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Honor stands up with so much force, her chair falls over behind her. She leaves her plate on the table and marches off to her room. Victoria sighs and pushes back from the table with less anger than she usually does when she gets fed up. “I’m not feeling well,” she says. She lays her napkin next to her plate and walks to her room. My father follows her.

I have no idea what has transpired between the two of them since I spilled everything in the letter. But Victoria doesn’t seem very happy.

I look over at Moby just as he covers his mouth with his hand and leans in to me. “Can I go watch TV? I don’t like my food.”

I smile. “Sure, buddy.” He slides off his chair and runs into the living room. It’s just me, Luck and Sagan at the table now.

“I’m not sure this family has finished an entire meal since I got here,” Luck says.

I don’t laugh. It’s kind of sad that we can’t even get along long enough to finish a plate of food. Luck starts poking at the food on his plate. He eventually lays down his fork with a heavy sigh and looks up at me.

“Have you spoken to Utah at all?” Luck asks. “What if he wants to apologize?”

“He’s had several years to apologize. The only reason he’s willing to do it now is because it’s out in the open. Doesn’t feel very genuine at this point.”

“Yeah. I guess.” Luck takes a few more bites of food. I just scoot the food around on my plate. I don’t have an appetite anymore, now that everyone seems to be upset with me over something Utah did. I know it was a long time ago and I know they hate finding out something terrible about Utah. But where is my sympathy? Am I that unlikable that they have absolutely no compassion for how much I was affected by that incident?

Sagan has started cleaning off the table and Luck finally walks to his bedroom.

“You finished?” Sagan asks. I nod, and he walks my plate to the sink and then returns to the table.

I slide my finger down the condensation on my glass. “Do you think I’m overreacting?”

He stares at me a moment and then finally gives me a small shake of his head. “Your anger is valid, Merit.”

I want his words to make me feel better, but they don’t. I don’t want to be angry at Utah. I don’t want everyone else to be angry at me. I just wish we could be content. “I hate this family sometimes,” I whisper. “So much.”

Sagan pulls his sketch pad in front of him. “Not an unprecedented feeling for a teenager.” He slides the tip of his pencil down his page and I watch him sketch. It’s relaxing. The sound the pencil makes against the paper. The way his whole arm moves with his hand. The intense concentration on his face.

“Will you draw me?”

Sagan lifts his eyes to mine and nods. “Sure.”

A few minutes later we’re in his bedroom. I notice he leaves the door propped open and I’m curious if he does that out of respect for Honor or fear of my father. He walks to his dresser and opens a box of charcoal pencils. “How do you want me to draw you? Realistically?”

I look down at what I’m wearing. Jeans and a T-shirt. It’s all I ever wear. “Can I change?”

Sagan nods and I walk across the hallway to my closet. I thumb through my clothes until I get to the far right side of my closet and pull out the ridiculous bridesmaid dress I had to wear to my cousin’s wedding last year. It’s a taffeta gown in a bright yellow. The top of it is a strapless bustier and then it flares out at the waist and stops right before the knee. It’s hideous, so of course I put it on. I slip on a pair of combat boots and pull my hair up into a high bun. When I walk back into Sagan’s room, he laughs.


I curtsy. “Glad you like it.” I walk over to an empty spot on the floor and sit cross-legged. “Draw me like this, but not on the floor. I want to be floating on a cloud.”

Sagan takes a seat on his bed and flips to a blank page in his sketchbook. He looks at me and then the page. He does this three or four times, never pressing his pencil to the paper. I don’t know what to do with my hands so I just rest them in my lap. He repositions himself on the bed twice, but nothing seems to help. Every time he begins to draw, he gets frustrated and crumples the paper.

At least ten minutes pass without either of us saying a word. I like watching his creative process, even though it doesn’t seem to be going his way at the moment. He eventually leans back against his headboard and tosses his sketch pad to the side.

“I can’t draw you.”

I push out my bottom lip. “Why?”

His eyes remain locked with mine when he says, “I’m not that good of an artist. I don’t think I could do you justice.”

I can feel the heat rise to my cheeks, but I try not to take that in the way that I’m hoping he meant it. He might have just said that because he’s self-deprecating. I sigh and then push myself off the floor. “Maybe another time.” I walk over to his bed and fall backward onto it. My dress makes a lot of noise when I hit his mattress.

“You look like Big Bird.”

I laugh and lift up on my elbow. “You should have seen the bridesmaid lineup at this wedding. We were all wearing a different primary color.”

Sagan laughs. “No way.”

“She’s a preschool teacher. I don’t know if she meant for that to be her theme or not, but it was a very bright wedding.”

Sagan’s gaze scrolls over my dress and then his eyes eventually meet mine. There’s a lot of thought in his expression when he says, “You feel like going for a walk?”

I nod and stand up. “Let me go change out of this ridiculous dress first.”

He smiles and says, “I dare you not to.”

We don’t even make it to the end of the driveway before my dress is already annoying both of us. Every time I take a step, it sounds like we’re about to be whisked away by a tidal wave.

“Any way you can make it stop?” he says, laughing.

“Nope. It’s the loudest dress ever invented.”

“In more ways than one,” he says with a laugh. “How about we just go sit on the swing?” He slides his hands into his back pockets and then walks across the yard to the outdoor swing my father set up for Victoria. She wanted a place under a shade tree where she could read, so he bought her an oversized swing that could double as an outdoor bed. But I’ve only seen her use it twice. She works a lot and Moby doesn’t really give her time to read. I’ve probably used it more than she has.

Sagan knocks a few of the throw pillows to the ground to make room for us. He pats the spot next to him. The skirt of my bridesmaid dress makes it difficult to sit down and by the time I find a way to sit down without it smothering either of us, we’re both laughing.

“You could just take it off,” he suggests.

I shove him in the arm, but he takes advantage and grabs my hand, pulling me against him. Not in a sensual way, but in a comforting way. His arm wraps around me and I scoot into him and stare out over the front yard. Our white picket fence runs down both sides of the front yard until it reaches the road.

“Was that yours?” Sagan asks, pointing up at a tree house.

“No, my father built it for Moby. Honor and I used to have a tree house, but it’s in a tree at our old house in the back. Pretty sure it rotted.”

“I like that it’s purple,” Sagan says. “Is that Moby’s favorite color?”

“No, it’s mine. Moby picked it because he wanted me to love it so I would go up there and play in it with him.”

“Do you?”

I nod. “Sometimes. Not as much as I probably should, though.”

Sagan sighs, and it makes me feel bad, remembering he told me he has a little sister he’s never met. He pulls one of his legs up onto the swing. His left arm is resting in his lap, so I touch one of his tattoos and begin to trace it. He really is talented. Each tattoo is so small but the detail is incredible.

“You’re really talented.”

Sagan squeezes my shoulder and presses his lips into my hair. It’s the sweetest thank you anyone has ever said to me. And he didn’t even use words.

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