New Winslow S6E11
Cleo looked around the space again, taking it in. “It’s… wow.”
Andrew turned to her, his brow furrowed. “Good wow or bad wow?”
“Good,” she said quickly. “No, good wow. It’s just… Wow.”
It was a few days later, and they were standing in the front dining area of the Limerick. This was Cleo’s first time in the space and Andrew clearly worried about her opinion on it. She had to wonder briefly why he cared so much about what she thought, but she did like it. Once she was over the weirdness of Andrew owning a building in New Winslow, it turned out he actually owned a nice building. It was old, but charming. And after what Andrew had described as a nearly weeklong marathon cleaning session, it looked almost ready. Though she knew from her own years of working in the industry that there was still a lot left to do.
It actually reminded her of some of the coffeeshops they’d gone to in Boston over the years, tucked away into a little industrial building that had had a more practical existence in a past life. And based on the cozy vibes that permeated Liv’s house, she could see the potential that it held.
As far as Cleo knew, Olivia was back in the kitchen experimenting with the menu. Now that she’d gotten the kitchen clean enough to safely start cooking in, she was taking advantage of a few hours without Mia to try it out. Noah was in the building somewhere, but Andrew had mentioned he had so many repairs he wanted to get to that he could be anywhere on the property at any given moment.
There was a slight flush to Andrew as he talked so casually about this business. They owned it, it belonged to the three of them equally. They had everything going to get it open in a couple months. Cleo wasn’t surprised to hear that he was in charge of marketing. After all, there was a reason he’d been so good at that sales job he’d had forever.
And of course she immediately had to think about what he was going to do when he got out of here. The job at Iris’s shop – something that she still couldn’t connect with the Andrew she knew and loved – was money he was relying on now, as far as she knew. And he still had no job and no prospects outside of the town, so he had no plans ready for when he did get out. Clearly he was still trying to, but even though they’d cleared the air after that terrible fight last year, she still worried about what would happen to him.
Worst case, Edie wouldn’t mind him temporarily staying on their couch in Fitchburg. But she knew that wasn’t the life he wanted. It wasn’t exactly the life she wanted either, the Fitchburg part, that was. So she just didn’t say anything at all.
Instead, she followed behind him as he showed off the building. She’d worked in restaurants and cafes in Boston when they’d first moved out there, eventually getting into the corporate office of a seafood restaurant. So Cleo was familiar with the type of space. But being here as he led her through the Employees Only door was still a tiny bit of a thrill.
The back area, though still dingy, was small and cozy, so she knew Olivia had gotten to it. There were some lower lamps providing a warm yellow counterpoint to the fluorescents about them. A long counter stretched out with empty containers for ingredients embedded into the space behind it, perfectly within arm’s reach. As they walked in, she immediately spotted Liv rolling out dough on the counter. She had a smear of flour down the front of her shirt and as she turned to greet them, Cleo could see more in her long brown ponytaiil.
She moved to hug Cleo, then paused, looking at the flour. Cleo laughed and took her into a tight hug anyway. “This place is great!” Cleo exclaimed as she let go of Olivia. “It’s exactly what I imagined you would work in.”
“Isn’t it?” Olivia said, motioning toward the space with a wave of her arm. “It’s all Andrew, we would have never gotten this place without him.”
Andrew laughed a little sheepishly. “All I did was provide the space, which needs way too much work I’m not capable of doing,” he said. “You’re the one who’s going to run the place.”
“The space, the advertising, the marketing plan…” Olivia started as he scoffed and waved her off.
She turned to Cleo. “We had to delay our opening plan because the building has been in such rough shape. No one’s been in it and it passed inspection, but new things keep popping up. But we’re hoping for April.”
“Oh,” Andrew said suddenly. “You’ve got to see the flat upstairs. Come on.”
He led her past Olivia and into a small back hallway where a broken screen door and thick wooden door led to a muddy back lot. She followed him up a flight of stairs and into exactly what he’d said, an actual little apartment connected to the shop.
“Oh my God,” Cleo said, stepping into the empty space.
“We had no idea this was here,” Andrew said. “But it’s ours.”
“What are you going to do with it?”
Cleo went to investigate the little kitchenette as she asked. The space was worn and far dirtier than the shop downstairs, but completely functional. As she ran a hand down the warped countertop, Andrew was silent. She turned to look at him. “Andrew?”
“I…” he shrugged. “I’m kind of thinking about moving in here? Until we break the curse.”
“Did something happen with Liv?”
Andrew shook his head quickly. “No, no, of course not.” he said. “Liv’s been great. But she didn’t ask for a housemate and we don’t know how long this is going to be. I don’t want her to have to make her plans around me any longer, you know?”
Wow. This was huge. On one hand, Andrew was saying he was going to have a permanent home in New Winslow? But it was moving out of Liv’s place. Was that a good change or a bad change? Judging by Andrew’s face as he waited for her reaction, he wasn’t quite sure either.
“It’s not a bad place,” she said.
“No, it needs a little work,” Andrew said. “Or, a lot of work. But it functions.”
“You’re sure you’re not forcing yourself to leave so that it’s easier to go when the time comes?”
If Cleo hadn’t planned to kick a beehive when she got here today, then she’d changed her mind and launched a gorgeous, familiar one straight into the sun. Andrew looked at her. “What?”
Shit, she was starting the fight all over again. Things never changed in New Winslow and apparently she was no exception. “I just mean…” she started, hoping what she meant would become clear to herself as she spoke. “Are you trying to disconnect slowly?”
“I mean, it’s pretty permanent in some ways,” Andrew said. “I literally bought a building. It can’t be like last time when I just left.”
The last two words were a little choked, and she had to sympathize. Even when they’d left the first time, she knew the decision had hurt. Obviously it had hurt Noah more, but there were enough late nights when Andrew, usually when they were a few drinks in, would bring up his decision and ask if he’d made the right choice. Normally she immediately said yes. If Andrew hadn’t left New Winslow, he would have lived a miserable life, or at least an unsatisfied one, then died there.
Now he was still potentially going to die here, but she had to admit that he had established a life of some sort. Disconnecting from it was going to be a lot more difficult this time. And he wasn’t going to have much warning when the time came.
“Can you sell it?” she asked.
“I assume you mean to Noah and Liv,” Andrew said, his voice a little cautious. “They’re not in a position to buy it. They want to pay me back for part of it eventually, like to make it even. And I don’t have the energy to fight with them about that right now. But it’s not going to happen soon. Besides, I don’t want to leave the shop when I get out. I can make it work remotely. They don’t need me in the building to set up the Christmas marketing plans, after all.”
His voice sounded confident, but he didn’t meet her eye. And if she didn’t want to cause a fight, Cleo knew she should just stop the discussion now. So she said nothing else about it, just continued to walk through the apartment. She spotted a half-full pack of cigarettes on the counter and turned to Andrew, who looked a little embarrassed.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Just a little stressed. I know it’s not great, but I’ll quit again soon.”
Again, not a subject she wanted to fight about. He was an adult, and it wasn’t like he was chain smoking. Cleo personally thought they were gross, but she smoked weed so it wasn’t like she had much room to judge. But this was also a familiar pattern when Andrew’s anxiety spiked up in their twenties, so she wasn’t all that surprised to see it still there in their thirties.
“I like this place,” she said. “The whole thing. Congratulations.”