“Hey,” I said stiffly. I wasn’t the best at interacting with children, especially sometimes monstrous ones. “Where is Mae?”
“Hanging up laundry on the clothes line. She said I could stay inside if I promised not to go anywhere,” Daisy informed me.
Mae had left her completely unsupervised a few hours after she’d nearly killed us. Awesome.
“That Mae sure does love doing laundry,” I muttered.
“Do you wanna color with me?” Daisy looked hopefully at me with her honey-colored eyes. She really was a miniature version of Mae.
“Um, no, that’s alright.” I didn’t want to get invested in an activity with her, but I stepped closer to the table to see what she worked on. She had a My Little Pony color book splayed out next to her, but she drew something on a blank page that I couldn’t decipher. “What’s that you’re doing?”
“I’m making a card for Bobby cause I hurt him.” Daisy held up the paper so I could look at it.
From what I could tell, it appeared to be a poorly drawn pink unicorn with a rainbow behind it. The words “sorry Bobby” were spelled correctly but with letters turned around.
“That’s a really nice card.” I forced a smile at her. “I’m sure he’ll like it.”
“I hope so. I didn’t want to hurt him.” Daisy sounded sad and stared off for a second, then went back to coloring. “I need glitter. Peter says he’s going to get me some the next time he goes to town.”
“That’s pretty nice of him.” I rubbed my arms and noticed the heat didn’t seem to be bothering her that much. But when I was a little kid, the heat never seemed to get to me either.
The screen door slammed shut behind me, and Mae came into the kitchen. She smiled tightly at me, so I figured she hadn’t forgiven me yet. Which made sense because I’d done nothing that I needed to be forgiven for. I subdued Daisy the only way I knew how in order to save Bobby’s life, and she hadn’t really been hurt. She couldn’t really be hurt.
“Daisy said you were hanging up laundry,” I said.
“I like the way the fresh air makes the clothes smell,” Mae replied, her British accent sounding colder than normal. She wore her loose curls in a bun, and sweat dampened her sundress. She brushed past me and went over to Daisy, admiring her pictures and giving her a kiss on the top of her head. “That’s a beautiful card, love.”
“Thanks,” Daisy smiled up at her. “Alice says that Bobby will really like it.”
“I’m sure he will.” Mae glanced up at me, and some of her anger dissolved. She sat down in a chair next to Daisy and colored a picture of her own. “Daisy ate and took a nap, and she’s been coloring just fine all evening. She’s just fine when she eats.”
“I’m sure she is.” I couldn’t really argue with Mae. What could I say while Daisy was right there coloring? So I changed the subject. “Have you heard anything about the air conditioning?”
“Not yet,” Mae shook her head. “But it’s cooled off since the sun went down. Outside, it’s not that bad at all.” She looked up at me. “Peter’s sitting out there.”
I wasn’t sure if I should join him. Since coming here, I’d tried to spend very little time alone with him. But the heat was still stifling inside the house, and I could really use a break, so I went outside.
The one thing I would say about the outback is that the stars were amazing. Without all the light pollution from the city, they twinkled above me like nothing I had ever seen.
I stepped down off the front porch to get a better look at them. It was much cooler outside than it was in the house, so I let the night enchant me for a moment. I heard a sound to my left and looked back over to see Peter sitting on the end of the porch, his legs dangling over the edge.
“The sky is really brilliant.” I took a few steps over to him.
“It is.” Peter leaned forward to admire the sky. “It’s not something I’ve gotten accustomed to yet. I’ve spent too much time in the city.”
“Is that why you came out here?” I leaned up against the porch next to him, and he kept looking up. His face was impossible to read, the way it always was.
“You know why I came out here,” Peter answered quietly.
I dropped my eyes and kicked at a stone on the ground. He had come here because of me, and I didn’t have anything to say that.
Shortly before he left, Peter had confessed his love for me, but I couldn’t reciprocate. Well, maybe parts of me could, but I refused to. Not when I had Jack, and I loved him. Then everything had happened with Mae and Daisy, and Peter had seen his chance to escape from me. Again.
“So you like it out here then?” I asked. “Away from all the hustle and bustle of the Cities?”
“I don’t know,” Peter sighed. “The weekly flights to Sydney to visit the blood bank are irritating, but the silence and isolation is nice.” He paused, thinking. “I don’t suppose I like it anywhere very much anymore.” I felt his eyes searching me. “I’ve been worse places, though.”
“Was that some kind of dig at me?” I asked sharply.
“Alice, I’m not trying to fight with you.” His eyes glowed green in the darkness, even without any light, and he let out a long breath. “I can’t win with you. I’m either being cruel, or I’m asking too much of you. Whatever I say, it’s never the right thing.”
“You didn’t say anything wrong.” I shook my head. “I was just asking if you were happy.”
“Don’t ask me that,” Peter said gently. “Don’t ask me because you don’t want to know the answer.”
“How are Mae and Daisy doing?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Not well,” he said. “Daisy isn’t getting any of her bloodlust under control, and Mae refuses to admit that that’s a problem.”
“Oh yeah?” I cocked an eyebrow at him. “Daisy has been doing stuff like today?”
“She’s never around humans, or it would be far worse.” He lowered his voice, in case Mae might be inside listening. “Daisy went after a wallaby or a koala a few nights ago.”
“A wallaby and a koala don’t look anything alike,” I pointed out.
“It was something small and furry and gray-ish,” Peter shrugged, not caring what it was. “It was a bloody mess by the time I got of a hold of it.”