Did I Mention I Love You(6)

By: Estelle Maskame


“Eden,” Amelia says, her voice stern yet gentle. “You just got there. Chill out. You look fine.”

“No.” I press my phone to my ear with my shoulder and reach down to slip off my shoes. “Have they said anything else about me?” I ask slowly, despite however much I’d rather not know. But there’s always that interest, that curiosity that eats away at you—and the inability to handle it. And I always give in.

Silence radiates across the line. “Eden, don’t think about it.”

“So that means yes,” I state, mostly to myself. It’s almost a whisper, so quiet I don’t think Amelia could have heard me. My phone vibrates once more. “Hey, look, this is about to die. I have to go to this lame barbecue tonight. If everyone sucks, I’ll text you the entire time so they know I do actually have friends.”

Amelia laughs, and I picture her rolling her eyes straight to the back of her head like she usually does. “Sure. Keep me posted.”

My phone bails on me before I even get the chance to murmur good-bye, so I toss it onto the sink counter and reach for my clothes instead. Running is great for clearing your head, and clearing my head is exactly what I want to do right now. I change into my running gear effortlessly—I do it so often I could most likely do it in my sleep—and head back downstairs to enter the kitchen for the first time. I’m greeted by black gloss counters and white gloss cabinet doors and more black gloss flooring. Everything is very, very glossy.

“Wow,” I say. I glance down at the water bottle in my hand and then to the spotless sink by the window. I’m almost terrified to use it.

“Like it?” Dad asks, and it’s only then that I realize he’s even in the room. He keeps appearing out of nowhere as though he’s following my every move.

“Was it installed yesterday or something?”

He chuckles, shakes his head at me, and then walks over to flick on the faucet. “Here. Jamie’s waiting for you out front. The kid’s stretching.”

I shuffle around the island to awkwardly fill my bottle until it overflows, and then I swivel on the lid and get the hell out of there before my dad has a chance to say anything more. I don’t know how I’m supposed to survive eight weeks with him.

Jamie is shuttling up and down the sidewalk when I finally head outside to meet him. He stops and grins. “Just warming up,” he says.

“Can I join you?” When he nods, I take a quick sip of my water and then step parallel to him, and we slowly jog around the lawn a couple times. And then we set off, making our way through the beautiful neighborhood at a comfortable speed.

It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve run without music as my companion, but only because I figure it would be rude to completely block Jamie out. We engage in brief conversation and the occasional “Let’s slow down,” and that’s about it. But I don’t mind. The sun is beating down on us, almost as though its rays have grown stronger over the past hour, and the streets here really are lovely, with their residents walking dogs or cycling or pushing strollers. Perhaps I will fall in love with this city after all.

“Do you hate your dad?” Jamie asks out of nowhere as we retrace our route back toward the house, and it’s so sudden that I almost trip over my own feet.

“What?” is the only response that finds its way to my lips. I collect my thoughts and settle my eyes on the sidewalk ahead of me. “It’s complicated.”

“I like him,” Jamie says, or pants. I’m surprised he’s still keeping up with me.

“Oh.”

“Yeah, but it seems kinda awkward between you and him.”

“Yeah,” I say, gnawing at my lip while I try to figure out a way to change the subject. “Hey, how cool is that house over there?”

Jamie completely ignores me. “Why is it awkward?”

“Because he sucks,” I finally answer. This is true: my dad does suck. “He sucks for walking out. He sucks for not calling. He sucks because he sucks.”

“I get it.”

Our conversation wraps up there, and we jog back to the house, stretching on the lawn before heading inside to shower. Dad doesn’t forget to remind us about the barbecue in two hours’ time. Jamie and I split up and go into our own rooms.

By this point, I feel sweaty and gross, so after plugging my phone in to charge, the first thing I do is throw my body into the sparkling shower. The water feels amazing, and I stay in there for thirty minutes, spending most of the time simply sitting down and basking in the steam. Showers back home were never this good.

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