Did I Mention I Love You(5)

By: Estelle Maskame

“It’s fine,” I say. “I like the room.” It’s almost twice as big as my bedroom in Portland, and so, despite how basic it might be, it is most definitely impossible not to like.

“You hungry?” It seems that questions are the only thing Dad is great at these days. “You’ve been traveling all afternoon; you’re probably starved half to death. What do you want?”

“I’m good,” I say. “I think I’m gonna go for a run. Stretch my legs, you know?” I don’t want to ruin my daily running schedule, and taking a quick jog seems like a good way to explore the neighborhood.

I watch the hesitation cross my dad’s aging face. For a moment or two, he frowns and then sighs as though I’ve asked him to buy me pot.

“Dad,” I say firmly. I tilt my head and force out a gentle but fake laugh. “I’m sixteen; I’m allowed to go out. I just wanna look around.”

“At least take Jamie with you,” he suggests. Jamie’s eyebrows shoot up in curiosity. Or surprise. I’m not sure which. “Jamie,” Dad says, “you enjoy running, don’t you? Will you go with Eden and make sure she doesn’t get lost?”

Jamie glances over to me, offers a knowing, sympathetic smile, and then says, “Sure. I’ll get changed.” I suppose he understands the struggle of having overprotective parents that treat you like you’re five.

So, taking all of this into account, I figure that I’m off to a great start here in Santa Monica. It’s only day one and already the awkward tension between my dad and me is close to unbearable. Day one and I’m already being forced to attend a barbecue with a crowd of strangers. Day one and I’m already being escorted while going out for a simple jog.

Day one and I already regret coming here.

“Don’t go too far,” Dad says, and then leaves the room without closing my door, even after I call after him to do so.

Jamie heads over to it and places a hand on the frame, but not before asking, “You wanna go right now?”

I shrug. “If that’s okay with you.”

With a quick nod, he makes his way out of my room. He remembers to shut the door.

I would rather not waste too much time inside, especially when the air-conditioning doesn’t seem to be working, so I haul my suitcase up onto the soft mattress and unzip it. I’m happy to discover that my belongings—ranging from my laptop to my favorite underwear—have all arrived safe and intact. Usually my suitcase arrives with half its contents spilling out of it because baggage handlers tend to be lousy. So I dig through my surprisingly sturdy suitcase, straight to the bottom, because my workout gear was one of the first things I packed.

As I’m prancing into my lavish bathroom to freshen up a little and get changed, my phone vibrates to kindly let me know that it’s about to die pretty soon. I remember Amelia asking me to call her when I landed. Setting down my running shorts and sports bra by the sink, I sit down on the sparkling-clean toilet seat and cross my legs. My best friend is on speed dial, so the call starts connecting in a matter of nanoseconds.

“Hello there,” Amelia answers in a goofy voice that sounds something like a cross between a cartoon character and a sports commentator.

“Hello,” I say back, mimicking her tone. I laugh but then sigh. “This place sucks. Let me come spend the summer with you.”

“I want you to! It feels super weird already.”

“As weird as meeting your new stepmom?”

“Not that weird,” Amelia says. “Is she okay? She isn’t like the creepy-ass stepmom in Cinderella, right? What about your stepbrothers? Have you been put on babysitting duty already?”

I shake my head even though she can’t see me. If only she knew it’s the other way around. “Actually, they’re not even kids.”


“They’re, like, teenagers.”

“Teenagers?” she echoes. Before I left, I complained for two weeks straight about how terrified I was of meeting my new stepbrothers, because I have a low tolerance for children under the age of six. It turns out they’re all much older than that.

“Yeah,” I say. “They’re okay. One of them is sorta shy, but he’s the youngest, so I get it. The other is a little older and I think we’ll get along. I don’t know. His name’s Jamie.”

“I thought you had three brothers,” Amelia says. “You said you had three.”

“Well, I haven’t met the third one yet,” I explain. Until this point I had forgotten that I do actually have three new stepbrothers to judge me rather than just two. “I’ll probably meet him later. I’m about to go for a run with Jamie.”