Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame


  “Here?” Dad asks. Unsurely, he furrows his eyebrows as his eyes glance around the restaurant. Everyone else is chatting and laughing and smiling and having a good time: everything we’re not.

  “Right here,” Ella confirms. “None of you are going to make a scene in front of all these people, are you?” She arches an eyebrow, and it reminds me once again that she is incredibly clever when it comes to dealing with tricky dilemmas. It’s her job, after all. Only this weekend her line of work has shifted from settling civil matters to easing the tension running throughout this family. “Exactly,” she says when no one replies. “So let’s finally talk in a civilized manner.”

  “And what exactly is there to talk about?” Dad challenges her. Sometimes I wonder if he does it just to purposely irritate her. He knows that there is everything to talk about.

  Ella ignores him. Instead, she rests her interlocked hands on the table and glances at each of us individually. “Who wants to start?”

  No one says anything. Tyler’s eyes fall back to his lap and Dad only stares back at Ella with an unpleasant frown plast-ered upon his face. Jamie reaches for his drink and sips at it with great concentration. Chase looks at me, but I don’t know what he expects from me, so I shift my gaze back to Ella.

  “Eden?” she urges. But I don’t want to go first. In fact, I don’t want to talk at all, so I shake my head and pray that she’ll drop it. She does, but not without pressing her hand over her eyes and sighing. “Someone please just tell me when all of this started.”

  “When what started?” Jamie asks. He places his glass back down and angles his chair toward her.

  “When did we all stop talking? When did we all start arguing so much?”

  Jamie swallows. “Um, you know when.” He looks at Tyler. And then he looks at me.

  “Someone just say it out loud already,” Ella says, but her frustration is evident in her tone. “Why can’t we just talk about it instead of tiptoeing around the subject like we’ve been doing for the past year?”

  “Is this a joke?” Dad cuts in, blinking at her.

  She narrows her eyes straight back at him. “Does it look like I’m holding back a punch line?” He doesn’t reply.

  My eyes find their way to Tyler, and he glances up at me immediately, as though he can sense my gaze on him. His stubble is a little neater today, like he finally decided to tidy it up a little, but his eyebrows are thick and pulled together. We both know Ella is referring to us, to last summer, to the moment the truth about our relationship came out. It is not difficult to pinpoint that moment as the day that we cracked. We all know it.

  Slowly, he exhales and I watch his lips as he says, “All of this is because of Eden and me.” And with each word he murmurs, his eyes remain locked on mine until eventually he has to tear them away. He looks at Ella.

  “Right,” she says. “We’ll start with that.”

  Dad almost gags. He reaches for his beer and takes a long chug while angling his body away from us all, clearly wishing not to take part in the conversation. I understand, because the last thing I want to do right now is talk about my previous relationship with Tyler, especially in front of them all. But it seems that’s exactly what Ella wants us to do.

  “Jamie,” she says calmly. “You’re first. Say what you want to say.”

  “Anything?”

  “Anything,” she confirms.

  Jamie thinks for a moment, glancing back and forth between Tyler and me, like he’s trying to remind himself of everything he feels toward us. I’m expecting him to explode with a similar rant to yesterday’s, but he doesn’t. All he says is, “It’s embarrassing.”

  Ella nods and then shifts her intense stare. “Chase?”

  “It’s just whatever,” Chase says. “I mean, is it really that big of a deal?”

  “Of course it’s a big deal,” Jamie mutters, and Chase flinches, which leads me to believe that Jamie has just kicked him beneath the table. “Do you even get it? It’s like you kissing Eden. How gross is that?”

  My lips form a firm line, and I glare at him. “You know, Jamie, acting like a dick doesn’t help the situation.”

  “Eden,” Dad hisses. I hear the clink of his beer as he slams it back down onto the table, and my attention is immediately reeled in toward him. “Cut it out with that attitude of yours.”

  “My attitude?” My eyes widen and I quite literally laugh in disbelief before the aggression sets in. “What about Jamie’s attitude? What about yours?”

  Dad shakes his head endlessly and takes another swig of his beer, his eyes boring into a random spot on the restaurant wall. He doesn’t reply, because that’s what Dad does when he doesn’t have a logical thing to say. He knows I’ve got a point, no matter how badly he doesn’t want to admit it.

  So I keep pushing, and, out of the corner of my eye, I can see Tyler watching me closely. “Ella’s right, Dad. Let’s finally talk. Why don’t you like me? Go on,” I demand. “Tell me. Tell me why I’m such a pathetic daughter to you.” I want to hear him say it. I want to hear him admit it.

  Ella exchanges a wary glance with me, but at the same time, she seems almost relieved, like she wanted me to say that all along. When her eyes flicker away, she leans across the table and pulls Dad’s beer out of his hand. “Answer her,” she says. “Nothing is ever going to get resolved unless you do.”

  “You want an answer?” Dad spits, snatching the beer back. The couple at the table next to ours cast a concerned glance toward us all. “Alright,” Dad says. “You’ve been nothing but a disgrace since the moment you arrived in Santa Monica. I wish I’d never asked you to come and visit. You snuck around and didn’t come home half the time, and just when I thought you were finally becoming bearable, you arrive home from New York and I find out that you’ve got some sort of disgusting fling going on. God, I can’t even think about how stupid I was to agree to letting you spend the summer over there.” He glances at Tyler and his expression twists. “I don’t understand what you can possibly see in him. All I know is that the two of you together is wrong. But that makes sense, doesn’t it? Neither of you are all that great when it comes to doing things right.”

  I can’t stay at the table any longer.

  There’s a tremendous screech as I push my chair back and get to my feet. Ella’s burying her head in her hands and Jamie’s murmuring, “Well, I agree with the last part,” and Chase is blinking frantically with wide eyes and Tyler is still staring at me and Dad is chugging the remainder of his beer and I am done.

  I know the purpose of talking here in the middle of such a classy restaurant was to prevent any of us from getting too riled up and causing a scene, but I just have to leave. If I don’t, I’ll end up yelling something equally harsh back at him, and there’s a lot I could say about Dad right now. And if I stay and bite my tongue and keep quiet, I’ll surely burst into tears, because these days I seem to only have two moods: burning rage and unending sorrow. So no, I am leaving while I still have my dignity.

  As I’m squeezing by Jamie, though, I hear another chair scratching the floor, and when I glance quickly over my shoulder, Tyler’s standing too. Still watching me, his eyes still intense. And I think for a moment that he’s coming after me, that he’s about to run out of this restaurant with me and tell me that my dad’s an asshole and that it’s okay and that’s he’s sorry for leaving me to deal with all of this on my own for a year. I need that right now.

  I weave through tables and waiting staff as swiftly as I can, and I head straight for the door, back into the hotel. But I pause when I get there, waiting for Tyler to catch up with me.

  Only he’s not coming. He’s seated back down at our table off in the far corner, but his eyes are still on me. It seems either Dad and Ella have stopped him or he has changed his mind. Maybe now, after everything I told him yesterday, he thinks I’m no longer a girl worth running after.

  And the only thing worse than that is the fact that I wanted him to.

  9

/>   Ella has the key card to our room, so I can’t go back there, which sucks, because all I want to do is crawl into that large double bed of mine and sink into the soft mattress and never wake up again. Instead, I linger in the lobby at first, pacing back and forth until my breathing has calmed, and then for a good half-hour I slump down against one of the plush couches again to watch the people around me, guests dressed to the nines constantly coming and going, heading out to enjoy their Friday night. I wish I could enjoy mine.

  By the time it’s 8:15, I grow tired of observing everyone else, so I decide to get up and follow a young couple into the hotel’s bar and lounge. I ditched my salad back in the restaurant before it even arrived, so I’m still hungry and I’m at the point now where I don’t care what I eat.

  The atmosphere in the lounge feels elegant, bright and chic, and although I look as though I could be sixteen, no one immediately approaches me to kick me out. Maybe it’s because there’s no one manning the doors and maybe it’s also because I’ve bypassed the bar completely, searching for somewhere to sit where I won’t draw any attention to myself. That’s when I spot the outdoor patio.

  The sun has set and it’s twilight by now. Outside on the patio it’s not so busy. The tables are more scattered out here, with umbrella shades over each. And there’s something I’ve never seen before: outdoor fireplaces too, all lit up and bright, surrounded by wicker couches and armchairs. One of the fireplaces is free, so I make straight for it and settle into the couch, my body sinking back against the cushions. I close my eyes and feel the heat of the fire against my face.

  Then my phone vibrates in the back pocket of my jeans.

  I sit up and reach for it, expecting it to most likely be a text from Rachael, but an entirely different name is on my screen. Tyler’s.

  Are you ok?

  My stomach tightens. I begin to write back, telling him that I’m fine, but then I frown and end up deleting it.

  not really I type instead.

  Where are you? he replies within a split second.

  I could lie and tell him I’m in bed trying to get an early night’s sleep so that he’ll leave me alone. But the truth is, I could do with some company right now. I don’t want to lie. I want to talk to him and I want to tell him everything.

  in the lounge I tell him. can you come? im outside on the patio

  I wont be long.

  I stare at his message for a minute before placing my phone down on the table in front of me and sinking back against the couch. A server approaches me, and I order the first thing I notice on the menu: parmesan wedge fries. I don’t even consider how many calories there are; I just order them and wait. The waiting and the loneliness and the warmth from the fire must make me tired, because I’m almost asleep by the time my food arrives ten minutes later, but then I perk up a little. I still feel deflated, though, like I have no energy left to deal with Dad or Jamie or Ella, so I pick at my fries so slowly and numbly that I don’t even enjoy them that much.

  “Everyone’s wondering where you are.”

  I look up, half a fry in my mouth, and find Tyler standing there. He’s a safe distance away, a distance that says we used to be a lot more than this, and his hands are in the front pockets of his jeans. Half his face is lit up orange from the fire and the other half is dark and shadowed, and his expression is completely gentle, his gaze delicate.

  I swallow. “Did you tell them?”

  “No,” he says. “Did you want me to?”

  “No.”

  He sits down. Not beside me on the couch, but across from me on the wicker armchair, and he doesn’t exactly lean back and get comfortable, just interlocks his hands between his knees and looks into the fire for a while. “I’m sorry about your dad,” he says quietly, not looking over.

  “Yeah,” I say. “Me too.” There’s no awkwardness. No tension. I kind of like it this way, being wrapped up in a warm silence that’s almost comfortable. I pull my legs up onto the couch and cross them, my eyes resting on Tyler’s stubble-lined jaw. “Didn’t it get to you too?”

  “Didn’t what get to me?” He tilts his face toward me and our eyes lock.

  “What my dad said.”

  He shakes his head no. “Not really. I mean, it sucked, but I’m getting better when it comes to ignoring shit like that.” He squints. “Why? Did you expect me to react?”

  I reach forward to grab another fry, and then I toss it into my mouth and shrug. “A little. The old you would have pummeled him, I bet.”

  Slowly, the corner of Tyler’s lips pull up into a tiny smile, and he raises an eyebrow. “The old me?”

  “The you that hit him last summer.”

  “So there’s a new me?” His eyebrow arches even higher.

  I nod, because I can’t deny it. There’s something different about him, and it’s as though every summer he becomes a more advanced, improved, polished version of his former self. I thought he was at his prime last summer, but it turned out he wasn’t. He had a positive outlook, sure, but he still snapped incredibly easily. He lost his cool a lot last year.

  “It seems so,” I murmur, and I narrow my eyes back at him as I study him intensely. I’m trying to search his eyes for some truths, but the glow from the fire is reflected in them and making it difficult.

  “Good,” he says slowly, and his lips twitch. “If there wasn’t, then I’ll have spent an entire year without you for nothing. I’ll have messed everything up for nothing.” He breaks the gaze we’re sharing and looks back at the fire for a moment before dropping his eyes down to his interlocked hands.

  My throat tightens.

  I was so in love with you.

  I don’t hate Tyler. I might have told Rachael that over the past year, but it’s a lie. I might have told Ella that I never wanted to see him again, but I’ve realized that’s a lie too. I could never hate him. I’m just . . . mad. I am mad at the fact that I no longer feel the way I used to and I am mad at him for making me feel this way.

  I want to rewind to last summer. I want to be back in New York, up on the roof of Tyler’s apartment building while he murmurs in Spanish to me. I want Dean to have never gotten hurt, and I want Dad and Ella and Jamie and everyone to have understood. I want Tyler to have stayed.

  I want everything to be different, because I really do not want this.

  I want to be in love with you.

  My eyes are still fixed on him, my face warm, and I do the only thing I can think of to keep the conversation going: I offer him a fry and push the dish toward him. But he declines, shaking his head gently and holding up his hand, so I pull it back.

  “Lame family trip, huh?” he jokes, cracking the silence.

  I laugh and lean back. “Sure is. It wouldn’t be so bad if my dad and you weren’t . . .” Quickly, I stop myself and my voice tapers off into silence. I bite down on my lower lip and pray that he doesn’t pick up on my words, but he does, of course, because he’s listening to everything I say with great concentration.

  “Here?” he finishes.

  I purse my lips and shrug, finally tearing my eyes away from him and looking at the group of friends sprawled over the couches around the fireplace next to ours, sipping on cocktails and laughing loudly. I wish I were as happy as them. “Yeah,” I admit. I shrug once more, and then I look at him again. It’s easy to look at him tonight. Somehow, it doesn’t hurt. “But I take it back.”

  “You take it back?” His eyebrow quirks upward again.

  “Yeah. I’m glad you’re here,” I say, but my voice has gone quiet, and I swallow hard. “I’m glad you’re right here right now.” Without thinking over my actions too much, I shift over a couple inches and then nod at the empty spot next to me on the couch. “Sit with me,” I whisper.

  Tyler analyzes my expression at first, as though he’s unsure if I’m being serious or not, because he studies me long and hard before he finally gets up. His movements are slow, cautious, like he’s afraid of accidentally brushing up against me. When he fina
lly sits back down by my side, there are still several inches between us. “Eden,” he says, and then he looks sideways at me, pausing for only a moment. “What is it that you want?”

  “What?”

  “What is it that you want from me?” he asks quietly, but not in a passive-aggressive way, more with genuine concern than anything else. He presses his lips together while he waits for an answer, but his head is lowered, his face tilted down, his eyes gazing softly back at me from beneath his eyelashes.

  I release the breath I’m holding, and then, without hesitation, I tell him exactly what it is that I want. “Truthfully? I want everything to be the way it used to be. I don’t want anyone to know about us. I want everything to be a secret again. It was easier that way.”

  “You know it couldn’t stay that way,” he says. He’s frowning, but his eyes are still bright, reflecting the warmth from the fire.

  “I know,” I murmur, my gaze never leaving his. “But I keep thinking that maybe if it had, you would’ve stayed too.”

  He shakes his head and glances away, running a hand through his hair and leaning further back against the couch. After a minute, he sighs and fixes his eyes back on me. “I didn’t leave because of that, Eden.”

  “Then why did you?”

  “I told you,” he says.

  I think I am only now realizing that my anger doesn’t stem from the fact that Tyler left, but rather from the fact that I don’t really know why he did. Not fully understanding why he left for so long is what really hurts. “Tell me again.”

  Tyler rubs at both his eyes as he sits back up, straightening up next to me and angling his body to directly face me. By moving, he seems to have reduced the distance between us.

  “Here’s the full story,” he says, but his voice is low and husky, which sharpens my attention even more than it already is, and I latch onto every single word he says. “I needed the space and I needed the time to figure things out. We both know that I didn’t really know what I was doing or where I was going. Sure, I was done with New York, but then what? That’s what I didn’t know. I didn’t know where I wanted to go next and I needed to figure that out, but at the same time, I still wasn’t okay, and you know that, right? You know that now?”

 
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