Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame


  “Then I’d like to be on good terms with you,” he says.

  I stare back at him, my expression blank. I don’t know how I can ever be on good terms with someone who put Tyler through hell. I can never forgive him for that, and if I can’t forgive him, then I most certainly can’t like him. “What you did . . .” I mutter through stiff lips, but God, I can’t even finish my sentence. It angers me so much that the muscles in my throat tighten and I grind my teeth together. Even looking at him is enough to make my blood boil, so I close my eyes and tilt my face to the floor. I’m starting to realize how difficult it must have been for Tyler to sit and talk to him, because even I can’t do it, and I’m just a third party.

  “What I did, I regret every day of my life.”

  Slowly, I raise my head and open my eyes. Peter is looking back at me with the saddest expression I think I’ve ever seen. I could swear that for a second, his eyes aren’t even green, just two black voids, weary and wrinkled, the result of years of overwhelming regret. His deepening frown seems natural, as though his lips have been set that way for far too long.

  “I lost everything, and I deserved to,” he says quietly. “I lost my business and my career, my reputation and my freedom, my parents and myself. But the worst thing of all was that I lost my wife and my kids.” He swallows the lump in his throat and shakes his head gently back and forth. “And you can dislike me, Eden, but you should know that I really am just trying my best to make things right with Tyler. I’m here because of him, because he deserves to have a father who is trying his damned hardest to show just how sorry he is.”

  I’m not sure why he’s telling me this, but I’m glad that he is. Hearing it from his own lips is reassuring, even more so that each of his words are laced with sincerity, but I still want to get my own opinion across. I want to express myself too. “I get that you’re trying,” I tell him, “and honestly, you’ve gained some respect from me for coming up here and attending those sessions with Tyler. But you didn’t get to see what he was like three years ago and how off the rails he used to be. Did you know that your son was only known for being an asshole? Someone no one wanted to get on the wrong side of because of how violent and aggressive he was? Someone who depended on alcohol and drugs to distract him from thinking about all of the shit you put him through? You may know that, but you didn’t see that. You didn’t see how completely broken he was, and I don’t think you have any idea just how damn hard he’s worked lately to become a better person than the one you made him into.” I take one step back and fix Peter with a firm glare, my eyes ablaze with my contempt for him. “So you may have my respect, but you’ll never have my forgiveness. And I swear to God . . . I swear . . . If you fuck this up, you won’t only have Tyler to deal with, but you’ll also have to deal with me. You aren’t getting anymore chances after this one.”

  Peter only nods. Maybe he’s used to this, maybe he just accepts it. Turning to the desk, he picks up his phone, slips it into the pocket of his pants, then grabs that same folder he was carrying yesterday. He gathers the sheets of paper into a pile, then moves across the room to place them into one of the filing cabinets. The entire time, my eyes follow him, studying his mannerisms for any resemblance to Tyler’s, but thankfully, there are none until he stops back in front of me and runs a hand through his dark hair exactly like he did yesterday, exactly like Tyler does. I have to suppress a groan.

  “I’m heading off now,” Peter tells me. “I’ll be back again next month, so if you’re still around, I’ll see you then. It was nice to finally meet you, and please trust me when I say you have nothing to worry about. ”

  All I reply is, “Okay.”

  We’re definitely not on good terms. It’s going to take a lot more than talking for a couple of minutes for me to be able to tolerate him. I’m willing to try, though, for Tyler’s sake, and because I’m slowly taking the first steps toward making my own life better too. So although it’s hard, the next time I see Peter, whenever that will be, I’m willing to make some effort with him.

  Offering me a small smile, Peter turns for the office door and heads into the main hall. I wait a few seconds before making my way after him. When I do, I spot him making a beeline for Tyler. I can’t stop myself from watching them interact with one another, because it creates such an unsettling, sickening feeling in my stomach that I’m trying to eradicate. It’s different now, I have to remind myself. They’re working together to fix things between them, and it’s clearly still a work in progress, because they don’t seem to get too close to each other. They do, however, firmly shake hands. After that, Peter disappears through the main door, and he’s gone.

  Tyler returns to what he’s doing, which is talking to a girl who looks rather sullen as she leans against the wall with her arms folded across her chest, so I make my way back to the storage room in search of Amelia. I have to knock a few times before Emily scrambles to let me in, and after a brief discussion, both Amelia and I decide to stick around at the center for a while. Neither of us has anything else to do today, and Tyler and Emily seem to enjoy our company.

  We even lend a hand, with Amelia helping to restock the vending machines and with me offering to tidy up the mound of boxes in the storage room. It’s such a great atmosphere, with loud music and a steady flow of kids coming and going while the four of us joke around with each other. It makes the afternoon fly by, and I’m so glad Amelia is getting along with Tyler and Emily, because they’re three people who matter immensely to me. Emily is having such a good time hanging with us that when it turns 5PM and her day is officially over, she still decides to stick around, and it’s worth it, because we all end up ordering takeout later.

  Even the teenagers that come here are all extremely friendly. I’ve been floating between groups and chatting to them all, laughing at their quick wit and sarcasm. I can understand why Tyler and Emily enjoy doing this each day. It’s rather rewarding being here, surrounded by positivity, which is reflected in the good mood I’m in. But being this happy is almost starting to make me feel exhausted. I’m not used to it.

  It’s just after 9PM when the last person leaves the building. Tyler’s been talking to him for a while, the pair of them slouched down on some beanbags over in the corner. Emily left at 7PM, Amelia at 8PM. It’s just Tyler and me now, and I’ve been patiently waiting for him, because not only do I refuse to ride the MAX at night, I also do not want to head home without him.

  “So what do you think of Amelia?” I ask as I’m helping him roll down all the blinds. The music is off and the center is silent. It feels strange without all the noise.

  “She’s nice,” Tyler says over his shoulder. “It’s great that you met up with her, and even better that she’s still in Portland. Now you’ve got someone else here who you know.”

  “Yeah,” I say. “Portland isn’t turning out to be that bad, you know.”

  Tyler smirks at me, clearly holding back an “I told you so.”

  We finish closing up the center, shutting off the lights and locking all the doors before we head out. It’s dusk, with the sun already hidden below the horizon and the darkening sky streaked with orange and pink. Tyler’s pulled on a hoodie now, and I press my face against his back and wrap my arms around him as he locks the main entrance. Then he grasps my hands and removes himself from my grip so that he can swivel around to face me, grinning.

  “How about a late-night trip to the hardware store for some paint?”

  * * *

  It took a lot of convincing on my part to persuade Tyler to opt for ivory paint over a vibrant red. The rule of sticking to neutral colors doesn’t seem to register with him, but after an hour of debating, we’re back at the apartment, eight buckets of ivory paint sitting in the center of the living room floor.

  The walls are all currently white and in desperate need of touching up with a fresher color. Over the next few days, the plan is to paint the entire apartment. The idea seemed fun back in the car, but now that I’m standing here i
n an old pair of jeans and one of Tyler’s oversized T-shirts, a paintbrush in one hand, my enthusiasm is starting to fade.

  “I say we start with my room so that I can cover up that writing,” Tyler says. He’s pulled on a pair of gray sweats with a plain white T-shirt, and he’s got that effortlessly-hot thing going on again, yet I’m stuck looking like I’m homeless.

  “Sure.”

  We each grab a bucket and move into Tyler’s room. It only takes a few minutes to get set up because there’s nothing in here to move besides his bed. He moves the mattress into the spare bedroom, then tilts the bedframe onto one side and eases it through the doorframe and into the other room, all while I cover the floor in the multiple shower curtains we bought from the store. It’s also after 10PM by now, and I’m thinking we maybe should have waited until tomorrow. It’s getting late.

  Tyler’s writing from this morning is still scribbled across the wall, and I don’t realize I’m smiling at his words until he walks back into the room and gives me a funny look.

  “Time to get painting,” he says. He crouches down and cracks open the lid of one of the paint tins, pours some into a tray, then starts dipping a roller brush into it. I’ve never really imagined Tyler as the DIY type, and I laugh as I watch him, because he’s so innocently adorable when he’s trying to concentrate, with his gaze soft and his lips parted. “What?” he says, glancing up.

  “Nothing.”

  Jokingly, he narrows his eyes at me and then turns to the wall. I know it’s my designated role to be crawling on the floor, painting around the edges of the walls, but I’m too busy staring at him to realize that I’m not even helping. He wants to cover up his words first, so he starts rolling the brush against his writing, and within a few seconds, the first line is already gone. But I’m not even watching the words as they disappear, because the view of Tyler’s body is a lot more appealing. Each time he stretches up, his T-shirt lifts slightly to reveal the tight elastic waistband of his black boxers peeking out from under his sweats.

  “How’s that?” I hear him ask, and when I snap out of the daze I’m in, I realize he’s facing me with a small smirk toying at the corner of his lips. On the wall next to him, all of the words are gone, except just two. The final two.

  te amo

  I look back at Tyler, who now has his head tilted slightly and his emerald eyes smoldering back at me. There’s a challenging glint to them, and I think he’s waiting for me to kiss him. It’s a challenge I’ll gladly accept, although I do want to taunt him first. I take a large step forward and quickly plant a kiss on his lips, then step back again just as fast.

  “Where’s the marker?” I ask.

  Tyler purses his lips at me, then says, “Kitchen. First drawer on the left.”

  I leave him with nothing but a secretive smile as I spin around and make my way through to the kitchen. I rummage through the drawer before grabbing the black Sharpie, popping the lid off as I head back into Tyler’s room. He’s returned to painting, starting at the far corner, but when he senses me next to him, he casts a glance at me from over his shoulder and then stops what he’s doing.

  “So,” he says, giving me an inquisitive look, “what exactly do you need the marker for?” I don’t know why he even needs to ask. Judging by the smile he’s trying to bite back, it’s clear he already knows exactly what I’m about to do.

  As I’m grinning at him, I move closer to the wall. Careful not to touch the wet paint that’s already there, I run the tips of my fingers over the remaining words. Then, underneath, I write: je t’aime.

  “How’s that?” I say, purposely mimicking him as I step back and nod to my addition to the wall. This painting thing isn’t going all that well so far. We only seem to be making the walls worse.

  Tyler’s eyes brighten as he reads the words. Then he stares at me for the longest of seconds, and as each one passes, his smile continues to grow, wider and wider, until suddenly, he’s in front of me, his hands on my jaw, his mouth against mine.

  He’s so full of energy that I’m knocked back a step or two, and tonight there’s no time for slow, deep kisses, because we’re both far too eager and far too playful, the sexual attraction too hard to ignore. Our lips are moving in sync with the speed of our heartbeats as his tongue works against mine. I don’t ever think I’ll be able to get used to the exhilaration I get from kissing him. It gives me goose bumps, sends shivers down my spine and makes my legs feel numb. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world.

  Tyler’s hands work their way over my body, running down my waistline until they slide under my thighs and sweep me up off the floor. I wrap my legs tightly around his body, my arms looped around his neck, my lips pressing even harder against his. I can feel his hands on my ass as he holds me up, as he pushes me against the wall. Within a matter of seconds, I can feel the wet paint dampening my T-shirt.

  I don’t want to, but I have to tear my lips away from his so that I can glance over my shoulder. The back of the black T-shirt now has a thick layer or fresh paint over it. Of the entire wall, Tyler just has to press me against the one spot that’s been painted.

  “You did that on purpose!” I groan at him as I turn back around, his face only an inch from mine.

  He’s grinning at me, eyes sparkling with a glint of mischief. “Better take that shirt off,” he mumbles, but he’s already doing it for me. Still holding me up between his chest and the wall, he’s tugging the hem of the T-shirt up and over my head, throwing it behind him.

  The paint is cold and wet against the skin on my back now, but I don’t bother to complain, because Tyler’s lips are on the soft spot behind my ear. I angle my head to the side and then tilt it back against the wall to give him better access, my fingers tangled in his hair, my eyes closed as I revel in the sensation of his mouth leaving a trail from my ear to my jaw to my neck, sucking on my flesh and planting slow, soft kisses. His thumbs are skimming the waistband of my jeans, his fingertips warm as they brush over my skin. One hand runs its way up my back to the clasp of my bra, and suddenly, it’s tossed over Tyler’s shoulder and lying on the floor.

  His lips move to my breasts, and I’m desperate to see his own body, so I reach for his shirt at the same time and help him pull it off. As he continues to decorate my body in lustful kisses, I can only stare at his. I love his Hispanic roots, because the tone to his skin is gorgeous, naturally tan. His abs aren’t quite as defined as they used to be, but they’re still there, still perfectly aligned into a neat six-pack. Every curve of his torso is sharp, from the roundness of his pecks where his new tattoo sits, to the deep v-lines that disappear into his boxers. As he holds me up, both hands squeezing my ass, his biceps are huge. The muscles are flexed, the veins running through them bold and electrified.

  “So much for painting,” he chuckles, lifting his head. He kisses my forehead, then my nose, then my cheeks, then the corner of my lips. He fixes his eyes on me, entirely consumed with admiration, lust and love.

  I can imagine mine are somewhat similar, because as I look back at him in that moment, I don’t think I will ever fall out of love with him. It’s impossible. He’s too perfect, and he’s perfect for me. “Were we ever really going to paint, anyway?”

  “No,” he admits. Then in a breathy laugh he whispers, “This was always the intention. Much better.” His lips find mine again, and I tug playfully at his hair as he pulls me away from the wall. I don’t know how he manages to carry me out of the room while kissing me at the same time, and I’m not sure why we don’t end up colliding with something, but we end up safely through in the spare bedroom.

  “Give me one second,” Tyler says. Setting me down, he quickly runs a hand through his hair as he makes a start on piecing back together his dismantled bed, and I’m standing there in my jeans by the door, laughing at the desperation on his face as he tries to do it as quickly as he can.

  My eyes drift to the room next door, between the two bedrooms. It’s the bathroom, with the door already open and the
shower in sight. Just the mere thought of it is enough to send waves of adrenaline coursing through my body, and all I can think about is that time in New York last summer, in the shower in Tyler’s apartment on the Fourth of July. But the fun came to an end almost as soon as it began when Snake and Emily came back earlier than expected.

  My eyes flicker back to Tyler, and before he can even pick up the mattress, I take a few steps closer to him and hook my hand over the waistband of his sweatpants. He blinks down at me, surprised when I begin to pull him out of the room. My smile has developed into a seductive smirk, as I bring him to a stop outside the bathroom door. I seem to gain an alarming amount of confidence whenever I get the slightest burst of adrenaline, so I quickly step in front of him before I have the chance to get nervous, widening my eyes innocently at him.

  I reach up to kiss the edge of his jaw, then I run both my hands down his chest as I move my body closer to his. My breasts press against his chest, my hips against his, and I can feel how rigid and firm he is against me. I glance up, looping my arms back around his neck. “Did we ever finish what we started in New York?”

  Tyler takes a moment to figure out what I’m referring to, and most importantly, what I’m suggesting. As soon as it hits him, his grin is back on his face. “No,” he says, “I don’t think we did.”

  We stumble inside the tiny dark bathroom together, the tiles cold beneath my feet. I steady myself on the sink as I wriggle out of my jeans, then I climb into the tub and squint through the darkness at the dials as I try to turn on the water. It sparks to life in one huge burst, soaking me entirely. The paint on my back chips off slowly, the pieces flowing down into the bottom of the tub, disappearing from my skin the same way Tyler’s writing had last year.

  As the water runs down my face and rolls off my chin, I find him in the dark, nothing but a silhouette as he steps out of his sweats, then his boxers. He lingers for a moment, his eyes watching me, and then ever so quietly, I hear him whisper, “Fuck.”

 
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