New Winslow S6E60
Cleo was alone as she parked across the street from the Limerick and started for the entrance. Someone – probably Noah – had hung balloons across the top of the doorframe and they were drooping somewhat as the day went on. But the place looked beautiful and ready for customers even before she stepped inside.
It was empty when she walked in and a flutter of concern went through her. Where were the customers? It was still bright outside, and the shop was open. But no one was here?
Liv was going to be heartbroken.
As if she’d heard Cleo’s thoughts (though probably just the bell over the door), Liv stepped out from the back room. “Cleo!” she exclaimed, hurrying out from behind the counter to hug her.
“How’s the first day going?” Cleo asked as she let go a second later.
Liv smoothed down her frizzing hair as she looked around the empty space. “It was busy earlier,” she said proudly. “We had nearly a rush a little while ago. Then people here and there. So I’m counting it as a success.”
Cleo looked at Olivia, who was still looking around the shop. Liv had gotten exactly what she wanted, hadn’t she? She thought back to that first night they’d all been in New Winslow last year, when she’d seemed so insecure in both herself and her plans. And now here she was, and it looked completely natural.
Andrew walking out from the back room was a bit less natural, but he grinned at Cleo. She was playing with fire being here any longer than she had to, but even after everything, she hadn’t been able to keep herself from coming to the opening day. At least for a couple minutes.
God, they needed to solve this.
Noah had already left to do a short delivery shift at the House of Pizza, so Andrew and Cleo showed her around. It had been transformed since the last time she’d been here, even if it had only been a few weeks. Cheery decor and comfortable seating made it completely different from the place in Barre where she and Jude had met up, but there was that same sense of fun and comfort here.
“How are you?” Andrew asked her a few minutes later as Liv went to help a customer who had wandered in.
“Good,” Cleo said. “Actually…”
She glanced over at Liv, feeling a little guilty about taking time on their opening day to share this news. But she needed to, especially to give Andrew time to process. He watched her cautiously.
“My mom is moving to an assisted living facility,” she said quietly. “It’s out by Boston. And I’m going to move back too. With Edie.”
She looked at his face. There was a flash of something, but he smoothed it over quickly. “That’s great, Cleo,” he said, sounding sincere. “When?”
“Soon,” she said. “I don’t know exactly. Edie’s lease is up at the end of May and they already approved my mom for a space at the facility she wanted. So it’ll be soon.”
“Great,” he said, nodding just a little too quickly.
Shit. She’d known him for decades and could tell when he was swallowing down panic. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have waited until after you guys closed.”
“No, no, I’m glad you told me,” he said, still nodding. “Um, that’s great. I know you want to go back.”
“You’ll get back too,” she said, hoping it didn’t sound as patronizing to him as it did to her.
“Of course, yeah.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Andrew said, his smile almost real. “Cleo, I’m really happy for you. And your mom. I think this is a good choice.”
“I want to help,” Cleo said, painfully aware that this was the worst timing she could have had for all of this. “I’ll have more time, I want to help get you out of here.”
“Not by coming back to town and risking yourself, you aren’t. Cleo, you shouldn’t be here. Not that I’m not happy to see you, but…”
“I know, it was silly. But I couldn’t not come on opening day. Not when it’s all of you doing it.”
Andrew looked like he wanted to lecture her, but knew it wasn’t worth it. “Phoning into meetings doesn’t work,” he said. “We’re on the verge of giving up on that with Roman. But I’ll let you know if there’s anything to do from out of town. Iris still gives me a headache, but right now her big quest is contacting this one ghost she swears is in the Countess and could perhaps get us in touch with the other ghosts. But her attempts so far haven’t worked.”
“That’s….” She tried to think of a polite description, but Andrew was there first.
“A lot? Yeah. But trying to reach the other two spirits directly nearly killed her. So we’re on our last hope with this one. Otherwise, I don’t even know where to go from here. Right back to square one, I suppose.”
His gloomy mood suddenly brightened. “But we’re not going to discuss all that now. Instead, I’m going to get you a cup of coffee, then kick you out.”
The flat upstairs wasn’t as cozy as it had seemed this morning. Andrew went up just after they’d closed their doors for the day and now he was standing in a dark, crowded little space that had seemed like a sun-dappled getaway only hours before.
He got it. No one had to wait for him to live their lives. Especially not Cleo, who he’d made it perfectly clear to that she wasn’t obligated to stay for him. But not only was she going to be in Boston, she was going back. She’d both left and managed to return in the time that he’d been trapped here.
She was leaving, Roman was out, and they were no closer to getting Andrew out. His entire future rode on the possibility of Iris making contact with the ghost of a teenager who died a hundred years ago. Meaning realistically, he was going to die here. Probably alone in this little flat, since he’d already told Liv he was moving in and there was no taking it back.
The flat was empty, sadness seeping from every corner. Everything Andrew owned that wasn’t at Liv’s right now was in a storage unit he’d never seen back in Boston. He’d need to get someone to bring it all here. Cleo would do it, he knew that the offer for that kind of help was included. Hell, she’d done it already when he’d moved into his bedroom at Liv’s. But she was moving on with her life and he couldn’t help feeling that she was going to gradually lose touch with him this time, despite all of their best intentions.
“There you are.”
Noah’s voice was quiet behind him and Andrew didn’t know how he’d missed the sound of his footsteps on the steps. “We were looking for you,” he said. “The first day is over, we have to celebrate.”
The question of champagne thankfully answered itself before Andrew opened his mouth and made a bigger ass of himself. “I’m coming.”
There was a pause, and he thought maybe Noah had turned back around. But then he heard him clear his throat softly. “You can do a lot with this,” he said.
Andrew turned to see Noah looking around the apartment from the top of the stairs. “It’s a nice space,” he continued. “I’ll get your things, it’ll feel more like home.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I know,” Noah said. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”
This time, Andrew heard his heavy footsteps on the creaking stairs. He waited a moment until they were gone, then looked around the space again. Maybe it would work out.