She walks out of the bathroom and I give it a moment before I follow her. The last thing I need to witness is her boyfriend’s expression when he looks at her in that bathing suit.
I notice I sometimes refer to him in my head as “her boyfriend” instead of Sagan. I wonder if I’ll ever stop referring to him as her boyfriend and not by his name. I just really like the name Sagan. It’s smart and sexy and I don’t want it to fit him, but it does. So well. Which is why I just want to refer to him as his title. Honor’s boyfriend. It’s less appealing.
I take off my T-shirt as I look in the mirror. I stare at my one-piece and wonder why everything looks better on Honor, even though we’re identical. She looks prettier in dresses, better in jeans, taller in heels, sexier in swimsuits. We have the same body, same face, same hair, same external everything, but she pulls off her look with more maturity and sophistication than I ever could.
Maybe it’s because she’s more experienced than I am. She’s got three years on me when it comes to losing her virginity. That could be why she walks with an air of confidence that eludes me. The only guy I’ve ever made out with is Drew Waldrup and he didn’t even get to third base. That whole debacle didn’t end with me gaining more confidence. It ended with me being mortified.
At least I got a trophy out of it.
I know I’m being ridiculous. Losing your virginity doesn’t make you more of a woman than a virgin. It just means your hymen is broken. Big whoop.
I pull the T-shirt back over my head. I’m not about to swim in front of Honor’s boyfriend like this with Honor looking like she does.
The four of them are in the water when I walk into the pool room. I keep my head down, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone as I make my way over. I’m not even sure I want to swim yet, so I sit down on the ledge at the shallow end and let my legs dangle in the water. I watch the four of them swim for a good half hour, ignoring Luck’s pleas for me to join them. When I refuse for the third time, he finally swims over to me. He grins and presses his back into the wall, watching as Utah and Sagan race from one end of the pool to the other. Honor is now sitting on the edge of the deep end, waiting to declare a winner.
“You two are identical, right?” Luck says, spinning around in the water so that he’s facing me.
“On the outside.”
He reaches to me and tugs on the hem of my T-shirt. “Then why are you hiding your bathing suit with this T-shirt?”
“I feel more comfortable covered up.”
I roll my eyes. “You never stop with the questions.”
He waves toward Honor. “If people can see her, they can see you. It’s the same thing.”
“We’re two different people. She wears a bikini. I don’t.”
“Is it a religious thing?”
“No.” I’ve known him half a day and he’s already ranking up there with Utah and Honor on the irritation scale.
He leans in and brings his voice to a whisper. “Is it because of Sagan? Is he why you feel uncomfortable?”
“I never said I was uncomfortable. I just said I’m more comfortable in a T-shirt.”
He tilts his head. “Merit. There is a vast difference between you and your sister’s confidence levels. I’m trying to figure out the root of that.”
“There’s no difference. We’re just . . . she’s more outgoing.”
He pulls himself up out of the water, plopping down next to me on the ledge. Utah also gets out, but only because his phone is ringing. He takes the call and walks out of the pool room.
Honor and Sagan are still at the deep end, but he is now helping Honor back float. His hands are under the water, palms pressed against her back. He’s laughing as he talks her through the motions. The jealousy scorches my throat as I attempt to swallow it down.
“You make it too obvious,” Luck says.
He nudges his head toward them. “The way you look at him. You need to stop.”
I’m embarrassed that he noticed. I don’t acknowledge the truth in his comment, though. Instead, I turn our conversation around on him. “Why does Victoria hate you?”
For the first time, sadness registers in his expression. Or maybe it’s remorse. He kicks his right leg up and slings water several feet.
“Our father wasn’t that involved in either of our lives and my mother was having trouble controlling me. She thought Victoria might be able to help, so I went to live with her when I was almost fifteen. I wasn’t even there for a week before I stole all her jewelry and pawned it.”
I wait for him to explain the rest of the story, but he adds nothing else. “That’s it? You took some jewelry when you were younger so she kicked you out and has refused to speak to you for five years?”
He leans to the right and then to the left and drags out the word when he says, “Weeeell, it was more than just a little jewelry. Apparently, what I took had been passed down for generations on her mother’s side and it meant a lot to her. When she confronted me about it, I was insensitive. I was a punk kid who was supporting a weed habit. We got into a huge fight and I left. Never went back.”
“You haven’t spoken to her since that happened?”
“No. We were never that close anyway.”
“Why did she forgive you tonight?”
“I told her my mother died and that I have nowhere else to go.” He pauses. “And I was able to track down one of the rings. I gave it to her and apologized. And it was sincere, because I really do feel bad for what I did. I think an apology is all she’s really wanted this whole time.”
Funny how Victoria needs apologies from people, but she’s never once apologized to any of us for tearing our family apart. “So now what?”
“I guess now I get to know my nieces and nephews.”
“Don’t call us that. It’s so weird.”
“Why is it weird?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I just don’t think I could ever look at you like an uncle.”
“Are you attracted to me?”
I scoff, and maybe even cringe a little. Luck is good-looking, and I would be lying if I said my head wasn’t heading in that direction earlier today, before I found out he was Victoria’s half brother. But now that I’m aware, there’s not an inkling of attraction there. I can’t even entertain it long enough to kid around with him. “Don’t flatter yourself.”
He laughs. “Easier said than done.”
I glance over at Honor and her boyfriend again. They’re both floating on their backs in the water, holding hands. It makes me wonder if there’s a difference between Honor and me when it comes to simple things like holding hands. Would I hold Sagan’s hand the same way? Do Honor and I kiss the same way? Would he even be able to differentiate between the two of us? Did he think the kiss with me at the fountain was different than all the other times he’s kissed her? Does he ever get us confused?
“Can you tell us apart?” I ask Luck.
He shakes his head. “Not really. But you’re both so different, it probably won’t take me long to be able to tell who is who.”
“How are we different? You’ve only known us a few hours.”
“I can just tell. You both give off different vibes. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. You just seem . . . more serious than her.”
“You mean she seems more fun than me.”
He looks at me pointedly. “Not at all what I said, Merit.”
“I know, but that’s the consensus. I’m the quiet, angry twin. She’s the outgoing, fun one.”
“I don’t know either of you well enough to make that determination yet.”
“Well, it won’t take you long to figure it out. And then Honor will be your favorite and you’ll hang out with her and Sagan and Utah and the four of you will become best friends.”
He nudges me with his shoulder. “Stop that. It’s unattractive.”
I laugh. “Good. You aren’t supposed to be attracted to your niece.”
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