“You all don’t need to hide from me. I’m not going to bite.” She picked up a few other stray articles of clothing off the floor and began folding them neatly. “I had no idea Ezra would be such a slob after I moved out. And I noticed that none of you have been doing the dishes.”
“Bobby’s the only one that eats. The dishes are his responsibility,” I said, referring to the pile of dishes growing in the kitchen sink.
“He’s a guest, and all you’re capable of picking up a mess, no matter who made it.” She’d folded his clothes and moved on to picking up the books and newspapers Ezra had strewn about the room. “You’re all adults here, and you should act like it.”
“Milo’s not an adult yet,” I corrected her and leaned back against the wall.
“How is your brother?” Mae stacked the books neatly, making sure all the edges matched up, and she paused for a moment. “He didn’t talk to me much in Australia or when I got here. I felt like he didn’t want me to be here, like he might be mad at me.”
“He’s good,” I said. “But… let’s be honest, Mae, we’re all kinda mad at you.”
“Hmm.” She stopped straightening the books and touched at a strand of her hair before flitting about the room to pick something else up. “I didn’t expect any of you to understand, but I hoped that you’d support me.”
“We all understand where you’re coming from. I get it completely.” I stepped away from the wall, moving towards her, but she had her back to me as she folded a blanket on the chair.
“No, you don’t. None of you. You just think you do.”
“Fine. Whatever. I don’t. Nobody understands your pain, Mae. Because it is so unique! Nobody’s ever loved something so much they would do anything to save it, except for you, Mae. You cornered that market!”
“Don’t condescend me!” Mae whirled on me, looking at me for the first time. “I didn’t do anything to deserve your contempt! I’ve made a choice that doesn’t even affect you!”
“How does it not affect me? You and ‘your choice’ are hiding out in my house, putting my family and friends in danger!”
“We’ll be out of here first thing-”
“That’s part of the problem too, Mae!” I cut her off. “We didn’t want you out of our lives, but you left us with no other choice. You know she can’t live here, not with us. So that means we can’t live with you either.”
“You know I didn’t want to leave you.” She tilted her head, tears filling her eyes. “I love you all so much, and I did want to spend the rest of my life with you. But I have let my family down too much. I had to save her.”
“But at what cost, Mae?”
“I know.” She wiped at her eyes and looked away from me, smoothing out nonexistent wrinkles on the bedspread. “I know what I’ve done. I know what she is.” She swallowed hard and looked at me, meeting my eyes. “I won’t leave her. I can’t.”
“Nobody’s asking you to,” I said finally.
“Thank you.” She nodded and picked up Ezra’s clothes to put them in the hamper. “How has Ezra been?”
“He’s been doing better.” I sat down on the bed, relieved to be talking about something lighter. “He’s helping me with school now.”
“Oh? I didn’t realize you were going to school.” Mae sounded surprised but happy.
“I’m not. At least not yet, but Ezra doesn’t want me getting stupid. Or stupider, anyway.” I shrugged. “I think I might go to high school next year. It’s gotta be easier than what Ezra’s having me do.”
“Well, good. I’m glad to see you applying yourself.” She smiled at me and sat down on the bed next to me. “I do worry about you, love. You and Milo and Jack. I care about you all a great deal.”
“I know. Nobody’s ever doubted that,” I said.
“I’m happy to hear it.” She reached forward, brushing a strand of hair back from my forehead.
“Can I ask you something?”
“You can ask me anything.” Mae dropped her hands to her lap and sat up straighter.
“Before you turned Daisy, you had a big argument with Ezra.” I looked down at my jeans and picked absently at them. “You said something.” I squirmed, thinking of how I wanted to phrase it. “You implied that… I don’t know. That Ezra might… treat me special, or something.”
“Oh, that.” She sighed and looked straight ahead. “Ezra does treat you special, both you and Milo actually. But so do I. So does everybody. Peter should’ve killed you, and I’m glad that he didn’t, but… other vampires would’ve. Or maybe they wouldn’t. I don’t know with you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“There’s something… different about you.” Mae furrowed her brow. “I’ve never known what it was, but I’ve always felt it. The boys had a harder time recognizing it because they already had a connection with you. Your blood bond makes it’s harder for them to see that it’s different, even though it should be obvious.”
“I don’t understand,” I shook my head.
“Vampires in general seem drawn to you.” She looked over at me. “And you’re stronger. You adapted faster to being a vampire than anyone should.”
“Milo adapted faster than I did,” I said.
“Which only proves my point. There’s something very different about you both.” Mae eyed me, almost as if she was looking at me for the first time.
“I didn’t adapt that fast,” I shook my head. “And I had to fight to keep my bloodlust in check.”
“Not as much as us. Ezra’s told you the stories of when he first turned, of how other vampires had to be chained to keep from killing each other?” Mae asked, and I nodded. “We’re all like that in the beginning. You know how Daisy… gets out of hand?”
“Yeah?” I nodded, surprised she was bringing it up.
“The only difference between Daisy and any other new vampire is that she gets hungry more often. That’s what a new vampire is supposed to be like,” Mae said. “And that’s not what you were like or Milo. But Jack…” She shook her head. “Ezra had to hold him down once to keep him from killing the mailman.”