I turn around and pour the first pancake into the pan, just as Sagan walks in from another trip to the old house. He stops in his tracks and takes in the scene. Me and Honor cooking breakfast. Victoria standing by with a smile on her face. He soaks it up and then walks over to Honor and kisses her on her cheek. “Good morning, beautiful.”
When he reaches me, he wraps his arms around me from behind in a much more intimate gesture than how he just said hello to Honor. He kisses the back of my head and then rests his chin on my shoulder as he looks down at the pancake I’m trying to make. “You win beauty pageants, bowling tournaments, track meets, and now I find out you’re a chef? I think I might keep you, Merit.”
“If I let you,” I deadpan. I would absolutely let him.
“Sagan, look!” Moby says, barreling into the kitchen. Sagan picks him up and sets him down on the bar. Moby hands him a drawing.
“Oh. Wow,” Sagan says, folding it in half. He immediately shoves it in his pocket.
“What is it?” Victoria asks.
Sagan shakes his head, obviously hiding something. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“I drew all the dead bodies the king shoved inside the mountain!” Moby says excitedly.
Victoria looks at Sagan. Sagan just laughs and pulls Moby off the bar. “Maybe we should practice drawing plants before we move on to dead bodies.”
Utah intercepts Sagan and Moby and he grabs Moby and plops him into a chair at the table. “Are you excited about today, Moby?”
“So excited!” Moby giggles.
“The most excited!”
Honor leans over me and looks down at the two pancakes I’ve managed to burn. “We’re gonna need some practice. I think I just ruined the eggs.”
Half an hour later, almost everything is done and I’m working on the last pancake when Luck walks into the kitchen. He’s wearing his regulation Starbucks shirt . . . but he’s paired it with his green kilt.
I hear Utah laugh from the table. “Are you trying to get fired?”
Luck grabs a cup from the cabinet. “If they don’t let me wear my kilt to work, I’ll sue for religious discrimination.”
I take the last pancake out and flip it onto the plate. Honor has just finished putting the rest of the food on the kitchen table when I set the pancakes down and take a seat between Sagan and Moby.
Moby takes a bite of a pancake and, with a mouthful, says, “Are you gay, Utah?”
We all immediately look at Moby. Utah spatters laughter.
Victoria clears her throat and says, “Where did you hear that word, Moby?”
Moby shrugs. “I heard it like ten years ago. Somebody said Utah is gay. Is that like a bastard?”
Utah laughs and says, “Being gay just means a guy might like to marry another guy instead of a girl.”
Victoria adds, “Or a girl might marry a girl.”
Luck nods. “And some people like guys and girls.”
“I like Legos,” Moby says.
“You can’t marry a Lego,” Victoria says to him.
Moby’s face drops in disappointment. “Why not?”
My father points his fork at Moby. “It’s not a living thing, son.”
“So it has to be alive?” Moby asks my father. “Like the puppies you showed me last night?”
My father immediately shakes his head. “You have to stick with your own species. You have to marry a human.”
Moby pouts. “That’s not fair. I want to marry the puppies.”
I laugh. “You’re learning early that life isn’t fair. Took me seventeen years.”
Victoria forks another pancake onto her plate. “This is really good, girls.”
“It is,” my father agrees.
Everyone else kind of mutters the same with mouthfuls of food, but we’re all distracted by a sudden banging on the front door. I look out the window and see a cop car in our driveway. “Oh, no.”
My dad scans all of us. None of us look him in the eye. “Why do you all look guilty?” None of us speak. In fact, we all fork bites of food into our mouths at the same time, making us look even more suspicious. My father shakes his head and scoots back from the table.
No one else gets up when he opens the door. We all just listen quietly.
“Morning, Barnaby,” the officer says.
“Morning. What’s the problem?”
“Well . . . after we buried Pastor Brian’s dog at the church last night, his grave was tampered with. As was Pastor Brian’s. Seems that someone moved the dog.”
“Is that right?”
The officer sighs sharply. “Cut the shit, Barnaby. Did you dig up the dog again after we already arrested you for it?”
My father laughs and says, “Of course not. I came straight home and went to bed.” The officer begins to speak again, but my father cuts him off. “With all due respect, you’re wasting your time. The dog is dead and it sounds to me like she’s right where Pastor Brian would want her to be. Don’t you guys have more important things to focus on?”
The officer once again tries to get a word in, but my father says, “Do you have a warrant?”
“Well, no. We just came to speak with you about . . .”
“Good. You spoke to me about it. I’d like to get back to my breakfast now. Have a great day, crime fighter.” Our father slams the door. I watch as he makes his way back to the table. It’s hard to tell if he’s angry or not. He scoots his chair forward and picks up his fork. He stabs at a couple of pieces of pancake and then looks up at all of us. “You’re all a bunch of heathens.”
What should we name them?” Moby asks. He’s sitting with me in the backyard. Dad didn’t say if I was grounded from the backyard or not.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you name one of them and I’ll name the other one?”
“Okay,” Moby says excitedly. He holds up the one in his hands and says, “I’m naming this one Dick.”
I laugh. “I’m not sure your mom will go for that.”
He frowns. “Why not? She named me Moby. I want to name my puppy Dick so we can be brothers.”
“As long as you use that argument,” I tell him. Sagan walks out the back door of his new house and heads toward us. He sits down in the grass next to me. I hold up the nameless puppy. “We get to name this one. Got any suggestions?”
Sagan doesn’t even hesitate. “Tuqburni. We could call him Tuck.”
I smile. You bury me. I lift the puppy up to my face and kiss his nose. “I like that. Tuqburni.” Moby stands up and grabs Tuck out of my hands. “Be careful with them, Moby.”
“I will. I just wanna show Mom Tuck and Dick.” He cradles both puppies in his arms and heads toward the back door.
Tuck and Dick? If I could be a fly on the wall when he tells her those names . . .
Moby disappears inside the house and Sagan looks at me. “Want to check out my new digs?”
I laugh and fall back onto the grass. “I can’t. I’m grounded. And please don’t ever refer to that place as your digs again.”
“You’re grounded? For how long?”
“He hasn’t decided yet.”
Sagan lies down beside me, and we’re both staring up at the sky. “But didn’t he leave earlier to go run errands? He’s not even home.”
I face him with a grin. I like this rebellious side of him. “You’re right. Let’s go check out your new digs.” We push ourselves up off the ground and walk over to the old house. I haven’t even been inside in over six months, since Utah started redoing the floors. It sat empty for so long, I kind of felt bad that Sagan was having to live in these conditions, but when I walk through the back door I’m pleasantly surprised. I mean, it needs a lot of work. But it’s come a long way in six months.
“Wow. Utah has really put a lot of work into this place.” The floors are almost complete. He just lacks the living room floors and then it looks like it’ll be mostly finished. I follow Sagan down the hallway and he points to Utah’s old bedroom.
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