Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame

  “So I’m guessing you’re gonna be hanging out with them rather than me for a while?”

  I try to catch his gaze, but he’s adamant on staring at the sidewalk. By this point I think we’re both past caring how wet we get. Our pace is slow. “Hey,” I say, “they’re only gonna be here for a few days. I would have been coming with them if I wasn’t already here.”

  Finally, Tyler glances sideways at me. There’s a smile on his lips. “Thank God I called dibs.”

  We cross over on Third Avenue as we approach his apartment building, and just the sight of it and the thought of warmth is enough to make me break into a jog for the last few yards. Tyler follows suit and the two of us burst through the entrance, our bodies dripping, silence around us. We just stand there for a moment, attempting to recover, until finally Tyler laughs.

  And finally, he runs his hand over his face and wipes away the drops of rain. “Maybe today was a bad day to play baseball.”

  “You can say that again,” I murmur, but I’m grinning.

  We don’t hesitate for much longer and we shuffle into the elevator, leaving behind a wet trail that decorates the main lobby. We’re a little giddy, and part of me wonders if perhaps it’s simply the effect of the rain, but soon I realize that it’s not the weather that’s making us laugh; we’re both genuinely in a good mood. I make an attempt at wringing out my T-shirt as I follow Tyler along the twelfth floor and into his apartment.

  We’re greeted by Snake, who’s seated on the carpet with his back pressed against one of the couches. He’s on his phone, texting. To begin with he doesn’t even glance up from his device, but he eventually decides to acknowledge our presence.

  When he does, his eyes widen and he studies us both for a long moment before asking, “What the hell happened to you guys? Did you jump into the fucking Hudson?”

  “Did you realize it’s raining?” Tyler smirks, then turns and heads through the kitchen, tossing the baseball bat onto the worktop and slipping into the bathroom. A few seconds later he reappears, two towels in his hands. “You know . . . raining like hell?”

  “Since when?” Snake asks, oblivious. He cranes his neck, eyeing up the large windows, before murmuring, “Oh shit, you’re right.” He glances back over to Tyler. “I was too busy hanging out with the 1201 girls to notice.”

  “The what?” I pull a face at him as he fires his eyes to me.

  “The apartment two doors down,” Tyler murmurs before Snake has the chance to reply. He joins me again and passes me a towel, which I accept with a smile of gratitude. “Some college chicks. They’re hella annoying.” Bending over slightly, he ruffles his hair with his own towel.

  “Huh,” Snake says after a second. “You weren’t calling them annoying when you were all doing body shots on each other last month.”

  “That was a dare,” Tyler interjects, his body shooting upright. His hair’s everywhere, and if I weren’t so focused on Snake’s words then perhaps I’d find it cute. “Your dare, actually.”

  Snake grins and it makes his nose seem a little crooked, like it’s been broken before. “Yet you had no complaints when it came to doing it.”

  Tyler just shakes his head, yet I’m hoping he’ll say something. Defend himself. Even, hopefully, tell me that Snake’s just kidding. Who are these girls that live in apartment 1201? College girls? I’ll bet they’re gorgeous. I’ll bet they’re smart. I’ll bet they all hang out often.

  “I’m gonna call Dean,” I blurt. I’m not sure why the thought even crosses my mind, but after I say it I realize that I really, really do need to call him. It’s overdue and I can almost hear my phone yelling my name from Tyler’s room. So I turn around, towel in hand, and float through into his bedroom. Or my bedroom. Whichever.

  I catch Tyler furrowing his eyebrows at me as I shut the door and I’m tempted to throw him an apologetic smile, but then I remember the body shots. I look away quickly and click the door shut, my expression blank. It doesn’t remain like that for much longer, though, because soon I’m gnawing on my lower lip as I reach for my phone and dial Dean’s number.

  The sound of the monotonous ring almost makes me feel sick. If I could, I’d avoid all contact with him for the next six weeks. Six weeks to get my thoughts in order, to decide if I want to stay with him or if I don’t. Right now, I’m too busy trying to figure out how I feel about Tyler. It’d be better if I could figure out how I feel about Dean much later, but apparently I have to figure it all out now, at the exact same time. I’m juggling the two of them back and forth, trying not to hurt either of them, but already I’m struggling. I can’t think of a way to resolve any of this.

  “So you are alive,” Dean’s voice mutters into my ear, his abrupt greeting bringing my attention back to the call. His contemptuous tone makes me regret this already.

  “Sorry,” I say. I almost want to sigh, but for his sake I manage to suppress it. “I got so caught up in everything and then my phone died and—”

  “And what? They don’t have landlines in New York? They don’t have phone booths?”

  I draw my phone away from my ear and scrunch my face up at it. Damn. Part of me wants to hang up right there and then because of his bitter attitude, but the rest of me seems to have the common sense to know that that’ll only make this worse. So I press the phone back to my ear. “I haven’t even been here twenty-four hours. Just chill out. You’re acting like I haven’t called you in a week. I’m here. I’m in one piece.” I grit my teeth and set myself down on the corner of Tyler’s bed. The mattress is soft, but I’m far from comfortable. “And the city is great, thanks for asking.”

  Dean doesn’t reply immediately. Instead, he remains silent and the only thing I can hear over the line is the sound of his breathing. Slow and deep. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles after a while. “It’s just that we’re on completely different coasts and I’m not getting to see you every day. I need to be able to talk to you. You owe me that at least.”

  “I know.” I glance around Tyler’s room, nervously looking for something to focus on, but only end up staring back at the towel in my lap. I hadn’t realized I was still holding the baseball, either. I squeeze it hard. It’s cold and slightly wet. “I’ll try to call you more.”

  “You better,” Dean shoots back, but his tone is softer now. “Do you want to drive me crazy over here?”

  “Just try not to think about me,” I joke. After the words leave my lips, I realize I’m not even kidding. I don’t want Dean to be thinking about me. I’m too busy thinking about Tyler to pay Dean the same amount of attention. “Really,” I say, “don’t think about me.”

  “It’s not that easy.”

  I let out a sigh away from the phone so that he doesn’t notice, and then I toss the baseball onto the floor and flop backward onto Tyler’s bed, pulling the towel over my head. “Are you really still mad at me for coming here?”

  “I’ve never been mad, Eden,” Dean says gently, reassuringly. I wish he was, though. In the background I can hear the purring of engines and the faint echo of the radio. He must be at work. “Just disappointed that you’d rather spend your last summer with me . . . without me. We’re hardly ever going to see each other after the fall, and you know that, yet you still chose to take up the whole New York idea.”

  “It’s New York, Dean,” I say quietly, squeezing my eyes shut. “New York.” And Tyler. Tyler, Tyler, Tyler. Endlessly.

  “Sorry, you’re right. It’s New York,” Dean repeats. His tone is quickly growing sour again, his voice deepening. “I’m sorry I can’t compete with Times Square or Central Park. I’m sorry that I must seem so shit in comparison.”

  “I didn’t mean it like that—”

  “I gotta get back to work.” Dean’s usually so soft-spoken, but right now his voice is rough. “Enjoy New York. You know, since it’s so much better.”

  He hangs up before I can even reply.

  I sit up and gape at my phone for a minute. As if Dean just hung up on me like that. Pissed
off at him, I grit my teeth and get to my feet, quickly wrapping the towel around my damp hair. All I want to do is hang out with Tyler again, away from Dean and his crappy attitude, so I swing open the bedroom door and enter the living room.

  Snake’s still texting, only now he’s standing and leaning against the kitchen worktop. He glances up at me from beneath his eyelashes, not quite lifting his head. He looks at me a little strangely, like he wants to laugh at the towel wrapped around my head.

  “Where’s Tyler?”

  “You’re a minute and a half too late,” Snake says. “He just left. He had to head out.”


  “Emily needs his help with something. Asked for a favor.” He shrugs.

  “Emily?” I echo. Something inside of me shifts, like I can quite literally feel my stomach dropping. Emily? I swallow. “Who’s that?”

  Now Snake looks up. “He’s never mentioned her to you?”


  For exactly forty minutes, I can’t sit still. I gnaw on my lip, I bite at my cuticles, I pace the living room. Every so often I think I might throw up, but I hold my breath and force the feeling away. I’m so nervous. And so scared. And so furious. Who is Emily and why am I only hearing about her now?

  “What’s your problem?” Snake calls over his shoulder from the living room, craning his neck to stare across the room at me. He’s been watching some documentary about an airplane crash for at least a half-hour now, and he even puts it on mute for a second as he shifts his attention to me.

  “I don’t have a problem,” I lie. Standing in the kitchen, I grip the worktop even harder and try to meet his eyes, but I worry that he’ll notice my panic, so I try to smile.

  “She’s nice,” Snake says in an effort to reassure me. It does little to help, though. In fact, it only makes me feel worse. “She’s British.”

  “British?” I echo. Awesome, I think. Cute accent. Something different. There’s no way I can compete against a British girl. No way in hell.

  “Yeah, from London.” Snake laughs and turns back to the TV, putting the sound back on. “Every time I hear her talk it puts me in the mood to watch Harry Potter.”

  He must think I’m weird. He must wonder why I’m so uneasy. I mean, what’s the big deal about my stepbrother hanging out with a girl? What’s the big deal about this girl potentially being more than just his friend? That’s the thing. It wouldn’t be a big deal if he were nothing more than my stepbrother. It wouldn’t bother me if I weren’t so in love with him.

  But the truth is, I don’t know who this girl is. I don’t know why Tyler’s never brought her up before. What if they are dating? What if everything he said last night was just bullshit?

  I feel nauseous yet again, and I try to push the thoughts out of my mind until my stomach settles once more. I’m just about to turn to the cupboard to fetch myself a glass when I hear the apartment door unlocking. My eyes fire over immediately and Tyler steps into the apartment, dragging a suitcase behind him. A bright-pink suitcase. He pauses and pushes the door open further.

  Beside him, there’s a girl.

  I almost hurl my fist into the worktop at the mere sight of her.

  She’s taller than me, yet still smaller than Tyler, and her complexion is warm. Her hair is straight (and damp) and it ends just below her bust, gradually growing lighter at the tips. Anxiously, she interlocks her fingers as her eyes flit around the room. They’re bright, yet they look swollen. And she’s pretty. Really, really pretty. Pretty in a natural, simple way.

  Snake doesn’t mute the TV this time; he turns it off completely. He rotates his body around and folds his arms across the back of the couch, eyes curious. “Tyler,” he says, “can I ask you why it’s becoming a daily occurrence for you to bring home a girl with a suitcase?” He throws me a pointed glance.

  “Hey, Snake,” the girl murmurs with a sad smile, her voice apologetic. And her accent? Her accent is British. I’m in no doubt at all that I am now standing within a twelve-foot radius of Emily.

  The only thing I can think is, Why the hell is she here?

  “Hey,” Snake shoots back. “So what’s going on?”

  Tyler knees the door shut behind him as he moves into the center of the room, but Emily remains by the doorway. He clears his throat and meets Snake’s gaze. He’s yet to look at me. “Emily’s gonna be staying here for a little while,” he says.

  Staying here? Staying here? I almost want to scream the apartment down, but I’m frozen in place, my throat too dry to even attempt to make a sound. I dig my nails into the worktop.

  “No questions asked,” Tyler adds, giving Snake a firm warning glance before he can open his mouth.

  “Honestly,” Emily says, rushing to Tyler’s side, “if it’s too much of a hassle . . .”

  “No, it’s fine.” His voice is firm.

  “Are you sure?”

  I want her to stop talking. I want that accent to disappear. I want her to walk out. But I know that none of these things are going to happen, so I try to control my breathing instead. It’s ragged.

  “Positive,” he says. “We’re just, uh, a little short when it comes to beds. Snake?”

  “Sure, she can sleep with me,” Snake agrees, a smirk on his lips. It soon fades when Tyler narrows his eyes at him. “Fine, fine,” Snake huffs. “I’ll take the couch like you. She can have my room.”

  “There you go,” Tyler says. He smiles reassuringly down at Emily, right before he tilts his face in my direction. It’s like he hasn’t even realized I’ve been standing here the entire time, because he widens his eyes and then gestures for me to come over. I don’t even flinch. “Emily,” he says, giving me a clipped nod, “this is my stepsister, Eden.”

  Slowly, her lips form a warm smile. She’s about to reply, about to ask me what’s up or tell me how great it is to meet me or simply say hey, but I can’t take it. I can’t handle standing in the same room as her and I can’t handle the idea of her dating Tyler.

  And so before she can even speak, I storm through the living room, marching past both Tyler and Emily as fast as I can without meeting their eyes. I feel like I might just burst into tears any second, so the moment I get into Tyler’s room and shut the door behind me, I let out a sigh of relief to be away from them.

  My heart is pounding so hard that I can hear it vibrating in my ears and only then do I realize just how fast I’m breathing. I don’t know why I’m getting so worked up. At first I think it’s just anger. Anger at Tyler for never mentioning the fact that he’s seeing another girl, anger at him for telling me everything he did last night and leaving me with false hope. But for some reason, I realise I don’t feel that furious. Just disappointed and unable to cope. And then, slowly, it sinks in that I’m not angry at all. I’m jealous. So unbelievably jealous.

  The door swings open, ending my fifteen seconds of privacy, and Tyler steps into the room, muttering, “What the hell?”

  Even looking at him hurts, so while he clicks the door shut behind him, I fold my arms across my chest and turn my back to him. “Don’t try to introduce me to your girlfriend after telling me last night that you’re not over me,” I spit, bubbling with contempt. Why does this girl have to stay here? Why does my summer have to be ruined already?

  “Girlfriend?” Tyler echoes. “You think she’s my girlfriend?”

  I glance over my shoulder. I think my heart might have even paused for a second. “She’s not?”

  “God, Eden, no.” He shakes his head and breathes a laugh, which puts me at ease. He even rolls his eyes. “Emily’s just a friend. We toured together.”

  Relief is flooding through my body, but I try not to look too thrilled. I remain calm, staring back at Tyler. “How come you never mentioned her to me?”

  “Honestly, I don’t know,” he murmurs. Brushing past me, he sits down on his bed and interlocks his hands between his knees. “I never mentioned any of the people I toured with. Well, I did. I just never really told you their names.”
r />   I can tell by his eyes that he’s being truthful, so I sigh and sit down next to him. I make sure to leave a few inches between us. “Why is she staying here?”

  “Because,” he says, “she needs a place to crash. She’s got some stuff going on right now. She’s from the UK.”

  “I noticed,” I murmur, slightly irritated. I don’t mean to sound gruff, but I can’t help it. Stealing a sideways glance at Tyler, I quickly go over his words. They’re not dating. They’re just friends. They toured together . . . Toured the East Coast, raising awareness . . . Raising awareness of abuse by sharing their own stories. I press a finger to my lips and stare at Tyler until he shifts his eyes to mine. “If she was on the tour, does that mean . . . ?”

  I can see him swallow as he looks away again, his eyes dropping to the ground. “Yeah. Not physically,” he says after a moment of silence. His voice seems almost fragile. “Emotionally. She’s really sensitive, so think about what you say to her before you say it.”

  I groan and press my hands to my face. Bending over, I hang my head between my knees, wishing I hadn’t jumped to conclusions and dramatically stormed away from her. “She must think I’m a rude bitch.”

  “I can’t argue with that one.”

  I quickly sit up and push his shoulder, rolling my eyes. I don’t feel sick anymore. I feel relaxed and content. “I thought you were dating her. Can you blame me?”

  “Did the thought of me with someone else piss you off? Did it totally get your temper going?” He’s grinning as he gets to his feet, standing tall and smoldering his eyes down at me. Gently, he reaches for my hands and pulls me up. He doesn’t let go of me once I’m up and standing, only moves his hands to my shoulders, firmly looping his arms around the back of my neck and pulling my body tight against his. “Are you that addicted to me, Eden Munro?”

  I wrap my arms around him too, just above his waist. “You wish,” I tease, but I’m lying. Hopefully he can’t tell.

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