New Winslow S7E14
Two hours later, Celine and Noah were setting up in Olivia’s living room. Noah wasn’t sure how to feel about this plan. Vivien’s attempts to undo whatever the hell she’d done to him had left him feeling vaguely itchy throughout his body, like it didn’t fit quite right. But none of his supposed memories had come back. Nor had anything been able to break through the shield of – not quite numbness, maybe distance? – between him and anything that Olivia had told him about the apparent missing years of his life.
The little girl was adorable though. Probably two or three with curly brown hair and enormous eyes. Olivia was moving her through an evening routine that was so well practiced that it had to be a regular part of their lives. Noah wanted something to tug at him when the little girl came to him for a hug, some flash of recognition. But nothing was there, even as she climbed into his lap and nestled in with her head on his shoulder.
He also knew that he didn’t have the full story with Andrew. But all he could feel when he saw him was that same anger he’d felt for five (was it five? Noah didn’t even know anymore) years. Andrew had moved himself out into the kitchen while Noah and Celine were in here and having him out of sight immediately made Noah feel better. But that sadness he’d glimpse in Andrew’s eyes whenever they did accidentally catch each other’s gaze was almost the most unsettling part of all of this.
“I just need you to stay still and keep breathing while I work,” Celine said. “Tell me when you need breaks, since this is going to take us a while, alright? And it’s going to wear you out. She didn’t wipe your energy, that’s a bad way to envision it. It’s more like she tore it. And I’m going to be using a blend of your energy and my own to stitch up the tears. Do you understand?”
“About as much as I think I’m going to. I trust you though.”
He only knew Celine through occasional work with the House of Pizza at Keegan’s, at least to his knowledge. But that must be part of what he’d lost, because he knew deep down that he could trust her with this. He tried to hide his nerves as he laid down on the couch, staring up at the stained ceiling. “Alright, close your eyes and just continue breathing,” Celine said.
He half expected something wild to happen, like the phantom scents and flames that Vivien had let loose. But it was almost boring lying here as Celine worked, occasionally humming softly above him. Noah felt flashes of physical sensation: heat, cold, one flash of pain that left them both startled. But for the most part, he was trying his best not to fall asleep while she worked.
He was pulled out of a light doze a little while later by a flash of memory. It wasn’t much, just an image of walking through an overgrown field with Andrew, dead grass crunching under his boots. It felt real and there was so much attached. But he couldn’t grasp anything else to see why this mattered.
He opened his eyes to see Celine sitting beside him with her own eyes closed. Her fingers moved just above his heart like she was weaving something invisible in the air. “You feel it?” she asked him.
“Yeah,” Noah replied, looking over to see Liv was now in the room. She gave him an encouraging smile and he lay back down, looking up at the ceiling again.
Gradually, pieces of memory started coming back. Some of them felt good. There was a laughing baby and nights watching movies with Olivia. But a lot of them came with pain he couldn’t quite put into context. A long hospital hallway. A funeral. Another hospital.
Then, about three hours into the process, something landed hard somewhere in the vicinity of his heart. Before he realized what he was doing, Noah sat straight up and Celine jerked back, startled.
“Sorry!” he said. “I need a quick break. Just a few minutes.”
She nodded, and he noticed that she looked tired. He’d grab her water when he came back in. But first Noah needed to do something.
The kitchen was empty now, but he spotted Andrew out in the yard. He was down by the forest, smoking a cigarette on the stone wall. Noah hurried down and Andrew jumped and turned around, quickly snuffing out the cigarette against the stone. He looked wary, like Noah was about to come yell at him again.
Noah got close, then stepped in and kissed Andrew, hard, tasting cigarette smoke and bone-deep relief. Andrew’s surprised yelp was muffled by the contact, but after a second he was kissing Noah back, his hand resting on Noah’s cheek. Then Noah pulled away and looked at him. “I don’t know exactly yet, but I know it’s you,” he said. “And I didn’t want to wait.”
The happiness in Andrew’s eyes reinforced that Noah had made the right decision, even with the vague pain beginning to settle itself back inside him. But he also needed to get back in there and finish. He kissed Andrew one more time, then hurried up the yard, Andrew close behind.
Abby looked pissed as she glared at Roman over her messy plate of pizza. She sat on Roman’s bed with Aidan, both of them in their pajamas and freshly washed from the shower. Which had been an absolute event that left Roman longing for the tub back home. Meanwhile, Jamie was on his phone over on the folding bed that Missy had been kind enough to drag in.
“She’s busy tonight,” Roman said for the sixth time. “We’re doing a sleepover here, won’t that be fun?”
She glared at him, and he motioned toward the pizza. At the head of the bed, Aidan was playing some kind of stimming game with his fingers, wiggling and tapping them as he focused intently on the movement. He seemed content enough, but the bits of pizza and apples that Roman had cut up for him were sitting there abandoned, so Roman was going to have to coax him to eat a bit more soon.
“I can watch her at home,” Jamie offered as he held up his phone, apparently trying to get a signal. Roman could only wish him good luck with that.
“Nah, bud, I’m not sure what time Mom’s going to be done,” Roman said. “Thanks, though.”
Jamie shrugged, but Roman could tell he was still trying to figure out a way around spending the night here at the Countess. Roman wasn’t going to take it personally. When he was sixteen, the last place he’d want to be was some old inn in the middle of nowhere, trapped in a small room with his dad and younger siblings.
Not that he’d had a dad or younger siblings, but the feeling was the same. Roman gazed out the window at the dark gardens and woods behind the inn. Celine knew what she was doing, she’d been working with energy for years. Maybe even longer than Vivien, who had thankfully left the Countess hours earlier without trying to speak to Roman or his family. They’d all be fine, she had this under control.
Celine smiled and took the water Noah brought her gratefully. “It’s working,” she said, and he nodded. “It’ll take hours though.”
“I’m not in a hurry,” Noah said. “Please don’t hurt yourself for me.”
There was something in Andrew’s face as he said it that Noah thought maybe he should ask about once they were done. But it also seemed like something that might get him in trouble, as silly as that sounded to him without any kind of context. But he couldn’t help the excitement building in him and Celine looked happy and relieved as well as they started up again.
This pattern continued throughout the night. Bits and pieces of memory would return without context. At one point, the memory of Noah’s last night before rehab pieced itself back together, hazy but real in a way that showed things were truly coming back to him. He wanted to apologize to Olivia and Andrew again, then call Cleo and apologize to her too. But before he could do any of that, Olivia had smiled at him, then motioned for him to lie down so Celine could keep going.
Noah was also learning tonight that Celine was as stubborn as any of them. Finally, around two in the morning, they all agreed to take a break. Celine said her kids were all spending the night with Roman at the Countess, so she didn’t have to go home. Olivia jumped on this opportunity to make her rest for a little while, offering any food they had.
“Do you have any coffee?” Celine finally relented. “And anything sweet? I need something to get my energy back up.”
Andrew laughed and that vague image of a coffee shop seemed to come a little further into focus in Noah’s. “We’ve got everything,” he said. “Liv’s got a freezer full of test loaves in there. How does cinnamon cake sound? It’s already thawed, I’ll just pull it out.”
Andrew came back with the entire loaf and Celine ate it faster than Noah had seen anyone eat something since he was a teenager. Shortly after, with a cup of coffee beside her, she said she was ready to keep going.
The last piece fell into place around sunrise, the one that took the most careful stitching. Noah sat up again, looking around the room as grief finally consumed him. “My dad is dead,” he told Celine.
She nodded and scooped him into a tight hug, running her hand through his hair as he shook. He wasn’t crying, he couldn’t cry. Something was keeping him from crying. But the pain was there, and it was real, like it had finally shattered through the glass he’d been looking through. His whole body was trembling now as it took in all the information that had been blissfully gone.
Celine took some time to go over her work before declaring it done. It was, Noah could remember everything, but he was too tired to really think about it right now. Glancing over at Celine, she looked nearly ready to fall out of her chair. Andrew had fallen asleep in the recliner a little while earlier and Olivia was lying on the sofa. But then the nursery door opened and Mia crept out, sneaking toward Olivia as a painfully fierce love gripped Noah’s fragile heart.
“Mia,” he whispered.
Mia turned to him and he motioned for her to come over to him. She walked toward him and he scooped her up, burying his face in her hair, shocked that he could have possibly forgotten her. She allowed it for a few seconds, then wriggled away to wake Olivia and demand some milk. In the process, Andrew woke up as well. He blinked adorably, looking around the room until he stopped on Noah.
“Christ, you two look like hell,” he said. “Celine, you need to lie down before you collapse.”
She nodded, letting him help her to the couch Liv had just vacated. Noah stayed seated where he was while Andrew called Roman.
“It worked,” he was saying. “They’re both fine, she’s fine. She’s going to just rest here for a while.”
“I’ll come get her,” Roman said, audible even without speakerphone. “Have her call me and I’ll-“
From where she was lying, Celine motioned for the phone, her eyes still closed. Andrew handed it to her.
“Rome,” she said sleepily. “You set foot over that town line and I will end you. Understood?”
Roman’s response was much quieter this time and Celine smiled. “I love you too.”
She handed Andrew back the phone, then looked at Noah and smiled at him as well. “We did it,” she said.
“You did,” he corrected as he laid down too, bending his knees to fit on the couch.
“No, that was a team effort, remember?” she said with a laugh.
It didn’t seem big enough for what she’d done, but Noah would figure out how to repay her later.
Celine was asleep seconds later. Noah looked over at Andrew, who stood up and came over to him. He closed his eyes and felt Andrew kiss his forehead before he fell asleep too.