New Winslow S4E6
Celine wasn’t expecting him home for a while and he wasn’t in the mood to carry on with their fight, so Roman just wandered through downtown New Winslow for a little while. He walked through the old cemetery, weaving through the graves. This was one of those cemeteries that seemed to be as old as the town. And yet, new graves went in semi-regularly. Many people didn’t want to be buried in the town. Minnie hadn’t been buried here, her family had laid her to rest on the coast.
What was her grave like? Roman tried to imagine it. Hopefully it was close enough to the water that she could hear the waves. Roman hadn’t heard waves that weren’t on TV in over twenty years. Was his imagined wave sound accurate? Either way, he hoped there were morning glories and seashells placed lovingly on the stone. Maybe he should ask Janet to send him a photo of it. He had that small packet of Minnie’s ashes tucked away in a safe place at home. When he got out of here, he’d set them free in the ocean.
Roman walked slowly between the stones. This section was a little newer, with some stones from the eighteen hundreds and a few from the nineteen thirties. In the dim light, Roman could see that the inscriptions were worn and faded out. As he stopped in front of one, he could see that the date of death was still clear, but the rest of the information had faded out.
He started walking again, reaching an area where the graves were more recent. Some had flowers on them. Some had inscriptions where the date of death wasn’t on it yet. Spouses buried before the other.
He passed a neat granite headstone with the inscription Thomas Kelly on it. Roman remembered driving Thomas’s grieving son home from Christmas last year. Noah had been drunk and desperate and from what Roman had heard, things had gotten worse from there. But apparently he’d gone to rehab.
Roman remembered Thomas, he was a good man.
He wandered through the cemetery for a few more minutes. The wind was starting to slip through his coat and his fingers were going numb, even in October. So it was time to head home.
When Roman got home, Celine was washing dishes. Her back stiffened as he approached, but she said nothing. He didn’t speak either, just picked up a towel and began drying the dishes as she set them on the rack. They worked in silence like this for a few minutes.
“How was your meeting?” Celine asked, not making eye contact.
They didn’t speak again as Roman wiped down some plates and put them back in their spot in the cabinet. Celine still hadn’t looked at him.
Finally he sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that.”
She was quiet for a moment, then turned to him. “I’m sorry too,” she said. “I was pushing. I just worry about you.”
“I know,” he said. “But I swear, you don’t have to. Yeah, I’m a little burnt out right now. But it’s not forever, it’s just long enough to find a way to break the curse.”
She looked like she wanted to say something and he braced himself for the fight to start back up. But instead she just shook her head. “Okay,” she said finally, turning back to the dishes.
It wasn’t the resolution Roman would have hoped for, but at least they were speaking.
They finished the dishes in awkward silence. By this point it was nearly eight and the rest of the evening was taken up by putting the little ones to bed. By the time nine o’clock rolled around, they were back to sitting in silence.
“Are we good?” Roman asked eventually after a while of silence on the couch.
“Yeah,” Celine said.
That didn’t truly sound like they were good, but he knew from experience that if he pushed, it would get a lot worse. So he’d take her answer at face value. If she didn’t want to expand on it, that was her problem.
Celine got up a few minutes later to do some work in the kitchen. It probably wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait until tomorrow when they got to the House of Pizza, but she decided now was the time to do that. Roman offered to help, but she turned him down. So instead, he took a shower and watched the news for a while until bed.
When Celine went to bed, Roman went with her. He kissed her goodnight, then shut off the light and lay there for a while, listening for her breathing to slow down and get steady. Once he was sure she was asleep beside him, he slipped out of bed and went out to the living room.
His laptop was sitting on the coffee table, so he sat down on the couch and turned it on. He couldn’t do the kind of magic Iris had said they’d need to push the ritual up a few days. But maybe there was a way around it. He clicked open one of the many PDFs of arcane books he’d downloaded over the past few months and started reading. There was no table of contents or index, so he had to strain his eyes and read as much as he could.
He fell asleep around two am with no new answers. When he woke up, it was nearly seven and Celine was getting ready for work.
Two complaints last night. Flat beer and cold food. Unacceptable. I’ll be calling later to discuss.
Olivia groaned and rubbed her forehead where a headache was slowly coming to life. Of course there had been complaints last night. It had been her and Hugh on and that was it. Not even anybody to sub from any of Bret’s other bars. The two of them had gotten out of work at nearly midnight after a ten o’clock closing time. Honestly, Bret was lucky there weren’t more than two complaints.
But it didn’t matter because the blame was coming down on her regardless.
Hugh had let himself in the front door without her realizing it, but Olivia didn’t even have the energy to be alarmed. Instead, she just turned around. “Morning.”
“Did you get any sleep last night?” Hugh asked, a worried look on his face.
That was technically true. She had gotten some sleep. Just not much of it.
Hugh nodded skeptically. Then he came over and glanced at the note on the computer. “Flat beer?” he said. “Really? That was the one maintenance thing I did manage to get to last night.”
“Yeah, well, apparently it wasn’t enough.”
Olivia sighed. She couldn’t even bring herself to be indignant about it. Maybe this would show that they really needed another person. The assistant manager who had occasionally covered for her had been transferred to Bret’s Turner’s Falls bar while the occasional bartender had quit. She’d given two weeks’ notice, rather than storm out on them. But that still left them severely understaffed.
“Want some breakfast?” Olivia asked.
Hugh shrugged. “I mean, if you’re making some.”
She went out back and turned on the stove. As it heated up, she started cracking eggs into a bowl. “What do you want on your omelet?” She called to Hugh, who was setting up the bar for the day.
“Whatever you’re having.”
Fine, that didn’t matter. Olivia just wanted to lose herself in the soothing movements of cooking something she actually wanted to cook, just for a few minutes. She glanced around the grill station and found some chopped peppers and onions in the refrigerator. Those, plus some garlic powder that was slightly past its expiration date would be good enough.
She stirred the eggs, then poured them onto the grill surface in two small piles. As they cooked, she sauteed the chopped vegetables. The movements were so familiar that she could do them in her sleep. Omelets had always been a go-to for her when she was busy and just wanted something soothing.
There was cheese in the fridge too, so in it went. And moments later, the fragrant breakfasts were done.
She slid the omelets onto two paper plates, then brought them out to the bar. “Smells good,” Hugh said with a smile. “Thanks.”
She handed him a plate and he took a bite. “This is-” he started, then took another bite before finishing.
His omelet was gone before she was halfway through hers. Then he smiled at her and shook his head.
“What?” Olivia asked.
Did she have something on her face? She reached up to check, but Hugh just shook his head. “You are absolutely wasted here,” he said.
For a second, Olivia was tempted to spill everything about her secret dream of owning a café. She wanted to detail every menu item, every decoration plan, everything. Maybe even the fact that she’d never be able to afford it. But saying it out loud would make it real. And if it was real, it could disappoint her.
Sure, Andrew knew. But he didn’t know how much time she devoted to her imaginary café. Or how it was what got her through the worst days, the days when she couldn’t catch up at work or the days that Mia just wouldn’t settle, no matter how much Olivia tried. Or the days when the silence from upstairs was so loud that it permeated everything she did. On those days, the idea of her imaginary café was the only thing that kept her from screaming.
So instead, she just smiled. “Thanks.”
Her omelet was getting cold, but it was still good.