Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame


  “Yeah, over in Queens,” she says with a shrug.

  “So why’ve you been staying here? Tyler’s never told me the reason.”

  “I was sharing an apartment with this guy, and it was great for a while, but recently it wasn’t working out. We got into a huge fight and he pretty much kicked me out,” she admits, not quite meeting my eyes. Her voice has grown softer and she sighs, frowning. “Honestly, he was just a prick, and I didn’t know where else to go, so I called Tyler.”

  I swing my backpack off my shoulder and unzip it, raising my leg and balancing it on my knee as I rummage around for my wallet. I keep talking to Emily, but I’m too focused to look at her. “Why were you boxing up your stuff?”

  “Because I’m about to ship everything home,” she says. “I’m heading back to London next week.”

  I stop fumbling and glance up. “What?”

  “I mean, it’s about time I leave. The tour ended over a month ago.” She smiles in such a way that it becomes clear she doesn’t really want to leave, like the thought of heading back to England doesn’t fill her with excitement. I can’t blame her. Part of me doesn’t particularly ever want to go back to Santa Monica. “So do you have those keys?” she asks, the tone of her voice altering as she changes the subject.

  “Yeah. Here.” I reach for my wallet, unzipping the tiny compartment inside it and pulling out the single key. I pass it to Emily as I close everything back up, and then follow her into the apartment.

  She stops immediately after stepping over the threshold and I promptly walk into the back of her, my body bumping hers. When I glance over her shoulder, I’m greeted by the last thing I ever expected to see. Never, ever in a million years would I have believed that such a familiar sight would unfold in front of me. In fact, it takes at least ten seconds for my eyes to fully take in the scene, and at least twelve for Tyler to pull away from Tiffani.

  He has her pressed against the kitchen worktop and her hands are cupped around his jaw as he kisses her shoulder, the same way he kisses mine. He’s got one hand on the small of her back and the other on her waist, and it doesn’t take me any longer than a single second to notice the way the lacing on her blouse has already been undone. I’m having flashbacks of the very first time I ever met Tiffani, that day they were fooling around in the fitting rooms at American Apparel, and I can’t bring myself to take in the fact that it’s happening again. I can’t accept that she’s getting her way again. I can’t even begin to fathom the fact that this entire thing, this whole game of manipulation, has worked completely in her favor. Even more so, I can’t believe Tyler. I can’t believe he’s made it so easy for her to get exactly what she wanted.

  When he finally notices Emily and me out of the corner of his eye, he immediately draws his lips away from Tiffani’s skin, taking a large step back. He stares at only me, his eyes widening, right before he glances down at the bulge in his jeans. “Eden.”

  Tiffani dramatically gasps, stepping forward and wrapping her arms tightly around his bicep, the one with my name on it. “Oh my God! This is so awkward.”

  “Eden,” Tyler says again. He doesn’t nudge Tiffani’s grip off him. He doesn’t even flinch, in fact. He just stands there, looking at me with no shame whatsoever. Admittedly, he does look awful. His hair is all over the place and his eyes are heavy, like he’s exhausted.

  I’m not upset. I’m livid. Furious. Pivoting around Emily, who’s blinking in shock and doesn’t know how to react, I take a bold step across the room. “Don’t try to explain yourself, Tyler,” I hiss through gritted teeth, my hands balled into fists by my side. “I can’t even believe that you would—”

  “Eden,” he cuts in, saying my name for the third time, his voice edgy yet firm. “I wasn’t gonna explain myself,” he says. “I was gonna ask if you could get the fuck out of my apartment.”

  My shoulders immediately sink and I falter as I blink at him, stunned. “What?”

  “You heard him,” Tiffani says. Unsurprisingly, there’s a glorious smile spreading across her face. She looks vicious. “Can both of you leave and give us some space? Don’t you guys have gyms and therapists to visit?”

  My jaw falls open. Her words, thrown at us so casually, hit me so hard that I can’t even find the energy to build up anger. I exchange glances with Emily. Her lips are parted, eyes wide, completely and entirely shocked at the remark. In that exact moment, I pity Tiffani. I pity her, because she gains satisfaction from hitting people where it hurts. I pity her, because she uses others’ weaknesses to her advantage. For that, I’ll never forgive her. Not now, not ever.

  When I glance at Tyler, I realize he’s no longer glaring at me. His eyes have shifted to Tiffani and he stares at her, disgusted. He reaches for her hands, pulling her grip off his arm as he takes a large step away from her, shaking his head. “You didn’t just say that,” he says slowly.

  Tiffani rolls her eyes at him, but the entire time, something other than fury is building up inside of me. It’s seeing her and Tyler together that’s making me so uncomfortable. None of this was ever supposed to happen. Tyler was never meant to turn to her again for a goddamn distraction, no matter how upset and pissed off he is at me, and I realize that the feeling within me that keeps growing more intense with each passing second is nothing but desperation. I’m desperate to fix all of this, desperate to show Tyler that I’m still here, still endlessly in love with him.

  Screw Tiffani. Forget her games. Right now, I can’t keep any of this going for a second longer. I can’t watch Tyler look at me with that expression of rebuke in his eyes, like he doesn’t want to be around me.

  I don’t even care that Emily’s in the room. I don’t care that Tiffani will tell Dean the truth. I don’t care, because Emily and Dean finding out the truth is a lot less terrifying than having Tyler never forgive me for the things I said last night.

  Before I even realize it I’m walking across the room, edging my way toward Tyler, and the words begin to spill out of my mouth before I can rethink what I’m doing. “What I told you last night was bullshit,” I splutter, my eyes focused on Tyler and only Tyler. “I don’t choose Dean. I choose you. It’s always been you.” I flash my eyes to Tiffani, now furious and brave enough to lock my glare on hers. “She made me end things with you last night, because she’s a bitch.”

  Tiffani still keeps smiling, but I can see the cracks appearing as she tries to hide her anger. Trying to maintain her calm, innocent persona, she stiffly says, “Why would I do that, Eden?”

  “Because you want Tyler back,” Emily cuts in sharply from behind me, and when I twist my neck around to face her, she’s walking over to join me. I’m taken aback by the fact that she’s not surprised, not gasping in disbelief in the background. I just made it clear that Tyler is a lot more than just my stepbrother, yet she hasn’t even blinked. She just looks defensive as she folds her arms across her chest, her eyes on Tiffani. “You threatened her. I heard you at the diner.” Her voice grows softer as she diverts her eyes to Tyler’s, and she glances between him and me for a moment. “Eden’s telling you the truth, Tyler.”

  “Please. If you’re going to lie, at least make it sound logical,” Tiffani scoffs, but I can see the panic in her eyes as she adjusts her blouse, well aware that the moment of winning Tyler back is now slipping through her fingers. She knows she’s losing. “I’d never do such a thing.”

  Tyler’s eyes are still fierce, but this time it’s not because of me. It’s because of Tiffani. He takes another step away from her, not to the side, but in front of her, joining Emily and me. It’s the three of us against her. “Get out,” he orders.

  “What?”

  “Get the fuck out,” he repeats, his temper snapping as he points his thumb over his shoulder toward the door. His voice is sharp and his posture is firm, and he’s definitely not backing down. “Right now.”

  Furious, Tiffani scrunches up her face and barges straight through us all, purposely shoving her palm into Tyler’s chest as
she pushes him to one side. She rams her shoulder into Emily’s, unable to control her growing contempt for us all, and then promptly stops and turns to me. She only shakes her head and, unbelievably, she smirks. “You’ve really done it this time,” she hisses, and I know that I have. I know she’ll tell Dean now. Of course she will.

  “The door’s that way,” I say calmly, despite however much I could yell and scream at her right now, and I step to the side. I nod to the door, and she finally storms out, slamming it behind her.

  Silence ensues. None of us know what to say or how to react. No one wants to be the first to speak. Emily mostly just looks at me with raised eyebrows, and Tyler mostly just stands there, his back turned to us and his head tilted down to the floor. I can hear him breathing heavily, and it’s like I can almost hear him thinking everything through, and I eventually realize that I need to be the first to say something.

  Numb from what’s just occurred, I have to force myself across the room, slowly approaching Tyler from behind. I reach for his arm, gently touching him with just my fingertips. “Tyler . . .”

  Softly, he shakes his head. “I gotta . . . I gotta clear my head,” he says quietly. Turning away from me, he makes his way across the living room and into his own room. A few seconds later, he returns while pulling on a pair of shoes. His car keys are looped around his index finger.

  “You shouldn’t be driving yet,” Emily points out, concerned. I glance over to her, still wondering why she has yet to question what I said about Tyler. Maybe she didn’t understand. I don’t know. It’s just odd. For the past two years I’ve always expected that people would be outraged and disgusted and confused when and if they found out. Emily’s the first person I’ve indirectly told, and she hasn’t even reacted to it. I just keep waiting for it. I keep waiting to hear her ask, “What the hell is going on between you guys?” I’m just waiting for something. Anything.

  “Whatever,” Tyler says. He grabs his keys for the apartment from the kitchen counter and brushes past both Emily and me, careful not to touch us, and then disappears through the door. He doesn’t slam it like Tiffani did. Just quietly pulls it shut behind him.

  I want nothing more right now than to go after him, to explain everything more fully, but I know he needs his space. He needs to get his head around the basic facts first, and then I can talk to him about it. Later, when he gets back, whenever that ends up being. Right now, though, I’m still dumbfounded over Emily. Telling the truth wasn’t supposed to be so easy. It was supposed to be terrifying.

  “Emily . . .” I say slowly, feeling uneasy. She might not be asking any questions, but she must surely be thinking them. I can’t let it go without clearing things up, without her knowing what’s really going on, so I build up the courage to face my biggest fear: having to explain myself. “About Tyler and me . . .”

  “You don’t need to explain it,” Emily says with a shrug, making her way past me as she heads for the kitchen. I blink at her from the living room as she grabs herself a bottle of water from the refrigerator. Casually, she unscrews the cap and leans against the worktop. To my utmost surprise, she looks back at me with a warm gaze and does nothing but smile in the gentlest and most comforting of ways. “I’d already figured it out.”

  26

  At first, Emily’s words don’t make sense. Figured it out? Impossible. Tyler and I have been so careful, so cautious . . . It scares me that even though we’ve tried our hardest to keep our relationship a secret, Emily has still noticed. It momentarily terrifies me that she might not be the only one. How many other people over the years have had suspicions? How many other people have wondered if there’s always been something more between us? All I can hope is that the answer is none. Emily, on the other hand, doesn’t seem fazed by the fact that Tyler is my stepbrother. Not uncomfortable or judgmental, not disgusted or confused. All I can ask her is, “How did you know?”

  She takes a sip of her water, still smiling. I’m glad that she’s smiling. I was worried Tiffani’s remark about therapy would upset her, but she seems to have let it go over the top of her head, the same way the remark about the gym has gone over mine. It was a cheap shot at trying to hurt us. Now, however, there are other matters at hand. Slowly, Emily twists the cap back on the bottle in her hand and shrugs. “It just became obvious.”

  “How? It wasn’t supposed to be,” I admit quietly, struggling to grasp the fact that I’m actually discussing the subject with someone other than Tyler. It feels foreign. I’m not used to it.

  “Yeah, I figured that too,” Emily says with a small laugh. A warm, friendly one. “Honestly, it was a number of things.”

  I make my way across the living room toward the kitchen counter. When I get there, I lean down and rest my arms on the worktop as I look across at Emily, both curious and confused. “Like what? What gave us away?”

  “Well,” she says, “Tyler went from sleeping on the couch to sleeping next to you. I mean, sure, siblings share beds all the time, but it just seemed like something more than that. When you guys went to sleep early the other night I was looking for you both when I got back here, and when I checked Tyler’s room you were both asleep, but totally wrapped up in each other. All I could think was that I would never be caught dead like that with my brother.”

  I raise my eyebrows. “You figured us out just from that?”

  “No,” she says. “There was Tyler’s tattoo, too. I noticed it one morning when you were in the shower, and when I asked him why he chose to get your name, he just shrugged and said it was because you’re his sister. I thought that was weird, because what about his brothers? Why wouldn’t he get their names too? Especially considering they’re actually his real brothers. No offense.”

  “None taken. I knew that tattoo was a bad idea,” I say, almost laughing. It’s also rather ironic given what I’ve just done, and I quickly glance down at my wrist to ensure it’s still hidden under my sleeve. I’ll show Tyler later. Right now, however, I’m focused on Emily. And of all the times I had imagined this conversation with someone, about Tyler and me, I never once imaged it to be like this. So casual. So easy. “What else gave us away?”

  Emily thinks for a moment as she brushes her fingertips over her lips, her eyes squinting at nothing in particular for a short while before she meets my waiting gaze. “Did Tyler ever let you read his speech from the tour?” she asks. It takes me aback for a second as I try to think about the answer, blinking at her.

  Tyler and I shared countless phone calls over the year that he was gone, but I don’t quite recall him ever reading his full speech to me. When he first moved over here to New York he was still in the process of writing it, and back then he did sometimes ask for my thoughts on the words he’d pieced together. I always told him everything sounded just fine, raw and honest and so him. I never heard the finished version. I never asked. “No,” I finally admit. “Why?”

  Emily’s smile grows wider again and she leans back on the balls of her feet, passing the bottle of water back and forth in her hands. “Toward the end of our speeches, we had to talk about the after-effects of abuse. The psychological damage,” she says, and I wonder if she’s uncomfortable, but she’s not. She’s talked about this endlessly for an entire year, just like Tyler has. She’s used to it. “And so Tyler would talk about the drugs and the booze and everything else,” she continues, “and he always spoke about a girl. He never once mentioned her name, but he would talk about the fact that she was the first person in years to care about what he was going through. The first person to actually want to help, and that that was exactly what she did without her even realizing it. He told everyone that she was the reason things started changing and getting better. He spoke about her as though he was in love with her, and we always wondered why he never said her name.” She pauses for a minute, not quite smiling but not quite frowning either. Exhaling slowly, she parts her lips and says, “I’ve realized it was because that girl is you.”

  Her words take a while to sink
in. I can do nothing but stare at her as I try to process them. Tyler never mentioned that he spoke about me in his speech. He never once told me that he talked about me in such a way. I’m not sure how to feel about it. Uncomfortable? Not quite. Surprised? Yes. All I can think about is that I am so, so in love with him, yet he’s not even here. I desperately want to reach out for him right now. Touch him, tell him I love him. And not in French this time.

  When Emily realizes I don’t have the ability to muster up a reply right now, she continues, walking around the kitchen counter as she does so. “So I thought there was something going on between the two of you,” she says, “but I didn’t want to ask, and then your boyfriend turned up so I thought I must have been imagining that there was something between you and Tyler. But then last night I found out that I was right and that I wasn’t just imagining the entire thing.”

  “When I walked out on him?” I guess, pushing myself away from the counter as I turn to face her.

  “No,” she says. “After that.” Moving away from me, she heads across the living room and my eyes follow her. She talks over her shoulder as she walks, raising her voice as she disappears into Tyler’s room. “Tyler took a bunch of videos of the tour, so I was emailing them over to myself,” I hear her say, reappearing at his bedroom door with a laptop in her hands, “and I found something that I think you should see. I’m not sure if you know about it or not.”

  My curiosity peaks and I rush over to join her on the couch as she places the laptop down on the coffee table, tilting open the screen. I interlock my hands anxiously in my lap as she starts it up. Neither of us relaxes back into the couch. We both sit right on the edge, leaning forward, staring at the screen. Emily doesn’t take long to log in to Tyler’s account, to pull up his files. She scrolls straight to the most recent video to be transferred onto the laptop, and she opens it. It’s nothing but a dark screen. She quickly pauses it before the video can even start, and she turns to look at me.

 
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