Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame

  Instead, Tyler reaches for the door and pushes it open, walking past me and into the guest room without even glancing up. “I’ll talk to you later,” he says quietly.

  “Hey,” I say sharply, folding my arms across my chest as I follow him into the room and flick on the light. I stand and wait, pressing my lips into a firm line. “I asked you if you were okay.”

  Tyler sighs as he tilts his face down, his back still turned to me. He throws his bag onto the center of the bed and runs his hand through his hair, softly tugging on the ends before he turns his body to face mine. “I’m not gonna lie and tell you that I’m okay when I’m not,” he finally says.

  “Then talk to me.” I take a few steps toward him, closing the distance between us, and I press a hand to his chest. I look up at him from beneath my eyelashes, feeling his heart beating slow and hard beneath my palm.

  But Tyler clearly doesn’t want to talk about it, because he carefully reaches for my wrist and moves my hand away as he takes a step back from me. “I said I’ll talk to you later,” he says with a firm edge to his voice, like he really means it and doesn’t want me to push the matter any further. Spinning back around, he sits down on the edge of the bed and bends forward, interlocking his hands. “Can you shut the door on the way out?” he asks, his voice so low and so quiet that it’s almost a whisper.

  I’m not entirely sure what’s up with Tyler right now, but he’s making it pretty clear that he wants some space, so I bite my lip and force myself to leave, despite how much I’d rather stay. When I reach the door, I press my hand to the frame and glance back over my shoulder at him. He’s sitting still, hardly blinking, just breathing.

  “If you want, you can sneak over to my room any time after midnight,” I whisper, but he doesn’t even react, let alone respond, so I shut the door and leave him alone.

  I don’t know what time it is when I flinch awake and I don’t know how long Tyler’s been nudging me for, but I do know that it startles the hell out of me. I almost roll completely off my bed, so surprised by the intruder in my room that I suffer heart palpitations. Pushing back my comforter, I push my body up and lean over to my bedside table, fumbling around with the light switch in the darkness. Finally, I find it, and the corner of my room brightens up with a warm glow.

  “Jesus Christ, Tyler,” I mutter, exhaling as I tilt my head forward, pressing my hand across my forehead. I know I told him to try sneak across the hall, but I seem to have fallen into such a deep slumber that I totally forgot. I’m not used to being in my own room again and I’m certainly not used to having Tyler staying over. “Way to scare the hell out of me.”

  Tyler’s standing by the side of my bed, but not too close, and as his sheer height towers over me his face is illuminated by the lamplight. It allows me to see the tightness in his jaw, the nervousness in his eyes and the lump in his throat. “I need to talk to you now,” he tells me quietly.

  “Really? You need to talk to me now?” Holding my comforter tight against my chest, I reach for my phone on my bedside table with my free hand and check the time. It’s just after 4AM, so I groan and lean back against my pillows, rolling my eyes in irritation. That’s when I realize that Tyler’s still fully dressed, only now he’s pulled on a jacket. I get the feeling he’s not here to slip into bed alongside me, so I quickly sit forward again. “Tyler?”

  Tyler chews on his lower lip rather anxiously as he rubs at the back of his neck. At the exact same time, he retreats away from me even further, moving toward the door. The light from the lamp on my bedside table doesn’t quite stretch that far, so there’s a shadow cast over his face that prevents me from seeing his expression as he says, “I need to get out of this city.”

  At first, I don’t understand. His words don’t make sense and they come so out of nowhere that I don’t reply to begin with. I listen to the silence of the house instead, blinking at Tyler’s silhouette by the door. “What do you mean?” I finally bring myself to ask.

  “I mean that I’m gonna leave for a while,” Tyler says.

  My stomach twists, suddenly knotted. Now I’m wide awake and Tyler has my full attention. A shiver even surges down my spine as every inch of my body tells me that none of this is good. “Why?”

  Tyler releases a slow, deep sigh. He walks back around to the side of my bed, back into the light, and his shadow flits across the walls. “There’s too much going on right now,” he admits, “and I need to figure things out.” Leaning back against my wall, he pauses for a second to string together his next few sentences, deeply thinking about the right words to say and the right things to tell me. The entire time, my body is growing stiff.

  “You know, I don’t want to be anywhere near my dad. I can’t cope with it, and I don’t think I can handle your dad, either, because I might just end up beating the hell out of both of them.” Another pause. Now my body is starting to feel cold, even though I’m under the comforter. Worry crosses Tyler’s face and his voice drops to a whisper as he asks, “What if your dad’s right? What if I do end up like mine?”

  “You’re nothing like your dad, Tyler.”

  “But I am,” he argues, his jaw tightening. “My temper snaps just as fast as his used to, and that’s what scares the hell out of me. I want out of this city and as far away from him as I can get.”

  “Come to Chicago with me,” I blurt immediately. It’s the first thought that hits me, and it’s not a bad idea. I’m leaving in the fall, packing up and heading halfway across the country to settle down in the Windy City. And I realize then that I haven’t once thought about what would happen in September when I left. I never considered the fact that Tyler and I would be separated by distance again, so suddenly the idea of Tyler coming with me to Illinois is the only thing I’m rooting for. Kind of like running away together. Kind of.

  But my new plan for us both is quickly shot down, because Tyler simply says, “No.”

  “Why?” I ask, both dismayed and confused. My moment of excitement comes to an end. So much for Chicago.

  Tyler closes his eyes for a second and tilts his face down to my carpet, leaning against the wall. He still looks tired, and I’m starting to wonder if he’s even slept at all. The longer he takes to reply to me, the more nervous I grow, and it turns out I have every right to be anxious, because when he glances back up at me, his expression has contorted, twisting with hurt as he whispers, “Because I don’t really want to be near you either.”

  I want to have misheard. I need to have misheard, because the moment the final word escapes his lips, Tyler’s lips, everything inside of me shifts. My stomach tightens even more than it already has and my voice catches in my throat, taken aback by his words. “What are you talking about?” I force myself to ask, my voice feeble.

  “Maybe you were right before,” he says without hesitation, talking fast as he shakes his head. “Maybe we shouldn’t be together.”

  “Where the hell is this coming from?” I demand, anger rushing through every single inch of my being as I push back my comforter and swing out of my bed, straightening up on my feet. I’m really praying that I’m dreaming right now. I have to be. Tyler would never say that.

  Tyler quickly flinches away from me as I approach, pivoting around me and walking back toward the door again. As his back is turned to me, his rasping voice dares to tell me, “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.”

  And right then, everything inside of me shatters. My heart stands still. My lungs collapse. My blood thins. My throat hurts. Everything, absolutely everything, suddenly hurts. From the way my head suddenly feels way too heavy to the way my knees slowly buckle beneath me, I have to press a hand to the wall to stabilize myself. My breathing has quickened, and I’m almost hyperventilating as I try to understand what’s going on. “You didn’t just say that,” I croak.

  “I’m sorry,” Tyler blurts quickly, spinning around to look at me. His eyes are dull, far from furious, looking more damaged than anything else, yet his apology doesn’t sound s
incere at all. He doesn’t sound sorry. “Look, I gotta go.” He pulls out his car keys from the pocket of his jeans and reaches for the door.

  Although I feel paralyzed, I force my legs to move and I rush over to him, sliding my body between his and the door. I press my back against the wood, pushing it closed as I block his only exit. “No! You don’t get to just walk out like this!” I yell, exasperated with the abruptness of the situation and the reasoning behind it. At the moment, Tyler hasn’t given me a reason for his sudden change of mind, and it’s making this all hurt even more than it would if he was just honest with me. “What happened to this, huh?” Pushing Tyler a step back from me, I throw up my arm and force my wrist toward his face, my hand clenched so tight that my veins are visible beneath my tattoo. “You said as long as I didn’t give up, you wouldn’t either!” I don’t care if I wake Mom and Jack. Right now, they’re the last thing on my mind. “And I haven’t given up, so why the hell have you?”

  Tyler pinches the bridge of his nose with his thumb and his forefinger, closing his eyes and refusing to look at his very own words, the words that are etched upon my skin. It’s clear now that he no longer believes in them, and it’s even clearer that I’m an idiot for believing that he did. As I drop my hand back down, my chest heaves, and I think I might just hurl, so I clasp a hand over my mouth. I shouldn’t, though, because Tyler sees it as a prime opportunity to grasp my shoulders and quickly move me to the side. That’s exactly what he does, finally throwing open the door and making his lame departure.

  But we appear to have woken Gucci, because she’s sitting out in the hall on the other side of my door, her eyes glistening, and Tyler promptly trips straight over her as though he hasn’t even noticed that she’s there. Gucci lets out a sharp cry, darting away.


  “Fuck,” Tyler mutters, steadying himself. He pauses in the darkness of the hall, frowning, and then heads toward the living room. Of course, I rush after him, racking my mind for something, anything, I could say to him that might make him stay or at least reconsider what he’s doing. As he grabs his bag from the couch, I say the only words I can think of.

  “Please, please, please,” I beg, my throat so dry that it’s starting to hurt when I talk. I step in front of him again, but it’s hard to get him to meet my eyes, and so I press my hands to his chest instead. “Please don’t. You’re just upset about everything that’s happened, so you’re being irrational. That’s all this is, Tyler,” I whisper as tears threaten to fall, my voice cracking. “You don’t even have a real reason for why you’re leaving like this. If you really want to get out of Santa Monica, then just come to Chicago with me. And don’t repeat yourself by saying you don’t want to be with me anymore, because I don’t believe you. How can everything be going great—I mean, we finally told everyone, Tyler! The hard part is over!—and then you suddenly decide this?”

  Tyler has closed his eyes again, because it seems to be the easiest way for him to avoid looking at me. I don’t think he’s been able to look me straight in the eye since the moment he woke me up. Parting his lips, he exhales. And then he slowly shakes his head. That’s all. No reply. No further explanation. Just the weak shake of his head that makes it clear that no matter what I say, he’s still going to leave.

  Reaching for my hands on his chest, he squeezes them tight and lowers them back to my sides, and I’m trying so hard not to cry that I can’t even bring myself to attempt to stop him. That’s why when he turns and walks through the dark living room toward the front door, I don’t do anything. I don’t go after him. I don’t even turn around. I only stare at the wall, my lips trembling as the tears break free anyway. I touch my throat and swallow hard, fighting back the urge to sniff. I don’t want Tyler to hear me crying, but when I hear him unlock the front door, one final wave of anger washes over me, so I’m forced to turn around.

  “So we pissed off our parents for nothing? We hurt Dean for nothing?” I yell, grinding my teeth together as my cheeks dampen. Tyler pauses to listen. “All because you’re wimping out at the last second?”

  “I’m not,” Tyler objects, finally deciding to talk again. He glances over his shoulder at me, his eyes pooling with an emotion I can’t quite figure out. “I just need space for a while. I’ll come back when I’m ready.”

  “But I love you,” I whisper, not because I think it’ll change his mind, but because I want him to remember that when he walks out the door.

  “And I need you,” Tyler breathes. It takes me by surprise, given the circumstances. It contradicts the fact that he’s claiming he doesn’t want to do this anymore, that he’s giving up. “And that’s the problem, Eden. The only reason I didn’t kick my dad’s ass earlier was because of you. Not because I knew the right thing to do was to walk away. And you know, when I was trying to get off coke, I was doing it for you and not because I had to do it to get on the tour. It’s like I need you in order to be okay, and I can’t live my life depending on you like that. I need to be able to want to do the right thing, to do it for myself and not for you, so I need some space without you for a while. I need to know that I won’t be like my dad, and as soon as I know that, I’ll come back.” His eyes are swollen, like he’s fighting back tears, and the only thing he can finish with is a pained whisper of, “I promise.”

  Without explaining himself any further, he rests his head on the door frame, takes a deep breath, and then leaves. Just like that. He opens up my front door, throws me a gut-wrenching final glance, and walks out. He lets the door fall shut on its own behind him, and when I hear that awful click, it hits me even harder at that exact moment that Tyler just gave up. And I still don’t really know why.

  The house is dark and silent and even slightly cold, and numbly I remain in my spot in the middle of the living room. Through the cracks in the blinds, I see Tyler’s car light up as his figure nears it. He slides into the driver’s seat, and I hear the thud of his door as he slams it shut. Then his engine. My throat tightens when I hear it growl to life. He’s really leaving, I think, and there’s nothing I can do to stop him. His car pulls out onto the quiet road. And he drives away. He leaves.

  My throat releases a pained whimper through my sobs as the car headlights race across the walls of the living room and then disappear. I feel so weak that I can no longer stand, so I reach around for the furniture to give myself a crutch as I move to the couch. I drop my body down onto it, pulling my legs up and holding them to my chest as I try to control my excessive trembling. I don’t know what to think.

  How long is Tyler going to take to find his own willpower and strength? How long is it going to take for him to control them both? A few days? Weeks? Months? What am I supposed to do in the meantime? Put my life on pause and wait for him? Unfortunately, that can’t happen. Now I’ve got to face Dad and Ella on my own. I’ve got to deal with Dean on my own. I’ve got to handle Rachael and Tiffani on my own. Tyler has left me to deal with our mess all by myself. It was supposed to be us against the world, Tyler and me versus everyone else. Now it’s just me.

  Out of nowhere, I hear Gucci’s paws on the hardwood flooring as she quietly pads over to me, still weeping a little from the pain Tyler accidentally inflicted upon her. She jumps up onto the couch, nudging my knee with her nose as though she’s concerned. It only sends a new batch of tears cascading down my cheeks. Reaching for her body, I pull her close and wrap my arms around her, burying my face into her fur. Don’t worry, I think, he hurt me too.


  First published 2015

  by Black & White Publishing Ltd

  29 Ocean Drive, Edinburgh EH6 6JL


  This electronic edition published in 2015

  ISBN: 978 1 84502 988 3 in EPub format

  ISBN: 978 1 84502 985 2 in paperback format

  Copyright © Estelle Maskame 2015

  The right of Estelle Maskame to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in acco
rdance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  Ebook compilation by Iolaire Typesetting, Newtonmore



  Estelle Maskame, Did I Mention I Need You?



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