Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame


  “Don’t you wanna leave the door open so that I can get a good view?”

  I turn back around and narrow my eyes at him. I’m not sure we share a similar sense of humor, but I’m sure I’ll get used to him eventually. “Definitely not.” I knee the door shut and lock it.

  It doesn’t take me long to get ready, mostly because I don’t wash my hair, and once I’ve freshened up and washed off my makeup, it’s really only a matter of pulling on my clothes. I leave my hair down and step into my pink skater skirt, slipping a denim jacket on top of a white tank top. I’ve consumed almost the entire bottle of beer in the time that it takes to get ready, so I take the remainder with me as I carry my belongings back through to Tyler’s room. He’s spraying cologne when I enter. The Bentley one.

  “Did Snake give you that?” he asks, nodding to the bottle in my hand. For a second, I think he’s about to frown, but he keeps his expression neutral.

  “Yeah.” I place the beer on top of the bedside table and throw my clothes into my suitcase, not bothering to fold them. I’ll sort it all out later, but right now, all I need is my makeup bag, which I pull out from beneath a pile of sandals. I glance around the room quickly in search of a mirror and spy a small one above the chest of drawers that Tyler is standing by. “Can I get in there for a sec?”

  “Sure,” he says. Stepping to the side, he allows me to position myself in front of the mirror, watching me as I do so. “Did you do something different to your hair?” he asks after a moment.

  “My hair?” I lift my head and look back at him in the mirror. “Just some highlights.” He only gives me a single nod back, so I drop my eyes back to my makeup bag as I rummage through it. I don’t want to keep Tyler waiting, so I only apply mascara to make my eyes pop a little more.

  I don’t know what it is about the two of us, but suddenly it feels awkward. It wasn’t awkward at the airport and it wasn’t awkward on the ride to Manhattan, but now something feels different. I’m starting to worry that perhaps it was my inappropriate suggestion earlier that’s made Tyler feel uncomfortable. The suggestion about sleeping together. Or maybe it’s just awkward because he no longer cares about me in that way, the way that he shouldn’t.

  “Ready,” I say quietly, forcing a smile on my face as I spin around. I didn’t notice it when I was looking at him in the mirror, but he’s wearing his brown boots, which only makes me sigh. I wonder if he knows how much I love it when he wears them.

  “What?” he asks.

  “Nothing.” I bite my lip in an effort to stop me from blushing and quickly grab my Converse from the floor, slipping them on and standing upright. “Let’s go.”

  I follow him back into the living room, and Snake is by the refrigerator again, fetching himself another beer, which I think could possibly be his third. He tells me to enjoy Times Square, despite the fact that the whole thing is just “overrated bullshit,” in his words, and then Tyler finally guides me out of the apartment building.

  It’s still extremely hot when we get outside onto Seventy-fourth Street, and I can hear that buzz of noise again. There are still a lot of cars honking, but I quite like it. It’s almost relaxing, in a weird sort of way. Tyler doesn’t say anything as I follow him across the street, and then I linger by the passenger door of his car. The truck and the Honda haven’t moved.

  “We’re not driving there,” Tyler informs me, laughing as though I should have known we wouldn’t be taking his car. He stares at me from a few feet away, smiling, which gives me some hope that the awkwardness in his room was only temporary. “We’re taking the subway.”

  “The subway?” I vaguely remember Mom telling me not to go on it, yet I’ve only been in New York for three hours and it looks like I’ll be breaking that rule already. Besides, I’ve always secretly wanted to use it at least once in my life, just for the experience.

  “Yeah, we’re catching the 6 train at Seventy-seventh Street,” he says. I don’t think he realizes that I have no idea what he’s talking about. “We’re heading downtown to Grand Central. You know what Grand Central Station is, right?”

  “The really famous station?” I match my pace with his as I follow close by his side, though I’m paying more attention to my surroundings than I am to him.

  “Yeah, that,” he says. “We’ll get you a MetroCard.”

  “A what?”

  He looks at me as he attempts to bite back another laugh. “God, you really are a tourist.”

  We make a right onto Lexington Avenue, where the buildings seem dingier. They’re all a murky brown or red, and there’s the same amount of traffic as there is on Third Avenue, but it still manages to seem busier. We reach the station in five minutes, but I’m confused by which entrance to take, given there are eight of them: two on each corner. I turn to Tyler. “Why are there so many stairs?”

  “These four are for uptown trains,” he explains, pointing to the four entrances on the east side of the street. He then nods at the entrances on the opposite side. “Those four are for downtown trains, which is where we’re going.”

  When there’s a clearing in the traffic we almost jog across the street, and then Tyler nudges me toward the subway stairs. Looking down, it resembles nothing more than a crack den. I have a feeling that once we’re a couple flights down the daylight from outside won’t suffice, and the electric lighting seems minimal. I’ve watched enough horror movies to know that I’m more likely to die down there.

  Pedestrians are nudging past us as they exit and enter the station, but I’m still apprehensive. Tyler’s arms are folded across his chest and he’s studying me.

  “Do you do this a lot?” I ask.

  “Pretty much every day,” he says. “Trust me, it’s safe.”

  I still don’t move. I’d rather walk to Times Square, however many blocks away it is. I stare at Tyler’s jaw. “Aren’t there buses or something we can take instead?”

  He rolls his eyes, turning up the sleeves of his denim shirt before he reaches for my hand. It’s so out of nowhere that I think my body stops functioning, even when Tyler starts yanking me down the stairs. “Little kids go on the subway, Eden, so I’m taking you on it. End of discussion,” he calls over his shoulder.

  I don’t even reply. I can’t reply. It feels like I’m in middle school all over again and my eighth-grade crush has just held my hand for the first time. It’s such a simple gesture, but it feels so significant. His skin is warm and our fingers interlock and fit each other almost perfectly. It feels exactly like the way I remember it, and it also feels like I can’t breathe, and I can’t tell if it’s because he’s touching me or if it’s because I’m underground. I try to convince myself that it’s the latter.

  “See, it’s not that bad, right?” Tyler’s voice echoes in my ear, and his hand quickly disappears from mine. My senses come rushing back and I glance around, wondering how many flights of stairs he’s pulled me down and also wondering why there’s lighting down here, until my eyes finally settle back on his.

  “Right,” I say, but my voice is almost a whisper. I’m such a kid. All he did was guide me down to a subway station. I glance down at his hands, which are now stuffed inside the front pockets of his pants, and he’s looking at me with a curious glint in his eyes. “So what’s a MetroCard?”

  “The thing that’s gonna let you get through those.” He nods behind me to a row of turnstiles and it only occurs to me right then how loud everything is. I can hear a train arriving in the distance and it almost feels as though the ground is shaking, but it’s not. I think I can also hear a busker out on the platforms somewhere. “Over here.”

  There are some machines lining a wall and I follow Tyler over to them, close behind, partly because I don’t feel safe and partly because I’m hoping he’ll grab my hand again. He doesn’t.

  “Are you still freaking out?” he asks. He steals a glance at me from the corner of his eye as he taps at the screen, selecting options so fast that I struggle to keep up with what he’s doing.
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  “It’s making me feel a little claustrophobic,” I admit. My eyes drift around the station. I’m not sure how far down we are, but it feels like we’re trapped in the middle of nowhere, yet nobody else seems to have a care in the world. They’re definitely not tourists.

  “You’ll get used to it in a few days. You’ll get used to New York as a whole by the end of the week.” Taking out his wallet, he pulls out his credit card and slides it into the bottom of the machine, typing in his PIN and removing the card again. A yellow and black card shoots out from a slot higher up. “Unlimited for a month,” he says, handing the card to me. “You’re good to go.”

  I squint at it for a moment as he slides his credit card back into his wallet and takes out his own MetroCard. “How much did you pay for this?”

  “Why does it matter?” He looks at me hard. Almost like he’s offended that I’m asking.

  “Because now I owe you.”

  He lets out a laugh in the middle of the station and rolls his eyes at me, twice. “Get outta here. You don’t owe me anything. I’m under strict orders to look after you.” Throwing his arm over my shoulder, he pulls me against him and squeezes my body before pushing me away. It’s only playful, but his touch still exhilarates me for a few seconds.

  And once the sensation fades away, I can focus on his words. “Under strict orders from who?”

  “C’mon, there’s a train about to come in.” Completely ignoring my question, he places his hand on my shoulder blade and directs me over to the turnstiles, and I have to slide my MetroCard through the slot before forcing my body through the bars.

  Tyler follows right behind me. The subway station, on a whole, isn’t as busy as I expected it to be. We’re two of around fifteen people standing on the platform, but it’s most likely due to the fact that by now it’s 7:45PM. Rush hour is long over.

  “Here it comes,” Tyler says, and he has to raise his voice in order for me to hear him clearly over the sound of the train as it approaches. The ground is definitely shaking now. I can feel it vibrating beneath me as the noise drills in my ears, and when the battered train pulls to a stop by the edge of the platform I’m scrunching my nose up.

  Tyler pushes me onto the middle car of the train the second the doors slide open. There are several people seated and a few hovering by the doors. Tyler remains standing, so I shoot him a puzzled look.

  “We’re getting off in three minutes,” he says. “Literally.”

  “Where at?” The car is awfully silent, so I keep my voice quiet in fear of disrupting the peace of the people around us. “Grand Central?”

  “Yeah. And then we get the shuttle to Forty-second.” He’s holding on to a railing and I’m holding on to the one opposite, and we’re both staring at each other. The corner of his lips pulls up into the smallest of smirks. “So, dinner first?”

  5

  My eyes glaze over the moment we step out onto Forty-second Street. In fact, I think they do everything they possibly can: glisten, squint, widen, stare. There’s so much to take in, and as Tyler places his hands on my shoulders and guides me around the corner onto Broadway, the first thing I notice is how bright and vibrant everything seems. It may still be light out, but it all still looks incredible. At first, I’m not too sure what to do or say. I’m stunned into silence as my eyes drift from left to right and back again. It seems not all movies set in New York are misleading, because the sight before me is an exact replica of all those scenes set in Times Square that I’ve seen so many times before. And that’s exactly what this all feels like: some sort of incredible movie, like none of this is actually real.

  The huge neon illuminated advertisements are flickering around me and it makes me wonder how you can come here if you have epilepsy. There are people everywhere. It’s mesmerizing, and I don’t even care that I totally look like a tourist right now. I’ve been drunk on the image of Times Square for so long that I can barely contain myself now that I’m actually here.

  For a second I must forget the fact that Tyler’s still standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders, because I pull out my phone and immediately start taking pictures. They’re not the best, my hands so shaky that half of them are blurry, but I’ll send them to Mom and Dean later nonetheless. I snap some shots of the LED billboards, some of the bustling crowds, some of the sky, which only seems cool because it’s the New York sky. Everything seems cooler over here.

  Even the yellow cabs fit my perception of Times Square perfectly. They’re skimming past each other dangerously, screeching to halts as the drivers slam on their brakes for potential passengers. The traffic lights are shifting between colors, pedestrians rushing to cross over to the other side of the road. There’s a strange smell in the air, like a mixture of hot dogs and peanuts.

  Times Square.

  It’s real. It’s actually real.

  With a grin on my face so wide that it’s beginning to hurt, I spin around and pull Tyler toward me, ensuring the neon lights are behind us. I bury my body into his warmth and hold my phone up. I’m much smaller than him; my eyes are in line with his mouth. He tilts his head down, resting the side of his face against my own.

  “Smile,” I breathe, and as I do, I take the picture. The flash dazzles us for a few moments, but when my eyes return to normal, I glance down to admire the image.

  Tyler’s smile matches mine. It’s just as wide, if not wider, and there’s something so attractive about it that I could turn around and kiss him right now if I was brave enough to even attempt something like that. I think being here in New York with him has made me go insane already, and it’s only been three hours. Three hours and already everything is coming back, ten times worse. If I thought I was attracted to him before, then I’m completely addicted to him now.

  “I like that picture,” Tyler says quietly, and I feel my eyes being drawn to his. He’s been staring at the photo from over my shoulder, at the way we both look happy. His eyes are still sparkling.

  “I like it too,” I say, swallowing the lump that’s growing in my throat. I wish he didn’t have this effect on me. I wish it had worn off over the past year, but it hasn’t. I glance back down to look at my phone, which is about to die any second, and quickly I set the image as my wallpaper. It replaces a photo of Dean. I almost feel guilty, like I’ve betrayed him, but before I can actually think through what I’m doing, Tyler is talking again.

  “I’m taking you to Pietrasanta. It’s an Italian restaurant over on Ninth Avenue.”

  “Italian?” Of all the restaurants Tyler could have chosen, he chooses the one that’s most likely to remind me of Dean. I bite the inside of my mouth.

  “You love Italian food, don’t you?” He suddenly looks worried, but the truth is, suddenly I am too. And it’s not because of his restaurant choice. “You told me a few months ago, right?”

  “Yeah, I do.” Every Wednesday I have dinner over at Dean’s place, and his mom makes the best Italian dishes. Dean thinks his mom’s tradition is just embarrassing, but I think it’s cute. Her food tastes amazing. I told Tyler this a while ago, and the fact that he took note of it is the reason my frown is turning back into a smile. “Italian food sounds great right now.”

  “I’ve, uh, actually had a table booked for a couple weeks now.” He rubs nervously at the back of his neck and I don’t think I remember him ever being this shy before. It almost feels like he’s taking me on a date, which I kind of wish he was. “It’s for 8PM, so we gotta get moving. You don’t care about seeing the stores tonight, right?”

  “Tyler, c’mon.” I shake my head. He knows I’m not the biggest fan of shopping, and some bright lights and flashing signs aren’t enough to make me enthusiastic about it. “You know me better than that.”

  He’s not joking back with me, though; he’s only shrugging and staring anxiously at the ground. “Sorry, I’m just . . . I just want you to enjoy New York. I want to make sure you have a good time.”

  “You’re doing good so far,” I tell him gently
, but I’m confused. He seemed completely confident and comfortable around me right until we got back to the apartment. Since then, everything has felt different, and it’s because Tyler’s acting weird around me. “You’re, like, my tour guide for the summer.”

  “Yeah, I guess you could say that.” He rubs his temple. And then his eyebrow. And then he sighs. “The restaurant is five blocks north.”

  And so we head northbound on Broadway, with Tyler stepping proudly into his role of being my personal tour guide, pointing out each detail and briefing me on some common knowledge about Times Square. For starters, I shouldn’t stop dead in my tracks to gawk and take pictures, which is exactly what I just did, because the locals apparently get frustrated with us tourists blocking the way. Also, on the off chance that I end up in Times Square without Tyler, looking at a map is the worst thing I can possibly do. But I doubt I’ll be going anywhere without him, so I don’t have to worry about making the pickpockets aware that I’m a clueless tourist.

  We make a left off Broadway and onto Fifty-seventh Street after passing the famous red bleachers atop the TKTS booth, which I do stop to take a picture of, but Tyler doesn’t let me block the way for long before moving me on.

  It takes us fifteen minutes to get to Pietrasanta. It’s right on the corner of Fifty-seventh and Ninth, with wooden doors that have been opened up to allow for an open-air setting. It looks adorable, and by the time Tyler leads me over to the door he’s got a sheepish smile on his lips.

  “I, uh, asked around my building for recommendations,” he admits, “and a lot of people said this place is the best Italian restaurant around. I hope it lives up to the hype for you.”

  “I’ll bet it’s great,” I say feebly, trying to reassure him. I can’t figure out why he seems to have put so much effort into this. It’s just a simple meal, yet it’s as though he’s trying to make everything perfect. He shouldn’t care this much. He doesn’t need to impress me. I’m just his stepsister.

 
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