New York City is a strange contradiction. We call it the City That Never Sleeps while also calling it the City of Dreams. And while I know it’s not the same type of dream, it still makes me chuckle whenever I think about it. 

As I lie in bed, the red OPEN sign, for the shop below, is flashing outside my window. The light illuminating my room repeatedly, making it impossible for me to fall asleep.

This is the issue of living above a takeaway. It usually doesn’t bother me. Most of the time, I’m too tired to pay attention to it and often just pass out. But not tonight.

This is my first night in the apartment alone. Caden moved out today – finally taking the big step to move in with his girlfriend instead of living with me. 

And while I’m happy for him, I can’t help but feel alone. Even if we didn’t spend much time together in recent months, I knew he was just a thin wall away. But not now.  

Moving to New York was the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Since, all I’ve done is work as a barista and take on a few jobs as an extra in the millions of shows and films recorded in New York daily. 

Caden was the first friendly face I saw when I arrived in New York. In a way, he was my safety blanket. I knew that if I had an issue, he’d come running. He even moved out of his apartment, so I didn’t have to find somewhere else to live… Who else would’ve done that? Nobody that I can think of – especially not in NYC.

The sound of sirens coming from outside, the occasional blue flash accompanying the red light. I may not have been living with my parents for the past five years, but living on my own – officially – is making me nervous. 

I can’t message him. His girlfriend made it very clear that I wasn’t allowed to contact him for anything other than repairs in the apartment. I understand why she’s insecure about me. After a few years of living together, we act like an old married couple. She realised pretty late that we’d seen each other naked before, and while it was all innocent, she didn’t see it that way.

Doom scrolling on my phone, it pops up with an incoming call. Caden. I answer and I’m greeted with loud music. “Hey, Sugar,” he laughs down the phone.

He’s clearly intoxicated; that’s the only time he calls me Sugar. “Caden, how much have you had to drink?” I chuckle. The contrasting silence of my bedroom compared to the screaming music echoing from my phone’s speaker is quite jarring. 

“Not too much…” He pauses. “How’s the apartment?” 

I roll onto my side, facing the window, watching the rain trickle down the glass pane. Am I allowed to say how empty it feels? “The same as it was when you left it twelve hours ago.”

“Good,” he says over the music.

After a long silence, I finally blurt, “why did you call, Caden? Surely it’s not because you wanted to make sure the apartment is still okay… Is everything alright?” 

I hear him sigh and a soft bang, like a door closing. The music has dimmed, and I can hear his breathing more clearly. “Alice, what am I doing?”

I roll onto my back, staring at the ceiling as I frown. Why’re you asking me? “What do you mean?”

“I was enjoying my life. Now I’m in a new apartment, with a girlfriend who has half a dozen friends over for no particular reason, and I’m just left to exist…”

This isn’t the first time Erica has had a party where Caden’s been left out; she has a habit of ignoring his existence until she wants something. “Surely you’re not getting cold feet already…” I mutter. He’d been so sure about it this morning, but now – with alcohol in his system – he’s uneasy.

He clears his throat. “What can I say? I miss your terrible cooking,” Caden jokes, his voice uneven and raspy. 

He’s been crying. “My terrible cooking? Says the man who makes packet ramen every time he says he’ll cook…”

I hear him laugh, which makes me smile. Even from a distance, I can still get him to relax. “You like packet ramen,” he chuckles.

“And? I also like cheese toasties and milkshakes but I know eating them three days a week is a bad idea,” I giggle. I bite my lower lip, knowing what’s coming next.

“It’s called a grilled cheese not a cheese toasty,” he argues.

I roll my eyes. Every time he’s drunk, and this delicious, toasted sandwich is brought up, we have the same silly argument. “If it’s a grilled cheese, why is it not made on a grill?”

He’s silent again – I can almost hear the cogs turning in his head as I await a response. I’ll know how drunk he is dependent on this alone. If he can come up with an answer, he’s had a couple. If he can’t, he’s had one too many. “Shit,” he slurs, a smile in his voice. “You make a good point.”

“I’m sure I’ll hear about how shit of a point it’ll be in the morning,” I laugh before realising I won’t. He’s called me because he’s drunk and not getting attention; tomorrow, he’ll be sober and in love again. I feel my heart sink and my stomach tighten. I can’t tell him how much I’ve cried over the past few hours; it’d be inappropriate. “I need to get to sleep,” I mumble.

He exhales dramatically. “Yeah, I know. What time do you start work?” 

“Six,” I add.

“It’s nearly midnight,” he points out.

I press my lips together and hum in agreement. 

“Why were you awake when you know you have to be up early? You’re usually not this irresponsible…” He comments, a slightly curious but worried tone in his voice.

“There’s been sirens whizzing past all night.”

He stays silent for a second before asking, “so it’s not because you have someone with you?”

Someone with me? Who would I have with me? “How many times have I had someone with me in the time you’ve known me?” My lower lip trembles, I bite it to try and stop emotion from seeping into my voice. Sober, he’d know I’m sad already. Drunk, I might be able to get away with it. 

“Good point…” Caden murmurs. “At least you’ll be able to change that now.”

I hum in agreement again. There was never a rule against me having someone over. On the contrary, he was more than happy for me to bring someone home; his only rule was no sex in communal areas. Which was a rule he’d broken a few times over the years I’d lived with him. It never bothered me, but it certainly ended a few of his relationships by how casually he acted about me walking in on them – especially while he was still in them.

“I’ll let you go,” he whispers. 


“Goodnight,” he replies but stays on the line as if waiting for something to be said.

After a few minutes, I hear the door open on the other side of the call, and the music gets loud again. Seconds later, he’s gone, and I’m alone again. My heart feels like it’s being squeezed. I curl up on my bed, clutching a pillow to my chest. I’ve lost my best friend to a girl…

Want to read the rest now? Playing House is now available, in full, on my store!

PLAYING HOUSE is now available, in full, as an eBook for just 99p!
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