“You didn’t answer my question,” I told him when I finally found the will to speak. We’d already pulled up in front of my building, and I knew he wouldn’t answer anyway.
“We don’t want anything with you.” He bit his lip and looked over at me. “We just want you to be one of us.”
- 10 -
“What does that mean?” I know I looked terrified despite my best efforts, but he just smiled at me.
“I answered your question.” He nodded at my building. “Get some sleep. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, right, like I can sleep after that,” I muttered opening the door. “When did you get so damn ominous? Were you watching Vincent Price last night or something?”
Jack just laughed, and I got out of the Jeep. When he drove off, I stayed outside for a minute, letting the cold air seep into my skin. My whole life was changing. I could feel it. Everything about me was going to be different, and I had no idea what I was going to become.
For the first time ever, I woke up before Milo but not by choice. I had been dreaming something about Peter’s emerald eyes and gnashing teeth, but by the time I woke up in a cold sweat, I couldn’t really put it together.
My heart pounded horribly and my head was swimming. It had taken forever for me to fall asleep last night, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom.
They wanted me to be one of them? What kind of horror movie crap was that? Did they expect me to marry into the family (and if so, was I supposed to marry Jack… or Peter?)
Or was it something more horrific, like they were in a cult or something? Was I expected to be some kind of virgin sacrifice?
While taking a shower, I tried to wash away my trepidation. Despite all the unusual and sometimes frightening occurrences, I couldn’t imagine that Jack would ever hurt me. Mae and Ezra seemed sincere in their unexplained affection for me, and even Peter had shown a reluctance to hurt me.
All of it reminded me of a story I had read once. A young rather unattractive girl climbed a mountain and accidentally stumbled into a village of the most beautiful people she’d ever seen.
Everyone in the entire town was absolutely perfect and amazing, but since everyone looked that way, they had grown bored with it. Being perfect was ordinary, but all the things about her that made her ugly in her old life made her stand out as beautiful and revered. Everyone fell in love with her and had sex with her, and eventually she died of exhaustion and depression.
The story had some kind of moral about how everyone used her for the way she looked, and being liked for the way you looked is worse than not being liked at all.
That wasn’t what stood out to me about it now. Jack and his family were flawless, and I was just ordinary and boring. Maybe they spent too much time keeping to themselves, and my general homeliness was new and refreshing for them. It was the only explanation I had for why they’d want me around.
But then, how exactly would I go about becoming one of them? And why would they even want me to? Just what the hell did he even mean by “one of them?” One of them what?
By the time I got out of the shower, I had used up all the hot water. I muttered an apology to Milo, but he shrugged and said he didn’t mind cold showers.
Going to school had never seemed so much like a chore, but at least it was Friday. I could stay out as late as I wanted tonight, and I would spend every second of the night interrogating Jack if that’s what it took. I wouldn’t stop until he told me everything.
The day went by surprisingly fast, but that was in a large part because I slept my first three hours. Over my lunch break, I text messaged Jack and asked him when we were going to hang out.
Even though he usually responded to me within seconds, he didn’t this time, but that’s what I had mostly expected since he stayed up all hours of the night. Still, I couldn’t help but check my phone every ten minutes and feel a twinge of disappointment that he hadn’t answered.
When I got home, I turned the TV onto old Speed Racer cartoon reruns, but I didn’t even really pay attention to it. My phone was on my lap with the volume turned up full blast, and I kept bouncing my foot anxiously up and down. I crossed my arms tightly over my chest to keep from biting my nails, but it was a very hard battle.
“Are you going over to Jack’s tonight?” Milo sat on the couch, absently watching the cartoon. He glanced over at me, and even in my distracted frame of mind, I noticed the pained expression on his face.
“Probably.” Then I looked down at my phone and sighed. “Maybe not.”
“I could make us supper if you stayed in,” Milo offered hopefully.
Even though his voice had already changed, his face still carried all that baby fat that made him look like a little boy, and I couldn’t wait for him to grow out of that. Then it wouldn’t hurt so much when I broke his heart.
I really had been neglecting him a lot lately, and it had to be horrible sitting in this tiny apartment all by himself night after night. But I had to get to the bottom of things with Jack.
“That’s a nice idea, but not tonight.” I let him down as gently as I could, but his face crumbled anyway, and he looked away. “Maybe we can another day this weekend.”
“You’re gonna be out all night with Jack.” Milo tried to keep it matter-of-fact, but there was a bitter edge. “It’s the weekend, and you’re seventeen. I really shouldn’t expect any different. And pretty soon, you’ll be out on your own and have your own life and all that. I should just get used to it now.”