Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame


  Now everything’s a total mess again, and I’m not quite sure how to deal with it all and how I’m supposed to stay here while knowing that Tyler is back. Avoiding him forever is, sadly, not at all possible. Yet the saddest thing of all? A year ago I was completely and entirely and endlessly in love with him. Now I don’t want to be anywhere near him, and that’s the part that infuriates me the most.

  I don’t realize I’m crying again until my mom enters my room. Quickly, I dab at my tears with my sheets and sniff a little. Mom heads straight for my blinds and opens them up, allowing the mid-afternoon sunlight to flood my room, to which I groan and bury my face into my pillows.

  “Okay,” I hear her say, and I don’t even have to look at her to know that her arms are most likely folded across her chest. I can just tell by the tone of her voice. “Get up.”

  I pull my comforter completely over my head. “No.”

  “Yes,” she says firmly. “You’ve had your four hours of crying. Time to get up and forget about him. Where do you want to go? Coffee? Late lunch? Spa? Your choice.”

  “Don’t you start your shift soon?” My voice is muffled through my pillows and my comforter and my sheets. I’ve pretty much buried myself and I don’t plan to get up anytime soon.

  “Not until eight.” I vaguely hear her shuffling across my carpet, and then, moments later, she’s pulling at my comforter, hauling it completely off me to greet me with a closed smile. “So get dressed and we’ll head out and we can bitch about the male species for as long as you so desire. Beats crying yourself to death. Trust me. Been there, done that.”

  As I unwillingly push myself up, I’m rolling my eyes. That’s my favorite thing about Mom—she gets it, she understands. Dad walked out on her too, only that was six years ago. She’s pretty much an expert when it comes to coping with a break-up. Rule number one? No more crying after four hours, apparently. I’m not so sure if this rule applies to a situation where the guy walks out and then comes back.

  My eyes sting and my chest still aches, but I know Mom’s right, as always. Staying in bed crying my heart out all day isn’t going to do me any good. Mom learned that the hard way. I can remember. So, as much as I don’t want to, I still manage to force myself up and onto my feet. My hair’s still damp, and I run my fingers through it as I offer Mom a small smile of defeat. “Promenade. Twenty minutes?”

  Her eyes are warm in the saddest of ways as her own smile grows. “That’s my girl,” she says, and then tosses a pillow toward me before she leaves the room.

  While I try my best to look even half acceptable, I play music, mostly bubbly pop music as a way to trick myself into believing that I’m totally happy. But I’m not, and the music only makes me even more pissed, so I shut it off after five minutes and dry my hair instead. I decide to leave it down. And I apply some makeup. And I pull on my newest shirt. And my best fitted jeans. And even that doesn’t make me feel any better.

  Mom and I head down to the promenade just after two. We do stroll around some stores for a half-hour, but it isn’t boosting my mood or anything, not even when I discover the cute skirt I’ve been eyeing up in Abercrombie & Fitch the past few weeks is now discounted. But when I buy it, I flash Mom a small smile, and that’s enough to make her less concerned. Later, it doesn’t take either of us much convincing to stop by Pinkberry for frozen yogurt.

  “You know,” Mom says, “I might talk to Ella about this.”

  We’ve managed to find ourselves a free bench outside, just opposite Forever 21, and although my mouth is on the verge of becoming numb, I still manage to ask, “Talk to Ella about what?”

  Mom looks at me as though I’m being dumb on purpose or something, and then she shakes her head, scoops up another mouthful of her fro-yo, and continues anyway. “I’m not sure what she was thinking. It’s unfair for her to throw Tyler at you like that. Is she insane?”

  “She didn’t exactly throw him at me,” I murmur, giving a small shrug. My eyes drop back down to the cup in my hand and I play around with my own frozen yogurt with my plastic spoon for a few seconds. Original flavor, overflowing with fresh strawberries and blueberries, and most likely giving me back half the calories I burned off earlier. But today, I don’t care. “She made it seem like there was a real emergency or something. I asked her if she was pregnant.”

  Mom almost chokes, and she looks at me, horrified for a second before she starts to laugh. Facepalming on my behalf, she presses her hand over her face to smother her childlike giggles. “You didn’t?!”

  “I did.” My cheeks feel hot suddenly, so I toss a strawberry into my mouth and wait for Mom’s laughter to die down. “I mean, it’s not like it wasn’t a possibility. She’s still in her thirties.”

  “God, her thirties.” Mom releases a low whistle, and then her features harden again when she realizes I’ve distracted her. “I’m still going to talk to her,” she says.

  “And say what?”

  “Can you keep your kid away from my kid before the guy we both married kills them both?” Mom says, yet she’s holding back even more laughter. However, she must immediately gather from the way that my eyes narrow that I’m not impressed, because she clears her throat and looks at me much more sincerely before giving me a real answer. “I’m just going to ask her to make sure Tyler leaves you alone.” She holds up her cup of frozen yogurt and studies me intensely from over the rim. “If that’s really what you want, of course.”

  The way she says this, slow and almost suggestive, is enough to make me raise an eyebrow. “For starters, Mom, I don’t need you to get involved. Second,” I say, “what do you mean by that?”

  “Well,” she says, slowly lowering the cup again, “are you sure you—in your own words—never, ever, ever, ever, ever want to see Tyler again?”

  I can see her searching my eyes, as though she’ll discover some truth in them, but even though I have no hidden emotions, I still find myself blinking fast in a lame attempt to throw her off. I’m also confused as to why she’s even saying such a thing, and as though I haven’t been angered enough today as it is, my temper flares up again. “Of course I’m sure. Shouldn’t you of all people understand how it feels to be walked out on?”

  Mom momentarily looks hurt and I realize immediately that my words haven’t come out the way I meant them to. Mom can talk about Dad endlessly so long as his name is surrounded by a string of profanities, exactly like she has been doing for the past six years, but when it comes to the harsh truth that he walked out, that’s something she never likes to talk about. It’s clear when she turns away from me and gets to her feet that she’s not happy with me bringing it up again. “I think we should head home. Like you said, I’ve got work soon.”

  When she tosses her empty cup into the trash can next to us and walks off without waiting for me, all I can do is groan. She’s mad. After all these years, she still can’t bear the fact that he left. I’m starting to understand why. It hurts like hell.

  I feel guilty for the remark, so I slide off the bench and trail after her, drifting through people and trying to catch up. When I do, I hang back slightly and follow her in silence all the way back to the car. By the time we reach our level in the parking structure, my frozen yogurt has made me feel sick, so I dump it the first chance I get and then slide into the passenger seat of Mom’s car without saying a word.

  Mom doesn’t say anything either. She drives with her eyes trained on the road, her lips occasionally twitching as she fights the urge to curse whenever another car pulls out a little too tightly in front of us, and only once every so often reaching over to increase the radio volume or the AC.

  I still feel bad and I hate when she doesn’t talk to me, so, after fumbling with my hands in my lap for a few minutes, I lower the radio volume back down until the car is almost silent, and I look at her. “I didn’t mean it the way I said it.”

  “You were right,” Mom shoots back, her tone a little snarky. “I do know how it feels.” When we stop at a red light, she le
ans back against her seat and folds her arms across her chest, but she doesn’t look at me. “I know how it feels to be left behind and to spend every day wondering what you did wrong and if there was anything you could have done to stop them from leaving. I know how it feels to feel like you weren’t good enough. I know how it feels to realize you weren’t worth staying for.” Finally, she glances sideways at me, and she looks incredibly angry. “You? You don’t know how that feels.”

  I blink at her. I don’t know whether to be furious, confused, or surprised. In fact, I’m all three. I’m furious at her for saying I don’t know it feels, confused at this aggression that has risen out of nowhere, and surprised at her for expressing herself the way she just has. She’s never done that before. “What?” is all I can say at first, and then, gritting my teeth, I murmur, “I know exactly how that feels.”

  “No, Eden, you don’t,” she says, tone harsh and firm, as the light flashes to green and she reaches for the wheel again, driving off rapidly. “Tyler didn’t leave because you were the problem. He left because he was. And me? I was the problem. So don’t compare our situations, because I don’t understand how you feel”—I thought she did—“likewise you don’t understand how I feel”—I thought I did—“however much you think you do.”

  “Feel?”

  She looks at me. “Felt.”

  Mom’s never really been honest with me about what happened six years ago. I know the basics. I know that Mom was too laid-back for Dad. I know that Dad was too organized for Mom. I still don’t know if it had always been that way. All I remember growing up were disagreements and arguments, so I’m guessing it had. When I was twelve, Dad spent a week at his cousin Tony’s place. Mom never told me why, only smiled and told me he’d be back soon, but looking back, it’s clear that she wasn’t sure if he would be. Dad began to stay with his cousin more and more frequently that year. When I was thirteen, I hadn’t seen him in a couple days, and when I asked Mom if he was staying at Tony’s again, she pulled me close, eyes brimming with tears, and said no. Tears were the only thing I saw for months after that. I knew Dad leaving really hurt her, I knew the divorce settlement was killing her, I knew she’d never be the same after that, but I’ve never known how she really felt. I didn’t dare ask. She didn’t dare tell me. Until now.

  I’m quiet for a minute. “Do you still feel like you’re not good enough?”

  “How do you expect me to feel?” she snaps. She throws a hand up in frustration and the car almost swerves, but she reaches back for the wheel and quickly steadies the vehicle. “When Ella’s over there with that slim figure and perfectly blond hair that never seems to suffer from shitty gray roots and she doesn’t have a single crow’s foot in sight and drives a fucking Range Rover and is a damn lawyer. That’s what your Dad has now. What did he have before? Someone who can’t cook a pot roast to save her life and someone who wears scrubs rather than suits and someone who once crashed that shitty Volvo we once owned because I rear-ended someone on the freeway. Of course I wasn’t good enough for him. Your father’s a perfectionist, and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not perfect.”

  “And you think Ella is?” I yell at her, my cheeks burning. I feel like I have a responsibility to defend Ella. She welcomed me with open arms three years ago and has been there for me ever since, and hearing Mom talk about her in such a way angers me, so rather than taking my own mother’s side, I take Ella’s. “You don’t think she’s suffered through a divorce the same way you have? You don’t think she had to go through weeks and weeks of court trials with Tyler? You don’t think she has to live with the fact that her husband was beating the hell out of her kid and she didn’t even notice? You don’t think she blames herself every damn day for what happened? Because she does. She’s not perfect and neither is her life, so just SHUT UP.”

  What I really want to say is: And you’re the best mom I could have ever asked for. You might have to touch up your roots every few weeks, but your hair always looks great. You might have wrinkles, but you’re so pretty that you can pull them off. You might not be the best driver, but you always get from A to B eventually. You might not be a lawyer, but you’re an amazing nurse who always knows how to make people feel better, even outside the hospital. You might not be Ella, but I’m glad you’re not.

  And I also want to say: You’re luckier, anyway. You’ve got Jack, who’s seriously lovely, and Ella has Dad, who’s seriously an asshole. So who’s really the winner here?

  But I don’t, because I’m furious.

  “Oh, yeah. That’s right,” Mom says, rolling her eyes to the back of her head in annoyance as she scoffs. “She’s your second mom. You’d know exactly, wouldn’t you? Looks like you’ve replaced me with Ella the same way your father has.”

  I stare at her in disbelief. Where is this coming from? Why are you so mad? “What is wrong with you?”

  Mom doesn’t answer. She flicks the radio volume back up, louder than it was before, so that I can hardly hear myself think. She drives without looking at me or saying a word, her expression taut and her eyes narrowed. So I do the same. I angle my body away from her, fold my arms, and glare out of my window. I purposely kick my feet up onto the dash because she hates it when I do that, but she doesn’t yell at me to take them down, so I don’t.

  The radio continues to blare all the way back to the house. Mom only turns it down when the car pulls up onto the driveway, and once we’re stopped, she doesn’t immediately cut the engine and jump out like she usually does, so I figure she wants to apologize. I look up from my sneakers, my arms still folded, and I wait. Her features have relaxed slightly, but now she looks confused. She looks at me and then over my shoulder.

  I sit up and drop my arms, spinning my head around so fast that I’m surprised it doesn’t snap off, and I see him. Sitting on the doormat outside the front door, anxiously picking at the hem of his white T-shirt, is none other than Tyler freaking Bruce. Again.

  When my eyes meet his, he doesn’t smile this time. He just pushes himself up and stands, waiting and waiting and waiting.

  “The biggest difference between your dad and Tyler?” Mom says quietly. She hesitates for only a moment. “Your dad never came back.”

  5

  No matter how much I plead with Mom to put the car in reverse and drive off, she won’t do it. She turns off the engine completely and swings the keys around her index finger, tapping on the wheel with her free hand and refusing to say anything at all. No consolations, no reassurances. Just a stern expression as she forces me to get out of the car and face up to the one person I can’t bear to look at.

  It takes a lot of effort to walk over there. I’m quite literally dragging my feet, glancing over my shoulder one last time to throw Mom the biggest SOS I possibly can with my eyes, but she just shrugs and darts around the side of the house, opting to head inside through the back so as not to interrupt us out front. Tyler’s still standing on the doormat, hands now stuffed into the front pockets of his black jeans, and he’s anxiously chewing his lips.

  I stop a few feet back from him and fold my arms. Up close, I can see the faintest blemish of red on his cheek, and I quickly feel guilty. So guilty, in fact, that I don’t really want to meet his eyes, so I kick at the concrete path beneath my feet and let my eyes rest on a spot just below his shoulder. “Sorry for hitting you,” I say.

  Tyler shrugs slowly and reaches up to touch his cheek. “Don’t worry about it.”

  Silence ensues. And it’s so unbelievably awkward and uncomfortable that I think I could cry. How did it end up like this? How did we get here? And then I remember the reason, and my urge to cry turns to the urge to lash out again, but this time I refrain. I keep kicking at the ground, scuffing the rubber around the front of my Converse. All I can hear are cars driving past.

  “Can you come with me?”

  I look up into Tyler’s eyes now. “Where?”

  “I don’t know. I just want to talk for a while,” he says, and I can hear the anxi
ety in his tone and see the worry in his eyes. “Can you at least give me that?”

  “There’s nothing to talk about,” I say.

  “There’s everything to talk about.”

  No matter how much I’d rather avoid his gaze, his green eyes draw me in, like they always do. I used to love them, but right now I hate what they’re doing to me. He’s trying to gauge whether or not I’m going to argue against the idea, but I can’t argue against something I agree with. He’s right: There is everything to talk about. I just don’t want to.

  I think about it for a few long seconds, and as much as I want to run inside my house, I get the feeling that Tyler isn’t going to let this go, so I figure it’s best to at least get it over with now. That way he can leave me alone sooner rather than later. I don’t answer him, but I nod once, and he immediately exhales in relief, as though he’s been holding his breath the entire time.

  Reaching into his back pocket, he pulls out his car keys, and at the same time, I catch Mom’s eye. She’s watching from the living room window, and when she realizes I’ve caught her, she ducks and disappears out of view. When I think about it, I would much rather talk to Tyler than her, so I turn and follow him across the lawn.

  After a few steps, I realize something. His car isn’t here. I even glance down the street twice, left and right, back and forth, and it’s definitely not here. It’s the kind of car that’s hard to miss too, with its sleek design, gleaming bodywork and black rims, yet Tyler keeps walking, so I keep following. I arch my eyebrows when he leads me over to the vehicle parked across the street.

  This isn’t Tyler’s car. This is black, and has four seats, and wheels covered in dry mud, and a couple of scratches along the passenger door, and is definitely not brand new. It is, however, still an Audi. It’s a model that’s pretty popular, the type I see all over the city.

 
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