New Winslow S7E58
Why wouldn’t Nancy retire? Tara loved working at the general store, but Nancy was this dark cloud that hung over it, making every shift just a little miserable. If Tara wasn’t doing things correctly (by Nancy’s standards, Tara had been at this job for two decades now, she was doing things correctly), she’d hear about it all day. If someone had a medical condition of some kind, Tara was sure to learn all about it as Nancy loudly talked to her equally terrible sister on the phone out back, ignoring customers for as long as possible.
The bell rang and a couple women from the town council, Jean McNamara and Sarah Thomas, came in. “Good morning, Tara!” Sarah, the younger of the two, called cheerfully.
Tara smiled at them. They weren’t bad. A little gossipy and catty, sure, but better conversation than Nancy. She had come in for her shift to see Nancy snapping at the boys she’d hired to get rid of those creepy Christmas and Halloween decorations that had been rotting down cellar for years. They needed the space, Fletcher had approved, and Tara had taken care of it.
But of course Nancy had to get involved. And, judging by the way Noah’s face had been nearly crimson and Charlie looked ready to fight someone, she’d said something terrible to them. Nobody told her what it was, but she wasn’t an idiot. Tara knew what Nancy was going to target.
The women came up to the register a moment later with coffees in hand. As she rang them up, Sarah smiled at her.
“This is exactly what I need this morning,” she said. “Before the council meeting. I went to the new place over on Crescent Street, the one in the old Limerick building? It’s alright, I guess, but it’s nowhere near as good as what’s always been here.”
Nancy sniffed her approval as Tara gave a tight smile. Olivia Walker had been as open and careful with the Limerick as possible, working with Tara to make sure they weren’t in true competition. That was more than any other overlapping business had done before, including the previous owner of the Limerick building.
“The coffee is fine,” Jean said. “It’s the pastries. They’re not nearly sweet enough.”
“We’ll keep coming here, that’s for sure,” Sarah added.
“That’s very kind of you,” Tara said.
“The atmosphere down there just isn’t welcoming,” Jean added.
That certainly didn’t sound right, but Tara wasn’t about to argue with them. “Have a nice day,” she said instead.
The two women left with their coffees. “We don’t need any other competition,” Nancy said from the other end of the counter, where she was wiping crumbs onto the floor. “The nerve, opening the same exact business two streets over. But she’s always been a smug little-“
“Nancy,” Tara snapped.
Nancy sneered at her, but stopped whatever she’d been about to say. “Those two are snotty little bitches,” she said, nodding toward the now-closed door. “I don’t know why they keep getting elected.”
“Who knows?” Tara replied as she began cleaning her own area. “Though Charles Baxter has been acting oddly lately, so maybe there are some changes coming.”
“What do you mean?”
Nancy glared at Tara with an intensity that was actually a little unnerving. Tara shrugged. “I just mean, he’s been acting strangely. You know, very closed off, except for when he’s asking strange questions. Usually about some of the businesses in town?”
Usually about Iris Davies in particular, but Tara wasn’t in the mood to hear Nancy’s opinion on the town psychic right now. “I hope he’s alright,” she said. “I’m a little concerned about him, that’s all.”
“He’s fine,” Nancy said. “I’m sure he’s just drumming up support for yet another reelection campaign.”
She stalked off, leaving Tara somewhat mystified, but mostly just relieved to be alone.
Jude had been kind enough to meet in Worcester today, so Cleo didn’t want to waste any of his time. As she waited for him in a trendy little café near her dad’s apartment, she looked over the licensing requests again. This time there were four of them, neatly printed with both the contracts and the initial emails ready to go. She didn’t think she needed the emails this time, but it didn’t hurt to get a gut check on any of the senders if Jude was unsure about some of them.
Two independent projects, both of which sounded like good fits. But there was no major money involved. There were some but not enough to be life changing. The check would certainly help though, even if she still ended up doing the convenience store and some deliveries to fill in the gaps.
One of the others though, was solid money. A startup wanted to use a song from the new album for an advertising campaign and they were willing to pay for it. Considering how many small shops she saw online using her songs to advertise their own stuff for free, she was ready to sign immediately. But after last time, she knew that if she did so without having Jude go over it thoroughly, she’d be in huge trouble.
And she liked Jude. And maybe feared him slightly.
The door opened, and she looked over to see Jude walking in with an extremely tall woman. She was striking, probably two inches taller than Cleo, with long brown hair and wearing a blue crop top. Jude caught Cleo’s eye and grinned, then hurried over to the table.
“Cleo!” he said. “Sorry I’m late, My car wouldn’t start, so Sarabeth gave me a ride over. Cleo, this is my girlfriend, Sarabeth. Sarabeth, my friend Cleo.”
Sarabeth’s smile was wide and sincere as she took Cleo’s hand in a firm shake. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said. “I’m not staying, I’m just dying for a coffee now that Jude said something about it.”
“My treat,” Cleo said, standing up. As Jude tried to wave her off, she shook her head. “I know your rates,” she said. “And that’s not what I’m paying today. So I’m buying coffee.”
He didn’t relent until her card was in the reader, then finally he took his coffee with thanks. Sarabeth’s latte arrived, and she kissed Jude, then walked out with a promise to come get him when they were done.
“I like her,” Cleo said as the door closed behind her.
“Isn’t she the best?” Jude smiled softly as they sat down. “We’ve known each other for years and she never wanted a relationship. And then she did, and I wasn’t about to give that up.”
So that is why he and Noah had broken up. Or at least as close to it as two people could when they were never actually dating.
His phone rang just then, and Jude swore. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “Do you mind if I take this? They were supposed to call me this morning, but had a family emergency. It’ll just take a moment.”
She waved him on. “Not a problem.”
He gave her a relieved smile, then answered. “Esposito Legal Services,” he greeted as he got up and walked toward the front door.
Cleo took a sip of her coffee and checked her own phone. Nothing at all, but especially nothing from Edie. They hadn’t said a word to her since their initial congratulations message about the album. She tried to remind herself that Edie was busy, possibly busier than they’d ever been in their life as they traveled through Europe. But the silence was making Cleo dread their return almost as much as she was longing for it.
Jude was back almost unsettlingly quickly. “Sorry,” he said, putting his phone away. “That was a longtime client and his family is just…” He blew out a breath and shook his head, then pulled out his reading glasses. “Anyway, let me see what you’ve got.”
Once again, she tried to be patient as he carefully moved through each of the licensing agreements. These were only four of the sixteen that had arrived over the past week, and there were probably more in her inbox already. With most of them, Cleo could tell without Jude’s help that they were taking advantage of her. Then there were two free ones for student films that she’d had to say yes to. Both because of the stories the films were telling and because she was all nostalgic for her own time in school as she read the requests.
“This one’s legit,” Jude said, though he circled a portion with an ominous scrawl. “Get them to take this out, though. Too vague, I’m not dealing with that in the future.”
He said the same thing about the second request, then quickly crossed out the entire front page of the third one. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Have I taught you nothing?”
He winked at her, then picked up the major one, letting out a low whistle as he began reading. Cleo’s heart sped up. This one, this was game changing for her.
“Do it,” he said finally. “You’ll want to negotiate this, this, and this.” He circled all of them. “And if you need representation, you’re going to call me. And don’t you dare say you’re going to pay me.”
“Of course I’m going to pay you.”
“We’ll talk,” he said. “But I mean it, this one needs a little re-tooling, but it’s legit. As your attorney, I say take it.”
The fact that she had someone here saying, in complete seriousness, “as your attorney” felt like more a milestone than it should. But this agreement would also cover months of her rent, as well as some of her mother’s expenses. And if negotiations went well, who knew? Maybe there would be more work there in the future.
Jude went back through the contract, making a few more notes for her to consider. By the end of it, he had also gotten her to agree to bring him to any in-person negotiations she might have with this team in the future.
“Do you mind if I ask you something?” Jude said a few minutes later, after she’d put the contracts back in her bag.
After an hour of putting her life together for her, did he actually look a little uncertain? “Is Noah alright?” he asked. “I haven’t heard from him much lately. I know he and Andrew are probably whatever they are, but it seems unlike Noah to just kind of drop out of contact. And when I have talked to him, he’s been kind of off since the spring.”
Right. Cleo remembered Jude had been out there searching too after Noah had disappeared. She realized she hadn’t really thought about how it would be for him. “He’s alright,” she said, wondering exactly how much he knew and how much she should say. “He’s…it’s a tough time though.”
She could tell from his expression that he knew more than he was letting on. Noah must have told him everything. “Can you let him know I’m here if he needs me?” Jude said. “I know it’s forward and again, I assume he and Andrew got their acts together, but just – I’m here too. As his friend.”
“I’m hopefully seeing him tonight,” Cleo said. “I’m sure he’d be happy to hear from you too, though.”
Jude nodded, the lack of confidence still unsettling. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I’ll text him again. But thanks. He’s important to me, you know?”
He looked so concerned that she was tempted to pull out her phone and call Noah right then. But the door opened and Sarabeth walked back in, holding a coffee from another shop as she made her way over, ending the conversation.