My blood approves, p.4
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       My Blood Approves, p.4

         Part #1 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
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“Okay. That’s just weird,” I whispered.

  In response, he just shrugged, apparently deciding against explaining his abrupt temperature change.

  We watched the rest of the movie in silence (or at least I did – he continued shouting lines and singing). By the time it ended, I had started yawning, and I knew that I’d have to call it a night pretty soon.

  Not that I wanted to. Bizarre handholding and classified information aside, I really enjoyed spending time with Jack and I didn’t want it to stop. Not ever.

  “I hope you had fun tonight,” Jack said when he pulled up in front of my place.

  “I did,” I nodded. Only he could make frustration so much fun. “So… we’ll hang out again?”

  “Of course,” he smiled, holding his hand towards me. “Let me see your phone. ”

  “Why?” I asked, but I was already pulling it out of my pocket and handing it to him.

  “One second. ” Taking my phone, he started scrolling through it and doing things that I couldn’t see from my angle. A minute later, he handed my phone back to me, looking rather mischievous.

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  “What’d you do?” I flipped it open and started looking through it, trying to see what he could’ve done.

  “You’ll see,” he smiled.

  “Oh, you are trouble. ” Shaking my head, I shoved my phone back in my pocket, and he laughed.

  “You have no idea. ”

  When I got out of the car, he was still laughing. Being with him was strangely exhilarating, but it also ended up a little tiring. Even when he wasn’t moving, he had so much energy about him, and it seemed to take so much energy just being around him.

  I’d barely made it inside the apartment when I saw Milo looking sheepishly at me, and I knew there was trouble afoot. He leaned against the kitchen counter, all decked out in pajamas since it was past his bedtime.

  I was about to ask what was going on when I heard the rather shrill voice of my mother, and looked over to see her sitting in the tattered easy chair in the living room.

  “Glad to see you finally made it home,” Mom said.

  Her graying hair was a frayed mess spreading out from her bun. Her eyes were unusually large, a feature that both Milo and I had inherited, making us appear much younger than we were. She lit another cigarette as she cast a cold glance at me.

  “Why aren’t you at work?” I asked.

  “They had a bomb threat to the building so they shut it down for the night,” Mom said. “They’re diverting all the calls to Edina’s station. ”

  “Oh. ” I stood awkwardly in between the kitchen and the living room, waiting for someone to tell me what was going on.

  “What were you doing out so late?” Her voice lilted at the end, taunting me.

  “I don’t have school, and I don’t have a curfew,” I answered cautiously.

  In theory, I might’ve had a curfew, but we’d never even talked about it and she always worked nights. On weeknights, I tried to be in by midnight, mostly because Milo would freak out on me.

  The only thing Mom really kept track of was whether or not we went to school and passed all our classes. As long as I did that, everything else seemed fine with her.

  “So, you weren’t out with a guy?” Mom asked pointedly, and I saw Milo looking ashamed out of the corner of my eye.

  “Well, yeah, I was. ” I drew my shoulders back a bit, telling myself that I hadn’t done anything, no matter what my mother’s angry glare said. “Is that a problem?”

  “Who is he?” She flicked an ash off the arm of the chair, looking down instead of at me.

  “His name is Jack. ” I shifted uneasily, and stole a glance at Milo.

  I felt very sorry for him. I had no idea how long hed been forced to stand here with my mother, and I couldn’t imagine the kind of interrogation she had put him through.

  Let me be clear: she wasn’t a bad mother. She was just a tired, lonely woman that worked seventy hours a week and hardly ever saw her kids. She barely had time to try to convince us not to make the same mistakes she did.

  “I see. ” Abruptly, my mother put her cigarette out and exhaled deeply. When she spoke again, her voice was sweet, much too sweet, and my skin wanted to crawl. “I think I should meet this boy. ”

  “How? When? You work all the time. ”

  “Well, he seems to be a night owl, much like yourself. ” She looked up at me, batting her eyes exaggeratedly. “I’m sure that you could find a time within the next two days. ”

  A million different arguments ran through my head, but I didn’t want to set her off further. I just nodded instead.

  “Okay. I’ll figure it out. ”

  “You better. ” She sounded a little surprised that I had complied so easily, and I wondered if I spent a lot of my time arguing with her just for the sake of arguing. I was probably a very bad daughter. Maybe even a very bad person. “And if I decide that I don’t want you to see this boy anymore, then that’s it. Do you understand?”

  “Completely,” I nodded again. Of course I would see him anyway, but that wasn’t something I would tell her.

  “Good. ” Mom got up, grabbing her purse off the table. “I’m going to go the casino now. I’ll see you sometime tomorrow. ”

  She was apparently satisfied with the conversation, and she hadn’t even really screamed at me. It was actually a pretty good talk, as far as our talks go.

  Mom brushed past me on her way to the door, smelling thickly of cigarettes and cheap brandy, but she paused at the door, turning slightly towards me. “I am glad that you’re home safe. ”

  “Thanks,” I said, unsure of how else to respond. Then she nodded once and walked out the door.

  Milo apologized as soon as she left, but I assured him he had nothing to apologize for. He always looked out for my best interest, and I knew that. Besides, I was too tired to worry about anything else.

  I decided to get it over with and text Jack to ask if he could meet my mother. When he messaged me back a few seconds later, I realized what exactly he’d done with my phone. He had bought the song “Time Warp” and put it as his ringtone, so when I got a text message or call from him, that’s the song I would hear.

  Thankfully, he agreed to come over for supper the next night at 8 pm sharp, and I tried not to think about how terrifying that prospect was.

  First thing when I got up, I briefed Milo on Jack’s arrival, but Mom was still asleep. For some reason, Milo had been gifted with everything domestic, meaning he was the cook in the family. I let him make supper, but scurried about trying to help him and straighten up the apartment.

  We actually had a nice apartment; it was just very small. It was important to me that we impressed Jack with where we lived, and I didn’t know why.

  I didn’t know why I felt anything I did about him, but I pushed that out of my mind. That wasn’t tonight’s problem.

  Then the unthinkable happened. Jack arrived early.

  - 5 -

  “Jack,” I said breathlessly when I opened the door. He had found my place without me telling him the apartment number, but I couldn’t mention that in front of Milo.

  “Hi,” Jack beamed at me. He wore a simple tee shirt with Dickies, but it was the first time I’d seen him in pants. I suspected that this was his attempt at dressing up, and it made me smile.

  “You’re early,” I told him. I held the door open, but I hadn’t let him inside yet, so he stood in the hallway, giving me an odd look. Milo had been behind me in the kitchen, noisily preparing something, but he hadn’t made a sound since we’d heard the knock at the door.

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  “Is that a bad thing?” Jack asked.

  “No, not really,” I admitted, and finally took a step back so he could come inside. He smiled at my brother and his eyes quickly scanned the apartment. “My mom’s just not awake yet. ”

  “Oh. ” He glanced at the clock
on the wall, noting that it was after seven. “When does she get up?”

  “I’ll go get her now,” Milo offered, wiping his hands on his jeans and stepping away from a pan.

  “Oh, sorry,” I fumbled, realizing that I hadn’t introduced them. “Jack, this is my brother Milo. Milo, this is Jack. ”

  “Nice to meet you. ” Milo did a little half wave/half nod combo, and then darted off to get my mom.

  “I think I make him nervous,” Jack told me quietly.

  “Everyone makes him nervous. ”

  We stood rather awkwardly in the kitchen, although I did feel slightly better now that he was around. He had a kind of calming effect on me, but I didn’t know if that was good or bad.

  My mother squawked things rather loudly at Milo, so I decided to make conversation to drown at the sound of her.

  “So, are you hungry?” I gestured to the pans of some kind of Italian creation Milo had been making on the stove. “Milo’s making something delicious. He’s a really good cook. ”

  “Actually, I just ate. ” Jack smiled sheepishly and put his hand on his stomach. “Sorry. I figured that since we were meeting so late, you’d probably already have eaten. And Mae insisted on feeding me. ”

  “Oh, that’s okay. ” But I felt more nervous.

  I wasn’t that hungry and I could really care less if he ate or not. Without the distraction of eating, a conversation with my mother would be much less pleasant.

  Then a tantalizing idea occurred to me. Maybe we could just turn this into more of a meet-and-greet kind of thing, where Jack could say hello to my mother and then just sweep me away.

  “So… do you wanna go someplace or something?” I asked.

  “I thought I was meeting your mother. ” Jack looked confused and pointed to my mother’s closed bedroom door, where Milo was trying to convince her to put on some pants to see Jack.

  “I mean, after that,” I clarified. “Since you’re not eating. It would be silly to sit around here and watch them eat. ”

  “Aren’t you hungry?”

  “I’ll live. ” There were like ten million places to eat in the Cities, and this was the only one that included strained dinner conversation with my mother. I’m sure that I could find somewhere if I really had to.

  “Alright,” he shrugged and leaned back against the kitchen counter. “What did you have in mind?”

  “Pretty much anything, as long as it’s not here. ”

  “I’m up!” Mom shouted, and a few seconds later, Milo rushed out of her room, looking rather frazzled.

  “She’ll be right out,” Milo said.

  He went back over to the stove and stirred something simmering in a pan, looking relieved to be back cooking instead of with Mom.

  “Do you need help with anything?” I offered.

  Freshly washed vegetables sat in the sink, and he had two pans on the stove boiling with food, not to mention the oven was preheating for something.

  I felt guilty about him making this massive feast on my behalf, and I wasn’t even going to eat it. Well, later on tonight, I’d dig into the cold leftovers and watch cartoons, but that wasn’t the same as sitting down to it.

  “You can slice some of the vegetables if you want,” Milo glanced back at me.

  “What are they for?” I pulled out the cutting board and a knife, setting them on the counter next to where Jack leaned. Grabbing a tomato and green pepper from the sink, I repeated the question to Milo, who’d become distracted by seasoning a red sauce bubbling in a frying pan. “What am I cutting the vegetables for?”

  “The salad. ” He tasted the sauce, which must’ve satisfied him, because he flipped off the stove, and pulled out a cake pan.

  I think he was making some kind of special lasagna with all types of homemade everything, but I couldn’t be sure because when he explained things to me, he always used culinary terms that I didn’t understand.

  “Everything smells fantastic,” Jack complimented him.

  Milo had his back to us, but I could see his cheeks reddening a little as he laid out noodles in the pan. Maybe Milo wasn’t completely immune to Jack’s allure either.

  “I have bad news though. ” I lowered my voice, afraid my mother might hear me. She had yet to emerge from her bedroom, but I decided that was a good thing. Carefully slicing a green pepper, I saw Milo’s shoulders tense up and he looked hesitatingly at me. “We’re not actually gonna eat here. ” His face fell, but he quickly looked away, trying to hide it.

  “It’s my fault really,” Jack said. As he talked, his voice worked its magic on Milo, and he relaxed a little. “I didn’t realize I was supposed to eat here, so I went ahead and ate at home. And then I made plans for us in a little bit. I’m really sorry, though. I can tell I’m missing a fantastic meal. ”

  “Its fine,” Milo said, and he sounded almost like he meant it.

  He put the pan in the oven, and he’d already set the table, so he went over to clear the extra two places for Jack and me.

  “Milo-” I turned to apologize to him further.

  He had this way of looking like a little boy when he was sad, and it just broke my heart. Unfortunately, I decided keep cutting the green pepper as I turned, and that wasn’t the smartest move ever. The knife sliced sharply into the index finger of my left hand, and I yelped painfully.

  “What?” Milo instantly stopped what he was doing and rushed over to me. He’d spent enough time with me in the kitchen to know that I usually ended up with cuts or burns. “What’d you cut?”

  “I just got my finger,” I winced, squeezing my fingers around it to stop the bleeding. Milo, being the smart one, grabbed a washcloth to put on it.

  “Maybe you should run that under water,” Jack interjected, his voice sounding oddly stiff.

  Milo turned on the water, yanking my hand under it, but I looked over at Jack. He had taken a few steps away from me, and he’d gone pale. I guess the sight of blood didn’t agree with him.

  Milo examined my finger under the water, but I kept my eyes fixed on Jack. He had looked away from me and taken another step back. The sight of the blood, even the small amount that it was, had really affected him, so I hurried to clean it up.

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  “It’s not that bad,” Milo said. “I’ll get you a Band-Aid. ”

  He darted off to the bathroom to retrieve a Boba Fett Band-Aid from the medicine cabinet. I left my finger running under the water, even though I think it had stopped bleeding.

  With my other hand, I used the washcloth to wipe off the cutting bored, pushing bloodied slices of green pepper into the sink and down the drain.

  “What’s going on?” Mom always had the best timing and chose just then to come out of the bedroom. Her hair was its usually frizzy mess, but she’d put on worn out jeans and an over sized sweatshirt.

  “I just cut my finger. ” I held up my injured appendage.

  Milo came out of the bathroom and jogged over to me. As if I were a complete invalid, he started drying my finger with a paper towel before putting on the Band-Aid.

  “Milo, you know better than to let her help you in the kitchen,” Mom said.

  She went over to the coffee table to grab an ashtray, and then lit a cigarette as she walked back into the kitchen. Her eyes scanned over Jack, but she didn’t say anything to him. Instead, she just set the ashtray on the kitchen table and sat down.

  “Sorry,” Jack mumbled once my finger was sufficiently bandaged. Whatever had gotten into him seemed to be dissipating and the color in his cheeks returned.

  “I’m the one that cut my finger. There’s no reason for you to be sorry. ” I looked over at him, and he smiled at me, but it wasn’t his usual cheerful grin.

  “We don’t really need a salad anyway,” Milo decided.

  He pushed past me, collecting the vegetables that Id cut and tossing them in the garbage. They all hadn’t been tainted with my bloo
d, but enough of them had where it didn’t seem worth it.

  “So…” Mom blew out a smoke ring and gazed intently at Jack. Her features still had that same worn look they always did, but there was something extra in her voice. “You must be Jack. ”

  When she accented his name, that’s when I realized what it was. She wasn’t as overt as Jane had been, but the look in her eyes and the tone to her voice… it was definitely seductive. My stomach twisted nauseously.

  “And you must be Alice’s mom,” Jack grinned at her, authentically this time. He leaned back against the counter and crossed one foot over his ankle, bouncing the toe of his blue Converse on the tile.

  “Anna. ” This time, my mother actually did a “casual” lick of her lips when she looked at him.

  I rolled my eyes, and then looked to Milo to see if he noticed her being so ridiculous, but he was no help. He just stood in the middle of the kitchen with his arms crossed over his chest, staring at Jack.

  “Anna. ” Jack repeated, and my mother looked down, flicking her cigarette in the ashtray.

  “So tell me about yourself. ” Her eyes went back up to him, and they had never looked so young before.

  My mother was only thirty-four, but she usually looked much older than that. But when she looked at Jack, this girliness underneath came through. I could see how beautiful and radiant she must’ve been when she was young, before she had me.

  “What do you want to know?” Jack tilted his head at her.

  “Everything,” she asked, coy.

  “Well, that’s an awful lot to tell. Where would you like me to start?”

  “What do you with yourself?” Her eyes had gone sultry, and I had to fight the urge to vomit or take Jack’s hand or something.

  Milo pulled up a chair next to Mom, but he didn’t look even slightly disturbed by her behavior. He had become too enamored by Jack and just listened for his answer.

  “Not a lot really,” Jack admitted.

  “You don’t work?” Mom pressed.

  “Nope. ” He shrugged, and this time I felt irritated that he didn’t have to work and didn’t think anything of it. Mom should’ve felt the same way, but she didn’t. “I mean, I’ve done a lot of odd jobs over the years. Like I tried some bartending for awhile and once I was tour guide for Niagara caves out in Harmony, but that was too far away so I quit. I don’t know. Nothing’s just really stuck, I guess. ”

  “How do you support yourself?” It was a logical question, so it kinda surprised me that Mom had even bothered asking it.

  “Well…” Jack laughed a little, and both her and Milo closed their eyes, as if the sound was just too pleasurable for them to handle. “I guess I don’t really. I live with my family, and… they kind of take care of me. I guess. ”

  “But you’re twenty-four,” I interjected.

  Really, if his family was loaded and wanted to take care of him, then I’d say, more power to you. But if Mom wasn’t going to ask the tough questions, then I was.

  “I know. ” Jack didn’t look ashamed at all, though, like I probably would if somebody called me out on being in my mid-twenties, unemployed, and living at home. “It just makes sense for us. I don’t know a better way of explaining it. ”

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