“I’m not treating her like a monster. I just don’t like it when she attacks me or my friends,” I said. “You cared more about her safety than you did Bobby’s.”
“She wasn’t attacking Bobby!” He rolled his eyes. “She was running around and playing with me and Matilda, and then she heard you guys coming and got excited. She likes Bobby, okay? She’s thinks he’s fun or something.”
“Where is your dog?” I asked.
“She’s outside now,” Jack gestured vaguely to the French doors.
“Did Peter tell you that she kills animals?” I asked him. “She killed a wombat and tried to drink its blood.”
“You can’t drink animal blood.” Jack shook his head and brushed it off.
“No, you can’t, but she still tried.” I rested my arms on the island and leaned in towards him. “I know she’s not evil, but she’s really, really dangerous, Jack.”
“You sound like Ezra.” He sighed and stepped away from me.
“Ezra knows things! He’s not a bad person to sound like.” I stood up straighter as Jack paced the kitchen. “How did you become such a big fan of hers so quickly?”
“She was just playing with dolls, being a little kid.” He shrugged and scratched the back of his head. “And she just seems so small and helpless. I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I’m not really bonded with her either. She was just scared, and I didn’t want to see her scared.”
“Don’t get attached to her, Jack. She can’t stay here.”
“I know.” He walked over to me, his blue eyes looking sad and far away. Brushing a hair back from my face, he just stared down at me for a minute. “Are we okay?”
“Yeah, we’re okay,” I smiled up at him.
“Good.” He wrapped his arms around me, and I leaned into him, resting my head against his chest. “You’re getting pretty bad ass.”
“What do you mean?”
“The way you pulled Daisy off Bobby. You’re getting tough,” he grinned. “You don’t need me to protect you anymore.”
“Maybe not. But I’ll always need you.” I smiled and pressed him tighter to me. “In other ways.”
Ezra had been talking with Mae in their old room, but he came out by himself. He walked into the kitchen and stopped, but he didn’t look at either me or Jack. He breathed heavily and his fists clenched and unclenched at his sides.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, pulling away from Jack.
“They need a place to stay,” Ezra said, without looking up. “But they can’t stay here. We don’t have the room or the…” He shook his head.
“Where are they going to stay?” Jack asked.
“I don’t know. I have to…” Ezra swallowed hard. “I have to go. Keep things safe here.”
“Okay?” I said, but Ezra didn’t say anymore. He walked out into the garage, leaving to do something that would hopefully help us sort this whole thing out. I looked back up at Jack. “Have you talked to Mae?”
“Not really,” he shook his head. “She’s mostly been talking to Ezra since she got here. And…” He shrugged. “I don’t have much to say to her.”
“You can’t still be mad at her.” I stepped away from Jack, and he shrugged and walked towards the French doors, where Matilda had started barking.
“I’m not.” Jack opened the door. Matilda ran inside, shaking the snow off her fur. Jack stayed by the open door, letting the frigid air into the house. He leaned back against the doorframe and turned the handle back and forth.
“But you’re not talking to her?” I asked.
“No, I’m not like avoiding her. I just…” He stared outside and shrugged. “I’m not mad about what happened. Like that she almost killed me. I’m over that. It’s just the lying and sneaking around… But I’m not even mad about that.” He sighed, as if that’s not what he wanted to say at all. “She’s just not who I thought she was.”
“Jack, come on. She’s the same person she always was. She never wants to see anybody hurt.” I walked closer to him, petting Matilda when she ran up to me.
“Yeah, I know, and neither do I. But that doesn’t mean I can lie and do whatever I want.” He looked at me, his eyes grave. “I always thought she’d put everyone before herself, but she’s been so selfish about major things. Not just lying to me, but what she’s done to Daisy, and Ezra.” He shook his head. “What’s she done to Daisy is unforgivable.”
“You really think that?” I asked quietly.
“Yeah. But luckily for Mae, I’m not the one that has to forgive her this time,” Jack said. Matilda went over and jumped up on him, and he scratched her head. “As soon as Daisy’s old enough to realize what Mae did to her…” He whistled and shook his head.
“Where is Mae?” I asked.
“I think she’s still in Ezra’s room. Why? Are you gonna go talk to her?”
“Yeah, I wanna see where her head is at with all of this and what she thinks they’re going to do, since nobody else has any idea.”
“Alright.” He nodded once, but I couldn’t get a read on how he felt. Lately, his emotions seemed murky, like he was trying to bury them too deep for me to feel. “I’ll be outside with Matilda.” He stepped outside, and the dog followed at his heels, even though she’d just come in.
I walked down to Ezra’s room, feeling like I was creeping up on a stranger. I’d just seen Mae a few weeks ago, but my visit with her hadn’t been that amicable. It had been months since she actually lived here, and it sounded strange hearing her voice as she sang softly to herself.
The bedroom door was slightly ajar, but I pushed it open a little farther, peering inside. Mae had made the bed and moved onto fluffing the pillows and tidying up. Ezra wasn’t a messy person, but he’d let things fall to the wayside since she’d been gone. Whenever she cleaned, she always had a song on her lips, and she settled for something low and bluesy by Etta James.
“I see you lurking outside the doorway, you know,” Mae said without looking at me. She folded a pair of Ezra’s pants that had been crumpled on a chair and set them on the bed.
“Sorry,” I mumbled and pushed the door the rest of the way open.