was ocean at this point. The storm was raging, walls of water pounding into him, filling his lungs faster than he could cough it out. Lightning flashed constantly in the billowing clouds above the ship, flicking around the mast but never quite making contact. He heard it crackle and waited for the moment it would strike. But for now, his feet were firmly on deck as the frigid water kept coming, wave after wave coursing over the bucking ship.
The roar of the surf drowned out the voices of the men around him, but he could see the mouth of one man beside him begin to move. A man, but no more than a boy, really. They locked eyes and he could almost make out the words the boy was saying, but then a wave slammed into him with the force of a train and everything was gone.
Noah’s eyes flew open and he took in a sharp breath, still smelling the salt air and ozone for a split second as he woke up. He lay quietly for a moment, breathing in and out as he stared at the bottom of the bunk above him.
“You okay, Kelly?” came a voice from the top bunk.
“Yeah,” he said, voice hoarse. “Yeah, I’m good.”
The answer seemed to satisfy McMann, whose blankets rustled for a few seconds as he settled back in to sleep. Noah carefully sat up, hunched over in the low bunk, and reached over to the bedside table for his watch. Six-thirty in the morning. He still had an hour until he had to be up and he wasn’t going back to sleep. So he could either lay here a little longer and think about the myriad ways he’d ruined his own life, or he could get up, take a shower, and go for a walk outside in the early morning air.
This week it was a little easier to decide. He stood up, stretched, picked up his clothes from where they were folded on the table, and headed to the bathroom to start the day.