Home > Without Merit(7)

Without Merit(7)
Author: Colleen Hoover

   But we are not the same.

   I am nothing like my identical twin sister, who prefers cadaver hearts to fully functioning ones.

   I am nothing like my father, Barnaby, who has turned our entire lives upside down, simply out of spite for a canine.

   I am certainly nothing like my brother Utah who spends every waking moment living an externally precise, perfect, and punctual present to make up for all the internal imperfections that live in his past.

   And I am absolutely, without a doubt, a far cry from my mother, Vicky, who spends her days and nights in Quarter Four watching Netflix, licking the salt off potato chips, living off disability, refusing to vacate the house where her ex-husband and newer wife, Victoria, continue to live their lives upstairs, primarily in Quarters One and Three.

   The NyQuil begins to kick in as soon as I hear the front door open. Moby’s voice carries down the hallway and Victoria’s voice soon follows as she calls after him to go wash his hands before he eats a snack.

   I reach to my nightstand and grab my headphones. I’d much rather fall asleep listening to Seafret than to the sound of my family right now.

 

 

Chapter Three

   I was hoping I’d never see Sagan again. I was hoping they’d break it off before she brought him around the family for introductions. That hope lasted twenty-four hours until it was diminished. And it’s been diminished for almost two weeks now.

    In that two weeks, Sagan has been at our house more times than I can count. He’s here for dinner every night, for breakfast every morning, and most hours in between.

   I haven’t spoken a single word to him since the morning he showed up at our house for the first time, a mere twenty-four hours after his tongue was down my throat. I walked out of my bedroom, still in my pajamas, and saw him sitting at the table. As soon as we made eye contact, I spun around and opened the refrigerator. It felt like my heart was a pinball bouncing around inside my chest.

   I managed to make it through breakfast that morning without uttering a single word. Once everyone started to gather their things and leave, I breathed a small sigh of relief until I realized he was still in the kitchen and didn’t look like he was leaving like everyone else. I heard Honor tell him goodbye. I wasn’t facing them, so it made me wonder if they kissed goodbye. I didn’t wonder enough to turn around and witness it, though. I was curious why he wasn’t walking out with her. It was a bit odd that he’d linger in a house he wasn’t acquainted with after his girlfriend left for school, but that’s exactly what he did.

   Once everyone was gone but him, I grabbed a rag to wipe down the counter. It didn’t need cleaning but I didn’t know what else to do with my hands or my eyes. He stood up and picked up the three glasses left behind on the table. He walked them into the kitchen and stood next to me while he poured the contents in the sink.

   There was such a heavy silence in the room. It made the moment between us seem much more dramatic than it should have been.

   “Do you want to talk about what happened?” he said. He opened the dishwasher like he had the right to be doing dishes in this house. He put the three glasses on the top shelf and then closed it. He dried his hands on a towel and dropped it on the counter while he waited for a response from me. I merely shook my head, uninterested in bringing it up again.

   He sighed and then said, “Merit.” I made eye contact with him, which was a terrible idea because he dipped his head and looked at me apologetically, which made it impossible to hold on to any form of undeserved anger I held toward him. “I’m really sorry. I just . . . I thought you were her. I never would have kissed you had I known otherwise.”

   He appeared to be genuine in his apology but as much as I tried to grasp the sincerity, I couldn’t help but analyze that last part. “I never would have kissed you had I known otherwise.”

   Somehow, that felt more like an insult than an apology. And I knew the whole thing was stupid and it really was an honest mistake. Honor didn’t know it happened so I should have just been able to laugh it off. But I couldn’t. It was hard to laugh off something that affected me like it did. But I did my best to fake it.

   “It’s fine,” I said with a shrug. “Really. It was such an awkward kiss, anyway. I’m glad it was an accident because I was about two seconds away from slapping you.”

   Something in his expression faltered. I forced a smile as I turned and walked to my bedroom without looking back at him.

   That was the last time we spoke.

   We don’t speak at breakfast, we don’t speak at dinner, we don’t speak when he’s lingering in our living room, watching TV.

   But just because we don’t speak doesn’t mean I don’t feel it every time he looks at me. I’m constantly trying to rein in my pulse because it makes me feel guilty that I’m even attracted to him. I don’t like being envious of Honor. I try to tell myself that it isn’t him I’m attracted to. It was the thought of a stranger desiring me enough to kiss me with as much passion as he kissed me that day. That’s what I’m envious of. The idea of it all. It has nothing to do with Sagan or who he is as a person. I don’t even know him enough to know if I would like him as a person. And I don’t want to know that, which is precisely why I avoid him.

   But I do know that he doesn’t seem to be Honor’s type. And there’s absolutely no chemistry between them. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

   I’ve been doing my very best to tolerate the entire situation, but it’s making me miserable. However, I have a feeling my tolerance won’t be as intolerable now, because misery loves company and the thing I am looking at is most definitely miserable.

   Despite it being after midnight, I’m holding open the front door, staring down into the frightened eyes of Wolfgang. The very dog that terrorized my father through many of my childhood years.

   What a delightful surprise.

   My father hasn’t noticed, but I haven’t been back to school for a while now and my days and nights have been mixed up. I woke up a few minutes ago after everyone else had fallen asleep. I made my way to Quarter One in search of food but before I got to the kitchen, I heard what sounded like scratching against our double front doors. Since we have no animals of the four-legged variety, one would think my first instinct would have been to notify my father of a possible intruder. Instead, I immediately opened the door to investigate the matter myself. If my life were a scary movie, I’d be the first to die.

   Wolfgang is whimpering at my feet, covered in mud, shivering from the rain, and from the looks of it, terribly lost. There were several loud claps of thunder that shook the house and woke me up a few times when the storm began to roll through earlier tonight. He probably got spooked and started running until he ended up at the only other place he knows.

   I’ve never actually touched the dog before, since we were ordered to stay away from him as children. I reach my hand out, but I do so with hesitancy. Our father once told us he witnessed Wolfgang eat an entire Girl Scout. I realize now that it was a lie, of course, but with Wolfgang’s visit tonight and the ominousness of the moment being heightened by the dark, I’m a bit nervous Wolfgang might assume I’m hiding Thin Mints in my pocket.

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