Olivia’s mother was sitting on the couch, reading a book as Olivia and Andrew walked in. She glanced over as the door opened.
“Sorry I’m late,” Olivia said.
“It’s fine,” her mother replied. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s fine, I just had a…I had something happen on my way out. It’s fine though.”
Her mother reached up and pulled Olivia down onto the couch beside her. “Is there something going on?”
She asked like she didn’t know, but Olivia could tell from the look in her eye that her mother knew what was going on. She nodded, feeling the tears pricking again. “This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve been seeing ghosts.”
Her mother squeezed her hand. “No, it doesn’t,” she replied, her voice calm. “Sweetie, we live in a cursed town, why would you think that would bother me? Plus, Aunt Desiree has been seeing them since we were five.”
Andrew went to sit down on the other couch, where Olivia realized she completely missed Noah lying there. Andrew nudged his legs and Noah opened his eyes, shifting so that Andrew could sit.
“Really?” Olivia wasn’t quite sure how to react to the realization that her mother’s overbearing cousin saw ghosts too. “But she’s a real estate agent.”
Probably not the most intelligent way to respond, but she couldn’t get her head wrapped around it.
“And that makes some of her sales a little easier, doesn’t it?” her mom said with a smile. “Are you okay, Olivia?”
There was a question she could spend all day wondering about. But she nodded. “I think so,” she said. “But I don’t want this. I tried being a medium. It was awful, Mom. The ghost got in my head and it just…”
She was crying again and her mother pulled her in tight, gently stroking her hair as she broke down. “You don’t have to,” she said. “It’s not your responsibility.”
They sat for a moment as Olivia tried to calm her breathing. Then Andrew cleared his throat, and she looked over. She’d kind of forgotten he was there.
“Let’s talk to Iris tomorrow,” he said. “Maybe she’ll know of some way to block them from talking to you.”
She nodded, looked at her mom. “Thank you.”
“Are you feeling better?”
“Yeah. Oh God, it’s like one. You don’t have to stay. Um, thanks so much for taking Mia.”
“Listen,” her mother said as she stood up. “I can get in touch with Aunt Desiree for you. I’m sure she can give you some advice.”
Olivia couldn’t help wincing, and her mother laughed. “Fair,” she said. “Alright, get some sleep, honey. If you need me, give me a call.”
With goodbyes to them all, her mother slipped out the door, locking it behind her.
“How is it now?” Andrew asked.
“Um, quiet,” Olivia replied. “I haven’t seen anything since we left the shop.”
“Good,” he said. “I’m going to put some protective charms around the house tomorrow. Nothing fancy, I’m nothing more than a beginner. But it’ll be good until we can get someone else to help.”
Noah had been silent through all of this. Olivia looked over at him. “Hey.”
“I don’t know if you remember, but we-”
“No, no, I remember,” Noah said quickly, his face turning red. “I just…no, I’m sorry. Are you okay? Do you need anything?”
“Not at this minute,” she said. “Andrew got me a stone that might be helping? And we’re going to talk to Iris tomorrow.”
She wanted to ask Noah what he was doing down here, but knew he’d take it as her wanting him to leave. So she left it alone.
“What are you doing down here?”
Though Andrew immediately jumped in feet first.
Noah shifted awkwardly. “I, um. I couldn’t sleep so I was watching a movie with Mia. I can…”
“Was she up late?”
Noah shrugged, but she didn’t pursue it. “I think I’m going to go to bed,” Olivia said.
The idea of being alone scared her. But maybe if she put enough faith in this stone, it would keep things quiet for one night.
The satisfaction of not having to debate driving another three hours after her shift ended had not faded for Cleo. Even after over a month of living with Edie, the fact that she could work a reasonable amount of hours and cover her bills was still new. Though, right now she was considering whether to stay on the clock a little longer. But there was a big difference between trying to pay her rent and trying to buy Edie a more expensive birthday gift.
Before she could decide, a delivery alert pinged. It was a pizza place off of Kelley Square. She’d take this last one, then head home.
Cleo had to admit she liked Worcester. It was a lot like Boston, a good-sized city with energy and action. But it was smaller, and the traffic was better. She probably wouldn’t want to live here, but it kept her busy with food delivery.
She had a new song forming in her head and she’d been picking at it all day, humming bits as they came to her. She didn’t quite have coherent lyrics yet, but there was a particular little progression she liked that she kept singing as she drove. If she kept at it, the lyrics would come eventually. She didn’t know if it fit the Nowhere and Everywhere album, but it could always go on the next one.
It felt good, focusing on her music. Andrew had been right, a break had been helpful. When he hadn’t texted her at all after the first couple days, she’d been worried that maybe he was mad. But then it had dawned on her that separating from New Winslow meant separating from him as well. And since it was temporary and they were back on good terms, it didn’t hurt as much as she thought it might.
Besides, she was settling in with Edie. And she loved it. Edie was a homebody, so while they went out sometimes, they spent most of their evenings at home. And since Edie tended to splurge on things for the house, these nights were almost more decadent than their date nights. Cleo’s skin hadn’t looked this good since high school, since Edie had started making face masks a regular part of their nighttime routine.
Tonight, Edie had hinted that they had a special bath bomb in mind. Their birthday was tomorrow, so tonight was for relaxing and tomorrow was for partying. Cleo was going to stop and pick up some Thai takeout on the way back and they were just going to chill out at home. It was cold and raw outside, so the thought of a hot bath with Edie was what kept Cleo going as she got caught in traffic and crept slowly toward the pizza shop.
Her phone rang as she slowly merged lanes after a red light, temporarily blocking the delivery map. It was her mother. Feeling a pang of guilt, Cleo rejected the call and the map returned. She’d call back in a few. For now, she needed to see where she was going.
By the time she had the pizza in her delivery bag and was heading toward its destination, she’d almost forgotten her mom’s call. But when she confirmed the delivery, she noticed the missed call notification. But no voicemail.
Cleo hit her mother’s number and waited for her to pick up. After about four rings, it finally connected.
“Hi Mom,” Cleo said, turning onto a side road. “Sorry I missed your call.”
There was a pause and Cleo waited for her mother to deny she’d called. “Oh, yeah,” her mother said instead. “Oh, it was nothing.”
“Just saying hi.”
Cleo wasn’t sure she believed it, but she wasn’t in the mood to fight. “How are you?” she asked.
“Fine. Going to bed.”
It wasn’t even seven yet. “When are you coming to lunch?” her mom asked before Cleo could say anything else.
“Do you want me to?”
Her stomach sank. No, please say no.
“If you want,” her mom said. “I’m fine.”
“I can come by tomorrow,” Cleo said. “How about I pick up some groceries and I’ll stop by in the afternoon. I can’t stay, since it’s Edie’s birthday. But I can come over for a little bit.”
“That’s nice,” her mom said.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?”
There was a long pause as Cleo waited for a reply. “Mom?” she prompted.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Cleo paused again. “I love you.” she said.
“I love you too.”
Her mom hung up. Cleo put the phone back on its holder and groaned. And there was the unceremonious end to her vacation from New Winslow.