Luck nods and retreats to his room. Honor is staring at my father, her hands in fists at her sides. “This is your fault,” she says to him. “You and your pathetic choices and your pathetic parenting. You’re the reason this family is so screwed up!” Honor walks to her room and slams the door.
It’s just me and Sagan now. And my father. A moment passes as my father gathers himself. He finally walks toward me, squatting down in front of me so that we’re eye to eye. “You okay?”
I nod, even though this feels far from okay.
He looks at Sagan. “Do you mind keeping an eye on her tonight?”
“Not at all.”
“I don’t need a babysitter.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” my father says. “I need to go deal with Victoria.”
He stands up, but before he’s able to walk away, I say, “Why is Mom taking placebo pills?”
He stares down at me, the imprints of all his secrets gathering in the corners of his eyes. “I’m just thankful that’s all they were, Merit.”
He turns and makes his way into the kitchen, toward his bedroom. But when he passes by the kitchen table, he pauses. He grips the back of one of the chairs and drops his head between his shoulders. He stays like this for about ten seconds, but then he lifts the chair off the floor and throws it against the wall, smashing it to pieces. When he makes it to his bedroom, he slams the door.
Sagan releases a breath at the same time I do. He runs his hands down his face and we’re both quiet. Speechless. An entire minute goes by and we’re just staring at the floor until he says, “Take a shower. You’ll feel better.”
I nod. When I stand up, Sagan stands up with me. I think he can tell I’m still dizzy, because he grabs my arm and helps me to the bathroom. Once we’re inside, he pulls back the shower curtain and picks up the razor. He slides it into his back pocket.
“Really, Sagan? You think I’ll nick my wrist to pieces with a disposable BIC?”
He doesn’t say anything. But he also doesn’t give me back the razor. “I’ll clean up in the hallway while you’re in the shower. You want to stay in my room tonight or yours?”
I think about that for a moment. I’m not so sure I want him in my room, on my bed, where I tried to end my life. “Yours,” I whisper.
He closes the door and leaves me alone to shower. But then he opens the door and walks back inside. He swings open the medicine cabinet and takes the two bottles of medicine off the shelves.
“Seriously? What could I even do with any of that? Swallow eighty gummy vitamins?”
He leaves without responding.
I spend at least thirty minutes in the shower. I don’t do anything other than stare at the wall while the hot water beats down on my neck. I think I’m in shock. I still feel disconnected to everything that happened tonight. I feel like it happened to someone else.
Sagan has checked on me twice in the last thirty minutes. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to convince him that tonight was a fluke. I’m not suicidal—I was drunk. I did a really stupid thing and now he thinks I’m in this shower trying to plot ways to off myself.
I don’t want to die. If I wanted to die, I wouldn’t have gone to Utah for help. What teenager doesn’t think about what it would be like to die every now and then? The only problem when I thought of it was that my thought was coupled with my spontaneity. And alcohol. Most people think things like this through. Not me. I just do them.
I’m going to need a really big trophy after tonight. Maybe I can find an unwanted Academy Award statuette on eBay.
“Merit?” Sagan’s voice is muffled from the other side of the bathroom door.
I roll my eyes and turn off the water. “I’m alive,” I mutter. I grab a towel and dry off. Once I’m dressed in my pajamas, I enter his bedroom. The door is open, so I shut it. I want to block myself off from the outside world.
Sagan is making a pallet on the floor.
“You can take the bed,” he says.
I look at the bed and notice he brought my pillows in here. I sigh with relief. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to go to sleep more than I do right now. I glance at his clock and it’s after three in the morning. “Do you have to be up early?” I ask him. I feel bad. It’s so late and everyone still has to wake up and go to work and school in a few hours. And I don’t even know where Sagan goes every day, whether it’s work or school. I know very little about the guy who has been put in charge of my life tonight. Thanks for that, Dad.
He shakes his head. “I’m off tomorrow.”
I wonder if that’s true or if he’s just too scared to leave me alone. As bad as I feel for making him worry like he is, it feels kind of nice to be worried about.
I lie down on the bed and pull the covers up over me. His pallet is on the floor on the other side of the bed. I want to be as far away from him as possible tonight. I know myself all too well and as soon as those lights go out, I’m going to be trying to muffle my tears. The more distance between us, the better.
“You need anything before I turn off the light?” He’s standing by the door with his hand on the switch. I shake my head, and right before the lights go out, my eyes catch a glimpse of the letter I wrote. It’s sitting on his dresser, flipped to the back page.
He read the whole thing. I close my eyes as he walks back to his pallet on the floor. I wonder if anyone else read it. I pull the covers up tighter over my mouth. Of course they read it. I pull my knees up and curl into the fetal position. Why did I write it? I can’t even remember everything I wrote.
It slowly comes back to me, paragraph by paragraph. By the time my mind recollects every single page, the tears are falling. I wad the blanket up and bite it, trying to stifle my sobs.
I still don’t even know what I’m feeling, or if I even regret writing it. But this feels like regret. Maybe I regret swallowing the pills, but not writing the letter.
Maybe I regret everything.
The only feeling I’m certain about is that I am completely and utterly mortified. Which should be a feeling I’m growing accustomed to, but it isn’t. I don’t think it’s something anyone could get used to.
I can’t believe I did what I did tonight. Or even yesterday. I wish I could go back and not drop out of school and none of this would have happened. Hell, I wish I could go back several years and never have that moment with Utah. Or maybe I should have gone back ten years ago to the day Wolfgang showed up in our backyard. If I’d have just killed that damn dog, then we never would have moved into this church. Dad would have never met Victoria. Mom would have never gone crazy and felt the need to hide in the basement.
I bury my face in the pillow and try as hard as I can to prevent Sagan from hearing how sad I am.
But it doesn’t work. I feel him lift the covers and slide into the bed beside me. He wraps his arm around me and pulls my back against his chest. He finds my hands still knotted in the covers and he squeezes them. And then he curls himself around me until his legs are wrapped over mine and his chin is pressed to the top of my head. His whole body is hugging mine and I can’t even remember the last time someone in this house hugged me. Moby’s hugs don’t count because he’s only four. My father hasn’t hugged me in years. I can’t remember the last time Utah hugged me. Honor and I haven’t hugged since we were kids. My mother doesn’t like physical contact, so a hug from her has been out of the question since her phobia reached its peak several years ago. Acknowledging that this is the first hug I’ve had in years makes me cry even harder.
I feel his lips press against the top of my head. “You want me to tell you a story?” he whispers.
I somehow laugh between my pitiful tears. “Your stories are too morbid for a moment like this.”
He moves his head a little until his cheek is pressed against mine. It feels nice. I close my eyes and he says, “Okay, then. I’ll sing you to sleep.”
I laugh again, but I stop laughing when he actually starts to sing. Or . . . rap, rather.
“Y’all know me, still the same OG . . .”
“Sagan,” I say, laughing.
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