New Winslow S5E5

Cleo was home for the first time in three nights, so she’d figured that she and Edie would maybe go on a nice date or have some quiet time at home. However, Edie had sheepishly mentioned that they were having that band meeting when Cleo got home. The guys had shown up about ten minutes later. Cleo was half-frustrated and half-relieved. She kind of wanted to just lie down on her bed for ten hours, but they really did have a lot of things to discuss.

“So, um, Tyler’s kept me up to date with…” Ryan gestured vaguely at Cleo as he stepped away from the front door and kicked off his shoes. “How is that all going?”

Cleo laughed. “Overwhelming?” she said. “It’s been a month and there’s no sign of it ending.”

“It’s a good song,” Ryan said. “And you hit the trends just right apparently. We’ve been, like, researching how to get it just right and you just did it.”

“I’ve seen it in at least twenty serious videos,” Cleo said. “And don’t even get me started on the parodies.”

“If you’re getting parodied, you’re doing something right.”

Edie had stepped into the room and was now taking the bags of chips and dip from Ryan. There was a noise from the hallway and a minute later, Tyler was walking in with three pizza boxes.

“Hi all!” he called cheerfully as he swung the door shut behind himself.

A few minutes later they were all seated around the kitchen table with pizza and cans of soda. They caught up for a few minutes, Cleo mostly hanging back a little as the others traded stories. Then Ryan turned to her.

“Alright,” he said. “So you wanted to discuss where to take it from here?”

“Yeah,” Cleo said. “Basically, I have no idea what to do.”

He motioned for her to hand him the sheet she’d printed out and she passed it over. Even with his septum piercing and sleeve tattoos, he looked more like an investment banker than a lead guitarist as he looked over the numbers Cleo gave him. He nodded thoughtfully, then looked at her.

“So this is…”


“What do you want to do?”

Cleo blew out a laugh. “You tell me,” she said. “Every minute I haven’t been worrying about my mom I’ve been worrying about this. I have no idea what to do.”

Ryan took a chip and thought for a second as he ate it. “So, like, I’ve never been viral,” he said. “We’ve been doing well, but it’s been a grind. A good grind, but a grind. And we’re gotten a boost from this too. Like, guys, we might need to hire a real accountant to start doing this if it keeps up.”

“We’ve finally made it,” Tyler said, deadpan.

Edie snorted, but reached over and squeezed Cleo’s hand. “You gotta get out there and support it,” Ryan said. “You have to be playing live. And maybe we can do some live streams or something. How’s your social media strategy?”


“Fucking thirty-somethings,” Ryan muttered.

Oh right, she was about five years older than everyone in the room. Ryan was laughing as he said it, but Cleo felt her face heat up anyway.

“So right now it looks like streams on your entire discography are up, but the version of this song you posted is obviously above and beyond all that. But looking at this pattern, it’s early obviously, but I think you can definitely build on this momentum. Obviously your income won’t be predictable, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But Cleo, I think this is a turning point for all of us. We really need to get planning for that tour. You need to be putting out more music. We all need to be putting out more music. And you said you’ve been getting requests for licensing?”

Cleo nodded. “I’ve got a few different things. A couple college films and a marketing agency, but I think a couple more have come in.”

“You’re gonna want to talk to a lawyer about that.”

“I can’t afford a lawyer!”

Ryan looked back down at the numbers. “I mean, give it another month and you might. Streams are crap for revenue, everyone knows that. But you’re getting sales, you’re getting streams. I mean, look at this. You’re selling merch. When was the last time you even updated your merch store?”

“I have a…oh yeah!”

“Alright,” Ryan said, tapping his pen on the table. “We need you playing live, we need you writing more music, and we need you getting out there more on social media. I think that’s a good start. And we need to do the same.”

He winked at Cleo. “We’re gonna be opening for you on the next tour.”

Now her face was on fire. “It’s not that-”

He waved her off with a laugh. “Seriously though,” he said. “A tour will make a big difference right now. I’ve been in touch with some of the folks in the UK that I was talking about and they’re able to get us some shows if we want them.”

The giddy feeling in her stomach faded, replaced with unease as she realized that wasn’t possible. “I don’t know about a tour,” she said. “I can’t-my mom…”

Ryan’s smile faded and she could almost see the wheels in his mind turning as he tried to find a solution for her. “It’s me and her best friend taking care of her and we can’t leave her alone,” Cleo continued. “The fact that I could be home tonight is honestly just because Mrs. Stevenson kicked me out to get some sleep.”

“What about local places?” Ryan suggested.

“That could work,” Cleo said. “But it’d be tricky to manage.”

“For playing live, couldn’t you talk to Olivia?”

Edie’s questions punctured the bubble of overwhelm that was surrounding Cleo. She turned. “What do you mean?”

“She’s got the bar. I mean, it’s not like Apex, but it’d be convenient. And we could record it and get it online.”

“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Cleo thought she said it calmly, but now all three of them were looking at her oddly. “What?” Cleo snapped.

“Why isn’t it a good idea?” Tyler asked. “Is it a shitty bar?”

“That doesn’t matter,” Ryan said. “It can be an ambiance.”

He stressed the last word in a way that showed he was half-joking, but Cleo shook her head. “No, listen, I’d rather not connect anything else from my career with that town, okay? It’s bad enough that…”

She managed to shut her mouth before she finished saying it was bad enough that Edie had gotten involved. But Edie clearly grasped where that had been going and they weren’t impressed. For a second, Cleo thought they might say something. But instead, Edie just shook their head.

“Whatever,” they said. “Sure. Yeah, if you don’t want to do a dive bar, we can figure something else out.”

“No, dive bars are fine. I’ll go with anything else. I just really don’t want to get stuck in New Winslow. I’m there often enough now that I’m regularly risking it, why add on more?”

Tyler raised an eyebrow, but Ryan shrugged. “There’s plenty of other places. I want to get us some shows too, so maybe we can schedule some and take turns being the opener. Our buddy’s got a brewery that we’ve played a few times, let’s talk to him. And we’ll get in touch with the bookers over at Apex, Johnny Q’s, a few other places.”

Edie nodded. “I’ll talk to Sarah over at Johnny Q’s and see what they’ve got.”

They were moving past the New Winslow conversation, but Cleo knew it wasn’t over for good.

It was nearly midnight when Tyler and Ryan finally headed out. Cleo watched them drive off, heading back to Boston, with a guilty longing in her heart. She wanted to leave too. She wanted to be back in a city where she actually saw people coming and going. And there was nothing wrong with that, right? She could love Edie, love living with them, and miss what she used to have.

Edie was already in the bathroom, brushing their teeth, but Cleo stayed by the window a couple more minutes. She was making money and she was in a position to make even more. Maybe she could get her mom to leave New Winslow. And maybe Edie would be up for moving back to Boston with her. Edie didn’t dislike the city, they just couldn’t afford a place there. But the two of them together probably could. And she could have her mom nearby and know she was getting good care.

No, she couldn’t go down that road right now. Because if she started planning it all out, eventually she’d have to reach the reality that her mother wasn’t going to move. Or that Edie wasn’t going to move. And her mom’s condition was only going to get worse. But for now, maybe she could just start working on the slightest little beginning of a plan that might, maybe happen.

“Hey, I’m sorry.”

Edie’s soft voice made Cleo jump and turn around. They were standing in the middle of the living room, wearing an old band tee-shirt and soft purple shorts. Their face was gleaming with eye cream, but they looked a little sheepish as they looked at Cleo.

“I know you’re trying to avoid New Winslow as much as you can,” Edie continued, shifting a little on their feet. “I just thought maybe it’d be a good way to get some live footage of you doing newer songs.”

Cleo sighed. “It’s okay,” she said. “And I know you want to help and I appreciate it. But if I got you stuck there too, I wouldn’t forgive myself, you know?”


“Besides, I can probably manage some gigs in Boston if I plan it carefully.”

“It doesn’t need to be Boston,” Edie said.

Cleo felt silly, but yes, it did need to be Boston. At least for some of it. Even if she wasn’t living there again (yet), the urge to be in the city nearly choked her. “True,” she said.

Edie stepped toward her, so close that she had to awkwardly crane her neck down to look at them. They were smiling at her. “Look at you,” they said, running a hand through Cleo’s long, black hair. “You’re famous.”

Cleo blew a raspberry at that and Edie laughed. “Seriously,” they insisted. “How great is this? You’ve worked hard, you’ve earned this.”

“I think I’m numb,” Cleo admitted. “Ask me again in the morning, maybe I’ll have a real answer for you.”

Edie slid their arms around Cleo and laid their head on her chest. “Hmm, I’ll make sure to do that.”

Cleo knew tomorrow morning she was going to have to go straight to a delivery shift, then to her mother’s for the night. And the day after that would look exactly the same. But for now, she could just enjoy this.


Leave A Comment

3d book display image of The Vanishing House

Want a free book?

The Northern Worcester County branch of the Foundation for Paranormal Research is one of the organization’s top investigation and cleanup teams. So when a case comes in involving a century of mysterious disappearances, they figure they’ll be done before their lunch break is supposed to end. Investigators James and Amelia go to the site while their coworkers remain behind. But in seconds, Amelia vanishes in the cursed house and the others are forced to find her with no help from their bosses. Will they be able to get her back or will the house claim one final victim?

Get Your Copy Today>>