New Winslow S6E3
The first thing Olivia did when she was alone in the dining room of the Limerick building was to hang up all the charms she’d spent a little too much money on over the past week. She’d had to find a magic shop outside of New Winslow (not Iris, she was never going to Iris again for anything) and since she had limited time to do so, it had all ended up having to be shipped to the post office a couple towns over. But now it was here and it was as authentic as she could guarantee without having someone like Celine – or maybe Andrew, come to think of it – inspect it for her.
Andrew had promised to put up some wards around the building and she knew he’d already started on it. But she also needed to be able to protect things here from the very beginning. She might not have ever owned a business before, but she’d spent the past twenty years of her life in food service. She knew she’d be seeing more of this building than her own home for a while. If she relied on someone else to do everything for her, what was going to happen when that wasn’t effective anymore? She needed to protect herself, her daughter, and her family. Because otherwise these things would just keep happening and people would continue to get hurt.
About an hour later, she’d gotten the last strands of charms hung over the back door and moved onto more mundane things, like bringing trash out to the dumpster just outside in the tiny muddy parking lot behind the building. As she came back in and made her way up front, she saw Andrew by the front counter. He was filthy, but his smile as he looked at her was real and still mildly shocked.
“Those are nice,” he said, nodding to the braided black cords and coins draped over the top of the front doorway.
“Thanks,” Olivia said. “Um, just some added protection. You know…”
She trailed off, unsure exactly how to finish that, but Andrew just nodded as he gulped down a glass of water. “Yeah, of course,” he said. “I’ve done some too, but I’m going to do more. I told you that, yeah?”
“Yeah,” she said quickly. “Yeah, of course. I just got those too.”
He nodded, and she tried not to see the concern in his expression. Maybe he thought she was overreacting, but if he did, he wasn’t going to say it. “I was thinking about making lunch,” Olivia said. “The kitchen is filthy, there’s no way I’m making food in it before I flood it with bleach. But I can run home and get some, then bring it back.”
“Great, cheers,” he said as he wiped a hand across his face, leaving a streak of dirt high up on his cheekbone. “Where’s Noah?”
Good question. He’d disappeared with his tool kit shortly after he’d arrived and she’d been so distracted by her own tasks that she hadn’t even thought of him in at least an hour. But the question was answered as she heard bootfalls on the creaky basement steps.
Noah appeared a moment later, the dust of the basement adding even more gray to his hair. “I knew it was bad down there,” he said. “But holy shit, I may pick up some masks until I can finish cleaning it.”
“Want to take a break and have lunch?” Olivia asked.
“I’ll finish that first, but thanks.”
Olivia wasn’t entirely sure what “that” was, but she didn’t push as he grabbed a water bottle from the counter and went back downstairs without another word.
She and Andrew exchanged a look. “It’s just water,” Andrew said, so quietly that she almost missed it. “I watched him crack the seal earlier, and it’s been in this room with me the whole time.”
If she could barely hear him, then Noah certainly couldn’t. But she looked at the doorway, anyway. “I don’t think he would,” she whispered. “Maybe he’s just stressed about the mess. Or from watching the kids.”
He wouldn’t. She knew he took his recovery and the shop too seriously to risk it like that. The evasiveness was uncomfortably familiar, but he’d just come from taking care of Celine and Roman’s kids so maybe he was tired and overloaded. Knowing him, it was likely he hadn’t even slept last night when he was with the kids.
About forty minutes later, she was back with lunches packed into a worn floral tote bag. Noah was still down cellar and Andrew was scrubbing the windows and checking his watch. “I need to leave in about two hours,” he said as she walked in.
She didn’t make him tell her he was going over to Iris’s shop for a shift. That was established, and she’d already told him she wouldn’t interfere with either his job or their attempts to break the town curse. Even if a large part of her wanted to insist Iris was dangerous, she was trying very hard to let him live his own life.
Plus, they needed the money. While the building was paid for in full through Andrew’s savings (another thing that made her feel guilty despite his insistence it was the best use for the money), they still needed to pay their regular bills. Andrew and Noah working outside the Limerick let them cover the bills without completely draining Andrew’s severance package. Both of the others had insisted that Olivia focus on opening the business instead of looking for another job to go with it.
Another pang, but they had already decided they were running this place together, and they had as much say as Olivia did. So she would take the lead on the honestly overwhelming amount of cleaning this place needed before they could even begin to worry about furniture, decor, or solidifying the menu. It had been a few years since anyone had been inside and that was reflected in the sheer amount of grime.
Andrew had cleaned off one of the wobbly tables that had come with the shop, so she didn’t feel quite so gross eating in here just now. She threw down a tablecloth just in case, then ran a paper towel over the two chairs and a single bar stool she pulled over. It didn’t make much of a difference, but they were all so dirty that it didn’t matter anyway.
“Looks fantastic, Liv,” Noah said as they all sat down a few minutes later.
It wasn’t anything special, but it was since they were eating it here in their own shop. “I’ve got about two hours,” Noah continued. “I picked up a delivery shift in Worcester.”
So she’d be here alone for a while. It was fine. This was their place, and she was going to have to get used to it. “Same work as Cleo?” Andrew asked, looking at Noah curiously.
Noah shook his head. “Not quite,” he said. “One time gig. Though Celine wants to talk later about covering some shifts at the House of Pizza. But I’ll be back here after.”
“No, don’t,” Olivia said. “All I have planned here today after this is cleaning. I’m going to scrub as much of it as I can before I have to get Mia.”
“And I’ve got a to-do list the length of my arm,” Noah argued mildly.
She wasn’t going to fight. After all, they were all in this together now. Plus, the sooner they had the place cleaned and repaired, the sooner they’d be able to set a more solid opening date. Which meant the sooner they’d start making money. And the sooner they’d start making a profit, if she wanted to look that far into the distant future right now.
Andrew was looking around the space pensively. “What are you thinking?” Noah asked.
“Hmm? Oh, nothing worth discussing yet.”
Either magic or marketing. Either way, Olivia trusted he knew what he was doing. But she couldn’t help hoping the magic was first. She hadn’t seen or heard anything here yet and hopefully she wouldn’t. But she hadn’t expected to see things in her home or at Keegan’s.
Or to have one invade her brain.
The bite of food in her mouth was suddenly impossible to swallow and she could only hope this flash of fear wasn’t as visible to the others as it felt. But it was fine. As long as she could keep things under control here and at home, they’d all be okay. It was gone. He was gone, he’d gone to the netherworld or reincarnated halfway across the planet. He was gone, and she was here.
“You alright?” Andrew asked her.
“Yeah,” she said, hoping her smile looked real. “Just tired. Mia kept climbing up from the trundle bed to sleep with me last night. Which was cute, but she’s a kicker.”
Noah laughed, but she caught that quick flash of guilt in Andrew’s expression and wanted to take back the comment. After all, she was the one who had offered – then insisted – he take Mia’s nursery while Mia moved in with her. “It was just the one night,” she said with a smile.
“Let me know,” Andrew said. “She can have her room back.”
“It’s your room,” Olivia argued. “But thanks.”
He opened his mouth to keep the argument going, but the sound of something crashing in the cellar cut everybody off. Swearing, Noah got up and disappeared back down the stairs.
“For real,” Olivia insisted when the door swung unsteadily shut behind him, leaving her and Andrew alone in the front of the shop. “I’m not kicking you out of your room. I can detach the trundle and move it if I need to.”
He finally nodded. “I’m going to see if he needs help down there,” he said, getting up and following Noah down to the basement.
Olivia tried not to be nervous upstairs alone.