New Winslow S7E39

“Are you seriously going back there?” Edie demanded, standing bleary-eyed in the bedroom doorway as they watched Cleo pull on her boots. “You said you wouldn’t once your mom was out.”

They looked pissed, maybe angrier than Cleo had ever seen. And she couldn’t really blame them. It was five o’clock in the morning and she’d just gotten off the phone with Andrew, who had told her about Noah’s relapse the night before. Then he’d mentioned he was alone in Limerick today, at least while Olivia took Noah to see Roman. He’d sounded exhausted and Cleo had made her decision before she’d even hung up the phone.

“I have to,” she said as she finished lacing her boots.

“No, you don’t. Listen,” Edie sat down on the couch beside her, placing a hand on her knee. “I get it. Trust me, I get it. But Cleo, this is his problem, not yours. You can’t put yourself in danger because Noah made a bad decision last night. That’s not on you.”

There was a lump in Cleo’s throat as she nodded. “I know,” she said. “But when my mom went missing, it wasn’t his problem. But he found her in the woods and she would have died if he didn’t.”

Edie looked like whatever they were about to say was just gone. “Don’t go,” they said instead. “He’s fine, like you said. Olivia has him if he needs support. If it’s that bad, they can close for the day.”

“They were closed for a few days already,” Cleo said. “You know how that can…”

Edie was about to say something else, and if it was anything about Noah, Cleo wasn’t sure she’d get out of here without some choice words of her own. Edie had a point. Several of them, actually. But this was important to her, and she wasn’t going to be dissuaded from going.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “This is important.”

“This isn’t about the shop,” Edie said softly.

Cleo didn’t know what to say to that. They didn’t sound like they were starting a fight, but she had to swallow her own defensiveness. She went to kiss Edie and was relieved that they let her. But the mix of anger, fear, hurt, and sadness on their face haunted Cleo all the way to New Winslow.


They met at a diner in Barre, just a dumpy little place off the side of the road. Olivia and Noah didn’t talk the entire way there. Olivia drove with the music down low, letting it fade in and out of static as they went. Noah just looked out the window or squeezed his eyes shut and she could tell he was trying not to be sick. Even after the water and toast she’d made him have before they left, he was clearly in rough shape. They’d meet with Roman, then hopefully he’d go home and rest for a while before doing anything else.

Though Olivia had a feeling he was going to argue it was just a hangover and actually take that shift at the Limerick that he kept insisting he was up for. And it wasn’t like she could really stop him,they were equal owners and he didn’t have a fever or anything. It was just a hangover, technically.

Just a hangover. She swallowed hard as they pulled into the gravel parking lot of the small diner. Noah opened his eyes and she could tell he spotted Roman at the same time she did, leaning against the bed of his truck as he looked out over the pond behind the diner.

“It’ll be fine,” Olivia said. “He’ll understand. Come on.”

Noah took a shaky breath and nodded, then opened the passenger door, getting out as she did the same. He seemed hesitant as they started toward Roman, who noticed them as they got closer. He smiled and strode over.

“Roman-” Noah started, but he was cut off as Roman pulled him into a tight hug. Noah had about six inches on Roman, so he ended up pulled slightly stooped as Roman held him, pressing a hand to the back of Noah’s head as he said something too quiet for Olivia to hear. Noah hugged him back, nodding rapidly in response to whatever he had said. She hung back to give them some space, blinking hard and looking up into the deep blue sky.

“Hi Olivia.”

She looked over to see Roman smiling at her now. Noah was looking away, out over the water as Roman took a few steps closer to her. “We’re just going to go across the street for a few minutes,” he said, pointing to a couple old benches along the edge of the pond. “Meet you inside?”

“Take your time,” she said.

She headed into the tiny diner as they walked away, claiming a table for three from the ancient waiter who greeted her at the counter. He poured her a coffee, and she took a sip, then added a little more milk and sugar than usual.

She sipped her coffee as she looked around the diner. It was one square room, with booths lining the walls and a counter where a few old people were sitting and chatting. A mother and a little girl sat in one of the other booths and she felt a brief pang as she thought of Mia in daycare. It was her first week of going for two days, her mother’s gift to them both. But Mia had loved her first day, and it was nice to not have to worry about having to care for her right now.

Her phone buzzed and she glanced at it.


Everything’s going fine at Limerick

Her first instinct when she saw Cleo that morning, and again right now, was to say it was unnecessary to come, which she absolutely would have done if it had been her working instead of Andrew. But Cleo had been at the house with Andrew since early this morning, before she or Noah had been awake. Instead, she started to type in her next instinct. But before she could send it, Cleo was back.


Say you’re paying me and I burn it down

She added a laughing emoji and Olivia rolled her eyes and laughed too. Fine, but she’d pay Cleo back in another way. She’d just need to think of it.

They chatted around the topic both of them were thinking of for a few minutes, just exchanging a few little sentences about the shop and the diner as Olivia finished her coffee. The waiter was just pouring her more when the front door opened and Roman and Noah walked in. She waved them down and, as they got closer, she could see Noah’s face was blotchy as he looked away from her.

“Right back,” he muttered, then hurried toward the bathrooms.

“Thanks,” Roman said to Olivia as he slid into the seat across from her.

“I figured you two would want some privacy,” she said. “It’s no big deal.”

“I mean, for that and for bringing him here.”

She looked toward the bathroom, then leaned in closer to Roman. “He would have thrown up before he was out of the driveway if he tried to drive,” she whispered.

Roman looked like he didn’t want to laugh, but couldn’t help the smile. “Yeah, that’s the feeling I got too,” he said. “But he told me about this morning. When you made him choose between me and treatment.”

Why was her face so warm? “I couldn’t just let him pull away again,” she said. “Not after he’s come so far.”

“You’re a good friend. He knows it.”

Shit, now she was about to go to the bathroom and cry. The waiter was back now, pouring Roman some coffee and Olivia a top-off she knew she’d regret later. Especially when she got to her own coffee shop and drank three more. She got one for Noah too, setting it beside hers on the paper placemat.

“You don’t have to tell me,” she started. “But does he…”

“We’re going to go to a couple meetings tonight,” Roman said. “He said it’s fine if you know. He’s going to see about some more therapy sessions as well.”


“I can’t talk too much on inpatient,” Roman said, glancing back for Noah, who was still nowhere to be seen. “I never went, for obvious reasons. But he said he doesn’t think he needs to go back right now, and I think he’s right.”

Hearing Roman say it was a relief that Olivia hadn’t thought she needed. But she’d been concerned over whether she’d done the right thing earlier or if there was an entirely different, better way she should have handled things.

“How’s the shop?” Roman asked her as he drank his own coffee.

She started laying out sales numbers and plans. This was comfortable, familiar ground. If it hadn’t been for the complete lack of children, they might as well have been at their kids’ old playgroup again. But this time it was her business she was reporting on, not Bret’s. And she could tell from the smile on his face that he was picking up on her renewed enthusiasm for the work.

“And Celine says you went with Rivera for your supply company,” Roman said when she finally stopped to take a breath. “They’re good people. Isabel has been good to us, even when I’ve fucked up a few times.”

Until this second, Olivia had actually thought she was capable of keeping her feelings off her face sometimes. But maybe it was the stress of the past few days, because Roman looked curiously at her. “Hmm,” he said.

“What?” she demanded, not helping her case.

He just shrugged, a hint of a smirk on his face. “There’s no Mrs. Rivera,” he said simply. “If you were wondering.”

Olivia’s face was on fire. But before she could even try to defend herself, Noah was sliding into the booth beside her. She caught his eye and smiled, but he just looked away. So instead of saying anything, she silently slid his coffee toward him.




Leave A Comment

3d book display image of The Vanishing House

Want a free book?

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?

Get Your Copy Today>>