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He shakes his head. “Not at all. It’s just . . . I think we’re a lot alike. And as much as you want to believe that it was a drunken mistake . . .”

“It was,” I interrupt. “I never would have swallowed those pills if I hadn’t gotten drunk.”

He doesn’t look convinced by my statement. “If you weren’t intending to take them . . . why were you stealing them?”

His question silences me. I break eye contact with him. He’s wrong. I’m not depressed. It was an accident.

“I really didn’t come in here to say all that.” He leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees. “I think maybe I had too much caffeine at work today. I’m not usually this . . . sappy.”

“It’s probably the whole gay thing you’re experimenting with. It’s making you sentimental.”

He glances back at me and narrows his eyes. “You can’t make gay jokes, Merit. You aren’t gay.”

“Does being gay make you the gay authority on who can or can’t tell gay jokes?”

“I’m not gay, either,” he says.

“Could have fooled me.” I laugh. “If you don’t think you’re gay, you’re sexually confused.”

Luck rolls his head until his neck pops and then he leans back against the headboard again. “I’m not confused, either,” he says. “I’m very comfortable with my sexuality. It seems like you’re the one who’s confused by it.”

I nod, because I am definitely confused by it. “Are you bisexual?”

Luck laughs. “Labels were invented for people like you who can’t grasp a reality outside of a defined gender role. I like what I like. Sometimes I like women, sometimes I like men. A few times I’ve liked girls who used to be guys. Once I liked a guy who used to be a girl.” He pauses. “I liked him a lot, actually. But that’s an after-school special for another day.”

I laugh. “I think I might be more sheltered than I thought.”

“I think you might be, too. Not just from the outside world, but you might even be sheltered from what’s going on inside your own house. How did you not know Utah was gay? Have you not seen his wardrobe?”

“Who’s making gay jokes now?” I say, shoving his shoulder. “That’s such a terrible stereotype. And I didn’t know he was gay because no one tells me anything around here.”

“In all fairness, Merit. I’ve lived here less than a week and I can already tell you live in your own version of reality.” He stands up before I can shove him again. “I need to go shower. I smell like coffee beans.”

Speaking of showers. I could probably use one.

A few minutes later, I’m in the bathroom, trying to gather all the stuff I need to shower, but I still can’t find a damn razor. I look in all the drawers, in the shower, under the sink. My God, they overreact!

I guess I’ll just be hairy, then.

As soon as I pull my T-shirt over my head, a piece of paper is shoved beneath the door. I would assume it’s from Sagan since this seems to be his method of delivering art, but the paper looks like an article. I bend to pick it up when Luck speaks to me from the other side of the door.

“Just read it. You can trash it if you want, but I wouldn’t have a clear conscience if I didn’t give it to you.”

I roll my eyes and lean against the counter and read the title. It’s a Web page printed off the Internet.

Symptoms of Depression.

“Jesus Christ,” I mutter.

Below it is a list, but I don’t even read the first symptom. I fold the paper up and toss it on the sink because Luck is ridiculous. He really is a walking after-school special.

After I shower and change, I open the door to the bathroom. Before I walk out, I grab the paper and walk to my bedroom with it so no one sees it lying on the bathroom counter. I sit down on my bed and begin to open it, curious as to what symptoms Luck has if he’s been diagnosed with depression.

When I examine the list, there are empty boxes next to each symptom, waiting to be checked off. It’s a quiz. This might actually be what I need to prove to Sagan and Luck that I’m not clinically depressed.

I grab a pen and start with the first one. Do you ever feel sad, empty, or anxious?

Okay, that’s a stupid question. Check. What teenager doesn’t?

Do you ever feel hopeless?

Again. Check. They should just say “Are you a teenager?”

Are you irritable?

Um . . . yeah. Check. But anyone in this household would be.

Do you have less interest in activities or school?

Okay. You got me there, Luck. Check.

Do you feel less energetic than usual?

If less energetic means sleeping at random hours of the day and night and sometimes not at all, then yeah. Check. My heart starts to beat faster, but I refuse to take this list too seriously. It came from the Internet.

Do you have trouble concentrating?

I’ve made it through this list, so I can answer no to this one. I don’t check the box, but before I move on to the next question, I start to think about this question a little more. I haven’t been able to focus on my crossword puzzles like I usually do. And one of the reasons I stopped going to school is because I was getting so antsy in class, it was hard to pay attention. I draw a check mark, but make it lighter than the rest. I’ll count it as a no if I need to.

Have you noticed changes in your sleep patterns?

Well . . . I didn’t used to sleep all day. Check. But I think that’s just a side effect of skipping school.

Have you had a change in appetite?

If I have, I haven’t noticed it. Finally! One I’m not checking.

Or . . . wait. I’ve been skipping meals lately. But that could also be a side effect of skipping school.

Do you ever feel indifferent?


Have you cried more than usual?


Have you ever had thoughts of suicide?

Does just once or twice count? Check.

Have you ever attempted suicide?


I stare at the list with a knot in my stomach. My hands are trembling as I look over the list and realize I’ve checked off every single box.

Fuck this stupid list. It’s no different from any other online symptom checklist that leads people to falsely believe they’re suffering from some terrible disease. Have a headache? You must have a brain tumor! Have chest pain? You’re having a heart attack! Trouble sleeping? You’re depressed!

I crumple it up into a ball and chuck it across the room. Five minutes pass as I stare motionless at the wad of paper on the floor. I eventually force myself to snap out of it.

I’ll go check on Wolfgang. At least he won’t torture me with conversation or questions.

“You want to help me feed Wolfgang?” I ask Moby as I make my way through the living room. He’s sitting on the couch, watching cartoons, but he jumps off the couch and beats me to the back door.

“Is he mean?”

“No, not at all.” I fill the pitcher up with dog food and open the back door.

“Daddy said he’s mean,” Moby says. “He called him a bastard.”

I laugh and follow him down the steps. I don’t know why it’s so cute when kids cuss. I’ll probably be that mother who encourages her kids to say things like “shit” and “dammit.”

When we make it to the doghouse, Wolfgang isn’t inside it. “Where is he?” Moby asks.

I look around the yard. “I don’t know.” I walk around the doghouse, yelling his name. Moby spins in a circle with me as we scan the dark yard for him. “Let me go turn on the back porch light.” I make my way back to the porch when Moby calls my name.

“Merit!” he says. “Is that him?”

He’s pointing to the side of the house. I walk around the corner and Wolfgang is crawling out from under the house, right next to the window to the basement. I sigh, relieved. I don’t know why I’m oddly attached to this dog, but I was about to start panicking. I walk back over to Wolfgang’s bowl and fill it with dog food. He slowly makes his way to the bowl and begins eating. “Getting your appetite back, huh?” I pet him between the ears and Moby reaches out and does the same. Guess that means he’s not depressed.

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