Just Don't Mention It by Estelle Maskame

  First published in 2018 by Ink Road

  INK ROAD is an imprint and trademark of

  Black & White Publishing Ltd.

  Nautical House, 104 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6NF


  This electronic edition published in 2018

  ISBN: 978 1 78530 209 1 in EPub format

  ISBN: 978 1 78530 197 1 in paperback format

  Copyright © Estelle Maskame 2018

  The right of Estelle Maskame to be identified as the

  author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance 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.

  This novel is a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents

  portrayed in it are of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual

  persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

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

  Ebook compilation by Iolaire, Newtonmore

  To all of my incredible readers, because this story is for you.


  Title Page

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60


  'I Know I Can't Tell Anyone, Ever'



  My wrist is stiff as I run a hand back through my hair, damp and tousled after lying in the bath for the past hour, dipping my head below the water every once in a while to count how many seconds I can hold my breath for. My record is ninety-three, but I wish it was more.

  I sit down on the edge of the tub and reach for the packet of painkillers by the sink. There’s only a few tablets left, so I’m hoping Mom will stock up on some more soon. I pop two of the tablets out of the packaging and clamp my fist around them, enclosing them in my palm as I lean over and fill myself a glass of water. I swallow the first, and then the second, then pour the remainder of the water back into the sink.

  My gaze falls to my shoulder. The skin is grazed on the back of my shoulder blade, but it’s stopped bleeding now. Below the fresh cut, there’s a deepening bruise, a mixture of purple and blue. I prod it with my fingers, and it stings from the pressure, creating a dull ache beneath my skin, deep under the surface. I’d grab myself some ice from the kitchen, but I’d have to pass the living room, and the last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself. It’s after eleven. I should be asleep by now. I have school in the morning.

  I get to my feet and stash the remaining painkillers back into the cabinet above the sink, at the very back of the second shelf from the top because it’s the highest I can reach. I already know I’ll need them tomorrow. When I click the cabinet door shut again, my empty reflection stares back at me in the mirror, and that’s when I notice the tiny cut in my lower lip. I edge forward, pinching my lip between my thumb and forefinger as I examine it up close in the mirror. I can’t remember when I got it, but it’s not fresh, so I know I didn’t get it tonight.

  I shake my head and step back. It doesn’t matter when I got it, because as soon as it heals, there’ll be another to replace it. The same way there’ll be more blood, the same way there’ll be more bruises.

  My reflection is still there, my eyes lifeless and sunken into my face, my shoulders slumped low and my lips set in a permanent frown. I press a hand to my forehead and push back my hair to reveal a deep cut that runs parallel to my hairline. It’s taking forever to heal, and I’m starting to worry that it’s going to turn into a scar. Quickly, I smooth my damp hair back down over it, then turn away from the mirror.

  I grab my shirt and pull it on. There’s a row of fading brown bruises along my lower back that I need to cover, so going shirtless is never an option anymore. There’s always something new to hide. I slip into a pair of shorts, then toss my towel into the drained tub and glance at myself one last time in the mirror before I leave the bathroom. Nothing is on display, so I’m good to go.

  Carefully, I push open the door a few inches, and as silently as I can, I step out into the hall. There are no lights on, and it’s dark. I can hear the sound of the TV from the living room and the sound of my parents laughing in unison at whatever show they’re watching. I keep my steps light as I edge along the hall toward the stairs, but I notice that the living room door is open a crack as I grow nearer, and instead of disappearing upstairs like I should be doing, I creep over and peer around the doorframe.

  Mom and Dad are on the couch, their bodies entwined. He has her held close against him, his arms wrapped securely around her, his chin resting atop her head. Although she’s laughing, she still seems tired. She only got back from the office just as I was locking the bathroom door and climbing into the bath an hour ago.

  I back away from the living room and spin around, running up the stairs as fast as I can, two steps at a time. Against the carpet, my footsteps are almost silent. The door to my room is wide open, the light still on, but I stop for a second to peer into the room on my right, my brothers’ room.

  I squint into the dull room as my eyes slowly adjust. In the bed on the left, my youngest brother, Chase, is asleep. He’s on his stomach, his face pressed into his pillow with one leg dangling over the side of the mattress. Over in the bed to the right, Jamie is snoring softly. There’s a bruised lump on his forehead from earlier in the day, when another kid on his fourth-grade baseball team hurled the ball at his face by accident.

  I wish my bruises were only accidents, too.

  Stepping out of the room, I pull the door closed, but not completely. Chase is still scared of the dark and he likes it to be left open, so I leave a safe crack of a couple inches and then turn for my own room.

  It’s exactly as I left it. My math homework is spread across my floor, nothing more than worthless scraps of paper that aren’t good enough to hand back in next week. O
ne of the sheets is torn into three uneven pieces. It’s the one that contains the single equation I messed up on. But one simple error is apparently one error too many, even if it is only seventh-grade algebra. I’ll need to fix it tomorrow, and then pray my damned hardest that everything is finally up to his standard.

  I gather up the papers and stuff them into my backpack, then I turn off the light and climb into bed. Only it hurts, so I wince and breathe out, moving onto my right side. I pull my comforter up to my chest, and I lie there in the dark for what feels like forever, staring aimlessly at my wall. It always takes me a long time to fall asleep.

  I raise my left hand and hold it up in the air. I flex my fingers, then roll my wrist in a circular motion three times. I’m supposed to do this a bunch of times during the day, but I keep forgetting. After having my wrist in a cast for the past four weeks, it’s super stiff. It could take another few weeks before the fracture heals fully.

  There’s sudden footsteps against the stairs and I drop my hand back down immediately, squeezing my eyes shut and pretending to be asleep. I do this a lot, so I’m pretty good at it. I even open my mouth a little, deepening my breath.

  My door opens, and there’s a moment of silence where he hovers for a couple seconds before he takes a step inside. And I know it’s him. It’s always him.

  He enters, closing the door behind him with a soft click. There’s no sound other than his breathing for a while, and then I begin to sense him slowly moving around my room. I don’t know what he’s doing, and no matter how badly I want to roll over and open my eyes to check, I don’t want to take the risk, so I stay as still as possible.

  I hear some fumbling, and I think he could be searching through my backpack, because there’s the shuffling of paper, and after what happened earlier in the night, it seems likely it’s my math homework he’s after. Silence again. More shuffling. A long sigh that sounds almost like a groan.

  And then he speaks, letting his voice break the silence. His words are low and hushed as he murmurs, “I’m sorry, Tyler.”

  I don’t know if he thinks I’m asleep or awake, but I do know that he says sorry a lot. I also know that he doesn’t mean it. If he did, he wouldn’t have to say it again tomorrow, and then the day after that. I’m scared he’s always going to have something to apologize for.

  I continue to keep still, because the quicker I can convince him I’m asleep, the quicker he’ll leave. And I think he’s buying it, because he hasn’t said anything else. I don’t think he’s moved either, and I don’t know where in my room he is.

  A few minutes pass where nothing happens, where I focus on my breathing, where I pray that he’ll leave. And then there’s more footsteps that are hard to hear against the carpet, and then the opening of the door, and then one final pause. He sighs again, but he sounds annoyed, and I can’t tell if he’s annoyed at me or if he’s annoyed at himself. I think it’s me. It usually is.

  My door is pulled shut, and he’s gone.

  I exhale in relief and open my eyes. At least I know it’s over for tonight. I can get some sleep now; only I won’t, because I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in months. I’ll wake in a few hours, where I’ll stare at my ceiling for a while before I fall back asleep, and then repeat.

  Yet although I can never sleep well, this is always the best part of every day. That time where I know that for the next seven hours, I’m safe. I like that feeling, but I also hate knowing that tomorrow, I’ll have to do this all over again.

  Tomorrow, I need to go to school and keep on acting normal in front of everyone.

  Tomorrow, I need to try my best to keep tonight’s fresh injuries hidden from Mom.

  Tomorrow, new bruises will develop and new cuts will appear.

  And they will all be caused by Dad.



  Someone’s been fucking around with my beer. It doesn’t taste the same as it did ten minutes ago. I close one eye and tilt the rim of the bottle toward me, peering inside, trying to figure out if someone has been pouring other drinks into it while I haven’t been looking. I’m getting a strong scent of rum. I glance over to the kitchen. Jake is there, his back to me, bent over the countertop as he mixes together a bunch of different drinks as though he’s a fully trained bartender. I fucking hate that guy.

  “What’s wrong?”

  I drop my glare down to Tiffani. She’s been sprawled across me for the past five minutes, her long bare legs folded over my knee and her head resting against my bicep. She’s been running her nails slowly around my chest in a circular motion, but I haven’t realized she’s stopped until right now. Her face is tilted up to look at me, and her bright blue eyes are studying me through a thick set of eyelashes that didn’t exist yesterday.

  “Jake thinks he’s hilarious slipping rum into my beer,” I tell her, then press my lips together as I lay my bottle down on the small table by the side of the couch. “Come here,” I murmur, pulling my arm out from beneath her and sliding it around her shoulders instead, pulling her closer against me. She presses her head to my chest now, and I know for a fact she’s going to get at least five layers of her makeup on my shirt, but I don’t care, because now I’m running my eyes over her legs. I move my free hand to her knee, then slide it across the smooth skin on her thighs. Her tiny black dress is too short and too tight, but that’s nothing to complain about. “What time are we heading out?”

  “I was thinking eleven,” she says, but I know she’s distracted, because she reaches for my hand and places hers on top. Slowly, she moves my hand higher up her thigh, under her dress. I can feel the lace of her underwear beneath my fingers, and when I look down at her, she’s smirking as she leans up toward me, her lips brushing my ear as she murmurs, “Are you staying here tonight?” I used to love that thing she does with her voice, where she lowers it to a breathy whisper that would have driven me insane a year or two ago, but it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. She’s only trying to keep me interested with the promise of sex.

  But whatever, right now it’s working. I sit up a little and pull her entirely onto my lap, my hand still gripping her hip beneath her dress and my other moving her blond hair to one side so that I can press my lips to her neck. She tilts her head back fully as she runs her fingers through my hair, her eyes closed. I take her skin beneath my teeth, leaving my all-too-familiar mark on her body. Tiffani claims she hates hickeys, but she never attempts to stop me, so I beg to differ.

  Suddenly, she pulls away, springing off me and getting to her feet, straightening up fast. Over the sound of the music that Jake’s controlling from the speakers in the kitchen, I haven’t heard the front door open. Tiffani has, and now she’s dumping her drink on the coffee table and pulling at her dress, willing it to cover more of her thighs. Right now, it hardly covers her ass.

  “Mom,” she splutters, taking a few barefooted steps across the hardwood flooring. “I thought you said you were working late.”

  “It’s eight thirty,” Jill states. There’s a black folder held to her chest as she moves further into the kitchen, her heels clicking against the floor. “This is late.” She purses her lips in disapproval as she looks around. First at the alcohol lining the countertop, then at Jake, who is leaning over to quickly lower the volume of the music, and then at Tiffani. “You didn’t tell me you were having friends over.”

  Tiffani is still pulling at her dress, because if there’s one thing I know for sure about her mom, it’s that she won’t be impressed right now. “Because I thought we’d be gone before you got back,” she admits, shrugging. She has her arms folded across her chest now, but it’s obvious she’s only attempting to hide how exposed her body is in that dress.

  “And where exactly are you planning on heading?” Jill asks in that hard tone she seems to always have. In the past three years that I’ve been dating Tiffani, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her mom crack a smile. She’s kind of a bitch. They both are.

  “There’s a party,??
? Tiffani says, pouting. “I thought we could all just hang out here until it was time to show up, because c’mon, Mom, we never turn up early to house parties. That’s just embarrassing.”

  “Fine,” Jill says, but the stern tone to her voice makes it clear that she’s not happy we’re here. “Keep the music down. I have a pounding headache.” She rubs at her temples as though to prove this, then flicks her hair over her shoulder and spins around, back toward the door. As she leaves, she throws me a disgusted glance as her eyes narrow, and I raise my hand and wave back at her. I grin only because I know it’ll piss her off.

  The thing is, Tiffani’s mom doesn’t like me. She never has from the very first moment I met her back when Tiffani and I were nothing more than friends. Even then, she didn’t want her daughter around a kid like me. Bad influence, she thought, and in some ways, I was. Over the years, her dislike for me has grown into seething contempt, which she doesn’t even attempt to hide. But I don’t even care all that much about Tiffani, let alone her mom, and I know this relationship isn’t going anywhere, so I’m not worried about winning over her parents.

  The second Jill is gone, Tiffani relaxes back into her dress and says, “She’s so lame sometimes.” Rolling her eyes, she tells Jake to turn the music back up as she joins him by the speakers. He’s careful not to play it as loud as before.

  Pushing myself up from the couch, I get to my feet and head toward them both as they hover around the kitchen countertop, debating over which songs to add to the playlist and which drink to have next. I push my way in between the two of them and throw my arm around Tiffani’s shoulders, and as she leans in closer against me, Jake watches us out of the corner of his eye. Jake Maxwell can get any damn girl he wants, but he can’t get Tiffani. I think it’ll forever infuriate him knowing that three years ago, she chose to get together with me rather than with him. Sometimes I like the satisfaction of knowing I’m with a girl so many other guys would kill to have by their side. Other times, I wish Tiffani had chosen Jake over me. That way, it would be him she puts through hell and back, and not me.

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