New Winslow S6E59
It was finally the day. When Olivia woke up at four in the morning to the gentle glow of Mia’s nightlight, the first thing she thought was “I can’t do this.”
Nope, this wasn’t actually going to happen. They weren’t reopening the Limerick and she wasn’t in charge of it. Nope, not actually happening. She wasn’t ownership material, she was “getting yelled at by the owner” material.
But it was opening today, whether she was ready or not. She’d been there until nearly midnight last night with Andrew and Noah, making sure that everything was in place for today. Cleo wouldn’t be there. While Liv understood, she couldn’t help the sadness. But that was on her for opening a shop in a cursed town.
Liv stretched, her fingers dangling over the bed to brush Mia’s hair on the trundle beside her. She was going to miss Andrew, but the idea of having her own room again was more appealing the more she thought about it. Mia was doing excellent sleeping in a bed these days and maybe Liv could use some space to herself. Especially if Andrew’s apartment was as safe as he assured her it was. Maybe Baxter’s threats were emptier than she’d feared. But regardless, Andrew had solid locks and good common sense. Maybe it was safe to let go on this one.
Plus, it would make the separation easier once Andrew finally did get out. Despite everything he said, she had no illusions about what was going to happen. He’d still be a partner, but it would be a much more silent partnership once he went back to Boston. It wasn’t like he was going to commute out here every day, or even every week. That would be ridiculous. He’d still be involved, they’d talk on the phone, and she and Noah would be the ones on the ground out here while he handled the rest of it from his apartment in Boston. Because he was sure to get a new one out there as soon as he started looking for it.
But that wasn’t happening yet. So for now, Olivia slipped out of bed as quietly as she could to avoid waking up Mia, then went out to the living room. It was empty and Andrew’s bedroom door was still closed as she walked through the living room and into the kitchen.
As she put the coffee on, she spotted him in the backyard, sitting on the old stone wall just before the trees. He was clearly more nervous than he was letting on during the day. She couldn’t blame him, he was the one investing all of his money into this. If it didn’t work out, he’d be the most screwed out of the three of them.
She had no illusions that this was going to be a peaceful, fun job all the time. Olivia had spent nearly twenty years in food service. She knew there were going to be shitty customers. The three of them would probably fight. Maybe the Limerick would even close in like a year. After all, how many small businesses lasted beyond that? She didn’t know the exact statistic, but it was a small enough percentage to linger in the back of her mind throughout all of this. But they had this opportunity now, so she’d make the most of it.
Olivia put the coffee on, then glanced out the window again as Andrew was walking back toward the house. He stepped inside, scraping mud off of his shoes, then kicking them off.
“Here we are then,” he said.
She gave him a tight smile. “Here we are.”
“I’m going over in about half an hour,” he said. “I believe Noah is already there. He texted something about a leaky faucet haunting him all night.”
Olivia laughed. “I’ll go with you,” she said. “My mom is coming to take Mia in about-” She glanced at the clock. “Twenty minutes. Shit, I have to get dressed.”
Forty minutes later, Andrew and Olivia were walking into the Limerick. Olivia looked over the space carefully. It was exactly how they’d planned, down to the color of the little centerpieces decorating the round wooden tables. And, most importantly, the charms were still in place, identical to the ones lining their home. There were also a few buried at the front of the property as well, warding off anyone who meant harm. Despite everything, she couldn’t help being a little skeptical about that claim, but Andrew had said he’d done his best.
They didn’t have press or anything coming today. It was a small place, and she honestly didn’t want to have a huge crowd yet, even if it would have been good for business. Maybe she was starting out on the wrong foot, but the idea of having the town council here for a ribbon cutting was deeply unsettling. In fact, they’d agreed last night that Andrew was going to stay away if any town officials showed up. After his run in with Baxter, Olivia didn’t want to take the chance.
The radio was playing as they got inside, loud Springsteen pumping through their new speakers instead of the chill mixes she’d put together. But they weren’t opening for another hour, so she’d let Noah have what he wanted for a little while.
He came walking out of the kitchen with his toolbox in hand, wiping his forehead with a bandanna. Sweat soaked through his tank top, but he seemed to be in a good enough mood.
“It’s working,” he said over the music, motioning to the back.
“What?” Olivia pulled out her phone and turned down the music. “What’s working?”
“The faucet,” he replied. “The one with the leaky pipe underneath and the poor water pressure. I got it working, just in time.”
He was nervous, she could read it all over him. His hair was wild, she assumed from lying underneath the sink since probably three that morning. And stress radiated off his tense posture, even though he was smiling.
“Let’s do this,” he said.
“You good?” Olivia asked.
Noah nodded. “Yeah,” he said too quickly. “Yeah, totally. We’re in charge this time.”
She couldn’t help the quick scan, feeling bad but also justified. His eyes were clear, and she didn’t smell liquor on him. His movements were slightly jerky as he set down his tools, but he was definitely sober.
“I’ll stock the pastry case,” she said, reaching over to give his hand a quick squeeze. “You want to go home and clean up first?”
“I brought clothes, but I didn’t even think about…” Noah started.
“The shower upstairs is working,” Andrew offered. “Remember, you fixed that last week?”
Noah looked at him for a long moment, like it was just now fully sinking in what they had done. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll be back in fifteen.”
Then he paused for a second, with a little laugh. “What?” Olivia asked as she pulled out her phone to switch the music over.
“Nothing, I was just thinking,” Noah shook his head. “Do you remember that shitty song that someone would play on the jukebox every fucking Friday at Keegan’s? It used to drive me insane.”
She tilted her screen away from his view as she scrolled, aware of Andrew’s eyes on her now as she tried to keep her face neutrally interested in what Noah was saying. “That shitty song…” she repeated, finger hovering over the Play button. “You mean this one?”
Seconds later, nineties country filled the cafe, twanging guitars blaring over the speakers. Noah froze where he stood, stunned as Olivia began laughing hysterically. “You?” he demanded, as she began to run away. “This whole time?”
Olivia screamed as he chased her behind the counter and through the back door, catching up easily as he caught her in a sweaty grip and began tickling her. She shrieked and slipped out of his hold, looking up to see him laughing too.
The first day was fairly quiet, but in a way that encouraged Olivia. It seemed like everybody they knew was coming in for the opening. Andrew took the counter for a lot of the morning as she restocked coffee and pastries and ran around putting out small fires. They ran out of cinnamon buns early and she hurried back to start the process of making more for the afternoon.
Noah was back there beside a mountain of dirty dishes, drinking a glass of water when she went into the kitchen. “It’s working,” he said.
It took her a second to realize he wasn’t talking about the sink again. “Yeah,” she said with a disbelieving laugh. “People are coming in. This is actually happening.”
“How are you?”
“I’m not writing up a report for Bret,” she said. “I don’t need to worry about putting out subpar food to save someone else money. People are buying my pastries. Alicia from the library actually said something about maybe catering their breakfast book club some time.”
Olivia was shocked to realize there were tears in her eyes yet again. She laughed, swiping at them quickly. “This is really happening.”
Andrew’s voice came from the doorway. “Yeah?”
“We have… something? Going on outside.”
Fuck. Olivia went up front and looked out the picture windows. Her heart sank as she saw Charles Baxter out there, along with a few other members of the town council that she vaguely recognized.
“I’ll handle it,” she said. “Don’t leave the building.”
“Wasn’t planning to.”
Noah started to go with her, but she held up a hand. “Hang on,” she said. “Just give me a minute. I’ll be fine.”
She needed to do this, no matter how much she was shaking inside. Because if she didn’t take this responsibility too, then she’d never feel fully comfortable in her place here. And if she showed she supported Andrew, then maybe Baxter would slink away at the first sign of confrontation. So, still wearing her brand new apron, she walked out the front door.
“Can I help you all?” Olivia asked, surveying the small group congregated outside.
There were only four of them, she realized with relief. Charles Baxter looked at her with a sparkling politician’s smile. “Just here to congratulate the newest business in New Winslow,” he said.
“Thanks a lot.”
She waited for them to walk in, to get a coffee and a pastry like everyone else. But they hung back on the sidewalk. “It’s good to see more small businesses in town,” a lean, sharp-looking woman said. “It builds up downtown New Winslow as a destination.”
God, these people were too much sometimes. “Yeah, I guess,” Olivia said. Then, wincing, but knowing it was expected, she asked, “Did you all want some coffee? We’ve got a coffee cake I just pulled out of the oven as well.”
“No, we need to be going,” Baxter said, glancing beyond her into the store. “Just happy to see progress, that’s all. That’s what New Winslow needs, is progress.”
He shook her hand, his palm cold on hers. Then, with a brusque nod and one last look at the shop, the group walked away.
Unnerved, Olivia went back inside. Noah and Andrew were both at the counter, watching carefully. “He just said congratulations,” she told them.
They looked at each other. “Huh,” Noah said.
“Nobody came in though,” she said. “It’s weird, I figured it was expected that they’d get a coffee, but Baxter said no. Maybe he thought it would be shit, so he didn’t- oh.”
She looked at Andrew, who just nodded grimly.