Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame


  He moves his face toward me, his eyebrows pulled together, and he lifts his hand as though he’s about to reach over to touch me, but he doesn’t, and I nod once. That’s when he continues.

  “I shouldn’t have started smoking weed again. I shouldn’t have hit your dad. I shouldn’t have tried to beat the hell out of mine. And the only thing that got me out of those situations was you, because I didn’t want to . . . I don’t know. I didn’t want to let you down. That’s the only reason.”

  He pauses for a minute, maybe because he’s done talking, and I keep thinking that he’s already told me this. He told me all of this last summer, right before he left, only then I was too numb to really listen, too heartbroken to let it sink in. But he’s not done yet, because he parts his lips and exhales a long breath, and then goes on.

  “I know I’ve messed up before and I’ve made some fucked-up decisions, and I know I’ve blamed all my actions on my dad, but the truth is, I’ve always had a choice. I chose to throw my life away when I could have chosen to do something positive about it instead. New York and the tour were a start—you know, talking about what I went through with my dad definitely helped, and all—but that wasn’t enough, which is why I had to leave, Eden. I didn’t want to keep making mistakes. I wanted to be a better person, not because I owed it to you, but because I owed it to myself.” He goes silent, tilting his face down to his lap, and then quietly he murmurs under his breath again, “I owed it to myself.”

  My chest feels so heavy that I think it might just split open. My throat feels dry with guilt, although I can’t pinpoint why. I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. I feel guilty for hitting him yesterday morning. I feel guilty for yelling at him up at the Hollywood Sign last night. I feel guilty for never understanding, for hating him rather than supporting him this entire time. In that exact moment, my head floods with the thought that perhaps I have been the selfish one. The one who has complained and wept and moped for the past year, all because he wasn’t with me, because I was alone. As I think about it now, it hits me that if Tyler had stayed, then perhaps he wouldn’t be as okay as he seems to be now. Dad would have put him through hell. So would Jamie. He’d have had to deal with his dad walking the same streets again, the twisted expressions of those we once went to school with, the fallout. It would have been too toxic to stay in Santa Monica.

  “Tyler,” I whisper, shaking my head slowly. Where do I start? How do I even begin to apologize?

  “Let me say this,” he cuts in, and he lifts his head again, sincere eyes piercing mine. After all these years, I have become an expert at reading his expression. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry for leaving. I was thinking about myself and I should have thought more about you. You’re right—I left you to deal with all of our shit on your own, and I know now that I messed up. I shouldn’t have cut you off. I should have told you that I was in Portland. I should have come back earlier. I shouldn’t have ruined all of this, and do you know what the worst part is? I don’t know if I can fix it, and I don’t think you want me to.”

  I part my lips to speak, but words fail me. I don’t know what to say or how to feel. But my heart is beating painfully with a sense of longing. For all that I have convinced myself that I hate Tyler, the truth is that I have just missed him. I’ve missed hearing his voice and seeing him smirk and feeling his touch. I’ve missed Tyler and there’s no denying it now, but things are complicated. He lives in Portland. I live in Chicago. Dad and Ella don’t accept us. Jamie despises us. Our friends are uncomfortable.

  Maybe Tyler and I are done, not because we’re not in love with one another, but because we are an impossible pair.

  He’s still watching me, and I’m still watching him, and I want nothing more than to touch him right now. But I know that I can’t, so I place both my hands in between my crossed legs in an effort to restrain myself.

  “We were never going to work,” I say, and immediately he frowns. “It’s been three years and all we’ve done is spend most of them apart. Is that how it would work? We spend the summer together and then end up separated for the rest of the year? Is that all it was ever going to be?”

  “No,” he says, and then when he lifts his hand again, he really does touch me this time. He squeezes my knee and I don’t push him away. “Please just come to Portland with me. We can go right now, just you and me. Let’s forget about everyone and everything else while we figure this out. I’m not going back without you, because I don’t care what you say; I need to fix this.” His hand falls away from my knee as he stands up, tall and broad and towering over me, and he reaches into the pocket of his jeans and pulls out his car keys. His expression suddenly screams desperation, the same way it did yesterday up at the sign. “Please.”

  He’s never going to let this go, but, truthfully, I don’t know if I can go back to Portland. I’ve only been back twice since Mom and I moved down to Santa Monica, and that was to pack and to visit Mom’s extended family. Both times, being back in the city reminded me of nothing but bad memories. I used to hate the life I had back in Portland. Not that my life in Santa Monica is any better. In fact, it’s worse.

  And why would I go to Portland with Tyler? Why would I let myself get involved with him again? Why would I go back to him after spending so long trying to move on? Maybe I don’t want to start over or fix whatever there is between us now. Maybe I’ve accepted the fact that it’s time to just give up.

  “We can’t just leave, Tyler,” I mumble, tilting my head back to look up at him. With the fire glowing behind him, his entire face is shadowed and dark. My thoughts are all over the place. “Leaving when things are a mess will never resolve anything, and you should know that by now. So why don’t you stick around for once? And maybe then I’ll consider Portland.” I extend my hand, offering a deal, and he contemplates it for a few seconds. Finally, he places his hand in mine, and we shake on the possibility that I might just go with him.

  “We should probably head back,” he says. His eyes scour the patio, which is growing busier and more raucous as the night wears on, and then he slips his car keys back into his pocket.

  Uncrossing my legs and stretching them, I slowly rise to my feet. “Do they know you were coming to find me?” He knows who I’m talking about.

  “Do you think your dad would have let me come if he did?” he asks, but he’s smiling a little as a low laugh escapes his lips. “Only Chase. Everyone’s in the rooms. Early night, apparently, but Mom said she’s not going to sleep until you show up.”

  “Did my dad say anything after I left?”

  Tyler scratches the back of his neck and doesn’t reply, which makes it pretty clear that Dad did say something, and, judging by Tyler’s silence, it seems it wasn’t anything nice. “C’mon,” he murmurs, and he steps back to allow me out first.

  We make our way back inside to the bar, weaving through the people and the noise and the laughter until we’ve reached the lobby. It’s just after 9PM, so it’s not even late, yet I feel so tired. The six-hour drive has knocked all the energy out of me, so I find myself yawning as we head for the elevator. We’re not talking, but we’re not ignoring each other either, more basking in a comfortable silence while trying not to get caught looking at each other for too long.

  By the time we’re back up on the seventh floor, we’re merely strolling toward our rooms. I run my fingertips along the wall, my steps slow, and Tyler’s pace has matched mine. We’re in no rush to get back, but inevitably we end up outside the doors to our rooms. Dad and Jamie are in the center room, with mine and Ella’s on the left, and Tyler and Chase’s on the right, so there are several feet separating us as we pause outside our doors.

  Tyler stands with his key card in one hand and his other on the door. “So,” he says quietly, as though our family will hear our voices through the walls if we speak any louder. His eyes are smoldering back at me.

  I was so in love with you.

  “So,” I say. I reach for the handle of my own door, rea
dy to knock for Ella to let me in. Part of me doesn’t want her to. Part of me wants to stay out here.

  I want to be so in love with you.

  “I guess it’s goodnight then,” he murmurs. And then he smiles, so huge and so wide that it reaches his eyes, making them crinkle at the corners and making my heart hurt even more than it already is. “Buenas noches.”

  It’s impossible not to mirror his smile. “Bonne nuit.”

  “I thought it was bonsoir,” he says, raising an eyebrow, and I’m surprised he can even remember what it was that I said all those years ago when we murmured goodnight to each other before separating into our own rooms. My French has never been up to scratch, which is embarrassing, because his Spanish has always been pretty flawless.

  “Yeah, well, it should really be bonne nuit,” I say a little sheepishly. “I told you I wasn’t fluent.”

  Tyler nods once and slides his key card into the slot in the door. “Then bonne nuit.”

  “Buenas noches,” I say.

  Somehow, his smile grows even bigger, and his door clicks as it unlocks. He turns away from me, as slowly as he possibly can, and then pushes open the door and heads into his room. The door clicks back shut again, and just like that, he is gone and I am alone.

  I am so in love with you.

  10

  For the first time in a while, waking up and getting out of bed is easy. No roommate telling me I’ve missed my first class, no Mom telling me I need to wake up and live my life, no conscience forcing me to get up and run. For the first time in a while, I am not dreading the day. For the first time in a while, I am looking forward to it.

  Even with my stepmom next to me, smoothing moisturizer onto her face in front of the hotel-room mirror while eyeing me with concern. Even with my dad in the room next door, most likely waking up to the sad realization that he has to deal with this family for another long day.

  None of that can ruin my mood.

  “I’m starting to think you’re right,” Ella says. We have been silent for a while, pivoting around one another as we’ve been getting ready. I look up from tying my laces. She stares back at me in the reflection of the mirror. “Maybe all of this is making everything worse.”

  I straighten up on the edge of my bed and fix her with a stern look, which I’ve grown all too used to giving her over the past year, like whenever she insisted I spend time with Dad or whenever she mentioned Tyler’s name. “Please don’t start saying sorry again for what happened last night.”

  She heaves a drastic sigh and turns her body around in the chair, her hands resting over the back of it as she looks straight at me. “But I really am. It was a bad idea. Your dad was completely out of line and, trust me, I’ve told him that.”

  “And I bet he didn’t care,” I say, and I’m completely nonchalant, because I am long past the point of worrying about my dad. I couldn’t care less that he can’t stand Mom or me, or that we both infuriate him, or that, in his opinion, Mom wasn’t the best wife and I’m not the best daughter. Not one single fiber of my being even remotely cares. These days, his loathing for us has become almost funny.

  Getting to my feet, I ignore Ella’s growing frown as I near her, reaching for my phone on the dressing table. I grab the key card too, and a complimentary map of Sacramento provided by the reception staff, then change the subject while I have the chance to. “Where are we heading?”

  “I’m not sure yet, but we’ll find somewhere.” She stands up, so I take a few steps back to give her some space as she picks up her bottle of perfume from the dresser, spraying a spritz of the Chanel fragrance on her wrists before placing it back. “Let’s hope your dad’s awake.”

  It’s impossible for him not to be. The first thing Ella did this morning when she climbed out of bed was knock sharply on the wall, several times, too. It’s also after 9AM, and I bet the guys are starving.

  Ella and I leave our room then, leaving the map behind and slipping out into the hallway of the eighth floor, ready to draw the family back together once more. Ella knocks on the door of Dad and Jamie’s room. I knock on Tyler and Chase’s, and it immediately swings open. Chase holds the door open with only his foot and stuffs his hands into the front pouch of his hoodie as he rolls his eyes over his shoulder and pointedly says, “Someone slept in.”

  I look past him, straight across the room to Tyler. He’s in the process of slipping on a shirt while at the same time trying to pull on his other boot, and his eyes flicker over to meet mine only briefly. While he’s hunched over, drops of water fall from the ends of his hair to the carpet, and when he straightens up, he grabs a towel from the floor and runs it over his hair to quickly dry it. I don’t realize I’m staring until I hear him murmur, “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming. I only woke up ten minutes ago.”

  I shift my attention back to Chase while Tyler starts fumbling around in the pockets of another pair of jeans, fetching his phone and his wallet and his keys. “You didn’t wake him?”

  “No,” Chase says, his hood pulled up over his head, “I was watching TV.”

  Ella must pick up on our words, because she quits knocking at the room next door and walks over, peering around the door frame and shaking her head at Tyler, who simply shrugs. “Don’t you guys know that alarms exist?”

  “Alarms don’t exist when you’re on vacation,” Chase answers.

  “This isn’t a vacation.” She steps forward and pushes his hood down, moving her hands to his hair as she attempts to tame it, but Chase only ducks and steps away. He promptly pulls his hood back up as he steps out into the hall to join us.

  I hear the click of Dad and Jamie’s door, and Dad’s the first to drift out to meet us, muttering over his shoulder for Jamie to hurry up. Ella turns back around to talk to him, but I tune out from their murmured good mornings and focus instead on brushing past Chase, taking a cautious step into his and Tyler’s room. I lean back against the door and hold it open.

  “Tired?” I tease, my gaze resting on Tyler.

  He runs his hand back through his damp hair and rolls his eyes at me as he darts around the room, turning off the TV and grabbing his jacket, which is resting over the back of the small armchair in the corner. He doesn’t need it, though, because according to Ella the weather is supposed to remain in the high nineties the entire weekend.

  “I didn’t sleep much,” Tyler says, but he doesn’t offer much of an explanation as to why. Instead, he quickly approaches and nudges me back out into the hallway while he pulls the door shut behind us.

  Dad glances up from his conversation with Ella. “Morning, Chase,” he says with a clipped nod. No “Morning, Tyler.” No “Morning, Eden.”

  Chase half smiles. “Do they have IHOP up here, Dad?”

  Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Tyler’s body stiffen and his jaw tighten. At first, I don’t understand why there’s a sudden shift in the atmosphere, because Dad’s asshole behavior is nothing out of the usual, but then it abruptly occurs to me why Tyler is so tense. I was taken aback the first time I heard Chase say it too.

  “Of course they do,” Dad tells Chase. “But it’s not on the cards for today, buddy.”

  Finally, Jamie emerges from his and Dad’s room, his permanent scowl plastered across his face. He makes a point of pulling the door shut way too hard, slamming it and shrugging when Ella flashes him a warning glance that means Don’t piss me off. Recently, she’s started looking at Dad that way too.

  “So,” she says now that we’re all here, “is everyone hungry?”

  Jamie groans and pulls out his earphones from his back pocket. He hooks them up to his phone and walks off toward the elevator without the rest of us, but I’ve grown all too used to his tantrums, the same way I’ve grown used to Dad’s harsh remarks, so I barely even bat an eyelid.

  “Well then,” Ella murmurs under her breath. “Let’s get going.”

  We’re quick to follow Jamie, the five of us trailing down the long hallway after him and into the elevator. The entire time, t
here’s silence, because no one in this family wants to talk unless they absolutely have to. It’s past the point of being awkward and is now verging on becoming normal. How tragic that it’s more unusual for us to talk to one another than it is for us not to.

  Because none of us know the area, we make a stop in the lobby so Ella and Dad can ask the concierge for recommendations on where a dysfunctional family like ours can find breakfast nearby. He recommends Ambrosia, a café only a couple blocks north, so we head off looking for it.

  It’s already hot out, despite the fact that it’s not even 9:30, and within seconds of leaving the hotel, Chase is already pulling off his hoodie. He ties it around his waist, only for Jamie to pull out his earphones and tell him that he looks stupid. That earns him a kick in the shin.

  “Nice one,” I tell Chase, and promptly high-five him. Dad and Ella are too busy leading the way to even notice.

  “Shut up,” Jamie hisses, casting a sharp glare over his shoulder at me. At the same time, he shoves his earphones back into his ears and speeds up.

  “Shut up,” I echo, my voice high-pitched as I imitate him in a voice that is the exact opposite of his. Chase grins.

  “Eden,” Tyler says, and I stop smiling and twist my head around to look at him. His lips are pressed together in a firm line, his eyes hidden behind his shades, and he’s shaking his head at me in disapproval, rather condescendingly. “Don’t make it worse than it already it.”

  “Okay,” I say.

  Our steps are slower, like we have nowhere to be and nowhere to go, and we walk side by side for several minutes in silence before my eyes are drawn back to his. His stare is intense.

  “When did he start calling him Dad?” he asks quietly, and then nods ahead to Chase.

  “No idea,” I admit with a shrug. I keep my voice low, because I don’t want Chase to hear us talking about him. He’d get embarrassed. “But it was Thanksgiving the first time I heard him say it.”

 
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