When Night Falls in New York

I shoved the covers off of me and slid out of the bed, my heart pounding erratically. As I was getting off the bed, I stubbed my toe on the bedpost, but I didn't really care. Instead, I pulled my NYU sweatshirt out of my closet, pulled on my boots, and wrenched the door to my bedroom open.

Whitney and Michael were looking at me, in the exact position I had left them when I went to bed.

"Where are you-" Michael began to say, but I cut him off.

"Outside!" I said, grabbing my keys off the counter. "For a walk."

"But-" Whitney began, but I cut her off too.

"Can't sleep," I said cheerfully, pulling my sweater on over my head. "It's a nice night out."

"It's freezing," she said, but I kept walking.

"Pajamas!" Michael called after me as I opened the front door.

"I know, and they look good," I said back, waving them a goodbye as I shut the door after me.

After that, however, I stopped, leaned my forehead against the door and sighed. I willed myself to calm down but found that I couldn't. Seriously, wasn't one person only allotted a certain amount of emotional roller-coastering per day? I had way exceeded that quota today.

I didn't even know if I was ready to face Nick, but I knew that I had to. Looking down at myself, I realized how ridiculous I looked. I was wearing my pajama pants tucked into my winter boots. My pajamas were pink. Hot pink with little white hearts on them.

Calm down, Kayla, calm down, I told myself repeatedly, trudging my way down the stairs.

I couldn't. Deciding to just give up, I pushed open the front door that led to my apartment complex.

A blast of freezing cold air hit me, making my eyes water. Even through that, however, I could still see Nick.

He was standing on the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at me. He still had his black trenchcoat on, a scarf around his neck, and his hands shoved into the pockets of his coat. His cheeks were tinted red from the biting cold, and he looked remarkably handsome.

I looked away, up at the blinking lights on the buildings and trees in the distance, wishing I didn't find him so attractive. I suddenly felt very vulnerable on the inside. Somewhere along the line. Somewhere between the impromptu kiss at Bar Nine and brunch with my family in Long Island, between the make out session in the library stacks and that day at Coney Island, I had really fallen for this guy.

How had it all ended up such a disaster?

"Kayla," Nick said, and I was forced to look at him again. He was looking at me with bright, imploring eyes. "Can we talk?"

I wriggled uncomfortably in my boots. "Fine," I said, wiping my nose with the back of my hand. Pretty soon I was going to have snot dripping from my face from the sheer cold. It was going to be really unattractive, but not like I was helping the aesthetics front with my pajamas in boots situation.

As I walked down, I found that I couldn't keep my eyes on him. I kept having to look away. Nick, however, never took his eyes off of me.

I stopped a meter away from him.

"I'm sorry," he said suddenly, "Are you cold?"

I frowned at him. "You're sorry that I'm cold?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I'm sorry for tonight. I'm sorry for being a jerk. You were right, I do suck."

I pursed my lips and crossed my arms over my chest, more because it was freezing and I wasn't wearing a bra. Not that I had much in the cleavage department, but my sweater was definitely not made to withstand December nighttime in New York.

"Here," Nick said, beginning to unbutton his coat. "Take this."

"I don't want your coat," I said, pouting.

Nick paused, his fingers still on his button.

"You're freezing," he said, looking at me in concern. I hated it. Why tug on my heartstrings and then bring out this let's be just friends business?

"I'm fine," I lied. I could actually feel my fingertips getting numb from the cold. "How did you even know I was here?"

"I guessed," he said, and then he suddenly looked sheepish. He tapped his pocket, where there was a bulge where I guessed his cell phone probably was. "And Whitney and Michael told me."

I blinked, totally caught off guard. Whitney and Michael. My non-comforting, tough love friends who had just spent the past half an hour before I went to bed watching the most mortifying 27 seconds of my life on repeat had talked to Nick once I went to bed and given away my location.

"Obnoxious meddlers," I muttered under my breath.

"I called them to make sure you were home," Nick said softly. "I was already heading towards the subway, so if you weren't, I probably would have just waited at your doorstep until you showed up."

I sucked on the insides of my cheeks. "That's very stalkerish of you," I said.

Nick smiled a little. "Hey, we met because you kissed me at a bar, so if we're calling anyone weird here…"

He was grinning at me, and despite myself, I felt my lips curl up. Then, I was reminded of everything that happened recently and my lips curled down again.

Nick saw my lips quiver and reached forward, touching my arm. "Kayla," he said, clearly concerned.

I shuddered, much more affected by his touch than I was by the bitter cold. Nick withdrew his hand in uncertainty.

Looking away, I mumbled, "You came from Madison Square Garden?" I wondered how long he had stood there, frozen to the spot where I had managed to hail a cab and leave him.

Nick shook his head. "No," he said. "I went home, angry and frustrated and hating myself. I got home, tried to read my script and tried to write my psychology paper, before J.C. got fed up with all my grumbling and told me to fix it."

I stared at him, mesmerized by what he was saying. He had said all this quietly and clearly, and I hung on to every word.

"I told her I didn't know what she was talking about, and she rolled my eyes and told me that I knew what I really wanted to do," he went on, drawing in a breath. "I knew she was right. I knew I had to talk to you tonight. I couldn't let things end the way they did."

I stared at him, holding my breath, waiting for the next words.

"Oh my God, Nick Casbarian!"

I almost fell over. Seriously, universe? Right now?

But of course, rabid fans stop for no one. Not rainstorms, not ridiculous ticket prices, and certainly not some emotionally charged moment between their favorite TV heartthrob and some random, non-bra wearing girl in pink pajamas.

Nick stared at me, looking despondent. He didn't have time to say another word before he was mobbed.

"Nick Casbarian?" a group of three teenage girls were screaming, completely ignoring my presence. "I can't believe I'm meeting you here!"

"We're such huge fans!"

"Hey, you're not single are you?"

Giggling.

"Can you tell us what happens to Logan next?"

"What are the kissing scenes really like?

"Can we get a picture? Please? Please?"

"Or want to get drinks?"

More giggling.

I turned away, but for some reason I was smiling. This was all too comical.

"Sorry," Nick's voice called out, rising above theirs. "One picture. And then I really have to go."

They stopped talking. And then they all turned towards me, openly staring. The three girls had formed identical O's with their mouths, looking from Nick to me and back to Nick again.

"Oh my gosh, she's the girl from the Youtube video," one of them whispered furiously to her companions, not even bothering to keep her voice down.

I blushed. Oh, my one claim to fame.

Nick took one photo with them, then he broke free and walked over to me. The three girls were still staring like we were some exhibit at the zoo. He was taking off his trenchcoat.

"Don't do that," I protested, but he wouldn't listen.

"You're freezing," he said, throwing the trenchcoat over me. I slid my arms into it, feeling instantly relieved in the warmth. Nick was looking at me. "Let's take a walk," he said softly, so just I could hear. He began buttoning the trenchcoat. Although he never touched me and there was three layers between skin to skin contact, I felt extremely jittery.

I ignored the last part. "You're going to freeze," I told him. It was true. He was only wearing a thick cardigan and a scarf now.

Nick grinned at me, his smile a bit lopsided. "Hey, I'm from Michigan, remember?"

I rolled my eyes at him.

"Let's go for a walk," Nick repeated, looking at me seriously.

I shoved my hands into my pockets-or his pockets, I should say-and looked at him. I had thought when I got out here that I would say some angry words to his face and then stomp back into my apartment, but now I found that I could do no such thing. "Okay," I agreed hesitantly. "Where to?"

"Brooklyn," Nick said, grinning at my agreement.

I wrinkled my nose. "Brooklyn?"

Nick laughed at my response, although I was thinking of the last time we went to Brooklyn. But he didn't seem deterred. "Come on, Kayla," he said, still grinning at me. "The best view of Manhattan is from Brooklyn."

We walked in silence towards a subway stop. Thank goodness the subways were heated. Although Nick didn't complain, I was afraid he would faint from the sheer cold or something. Seriously, despite this being my twenty first winter in New York City, I was still a baby when it came to the cold.

Even on the subway, I couldn't help but think about when we last took this train together. Nick seemed to be in a good mood, constantly looking at me, which made me turn red and have to look away, so it was a surprise when he spoke.

"The last time we were on this train…" he began.

"Was an unmitigated disaster," I muttered, finishing for him immediately, because those words had been on my mind for most of the train ride.

Nick raised his eyebrows. "I was going to say the ads were the same, but that too."

"Oh," I said, turning away, wishing I hadn't brought it up. "Oh."

"What happened to your ex-boyfriend, anyways?" he asked reluctantly, frowning.

I looked at Nick, who was waiting for my answer. "I punched him," I muttered, thinking back to that one day in my room. "He was getting really obnoxious."

Looking back at Nick, I saw that his eyes were wide and that his lips were twitching, as if he was trying not to smile. "You are unbelievable, you know that?" he said to me, turning away and finally giving into a grin. "Just unbelievable. Come on, this is our stop."

He didn't ask any more about Jake, and I felt relieved and somewhat surprised. Jake had always been such a jealous person that he would pounce any guy I was ever remotely close to, constantly interrogating me about hanging out with this guy and that. Thank goodness Nick wasn't like that, because I really didn't want to talk about my ex-boyfriend any more than I had to.

As I followed Nick out of the subway, I realized that I had no idea where we were headed. "Where in Brooklyn are we going?" I asked.

"The Promenade," he replied.

Of course, I should have realized when he said that the best view of Manhattan was from Brooklyn that we were going to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. I let out a breath, seeing it turn white in the crisp air around us. Then I remembered something he said before those girls had interrupted us.

"Wait, you told me J.C. told you to do something about this, about us?" I asked, barely managing to getting the word 'us' out.

Nick glanced sideways at me. He had his nose tucked into his scarf and his hands in the pockets of his jeans, but he still refused to acknowledge that he was cold. "Yeah, she did."

"But she hates me!" I exclaimed.

He still seemed surprised by this. "No she doesn't," he denied automatically.

Yes she does, I protested in my mind, but I didn't say anything aloud. There was no convincing him.

We were at the Promenade now, and I could see Manhattan across the river. I looked at the Brooklyn Bridge, all aglow in its lights, and I sighed. I don't know why it's been so long since I've been to this place, because it was without a doubt, a tremendous sight to behold.

The Promenade was relatively empty, probably because it was a weekend night and everyone was partying and clubbing. It was a shame, really, because this was a better sight than some girl puking on the side of an apartment complex, since that was usually the sight at the end of the night when we went out. Only a few couples here and there and some people walking their dogs were present here.

Nick and I sat down at a bench, looking out into the water.

I swung my feet aimlessly. We were sitting about a meter apart, safely far away from one another, and neither of us talked for a while as we took in the view.

"You know, J.C. told me something weird before I left," Nick said, breaking the silence. Seriously, he was breaking it with a mention of his unbelievably attractive roommate? Way to know how to make a girl feel good. But he went on, "She told me you once pretended Michael was your boyfriend because you saw me at dinner with a girl."

My mouth dropped open. Seriously, J.C.? Just when I thought you were on my side?

"What the, what, that's, I don't even know," I sputtered. Oh gosh, I wanted to curl up into a corner and bury my head into the ground like an ostrich. They had the right concept.

"Right," Nick was going on. "And I talked to Michael. He told me that he tackled me to the ground at Bernadine's because you were the waitress hiding behind that huge plate of food?"

"That traitor!" I burst out in disbelief. Then I full on flushed. Unbelievable, I was going to kill Michael and dump his body into the Hudson when I got back to my apartment. I clenched my hands into fists and gritted my teeth, fully embarrassed. "I can explain," I murmured, not totally sure that I could.

"And you say I'm the weird, crazy, stalkerish once," Nick was said, laughing. Then he turned pensive. "You know, I haven't been on a date with anyone else since the day I saw you at the Met."

I blinked, staring at him. "You didn't have to tell me that," I said, turning away, but feeling an odd elation bubble up inside of me nonetheless at his words.

"He was an idiot to let you go," Nick said softly, turning towards me.

I felt nothing for Jake at this moment. In fact, I was glad that he had let me go. Glad that I was feeling wild enough that night to ask Nick to make out with me at Bar Nine.

"So, anything else along the crazy stalkerish front that you want to tell me?" Nick was smiling again.

Oh, yeah, I once hid in your closet for a bit. There was that. But perhaps some things were better left unsaid.

When I didn't say anything, Nick started to talk again.

"I'm sorry for being such a jerk to you recently," he said, frowning, "I thought I could get myself to stop liking you, but I found that I really couldn't. I was an idiot for even thinking I could. That night in Brooklyn was a shock to me, and I responded horribly."

He had said all this very quietly, and as he looked at me, I realized that he was waiting for me to reply.

"I lied," I said, deciding to come clean about some other things, even though our last venture to Brooklyn made all of this somewhat redundant. Still, I felt that I needed to get the words out myself, and not through my treacherous ex-boyfriend. Nick had turned to look at me, his gaze intense. I sucked in a breath and went on before I could lose my courage. "I lied to you that day at Coney Island. I hadn't been over my ex when I first met you."

Nick didn't say anything back. In fact, he only continued to stare at me, waiting for my next words. I wish he would stop me, because when people didn't stop me, I had a horrible tendency to spew out way too much nonsense.

"I lied about growing up in Brooklyn too," I said, thinking back to that train ride to brunch at my parents' place, when I had talked about being from Brooklyn in an attempt to sound tougher. "I actually grew up on the Upper East Side."

It was hard to make that sound very street tough.

"Wow," Nick said, still looking at me.

I bit my lip. Then I stuck out my hand. "Can we start over?" I asked, unsure about what he was thinking and wishing he would stop me. "Hi, I'm Kayla. I grew up on the Upper East Side with three older brothers. I'm studying psychology at NYU. I'm definitely over my ex-boyfriend. And I think you're really cool."

I stopped short of saying that I really liked him, because really, I've confessed my feelings before and it didn't end up too well. Maybe if all we had was a fresh start, and we could be friends with a fresh start and no obligations or expectations attached, then that would make things better.

Maybe that was all I would need.

Maybe?

Nick was staring at my outstretched hand. Then, tentatively, he reached out and shook it.

"I lied too," Nick said softly, his breath fogging the air. He was looking away from me, towards the river.

I looked at him, frowning. "About what?" I asked.

He turned to look at me, his eyes bright. A small, uncertain smile tugged on the corners of his lips.

"About wanting to be just friends."

I stared at him. I could only stare.

Then, in one swift move, Nick slid next to me, closing the gap between us so that our bodies were touching.

"Hey," he said, grinning mischieviously. "Do you want to make out?"

I blushed furiously. It was an exact repeat of my words at Bar Nine, on the first night I had ever met him.

"You're the worst," I said, glaring at him and giving him a shove on the shoulder.

He bounced right back. "You don't think that," he said, still grinning.

And then he kissed me.