“How’s he doing?”
I spin around to find Sagan making his way over to us. He’s acting so casual, like nothing even happened last night. Two can play at that game. “He looks a little better.”
Sagan kneels down next to me and runs his hand across Wolfgang’s stomach. “Yeah, he does seem a little better.” He moves his hand to pet Wolfgang on the head and his fingers brush against mine. It sends chills up my arms and I’m so glad it’s almost dark. The last thing I need him to see is that he still flusters me.
“Can he sleep in my room with me tonight?” Moby asks.
Sagan laughs. “I don’t think your dad would like that very much.”
“We don’t have to tell him,” Moby says.
His comment makes me laugh. My father is going to have his work cut out with this one.
The headlights from my father’s car scroll across the property as he pulls into the driveway. “Pizza’s here!” Moby yells. It’s so rare that Victoria allows him to have pizza, he forgets all about Wolfgang and runs back into the house. I don’t want to be left alone too long in the awkwardness between me and Sagan.
“I’m starving.” I grab the empty pitcher and Sagan follows me toward the back door. As soon as my hand is on the handle of the screen door, Sagan grabs my other hand and tugs on it, not wanting me to go inside yet. I close my eyes momentarily and sigh. When I turn around, I’m a step higher than him, so we’re eye to eye.
“Merit,” he says quietly. “I’m sorry about last night. I was up all night thinking about it.”
He sounds sincere. I open my mouth, but then I clamp it shut again because I lost his attention to the ring of his phone. He’s digging in his pocket, stepping back down onto the grass, bringing his phone to his ear.
“Wow,” I whisper. I shouldn’t be shocked that I misread his apology as sincere. He couldn’t even silence his phone long enough for me to respond?
I leave him to his urgent phone call and let the screen door slam shut behind me.
I walk into the kitchen just as my father and Victoria are walking through the front door with the pizza. “Moby, they didn’t have gluten free,” Victoria says. “You can have regular pizza tonight, but don’t get used to it.”
Moby’s eyes light up and he climbs onto a bar stool and pulls a box toward him before Victoria even has a chance to set it on the counter.
“That’s not how being gluten intolerant works,” I say to Victoria. “You can either have it or you can’t.”
Luck covers my mouth with his hand. “Merit. Let the mother allow her child some gluten tonight.”
I pull my head away from Luck’s hand and mutter, “I’m just making a point.”
Honor is next to me, pulling a stack of paper plates out of the cabinet when Sagan walks into the kitchen. “You need any help?” he asks her.
She shakes her head. “Nope.”
That wasn’t a friendly nope. I’m curious if she’s mad at him, too. He scoots around her and grabs some cups. Moments later, we’re all seated at the table, sans Utah.
Honestly, it’s strange not having him here. I can’t help but wonder where he is right now and where he spent the last two nights. Or how long my father is going to be mad at him before he allows him to come back here.
Honor is staring at the empty spot where Utah usually eats. “It wasn’t enough that you kicked him out? You went and got rid of his chair, too?”
My father glances at the empty spot. “The chair broke,” he says, failing to mention that he’s the one who broke it when he smashed it against the wall.
The next few minutes are quiet. Even from Moby. I think he can sense that things have been a little off lately. I watch Victoria for a moment, wondering how she’s still here, sitting at this table with my father two nights in a row, knowing what he’s been doing behind her back.
“Did anyone take pizza down to your mother?” my father asks.
I shake my head. “I won’t be doing that anymore. If she wants to eat, she can come up and make her own plate.”
My father narrows his eyes at me, like the dinner table is no place for honesty.
“Why don’t you take her some pizza, Dad?” Honor says with a hint of condescension in her voice. “I’m sure she’d love to see you.”
And this is where Victoria draws the line, I guess. She doesn’t even yell this time. She just drops her pizza on her plate and pushes back her chair. The screech it makes against the floor is deafening. No one says anything until her bedroom door slams shut.
“We almost made it to the end,” Luck says, reaffirming the fact that we can’t even make it through a single meal. That’s when my father drops his pizza onto his plate with the same frustration Victoria did. He stands up and heads to his bedroom, but he hesitates and then comes back to the table and points at us. At Honor and me. He opens his mouth to lecture us, but nothing comes out. Just fumes of frustration. He shakes his head and follows after Victoria.
I look down at Moby to make sure he’s okay, but he’s working a slice of pepperoni into his mouth like nothing matters but pizza. He’s got the right attitude if you ask me.
Luck is the first to break up the awkwardness. “You guys want to go swimming at the hotel tonight?”
We all answer simultaneously.
Sagan glances at Honor and she’s glaring at him. “I mean . . . no?” he says, trying his best to get that frown off her face. I feel bad for him, even though I’m still angry at him. Is she mad because he’s paid attention to me for the last two days? Does she have to be the center of everyone’s attention?
“It’s not a competition, Honor,” I say. “He can be friends with more than one person.”
She laughs and takes a drink of her soda. “Friends?” she says, placing the can back down on the table. “Is that what you call it?”
“Honor,” Sagan says. “We talked about this.”
Why? What did they talk about?
Honor shakes her head. “Just because you make out with her doesn’t mean you know her like I do.”
I can feel my anger smash against my chest with nowhere to go but out. I want to scream at her but I try to keep my composure in front of Moby.
“What’s ‘make out’?” Moby asks.
“Hey,” Luck says, standing up. “Let’s go to your room, Moby.” Thankfully he grabs Moby’s hand and pulls him out of the kitchen, but not before Moby grabs his plate and takes it with them.
Honor is still glaring at me from across the table.
“Where is all this hostility coming from?” I ask, frustrated. “I assumed you’d be a little more sympathetic.”
“Oh, please,” she says, scooting her chair back. She stands up. “If it was the truth you would have said something when it happened. Why would Utah do something like that to you and not to me?”
My jaw is tight and my teeth are grinding together as I hold back everything I want to say to her right now. “I can’t believe you’re taking Utah’s side right now.”
“You’re calling him out when you admitted to the whole family that you tried to lose your virginity to our uncle?”
“Stop!” Sagan says, standing up. His chair falls back and crashes against the floor. “Both of you! Just stop it!”
Too late for mediation, Sagan.
I grab my glass of water and splash it in Honor’s face. She gasps, wide-eyed and angry. Before I can escape, she’s across the table with a handful of my hair in her fist. I scream and try to pry her hand loose, but it’s useless. I grab her ponytail and yank it. Sagan’s hands are around my waist and he’s trying to pull me away, but I’m halfway across the table now and I refuse to let go until she does. Her other hand grips my T-shirt so I pull at the front of her shirt.
Several of the buttons pop off and Sagan is still trying to break us up when someone yells, “Hey!”
That sounds like Utah’s voice, but I’m not really in a position to turn around and look. I don’t have to, because Utah jumps on the table and tries to climb between us. He’s prying Honor’s hands off me and Sagan is trying to do the same to Honor. “Stop!” Utah yells.
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