If it felt that good just writing it, I can’t imagine how good it will feel delivering it. I tear the pages out and stand up, but I have to grab my dresser to steady myself. I laugh because I think I finally drank enough to make all my feelings go away. Or maybe it was the letter I just wrote. Either way, I think I like tequila. I feel freaking great. I like it so much; I drink the rest of it before I head to my father’s office to make copies.
I don’t bother knocking. I heard Utah’s door slam earlier, so I know he’s not in here with Luck anymore. When I open the door, Luck is messing with his phone. He doesn’t look happy to see me. “What do you want?”
“Not you,” I say, walking to the other side of the room. “I need to use the copier.”
Luck sighs and leans against the back of the sofa bed. I place the first page on the copier and hit the number 7. There are nine people in this house, but Moby can’t read and I’ve got the original. I press the Copy button and then turn to face Luck.
“So,” I say. “Is there anyone you won’t have sex with on this earth besides me?”
“Are you drunk?”
I open the copier and put the second page facedown. I hit the copy button again. “Yes. It’s the only way I can deal with this family, Luck. The family you chose to move in with.” I turn around and look at him again, this time with confusion. “Why would you willingly choose to live here?”
Luck doesn’t answer me. He looks back down at his phone and starts texting again. “Are you almost done?”
I put the final page on the copier. “Yep. Nearly there.” I glance to the other side of the copier and see Luck’s worn notebook with all his conquests in it. I glance back at him and he isn’t looking at me. I flip to the last page and sure enough, he has my name written down. It says, 332.5 M.V., her bed, DNF.
I got DNF’d. A big, fat DID NOT FINISH.
“Do I at least get a participation trophy for this?” Luck sees the notebook in my hands. He jumps off the sofa bed and snatches it out of my hands. He walks back to the bed. I chuck a pen at him. “Here. Don’t forget to write Utah’s initials down. Lucky 333.”
When the copier is finished, I gather all the pages and take the original off the copier.
“Go to bed, already,” he says, agitated.
I grab the stapler. I shake it at him as I walk out of his room. “I liked you better before I met you.”
I close the door and make my way back to my room. I lay all the pages out on the floor but I’m forced to take a moment for my vision to settle before I can put them in the right piles. All the pages are starting to run together. I have almost all of them stapled when someone knocks on my door.
“Go away!” I crawl to the door and lock it before whoever it is can open it.
It’s Sagan. The sound of his voice makes me wince. There wasn’t enough tequila to dull this feeling, apparently.
“I’m sleeping,” I call out.
“Your light is on.”
“Your light is on!”
He doesn’t respond to that. I’m glad, because I’m not even sure what it meant. A few seconds later I hear the door to his bedroom close.
I squeeze my eyes shut to keep the room from spinning. I lay my head down on the floor. I’m too dizzy to keep sitting up like this. As soon as I close my eyes, I hear a text message come through on my phone. I reach my hand to my bed and search around until I find it.
Honor: What happened?
So much has happened in the last two hours, I don’t even know which part she’s referring to.
Merit: What do you mean?
Honor: Sagan just texted me and told me to be careful coming home. WHY does he know I’m not home?
Merit: Well . . . he’s very hard to lie to. Besides, what’s it matter? He’s not even your boyfriend.
Honor: It matters because I lied to him and thanks to you, he’s now aware of that. Remind me not to ask you to cover for me in the future!
Merit: Okay. Don’t ask me to cover for you in the future.
Is it normal for a person to hate their own family this much?
I find the bottle of tequila but it’s still empty. That doesn’t help me much because I still feel things. I stumble my way into the kitchen and open every single cabinet, but I can’t find more alcohol. I open the refrigerator and the only thing that might help me numb what’s happening in my chest right now are three beers. I grab all of the cans and take them to my bedroom. I slide back to the floor and pop open one of the beers. I stare at the letter I wrote.
Should I give it to them?
Probably not. It would only give them more reason to hate me. They wouldn’t feel sorry for me after reading it, they’d be mad at me for telling all their secrets.
I down the first beer and my stomach already hurts, but it still doesn’t help the pressure in my chest. You know what this feels like? It feels just like the day I decided to stop going to school. I was walking into the cafeteria when Melissa Cassidy grabbed my arm and said, “Honor, come here. You won’t believe what I found out!” She dragged me about five feet to her table, where Honor was already sitting. She glanced back at me and then at Honor and she said, “Oh. Sorry. I thought you were Honor.” She let go of my arm and walked back to the table and started whispering in Honor’s ear.
I just stood there, staring at Honor. Everyone liked her, despite the fact that she was a Voss. Everyone wanted to hang out with her and be her friend and I was simply a by-product. The identical twin sister with less to offer. There wasn’t a single girl at that table who would rather be friends with me than Honor.
Nothing terrible happened that made me want to drop out that day. I was never bullied at school, despite everyone having their unsavory opinions about our family. I was just . . . there. When I kept to myself, everyone was okay with that. No one bothered me. When I decided to join in on conversations with Honor and her friends, everyone was okay with that, too. I was Honor’s twin sister, they weren’t going to be rude to me. What they were was indifferent. And I think their indifference bothered me more than if they would have hated me.
It was like seventeen years of denial smacked me in the face right there in the cafeteria. The whole school would notice if Honor stopped showing up. But if I stopped showing up, life would go on. With or without Merit.
In fact, I’ve had two texts from friends in my class, asking why I haven’t been at school for two weeks.
And that’s another reason why I’ve stayed home. But for some reason I thought I would like staying at the house more than going to a school where I didn’t matter, but I don’t. I hate it here, too. I don’t matter here, either. If I dropped out of life, just like I dropped out of school, everyone’s lives would go on.
With or without Merit.
I down the second beer and as soon as it’s empty, I toss the can at my bedroom door. “Without Merit,” I whisper to no one. “That’ll show ’em.”
And then I do what I do best. I react without thinking. My spontaneity will be the only thing I miss about myself. I crawl to the closet and grab the black boot. I pull out the bottle of stolen pills and I open the lid. I reach for the third beer and my hands are shaking so bad, it takes me three tries to pop it open.
I look down at the beer in my left hand and the bottle of pills in my right. I don’t even give it a second thought. I pour some of the pills in my mouth and then try to swallow. I pour a few too many so I end up spitting them back out in my hand. I relax my throat and then try it again. They go down this time, so I pour a few more and then swallow. I can’t get but about three or four down at a time, so it takes me the entire beer to wash them all down.
I toss the empty beer can aside and then grab all seven stacks of pages. I grab a pen and go through each stack and add the word Without to my name. Sincerely, Without Merit. That’s more like it. I start with Sagan’s room, since his is closest. I slide one set of the stapled pages beneath his door. Then I continue down the hallway until Utah, Luck, and Honor have been covered. I don’t even bother sliding the pages beneath the basement door. I open the door and throw my mother’s stack down the stairs. If they stayed at the top of the stairs, she’d never see them. I make my way to Quarter Three and shove the last set of pages beneath my father and Victoria’s bedroom door.
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