Cleo was a little disappointed that Olivia was working tonight, but she had to admit it was nice to get a little time for just her and Andrew. Olivia’s mother had Mia, so it was just the two of them as they sat down for dinner in Andrew and Olivia’s kitchen.
She cringed a little internally as she felt herself think of it as Andrew’s kitchen too. But he’d been here nearly a year now with no sign of the curse letting up. She wasn’t sure exactly what was going on with him trying to get out. He wasn’t avoiding the topic exactly, but they didn’t talk about it much. After several attempts to start a conversation over the past few months, she’d given up trying to bring it up. He kept insisting he was fine, and she hadn’t wanted to make things worse for him by starting a fight.
But she felt guilty about bringing him here in the first place. And she wished she could help more. Apparently he was still working with Iris Davies, but nothing seemed to be happening there.
So now they were sitting in familiar silence as they waited for the frozen pasta Cleo had brought with her to cook. She’d offered to pick up dinner, temporarily forgetting that Andrew really couldn’t access an actual grocery store. And she didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary walking around downtown, so that took Keegan’s and New Winslow House of Pizza out of the running tonight. So frozen penne alfredo it was. She liked it just fine and he seemed fine with it. It wasn’t late night sushi from the little place down the street from his place on Beacon Hill, but it was better than nothing.
Andrew took a sip of his wine. “So you’re getting settled in with Edie?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Cleo replied. “Yeah, I’ve got most of my things there and it’s been nice. A little weird, but nice.”
He frowned. “Why weird?”
Cleo shrugged. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I think I just lived alone for so long that as great as having Edie there is, it’s different.”
Andrew nodded. “Yeah, I get that.”
Something must have changed on her face because Andrew sighed. “Cleo,” he said.
“This isn’t your fault.”
He’d said it enough times now that she thought she’d be able to agree and move on. But apparently something inside of her had other plans tonight because the words were out before she could stop herself. “It is,” she said. “Andrew, if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t be here.”
“But I chose to come,” he insisted, his voice maddeningly patient. “In fact, you paid me a large sum of money to come.”
“But I shouldn’t have asked you to begin with.”
Andrew closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know what you want me to say,” he said, voice tinged with frustration now.
“Just let me have some ownership of this situation,” Cleo said. “I’m not saying I dragged you here. But I am saying that I started it.”
“And I’m a grown man who agreed to it,” Andrew said. “Cleo, what the hell is all of this about?”
What was it about? Was she just in the mood to kick a hornet’s nest and Andrew was the most convenient target? She suddenly didn’t want to be here. It was too hot in this kitchen. She should have gone straight home after visiting her mother. Why did she feel so obligated to be here if Andrew didn’t even care if she stayed or not?
Apparently she was silent just long enough for him to guess what she was thinking. “You don’t need to be here if you don’t want to,” he said quietly.
“I do,” Cleo said quickly. “It’s just-”
“No, you aren’t obligated to be here. Maybe you need to be in town for your mum, but you don’t need to be here just because I’m here.”
He was angry now as he very deliberately folded his napkin and set it down on the table beside his wine glass. “You don’t need to put your life on hold,” he continued. “And frankly, I don’t want you to. I’m fine.”
“If you’re so fine, why did you give up so fast?”
The hot burst of anger that flooded into her was instant. He narrowed his eyes. “Excuse me?”
“You know what I mean,” Cleo said, the words tumbling out. “You lost the apartment, then you lost your job. Did you actually fight for them at all? Or did you just roll over and die when you didn’t get out of here in the first hour?”
Andrew shoved his chair back from the table and stood up so quickly that it almost startled her. “Are you serious right now?” he demanded. “I’ve been trying to get out for nine months!”
“And then what?” Cleo asked, standing now too. “What are you going to go back to?”
Andrew froze like she’d just slapped him. For a second he looked so lost that she felt guilty for saying these things. But she had to. “I can’t figure you out,” she continued. “If you hate New Winslow so much, why are you just staying here playing house with Olivia?”
“Don’t fucking bring Liv into this,” Andrew said. “She’s been nothing but good to either of us.”
He was right, but she wasn’t going to admit it. Instead, she pushed on. “Andrew, I’m worried about you,” she said. “This isn’t your life. So what are you going to do when you do get out?”
The timer went off on the alfredo, but neither of them moved to get it. Instead, they just glared at each other. Part of Cleo, the part that didn’t want to throw up right now, was actually relieved to have gotten some kind of reaction out of Andrew for once.
“I don’t need your concern,” Andrew said, that infuriating patience back in his voice. “And I don’t need your guilt. Or for you to feel obligated to see me like I’m a fucking child.”
“Then I guess I’ll just go,” Cleo said.
“I think that would be a good idea.”
She took a shaky breath, then before she could say anything she would regret, she turned around and walked out the door. Andrew didn’t say anything or follow as she slammed the apartment door shut behind her.
It was cold outside as she nearly ran to her car, starting it with shaking hands. That shouldn’t have happened. They never fought. And what had she been thinking, saying those things to him?
She needed to get out of New Winslow. And stay away for as long as she could.
By the time Cleo got home, she was still shaking and trying not to cry. What the hell had that been? She could still see Andrew’s calm face, that expression she knew was hiding fury. And unlike every other time she’d seen that expression, this time that anger was directed right at her. And the fact that he hadn’t texted her made it clear that he wasn’t interested in fixing this right away.
But she wasn’t wrong. Or, at least, not anymore wrong than he was. Andrew had settled in there. Sure, he talked about trying to get out and all the different spells and shit that he and Iris were doing. But he’d lost his home and his job and clearly it wasn’t affecting him all that much. Did he even miss his life in Boston anymore? Did he miss her at all?
She knew that was stupid, they still saw each other. And it wasn’t like they were going to be living the exact same lives forever. But it had happened so quickly. They’d gone from their established lives in Boston with careers and routines to whatever the hell this was now. And even though he’d agreed to it, it had been Cleo’s idea. She was the one who told her mom she’d come back. She was the one who convinced him to join her. And then she was the one who got out while he was left behind.
She pulled into the small dirt parking lot of her and Edie’s building and turned off her car, letting the music cut out. The silence rang in her ears as she sat for a moment, taking shuddering breaths as she gripped the steering wheel. She wanted to call him right now. She wanted to apologize and tell him she was wrong to say those things and could they please put it behind them? But another part of her wanted the satisfaction of telling him to fuck off and not to talk to her.
But seriously, what was he going to do? He didn’t seem to know or care and that worried Cleo. Why was he bothering keeping up this whole idea of breaking the curse if he didn’t actually care about it? Because what if he never did? Would he just waste his life trying more and more outlandish ways to get out?
Or what if the solution wasn’t there? What if it just opened up and spit him out someday, the way it apparently had done for his mother? What was Andrew going to do then?
And while she was thinking about it, how dare he be so condescending to her? He wasn’t her father, he didn’t need to explain whether or not her feelings were valid. And it wasn’t like he got a fucking say in that anyway.
It was New Winslow, it had to be. Something about that fucking town got to people. Olivia seemed to thrive there, but she just seemed so trapped sometimes. Andrew seemed to be slowly fading into the town, no matter how much he protested that he actually hated it. And Noah-
The less she thought about Noah the better, apparently. Liv had mentioned that Noah was spending some more time in rehab and while Cleo didn’t have any details, she couldn’t help thinking that the Noah she’d known was gone. Which was something she just wasn’t going to think about right now.
She opened the door and the cold air rushed into the car. It felt good against her overheated face and she took several deep breaths of it before she stood up and made her way toward the apartment.
Edie was in the kitchen, chopping some vegetables when Cleo got inside. “You’re home early!” Edie exclaimed, turning around with a smile on their face.
The smile dropped and Cleo knew exactly how bad she looked by the soft look that replaced it. “Cleo,” Edie said, setting down the knife and stepping forward. “Hey, what happened?”
Cleo shook her head, her throat tightening again. “Me and Andrew got in a fight,” she said.
“Shit,” Edie said. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She kind of wanted to just start screaming, but the bone deep fatigue that was setting in made that idea unappealing. Cleo shook her head. “No,” she said. “I think I’m just going to shower and go to bed.”
Edie nodded. “I love you,” they said, squeezing her hand as she passed by.
Fifteen minutes later, Cleo was showered and sliding into bed. She glanced at her phone one last time. Not that she really expected Andrew to apologize first, but if he did, she’d immediately accept it if it meant getting back to normal. Or at least as normal as it got lately.
But there were no messages. And when she woke up the next morning, her notifications were still empty.