“Mom, wait.” Milo let go of my hand and rushed over to her.
Before she could respond, he threw his arms around her and hugged her. I was afraid he might accidentally hurt her, but she didn’t seem to be in pain when she hugged him back. Fresh tears streamed down his cheek.
“I love you.”
“I know you do, sweetie. I love you too.” Mom rubbed his back for minute, then pulled away from him.
“I’ll come visit you before I leave,” Milo promised, sniffling. She put her hands on his cheeks, smiling at him.
“You don’t need to do that. You just get back to school,” Mom said, her words thick with tears. “You need to get a good education so you can have a life of your own. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you.” She dropped her hands from his face, that sad smile hanging on her face. “Take care of your sister, okay?”
“Okay,” Milo nodded.
She pulled her black flowy dress around her and walked away from us. Milo wiped at his cheeks with the palms of his hands, clearing away all his tears, and I walked over to him.
I chewed my lip and stared after our mother as she walked out of the church. I should’ve hugged her, but when she was standing there, I just didn’t feel it in me. I could hardly speak, let alone move.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah. Are you?” He was still trying not to cry. “Sorry. I’m being such a baby.”
“No, you’re being Milo,” I forced a smile at him.
The church was completely deserted now. Jack had been hiding in the back, giving us a private moment. Once Mom was gone, he walked over to us.
“That was your mom, wasn’t it?” Jack asked.
“It sure was.” I took a deep breath to keep from crying again.
“Are you holding up alright?” Jack shoved his hands in the pockets of his suit.
“I’m as good as I can be,” I said.
“That was kind of intense, wasn’t it?” Milo asked me. “I really didn’t think I’d ever see her again.”
“Are you glad you did?” Jack asked.
“Yeah.” Milo chewed his lip. “Yeah, definitely. I needed some closure. I think we both did.”
I’m not sure if he was talking about him and Mom, or him and me, but either way, I didn’t feel like I’d gotten any closure. I just felt even more shaken up than I had before.
Milo was in a much better mood on the car ride home, almost to the point of being giddy. All the crying had some kind of cleansing effect on him. I wish it did the same for me.
When we got home, Bobby sat cross-legged on the kitchen island, dipping celery into peanut butter.
“How was it?” Bobby asked.
“Good, in a really weird way,” Milo told him.
“Where’s my dog?” Jack noticed her absence instantly. He loosened his tie and looked around for Matilda. Every time he walked into the house, she was a giant white ball of fur that attacked him.
“She’s outside with Leif,” Bobby said.
“Leif’s over again?” Jack muttered as he walked to the French doors that lead out to the backyard.
Leif had been a part of the bloodthirsty vampire pack that had come here to kill Peter, and the rest of us in the process. But Leif had disbanded, and he’d almost died helping us.
Since then, he’d become a vagabond. I’m not really sure where he lived or what he ate (although he assured me he didn’t kill anyone), but every now and then, he would stop by to shower and crash here.
I could never get a real read on how Jack felt about Leif. Jack didn’t seem to trust him, but I think that was only because he couldn’t figure out what Leif’s deal was with me.
If I were him, I wouldn’t get it either. Leif and I had some kinda connection that I couldn’t explain. As soon as I had met him, I had felt it. But it wasn’t sexual or inappropriate. It was just a bond.
Jack went outside in his suit, and by the time I followed him, he was already rolling around in the snow in it. Matilda barked happily at him, her thick fur packed with dirty snow. As soon he’d come out, she’d lost all interest in Leif, I’m sure. She might be the only thing on earth that loved Jack more than I did.
“You’re dressed up,” Leif said, looking me over. He stood off to the side of the house, barefoot on the stone patio.
His brown hair was damp from melting snow, so he slicked it back a bit, as opposed to its normal wild look. His eyes were large and deep brown, reminding me of Milo’s, and I think that’s why I’d always liked him. I couldn’t help but trust anybody that looked like my brother.
“Um, yeah, we were at a funeral.” I rubbed at my bare arms, not because I was cold, but because talking about it made me uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry,” Leif said sincerely. “I hope everything is alright with you.”
“I don’t know if it is,” I shrugged. “But it will be.” He smiled at me, and Jack stopped playing with Matilda so he could stare at us.
“Would you mind if I used your shower?” Leif asked Jack, and he nodded. Ezra had already okayed it for Leif to shower here as often as he wished, but Leif always asked Jack anyway.
“You should wash your clothes too,” I said as Leif walked towards the house. His jeans and sweater were little more than rags at this point. “Or borrow some of Ezra’s. Yeah, do that. Just throw those and take Ezra’s.”
“Thank you,” Leif smiled again.
As soon as he walked into the house, Jack brushed the snow off his clothes and walked over to me. Matilda ran circles around him, not realizing that he had finished playing with her.
“You didn’t really wanna play with Matilda did you?” I asked, looking up at Jack.
“What do you mean?” Jack tried to pretend like he didn’t understand what I was getting at.
“You just wanted to come out here and take Matilda away from Leif. You’re always marking your territory around him.” I raised an eyebrow at him. “I should probably be happy that you don’t pee on me.” Jack laughed, and it sent warm shivers through me. He had the greatest laugh of all time, and it still got to me.
“Maybe.” Jack’s smile faded a bit, remembering that I was sad. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have worried about that as soon as we got back. I’m kind of a jackass.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m fine, mostly.” I forced a smile to prove it. “Will you spend the day with me anyway?”