Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame


  “He’s in the fucking city?” Tyler hisses, immediately turning off the radio. The car falls silent, the only noise the sound of the engine as we continue through Santa Monica, crossing Pico Boulevard. “He’s here?”

  From the backseat, I feel helpless. There’s nothing I can do about the situation, but I do know that Tyler is growing more and more livid with each passing second, so I move forward and place my hand on his shoulder. I squeeze tightly to let him know that I’m here.

  “Drive there,” Tyler orders out of nowhere, thumping his fist twice against the dashboard as he fixes Jamie with a firm, slightly threatening glare.

  “What?”

  “Wesley Meyer’s place. Right now.”

  “Tyler . . .” Jamie tapers off and shakes his head. “I’m not driving you over there.”

  “Alright, then pull over.” Angling his body away from Jamie and toward the door instead, he reaches for the handle and glances back at Jamie again over his shoulder, still glaring. Only this time, he’s waiting.

  “I’m not pulling over,” Jamie says. He grips the steering wheel even tighter.

  “I’m not kidding, Jay!” Tyler growls, slamming his palm down against the dashboard once again. The abruptness startles Jamie, because he flinches and the car swerves slightly to the right, almost mounting the curb. If Ella’s car gets home without a single scratch, then I’m pretty sure that at the very least the dashboard will have some dents in it. “Pull the fuck over.”

  Groaning, Jamie finally succumbs to the pressure. Pulling up against the sidewalk, he leaves the engine running as he throws open the car door and slides out. “You know this is a stupid idea,” he mutters. Kicking at the road, he makes his way around the vehicle.

  Tyler’s just about to push open his own door, but before he can jump out I hold his shoulder tight against the back of the seat to prevent him from moving. Unbuckling my seatbelt with my free hand, I lean forward over the center console and tilt my head to look at him. “What are you doing, Tyler?”

  Now that I can look directly into his eyes, I can tell just how enraged he really is. Part of me can’t blame him for being aggravated, but part of me is also wondering what’s running through his mind right now. Knowing how irrational Tyler can be, I’m a little concerned. Especially with the way he’s looking back at me, his eyes blazing and his jaw tight. Refusing to give me an answer, he shrugs my grip off his shoulder and kicks open the car door, stepping out onto the sidewalk.

  “Tyler!” I yell, but he’s already out of the car and walking around to the driver’s side. Jamie slips into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him, then folding his arms across his chest in defeat. Even I frown and settle into the backseat again, twiddling my thumbs. I’m unsure of what I’m supposed to do.

  Tyler slides into the car behind the wheel, taking a moment or two to adjust to the automatic controls, then he takes off. Ella’s car screeches along Ninth Street controlled by Tyler’s fury as he continues to head north through the city. I try to catch his eye in the rearview mirror a couple times, but he never seems to be checking it, so he doesn’t notice.

  “This is why Mom didn’t want to tell you,” Jamie says, throwing his hands up in exasperation as Tyler runs a stop sign. “She knew you’d flip out.”

  Tyler doesn’t reply to his brother, the same way he didn’t reply to me, and I think both Jamie and I have figured out by now that he’s done talking. Neither of us attempts to say anything more. We only exchange concerned glances and shrugs as Tyler drives. We also both know exactly where he’s heading, yet there’s nothing we can do about it. He even taps his index fingers against the steering wheel as the anger continues to build up inside of him.

  And in less than ten minutes, the car is crawling eastbound along Alta Avenue as Tyler glances from left to right, his eyes searching. He slams on the brakes at the intersection of Twenty-fifth Street, his glare coming to rest on one specific house. The one before us right now on the corner, with the white bricking and the red roof tiles. It’s Wesley Meyer’s house, whoever the hell he is, which means that it is also Tyler and Jamie’s dad’s current place of residence. And of course, that is the sole reason why we’re even here. Because of their dad.

  Tyler cuts the engine, allowing silence to fall as he stares at the house. That’s all he does. Just stares as he breathes heavily, clenching his jaw over and over again. It’s like he’s mentally fighting with himself over whether or not he should get out of the car.

  “So what?” Jamie asks after a minute or so, breaking the tense silence. “You’re gonna walk up to that door and tell him you hate him? Throw a punch? Kick his ass?”

  Tyler grinds his teeth together and angles his face even more toward the window, as far away from Jamie’s stern glare as he can get. “You don’t get it,” he hisses, and the glass steams up.

  “Hey,” Jamie says quickly, shaking his head despite the fact that Tyler’s not even looking, “you don’t think I wanna beat the hell out of him too? For your sake? But c’mon. Think about it. What’s the point? It’s stupid, and Mom’ll only have a breakdown if she knows you went near him.”

  Jamie’s speaking a lot of sense, but it only seems to push Tyler toward the idea of getting out of the car, because that’s exactly what he does. He throws open the car door and slides out just as I’m parting my lips to speak, and immediately I jump out too. It’s almost like a reflex action to go after Tyler by now, and I run around the vehicle and throw my body in front of his on the middle of the lawn. Pressing my hands hard against his chest, I push him back a step.

  “Jamie’s right,” I say. “You don’t want to do this.”

  “I do.” He still has that terrifying look in his eyes that I’m not quite used to anymore. Two years ago, I was. Now? Not so much. It’s not him anymore. Tyler lost all that hostility a while ago, and it was replaced by all the positivity that came into his life while using his past as a means to help others. Yet now it seems like that’s all gone again. That aggravation is back. The kid with the hardened expression and the fierce eyes, the kid who spent every second of every day loathing his father is exactly who’s standing in front of me right now. “Why the fuck shouldn’t I?”

  And just like I did back then, I try my best to help to do what’s right for him. And right now, the best thing for him is to get away from this house before he does something he’ll regret. “Because you’ve been okay for almost two years now,” I whisper. My hands are still pressed to his chest, so I can feel his heart beating hard and fast beneath my palms. “Please don’t get wrapped up in all of this mess again. Look what it did to you before, Tyler. Just stay away from him.”

  “Eden,” Tyler says slowly through gritted teeth. Reaching up, he takes both of my hands in his, still holding them against his chest. His heart seems to beat even faster as his eyes soften up for the briefest of moments. “I want him to see me now. I just wanna stand in front of him for the first time in seven years. I need him to know that he messed up, because he doesn’t get to be a part of our lives anymore. Not mine, not Jamie’s, not Chase’s, not Mom’s. We’re all doing perfectly fucking fine without him now. I want him to know that.” Tilting his head down, he sighs and squeezes my hands. After a moment, he glances back up. “And maybe swing a fist or two.”

  “I get it,” I say, keeping my voice low. I fear that if we raise our voices any louder, his dad might hear us from inside. That’s if he’s even here in the first place. “I get that you wanna face up to him. I can’t blame you. But Tyler, think about it. What happens if you snap the second you see him again? You’re already mad, so just drop it. At least for tonight. You can deal with your dad another time. You need to let all of this sink in first, okay?”

  Tyler glances over my shoulder toward the house. He studies it for a while, a range of emotions flickering in his eyes. I can’t work out exactly what he’s feeling. They change too fast.

  Relaxing his jaw, he swallows and looks back to me. “Okay,” he whispers. Le
tting go of my hands, he moves his to my face, gently cupping my cheeks as he tilts my chin up so I can look at him more directly. “Okay.” Closing his eyes, he leans in, pressing his lips softly and slowly against mine. It takes me aback for a split second: It’s so out of place amidst his rage. I’m not sure what the reason behind it is, whether it’s for comfort or for reassurance or both, but I do know that it’s clear Tyler has forgotten we’re not alone.

  As panic sweeps through me, I quickly recoil. Pulling my lips away from Tyler’s, I push him away from me and then fire my eyes over to the Range Rover still parked out on the road. Through the windshield, our brother is blinking back at us.

  30

  Jamie drives in silence. He’s back behind the wheel, his lips pressed into a firm line. His eyes don’t leave the road, because he doesn’t even so much as glance at Tyler or me. I can’t figure out if he’s stunned or furious or both. Either way, his expression makes it clear that he hasn’t taken the news well. Perhaps Tyler could have been less blunt when he told our brother the truth and perhaps I could have made a better attempt at offering an explanation, because now Jamie just looks disgusted. However, the new situation at hand was enough to distract Tyler and get him back into the car and off Wesley Meyer’s front lawn.

  I’m in the backseat once more, anxiously gnawing on my lower lip and fumbling with my seatbelt while feeling, yet again, rather ashamed. Seeing Jamie appear sickened at the idea of Tyler and me together is giving me absolutely no hope whatsoever for our parents. If our sixteen-year-old brother can’t handle it, then I highly doubt Dad and Ella will. Thankfully, we’re not heading there right now. We’re going to my mom’s place. We’re breaking the news to her first. Tyler’s idea. We were going to wait until tomorrow, but now that Jamie knows, it’s best to just tell the rest of our family tonight. Each second, I grow more and more nauseous at the thought of it. The time really is here.

  The drive to my mom’s place only takes a few minutes. Jamie pulls up behind my car on the sidewalk, leaving the engine running while he remains silent. He doesn’t say a single word, nor does he take his hands off the wheel. He just stares out of the windshield with narrowed eyes. Tyler does look at his brother for a long while, trying to catch his eye, but it’s useless. Eventually, he just glances over his shoulder to me and shrugs, letting me know that it’s time to go.

  I release my seatbelt and numbly slip out of the car. There’s a frown upon my lips, mostly because I’m feeling incredibly guilty. I can’t help it. Tyler and Jamie have always been close, much closer than either of them is with Chase, and they rarely ever argue. But now Jamie just seems pissed off, and I feel like it’s all because of me. This tense atmosphere would not be suffocating us right now if I hadn’t fallen for Tyler. All I can do now is hope that soon Jamie will come around, the same way I’m hoping Rachael will. But there’s absolutely no point in hoping that Dean will ever accept Tyler and me. I’d be deluded if I ever believed that could happen.

  Gently closing the car door behind me, I head around to the trunk, where I meet Tyler. He’s already hauling my suitcase out onto the sidewalk, expression pained as he tries to offer me a reassuring smile. It doesn’t make me feel any better, because there’s no genuine reassurance in his features. Tyler’s as worried as I am.

  Sliding the strap of his duffel bag onto his shoulder, he slams the trunk shut and moves around the vehicle. He stops by the driver’s side window and taps his knuckles twice against the glass. Jamie doesn’t react to begin with, but when he realizes that Tyler’s not going to walk away, he decides to roll the window down. For the first time since we left Wesley Meyer’s front lawn, Jamie turns to look at his brother.

  “We’ll be coming over to the house soon,” Tyler murmurs softly, his eyes gentle as he tries to appeal to Jamie’s sympathetic side. “So just . . . Just don’t say anything. Please. We gotta tell Mom and Dave on our own.” Tilting his head down to the ground for a second, he blows out a breath and then glances back up. “Okay?”

  Jamie doesn’t react, so we can’t be sure if he’ll rush home and break the news to our parents himself or not. All he does is turn his head away again as he puts the window back up. It forces Tyler to remove his hands from the door and step back, frowning the exact same way that I am. The two of us watch as Jamie drives off, and the Range Rover disappears around the corner only moments later. I don’t know about Tyler, but I feel uneasy.

  “I guess that could have gone down a whole lot better,” Tyler says. As he turns to face me, I notice how his lips have formed a sad smile. Yet it’s warm and somehow almost playful, which is enough to make me forget for a second that we’re about to walk inside my house and tell my mom the truth.

  “Yeah,” I say, shrugging my backpack further up my shoulder, “I don’t think kissing me in front of him was the best way to break the news.”

  Slowly, Tyler grins. “My bad.”

  Rolling my eyes, I pull out the handle of my suitcase and begin to pull it along the path toward the front door. Tyler follows close behind me, so close that I can hear him breathing, and just as he places his hand on the small of my back, the front door swings open. Immediately, his touch disappears.

  “You’re home!” Mom yells as she hurls herself over the threshold, rushing toward me. Within a split second I’ve been drawn into her warm embrace as she wraps her arms tightly around me. She hugs me so tight that I fear I might stop breathing, and just as I’m about to attempt to wriggle my way out of her grip, I hear a familiar loud bark.

  Over Mom’s shoulder, I can see Gucci bounding out of the house toward me, ears pricked upright, tail wagging fast, tongue out. I squeeze my eyes shut and prepare myself, waiting for the moment that her strong body will knock me to the ground, and that’s exactly what happens. She jumps, stretched up on her hind legs, her paws against my chest, and I promptly fall out of Mom’s arms. I tumble backward from Gucci’s weight, only I don’t land on the ground. Tyler catches me before that can happen, my body crashing into his as the two of us fall back a step. Gucci finally drops back down onto all four legs.

  “Jeez,” I say, brushing myself off as Tyler steadies me. Thankfully, Gucci shifts her attention to him, but as she eagerly circles his legs and loudly sniffs at his boots, her tail repeatedly whacks the back of my knees, so I step away from the two of them and wheel my suitcase back toward my mom.

  “She cried for a week straight after you left,” Mom says with a laugh, pulling me into another hug. This time, it’s only brief, and she stands back to run her eyes twice over me. “But I’ve definitely missed you way more than she has. I’m so glad you made it home alive.”

  I roll my eyes, shaking my head at her. “Yep, here I am. Alive. Even after riding the subway and walking around Manhattan on my own and visiting the Bronx,” I add, my smile teasing.

  Mom looks horrified. “Tyler!”

  Tyler glances up from scratching behind Gucci’s ears, tilting his face up to look at my mom. “Huh?”

  “You took my daughter to the Bronx?” Mom questions, but we all know she’s just playing. Sternly, she folds her arms across her chest and taps her foot as she waits for a reply.

  “Sorry about that,” Tyler apologizes with a smile, patting Gucci’s head once more before he straightens up. His eyes, his smile, and his voice are all innocent. “It was for a baseball game. But other than that, I think I took good care of her.” His eyes meet mine and his smile widens.

  “You convinced me to sit on the edge of the roof of your apartment building,” I point out.

  He jumps forward quickly, looping his arm around me from behind and pressing his hand gently over my mouth. “Shhh.” Shrugging, he nervously laughs and throws my mom another one of his smiles, the type that makes it impossible to be mad at him.

  “Oh, Tyler,” Mom says with a laugh. Shaking her head, she exhales and studies him with a warm glow to her face. “Welcome home. I bet it feels weird being back. But hey, both of you come on inside and tell us all about New Yo
rk.” Clapping her hands together, she whistles once and calls, “Gucci! Inside!” to which our hyperactive dog responds by leaping back into the house. Mom follows.

  Neither Tyler nor I budge an inch, and once Mom disappears, I turn to him and take a deep breath. “So we’re really doing this?” I ask, my voice low.

  “We sure are,” Tyler says without hesitation. Throwing an arm over my shoulders, he pulls me in close and presses his lips to my temple. “I hope your mom isn’t looking out the window,” he whispers.

  I glance sideways at him, only to find that he’s smirking. Laughing, I shrug his arm off me and push him away as I reach for my suitcase instead, dragging it toward the open front door. I’m glad that Tyler still has the ability to muster up some humor right now, because it’s making this all seem much less daunting, and I’m glad that he’s no longer thinking about his dad. I’m happy that right now everything seems okay. Ten minutes from now, I don’t know if it still will be.

  Tyler follows me into the house, closing the door behind us, and immediately I can smell cinnamon. My forehead creases with worry at the thought of Mom attempting to bake, and I ditch my suitcase by the door and pad my way over to the kitchen, studying the worktops for any catastrophic, deformed scones. Before I can find anything, Mom comes along from the hall with Jack by her side and I instantly stop fumbling around by the cupboards. I can see Tyler rolling his eyes at me.

  “So, Eden,” Jack urges as he smiles at me with his sparkling white teeth. At the same time, he’s fiddling with the watch on his wrist as he adjusts the clasp on it, and I figure from his ruffled, damp hair that he might have just got out the shower. “How was New York?”

 
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