“Exactly!” He pulled out of the driveway and sped down the road. I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes, trying to take in everything that had happened. When Jack spoke again, his tone had gotten somber. “So, what did you think of my family?”
“I liked them. Mae is very nice, and your house is stunning.” I kept my eyes closed and listened to the Joy Division cover playing on the radio. It reminded me of Gary Jules, but I knew that wasn’t it. “Who is this?”
“Honeyroot doing ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart,’” Jack answered, and without missing a beat, returned to the topic. “So you had a good time then?”
“I did.” Mostly. Except for the parts when Peter sucked all the air my from lungs and I wanted to die.
“You’re awfully quiet. I’d been expecting a million questions from you.”
“Oh, I have them,” I reassured him. “Is Mae from England?” Jack laughed, and I turned to look at him. “What? Was I way off?”
“No, it’s just… that’s the question you ask?” He shook his head, smiling. “That’s like the most normal thing you could possibly ask. I just wasn’t expecting it.”
“What were you expecting me to ask?” I raised an eyebrow, trying to figure out what part of the night he thought I’d find the most odd.
“Yeah, she’s from England.” He once again hedged my question.
“They’re like you, aren’t they?” I asked, watching him carefully.
“Nobody’s like me,” Jack replied flippantly. “I’m a one in a million, baby!”
“Jack, you know what I mean.”
“I do,” he sighed. His expression got pained, and he was almost pleading with me. “You liked them and you had a good time. Can’t we just leave it at that?”
“Why did you want me to meet them?”
Meeting them had made him more vulnerable and more susceptible to my questions. I don’t know how it benefited him. Mae had wanted to meet me, I’m sure, but he could’ve put that off.
“That is way too complicated for me to answer right now,” Jack said simply.
“When will things stop being so complicated?” I had started whining a little, but I’d had a long day, so I thought I had earned the right to whine just a bit.
“That’s probably the best question you’ve ever asked me.” Jack sounded very far away and rather sad, so I knew the answer wouldn’t be anything I’d want to hear anyway. For once, I was grateful for his silence. After a very pregnant pause, he exhaled deeply. “I feel drawn to you.”
“That’s why things are complicated?” I sat up straighter in my seat, eager to hear what sounded like a legitimate answer.
“No. Well, kinda, but that’s not what I meant.” He glanced over at me, and then returned his gaze to the road. “That’s why I wanted you to meet my family.”
“So was that like me meeting your parents?” I crinkled my nose. “Like we’re dating?”
“No, it’s not like that. You know what I mean. You feel it too, right?” His eyes flitted back over to me, then quickly away again. “Like you feel drawn to me. You enjoy me and everything, but you feel kind of compelled to be around me.”
“I guess,” I said noncommittally. He’d actually hit the nail on the head, but I didn’t want to admit to that.
“Well, that’s how I feel.” He had put himself out there for a minute, and he shifted uncomfortably. I felt bad for not being more honest with him.
“But… what does that have to do with your family?”
“That’s the complicated part,” he smirked.
“You can’t tell me anything?” I asked. I knew that if I were smarter, I’d probably have everything pieced together already. Jack was probably growing frustrated with me failing to follow his little half clues.
“They like you,” he offered helpfully.
“Yeah, I could tell that Peter’s a real big fan,” I scoffed, and he just pursed his lips grimly.
“It’s really, really complicated, Alice. But…” He sighed again. “Okay. That’s all I can say.”
“Why?” I demanded. We had already pulled up in front of my house, making the trek home in record time. He looked over at me, his expression grave but affectionate. “Why can’t you tell me more?”
“Honestly?” Jack bit his lip, and I could see the internal debate raging. “I like you too much.”
“That doesn’t make any sense! If you like me, you should just be open and honest with me. That’s what people do. That’s how it works,” I said. His eyes looked conflicted and pained, and I thought almost had him, but then he looked down at his hands and shook his head.
“I saw your face yesterday.” His voice clogged painfully. “I don’t want you to ever look at me that way again.”
“I won’t!” I insisted, but we both know that I couldn’t be sure of that. I had no idea what he wasn’t telling me, so I couldn’t promise my reaction to it.
“Fine, be that way.” I threw open the car door. “I had a really lovely time tonight and I hope we can do it again real soon.”
“Sweet dreams,” Jack smiled at me, and I smiled back, despite my frustration.
“Yeah, you too.”
By the time I made it up to my apartment, I was struggling not to cry. All Peter had really done was look at me, and it was somehow devastating. An unfailing insistence inside me wanted him, but I refused to listen to it.
Jack and Mae liked me, probably more than they should, and I really liked them, definitely more than I should, and that was enough. That was more than enough! Why did I have to be so greedy?
“Alice?” Milo said timidly, startling me from my thoughts. The apartment was mostly dark, and I hadn’t seen him sitting on the couch, waiting up for me. I had just been leaning against the front door. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just peachy.” I swallowed hard and walked over to the couch.
Milo was talking to me, and that was pretty damn exciting. I pushed Peter and Jack from my thoughts and sat down next to him.
“Did you have a nice time tonight?” Milo asked, and I nodded quickly.
“Yeah. I did. What about you?”
“It was okay,” he shrugged.