“Sorry?” I apologized uncertainly. I looked to Ezra for help, but he was too busy watching her to give us any hint about what the hell was going on.
“Yeah, we’re really sorry,” Milo said, more sincerely than I did.
“We didn’t mean to not tell you,” Jack said. “We just left in kind of a hurry, I guess.”
“Where did you go that was so important you couldn’t let me know?” Mae fixed her gaze on Jack because he had offered the most up, and he shrunk back from it, wrapping his arms over his chest. He shifted uneasily and glanced at me, but I shook my head. I didn’t want any part of her hysteria.
“We just, uh, went to the club to look-” He’d barely gotten out the word “club” before her eyes widened and she cut him off.
“The club? Not the vampire club? None of you would be that stupid to do something as risky and dangerous as that without even letting me know.” Mae was completely aghast, and Jack looked at his feet, so she turned to the rest of us. “What were you thinking? Do you all have a death wish? Just because you can live forever doesn’t mean you will!”
“We were going there after Jane,” I said quietly, hoping to appease her some.
“If you all want to die, I can’t save you!” She threw her hands up in the air. “I can’t save anybody!”
A fresh tear slid down her cheek, and I wanted to hug her or comfort her in some way, but I didn’t know how. I was afraid that anything I did would just set her off more.
“We’re really, really sorry,” Milo said.
“I can’t save anybody!” Mae wailed, her voice cracking.
“Mae,” Ezra whispered. She sobbed, doubling over and holding her sides. He wrapped his arms around her and held her up. “Mae, love, it’s all right.”
“It is not all right!” Mae tried pushing him away, but he held steadfast. “This is not how it’s supposed to be!” She cried harder, her words lost completely in her tears, so she turned and buried her face in his chest.
They stood that way for a minute, and the rest of us stared at them. We weren’t really sure if we should leave or stay there or speak or what, so we just stared.
“I don’t mean to be rude,” I said carefully when Mae seemed more composed. “But, um, what is going on?”
“Mae went to visit her human family,” Ezra explained.
Even though his words were meant to be soothing, I heard the disapproval in them. He didn’t think that Mae should have anything to do with the humans she had left behind when she turned, but she insisted on driving out to check on them, although she never interacted with them.
“Tonight, she found out that her great-granddaughter is terminally ill, and she only has a matter of months to live,” Ezra said, and he held her more tightly. Just hearing him say it aloud devastated her.
Mae had been twenty-eight when she turned, leaving behind a young daughter. Her change hadn’t been entirely by choice, and she had to leave a family that meant everything to her. She had been forced to watch her daughter grow up from a distance, and then her granddaughter, and now her great-grandchildren.
Ezra tolerated her fondness for them because he loved her so much, but he had given her a deadline. They were going to have to move away from them soon, because she couldn’t spend her entire existence watching her future generations getting old and dying.
The hardest part for Mae was that she had had an infant son that died several years before her daughter was born. It almost killed her, and Mae swore that she would never outlive any of her other children. Unfortunately, she had become immortal, so she would have no choice.
But nothing could’ve prepared her for losing her five-year-old great-granddaughter. I doubt she could even wrap her mind around losing her adult daughter, let alone a small child.
I went to her, and she pulled away from Ezra just enough so she could hug me. As much as she loved him, at that moment, she wanted a child, and I had become a surrogate daughter for her. She held onto me so tightly it was painful, but I said nothing.
Eventually, she calmed down and apologized for her behavior. By then, Milo and Bobby had snuck up to their room, much to my annoyance. Ezra stayed by her side, in case she might need him, but Jack had ventured into the backyard with Matilda to give us space.
When Mae could speak clearly, she explained that Daisy, her great-granddaughter, had been looking under the weather the last few months, but it wasn’t until tonight that she was able to overhear them talking and found out exactly what was going on.
Ezra was convinced that rest was the best solution to her current state, and he looked rather drained himself. He helped Mae back down to their room, looking apologetically back at me as he did. He cared about her very much, but he was still upset she had any contact with them. Nothing good came from keeping humans in your life.
I thought of Jane at the club, and Bobby upstairs with my brother, and shook my head. Eventually, everyone would die, except for us, and I could never tell if that was comforting or terrifying.
Jack was outside, wrestling in the fallen leaves and frost with Matilda. The moon was fat, but thin clouds hazed over it. I stepped out the French doors, relishing the chill in the air. Breathing in deeply, I tried to let the freshness from the outdoors cleanse everything else. All of Mae’s tears, and all the horrible images of Jane in the darkened rooms of V.
Jack grinned when he saw me and got up from a pile of leaves he and the dog had been demolishing. Matilda had twigs and leaves imbedded in her fur, and she loped around the lawn carrying a big stick in her mouth. He ran a hand through his hair, freeing a few leaves himself and walked over to me.
“How are you holding up?” he asked.
“Great.” I was exaggerating, but I did feel a lot better being outside.
“You sure?” He looked at me seriously, and I picked at some of the foliage that clung to his tee shirt. His bare arms were dirty and cold from the ground, but I doubted he noticed.
“Yeah. Mae is the one having the rough night, not me,” I said.
“How is she?” He looked past me at the house, worrying about her.
“I really don’t know,” I admitted. “Ezra took her back to their room to get some rest, but…” I trailed off and shrugged. It was hard to say how she would hold up.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t help Jane more.” He returned his concern to me.
“Me too, but you’re right. She has to want to help herself, and she’ll probably never want to,” I sighed and rubbed at my arms, even though they weren’t really cold.