New Winslow S3E47
Olivia’s head was aching as she set up Mia’s movie. Andrew was out for the night at Iris’s, so it was just the two of them. She could turn on Lion King for the eight hundredth time and that would give her time to take a quick shower before Mia noticed she was gone and decided it was time to go into the woods or something.
Mia nestled into her blankets on the couch, sucking her thumb and already rapt as the music started. Olivia gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead, then walked out of the room.
A few minutes later, the shower was already steaming up the bathroom and her clothes were piled on the floor. Olivia was about to step into the shower, just as she heard the landline ring out in the kitchen.
Olivia groaned. She could just ignore it. Maybe it was a sales call or a political canvasser or something. Nobody needed to talk to her that badly.
Unless it was Hugh or Charlie calling to tell her that Keegan’s had burned down.
No, she wouldn’t be that lucky. But she should go answer it, shouldn’t she? Just in case work did need her for something.
The phone rang a second time, and she wrapped herself in a towel. With one last longing look toward the steaming shower spray, she walked out the bathroom door and picked up the phone.
There was silence on the other end of the line, and Olivia resisted the urge to swear. Did she really just sacrifice her shower time for a robo-call?
“Hello?” she repeated, already moving to hang up the phone.
Olivia paused. “Noah?”
He sounded unsure, almost nervous to talk to her. “Sorry, is this a bad time?”
She was mostly naked in the kitchen on an October evening, her one chance to shower without interruption slowly evaporating. “No,” she said quickly, sitting down at the kitchen table with the phone still up to her ear. “No, not at all. How are you? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he whispered.
There was a pause. She waited patiently while he found the words.
“I didn’t want to bother you, but I didn’t want you to worry either,” Noah continued. “I’m fine.”
“Good,” she said.
He went silent again and again, she waited patiently, just listening to his breathing on the other end of the line.
“Liv,” he started, then swallowed heavily. “Liv, I’m so sorry. I don’t know how I let it get this bad.”
Tears burned in her eyes and were sliding down her cheeks before she realized it. “Hey,” she said softly. “It’s going to be okay, remember?”
He sniffled away from the receiver. “How long do you have left?” Olivia asked, as though she hadn’t been counting the days in her head since dropping him off.
“A week and a half,” he said.
That wasn’t bad, she could handle that without crying, right? If she just ignored the fact that she was crying already.
“Just tell me the time and I’ll be there to pick you up.”
“Liv, you don’t have to,” Noah said quickly. “You don’t have to do anything for me. I’ll make sure the house is fine and that you and Mia have everything you need for as long as you want to live there. But I won’t bother you.”
The chill she felt wasn’t just the autumn draft. “Noah,” she started. “You are coming home, right?”
He didn’t answer. “Noah,” Olivia repeated, her voice sharper.
He sighed. “I don’t have to,” he said. “I could stay out of your way. Maybe stay in Worcester and find a job.”
“Please come home.”
The words were out before she had anything else planned to say. “Look,” she continued, “I’m not going to pretend that things are fixed. And if you’re doing that for you, if you think it’d be better for you to leave New Winslow, then I’m not going to stop you. But don’t do it for me, okay? I want you here. I want you here and healthy and living upstairs from me until we both die of old age and then we’ll haunt this house together, okay?”
Her heart was pounding and in the silent seconds that followed, she worried that maybe she’d said too much. Then she heard his breath hitch over the line and realized he was crying.
“Are you alright?” she asked softly.
“Are you sure?” he whispered. “I fucked it all up and I’m going to do everything I can not to do it again. But I know I can’t promise that.”
“My time’s almost up.”
“I’m proud of you,” Olivia said, wiping the tears off her face. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
He started to say something, but the line disconnected halfway through. Olivia sat for a second, listening to the dial tone. Then she slowly stood up and hung the phone back on the receiver.
Cleo woke up slowly, the smell of fresh flowers the first thing she was aware of as she surfaced, closely followed by the sun against her closed eyelids. She stretched and opened her eyes to Edie’s – now their – bedroom.
Aside from the tangle of clothes on the floor, it was neat and cozy, with gallery walls displaying everything from other local bands’ show flyers to peaceful meadow scenes. A photo of Cleo and Edie together on tour hung above the dresser, which was carefully arrayed with crystals and more flowers.
Cleo glanced over at Edie, who was still sound asleep, their chest rising and falling softly against her. She smiled, despite the pang in her heart.
She was never going back to her apartment. That little place in Dorchester that had been her home for seven years. She could never go back to it, even though she was free to go wherever else she wanted.
She’d moved a good amount of her things here over the past few days, and they were still sitting in boxes in the living room. She knew that over the coming days, they would find ways to incorporate both Cleo and her belongings into the life Edie had already set up here. She’d thought maybe Edie would be frustrated at the idea of having more stuff and more opinions to deal with. But their eyes had lit up as they’d surveyed the boxes last night and told Cleo that they had a perfect space for that framed photo of her and Andrew at Castle Island.
The bigger things – her furniture, dishes, and a few boxes of knick knacks she hadn’t had a chance to go through – were in a storage unit a few streets over from the apartment. Cleo’s first impulse had been to get a unit in Boston, maybe by Andrew’s, so that they didn’t have to bring it all the way here. But Edie had pointed out that they would have to travel an hour every time Cleo realized she’d left something she needed in there. Cleo had tried to argue that she would be out driving anyway for work, but a glance at the price comparison between units in Boston and Fitchburg brought her to Edie’s way of thinking quickly.
She’d waited until Edie was asleep last night to cry. Cleo knew it was stupid to mourn an apartment. But that had been her life for so long, and she had never imagined that she’d ever leave it. She’d been tempted to call Andrew, but thankfully realized that would be cruel. Sure, he knew exactly what she was feeling. But she had a choice in the matter while he hadn’t.
She’d call him later on to talk about other things. It’d be nice to hear his voice on the phone.
She slipped out of bed, leaving Edie to spread out into the space she’d vacated. As she walked toward the door, she stopped and picked up her guitar from where it was leaning against the dresser. She had plenty of time until she had to work today. It was the perfect time to get some songwriting in.
Why was Andrew even bothering? He stood in front of the invisible barrier of the town line, gripping a satchel that Iris had given him last night. He’d slept with it under his pillow last night, meditated on it for an excruciating hour this morning, and now here he was, ready to set himself back up for disappointment.
He closed his eyes and breathed in the crisp October air, trying to pull his thoughts inward and center himself. Out, he thought. I am out.
He envisioned the road he’d just been looking at, just beyond the border. The leaves swirling in the road. That little stump that seemed to taunt him every time he was here. The first thing he was going to do was kick that bloody stump clean out of the ground.
He took a breath and let it out slowly. He felt his phone in his pocket, pressed against his leg. No service here, but he could feel a vibration of sorts within himself. He hadn’t felt that last time.
But no need to get his hopes up.
If he did get out, what was going to stop him from going to Worcester and waiting outside the clinic for any more news about Noah? Other than self-respect, pride, and a respect for the rules of Noah’s recovery program?
If he didn’t escape today and did end up back at Olivia’s house, he was going to have to stop lunging for the phone every time it rang. It wasn’t Noah. It was never going to be Noah. And if it was, the call wasn’t going to be for Andrew.
Was this how Noah had felt when Andrew left?
Andrew took one more deep breath, envisioning it coming into his body and spreading throughout his limbs, keeping him protected from outside forces. It was easier than it had been to push away the unbidden thought that this was all bollocks. He was getting better at this.
Here went nothing.
He opened his eyes and walked forward, clutching the bag by his chest. His heart was pounding, the motion blending with the vibrations that seemed to fill his body as he moved. On the other side, the stump watched closely, waiting.
He hit the barrier, and the vibrations moving through him stopped abruptly. The hand holding the satchel fell to his side, and he rested his head on the invisible barrier.
Back to square one, Andrew supposed.