Andrew woke up on the couch, where he’d fallen asleep last night. Before he was fully conscious, the date was in his head. December twenty-sixth.
He’d been in New Winslow for one full year.
One year ago, at this time, they’d been getting ready to leave New Winslow. He was putting his small backpack in the rental car and planning the trip back with Cleo. They’d drive to Somerville and split the cost of the extra miles. It beat going back to Worcester, then taking the bus home. Honestly, they should have just done that in the first place. But Andrew could picture it now. They’d return the rental car, dropping off the last remaining physical reminder of their trip. Their New Winslow adventure would be over.
From there, they’d get on the Red Line together. He could imagine the seats on the train, slightly worn, maybe a little sticky. But he’d sit down and reflect on the trip he’d just taken. Maybe think about how it was nice to connect with Olivia again. He’d hope that Noah saw the seriousness of what had happened on Christmas Eve and sober up. Andrew would have every intention of calling Noah tomorrow. Or maybe texting him, keeping it a little less serious.
Maybe he’d do it, maybe he wouldn’t.
He’d ride the Red Line all the way to Park Street, then say goodbye to Cleo and get out there. Park Street was deep underground, so he’d make his way to the surface among the crowd of riders, then come out at Boston Common.
The post-Christmas crowds would be out, people milling around in that strange haze between Christmas and the new year. But it’d be nice to be anonymous in the crowd again, surrounded by towering buildings as he walked on the path through Boston Common and up toward Beacon Hill. After a week away from the city, the walk would burn his calves. But it would feel good as he went up the hill and across Beacon Street.
The Christmas decorations would still be up in a lot of the houses. Some people had them down right after the holiday every year, while some lingered into January. Maybe Andrew would run into a neighbor or two. He wasn’t close to anyone near him, but he knew some well enough to give them a friendly nod as they passed each other on the cobblestone streets. Maybe they’d be concerned if he never came back, maybe they wouldn’t.
But from there, he’d get to his apartment building and walk inside. The old building was historically preserved and well maintained. His apartment was three floors up, but he’d probably walk instead of risking the rickety elevator. Again, stretching his legs after a while in the car and on the train.
He’d probably think about Liv and Noah, but New Winslow would feel farther and farther away with every step he took up the stairs.
And then Andrew would arrive at his own flat. One bedroom with a roomy living room and his desk beside the window. If he looked out that window, he could see the gleaming dome of the State House. And he’d sit in his desk chair and gaze out the window, knowing that he was home. Knowing he was where he belonged.
But he wasn’t there, and he’d never be there again. That flat was gone, and he was trapped. And now that he’d hit a year, he had a feeling that his destiny lined up with his mother’s or Roman’s. A thought that made him want to vomit.
Andrew’s thoughts were interrupted by footsteps beside the couch, softly padding up to him. He opened his eyes to see Mia standing over him with a toy in her hand. She looked expectantly at him, and he blinked.
“Hi, love,” he said, voice raspy. “Are you looking for something?”
Andrew sat up and looked around. Liv must still be asleep. The house was silent and the door to her bedroom was pushed open just enough for Mia to squeeze her little body through.
“I suppose I can help with that,” he said with a smile, standing up and following her into the kitchen.
That feeling of mourning was still bubbling right below the surface, but he’d address it after he got her milk.
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Andrew fell back to sleep on the couch with Mia shortly after she’d gotten her milk. He’d laid back down, planning to continue feeling sorry for himself. But then she’d climbed up and snuggled in with him to drink her sippy cup of milk. When he woke up a little while later, she was gone and he could hear Noah and Olivia talking in the kitchen.
A year ago, he hadn’t planned on talking to either of them again any time soon. Now they were going into business together. And he’d spent all of his savings to buy the building. Here. In New Winslow. And somehow he didn’t regret it.
He stood up and stretched, then followed the scent of coffee into the kitchen. Liv and Noah were sitting at the table. Noah had a pad of paper in front of him and the two of them stopped talking when he came in.
“Morning,” Liv said. “There’s coffee.”
“Cheers,” Andrew said, making his way over to the machine.
He poured himself a cup, added milk and sugar, then sat down with them. They were both looking at him, and he could tell he wasn’t the only one who’d checked the date. “How are you doing?” Liv asked.
He gave her a grim smile, and she clearly didn’t need any further answer. “What are you two doing?” he asked instead.
“Just some planning,” Noah said.
There were a few lines written out in Noah’s crowded print. Andrew sat down and tried to listen as they continued their conversation, but he couldn’t help thinking as he sipped the rapidly cooling coffee.
A year. A full year of his life was gone. Yes, there were good parts. He’d reconnected with Liv, made some kind of new connection with Noah, and he’d met Mia. But he’d been here in town for a full year now. He couldn’t even go to a barbershop or grocery store. And now he was a year older, with no career, no home, and no idea when he’d be able to go anywhere further than a mile from here. Meanwhile, everyone else could come and go as they wanted.
But not him.
Olivia’s voice jerked him out of his spiraling thoughts and he flinched, spilling hot coffee over his hand. He dropped the cup, and it shattered on the table, the coffee soaking Noah’s notepad.
“I’m so sorry,” Andrew said, grabbing a napkin from beside Olivia’s plate and trying in vain to sop up the mess. “I’ve got it, just let me-”
Noah was there now with a dish towel, catching the coffee before it poured off the table. Some had already spilled onto the floor, but he caught the rest before a waterfall of coffee occurred. Andrew realized any mask he was wearing right now was slipping off and he didn’t want it to. Not in front of the others. Not when they both had their own issues to deal with. He just needed to keep it contained.
Or leave the room and handle it. Then keep it contained.
That might be the option he needed to take right now.
“Excuse me,” he murmured, then bolted out the door.