I disagree with his theory, but I don’t say anything to defend my actions. It would ruin my three-day streak of not speaking. But despite my lack of a rebuttal, Utah is wrong. If Moby grows up to be morbidly obese, that’s all on Victoria. She’s eliminated entire food groups from his diet. She doesn’t allow him to have sugar, carbs, gluten, or any ingredient that ends in ose. The poor kid eats steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast every day. Without butter or sugar. That can’t be good for him.
At least I sneak him sweets in moderation.
Utah walks past me, heading for his smoothie. He takes it from Honor’s hand and leans in to give her a quick thank you kiss on top of her head. He knows not to come near me with his cheerful sibling affection.
If the proof weren’t in our DNA, I would say that Utah and Honor seem more like identical twins than she and I do. They’re the ones who finish each other’s sentences, share inside jokes, and spend the most time together.
Utah and I have nothing in common, other than being the only two people in the Voss family to know its deepest, darkest secret. But since it’s something we’ve never once discussed since the day it happened, it’s barely a common thread between us now.
And we look nothing alike. Honor and I look more like our mother. Or at least like she did when she was younger. Her hair used to be a more vibrant blonde, much like ours is now. But she hasn’t seen the sun in so long, I’ve noticed that the color has dulled. Utah looks like our father, with sandy brown hair and pale skin. Honor and I also have a paler shade of skin, but it’s not to the degree of Utah’s. He has to wear sunscreen if he’s going to be outside for more than half an hour or he’ll burn. I guess Honor and I lucked out, because we tan fairly easily in the summer.
Moby is just a mix of all of us. Sometimes he looks like our father, sometimes he looks like Victoria. But most of the time he reminds me of this bird off a Dawn dish soap commercial I saw last year. It’s not a bad resemblance. It was a cute bird.
Utah takes a seat and bends down to look under the table. “Morning, buddy. You excited about today?”
Moby wipes sticky glaze from his mouth with his shirtsleeve and nods. “Yes!”
“How excited?” Utah says.
“So excited!” Moby says, grinning from ear to ear.
“The most excited!” Moby yells.
There’s nothing significant about today worth being excited about. This exchange is a daily occurrence between Utah and Moby. Utah says it’s important to get kids pumped up for their day, even if there’s nothing significant about it. He says it helps foster a positive neurological environment, whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Utah wants to be a teacher and already has his entire college schedule planned out. As soon as he graduates high school in six months, he has a two-day weekend and then begins classes at the local university the following Monday. Honor also signed up to start classes two days after graduation.
Me? I’m still debating on going to class today, much less college six months from now.
It’s unusual to have three siblings who are all seniors in high school at the same time. My mother gave birth to Utah in August and then got pregnant with Honor and me one month later. Apparently it’s just a rumor that breastfeeding prevents a woman from ovulating.
When it was time for Utah to start school, she and my father decided to hold him back a year so they could have us all in the same grade at the same time. No sense dealing with different schedules when you can have one schedule for all three of your children.
I don’t think they thought far enough in advance to consider having to pay for three college tuitions at the same time. Not that it would matter. My parents don’t have the kind of money to pay one college tuition, let alone three. Once we start college, it’ll be student loans or nothing for me. Honor and Utah won’t have to worry about tuition because as it stands, they’re several points ahead of anyone else in the class when it comes to vying for valedictorian and salutatorian. There’s no question a Voss sibling will be in the top two spots in the class and will land the coveted scholarships that accompany the awards. It’s merely a question of which one of them will come out the most victorious. My vote is on Utah, simply because he runs less of a risk of becoming preoccupied with the terminally ill between now and graduation.
I’m not a competitive person by nature, so grades have never meant as much to me as they do to the two of them. I used to fall somewhere in the middle of the class when it comes to grade point average, but I’m sure my GPA has taken quite a hit in the past two weeks. I haven’t been back to school since the day I left early and went to the town square. I might go back but I’m more leaning toward not.
Utah is moving out in a month or two, but it probably won’t affect his GPA. Utah isn’t the type to party and let his grades slip. Besides, he’ll probably still be here most of the time since he isn’t going far. He’s redoing the floors in our old house—the one located directly behind this one. As soon as he finishes them, he’s moving over there. If anything, the peace and quiet will give him even more time to study. And clean. And iron his clothes. He has to be the most impeccably dressed high school senior I’ve ever encountered at a public school with no required uniform. Honestly, I’ll be glad when he moves into our old house. There’s been a lot of tension between us for a while now.
I pour myself a cup of juice and sit at the table across from Sagan. He doesn’t acknowledge me but he does shield whatever he’s drawing with his sporadically tattooed arm. I take note of a few new tattoos I haven’t noticed yet. There’s some sort of shield, a tiny lizard with one eye. Or maybe it’s winking. I would ask him what they mean, but I’d have to speak to him. I just keep my mouth shut and try to sneak a peek at whatever it is he’s drawing. I lean forward and try to get a better look. His eyes dart up and meet mine. I ignore the flutter of energy his eye contact gives me and force an unwavering expression. He arches an eyebrow and picks up his sketchbook as he leans back against his chair. He’s still looking at me as he gives his head a slow shake to let me know I’m not getting the privilege of watching him sketch.
I don’t want to see it anyway.
His phone vibrates and he practically lunges for it. He flips it over and looks at the screen but his face falls flat. He silences the call and flips his phone over. Now I’m curious who makes him so anxious to answer his phone if Honor is sitting right here. Sagan glances up at Honor and she’s staring at him. There’s a silent exchange between them and knowing they probably have inside secrets burns a hole in my stomach.
I move my attention to Moby, who is still hiding under the table. He’s managed to get more of the donut on his face than inside his mouth. “One more?” he mutters with a mouthful. I shake my head. Moderation. Also, we don’t have any more.
Victoria enters the kitchen in a rush. “Moby, come get your oatmeal!” She yells this loud enough to spread across all quarters of the house, but if she’d pay closer attention to her child instead of her makeup, she’d notice he’s already awake, dressed, and fed.
Victoria grabs a knife from the drawer and a banana. She wipes the blade of the knife across her pink scrubs, judging its cleanliness. Or lack thereof. “Whose day was it to wash dishes yesterday?”
None of us respond to her. We rarely do. Unless our father is in the room, Victoria is of little importance to us.
“Well, whoever unloaded the dishwasher, make sure the dishes are clean before you put them away. These are disgusting.” She puts the knife in the sink and pulls another knife out of the drawer. She glances across the kitchen at all her stepchildren sitting around the table. I’m the only one looking at her. She sighs and begins peeling the banana.
I have no idea what my father sees in her. Sure, she’s cute for her age, having just turned thirty-five. A good ten years younger than my mother. But that’s the extent of Victoria’s qualities. She’s an overbearing mother to Moby. She takes her job as a nurse way too seriously. Not that being a nurse isn’t a reputable career. But the issue with Victoria is she doesn’t seem to know how to separate her work life from her home life. She’s always in caregiver mode to Moby like he’s ill, but he’s a very viable four-year-old. And she always wears pink scrubs, even though she’s allowed to wear any color or pattern she wants.
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