Andrew, Cleo, and Olivia were in the living room, not speaking. Mia had gone to bed about half an hour earlier and Andrew could still hear her in there, chatting sleepily at her stuffed rabbit. Olivia was sitting silently in the recliner, her legs tucked underneath her as her eyes darted around the room. Andrew couldn’t blame her, he kept thinking he heard the phone start to ring in the kitchen. It was like some flicker of activity in his brain that seemed to think, well I might as well get everything done if no one else will as it made the phantom noise.
Noah had called earlier to say he wouldn’t be coming home yet. That Roman was sick, and he was watching the kids while Celine brought him to Dr. Degas. But Olivia told Andrew that Noah had confessed that he knew it was a heart attack. They all knew. And unless Dr. Degas could work a miracle in her office, Roman probably wasn’t going to survive this.
Tears were bright in Olivia’s eyes as she looked up toward Mia’s room. Then she turned to Andrew and gave him a grim smile. “You okay?”
Absolutely not, but he nodded. “You?”
“He has three kids.”
Olivia crumpled for a second as she said it, then cleared her throat. “There’s no news yet,” she said. “We’ll know soon. Maybe it wasn’t a heart attack. Maybe it was something else.”
Andrew was about to embark on another course of beating himself up for missing warning signs when the front door opened and both he and Olivia jumped in their seats. Seconds later, the inside door opened and Noah walked in.
“He’s alive,” Noah said before any of them could ask. “I’m just here for a change of clothes, then I’m going to stay with the kids overnight.”
“What happened?” Cleo asked. “What was it?”
Noah looked stunned, Andrew realized. And the sudden understanding of what had happened nearly crushed his own heart.
“Roman’s out,” Noah said, choosing his words carefully. “He’s at Athol General.”
“He’s out?” Olivia exclaimed.
Andrew couldn’t tell if Noah was deliberately not looking at him. He tried to listen and only focus on Roman’s situation as Noah explained that yes, it was a heart attack. Celine said he was in surgery when she called and he still wasn’t out of the woods. But he had a much better chance of surviving. And no, they had no idea how he’d gotten out. He nodded and thanked Noah for the information.
Then Noah went upstairs to get his things and Andrew had looked over at Olivia, who was sitting back down, processing the information. She looked over at Andrew and he knew she instantly knew what he was thinking.
“Go,” she said.
That was all the encouragement he needed. He stood up, body trembling as he found his shoes and Olivia’s car keys. Then he hurried out the door, relieved to see that Noah’s truck wasn’t behind the car.
Roman was out. The twenty-year New Winslow curse had broken for him. Did that mean it was completely broken? Andrew couldn’t bring himself to think it clearly, as though just thinking it was going to bring his fragile hopes crashing down. But maybe. Maybe it was time.
Ignoring the forming thoughts about the building he’d just bought and the complete lack of welcome waiting for him outside of New Winslow, Andrew pulled out of the driveway and hurried down the street. There were a few cars on the road in the early evening dark and he tried not to scream with impatience as he got stuck behind an SUV that was ambling its way through downtown. Finally, he turned off toward the town limits and sped the car back up.
There were no streetlights out here on 122, and the town line was getting closer. He tried to imagine what it had been like for Roman, going over this line for the first time in twenty years. If that bloody tree stump was still out there, Andrew was kicking it as soon as he got over the line. He was going to kick that thing clear out of the ground like he was trying out for Manchester United.
The sign was ahead, shining white and washed out by his headlights. He slowed down as he approached. While he was tempted to go as fast as he could and tear the bandage away, if this didn’t work, he didn’t want to damage Olivia’s car in his defeat. Though hadn’t Roman said he’d crashed into it multiple times without damaging his own car?
Roman was gone. Roman was out of New Winslow. Sick and still not in the clear, but out there and alive.
The car stopped with a familiar thud as Andrew reached the town line. He backed up and rolled toward the barrier again, though he knew full well that the answer wasn’t going to change. He was still trapped here.
How could Andrew resent Roman for getting out when Roman had literally been about to die? And might die still? He knew it was monstrous, but he couldn’t help the anger. It wasn’t fair. None of this was fair.
He’d only been gone fifteen minutes, and he realized he hadn’t brought his phone. How would he have even been able to let Liv know where he was with her car if he couldn’t call her? And he hadn’t memorized her home phone number. Not in the year that he’d been living with her. It just hadn’t occurred to him to do so.
But apparently, he still had plenty of time to memorize it. Because he wasn’t getting out tonight.
Andrew was numb. Under that, he worried that eventually it was all going to pour out again, like it had on the anniversary. But the closer he got to Olivia’s house, the more he realized that no, no it wasn’t going to explode. This wasn’t volatile. This was quiet resignation. Maybe he’d get out someday, but it wouldn’t be today.