Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame

  While I wait, my eyes drift up to the condo on the second floor. It’s the only one with all its lights on. The huge floor-to-ceiling windows allow me to see straight inside, but all I can make out is a mass of bodies. I don’t remember the condo being all that huge from what I can recall from three years ago, but it seems TJ has ended up with too many guests on his hands. Jake’s probably in there trying to entice some poor girl to go home with him. Dean’s probably in there making sure no one does anything stupid. Meghan and her boyfriend Jared are probably in there doing whatever Meghan and Jared do. I wouldn’t know.

  It doesn’t take long for both Rachael and Jamie to appear. Through the glass doors at the front of the building, I see them emerge from the elevator, Jamie stumbling all over the place as Rachael quite literally drags him outside. She throws me an exasperated look when she sees me, so I push open my car door and get out to help her.

  “I hope you have a hangover straight from hell tomorrow,” I tell Jamie as I reach for his arm and place it over the back of my shoulders to help steady him. His eyes are half closed, his hair ruffled, his limbs immobile. He’s so drunk that he can hardly move.

  “I hope you go to hell,” he somehow manages to shoot back at me. I’m not offended or deeply wounded by it, though. Jamie often throws remarks like these at me, so, just like everything else, I’ve grown accustomed to his contemptuous attitude.

  Over the back of his shoulders, Rachael furrows her eyebrows at me with deep concern, but says nothing. Instead, she holds Jamie up as I reach for the car door, and together we shove him into the backseat, having to bend his legs and arms to get him inside. I fumble with the seatbelt as I try to pull it around him, but he pushes me away, so I quickly give up and slam the door.

  “He sure does hate you,” Rachael murmurs as she walks around to the passenger side. Her hair is no longer in a ponytail but rather falling over her shoulders in long, tangled waves, and her bandana is wrapped around her wrist. She’s also completely sober.

  “He might hate me, but in the morning he’ll be glad it’s me who took him home and not our parents,” I say. “Talk about being grounded for life.” Pulling open my car door, I slide back into the driver’s seat at the same time as Rachael slips into the passenger side. She holds the bucket up to me with an eyebrow raised, and when I shrug she laughs and passes it to the backseat. Jamie immediately takes it from her, but not without grumbling something under his breath.

  “Did your parents go to my place?” Rachael asks once I start to drive, leaving the party and all its drunken commotion behind.

  “Yeah.” As I talk, I can’t help but keep checking on Jamie in the rearview mirror. He’s slumped across my backseat, the bucket resting on the floor behind the passenger seat as his head dangles over it. I frown, praying to God that he won’t throw up, and then drop my eyes back to the road in front of me. “They’re still there. Everyone is.”

  Rachael throws her head back against the headrest and groans, tilting her face to the window, allowing the glow from the streetlights to illuminate her skin. “I’m so sneaking in the back door,” she says. “I wanna avoid all my parents’ friends asking me what I’m doing with my life.”

  “What are you doing with your life?” Rachael looks back over at me and sharply narrows her eyes. I grin, but not for long, because my attention is drawn back to Jamie.

  “Let me out,” he mutters from the backseat. When I glance in the rearview mirror, I see him reaching for the door, so I quickly apply the locks. He tries the handle, pulling his body up into a seated position, hitting the window with his hand when he realizes he’s locked in. “I don’t wanna be in this car!”

  “Too bad,” I say nonchalantly, both hands on the wheel, my attention mostly on the road as we head back home.

  “Rachael!” Jamie leans forward and stretches his arms around the passenger seat, grabbing at Rachael’s shoulders and refusing to let go. “As my neighbor for as long as I can remember, can you please let me out of this car?”

  Rachael manages to wrestle Jamie’s grip off her, her body twisting around her seatbelt as she dodges his desperate hands. Within seconds, she’s turned around to face him and her back is pressed against my dashboard. She holds up a finger. “Don’t touch me. Ever,” she warns him through the gap in the headrest.

  “But you gotta help me!”

  Rachael lets out a deep sigh while she presses her index finger to her temple, her Voice having adopted a condescending tone when she asks, “What do you need help with, Jamie?”

  “Help me get away from her,” he says, and when I steal a look over my shoulder, he’s jabbing a finger in my direction, his bloodshot eyes narrowing in disgust when our gazes meet. “She’s a freak.”

  “Get over it already,” I snap back at him as my grip around the wheel tightens, accelerating even faster along Deidre Avenue and ignoring the way I can feel Rachael glancing between Jamie and me. She knows we don’t get along anymore, but I don’t quite think she’s ever witnessed it like this.

  It’s almost impossible for her to remain quiet, for her to let an argument break out, so she peers around the headrest of the passenger seat to fix Jamie with a stern look that warns him not to say anything more. “Word of advice: You’re drunk and you’re being an asshole, so shut up.”

  Almost indignantly, Jamie slumps against the backseat, staring at Rachael as he dares to muster up a reply. When it comes, he sounds almost nonchalant, his lips moving slowly as he says, “I’m drunk? Huh. I’m being an asshole? Even bigger huh. Sound familiar to anyone?” Slowly, he sits up again and leans toward me, a drunken, lopsided smile capturing his face. It’s far from friendly, yet he places a hand on my shoulder as I drive, squeezing way too hard as his eyes flicker back to Rachael. “Throw in some weed and she’ll be falling in love with me too.”

  Immediately, I shove his hand off my shoulder, elbowing his chest and pushing him away from me. The car swerves slightly, but I’m quick to move both hands back to the wheel, and then I flash my eyes back over my shoulder once more to fix him with the fiercest glare I can possibly pull off right now. It doesn’t take much effort. “What the fuck is your problem?”

  Out of the corner of my eye, I see Rachael slowly settling back against the passenger seat and throwing me a disapproving glance. At the same time, she slowly moves her hand to the wheel too, as though she’s afraid I’ll careen the car off the road. “He’s just drunk, Eden.”

  But I can’t listen to her, because I’m not referring to what’s going on right now, I’m referring to everything from last summer until this exact moment. Jamie hasn’t been able to accept the truth, despite having a year already to do so, and I’m starting to wonder if he’s ever going to let it go. I’m starting to believe he’ll forever hate Tyler and me. “Seriously,” I snap, throwing a hand up in exasperation, “what is your damn problem? Spell it out for me.”

  Jamie swallows hard before leaning over the center console and setting his rolling eyes on me, slowly spitting out the words, “You. Are. Gross.”

  I’m quiet for a while. The only thing I can hear is my car engine as I drive and the grinding of my teeth. Part of me wants to kick Jamie out of the car. The other wants to cry. The truth is, I know Jamie feels that way. I know he thinks I’m crazy and gross and disgusting and out of my mind, yet he’s never actually said it out loud until now, and for the smallest fraction of a second, I feel sick.

  “I don’t know what you expect me to say to you,” I say quietly. “I really don’t. There’s nothing going on between . . .” I pause, clear my throat, and then try again. “There’s nothing going on between Tyler and me anymore. He and I are long over. So please, Jamie. Please stop hating me.”

  Jamie stares at me blankly for a second and then flops back against the seat once again, but this time he reaches for the bucket and promptly throws up. Rachael squeals, pressing a hand to her mouth as she gags, and she backs up against the dashboard again, trying her best to stay as far away from Jamie as s
he can get. My nose wrinkles and I roll down all four windows, allowing fresh air into the car.

  “And yet he says you’re the gross one,” Rachael murmurs sideways to me through her hand.

  Jamie continues to hurl and wheeze and groan and curse the rest of the way home, which is thankfully only a few minutes away. Neither Rachael nor I say anything, only listen to the wind in silence as Jamie suffers. The second I see the house, however, he is not the only one who’s cussing. I am too.

  As if Satan himself had planned it, Dad and Ella are walking back from Rachael’s house at the exact same time as I’m pulling up. They both pause on our front lawn when they notice my car approaching and Dad’s hands immediately go to his hips as he presses his lips into a firm line, his eyes narrowing in the sternest of ways.

  “Shit,” I say for the fifth time. “Shit, shit, shit.” Slowly, I bring the car to a stop against the curb and roll all the windows back up before cutting off the engine. Through my windshield, I can see Ella frowning as she squints to see who I’m with. Unfortunately for her, I have her drunk son throwing up in my backseat.

  Rachael shakes her head and throws a pointed glance back toward Jamie. “Someone is so dead.”

  “He sure is.” Taking a deep breath, I yank my keys out of the ignition and kick open my car door, stepping out at the same time Rachael does. Slowly, I turn around to face Dad and Ella.

  “Rachael, I believe your parents were wondering where you were,” Dad says stiffly, with the smallest of nods in the direction of her house. All the lights are still on, shadows still moving around.

  “Thanks, Mr. Munro. I’ll go let them know,” Rachael replies in as innocent a voice as she possibly can, but I can still hear the air of sarcasm in her words. Because Dad is in his forties with graying hair and without a single memory of what it’s like to be a teenager, he doesn’t pick up on it, only gives her a tight smile and waits for her to leave. She spins around and heads for her house, but not without brushing past me and murmuring, “I can’t wait to move out.”

  There’s silence out on the street for a minute. I don’t want to be the first to speak. Jamie is still in the back of my car, Ella’s still squinting, and Dad is waiting for Rachael to disappear. The second she does, his eyes flash over to me and he asks, “Where the hell have you been?”

  Not only is Dad the aforementioned aging asshole, he’s also quick to make assumptions. Right now, it’s clear by his expression and tone that he’s already assuming my reasons for leaving the house are on the reckless side, like I can’t possibly leave the house at 12:30 at the age of nineteen without planning to cause trouble.

  Trying my utmost hardest not to roll my eyes, I walk around my car and then motion down to my attire. It’s difficult to hide the contempt in my voice when I bitterly point out, “I’m in my pajamas.” Reaching for the car door, I pull it open and immediately Jamie and the gross bucket emerge from the backseat. “And for the record,” I say, eyes on Dad as I close the door again, “I was picking him up. You know, since he got kicked out of a party for being way too drunk.”

  “God, Jamie!” Ella groans, burying her face into her hands before she comes rushing across the lawn to fetch him.

  My eyes are still on Dad’s, my glare even as I fold my arms across my chest. He’s watching in extreme disapproval as Jamie trips all over the lawn while Ella tries to steady him. Once she has a firm hold on her son and is keeping him upright, his intoxicated mind decides to yell, “Eden was totally tryna kiss me!”

  Taken aback, my eyes fly to Jamie and I scrunch my face up. Shaking my head in disbelief, I can’t stop myself from raising my hand and flipping him off. “Seriously, fuck you, Jamie,” I hiss back at him, and Ella fixes me with a twisted frown at the same time as Dad puffs out his chest and opens his mouth.

  “Eden Olivia Munro,” he says in low voice, and I know immediately by the use of my full name that he’s preparing to rip me to shreds. “Give me your car keys. Right now.” He doesn’t move an inch, only extends his arm and holds up his hand, palm facing upward.


  “Because you think it’s acceptable to sneak out and curse like that. Keys,” he says again, this time much firmer. I can see his glower deepening with each second that passes.

  I glance down to the set of keys in my hand and I tighten my grip around them even harder, and then I look back up and shake my head. “So he can stay out past curfew and come home drunk and I’m the one who gets punished?” I look over at Jamie and Ella again, and although he may be excessively drunk, Jamie still manages to snicker. Gritting my teeth, I move my eyes back to Dad. “For what? For giving him a ride home?”

  “Give me the damn keys,” Dad orders once more through stiff lips, jaw clenched, and I laugh. I can’t stop myself. It’s so typical of him. Every single time I’ve come home to Santa Monica over the past year, Dad has always found a reason to be harsh. It’s not difficult to guess why: He’s still punishing me for getting involved with Tyler, for falling in love with my stepbrother.

  “Dave,” Ella murmurs, and I notice the way she gives Dad a small shake of her head as she’s dragging Jamie over to the front door. “She hasn’t done anything wrong.”

  Dad ignores her, like always, because Ella apparently no longer gets a say in how he parents his kid, yet he always has the final say in how she parents hers. Growing aggravated by my defiance, he starts to move, storming across the lawn toward me as though he’s prepared to yank the keys straight out of my hands.

  Before he has the chance to do so, I dart back around to the driver’s side, pulling open my car door and stepping one foot inside. “Screw this,” I say before I slide in. It may be Dad’s turn to have me for the week, but there’s absolutely no way in hell I’m staying here. “I’m going home.”

  “This is your home!” Dad pathetically tries to yell across the roof of the car to me, but even I can hear the strain in his voice as he says it. He knows it’s a lie. He doesn’t want this to be my home, because, quite honestly, he’s made it clear over the past year that he doesn’t even want me in the family.

  “Well,” I mutter, “it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.” Sliding behind the wheel, I slam the car door shut behind me and quickly start up the engine before Dad can attempt to stop me. But he doesn’t. I think he’s glad, actually.

  As I drive off, heading up Deidre Avenue toward my mom’s house, I watch them all in my rearview mirror. Chase is at the front door, confused as always and half asleep. Dad and Ella have started yelling at one another, their hands moving with angry gestures, and I realize then, as I’m driving off and leaving them all behind, that whatever our family is, it’s far from perfect.

  The truth is, it’s been broken for a year.


  On Thursday, I spend my morning the same way I usually start any other day: with a jog along the beachfront to Venice and back again, before stopping by the Refinery halfway back to the house. It’s the routine I’ve gotten myself into ever since I got home for the summer. I’ve been slacking off on my running for the past year while eating whatever the hell I want to, gaining pounds here and there without caring about it for the first time in my life, but enough is enough, and now I’m desperately trying to lose the weight again before I head back to college in the fall. As for the trips to the Refinery, I’ve simply missed their to-die-for coffee.

  I’m sipping on my vanilla latte by the glass windows, studying the people of Santa Monica Boulevard as they stream past endlessly. Sometimes Rachael meets me here, but she’s already left for Glendale to visit her grandparents, so today I’m alone. I don’t mind. To start with, that is.

  It doesn’t take long for someone to notice me huddled over in the corner, the girl who apparently dated her stepbrother. I’ve got one earphone in, so I don’t know how I even manage to hear them, but I do. They’re a group of four girls, younger than me, leaving the Refinery. One of them murmurs something, and the only reason my attention is drawn to them is because I fa
intly hear the word “stepbrother”. When I glance up I see that they’re already looking at me, but they quickly stop snickering and glance away before they disappear through the door.

  Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes and move my other earphone to my ear, blocking out everything else around me by listening to La Breve Vita on full volume. The band broke up last summer, so all I have left is the music they once made. I linger in the Refinery for another five minutes or so, finishing the remainder of my latte and enjoying being out of the sun for a while. When it’s hot as hell outside and you throw running into the equation, it’s enough to make you pass out, so I’m always grateful for a mid-run break.

  It’s only when I’m getting to my feet and switching playlists before heading back out that my phone starts to ring in my hand. It’s Ella, so I don’t decline the call, like I would if it was Dad. Instead, I pull out my earphones and press my phone to my ear, asking her what’s up.

  “Where are you right now?” she immediately asks, unusually abrupt.

  “Uh, the Refinery,” I answer, a little unsurely.

  “Can you come over?” Quickly, she adds, “Don’t worry, your father’s at work.”

  I furrow my eyebrows as I twirl my earphones around my fingers, making for the door and slipping out onto the sidewalk. “Aren’t you at work?”

  “I’m working on a brief,” she says and, without a moment’s pause, asks, “How fast can you get here?”

  “Like, twenty minutes.” As I’m turning the corner onto Fifth Street, I end up frowning, confused. Ella usually calls me to ask what I want for dinner, or if I need cash, or to check up on how I’m doing. This time is different. She never usually calls like this, asking me over to the house that I hate going to, so I’m slightly concerned. “Is everything alright?”

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