Cleo wanted to stay at Olivia’s another night, just in case her mom needed anything in the night. When she’d left, her mother had been awake and eating the supper that Mrs. Stevenson had brought. The two of them were going to spend some time together tonight, but Mrs. Stevenson couldn’t stay and her mother wanted a little bit of alone time.
Olivia had made a copy of her house key, so Cleo let herself in. The first thing she saw was Noah asleep on the couch. Mia was standing in front of him, carefully balancing a stuffed frog on his stomach. Judging by the three other animals lying on top of him, this game had been going on for a little while.
She walked toward the kitchen, where Olivia was sitting at the table. She looked as tired as Cleo felt. “Hey,” Cleo said.
Olivia jumped, then smiled at her. “Oh, hey.”
“Sorry,” Cleo said, gesturing toward the living room. “I didn’t want to disturb whatever is happening there.”
“How many does she have on him now?”
“Four, I think.”
Olivia laughed. “He’s going to be buried by the time he wakes up.”
Cleo sat down at the table with a sigh. “How is your mom?” Olivia asked.
“Good,” Cleo replied. “Mrs. Stevenson got everything set up for her, so she could take a long nap when we got back. And me and Mrs. Stevenson had a good talk about everything that needs to happen now.”
Olivia listened silently as Cleo went back through all the details. All the check-in plans, the different options for home health aides, the way they’d trade things off. As Cleo talked, it was like the thin barrier that had kept things from sinking in evaporated.
“So what are you going to do?” Olivia asked after she’d laid out the options.
“I guess just keep doing what I’m doing. I’m about half an hour away now, so I don’t think I need to move any closer. But I need to be here for her, at least for now. Maybe eventually she’ll need more help than I can…”
Cleo’s throat tightened as the unexpected tears stung her eyes. It wasn’t the first time she’d thought about her mother’s future, but it hit extra hard right now. Her mom was sick, and she wasn’t going to get better.
Olivia swiftly got up from the table, wrapped her arms around Cleo, and held her tight.
Noah woke up to the sound of the front door opening. Andrew stepped inside, kicking off his shoes as flurries clung to his pea coat and hair. He was humming softly and Noah didn’t move.
Andrew turned around and saw him. He smiled and Noah’s heart picked up unexpectedly. “Oh, hi,” Andrew said.
His voice was a croak, and he shook his head to clear it. Then he sat up and watched as a pile of stuffed animals toppled off of his body and onto the floor. Andrew laughed and Noah shook his head with a smile.
Then a sharp bolt of pain shot through his now-throbbing wrist in a way that made him gasp. Andrew frowned.
“Are you in pain?”
Noah was starting to get familiar with that slightly impatient look now. “When are you due for your meds?” Andrew asked.
Noah wanted to argue that he’d been asleep and hadn’t looked at the time yet. So it was unreasonable for Andrew to get irritated with him over this. “I’ll go get them,” he said.
Andrew huffed a laugh. “You’re so bloody stubborn. Are they upstairs?”
Before Noah could say anything about maybe not wanting people walking in and out of his apartment all day, Andrew disappeared back out the door. He laid back down and closed his eyes.