New Winslow S6E20

“Mia, sweetheart, no. Stay away from that.”

Olivia was alone at the Limerick. Well, except for Mia, who she’d had to bring with her again. There was too much to do for her to skip today, even with opening day still weeks out. When to open had been the subject of a bit of heated debate among the three of them when they first got the keys. But then a seemingly intact door had collapsed, nearly landing on Andrew, and they’d all finally, reluctantly, agreed that the extra time was necessary.

They needed a contractor to look over the electrical one more time. Even Noah, who cringed each time they brought up hiring someone to do work, had agreed. So the shop couldn’t open officially until after one of the two electricians in New Winslow could get over here to look for old wiring. Beyond that, though, it seemed to be large amounts of minor repairs and cosmetic work that remained. Olivia had bought the paint she wanted for the dining room and it was sitting under a tarp, away from curious toddler hands, on the other side of the room. She was also keeping an eye out online for used decor that fit the vibe she was going for.

Cozy. Safe. Not full of murderous ghosts.

She moved Mia away from the metal table and back over to the blanket she’d spread out and set up with toys and board books. Mia pouted at her, but picked up a loud toy Olivia had always hated, and began hammering on the buttons.

Today she had a to-do list that would never get done in a day. But if she could just finish the cleaning out here, then by tomorrow she could put primer on the walls. Then she could paint and a big part of the front of the café would be done. Then she could focus some on the fun parts like furniture. She wanted something cozier, furniture that invited people to stay and relax for a while. She’d been to coffee shops where everything was metal. The tables were wobbly, and the chairs were painful after sitting in them more than ten minutes. The ones they had now were even worse than what she’d seen in those shops, so those would have to go before they opened.

Still, those tables were handy right now. And if she could find a couch to put against the long wall, maybe decorations and a non-moldy bookshelf to go by it too, then she’d be even closer. She’d been delighted by the old, dusty board games Noah had found in the closet, so those would be up here too.

They’d do plants as well, though it was fifty-fifty odds if, between the three of them, they’d remember to water them. So maybe fake plants would be better.

God, she was so happy to be making these choices. Not a single microwaved, sickly gray steak and cheese to be seen here.

Just as she was about to get to work, there was a knock at the front door. Olivia jumped, immediately hurrying over to scoop up Mia. But then she spotted Celine Beckett on the other side of the grimy window and her heart rate settled back down.

“Coming!” she called.

Mia squirming in her grip, Olivia went over and unlocked the door. “Hi,” Celine said. “Sorry to just drop in, I saw you through the window.”

“No, it’s fine,” Olivia said, the combination of fear and protection she felt in Celine’s company these days strong as she stepped aside to let Celine in. “How’s everything? How is Roman?”

“He’s better,” Celine replied. “He’s staying at the Countess Bed and Breakfast over in Petersham for the time being. It’s tough having him away, but it’s not safe for him to come home.”

Olivia couldn’t even imagine. For either of them. The idea that Roman was actually out of New Winslow was hard enough to wrap her head around. But her grip on Mia tightened as she tried to imagine how Roman felt having to live separate from his kids, wife, and business, as well as everything else he’d known for more than half of Olivia’s life.

“I’m so glad,” she said. “Noah said he’s seen him, but…”

She had no way to end that. And if she said she missed Roman, which she did, she would have felt silly. But Celine didn’t seem to be looking for any specific response from Olivia. Instead, she was looking around the space, her eyes bright.

“I still can’t believe this place is going to be open again,” she said with a smile. “It’s so exciting. Do you have an opening day yet?”

Olivia almost laughed. “April,” she replied, setting Mia down. “Probably the first week. We all wanted to do it sooner, but there’s no way.”

“It was the same for us,” Celine said, brushing a fingertip approvingly over one of the charms Olivia had bought. “We wanted to buy it, then reopen the next week. It ended up being a month, and the restaurant was basically handed to us ready to go.”

She stood up straight and looked at Olivia. “How are you doing?”

Olivia knew it wasn’t just the shop. And Celine had seen her at her absolute worst, so there was no point in lying. “I’m alright,” she said. “I just want to make sure this place is as safe as possible.”

“It looks good,” Celine said. “I can feel the wards Andrew put up. And are those from Frankie’s Gifts?”

She motioned to the charm she’d been inspecting. Frankie’s Gifts had been the storefront of a woman over in Amherst who sold mugs and fake plants, along with a variety of actual magical artifacts. The charms she bought online had broken easily, so Olivia had found her after a few awkward phone calls to real gift shops and a lot of digging on her slow internet. And apparently she’d done it right.

“They are,” she said. “I got some for the back too.”

“Good,” Celine said. “It feels safe in here. Everything’s going well at home?”

Unlike every time Iris had done that, this was an actual question. Even if Celine probably knew the answer already. “Yeah,” Olivia replied. “Everything’s fine.”

“Good. I can come back and add some things, if you want. I’m not sure you need it though, Frankie’s work is pretty strong.”

She felt bad taking Celine up on that offer when she had a sick husband and three kids to worry about. “Olivia, I mean it,” Celine said.

Olivia laughed and her hand moved absently up to the amulet that was tucked under her sweatshirt. “Thanks,” she said. “If you have time.”

Celine smiled at her. “Of course I do.”

She gave Mia a little finger waggle and Mia buried her face in Olivia’s knee. “I need to go see Roman,” Celine said. “But before I do, I just talked to Noah as I was leaving work. He said you don’t have a supplier yet, so I wanted to recommend the one we use.”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small card, which Olivia took and immediately moved away from Mia’s grabbing hand. “They’re good and they work in New Winslow,” Celine continued.

She hadn’t even gotten to that yet. All the baking she’d been practicing here had been with ingredients she picked up at Market Basket. “Thanks,” Olivia said again. “Yeah, I’ll keep this in mind.”

Celine looked around the space one more time. “You’re going to do great things with this.”

Was that a prediction or simply kindness? Either way, Olivia knew she was blushing as Celine walked out the door.




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