New Winslow S7E29

Cleo knew she wasn’t dreaming, but only because of how dirty the apartment was. Their new landlord had said that they would have a cleaning company come in before move-in day, which clearly hadn’t happened. But she was moving into an apartment in Boston with Edie. She was back, and she was living with the person she loved.

Things had lined up just right in a way that both thrilled Cleo and stressed her out in all kinds of ways. On one hand, she didn’t have to stay in Fitchburg for too long after her mother moved. But on the other hand, she had been coordinating two moves in two weeks and she was going to lose her mind if a single thing went wrong with either of them.

Thankfully, things went smoothly. Of course there were bumps, like the lack of pre-cleaning or the way the sink handle in her mother’s suite had been broken. But those were easily fixed and now they were nearly at the end of the process. Edie was busy with planning the Blossom Step’s upcoming tour, but they’d made a point of rescheduling all meetings except a short rehearsal tonight, and taking two days off of work so that they could get everyone into their new homes. And now, back aching, Cleo was sitting on the kitchen windowsill with a can of seltzer in her hand, gazing out the window at the city street below.

Brighton wasn’t somewhere that she’d spent a lot of time, but this section was similar to her old neighborhood in Dorchester. They were living in a triple-decker, on the second floor, with a little balcony off the front. It was a one bedroom, but there was a tiny office that neither of them had been aware of when they first saw the listing. And now the instruments were going in there for the time being. Cleo was sure they’d find a better use for it later, but it was useful storage space for now. It was silly, but having that devoted space made her feel a little more like a professional musician again. She felt a little bad that she wasn’t storing any of her mom’s things, but maybe she could offer up some space now that she knew they had it.

Edie came into the kitchen a moment later, where Cleo was back to scrubbing the refrigerator. “I swear, every place I’ve lived has claimed they’ll bring in a cleaning crew and they never do,” they said, putting down a couple bags of groceries on the counter.

“It’s getting there,” Cleo said, pushing her choppy bangs back from her face. “It just needs a flamethrower and six weeks of work.”

“I’m sorry again for leaving on our first night here,” Edie said. “It’s the only night that the other band could all meet in the next two weeks.”

“I know,” Cleo said lightly, that familiar pang settling in when she thought about how Edie was leaving for six weeks in about a month.

They were heading to Europe on tour with the Blossom Step, as well as another band Cleo hadn’t had the heart to look into because it stung too much. Cleo had been invited, especially because her music had begun to go viral as the Blossom Step were planning this. But there was no way should leave her mom. Even now, with her mom safe in Watertown, it was still far too soon to head overseas. And the bands had already done so much planning that trying to add Cleo in at this point would be a disaster.

Fridge done enough to hold the groceries that needed to stay cool, Cleo moved onto the old coil stovetop. She wasn’t angry at anyone over it, not even herself, just mad at her circumstances. The half-finished little acoustic experiment she’d been working on had not been something she planned to build her career off of. But then they’d uploaded it onto the Blossom Step’s social media just thinking that maybe their fan base would like it. And not only had they, but so had the eight million other people who had found the track. And then some had pulled the music off of it (Cleo was far too old to understand how any of this worked, but Edie was a little younger and more savvy) and put it in their own videos. Skits and promposals and actual proposals all set to “Pull You Back” and other songs from her back catalog that Cleo hadn’t thought about in years.

And with such a spotlight on her, it was the perfect time to get out and play live. And if she didn’t have a mother quickly succumbing to dementia, she would take full advantage. But there was no way any of that was happening while she had to take care of her mother.

She was safe now, at least, and cared for. But still acclimating to her new home. And likely her last home, something that made Cleo catch her breath even standing here in the grimy new kitchen. Her mother, who had always treasured her privacy to the point that she and Cleo saw each other about once a year, well outside of New Winslow, was living in a facility where staff needed to come into her room and interact with her on a regular basis.

It’s necessary, Cleo reminded herself, dipping her sponge back into the cleaning solution. She brought it out sopping wet and dropped the whole thing on the stovetop with a little more force than necessary. Last time she was alone in her house, she wandered away. And she would have died if Noah hadn’t found her when he did.

But all of this was why Cleo still couldn’t go. Even if they could squeeze her onto the bill and into a shared bed with Edie every night (normally very appealing, but not in a twin bed in a hostel somewhere), it was still not the right time. And thankfully, since her confrontation with Ryan over it, nobody had said anything.

She scrubbed at the stove for a few minutes, then gave up and left it to soak under the sponge. A moment later as she dried her hands, she noticed a couple email notifications on her phone.

Dear Ms. Rodriguez,

After carefully going over our options, the company has decided to move in a different direction.

The next one.

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for interviewing with us. After your second round, we have decided on a different candidate.

There they were, the two latest in a sea of job rejections. Edie had made it clear that with Cleo’s delivery income, they were alright. Edie could cover the rest of the expenses, even if they fluctuated. But all of Cleo’s royalties were going to her mom’s care and Edie wasn’t wealthy. So getting a stable job had moved up much further on the priorities list now that they were back in Boston, with its rents significantly higher than back in Fitchburg.

She wanted to talk to Andrew about this. Back when they’d been looking for jobs over the years – and there had been a few times – they’d always either celebrated together or commiserate over glasses of cheap wine when things went wrong. But she hesitated as she went to call. He was busy. And she fully intended to remain close with them, but maybe she should share these kinds of things with Edie right now, then talk to him later.

“Babe, what’s wrong?”

She looked up and saw Edie looking over with concern. “Got a couple more rejections,” Cleo said, setting her phone down on the counter.

Edie’s face fell as they came over. “Hey, it’s alright,” they said, rubbing Cleo’s arms encouragingly. “We’re fine, I’ve got enough as long as you’re doing delivery.”

“I know,” Cleo said. “It’s just that I want something stable. And better paying, but that’s pretty much everything out there.”

They hugged her tightly, even though she knew she stunk of sweat and cleaning chemicals.

“But in more exciting news,” Edie asked. “Your first recording session is this week, right?”

“Yeah, Tuesday,” Cleo said, feeling that same mix of excitement and nerves she always did. “Same place as last time, luckily.”

She was more nervous about the cost now that money was so tight, so she was glad she had got into a studio she trusted again. Thankfully, an acoustic album like Pull You Back wasn’t going to be as expensive as some of her previous ones, but she had to keep reminding herself that she was investing in her career and that she’d recoup the money. Somehow. Hopefully in licensing because she was a fucking sellout.

And while she was lecturing herself, she needed to get that shit out of her head. It wasn’t like Ravesi was paying for her mother’s medical bills, Regional Underground and all of them could take a hike.

See? Andrew would be proud of that kind of growth when he got back to Boston too.




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The Northern Worcester County branch of the Foundation for Paranormal Research is one of the organization’s top investigation and cleanup teams. So when a case comes in involving a century of mysterious disappearances, they figure they’ll be done before their lunch break is supposed to end. Investigators James and Amelia go to the site while their coworkers remain behind. But in seconds, Amelia vanishes in the cursed house and the others are forced to find her with no help from their bosses. Will they be able to get her back or will the house claim one final victim?

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