“Living in the present doesn’t mean giving into your every whim,” Mae said sternly.
“I give into very few of my whims,” I muttered. “Trust me. I have a lot more whims that you don’t even know about.”
“Now you’re just being vulgar.” She made a “tsk” sound.
“Have you heard from Peter?” I asked quietly.
It was hard not to think about him and what his return would imply. My heart always sped up at the mention of him, and while it still made me feel ashamed, I didn’t mind as much when Jack wasn’t around.
I heard her intake of breath at his name, and the way she braided my hair got tighter and more painful. Maybe she spent too much time trying not think about the future.
“He called Ezra last week,” Mae answered tentatively.
“And?” I tried to turn my head to look at her, but she pushed it back away from her.
“Ezra’s with him right now.” Mae’s voice dropped so low, it was almost inaudible, and my heart stopped. Her hands let go of my hair, allowing me to face her. “They’re working on some business together. Jack doesn’t know.”
“How could he not know? Why wouldn’t Ezra tell him?” I wanted to shout, and I felt like I was, but my voice came out surprisingly quiet. Just talking about Peter had a way of taking all the oxygen out of the room.
“Jack would probably quit and move out and run away and all that.” Mae lowered her eyes. “He can be so melodramatic sometimes.”
“That’s pretty much what Peter did, isn’t it?” I asked.
“Peter had too.” She shook her head “You know I don’t agree with how he’s handled things with you. Especially what he did in the end… That’s unforgivable.
“But you’ve got to understand. Peter and Ezra were together for a hundred years before I was even born. Peter gave Ezra a piece of his humanity back, and without him, I’m not sure Ezra would’ve stayed sane all those years.”
“Ezra told me about his past,” I said, and she nodded evenly.
“It’s more than that, Alice. They are brothers, probably even closer than you are with Milo.” Her expression softened, and she took my hand in hers. “He can’t just shut him out. But he can’t lose Jack or you either. Family is very important to Ezra.”
“I don’t want Peter gone either,” I said carefully, and I was surprised by how true that was.
My body felt like a livewire that had just been activated. All my veins and cells tingled at the mention of him, and that dull ache I ignored pulsated like a fresh knife wound in my chest. Everything that coursed through me, coursed through me for him, and I knew that.
“You still feel it for him, then?” Mae had gone pale and her eyes had widened with worry.
“I can’t stop feeling it,” I said wearily. “I want to, sometimes, but I can’t. And I don’t think I can stop feeling anything for Jack either. But… I still miss Peter, and I’d miss Jack. I don’t know how I’m supposed to make sense of that.”
“You’re not. You’re not supposed to feel that way.” Mae smiled sadly at me and tucked a stray hair back. “But you already knew that.”
“Where is Peter?”
“He’s away, Alice,” Mae told me firmly. “And that’s the way it needs to stay. He’s not good for you. At least not right now, not with the way you both feel.”
“I didn’t want to see him.” I shook my head forcefully, maybe too forcefully. “I have no reason to see him. I was just wondering. So I would know.”
“Ezra is working on some things,” Mae went on, ignoring the fact that I protested a little too much. “Things will be settled soon. It may seem like a long time to you, but that’s just your age talking. Things will be better, though.”
I settled back in the couch, trying to slow the explosion of nerves inside of me, and Matilda rested her gigantic head on my lap. Mae went back to stroking my hair and trying to convince me that even fairy tales had their share of problems to work through.
I didn’t appreciate the way I still felt about Peter. By now, my feelings for him should’ve faded, especially after what he did to me. They should’ve been gone. But they weren’t.
It didn’t help that Jack wasn’t around to remind me what truly mattered. He stayed out all night with Milo, practicing in the lake. It was much longer than I was comfortable with, so eventually Mae went to check on them.
Once she confirmed that they were alright, she put in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and curled up next to me on the couch. I lay with her, but I couldn’t concentrate on the movie. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
Somewhere during the night, I fell asleep. I didn’t even realize it until Jack was lifting me up and carrying me out to the car. When I woke up, I put my arms around his neck and snuggled closer to him, relishing the way he smelled and how safe his arms felt.
“I’m glad to see you too,” Jack laughed quietly when I moved in close to him. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“No, its okay,” I said. When he set me down in the car, I was sad to let him go. “Why are you taking me home?”
“Mae thought it would be better, after what happened last time.” He shrugged and walked around to the other side of the car so he could get in.
“How did things go with Milo?” I yawned, and he just grinned at me.
“Good. Real good.”
“I really wish I could’ve seen you more tonight.” I let myself slide down in the seat so I was more comfortable. My body felt unnecessarily tired, already readjusting itself for the upcoming school schedule. “I think I needed to.”
“Yeah, me too.” Jack watched me struggle to stay awake. “Why don’t you just sleep? We can talk tomorrow.”
Despite my best efforts, I fell asleep again, and I really wondered what my problem was. Thinking about Peter too much had exhausted me, apparently.
When I got home, I didn’t even wake up at all. The next thing I knew after being in the car with Jack was waking up in my own bed.
It was reassuring knowing he’d taken me up, but something felt tragic about how little I’d see him. For some reason, I cried myself back to sleep.
This was the last night I could stay out as late as I wanted. Tomorrow would be my last full day before the start of my senior year, and my stomach cringed at the thought of it.