Roman had told himself he was done. After the shit that Iris had pulled with Olivia, he decided it wasn’t worth ever working with her again. If she was so careless that she would get an innocent person possessed twice, then what good was she when it actually came time for them to get out of New Winslow? He promised himself and Celine that he would take it easy for a little while, then he would get back to him trying to get out. But he would do it in a way that was all in moderation. He discussed this with Dr. Degas, who’s also leery about working with Iris again. And yet here they were, the two of them standing outside of Iris’s shop together in the weak afternoon sunlight.
“Are you sure about this?” Dr. Degas asked
“Not particularly,” Roman replied. “I’ve never been angrier with someone than I have been with Iris lately. And honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that Andrew was also stuck, I wouldn’t be bothering. But I know he needs to get out, too. And most likely if we’re going to do this we’re going to need somebody who has experience with the paranormal. Unfortunately for us, the only person who fits that description within the New Winslow limits is Iris.”
“Have you talked to her at all?”
“No,” Roman replied. “No, the only reason that I’m here is because Andrew mentioned they were going to be trying a new ritual and it could really use another hand. He’s a good guy. I want him to get out of New Winslow. He doesn’t say it but I know he hates it here.”
“Of course he does,” Doctor Degas replied.
“What do you mean?” Roman asked.
He’d always known that there must be a reason Andrew didn’t like this place. And he always thought it was a little odd that a British man had ended up living in New Winslow, a New England town of nine hundred people. People in Boston didn’t know this town existed, let alone anybody in Europe.
An uncomfortable look passed over Dr. Degas’s face. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have mentioned anything. It’s probably not a secret, but for confidentiality reasons as a doctor, I can’t say anything.”
Roman’s curiosity was certainly piqued, but if Andrew wanted to keep his own business to himself, that was fine with Roman. Besides, any reply he could give was interrupted by Iris opening the door to her shop. She looked nervous as she looked at each of them. Roman knew he was scowling, but he didn’t really feel like trying to make her feel better right now.
“Thank you for coming,” Iris said
“I’m still mad,” Roman admitted. “Honestly, I am fucking appalled that this actually happened. Twice. You got Olivia possessed twice. How could you let that happen?”
Iris looked afraid for a second and Roman knew immediately that this was a mistake. He shouldn’t have come here. But now that he was here, he wasn’t going to get anything done until he told Iris the truth. It was going to be ugly, but he really didn’t care. And if she threw him out, well, he really didn’t care about that either.
In the warm yellow light of the store, he could see tears gathering in her eyes. “I know,” she said. “I messed up. And I’m going to do everything I can to make up for that fact.”
“Have you spoken with Olivia?” Dr. Degas asked, her voice much calmer than Roman’s.
Iris winced. “I’ve tried,” she said. “She doesn’t want to talk to me.”
“Yeah no shit,” Roman snapped. “You fucking traumatized her.”
“I know that!” Iris burst out. “I feel horrible.”
Roman resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Any sympathy that he might have felt evaporated the second he thought about that night. The way Olivia had fought against the force that was trying to take over her body. The fear and devastation when Celine finally got it out. How her first concern has been for her kid and not for herself.
He thought about the way that he’d paced Olivia’s living room with the baby in his arms as Celine and Andrew inspected and guarded the whole house. Because Iris told her that a crystal would protect her.
He shouldn’t have come here. He really, really should not have come here.
Roman was about to say forget it and turn around and leave, but then Andrew was coming in from the back storage room of the shop. He nodded politely hello to both of them, clearly having heard everything that had just been said.
“Roman,” he said. “Talk to you out back?”
Roman suddenly felt like he was in trouble, like he was on his way to the principal’s office. But he followed Andrew into the small back storage room of Iris’s shop. It was almost a cozy space, lined with shelves, cells with extra merchandise, a few damaged items, and other assorted merchandise. There were a couple of folding chairs leaning up against the shelf and Andrew took out both of them, unfolded them, and placed them so they were face-to-face.
“Sit down for a sec,” he said.
This didn’t help the principal’s office feeling, but Roman sat down. Andrew joined him.
“Look,” he said. “I don’t want you to feel obligated to be here. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that you and Iris have a history beyond what happened with Olivia. If you don’t want to be here, please don’t force yourself to. I’m going to keep on working to get us out with or without Iris, and if I find anything, I’ll be sure to help you too.”
There was no irritation, nothing judgmental in the way that Andrew was looking at him right now. Roman should have taken the opportunity that he presented and left, but just like that night in the House of Pizza with Roland, his resolve wavered. Andrew was only ten years younger than him, but that was ten years that Andrew did not need to spend in this town. So instead of standing up and leaving like he knew would be the sensible thing to do, Roman shook his head.
“Nah,” he said. “No, I’d like to see the ocean someday. And I know you want out of this town. The more people we have working on it, the sooner we’ll both get those things. So I can be civil and we can all get this done. Let’s go do whatever this ritual is.”
“If you’re sure,” Andrew said.
Roman wasn’t sure if that was a lie or not. But Andrew didn’t push him. Instead, he just leaned in closer. “Between you and me, this ritual is bullshit,” he said.
“Yeah, what else is new?”
Andrew was clearly fighting not to laugh and Roman had to swallow down his own laughter. Instead, he slapped his thighs and stood up. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go make fools of ourselves yet again.”