Despite telling Iris he’d see her in the morning, Andrew was still concerned. She claimed she was fine, and it was something she’d done before. But she was also a hotheaded, arrogant mess when she felt like it. And he’d never heard her sound so bad before. So here he was, ten minutes later, pacing the living room.
“What could have gotten into that shop?” he said. “It’s sealed up, and she seals it even more every day.”
Noah was sitting on the couch, watching him pace. “It’s so bloody typical,” Andrew continued, spinning on his foot and walking across the carpet again. “She probably sacrificed a lung to get this information. I’d say it serves her right, but…”
He stopped and sighed. Noah still hadn’t said anything, just watched as Andrew held a full conversation with himself.
“I should go over there, shouldn’t I?”
Noah shrugged. “I guess?” he said. “Do you think you should?”
Right. He’d just gotten home from hours of outpatient therapy. He was always like this after sessions. Quiet, thoughtful, and entirely unhelpful.
No, that was unfair. He just didn’t have an answer for Andrew that perfectly fit what he needed.
“I’m going over,” Andrew said. “I have Liv’s car. I could go over and check on Iris.”
Andrew paused again. “I should go, shouldn’t I?”
Without waiting for an answer, he went to the door, slid on his shoes, and grabbed his coat. “I’ll be home soon,” he said, leaving before he could talk himself out of it.
The shop was locked, but Iris had given him a key a few weeks back when he had to open it without her. He slid the key into the lock and carefully opened the door. It smelled faintly like burning rubber and cleaning solution as he walked in. “Iris?” he called. “Are you here?”
She must have gone upstairs. He went to the door marked PRIVATE and tugged on it. Normally she locked it, but she must have been in a bad state because it opened. “Iris, it’s Andrew!” he called up the dim wooden stairs.
The uneven wooden stairs creaked under his feet as he slowly walked up. He didn’t want to scare her or set off any spiritual booby traps she might have set. “Iris!” he called up again. “It’s just me. I was concerned after our phone call.”
The stairs led up to another door, which had intricate symbols traced all over it. Andrew cautiously gripped the knob and twisted it. His heart sank as this one easily opened too.
“Iris,” he said as he stepped around the door. “Iris, it’s just me.”
The apartment was small and dim, with dark wood paneling on the living room he had just entered. He glanced around and, as his eyes adjusted, he saw Iris lying on the floor halfway across the room.
Andrew darted over to her. She was curled up on her side and, as he came closer, she opened her eyes and looked at him.
“Jesus, Iris, are you okay? What happened?”
“Yeah. Can you stand?”
Iris slowly sat up. In the dim light coming from what he had to assume was her bedroom, he could see that she was pale. Her body shook, but she sat up before he could offer assistance. “I’m okay,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“Don’t you remember calling me?”
Iris was silent for a second. “Yeah,” she said. “I did. But… no, I’m okay. Thank you, though.”
She leaned heavily against him, her body warm. “What do you need?” Andrew asked.
“I just need to go to bed,” she said. “Something went wrong with the ritual. I could see her and she was in so much pain. And then it was like… it hurt so much.”
Her head hit his shoulder and for a panicky second, Andrew was afraid she’d fainted. But instead, she took a deep breath.
“You didn’t need to come over,” she said.
“I know,” Andrew said. “But I was worried. And by the way, your apartment doors were all unlocked.”
“Shop was locked. Can you please get me some water?”
Andrew carefully dislodged himself from under Iris, then stood up. She stayed seated, so he was relieved. He walked toward the small kitchen and found a glass in one of the cabinets. The kitchen was small, with sloping ceilings. But it was charmingly rustic, like the rest of the apartment. Something about it made him feel…lonely. It was an odd, completely unexpected feeling. And yet, he couldn’t shake it, even as he poured some water into the glass and went back to Iris, who took it gratefully.
“Do you think it means something?” Andrew asked as she drank the whole thing at once.
“I’m not sure,” she admitted, voice stronger as she wiped her mouth. “I reached her. But it was like there was something in the way, some kind of boundary that threw me back.”
“Is it the same thing that kept you from reaching the boy at The Countess?”
Andrew still wasn’t entirely sure what the connection was there, but Iris seemed certain that the Alderidge family and the McBride family were both essential to solving the curse. Iris shook her head. “No, it was completely different,” she said. “It’s like he’s just not answering the phone. Rosalind did.”
“We’ll consider it more tomorrow,” Andrew said. “Do you need help getting to your room?”
Iris carefully stood up, and he followed. “No,” she said. “I think I’m all set. But thank you. For coming to check on me. You didn’t need to.”
“Of course I needed to,” Andrew said. “I was worried about you.”
He couldn’t be sure in the dim light, but he thought he saw tears in her eyes. She moved like she was about to hug him, then thought better of it. Instead, she just smiled at him. “Good night,” she said.
He waited until he heard the door lock behind him on the stairwell. Then he carefully made his way back down the darkened shop. It seemed ominous in the midnight darkness, even though he spent late nights here all the time without worrying. Now that he was done worrying so much, he looked around the shop. Nothing seemed out of place, beyond the spirit board surrounded by scattered, burnt-out candles on the floor by the register. Small purple lights illuminated a few of the shelves beyond it, but he couldn’t see anything else that wasn’t ordinary.
Tomorrow. This was a problem for tomorrow. For now, he needed to get back home.