New Winslow S7E15
Iris half loved, half hated being the one to deliver the news to Vivien. Not that she necessarily had to say anything, even after she’d spent the car ride over thinking about how she would do it.
The second she arrived at the Countess, she spotted Vivien in the gardens behind the building, strolling through a carefully cultivated patch of flowers. Iris got out of her car and started toward her. Immediately, Vivien noticed Iris coming and her sparkling smile fixed itself on her face.
“Iris, what a lovely surprise,” she said, holding out a hand. “We should just move past all that business. Too much to worry about in this world without those of us with our abilities fighting with each other.”
“Celine did it,” Iris said.
She knew Vivien could read the satisfaction coming off of her, there was no way Iris could shield it. And the petty part of her won out, so she didn’t actually make any effort. Vivien glared at her for a second, then schooled her expression into the epitome of graciousness.
“Oh, how wonderful,” she cooed. “I just hope the boy doesn’t regret what he’s done.”
The boy was older than Iris, but it wasn’t like Vivien treated her like an adult anyway. “You say you’ve done this to other people?” Iris asked.
“Oh, so many,” Vivien replied, waving her delicate hand as Iris’s heart stopped beating for a second at the implications. “And everyone was satisfied with the results. So was your friend, you know. He was happy. If it weren’t for everyone else’s opinions on his decision influencing him, I doubt he would have had any problems. And now…”
She trailed off with a dainty little shrug. Iris did her best not to imagine Vivien falling off her broomstick.
“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that it could be done,” Iris said, then took the even pettier risk. “Even if it couldn’t be done by you.”
Vivien’s eyes flashed, and Iris felt a small bolt of fear underneath everything. Right, she was taunting a powerful and highly undisciplined witch. Not the smartest idea. But then Vivien just smiled.
“Now if only you could actually solve your own little problem,” she replied. “I suppose maybe now little Billy will respond to you, but neither you nor the pretty one are able to do that on your own. You need the living McBride boy for that.”
She gasped sweetly. “Is that why you were so eager to have me alter my work?” Vivien asked. “Oh Iris, it wasn’t about him at all, was it?”
Don’t take the bait, Iris told herself. And for once, she didn’t. Instead, she just smiled at Vivien.
“I need to go,” she said.
“It was really lovely to see you, Iris,” Vivien said. “I’ll be sure to help you with your little problem as soon as I can.”
It didn’t sound like a threat. More like a promise dripping in condescension. Iris gave her a tight smile and walked back toward the parking lot. She had nothing else to do here, so she might as well head back home. It was cooler today, more like April than it had been all week.
As she walked, however, she felt a cold burst of air, right in her ear. The shriek she let out was embarrassing enough, even if she was alone. Had Vivien jinxed her?
Then something tugged her hair, and she realized no, it was something even more annoying than Vivien. “Fuck off, Roland,” Iris muttered as she got into her car.
If she backed over the ghost on her way out of the Countess’s gravel driveway, then so be it.
Celine felt like she had an intense hangover as she walked into the Countess. Everything was a little too bright and loud, even in the otherwise dim, quiet foyer. The door closed with a firm thud behind her and she winced.
She looked at the desk. Anna, one of the owners, was standing behind it with a warm smile on her face. Celine tried to match it, even as her head pounded. “Good morning.”
“Your children are adorable,” Anna said. “They were so well-behaved all night.”
Despite her pain, Celine had to smile at that. “Thank you,” she said. “I had no doubts, but it’s still really nice to hear.”
“Of course they’re welcome here anytime while Roman’s in residence,” Anna continued. “Your daughter was chatting to me the whole time they were at breakfast this morning. Something about a TV show? I couldn’t quite understand, but she was happy.”
Celine laughed, and Anna’s smile changed slightly. “Did it work?” she asked.
By the way she was looking at her, Celine could tell Anna knew everything. “Yeah,” she said. “It worked.”
Anna gave a low whistle. “That’s incredible,” she said. “It’s outside my expertise, but I don’t need to be an expert to know what kind of work you just completed.”
She took out a chocolate chip cookie from the plate beside the register and handed it to Celine, who couldn’t stop herself from tearing into it immediately. Anna smiled and handed her another. “Finish before the kids see,” she said in a mock whisper. “Then send them down for some.”
Celine thanked her, then went to the stairs, where pulling herself up each step felt like scaling a wall. Finally, she reached Roman’s room, knocked, and went inside.
The two little ones were on the bed, Aidan playing with a stuffed monkey and Abby pretending to read a board book to him. Roman was at the small table, pouring over business paperwork while Jamie was reading a book on the cot. Roman looked up as he she came in, then smiled and shook his head.
“You’re unbelievable, you know that?” he asked.
She sat down heavily on the bed beside the babies as he came over and kissed her on top of her head. Even after twelve hours of sleep at Olivia’s, Celine was still seconds from passing out here. Behind Roman, she could see Jamie was looking at her with concern and she waved him off with a smile. “I’m fine, sweetie,” Celine said. “Don’t worry, I just need to lay down.”
He nodded, but still looked concerned. “I’ll tell you all about it later,” she promised.
If Jamie wanted to go into her type of work, then a heavily redacted telling of what she’d just done might be useful to him. But there was no way she’d get her thoughts together long enough right now to tell it effectively.
As soon as she was under the covers, the babies were climbing on her. Aidan played with her hand while Abby sat by her head, acting out reading from the book again. Celine fell asleep with her daughter’s voice in her ear, telling a story about bright sunshine and apples.
Cleo’s phone rang as she was getting dressed. It could be anything from a job offer to a robocall, there were so many things going on in her life right now. Pulling her shirt over her head, she darted over and picked it up off the bedside table, her heart speeding up as she saw Noah’s name on the display.
“We never finished that movie.”
The giddy laugh sounded hysterical as it escaped her mouth. “Oh my God, she fixed it?” she said. “You’re alright? I mean…”
The relief mingled with the realization that a whole lot of shit had just settled back into place in his brain. “I’m fine,” he said, like she’d possibly believe him. “I swear. It wasn’t Vivien, she didn’t do anything except give me a headache. It was Celine Beckett, she literally stitched it back together.”
“What was ‘it’ exactly?”
Noah laughed and she was so grateful to hear the sound, even if it was tinged with something he was never going to acknowledge to her. “God, I’m not sure. My soul, basically. That Vivien woman tore up my soul in order to fix it and I don’t remember…”
He trailed off as Cleo walked into the kitchen, putting together her bag with one hand. She was heading to her mother’s doctor’s appointment, then onto a delivery shift, so she needed to bring something to eat. They had a few granola bars, but that was it for packable food. “I’m so glad,” Cleo said. “Are you…I mean, there’s a lot…”
“It’s…yeah,” he said with another laugh. “But I’m okay. I gotta go though, I have work.”
She still didn’t believe him exactly, but she wasn’t going to push right now. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she said instead. “And I’m not going to finish that fucking movie, it was gross.”
“Thanks, Cleo. Talk to you later.”
He hung up and she did the same, that familiar blend of reassurance and unease settling into its usual place in her chest. Then she went to dig through the cabinets for anything else she could pack up for the day.
Cleo was glad that her mother had a doctor’s appointment in Athol today. Otherwise, she’d been even more tempted than she already was to stay and see the others while she was in New Winslow for her mom anyway. Yes, they’d already told her not to. And Edie had made it very clear that while they understood why Cleo had to go back the other day, they were still deeply uncomfortable with the time Cleo spent here. Especially with her mother’s move-in day tomorrow and their own move out date creeping closer and closer. To the point that Cleo had set up a cab ride with Charlie Gulbenkien for her mother so that she could just meet Cleo at the town line.
She was still a little nervous about it as she pulled up to the small shoulder of the road where Charlie said to meet. She’d met Charlie several times already and Tara Stevenson had absolutely gushed about what a sweetheart he was. But her mother was shy enough as it was. Was she really going to be alright getting into a car with a strange man for the ten minutes it would take to get from the mobile home park to where Cleo was currently parked? This was ridiculous, she should be going to get her mother herself and an unreasonable part of her resented Edie, who had insisted that she do it like this if they could get her mother to agree to it.
Which Cleo hadn’t expected. But her mother had accepted that plan, almost eagerly. So now she sat in her car by the side of the empty wooded road, waiting to see what kind of mood her mother was in when Charlie pulled up in about three minutes.
Noah was alright, or at least as alright as anyone could be in that situation. There was a boulder’s worth of worry lifted from Cleo’s shoulders. Last night she’d fallen asleep on the couch around three, with her phone in her hand. Andrew had texted throughout the evening, but they’d slowed down past midnight, coming in sporadically until he fell asleep too. Edie had woken her up on their way out for work, handing her a cup of coffee and asking gently if there had been any updates. Then she’d waited anxiously until Noah’s call came through.
She was tempted to text Noah while she was sitting here, just for that reassurance that it was him, he was back, and his memory wasn’t damaged. Because the chill she’d gotten watching the way he’d faltered and forgotten while they were bringing him to Dr. Degas had haunted her until this morning’s phone call.
And beneath it all was the pang of knowing that she’d never get a similar phone call from her mother.
Charlie’s car crunching up onto the sand beside her broke Cleo away from that train of thought. She looked over at the other car. Her mother was sitting in the front seat with Charlie, and Cleo could see her talking, but had no idea what she was saying. But she looked happy, and so did Charlie when he got out of the car.
“Thank you so much,” Cleo said to him as he opened the passenger door and helped her mom out. Shockingly, her mother let him take her arm and help her into the passenger seat of Cleo’s car, closing the door for her.
“Of course,” he said, waving her off as she pulled out her wallet.
“No, Charlie, I’m paying you,” she said.
“Nah, I’m good,” he said. “Good luck today.”
He climbed back into his driver’s seat, the window open as he smiled at her. “Call me when you’re on your way back and I’ll come get her,” he said, then pulled out and started driving back into New Winslow.
Her wallet still in her hand, Cleo shook her head and got into the car. Her mother smiled, but didn’t look at her. “He’s very cute,” she said.
“And ten years younger than me,” Cleo retorted with a laugh. “Alright, come on. Let’s get this over with, then I’ll buy lunch.”