Did I Mention I Love You(3)

By: Estelle Maskame


“Oh,” I say again. Until now I just assumed I’d be meeting a couple of toddlers who could barely string sentences together yet. “Okay.”

Thirty minutes later, we’re driving through a winding road in what appears to be the outskirts of the city. Tall trees decorate the parkway on each sidewalk, their thick trunks and crooked branches providing shade from the heat. The houses here are all larger than the one I live in with my mom back home, and they’re all uniquely designed and constructed. No two houses are alike, neither in shape nor color nor size. Dad’s Lexus pulls up outside a white-stone one.

“You live here?” Deidre Avenue seems too normal, as though it belongs in the middle of North Carolina. LA isn’t supposed to be normal. It’s supposed to be glitzy and out of this world and totally surreal, but it’s not.

Dad nods, killing the engine and closing his sun visor. “You see that window?” He points to a window on the second floor, the one right in the center.

“Yeah?”

“That’s your room.”

“Oh,” I say. I wasn’t expecting my own room for the eight weeks that I’m here. But it looks to be a pretty big house, so I’m sure spare rooms are plentiful. I’m glad I won’t be sleeping on an inflatable bed in the middle of the living room. “Thanks, Dad.” When I try to push myself up, I realize that wearing shorts has proven to have both pros and cons. Pro: my legs feel fresh and cool in this weather. Con: my thighs are now stuck to the leather of Dad’s Lexus. And so it takes me a good long minute to actually get myself out of the car.

Dad heads around to the trunk, collecting my suitcase and placing it on the sidewalk. “Better head inside,” he says as he yanks out the handle and begins wheeling it along behind him.

I take a wide step over the parking strip and follow my dad along the stone path. It leads up to the front door: mahogany and paneled, just like the doors to houses owned by the rich should be. All the while, I’m just staring at the Converse on my feet, taking a moment to let my eyes run over my scrawling handwriting, which decorates the sides of the white rubber. Just like my suitcase, there are lyrics written in black Sharpie. Staring at the writing helps keep my nerves at ease: slightly, just until we reach the front door.

The house itself—despite being an obnoxious symbol of consumerism—is very pretty. Compared with the house I woke up in this morning, it may as well be a five-star guesthouse. There’s a white Range Rover parked in the driveway. How flashy, I think.

“Nervous?” Dad asks, hesitating outside the door. He smiles reassuringly down at me.

“Kind of,” I admit. I’ve tried not to think about the endless list of things that could go wrong, but somewhere within me, there is a sense of fear. What if they all absolutely hate me?

“Don’t be.” He opens the door, and we head inside, my suitcase trailing behind us, its wheels scraping along the wooden flooring.

In the entryway we’re immediately overcome by an overwhelming scent of lavender. In front of me there is a staircase leading upstairs and a door to my right leading, from what I can see through the crack, to the living room. Straight ahead there is a large archway into the kitchen: a kitchen from which a woman is approaching me.

“Eden!” the woman cries. She swallows me into a hug, her extreme bustiness getting in the way a little, and then takes a step back to examine me. I return the favor. Her hair is blond, figure slim. For some absurd reason, I expected her to look similar to my mom. But apparently Dad has altered his taste in women along with his living standards. “It’s so nice to finally meet you!”

I take a slight step back from her, fighting the urge to roll my eyes or pull a face. Dad would surely drag me straight back to the airport if I ever displayed such disrespect. “Hi,” I say instead.

And then she blurts, “God, you’ve got Dave’s eyes!” which is possibly the worst thing someone could ever say to me given that I’d much rather have my mom’s eyes. My mom wasn’t the one who walked out.

“Mine are darker,” I murmur in disdain.

Ella doesn’t push the subject any further and instead turns the conversation around in a completely different direction. “You’ll need to meet the rest of us. Jamie, Chase, get down here!” she yells up the stairs before turning back to me. “Did Dave tell you about the get-together we’re having tonight?”

“Get-together?” I echo. A social gathering was certainly not on my Things to Do While in California list. Especially when it’s strangers who are doing the gathering. “Dad?” I glance sideways up at him, willing myself not to fire a death glare in his direction, and arch my brows.

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