Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame


  I wrinkle my nose at Dad in disgust. If I were Tyler I’d have thrown a punch by now, and I’m kind of hoping that he will. He doesn’t. Actually, he hardly even flinches at the remark, and the fact that there is no reaction whatsoever makes me question if he’s even heard Dad’s snide words. He just keeps his eyes fixed on Ella, his jaw tight.

  Ella exhales, and then, ever so slowly, she announces, “We’re going out of town for the weekend. All of us.”

  And I think, What? Out of town? All six of us? This pathetic excuse of a family? It’s quite possibly the most dangerous idea I’ve ever heard. I do not want to be stuck with Dad and I do not want to be stuck with Tyler. No, no, no, no, no. I am not going. I will refuse to.

  “Excuse me?” Dad stammers.

  “Look at us and try to tell me that everything is fine,” Ella says sharply, motioning all around the room with both hands, to all the broken pieces standing in front of her. “We all need to spend some time together for once.”

  “We don’t need to be taking trips out of town together.”

  “Oh, please, David,” she snaps, her patience wearing far too thin. “I refuse to put up with comments like yours, so we are fixing this and we are fixing it now. Have you even heard the way you talk to Eden lately? Don’t you think there’s something wrong here?” By the way Dad blankly stares at me, it is obvious that he does not. “The weekend will do us all some good. We’re going to Sacramento and we leave tomorrow, so all five of you get packing.”

  And then there is a total uproar.

  Jamie is whining, “I’m not going to Sacramento! What the hell, Mom? I’m taking Jen out for dinner on Saturday.”

  And Ella is saying, “You’re grounded, so that definitely won’t be happening. And I’m sure Jennifer can survive a weekend without you.”

  And then Dad is barking, “Have you no consideration at all for the fact that I have work?”

  And Ella is saying, “Yes, and I spoke to Russell, and you’ve been granted absence on exceptional circumstances. Family emergency.”

  And then Tyler is murmuring, “Mom, I gotta leave on Monday.”

  And Ella is saying, “You can head home on Monday evening after we get back.”

  And now I’m arguing, “Do we have to? Don’t you think it’ll make all of this even worse than it already is? Sorry, but I’m out.”

  And Ella is saying, “I don’t think this can get any worse.”

  And I guess she’s right.

  Dad’s the first to storm out of the room, muttering and cursing under his breath, his hands moving rapidly in sync with his words as he swings open the living room door so hard that I’m surprised it doesn’t snap off its hinges.

  Jamie is the next to leave, and Chase follows him out. I hear their footsteps on the stairs, pounding as they jog up them, and then the slamming of a bedroom door, which can only be Jamie’s.

  Ella’s hands are pressed against her forehead as she rubs her temples with her thumbs, trying to soothe away the headache this evening has caused her. She doesn’t look at us before she leaves the room, and I wonder if it’s because she’s thinking, once again, that Tyler and I are the reason this family turned against one another.

  And then we’re the only two left. Tyler and me.

  The house is entirely silent now. No more yelling or arguing, because no one is talking anymore. Tyler looks at me and I look at him, but we have nothing left to say either. I glance away after a few seconds.

  I’m the first to leave, and, for once, he is the last.

  7

  The next morning, I’m at Rachael’s house by ten. Mom got off her shift at six, so by the time I woke, she was already home and asleep. I was glad about that in a way, because I’m still pretty mad at her. I was able to leave the house without having to face her, but at the same time I still haven’t got a chance yet to tell her that later I’ll be leaving for Sacramento. I did tell Jack, and he promised he’d let Mom know as soon as she wakes.

  “Isn’t it considered kidnapping? Forcing you to go against your will?” Rachael queries. She’s sprawled out across her bed, her head resting over the edge to allow her to look down at me on the floor. The remnants of yesterday’s makeup are visible on her face.

  I’m laying on my back, repeatedly tossing my phone into the air and catching it again, staring at the ceiling and wondering why half the things in my life have to suck so much. “It wouldn’t be so bad if it was only for one night, but it’s not. It’s three,” I murmur.

  Rachael frowns down at me. She’s currently on a Desperate Housewives marathon, so there’s an episode playing in the background that neither of us have really been paying any attention to. “And I thought being stuck with my grandparents for a day was bad. You’re stuck with your dad and your ex-boyfriend for three days.”

  I roll my eyes sideways at her. “He’s not my ex-boyfriend. We were never official.”

  “Ex-lover then.” She props herself up onto her elbows and rests her head in her hands, rubbing at her eyes, smudging her mascara even more than it already is. “I still can’t believe he was in Portland, literally in the state next door, and he still didn’t come and see you. Isn’t it only a few hours’ drive?”

  “More like fourteen.” I drop my phone on my face, almost cracking a tooth, so I throw it across the carpet in aggravation and then sit up. “But I know, right? And the weird part is that he’s calling Portland his home. Like, how did that happen? How did my home become his and how did his become mine?”

  Rachael blinks. “What?”

  “Never mind.” Heaving a sigh, I draw my knees up to my chest and run my hands back through my hair, fighting the urge to scream Rachael’s house down. I do not want to go to Sacramento. I lift my head and look at her, my expression solemn and my tone flat as I say, “Let’s run away.”

  Rachael grins. “I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas.”

  “Then Vegas it is.”

  She tosses a pillow at me, so I hurl it back at her, only for her to tuck it under her chest to prop herself up. “So is there anything different about him?”

  “What?”

  “Tyler,” she says. “Has he grown his hair down to his shoulders? Pierced his lip? Shaved a slit into his eyebrow? Discovered a religion? Preaches about saving the planet? Anything?”

  I shake my head. “Just more tattoos.”

  “More? Did he have tattoos before?”

  “Just two.” I don’t want to tell her about my name being forever etched into his skin, so before she can ask, I add, “And he’s a lot calmer, I guess.”

  “Calmer? Are we talking about the same guy here?”

  “You’re doing it again,” I say, and my lips form a bold line as she looks at me with an eyebrow arched questioningly. “You’re so adamant on believing that he’s an asshole, but you know he’s changed since high school, Rach. You saw the difference last summer.”

  “Last summer I remember Dean coming back to our hotel with his face all busted up, and we both know who did that,” she mutters, and then rolls over to the opposite side of the bed.

  “Oh my God. Please don’t bring that up.”

  “But it’s true!” she groans, shooting upright on the bed and glaring down at me on the floor. “Why do you keep acting like Tyler is some magically reformed guy who’s a total saint or something? Seriously, Eden? He left you because he’s a total coward, he screwed Dean over the same way you did, and he’ll throw a punch at anyone who says anything that pisses him off, yet you’re still sitting here defending him right now? Are you still in love with him or something?”

  I narrow my eyes and push myself up off the floor, getting to my feet so that I’m the one now glowering down at her. “I’m far from in love with him and you know that. But I can’t deny the fact that he’s changed. Do you wanna know what happened last night? Jamie made a reference about their dad right in front of his face, and Tyler didn’t even flinch. Dad said something about criminal records and probation orders, and he still didn
’t flinch.” I pause. “A year ago I would have been the one having to stop him from kicking both of their asses right there and then.”

  Rachael stretches up on her knees and folds her arms across her chest. “What’s your point?”

  “My point is that he’s changed,” I say again, much slower this time, as though it’ll help to make that fact sink in. “And I don’t know how many times I’ll have to tell you that before you stop being so judgmental of him.”

  “Fine. Whatever,” Rachael says nonchalantly, sighing as she flops back down onto her bed, turning to look at her TV. The episode has ended, so she reaches for the remote on the bedside table and flicks to the next one.

  At the same time, I can’t help but realize that I keep finding myself in arguments recently, and each one of them seems to have centered around Tyler. Constantly with Dad. Constantly with Jamie. Yesterday with Mom. Right now with Rachael. Even though Tyler hasn’t been in my life for the past year, he has still managed to find a way to come back and ruin it. I blame him for all of this, for making every single part of my life a mess, and I feel as though I loathe him now more than I did before, although I’m not sure if that’s even possible. And for the following three nights, I will be forced to be around him.

  Biting at my lower lip, I make my way over to Rachael’s window to look out over Deidre Avenue. Like mine, her bedroom is front and center, and sometimes we’ll wave across the street to one another from our rooms. It’s quite lame, really, but it makes us feel connected even when we aren’t together.

  Thinking of my room, I frown through the glass at Dad and Ella’s house. All of the cars are there, except mine and Tyler’s. As pathetic as it sounds, I parked mine a couple houses down so that neither Dad nor Ella figure out I’m here. I’m trying to avoid them, but I still find myself wondering what they’re doing right now. Will they still be arguing? Packing in silence and refusing to make eye contact with one another? Will Jamie be making a last-ditch attempt to worm his way out of the trip? Will Chase be the only one who is actually excited to go? I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m not there.

  “Do you think he’s still in love with you?” Rachael asks over the sound of the episode’s intro, reducing the volume at the same time. I’m not sure where her sudden change of subject has come from, but I do know that it takes me by complete surprise.

  When I turn around to look at her, she’s already staring back at me, her gaze soft. She is totally calm and relaxed again, as though we didn’t just lose our cool with one another. “I don’t want him to be,” I say, my voice slightly raspy. I clear my throat and straighten up, padding across the carpet to retrieve my phone from the floor. I check the time and find that it’s after eleven. “I should go. We’re leaving at around one and I haven’t packed yet.”

  Rachael pauses the TV and heaves herself up off the bed, ready to lead me downstairs. Both her parents are at work, so we’ve had the house to ourselves, which I’ve been grateful for. Ella would not be happy if Dawn and Philip had heard me venting about our private drama. She prefers it when the cracks in our family aren’t visible, although they’re becoming increasingly hard to hide.

  “Pack the ugliest panties you can find,” Rachael says.

  My eyes narrow and I glance at her, mystified. “What?”

  “It’ll keep Tyler away.”

  “You’re gross,” I say, shaking my head and pulling a face, but she only sticks her tongue out at me. I purposely nudge her out of the way, but it’s only playful. “I’ll let myself out.”

  “Enjoy the trip,” she tells me, but she’s fighting the urge to laugh. “I can see it going one of two ways: You all bond exceptionally well and come home as one big old family of best friends. Or,” she says, “you all end up killing each other by tomorrow morning.”

  “Probably the latter,” I deadpan. “I’ll end up calling you every half-hour to rant, so I hope you won’t mind.”

  “Never.”

  I tell her I’ll see her next week and she promises to pray for my sanity over the next few days, and then I head downstairs and leave her to finish her Desperate Housewives marathon in peace. I make a dash from Rachael’s front door and I’m careful to keep my head down. I’m satisfied when I make it back to my car without anyone noticing, and it makes me think about how tragic it is that I am now at the point where I am sneaking down the street in order to avoid Dad or Ella spotting me. As I’m driving home to Mom’s place, all I can think about is turning the car around and driving the hell out of this city. Maybe to San Diego or Riverside, where I could hide out until Dad and Ella are forced to leave without me. That’s how much I am dreading this trip to Sacramento.

  But I don’t have the courage to pull that off, so I end up back on my own driveway, back at my own house, and prepared to pack a suitcase for a trip that I do not want to take. Thinking about it has put me in a foul mood, so I enter the house looking much more disgruntled than usual. Surprisingly, Mom is awake and already stacking cutlery into the dishwasher. She pauses and straightens up when she hears me, pulling her robe even tighter around her.

  “Oh,” I say. I close the door behind me and hesitate in the middle of the living room, looking back at her in the kitchen. We haven’t spoken since our argument yesterday. “Why are you up so early?” When she does night shift, she’s never usually awake before one, so this is unusual.

  “Jack told me you’re going to Sacramento with your dad,” she says very slowly, not quite answering my question.

  I run the tips of my fingers over my eyebrow and then rub at my temples. “Yeah. I don’t really have a choice.”

  “It’s very last minute.” She leans back against the kitchen worktop and studies me with great intensity.

  “I know. Ella thinks it’ll bring us all back together or something.” I shrug and look around the house. Usually Gucci has knocked me to the floor by now. “Where’s the dog?”

  “Jack’s taken her for a walk,” she says. She pushes herself away from the worktop and approaches me with her arms folded across her chest and her slippers scuffing against the tiled kitchen flooring. There are still a few feet between us when she stops. “Do you want to go Sacramento?”

  “Does it look like I want to go to Sacramento?” I point at my own face with both index fingers to emphasize my pissed expression, sharpening my glare. “Ella’s not giving me a choice.”

  “And is Ella your mother? No.” Mom cocks her head to one side. “If you don’t want to go, I can talk to her.”

  “What’s the point? She’s not going to back down.” I groan out loud and run my fingers through the ends of my hair, dragging my feet across the living room toward the hall and my bedroom door. As I’m pushing it open, I throw a glance back over my shoulder at Mom, who’s frowning at me. “So yeah, I’ll be out of town from now until Monday. I gotta pack.”

  I head into my room and close the door behind me, hoping that Mom won’t follow, and thankfully she doesn’t. Maybe we’ll do that thing where we don’t talk about what happened yesterday and, instead, move on like nothing ever happened. I’m not sure which I’d prefer, but I don’t have time to think about it, because Dad and Ella are coming by to pick me up in just under two hours. I’ve left packing and showering and getting ready until the last minute, so now I’m rushing.

  I drag out my suitcases from under my bed, tossing the smallest onto my bed and flipping it open. The flight labels from when I flew home last month are still attached, so I tear them off and then shred them up into as many pieces as I possibly can. Maybe this summer would have been better if I’d stayed in Chicago. I would have never had to deal with Tyler or Dad. I would be in Illinois, totally oblivious of the drama back home, heading out on road trips with my roommate and traveling around the Midwest. We’d stay up way too late and we’d sleep all day. We’d go to parties and concerts and festivals. But that didn’t happen, because my roommate headed home to Kansas City while I came home to Santa Monica, and it is quickly proving to be one of the wo
rst decisions I have ever made. The only thing that is keeping me going is the hope that when Tyler leaves for Portland again, things won’t be so bad. Maybe this weekend will be the last I’ll ever see of him.

  * * *

  Dad’s Lexus pulls up outside the house fifteen minutes early. He keeps on honking the car horn, and Mom keeps on yelling from the living room that he’s outside, and Gucci keeps on barking, but I’m not exactly ready. My hair is still damp after jumping in the shower and I’m trying to throw last-minute essentials into my backpack, like my phone charger and the perfume Mom gave me for Christmas and my earphones and the February edition of Cosmopolitan with Ariana Grande on the cover that I found in my closet, all while yelling, “Yeah, I know! I can hear it, Mom!” and pulling on my Converse at the same time. I’ve almost broken a hip by the time I scramble into the living room, wheeling my suitcase behind me and wringing the ends of my hair with my free hand, my backpack slung over one shoulder.

  Mom’s dressed by now and she’s standing by the window, surreptitiously peering through the blinds, but as I near her she suddenly darts away and says, “Here he comes.”

  A split second later, the doorbell rings, and then Dad’s rapping his hand against the door. Mom is literally rolling her eyes straight to the back of her head while tutting, and as Gucci paws at the door, she steps forward and pulls it open.

  Dad’s outside, dramatically holding his wrist up to his face to make a point of looking at his watch, and Gucci makes a lunge for him, which I am so, so pleased about until Mom latches onto her collar and holds her back.

  Dad immediately retreats a few steps while pulling a face, fixing Gucci with a dirty look, as though she’d been planning on tearing him to shreds or something. All the while, I’m lingering over to the side, slightly out of view.

  “Yes, David?” Mom says nonchalantly, but with an air of sweet sarcasm as she rubs Gucci’s ears.

  Dad’s lips form a tight line. “Has Eden gone deaf overnight? Where the hell is she? We have a six-hour drive ahead of us and we need to leave now.”

 
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