Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame

  Tyler laughs as he picks up the box again. That positive vibe is back, and it’s giving me no choice but to smile, despite how much of a mess my head is. “As for these,” he says, “put them on.”

  Delicately, I reach into the box and pull out the sneakers. They’re bright and fresh, and I slowly untangle the laces and then slip them on. They fit perfectly. I study them until Tyler catches my attention once more.

  “Just one more thing,” he says, his voice suddenly filled with enthusiasm. He reaches into the back pocket of his jeans, fumbling around for a second before pulling out a black Sharpie. He pops the lid. “No objections.”

  I chew at the inside of my cheek, mostly to stop myself from screaming, and I pull my feet up onto the wall. At first I think he’s about to add some lyrics to recreate my old pair. He studies the new Converse closely, and he finally decides on a spot along the rubber. He concentrates on what he’s writing, and when he’s done, he takes a step back and watches me, waiting to see my reaction.

  However, when I glance down, it’s not lyrics that I see. It’s three words, scrawled messily in his handwriting. Three words, and they’re in Spanish: No te rindas.

  Before I can even open my mouth, Tyler’s already answering the question that’s on my lips.

  “It means ‘Don’t give up’,” he says quietly, toying with the pen in his hand. “When it comes to you, it’s simple: As long as you don’t give up, I won’t either.”

  “I don’t know what to say,” I admit. I can’t meet his eyes, so I keep staring at the words instead. Don’t give up. What does that even mean, exactly? He wants to give us another shot? He wants me to choose him?

  “You don’t have to say anything,” he says. His voice is firm. “You just have to think about it.”

  Think about it? Does he really think I’ll be doing anything else? Thinking about all of this is the only thing I can do. My entire summer is most likely going to be spent overthinking Tyler and Dean. In the end, I’m going to have to choose one of them.

  “It’s getting late,” Tyler murmurs. “You should probably head back. I’m gonna stay up here for a little bit. Snake’s probably passed out by now, so here.” As he shoves the Sharpie back into his pocket he switches it for his keys, and he promptly tosses them to me without warning. Thankfully, I catch them before they fly over the edge of the building.

  I analyze his expression, but it’s nonchalant. He just stares out over the city once again, his eyes avoiding mine. I’m not sure why he’s choosing to stay up here alone in the dark, but the more I consider it, the more I realize it’s most likely because he wants space away from me.

  Stressed out, worried, yet happy, I slide off the wall and land softly on my feet. “Thanks for the shoes,” I say.

  “No problem.”

  I linger for a moment or two to see if he’ll say anything else before I head off, but he doesn’t even flinch. His eyes are locked on something in the distance, so I turn and head back inside, looking down at my new Chucks as I walk. The building is quiet, and I silently slip into the elevator and press the button for the twelfth floor, alone with my thoughts. Right now, they suck. I’d rather be asleep, because at least when I’m sleeping I don’t have to think about any of this.

  The elevator door slides open and I trace my way along to Tyler’s apartment, his keys still hooked over my index finger. I fumble with them as I try to fit them into the lock, but Snake clearly hasn’t passed out yet, because the door swings open while I’m still attempting to get it unlocked.

  He runs his blue-gray eyes over me, shaking his head at my pathetic attempt to get into the apartment. “Where’s Tyler?”

  “Roof,” I say bluntly. I’m waiting for him to move to the side to let me in, but so far he doesn’t seem to even notice that I’m still standing out here in the lobby.

  “You look like you could do with another beer,” he says.

  I finally breathe then, exhaling for what feels like the first time in the past half-hour. “You bet I do.”


  I don’t remember when I fell asleep. I don’t even remember how I fell asleep. All I know is that when I wake up I’m wrapped up in Tyler’s comforter and I can hear a voice murmuring my name. Yet I’m too tired to even attempt to open my eyes, so I roll over and bury my face into one of the pillows, groaning. It feels like it’s the middle of the night.

  “Eden,” the voice says again, louder.

  My head feels heavy and I’m starting to wonder how many beers Snake supplied me with last night. I don’t recall Tyler coming back down from the roof, at least while I was still awake. I do, however, remember sharing a cold pizza with Snake in the kitchen. I can’t even remember what kind it was. It could have been margherita or it could have been pepperoni. Either way, I don’t remember it being good.

  “I have coffee,” the voice informs me, and immediately my attention picks up. It sounds like Tyler. “Vanilla latte, extra hot: just the way you like it.”

  I yawn before rolling back over, slowly peeling my eyelids open, forced to squint as the sunlight streams in from the open window. My eyes take a moment to adjust, and when they do, Tyler’s the first thing I see. He’s arching his eyebrows, a gentle smile on his lips. I feel a little hazy, but I still manage to stretch my arm out, flexing my fingers and reaching for the cup in his hand.

  “No way,” Tyler says immediately, drawing the coffee away from me and taking several steps back toward the door. “Not until you get up.”

  I let out another soft groan before pushing back the comforter, forcing my body upright into a seated position. I widen my eyes and offer him a hopeful smile, but he shakes his head, so I roll my eyes and swing my legs out of the bed. I stand.

  “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Grinning, he slips the cup into my hand, and I sigh with satisfaction. It’s burning-hot against my skin. “Nice pajamas.”

  I glance down only to discover that I’m still wearing my skirt and white tank top from last night. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot my jacket curled up in a heap on the floor. “I was tired,” I say.

  “Tired,” Tyler says skeptically. “All those empty beer bottles in the kitchen suggest otherwise.”

  Color rises to my cheeks, so I press the cup of coffee to my lips in hope of blocking half my face. He still notices, though, because he laughs, and I’m surprised he’s not frowning in disapproval at me the way he used to. Maybe he no longer minds. “I only had a couple,” I say after taking a quick sip. It’s only then that I realize it’s a Starbucks cup I’m holding. Not quite the Refinery, my favourite coffee place back home, but it’s good enough to appease my craving. “Why didn’t you come back inside?”

  Tyler shrugs, but he doesn’t answer my question. Instead, he moves around the bed to adjust the curtains, despite the fact that they’re already open. After a moment he turns back around, his eyes smoldering at me from across the room. “I know you really want to check out Central Park. So today, I was thinking, how about it?”

  My face lights up. Central Park is what I’ve been most excited about. “No way! It looks amazing.”

  “It is,” Tyler says. “How does an hour sound?”

  “I’ll be ready.”

  With a final nod of agreement, he spins around and turns to leave, but he comes to an abrupt halt by the door. He looks back to me. “I forgot to tell you: Monday night we’re taking you to the Yankees game.”

  I can’t help but pull a face. Tyler knows I’m not the biggest sports fan around. “A football game?”

  With a slow sigh, he shakes his head. “Baseball, Eden, it’s baseball. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Derek Jeter is finally gonna be playing again. He broke his ankle last fall.”


  “Oh my God.” Tyler stares at me in disbelief, pressing both index fingers to his temples. He parts his lips. “Derek Jeter? You know, the legend?”

  “Who?” I ask again.

  He gapes at me. “Unbelievable.”

  “I don’t even
know how baseball works,” I explain indignantly. I take another sip of my coffee. Still doesn’t beat the Refinery. Never in a million years. “How do you expect me to know who the players are? And since when were you a fan of this Derek Jeter guy? I thought you were a 49ers fan.”

  “I am,” Tyler says, very slowly. “It’s just that the 49ers are a football team, Eden.”

  “What the hell?”

  “Okay, okay, that’s it,” he says. Shaking his head, he fixes me with a playful gaze. “Central Park has ball fields, so we’re gonna play baseball. You are not leaving this city until you love our national sport.” Without waiting for me to object, which he must know I’m planning on doing, he swivels back around and immediately disappears out of the room. Over his shoulder he calls, “One hour!”

  I roll my eyes and push the door shut. I may hate sports, but perhaps it won’t be so bad. Tyler running around, all athletic and sweaty? Sounds good to me.

  Laying my coffee down on the bedside table, I quickly make Tyler’s bed before dropping to the floor to flip open my suitcase. I’ll get around to unpacking eventually, once I figure out where I’m supposed to put everything. I grab an outfit, finish off my coffee and head through the apartment to the bathroom.

  Tyler’s hovering by the sink, pouring himself a glass of water. He watches me as I approach.

  “Where’s Stephen?” I ask. The apartment is quiet, nothing like it was last night. The only sound I can hear is the faucet.

  Tyler nods to the closed door next to his room. “Sleeping. He probably won’t get outta there until the afternoon.” He switches off the faucet and presses the glass of water to his lips.

  “He’s in college, right?”

  “Yeah.” He takes a sip and licks his lips, leaning back against the counter. “Studies computer technology. Networks. Something like that. He graduates next summer.”

  “He doesn’t seem like a college kinda guy,” I murmur. Last night, I vaguely recall him shoveling two whole slices of pizza into his mouth at once with a beer in his other hand. And the longer I think about this, the more I realize he’s exactly like a college student. I’ve got a lot to look forward to. “I’m taking a shower.”

  Tyler nods and steps to the side, allowing me to squeeze past, which I do as gracefully as I can manage. But I still end up nudging his glass of water, spilling a few drops over his shirt. He rolls his eyes and walks away.

  I shower quickly, drying my hair with my towel, and then pull on my denim shorts and a blue vest. With no motivation to haul out my hairdryer from my suitcase, I simply throw my hair up into a damp, messy bun and decide to stay clear of makeup for the day. Rachael wouldn’t approve, but thankfully she’s not here to frown at my lack of effort.

  I grab my things and make my way back through to Tyler’s room. Snake still isn’t awake. Tyler’s watching the weather forecast on TV, so focused on it that he doesn’t even notice me as I pass behind him, disappearing back into his room, which is now mine.

  I ram my stuff back into my suitcase and then pat the pockets of my shorts. Empty. I don’t recall the last time I had my phone. It could have been at Times Square last night, where I remember taking pictures. My eyes scan the room until they land on my jacket, still curled up in the corner. I reach down and check the pockets, breathing a sigh of relief when I pull my phone out. It’s completely dead.

  Right then, I realize I haven’t spoken to Dean since I left. I was supposed to call him when I landed. And before I went to sleep. And when I woke up. In fact, I’m supposed to talk to him throughout the day, every day. That was the deal. Yet I haven’t even sent him a single text.

  “Are you ready?”

  I jump at the sound of Tyler’s voice behind me. I spin around and he’s staring back at me from the door, a baseball bat in one hand, a ball in the other. He tilts the bat up and smiles.

  “Yeah,” I say quickly. It’s only taken me twenty minutes to get ready, not an hour, but there’s no point in waiting around. With the time to spare, I know I could call Dean, but my phone is dead. And I know I could just borrow Tyler’s, but after our conversation last night I don’t think asking Tyler if I can borrow his phone to call my boyfriend is appropriate. It’s kind of like slapping them both in the face at the exact same time.

  God, I’m awful. So, so awful.

  “One sec,” I tell Tyler. I grab my backpack and rummage around inside, sifting through all the crap I’ve thrown into it until finally I yank out my charger. Finding a socket, I plug in my phone to allow it to charge while we’re gone. I’ll call Dean when we get back. Hopefully he won’t be too mad at me.

  “Now?” Tyler asks. He’s leaning against the door frame, and I throw him a quick nod over my shoulder as I slip on my Converse. My new pair. The ones from him. The ones that tell me to not give up.

  “Yep, good to go,” I say. I straighten up and hook my index finger around the loop of my shorts, eyeing the baseball bat challengingly. I might not know how to play, but I know that I want to kick ass. “Are you sure you want to teach me?”

  “Definitely,” Tyler says. He steps back from the door and waits for me to join him in the living room. He reaches for my hand, his skin warm against mine, and slowly he places the baseball onto my palm. He wraps my hand around it, his fingers over mine. “Don’t get your hopes up,” he tells me. “I’m not gonna go easy on you.”

  “I don’t need you to.”

  “Good.” He squeezes my hand, then lets go. He walks over to the door casually, like he hasn’t just touched me again and as though my breathing isn’t hitching. I think he does these things on purpose, like brushing our hands together and grasping my waist. I’ll bet he knows it’s going to drive me crazy. I’ll bet he knows how much I love it. “So, you coming?”

  I look over at him and in that moment I decide that his hair looks slightly longer than I remember. More styled, less tousled. Somehow, I manage not to stare for too long. I grin instead. “Let’s go.”

  Tyler checks the apartment before we leave—he’s even cleared away the empty beer bottles while I’ve been getting ready, it seems—and then we head out to the elevator, leaving a sleeping Stephen behind. We’re joined by a woman and her screaming toddler, so there’s no room for conversation as we suffer through its relentless tantrum for the time it takes to descend twelve floors. I try not to make eye contact, so I stare at Tyler’s boots instead. I’ll bet he’s staring at my Chucks. Neither of us smiles.

  Awkward elevator ride over, we make our way back through the main lobby and over to the main doors, with me close behind Tyler. I can’t move my eyes away from the back of his neck and he holds the door open for me using the baseball bat, earning him some hard looks from passers-by on the sidewalk.

  “You might wanna give me that ball back so that it doesn’t look like I’m about to commit a felony,” he says, laughing. He waits for me to brush past him before letting the doors slap shut again.

  “Hmm,” I say, hesitating on the sidewalk. I tilt my head and narrow my eyes, playfully scrutinizing him. The bat is swinging from his left hand. “Yep, you definitely look like you’re about to beat the hell outta someone. Maybe I’ll just hold onto this ball for a little while longe—”

  Before I can finish teasing him, he nudges his shoulder hard against mine and snatches the ball from my hand, somehow without our hands even touching. “Funny,” he says dryly, but he’s smirking as he tosses the ball up into the air and swiftly catches again. “So,” he says, his voice deeper than it was a second ago, “baseball. Our nation’s favorite sport.”

  He starts to head west along Seventy-fourth Street as I match my pace to his, crossing over Third Avenue and continuing straight along the narrow streets. The city is heaving again with traffic, both vehicles and pedestrians, and it makes me wonder what New York would be like if one day it was ever completely still. It’s impossible to imagine these streets without the cars and the people and the noise. It’s impossible to imagine this city without the buzz.

/>   I weave my way around people as we walk, trying my best not to bump into anyone, though everyone seems determined to nudge shoulders with me. I drop back a little and focus my attention all on Tyler. “Isn’t our favorite sport football?”

  “I’m not even going to answer that question,” Tyler shoots back. He holds up the baseball between his thumb and forefinger, studying it intensely, like he’s never seen one before. “Okay, Eden, here’s the deal. Baseball is simple.”

  “Hit the ball and run?”

  “Yes, but no,” he says. He shakes his head and lets out a sigh. “It’s not that simple.”

  I expect to have to force myself to keep listening as he goes on to tell me the rules, but surprisingly I don’t have to pretend that I’m finding it interesting. The more enthusiastically Tyler talks about baseball, the more I want to play. He informs me that there are nine innings, each played in two halves. There’s no time limit. Each team has nine players. He tells me about the foul lines. The roles of the pitchers, the fielders, the batters. Something about a shortstop. He tells me what a walk is. What a strikeout is. He even tells me that there are three bases before the home plate, despite the fact that I already know this. And eventually, he talks about home runs. He talks about them as though they’re easy.

  And in the time it takes for Tyler to go over all of this, tossing the ball and swinging the bat in sync with his words, we end up on the perimeter of Central Park before I even realize it.

  “Oh my God.” Glancing to my right, the greenery seems to stretch on along Fifth Avenue endlessly. I try my left instead, searching for the end of it all, but it’s the exact same at this side too. We’ve crossed over Fifth Avenue without me even noticing, and as I stand on the sidewalk in front of Central Park, I’m presented with trees. Lots of them. “I knew it was huge, but I didn’t know it was this huge.”

  “I think it’s like two and a half miles north to south. Maybe half a mile east to west.” I shoot him a sideways glance, surprised at his accuracy. “I read that somewhere,” he admits sheepishly, shrugging.

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