Between Luck and Sagan, the last couple of hours have been eye-opening.
I don’t even attempt to respond to all he just said to me. Instead, I rest my head on his shoulder as he wraps his arm around me. I think about what he said earlier when he told me I was really easy to like today. I find some comfort in that, because in the past twenty-four hours, he’s probably seen the most authentic side of me he’s ever seen. I close my eyes and readjust myself against him.
“You’re easy to like every day,” I whisper, right before I finally fall asleep.
Even though it’s Saturday—a day I finally don’t have to pretend to wake up and go to school—I still wake up earlier than I want to. Sagan fell asleep in my room last night, so as soon as I open my eyes, I roll over to wake him up so my father won’t catch him in here.
But he’s not here anymore. On the pillow where he slept last night is a drawing. I smile and pick it up. On the back, Sagan has written, “I don’t even know what this is, but I drew it while I watched you sleep. I thought you might like it.”
I don’t know what it is either, but I love it. It might even be my new favorite. I tack it to the wall.
I pull on some jeans and a tank top and then head to the kitchen, but I come to a halt when I look in Sagan’s room. It’s a mess. The drawers are open, his wall hangings are gone. My heart starts to beat wildly in my chest and I try to sustain the panic I feel coming. I turn to go to the kitchen and find out what happened, but I’m intercepted right outside Sagan’s bedroom door by my father.
“I kicked him out,” my father says, matter-of-fact.
I bring my hands up to my head. “What?”
“He slept in your bed last night, Merit.”
This is unbelievable. “So you kicked him out? Without even talking to me?” I spin around and look at the guest room again, hoping I’m dreaming. Almost everything is gone. “Do you not have a heart?” I spin back around to face my father. “Do you not know about his family? What he’s been going through?”
My father sighs. “Merit, calm down.” He grabs my wrist and pulls me down the hallway, through the kitchen and to the back door. Sagan is almost to the other side of the yard, carrying a thirty-gallon trash bag over his shoulder. “He’s moving into our old house.”
I watch Sagan as he opens the gate and carries the trash bag to the back porch of our old house. “Oh.”
“I told Sagan he could live in this house as long as he wasn’t involved with either of you girls. He broke that rule.”
“We aren’t involved, Dad. We didn’t even do anything last night. We just fell asleep talking.”
My father raises an eyebrow. “Then why did he agree to move when I told him that was his only option if he wanted to date you?”
I press my lips together and look back out the door just in time to see Sagan disappear inside the house. “He agreed to move?” I ask quietly.
“Yep,” my father says.
Oh. That somehow changes my whole attitude. “Can I go over there?”
“No. You’re grounded.”
I spin around again. “Why?”
“Let’s see. For having a guy in your room. For stealing your mother’s medicine. For painting my fence purple. For . . .”
I hold up my hand. “Okay. That’s fair.”
“For dropping out of school,” he adds.
I scrunch up my nose and take a step back. “Oh. You know about that?”
“Your mother told me she’s been getting phone calls from the school.” My father walks into the kitchen and opens the dishwasher. He points at it, letting me know I’m getting all the chores while I’m grounded. He then turns to make himself a cup of coffee. I walk to the dishwasher and pull out a couple of plates.
“I met with your principal yesterday,” my father says. “He’s willing to work with you on catching up on missed assignments, but you can’t miss another day of school for the rest of the year. I’ll be taking you to school on Monday. And then I’ll pick you up after and we’ll go see Dr. Criss.”
I reach for a pan and open another cabinet. “We’ll go see Dr. Criss?” I say. “Does that mean you’re also going to therapy?”
I’m half-kidding, so when he says, “We’re all going to therapy,” I’m shocked.
I turn and face him. “All of us?”
He nods. “Me, you, Honor, Utah, Victoria.” He sets his coffee cup down. “I think it’s a few years overdue.”
I smile, because I’m relieved. So relieved. I’ve already decided I’d go to therapy, especially after that stupid crumpled-up piece of paper on my bedroom floor and the cheesy conversation it led to last night. But I really did think it was a little unfair that no one else in this family was being required to go. My father is right. This family is long overdue. “What about Mom? Will she be going to therapy?”
His face is sullen. “I’ll try my best with her. I promise.”
“You promise what?” Utah asks. He’s walking through the back door with Honor.
My father stands up straight and clears his throat. “Clear your schedules after school Monday. We’re going to family therapy.”
Honor groans. “That sounds terrible.”
“Is it too late to be emancipated from you?” Utah asks.
My father laughs. “You’re eighteen, you’re already an adult.” He starts to walk out of the kitchen, but stops short and takes a step back. “Merit? What the hell is on your back?” I feel my father’s fingers brush my back and I immediately freeze. Crap. I pulled on jeans and a tank top when I got out of bed, which doesn’t fully cover my skin. The tattoo.
“Um . . .” I hear the screen door slam and look up to see Sagan standing there.
Honor leans around me and looks at the tattoo. “Uh . . . I drew it. It’s only temporary.”
“Yeah,” I quickly agree. “It’s . . . like henna.”
“Honor doesn’t draw that well,” my father says.
I turn around and face him so he’ll stop looking at it. “Dad, of course she does. Sagan’s been teaching her.” I look to Sagan for backup and he’s immediately nodding his head.
“Yeah, Honor wants to be an artist. She’s really good.”
“I’m so good,” Honor says.
My father watches all three of us, but then decides he can’t tell who’s lying. He gives up and walks away.
“Thank you,” I mouth to Honor.
She winks at me and then says, “Feel like cooking breakfast?”
We’re almost finished with the eggs when Victoria walks out of her bedroom.
“What’s going on?” She’s looking at us suspiciously.
Honor takes over the eggs while I start with the rest of the stuff. “Giving you a break,” Honor says.
“Is this a trick?” Victoria asks.
“No trick.” I pour water into the pancake batter. “Just making you breakfast.”
Victoria doesn’t stop with her suspicion. She walks slowly to an already made pot of coffee and pours herself a cup, never taking her eyes off us. “The eggs should be cooked last.”
I smile. “We’re learning. It’s our first time.”
Victoria takes a seat at the bar. “I’m enjoying this too much to stop watching.”
I’m still stirring the pancake batter when I decide to lay things out in the open for Victoria. “Listen,” I tell her. “I’m Moby’s big sister. And sometimes big sisters do things like sneak donuts to their little brother. I’m not going to stop doing that because that’s mine and Moby’s thing. But . . .” I look up at her. “I’ll cut it down to like once a week. If that’s okay with you.”
Victoria looks at me like I’ve been possessed. Then she nods. “I would appreciate that, Merit. Thank you.”
And just like that, we come to an understanding that’s been long overdue.
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