I turn, expecting him to want privacy, but instead he says, “Why is there a statue of Jesus Christ on the living room wall?” He opens his suitcase and begins pulling out clothes. “Or better yet, why is he dressed like a Packers fan?”
“This used to be a church.” I take a seat on the sofa and watch as he unpacks.
“Is your father a preacher or something?”
“Quite the opposite, actually.”
“What’s the opposite of a preacher? An atheist mime?”
“My dad doesn’t believe in God. But he got a good deal on the church, so he moved us in a few years ago. Right before he started sleeping with my mother’s nurse.”
He glances over his shoulder. “Your father sounds like an asshole.”
I chuckle. “You’re being way too kind.”
Luck pulls a shirt out of his suitcase and walks it to the closet. “What happened after your mom found out about the affair?”
“He divorced her and married his mistress.”
“I guess the mistress would be my sister?”
I nod. “How do you not know any of this? Has it been that long since you last saw Victoria?”
He walks over to the couch and drops down next to me. He falls back against the arm of the couch and props his arms behind his head. “Why don’t you live with your mom?”
“I do. She moved to the basement.”
I wait for the shock to register on his face, but he just casually raises an eyebrow. “She lives here? In the basement of this house?”
I nod. “Why did you say your sister abandoned you?”
“Where are your parents?”
“Mostly dead,” he says, matter-of-fact. “I should try to get a nap in before she gets here. It’s been a while since I’ve slept.”
He does look tired, but I’ve never seen him before today, so I have no point of reference. I nod and head for the door. “Good night.”
I step out into the hallway and acknowledge what a weird twenty-four hours this has been. Pastor Brian dies, Wolfgang returns, I randomly pick up a hitchhiker in a kilt who turns out to be my step-uncle. This day might call for an addition to my trophy collection by the time it’s over.
As I’m making my way through Quarter Two, I pause at the door to the guest room. I glance left and right even though no one is here but Luck and me. And my mother, of course. I open the door and inspect the room Sagan is staying in. I’ve always been kind of oblivious, but this takes oblivion to a new level. How long has his stuff been here? I just assumed he’d been coming over for breakfast every morning and staying late at night. I’m surprised my father is allowing this, even with how lenient he is sometimes.
I sit down on the guest bed and pull his sketchbook onto my lap. I know I shouldn’t be looking through his things, but I feel justified since I was out of the loop that we added a new member to our household. I flip through the sketchbook, but all the pages are blank. All of them except for one. In the very back of the sketchbook, there’s a drawing of two girls with their arms around each other.
After closer inspection, I realize there’s more to it than that. My hand goes to my mouth when I realize what I’m looking at. It’s a depiction of me and Honor, stabbing each other in the back.
Why would he draw this?
I flip it over, but this one isn’t titled like the one from this morning.
“What are you doing?”
I immediately slide the book off my lap. Sagan is standing in the doorway, which marks the second most embarrassing moment of my life. Funny that they both include him.
I don’t normally snoop. I don’t know how to talk my way out of this. I stand up, painfully aware that I don’t know what to do with my hands when I’m this embarrassed. My arms are stiff at my sides. I clench my fists and then unclench them.
“I didn’t know you moved in,” I mutter.
He steps into the room and his eyes fall to the sketchbook I was just skimming through. His eyes meet mine again. He looks annoyed. “I’ve lived here for two weeks, Merit.”
Until this moment, I never realized just how much time I spend alone in my room. For two weeks he’s been living across the hall from me? And no one thought to tell me?
He stares at me and I stare right back, because I have no idea what else to do.
I hate the way he looks. I hate his hair. I especially hate his mouth. His lips are weird. They don’t have grooves in them like most lips have. They’re smooth and tight and I hate that every time I look at them, I remember what it was like when they were kissing me.
But what I hate the most about him are his eyes. I hate how I feel when I look at them. Not that his eyes are accusatory, but I always get swallowed up in guilt when he’s looking at me. Because no matter how much his individual features annoy me, they complement each other very nicely. I look down at my feet and wish the last five minutes never happened. I shouldn’t have walked in here. I shouldn’t have looked at the sketch he drew. And I shouldn’t have stared so long at him just now. Because I’d give anything for him to look at me the way he looked at me when he thought I was Honor. The fact that I want that embarrasses me more than being caught in his room.
I rush past him, refusing to look at him as I make my way out into the hall. I walk straight to my bedroom door and open it, then slam it shut. I fall onto my bed and I feel the tears as they begin to sting at my eyes. I don’t even know why I’m emotional. It’s so dumb.
What a weird, shitty day.
I pull my phone out of my pocket to text my father. I rarely ask him for anything, but this is an emergency.
Can you stop by the thrift store on your way here and see if they have any trophies?
I wait a few minutes to see if he responds, but he doesn’t. Sadly, I’m not surprised.
I lie down on my bed, pull my blanket over me, and think about the picture Sagan drew of me swallowing a boat this morning. It’s such a strange picture. I hate how much I like it. I hate that no matter how hard I try not to, I like him a little more every day. Part of me wonders if it’s actually him I like, or if I’m just a jealous person. I’ve never been jealous of any of Honor’s boyfriends before him. But then again, they were all dying.
I’m so angry that he’s living here now. I was convinced it would be easy to avoid him, but now he’s living in the room across the hall from me. I’m going to be subjected to their relationship and to him kissing her and loving her.
I know my father doesn’t believe in God, but luckily, atheism isn’t hereditary. I hardly ever pray, but I feel like now is as good of a time as any. I roll onto my back and look up at the ceiling. I clear my throat. “God?”
Not gonna lie. It feels weird talking to the ceiling. Maybe I should kneel like they do in the movies.
I throw the covers off and kneel on the floor against the bed. I lower my head and try it again with my eyes closed.
“Hey, God. I know I don’t pray as much as I probably should. And when I do pray, it’s always something selfish. I apologize for that. But I really need your help. I’m sure you saw what happened with my sister’s boyfriend a few weeks ago. I can’t stop thinking about him. I don’t like the person it’s turning me into. I’ve been having these irrational thoughts, like maybe he was meant for me and not Honor. Maybe you created him as my soul mate, and because Honor and I are identical, his soul got confused and fell in love with her. Because they’re nothing alike. They have nothing in common. She doesn’t even like the best parts of him. But even if they were to break up, there’s no way it would work out between us. I’d never do that to my sister, and as much as I’m attracted to him, I could never love someone that was once with Honor. It’s out of the question. So I’m not coming to You to ask You to show him the error of his ways. I’m coming to You to ask if You would just send me someone else. Someone who will completely take my mind off him. I don’t want to have the thoughts I’ve been having anymore. Or at least I don’t want to be having them about my sister’s boyfriend. I wouldn’t mind having these thoughts about someone else. So . . . yeah. I’m merely asking for an alternative soul mate. Or even just a distraction. I don’t even care if it has to do with another person. Any interest that isn’t Sagan would be great. Whatever you can spare.”
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