Hours later, Andrew was sitting on the couch catching up on some work when an email alert buzzed on his phone. It was from his landlord. Heart pounding, Andrew opened it.
I hope this email finds you well. I’m writing to inform you that your lease, which expires in July, will not be renewed for another year. While you have been an exemplary tenant for whom I will gladly give a good reference, I will be selling the property at 413 Irving Street. Should the new owner wish to extend your tenancy, that will be a matter to discuss between you and them.
That was it. The property was on the market, and Andrew had the twenty percent in his bank account. With a shaking hand, he pulled up Zillow and scrolled through the listings until he found it. There it was. His beautiful apartment. They’d taken pictures earlier in the year and he looked longingly at his home, now just out of reach.
He tried to shove that longing out of his mind as he quickly pulled up the realtor’s information and sent her an email that he was interested and had twenty percent available in cash.
Andrew wasn’t delusional. He’d lived in Boston long enough to know that there was always a chance that someone else would swoop in and buy the apartment out from under him. But he already lived there. It was his home, and he’d done the work and maybe, just maybe, that would be enough to let him stay.
An email came back from the realtor’s office minutes later, despite the fact that it was almost midnight.
Dear Mr. Harris,
Thank you for your interest in the property. Unfortunately, the unit at 413 Irving Street is already under agreement.
With shaking hands, Andrew set down his phone and stood up. As if his body were moving on its own accord, he walked into the kitchen and set the teakettle on to boil. He stared at it, willing his swirling thoughts to settle as the water heated up.
Already under agreement. Already under fucking agreement. He hadn’t even had a chance to begin with. Mr. Abbott probably had a buyer lined up ages ago and had been stringing Andrew along to placate him.
Which meant agreeing to come back with Cleo had been pointless. He’d gotten trapped for no reason.
Furious tears stung his eyes as he poured the boiling water with a shaking hand. There had been a box of chamomile tea bags on the counter. A shitty American brand, but he’d take it right now.
Andrew picked up his mug and slid the back door open. He needed air and he needed to not wake up Olivia or Mia. He desperately wanted to be alone right now.
The midnight air was crisp as he stepped out into the backyard. He walked down the small staircase and a floodlight snapped on.
The woods loomed at the edge of the yard, pitch blackness twisting among the trees. Andrew sat down on the bottom step and took a sip of his steaming tea. His head felt a little clearer in the cold air, and the tea was soothing.
He’d lost. And it didn’t even matter that he was stuck. He could have walked to his landlord’s office and handed him the money and it still wouldn’t have happened. He’d been fooling himself to think there was any chance.
The voice coming out of the silence made Andrew jump. He managed not to scream, but it was close.
Noah was standing on the stairs to his back door, squinting in the glow of the floodlight. Andrew hastily wiped his face.
The stairs creaked in the stillness as Noah walked down into the yard. He zipped his brown leather jacket shut as he walked toward where Andrew sat.
“Good,” Noah said, standing awkwardly beside the stoop. “I saw the light come on and thought it might be a coyote.”
Great. It hadn’t even occurred to Andrew that he was a waiting snack for wildlife, sitting out here in the middle of the night.
“Nope, just couldn’t sleep.”
Noah sat down next to him and Andrew felt that unwelcome flutter in his stomach. They sat in silence for a moment, both gazing into the inky blackness beyond the yard.
“My flat was sold,” he said after a long moment.
Noah looked at him, but didn’t say anything.
“I really thought I had a shot at buying it,” Andrew continued. “I had the down payment, and I was waiting to hear when it would go on the market. Tonight I got a message from my landlord, saying my lease won’t be renewed. First mention of anything solid. Then, when I emailed the broker, she told me it was under agreement already. I should have seen this coming. I feel so foolish.”
He took a sip of his cooling tea, feeling tears building in his eyes again.
“I’m sorry,” Noah said quietly.
“I’ve heard Boston’s market is tough.”
Andrew laughed bitterly. “That’s certainly one way to put it. I don’t know why I ever thought I had a chance.”
He took another sip. “And it’s not like I can go savor my last few months there or anything. I’m stuck here. I might not ever see it again.”
“What’s it like?”
Andrew looked over at Noah, who was looking out into the woods. “What, my flat? Old. Beautiful. It’s a Beacon Hill brownstone. It’s all old architecture. You’d love it.”
Shit, that was going too far, wasn’t it?
Noah smiled slightly, but didn’t say anything.
“I want to stay in that neighborhood for the rest of my life,” Andrew said. “I could find another flat if…when I get back. But it’s not secure like buying is. Someday soon it’ll be too expensive to keep renting. I just feel like…I think this was my only chance. And I don’t know if I blew it or if it was just a fantasy to begin with.”
He shook his head. “Sorry, you don’t care about any of this.”
“I do care,” Noah said, so softly that Andrew almost didn’t hear him.
He turned suddenly, making eye contact with Andrew. His eyes were bloodshot in the glow of the floodlight, and Andrew’s heart was suddenly pounding.
Noah looked away first. “We should go in,” he said. “Rumors of a mountain lion in the woods around here.”
Andrew didn’t believe that for a second, but he wasn’t going to argue. “Right, of course,” he said instead.
They stood up. “I really am sorry,” Noah said. “I know you- you love it there. I hope it works out.”
The words Can’t get any worse than this were on the tip of Andrew’s tongue, but he swallowed them back down.
It could. It really, really could. And he was realizing this more and more as the days wore on.
“Thanks,” he said instead.
Noah glanced up the stairs to his dark apartment. “I should…”
They stood there another moment. “Um, good night,” Noah said.
“Good night. And, er, thanks for coming out. I’d just planned to wallow, but I feel slightly better.”
Again, Noah gave him that tiny smile that made Andrew want to follow him up to his apartment. Whether it was to throw him on the bed and screw him senseless or make him a hot cup of tea and tuck him in, Andrew wasn’t sure. But both would be a terrible idea.
“Good night, Andrew,” Noah said, then turned and walked up the stairs.