Olivia wanted to be the one to tell Noah what had happened. He was working at the Christmas tree lot today, so there was a good chance he’d run into Charlie when Charlie got off work. And if he heard it first from Charlie, she couldn’t control the story. So as soon as she’d finished her glass of wine, she was in her room looking for her spare coat. It wasn’t as comfortable as the one she’d apparently lost forever because she wasn’t going back to Keegan’s ever again. But it would do for now.
She slid it on and walked back out. “I’m going to get us a goddamn Christmas tree,” she announced. “Want to come?”
“Absolutely,” Andrew replied.
She got to work getting Mia bundled up for the trip while Andrew got himself dressed. A few minutes later, they were heading to the lot. Andrew was driving, and she was relieved to let him. The shock was still going pretty strong, but her hands started shaking again if she thought too hard about what she’d just done.
She’d quit her job of nearly a decade. And not only that, she’d done it by cussing out the owner. But she didn’t feel guilty about it, not even as her phone kept buzzing, the screen glowing BRET – CELL each time. Finally, she set it on silent and slid it into her pocket.
“How are you doing?” Andrew asked her as they turned off their quiet road and passed through downtown.
“Um, it’s still a little unreal,” Olivia said. “I never thought I’d quit like that. I assumed I’d leave a resignation notice and spend a month training my replacement.”
“You didn’t plan on storming out?” Andrew said with a laugh.
“I left with my dignity intact, thank you.”
“I never said you didn’t,” Andrew said. “In fact, that might be the most dignified resignation I’ve ever heard of. And I work in sales, I’ve seen some winners.”
Mia was chatting to herself in the backseat, and Olivia reached back to squeeze her little foot. She’d worked at Keegan’s for Mia’s whole life. And now that part of her own life was over so abruptly. What the hell?
She’d deal with the details later. Just like she’d deal with getting rid of these powers for good and keeping her family safe from what had happened to her. It would all be okay.
They pulled up at the lot a few minutes later and Andrew got Mia out of the car as Olivia got herself out and took a deep breath of the fresh, pine-scented air. It was beautiful this afternoon, and she never got afternoons to herself. A little bit of time in the sun, looking at Christmas trees in the brisk winter air was exactly what she needed.
Trees lined the chain-link fence that surrounded the lot. They were all shoved so closely together that she couldn’t see how big they really were as they walked through the parking lot, both of them holding one of Mia’s hands. When they got in the entrance, Olivia immediately spotted Noah wrapping a Christmas tree for someone. As he fed the tree through the machine, he was chatting with the woman purchasing it. He looked happy, animated, and her mood lifted even more to see that.
The woman paid and Noah lifted her tree onto his shoulder to bring to her car, clearly putting more pressure on his still-healing wrist than Dr. Degas would have approved of. Olivia would scold him for it later, after she told him what had happened.
He didn’t notice them as he helped the women strap the tree to her roof. She looked just as happy to be chatting with Noah. Olivia couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the woman kept pushing her hair behind her ear and Noah had his most charming smile on.
God, was he picking up everybody who walked into the tree lot?
The woman thanked Noah with a hand on his non-injured forearm. Olivia resisted the urge to roll her eyes and intentionally avoided looking at Andrew. Andrew wasn’t being slick about his discomfort with Noah’s new friends. Olivia felt for him, she really did. But she couldn’t help thinking he’d had plenty of time to fix things before they reached this point.
The woman got in her car and left. Noah gave her a wave, then turned and spotted them as he was walking back.
“Hey!” he called, striding over to the entrance.
He picked up Mia and gave her a kiss, swinging her up high as she squealed. Then he settled her on his hip and gave the empty cash register table a quick glance before turning back to them.
“Don’t you have work today?” he asked Olivia.
Noah watched her expectantly as Mia played with his close-cropped beard. Olivia took a breath. “I, um, quit Keegan’s.”
His eyes went wide. “Excuse me?”
How was her face so hot when it was so cold outside? “I quit,” she continued. “I’m done.”
He swooped forward and scooped her into a one-armed embrace before she even realized what was happening. It was an awkward hold with Mia gripping him too, but she put an arm around him and squeezed. Then he pulled back and looked at her.
“Oh my God,” he said. “I want to hear everything.”
But before she could start, someone approached the table for help. Noah handed Mia over to Olivia, then hurried over to help them.
While he was working, Olivia and Andrew headed into the lot to find a tree. There were a lot of them this year and most were small, but full looking.
“What about this one?” Olivia asked, running her finger down a fragrant branch.
Andrew didn’t answer. “Andrew?” she prompted.
He jerked his head up. “What? Yeah, sorry. It’s good.”
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He didn’t look fine. And normally she wouldn’t touch this topic with a ten-foot pole. But normally she didn’t quit her job and walk out with no other plan. So apparently it wasn’t a normal day.
“You could talk to him.”
Andrew looked ill for a second, then shook his head. “There’s nothing to talk about,” he insisted. “It’s fine, I promise.”
Noah’s voice carried over the Christmas carols playing on the ancient speakers. She whipped her head around to see him and Charlie standing by the table. She wasn’t going to be the one to tell him everything.
She steered Mia toward the two men, and Andrew followed. Charlie was looking at her with what she could only describe as awe. “Unbelievable,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re incredible.”
“You goddess,” Noah said. “You…”
He seemed to actually be speechless. Was it because he never thought she’d actually go through with it? No, there was nothing of that in his eyes right now as he gaped at her.
“You told him to go fuck himself?” Noah exclaimed, shaking his head.
His eyes darted toward Mia. “Sorry,” he added.
“I wanted a turn.”
She wondered for a second if the joke was too soon. And judging from the way Noah slowly closed his eyes, then opened them again, maybe it was. But then he just shook his head.
“You’re unbelievable,” he said. “God, what did his face look like?”
She demonstrated as best as she could, making her eyes pop out wide and rounding her mouth into a shocked O. Charlie nodded. “Yeah, that’s it, right there.”
“He’s still trying to call me,” Olivia said.
“Same,” Charlie said. “I, uh, quit right after.”
They all turned to Charlie. “What?” Olivia asked.
He looked very young suddenly as he shuffled under their gaze. “Yeah,” he said. “I couldn’t stay. Not after the way he talked to you.”
“You don’t need to quit on my behalf if you need the money,” Olivia said.
“I’m fine, don’t worry,” Charlie added. “I’ve got plenty of things going, I was hoping to quit soon anyway. But I didn’t leave quite as dramatically as you though, boss.”
“A legend,” Noah said, shaking his head.
“Bret keeps calling me too,” Charlie said.
“He called my house,” Olivia said. “He never does that, it’s always the cell phone. I didn’t even know he knew I had a landline.”
“What did he say?”
“Andrew picked up.”
Andrew shrugged. “I told him if I saw Liv, I’d let her know he called.”
Noah laughed, shaking his head. “Fuck him,” he said. “God, Liv, I’m so glad you’re out of there.”
“Just when he had the gall to tell me I had to be responsible for what happened on my one night off,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t know, something snapped. I put up with being treated like shit for so long.”
“As long as he doesn’t get hit by the curse on his way out of town tonight, Bret is no longer your problem.”
“I’m worried he’ll, like, stop by the house or something,” she said.
“He can try,” Noah said casually.
He shrugged, then took out his phone and glanced at it. “Alright,” he said. “I’m off in about three hours and I have a meeting after. But then we’re celebrating. Is Cleo around?”
“I reckon she’ll be stopping by her mother’s later if she’s not already there,” Andrew said. “Let me give her a call.”
Noah nodded, then turned back to Olivia, still grinning. “Unbelievable.”