Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame

  “It looks better at night,” Tyler says.

  We’re heading northbound along Eighth Avenue, passing hotels and stores and restaurants and, of course, hundreds of tourists. It’s easy to differentiate between the locals and the tourists, mostly because the latter have this fascinated expression playing on their faces and seem to be taking pictures of almost everything. If I weren’t hidden behind Tyler’s tinted windows, I’d blend straight in with them.

  “Crossing Broadway,” Tyler murmurs almost immediately after turning off onto Fifty-seventh Street. “Central Park is two blocks to your left. Carnegie Hall is about to be on your right.”

  “Stop it!” I throw my hands up in exasperation as I try to fire my eyes around, hoping to catch everything at once. I glance to my left, hoping to see a flash of green, but there are still two blocks of leaning buildings in the way, so I focus back on the street we’re crossing over: Broadway. It doesn’t run parallel to the rest of the city streets but rather runs diagonally, which looks pretty cool. But other than that, it looks like every other street we’ve passed, so I shift my eyes to the road ahead and wait for Carnegie Hall to appear, although I’m not even sure what it looks like. I only know what it is: famous and prestigious.

  “There,” Tyler says, and nods to the building on our right as we pass it. I only get to look at it for a few seconds, but it’s enough for me to realize that it pretty much just blends in with everything around it. Maybe if I were into classical music I’d find it more exciting.

  “That’s it?”


  We keep heading east along Fifty-seventh Street, stopping every few minutes at traffic lights. There are so many stores that I’ve never heard of before and soon I’m struggling to remember even half of them. It must take people forever to go shopping in Manhattan.

  We’re stopped at some lights again when I glance to my left and can finally see green: Central Park. Just the edge of it, but it’s enough to get me feeling excited again. The initial rush of being here has worn off over the twenty-five minutes that we’ve been navigating through Manhattan, but it’s coming back again. Central Park is the place I’ve been looking forward to most. It’s supposed to be an amazing place to run.

  “Fifth Avenue,” Tyler informs me. He nudges my arm, noticing that I’m not quite paying attention to the luxury stores that are within meters of us. I couldn’t care less about them.

  I finally avert my eyes from the trees to Tyler. “Is that Central Park?”

  He grins. “Yeah.”

  And then the lights are green again, and we’re off before I can even glance back one last time. The city feels huge and confusing, but Tyler seems to know his way around, and we turn north onto Third Avenue, which makes me think of Third Street and the promenade and Santa Monica. I wonder how Dean’s spending his day off work.

  “We’re almost there, by the way,” Tyler says. “About fifteen blocks. Just look for Seventy-fourth Street.”

  I glance out the window. Sixty-first Street. Ahead, the avenue looks gorgeous. The sky is clear and the buildings are all lit up by the sunlight so most of them look white. And then we come to Seventy-fourth Street, which I don’t even notice until Tyler turns right onto a narrow one-way road. Almost immediately Tyler slows the car and maneuvers it into a spot by the sidewalk between a Honda and a truck, leaving barely a couple of inches between each.

  I lean forward to peer through the windshield and frown. “Aren’t you worried they’ll hit your car when they try to get out?”

  “No, they never move,” Tyler says as he kills the engine. He pulls the keys from the ignition and pulls off his seatbelt, and I follow suit. “Truck belongs to some old guy in the building next door who doesn’t drive anymore and the Civic is some girl’s home. It’s been parked here for as long as I can remember. She comes back every night and sleeps in it.” His expression is neutral, so I can’t figure out if he’s joking or not, and I don’t get the chance to ask because he’s already saying, “C’mon, I’ll grab your stuff.”

  I push open my door and step out, stretching my legs.

  And it’s like: Woah.

  New York.

  I’m standing in New York. Actually standing here on the streets of Manhattan. I glance down. There’s a lot of gum. And some trash. But still. Manhattan.

  “You okay?”

  My eyes snap up from the ground. Tyler’s hauling my suitcase out of the trunk, careful not to hit the Honda Civic with it, and he’s arching an eyebrow at me. I offer him a sheepish smile and reach into the car to grab my backpack before stepping away and swinging the strap over my shoulder. “It’s just that this . . . this is so surreal.”

  I feel like I can hear the busyness now. The sound of engines. Voices. Horns blasting. It feels loud yet somehow not loud at the exact same time. Like a constant buzz of noise that I think I’ll grow accustomed to. Now I understand why New Yorkers talk so loud.

  “I know,” Tyler says. He slams the trunk shut and locks up. “You’ll get used to all of this within a week.” He walks around to meet me on the sidewalk and just when I’m about to ask where his apartment is, he nods at the building across the street. The tallest on the block. Right on the corner. It looks nice from the outside, with off-white bricking and huge brown-framed windows.

  “Yeah, this was definitely your mom’s doing.” Of course Ella chose the nicest-looking apartment building. I wonder what the inside will be like. Tilting back my head, I quickly count the number of floors. Twenty. “Which floor are you?”

  “Twelfth. Apartment 1203.” He’s still smiling at me. I don’t think he’s stopped since the airport. “Wanna head inside?”

  I nod and follow him across the street toward a set of glass doors. He punches a code into the number pad and there’s a sharp beep as the doors unlock. Wheeling my suitcase inside, I stay by his side and study the entrance as he leads me over to an elevator. There’s a collection of mailboxes covering an entire wall, and some vending machines, but mostly it’s bare. The elevator is huge, though. You could probably fit twenty people inside it, but there’s only Tyler and me. He stands at one side and I stand at the other, and it feels like there’s too much space between us, like we should be standing closer. Or perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

  “Snake should be back by now,” he says after a moment. The elevator moves with a soft jolt. “He headed out with some guys from school, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be here.”

  “Do I have to call him that?” I don’t mind nicknames, but his just sounds ridiculous. Who would even want to be called that? “Can I just call him Stephen?”

  “Yeah, sure, if you want him to hate you,” Tyler deadpans. Slowly, he cracks a smile. “After a while, it stops sounding so stupid. Especially when you’re yelling it across the street to him. You learn to ignore the weird looks you get.”

  There’s a ding and the elevator door opens, revealing a lobby that’s painted off-white, presumably to match the exterior bricks. Three doors down, Tyler draws my suitcase to a halt outside apartment 1203.

  “I tidied up this morning for you, but if Snake’s home then I can’t make any promises that it’ll look the way it did when I left,” Tyler admits as he reaches into the back pocket of his jeans and pulls out a set of keys. He looks a little nervous.

  “I don’t mind,” I say. Now I’m smiling again. The thought of Tyler trying to clean up his apartment for my sake makes me feel like perhaps he’s hoping to impress me. But the more I think about it, the more I doubt it.

  There’s a click and Tyler pushes open the door, stepping back to allow me to enter first. The first thing I think is: Yep, Ella.

  I’m standing before an open-plan layout. Beige carpet, red plush couches, glossy black furniture, unbelievably large flat-screen TV mounted onto the wall between two huge windows that look out over the city. To my right there are two doors, which I assume lead to bedrooms, and on my left there’s a kitchen. Everything follows a black, red and white color
scheme. With the open-plan layout, the kitchen and living room are simply divided by one of the kitchen counters, enabling you to stand in the kitchen while staring into the living room. The cupboard doors and worktops are a glossy white. On one side of the kitchen, there’s an open door leading to what seems to be the laundry room. On the opposite end, there’s another door, but it’s closed.

  “Man, is that you?” a voice yells from the other side of it. “ ’Cause something’s wrong with the shower again. Water’s mad cold. Won’t heat up.”

  I arch my eyebrows at the sound of the thick Boston accent. It makes Tyler’s odd mix sound totally normal again in comparison. The bathroom door is pulled open and a tall, blond-haired guy wanders out. He’s pale-skinned and is evidently not paying too much attention, because as he makes his way across the kitchen his hand is inside his sweatpants, fumbling around, adjusting himself. “Do these assholes really think I wanna freeze my balls off—” He cuts off when he notices me. Stops walking. Slowly takes his hand out from his sweats. “Oh, shit.” He fires his eyes at Tyler. “You could’ve warned me or something.”

  Tyler lets out a laugh and glances sideways down at me with a small shrug, almost apologetically. “Eden . . . this is Snake.”

  “Hey,” I say, but I feel slightly awkward, like I’ve just walked into a total man cave. In a way, I feel like I’m kind of intruding. “Nice to, um, meet you.” I can think of nicer ways to meet someone than with their hand on their crotch.

  “Yeah, you too,” he says as he joins us by the door. The first thing I notice is that his eyes are really, really dull. Blue, but so faded that they seem almost gray. He extends his arm and offers his hand, but I shake my head no. He smirks. “Don’t you wanna shake my hand?”

  “Not particularly,” I say.

  Tyler clears his throat and folds his arms across his chest, glancing between Stephen and I as he talks. “Right, first things first: ground rules.”

  “Ground rules?” Stephen—or Snake, whatever—echoes, almost like he’s never heard the phrase before.

  “We’ve got a girl living with us now, so shut the bathroom door when you’re in there,” Tyler explains. “Eden gets the bathroom last in the mornings since she’ll take longer.” I’m about to object to this, but then I see his point: If I’m last, neither of them will be banging on the door telling me to hurry up.

  “Aren’t you just the luckiest girl in the world? Getting to share an apartment with me. How much better can your life get?” Snake looks at me and cocks his head, an eyebrow raised. Tyler just rolls his eyes. “I mean, you’re living with the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.”

  I pull a face. “Are you always so . . . ?”

  “Charming? Yes.” He grins and reaches over to pat my head in a condescending manner—thankfully, not with the earlier, offending hand—and then turns for the couch. “TV’s mine.”

  “Don’t worry,” Tyler murmurs quietly by my ear, “it’s just his humor.”

  I’m not really paying attention to his words, though. I’m paying attention to the fact that I can feel his breath on my skin and I’m trying my best not to react to it. I bite my lip to stop myself from shivering and numbly reach over to touch my suitcase. “Um, where will I, uh, put my stuff?”

  “My room,” he says. He grabs my suitcase out from beneath my grip and drags it across the carpet to the first of the doors on the right of the apartment. Kneeing the door open, he lets me in first again and then places my suitcase down by the king-sized bed. It isn’t as cluttered as his room back home used to be. The beige carpet continues into the room and his comforter is red, bedside drawers black. The walls are covered in NFL and MLB posters.

  “Since when were you all that interested in baseball?” I ask.

  “Since I moved to New York,” he says with a slight grin. He nods to the bed. “You can have my room. I’ll take the couch.”

  “Why don’t we just bunk?” Oh my God. The words slip out of my mouth so fast I barely realize I’ve said them until I see Tyler’s smile fade. He rubs at the back of his neck and shrugs. Sharing a bed is totally not a sensible suggestion.

  “I think I’ll just stick to the couch, Eden.” He tries to smile gently at me, but it looks a little forced, and suddenly the atmosphere feels so suffocating that it’s making me want to open up the window and climb out. I know the suggestion was stupid, but Tyler still rejected it, which means he totally is over me.

  I force myself to act casual, to make it look like I am actually breathing. “Yeah, that was a dumb idea. Do you mind if I take a nap? I’m really tired.” I glance at my watch. It’s 6:30 by now, and although it’s only 3:30 back home, my body still feels exhausted all of a sudden. The early-morning flight was a bad move.

  “Yeah, sure, go ahead,” he says, taking a step back toward the door, like he’s getting ready to make his escape from his insane stepsister who’s trying to drag him into bed with her. “Do you wanna cancel Times Square tonight? We could go tomorrow instead.”

  “No, no,” I say quickly, a little too eagerly. “I still want to go to Times Square. Just give me an hour to sleep and then we can go.”

  “Just an hour?” Tyler looks at me suspiciously. If there’s anything he’s learned about me over the two years that he’s known me, it’s the fact that I will sleep endlessly. I think he doubts that I’ll be able to wake up again once I doze off.

  “An hour,” I confirm. “Wake me up if you have to.”

  I hope Times Square can wait.


  I flex my hands as I roll onto my side, grasping the sheets in search of my phone. The bed is too warm and I’m sticking to the sheets. I groan as I push back the comforter and sit up, not quite sure what time it is. Sunlight is still streaming into the room and the sound of the TV echoes faintly through Tyler’s bedroom door. I slide my body out of the bed and push open the door only to discover Tyler and Snake slumped on the couch, watching some football game.

  I clear my throat to catch Tyler’s attention. He immediately cranes his neck to look at me, his face lighting up. Snake, however, doesn’t even bat an eyelid. He only curses at the TV and takes a swig of the beer in his hand.

  “How long was I asleep for?” I ask, my voice quiet and slightly raspy.

  Tyler gets to his feet and makes his way over to me, which only makes my heart race yet again. I’m hoping that by tomorrow I’ll be able to concentrate better and won’t have palpitations every time he looks at me, speaks to me, or comes anywhere near me. “Twenty minutes,” he tells me.

  I squint at him. Twenty minutes? There’s no way. But when I glance at my watch, I realize he’s right. It’s not even 7PM yet. “Oh. Are we still going to Times Square?”

  “Yeah. I’m taking you to dinner, so I hope you’re hungry.” His smile falls for a moment and he arches a brow, perhaps waiting for me to object.

  “Yeah, I’m hungry,” I say. With the early flight and the traveling and the time difference, I have somehow managed to get to 7PM without having a single thing to eat all day. Unless my coffee this morning at the airport counts.

  Back comes Tyler’s smile. “Say a half-hour?”

  “Yeah, I’ll be ready.” Snake’s still not paying any attention to us, and my eyes drift past him and over to the bathroom door. I nod toward it. “Can I?”

  “You don’t have to ask, Eden,” Tyler tells me with a laugh. “This place is all yours. Go ahead.”

  At that exact moment, we both turn for his bedroom. His clothes are in his closet and my clothes are in my suitcase on the floor, so I smile sideways at him as we both enter the room.

  “Since this is your room and all now, it looks like you gotta get used to me coming in to grab stuff,” he jokes while pulling open the door to his closet. “I’ll knock first; don’t worry.”

  I roll my eyes and haul my suitcase up from the floor, struggling to lift it before finally throwing it onto the bed. I’m not particularly sure what to wear, so as I’m unzipping my case I watch Tyler out of th
e corner of my eye to see if the clothes he’s choosing are casual or smart. After a few minutes of shuffling clothes around in his closet and rummaging through his chest of drawers, he lays a pair of tan pants and a button-up dark-blue denim shirt onto the bed.

  “You’re taking the bathroom, right?”

  “Um.” I quickly drop my eyes back to my suitcase and swallow, feeling his eyes on me. “Yeah.” He’s standing by the window, waiting for me to leave so that he can change his outfit, so I sift through my pile of clothes as fast as I can so as not to keep him waiting. I grab some options and then make my way out of the room. “I’ll be quick. I’m gonna shower.”

  “Towels are on the second shelf in the cabinet,” he calls.

  When I close the door behind me and enter the living room, Snake’s no longer sprawled across the couch, though the football game is still playing. I make my way toward the kitchen and suddenly a head appears from behind the refrigerator. Snake holds up a bottle. “Do you want a beer?”

  “A beer?” I repeat. His Boston accent isn’t the clearest.

  “Yeah, a beer. Do you or don’t you?”

  “Sure,” I say. I extend my hand and wait, but I’m half expecting him to retract his offer. However, he yanks a bottle of Corona out of the pack and slides it into my hand. It’s my first night in New York City, so a celebratory beer won’t do any harm.

  “Wait, let me get that for you.” Grabbing the bottle opener from the counter, he spins back around and pops the cap off my drink. He fetches his own bottle from the counter and takes a sip. “I didn’t take you as a beer kinda girl.”

  “And I didn’t take you as a guy with much hospitality,” I shoot back, but we’re just playing. “Thanks for the drink.”

  He clinks his bottle against mine as though to say, “You’re welcome,” and then takes another swig as I make my way into the bathroom, my clothes in one hand and the beer in the other.

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