New Winslow S5E2

Cleo wasn’t sure what she’d expected to happen once her mother was back home. Sure, Tara Stevenson was a godsend, staying with her mother for some overnights and when Cleo was working. And Tara’s sister, who her mother apparently also knew, had been able to help for a couple of days while she’d been in town. But now her mother could not be left alone and it was her and Tara who were responsible for that.

Someone had to stay with her overnight every night, and that was falling on Cleo. So she was working during the day, then instead of going back to her own home and partner, she was coming straight to New Winslow to set up camp in her mother’s tiny living room.

Now here she was, sitting on the couch with her guitar beside her, scribbling lyrics and hoping for some kind of spark. Her mom was in her room. She claimed she was taking a nap, but Cleo was pretty sure she was hiding. And she completely understood. Her mother had gone from having her own privacy, her own space that no one rarely interfered with, to needing twenty-four-hour care. No matter what she did, someone was in her house. And while it was always someone she knew, sometimes she didn’t know them at the time. So if she was going to hide from strangers or her own daughter, Cleo couldn’t blame her.

Cleo yawned, covering her mouth with a fist, then brushing her choppy black hair back over her shoulder. That song, Pull You Back, was still growing. She didn’t get all the social media aspects of it, but Edie was four years younger than her and seemed to understand exactly what was happening. And anything she didn’t catch, her bandmates were right on top of. Meanwhile, Cleo understood the fact that her song was being played on streaming services (not a moneymaker) and sales of her existing albums were growing (actually an okay moneymaker?) And now she was also getting emails about licensing, something she had no clue about. But from the way the others talked about it, that could be a decent income as well.

So while she had no idea how a teenage drama had gotten ahold of her song and incorporated it into their ten-minute episodes, she wasn’t going to complain about it. Not if it might get her out of delivering food all over Massachusetts.

She picked up her guitar and strummed a soft chord, muffling it so that it wouldn’t travel into her mom’s room and wake her up. The sound was dull and uninspired, but Cleo tried not to let that get into her. Instead, she glanced at the lyrics on the coffee table in front of her, words she’d scribbled out in between possibly paranoid checks on the locks and standing outside her mother’s closed door, listening for the faint sounds of movement from inside. As of now, she didn’t like this song so much. But maybe it was one of those that would clean up nicely in the revision stage.

Cleo was spending the night here again. She’d been staying on the worn out couch and the springs inside it were starting to hurt her back. If this kept going, maybe she’d need to get her mom a new couch. Or a foldout bed for herself. She didn’t want that, she wanted her own bed with Edie. But she had a responsibility to her mom too.

Cleo jotted down a few more lines, each more tired than the other. No, this wasn’t going to work. She needed to build an entire album around Pull You Back.

Yeah, she felt that pain she’d poured into that song still. It was ridiculous, but she really was trapped here. It wasn’t her mother’s fault, and it had nothing to do with the curse after a lifetime of fearing it. No, it was the fact her mother needed her and Cleo wasn’t going to let her down.

Her phone rang a few hours later as she was making supper. Her mother had come out of her room by this point and was sitting in the living room, sullenly watching the news and pretending Cleo wasn’t there. Cleo set down the wooden spoon she was using to stir the frozen pasta and picked up her phone. “Hello?”

“Hey. Just checking in.”

Edie’s light voice was like a shot of sunshine cutting through her mood. Cleo smiled, then shifted her phone to her left ear and picked the spoon back up. “No changes,” she said, trying to keep her voice light in case her mother overheard her from the living room. “I’m staying the night and I’ll be home for a little while tomorrow.”

“Want me to come there and keep you company?”

She did. She wanted it so badly. And considering Edie had already been to New Winslow during that nightmarish evening when her mother had gone missing, Cleo should have been more comfortable with the idea. “No, that’s okay,” she said. “It’s a… a touchy day.”

What she wanted to say was it was a frigging nightmare and her mom was alternating between sulking and not knowing Cleo’s name. And Cleo so badly wanted to go home, take a bath in their amazingly large bathtub, and rest for a few hours before starting it all over again. But again, a small house. And if her mom heard her complaining, she might either feel guilty or get mad and kick Cleo out. Neither of which Cleo wanted.

“You’re sure?” Edie asked.

“Yeah. I’m fine, I promise. I’m just doing some writing.”

“Speaking of,” Edie started, trailing off a little.

Cleo waited patiently, hearing the sound of a hissing pot on the other end. Edie must have been making their own dinner too. They swore softly. “Sorry,” they said. “My soup overflowed. But what I was about to say is that Tyler and Ryan are going to come over in a few days to do some tour planning. If you can get home for a few hours, or maybe overnight, we can discuss what to do…”

About Cleo’s song going viral. There was no non-douchey way to put it, was there? She felt like an ass even thinking it, but that was exactly what had happened. And now they were doing everything they could to jump on that and use it as a launchpad to keep her career moving to the next level. Or more, Ryan had been doing his best to at least keep his finger on the pulse while she’d been busy with her mother. She was so grateful for that, because the idea of even dipping a toe into whatever was happening with her song on the internet was way too overwhelming to even consider on top of everything else.

“Yeah,” she said. “I’ll be there. I’ll talk to Tara and we’ll figure it out.”

“Great,” Edie said. “I figure we really need to have a sit-down and just figure this all out on both sides. Because our numbers are going up too.”

Edie, Tyler, and Ryan made up a Boston-based rock band called The Blossom Step. Edie had replaced their old drummer right before they’d all left on tour together nearly a year ago. The band had been far from struggling when they were on tour, but their devoted fan base was small and localized. Either way, the idea that her song was bringing them all up made Cleo dizzy just thinking about it.


Her mom’s voice sounded uncertain, almost scared. Cleo shook her head. She couldn’t think about touring right now though, she needed to make sure her mom was fine. “I have to go,” she said to Edie. “I’ll be home tomorrow for a little while, but I’ll probably be back later in the day.”

“Of course,” Edie said. “And I mean it, babe. I will go to New Winslow to help you out. This is too much for two people to do by themselves.”

Emotion tightened her throat, and she nodded. “Love you,” she said.

“Love you too.”

Cleo hung up and turned the pasta down to low heat. Then she set her phone down and headed into the living room to see what her mom needed.


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