New Winslow S6E16
Olivia was still shaking by the time she got home from Town Hall. All she’d wanted to do was get the permitting paperwork she hadn’t been able to print at home. She hadn’t even wanted to do it with Mia, especially when Mia needed supper and a nap. But it had to get done. So of course Iris had been there. And she tried to fucking apologize? Like there was anything she could say that would make Olivia feel better about what had happened.
She’d been having a good day too. Sure, she’d been a little edgy at the Limerick earlier, when she’d been working alone in the building after Noah left. But it had been physical work, and she felt better as she moved, working the kinks out of her muscles. Then she’d decided to just stop by and get those forms afterward, hoping for a peaceful night with Mia when the work was done.
So of course that was all ruined. Her stomach was in knots as she put the key in the door, taking a couple attempts to do it. But finally she was in the house and safe behind two locked doors and a layer of magical protections. It was fine, she wasn’t back there. It was in the past. The recent past, sure, but it was over.
She almost welcomed the shrill sound of her kitchen phone ringing.
Cleo sounded stressed. “What’s up?” Olivia asked, hoping that her own agitation wasn’t coming through.
“Do you mind if I come by for a little bit?”
“Of course not,” Olivia replied. “Is everything okay?”
“What? Yeah, yeah, it’s fine. Just a rough day with Mom, that’s all. My dad just got here and I’m not quite ready to drive home yet.”
“Come over,” Olivia said. Now that it was someone else who needed protection, she felt like she was on stable ground again. “I’ve got tea and a lot of test pastries I need an audience for.”
Cleo laughed and the last of the shakes seemed to leave Olivia’s body.
Andrew got home before Cleo arrived. The faint smell of cigarettes and orchids trailed after him as he walked in, kicking off his shoes and pulling off his coat in the open doorway.
“Cleo’s coming over,” Olivia said as he came into the living room.
He nodded, and she could tell from his face that Iris had told him they met. “You alright?” he asked.
He looked like he wanted to argue, and that might turn into a legitimate fight. But then she heard the key scrape in the lock and Cleo came in the front door behind Andrew. She looked at the two of them, then laughed a little bitterly. “So we’re all having a day, huh?”
Olivia was too embarrassed to say what was bothering her. She runs into one arrogant psychic and it ruins her whole day? She was thirty-four years old, almost thirty-five, and one encounter with one person shouldn’t rattle her that much. But luckily, Andrew was moving to the kitchen to set up the kettle and she didn’t have to have that conversation. Though a large, humiliated part of her knew that everyone else knew exactly what had happened.
“Noah’s working,” Olivia said as she and Cleo followed him into the kitchen. “He probably won’t be home until around ten. But I’m here all night.”
“Same,” Andrew added. “What’s going on?”
Cleo sighed. “It’s just a rough day,” she said. “I had her, and she wanted to go out. Which is strange enough, but I thought some fresh air and new scenery would be good. But I brought her to the general store, and she forgot Tara’s name.”
“Shit,” Andrew said softly.
“She was so upset, I could barely get her back in the car, even with Tara’s help,” Cleo continued as Andrew set up his electric kettle. “Dad managed to get her out of the car when we got back, which was a miracle. But it’s getting worse so quickly and I don’t know how long we can do this.”
She pushed her choppy black hair back off of her face and looked at Olivia with a grim smile. “Anyway, I just can’t go home yet. I don’t know, I had a feeling Dad might need some help.”
Olivia wasn’t going to argue with gut feelings. “You’re welcome here all the time, you know that,” she said as she picked up a napkin to wipe away a drop of water on the counter.
She was well aware that at least part of the reason Cleo wasn’t here so often was the curse. And there was no way to keep her safe from that in town, was there? But something about that wasn’t as terrifying as any of the other things that haunted Olivia’s dreams these days. She wanted Andrew to get out, and she didn’t want anyone else getting trapped, including Cleo. But she wasn’t too afraid of that idea when it came to herself.
Maybe that said some not so kind things about Olivia and her life experience. And her life choices and the way she was raising her daughter. And the way she was working toward the future. And so many things that slid themselves shapelessly around her heart so often.
She jerked her head up and realized she’d been tearing up the napkin in her hand. Cleo was looking at her with concern now. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, fine. Just a long day. Me and Noah were scraping ancient gunk off of every surface in the men’s room earlier this afternoon. New toilet arrives tomorrow.”
“We’ll have to celebrate,” Andrew said dryly.
She laughed, feeling like a second grader. But Cleo was laughing too.
Cleo ended up staying a lot longer than Olivia anticipated. She’d honestly expected Cleo to head out right after they’d finished their tea and she hadn’t heard from her father. By that point, both of them were feeling less tense. Her own muscles had settled somewhat and Cleo was less jumpy. By ten-thirty, the three of them were sitting in the living room in comfortable silence. Andrew was working on his laptop, glasses on and hair slightly messed from running his hand absently through it every five minutes or so as he silently considered his Limerick marketing plans.
Meanwhile, Olivia was reading through an old cookbook she’d gotten out of the library earlier in the week. Sweet Treats from 1933. She probably wouldn’t use any of them, but maybe she’d find a gem. At the very least, it would be a way to help differentiate them from the general store. Tara Stevenson, of course, had been nothing but supportive last time Olivia went in. Nancy had had some comments to give, of course, and they’d run the gamut. The shop was going to sell all the same things as the general store (not likely), they didn’t have enough customers as it was and Olivia was going to steal them (not Olivia’s problem. And didn’t they sell groceries too?). But she’d been able to let the criticisms roll off of her until Nancy made a sly comment about Noah. Then it had taken everything in her not to hit Nancy right then.
But yeah, she didn’t want to be connected to the general store, so she’d have to move beyond quick breads and pastries if she wanted to really make a mark.
“Andrew,” she called over.
He looked up over the top of his laptop. “Hmm?”
“What do you think of this cream scone recipe?”
She read it out to him as he looked skeptically at her. Then he shook his head. “As the only Brit in the room, I’m vetoing that one.”
Fair. She flipped a few pages forward. “Do you think anyone would buy a Lady Baltimore cake?”
Andrew stopped what he was doing, then bent the laptop down so that he could look directly at her, the yellow lamplight reflecting on his glasses. “Has New Winslow perhaps remained in 1925 while the rest of the world moved forward?”
She held up the book. “1933, thank you very much.”
Cleo laughed from where she was comfortably slouched on the other couch, playing a game she’d somehow gotten to load on her phone despite the lousy internet. “There’s a recipe for molasses cookies in here,” Olivia continued. “But I’m trying to stay in Mrs. Stevenson’s good graces.”
“Aren’t we all,” Cleo murmured, still looking at her phone.
The front door opened and that automatic flutter of fear went through Olivia despite the fact that she knew it was Noah, it was very obviously Noah. And sure enough, her door opened a moment later and he walked in, carrying a pizza.
“Hey, Cleo,” he said, exhaustion clear in his voice.
He set the pizza down on the coffee table and sat down on the sofa next to Andrew. “Someone ordered it and never picked it up,” he said. “Help yourselves.”
There was already a piece missing, so Olivia didn’t feel too bad being the first one to lean over and snag one. Cleo and Andrew did the same a moment later while Noah leaned his head back against the the couch with a sigh. “I’ll shower in a minute, I swear,” he said.
“All I smell is pizza,” Olivia told him.
He laughed. “Busy night,” he said. “I think people are starting to get less patient? Like they think the shop should be moving on by now.”
“What, from Roman getting sick?”
He nodded, closing his eyes. “It’s been, what, a week and change? People were patient for a little while. But maybe only people in town know what happened. Because obviously, like, the Perezes and people are insisting they’re not going to take credits if the pizzas are late. But I had a woman a little ways over the town line tonight who refused to pay since it was ten minutes late.”
“Seriously?” Olivia rolled her eyes. “What did you do?”
“Got Charlie on the phone,” Noah said. “I was going to just take the pizzas back, but she was yelling at me and I was about twenty percent sure she was going to chase my truck. He’s a good manager. Honestly, I’m hoping Celine and Roman keep him in that position when…”
He trailed off. “Shit,” he mumbled. “He’s not coming back.”
It was like the air in the room got heavier. “I’m sorry,” Noah muttered, opening his eyes. “I didn’t mean to come back and just…”
He looked guiltily at Andrew, who just gave him a smile. “It’s fine,” he said. “You know what? Take the pizzas next time. Eat them in front of her. Then dare her to ask for a credit.”
He gave Noah’s knee a nudge and Noah laughed. Then he caught Olivia’s eye. His smile faded somewhat and for a second, she thought he was about to say something. But instead, he just held her gaze for a beat, then got another slice of pizza.