“It’s not that bad,” Milo said. “I’ll get you a Band-Aid.”
He darted off to the bathroom to retrieve a Boba Fett Band-Aid from the medicine cabinet. I left my finger running under the water, even though I think it had stopped bleeding.
With my other hand, I used the washcloth to wipe off the cutting bored, pushing bloodied slices of green pepper into the sink and down the drain.
“What’s going on?” Mom always had the best timing and chose just then to come out of the bedroom. Her hair was its usually frizzy mess, but she’d put on worn out jeans and an over sized sweatshirt.
“I just cut my finger.” I held up my injured appendage.
Milo came out of the bathroom and jogged over to me. As if I were a complete invalid, he started drying my finger with a paper towel before putting on the Band-Aid.
“Milo, you know better than to let her help you in the kitchen,” Mom said.
She went over to the coffee table to grab an ashtray, and then lit a cigarette as she walked back into the kitchen. Her eyes scanned over Jack, but she didn’t say anything to him. Instead, she just set the ashtray on the kitchen table and sat down.
“Sorry,” Jack mumbled once my finger was sufficiently bandaged. Whatever had gotten into him seemed to be dissipating and the color in his cheeks returned.
“I’m the one that cut my finger. There’s no reason for you to be sorry.” I looked over at him, and he smiled at me, but it wasn’t his usual cheerful grin.
“We don’t really need a salad anyway,” Milo decided.
He pushed past me, collecting the vegetables that I'd cut and tossing them in the garbage. They all hadn’t been tainted with my blood, but enough of them had where it didn’t seem worth it.
“So…” Mom blew out a smoke ring and gazed intently at Jack. Her features still had that same worn look they always did, but there was something extra in her voice. “You must be Jack.”
When she accented his name, that’s when I realized what it was. She wasn’t as overt as Jane had been, but the look in her eyes and the tone to her voice… it was definitely seductive. My stomach twisted nauseously.
“And you must be Alice’s mom,” Jack grinned at her, authentically this time. He leaned back against the counter and crossed one foot over his ankle, bouncing the toe of his blue Converse on the tile.
“Anna.” This time, my mother actually did a “casual” lick of her lips when she looked at him.
I rolled my eyes, and then looked to Milo to see if he noticed her being so ridiculous, but he was no help. He just stood in the middle of the kitchen with his arms crossed over his chest, staring at Jack.
“Anna.” Jack repeated, and my mother looked down, flicking her cigarette in the ashtray.
“So tell me about yourself.” Her eyes went back up to him, and they had never looked so young before.
My mother was only thirty-four, but she usually looked much older than that. But when she looked at Jack, this girliness underneath came through. I could see how beautiful and radiant she must’ve been when she was young, before she had me.
“What do you want to know?” Jack tilted his head at her.
“Everything,” she asked, coy.
“Well, that’s an awful lot to tell. Where would you like me to start?”
“What do you with yourself?” Her eyes had gone sultry, and I had to fight the urge to vomit or take Jack’s hand or something.
Milo pulled up a chair next to Mom, but he didn’t look even slightly disturbed by her behavior. He had become too enamored by Jack and just listened for his answer.
“Not a lot really,” Jack admitted.
“You don’t work?” Mom pressed.
“Nope.” He shrugged, and this time I felt irritated that he didn’t have to work and didn’t think anything of it. Mom should’ve felt the same way, but she didn’t. “I mean, I’ve done a lot of odd jobs over the years. Like I tried some bartending for awhile and once I was tour guide for Niagara caves out in Harmony, but that was too far away so I quit. I don’t know. Nothing’s just really stuck, I guess.”
“How do you support yourself?” It was a logical question, so it kinda surprised me that Mom had even bothered asking it.
“Well…” Jack laughed a little, and both her and Milo closed their eyes, as if the sound was just too pleasurable for them to handle. “I guess I don’t really. I live with my family, and… they kind of take care of me. I guess.”
“But you’re twenty-four,” I interjected.
Really, if his family was loaded and wanted to take care of him, then I’d say, more power to you. But if Mom wasn’t going to ask the tough questions, then I was.
“I know.” Jack didn’t look ashamed at all, though, like I probably would if somebody called me out on being in my mid-twenties, unemployed, and living at home. “It just makes sense for us. I don’t know a better way of explaining it.”
“So you live with your parents?” Mom took a drag on her cigarette, keeping her eyes locked on him.
“No, they’re dead.” He said it with the same flat tone that he had before, and there was something off with it. “I live with my brothers and, uh, my sister-in-law.”
“Oh?” Mom raised an eyebrow, and she was probably excited of the prospect of their being even more guys like him. “How old are they?”
“Ezra’s twenty… six, and Mae is like twenty-eight or something, and Peter is nineteen,” Jack answered.
“Hmm,” Mom purred. This was so gross and so disturbing, and I was so glad that I had never seen my mom date anyone ever. “So, um, what about college?”
“I went for awhile, but I dropped out.” Jack shrugged again. “It just wasn’t my thing.”
“What is your thing exactly?” I asked.
As far as I could tell, working, school, having a relationship, doing anything that required any amount of responsibility just wasn’t his thing. What was my attraction to him?
Then he laughed, looking over at me with an expression that was almost proud of me, and I remembered exactly what it was.
“I’m still figuring it out.”
“You’re still young,” Mom added quickly, trying to pull his attention back to her. “You have plenty of time to figure things out.”
“That’s what I think,” Jack agreed, and when he looked back at her, she let out a moan of some kind, and that was it for me. I’d let her stare at him enough.