Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame

  Sorry had to go to work but

  im missing you already and

  im allowed to write on my

  walls because im painting

  them soon anyway. te amo

  I’m smiling by the time I finish reading it, and I can’t help but shake my head. Of course, he returns to work today, which explains why he’s not here and why the house is dead silent. I run a hand through my hair, tangled and matted, and then I rub at my eyes, only to find that I’ve still got yesterday’s makeup on. I feel so unattractive that I think I might just be relieved that Tyler isn’t here to witness it.

  I can’t even remember what day it is. Tuesday, I think, and I sit there wondering what exactly I’m supposed to do today. I eventually decide that whatever I end up doing, the day has to at least begin with coffee. Specifically coffee made by Tyler.

  Pushing the comforter away, I slide out of Tyler’s bed—which is much comfier than his couch—and gather up my clothes that are scattered all over the hardwood floor. Then I make a dash from Tyler’s bedroom to the spare room. I grab the first set of fresh clothes that come to hand, before darting into the bathroom and finally the shower.

  From what I can remember, I think Tyler’s shift at the coffee shop ends at noon, so I need to get ready and find my way downtown before then. I only spend ten minutes in the shower, massaging my conditioner into my hair at super speed and being careful not too get too much water on my new tattoo which I keep forgetting about. I get dressed and then dry my hair in the bathroom because I’ve realized it’s the only damn room in this apartment that has a mirror. Guys are just typical. I pull my flat iron through my hair while sitting on the lid of the toilet, and then I place my makeup bag inside the sink as I apply a natural look. Finally, I make my way back through to Tyler’s room in search of my phone.

  I find it underneath the pillows, and I have an entire list of new notifications, which is unusual for me. I know I haven’t checked my phone since yesterday morning, too preoccupied with Tyler and everything else going on around me, but I never get this many messages in the space of twenty-four hours.

  Sitting on the edge of Tyler’s bed, I scroll all the way back to the earliest messages. The first is from Dad, received at 10:14AM yesterday morning:

  If you’re planning on crawling home anytime soon, don’t.

  And then another, at 10:16:

  In case it wasn’t obvious, you’re no longer welcome in this house. Go to your mom’s.

  Dad’s contempt for me doesn’t even bother me anymore. I’m just so used to it, and I can’t say I didn’t expect this reaction from him. I knew what decision I was making when I left Sacramento with Tyler. I knew the impact it would have. I knew I would make things worse.

  There’re some texts from Mom, and although I haven’t told her that I’m in Portland, she has apparently figured it out herself. I was supposed to be home yesterday. The fact that I wasn’t only shows that I did, in fact, make the choice to come to Portland. She says I made the right decision, and she asks me to call her when I get a chance.

  I’ve even got a text from Ella yesterday afternoon, asking me if things are going okay.

  But I don’t reply to any of them, because I’m more concerned about the texts I’ve received from Rachael and the alarming amount of Twitter notifications I seem to have.

  The first text came through at 7:58AM.

  umm wtf are u doing in portland?

  Then another.

  Can u tell me whats going on?? I thought u hated him

  Then a third.

  And u got that dumb tattoo again oh mY GOD is this even real

  Then a fourth, all within a minute of each other.

  If ur dad doesnt kill u then I will

  I stare at her messages, reading them over and over again. I haven’t told Rachael that I’m in Portland. I haven’t told her about the tattoos either. In fact, I haven’t told anyone, so I can’t figure out how she can possibly know about them. That’s until I check my Twitter.

  I’ve been tagged in a tweet, and the only person who ever tags me in anything is Rachael, but for once, it’s not her. I’ve been tagged by Tyler. For a few seconds, I’m actually too scared to even open his account, but I exhale and pull up the tweet because my curiosity is killing me.

  It’s Tyler’s first update in over a year, since last June.

  Portland ain’t so bad with my girl, he posted six hours ago, just after 5AM. Two photos are attached. The first is of our matching tattoos, with my arm held up against his chest in order to fit both into the picture. We took it last night once we got back to his apartment and removed our bandages. It was to send to Liam. The second photo is of me at Multnomah Falls. I’m not even looking at the camera, but I’m laughing.

  So far, fifty-nine people have favorited it. I try to check the replies, but there are none. No mocking insults. No outbursts of disgust. Just nothing, like no one even cares. Either that or they’re simply afraid to express their opinion in case Tyler will kick their ass. Because that’s something the old Tyler would have done. But not the new one.

  Rachael’s texts make sense now. Of course she’s confused. On Friday, I was whining relentlessly to her about having to spend the weekend with Tyler, and now suddenly we’re in Portland together with matching tattoos and smiles on our faces. That sudden shift has taken me by surprise too. I didn’t realize it would be this easy to fall back in love with Tyler.

  To keep Rachael from bursting into flames, I shoot her a vague text back.

  Things change and so do people :) will fill you in when I get back (and don’t ask me when that will be because I have no idea)

  My phone’s battery is down to four percent, so I leap off Tyler’s bed, fumble around in my suitcase in the spare room for my portable charger, and then I make for the door. Luckily, Tyler has taped the spare key to the wall, circling it with that same black permanent marker so that it’s impossible for me to miss. I guess he figured I wouldn’t want to spend the day here.

  So I lock up and head out, pulling on my shades as the blinding sunlight shines down over the city yet again. I flag down a lady walking a pair of dogs and ask where the nearest MAX station is, sounding like a tourist who has found themself lost in a residential neighborhood, and she points south and gives me directions. It’s a good fifteen-minute walk to the station, and then another twenty minutes to actually get downtown. I get off at Pioneer Square just after 11:30 and make a beeline straight for Tyler’s work.

  The place is busy but not heaving when I get there. There’s already formed a small line of people dropping in for a late morning coffee just like I am, so I join the end and rest my eyes on the baristas. The guy from yesterday is here again. Mikey. So is the girl, but I don’t know her name. And then there’s Tyler, bright-eyed and smiling as though he’s the happiest, most easygoing guy there is. The sleeves of his black shirt are rolled up to just below his elbows, so there’s not a single tattoo of his to be seen. My lips part as I stare at the veins that run from his knuckles up his forearm, emboldened and tight as his muscles contract each time he pulls the lever to release coffee from the grinder and into the portafilter. He hasn’t spotted me yet, too focused on the cup of coffee he’s making, but in a way, I’m glad. It allows me to stare lustfully at him without receiving a funny glance in return, and my eyes are smoldering with desire. He’s so effortlessly perfect. All I can think about is the way his hands felt on my body last night, the way his lips had left their trace all over my skin, the way his sparkling eyes never left mine, even in the darkness of his room.

  Mikey is the one taking orders, so when I reach him, he glances up at me and a hint of recognition crosses his face. I may not be a regular, but he certainly remembers me from yesterday. “Hi again,” he says. His nose piercing shines each time he moves. “What can I get you, Eden?”

  “Vanilla latte with two extra shots of caramel,” I answer, the words rolling off the tip of my tongue without having to think about it. Mikey nods and
starts to scribble my words down onto a small pad of sticky notes, but I’m already feeling guilty before he’s even finished writing. I need to stop doing this. I need to stop complaining about gaining weight yet continuing to consume the most fattening things like ice cream and damn vanilla lattes. I need to adopt the same mindset as Tyler. I need to actually make changes rather than just hoping for them. “Wait,” I say, and the pen pauses on the paper as Mikey glances up. “Can I make it a skinny white Americano?” Nowhere near as good, but nowhere near as fattening.

  “No problem.” He scraps the first sticky note and then writes on another, tearing it from the pad and sticking it to the counter alongside the previous orders that have yet to be filled. He turns to the cash register, ringing me up, and it turns out to be extremely cheap. “Friends and family discount,” he says with a wink. I hand him five bucks, and he passes me my change. The shop is abuzz with the sounds of conversation and constant steaming, the chirping of milk and the tamping of ground coffee.

  “I wrote down that you’re here,” Mikey murmurs, lowering his voice. I can also see his tongue piercing as he talks. He subtly gives a pointed glance in Tyler’s direction. Tyler has his back to us, shifting between machines, reaching for cups and syrups and milk. “Give him a second to realize.”

  I chuckle. Tyler’s so oblivious sometimes that I doubt he even will. “Thanks,” I tell Mikey, then move further along the counter, making way for the next customer as I wait for my coffee. Tyler is the one making all the orders, so I’m looking forward to testing his skills when it comes to making the perfect cup of joe.

  I watch him closely with a goofy smile plastered on my face as he picks up a sticky note, reads it, then makes the coffee with extreme concentration. The effort he puts in is adorable. The girl working alongside him passes the cup to the customer waiting in the corner, then Tyler picks up the next order and begins making it. Again the girl delivers it to the customer. And then he picks up the bright orange sticky note that has my order, running his eyes over it. Quickly, he lifts his head and glances over his shoulder. He scours the shop before he spots me, and I have never, ever seen him grin so fast in my entire life.

  He hands the girl the note with my order, and he must ask her if he can take a minute to talk to me, because she nods and they switch positions. She falls into place behind the coffee machines, and Tyler makes his way toward me, playfully pushing the back of Mikey’s head on the way over. So much for having Tyler make my coffee.

  “I was hoping you’d come by,” he admits when he reaches me. He presses his palms flat on the counter that separates us, leaning over to hear me better through all of the noise. “Sorry I wasn’t there this morning. I left before six, so I didn’t want to wake you.”

  “It’s okay,” I reassure him. “I got your message. It was kind of impossible not to.”

  A rosy hue tints his cheeks and he lowers his head, tilting his face down to the counter. “I was going to write you a note, you know, like they do in the movies. But I couldn’t find any paper.”

  “You’re really painting the walls?”

  “Yeah,” he says. Glancing back up, he runs his eyes over me, his gaze eventually coming to rest on my arm. No te rindas still has a shiny gloss to it that only comes with fresh tattoos.

  “I saw your tweet,” I tell him, and his eyes meet mine. “I think you gave Rachael a heart attack.”

  He releases a laugh, shaking his head. “I wasn’t going to post it,” he says, “but then I remembered that we’d stopped caring what everyone thinks. At least now they’ve all heard it directly from me.”

  “Wait until Jamie sees it,” I scoff. Oh, God. I can already imagine him throwing his phone across the room in disbelief before scrambling to fetch it again so that he can run and show Dad. Being told via social media that Tyler and I are together isn’t exactly the way I imagined our family finding out.

  “He already has,” Tyler says, and I draw my eyebrows together at how nonchalant he sounds. “He texted me a couple hours ago like What the fuck?” He chuckles just as the girl that’s been filling his role of making the coffee appears with mine.

  “Here you go,” she says, leaning over the counter and passing me the to-go cup. It’s so hot that it practically scalds me the moment I take it from her, but I quickly thank her, and Tyler lets her know that he’ll be back over in a second.

  When she leaves, he holds up his wrist and tilts his watch toward him, then he looks back at me. “Twenty minutes to go,” he says. “I’ll be heading over to the center after. How about you? What are you doing?”

  “I’m not sure yet.” I shrug and drop my gaze to my coffee, tracing the rim of the lid with an index finger. “But I’ll definitely come by later.”

  “Good,” he says. When I glance back up, he’s grinning, but it quickly fades into an apologetic smile as he casts a look over his shoulder at the girl who’s struggling to keep up with all of the new orders. “I should get back.” Stretching over the counter, he plants the quickest of kisses against the corner of my mouth, and out of the corner of my eye, I catch Mikey puckering his lips teasingly at us.

  I let Tyler get back to work, and to prevent myself from distracting him, I head straight out of the shop rather than sitting around.

  Navigating downtown Portland is easy, because I know it like the back of my hand, so I head to Pioneer Square and find myself a spot on the steps to sit down and drink my coffee. And honestly, it’s shit. Not because it’s been made badly, but because I would much rather be drinking a vanilla latte over a crappy Americano any day.

  Pioneer Square is packed, which isn’t unusual, because it’s summer and the sun is being gracious to us, and it’s the perfect spot to bask in the heat and watch the constant flow of people that passes through. But as I’m sitting there, blowing on my coffee to cool it down, I realize that although Portland is my home, I don’t actually know anyone in this city. Half the friends I did have when I was sixteen and still lived here have moved out of town for college. Mom’s side of the family are all in Roseburg, and so are Dad’s. The only people I actually have in this city right now are Tyler and Emily. And Amelia.

  I don’t know why Amelia hasn’t crossed my mind until now. She was my best friend. From the moment we met in the sixth grade, we did everything together, but we drifted apart a lot after I left. It’s just the way things go. We lived in different states, and it grew difficult to keep in touch. But Amelia still lives here. She goes to school at Portland State.

  I set my coffee on the ground beside me and pull my phone out of my pocket, scrolling through my limited contacts and finding her number. We send each other the occasional text to check in on how we’re doing, but the last time I saw her was three years ago. We clung to each other on her porch, sixteen and in tears, wondering how we were supposed to live from then on without each other. When you’re young, everything seems like the end of the world. Looking back, it wasn’t.

  Quickly, I call her number and press my phone to my ear, drumming my fingertips against my knees as I listen to the monotonous dialing tone. It’s a long shot that she’ll be around and available, but there’s no harm in checking. Either way, I want to talk to her and let her know that I’m back in Portland.

  She answers at the very last second, right before the call goes to her voicemail. “Eden?” There’s surprise in her voice, most likely because I don’t think we’ve actually called each other in a long time, so this is a little random.

  “Guess what?” I reply. I want to cut to the chase about why I’m calling.

  Amelia is quiet for a second as she thinks, because unlike most people, she actually does like to make a reasonable guess. But today she can’t seem to think of anything that would be logical, for all she answers is, “No idea, but please tell me.”

  “Well,” I say, leaning back and reaching for my coffee, tilting my face up to the sky, “I’m sitting at Pioneer Square.”

  “WHAT?” Amelia explodes, and I can do nothing but laugh. ?
??You’re here? You’re in Portland?”

  “Yes!” I take a long sip of my coffee, catch my breath, then add, “I’ve been here since Sunday night.”

  “Oh my God!” Her excitement radiates across the line and her energy is contagious. I’ve missed her so much, more than I’ve even realized. “What are you doing here?!”

  “It’s a long story,” I admit, “which I’ll tell you when I see you. Where are you right now? Are you busy?”

  “I’m on campus,” she says, but she sounds sheepish. I think she knows that I’m about to ask what the hell she’s doing at school during summer vacation, because she provides me with an answer before I even open my mouth. “I’ve been taking some summer classes, so I’m just catching up on some studying that I’ve been slacking on. You should totally come by! I’m just sitting outside. Do you know where the library is?”

  “Shhh.” I’m rolling my eyes as I get to my feet. Amelia definitely has not changed. She does enough talking for both of us, but I was always grateful for that when I was younger. In my head, I begin mapping a route to Portland State University. It’s just south of downtown, not too far from where I am now. It’s perfectly walkable, and although the campus is huge and I don’t know my way around it, I’m sure the library won’t be hard to find. “I’m on my way right now.”

  “I can’t believe you’re here!”

  “Me either,” I say. It’s true. “See you soon.”

  Ending the call, I pull my earphones out and hook them up to my phone, searching through all of my playlists for one with some upbeat songs that have the best summer vibes. It takes me a while to find one, because for the past year, my playlists have been pretty depressing. Now that I have Hunter Hayes singing into my ears at full volume, it’s a satisfying feeling. I’m in such a good mood, possibly even the best mood I’ve been in over the past twelve months.

  I can’t stop smiling as I head south, coffee in hand, sunglasses on, earphones in, fresh tattoo on my arm, like a true Portland native. I’ve never felt more at home in this city. Leaving for three years was the best thing I could have done, and honestly, I’m glad Tyler came here. None of this would be the same if we were in any other city.

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