Cleo took a breath, then hit Call. She held the phone up to her ear, then waited as it rang. Andrew rarely had great service at Olivia’s house, but if he was at work right now, maybe he’d answer.
Or maybe he’d see it was Cleo and decide not to bother.
There was a click, then she heard him shuffling with his phone. “Hello?” he said cautiously.
She paused for a second, then took a breath. “Listen,” she said. “Can we talk? I’m…I’m sorry.”
He was silent on the other end and she waited, trying not to fill the silence herself. “I’m sorry too,” he said finally. “Listen, I’ve got the Halloween crowd here and I’m alone. I want to talk, I really do, but someone is about to start a seance in the store and I’ve got to go shut it down. Can we talk later tonight?”
Cleo let out a shaky laugh. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, that sounds good.”
“Will you be in town?”
“I’m meeting my mom for lunch later on.”
“I’m out at six as far as I know.”
“I’ll be there.”
They hung up a moment later as she heard something crashing in the background. Cleo felt a little more at ease as she picked up her bag and started out of the apartment. This wasn’t going to be a fun conversation, but at least they were speaking again.
Later that afternoon, Cleo was leaving her mom’s house. It was already dark, and she hated leaving her mother in the darkness of her house. But she’d insisted this was how she wanted it to be. If she wanted a light on, she’d turn a light on. She didn’t need Cleo to do it for her.
Nothing had changed in the past few weeks. Her mother still hadn’t talked to Dr. Degas and she still wouldn’t acknowledge her memory problems, at least not to Cleo. But Cleo still ended up spending the afternoon following her around and shutting off stove burners behind her as her mother complained about her father. Not that her mother and father had been in contact in at least a decade, at least as far as Cleo knew.
But her mom had all but kicked her out, so she was heading over to Olivia’s now to wait for Andrew. She was pretty sure Olivia was working tonight. It seemed like Olivia was working every night lately. Cleo could see how badly she wanted out of that job. But she also wouldn’t move somewhere with at least a little bit more in terms of job opportunities. Not that Cleo had pushed that possibility with her, but she couldn’t help the little voice that whispered, Just get out, every time someone in New Winslow had a problem that could be solved by leaving.
Cleo got to Olivia’s front door and fished out her key. She opened it, then stepped over to Olivia’s apartment door. But before she could open it, she heard movement behind the door and then it creaked open.
Olivia pulled the door open and motioned for Cleo to come inside. She was on the phone with someone, the long cord stretching out behind her toward the kitchen. She nodded a hello to Cleo with a short wave, then headed back into the house. Cleo gave her a moment, then followed.
“That’s great,” Olivia was saying. “No, I appreciate the updates.”
A pause as she walked back into the kitchen. “Yeah, no, I don’t take it personally. I know he’s…I know.”
Cleo took her time taking off her shoes and coat, letting Olivia finish her conversation. Then she heard the sound of the phone connecting back to the cradle on the wall and she walked into the kitchen.
“Hey,” she said.
Olivia looked tired, but she smiled. “Hey.”
“Yeah, it was just the clinic,” she said. “Noah gave them permission to update me.”
“How is he?”
Olivia shrugged. “They say he’s okay and I believe them. But he hasn’t called me since before they decided to extend his stay and I’m getting worried. He’s only got one more week left but…”
She shook her head, then looked at Cleo. “How are you?” she asked.
Cleo shrugged. “I’m alright,” she said. “I’m meeting Andrew here when he gets out of work.”
Judging from the suddenly cagey look on Olivia’s face, Andrew had clearly talked to her. “That’s great,” she said. “I’m leaving for work in a minute, so you’ll have privacy.”
“Oh, that’s not-”
“I’m going anyway.”
Cleo laughed awkwardly. “Right.”
Olivia went to the door and took her jacket off the hook. “Help yourself to anything in the fridge,” she said as she shrugged it on. “I’m not going to be home until after close, so I probably won’t see you.”
“It was nice to see you for a minute though.”
Olivia smiled. “You too.”
She left a moment later, leaving Cleo alone in the cozy living room. She sat down on the couch and tried not to keep looking at the clock.
Andrew opened the door just as Cleo looked up from her phone. They made eye contact, then both quickly looked away.
“Hey,” Cleo said.
“I didn’t know what you’d want for dinner, so I didn’t start anything.”
He seemed surprised by that as he toed off his shoes. “Oh, I didn’t expect you to do anything. I thought perhaps we could get a pizza.”
She stood up as he walked further into the room. There had never been this tension between her and Andrew and Cleo was realizing she absolutely hated it.
“Listen,” they both said at the same time.
They both stopped and laughed. Then Cleo took a breath.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I was out of line.”
“I’m sorry too,” Andrew said. “I overreacted. Friends?”
Cleo let out a breath, relief crashing over her. “Friends,” she said.
And then he was hugging her. His hair tickled her chin and she realized he’d cut his hair. It wasn’t the same perfect style he’d had before getting stuck, but it was as close as it could get.
“Do you want to eat here or go out?” Andrew asked. “We’re basically limited to House of Pizza and the general store, but they’re both good.”
She didn’t want to see the way she flinched internally at how casual that statement was. That would just stir things up all over again. But he seemed happy enough with the options, at least for now. And holding onto the guilt wasn’t helping either of them.
“Let’s go out,” Cleo said. “You choose the place.”
He grinned and some of the stress that had been eating at her fell away. “I could go for a pizza,” he said. “Come on, I’ll drive.”
For a little while, it was almost like they were back in Boston. The beer selection was a little smaller, but there was beer and pizza and they spent the entire time talking about everything that had nothing to do with New Winslow. If it weren’t for the fact that there were three other people in the House of Pizza and no place to go after that wasn’t Keegan’s, Cleo could almost pretend they weren’t in town right now. And she could see how some of the stress had fallen from Andrew’s face as she caught him up on what was happening with The Blossom Step and their next album.
“So how about you?” he asked, trying and failing to catch a chunk of melted cheese as it fell off the slice of pizza he was moving to his plate.
“What about me?”
Andrew rolled his eyes, then took a sip of his third beer of the night. “Don’t play cute,” he said. “How are you doing? You think I really thought that was all about me? Are you doing okay?”
Cleo nodded and took a sip of her beer. Her first and only, since she was not planning to spend the night in New Winslow. “I’m okay,” she said.
“But…” Andrew continued, prompting her on with a wave of his hand.
“But I miss Boston. A lot.”
They were silent for a second, Andrew trying to fit the cheese back on his slice. “It sucks,” he said after it fell off again. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get back.”
He laughed. “Everyone says it,” he said. “But I just think of my mum. Five years here. And I’m coming up on a year.”
He looked at her. “I mean it,” he said. “I don’t blame you. And I don’t want you to feel like you need to come here to be with me. I’d much rather hang out with you on Newbury Street.”
Her throat felt tight as he looked at her earnestly. “What should I do?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Honestly, no clue. Do you want to be here? Be honest.”
That sounded so rude, especially when they were having a nice time right now. “I mean, I want to be here right now,” she clarified. “Like, right now eating pizza and drinking beer. This is great. But every time I’m in town, I’m terrified I’ll get stuck.”
“I know my mom doesn’t want me here as much as I am.” Cleo continued. “She thinks I’m overbearing. And I can see it, we went years without seeing each other and now I’m here almost weekly. And she needs help, but I can’t force her to get it.”
Something crossed Andrew’s expression at that, so fast she almost didn’t see it. But she didn’t have to be psychic to figure out what it was. But they weren’t going to discuss Noah tonight.
“Maybe I should take some time away from here,” she said. “Tell my mom I’m going on vacation and I’ll be back soon. It’d be a lie, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Staycation.” He drained his glass and rolled his eyes. “I hate that bloody term. But it works.”
“It’ll give us both a break,” she said.
“Not a bad thing.”
Cleo nodded. “Alright,” she said. “Yeah, I’ll do it.”
“After we finish this pizza.”