New Winslow S6E48

Just like Andrew and Noah had instructed, Cleo had spent as little time in New Winslow as possible over the past few days. But she really wanted to talk to Liv about it. Maybe it was yet another justification for spending extra time in town, even if she truly didn’t want to be here. But regardless, she was nervous as she pulled up in front of the Limerick building. Liv and Andrew were both supposed to be there this morning, but Noah had some outpatient therapy appointments in Worcester so she didn’t think she would be seeing him.

Either way, Liv was truly who she needed to talk to. She’d probably heard at least some of the conversation that night, but Cleo needed to actually talk to her face to face.

She walked hesitantly up to the Limerick building, noting how much cleaner the exterior looked from last month when she’d been here. Just as she pulled her phone out to call Liv to let her in, Andrew opened the door and stepped out. He’d jumped in surprise when he saw her.

“How’s everything?” he asked, his voice full of polite concern.

Cleo shook her head. “It’s-” she started, then faltered. “Edie’s alright. And we’re alright, I guess. But I think the reality of this place really hurts. We talked when I got home the other night and I need to be more careful, you know?”

Andrew nodded, and she wanted to take him by the wrist and shove him into her car. She wanted to drive to the town line and get him out of here via brute force if she had to. He didn’t need to give up his new business or his friendships or whatever. He just needed to be able to get out. Not live this cursed Hallmark existence where he had no choice but to either wait around to die or make the best of it. Especially when he’d (somewhat reluctantly) told her about Baxter’s threat.

The idea of their terrible biology teacher murdering Andrew made Cleo hate this town even more.

There had to be another way. But the longer she stood here on this worn sidewalk, in the shelter of the tattered awning she knew Noah wanted to tear down, the longer this town seemed to press on her skin. It was another moment where her number might be called, where it might be her turn to go to the town line, only to get rejected by it.

“Liv’s inside?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Andrew said. “Um, call out when you go in, she’s a little jumpy these days. Not that I blame her, but I don’t want to send her into a fit every time I step over the threshold, you know?”

He sounded tired. Not angry, not frustrated, just tired. Cleo couldn’t blame him.

“Are you alright?” she asked, despite everything in her wanting to just go talk to Liv, then leave.

“Fine,” he said with a shrug. “It’s not like anything changed for me.”

“No, but…”

She didn’t want to rekindle their fight yet again. Still, they knew each other well enough that apparently she didn’t need to actually say anything.

“It hurts,” Andrew admitted. “Yeah, I’ll be honest. Fuck it. I’m so relieved Edie got out unscathed, but it hurt that they got over the line and I still haven’t. It’s nothing new though.”

She went to hug him and was relieved when he slid his arms around her. “You’re not coming back, are you?” he asked, looking up slightly to make eye contact. “That’s why you’re here right now. Did you finally make a decision?”

“I am,” she said, honest and bitter. “I can’t leave my mom. But I can’t stay anymore. And Edie’s not coming back.”

“Good,” Andrew said.

“And they’re asking me to spend as little time here as possible so I don’t get stuck. We didn’t fight-fight when I got home, but they certainly made that clear.”

Andrew laughed a little at that. “After how long of trying to get you to bring them here?”

“Same old, same old.”

She felt mean talking about Edie like this, but Cleo couldn’t help that frisson of frustration that had underlaid the past couple weeks. “I’m not going to go all ‘I told you so’ because I’m not a monster,” she said. “At least not anymore than I already did. But I fucking told them so. This place isn’t hell, but it’s a huge risk. And I’m so sick of people just dismissing it until it hits them too.”

Andrew glanced around them, though between the closed door and the empty road, they were clearly alone. “Do you know if Liv or Noah’s ever been hit with it?”

“They’re both insane, who knows?” Cleo said affectionately. “I feel like maybe Noah did a couple times as a kid? But I’m not sure.”

“He’s been squirrelly about leaving town lately,” Andrew said, again, glancing around to make sure that Noah wasn’t anywhere to be seen. “I don’t know what it is. He’ll go, obviously. But I can see it in his eyes that he’s nervous about it.”

“That’s… unusual,” Cleo said.

“That and the sleepwalking and the constant talk about storms,” Andrew said. “It hasn’t been that long since he got home, so I’m not too worried? It’s just strange.”

“Have you talked to him about it?”

Andrew just laughed and Cleo immediately got it. Then the comfortable ease of talking to Andrew began to evaporate as she remembered, yet again, where she was and what the risks were.

“Alright,” she said grimly. “I need to go talk to Liv.”

“Text me later,” Andrew said.

“Of course.”

“Or come to the town line and toss me bread crumbs like a duck over a fence.”

“Not funny.”

“A little funny.”

He looked at her, brown eyes full of innocence, and she finally broke. “Okay,” she admitted. “A little funny.”

She hugged him again, and he started walking toward the car he shared with Liv. Then she went into the shop, locking the door behind her.

“Liv!” Cleo called. “Are you here?”

“Out back!”

She went through the small space between the counter and the wall, then turned into the kitchen, where Olivia was surrounded by two enormous pallets of boxes. “It’s furniture,” she said, from where they towered over her. “It all arrived.”

“Want some help?” Cleo offered, regretting it instantly, just like she had the past few times she’d offered help in New Winslow.

“Nah,” Olivia said, to Cleo’s relief. “I have to inventory it first. Want a coffee?”

“No thanks,” she said. “I can’t stay. I just needed to talk to you.”

Olivia looked concerned as she moved away from the pallets and led Cleo back into the dining room. “What’s going on?”

“So I have to keep coming here for my mom,” Cleo started, already worried she was rambling. “But I can’t stay anymore than that. After what happened with Edie the other week, I can’t risk it. It’s too big a risk and I haven’t been taking it seriously enough. I didn’t really get a chance to talk to you the other night, so I wanted to stop by. Just so you wouldn’t think I was, like, mad or trying to avoid you or anything.”

Olivia’s face was oddly neutral and Cleo was worried that despite everything, she may have ended up hurting Liv anyway. But then Liv nodded. “I get it,” she said. “You have a life out of here.”

Andrew had too, but there was no way of saying that without it sounding like she was blaming Liv for Andrew’s situation. Which was ridiculous. Cleo obviously blamed herself.

Whether or not she had the right to was between her, Andrew, and several shouting matches, but she still did.

“It’s…” She tried to protest that statement while also remaining honest, but after a beat of awkward silence, she realized there was no way to do so. “Yeah,” Cleo said. “Yeah, that’s exactly it.”

“And it’s too much of a risk to come into town,” Liv continued mildly. “Except for where your responsibilities are.”

Liv didn’t mean anything by that, Cleo knew it. She was trying hard not to read into Liv’s mild tone anything that wasn’t there. Maybe it was because she’d come in here with the defensive shields in place.

“Are we good?” she asked cautiously.

Liv started laughing, startling Cleo. “Cleo,” she said, shaking her head. “You’re allowed to hate this town. How many times do I have to say it? If you want to leave, leave.”

“Why don’t you leave?” Cleo asked suddenly.

Olivia just looked at her for a moment. “Do you think I should?”


And now she was picking a fight with Liv. When she had no intention of doing so and was adding up even more time that was putting her at risk of getting stuck herself. But now that the question had been asked, she couldn’t help answering.

“Yes, I absolutely think you should leave,” Cleo said. “You’re too smart and you have too much potential to stay here.”

“This is where my whole life is though,” Olivia argued, her tone still light. “I can’t afford to pay rents in other towns and my whole support system is here. I can’t do it.”

“You could though,” Cleo said quickly. “You could get a job. I don’t know, stay with me for a little while. Then you’d have a place while you look for a job.”

“I have a two year old,” Olivia pointed out. “You’d have to childproof your entire apartment and Edie didn’t sign up for a kid.”

“Beats raising a kid here,” Cleo said. “Seriously, we could make this work. Just-”

She paused as she realized Liv’s face had gone white. “Liv?”

“You do think I’m hurting my daughter, raising her here.”

It wasn’t a question. That same fear sparked in Cleo’s heart, that same inevitability from when she knew she and Jenna were over. “What, no, Liv-”

“No, I know,” Olivia said, looking somewhere over Cleo’s shoulder. “It is. What if she gets stuck here? What if she’s trapped forever? Or I’m trapped forever. You don’t need to worry, it’s not like I don’t think about those things. I’m not that bad of a mother.”

“You’re not-”

“I’m trying,” Liv said, her voice breaking in a way that made Cleo wish she hadn’t set foot in here today.

“That’s not what I meant,” she started. “I just think there’s more opportunity-”

“No, it’s fine,” Olivia said, in that tone that Cleo knew meant things were incredibly not fine. “You’re right.”

“I didn’t say-”

“I need to get back to the inventory,” Olivia said, still avoiding Cleo’s eyes. “Good luck with your mom. Let me know if she needs anything. I’m in town, I can do it.”

“Liv, for the love of God, could you just-”

Olivia walked away without another word, disappearing around the corner into the kitchen. Cleo stood helplessly where she was, debating whether or not she should go in after her.

She hadn’t meant anything about Liv’s parenting. Just that there were more opportunities outside of New Winslow than inside of it, and less risk of getting stuck. And yeah, the risks were there for kids who grew up here, but it wasn’t like Mia was the only one. There was a whole school system, for Christ’s sake.

“Hey, Cleo, what are you still doing in town?”

Noah’s voice made her jump. She turned around and clearly everything was written plainly on her face, because he immediately frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“I fucked up.”


She didn’t want to tell him. But then the words were tumbling out as he stood there and listened. She waited for the anger, that icy disdain Noah was so capable of, but it didn’t come.

“I didn’t mean she’s a bad parent,” she said, her voice choking. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I just meant she’d be better off somewhere that wasn’t here.”

“Like you’ve been saying for twenty years?” Noah said, a hint of his usual crooked smile providing that first glimpse of relief.

Cleo let out a small, bitter laugh. “Yeah.”

Noah sighed, setting down his backpack on the floor beside them. “I mean, I get where she’s coming from,” he said. “God knows we’ve talked about it.”


“Do you think we’re robots or something?” Noah asked, and her face went warm. “Of course we talk about it. There’s a lot there, Cleo. I mean, maybe it wasn’t the most sensitive thing to say, but it’s not like it was something new.”

“Wow, thanks.”

He shrugged, but laughed. “Twenty years,” he repeated. “You left, we didn’t. We all made our own choices and there’s so much to all of them.”

“Have you been hit by the curse?”

“Once when I was a newborn. That’s it.”

She looked at him in surprise. “I was literally just in Worcester,” Noah said.

“I didn’t mean right now,” Cleo replied, rolling her eyes.

Noah lowered his voice and she could see a hint of shame in his expression. “It’s been a rough couple years for Liv,” he said, so quietly that Cleo had to lean in to hear it. “Bringing up Mia might not have been the best option, but I know you weren’t saying she’s a bad parent. And I know she knows it too.”

Cleo looked back toward the kitchen, then at Noah. “I should talk to her.”

“Let me do it first,” Noah said. “We’ll talk later?”

Her throat was dry as she nodded. Noah wrapped her in a tight, almost painful hug and she tried not to look over his shoulder at the closed kitchen door. He let go, smiled at her, then started walking toward the kitchen. Cleo was tempted to go after him, but nothing good would come of it. So instead, she walked out of the shop, letting the door lock behind her.


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The Northern Worcester County branch of the Foundation for Paranormal Research is one of the organization’s top investigation and cleanup teams. So when a case comes in involving a century of mysterious disappearances, they figure they’ll be done before their lunch break is supposed to end. Investigators James and Amelia go to the site while their coworkers remain behind. But in seconds, Amelia vanishes in the cursed house and the others are forced to find her with no help from their bosses. Will they be able to get her back or will the house claim one final victim?

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