New Winslow S8E16

Cleo didn’t actually want to leave New Winslow. Not now, while the danger was still so present. Despite all their fights about it, she wanted to stay with Andrew while he was still stuck there. But she had yet another interview and he had insisted she go back to Boston so she’d be rested for it. 

Of course, when she got there it was still just past noon. So she went inside, aimlessly wandered the apartment for a little while, and tried hard not to think about Edie. It failed of course, there were signs of Edie everywhere in this space. Even if she didn’t look in their bedroom, Edie’s things were all over the apartment. The only place where there wasn’t anything that belonged to them was Cleo’s bedroom. But the reason it was Cleo’s bedroom was, of course, glaringly obvious. So there was no relief to be found there, either.

Edie was going to be home from Europe soon and Cleo wasn’t sure if that was going to be better or worse. God, she was just as big a mess as she’d been on tour last winter, wasn’t she? Checking her phone constantly for any sign of Jenna and obsessing over her when she should have been focusing on her music. But then she’d had Edie there keeping her company.

Goddammit, there she went again. She was just going to take a nap.

Cleo woke up a little while later to her phone beeping. Still blinking away vague dreams, she glanced down and saw her friend Miranda’s name on the display. That was weird, she hadn’t actually talked to Miranda in a while. Not since shortly before she and Andrew had gone back to New Winslow. There’d been a party at some friend of a friend’s house, but that was their last interaction. What could she want?

Her stomach sank as she saw the message.


Hey, Cleo. I just wanted to tell you that Ravesi is out of line with this shit. I’m so sorry.

Something close to fear rose in her chest as Cleo closed the message. She should ignore it. Whatever it was, she should just ignore it. Benny Ravesi was nothing, he was a petty little man who didn’t deserve her attention. Andrew had told her that over and over again. Whatever he said didn’t matter. And here was Miranda, on her side about whatever this was. 

She had bigger problems, huge problems back in New Winslow. And endless job interviews to prepare for. And a mother who was rapidly losing her memory. Cleo didn’t need this.

But of course she was opening her browser with shaking hands, taking two tries to type in the web address for Regional Underground. The site opened and the first thing she saw was her new album cover, the simple design she’d worked so hard on suddenly looking foolish to her against the backdrop of the site.


Cleo should close this page right now. But it was like something else was controlling her as she opened the link and scrolled down the site. He’d embedded videos from various social media platforms, all of which seemed to be mocking her music. The first played automatically, two men cringing as the song started up, her voice oddly magnified as they looked at each other in disgust. She scrolled further, her whole body on fire now as she went. College age boys mocking it on their own guitars, making up lyrics about Cleo that scrolled across the bottom of the screen in cheery font. Was that Ravesi’s voice on one of them, a nasty little animated thing? No, that wasn’t what was happening, at least she was pretty sure. He was simply the curator of this collection. 

This all just kept going, video after video of mostly men mocking her music, her career, and her body. Cleo didn’t need to hear what was being said. Between captions and the snide actions on the silent videos, it was pretty obvious.

This must have taken hours to curate. Her whole body was burning as she set her phone down and scrubbed a hand over her eyes. Ravesi had never been nice. He made it clear that his job wasn’t to be nice, it was to steer the music scene toward the best of the best. And he’d never considered her to be part of that. 

But Jesus, had he ever been that blunt before? “Local sellout gets what she deserves?” What had she ever actually done to him?

 She was about to close out the page, then go have a good cry before having to deal with real problems again, when she saw that the comment section was full. Which was strange, comment sections were never full on local blogs.

Miranda: This is garbage. You should be embarrassed by this.

Derek: What’s this shit?

Jackie: Really, Benny? This is getting creepy.

Jenna: Fuck you, man. Cleo doesn’t deserve this.

Annie: You’ve been doing this to Cleo for like eight years. It’s really weird. This reflects way more on you than it does on her.

It kept going like this, at least thirty comments from people saying how weird and inappropriate this post was. They ranged from polite:

Jim: I know you don’t like her music, I don’t either. But maybe this isn’t the best use of your platform.

To a more familiar, but still vulgar:

Noah: Eat shit.

Cleo laughed, wiping at her stinging eyes again. She closed the tab, went into her room, and fell back onto her bed, letting her phone drop onto the rug beside it.

Shit, maybe she had really missed her chance. If people were making fun of her that bad online, then maybe she hadn’t taken the right approach to getting her music out there. And it was too late now, wasn’t it? Lightning in a bottle, she wasn’t going to get this kind of exposure again.

But Sophie had called. She’d been very excited about working with Cleo. And she’d sent an email giving Cleo all kinds of very professional details about this festival that was going to take place next January. So Cleo needed to stop placing any kind of importance on what some asshole said. Especially when there were multiple strangers and friends pushing back on him.

She sat back up and picked up her guitar from where it was resting beside the bed. But before she had even strummed a single chord, she set it down again. Screw it, she was going to see her mother. Cleo couldn’t focus here. She’d text Miranda back when she got there and thank her.


Cleo’s phone rang as she was walking out of Oakmont Residencies a few hours later, her keys in her hand as the sound of chirping wildlife filled the otherwise silent parking lot. She pulled it out, expecting some more terrible news from New Winslow. Instead, it was Edie.

“Edie, what time is it over there?”

A yawn greeted her and Cleo couldn’t help laughing. “Sorry,” Edie said. “Extremely late.”

“Then why are you calling? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah.” They yawned again. “I just wanted to say hi before I go to bed.”

That warmth spreading through her chest was dangerous, but Cleo couldn’t help reveling in it just for a few minutes. She got to her car, then leaned against the hood as she looked into the small wooded area beyond the parking lot. There were flowers growing along the edge of the trees, but beyond that it was darkness. If it weren’t for the constant hum of highway traffic nearby, this place could be in New Winslow, not the suburbs of Boston. “Hi,” she said.

Edie laughed. “How are you?”

“Good question,” Cleo replied through a yawn of her own. “Exhausted. Making progress. On the curse, I mean. Not on a new job.”

“You’ll get one.”

Cleo wasn’t as confident, but she nodded. “I have an interview in the morning at a place in the Seaport,” she said. “And a few more applications to send out.”

“How’s Andrew?”

Edie wasn’t going to mention the curse, were they? “Banged up,” Cleo said. “He’s okay, but he’s got bruised ribs.”


“I can’t stay away,” Cleo interrupted. “I know it’s dangerous, but it’s my hometown and they’re my family. My mom is safe, my dad is out of town, and I’m not asking anyone else to take the risk of getting stuck. But right now, I need to be there.”

Over by the front door, she saw one of the nighttime staffers on her way into the building, also on her phone. The woman glanced over, then quickly went back to what she was doing. Cleo had tried her best to keep the frustration out of her voice, but there’d been no way to really do so. “I can’t make you do anything,” Edie said after a moment.

“I know,” Cleo said. “I get it, I know. You literally dumped me over it.”

Maybe it was the stress of everything that was making her snap like this. First that stupid article dropped on top of all the shit in New Winslow, then an exhausting visit with her mother, who was more irritable than she’d been since arriving here, and now this. Cleo went to apologize, but Edie was there first.

“I just want you to be safe,” they said. “I’m sorry, I know I don’t have the right to ask you not to go. I just worry about you.”

“And that’s why you’re calling me at-” Cleo did some quick mental math on the time zones. “Midnight.”

“One,” Edie admitted. 

Cleo laughed and something about that broke the tension a little. “I just miss you,” Edie admitted.

She wasn’t going to cry. Even if she was still in love with Edie, she wasn’t going to cry. “I miss you too,” she said.

“But I can’t-”

“I know,” Cleo interrupted again. “I get it.”

“I still want to be part of your life,” Edie said. “I know it isn’t fair, but I really do care about you. A lot.”

The very obvious and deliberate avoidance of the word “love” was so clear that the coyotes lurking in the small patches of woods were probably cringing on Cleo’s behalf. “I do too,” she said, feeling silly as she avoided it as well. “But I need you to understand that this is a huge part of my life. And that isn’t going to change until it’s fixed.”

“I know,” Edie said quickly. “I understand that, Cleo, I really do.”

She wanted to beg, she realized. She wanted to beg them to not just understand, but to really accept it. To come home after the tour and just be with her again.

Edie yawned yet again. “Sorry,” they said.

“Go get some sleep,” Cleo said, standing up and brushing off her jeans. “I’ll see you soon?”

“Yeah,” they answered softly. “I’ll let you know when I know my flight information. Good night.”

They hung up and Cleo looked into the woods for a brief moment, then glanced up at the building, where warm lights were still on in the front door. Then she got in the car to go back to her dark, empty apartment.




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