The phone was ringing, pulling Olivia out of vague, unsettling thoughts as she washed the dishes. She set down the plate in her hand, dried her hands on a towel, and picked up.
It was Iris. As Olivia placed her voice, a surge of anger went through her, stronger than anything she’d felt yet.
“Yes,” she said shortly.
“It’s Iris,” the other woman continued.
She’d let this happen. She’d seen what happened at that creepy inn and she’d let this happen again. The urge to scream was bubbling up in her throat and her heart pounded so hard in her ears that she almost couldn’t hear. Olivia knew if she opened her mouth, poison would come out and she wouldn’t be able to take back anything she said. And she almost didn’t care about that, but she just didn’t have the energy to do anything at all right now. So instead of screaming, she hung up the phone and stood against the wall for a moment, breathing heavily.
Then she went back to washing the dishes. The sink was filled with soapy water and it was cooling just a little as she worked. One at a time was fine. Lift, scrub, rinse, dry. Lift, scrub, rinse, dry. If Olivia just focused on that, everything would be fine. She could feel the amulet from Celine around her neck, the string slightly damp from the occasional splash of water. As long as she focused on the pattern and kept that amulet on her body, Olivia would be fine. It was fine.
But her hands were shaking so hard that the dish slipped out of her grip, falling to the tile counter and shattering. Olivia watched the pieces as they fell all over the counter and onto the floor. She should get them, but right now she wasn’t sure she could do anything at all except stare.
“Is everything okay?”
Right, Cleo was over. Olivia had completely forgotten she wasn’t alone in the house right now. She felt like she was in a fog as Cleo hurried over. “I’m fine,” Olivia said, shaking her head. “I just dropped a plate.”
Before she could protest, Cleo had grabbed the broom and was sweeping up the pieces. “What’s wrong?” Cleo asked. “Who was on the phone?”
“Iris,” Olivia said, eyes stinging.
Cleo threw the broken plate pieces in the trash, then walked back over to Olivia. She wrapped her arms around her and Olivia leaned her forehead against Cleo’s chest. “She let this happen,” Olivia said, voice muffled by Cleo’s shirt.
“I think she called to apologize. I hung up on her.”
“You’re allowed to.”
Olivia was so sick of crying. She’d spent so long depressed and now that she was finally pulling herself out of that postpartum depression, this new trauma was working its way in. Her skin itched, and she unwillingly thought about the way the ghost had taken her body, controlling her like his puppet and forcing her to do his bidding as her friends watched in horror.
“Hugh didn’t believe me,” she said.
Olivia lifted her head and looked up at Cleo. “I said Hugh didn’t believe me. He said I was under a lot of pressure.”
“This is Hugh from work?”
Olivia nodded, face and eyes burning. “And now I have to work with him every day. And we were something, Cleo. I don’t know what, but we were something and it was really nice.”
She untangled herself from Cleo’s arms and sat down at the table. “Did I tell you we were hooking up in the storeroom?”
Cleo let out a shocked laugh. “No!” she exclaimed, sitting down beside Olivia at the table.
Despite herself, Olivia laughed too. “We were,” she said. “It was great. Noah busted us one time.”
“Like Noah has room to talk.”
“That’s what I said!”
There were tears swimming in her eyes now, but she was laughing. “I’m so mad,” Olivia continued. “Like, at the world. And I’m so tired. And my body feels like it isn’t mine anymore and I hate that feeling.”
Cleo didn’t say anything, but Olivia didn’t expect her to. She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. “I guess Iris just caught me off guard. Like, what am I supposed to say? Oh, it’s okay that you got me possessed fucking twice? Andrew apparently went and talked to her, so she must have felt bad enough to call now.”
Olivia shook her head. “I’m okay,” she said, half believing it. “I’ll be okay.”
Cleo stayed where she was and Olivia relaxed, just a little. The late afternoon sun was streaming in the window and Olivia was safe in her home. Mia was safe in her bed and at the very least, this house was protected. The dishes could wait a little while.