There was at least a foot of snow in the driveway. Despite Noah’s best efforts and Cleo’s assistance during the snowstorm, her car was still buried the next morning. They’d moved it up a little so that Noah could move his truck, but its nose was buried in a snowbank and she wasn’t getting it out anytime soon.
“Want a ride?”
Cleo jumped and spun around once again to see Noah standing in the doorway, wearing his brown leather jacket and a heavy red hat. She looked at her car again, then back at him. “If you don’t mind,” she said.
Noah trudged through the snow toward the driver’s side of his truck. The road was plowed somewhat, but there was still enough snow on it that Cleo’s car would probably slide around the whole way to her mother’s house. So she gratefully went to the passenger side and climbed in. Despite everything, the familiar scent of his truck was immediately calming as he started it up.
“Do you need to stop anywhere on the way?” Noah asked.
“No, Mrs. Stevenson was bringing over groceries for today and tomorrow. I’m going to stay with her tonight, then we’re having Christmas Day dinner tomorrow.”
Noah pulled out of the driveway and Cleo realized she was babbling. “Sorry,” she said.
He looked at her, confused. “There’s nothing to be sorry about?”
“You asked a question, and I answered like four of them.”
He shrugged. “I’m heading to an AA meeting after I drop you off. But call me tomorrow and I’ll come get you.”
“Are you sure?” Cleo asked. “I don’t want to put you out or anything.”
“You’re not putting me out.”
Cleo wasn’t sure that was entirely true, but she wouldn’t argue. Instead, she settled into the comfortably broken leather seats as the air from the ancient heaters gradually warmed up.
“So I heard you’re getting pretty famous?”
Cleo looked up at Noah, who was still looking at the road, but had an amused glint in his eye. “What?”
“Your song? The one that’s all over the internet right now?”
“How did you know about that?”
“You know the internet reaches out here too, right?” Noah asked, avoiding a patch of ice in front of them. “I mean, kind of.”
Cleo laughed, but she knew her face was bright red. “Oh, yeah.”
“It’s a good song.”
“You heard it?”
“Kind of hard not to,” Noah replied. “It’s good. Very pointed.”
That was when all the lyrics returned to her head in one screaming bolt of panic. Oh God, how personal had she gotten? It didn’t matter when it was faceless strangers, but when it was-
“It’s…” she searched uselessly for the words. “It was a quick thing I wrote. We put it on Edie’s band’s page and it took off. It’s not about anything in particular.”
“It’s a good one.”
“Did everyone hear it?”
Noah laughed as he turned onto another road. “Define everyone.”
“Wait…” Cleo couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of this before. “Nobody thought it was about any of them, right? Like, you know I’d never say anything about any of you.”
Noah didn’t seem perturbed, so he was clearly telling the truth. But she still felt uneasy. “The others know that, right?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Not the ideal answer, but she’d have to take it for now.
“So, is it getting wild?”
Cleo looked at Noah. “What do you mean?”
“Like, have things picked up?”
She blew out a breath. “Oh yeah,” she said. “I mean, it’s not like I can quit my job or anything. But I’m getting some sales. And there’s all these companies that want to license my music. Which is cool, but I really don’t know anything about that stuff. And I can’t really afford a lawyer, you know?”
“I might be able to help you with that,” Noah said. “Jude’s a lawyer. Maybe he could help. Or recommend someone.”
“Jude, your new friend?”
Noah laughed. “Yes, him.”
“If you want to talk to him, I’d appreciate it.”
“Yeah, no problem. I’ll probably be seeing him this week, so I’ll ask.”
“What’s going on with that, anyway?” Cleo asked.
“Nothing, we’re just friends.”
She made a vaguely obscene hand motion as Noah glanced at her. He snorted, then turned back to the road. “Yeah, exactly.”
“If you get a chance to talk to him between rounds of wild sex,” Cleo said. “If you remember.”
“I’ll tie a string around my finger.”
“Yeah, your finger.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Noah muttered, shaking his head.
Cleo laughed and settled back into her seat.
Noah dropped her off outside her mom’s house a few minutes later with a promise to come by with his snowblower later and take care of her driveway. Then he was driving off and Cleo was climbing the neatly shoveled stairs. She knocked on the door, then stepped inside.
“Mom?” she called. “Hey, it’s me!”
Nobody answered as she kicked off her shoes, but she could hear the TV playing, so she wasn’t concerned. As she walked through the kitchen, she noted that it was sparklingly clean. Mrs. Stevenson had left a couple minutes before Cleo got there, sending an apologetic text message that her grandson was sick. But she’d clearly taken care of most of the chores before Cleo arrived.
She walked into the living room, where her mom was sitting under a thick blanket, watching a game show. “Hi, Mom,” she said, sitting down on the other end of the couch.
Her mom looked at her. “Hello.”
Cleo didn’t know if her mom recognized her or not right now. But she seemed content, so Cleo didn’t push it. “Do you want any water or anything?”
“No, thank you.”
She nodded and looked at the screen, where a woman was jumping up and down with joy after winning some kind of prize.
“Your father’s going to be late,” her mom said suddenly, as the woman was walking offstage with happy tears in her eyes.
“He’s late. Where is he?”
“Dad’s not here,” Cleo said. “It’s fine.”
She expected an argument, but instead, her mom just nodded and turned back to the TV.