The shrill sound of the phone ringing pulled Olivia out of the light cat nap she was taking on the couch as Mia watched a movie. She’d been up since three that morning, when she’d opened her eyes to see a gauzy figure in her bedroom, standing over her side of the bed. The figure, a young woman in a simple dress, hadn’t vanished when she woke up. Instead, she’d just stared at Olivia, like she was trying to tell her something that Olivia didn’t want to hear. Which she didn’t. She just wanted these spirits to leave her alone.
The sooner she got rid of this ability, the better. She’d lain awake all night after the woman had sullenly faded into the darkness at the corner of the room. The ghost might have left or she might have stayed until before the sun rose. Either way, Olivia hadn’t fallen back to sleep. Even if she was harmless, there was always the risk that something would happen and she couldn’t risk exposing Mia to that. And also, none of these ghosts were entitled to her time. If she wasn’t going to wake up at three in the morning to go to a meeting with Bret, she wasn’t about to do the same for whatever old timey lady ghosts decided that Olivia’s sleep schedule didn’t matter as much as their unfinished business.
But she’d stayed awake fuming anyway and now it was mid-afternoon. She had been dozing in the autumn sunlight to whatever animal song was playing on the movie she’d chosen at random. And now the phone was ringing like it was in cahoots with the ghost from last night to keep her from getting any sleep.
“Coming!” she called as she heard Andrew pick it up and answer.
There was a pause, then he said, “Just a moment. She’s right here.”
He handed her the phone as she rounded the doorway into the kitchen. “Hello?” she said.
The voice was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. “Speaking,” she replied.
“Hi, it’s Corey Johansen over at Central Mass Recovery.”
A thread of worry found its way into her chest. Noah hadn’t called since that first phone call last week when he’d said he might stay in Worcester. But he had phone privileges now, so why was Corey calling again?
“Hi,” she said, voice cautious enough that Andrew took note from over by the counter.
“So Noah Kelly asked me to call you,” Corey said. “He has the option to stay here a couple extra weeks and decided to take it. So instead of leaving on Tuesday, he’ll be staying until the end of the month.”
She wasn’t going to cry. That was stupid. Noah was okay, and he was taking the initiative to make himself better. That was all. No need to be disappointed.
“Is he alright?” she asked instead.
“He’s fine,” Corey said, and the knot inside her loosened a little. “I obviously can’t go into detail, but he’s doing well. The option to stay came up and his care team and Noah both agreed that it was the right choice. But he said he didn’t want to worry you when he didn’t show up next week.”
She had assumed she was going to pick him up at the clinic, but she kept her mouth shut. “I appreciate it.”
Olivia clearly wasn’t as good at keeping her emotions in check as she thought, because Corey’s already friendly voice softened. “He’s doing well.”
“Do you have any questions for me?”
She certainly had some for Noah, but none for Corey. “Actually,” she said. “Would you mind passing a message along to Noah? I know he can call, but I don’t know if he will.”
“I can try,” Corey replied evenly.
She winced. Of course he couldn’t just guarantee to pass something along. What had she been thinking? “Um, can you please let him know I’ll pick him up on his new release date?” she asked. “I don’t know if he’s going to call again and I don’t want him to think…”
She trailed off but Corey clearly got what she was saying. “That’s no problem,” he said.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
There wasn’t, so they said quick goodbyes and then hung up. Olivia put the phone back on the receiver and took a breath before turning back around to where Andrew was still leaning against the counter, watching her curiously.
“That was Noah’s clinic,” she said. “He’s going to stay a couple more weeks.”
Andrew frowned. “Is he okay?”
“Seems like? I guess he had the option and took it.”
Andrew nodded, but his expression mirrored her own feelings. “That’s good, right?” he said. “He’s taking care of himself?”
“Are you alright?”
Olivia nodded. “I’m exhausted,” she admitted. “And I want him to come home. I’m obviously not going to tell him, but I was already planning his welcome home dinner next week.”
Should she be mad at him? Noah had been gone nearly four weeks now. It had been almost a month since she’d dropped him off at the addiction rehab clinic forty minutes from here. And she had to admit that, as much as she missed him, it had been nice not having to worry about him. For a month now, she hadn’t needed to worry that he might injure or kill himself every day. So maybe that break had been exactly what she needed too if she was going to be there for him when he got home.
But she was too tired to navigate that swamp of emotion right now. “I’m going to lay back down,” she said. “There were ghosts in my room all night and all I want to do is sleep until Mia starts demanding supper.”
She walked back into the living room, where Mia was stacking blocks as she watched the brightly colored movie on TV. She didn’t seem to notice Olivia as she walked in and laid back down on the couch, pulling the blanket back over herself.
Only a year ago, Cleo wouldn’t get up before nine am unless it was for a large sum of money. But now here she was, up and making coffee at seven. The sun was out, thin rays of light coming into the cheery kitchen she now shared with Edie as she scooped ground coffee into the basket of the coffee maker. Last night Edie had convinced her to go to bed with them a little after nine. She thought she would be lying awake until midnight, but she’d fallen asleep almost immediately. And now she felt almost weirdly rested. Even Edie wasn’t up yet, though their alarm would go off in a few minutes.
Cleo had been living there for about two weeks now. Any of her things that weren’t in storage nearby had been unpacked and arranged throughout the apartment. She hadn’t been too worried about getting things out of boxes right away, but Edie had been almost overzealous about it. They said it would feel more like home once things were unpacked and Cleo had to admit it was true. She knew Edie was aware that moving was bittersweet, so she appreciated the extra effort to make her feel welcome.
Even with the occasional stabs of longing for her old life, Cleo saw the benefits of moving here. Of course there was the most obvious, which was establishing a home and life with Edie. But there was also the fact that her work hours had been cut nearly in half. Two months ago, she’d be staring down a fourteen hour day today just to barely pay her rent and utilities. Instead, she was going to do the lunch shift, then head to New Winslow to have dinner with her mom.
Edie’s sleepy voice made Cleo jump slightly, scattering some of the coffee grounds on the counter. “Sorry,” Edie said as they made their way over and kissed Cleo on the shoulder. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s fine,” Cleo said. “I was just thinking.”
“About good things?”
Cleo smiled as she got a fresh scoop of coffee and put it in the basket. “You could say that,” she said.
Edie laughed, then went to the sink to pour a glass of water. “Did you sleep well?” they asked.
“I fell asleep immediately,” Cleo admitted.
“Ha!” Edie laughed, pointing a finger at her. “Ms. I’m-good-for-one-more-episode?”
“Which I was!” Cleo protested, starting the brew cycle on the coffee maker. “I just went along with you and it turned out you were also right.”
Edie’s bob was tangled as they sat down at the table with their glass of water. There was a jar filled with yellow flowers in the center of it and Cleo could smell their fragrance as she sat down. Even in mid-October, they smelled like summer.
“So what’s your schedule today?” Cleo asked.
Edie shrugged as they took a sip of water. “Work until five,” they said. “Then band practice, so I’ll be home late.”
“I’ll be at my mom’s anyway.”
She almost said something about how maybe she’d never come home, but didn’t want to ruin the light atmosphere of the kitchen this morning. Besides, if she thought about it too hard, she might not go over to her mom’s for dinner tonight. And that would just be a dick move after the way her mom had hesitated to ask her to come over in the first place.
But she was risking getting trapped. The same way that Andrew was. Not that he seemed too concerned about it these days, which was slightly alarming. She was here longing for their past life while she had the freedom to come and go as she pleased. Meanwhile, he was physically trapped within the town lines and had apparently just decided that was what his life was going to be from now on.
Cleo jerked out of her daze to see Edie looking at her with a bit of concern on their face. “Are you alright?” they asked.
Cleo laughed, shaking her head. “Maybe I should go to bed even earlier tonight.”
Edie laughed and stood up. “I’m going to go shower,” they said, stopping to kiss Cleo on the cheek. “Thanks for making coffee, I’ll get a cup after.”
They ducked out of the room, leaving Cleo alone. She poured herself a mug and took a sip. The room was still airy and cool, but that little unnerving seed had been planted and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to shake it.