Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame

  “Boston bartender at your service,” he says in a thick accent. He even offers me the smallest of bows.

  “Vodka and Coke,” I murmur.

  I hear Emily say something from the living room, and when I glance over my shoulder I find her talking to Tyler. His eyes are trained on her as they head over to the bedroom doors, and just before Emily disappears into Snake’s room and Tyler disappears into his, they laugh at something.

  I shift my eyes back to Snake. “Make it a double.”

  Everyone’s here by nine. The girls from apartment 1201 are the first to arrive and they’re not as wild as I expected them to be. They’re slightly apprehensive and I think it might be because Emily and I are here. They do introduce themselves, though, after five minutes. Natalie is the tallest of the three, with silky black hair that reaches her hips, and then there’s Zoe, who wears huge round-framed glasses that totally suit her. Ashley is the shortest of the three and definitely the loudest of them all. The first thing she asks Snake is if there are going to be body shots later.

  Two guys turn up from an apartment three floors below, and it takes me a good hour before I finally figure out what their names are. The blond is Brendon. The auburn is Alex. Tyler talks to them more than he talks to the girls from apartment 1201, so I eventually decide that I like them both.

  Emily ends up inviting a friend of hers last-minute, and so some quiet girl named Skye appears at the door by herself, and I quickly realize that I’m glad she’s here. She keeps Emily occupied, which in my eyes means keeping her away from Tyler.

  The last to arrive is Zoe’s boyfriend, some guy with blue hair who’s already wasted before he even steps foot over the threshold.

  I’m in no position to pass judgment, however, as I’m way over the tipsy borderline. I think as the night is going on Snake seems to be making my drinks a lot stronger than I’m requesting, but I’m too busy watching Tyler to argue about it, so I drink them anyway. It’s most likely the reason why, only an hour into the party, I’m already dancing with the 1201 girls. There’s a lot of jumping and some occasional screams, and I’m not quite sure what kind of dancing I’ve been thrown into, but with the lights dimmed I feel relaxed, like no one can even see me. I’m so relaxed that I keep on drinking, keep on asking Snake for more, keep on tossing empty cups onto the worktops. I might be used to all of this by now, given Rachael’s guidance over the past couple years, but when it comes to my body handling such excessive consumption there’s still no improvement. I’m as much a lightweight as she is.

  It’s after eleven when my head starts to pound. I try to convince myself that it’s the excessive music volume causing it, but I know I’m lying to myself, so I take a timeout. I drop down on the coach, slump against the back of it, and close my eyes for ten minutes. I think in retrospect it’s quite possibly the worst thing I can do, for when I stand again, everything hits me at once. I immediately topple to one side and the only thing that stops me from falling straight into the TV is Emily’s friend Skye, who grabs me, steadies me, and rolls her eyes at me. I find it worrying how distorted my vision seems to have gotten, because even quiet Skye looks odd as I stare back at her.

  “Are you okay?” she asks. She looks as sober as a stick in comparison.

  “Yeah! Yeah!” I know I’m not, but I don’t particularly want to talk to her, so I draw her into a brief hug for some unknown reason before swiveling around rather shakily and stalking off.

  I spot Tyler in the kitchen, mixing drinks. He seems to have taken over Snake’s mixed role of bartender/DJ for a minute, so I decide to join him. He doesn’t look too drunk, if at all, and he’s biting his lip as he studies the drink he’s making.

  “Hey,” I say. It could be slurred, but I’m not quite sure. Messily, I clear a spot on the worktop and push myself up. It’s a lot harder than usual, like my wrists are broken, but I finally get up after a moment of struggling. Once I’m perched, I cross one leg over the other and gently swing my feet. “Hey,” I say again.

  “I think you should stop drinking now,” he murmurs, but he doesn’t even glance up. He reaches for an almost-empty bottle of vodka and tips the remainder of it into the drink. I’m not sure if it’s for him or someone else, but he definitely seems more interested in it than he is in me.

  “Tyler,” I say. Again, possibly slurred, possibly unintelligible. My blurred gaze is resting on the side of his face. I like the way his stubble perfectly traces his jaw, shaved and smoothed just right, and the way the white shirt he’s wearing fits tightly against his body. I try to flutter my eyelashes at him, but he’s not even looking at me, so I do the only thing I can do. I slowly slide my body a few inches along the worktop until my legs are touching his waist. That’s when he stops focusing on the drink.

  I see him swallow as he moves his eyes to my thighs. I rub my leg against his hip and I find myself pursing my lips as a rather guilty expression crosses his face. He swallows again and glances up. “What are you doing?”

  “What am I doing?” I echo. Smiling as seductively as I possibly can right now, I raise my eyebrows innocently, as though I’m unaware of just what exactly I’m playing at. All the vodka seems to have boosted my confidence. Like, a lot. I have so much confidence that I’m hardly taking into consideration the fact that we’re in the middle of his apartment, in the middle of the party, in the middle of people.

  “Eden.” Tyler says my name firmly, with a slight edge to his voice, as though he’s holding back from losing his temper. He takes a step to the left, away from me, breaking our touch. Quickly stealing a glance over his shoulder, he checks to ensure no one has seen. “Not here.”

  “But Tyler,” I whisper. Throwing an arm over his shoulders, I reach forward with my free hand and steal the drink from him. If I were sober, there’s no way I’d drink it, given the fact that the color looks slightly off and I have no idea what’s in it, but I’m past that point. I press the cup to my lips and tilt it back, taking a long sip as I stare at Tyler over the rim. There’s definitely some vodka, maybe some rum. Cranberry juice? Whatever it is, it tastes alright, and when Tyler attempts to grab it from me, I press a hand to his chest and push him back. “No, no.”

  “Eden, you’re drunk.” Tyler frowns at me for a long while. I’m not sure if he’s disappointed or pissed off, but I’m assuming it’s the latter, because he closes his eyes for a moment while he exhales.

  It gives me the perfect opportunity to lean in and kiss him, so that’s exactly what I do. I loop my arms around his neck and press my lips to the stubble right on the edge of his jaw, but it doesn’t last long. He pulls away immediately and fixes me with a sharp glare.

  “Eden,” he hisses, “I’m being totally fucking serious right now when I’m telling you to cut it out.”

  I slide off the worktop and land a little awkwardly, but once I regain my balance I close the distance between us once more. He tries to step away from me, but he only ends up hitting his back against the door to the laundry room. I can see him panicking, his eyes flitting around the apartment through the low lighting as he tries to figure out if anyone is watching us, but I’m so drunk and so fuzzy and so desperate for him that I don’t think I care if anyone is.

  “Eden,” he tries once more. His harsh tone has softened and his voice becomes a whisper. It’s difficult to hear over the sound of the music. “Start thinking straight. Do you wanna get caught? Because that’s what’s gonna happen if you don’t drop this.”

  Perhaps I’d be more concerned if I were in a state to take in what he’s saying, but right now his words just don’t sink in. Right now, I’m nothing but desperate. I’m desperate to kiss him, I’m desperate to be with him, I’m desperate to finally make all of this work, and I desperately, desperately need him.

  Tyler presses his lips into a firm line and reaches for my wrist, turning around and pushing open the laundry room door. He not so gently pulls me into the small room and slams the door behind us, but it’s barely audible over the sound of the p
arty. He stands in front of me for a second or two while I watch him, waiting. For a moment, I think he might just turn and walk out, but he doesn’t. Instead, he starts to edge closer to me. He’s breathing deeply, his eyes narrowed, and he only stops moving once our bodies are touching again.

  “Why are you making it so hard for me to resist?” he whispers, right before he crashes his lips into mine, his hands grasping my jaw as he pushes me back against the dryer.

  He kisses me a lot differently from the way he did on Monday, back on the hood of his car. That was slow, deep. This isn’t slow. It’s fast, and eager. More fueled by some sort of sexual adrenaline as he runs his hands down my body, all over my little black dress. My knees weaken, and I’m pretty sure it’s a mixture of both the exhilaration of his lips and the alcohol. He can probably taste it on my tongue, just like I can taste the beer on his, and I eagerly kiss him back as hard and as best as I possibly can in my drunken state. My hands numbly find their way to his belt, but I’ve barely even attempted to undo it when Tyler pauses. His hands immediately latch on to mine, moving them away and pinning my wrists to the dryer behind me. I stand there, my lips parted as my breath rushes back to me, and Tyler stares at me in disbelief.

  “But Derek Jeter got that home run,” I pant in defense. I may be drunk, but I’m still perfectly aware of the deal we made.

  With his hands still pinning my wrists down, he moves his lips to my neck, trailing soft kisses from my jaw straight down to my collarbone. It makes me shiver and I want nothing more than to run my fingers through his hair, but when I make an attempt to move my hands, he only tightens his grip on them even more. I can feel him breathing against my skin as he leaves one final lingering kiss right below my ear. “But, Eden,” he murmurs, his voice raspy, “no one gets a home run at the start of the game.”


  As I attempt to peel my eyes open the very next morning, I stretch out my stiff arms. I grab the leg of the coffee table, and only then do I get my bearings, realizing that I’m sprawled across the floor. The living room carpet feels sticky with spilled drinks, and as I finally force my eyes open fully, the room becomes clearer. There’s a faint stream of sunlight illuminating the apartment, but it’s neither bright nor amber enough to pass as dawn. It could be any time of the day. It could be the middle of the afternoon. Who knows? I don’t even know how or when the party ended. The only thing I can remember is kissing Tyler in the laundry room. After that . . . Nothing. Blank.

  From the corner of my eye, I catch sight of my heels a few feet away from me. I don’t remember taking them off. The apartment reeks of booze and cigarettes, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so gross. Awkwardly and slightly shamefully, I push myself up from the ground, where I clearly must have collapsed into a drunken slumber at whatever hour in the morning. I’m on my feet for barely a split second when a sudden shooting pain fires its way up the left side of my head, and I breathe as deeply as I can in a poor attempt to make it stop. It does little to help. In fact, it seems to only make it worse. The shooting pain develops into a heavier, throbbing kind of pain. I rub at my temples as I scan the apartment, but it’s just littered with crap. Half-empty bottles of beer and crushed plastic cups and shot glasses are scattered over the kitchen worktops, and when I glance around the living room I’m slightly relieved to discover that I’m not the only one here. There are two others.

  Snake’s on one couch, his blond hair ruffled, and he’s on his stomach with his face pressed into the black cushions. He’s snoring quietly and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be stirring anytime soon, so I reach for his arm, which is dangling over the edge of the couch, and place it back next to him.

  Opposite him, one of the guys from the apartment three floors down is spread out upside down across the other couch. It’s the auburn-haired one, Alex. His jaw is hanging open so wide that I think it might just have become unhinged.

  I rub at my temples in a second attempt at soothing away my headache as I head to the kitchen, my eyes set on the coffee machine and nothing else. I could go with a cup or five. Part of me even considers waking up Snake and Alex to offer them coffee, but just as I’m debating this with myself, I drift past the mirror on the living room wall.

  I pause. I edge back in front of it. I part my lips, horrified.

  My dress is no longer modest. It seems to have crept its way up my thighs a lot more than it should have and I’m just thankful no one is awake yet to witness it. I adjust the dress as quickly as possible and can do nothing but sigh at my appearance. The makeup that I slaved over hasn’t survived the night. My eyes are completely smudged, and smears of black and silver seem to decorate my face. My mascara feels clumped and my eyes look swollen, sort of like they’re bloodshot, and half my hair has fallen out of my updo. There are strands flying around all over the place, and once again, I sigh. Sigh, sigh, sigh. Why did I drink so much?

  I know the answer. It’s obvious. It was because of Tyler. It was because of Tyler and Emily and the fact that it took them over an hour to buy limes from a damn convenience store. Why did they end up talking? I don’t know what they talked about. I don’t know where they went. All I know is that I didn’t want to think about it, and Snake was manning the alcohol supply, which suddenly appeared much more appealing at that point. Last night, drinking a lot didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Now? I see it was the worst idea.

  I feel so groggy and my stomach feels unsettled, and as I turn away from the mirror a new thought occurs to me that doesn’t revolve around coffee. Right now, I realize I can’t see Tyler. He usually sleeps on the couch that Alex is sprawled across. My eyes immediately flicker over to his bedroom door. It’s closed and I can’t blame him for reclaiming his bed for the night, given that I’d passed out on the floor and definitely didn’t need it. I can’t help but wonder if he tried to help me up or if he decided to just leave me here. Maybe he fell asleep before I did. Maybe he didn’t even notice I was down here. Either way, my body now feels stiff after spending the night on the floor.

  Tyler’s usually awake before me, but not today, so I decide to reverse the roles for once. Today I’ll wake him up. Today I’ll bring him coffee.

  I weave my way back through the couches, past Snake and Alex, and I reach for the handle of Tyler’s door. There’s a soft clicking noise as I open it, and softly I swing the door open. The room is in complete darkness, with only the sunlight from the living room allowing me to actually see anything, and it’s extremely warm and stuffy.

  “Tyler?” My voice is quiet, gentle. I squint down at the bed as my swollen eyes adjust to the lighting. I can make out his outline. He’s not moving. “Tyler,” I say again, a little louder. “Wake up.”

  He shifts slightly, rolling gently onto his other side, now facing me. He buries his face into the pillows and murmurs, “What time is it?”

  “I have no idea,” I say. I keep my voice quiet. “Coffee?” Without thinking, I flick on the lights, and it’s so bright that Tyler immediately groans and pulls the sheets over his head.

  “Damn, Eden,” he mutters.

  “Crap. Sorry.” I’m just about to switch the lights back off, but then I hear a faint, breathy “Mmm,” and I pause. I must have imagined it. It’s far too high for Tyler’s voice.

  The sheets move. But Tyler’s not moving. My eyebrows shoot up, and as I’m gradually piecing together the obvious, my hungover mind processing at an extremely slow rate, Emily pushes herself up from beneath the sheets. Her eyes meet mine and suddenly she seems wide awake. We both freeze. I’m not sure why I’m so surprised at finding her here, next to Tyler, staring back at me wearing nothing but a black lace bra. She gasps and grabs the sheets, hugging them to her body and glancing sideways at Tyler. He’s shot upright too.

  My entire body seems numb, and all I can do is shake my head as I take a step back to the door. I knew it.

  “Eden,” Tyler says. He pushes the sheets away from him and gets to his feet. He’s still wearing his jeans, but they’re dropp
ed low and several inches of his black boxers are on display, the elastic tight against his V-lines. If this were under any other circumstances, I’d be staring and my eyes would most probably be glazed over. But right now, I’m too hurt to care.

  “Just don’t,” I whisper. I push him away from me as he approaches and I spin around quickly and storm out of the room. I sense him behind me, which does nothing but make me angry. Halting in the middle of the living room, I swivel back around and fire my eyes at him, furious. “Just friends?”

  “You’re getting this all wrong,” he says. Placing his hands on my shoulders, he looks at me hard. His eyes are wide.

  “No, Tyler.” I try to shrug off his grip, but he refuses to let go. “I knew it. I knew there was something more and now I feel stupid for believing you when you told me there wasn’t.” My voice cracks and I can’t figure out if I’m disappointed or if I’m mad or if I’m both. I think it’s both. I’m disappointed that there’s another girl and I’m mad that he lied about it. “What did you guys really do yesterday? Hook up in your car?”

  “Eden,” he says, jaw tightening. He takes a deep breath and narrows his eyes down at me. “We. Are. Just. Friends.” He exhales while finally letting go of my shoulders. “We just fell asleep. It’s nothing.”

  Part of me could laugh. Does he really think I’m that gullible? That stupid? I take another step away from him. “And she ended up half naked?” My tone is contemptuous and my voice is seething with venom, and if I wasn’t so livid then maybe I’d cry. “Real nice, Tyler.”

  “It was hot as hell, alright?” he snaps, eyes fierce for the first time in forever. He’s been doing pretty good lately when it comes to keeping his temper in check. Until now.

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