New Winslow S6E45
The movie was horrible. Watching with Noah was nice, though. After his initial skepticism and a few half-hearted attempts to start working again, he’d settled in to watch it with her. It was a stupid, gory mess with one revolting jump scare that sent them both scrambling on the couch.
“Haven’t you watched this before?” Cleo demanded breathlessly as she waited for her heart rate to settle back down. “I got it off your shelf!”
“I haven’t watched half the movies over there,” Noah retorted, pushing his hair back with a shaking hand. “Some of them were from my college roommate. He just left a bunch of DVDs and said I could keep them.”
“Was this one of them?”
“Do you have his contact information?”
Noah laughed, then picked up both of their empty seltzer cans. “Want another?” he asked as he stood up.
Cleo paused the movie. “Please,” she said.
He walked into the kitchen and she relaxed back against the couch to wait for him to come back. He seemed far happier than he had earlier. Hopefully, a night off would help him shake the bad mood. At the very least so that Liv didn’t rightfully kill him tomorrow.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket, making her jump again. It was Edie.
“Hey,” Cleo greeted.
“Hi,” Edie sounded a little concerned. “Are you still in… um, at your mom’s?”
Oh shit. It wasn’t that late, but she’d been so wrapped up in what she and Noah were doing that she hadn’t called Edie to let them know plans had changed. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m at Noah’s for a little while.”
There was a beat of silence, and Cleo winced. “Is everything okay?” Edie asked, their tone cautious.
Noah came back into the room with two seltzer cans and Cleo pointed uselessly at her phone. “Right back,” she said, cupping her hand over the speaker.
“I’ll wait for you.”
She wanted to tell him no, no, he really didn’t need to do that. But she had a bad feeling about this conversation as she got up and slipped out the door and into the stairwell.
“Yeah,” she said, keeping her voice low even as she got down closer to Olivia’s door. “Yeah, Noah was just having a rough night. I kind of bullied him into letting me stay for a little bit.”
They didn’t sound mad or anything, but Cleo braced herself anyway. “Does he need someone to talk to about it?” Edie asked.
That hadn’t been what Cleo expected to hear. Maybe something about not calling. Definitely something about spending unnecessary time in New Winslow. And that was probably coming next.
“I-” Cleo faltered. “I don’t think right now. But he might. I don’t know if he’d want to talk right away, he’s a little… spiky tonight.”
“I get it,” they said. “I’m here if he’s comfortable with it.”
“Are you leaving soon?”
“I’m not sure,” Cleo said cautiously.
“There’s no way you’re leaving New Winslow for good, are you?”
There was no heat in Edie’s voice, but Cleo’s stomach bottomed out anyway. “What?”
“You’re never going to leave,” Edie repeated. “Not for good, at least. I think you’re more attached to New Winslow than Boston sometimes.”
“How can you say that?” Cleo asked, conscious of the fact she was pretty close to Liv’s door and Liv and Andrew could likely hear her out here talking. “You know how I feel.”
“But I also know you’re talking to me from there right now.”
She didn’t want to have this fight. The urge to tell Edie they’d never had a problem with it before it impacted them was bubbling up and Cleo had to physically swallow it down. “I have responsibilities here,” she said.
“Look,” Edie said, and for the first time there was a bit of an edge to their voice. “I’m not judging you for it, it’s your hometown. I’m just saying, you keep telling me that if it wasn’t for your mom, you wouldn’t be in town. But you left your mom’s house how many hours ago?”
Only about two, but Cleo knew she’d sound ridiculous trying to argue that. Because Edie was right. Even this morning, she’d said she wished her mother would just move, and that it would be less stress for everybody.
“I’m not trying to fight with you,” Edie said, their voice softer. “I just don’t want you to get stuck.”
Cleo didn’t know what to say to that. They sounded a little scared now. And it wasn’t like she could say she wouldn’t get stuck. She could leave here tonight, hit the town line, and spend fifty years in New Winslow. Because she decided to stay and help a friend against his will. She opened her mouth to speak, like the words would just find themselves.
“Do you want me to come home?”
“Are you going to?”
Again, she had no answer right away. The smart thing to do would be to say yes, leave now while texting an apology to Noah, and never come back. But she and Edie both knew she wasn’t going to do that.
“I’ll leave the latch off,” Edie said quietly.
“Are we-” Cleo’s voice caught. “Are we okay?”
“I think so,” Edie said. “I just… it’s cursed.”
“It’s been cursed this whole time.”
Shit, she was incapable of passing by the opportunity to fight with the people she loved. Edie was silent for a second as Cleo reeled her temper back.
“I’m sorry,” Edie said.
“Me too,” Cleo murmured as a tension headache settled in behind her ears. “Listen, I love you. And I know what I’m risking and I’m sorry. But I have responsibilities here.”
“I love you too.” Edie was silent for a second and Cleo thought maybe the call had dropped. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
There was a heaviness to that last part, like they didn’t quite believe what they were saying.
“I’ll see you then.”
Edie hung up first and Cleo let her arm drop to her side as she sagged against the wooden wall of the stairwell. This wasn’t sustainable. And Edie was right, she realized. She didn’t like this place, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t attached to it. And maybe Edie wasn’t going to wait around until Cleo didn’t have to be in New Winslow anymore.
The front door of Liv’s apartment creaked open and Cleo opened her eyes to see Andrew standing there, illuminated from behind in the warm living room light. “You alright then?” he asked.
“Were you eavesdropping?”
“They’re going to leave me.”
“They’re not going to leave,” Andrew chided, closing the door behind him so that they were alone in the dim stairwell. “But you have to decide, don’t you? You can be our friend from the other side of that line, it’s not as though you’ll-”
“Lose touch forever?” Cleo finished. “I know. But I’m here for my mom already and that’s so stressful and I don’t know what’s going to happen with her.”
She slid her phone in her pocket. “I’m going to go back up,” she said. “We’re watching a terrible movie and I know he waited for me, so I’m going to have to watch the whole fucking thing. And it’s so gross.”
Andrew laughed. “Seriously,” he said. “You need to take care of yourself.”
“Cleo didn’t mention she’s the one who chose the movie.”
Noah’s voice from the top of the stairs made them both jump. He made his way down the creaking staircase and looked at Cleo with a small smile. “You should go.”
She opened her mouth to protest, and he held out a hand to stop her. “Sound travels in this stairwell,” he said, and Cleo’s whole body went hot as she tried to remember exactly what she’d said about him. “Seriously, you don’t need to stay.”
Her first impulse was to argue with him again, but she realized that as much as she loved them all, she really did want to leave. She wanted to get away from the danger of getting trapped and see Edie.
“You forgot your cookies,” Andrew said. “Hang on.”
He opened the door and went back into Liv’s apartment, Cleo following automatically. Liv was in the living room, and she gave Cleo a sympathetic smile as Cleo followed Andrew into the kitchen. Noah broke off to move sheepishly toward Liv and she heard him starting to apologize to her as they moved into the kitchen.
“She wrapped them special,” Andrew said, picking up a parchment paper package on the counter and handing it to her. “Listen,” he said in a low voice, “None of us expect you to stay here, alright? You take care of your mom and you get out of town. We’ll see you when we see you.”
Her throat tightened as she nodded and gave him a hug. “I’ll see you soon.”
She hurried out to the living room where Liv was clearly giving Noah a fair bit of quiet hell. She interrupted to hug them both quickly, then went out the door and into the cold night air.
Once she was past the New Winslow town line, Cleo pulled over to the edge of the dark woods to unwrap the package of cinnamon orange cookies sitting on her passenger seat.