New Winslow S6E33
The party had gone so perfectly. Now that it was done, Olivia was taking some time alone in a hot bath with a glass of white wine. The tub was small, and there were scribbles on the wall from where the totally washable tub markers had, in fact, not been so washable. But the water was hot again, and she was able to sit without contorting her body too badly as she relaxed in the soapy suds.
Noah had left right after Cleo and Edie for what Olivia assumed was an evening AA meeting. Andrew had ducked outside, and she was pretty sure he was out past the property line smoking a cigarette right now. He tried to hide it and didn’t do it all that often, but they lived together, so it wasn’t like he could get the smell of cigarette smoke out of his clothes without her noticing.
Oh well, it wasn’t like she didn’t have her own vices. In fact, a cigarette sounded pretty nice right now but she didn’t want to get into the habit again. She’d quit right after college. So she’d stick with her wine, relax in the tub with her music for a little while, and then call it a night.
When the front door opened, she assumed it was Andrew coming back in. Even so, there was that moment of stress, almost unconscious and definitely automatic. It was a spirit. It was an entity coming to grab Mia and take her away. It was the ghost that possessed her, somehow still here and able to get in. It was-
It was Cleo? And she sounded panicked. Olivia stood up, sloshing water out of the tub as she clumsily got out. “Hang on!” she exclaimed, grabbing her robe and wrapping it around herself without bothering to dry off.
She hurried out of the bathroom, sliding on the tile with her soaking wet feet. Cleo and Edie were in the living room. Edie was pale while Cleo looked horrified. And guilty.
“Which one?” Olivia asked, her voice a whisper.
Edie nodded, and Olivia could see tears in their eyes. “Okay,” she said, keeping her voice as calm as possible. “We’ll go back after an hour. We don’t know why, but the hour mark tends to be when people get out again, okay?”
Edie nodded again, not looking at Olivia. Glancing at Cleo, Olivia could see the anger pouring off of her. Her jaw was tight, and she nodded curtly. Olivia glanced at the clock.
“It’s eight oh five,” she said. “How long has it been?”
“I didn’t check,” Edie said softly.
“About thirty minutes,” Cleo said.
“We’ll go back in thirty minutes,” Olivia said, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt.
“I have rehearsal tomorrow,” Edie whispered. “I can’t miss it, we have a gig on Friday. There’s two new songs that aren’t done yet and the tour is starting in May.”
The bright, smiling Edie from this evening was gone. They looked terrified. And then the door opened into the kitchen and Olivia smelled the slight scent of cigarettes in the cold air that came in after with Andrew.
“Liv?” he said, looking at her obviously messy appearance. “What’s…”
Then he turned to Cleo and Edie and she saw it all fall into place. “Which of you was it?” he asked.
“Me,” Edie said.
“It was thirty minutes ago,” Cleo repeated.
She and Andrew caught each other’s eyes and Olivia could see an entire silent conversation pass between them. Andrew nodded and looked away first. “Thirty minutes, then,” he said. “You try after an hour and then a lot of people get out, yeah?”
He gave them a weak smile, clearly aware that his presence was a reminder that the one hour mark meant nothing. It was a gamble. Edie could be staring down a lifetime in this town and they had no way of knowing if that was the case. Because they’d decided to attend a harmless birthday party.
Right now, Olivia could see so clearly why Andrew and Cleo had left New Winslow. The idea of leaving was often so foreign to her, but not right now. In Edie’s fear, she could see that this place ruined lives.
“We shouldn’t have come,” Cleo muttered.
She remembered the ease with which Edie had accepted the truth about New Winslow a few months ago, after their fight. How they’d been so casual about the idea of getting stuck. Now, waiting here as Edie sat silently on the couch, head bowed and blunt bob hanging around their face, Cleo could see the reality of New Winslow had sunk in.
“I’m trapped,” Edie whispered.
Nothing that was going through her mind was coherent, let alone helpful. Before either of them could say anything else, Andrew walked into the room with car keys. “Me and Olivia will go behind you,” he said. “Just to make sure everything’s fine.”
He didn’t say anything about things not being fine. He didn’t need to, he was walking proof of what could happen. And another thing that Cleo could blame herself for. She helped Edie to their feet, then followed Andrew out the door.
About ten minutes later, all of them were at the town line. The wind was bitterly cold and Liv and Andrew got out of their car and stood by the side of the road as Cleo drove toward the town line. She held her breath as they got closer. What would Edie do if they stayed trapped here? Was Liv’s house going to become the new go-to for trapped people? How had Cleo possibly thought it was ever safe to be here? To bring Edie here? They may have dismissed the danger, but she was the one who had grown up here and witnessed what this town could do. Whatever happened was her responsibility.
The car slid smoothly over the town line and the tension left Cleo’s body so quickly that she felt wobbly with it. Edie looked out the window, then at her, their disbelieving expression dissolving into tears. They tried to wipe them away and hide it, but was unable to catch all of them.
Cleo stopped the car a few feet over the town line and got out, leaving it running. Edie stayed where they were. “Tell them thanks,” they whispered hoarsely.
Cleo nodded and walked back to the line, making sure to stay on the non-New Winslow side of it. “Thanks,” she said awkwardly to Liv and Andrew.
Olivia stepped toward her and wrapped her arms around Cleo. Cleo hugged her tightly, sinking gratefully into the warmth for a moment. They let go of each other, then she turned to Andrew, who went to hug her and hit his arms on thin air just inches away. He smiled grimly, then put his palm to the invisible barrier. His hand rested on it, so solid in the glow of Liv’s headlights, and Cleo put her hand against his. She could feel his palm, cold and smooth and human, against hers. She wondered what he felt on his end and knew she’d never ask if he could feel her too.
“I’m going to get Edie home,” she said.
Andrew nodded, and she wanted so badly to take his arm and somehow yank him through the barrier, then run away to Boston and never come back.
“I’ll be at my mother’s Monday,” she said. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
She forced herself to turn away from him and go back to the car.