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“Which one was a lie? That you had an allergic reaction or that you aren’t allergic to anything?”

Sagan pulls at a piece of grass and twists it between his fingers. “I met your sister through a friend of mine. I was visiting him in the hospital.” He drops the grass. “So was she.”

I wait for him to elaborate, but once again he keeps his stories clipped and uninformative. But I take it he lied about why he was in the hospital out of guilt. He doesn’t want anyone to know that he met Honor through his dying friend, and that, from the way it appears, they’re seeing the same girl. How messed up is that?

I guess that explains the argument in Honor’s bedroom the other night. And Honor wanting to keep her visit with Sagan’s friend a secret from him.

I don’t know why, but this satisfies me. Knowing she’s seeing both of them and he’s seeing her while still somewhat being flirty with me . . . it makes me feel like the better person out of the three of us, when before I felt like the worst one.

“What happened between you and Honor?” he asks. “Seems like there’s a little animosity there.”

I laugh. “A little?”

“Has it always been that way?”

I lose my smile and shake my head, looking down at Wolfgang. “No. We used to be really close.” I think about all the times we refused to sleep unless we were in the same room. All the times we would switch clothes and try to trick our father. All the times we would talk about how lucky we were to be twins. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I look back up at him just in time to see him frown a bit, but the frown dissipates.

“Yeah. A little sister.”

“How old is she?”

“Seven.” His expression is stoic, which makes me wonder if he misses her and doesn’t like talking about her.

“Do you get to see her very often?”

This must be where the point of contention comes in with his family because he just inhales and leans back on his hands. “I’ve never met her, actually.”

Oh. There must be a story there, but I can sense the sadness in his voice. And then he leans over and starts petting Wolfgang like the subject is closed. It’s apparent he doesn’t want to dive deeper into conversations about his family. It disappoints me because I want him to feel like he can talk to me but he obviously doesn’t feel that way. I wonder if Honor has these kinds of conversations with him.

The weight of her name bears down on me. I drag a hand over my mouth and hold it there as my arm rests on my knee. “Do you ever wish you had a different family? One who communicates?” I ask him.

“You have no idea,” he says.

“I really wish I had that kind of relationship with Honor and Utah. We aren’t close at all. And sadly, once we all go off to college, I doubt we’ll speak much. The only reason we even interact is because we live together.”

“It’s not too late to change that, you know.”

I try to force a smile, but I don’t have enough strength in my body to pretend he’s right. My family will never be any different. “I don’t know, Sagan. There’s a lot of baggage in our family. I think sometimes you luck out and get a family you connect with. But sometimes . . .” I try to fight back an embarrassing and unexpected tear. “Sometimes you get stuck with family members that do nothing but make mistakes they never have to apologize or pay for.”

  When I’m sure I’ve fought the tear back successfully, I look at Sagan. He’s staring back at me sympathetically. There’s a quiet reassurance about him. Maybe it’s the way he seems to listen without judging. He nods a little, like he understands what I’m trying to say. But then he shrugs. “Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.”

I immediately have to look away because that comment hits me like a punch in the gut. I wish I could apply that thinking to my family but I’m not sure I’m capable of that much forgiveness.

Sagan pulls his right leg up and rests his chin on his knee, wrapping his arms around his leg. He stares out over the backyard, focused on nothing. “Merit?”

I squeeze my eyes shut. I don’t even want to look at him because I can tell in his voice that he’s about to ask me something I don’t want to answer. “What?” I whisper. It feels like my heart is swollen when I finally look at him. Or maybe bloated is a better term for this.

“What was going on today? In your room?”

I immediately break eye contact with him. Please don’t let him be referring to what he saw from the hallway.

“Were you and Luck . . .”

That’s exactly what he’s referring to.

“Did you have sex with him?”

I’m shocked that he came straight out and asked it. I open my mouth and then clamp it shut because I’m too embarrassed to respond. And even a little bit angry. Why is it his business? He’s having sex with his dying friend’s girlfriend. It shouldn’t be any of his concern who I’m having sex with.

I roll my eyes and push myself off the ground. “That’s such an inappropriate question. Especially coming from you.”

He looks a little ashamed that he asked it, but he doesn’t apologize. He just silently watches me as I walk back toward the house. I go straight to my bedroom and close the door. It’s not until I lock it that I remember my food in the microwave. “Great,” I mutter. I’m not about to walk back out of this room. I hate being hungry. It makes me angry, and when I’m already upset, it makes me really angry. I’m angry and starving and now that I’ve picked up my phone, I have to read through all these texts from Honor. I fall onto the bed and scroll to the top.

Honor: Okay, so tomorrow night. I’m going to visit my friend, Colby. I have to drive to Dallas, so I won’t be home until the middle of the night.

Honor: I promised Sagan this morning I wouldn’t go, so I really can’t let him find out.

Honor: Or Dad. He’ll be just as angry if he knows.

It really annoys me how she thinks every sentence should be a separate text. Why can’t she just write me one long paragraph?

Honor: Sagan works until after ten tomorrow night. I’m going to text him around nine and tell him I’m tired and I’m going to bed. So that won’t be an issue.

Honor: But Dad might notice I’m missing tomorrow evening, so just tell him I wasn’t feeling well and that I went to bed early. If he tries to check on me, tell him you already did and that I’m fine.

Honor: I’ll lock my bedroom door just so no one can walk in and see that I’m not there.

Honor: Are you getting these texts?

Honor: Merit?

Honor: Will you please just agree to cover for me this once? I’ll owe you one.

I laugh at that. What do I ever do that would warrant collecting on a favor?

Merit: Got it.

Honor: Thank you!

Merit: Quick question, though. Why are you doing this to Sagan?

Honor: Can you please withhold judgment just once in your life?

Merit: Fine. I’ll hold off judging your indiscretions until the day after tomorrow.

Honor: Thank you.

I set down my phone. I turn off my lamp and my room grows pitch black. With no windows and no lights on outside the room, I can’t see a single thing. It’s the first semblance of peace I’ve had all day.

I wonder if this is what death is like. Just . . . nothing.

Chapter Nine

You should go see if Honor needs anything to eat before you go to bed,” my father says.

Honor. The sick sister, holed up in her bedroom all night. Poor thing. “I took her some food earlier,” I lie. I pull the plug out of the sink and let the water drain. It was Honor’s night to do dishes, but she’s not here to do them. That’s another favor she owes me.

“Has she taken any medicine?” my father asks.

I nod. “Yeah, I took her some earlier. Right after she vomited all over the bathroom floor.” If I’m going to lie for her, I’m going to make it worth my time. “Don’t worry, I spent half an hour cleaning up after her. There was vomit everywhere. I even washed all the towels.”

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