Right when one of his hands slides through my hair, the water splashes beneath my feet. I squeal a little because it’s unexpected. He laughs, but he doesn’t stop kissing me. Now we’re being soaked because my foot isn’t covering the spout all the way, but neither of us cares. It just adds to the ridiculousness of this kiss.
The ringtone on his phone adds even more ridiculousness to the moment because of course we’d be interrupted right now. Of course. It was way too perfect.
He pulls back and the look in his eye is somehow satiated and starving at the same time. He pulls his phone out of his pocket and looks down at it. “Did you lose your phone or is this a joke?”
I shrug because I have no idea which part of this he thinks might be a joke. Me allowing him to kiss me? Someone calling him in the middle of said kiss? He laughs a little as he presses the phone against his ear. “Hello?”
The smile leaves his expression and now he just looks confused. “Who is this?” He waits a couple of seconds and then pulls the phone away from his ear and looks down at it. Then he looks up at me. “Seriously. Is this a prank?”
I don’t know if he’s talking to me or the person on the phone, so I shrug again. He puts the phone to his ear and takes a step away from me. “Who is this?” he repeats. He laughs nervously and grips the back of his neck. “But . . . you’re standing right in front of me.”
I can feel the color drain from my face at that sentence. All the color in my body—in this ridiculous moment with this random guy—pools at my feet, leaving me feeling like the second-rate carbon copy of Honor Voss. My twin sister. The girl who is obviously on the other end of that phone call.
I cover my face with my hand and turn around, grabbing my shoes and my sack. I hope I can put as much distance between us as possible before he figures out that the girl he just kissed isn’t Honor.
I can’t believe this is happening. I just kissed my sister’s boyfriend.
I didn’t do it on purpose, obviously. I had a feeling she had just recently started seeing someone because she’s been gone a lot, but out of all the guys in the world, how was I supposed to know this particular guy was him? I continue to rush away but I can’t get far enough before I hear him running after me. “Hey!” he calls out.
This is why he was watching me in the store. He thought I was her. It’s why he asked why I wasn’t in school, because if he knows Honor well enough to kiss her, he knows Honor would never skip school.
It all makes sense now. This wasn’t some random connection between two strangers. This was him mistaking me for his girlfriend and me being a complete fool for not immediately realizing what was happening.
I feel his hand grip my elbow. I have no choice but to turn and face him because I need to make it clear that Honor can never find out about this. When our eyes meet, he’s no longer looking at me like I fascinate him. He’s staring at his phone and then me and then his phone and then, “I am so sorry,” he says. “I thought you were . . .”
“You thought wrong,” I snap, even though it was an honest mistake.
Honor and I are identical but if he knew my twin sister at all, he should know she would never be caught dead in public looking like I look right now. I’m not wearing makeup, my hair is a mess, and my clothes are left over from yesterday.
He slides his phone back in his pocket but it begins to ring again. When he pulls it out, I can see Honor’s name flashing across the screen. I grab his phone and swipe my finger across the screen. “Hey.”
“Merit?” Honor laughs. “What’s going on? Why are you with Sagan?”
Sagan? Even his name is perfect.
“I’m not. I just . . . bumped into him. He thought I was you but then you called and . . . let’s just say he was confused.” I say all this while staring directly at Sagan. He keeps his eyes locked on mine and doesn’t even try to take the phone away from me.
Honor laughs again. “That’s funny. I wish I could have seen his face.”
“It was priceless,” I deadpan. “But you should know to warn your boyfriend that you have an identical twin.” I hand the phone back to Sagan. I back away a few steps and he’s holding the phone in his hand, unable to take his eyes off me. “Do not repeat what just happened to her,” I whisper. “To anyone. Ever.”
He nods, albeit hesitantly. As soon as I have confirmation that he won’t repeat this to Honor, I turn and walk away. Nothing could ever top this level of embarrassment. Nothing.
I am such a fool.
But God, it was so beautifully unexpected. His intensity caught me off guard but the second he kissed me I was a goner. He tasted like mint and he was so warm, and then the water was splashing us and it was a sensory overload that I wanted to be an overdose. I wanted it all. I wanted to feel everything. That unexpected kiss made me feel alive for the first time in . . . actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that way.
Which is exactly why I didn’t come to the realization that he thought he was kissing Honor. While that random kiss meant a lot to me, it was nothing new to him. He probably kisses Honor like that all the time.
Which is confusing, because he seemed to be . . . healthy. Not Honor’s type, normally.
Speaking of Honor.
I turn on my blinker and reach for my phone on the second ring. It’s odd that she’s calling me. We never call each other. When I come to the stop sign, I answer it with a lazy, “Hey.”
“Are you still with Sagan?” Honor asks.
I close my eyes and release a tiny bit of air. I don’t have much to spare after that kiss back there. “No.”
She sighs. “Weird. He’s not answering his phone now. I’ll try calling him back.”
I’m about to hang up when she says, “Hey. Why aren’t you in school right now?”
I sigh. “Wasn’t feeling well so I left.”
“Oh. Okay. See you tonight.”
“Honor, wait,” I say before she ends the call. “What’s . . . is something wrong with Sagan?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know. Are you with him because . . . is he dying?”
It’s quiet for a moment. But then I can hear the irritation in her voice when she says, “Jesus, Merit. Of course not. You can be a real bitch sometimes.” The line goes dead. I look down at the phone.
I wasn’t trying to insult her. I’m genuinely curious if that’s why she’s dating him. She hasn’t had a single boyfriend with an average life span since she started dating Kirk at thirteen. She’s still heartbroken over the way that relationship left her feeling like she was choking on scar tissue.
Kirk was a nice farm boy. He drove a tractor, baled hay, knew how to flip an electrical breaker, and once fixed the transmission of a car that my father couldn’t even fix himself.
About a month before we turned fifteen and two weeks after Honor lost her virginity to Kirk, his father found Kirk lying on the ground in the middle of their pasture, semi-conscious and bleeding. Kirk had fallen off the tractor, which ran over him, injuring his right arm. Although the injury wasn’t life-threatening, while receiving treatment for the injury, the erudite doctor sought answers as to why Kirk might have fallen off the tractor to begin with. Turns out, Kirk had suffered a seizure as the result of a tumor that had been growing in his brain.
“Possibly since infancy,” said the doctor.
Kirk lived three more months. The entire three months he lived, my sister rarely left his side. Honor was the first and last girl he loved, and the last person Kirk saw before taking his final breath.
Honor developed an unhealthy affliction as a result of her first love dying from a tumor that had been growing in his brain, possibly since infancy. Honor found it almost impossible to love any boy after who was of average health and normal life span. She spends most days and nights in online chat rooms for the terminally ill, falling madly in love with boys who have an average life expectancy of six months or less. Although our town is a bit too small to provide Honor with an ample supply of ailing suitors, Dallas is less than a two-hour drive away. With the number of hospitals devoted to terminal illnesses, at least two boys have been within driving distance to Honor. During their last few weeks on earth, Honor spent their remaining days by their sides, determined to be the last person they saw and the last girl they loved before taking their final breaths.
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