Milo called our mother and arranged a time for them to talk. Mae helped me pack up my things, talking the entire time about how things were going to be so much more fun this way. Her reasons almost entirely depended on the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but I nodded as if I believed everything she said.
Once Mae’s Jetta was loaded with my things, I stood in the entryway, waiting by the garage door. Jack was next to me, twirling the car keys around his fingers. We waited for Milo, but he didn’t have to pack, so I didn’t understand what could be taking him so long.
“What is he doing?” I asked, pulling at the hem of my shirt. If we were going to leave then I wanted to hurry and get it over with.
“He’ll be down in a minute.” Jack scratched the back of his neck and looked away from me, a clear sign that he didn’t want to tell me something.
“What?” I asked. “What’s he doing?”
“He’s eating.” He looked at me and shrugged. “He’s going to be out in the world with people for the first time. It’s better if he’s not hungry.”
“Do you need to eat?”
“No. I’m good. Thanks for asking, though.” His eyes inspected me, looking for revulsion or fear, but when he didn’t find any, he eventually looked away.
“Is he gonna eat my mom?” I had a serious risk of vomiting every time I thought about Milo drinking blood, but apparently, I did a good job masking it.
“That’s why he’s eating,” Jack said. “We’re hoping to avoid that entire situation.”
“Excellent,” I sighed.
“I’ll be there to bodyguard.” He flexed his muscles to prove that he was up for the job and grinned at me. “It’s gonna be fine.”
“I know,” I said grimly. “Everything’s always going to be fine. Great. Good. Okay.”
“He’s just about ready!” Mae declared, interrupting the worried look Jack gave me. When she saw me, her face fell. “Oh, Alice, love, you just look so pitiful.”
“Sorry.” I tried to force a smile as she placed her hands on my arms.
“You will be back, you know?” Her eyes glistened with wet tears, and it made me feel a little better she was sad to see me go. At least someone would miss me. “We’re not banishing you.”
“I know,” I nodded, smiling a bit more genuinely.
“You’re part of the family now.” She tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear. “This is just how things have to be. For now.”
“I know,” I repeated. And I did know. It didn’t change the fact that this still hurt.
Mae threw her arms around me and pulled me close to her, hugging me so tight I could hardly breathe. She whispered in my hair, “Oh, love, you have no idea how marvelous everything will be when it’s all said and done.”
“Mae, honey, I think you’re smothering her.” Jack tapped her on the shoulder.
“Oh, sorry!” Mae let go of me and took a step back, and I tried not to gasp for breath. “I keep forgetting how fragile you still are.”
Down the hall, I heard Milo’s clumsy footsteps, and Ezra reassured Milo that everything would be alright. When they walked into the entryway, Ezra had his arm on Milo’s back, and Milo looked pale.
“We can follow behind you if you want,” Ezra said. Jack was going with us, but Ezra and Mae had planned to stay at the house.
“No, I’ll be fine.” Milo sounded better than he looked, and I wondered if I should take them up on the offer.
“Are you sure?” Mae reached out and stroked his face, a gesture that I couldn’t do anymore. If I did, he’d be too tempted to rip open an artery.
“Come on. Everybody’s great. Let’s get this show on the road.” Jack sensed my discomfort, and he wanted to get this over with.
Reluctantly, Mae let us leave. I didn’t like how nervous she was about this, but there wasn’t very much about any of it that I did like.
When we went into the garage, I walked ahead of Milo and reached the Jetta first. I grabbed for the passenger side door, planning to sit shotgun as I always did, and Milo growled at me.
“Did you just growl at me?” I asked dubiously.
“I might have,” Milo admitted with anger in his eyes.
“Why would you growl at me?”
“Alice,” Jack said sharply. He stood on the other side of the car beside the driver’s side door, and he looked at me from over the top of it. “Get in the backseat.”
“Just do it,” Jack said firmly
“But that’s stupid!” I protested. “Just because Milo’s a vampire, he gets shotgun? That’s not fair. It doesn’t even make sense.”
“Just get in the back!” Milo snapped. I looked at him, and violence brewed in his eyes.
“This is bogus,” I grumbled but got in the backseat.
“This would be so much easier if you didn’t fight everything,” Jack said as he started the car.
“You really didn’t realize what you were getting into with her, did you?” Milo said.
I bit my tongue, but it wasn’t an easy feat. Who the hell did Milo think he was? I wanted to shout at him, but I couldn’t, because he would literally bite my head off if I did.
That was so unfair, too. He got away with being a random dick because he could kill me. Milo never would’ve talked to me like that before.
On the positive side, I didn’t feel so bad that I wouldn’t get to be around them as much anymore. In fact, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t even miss Milo at all. He’d probably growl at me if I touched the television remote or something.
I sulked through the car ride home. Jack had Dinosaur Jr. in the CD player, and that filled up the silence. Milo said a couple things that I couldn’t hear from the backseat, making me hate them all the more.
When we pulled up in front of the apartment building, I leapt out of the car. Jack grabbed my bags from the trunk, and he and Milo followed me inside.
We rode up the elevator in silence, and Milo tensed up. His jaw set, and he kept clenching and unclenching his fists. I looked over at Jack to see if he noticed, but he kept his expression blank.
“Are you okay?” I asked Milo quietly outside our apartment door.
“Yeah,” he nodded, but he definitely looked pale.
“Maybe we should do this another time,” I suggested. I really wanted to get this over with, but not that the expense of my mother or my brother, even if he really pissed me off.