New Winslow S4E62
“Hey, is everything okay?”
Olivia thought she’d be able to look normal at work, but apparently it had taken Hugh all of ten minutes to parse out that something was wrong. So now he was standing in the back, waiting for an answer as she plated a burger.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Olivia lied, neatening the pile of fries as she picked up the plate. “Just tired. I’m going to go bring this out.”
She ducked past him and hurried out to the one table that was occupied. The man sitting there nodded his thanks, barely looking up from his phone as she set the plate down.
Hugh was standing at the end of the bar when she got back, still watching her with concern. “Are you sure?” he asked. “I sorry, I know I’m hounding you, but-”
She held up a hand. “No, you’re right,” she said. “Come out back for a second.”
She was tempted to lead him into the storeroom and make another terrible decision. But instead, once they were in the kitchen, she took a deep breath. “This is going to sound crazy,” she started. “But I’ve been seeing ghosts. And one, um, really messed with me the other night. I’m still kind of getting over it.”
Something about the word possession made her uneasy, so she intentionally softened it. But part of her still expected Hugh to immediately accept the truth the same way that her friends did. Instead, her heart sank as a hesitant look crossed his handsome face.
“You don’t believe me,” she said softly.
Instead of denying it, he sighed. “Olivia, it’s not that,” he said. “It’s just-you’ve been under so much pressure lately and-”
Her stomach went cold, and it was all she could do not to scream or cry right there. “I’m not lying,” she said through a parched throat.
“I know you’re not,” Hugh said quickly. “And I know this town has a lot of weirdness to it. But-”
Olivia shook her head, cutting off whatever he was about to say to her. “I have to do inventory,” she said. “I’ll be in the basement, call me if any orders come in.”
Before Hugh could say anything else, she hurried out of the kitchen and down the stairs into the basement.
Hugh watched Olivia hurry away with the uneasy feeling that he’d fucked up badly. But ghosts? And specifically ghosts that could hurt people? He knew the curse was real, but maybe there was a scientific explanation for that. It didn’t have to be paranormal. But before he’d been able to process what she’d said and maybe find a way to explain his point of view, he’d instead opened his big mouth and implied she was just making things up.
He wanted to go down after her and apologize. But how could he apologize while also saying he didn’t believe her? He didn’t think she was lying. She certainly thought she was seeing ghosts. But the idea of her being some kind of medium was a step too far for him to really accept without a degree of skepticism.
That said though, the broken look on her face as he’d tried to backtrack almost made him want to cry too.
Before he could say fuck it and hurry down after her, the door opened and a couple of guys came in. They came straight up to the bar and ordered beers, leaving him glancing toward the dark stairway of the basement as he turned and went back to work.
About fifteen minutes later, the guys were walking out as the door opened and Noah walked in. Hugh didn’t know all of the details about why Noah had left Keegan’s, but he assumed it had something to do with whatever accident had put him in that cast. But here he was anyway, when Hugh was itching to go check on Olivia.
“Hey,” Noah said, coming up to the bar. “Is Liv around?”
“Yeah,” Hugh said. “She’s downstairs doing inventory.”
“Mind if I run down?”
He wondered briefly if he should tell Noah. The other man would probably find out soon enough, but maybe he’d have some insight into what Olivia was talking about. Or what might have sparked it.
Noah watched him patiently as he tried to find the words. “Listen, is she alright?” Hugh asked finally. “She said something about seeing ghosts.”
Noah nodded, still looking at him like he expected Hugh to say something else. He was one of the few people Hugh knew that was taller than he was and looking up to talk to him was a strange sensation. “Yeah,” Noah said finally. “Yeah, I don’t know how much she’s told you. But ghosts take a hell of a lot of energy out of you to begin with. And with what happened to her…”
Hugh’s heart sank. “Is that why?” Noah asked. “Was she not feeling good today?”
Then he looked at Hugh’s expression and narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t.”
Noah wasn’t the most stable person Hugh knew, but either both Noah and Olivia had both cracked under pressure or Hugh had fucked up badly. “Noah, you’re not telling me you believe she got, like, possessed or something,” he said, trying to keep the defensive edge out of his voice. “Look, I really care about Olivia but if she believes-”
Noah shook his head. “Un-fucking-believable,” he muttered. “She’s downstairs?”
Noah disappeared down the stairs, leaving Hugh alone behind the bar, still unsure what was going on but certain he’d messed up.
Olivia heard heavy footsteps coming down the stairs and hurriedly wiped her tears. If Hugh thought she was crazy, then seeing her down here crying wouldn’t do much for his opinion of her.
Maybe he was right. Maybe she’d been under so much pressure that she’d just kind of snapped and imagined she got possessed. And then she’d managed to convince everyone around her of it too. But the feeling of cold tendrils weaving into her mind, shoving her out of control of her own body, it felt too real. Too terrifying.
Noah came around the corner to where she was standing with her clipboard and hurriedly trying to look like she was writing down inventory numbers. “Oh, hey,” Olivia said, keeping her voice steady. “What are you doing here?”
“I was here to say hi,” Noah said. “But I talked to Hugh on the way in. What the hell happened?”
She laughed nervously, wiping her face again. “He, um, he thinks maybe I’m under a lot of pressure and things didn’t quite happen like I think they did.”
“You mean when you got possessed by a ghost and Celine had to use magic to get it to let go of you?”
“Blunt, but yeah.”
“Liv, he’s a good guy, but he doesn’t know what he’s fucking talking about.”
She nodded rapidly, trying to push through the guilt and the fear and the disappointment mingling inside of her. She’d genuinely thought Hugh got it. He got the curse, he got everything else. But apparently ghosts were a step too far for him.
What the fuck?
“You aren’t losing it,” Noah continued. “I promise.”
She nodded again, and he smiled. In the dim light from the basement windows, she could see the hole in his smile where his tooth had been punched out last year. “You’re good at this,” she tried to joke.
“Six weeks in rehab will do that for you.”
She threw her arms around him and Noah let out a surprised huff as she knocked the wind out of him. There were so many things she wanted to say. How she missed him, how she was grateful that he was reassuring her of her own sanity, that she was just happy to have him here. But the words wouldn’t form, so instead she just held him tighter.
Hugh was nervous when Noah came up a few minutes later. But the other man just nodded at him. “She’s fine,” he said.
“I’m going to go.”
There was none of the easy friendliness that Noah had shown him since he returned. Instead, he just held up his casted hand in a wave and walked out.
Olivia came back upstairs a few minutes after that. “Inventory is set,” she said. “Are there any orders?”
“No,” Hugh said. “Olivia, I’m sorry.”
She shrugged. “It’s fine.”
But he could tell it wasn’t fine. Her voice was light, but there was a distance there. And as she walked into the back room, he had a feeling things were done being fine between them.