New Winslow S6E69
Andrew’s belongings were piled in the living room of the small flat above the shop. Boxes and boxes he’d never seen before, yet all of them held the things he’d surrounded himself with for years before coming back to New Winslow. He sat on the sofa that he and Noah had lugged up here a little while earlier, just looking at the mess around him.
It had been years since he’d moved to a new home. Not counting Olivia’s, of course. But consciously choosing an apartment and moving all of his belongings there? God, he had been maybe twenty-nine at that point? He’d been making good money at a new job and decided to upgrade to a flat in Beacon Hill. The flat he’d planned to stay in forever.
And yet, here was everything he owned, staring at him from the scuffed wooden floor of a much less elegant flat in New Winslow.
He opened one box and found it full of books. Some of them he didn’t even remember, probably from rummaging through that outdoor bookstore a few blocks from home. He’d get books for a dollar there, loading up while Cleo looked on with her one or two sensible choices.
He hadn’t been reading much lately, which made sense, he was stressed and busy. And he’d been writing even less. The messy chapters of the sci-fi story he’d been playing with over the past couple years were all on his laptop over at Liv’s. But maybe once his books were put on the little shelves he’d bought, he’d feel more like reading them again.
Cleo hadn’t come back to New Winslow with Noah. He’d dropped her off in Fitchburg, then driven his loaded truck straight to the Limerick and begun helping Andrew move in.
Once everything was out of the truck, Noah and Liv had headed downstairs for a little bit to cover the few hours the Limerick was open today, leaving Andrew alone up here in his new home. There was so much to do, but his whole body was aching after several hours of lugging boxes. He owed them both dinner, but first he was going to sit for a few minutes.
He sat back on the couch, which was still as squashy and comfortable as he remembered it, flipping open the first book he picked up. The cover was bright and garish, an old pulp horror book he didn’t recognize. But as he read the first few pages, he realized he did know it. He’d bought it two days before joining Cleo on the bus to New Winslow and had read the first chapter before bed, assuming he’d be back to finish it within two weeks.
It had been on his bedside table, which brought home the reality of what had happened. Strangers had gone into his flat, packed all his belongings, and moved them into storage. Jus like they did for dead people.
With that cheerful thought, he settled in on the sofa, reading about blood and guts and terror for a little while. It wasn’t until there were footsteps on the stairs behind him and he let out a scream that Andrew remembered where he was.
Noah nearly fell backward down the stairs. “Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed, grabbing the wobbly railing at the last minute. “What the fuck?”
“I’m so sorry!” Andrew blurted out as Noah steadied himself and came around the top of the stairs. “I got distracted, and I re-found this book and…”
He trailed off, knowing there was no way he was getting out of this one with his dignity intact. Thankfully, Noah looked from the cover of the book to Andrew’s face, then just laughed.
“I’m just here to see what else needs doing,” he said. “But if you want to give yourself nightmares on your first night here, that’s on you.”
He said it so casually, as though his own nightmares weren’t at the center of their current investigation. But he was smiling, and something tugged at Andrew’s heart.
As excited as he was about this flat, the fact that Noah wasn’t going to be right upstairs stung more than he wanted to admit. Andrew was going to be alone in this old, creaking, probably haunted building all night. But he was an adult who had made this decision himself, so he wasn’t going to think like that.
Besides, this whole town was cursed and haunted. And Andrew had personally put the wards on this building. Which may have made him a little less confident in them, but he knew what he was doing.
Noah was standing beside him now, looking at the boxes. “You’re really moving in,” he said.
Noah paused before the word was fully out, but Andrew knew exactly what he’d stopped himself from saying. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” he admitted.
Noah looked slightly sheepish at being caught, but he nodded. “You’ve got this space now,” he said.
Noah reached down and picked up one of the books from the box. It was a Shirley Jackson collection.
“You like horror?” Andrew asked as Noah looked at the cover.
“Yeah,” he said with a shrug. “I don’t really read though.”
Despite that, he flipped to the first page and scanned it for a moment. Then he closed the book and looked at Andrew. “I’ll be working downstairs until we close,” he said.
“I’ll come down and help,” Andrew offered.
“You say that like you’ll be able to reach the door from behind all of this.”
Noah grinned and slipped back down the stairs before Andrew could argue with him. Andrew heard his footsteps going down the stairwell, then the creak of the door that led back into the shop. It slammed shut with an unsteady sound that probably needed to be fixed, leaving Andrew alone again.
He had time to move in. The couch was here, the blankets for his bed were there. He had a place to sleep tonight even if he didn’t get his bed set up from where the pieces were currently against the living room wall. His tea kettle was buried in a box somewhere, that would certainly need to be addressed. But for now, he was going to take a few more minutes to relax in his new home.
It took Andrew about two hours to get the flat set up. This was much less time than it had taken in past homes, including his Beacon Hill flat, which he missed painfully even as he enjoyed the process of getting his things in place here.
The space was small to the point of cramped, but as he put it all together, he could see it was actually quite cozy. The kitchen got a good amount of sunlight and while he didn’t have a proper stove, there was a hot plate and a small refrigerator that would get him through with smaller meals. And with a full kitchen downstairs, he wasn’t exactly concerned about access for cooking. The bathroom had been filthy, but he’d spent the whole time Cleo and Noah were in Boston scrubbing it and trying not to think about the fact that they were where he wanted to be, collecting the belongings he hadn’t been able to pack up for himself.
The fact that a service had done his packing for him made for some interesting revelations throughout the unpacking process. Thankfully, he’d made a point of cleaning his dishes and taking out the trash before he’d left for New Winslow. So Andrew didn’t have to worry about any petrified rubbish falling out of the boxes. However, there was an alarming amount of junk mail that had nearly an entire box of its own. He’d set that on the small counter to deal with later, after he finished putting the permanent things away.
He had no kitchen table, but there was an end table from his old living room that worked well for now. He thought maybe he’d buy a small kitchen table, but there wasn’t much room for anything in the kitchenette. Even the end table stayed in the middle of the tiny space for only about half an hour before Andrew moved it off to the side. He whacked his shin on it twice and that was enough for him.
The living room had his old squashy couch, which had nearly killed him and Noah to bring upstairs earlier. But sitting on it brought back years of sense memories so fast that those nearly killed him as well. Years of hanging out alone in his living room, reading as the snow fell outside. Or looking up to see the statehouse dome from where he was lying, with stacks of books and nothing to do all day.
Or sitting here with the men he met in Boston. Playfully seducing Alan, the first man he’d ever brought over there. Alan had been a great guy. Or all the times he’d had Dean over in the year and half they’d dated. They spent more of their time at Dean’s, which was kind of silly considering Andrew had a very nice flat.
But the times he and Dean had been on this couch, curled up watching movies, sipping wine by candlelight, or drinking tea in the morning, those had bubbled to the surface as he sat down now with his own tea. He hadn’t thought of Dean in a long time. Their breakup had been amicable to the point of boring, but he had probably been the only person outside of Cleo to spend large amounts of time at Andrew’s Beacon Hill flat. So that had to be why those images were so fresh in his mind now.
That, and maybe the fact that it had been well over a year since he’d been intimate with anybody in any way. But there was nothing he could do about that right now, so he was going to suppress all of that longing and loneliness back into their little compartment, even as he continued to think about his time in Boston.
When he left New Winslow, he’d gotten a flatshare in Somerville while Cleo had gone straight to Dorchester, moving into the same apartment she’d just moved out of last year. After a year of passive-aggressive battles with the grad students he lived with, Andrew had moved out at the end of the lease. By this point, he was doing decently well at his sales job and there was potential for a lot of money, but he was trying to be cautious. So he’d moved into an apartment on Beacon Hill with a woman who was never around. She was sweet enough and the few times they hung out, he’d enjoyed her company. But mostly, he’d fallen in love with the neighborhood during this time. When the opportunity to rent a flat on his own had come up, he’d gladly paid the overlapping rent for a few months and taken the opportunity.
And now here he was, at his newest residence. In New Winslow. But it was warm and the sight of his books on the shelves made it feel more like home. Liv’s flat had felt more and more like home over the course of the year and it was sad to leave. But at the same time, the idea of having his own place again, even if it had to be in New Winslow, was very nice. And he could tell that despite her protests, she was feeling the same way.
He’d miss having Noah upstairs, but considering Andrew could hear him downstairs right now, that probably wasn’t actually going to be a major issue.
Andrew got up and went into the bedroom, the last part of the flat that wasn’t complete. The bed was in pieces and he was tempted to just toss the bedframe and stick the mattresses on the floor. But he wasn’t in uni and if he didn’t do it now, he’d never do it.
A frustrating forty minutes later, he had the frame done, but there was no way he was getting the mattress in there on his own. The doorway was far too small, clearly built with minimal measuring. Sweating by this point with the effort, Andrew wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, then went out into the living room again. The box spring broke apart easily, so that had been no problem. But now the mattress was jammed halfway into his bedroom, mocking him.
Fine, he’d ask for help.
He went down the stairs, enjoying the way they seemed like a secret trapdoor into his flat. The bottom door locked, something he’d have to remember at night. But he wasn’t concerned about Liv or Noah going up there. They were co-owners of the building, even if they’d argue that with him to the point of frustration. If they had any need to go up to the flat, Andrew didn’t have anything to hide.
They’d closed about thirty minutes earlier, but Noah was still there. He was drinking coffee in the dining room, alone in a stream of sunlight that he didn’t seem to notice. The sight caught Andrew off guard, the way the spring sun illuminated his hair. He stayed where he was for a second as Noah flipped to another page of his notebook and wrote something down, then took a sip of his coffee. Then, of course he turned and saw Andrew.
“Shit, you scared me this time,” he said with a laugh, standing up and closing his notebook. “What’s up? How’s the unpacking going?”
“I need help,” Andrew admitted.
A few minutes later, they had the mattress on the bed. With another person, it had taken barely any time to get it into the bedroom and slide it across the reformed box spring. Andrew noticed a tea stain on the edge and hoped Noah wouldn’t see it. Not that it was anything weird, he’d simply spilled tea in bed at some point in the past decade.
So of course Noah noticed it immediately. “I’ve got some spray downstairs if you want to get rid of that,” he said.
Andrew shrugged. “Thanks,” he said. “I barely even noticed it.” A lie. “I must’ve spilled at some point.”
“Reading scary stories in bed,” Noah teased, picking up the clean bedclothes that were balled up on the floor and opening the fitted sheet over the mattress.
“You don’t need to do that,” Andrew protested.
Noah tucked a corner in. “What, this?” he said, smoothing the fabric along the edge of the mattress until he reached the other corner. “It’s no big deal. Here, unfold that for me.”
Andrew took the crumpled sheet and straightened it out on the other side of the bed, tucking the corners in before Noah could take over for him. Once the bedsheets were in place, Noah picked up his quilt and unfolded it.
“You had this one as a teenager, didn’t you?”
“I had that one as an infant, thank you,” Andrew said with a laugh, taking the other end of the quilt and spreading it over the bed. “This was one of the things my dad had shipped over once we could tell my mum would be here a while. That and this.”
He went to his shelf and pulled an elderly stuffed dragon off of a pile of books. For years, he had been too mature and adult to have this anywhere but in the deepest recesses of his storage. But now he was able to see it for the cute keepsake it was. And judging by the way Noah’s eyes lit up when he saw it, Noah remembered it too.
“Look at that,” Noah said with a laugh, taking the dragon gently from Andrew’s hands. “God, I forgot all about this guy.”
“That’s because I was fifteen and doing everything in my power to make you think I was cool,” Andrew said. “A stuffed dragon didn’t fit into that.”
“Oh, the handsome boy with the nice accent shows up to our high school, and you’re worried no one would think you were cool?”
Now Andrew was blushing as he took the dragon back. “I thought your accent was nice too,” he mumbled.
Noah scoffed, setting the dragon down on the bed. “Anyway, I thought you were cool as soon as we met,” he said with a shrug.
“You remember when that was?”
“Of course,” Noah replied. “When your family got stuck. Me and Dad were running errands, and he pulled over to help. I never thought I’d see you again after that.”
“It was a… God, strange doesn’t even cover it,” Andrew said, sliding a pillowcase over his pillow and tossing it onto the bed. “I didn’t think it was possible.”
“No one does,” Noah said. “But we’ll solve it.”