New Winslow S7E27
Roman was the one who found the restaurant. He’d never been there before, but after scoping it out a little too in-depth on his laptop during his copious amount of alone time, he decided this was the perfect place. It was nice, but not too nice. They’d dress up a bit, which was rare, and wouldn’t have to drive more than twenty minutes to get there.
It was like preparing for a first date, he realized as he buttoned the collared shirt he’d actually ironed earlier in the day. He’d had to go downstairs to borrow an iron from Anna, who looked far too pleased to not know what was going on. Once it had cooled, she’d taken it back with a smile, then recommended a florist nearby. So a small bouquet of assorted flowers now sat on the table alongside his work as he got ready to go.
By the time Celine arrived, he was feeling oddly nervous. She looked beautiful in a little blue dress and the way that she smiled at him showed she’d noticed the way he tripped over his words slightly as he greeted her. “You ready?” he asked her as he helped put on her bracelet.
Then she glanced at the notebook open on the table. “Oh, is that this week’s order?” she asked, scanning the contents of the top page. “We didn’t get through all the bacon we got last week, so let’s plan to halve that order. Oh, what did you put for…”
She stopped as Roman came up behind her and slid his arms around her waist. “No work talk tonight, remember?” he teased, nuzzling into her hair.
Celine laughed, leaning back into his embrace. “You’re right,” she said with a playful sigh, then turned around to kiss him.
The restaurant was a beautiful little farm-to-table place on the edge of a large lake. String lights twinkled on the patio as the host led Roman and Celine to their table. Around them, other couples were chatting over their meals, but their voices were quickly lost in the large space.
Roman pulled out Celine’s chair, and she looked at him with amusement and affection as she sat down. They chatted lightly about the kids and books they’d both read recently, keeping the conversation away from both the curse and work.
This succeeded through the appetizer. Then, as Roman was gazing out over the lake, he remembered he’d heard footsteps last night in the room.
“There was a ghost in my room last night,” he said to Celine, who was sipping a martini.
“Yeah, I was half asleep and I could hear the footsteps. But it didn’t seem malicious or anything.”
He took a sip of his seltzer. “Could have been that kid that’s been hassling Noah,” he said. “Iris is still trying to reach him, but he won’t…”
This time it was his turn to trail off as he realized he’d broken the rule of the night. Celine laughed around her drink. “Alright,” he said. “Um…how was…”
Not work, they weren’t talking about work. Asking about home was going to make him sad, plus they weren’t talking housework or childcare either. And he’d already broken the rule about the curse.
“Fuck,” he finally finished.
“Fuck?” Celine asked with a laugh. “Oh, it was fine.”
She shook her head. “We’re so bad at this, aren’t we?”
“We might as well just eat in silence,” Roman said.
“No. No, we are on a date. We’re going to have a very nice date. We only have four hours, so let’s have a nice date.”
She finished her martini, looking out over the lake. “Remember the snowstorm when we first met?” she asked.
“You mean the scariest night of my life? Having a beautiful woman stay at my little shithole apartment to wait out the snow?”
“God, I was trying so hard to be professional that night,” Celine said. “And all I wanted to do was kiss you.”
The research trip that had brought Celine into his life had also been a nightmare he had tried not to think about for years after. Another research assistant had drugged Roman with an experimental serum in an attempt to get him over the line. Celine had rushed Roman to Dr. Degas, who was brand new to town at that point, and then Roman had been sick for two weeks. He’d never expected to see Celine again after that, but she’d been back the next day. And never left.
He watched her looking out over the lake. She was obviously older than she’d been that night, but she remained so beautiful that something twisted, right where his heart had recently healed.
They sat in silence for a little while, looking out over the water until the server returned with their entrees. And Roman realized he had no idea what to talk about now.
“Can I be honest?” he asked.
“Yeah, of course.”
“Babe, I’m like thirty seconds from asking you your opinion on the Red Sox’s chances this year. I cannot think of a damn thing that isn’t work, curse, or family.”
He knew there was a chance she’d get frustrated, but she just laughed. “Can I be honest?” Celine asked.
“They’re chances aren’t great. And I feel the same way.”
“In that case, did you see the price of green peppers this month? Everyone else is up as well, so I know it isn’t just Rivera. But we might need to put green pepper pizza in its own toppings category this spring, I swear to God.”
“I know, right?” Celine exclaimed, leaning forward and nearly catching her necklace in her prime rib. “And beef prices too. We need to re-evaluate the steak and cheese price.”
“Fuck, Ace Hampstead is going to lose his shit,” Roman said. “He’s gonna put Jamie through college with the amount of steak subs he gets. And I’m already listening to his every complaint, might as well add that one onto the list.”
“He moans at me too,” she said. “Tatiana just walks away, but I haven’t had the heart. He’s lonely.”
“Can I be honest again?”
Celine laughed. “I miss everything about it,” Roman said. “Well, not Ace, but I’m getting there. Ask me again in a week.”
She reached across the table for his hand. Despite the heat of the day, it was cooling down and her hand was nearly cold in his. “I know,” she said. “And you’ll be back there hating it as soon as it’s safe.”
Olivia was alone in her living room, wrapped in a light linen blanket on the couch. She was drinking a glass of Riesling and enjoying the quiet. It had been a long day at the Limerick, but a good one. She was trying not to read too much into Isabel commenting again that morning that she was happy that they were open again, that she’d missed Olivia when they were closed. Isabel was probably just being friendly, but Olivia still played that conversation over and over in her mind like a twelve-year-old with a crush.
And now Mia was happily asleep in her own room and Olivia had a few rare moments of peace and quiet. She did miss Andrew living here, maybe a little more than she’d expected or would like to admit. But being alone in here was a bit of a novelty. Despite that, as she heard Noah moving around upstairs, she was tempted to go up and say hi. Maybe see if he wanted some tea or something.
Screw it, worst case was he’d just say no. She got up, leaving her glass on the coffee table, and started up the steps, keeping her door open to listen for Mia.
She knocked on his door, but there no answer. Maybe she’d heard something else and he was asleep? It was fairly early, but he was working two active jobs, so he was pretty tired all the time these days. She knocked again. There were footsteps, then the sound of breaking glass. And Olivia put the pieces together.
Apparently the sleepwalking hadn’t stopped after all once they established the connection between him and this Billy kid. She should definitely check on him.
Olivia walked into the apartment. “Noah?” she called as she came in. “Are you up?”
She spotted the broken mug on the kitchen floor and grabbed the broom to sweep it up. She got the pieces into a neat pile, turned to get the dustpan then jumped as she spotted Noah standing in the middle of the living room. He was facing away from her and toward the window, standing completely still. “Jesus, you scared me,” Olivia said as she swept the shards into the dustpan.
“I want to go home.”
Olivia sighed, knocking the contents of the dustpan into the trash. “Noah, go back to bed.”
He was still facing toward the window as she moved closer and the idea of possibly talking to a ghost made her nervous. This wasn’t possession, not like it had been with her. Noah was linked to the ghost, because apparently he was Noah’s awful mother’s relative. Nothing had yanked control away, at least as far as Olivia knew. “Go back to bed,” she repeated.
“Why can’t I go home?”
She got to him, but he didn’t move. “Billy?” she said, wincing at how her voice shook.
Noah didn’t say anything in response. Her hand shook slightly as she reached up and pulled the amulet over her head, keeping a tight grip on it. “Billy,” she repeated. “Please leave Noah alone tonight, just let him rest.”
“It’s alright,” she said softly, the parent in her outweighing the scared possession victim. “He doesn’t want to abandon you. But you need to let go for tonight. Noah needs to sleep, he’s tired.”
She didn’t know where this burst of courage was coming from. Noah was still facing the window, eyes open but not really looking at anything. “Alright, Billy?” she said.
There was silence for a second as Olivia slipped the amulet back over her head. But then Noah took a sharp breath and his hand darted out to grasp her arm. Olivia couldn’t stop the scream from escaping. He screamed too, stumbling into her and nearly taking them both down.
“Are you awake?” she asked.
He nodded rapidly, looking from her to the window, then back to her. “What the fuck?” he demanded breathlessly.
“You were sleepwalking,” Olivia said. “I think I just- I think I just spoke to Billy.”
In the glow of the little nightlight nearby, Olivia could see Noah looked scared. He sat down heavily on the couch beside them. “What the fuck?” he muttered again, rubbing his eyes.
“Were you dreaming?” she asked.
He looked at her, dazed, then shook his head. “Um, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t remember.”
He leaned back on the couch as she sat down too, his movements still jerky. “Jesus,” he mumbled, still rubbing his face. “I might’ve been. I-“
He looked up at her. “You talked to Billy?”
“I think so?” she said. “I think he heard me, I said to leave you alone tonight. Right before you woke up.”
Noah groaned. “Why is everyone in the world so interested in my fucking brain?”
Even in the dim light, he must have seen her expression. “Not you,” he said, waving her off. “Everyone else. God, you’re one of like three people I actually trust with it. But I was finally feeling like a person again. Like, my head was clear, and I was starting to figure out who I was. Without alcohol, I mean. And now everyone’s just messing with my head all the time and I don’t even know anymore.”
She wasn’t sure if it was just the jolt from waking up that was causing this confession right now or if it was just something he’d needed to get off of his chest for a while. But she stayed where she was as he looked around the room.
“I just want it all to stop,” he said.
She expected a sharp retort and would have forgiven it. But he just sighed. “What time is it?”
“Like ten,” she said. “Want some tea or something? I was thinking about making some.”
He looked like he was about to refuse, but then stopped and nodded. “Yeah, Um, yeah, thanks,” he said, rubbing at his eyes again. “I’d really like that.”