New Winslow S5E20
There were snow flurries drifting down as Andrew got to Iris’s shop the next afternoon. He wasn’t working today, but even after seeing her last night, he’d been concerned. He’d managed to wait until after lunchtime before giving in and coming back. At least he’d given her some time to sleep if he was being overprotective.
The shop was open, that was a good sign. He walked in, the bell above the door jingling as he stepped into the empty shop, brushing snow off of his coat. A second later, Iris walked out of the back room. She stopped when she saw him.
“You’re not on today, right?” she asked.
She looked a little pale, but not nearly as bad as she had the night before, he noted with relief. “No,” he said. “I was just concerned. About you.”
Iris looked surprised by this and despite everything, Andrew felt guilty. Was she genuinely surprised that he might be concerned? He shrugged awkwardly. “That’s all.”
“Thanks,” Iris said. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Have you eaten?”
She turned and squinted at him. “Wow.”
Oh shit. “What?”
“Maybe I’m the one who should be asking you that. Are you okay?”
“Of course. Why?”
Like he was going to let that lie. “No, tell me,” he said.
Looking like she’d rather do anything else in the world, Iris grimaced. “I thought it was just my thoughts getting jumbled last night, but I felt it again when you came in here.”
It must be bad if she was this hesitant to say it. But Iris finally sighed. “Felt desperately lonely.”
“I’m not lonely,” Andrew scoffed. “That must have been you.”
“Nope,” Iris said. “I know my feelings. And my shields aren’t as prepared as they usually are. Are you alright?”
He remembered last night, that inappropriate moment of…fuck. Of loneliness. Not that he was going to tell her that.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I just came by to make sure you were alright. I’m going to get going though.”
Iris looked skeptical, but they weren’t having this conversation. So he started to move toward the door. “Now that I know you’re alive, I’ll be here tomorrow,” he said.
“No, it’s going to be a blizzard.”
He glanced outside, where the snowflakes were even lighter than they’d been when he got here. Then he turned back to Iris, who gave him a knowing look. He sighed. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll be here the day after.”
She didn’t correct him on this one, so he gave her a nod and walked outside, where there wasn’t a single flake coming down.
Smoke was pouring off the stove again, but thankfully, Cleo had her mother in sight. She was standing perfectly still in her bedroom doorway as Cleo hurried over to the stove and turned it off. She’d clearly put water on to boil at some point, and Cleo was suddenly furious with herself for not seeing it before. She’d been here thirty minutes now. There was no way that the water had been boiling when she got here.
“Mom?” Cleo said, keeping her voice gentle. “You okay?”
“Cleo, you’re going to be late for school. Wake up.”
Her mom’s voice was tinged with irritation as she stared into her bedroom. Cleo came up behind her and gently touched her elbow. “I’m right here.”
Her mom turned around and smiled at her. “Oh, there you are.”
“Yeah, right here. Come on, let’s go sit down. Are you hungry?”
It was nearly six. She’d taken over for Mrs. Stevenson at five-thirty after a very slow delivery shift spent mostly parked in random parking lots around Fitchburg waiting for any orders to come through. Forty dollars richer, she’d gone straight to New Winslow from there. Thankfully, she wasn’t spending the night though.
She steered her mother toward the kitchen table, which was still under a lingering haze of smoke. For once, her mom wasn’t scowling at her in distrust. Instead, she was smiling.
“Have you heard from Cleo lately?” she asked as Cleo went into the fridge to inspect the leftovers.
Shit, was she supposed to play along or should she try to correct her? “Um, yeah,” she said, pushing aside a jar of pickles that was hiding a small portion of lasagna. “She’s doing good.”
“Good,” her mom said. “She’s going to be famous.”
Cleo smiled, but her stomach twisted as she put the lasagna in the microwave and set the cook timer. “I’ll call her tonight,” her mother continued as the lasagna began to turn.
“I think she’d like that,” Cleo said.
They were quiet as she pulled the lasagna out and slipped it onto a plate. She put it in front of her mother, who didn’t move to eat it. “Thank you,” she said.
She couldn’t go on tour. No matter how much she twisted and planned, there was no way she could leave her mom right now. Mrs. Stevenson couldn’t handle weeks of solo care at a time and there was no one else that could take on more than a little bit of work at a time. It wasn’t going to happen. Even if this was probably the only chance she had to take advantage of her current popularity. Cleo knew as well as anyone else that people moved on quickly. If she didn’t jump on this, she might not get another chance.
There were the music licenses at least. Those she could do without having to leave the state. Sure, they were confusing and intimidating. But if she could afford a lawyer soon and get some help sorting those out. Maybe Ryan knew a good lawyer who could help her. That seemed like something he’d have available.
“How about you eat?” she suggested to her mother, who blinked and looked at her.
“Do you want some?” her mother asked, tilting the plate in Cleo’s direction.
Cleo shook her head. “I’m all set,” she said. “I’m going to have dinner at home.”
The fact that she said Edie’s name instead of Jenna’s lifted Cleo’s heart. She smiled. “They’re great,” she said. “They said to tell you hi.”
“Say hi back.”
Cleo wanted to cling to this moment of lucidness, to hold it so hard that it could never slip away. Her mother didn’t speak as she ate the reheated lasagna, but she moved with a fluid confidence that made Cleo hope that maybe it would be a good night for her after Cleo left.