Nothing More by Anna Todd

  The repairman cocks his head to the side like he’s listening to a daytime drama. He could at least be subtle about it. Then again, if I fixed appliances all day, I would want some comic relief or some kind of entertainment. Like adding a little splash of color to a black-and-white painting.

  “I didn’t know either! Well, I know she knew your name,” Tessa says, being as literal as ever.

  “I don’t know. I’m just as confused as you.”

  Something is off in the way Tessa is looking at me, like she’s trying to hide her disappointment. I’m not sure what to make of this. My guess is because she misses Hardin, but I’m probably wrong. I haven’t got a clue what to think about any of this.

  Instead of indulging in gossip that may or may not be worth it, I tighten the drawstring on my sweats and head toward the door.

  “We aren’t done here, Landon Gibson!” Tessa shouts after me.

  And somehow it all makes me feel a little like a criminal on the run.



  I CLOSE THE APARTMENT DOOR behind me and nearly slam into someone in the hallway.

  When his hood falls down, I don’t recognize him. He’s wearing a black coat and gray Windbreaker pants. He nods at me, being friendly enough, and lifts his hood back over his head. Our apartment building has about twenty units and I’ve seen nearly every person or couple who lives here, but not this guy. Maybe he just moved in.

  “Excuse me, sorry!” I say as I move out of his way, but he just grunts in reply.

  At the corner of the block, I break out into a run. I wait for the ache to resurface in my knee, and it does, but it’s bearable now. The low, simmering pain is no longer a sharp throb.

  I pick up my pace. My Nikes hit the sidewalk with hardly any noise at all. I remember when I first started running and my legs would burn and my chest would feel like it was going to explode. I pushed and pushed—I needed to be healthy, and now I am. Not healthy like the stroller moms in Brooklyn who take shots of wheatgrass for breakfast and feed their babies kale and quinoa for lunch. But healthy insofar as being active.

  I often empty my mind when I run, though sometimes I think about my mom and the baby, about Tessa and Hardin, or I stew with frustration if the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings. Today I feel like I have a lot on my mind.

  First: Dakota’s behavior. She’s barely spoken to me since she broke up with me, and now she’s acting like we will see each other every day. She was so worked up over her audition and I wish there was something I could do. I can’t go to one of the most prestigious ballet academies in the country and knock on their door claiming racial discrimination without any proof. Especially with all the madness going on in the country already. The last thing that I want to do is to cause Dakota to get too much negative attention while she’s trying to start a career there.

  The shit that I’m used to helping her with is so different from this. Her career is something that I absolutely can’t do anything about. The obstacles that we used to battle together seem so distant now, a part of our past. Our problems felt much heavier back then, much more immediate. I don’t know what to do with practical, day-to-day problems like school or career choices.

  This is one of the few times that I would like to be Hardin for about an hour. I would rush down to that academy, pound on the door, and demand justice for her. I would convince them that Dakota is the best ballerina they have there, that despite her reminders that she’s not a ballerina yet, she is indispensable to them. The best.

  Ballet to Dakota is what hockey is for me, only ten times more so because she actually does it. My school didn’t offer hockey as a sport, and when my mom signed me up to play at the local rec center, it was the worst two hours of my life. I learned very quickly that hockey is a sport I can love to watch—and never play. Dakota has been dancing since she was a kid. She started with hip-hop, moved to jazz, and settled on ballet in her teens. Believe it or not, beginning ballet as a teen is a huge disadvantage and in some circles is considered to be too late. But Dakota smashed those assumptions during her first audition at the School of American Ballet. My mom sent her the money to go to the audition for her birthday present. She cried grateful tears and promised my mom that she would do her best to pay her generosity back someday.

  My mom didn’t want to be paid back, she wanted to see the sweet neighbor girl rise above her circumstances and make something of herself. The day she learned of her acceptance, Dakota came running through the house with her letter waving above her head. She was screaming and jumping and I had to pick her up and flip her small body upside down to get her to stay still. She was so happy. I was so proud. Her school may not be Joffrey, but it’s a highly rated academy and I’m damned proud of her.

  All I want is for her to be happy and for her talent to be recognized. I want to fix this for her, but it’s out of my control. As frustrating as it is, I can’t think of one realistic solution to this problem. I should have asked her what else was going on; there has to be more to work with . . .

  I file that away for later and shift my focus to Nora. She does look more like a Nora than a Sophia, and luckily I’m not as bad as Hardin with names. He refuses to call Dakota anything other than Delilah, even to her face. Enough about brooding Hardy.


  That makes me laugh. I’m calling him that next time he calls Dakota “Delilah.”

  As I pass a grocery mart, a woman with her hands full of paper bags is staring at me, so I stop laughing at myself and my corny plans to stick it to Hardin. Or Hardy.

  I laugh again.

  I need more coffee.

  I’m only about a twenty-minute run from Grind, but it’s the opposite direction from my apartment than the park . . .

  Coffee is worth it. You can get coffee on nearly every corner here, but not good coffee—ugh, deli coffee is the worst—and I need to check if next week’s schedule is up, anyway. I reverse course to run back toward the coffee shop. I pass the woman carrying the shopping bags again and I watch as one of the sacks slips from her hand. I rush over to help, but I’m not fast enough and the brown bag tears and cans of food roll onto the sidewalk. She looks so frustrated that it wouldn’t be a surprise if she screamed at me just for helping her.

  I grab a can of chicken soup before it rolls into the street. Another bag tears and she curses as her vegetables tumble to the ground. Her dark hair is covering her face, but I would guess she’s about thirty. She’s wearing a loose dress and has a slight bump underneath. She may be pregnant—or she may not be: I know better than to ask.

  Two teenage boys cross the street and come our way. For just a moment, I believe they may actually help us.

  Nope. While we’re scrambling to clean up her grocery disaster, they don’t bat an eye in our direction. No neighborly assistance; they just pick up their boots and are nice enough to step over a box of rice directly in their path. Sometimes not crushing things in your way is as much kindness as you can get in this city.

  “Do you live far from here?” I ask the woman.

  She looks up from the sidewalk and shakes her head. “No, just one more block.” She pushes her deep brown hands against her hair and groans in frustration.

  I point to the pile of groceries from the two bags. “Hmm, okay. Let’s get these under control.” Seeing as I don’t have any extra bags hanging around in my pockets, I pull my sweatshirt over my head and start scooping the groceries into it. They may not all fit, but it’s worth a try.

  “Thanks,” she offers, slightly out of breath. She moves to bend to help me, but I stop her.

  A car honks, then another. I barely have one foot in the street, but they honk anyway. The best thing about living in Brooklyn is the lack of honking (usually). Manhattan is a chaotic, angry little island, but I could possibly see myself settling down in Brooklyn, teaching at a public school, and raising a family. My daydream plans usually include other cities, quieter ones. Still, I’ve got to get a girl to go on a d
ate with me first, so this may take a while. Let’s just say it’s my five-year plan . . .

  Okay, ten-year plan.

  I push a bottle of cooking oil into the crook of my arm. “I’ve got it. It’s fine,” I tell the woman.

  I look into her hooded eyes. She’s watching me now, skeptical and unsure whether I’m sketchy or okay. You can trust me, I want to promise her. However, chances are that if I say that, it will only raise her suspicion levels. The wind picks up, instantly bringing the temperature down a bit. I move faster, and once I get most of the groceries inside my sweatshirt, I tie the sleeves together, creating my best version of a bag. I toss in a box of crackers and a pack of lunch meat.

  I stand to my feet and place the sweatshirt bag in her hands. Her eyes soften.

  “You can keep the hoodie, I have a ton of them,” I say.

  “I bet you’ll make a lady very happy one day, young man,” she says to me with a smile. She gathers up the remainder of her grocery bags that didn’t break, readjusts the sweatshirt in her arms, and starts to walk away. I’m flattered by her compliment but I quickly wonder why she assumed that I’m single. Do I ooze desperation and loneliness?


  “Do you need help? I can help you get them home?” I offer, sure to pose my tone as an offer, not a demand. It’s going to take her a while to get home, carrying those bags like that.

  She shakes her head and looks past me, in the direction she was headed. “It’s just right here. I’ve got it.”

  I hear a tinge of an accent in her voice, but I can’t make it out. As she walks away, it dawns on me that she actually doesn’t need my help—she’s carrying the bags and the sweatshirt full of groceries just fine. I’m guessing this is supposed to be some metaphor sent by the cosmic forces to show me that I don’t have to help everyone, like Augustus and his cigarettes in The Fault in Our Stars. Well, not exactly the same, but still. He obviously had it worse than me, poor guy.

  I let the woman go on her own and continue my journey south, deeper into Bushwick. I love the neighborhood I live in. It’s close to the cool things in Williamsburg, but with much lower rent. Definitely our rent is already high—it shocked the heck out of me when I moved here—and is basically more than my mom’s mortgage. But if the cool factor of our neighborhood keeps rising, it will double in no time. Still, things aren’t as expensive here as I thought they would be. They’re not cheap, by any means, but those rumors of a gallon of milk costing ten dollars in New York City aren’t true . . . for the most part. The Russian guy who owns the corner store below my apartment does like to hike his prices, but I suppose I’m paying extra for the convenience of being able to get down there in under a minute. I could always walk two more minutes and find another. One of the best things about the city is the endless options. From corner stores, to restaurants, to people, there’s always another option.



  WHEN I GET TO GRIND, Posey is behind the counter pouring a bucket of ice into the bin. Jane, the shop’s oldest employee, who sometimes likes to call herself the “elder statesman” in a corny little voice, is cleaning the stained wood floors. She dips the mop into the bucket and soapy water overflows. A little girl gets up from a table near the back and walks over to watch Jane as she swipes the mop over the mess, soaking up the water. I look around the various tables for her parents, but the shop is pretty empty. Out of the ten tables, only two are occupied. Two girls with their laptops and textbooks filling the table and a guy with four empty espresso cups are the only people I see.

  Noticing me, Posey greets me with a silent smile.

  The little girl, who looks to be about four, sits down on the floor and pulls something out of her pocket. A small red car wheels across the puddle and I watch her eyes light up. Jane says something to her that I can’t make out.

  “Lila, please don’t do that.” Posey lifts the partition and steps out from behind the counter. Approaching the girl, she bends down to her level.

  The little girl grabs the red car before Posey can reach it. She hugs it to her chest and shakes her head furiously. “Want car,” her little voice chimes.

  Posey reaches her hand out and cups the little girl’s cheek. Her thumb caresses the child’s skin and turns her panic into comfort. She must be familiar with Posey.

  Her sister, of course. This little brown-haired girl must be the sister she’s mentioned a few times.

  “You can keep the car, but please don’t put it in the water.” Posey’s voice is different when she talks to the girl. Softer. “Okay?”

  Posey taps the little girl on the nose and she giggles. She’s cute.

  “ ’Kay.” Her little voice is even cuter.

  I walk toward them and sit down at a nearby table. Jane finishes with one more swipe of her mop and says hi before she excuses herself to go to the stock room to finish inventory. Posey looks around to assess how busy the store is, politely checks in on the two tables, then walks back over to the girl and me.

  “Please don’t tell Jacob that I brought her to work with me.” Posey slides into the chair in front of me.

  “I would never,” I tell her with a smile.

  Jacob can be an ass. He’s just a little too young to be a manager and is the type of guy that when given just a taste of power, he runs with it. He’s a little too bossy and a little bit of a douchebag.

  “My grandma had an appointment and I couldn’t call in.” Posey nervously justifies herself.

  “Well, lucky for you, then; you get to hang out with your sister all day.”

  Posey smiles and nods in agreement, relief clear on her face.

  Little Lila doesn’t turn to look toward my voice. The bell on the door chimes, alerting Posey of a customer. She looks at Lila and I nod, telling her I can sit with the girl. Going back behind the counter, Posey greets two men in suits and I turn to watch the little girl play with her toy. She’s not paying any attention to me. That car is fascinating her and she’s awfully cute while she rolls the little Camaro along the uneven floor. She crawls behind it, despite being clearly old enough to walk. Her little sneakers light up when her toes hit the floor, and her little fingers wrap around the body of the car, which she flips over and spins upside down, smiling all the while.

  “That’s an awfully cool car you’ve got yourself,” I tell her.

  She doesn’t look up at me, but she speaks. “Car,” she says.

  Posey looks over as she pours soy milk from a carton into the blender. I smile at her and her shoulders relax. She purses her lips into a modest smile and gets back to work. Her fingernails are dark with little yellow dots painted on them. I watch her hands as she pours premade green tea from a pitcher into the cup full of soymilk and ice. She blends the concoction and sways her head back and forth to the Coldplay song playing on our speakers. I look back over to the little girl staring adoringly at her little plastic Camaro.

  “Zoom,” Lila says softly. She lifts the car into the air and gazes off into the distance after it.

  I sit quietly until the customers disappear. Posey is wiping down the bottles of flavored syrup with a wet rag. The tables are dirty, eight out of ten of them. I walk over to the trash area and grab the busser tub from inside the cabinet next to the trash can. Lila is still saying “car” and “zoom” as I start to clear off the first table. A three-dollar tip.

  Not too bad. You’d be surprised at the number of customers that leave their tables a mess but don’t think to leave a tip for the person cleaning it up. I’m not sure if it’s rudeness or if it’s just ignorance. Like Uber drivers: we assume that they get their entire tip, which is charged automatically, but I’ve heard people say it’s not. Even if you mark the 15 percent tab, they don’t actually see that money, so this one guy in my class told me you’re supposed to tip them in cash. Then again, he said he was from France, but his accent was clearly German, so the possibility of him lying is probably fairly high . . .

  Either way, baristas should be t
ipped way more than they are. Public-service announcement complete. Moving on.

  The next table has at least four sugar packets emptied out into a pile. I’m impressed when I see the sugar packets folded into little stick figures. There’s a toothpick with a piece of napkin for a flag stuck right into the center of the sugar hill. I try to remember what the guy looked like who was sitting here. Actually, I think it was a girl. Or woman. I didn’t get a clear look at her face, but whoever she is, she’s clearly an awesome force in the miniature sugar sculpture scene.

  “Lila.” I call to get the little girl’s attention. She looks up but doesn’t move her body from its now full-on lying-down position on the floor.

  “Do you want to come see this little scene over here? It’s pretty cool.” I point to the sugar hill and stare at the fake sword in one of the sugar-packet people’s arm.

  A hearty “no” comes out of her mouth and I nod, not entirely surprised, flattening the hill with my washcloth. I go back and forth between clearing the remaining tables and keeping an eye on Lila. As I’m taking a last swipe over the second-to-last table, Posey walks from behind the counter and stands in front of me.

  “You didn’t have to do that,” she says; the brown of her eyes is barely noticeable because of how bloodshot they are. “It’s your day off.”

  “Are you okay?” I ask.

  She glances around the shop and nods, sighing as she sits down at the table closest to her sister.

  She shrugs. “Just tired. Work, school, the usual.” Her smile is perky still, despite her words. She doesn’t like to complain, I can tell, even though she totally has reason to, or to at least vent.

  “If you need to have some shifts picked up or anything, let me know. I don’t mind helping and I have some free time this semester.” I actually don’t have that much free time, but I would like to help her if I can. She clearly has more going on than I do.

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