Hours later, Cleo opened her eyes. The sound of pacing had been coming from Noah’s bedroom for a little while now. She’d been dozing on his pullout couch next to Edie, but the noise kept pulling her out of any murky, light sleep she’d been able to catch.
Not that she minded though. Every time she’d slipped into sleep, she’d found herself in dreams of her mother wandering in the cold. In each one, Cleo was helpless to find her. Sometimes the dreams faded before she could grasp what was happening. Other times, Noah came back alone. And in the worst one, she’d been sitting at her mother’s kitchen table alone when her mother had walked back in. Cleo had stood up to greet her, but her mother had simply shaken her head and faded into smoke.
So yeah, she’d take being awake over that.
Edie shifted in their sleep, a hand brushing Cleo’s side. A blend of emotions bubbled up in her as she looked at their sleeping face. Anger that they’d come here, worry that they’d get stuck tomorrow. And overwhelming gratitude underneath all of that. Because they’d dropped everything and come to her when she needed them most.
Her mom hadn’t been very communicative at the hospital tonight, but Cleo was hoping she’d be in better shape tomorrow. Once everything had settled down and the x-rays came back, the doctors didn’t seem concerned about her immediate health. The nice young doctor that had talked to Cleo afterward had assured her that they could treat the hypothermia and that everything else was cuts and bruises that would heal on their own. Because of her age and the amount of time she’d been exposed to the freezing temperatures, they were keeping her for at least a night or two for observation.
The dementia, on the other hand, was the major concern. Her mother had finally agreed to get screened as soon as possible. She’d looked so defeated, eyes downcast as she worried the blanket that was draped over her on the hospital bed. Even as Cleo had sat beside her, hand just close enough to her mother’s hand that she could feel the returning heat, but not actually holding her. Cleo had wanted to, so badly. For the first time in years, she’d hoped her mother would let her hold her hand. She’d accepted the frantic embrace back at the house, but even now, Cleo had seen the fear and hesitation in her mother’s eyes. So she’d left it alone.
What was he doing in there? Cleo wanted to go in and talk to him, but she also wanted to give him space. She hadn’t even known he was home yet. Had the others just not told her? Did they forget or did they think she wouldn’t care? Maybe Noah was still a little too fresh out of treatment to think of it. Or maybe he thought she’d hate him. She could remember that last night all too clearly. His wild eyes, the way he looked like he might pass out right there as he lobbed venom at each of them. She knew that wasn’t him, knew what addiction did to people. Cleo was a musician, it wasn’t exactly like the scene was free of drug problems. But comparing that to how he’d shown up today, sober and in control, It was unreal.
Cleo sat up and brushed her long hair out of her face. She wasn’t going to sleep any time soon and apparently neither was he. So she might as well check in.
She stood up, moving the warm blanket aside just long enough for Edie to grumble and reach for it back. Then she padded across the room and knocked on his bedroom door.
“It’s Cleo,” she said softly.
A second later, the door opened, and Noah looked at her from the doorway. He still wore the sling from downstairs, but other than that he was just in pajama pants. She smiled at him and a second later he smiled cautiously back.
“What’s up?” he asked, voice rough. “Are you okay? Do you have enough blankets?”
“I’m fine,” Cleo said. “Just couldn’t sleep and I could hear you in here too. Are you okay?”
He shrugged, then winced. “Fine,” he said. “Just…”
“Is it broken?” she asked.
“You broke your arm saving my mom?”
“No,” Noah said abruptly. “I broke my arm falling off a ladder piss drunk in February. I re-hurt my arm because I was an idiot and didn’t take care of it earlier. And I wasn’t the only one out there, I just got to her first.”
“But you got to her,” Cleo said. “And I owe you for that.”
“You don’t owe me shit.”
Cleo glanced over to make sure that Edie hadn’t woken up, then turned back to Noah. “I missed you,” she said.
Noah looked unsure in the dim light coming in the window. “Can I tell you something?” he asked.
“They had me on suicide watch. At the clinic, I mean. I was so scared of coming home and I told my therapist that I might do it. That’s why I stayed longer.”
Cleo didn’t know how to respond to that, but apparently Noah wasn’t looking for a response. “I’m not going to do it,” he continued. “I don’t want to die, I want to get better. But I didn’t tell anyone why I decided to stay and I don’t know if I’m going to.”
He looked beyond her into the darkness of the room. Cleo reached over and took his good hand, squeezing it tight. A second later, he squeezed back.