by M.L. Paige

All his life, Tyler thought he was an alpha male. Then he met Jenny.

It all started with Tyler’s search for a roommate for his rent stabilized prewar two-bedroom apartment off of Greenwich Street that had been grandfathered into him by a friend of a friend’s actual grandfather. The place was cavernous, with high ceilings, a dine-in kitchen, and a living room that rivaled the size of most studios–the kind of unrealistic New York apartment only seen on shows like “Friends” or “Felicity”. But for Tyler it was a reality, albeit not a free one, and when his previous roommate scored a research grant halfway across the globe Tyler was forced to search for someone who could not only foot their share of the rent but also keep the deal they were getting a secret.

Jenny was one of the first to respond to Tyler’s craigslist ad. They met for coffee one Tuesday afternoon to discuss specifics–Tyler never mentioned the apartment was rent stabilized until he’d met the prospective renter–and when Jenny arrived, Tyler instantly fell in love. With a waterfall of dark chestnut hair, honeyed skin, and a tall curvy frame, Jenny looked like an exquisite sculpture come to life, a Polynesian goddess made flesh who smelled of plumerias and didn’t so much as look at people as she did peer into them. From the moment they shook hands, Tyler felt that he could trust Jenny more than anyone else he’d ever met in his life.

“You know, you don’t look like a Jenny,” said Tyler, fumbling over his words.

“Neither do you,” Jenny said with a dazzling white grin. She squeezed Tyler’s hand and let a single finger graze the inside of his palm before she sat down. “I guess we’ll both just have to cope, won’t we?”

They chatted for almost a half hour before the apartment came up, Jenny eagerly sharing her upbringing in Maui and her trips around the world and her decision to come to New York to pursue Medicine. Then she peppered Tyler with questions, covering everything from his first pet to where he got the scar on his forearm to his favorite bars in NYC. Even though Tyler was sure Jenny had to be buttering him up–after all, for the price the apartment’s amenities were unbelievable–she really did seem curious about Tyler as a person. He figured she either had to be the greatest liar he’d ever met or just a naturally inquisitive person who genuinely cared about others.

“Okay,” said Tyler, taking advantage of a break in Jenny’s questions. “I’m just going to say it: I think you’re a great fit for the apartment. You don’t need to convince me any further.”

“Convince you?” asked Jenny, tilting her head to the side so that her hair spilled down one shoulder. “I thought we were just chatting. Honest.”

Tyler let loose a half-laugh. “Maybe it’s just the cynical New Yorker in me, but I figured you were, you know… working me or whatever.”

Jenny threw her head back and laughed, clapping her hands together. “Oh god, I’m sorry that’s too funny. The idea of me ‘working’ anyone…. Hah.” She lowered her gaze at Tyler, smiling. “Do you really think I’m a good fit for the apartment? I mean, I think we get along, but a lot of guys don’t like having female roommates.”

“You are a good fit and nah I don’t mind a female roommate at all,” said Tyler. “Actually I thought it was the reverse, that women don’t like male roommates.”

“Depends on the roommate,” mused Jenny. “No one likes a creeper, but you seem pretty normal.”

“‘Pretty normal’,” repeated Tyler. “Thanks.”

Jenny reached out and gently touched Tyler’s hand. “Hey,” she said. “It’s a compliment–seriously.”

“So,” Tyler said, trying to change the subject. “There’s just one other thing about the apartment I have to tell you.”

Tyler explained the rent stabilized situation to Jenny and she promised not to tell a soul, mentioning that friends of hers were in similar setups so she knew the importance of keeping things quiet. For his part, Tyler believed her–why would she lie?–and felt so comfortable with Jenny that he invited her to take a look at the apartment right that very moment. She agreed. The two wandered from the coffeeshop and resumed their earlier conversation, sharing bits and pieces of their lives as they walked and laughed and neared the apartment.

Upstairs in the unit itself Jenny was speechless. She followed behind Tyler as he gave her the full tour, showing off the things women seemed to love about the place: the classic fixtures, the antique crown molding, the art deco tiling in the bathroom. But where Jenny focused the most attention was on the bedroom that was to be hers. It was empty with a fresh coat of white paint, nearly two-thirds the size of Tyler’s room, and with just one window obscured by the apartment’s fire escape that also faced into the building’s inner courtyard.

A disappointed frown hung heavy on Jenny’s pouting lips.

“It’s nice,” she said, clearly unconvinced.

“Just so you know, I’ve prorated the rent to reflect the rooms,” said Tyler as he tried to ameliorate her concerns. “I know this room’s smaller than the master bedroom, but it’s definitely cheaper too.”

Jenny parroted him back: “The master bedroom. Do you think–” She paused and slipped into thought for a moment before continuing. “Is there any way I could rent that room instead?”

“You want the master bedroom?” asked an incredulous Tyler.

“I’ll pay the difference,” Jenny added.

Tyler sighed. He loved the idea of Jenny as a roommate but felt caught off guard by her request. “I’ve been in that room a long time…”

“What if I give you an extra 10%?” offered Jenny.

“Wow you really want that room,” Tyler said.

Jenny chewed on her bottom lip. “I know, I’m sorry. It’s just that I always had this specific vision for my time in New York. A prewar building, a big apartment, sunlight streaming through my bedroom windows in the morning… this place is so great and so are you Tyler, but the bedroom is just… I’m sorry, it just doesn’t do it for me. I understand if that’s a deal breaker for you.”

‘Hey now hold on,” said Tyler. “Are you serious that you’d really pay an extra 10%? You don’t even know what the rent on that room is.”

“I don’t care,” said Jenny. “This is my dream place, I’m willing to pay whatever I have to. Hell you could even lie to me about the rent if you wanted to and I’d have no idea.”

Tyler thought about it for a moment. He could lie to Jenny and make a couple hundred extra bucks a month; even just the normal rent with an extra 10% would nearly halve what he was currently paying. Or he could take a different tact. He could offer Jenny a fair 50/50 split, showing her the rent statement so she knew he wasn’t bullshitting her and say that it was his part in making her New York dreams come true. Not only would this make sure their time as roommates started off on a good foot–nothing was worse to Tyler than a contentious roommate situation–but Jenny might even show her gratitude in other ways, perhaps.

With a quick glance, Tyler sized Jenny up, his gaze tracing the outline of her breasts pushing against her white blouse and the blossomed swell of her hips in her painted-on indigo jeans. She gave a little stretch and as she did her blouse lifted the slightest bit, revealing the dark etchings of a tattoo that extended just above her waistline.

For fuck’s sake, thought Tyler as his cock stirred.