“Uh huh,” I mumbled absently and tried to smooth out the hem.
I wore a dark blue tunic dress that fell just above my knees. I’d gone with opaque tights underneath and a pair of skimmers. I wasn’t sure if I’d gone casual enough or too casual or what, but either way, I felt stupid and I wanted to change again.
“This is horrible!”
“You look great,” Milo admonished me. I’m sure he’d grown tired of listening to me whine and change for the past three hours, but I really wanted to make a good impression. “And Jack is waiting. You don’t really have a choice anymore.”
“Promise?” I asked, looking over at him.
“Yes. They’ll love you. And even if they don’t, I will. Now go!” Milo stood up and started shooing me out of my room.
“Okay, okay.” I groaned, but Milo just kept pushing until I was out the front door.
I ran out to Jack’s car before I could change my mind. He had taken the Jeep again, and I was glad for a slower ride.
“You look great,” Jack grinned when I hopped in.
“Whatever.” I flipped down the visor so I could investigate myself in the mirror. My eyeliner was thicker than I ordinarily wore it, but it made me look more dramatic and mature so I liked it.
“Fine, you look terrible,” Jack laughed and sped off down the road.
“Can you slow down?” My nerves made my stomach flip out, and I knew I could feign carsickness since it would almost be the truth. I just didn’t like the idea of us getting there in like ten seconds.
“You’re really that nervous?” Jack was growing concerned, and he slowed down a little.
“No,” I lied.
I flipped back up the visor and sunk in the seat. I was completely dreading meeting Ezra, and seeing Peter again, while simultaneously being really excited to see him. I hated my body for its ability to have contradictory emotions.
“It’s really not that bad. Ezra will like you.”
“Will you stop trying to convince me that everyone likes me?” I snapped. “You’re making me paranoid.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Jack looked over at me, sitting next to him being petrified, and he sighed. “You know, Peter really didn’t mean anything.”
“I don’t wanna talk about Peter,” I replied through gritted teeth, but that wasn’t it exactly. I couldn’t talk about him. Just thinking about him made my heart race out of control. There didn’t seem to be enough oxygen in the Jeep.
He knew that was I inclined to silence, so he turned up the stereo. Today it was the Smashing Pumpkins, singing about a bullet with butterfly wings.
Even though he had slowed down, the drive to his house still went by much too fast. By the time we had pulled into the garage, my heart was beating so fast that I was sure I was going to die. I thought about telling Jack this, but by the grim look on his face, he already knew.
“You’ve got to calm down, Alice.” He touched my hand to reassure me, and amazingly, it worked.
“Is that another one of your superpowers?” I asked when my heart stopped feeling like it would explode
“What?” Jack kept his tone sober, but I could see the corners of his mouth creeping up at my use of the word “superpowers.”
“Calming me down or making me feel whatever it is you feel.” I had expected him to avoid the question or shrug me off, but instead he got serious and his forehead creased.
“You feel what I feel?” He cocked his head to the side a little bit, looking at me curiously.
There was a good chance that I was blowing everything out of proportion. He was charismatic and excitable, so his emotions had a way of dominating situations. That didn’t mean that I actually felt what he felt.
“Not literally, I’m sure. It’s just like when you want me to calm down, I usually do. Or when you were nervous about the dog, I felt you tense up so I got freaked. But it’s probably nothing more than what normal people feel.”
“Hmm.” He didn’t look convinced, but he pulled his hand back from mine and opened the door to the Jeep. “You must be feeling pretty calm and happy right about now, so let’s go inside before it wears off.”
“That’s actually a good idea,” I agreed and got out of the Jeep.
“You mean it does actually wear off?” He hurried around to meet me, and it felt weird for me to be on the other side of the question-and-answer game we always played. I wrapped my arms around myself and shrugged. “No, seriously. I don’t understand how this works.”
“I don’t know either. I just assumed you’d know what I was talking about.” We had reached the door into the house, but he paused, staring off into space.
“Unless what?” I asked.
“Nothing.” He shook his head, shaking off whatever thought he had.
“Jack!” I protested, and he smirked at me.
“I’ll tell you later.” He’d never said that me before, and it surprised me.
“Really?” I asked hopefully.
“No. Come on.” Before I could argue more, he opened the door and walked into the house. “Hi, honey, we’re home!”
“Peter, hold Matilda!” Mae shouted from another room, and I cringed, knowing that Peter was just a room away. Then Mae raced into the entryway, her arms already open to hug me. “Alice!” She threw her arms around me, holding me tightly to her. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
“Me too,” I told her, and I was surprised to find I actually meant it.
“You know, I’m here too,” Jack pointed out when she released me. He had only meant it as a joke, but she turned and hugged him anyway. “Thanks.”
“You know we’re always glad you’re here,” Mae smiled at him.
“I know you’re glad that I’m here,” Jack corrected her, and a new fear gripped me. Maybe both Peter and Ezra didn’t like him, meaning that I wouldn’t even stand a chance.
Suddenly Matilda came bursting into the room, but Jack intercepted her, and she jumped happily into his arms. This is a hundred pound dog, and he caught her in his arms with ease. I knew that eventually I’d have to stop being so amazed by Jack.
“Peter!” Mae shouted towards the other room, where Peter remained hidden.
“She got away from me!” Peter said, his silken voice shooting through my body. If he had even half the strength that Jack had, hanging onto Matilda wouldn’t be a problem. He’d let her go to spite us in some way.