New Winslow S6E57
Noah sounded irritated as he stepped into the back room at the Limerick. It could have been several different things, but she had a feeling she knew what it was and was still too angry to feel bad about it.
“What did you tell Andrew?”
She wasn’t exactly surprised that either Andrew had told him about their fight or he’d figured it out on his own. Most likely the second one, considering how devastated Andrew had looked last night. Knowing him, he probably hadn’t gone looking for Noah afterward.
“I told him not to hurt you again when he leaves,” she said.
Noah stopped where he was and closed his eyes for a second. He sighed, then looked at her. “That was out of line.”
“What’s happening with you two?” she asked, trying to keep at least some of the heat out of her voice.
He didn’t look like he believed it, even as he said it. “Is something going to happen?” she pressed, setting down the box of sugar she’d been bringing back to the counter.
“I don’t know!” Noah snapped. “Jesus, Liv, why are you asking this? I don’t know, I really don’t. He’s leaving and I’m still fucked up. I have no idea.”
“Do you want something to happen?”
Shit, this was such dangerous territory. She’d considered asking before now, when neither of them were pissed at each other, but had never wanted to stir it up. But now it was already stirred up, so she was just going to go for it.
Noah opened his mouth, but nothing came out. “Look,” Olivia said, sparing him from having to answer. “I’m just afraid of what it’ll do to you when he leaves.”
“It’s not your business, though.”
“Is it?” she asked. “The fact that we all own this place together aside, do you remember last time? Because I sure as hell do.”
Shit, now she was getting heated up too. She’d already fought with Andrew about this twelve hours ago. And she’d managed to piss off Cleo a matter of days ago. Olivia didn’t need to be fighting with Noah too. But here they were.
“I remember you coming to my house absolutely wrecked over Andrew leaving,” she started, stepping closer to him. “And when you fell asleep, I was genuinely scared to go to sleep too. Because I didn’t know if you’d be there in the morning.”
“I wouldn’t have-”
“I know,” she said softly. “I know. But Noah, Andrew leaving broke you. You know that.”
Noah was quiet for a moment, but then he just shook his head, looking more sad than angry.
“Liv,” he said again, “I know you’re trying to look out for me. And you have a point, really.” He rubbed his forehead, like he was trying to get rid of a headache. “But you can’t protect everyone from everything. I’m sorry, it’s just not going to happen. You just can’t.”
He sounded surprisingly patient as he said that, but it was like a choke chain had just snapped on Olivia’s throat. She tried to speak around the lump that had formed there, failed, and tried again.
His tone was gentle, but firm. “This is too much,” he said. “I know you’re looking out for me. But Liv, you’ve been trying for months to keep us all safe and keep everything tightly controlled. You need to stop.”
“I don’t want to see you get hurt again,” she said, her voice coming out much smaller than she wanted it to. “Last time…”
Noah’s eyes darted toward the doorway, and he lowered his voice. “Last time wrecked me,” he admitted. “You’re right. And I don’t even know what’s happening here.”
“So there is something.”
Another flash of irritation, but his face was pink. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “But Liv, you gotta let me do this myself. And if I’m wrong? Then I’m wrong. And I know I messed up really bad before and I don’t blame you for not trusting me to keep it together. But shit, I don’t know exactly what you said to Andrew, but he’d barely talk to me earlier.”
That guilt that had started rising to the surface was fully bloomed now, both at Noah’s admission and how she’d yelled at Andrew. “I fucked up,” she said softly, scratching the back of her burning neck.
Noah shrugged. “Yeah,” he said. “I mean…”
He groaned, scrubbing a hand down his face. “You weren’t wrong,” he admitted. “I mean, you were for yelling at him. I don’t need you to fight my battles for me like that. But yeah, the idea of something happening scares me.”
“Do you want something to happen?”
Andrew wasn’t scheduled to come in today, so she wasn’t worried about having this conversation in the shop like this. Noah’s ears were pink now as he looked at something across the room. Olivia waited patiently, honestly unsure what his answer was going to be. And while she had an inkling, the idea of Andrew and Noah picking up again scared her. It scared her for Noah, it scared her for their shop. And yeah, it scared her for Andrew, too. He had a life outside of here and any more attachments to New Winslow would complicate it.
“I think so,” Noah admitted. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea. Not right now. But yeah.”
She nodded, that harsh, protective streak still firmly in place as she looked at him. She remembered that night he’d shown up at the room she rented. Her landlady, an old woman who rented out a spare room in her home, had been alarmed. And when Olivia had seen Noah’s face, she’d been afraid too. It was then that she’d realized he hadn’t known that Cleo and Andrew were leaving. Olivia had known for nearly a week that they’d both signed apartment leases out in Boston. But apparently, Andrew had put off telling Noah.
She reached for Noah’s hand and was relieved when he let her take it. “I’m sorry,” she said around the lump still in her throat. “That wasn’t my place, I’ll apologize to Andrew too.”
“Thanks,” Noah said. “I’m not mad.”
The fact that he clearly was, yet was saying he wasn’t, was a little alarming in the same way that, as she’d mentioned to Andrew yesterday, he’d hidden his injuries from them for so long. But they could have that fight another day if this one was over now.
Andrew didn’t come into the Limerick at all that day. Olivia knew that was the schedule, they’d discussed it yesterday afternoon. But even though she was still scared and angry, the guilt was outweighing both. And as much as she was dreading the conversation, she knew she had to apologize to him.
Jesus, she couldn’t get her shit together lately. She’d managed to piss off three of the most important people in her life within days of each other. And why? Because she was trying to keep everyone safe. But Noah was right. She couldn’t control everything and she needed to stop trying to. Easier said than done, of course. The idea of not staying on guard, not protecting the things and people that mattered made her chest tighten with the beginnings of panic. Even as she spent the day moving through the final tasks that were left for next week’s opening day, she couldn’t stop the swirling mess of emotions that were closing in on her.
Olivia had no idea what to expect when she got home in the evening. Andrew was as likely to be in the apartment as he was to not be. It was his home as long as he was here. But she’d been really angry and let him know, so maybe he was too embarrassed or angry right back to be there. Maybe he’d be up at Noah’s. She’d still need to apologize in that case, but it would be even worse with both of them there.
But as much as she knew she was mostly in the wrong, the thought of repeating what had happened before scared her. Especially right now. There was so much at stake, and repeating history could so easily destroy all of it.
Maybe things would be different this time, though. They were older, they all had more experience. And the original plan for the Limerick included Andrew doing his work remotely anyway. But Andrew wasn’t staying and there’d be even less warning when he left again.
She walked into the apartment and was unsurprised to see it was empty. She had about an hour until she was picking up Mia at her mother’s house, so she should use that time to find Andrew and get this conversation over with. If he was at work, she’d have to wait, but maybe she could meet him wherever else he might be.
As she moved through the living room, she could hear music playing behind his closed bedroom door and put her phone back in her pocket. Then, praying she didn’t manage to pick another fight, she went over and knocked on the door.
There was shuffling inside and, a second later, the door opened. Andrew blinked at her like he’d just woken up. Which, looking at his bleary face, she realized might be the case. “Liv.”
She waited for the door to close in her face, but he just looked at her warily, like he was waiting for her to yell at him again.
“I’m sorry,” she said, not loving the way that she’d had to keep saying it lately. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”
“No, I, um,” Andrew’s eyes darted around the room, like he was looking for something behind her as he tried to avoid eye contact. “No, I shouldn’t have-”
“It’s not my decision,” she continued, her throat tight. “I don’t get to yell at you because I’m scared of the world.”
“I didn’t think about how it hurt you too,” Andrew said. “I’m sorry.”
“I shouldn’t have yelled at you,” she repeated. “It wasn’t my place. I just keep lashing out at everyone and-”
Olivia took a sharp breath, willing herself not to cry. She was the wrong one here, she needed to make amends. “I don’t think you’re using him,” she said. “That was mean. I’m so sorry.”
“I messed up really badly last time.”
She couldn’t disagree with him, but she had come in here to apologize, not to get an apology from him. “Whatever you guys decide to do is your business.”
Just please, please don’t hurt him again, was the unspoken end of that statement and she knew it was obvious to him, even as she sincerely apologized. “I don’t think anything’s happening,” he said slowly, finally looking directly at her with red-rimmed eyes. “I don’t know.”
Was he drunk? “Are you okay?” Olivia asked, as though she wasn’t the one who had lit into him last night.
“Yeah,” he said. “I suppose I really didn’t sleep last night. Um, I was. Um, I took something to stay awake and even out, but I think it backfired. I was kind of asleep, maybe. But it was something from work.”
Something from work. From Iris’s shop, which sent another surge of stress through her. But that one she’d decided not to interfere with long before this. “I’ll let you rest,” she said, still unsettled, but not seeing a way to move on from here right now. She went to close the door, and Andrew reached out and grabbed her wrist.
“Stay?” he asked.
Fear and relief mingled as she looked down at where his fingers were wrapped around her wrist in an almost painful grip. “Yeah,” she said, stepping into the small, neat bedroom. “What did you take?”
“Just a… just a tincture,” he said. “It’s right there.”
He motioned to a tiny bottle on his bedside table and she picked it up to read the label. It wasn’t the handwritten mystery potion she’d expected. Instead, it was a simple CBD tincture with a few other things she didn’t recognize. Looking at the bottle, she suddenly remembered the anxiety attacks Andrew would have in high school. God, had she set one off or had this been building up?
“It’s supposed to keep you awake,” he said as she smoothed out the paper label with her thumb. “I thought CBD did the opposite, but the label said so. But it might be rubbish, because I really don’t feel well now.”
“Maybe you’re just reacting to something else in it,” she said, reading over the unfamiliar words again. “Want me to call Noah and see if he knows anything?”
She knew the answer before asking and knew that in the context of their conversation, bringing in Noah was going to make them both feel worse. “No,” Andrew said, sitting down on the side of the bed and rubbing his face with his hand. “It’s fine.”
“Want me to call Iris?”
He lowered his hand and looked up at her, amusement mingled with surprise in his expression. “You yelled at me, you didn’t kill my dog.”
Olivia surprised herself by laughing. “Shut up,” she said, sitting down next to him. “What do you need from me?”
“Just stay a few minutes,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”
She rubbed his back as his breathing steadied. “I’m sorry,” she said again as she ran her hand down the length of his spine. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”
“And I shouldn’t have left,” Andrew murmured.
They were just going to keep moving in circles, weren’t they? But Andrew seemed to be calming down and being in here with him was making her feel better, too. So they could just sit here and pretend everything was resolved. Maybe that would make it all better.