Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame


  I love that the falls is so accessible. It’s only a five-minute walk to the base. For those who want to go higher, it’s possible to hike straight to the top.

  So there we are, Tyler and I again, hand in hand, normal. The truth is, no one even knows we’re stepsiblings. It’s impossible for them to, and as I’m glancing at the people around us now, I wonder why I’ve been so scared of how strangers would react if somehow they discovered that Tyler is my stepbrother. That’s all they are; just strangers. Their opinions don’t matter to us, and they most definitely shouldn’t affect us. The way I feel right now, happy and content with Tyler right by my side, is what really matters.

  The walk is so short that before I even realize it, we’re at the viewing area at the base of the falls. It’s here where its sheer height can really be appreciated, all six hundred feet of it. People are already merging into one large group as they snap pictures and pull their ponchos out of their backpacks. No matter how hot Portland can get in the summer, Multnomah Falls will always be colder, with a layer of mist covering it and the ground always damp.

  “Pretty sweet,” he says loudly over the sound of the falls. The water tends to spray all over the place, and it keeps on sparking toward us.

  “We’re going up there,” I say, then point a finger up to the Benson Bridge, a footbridge that spans the base of the first tier. I do firmly believe that it must be one of the most exhilarating views in the world.

  Again, hand in hand, we move on. It’s not too far of a walk up to the bridge, only several hundred feet or so, but we have to fight against the current of people who have the same idea as us. Sometimes I wish Multnomah Falls wasn’t as well known as it is, because when we do get to the bridge, it’s already flocked by fellow spectators. Tyler moves his hands to my shoulders, brushing his body against mine from behind as he directs me forward, squeezing along the bridge until we find a spot to stop. And finally, finally, I feel like I’m really home.

  Being up here, with the sheer height of the first tier of the falls above me and the drop of the second below me, I feel a million miles away from California. The smell of wet moss. The freshness in the air. The trees that are green and alive and not suffering from the effects of a drought. This is Oregon.

  “Photos are mandatory,” I tell Tyler as I turn to look at him. He has his head tilted straight back, his face up to the very top of the falls. He blinks a couple times then looks at me, a warm smile on his face. He doesn’t even hesitate to fish his phone out of the back pocket of his jeans.

  “If they’re so mandatory,” he murmurs, “then start smiling.” He moves back a few steps and holds up his phone, a huge grin on his face as he laughs and tells me to say cheese.

  With the waterfall as my backdrop, I lean back against the bridge in the midst of everyone else and I smile. It comes so naturally that I can feel it lighting up my entire face. I’m so happy in that moment that I forget I’m posing for a picture, and I end up laughing, at myself and at Tyler, at the giddy grins we can’t seem to suppress today.

  And when he’s done taking the picture, we switch. It’s Tyler’s turn to stand with his back to the waterfall. He shows another wide grin, holding up two thumbs to the camera while I snap some shots of him. Then I leap over to join him, pressing my body against his and holding his phone in front of our faces. He tilts his head against mine and rests his jaw against my temple, and we smile one more time into the small camera of his phone, just like we did a year ago in New York. Only this time, our background isn’t Times Square.

  I take the picture then lower my arm, stepping around and in front of him and passing the phone back into his hand. But the smile on Tyler’s face has suddenly faltered into a frown, which is enough to cause mine to do the same. His gaze rests on my wrist for an increasingly long moment, and I don’t understand why he’s furrowing his eyebrows until he delicately reaches for my arm and turns my wrist toward him. That’s when I remember my tattoo, and I think Tyler is only noticing it for the first time. It’s not the same one he remembers me having. He remembers three words. Now there’s a dove that has one wing bigger than the other because I’m pretty sure the artist in San Francisco was just a trainee.

  Tyler grasps my other arm, checks that wrist. Nothing. He looks at that horrible bird with disdain, then slowly lets go of my arm and looks up to meet my anxious eyes. “Where’s . . . ?” I know exactly what it is he’s desperate to ask. Where’s No te rindas, where’s his handwriting, where’s last summer’s memory, where’s my hope. “Did you cover it?”

  That disappointed look on his face is enough to make me want to disappear over the edge of this bridge. I’m too embarrassed even to meet his eyes, so I quickly roll the sleeves of my sweatshirt back down and kick at the ground with my Chucks. All I can do is shrug. “During spring break,” I tell him.

  “Why?”

  My eyes slowly meet his, surprised that he even has to ask. Tyler, I’ve realized, is incredibly awful at understanding the most obvious of things. I don’t want to lie to him, so I tell him the truth without so much as blinking. “Because I’d given up by then, Tyler.”

  “I get it.” He turns away and folds his arms against the bridge’s barrier, looking at the water below. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say, and I fear the incredible atmosphere around us is now ruined. I’m not expecting him to say anything for a while, so it takes me slightly aback when he straightens up and faces me with a devious smirk on his lips. “Have you still given up?”

  There he is again, asking another question to which the answer is obvious. “You know I haven’t,” I say.

  “Prove it,” he says. That smirk grows even more crooked as he raises his eyebrows and nods to my wrist. He waits for me to click onto what he’s suggesting.

  “You want me to get it again?” I ask, my tone blank, my expression blanker. I’m not quite sure if he’s kidding or if he’s serious. The thought of getting that tattoo all over again has never once crossed my mind.

  “I think you should,” he states, then adds, “Maybe I’ll get it too.”

  Within a heartbeat, I’m sticking out my hand. He’s said it now, I think. Don’t let him change his mind. “Sounds like a deal.”

  “Eden,” he says as his features relax. “I was kidding.”

  Now I’m the one who’s smirking. “I wasn’t.”

  Tyler studies me, taking in my challenging gaze and my hand that’s still extended to him. Then he rolls his eyes, heaves a sigh of defeat, and shakes on the deal. “I’ll call my artist tomorrow,” he tells me as he slips his phone back into the pocket of his jeans. “Ask if he can fit us in at some point.”

  “No,” I cut in. “We need to go right now. Today is all about being impulsive.”

  Again Tyler hesitates, deciding if I’m still being serious, and when he realizes that I am, his smile returns. Exhaling, he holds up his hand, ready to grasp mine. “Then let’s go.”

  19

  Tyler’s preferred tattoo artist is a guy named Liam. He works in a small studio in the downtown area of Portland. He’s the same guy who did all the work on Tyler’s left bicep, the same guy who carefully kept my name visible.

  It’s late afternoon by now, and we’ve been sitting in Liam’s waiting room for a good two hours, waiting until 5PM because it’s the only spare time he has today. He’s fully booked otherwise, and an entire array of people have been coming and going in the time that Tyler and I have been here, paying and filling out our disclaimer forms and trying to decide where exactly we’re going to place our newest tattoos. We’ve also strolled around the block four times, but we’re so filled with adrenaline that we can’t force ourselves to stay away for too long.

  There’s a girl who works here too, only she does piercings rather than tattoos. She leans across the small desk in the waiting area and raps her knuckles against it in order to get my attention. “You sure you don’t want that piercing?” she asks when my eyes flicker toward her. She nods to the huge clock hanging above m
y head. “Still got ten minutes. We’ve got time to do a quick pierce of the good old helix. What’d you say?”

  “I’m good,” I reply for what seems like the ninetieth time now. Tyler finds it hilarious each time she asks to pierce a body part of mine, and I think all the caffeine he’s consumed while we’ve been here is really starting to spike his energy. He’s been back and forth to the coffee shop next door multiple times. Either that or the overwhelming smell of green soap here is starting to have an affect on him. It’s starting to get to me too.

  “Okay,” he says. “I’ve decided.”

  “Well?”

  He gets to his feet, still holding an empty to-go cup in his hand, then points to the right side of his chest, right on his peck. “I’m thinking here. I’m not too sure I want to start adding any more words to my arms,” he muses, glancing down at the artwork on his left bicep that he’s been working on over the past year. My name is currently the only piece of writing there, hardly noticeable amidst the rest of the dark ink that covers his skin. “And I’ve already got guerrero on my back, so chest it is.”

  We may be getting matching tattoos, but we definitely aren’t going for matching placements. Tyler wants his fresh ink to be on his chest, whereas I wish for mine to be on my inner right forearm. The best part? Our new tattoos are going to be in each other’s handwriting.

  The door to the actual studio swings open, and a burly man saunters out boasting a bandage on the back of his leg. He already has numerous tattoos all over his body, and when he first turned up forty minutes ago, he’d told Tyler and me that he was adding a tattoo of the boat his father used to own as something to remember him by.

  Liam strolls out behind him, and no matter how many times I’ve seen him drift between the studio and the waiting room, I still find myself staring at him in surprise. He just doesn’t look like a tattoo artist. For starters, he seems about my age, maybe a few years older than me. Second, the only tattoo that I can spot is a compass on his neck, just behind his ear. Third, he’s not very intimidating, which is good. He looks like the guy from the dorm next door who you’d ask to borrow instant noodles from because you know he’s too nice to tell you to fuck off.

  Liam sees the man out then turns to us, an apologetic smile on his face. He knows how long we’ve been waiting here, the two of us so desperate to get these tattoos done today that we were willing to wait around and be harassed by his fellow coworker for the better part of two hours.

  “Right, guys,” he says, ducking down behind the desk as the girl scoots out of the way. He pops back up with a thick wad of paper which he proceeds to place on the small table in the center of the waiting room. “You want to draw it up yourselves, right? Don’t worry about making it the correct size that you’re looking for yet. I can do all of that on the computer. Just get the words down.” He passes us some pens, then tells us he’ll be back soon, after he’s done setting up the studio for us.

  The second Liam leaves, Tyler stands and grabs a pen, pulling a sheet of paper from the stack and placing it smoothly back down against the wood of the table. He gets started without hesitation, and I watch in extreme satisfaction as the pen glides across the paper, as the letters appear one by one. No te rindas. I never thought I’d be seeing Tyler write these words again, and I fall in love with even the way he flicks his wrist in between each of them. Once finished, he straightens up and frowns down at the paper, examining it. The letters are slightly misaligned, some thicker than others, some taller. I think it looks adorably childlike, but Tyler seems to loathe it, because he shakes his head and then crushes the sheet of paper into a ball. He throws it in the trash and takes another sheet of paper, then tries again. This time he tries block capitals, but he hates it all the same, and once more, he throws it in the trash.

  Running a hand through his hair, he heaves a frustrated sigh as he sets a new sheet of paper in place. “So much pressure,” he murmurs, then drastically exhales before biting down on his lower lip with extreme concentration. His hand hovers over the paper, the pen gripped tight. “It’s gotta look good if it’s going to be permanent.”

  “I don’t want it to be perfect, Tyler,” I remind him, and I place a hand on his shoulder, glancing at him from beneath my eyelashes as our gazes lock. “I just want it to be yours.”

  He appears to relax at my words, because he nods and averts his eyes to the paper, where he promptly scribbles those three words all over again without overthinking it. It’s still a little crooked, but it’s simple and it’s real, which is exactly how I want it.

  “How’s that?” Tyler asks, handing me the sheet.

  “Hmm.” I cock my head to one side and feign deep contemplation, even tapping my index finger repeatedly against my lips for added affect. I glance between the scrawled words and my inner forearm, trying to imagine them there, but even just thinking about it is enough to make me grin and snap out of my charade. “I love it,” I finally reply.

  It’s so impromptu, but I stretch up on my feet and plant a kiss right bang on the center of Tyler’s cheek. Apparently, today is all about being spontaneous.

  Just as I’m finishing my own piece for Tyler’s chest, trying my best to make my handwriting appear slightly more masculine than my usual cursive style, Liam comes strolling back into the waiting area, rubbing his hands together. “Right. Who’s first? I’m guessing you, Tyler,” he says, then rolls his eyes. “The girls never want to go first.”

  Immediately, I step forward. Partly because I’m anxious as hell and want Tyler to think I’m tough, and partly because Liam’s sexist remark needs challenging. “I’ll happily go first,” I say, loud and clear. Really, I feel sick with nervous anticipation.

  Both Liam and Tyler look over at me, their expressions full of surprise.

  “Really?” Tyler asks.

  “Yep.” I reach over and take the sheet of paper from his hand, then pass him mine in exchange.

  “Alrighty then,” Liam says. “Come on through.” He holds open the door to the small studio in the back and I waltz through with an air of confidence while Tyler follows close behind me.

  The studio, like most, is small. The walls display a selection of framed pieces of artwork, from huge tigers to small roses, and there’s a bed pressed against the wall which Tyler plonks himself down on the edge of. He appears quite smug, and he’s smiling at me as though he’s just waiting for me to change my mind and ask him to go first instead.

  “Take a seat,” Liam tells me, so I do exactly that. I settle down into the leather chair as he sits himself opposite me on another. “So, placement?”

  “Right here.” I hold out my right arm and run my index finger along the skin of my inner forearm. That shitty dove I have is on my left. I wish Rachael had never convinced me to get a cover-up.

  Liam nods and takes Tyler’s sheet of paper from me, twirling his chair around to face a computer that’s set up along the worktops. He spends a few minutes scanning the paper, then blowing it up on the screen, then printing it back off again, then tracing it onto transferrable paper, which he then presses onto my inner forearm. “How’s that looking?”

  The words are a stencil on my skin. It’s not too small, but not too large either. It’s around three inches in length, and it runs down my arm just the way I pictured it. Only it’s not quite permanent yet. “Go for it,” I say.

  I exhale and lean back in the chair, trying to get as comfortable as I can in such a situation. The tattoo artist in San Francisco seemed to have a heavy hand back during spring break and I suffered in agony for a good fifteen minutes. The wait for the pain to begin is always the worst part. I don’t know how Tyler can do this so often.

  Liam snaps on a pair of latex gloves as he gets to work on prepping both me and the ink. It takes only a few minutes, from setting up the machine to cleaning my arm and running a razor across my skin before cleaning it once again. Then he tells me to relax, which is impossible after he switches on the machine and the loud buzzing begins. Shit.


  I have no idea why I’m so nervous. I’ve done this before. Twice, and I was never as anxious as I am right now. I think it’s the fact that I’m making such a huge commitment. The first time I got this tattoo, I never thought I’d end up regretting it. I thought Tyler and I would be together, like, forever. Maybe I was deluded in thinking that back then, because a couple weeks later, he left and never came back. Yet here I am again, perhaps deluded once more. Things could go wrong in a couple months.

  But when I cast a glance at Tyler and I see his gentle gaze watching me with an expression filled with so much love and warmth, I realize I’m prepared to give it my all to make us work whether or not we have our family’s acceptance, whether or not we have our friends’ approval. I’m ready to make that commitment now, ready to do it once and for all without letting anyone else get in the way. Getting this tattoo resembles that. I’m ready.

  “Would you like to hold my hand?” Tyler teases, offering it to me.

  “Yes,” I say, “but simply because I want to. Not because of the pain. My tolerance is pretty high.” Bullshit, I’m thinking. Such bullshit. I may not feel so nervous anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m not dreading it.

  He releases another of his genuine laughs, and I grasp his hand in mine and almost yank him off the bed. He rests his elbows on his knees and leans forward to reach me more comfortably, then he begins to rub his thumb in soft circles over the back of my hand.

  Liam reaches for my right arm and gently places it down on a propped-up padded stand. He wheels his chair right up next to me, then hovers over my skin. “Ready?”

  “Mmm,” is all I can say, because I’m already biting down far too hard on the inside of my cheek, and then I nod once.

  Immediately, it starts. I grit my teeth and squeeze my eyes shut, my grip on Tyler’s hand clamping down even tighter. It’s worth it, I remind myself. It’s hard to believe it when my skin is on fire, when it feels like my flesh is being burned by hot scratches. I hear Tyler biting back laughter, and when I peel open one eye to glare at him, I discover that he’s pressing the back of his free hand to his mouth to stop himself.

 
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