Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame


  It’s not something we usually ever do—holding hands. That’s what couples do, not what two people keeping a secret do. Today, however, we don’t have to be so cautious. Snake left for Boston this morning to visit his family and won’t be back until tomorrow. Emily is hanging out with some of her friends, the ones she’s made while living in the city. Right now, Tyler and I are in the clear.

  We head up to the apartment and I’ve only just stepped foot over the threshold when I decide that I’m going to take a cold shower in an attempt to cool myself down. The moment I tell Tyler this, however, my cheeks flush with color. Thoughts of Thursday night flood my mind, of Tyler and the shower and the rain and the writing and the Bible, and part of me wonders where that night might have taken us if Snake and Emily hadn’t came home so early.

  It’s blatantly obvious that Tyler’s thinking the exact same thoughts as I am, because he bites back a smirk. “No problem,” he says.

  It’s so unbelievably tempting to slip him some remark about how he should join me, but I know I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I smile instead, as innocently as I can, turning for the bathroom and tossing my cup of iced tea into the trash as I pass.

  Burning up, I strip off my clothes and steal a glance at myself in the mirror. I think I have slight tan lines and my face appears even redder than it did back in the car. Slipping into the shower, I lower the temperature. Freezing is too unbearable, so I keep the water lukewarm and stand under it for a short while. I don’t bother washing my hair, so the second my skin feels like it’s no longer on the verge of bursting into flames, I step out and wrap a towel around my body, holding it close to me as I make my way back into the living room.

  At first, it doesn’t occur to me that I’m alone. It’s not until I’ve pulled on a pair of running shorts and a tank top that I realize that the apartment is not only silent, but also empty.

  “Tyler?” I call out. I’m standing right in the center of the living room, my hands on my hips and my eyebrows furrowed. I wait a few seconds, but I get no reply. “Tyler?” I yell louder.

  I sigh. He wouldn’t have headed out anywhere without telling me. Maybe he left something in his car. Maybe he’s on the roof. It wouldn’t surprise me. He always disappears up there whenever he feels like it.

  Even though I’m out of the sun now, my skin feels like it’s burning up even more than it was before. My face feels so hot that it hurts and I’m regretting ignoring Mom when she pointed out that I should pack some aftersun lotion. Back then, I didn’t think New York could be this hot. Walking around Queens was definitely a bad idea. I think the only time we got shade was when we stopped for drinks. The rest of the time? The rest of the time gave me sunburn.

  I try to blow some air back on my face as I make a beeline for the kitchen, straight for the second cupboard along from the left. It’s where the guys keep all the medicine and a first-aid kit, and if there’s any hope at all of me finding some aloe vera, it’ll be in here. I stretch up to the top shelf, unable to see as I rummage around for bottles. I find painkillers, the ones that soothed my headache last weekend, and I find Band-Aids, which are definitely no use, and I continue to find just about everything that I don’t need. No aloe vera. Sighing, I pull myself up onto the worktop, getting on my knees and peering into the cupboard for a better look. Even my shoulders are starting to burn like hell, so I keep fumbling around, stretching my hand straight to the back of the cupboard. I pause when I touch a glass jar.

  When I squint at it, I think my breathing stops. It’s a Mason jar. Sealed and airtight. Inside, there are several clear, tiny Ziploc bags. The thing that takes me aback, however, is that inside them, there’s weed.

  To begin with, I’m too stunned to even process it. I take the jar in my hand, staring down at its contents in disbelief, my lips parted. I don’t know why there’s weed in the apartment. There shouldn’t be. Tyler stopped smoking this stuff almost two years ago and Snake told me he doesn’t smoke, but knowing him, that could be a lie. It’s not mine, and I doubt it belongs to Emily.

  My stomach tightens as I numbly glance back into the cupboard. There’s still that stack of lighters, the ones I discovered on Sunday morning as I searched for those painkillers. Why is this here? I think. Who’s smoking this shit?

  I grasp a couple lighters in my hand, glancing between them and the jar for a few seconds. Eventually, I lay the lighters down on the worktop and focus all of my attention on the Mason jar. I don’t know what brings me to do it, but I screw off the lid, and the smell is so overwhelming and all-consuming that I almost fall off the worktop.

  It’s so pungent that I almost feel sick. It’s so much different to the stench of weed as it’s being smoked and released into the air. Stronger, more musky. I slam the lid back on as fast as I can, almost gagging at the strength of the odor, and then glance back at the lighters. I stare at them for a while, trying to figure out whether or not I should just put everything back and pretend I never found it, but just as I’m deciding this, something clicks.

  The lighters. On Thursday, Tyler and I lit candles. Tyler, who just so happened to have lighters on him. I understand there being lighters in the apartment. That’s okay. But in his pocket? Who the hell carries lighters for no reason? No one does unless they . . . unless they smoke.

  My jaw almost falls open as the realization hits me. No way. No fucking way. Tyler stopped all of this years ago. He made it clear on my first night in New York that he was okay, that he didn’t need any of this stuff anymore. He wouldn’t have lied to me about it. It has to be Snake’s. The lighters have to be a coincidence. After everything, Tyler can’t be doing this again.

  Fury overcomes me, and without another second of hesitation, I open up the jar and grab one of the tiny bags, holding my breath as I screw the lid back on once more. Somehow, I feel both numb and angry, and I swing my body off the worktop, stuffing the bag into the pocket of my shorts. I fling open the apartment door and head out into the lobby, gritting my teeth to stop myself from screaming in exasperation. I know Tyler’s on the roof. I know that’s where he has disappeared to. It always is, and as I slip into elevator, I realize I’ve never wondered why he always goes up there. Always alone, sometimes for hours at a time. Why is that? The answer seems more and more obvious, but I don’t want to believe it. There’s still no way in hell that this is really happening, that this is really true.

  I take the elevator straight up to the top floor, and with my hands balled into fists, I make my way up the set of stairs to the roof. As silently as I can, I edge my body through the door, closing it behind me with an inaudible click. When I spin around, the rooftop is empty, besides one person. It appears I’m right about Tyler being on the roof.

  His back is turned to me and his elbows rest on the wall as he leans slightly over the edge of the building, staring down at the avenue below. He’s not doing anything but that. Just standing there.

  Taking a deep breath, I approach him and stop a few feet away. “Hey,” I say. Calm. Nonchalant. Inside, I’m burning up.

  Tyler swivels around, startled by the sound of my voice and a little surprised at my presence. He smiles, though. It’s a warm one. “Hey,” he says. “Sorry I didn’t let you know I was up here. I thought you’d take longer in the shower so I don’t know, I just thought I’d head up. It’s too hot out to stay inside anyway, you know? Goddamn, it really is hot out here, though. Hey, your face looks kinda bur—”

  “Tyler,” I say quietly but firmly as I cut him off. My eyes meet his and he raises an eyebrow, waiting for me to talk. I feel nauseous as I reach into my pocket for the bag of weed. Grasping it between my thumb and forefinger, I hold it up right in front of his face, and I glare at him as sharply and as fiercely as I possibly can. “What’s this?”

  His eyes widen as he studies the bag and almost immediately his expression shifts from relaxed to panicked. I can see it in his eyes. He’s speechless, and as I watch him wordlessly part his lips, I feel my chest collapsing.

/>   “You’re gonna tell me it’s Snake’s, right?” I ask quietly, my tone pleading. That’s what I want to hear. It’s what I need to hear, otherwise I’m not going to be okay. My voice cracks and all I can whisper is, “Please tell me it’s Snake’s.”

  “Eden . . .” Tyler says slowly, and the guilt pooling in his eyes gives me the answer I didn’t want. He’s not even trying to hide it. He’s not even going to attempt to deny it.

  Suddenly, I explode. It’s a mixture of fury and disappointment, consuming me all at once and fueling my words. “You lied to me!” I yell, livid. “You lied straight to my face when I asked you if you were fine! You’re not fine! You’re a liar!”

  “Eden, I am fine,” Tyler protests, voice quiet. He looks ashamed, and so he should be. I’m so, so unbelievably let-down. “It’s just—”

  “Are you back on coke, too?” My voice is like acid.

  “God, no.”

  “When did you start this shit?” I demand, waving the bag in the air. Part of me wants to throw it over the edge of the building. “When did you start all of this again?”

  Tyler bites at his lower lip as he looks back at me, guilt still dripping from his face, his eyes softly crinkling at the corners. “A couple weeks after I moved here,” he admits.

  “Are you fucking kidding me right now, Tyler? That quick?” I explode, shaking my head in disbelief. This can’t be real. “You could have gotten kicked off the tour!”

  “I’m not stupid enough to get caught.”

  “You just did, moron,” I snap. I throw the bag at his chest and it drops to the ground as I turn around, too furious to even look at him any longer.

  “Eden, please, just chill,” Tyler says from behind me, never raising his voice. I don’t blame him. He’s been caught. Of course he’s quiet. “It’s just weed.”

  “That’s not the point!” Growing more pissed off each second, I spin back around and throw my hands up in exasperation. He doesn’t get it at all. “You’re supposed to be fine! Is that why you’re up here all the time? To get high?”

  “I can stop right now,” he says, not quite answering my question, and he doesn’t sound convincing at all. “Watch me.” Bending down, he grabs the bag from the ground and closes his fist tightly around it, then lurches forward to latch on to my wrist.

  “Don’t touch me,” I hiss, but it’s no use. He’s already pulling me across the terrace, straight for the door. He doesn’t say anything as he drags me along with him. He’s too focused, breathing heavily. I don’t particularly want to talk to him now either, so we head down the stairs and into the elevator in complete silence.

  I’m so mad. So furious. So livid. So angered. So confused. Why? Why would Tyler do this again? I don’t get it. Folding my arms across my chest, I glance sideways and step further away from him as the elevator takes us back down to the twelfth floor. I don’t want to be anywhere near him. He’s totally blown it. Big time.

  Nonetheless, he clasps my arm again and pulls me out of the elevator, walking so fast along the lobby to his apartment that I end up almost jogging. Because I forgot to lock the door, he leads me inside without hesitation, and the moment he glances over to the kitchen, I notice the way his eyes harden even more as he spots the jar of weed lying on the worktop. As for the apartment itself, it reeks of the stuff, and I’m now regretting ever opening it.

  Releasing his grip on me, Tyler strides straight across the living room and into the kitchen, unscrewing the jar and reaching in to grasp the two remaining bags. With all three in his hand, he pushes open the bathroom door and glances over his shoulder at me.

  “Look,” he says, frustration in his voice. Unwillingly, I force myself to walk over to join him, and I fold my arms across my chest and glare at him from the bathroom door. “Fucking watch,” he mutters.

  He opens up the first bag and promptly tips its contents into the toilet bowl, shaking the bag vigorously before tossing it to the ground. He does the exact same with the other two while I watch with wide eyes, and once he’s flushed it all away, still breathing heavily, he turns to me with a rather deflated look in his eyes.

  “You wanna know why I wasn’t fine, huh?” he snaps suddenly. “I wasn’t fine because I wasn’t with you, alright? That’s why. It was because of you.”

  Perplexed, I stare at him as I try to absorb his words, but they don’t sink in at all. “What?”

  “Look, I thought when I moved here I’d be able to get over you, but I didn’t,” he admits, voice soft again. He sounds almost broken. Running a hand through his hair, he closes the toilet lid and sits down, hanging his head low. “I couldn’t get you out of my fucking head and I had to distract myself.”

  I blink, overcome by disbelief again. Why are we having this conversation again? Why are we talking about distractions again? This was supposed to have ended years ago. “You’re blaming me?” I ask, incredulous.

  “Yeah, I’m blaming you,” he says sharply as his head jerks up. He looks at me hard and indignantly. “I’m blaming you for making me believe that I had no chance with you.”

  “Are you ever going to let that go? Are you forever going to make me feel guilty for what I did?” I yell, stepping forward and bending down in front of him so that I can look up into his eyes as sincerely as I can. “I’ve already told you I’m sorry,” I say slowly. “I never said I didn’t want to be with you. I told you that I couldn’t. There’s a difference.”

  When Tyler doesn’t reply, it all becomes too much for me. My fury fizzles out and all I’m left with is disappointment and confusion. It’s not just the weed and us fighting, it’s everything. All at once, I’m hit with the way we’re betraying Dean, the reality that we’ve spent the last three weeks sneaking around because it seems to be the only thing we’re good at, the realization that soon we have to tell Dean and our parents the truth, the fact that Tyler’s been lying to me about being okay. It’s all been building up since the moment I arrived in New York and now it’s surfacing all at once. I can’t deal with it.

  Tears well in my eyes and break free only moments later, and I sink against the floor as I press my hands to my face, trying my best to hold back my sniffling. My attempt is useless, however, and soon I’m sobbing on the floor by Tyler’s feet. I hear him breathing as I weep, but other than that, there’s silence.

  After a while, Tyler gently calls my name. I don’t look up, though, I only cry harder at the sound of his voice, feeble and weak. Seconds after, I feel his hands on my body. Carefully, he wraps his arms around me and pulls me up with him as he gets to his feet. He doesn’t let go. He pulls my body close against his, squeezing me tight as I bury my face into his flannel shirt. He just stands there holding me, and that’s enough.

  “I’m sorry,” he whispers, resting his chin on the top of my head. “I should have told you.”

  I don’t reply. I feel too hurt to even attempt to. I don’t know what more I can say to him. I can only hope that he sincerely is sorry for doing this again, for resorting to the one thing we were all convinced he would never go back to.

  Tyler suddenly moves his hand to my face, tilting my chin up with his thumb as he looks down into my swollen eyes, his expression utterly sincere. He even looks pained as he whispers more firmly, “I’m sorry.”

  He holds my face there, tilted up to his, and I can see the way his eyes rest on my lips. I don’t move. I wait. He does, too. He’s trying to sense whether I’m going to pull away or not, but when I don’t, he closes his eyes and brushes his lips against mine.

  It’s so soft and so gentle at first, just the mere touch of our lips, but it quickly deepens. I cup his face in my hands as he kisses me faster, both of us fueled by all of our emotions combined. It changes from soft and slow to fast and furious every few seconds, a mixture of our anger and our sadness, and soon I’m sinking into him again, forgetting everything that has just happened.

  With his lips never leaving mine, Tyler bends down slightly, sliding his hands under my thighs and lifting
me up off the ground. I immediately wrap my legs tightly around his waist and loop my arms loosely around his neck, kissing him back just as hard and just as deep. He starts to walk, squeezing my ass as he carries me out of the bathroom, through the kitchen, across the living room. Roughly, I grab his hair and tilt his head to one side, and I move my lips to his neck, leaving a row of soft but deep kisses along his skin. He groans my name in response.

  We inevitably end up in his room. Of course we do. Tearing his lips away from mine, he kicks the door shut behind us and places me down on the soft mattress of his bed. He looks down at me, eyes smoldering, and I blink back up at him with an anxious smile on my lips. And this time when I reach up for the belt of his jeans, he doesn’t stop me, because this time I’m not drunk. This time there are no interruptions. This time we’re ready.

  I push him back a step and drop to my knees in front of him, pulling off my tank top and throwing it to the side. As I glance up at him again from beneath my eyelashes, I can see him swallowing as his glossy eyes encourage me to continue. So I do. My hands tremble only slightly as I unbutton his jeans, hooking my index fingers around the belt loops and pulling them down alongside his boxers. My eyes widen.

  I don’t remember much from two years ago, from that night of the beach party, the night he told me the truth. I remember it wasn’t the greatest, but I expected that. Being my first time, I doubt I was impressive. Now, though, it’s been two years, and one can gain a lot of experience in that time.

  And so I get to work, showing Tyler just exactly what I’ve picked up over the past couple years. From one technique to another, the variation takes him aback, and I feel extremely satisfied each time he groans. His eyes are closed and he’s got one hand pressed to the wall, the other holding my hair. I feel so dominant, but before I know it he’s reaching for my hands and pulling me up from the ground, crashing his lips straight back to mine without hesitation.

 
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