Nothing More by Anna Todd


  She also mentioned more than a few times that they should make more affordable products. I agreed.

  When I get to the call screen, I realize I don’t know the number to Grind by heart. I usually rely on the number already in my phone. I can barely remember the days before smartphones took over the world. I did have an old Nokia when I was twelve that my mom made me bring with me everywhere I went, just in case something happened. I used to kill the battery playing Snake all day.

  Man, I feel old.

  What the heck would we do without technology? I’m ashamed of my reliance on it, but at the same time I cringe at the thought of having to find a phone book and search for the number to my work.

  Man, we humans are spoiled.

  Scratch that, we Americans are spoiled. There are many, many places in the world where people have never even seen an iPhone, and here I am pondering my existence without Apple products.

  I have it pretty damn easy.

  I google the number for Grind, and when I call the line goes straight to busy.

  What the hell?

  I don’t even have Posey’s number. Again, technology as hindrance.

  I used to have all my friends’ phone numbers memorized. It helped that I only had two friends, and they lived in the same house, but still.

  “I’m just going to hurry and get dressed and run there,” I explain in a rush.

  I set Tessa’s phone on the coffee table and walk to my room.

  My toes still hurt.

  If I leave now, I can get there in less than fifteen minutes. I could be halfway there already if I’d just gotten dressed instead of trying to call them. I glance at the phone on my bed. I also could have used my phone by now if I’d left it on the charger.

  You win some, you lose some.

  I rush around my room and throw on dark jeans and a plain gray T-shirt. I hurry to the bathroom and brush my teeth. I take a piss and wash my hands. Without even looking in the mirror, I shut the light off and go back into the living room. The feeling is coming back to my toes, and I’m glad, since I’ll have to practically run there. I’m sure I look like complete hell, but once I get to work, I’ll run my fingers through my hair, or something.

  My shoes . . . where are my shoes? I scan my floor and look inside my closet.

  Living room. They must be by the door.

  Where they belong. I hear Tessa’s voice in my head and laugh to myself.

  I’m at the door, pushing my feet into my sneakers, in less than five minutes since I tried to call Grind. I grab my keys and yank the door open to find someone standing in front of me.

  Nora.

  With a trash bag in one arm and a box at her feet.

  Her eyes widen when she sees me and I look down at the box. There’s a book, a picture frame, and some random stuff that’s unidentifiable and buried.

  “Hi.” Nora’s lips shape the word and she stares at me with what looks like hesitation.

  “Hi,” I respond, trying to piece together what she’s doing here.

  With her stuff.

  “Are you okay?” I ask her, and she nods.

  Suddenly her eyes well up with tears and I watch her clench her free hand into a tight fist. She takes a deep breath, and just like that, she straightens her back and holds her tears at bay.

  “Can I come in?” Her voice is low, defeated, but she’s putting on a good front.

  I bend down, grab the box, and hold it in one arm. I reach out my hand for her to give me the trash bag and she does.

  Her eyes are hard. She’s a fighter. I can see it in her eyes.

  Her bag is heavy and I set it down on the living room floor next to my grandma’s table. I lay the box down and wave for Nora to come inside. She steps in slowly and Tessa sits up on the couch.

  I look at her phone on the table.

  Shit.

  I look at Nora apologetically. “I have to go to work. I’m really late.”

  She nods and smiles at me, but it’s the smallest smile I’ve ever seen.

  The self-promises I made to protect her last night surge back up in my chest. I never want her to look this way, to feel this way.

  Tessa stands up and assesses the situation. I can’t stay around for the explanation, even though it’s going to drive me crazy to not know what’s going on.

  What happened?

  Why is Nora here with her belongings?

  Was it something with Dakota?

  My stomach twists at the possibility.

  When I leave, will she tell Tessa that we kissed, again?

  I wish I could stay, but I can’t. Too many people are counting on me, and I’ve already messed up big-time this morning.

  I rush down the hallway and take the stairs. I don’t have time to wait for the world’s smallest elevator to get to my floor.

  chapter

  Twenty-nine

  WHEN I PUSH THROUGH THE doors at Grind, the place is packed.

  Oh no.

  A long line is snaked around the shop, from the pastry display case to the pickup area. Women and men dressed in casual business clothing are scattered around the room, chattering and sipping on caffeine. As I scan the line, I notice a few irritated faces toward the back. I immediately walk through the crowd and go behind the counter. I don’t even bother to grab an apron. Aiden is taking orders, his fingers quickly navigating the familiar register and his usually pale face bright red. His neck, too. Sweat has soaked through the back of his shirt.

  Well, shit. He’s not going to be very happy with me.

  As I step up behind him, he hands a black-haired woman in a red pantsuit her change. For her part, the woman is clearly irritated, her hands moving around angrily in the space between them, trying to communicate her frustration, I guess.

  “Hey, I’m here. Sorry, man. My phone died and my alarm—”

  “Save it.” Aiden glares at me. “Just help me get this line down,” he says quietly.

  I wish I could call on Hermione to turn him into a ferret.

  Still, I nod, sort of understanding his frustration. This line is no joke and sometimes people are just crappy.

  Draco—I mean, Aiden—shouts an order at me. “Macchiato. Extra foam!”

  I grab a small cup and get to work. As I steam the milk, I look back at Aiden. He’s filthy: black coffee grounds stain the front of his shirt, and he has a wet spot on his chest. It would be much more amusing if it wasn’t my fault. If I’d arrived on time, we still would have been busy and overwhelmed, but it would have been much easier to handle with two people.

  As I pour the frothed milk over the dark espresso, Aiden gives me another order. We continue like this until the line shrinks down to three people. Aiden is calmer now, back to smiling and being friendly with customers. This is good news for me.

  It’s helping keep my mind off of Nora showing up at my apartment, and the fact that I’m an idiot for not bringing my phone to text Tessa to make sure everything’s all right. I could have found power for it somewhere.

  Every table is still full and there are at least twenty people standing up, coffee in hand. I notice that they’re all wearing lanyards and assume that it’s the usual electronics conference that happens every couple months nearby. It’s a much bigger crowd than we usually get at one time, but it’s good for business. That’s another cool thing about New York City; there’s always something going on.

  I start to refill the canisters of beans and wipe down the grinders while Aiden tackles the condiment station, refilling the creamers and restocking the seven different types of sugar we offer. Before I moved to the city, I’d never seen a lump of sugar pressed into the shape of a cube, like on Bugs Bunny. I honestly thought that was just cartoon shorthand.

  Back in Saginaw, every once in a while, I would hear a customer ordering a nonfat something or other, but that was about as complicated as it got in small-town Michigan. Dakota and I would sit in the local coffeehouse for hours. We would switch tables when we got tired of the view. We’d get
a sugar high and walk home, holding hands and dreaming under the stars.

  My mind moves down that familiar memory lane and I remember when Dakota and I got into a fight in Starbucks. I remember that her hair smelled like coconut and her new lip gloss was sticky. I chased her down the street and she sprinted, reminding me that she could run faster than anyone I knew. The track coach at our high school knew it, too—not that Dakota was interested in sports. She would humor me and watch the meets with me and ask a million questions every time a whistle blew.

  She wanted to dance. She always knew it. I envied her that certainty. Dakota ran and ran farther away from the Starbucks, and I chased her, as I always did.

  She turned a corner down an alleyway, and I lost her. I felt like I couldn’t breathe until I found her. It was too dark for her to be running through that part of town. I found her a few minutes later, right outside the Patch. She was sitting on the ground next to a half-torn-down fence, the black of the woods behind her.

  The chain-link fence had huge holes in it and it was dark outside, and after a minute I could finally breathe again. Dakota was picking at the gray rocks and tossing them into a pothole in the street. I remember how relieved I felt when I saw her. She was wearing a yellow shirt with a smiley face on it and glittery sandals. She was mad at me because I thought it was a bad idea to try to track down her mom.

  Yolanda Hunter had been gone for too many years. I felt that if she wanted to be found, she wouldn’t be hiding.

  Dakota was angry, telling me that I didn’t understand what it was like to have no parents. Her mom ran away, leaving her children with a drunk father who liked to smack his son around.

  When I caught up to Dakota, she was crying, and it took her a few seconds to look at me. It’s so strange the way my mind remembers the exact details of that night. I had started to get worried about her. Sometimes, I would think she was going to disappear, like her mom.

  “There’s no proof that she wouldn’t let me live with her,” she told me that night.

  “And there’s no proof that she would. I just want you to consider how you’ll feel if she doesn’t say what you want her to, or if she doesn’t say anything at all,” I said to her as I sat down next to her on the crunchy gravel.

  “I’ll be fine. It couldn’t possibly be worse than not knowing,” she said.

  I remember grabbing her hand and that she laid her head on my shoulder. We sat in silence, both of our heads tilted up toward the sky. The stars were so bright that night.

  Sometimes, like that night, we wondered why the stars even bothered to shine over our town.

  “I think it’s to torture us. To mock those of us who are stuck in bad places and living crappy lives,” Dakota would say.

  I’d say something like “No, I think they’re here to give us hope. Hope that there’s more out there. Stars aren’t evil like humans.”

  She would look at me and squeeze my hand, and I would promise her that someday, somehow, we would get the hell out of Saginaw.

  She seemed to trust me.

  “Sorry it took so long!” I recognize Posey’s voice through the cloud of memories in my head. She’s talking to Aiden. A woman in a black dress holds up a sign and tells everyone it’s time to go. As the crowd spills out of the shop, I listen to the exchange between Posey and Aiden.

  He lifts his shirt up to wipe his sweaty face as she talks to him. “It’s all right. Landon finally showed up.”

  Posey’s head turns and she finds me, wiping a rag across the metal counter.

  Not eavesdropping at all.

  “I’m so sorry!” Posey says, walking toward me. Her hands are behind her back and she’s tying her apron. Her red hair is up today, pulled back into a bun.

  “I could have sworn we switched shifts today, I must have forgotten to ask you,” she explains.

  I shake the rag over the trash can before soaking it in the soap bucket. “No. We did switch. I was just out of it last night and let my phone die. Sorry you had to come all the way down here.”

  She looks toward Aiden and I follow her eyes. He’s not looking at either of us; he’s talking to a customer about decaf coffee being despicable and pointless.

  “It’s like alcohol-free beer. Waste of time,” the middle-aged man Aiden’s talking to says in a raspy voice. He looks like he’s had a few beers today himself.

  “I kind of need the hours, anyway,” Posey whispers to me, and nods toward the table against the back wall, closest to the short hall that leads to the restroom. Her little sister, Lila, is sitting there patiently, with her chin on the table. “I brought backup.”

  She reaches into her pocket and pulls out three little cars. Hot Wheels, maybe?

  “She likes her cars.” I smile at the little girl, but she doesn’t notice.

  Posey nods. “Oh yes she does.”

  “You’re sure you want to stay? I can. I don’t have anything to do,” I offer.

  The terribly selfish part of me wants her to stay so I can go see how Nora’s doing, but I would never admit this out loud.

  “Nope. I’m good, honestly. I only needed the two hours this morning for my grandma’s doctor appointment. She’s not doing very well.” Posey looks to her sister and I can spot a hint of fear.

  As a college student working at a coffee shop, it would be nearly impossible for Posey to raise her little sister on her wages alone. I don’t know too many of the details of her family life, but I assume that her parents aren’t going to magically return.

  “I can take Lila with me for a few hours. I’m just going back to my apartment. She can come there, or we can go to the park across the street.”

  I wouldn’t mind watching her for a little while so Posey can work the last two hours of her shift.

  And this means that I can go back to my apartment.

  I’m a terrible person.

  Posey’s eyes return to her sister every few seconds. She looks after her so well, even when she’s working behind the counter. The little girl is still sitting with her chin resting adorably on the table.

  “Are you sure? You don’t have to.”

  “I know,” I respond. “But I’d like to help.”

  Man, I’m going to hell for pushing this.

  Posey looks at her sister again and seems to consider the little girl’s boredom. “Okay. But take her to your apartment. It’s hot today and we were already out all morning.” She laughs. “It’s too early for her to be worn out.”

  “Got it. I’ll clean up these tables before I go.”

  “Thanks, Landon.” Posey smiles at me. Her freckles are extra noticeable today. It’s cute.

  “No prob, Bob.”

  I grab the dish bucket and she lifts the divider in the cash wrap and waves me by.

  The tables are dirtier than I’ve ever seen them. I have to change towels three times to wipe up the spills and rings of coffee.

  At least the crowd is gone. Only one customer is left, a young hipster typing away on his little gold MacBook. He seems content.

  When I’m ready to go, Lila is still in the same seat. Her chin is no longer resting on the table. Instead, she’s zooming a little purple car along its surface, making sound effects and all.

  “Hey, Lila. Remember me?” I ask her.

  Her little round face looks up at me and she nods.

  “Cool. Do you want to hang out with me while your sister works? We can go to my house for a little bit? I have a friend who would love to meet you.” I bend down to her level and she looks back at her car.

  “Yes.” Her voice is soft but clear.

  Posey says my name and I tell Lila that I’ll be right back to get her.

  When I stand in front of Posey, she has a serious expression on her face.

  “You know how to be around kids, right? She’s so young and I trust you, otherwise there’s no way I would ever leave her alone with you, but do you know how to handle kids? What to do if she’s hungry? Or if she falls and scrapes her knee?” Posey’s voice i
s low and she sounds like a mom. “You have to hold her hand when you walk outside. At all times. And she only eats fries and peanut butter crackers.”

  I nod. “Fries and peanut-butter crackers at all times. Hold hand. Don’t let her fall down. She’s too young to write my essays for me. Got it.” I grin at her and she sighs, smiling at me.

  “You’re sure?” she asks again.

  “Positive.”

  “Call me if you need anything,” she says.

  I nod and promise her over and over that everything will be fine. I don’t tell her that my phone is at my apartment, but I’m going straight there, and telling her that I won’t be reachable until I’m home will only make her more panicky, if that’s possible.

  Posey explains to Lila that she’s going to work for a little bit, then come to my house and pick her up. Lila doesn’t seem to mind one bit.

  When I say goodbye to Aiden, I notice a deep purple mark on the side of his neck, just above the collar of his shirt. My stomach turns a little, and I try not to picture the type of women he brings home.

  During the walk to my apartment, Lila holds my hand and points to and names every bus, van, and ambulance as they pass. Any car with lights on it qualifies as an ambulance in her book.

  The walk is quick and she’s chatty, though it’s hard to make out some of her words. As I look around, it seems like there are a ton of women out and about today. Either that, or women really do pay more attention to men with kids. I’ve gotten more smiles and more hi’s in the last twenty minutes than I have since I moved here. Weird. It’s like in that movie with the dog, where Owen Wilson’s friend uses his puppy to get attention from women.

  Probably best I don’t compare kids to puppies, though.

  When we reach my building, I let Lila press the button on the elevator and I count the seconds as it climbs to my floor. I really hope Nora is still here.

  The TV is on when we walk through the door. Tessa is still on the couch, her hair pulled on top of her head. She still looks tired when sits up to greet our guest. She’s sitting alone, I notice immediately.

 
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