Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame


  I tilt my head back a little to look up at him, and I almost knock my forehead against his chin as he smiles down at me, eyes sparkling and all. “So about Emily,” he says. He moves his head forward and to begin with I think he might be attempting to kiss me, but he doesn’t. He hugs me tight, his face lingering just above my left shoulder. “You’ve got nothing to be worried about,” he whispers slowly, his breath hot against my cheek, “because, baby, I’m all yours.”

  11

  It rains until Saturday. Relentless and annoying, it hardly ceases for three days straight. Sometimes it stops for an hour or so, and just when we believe the sun might return, it starts again. It alternates between light drizzle and heavy showers.

  And so for three days, we watch the Harry Potter movies. Every single movie, all eight of them, twice. It’s Snake’s suggestion, of course, and it’s all because Emily and her British accent decided to walk through the door. Eventually I did muster up the courage to apologize to her for being so rude, so there’s no longer any tension between the two of us. It’s quite nice lounging around inside, all four of us wrapped in blankets, surrounded by pizza boxes and beer bottles. Again, Snake’s suggestion. None of us has the energy to suggest anything else, and quite frankly we’re all content with the lifestyle we seem to suddenly be living. By night two we run out of beer, and by day three we start ordering Chinese takeout instead of pizza. Tyler isn’t too impressed with the food choice and by this point I’m starting to feel guilty for eating so much crap, so we leave the Chinese food for Snake and Emily. When it’s nearing midnight on the third day, we’re on to the eighth movie for the second time, and I’m unable to keep my eyes open.

  I end up falling asleep on the couch that night, my head resting on Tyler’s shoulder, a huge blanket wrapped around us. Through half-closed eyes, I try to focus on Snake and Emily in the darkness, lit up only by the glow from the TV. They’re on the couch opposite us, both already fast asleep. Snake’s mouth is open, his head tilted back against the couch, and Emily’s sprawled out across his body, her face buried into his chest. If I listen really closely, I can hear one of them quietly snoring.

  “Are you still awake?” Tyler whispers, his voice raspy.

  “Yeah,” I murmur. My eyes are shut, though, and I pull the blanket a little closer around us, despite how warm we already are. We’ve been lying in the same spot for hours.

  “You can head to bed if you want,” he says, voice still quiet. “You don’t have to stay here.”

  Half asleep, I still manage to slowly smile in the darkness. I angle my body into his, pressing a hand to his chest and burying my face into his shoulder. Against his shirt, I whisper, “I want to stay here.”

  And so I fall asleep to the feeling of Tyler’s chest rising beneath me, to his soft breathing warming my cheek. I fall asleep as he plays with my hair, as he rests his chin on my forehead. I fall asleep in the arms of the person I’m in love with, with the sound of the rain gently pattering against the windows. Ultimately, I fall asleep that night without the smile ever fading from my lips.

  It’s early Saturday morning when I finally stir. I awake feeling far too warm, craving water, and, oddly enough, finding myself squinting at the sunlight that’s streaming in through the windows. It takes me a moment to absorb the fact that there’s finally some sun, and it takes me even longer to realize that the apartment is dead silent for the first time in days. Silent, because there’s no rain. No hammering on the windows, no pitter-patter of raindrops.

  Rubbing at my eyes, I yawn and push away the blanket, which is close to suffocating me. The heat is almost unbearable, and I toss the blanket as far across the room as I can. It lands next to Snake and Emily’s couch, but they’re too deep in slumber to notice. The TV has shut itself off and I can still smell the Chinese food from last night. Carefully, I lift my head, my neck stiff, and steal a glance to my left. I’m hoping to see Tyler still fast asleep, because the few times I’ve seen him sleeping, he’s looked adorable. But he’s not there. He’s not next to me. All I’m faced with is the indentation my body has left in the leather of the couch.

  I’m suddenly wide awake. I get to my feet immediately as my eyes flit around the apartment. They finally settle on the clock over on the kitchen wall by the refrigerator. It’s almost 8AM.

  I start to wonder if perhaps Tyler moved through to his room during the night, perhaps too uncomfortable on the couch and craving a comfy mattress, but just as I’m thinking about checking his room, the bathroom door creaks open.

  Tyler wanders out into the kitchen, nothing but a towel around his hips. It’s while he’s running a hand back through his damp hair that he notices my stare. Instantly he freezes and a flash of panic crosses his face, but then it disappears just as quickly.

  “I didn’t know you were awake,” he says. Nervously, his eyes glance everywhere but me, and he turns to throw open the refrigerator.

  “I didn’t know you were either,” I murmur, but I’m not entirely focused on my words. Instead, my attention is all on Tyler’s body as he rummages around inside the refrigerator for something. My throat feels dry as I slowly run my eyes over him.

  It’s so obvious now that he’s been working out a lot, because there’s certainly been a huge progression from what I can remember. Everything is so much more defined. Like his arms, which are bulky but not too massive, and his abs, which are tight and visible. I even find myself wondering if he ever had V-lines before. They really stand out, unbelievably sharp, drawing my eyes straight to the edge of the towel around his waist. Suddenly feeling guilty, I gulp and try my best to look away, but it takes a lot of effort. By now I think my cheeks are tinted with red.

  “Thank God the rain has stopped,” I splutter.

  “Yeah,” Tyler says. He shuts the refrigerator door, a protein shake now in his hand. “If I had to watch all the Harry Potter movies again for the third time I think I’d go insane, so I was thinking that we can finally head out today. You’ve barely seen half of Manhattan yet.”

  “I’ll go anywhere,” I say. “I just need to get outside. I might even go for a run. You know, around the reservoir in Central Park.”

  Tyler looks doubtful and I can’t figure out why he’s looking at me the way he is, but then he rubs the back of his neck and shrugs. “Your mom said she’d kill me if I let you loose in the city on your own.”

  “I’m eighteen, Tyler,” I remind him, sighing. I’m not surprised, though. My mom’s always been overprotective, even more so now than she was before. “It’s only a couple blocks away. She’ll never know.”

  He laughs and rolls his eyes at me. “Just be back before lunch.” Playfully, he nudges his bare body against my shoulder as he passes, and my body tingles. Any day now, I won’t be able to stop myself from kissing him.

  It’s even more tempting when we both end up in his room: me to fetch my running gear, and him to get dressed. I grab my stuff as fast as I can and awkwardly scramble out of the room before I can suffer from anymore inappropriate thoughts, and I dart into the bathroom. I’m ready to go within five minutes, and once I’ve filled a bottle of water at the faucet, I set off, promising Tyler that I’ll definitely return.

  It’s so nice to be able to step foot outside, feeling the fresh air against my face rather than the stuffy heat of the living room that we’ve grown accustomed to over the past few days. The city feels packed to the boundaries, more so than usual, and the sidewalks are heaving to the point where I can’t walk two feet without being brushed against or barged into. It feels great to hear the noise of the city again and I find myself breaking out into a jog before I’ve even reached Central Park, weaving my way swiftly through the flow of people. I manage to pick up a map from a stall by the entrance to the park opposite Seventy-sixth Street and so I easily trace a route to the running loop around the reservoir.

  It’s busy when I get there, with people running and sprinting and jogging and speed-walking, and I slip onto the pathway and get going. I’m onl
y planning on completing one full circuit, but it feels so relaxing and so amazing that I end up circling the full track two more times, racking up four and a half miles. It’s the first time I’ve run since I’ve been in New York and I’m now entirely convinced that Central Park is one of the most beautiful places to run through. There’s something so refreshing about being surrounded by the greenery and the water, something new and beautiful rather than the sight of the Santa Monica pier every morning. I’m getting bored of seeing the beach. I like seeing the trees instead.

  In less than an hour, I’m already on my way back to the apartment, safe and alive. The heat doesn’t help the fact that I’m sweating from the run, and by the time I reach the apartment I’m dying for a cold shower. However, it doesn’t stop me from taking the stairs, just to finish off. I jog up all twelve flights of them and I’m most definitely out of breath when I knock rapidly on the door to Tyler’s apartment.

  Unfortunately, Emily opens it, her eyes running over my panting body. “Are you okay?”

  “I’m fine,” I say. I might look like I’m dying, but I’m not. I’ve just worked hard and I love the feeling of satisfaction that comes from that, even if it does involve the pain of having my chest contract and my legs stiffen.

  “We’re leaving in an hour,” Emily tells me as I walk past her into the apartment, my hands on my hips as I bring my breathing under control. I shoot her a sideways glance as she shuts the door. “We’re going to walk south to Union Square and back, so I hope you’re not too worn out.”

  “How far is that?”

  She shrugs and walks further into the room. “Maybe three miles? Just guessing.”

  “It’s over fifty blocks,” Tyler says from behind me, and when I spin around he’s walking over to us while adjusting his flannel shirt, rolling the sleeves up to just below his elbows. “We’ll head straight down Fifth Avenue.”

  When he talked earlier about heading out today, I hadn’t assumed our plans would include Emily and most likely Snake, too. I was thinking more along the lines of hanging out just the two of us again, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case at all. But perhaps the four of us spending the day together won’t be that bad, so I smile and say, “Sounds cool. I’m gonna shower.”

  By just after 10AM all four of us are dressed and ready to go. Snake’s not that enthusiastic about the three-mile walk, but he comes along anyway. We head four blocks west onto Fifth Avenue with the sun beating down on us and I think it might be the hottest day since I’ve been here. Admittedly, I haven’t visited Fifth Avenue that much with Tyler. It’s fascinating to walk down, but there’s no way I’d ever step foot in the stores. The price tags are way too high. It reminds me of Santa Monica Place but ten times bigger and more luxurious, with stores like Gucci and Cartier and Rolex and Versace and Louis Vuitton and Prada all on one street. It’s obvious why it’s one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world.

  It’s not all flashy stores, though. We pass the New York Public Library and the Saturday Night Live exhibition and then, finally, the Empire State Building, which I haven’t seen until now. It’s absolutely huge, towering over every other surrounding building, and it looks beautiful even from the outside. Tyler, Snake and Emily don’t complain when I spend a few minutes admiring the iconic landmark, snapping pictures next to all the other tourists before finally I’m whisked away. We come to Madison Square Park next and cross over, passing by the Flatiron Building. The architecture is amazing, and it looks so odd and incredible and, again, so iconic that I stop. I know Tyler, Snake and Emily have seen all of this before, but for me, it’s another reminder that I’m here in New York City. I snap some photos here, too, before we head back on our way. We continue down Broadway until, finally, an hour and a half after leaving the apartment, we reach Union Square.

  It’s a gorgeous park, full of both locals and tourists. There’s a farmers’ market selling fresh organic produce and there are a couple of street performers, but mostly it just feels peaceful, like a breath of fresh air compared to how crazy the rest of the city is. We manage to find ourselves a free bench along one of the pathways and I immediately drop down onto it, my legs aching. By the time we get back to the apartment, I’ll have covered over ten miles between this and my run. My legs feel like they’re burning.

  “Starbucks is on the corner,” Tyler says. “We’ll be back in a sec. Eden, latte?”

  “Make it iced,” I murmur, pressing the back of my hand to my forehead, feeling the heat. I wipe away a bead of sweat from my brow.

  “No problem,” Tyler says. He turns to Emily. “Strawberries and crème frap with a shot of vanilla?”

  “You know it,” she says, grinning. As Tyler and Snake head off, Emily sits down next to me and I can’t help but feel irritated that Tyler remembers her order. “How lush is this weather?”

  “Yeah, it’s great,” I say. I pull my bare legs up onto the bench, crossing them and leaning back despite how scorching-hot the wood is. “Hotter than Santa Monica, that’s for sure.”

  “Really?”

  “Yeah. We get the ocean breeze over there.” I’m not looking at her as I talk, mostly because I’m focused on the people walking by us. I think parks like these are the best places to people-watch. The diversity of people here is really cool and, again, I find myself wondering what they’re doing and why they’re here and who they’re with. I’m far too curious for my own good.

  “I’ve always wanted to see California,” Emily tells me with a sigh. “Tyler says I need to visit it one day.”

  Now my gaze finally shifts over to her. “Tyler said that?” He told her to visit? Why would he tell her that?

  “Yeah, he said I’d love it over there,” she says, voice overflowing with enthusiasm. “I’ve never been off the East Coast, but it’s too late to head west now. London is calling my name.”

  I press my lips together. If London is waiting for her, then why is she still sticking around in New York? Why is she living in Tyler’s apartment?

  “You think you’ll ever come back here? To the States?”

  “I hope so,” she admits, smiling. “A year isn’t long enough. I’m on the lookout for opportunities that’ll get me back over. I might apply for some of those summer camps.”

  “Oh, that’s cool.” I turn away from her again and study the park, my eyes resting on a squirrel that’s darting between trees not too far ahead.

  “Tyler says I should just move over here permanently.”

  I grit my teeth. I think if she mentions Tyler’s name one more time, I’ll combust. Why is he even telling her to move here in the first place?

  “You really wanna do that? Isn’t the UK cool enough?”

  “I suppose,” she says with a shrug. “It’s just that there are so many more possibilities over here and you guys have so much spirit.” She sounds almost sad as she talks, like the thought of going back home doesn’t particularly make her happy. Maybe her life here is better. Maybe her life back there isn’t the greatest, and the more I dwell on this thought, the more I realize this is most likely the case. Just like Tyler, she has suffered from abuse, and perhaps being over here allows her to escape from what has happened in her past, the same way it’s allowing Tyler to. “I’ll miss everyone too much if I never come back.”

  The squirrel disappears and I have no choice but to look back to Emily again. I decide just to go for it. I decide to just blurt out, “Would you miss Tyler?”

  “Obviously,” she says immediately with a small laugh. “He’s such a great guy. We toured together and he helped me out a lot. I wish I had a brother like him.”

  “No, you don’t,” I murmur under my breath, sighing hopelessly. She wishes she had a brother like Tyler? Does she have any idea how difficult it is? Does she realize how easy it is to end up falling for him?

  Thankfully, I spot Tyler and Snake in the distance and their approach cuts my conversation with Emily short, but I don’t mind. I was growing sick of hearing her talk about T
yler anyway.

  “Here you go, Eden with the runner legs,” Snake says as he passes my iced latte into my hand. I arch an eyebrow at his words, but he’s already diverted his attention away from me as he sits down on the other side of Emily.

  Tyler’s handing her the frappuccino, smiling down at her as he does, and I quickly get to my feet.

  “Tyler, can I talk to you for a sec?” I say before he has the chance to sit down, fixing him with a hard look.

  “Sure,” he says, looking back at me a little unsurely. I think he can tell by the tone of my voice that I’m not exactly overjoyed.

  Leaving Snake and Emily behind on the bench, I head around the pathway, walking far enough to be out of their view. Tyler drifts along behind me, drinking whatever drink he has.

  “So I was talking to Emily,” I start slowly, turning around to face him. I squeeze the cup in my hand. “She says you keep telling her to move here and to visit California. Why?”

  “Because California’s great and she loves it here,” Tyler answers instantly, his tone unsure. I think he’s confused as to what I’m getting at. “What’s the big deal?”

  I furrow my eyebrows at him. “So it’s definitely not because you want her to come and visit you?”

  I can see Tyler’s eyes widening as he realizes what my problem is, his mouth curving into a small smile as he laughs. He takes a step forward and shakes his head down at me. “C’mon, Eden. Not again.” He purses his lips. “Why is it so hard for you to understand that you’re the one I’m into and no one else?”

  I’m still convinced that there’s something going on, but for now I just sigh while I gaze at his lips, the ones I haven’t touched in a year. “How come you haven’t kissed me yet since I’ve been here?”

  My question takes him by surprise and it’s enough to make his smile fade and for his eyes to narrow. “Because I can’t bring myself to yet,” he murmurs, slowly and softly, his voice suddenly solemn. His emerald eyes flash up to meet mine and his lips quirk into a sad smile. “You’re still Dean’s.”

 
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