I sat down on a bench and pulled my knees up to my chest. The sun spilled over the buildings, warming my frightfully cold skin, and I wondered how much longer I’d be able to enjoy the sun like this.
Being with them would mean missing a lot of things, but it didn’t really feel like it. There would be so much more I’d be getting in return.
Pulling out my phone, I hoped that Jack would still be awake. My exhaustion and temperature were starting to wear me down.
“Hello?” Jack answered groggily.
“Sorry. Did I wake you?”
“Nah, I’m just about to go to bed, though. Why? What do you need?” He still sounded awfully tired, and he yawned into the phone.
“I was just… wondering if I could stay with you for awhile.” I grimaced at my own question. Maybe I asked too much from them. Maybe I should go home and try to make amends with my mother before she changed the locks.
“Yeah, sure. What’s wrong with your place?” Jack replied without even thinking about it.
“I got in a fight with my mom about coming home so late, and I’m not exactly welcome there anymore.”
“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” Jack apologized. “Yeah. Sure. You can stay here as long as you want. Do you need a ride right now?”
“It would be nice, but it’s not necessary.” I still didn’t completely understand his deal with sun, and I wasn’t sure if he could drive out in it to come get me.
“Yeah, yeah, okay. I’ll be there in like five minutes.” He yawned again and I heard a rustle of movement as he got up, meaning that he’d already been in bed.
“I’m not at home, though. I’m on a bench a couple blocks away.” I looked around for a street sign so I could tell him what intersection I was at for sure, but he could always find me.
“Cool. Hang tight.” He clicked off the phone, and I shoved my phone back in my pocket.
I felt better knowing that I wouldn’t be stuck on this bench all day like a homeless person, but it was still hard to know if I was doing the right thing.
Nothing in my life had prepared me to deal with situations like this. Up until now, my life consisted of sitting at home with Milo, shopping/partying/hating myself with Jane, and that’s about it.
I’d barely even kissed a boy, I’d never driven a car, or been out of the tri-state area. My father left before I was two, and my mother spent my whole life working continuously so we’d have just enough to survive.
I knew nothing about life, and here I was, preparing to give it up in exchange for something I didn’t truly understand.
Jack pulled up in front within six minutes of me making the phone call, and I didn’t understand how he could possibly get around that fast. But here he was, grinning at me tiredly behind gigantic sunglasses. I hopped in the car and decided that I was too tired to question anything. I just wanted to get to his house and take a nice, long sleep.
When we got to his house, Jack showed me to my room. It was the guest room at the end of the hall upstairs, the bedroom in the turret. I felt like Juliet or Rapunzel.
The walls were rounded and there was a balcony in the back. It’d been painted a soft lilac that eerily matched the walls of my own room, and the four-post bed had been made at in all white, luxurious comforters. Mae had even left satin pajamas on the bed.
“Wow, this is really perfect.” I touched the blankets and admiring the room. “It’s exactly like me.”
“It should be.” Jack stood in the doorway, leaning on the frame to make sure that I had everything, and he yawned. “Mae did it for you.”
“Like just now? I called and she painted the room?” I furrowed my brow in confusion and disbelief.
“No,” he laughed, shaking his head. “Originally, she kind of thought you’d just be staying in Peter’s room, but when that started seeming like less of an option, she did up this room for you. You were gonna end up here eventually, right?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, but it felt weird knowing that someone had been preparing for me before I even knew I’d be here.
“Mae likes to nest.” Jack noticed my unease and smiled to settle me down. “It’s her thing. This was just her way of nesting. She doesn’t get to decorate for girls very often, you know.”
“Yeah, I guess not.”
“Alright, well, I’m gonna get some sleep. But I’ll be right next door if you need me.” He took a step backwards and grinned mischievously. “But don’t you get any ideas.”
“Yeah, I’ll try not to.” I was being sarcastic, but I knew that I’d really have to try not to.
Jack laughed and walked into his room, which was just one thin wall away from mine. Peter was gone, and Mae was downstairs. It would be almost too easy to just go next door and start what we’d finished earlier…
But thankfully, my body decided to remember exactly how tired it was. I shut the bedroom door, put on my borrowed pajamas, and almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.
Milo hugged me like a hundred times, and his eyes welled with tears when I picked up clothes from him. Jack waited in the kitchen for me while I packed my things. I’d that his presence would somehow cheer Milo up, but it had the opposite effect. It reminded him that not only would he be seeing less of me, he’d be seeing less of Jack as well.
When I finally convinced Milo that I would see him again, he hugged me tightly once more for good measure, and then I escaped.