New Winslow S7E36
Opening the Limerick was Liv the next day was very quiet. Noah hadn’t slept more than a few minutes the past couple nights. All he could think about whenever he closed his eyes was Vivien. He hadn’t been there and didn’t know the details, but he could imagine her body engulfed in flames as she screamed. It must have been terrifying and painful. And now she was dead. She wasn’t great, but nobody deserved that death. And he couldn’t even hope it was quick because he knew it wasn’t.
Liv said something, and it took a moment to process as he stocked the pastry case with the cookies she’d made the day before. Finally, the silence made him realize she was waiting for an answer and he looked up. “Hmm?”
“I asked if there’s enough oatmeal raisin,” she said.
He hadn’t even looked. Liv stayed where she was for a moment and he could see her out of the corner of his eye as he counted quickly. “There’s ten,” he said after a moment, to get her to keep moving.
She faltered and there was another thing he felt bad about. Noah stood up straight and looked at her, trying to at least smile a little. “Fine,” he said. “I’m fine. Sorry.”
“No, it’s alright,” she said. “It’s that Vivien woman, isn’t it? It was a shock.”
“I mean, she made some bad choices,” Olivia continued, shaking her head. “Some really, really bad choices. But messing with shit like that? I don’t know what she was thinking.”
She wouldn’t have gotten involved to that extent, if he hadn’t gone back to her. Noah wasn’t stupid. She hadn’t been able to fix him and Celine had. That had to sting, so maybe this was, what, some kind of ego trip that brought her here? There was no way she had been just picking up some supplies at Iris’s shop, then spontaneously burned to death in the back lot.
“I’m going to get the scones prepped,” Olivia said. “You’re only here till noon, right?”
“Yeah, I’m at the House of Pizza after.”
“We’ve got a catering order to get ready tonight, so me and Andrew will be here late. Don’t worry about it, I’m just letting you know. Hopefully we’ll be done before you’re even out.”
She smiled at him and he tried, he really did. But his hands were shaking and as much as he knew he wasn’t the actual reason for Vivien’s death, he was a part of it. And she’d hurt him and he still didn’t know how he felt about it all, not completely. But now she was dead, so he had to consider that as well.
Noah knew wishing he was drunk at seven in the morning was not a healthy response and probably something he should mention at a meeting later. So that was what he’d do. He’d work here, work his other job, go to an AA meeting, then talk to Liv about the jumbled mess in his head. She’d be happy to talk to him, even if she was also exhausted at the end of the night. That would help, but he just had to make it until then.
They were fairly busy all afternoon, something that came as a relief despite how it would add more work at the end of the day with that catering order. Olivia had been out back for the most part, cooking and cleaning while Andrew handled the front counter. He seemed like he was doing well, something that she’d been a little concerned about after the events of two nights earlier. She’d heard him last night on the phone with Iris again after he’d helped her at the shop and tried not to listen in on the conversation. But when she asked him this morning how he was doing, he said he was honestly alright and she believed him far more than she’d believed Noah.
Andrew poked his head out back with a pleasantly neutral look on his face that she immediately knew meant something was up. “Yeah?”
“Do we have anymore oat milk?”
“There should be some…yeah, let me bring it.”
She picked up a jug of oat milk, knowing full well there were two more up front already, and walked out to the register. As soon as she got there, she spotted the two council members standing at the register with wide smiles and had to resist the urge to turn right back around. Why wasn’t that charm working to keep them out again? Either they no longer meant any harm or the power had worn off. And she was going to bet it was the latter, no matter how much she trusted Andrew.
“Olivia, hello!” cried one of the women, a short elderly woman that Olivia had spoken to maybe once in her life. “Look at how this place is coming along, it’s just delightful!”
“We’re very happy with it,” Olivia said, smoothly taking Andrew’s spot at the register. “What can I get you?”
After some debating, the women settled on vanilla lattes and scones. Andrew got to work on those without a word while she made sure to stay right nearby.
“Those scones look delicious,” the other woman, who was slightly younger, said. “Andrew, is that your recipe?”
Don’t laugh, Olivia scolded herself as Andrew paused, his hand on the stack of cup lids. “No,” he said finally. “No, I’m not much of a baker.”
The two women giggled, and he handed over the orders. “‘I’m not much of a baker,'” the younger woman mimicked in a terrible British accent. “You’re so cute.”
Andrew nodded as politely as Liv knew he was capable of right now. “You heard about the dead woman found behind Iris Davies’ shop, right?” the elderly woman said, pulling off the lid of her coffee to inspect the foam. “The poor thing, the police have no idea what happened.”
That was bullshit, Olivia knew. “Still,” the younger woman said. “Iris has certainly always been…peculiar.”
“Are you implying Iris Davies murdered someone?” Olivia asked flatly.
Andrew looked at her as the two women dissolved into giggles again. “No, of course not,” the second one said. “It’s just such a horrendous tragedy, isn’t it? Scary too.”
“Really shows we should just leave well enough alone with the things we don’t understand.”
Olivia thought the espresso machine’s lever might break in Andrew’s grip, but he said nothing. The two women left a moment later, still chatting gleefully about the details of Vivien’s death, most of which Olivia knew weren’t true. She stayed where she was as Andrew cleaned the steam wand on the espresso machine, then wiped his hands on his apron. “Well,” he said. “I’m sure that wasn’t intentional.”
“No, not at all,” Olivia said. “May I try one of your scones?”
Andrew closed his eyes briefly as he shook his head. “Liv,” he said, opening his eyes. “I’ll tell you precisely where you can put that scone.”
Olivia laughed, then picked up the spare oat milk and made her way back to the kitchen.
Late that afternoon, Noah wasn’t feeling any better as he drove delivery through the towns around New Winslow. He had three orders in the passenger seat right now, the steam making it difficult for the air conditioner to work in the truck. Opening the windows would just let in the muggy July heat, so Noah just had to suck it up for a little while as he made his way into New Salem with the first order.
He passed a liquor store on the side of the state highway, just a rundown little place that he wouldn’t have noticed if it was anything else. Hands gripping the wheel, Noah sped past it and tried not to think about how a glass of whiskey, just one, would help him focus so much better. Not even a glass, just a shot. But he wasn’t going to do it. He was just going to finish this up and find a meeting. Then he’d talk to Liv.
Had he told her about him and Andrew? About whatever him and Andrew were at the moment? Noah wasn’t sure what that was beyond the fact that he really liked it. And for someone who had been so anti-commitment for so long, the idea of jumping into a committed thing was scary and maybe not that appealing, even with Andrew.
But that was something else he needed to consider. And talk to Andrew about, because he didn’t even know how Andrew felt. After all, he’d be leaving. And that trip was apparently the big deal breaker, so all of this might not matter, anyway.
He was fairly close to Route Two right now. If he got on Route Two, he could be in Boston in an hour and a half.
Noah dropped off the pizza, trying not to think about how hot the bottom of the bag was. And how hot the flames must have been.
He shouldn’t have gone back to Iris’s shop in the first place. Liv had told him it was his choice if he wanted to do it, and he could have just chosen not to go back. Not only would it have released him from the noise clanging in his head at all times, but it wouldn’t have set the dominoes going toward Vivien’s death. Sure, she might have met a violent end somewhere else, but Noah’s actions wouldn’t have been part of what brought her there.
The second delivery was going to another house in New Salem, just down the road. His hands shook as he counted out change for the young woman at the door, who passed the pizza to one child while holding a baby on her hip. She smiled at him and he tried to smile back as she handed him a five-dollar tip.
Maybe he shouldn’t think like this. She was an adult, she made her decision. And if he was going to consider the domino effect of everything ever, then Noah was going to go insane. Even more insane than he already was. He passed by the little liquor store again as he headed toward the back roads to New Winslow. This last order was going-
It was going to yet another address in New Salem. He drove off the main road quickly and found the house, a small mobile home on an isolated patch of land. The man took the pizza with a nod and a gentle smile that stood out on his enormous bearded face. He handed Noah the credit card receipt and pen, then slipped back inside.
It took three tries to get the pen in his pocket, his hands were shaking so badly. Noah couldn’t do this. He needed to get his shit together if he was going to even ask for help. If the others saw him like this, they’d be too concerned to listen to what he was actually saying. He needed to be level. He needed to be reasonable. And he needed to stop the goddamn screaming in his head.
Ten minutes later, Noah was walking out of the shabby little liquor store with a nip of whiskey in his pocket. One tiny bottle, that was all he needed. He’d drink it, then he’d either admit it to Liv or just never do it again. But he’d be in a far better place once he went to ask for help.