Home > Did I Mention I Miss You (The DIMILY Trilogy #3)(3)

Did I Mention I Miss You (The DIMILY Trilogy #3)(3)
Author: Estelle Maskame


“For that, I’m never talking to them ever again,” she states once the girls walk off, her voice firm as she throws her sundae into the trash and hooks her arm around mine instead. She spins me around toward Pacific Park so fast that it almost gives me whiplash.

“Honestly, it really doesn’t bother me anymore,” I try to tell her. We’re drifting through the crowd, which actually doesn’t feel that thick once we’re in the middle of it, and I let her pull me along the boardwalk.

“Uh-huh,” Rachael says in a distant voice, like she doesn’t believe me.

I’m about to argue my point even further, telling her that no, really, it’s fine, I’m fine, everything is fine when both our attention is grasped before I’ve even opened my mouth. Jake Maxwell has come barreling toward us out of nowhere, sliding in front of us and stopping us dead in our tracks. He’s an even older friend of ours than Meghan is, and we’ve already spoken to him tonight. That was a couple hours ago, when he was still mostly sober. The same can’t be said now.

“There you guys are!” Reaching for our interlocked arms, he separates us and takes both our hands in his and places a sloppy kiss on our knuckles.

It’s the first summer that Jake has come home from Ohio, and when we bumped into him earlier, for the first time in two years, I was surprised to discover that he’s now sporting a beard and he was even more surprised to discover that I still live in Santa Monica. He had somehow gotten the idea that I’d moved back to Portland like forever ago. But beard and assumptions aside, he hasn’t changed. He’s still a player and he still doesn’t try to deny it. When Rachael asked him how he was doing, he told us that it’s not going too great, because both of his two girlfriends have recently broken up with him and he still doesn’t know why. I could guess.

“Where do you keep getting the beer from?” Rachael asks, wrinkling her nose as she pulls her hand back from him. She has to talk over the sound of the music from Pacific Park.

“TJ’s,” Jake says. And in case we don’t know, he rolls his eyes over his shoulder and points his thumb behind him, off into the distance. TJ has a condo over on the beachfront. Like I could forget. My stomach flips at the thought of it. “He’s sent me over here to round up the troops. Are you guys down for an after-party?” His eyes light up at the word and I find it hard to take the tank top he’s wearing seriously. It’s got an eagle on it. Placed on top of the US flag. With “FREEDOM” written in block capitals across the eagle’s feet. It looks totally ridiculous, yet not as crazy as the temporary eagle tattoo he’s wearing proudly on his left cheek. I’m starting to wonder if he’s buzzed from more than just beer.

“After-party?” Rachael echoes. We exchange glances and I can tell immediately by the look in her eyes that she’s keen to go.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jake says, his voice overflowing with enthusiasm as he grins down at us through that beard. “There are kegs and everything! C’mon, it’s the Fourth of July. It’s the weekend. You gotta come. Everyone’s gonna be there.”

I frown. “Everyone?”

“TJ and all the guys, Meghan and Jared are already there, Dean’s coming by later, I think Austin Camer—”

“Pass.”

Jake stops talking and his grin twists into a frustrated scowl. He looks to Rachael, and for a brief second, I’m convinced he’s just rolled his eyes. When his bloodshot gaze focuses back on me, he gently grabs my shoulders and shakes me around. “Helloooooo?” He dramatically widens his eyes and pretends to scour every inch of my face. “Where the hell is Eden? I know I haven’t seen you in a hell of a long time, but surely you can’t have gotten this boring in the space of two years.”

Not amused, I shrug Jake’s grip off me and take a step back. Because he isn’t a close friend, or even a friend at all anymore, I don’t find it necessary to explain myself to him. So I remain quiet, staring at my Chucks and hoping Rachael will step in and save me as usual, because that’s all I’ve been depending on lately. I depend on Rachael to remind everyone that I never actually dated my stepbrother and that I never will. I depend on her to get me out of situations where I might bump into Dean. I’m still too ashamed to face him after everything that’s happened, and I doubt he wants to deal with me either. No one wants to deal with their ex-girlfriend, especially one that cheated on them.

As always, I hear Rachael tell Jake, “She doesn’t have to go if she doesn’t want to.” I continue to stare at my shoes, because every time Rachael comes to my rescue, I feel more weak and pathetic than I did before.

“You can’t avoid him forever,” Jake mutters. He suddenly sounds solemn, and when I glance up, I realize it’s completely obvious to him that the reason I don’t want to go to this party is because of Dean. I can’t deny it, so I only shrug and rub at my temple. There’s a second reason, of course. It’s the same reason my stomach has tightened. I’ve only been to TJ’s once before and that was three years ago. I was there with my stepbrother. Tonight of all nights, I really don’t want to head over there again.

“You go,” I tell Rachael after a moment of silence. I can see how desperately she wants to go to this party, yet I know she’ll most likely turn down the offer so that she doesn’t leave me alone. That’s what best friends do. But best friends also compromise, and Rachael has already spent her evening making sure that I’ve been okay on this dreaded day, so I really do want her to go have some fun. After all, the Fourth has landed on a Friday this year, so many people are making the best of it. Rachael should too. “I’ll go find Ella or something.”

“I don’t mind.”

Even I can tell she’s lying. “Rachael,” I say firmly. I nod toward TJ’s condo, off in the distance. “Go.”

Apprehensive, she pinches her lower lip between her fingers and contemplates for a short while. She’s hardly wearing any makeup tonight—she rarely does anymore—so she barely looks seventeen, let alone twenty. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Then c’mon!” Jake explodes, his overbearing grin back on his eagle-tattooed face as he reaches for Rachael’s hand, yanking her toward him. “We’ve got a party to get to!” He begins to pull my best friend away, hauling her down the boardwalk and away from the pier. She manages to wave goodbye just before they disappear through the crowd.

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