“It just looks like a television to me,” Peter said when Jack finished explaining how awesome it was.
Jack scoffed loudly, and this time, even Ezra defended his purchase. At that point, they were mostly talking to themselves, and Peter looked back at me. Just briefly, and I looked away almost instantly, but his eyes still caught me. It shouldn’t even be possible for eyes to be that green, and I shouldn’t be thinking about how stunningly attractive they were.
At least he played it cool better than me. If Jack and Ezra weren’t so damn excited about their new gadget, I’m sure they would’ve noticed how frazzled I acted. When I looked away from Peter, he went over to them to pretend to be interested in it.
Bobby sat in the chair, swinging his feet over the edge, and he looked more entertained by the bubble wrap than he did the TV. Milo was missing, which was strange, because he loved this kind of thing. He should be in here gushing all over the TV too.
“Where’s Milo?” I asked Bobby, since nobody else would listen to me unless I used the words “HD” or “plasma.”
“Helping Mae with the laundry,” Bobby said and popped another bubble.
I was tempted to steal the bubble wrap from him, but I had my chance to escape, so I took it. Jack wouldn’t be ready to go for at least another ten or fifteen minutes, and I’d rather spend that time waiting somewhere Peter wasn’t. At least Jack was too distracted to notice me slipping away.
Down the hall, between the den and the main bathroom was the laundry room, filled with two sets of super powered washers and dryers. Seven people lived in the house, and that amounted to a lot of laundry. I tried to do mine and Jack’s, but Mae somehow always got to it before I did. She was magic that way. The laundry room had several racks with hangers.
Most of Jack’s overflow clothes ended up down here, hanging on racks. His suits were in plastic bags, all neatly pressed, and they stayed down here to keep them from getting smooshed and wrinkled in our closet. The room was filled with the clean scent of clothes, but I could still smell us on them, especially Jack. No matter how many times they were washed, clothes managed to maintain some of their owner’s smell.
On one wall were the machines themselves, one set dark blue, and the other a weird orange. Apparently, the days of ordinary white machines were gone. Milo sat on one of the washing machines, watching as Mae pulled towels out of the dryer and folded them. I’m sure he offered to help, but she refused. She thought it was her duty to do everything for us.
Milo was dressed and looked good, except he’d painted his toenails, and I blamed Bobby for that. Mae, on the other hand, still wore her pajamas, and I hadn’t seen in her in real clothes in days. Her hair was up, but it was more of a rat’s nest than a bun.
“How’s it going?” I asked, trying for casual instead of concerned. When I walked in the room, Milo gave me a wary look, and Mae barely glanced back at me.
“I’m going to have to buy new towels,” Mae said. The usual warmth of her British accent sounded stogy and commandeering, but that was better than sobbing. “You leave the towels in your room for so long they smell of mildew, and I just can’t get it out.”
“Sorry. I’m working on it,” I said. Jack and I were the messiest ones in the house, unless Bobby turned out to be inordinately dirty.
“I didn’t say it was your fault.” Mae was nearly snapping at me, and she folded towels in an angry huff.
I’m pretty sure Mae loves doing laundry. I’ve seen her folding and washing things, and it’s like meditation for her. That was not how she did laundry today.
“Bobby and I always make sure to take our towels down,” Milo told her, and I glared him.
“Why is Bobby doing his laundry here, anyway?” I asked, and I realized I had missed very crucial facts about him. “Doesn’t he have like an apartment or a job or something?”
“He’s in art school and lives in a dorm,” Milo answered, matching my glare.
“Of course he is.” When I thought about it, Bobby really had art student written all over him. “So, does he ever go to school or anything? Why is here all the time?”
“He goes when he feels like it,” Milo said. “And staying here is better than staying at a dorm, and I want him here.”
“Our house has always been open to anyone who needs it.” Mae sounded irritated by that as she folded a towel. “Anyone that’s ever needed a place, be they vampire or not, has always had a place. You wouldn’t believe how many people have stayed with us over the years. Ezra has always had an open door policy. To anyone.
“Literally, anyone,” she went on. She put the folded towel in the basket and just leaned on it for a minute, as if she was too suddenly too weary to go on. “Except for my family. Except for what matters to me.”
“Mae, you know that’s not what it’s about,” Milo said gently. He tried to put his hand on her shoulder, but she snapped back into motion and pulled a towel out of the dryer. “And you have us here. Don’t forget that. We’re your family, too.”
“You know that I adore you, but…” She held a towel to her chest and trailed off.
“Have you made a decision yet?” I asked carefully. “About what you’re going to do?” As far as I knew, she still had her heart set on turning her great-granddaughter, and Ezra hadn’t changed his either.
“No.” Mae closed her eyes and shook her head. “Maybe. I don’t know.” She rubbed her forehead and smiled sadly at Milo. “I mean, if I left, you could all handle doing your laundry, couldn’t you?”
“We don’t want you to stay because of laundry,” Milo said, looking appalled. “You’re the heart of the family. I don’t know what would happen if you went away.”
“I know that, love.” She touched his leg gently. She went back to folding laundry, but more like the normal way she did. “I have time to think. There’s still time.”
“Alice!” Jack called from down the hall. “Alice? Where are you? Are you ready?”
“I should go.” I nodded back to the door. “We’re going to the zoo today.”
“Have fun,” Milo gave me a half-wave, but his focus was still on Mae. She chewed her lip and didn’t even notice me leaving.
Back in the living room, Ezra was making Peter watch that Planet Earth documentary because of how amazing it looked on the new TV. Jack came over to me and took my hand. As he said his goodbyes to the guys, Peter gave me a weird look, and I hurried Jack along. I wasn’t sure how well I could hide my emotions from Jack.