“None of this is your fault,” Jack corrected me sternly, and his eyes were strangely wounded. “Alice, you can’t blame yourself for this. You had nothing to do with it.”
“Don’t tell me what I can or can’t feel!”
I tried to stand up, but the weight of the night hit me. I lost my balance, and Jack reached out for me. He pulled me into his arms, and at first, I fought him, just because I felt like fighting something. But his arms felt wonderful and safe around me, and I gave into it. I buried my face in his chest and sobbed.
“It’s going to be alright, Alice,” Jack whispered. “He’s going to be okay. You just need to get some rest.”
“There’s no way I can rest as long as Milo’s…” I trailed off.
I didn’t know how to finish the sentence, and I could barely fight off the fatigue anymore. Even though I didn’t want to admit it, I didn’t know how much longer I could stay awake.
“Mae’s sitting with him, and you know she’ll make sure he’s as comfortable as he can be.”
Jack stood up and lifted me in his arms. He carried me upstairs to his room to sleep. I felt too drained and tired to protest. After he laid me down in his bed, he stood next to it, looking hesitant.
“You aren’t gonna leave me, are you?” I wanted him with me. I didn’t want to be alone.
“Mae wants me to sleep on the couch downstairs,” Jack said.
“But I don’t want you to.”
Still looking unsure, he carefully climbed into bed next to me. I had too much on my mind to get excited about it, but he made me feel safer than I ever thought possible. I rested my head on his chest, listening to his slow heartbeat.
Only one thin wall away from us, my brother laid in a bed, going through his own struggle. I felt guilty for falling asleep when his future remained so uncertain. The exhaustion of the night won out over my guilt, and I passed out in Jack’s arms.
- 4 -
Jack was gone when I woke up. I went next door to check on Milo, but he seemed to be mostly the same. He lay in bed, looking pale and frightfully small, but at least his breathing had improved a little. Mae staked out a position next to his bed, and she assured me that he had yet to wake up.
After I got dressed, Ezra addressed the practical aspects of the situation. Milo couldn’t go home right now, and I didn’t want to be away from him. Our mother was always gone, thanks to work and a gambling addiction, but she would notice if we didn’t come home for days. Ezra suggested that I go home, get some clothes, and tell my mom that we were staying at their vacation house for awhile.
Jack returned from his mysterious whereabouts and offered to take me home. Ezra had to repeatedly assure me that Milo would be fine before I got in the car with Jack. I was convinced that Milo would take a turn for the worst as soon as I left.
“He’s going to be alright,” Jack told me again as we pulled out of the driveway.
“How do you know that? Have you even seen him today?” I glared over at him. It’d hurt me to wake up alone, and he hadn’t explained his absence.
“Yeah, I checked on him when I got up. Ezra said everything’s going fine. It looks like the change is taking.” His earlier guilt seemed to have lessened a bit, since it looked like Milo wouldn’t die.
“When did you get up?”
“Where were you?” I asked.
“I had to eat.” He shifted uncomfortably.
After all this time, I think he still expected me to go screaming for the hills every time he mentioned that he drank blood. I hadn’t gotten used to the idea, but it didn’t repulse me. Well, not enough to send me packing, anyway.
“So did you just pick up some girl?” My jealousy flared, but oddly enough, that appeared to relieve him.
“No. We were low on blood at the house, so I went to the bank and picked some up. We’re gonna need more blood around with Milo.” He said it so matter-of-factly, but in a weird way, it hadn’t fully sunk in with me yet.
Milo needed to drink blood.
“When does Milo need to eat?”
“Soon, I think.” He looked over at me to see how I was taking things. I must’ve managed to look pretty okay, because he continued. “At first, he’s going to eat a lot. The turning takes a lot out of you, and he won’t understand how to gauge his hunger.”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” I groaned. Closing my eyes, I leaned back in the seat and tried not to look as freaked out as I felt.
“It won’t be so bad,” Jack said. “I mean, I’m not so bad, right?”
“So what’s gonna happen?”
“I can’t really say for sure.”
“What do you mean you can’t say? You’re a vampire. You know what it’s like to be one,” I said incredulously.
“Yeah, but it’s different for everybody.” He wanted to let it go with that, but I kept glaring at him until he continued. “You already know the basics. I don’t even know what you’re trying to find out.”
“This whole turning process,” I clarified. “What does that entail exactly?”
“I don’t know,” Jack said, and I scoffed. “What? I can’t really remember, and I’ve never seen anybody else turn.”
I couldn’t tell if he was lying or not, but it seemed pretty ridiculous that he couldn’t remember the most important event of his life, especially since it hadn’t been that long ago. I could understand if Ezra had forgotten, but sixteen years was relatively recent.
“How can you not remember?”
“Do you remember being born?” Jack countered.
“No, but I wasn’t twenty-four when it happened.”
“Well…” He sighed. We pulled up in front of my brownstone, but we sat in the car as he thought of a way to explain it.
“Mae can remember her turning vividly, and I think Peter can too. But I can’t. Mine’s all hazy, like a dream I had a very long time ago. I just can’t remember pain very well, I guess.”
“So it is really painful?” I asked, even though I wasn’t sure I’d want to know.
“Your body dies,” Jack said softly. “Not all of it, but enough where you really feel it. But it only lasts a few days, and then everything feels really wonderful.”
“Is there anything they can do for the pain?”
“You’re really so much better off talking to Ezra about all of this,” he said.