I can put up with a lot, but Honor’s snarky attitude about my decision to stop going to school is my boiling point. I toss my roll back on my plate. “Tell me, Honor. What have I missed this week that’s going to miraculously prep me for life beyond high school?”
“An opportunity to graduate, maybe?”
I roll my eyes. “I can get a GED before Christmas.”
“Yes, because that’s a reasonable alternative to a scholarship,” she says.
“You want to talk to me about reasonable?” I challenge. “Does your new boyfriend know how reasonable you’ve been when it comes to your past relationships?”
Honor’s jaw clenches. I’ve hit a nerve. Good. Maybe she’ll back off.
“That’s not fair, Merit,” Utah says.
“Whatever,” I mutter. I tear off a piece of my bread and pop it in my mouth. “Of course you’re going to defend her. She’s your favorite.”
Utah leans back in his chair. “I don’t have a favorite sister. I’m defending her because you always get too personal with your attacks.”
I nod. “Oh, right. I forgot. We like to sweep things under the rug and pretend Honor doesn’t need therapy.”
Honor glares at me from across the table. “And you wonder why you have no friends.”
“Actually, I don’t wonder that at all.”
The raised voices coming from Quarter Three interrupt our sibling bonding. It’s too muffled to make out what they’re saying, but it’s clear that Luck and Victoria aren’t having the homecoming Luck was hoping for.
“Did anyone else notice how strange his accent was?” Sagan asks.
“Thank you!” I say. “It’s so weird! It’s like his brain can’t decide if he grew up in Australia or London.”
“He sounded Irish to me,” Utah says.
Sagan shakes his head. “Nah, that was just the kilt playing tricks on you.”
I laugh and then glance down at Moby, who is still seated next to me. He’s looking down, so I can’t see his face. “Moby?”
He doesn’t look up, but he sniffles.
“Hey. Why are you crying?”
Moby sniffles some more and then says, “Everyone is fighting.”
Ugh. Nothing can make me feel worse than when Moby is upset.
“It’s okay,” I say. “Sometimes adults fight. It doesn’t mean anything.”
He wipes his eyes on his shirtsleeve. “Then why do they do it?”
I wish I had an answer for him. “I don’t know,” I say with a sigh. “Come on, let’s wash up and I’ll tuck you in.” Moby has always been a great sleeper. He’s been sleeping in his own bedroom in Quarter Two since he was two. His bedtime has always been seven, but I heard Victoria tell him a few days ago that she would change it to eight in a few weeks.
The rest of us don’t really have a bedtime. My father likes us to be at the house on school nights by ten, but once we’re in our rooms, he never checks on us. I’m rarely ever in bed before midnight.
I take Moby to the bathroom and help him brush his teeth and wash his hands. His bedroom is right across the hall from where Luck is staying, which, by the sound of the shouting continuing in the other room, might be my father’s office again within the hour. Victoria puts Moby to bed most nights, but occasionally he’ll ask for Honor, Utah, or me to do it. I enjoy tucking him in at night, but I only do it when Moby specifically asks for me. I don’t like to do Victoria any unnecessary favors.
Moby’s room is whale-themed, which I hope changes before he starts having sleepovers. It’s bad enough he was named after a murderous whale, but for Victoria to actually go so far as to extend the theme to his bedroom is just asking for Moby to get bullied.
Moby likes the whales, though. He also loves that he was named after a whale. Moby-Dick is Victoria’s favorite book. I also don’t trust people who claim for a classic to be their favorite novel. I think they’re lying just to sound educated, or they simply haven’t read another book beyond high school English requirements.
My favorite book is God-Shaped Hole. It’s not a classic. It’s better than a classic. It’s a modern-day tragedy. I’ve never read Moby-Dick but I can almost bet it doesn’t leave you feeling like you have less skin than before you opened the book.
I tuck Moby into his bed, pulling the whale-themed blanket up to his chin. “Will you read me a story?” he asks.
It’s not entirely inconvenient so I nod and grab a book from his bookshelf. I choose the thinnest one, but Moby protests. “No, read ‘The King’s Perspective.’ ”
That’s a new one. I glance back at the bookshelf and scan through them but I don’t see one with that title. “It’s not here. How about Goodnight Moon?”
“That’s for babies,” he says. He picks up a stack of pages from the table beside his bed. “Read this one. Sagan wrote it.” He shoves it toward me.
I take the pages from him. They’re stapled together in the top left corner. In the center of the front page it reads:
The King’s Perspective
By Sagan Kattan
I sit down on the edge of the bed and run my fingers over the top of the page. “Sagan wrote you a story?”
Moby nods. “It’s a true story. And it rhymes!”
“When did he give you this?”
Moby shrugs. “Like seven years ago.”
I laugh. Moby is the smartest four-year-old I know, but he cannot, for the life of him, grasp the concept of time.
I move to the spot next to Moby and sit against the headboard. I normally don’t make myself this comfortable when it comes to tucking him in, but I might be more excited about story time than Moby is tonight. I feel like I’m in on one of Honor’s boyfriend’s secrets and it makes me way more excited than it should. I pull my knees up and rest the pages on my thighs. “The King’s Perspective,” I say aloud. I glance down at Moby. “Do you even know what perspective means?”
He nods and rolls over onto his side so that he’s facing me. “Sagan said it’s kind of like putting someone else’s eyeballs inside your own head.”
“Pretty close,” I say. “I’m impressed.”
I am impressed. Not so much with Moby, but with Sagan for taking the time to write him a story. And for obviously explaining its meaning.
Moby sits up and flips the page for me. “Read it!”
On the next page is a picture of a bird. It looks like a cardinal.
“Is the story about a bird?” I ask Moby.
“Just read it!” he says.
I flip the page again. “Fine. No spoilers.”
The King’s Perspective
There’s a story of a King
And this story is very true
Some say it’s just a rumor
Some say it’s just a ruse
They called the man King Flip
But that wasn’t really his name
His name was Filipileetus
But that’s too hard to say
King Flip had a penchant
For really expensive things
He liked anything shiny
And anything with bling
He had the nicest castle
Out of all the lands
But that didn’t stop him
From wanting one even more grand
So he bought a town called Perspective
And made the people build him a castle
At the top of their highest mountain
He didn’t care if it was a hassle
When the work was finally done
He decided to go inspect it
But when he arrived in the town of Perspective
It was exactly as he’d left it
He couldn’t find a castle
It wasn’t on the mountain
It wasn’t on the beach
It wasn’t on the mainland
He immediately grew angry
And sought his just revenge
On all those who had fooled him
On the town, his army did descend
When the people were all dead
A red cardinal then appeared
“King Flip, what have you done?
You killed good people, I do fear.”
King Flip tried to explain
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