One Last Stop - Casey McQuiston Page 0,1
head: lilium candidum. Grows two to six feet tall. Studied diligently from the window of her mom’s two-bedroom apartment.
There’s no way Niko should know—no way he does. Just like she does with palm readers under beach umbrellas back home in Jackson Square, she holds her breath and brushes straight past.
“So that’s it?” she says. “I got the room? You, uh, you didn’t even ask me any questions.”
He leans his head on his hand. “What time were you born?”
“I … don’t know?” Remembering the flyer, she adds, “I think I’m a Virgo, if that helps.”
“Oh, yeah, definitely a Virgo.”
She manages to keep her face impartial. “Are you … a professional psychic? Like people pay you?”
“He’s part-time,” Myla says. She floats into the room, graceful for someone with a blowtorch in one hand, and drops into the chair next to his. The wad of pink bubblegum she’s chewing explains the bowl of gumballs. “And part-time very terrible bartender.”
“I’m not that bad.”
“Sure you’re not,” she says, planting a kiss on his cheek. She stage-whispers to August, “He thought a paloma was a kind of tumor.”
While they’re bickering about Niko’s bartending skills, August sneaks a gumball out of the bowl and drops it to test a theory about the floor. As suspected, it rolls off through the kitchen and into the hallway.
She clears her throat. “So y’all are—?”
“Together, yeah,” Myla says. “Four years. It was nice to have our own rooms, but none of us are doing so hot financially, so I’m moving into his.”
“And the third roommate is?”
“Wes. That’s his room at the end of the hall,” she says. “He’s mostly nocturnal.”
“Those are his,” Niko says, pointing at the drawings in the windows. “He’s a tattoo artist.”
“Okay,” August says. “So it’s $2,800 total? $700 each?”
“And the flyer said something about … fire?”
Myla gives her blowtorch a friendly squeeze. “Controlled fire.”
“Wes has one,” Niko puts in. “A little poodle named Noodles.”
“Noodles the poodle?”
“He’s on Wes’s sleep schedule, though. So, a ghost in the night.”
“Anything else I should know?”
Myla and Niko exchange a look.
“Like three times a day the fridge makes this noise like a skeleton trying to eat a bag of quarters, but we’re pretty sure it’s fine,” Niko says.
“One of the laminate tiles in the kitchen isn’t really stuck down anymore, so we all just kind of kick it around the room,” Myla adds.
“The guy across the hall is a drag queen, and sometimes he practices his numbers in the middle of the night, so if you hear Patti LaBelle, that’s why.”
“The hot water takes twenty minutes to get going, but ten if you’re nice.”
“It’s not haunted, but it’s like, not not haunted.”
Myla smacks her gum. “That’s it.”
August swallows. “Okay.”
She weighs her options, watching Niko slip his fingers into the pocket of Myla’s paint-stained overalls, and wonders what Niko saw when he touched the back of her hand, or thought he saw. Pretended to see.
And does she want to live with a couple? A couple that is one half fake psychic who looks like he fronts an Arctic Monkeys cover band and one half firestarter with a room full of dead frogs? No.
But Brooklyn College’s spring semester starts in a week, and she can’t deal with trying to find a place and a job once classes pick up.
Turns out, for a girl who carries a knife because she’d rather be anything but unprepared, August did not plan her move to New York very well.
“Okay?” Myla says. “Okay what?”
“Okay,” August repeats. “I’m in.”
* * *
In the end, August was always going to say yes to this apartment, because she grew up in one smaller and uglier and filled with even weirder things.
“It looks nice!” her mom says over FaceTime, propped on the windowsill.
“You’re only saying that because this one has wood floors and not that nightmare carpet from the Idlewild place.”
“That place wasn’t so bad!” she says, buried in a box of files. Her buggy glasses slide down her nose, and she pushes them up with the business end of a highlighter, leaving a yellow streak. “It gave us nine great years. And carpet can hide a multitude of sins.”
August rolls her eyes, pushing a box across the room. The Idlewild apartment was a two-bedroom shithole half an hour outside of New Orleans, the kind of suburban built-in-the-’70s dump that doesn’t even have the charm or character of being in the city.
She can still picture the carpet in the tiny gaps of the obstacle course of towering piles of old magazines and teetering