I look at him but he’s staring out over the front yard. His forehead is wrinkled with worry. Eventually, he glances down at me and in a quiet voice, he asks, “Merit? Do you think you might be depressed?”
I sigh, frustrated by his question. “I’m fine. I just had a bad night and made a stupid mistake.”
“Will you promise to talk to me first if you ever feel like making a stupid mistake again?”
I nod, but it’s as much of a promise as I can give him.
Sagan turns toward me on the swing, but he doesn’t make eye contact with me. “Do you think maybe . . .” He seems nervous about this question. “Was it something I did?”
I sit up straight. “You think I tried to kill myself because of you?”
“No. No, I’m not saying that. At least I hope that’s not what I’m saying.” He runs a hand down his face. “I don’t know, Merit. I called you an asshole and then the next thing I know I’m forcing you to puke up pills you swallowed. I can’t help but feel like I had a hand in whatever was happening. Like maybe I was the catalyst.”
I shake my head. “Sagan, it wasn’t you. I swear. It was my stupidity and my family and everything just sort of snowballed.” I close my eyes and slump my shoulders. “To be honest, I don’t really feel like talking about it.”
He lifts a hand to my cheek and brushes his thumb across my chin. “Okay,” he whispers. “We won’t talk about it right now.” He pulls me against him again and I appreciate the silence he gives me. At least fifteen minutes pass as we both stare quietly ahead. There’s a full moon tonight and it’s casting a glow over the yard. Even the white picket fence is glimmering.
“So many people dream of living in a house with a white picket fence. Little do they know, there’s no such thing as a perfect family, no matter how white the picket fence is.”
He laughs. “Let’s make a pact. Whenever we get our own houses someday, our picket fences won’t be white.”
“Hell no, they won’t be white. I’d paint mine purple.”
“Just like the tree house,” he says. There’s a moment’s pause and then, “Do you have any leftover purple paint?”
I glance up at the tree house and then look back at Sagan. “I think so. In the garage.”
Neither of us moves for a moment, but then it’s like someone shoots us out of the swing at the same time. We’re both laughing and running toward the garage in search of purple paint.
Luckily, we find two cans. Enough to do the front yard fence, at least. We spend the next two hours painting. We talk about everything but the most important stuff. Sagan tells me about the apprenticeship he’s been doing over at Highwaymen Ink. I tell him stories from our childhood—back when our family was less screwed up. We talk about ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends and favorite movies. By the time the entire right side of the fence is painted, it’s after midnight and my yellow taffeta dress is covered in purple paint splatters. “I don’t think I can ever wear this again,” I say, looking down at it.
“Damn shame,” Sagan says.
I look at the left side of the fence—the one that hasn’t been painted purple yet. “Are we gonna do that side, too?”
Sagan nods but motions for me to come sit down. “Yeah, but let’s take a break first.”
I sit down next to him and it’s becoming so natural for him to just pull me to him when we’re close. It makes me wonder if he’s ever going to try to kiss me again. I know our last two kisses haven’t been great so I wouldn’t blame him for not wanting to try it again.
Maybe he hasn’t kissed me because of Honor. That’s a subject I haven’t been able to bring up to him yet, but I’m so tired at this point, I don’t really have a filter.
I blow a raspberry with my lips and then sit up and face him, sitting cross-legged on the swing. “I need to ask you a question.” My dress poofs up around me as I try to get comfortable, so I have to flatten it down with my arms. I have so many things on my mind, really, so I pluck one out that’s front and center. I force myself to ask him the one thing I haven’t stopped wondering. “Do you . . . are you attracted to Honor?”
He doesn’t even react to that question. He immediately shakes his head and says, “I think she’s beautiful, obviously. You both are. But I’m not attracted to her.”
I can feel my shoulders wanting to slump forward. I can feel my forehead wanting to meet my hand. Instead, I try to keep my composure like he always does. “If you aren’t attracted to her, then that means . . .” I can’t even say it out loud. “We’re identical twins, so . . .”
He laughs silently again. I wish I could figure out rhyme or reason to what causes him to do that. If I figured out the trick to his quiet laugh, I’d do it all day every day.
“You’re wondering if it’s possible for someone to be attracted to you and not to your identical twin.” He says it with such little effort.
I shrug. Then I nod.
“Yes. It’s possible.”
I try not to smile because that answer didn’t mean he was attracted to me. But a girl can hope. “Why did you and Honor never take things beyond a friendship?”
“She’s seeing my friend,” he says. “I’d never do that to him. Besides, when I met her, sure, I thought she was beautiful. But after spending a couple of days with her, it just . . . I don’t know. There was never a romantic connection. She didn’t like my art. She didn’t like my taste in music. She was constantly on the phone gossiping about people and that annoyed me. But there were other things that drew me to her in a different way. She’s loyal and fun and I like hanging out with her.”
I absorb everything he just said without responding. I want to believe it, but it’s hard when I had the wrong impression of them for so long. “What about that day on the square? If you aren’t attracted to her, why did you kiss me when you thought I was her?”
Sagan’s expression grows serious. He releases a heavy breath and leans back against the swing, looking out over the yard. He pulls my leg across his lap and leaves his hand lingering on my knee. “It’s complicated,” he says. He runs his hand down his face and struggles with his words for a moment. “I saw Honor . . . you . . . browsing the antiques store that day. I watched her for a while. I was curious, because she was so different that day. Dressed down in a pair of jeans with a flannel shirt tied around her waist. She wasn’t wearing makeup, which completely threw me off because Honor always wears makeup. And I knew Honor had a sister but I didn’t know she had an identical twin sister, so the thought that Honor might have been you never even crossed my mind. I don’t know . . . it’s hard to explain because you’re identical. But I was drawn to her that day in a way I had never been drawn to her before. I felt things I had never felt before when I was around her.
“I liked how she looked at everything with the curiosity of a child. I liked that she never once pulled her phone out. Honor is always on her phone and sometimes I just want her to put it away and enjoy the world around her. And I really liked it when she took the blame for that little boy when he broke that antique. And then when I walked up to her outside and looked at her up close, it was like I was seeing her for the first time. And even though I had never kissed her before and I felt guilty as hell for kissing her, knowing my friend liked her, I couldn’t not kiss her that day. Something came over me in that moment and I couldn’t stop myself.”
His eyes meet mine. “But . . . then she called and I finally put two and two together . . . and it made sense why I felt like I’d die if I didn’t kiss her, when I’d never once felt like that before. I wasn’t attracted to Honor. I was attracted to you.”
My heart couldn’t beat any faster if I drank a 5-hour ENERGY and chased it with a Red Bull. Everything he just said is everything I’ve been wishing were the truth. I’ve fantasized that he saw something different in me that he didn’t see in Honor, and now that I’m hearing his version of it, I half expect to wake up from a cruel dream. I wish I could go back to that day and engrain every moment into my memory. Especially the moment he bent down to kiss me and said, “You bury me.” I didn’t know what it meant then and I still don’t, but I hear those three words every time I close my eyes.
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