When Andrew got home from Iris’s shop, Olivia was sitting on the stone wall in the backyard, watching Mia as she played with a ball on the half frozen grass. She wore a heavy sweatshirt and her normally neat hair was tangled in the wind as it hung over her face.
“Hey, Liv,” he said as he walked over.
She looked up slowly. “Hey.”
Olivia shrugged. “Yeah.”
“He went in to get Mia’s soccer net.”
“Footy in December?”
She shrugged again. He sat down next to her, debating whether he should tell her he saw Iris. He’d only seen her for a few minutes this morning. Once he’d woken up to the sound of her and Celine talking, both he and Cleo had decided to give her privacy. By the time he’d come out, she was in the shower and he’d been on his way to talk down Roman and go see Iris himself.
That conversation could wait. They sat quietly, watching Mia as she created her own elaborate game, the rules of which he couldn’t even picture.
Noah came out of the shed a moment later with a tiny football net. He set it on the wet grass, then showed Mia how to kick the ball in. Something lifted in Andrew’s chest as he saw Noah kicking the tiny ball with his enormous legs. The ball missed the net by a mile and Noah gave an exaggerated groan that set Mia laughing. Then she took the ball and was off, trying to kick it into the net herself.
“Keep practicing, you’ll get it someday,” Andrew called.
Noah gave him a lopsided grin. “She’ll be my coach,” he said as he walked over to the wall. “What are you up to?”
“Just had some errands to run.”
“You talked to Iris, didn’t you?” Olivia asked.
Busted. “Uh, yeah.”
“Did she have a reason?”
“Not anything satisfactory,” Andrew said. “She’s sorry.”
“Good,” Noah said.
“I should get Mia inside,” Olivia said. “It’s getting cold. And it’s safer in there.”
Andrew and Noah exchanged a look. “There’s protections out here too,” Noah said. “Whatever Celine was doing, she had me bring her to the property line.”
“Are you sure?”
Andrew didn’t like the fear he saw in Olivia’s eyes. She was trying to hide it, but it was obvious.
“I’m sure,” he said. “I froze my ass off out here with her, making sure it was right.”
“Sorry,” Olivia said. “I know it’s ridiculous. It’s just-”
“It’s not,” Andrew said quickly. “If you want to go in, I can take Mia for a bit.”
Olivia looked hesitant. But the decision was made for her when Mia walked over. “Diaper,” she said, staring up at Olivia.
“I got her,” Noah said, picking her up.
They made their way into the house, closing the door firmly behind them. Olivia locked the door, then unlocked it and locked it again. She did it twice before she seemed satisfied.
Andrew still felt unsettled and angry, but he wasn’t sure where to go from here. Part of him wanted to try and convince Liv and Noah to move away from here. Sell the house and get the hell out of town. But would that even make a difference? In the thousandth of a fraction of a percent chance they’d do it? It wasn’t like spirits were unique to New Winslow. Olivia could settle down in any town and still wind up with spirits harassing her at every moment. And this was assuming they got out of here at all. Sure, Andrew would be left behind for now, but he’d get out eventually. He had to, right?
“What are you thinking about?”
Noah’s voice was low as he walked back into the kitchen. Olivia had gone into the living room and Mia was right behind her, toddling after like a baby duck. And now Noah was looking at him with that intense concentration Andrew had forgotten he was capable of.
Andrew shook his head. “Nothing realistic,” he said.
Noah raised an eyebrow. “Try me.”
Andrew took a breath, hesitating for a second. Then he let it out slowly. “I was thinking about whether it’d be any safer if Liv left town for a little while.”
He was on dangerous ground and he knew it. Too much history, too many emotions. And he caught the flash of emotion on Noah’s face before he could hide it. “I don’t think so,” he continued quickly, before Noah could say anything. “It’s not the curse, it’s the spirits. And as much as I want to blame New Winslow for everything wrong with the world, I don’t think the town is the problem here.”
He wished he could read Noah’s expression. He’d been so much more open when they were kids, Andrew had barely ever had to try. But after a few tense seconds, Noah nodded. “That’s true,” he said. “Boston’s probably loaded with ghosts.”
Andrew couldn’t hold back the surprised bark of laughter. “From what I’ve heard,” he said. “I try not to focus on the more, er, metaphysical side of life when I’m not trapped in a cursed town.”
How was he possibly joking about this? And with Noah, of all people?
“When she told me about it, I was stunned,” he continued. “To the point that she thought I didn’t believe her. And it wasn’t that I didn’t, I just couldn’t connect to it right away, you know?”
Noah grimaced. “I was drunk and half-asleep,” he said, a trace of bitterness in his voice. “But I remember waking up to her talking to someone in her bedroom. I couldn’t see the other person, but it was surreal.”
“How did it get so bad so fast?”
There was a hint of shame on Noah’s face as Andrew realized he’d shoved his foot in his mouth. “I mean Liv,” he amended quickly. “This all started this year and now she’s strong enough to physically interact? What the hell?”
“I don’t know,” Noah said, grimacing. “I just hope that the measures Celine took are strong enough to keep it from happening again.”