When we went downstairs to eat, Jack joined us, claiming that he had already eaten, of course. He sat with us at the table, scratching Matilda’s head and chattering along with Milo.

It had been days since Milo’d been able to have a real conversation, so he had plenty to fill us in on. Like the impossibility of a level in World of Warcraft (something about orcs and letter abbreviations that seemed completely random to both Jack and me, but sounded very grave when Milo said them), and how bitchy Jane has been at school since I’ve been gone.

There was also some rather juicy gossip about this boy, Troy, at school, who Milo deemed “utterly foxy” and then blushed so red, it looked like he’d been burned.

Apparently, the young man in question had made some rather flirtatious advances towards Milo in gym class, and he didn’t know how to reciprocate. Jack advised him not to make any moves at school, in case things are being misinterpreted, he wouldn’t want an audience. Milo agreed that he should do some fact checking on Twitter and Facebook, and then maybe he’d escalate to text messaging from there.

It was getting late, and Milo started mentioning an Intro to Business test he had to study for, so Jack took him home. I rode with, just for the fun of it, and Milo was still an endless stream of conversation. He explained the finer points of running a small business, and Jack somehow managed to sound interested in all of it.

“That was fun,” Jack grinned at me once Milo had gotten out of the car.

“I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or not, but it really was.” Then I smiled gratefully at him. “Thank you. For bringing him over. I really missed him.”

“It sounds like he missed you, too.” Sadly, he sighed, and at first, I didn’t understand why. We had all had fun, so I didn’t see what could be so depressing about that. “This isn’t going to be quite so clean cut for you, not like it was for me.”

“You mean leaving your family?” I asked. Up until Mae mentioned his family the other day, I hadn’t heard anything about them. The only thing Jack had ever told me was that he was from Stillwater.

“Yeah. My dad was a bastard, but he was dead anyway. My mom hated me because she hated all men, and my sister barely knew me. There was nothing to miss, nothing to leave behind.” Pursing his lips, he turned to me. “Not like you. He’ll be devastated when you go.”

“I know.” Tears were brimming at my eyes, and I blinked them back.

“Don’t think that I’m saying this because I don’t want you to turn. You know how badly I want you to.” The way he said it made him sound desperate for me to turn, but I understood. “But I know this isn’t going to be easy for you. And I don’t want you to make your decisions based on me or anyone else.”

“I won’t.”

My heart pulled me into separate directions, and the only solution seemed to be to tear it in two.

Peter still hadn’t returned from the business trip, and I still hadn’t made a decision. My entire life felt like it was at an impasse.

To keep me busy, Jack had taken me to a play and the zoo, but neither of those things really alleviated anything that was going on. Everything felt so up in the air, and I knew that I had to deal with things before the uncertainty killed me.

As soon as I woke up, I went downstairs, in my jammies with my hair all messed up and my eyes full of sleep. Ezra sat on the chaise lounge, reading a book, and Mae sat near his feet, doing a large puzzle on the hardwood floor.

When I had gotten up, I heard the shower running in Jack’s room, so I assumed that’s where he was. He’d be otherwise occupied, making the conversation easier.

“Is something the matter?” Ezra looked me over.

“Are you alright, love?” Mae chimed in, looking equally worried.

“When is Peter coming home?” I asked.

“I don’t know for sure.” Ezra adjusted himself so he was sitting up fully. “Would you like me to call him and find out?”

“What’s going to happen when he comes home?” I crossed my arms on my chest, trying to look tough, even though I knew it was as ridiculous as it sounded. “Well?”

“We don’t know exactly,” Ezra answered carefully.

“He hates me.” Just saying it aloud it hurt, but it didn’t change any of the facts. “Or if you prefer, he hates the way he feels about me. That’s not gonna change when he comes home, is it?”

“We don’t really understand what’s happening with the two of you. I can’t answer that,” Ezra said evasively.

“What are you trying to find out?” Mae asked.

“If Peter doesn’t want me, then what’s the point of me turning?” I asked. They exchanged looks but didn’t immediately answer me. “Are you expecting that he’ll magically change his mind when he gets back?”

“Not really, no,” Ezra admitted honestly.

“Then what is the point of all of this?” I gestured to everything around me, wondering what they were getting out of putting me up and hanging around me like this.

“All of what?” Jack bounded down the stairs and into the living room, running a hand through his damp hair, and I grimaced inwardly. I had decided to have this talk now was because I knew he wouldn’t be around.

“She wants to know what’s going to happen once Peter comes back,” Ezra explained when it appeared that I wouldn’t.