Tonight, though, I fell silent. There were millions of things running through my mind that I wanted to talk about, but very little had to do with the performance I had seen, so I kept my mouth shut.
“I don’t mean to be cryptic,” Jack said at length.
We were almost to his car, but he stopped walking and kept his gaze focused on some point straight ahead. His hands were shoved deep in the pocket of his Dickies shorts, and he sighed.
“I don’t have an angle. Just…” He looked over at me, as if to make sure that I was still listening. I peered up at him from underneath my hood, and he smirked a little. “You’re cold. We should get in the car.”
“No! Tell me what you were going to say first!” I demanded, sounding more forceful than I meant to, but Jack only laughed. Then he went back to staring straight ahead, and his expression went somber.
“I don’t want you to think that I’m completely egotistical, cause I’m not. I’m just realistic.”
“You’re talking about the way all the girls look at you?”
“Yeah,” Jack said sheepishly. “Everyone kind of… reacts to me a certain way. And you don’t. It’s refreshing. So that’s what I’m doing here. With you.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” I waved my hands at him, feeling a wave of disappointment. “What about the way other people react to you? Why do they do that?”
“I don’t know.” Jack shifted slightly, and I knew he was lying. He knew exactly what was going on, but he wasn’t going to tell me.
“That’s not fair!”
“See?” Jack smiled. “This is refreshing. Do you know how many other people argue with me, about anything?”
“If you think this is refreshing, just wait.” I tried to glower at him, but his smile was just too damn infectious.
“Come on,” Jack started walking towards the car again. “You’re gonna freeze to death.”
“Jack!” I protested but hurried after him. “What is it? Is it something in the way you smell that I’m just not getting?” He got a look of total surprise and made a clicking sound with his tongue. “What?”
“Well, yeah, that’s actually pretty much it,” Jack admitted. He unlocked his car and then walked around to the other side, still looking a little stunned. I hopped into the car and he continued, “It’s a pheromone or something like that.”
“So, wait. Is that a medical condition or something?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Jack nodded, as if that answer was sufficient.
“What kind of medical condition?” I pressed, oblivious to the fact that that kind of information was really personal. Something about Jack made me lose any sense of formality.
“A rare one,” Jack replied flippantly and started the car.
“Well, why don’t I react to it?”
I started to wonder if maybe there was something very wrong with me. Everyone reacted to him, except for me. Maybe I had a seriously botched sense of smell or a brain tumor or something equally horrible.
“That is a very good question.” Jack pulled out of the parking lot, slipping easily into an opening in the traffic.
“You don’t actually know why, do you?” I asked. “You don’t know why I’m different then everyone else.”
“I do not,” Jack admitted, then looked over at me. “But look, Alice, I don’t want you to get hung up on this thing. It’s too hard to explain and… for our purposes, it doesn’t even matter at all.”
“What purposes?” I narrowed my eyes at him.
“In order for this friendship to work, you’re just going to have to accept that there are certain things that I’m not gonna tell you,” Jack said firmly. “I’m not trying to be a dick about this but that’s just the way it is.”
“And what if I can’t accept that?”
“Then we can’t hang out anymore.” He tried to sound matter-of-fact about it, but I could hear the sadness in his voice.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” I said, but I was already relenting. “Why can’t you just tell me things?”
“I can’t tell you why I can’t tell!” He said it like it meant something, like I would go, oh yeah, I get it now.
“This is gonna frustrate me to no end.” I was sulking, but that only made him smile.
“I know.” He was still smiling, but he sounded regretful. “I’ll drop you off and then you can take some time to think about things and decide if hanging out with me seems worth it. And then, if you still wanna hang out, you can text me. Okay?”
“Okay.” I tried to sound as dejected and pouty as possible, hoping that would change his mind somehow and he would divulge all his classified information to me.
He only laughed again, and I got out of his car and went into my apartment.
After a brief interrogation from Milo, I laid awake in my bed for hours, running a million different theories about Jack. Weird government experiment? CIA? Werewolf? Nothing really seemed to fit.
My most promising one was that he was a celebrity of some kind pulling some ridiculous Hannah Montana lifestyle. That would explain why everyone noticed him. And if he was going for some kind of secret hidden identity, then he couldn’t tell me.
That still didn’t explain why everyone else would recognize him but me, or why he’d want to live incognito. But at least it was a theory.
Since I had been up until the wee hours of the morning trying to figure Jack out, and I didn’t have school, I fully intended to spend the entire day sleeping, curled up in the soft comfort of my down blankets.
Unfortunately, my Jane embargo fell through. Or rather, burst through my bedroom door, destroying any chance of sleep.
“What the hell is going on?” Jane hissed after she’d thrown open my bedroom door so hard that the knob left a mark in the plaster.
I jumped up, tangled up in a mass of blankets and sleep induced confusion. I could barely focus my eyes on the blurry vision of Jane, standing in my doorway, with her hands on her hips glaring down at me.
Milo cowered behind her, muttering things about how she needed to keep it down or Mom would completely freak out. Whenever Jane was around, he acted like a puppy about to pee on the floor, and it drove me nuts.
“What are you talking about?” I asked groggily. I flopped back down in bed, trying to remember the dream Jane had ripped me from.