“We’ll see you soon then,” Ezra smiled at me. Mae looked as if she was going to explode with glee, and Ezra kept his arm firmly placed around her to stop that from happening.
“I told you Ezra would like you,” Jack said when we were in the garage. We were heading down to his Jeep, and I had a long tirade of questions to ask him, so I kept my mouth shut until we were safely inside. I didn’t want my thoughts interrupted at all. “Do you disagree?”
“I do not,” I replied, then hopped into the Jeep and waited for him. He had barely gotten in when I turned full on to face him. “Okay. What the hell does your family want with me?”
“What do you mean?” Jack asked carefully. He didn’t want to accidentally give away too much.
“You’re all fawning all over me, like I’m a shiny gem or something.” That wasn’t the right way to say it exactly, because I felt like they genuinely liked me.
“I don’t know how to answer that.” He started the Jeep and backed out of the garage.
“Jack! I have a right to know what exactly you’re doing with me!” My voice sounded shriller than I had meant it to, but some small part of me was actually afraid. They were powerful and beautiful and they wanted me. It was flattering but terrifying.
“No, I know. I’ll answer you. Just give me a minute to think about it.” The radio still played Smashing Pumpkins, and he turned it down as we started the drive home.
“You guys aren’t really brothers are you? I mean, not in the blood relative sense.” It was more of a statement, but Jack laughed and shook his head. “You’re trying to tell me that you all have the same parents?”
“No, we don’t,” Jack said, still chuckling over my question.
“You’re more like a fraternity or something?” I asked.
“Kinda, but more than that.” He was vague, as usual, and I sighed.
“Jack, what’s going on?” I asked him earnestly. “What is all of this? Why are you guys so different? And why do you think I’m special?”
“Do you trust me?” He looked gravely at me.
“Yeah, you know I do.” My heart raced. He was finally going to tell me something.
“Okay. Then… I will tell you, very soon. But you just have to wait a little bit longer.”
“Why? What’s going to happen in a little bit longer?” I demanded to know. “I’ve met your family, I hang out with you all the time, and I know that you’re not exactly human. What’s left?”
“It’s complicated,” Jack sighed. “And I… I don’t want to scare you off.”
“What could possibly scare me off after all I’ve seen with you?” I insisted incredulously.
“There are still parts of me you don’t know.” He kept his voice even, but it sounded more like an ominous warning. He gave me a sidelong glance to see how I’d responded, so I tried to look brave, but he could tell that he’d rattled me. “It’s about more than just trusting me, or even trusting my family. It’s about who you are.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” By now, I was getting frightened and confused, and I just wished he could be straight with me, for once.
“‘When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. The devil changes you.’” The way Jack said it, it didn’t sound like it came directly from him. He was quoting someone, so I took a stab in the dark.
“What? Is that like Dylan Thomas you’re using to confuse me?”
“No, it’s Joaquin Phoenix, and I’m not trying to confuse you. I’m just trying to prepare you.” For some reason, that sent chills down my spine, and I really wondered what he had in store for me.
“You didn’t answer my question,” I told him when I finally found the will to speak. We’d already pulled up in front of my building, and I knew he wouldn’t answer anyway.
“We don’t want anything with you.” He bit his lip and looked over at me. “We just want you to be one of us.”
- 10 -
“What does that mean?” I know I looked terrified despite my best efforts, but he just smiled at me.
“I answered your question.” He nodded at my building. “Get some sleep. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, right, like I can sleep after that,” I muttered opening the door. “When did you get so damn ominous? Were you watching Vincent Price last night or something?”
Jack just laughed, and I got out of the Jeep. When he drove off, I stayed outside for a minute, letting the cold air seep into my skin. My whole life was changing. I could feel it. Everything about me was going to be different, and I had no idea what I was going to become.
For the first time ever, I woke up before Milo but not by choice. I had been dreaming something about Peter’s emerald eyes and gnashing teeth, but by the time I woke up in a cold sweat, I couldn’t really put it together.
My heart pounded horribly and my head was swimming. It had taken forever for me to fall asleep last night, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom.
They wanted me to be one of them? What kind of horror movie crap was that? Did they expect me to marry into the family (and if so, was I supposed to marry Jack… or Peter?)
Or was it something more horrific, like they were in a cult or something? Was I expected to be some kind of virgin sacrifice?
While taking a shower, I tried to wash away my trepidation. Despite all the unusual and sometimes frightening occurrences, I couldn’t imagine that Jack would ever hurt me. Mae and Ezra seemed sincere in their unexplained affection for me, and even Peter had shown a reluctance to hurt me.
All of it reminded me of a story I had read once. A young rather unattractive girl climbed a mountain and accidentally stumbled into a village of the most beautiful people she’d ever seen.
Everyone in the entire town was absolutely perfect and amazing, but since everyone looked that way, they had grown bored with it. Being perfect was ordinary, but all the things about her that made her ugly in her old life made her stand out as beautiful and revered. Everyone fell in love with her and had sex with her, and eventually she died of exhaustion and depression.
The story had some kind of moral about how everyone used her for the way she looked, and being liked for the way you looked is worse than not being liked at all.
That wasn’t what stood out to me about it now. Jack and his family were flawless, and I was just ordinary and boring. Maybe they spent too much time keeping to themselves, and my general homeliness was new and refreshing for them. It was the only explanation I had for why they’d want me around.