Cleo was coming out of Olivia’s bathroom when Olivia walked into the kitchen. She’d clearly just woken up, with the torn UMass Amherst shirt she wore and with her hair tied up messily as she poured a cup of coffee. “Morning,” Cleo said.
Olivia looked over and smiled. “Morning,” she said. “How’d you sleep?”
“Oh, fine. Your couch is comfortable.”
“Well, you’re welcome to it any time. I won’t be home until one or so tonight, but my mom will be here.”
As much as Cleo liked Olivia’s mom, that sounded a little too awkward. “Thanks,” she said. “I might. But I might just stay at my mom’s or something. She’ll complain, but…”
“What about Noah?” Olivia asked, pouring another mug and handing it to Cleo. “I’m sure he’d be fine with you staying on his couch again.”
Something must have shown on her face, because Olivia frowned. “What is it?” she asked.
“I just…how is Noah doing?”
Olivia gave a short laugh. “How much time do you have?”
She poured some creamer in her coffee and gave it a stir. Then she sat down at the table. “He’s better,” she said. “I know that much.”
“I didn’t know he was home.”
Cleo was embarrassed to admit it. She’d still thought he was in rehab. And she didn’t know quite what rehab entailed, so her mind had supplied images of sterile rooms, group therapy, and unstable behavior. But for the past couple days, Noah had seemed so normal. Quiet, maybe. But more like the Noah she’d known before moving to Boston.
“Andrew didn’t tell you?” Olivia asked.
Cleo shook her head. “He was the one who suggested taking a break from New Winslow, so we weren’t really talking. Not fighting anymore, but…”
“Have you talked to Noah?”
“A little,” Cleo said. “We talked a little the other night, but not much.”
“He’s doing a lot better,” Olivia said. “I’m a little worried about him, obviously. But he’s been home for a bit and he seems really serious about staying sober.”
Cleo took a sip of her own drink. “I’ll ask if he minds me staying with him tonight,” she said. “Not that I don’t love Monica.”
Olivia laughed. “No, I get it,” she said. “I know a night with my mom and my kid will be thrilling.”
“I’m working anyway,” Cleo said. “I’ve got a delivery shift in Worcester, so I’ll be back around eight.”
They sat quietly for a few minutes, sipping their coffee. Then Cleo heard footsteps coming down the stairs out back. “I’m gonna go talk to Noah,” she said. “Thanks for the coffee.”
“Do you need to get back to Boston soon?”
Cleo had thought her mother was dozing in front of the TV, so she’d been absently scrolling through her phone for a bit. She jumped and looked over to where her mother was looking at her.
“You’ve been here a while. When are you going home?”
A multi-part pang went through her. “I’m staying in town tonight,” she said.
“Not here, right? I have no room.”
The trace of irritability was familiar, and Cleo resisted rolling her eyes. “No,” she replied. “I’m staying with Noah.”
“He’s the one that found you out in the woods.”
Her mother nodded. “Right. He’s handsome. Are you dating him?”
God grant her patience. “No,” Cleo replied.
“He’s not my type.”
Apparently accepting the answer, her mother nodded and turned back to the TV. Cleo glanced at the clock. It was nearly six. If she left in a few minutes, that would give her mom some privacy until Tara called to check in.
“When are you going back to Boston?”
“I don’t live in Boston anymore,” Cleo said. “I moved in with Edie.”
“That’s very close.”
“About half an hour.”
Some of the silent exasperation melted away. “I’m glad too,” Cleo said.
She was, mostly. And now that she was already nearby, it made her obligations to her mother much easier to take care of without having to live permanently in New Winslow.
She waited for her mom to talk again, but instead she just watched the TV.