A/N - There are two versions of this story. If you want a more interactive experience, I suggest reading the version on AO3, where text messages are encoded and can be decrypted with Rot13. Also, it's a lot prettier. I always recommend reading on AO3 if you have a choice as I like using images.
A/N2 - Belated birthday present for the amazing Lilamadison11.
A/N3 - Part 1 of 2.
Adulthood is anticlimactic.
I didn't really expect to wake up fundamentally changed or anything, but still, the sameness disappoints.
The aerosol can hisses as I mist a light coat of hairspray onto my growing-out bangs to prevent them from slipping right out of the barrette. The curse of having baby-fine hair.
"I'm heading out." Dad appears in the bathroom doorway, scrunching his nose and waving the fumes away with his hand. "Should be back early tomorrow." He wears his surveillance outfit - nondescript in every way - and clutches his leather bail-jumpers kit containing everything necessary to capture and restrain criminals.
"Good luck. That McDaniels is a slippery bugger."
"But he's no match for Keith Mars. You have a good time tonight, and don't forget, Sunday is all mine. Daddy/Daughter Birthday Extravaganza."
I pause in my eyeshadow application and smile. "I can't wait."
"Happy Birthday, sweetheart." Dad steps forward, kisses my forehead, and leaves, his footsteps growing progressively distant until the apartment door opens and closes.
Coming down with a sudden case of the jitters, I inhale deeply and release the breath to a count of five.
Dad will be fine.
His burns have healed, leaving very little scarring, but I have to keep reminding myself that it wasn't the P.I. work that landed him in the emergency room last Spring. It was Aaron Echolls.
Still, every time he leaves for a case, my head fills with images of him in that hospital bed. He almost died for me. The least I can do is live safely for him.
I blend my shadow and, for a change of pace, curl my lashes before applying my usual two coats of mascara.
Looking good, Veronica. Just a swipe of lipstick and a change of dress, and I'll be ready to go.
A knock sounds from the living room and I roll my eyes.
"Did you forget your car keys again?" I call out as I approach and turn the doorknob. "I swear, I'm going to sew a second set into…" The words die on my lips.
It's not my absent minded father waiting on the Welcome mat. It's my (not-so-welcome) ex-boyfriend.
Not the sweet ex-boyfriend/possibly new boyfriend, who's due to arrive in twenty minutes to take me out for my birthday dinner.
Nope, it's the most recent ex-boyfriend; burner of pools and smasher of lamps.
Backlit by the golden glow of evening, his brown hair reflects metallic bronze. His head is ducked, and despite his extra foot in height, he somehow manages to look as if he's glancing up at me from under his thick straight lashes.
My insides react frenetically - racing heart, burning cheeks, a whoosh in my stomach that defies the existence of gravity. Luckily, I've had two years to perfect my poker face.
I cross my arms over my chest, tilt my head to the left. "How long did you wait for my dad to pull away?"
Insolent shrug. "Fifteen minutes or so. I've waited longer."
I take in his appearance, searching for something - anything - to indicate that he feels my absence from his life.
Nothing. His face is shaved and his hair is artfully gelled. No missed buttons on his striped shirt, no tell-tale odor of the unshowered.
He smells good, actually - sand and surf and mint. He looks great.
And here I was worried he'd fall apart after losing me.
What does it say about me that this comes as more of disappointment than a relief? As if bloodshot eyes and a disheveled appearance would have validated the idea that he'd ever truly cared about me. Needed me.
Who was I kidding? He's doing fine.
He smirks and lifts an eyebrow. "Should I turn in a circle or something while you complete your inspection? Profile view, perhaps?"
I narrow my eyes. "Why are you here, Logan?"
He sighs and produces a blue velvet box from behind his back.
My left hand grips the wooden door frame while my mind chants a litany of denials. He wouldn't. Would he? Would I? Of course I wouldn't. We're not even eighteen yet. Okay, I'm eighteen, but only for the past twelve hours. We're not even together. Does he want to be? Do I want to be?
Get a hold of yourself, Veronica. There are other types of rings.
Logan presses the box into my palm and curls my fingers around it.
I run my thumb over the nap of the velvet. "What's this?"
"Birthday present. I had it custom-made, so it can't be returned." He shrugs. Ducks his head again. "Toss it if you want. Or keep it. Whatever." His indifferent tone contradicts the apprehension in his eyes.
He doesn't wait for me to open the box, simply turns and walks away. "Goodbye, Veronica," he calls over his shoulder.
The finality of the words crush something inside me I'd prefer not to examine.
Why should I care? I'm over him. I have been, ever since my dad tossed him from the apartment.
I simply. cannot. allow. myself to care about somebody who would purposely set out to hurt others - especially the poor and disadvantaged.
I'm no stranger to revenge, and Logan has a strong case for it. But targeting innocents crosses the line. His propensity for cruelty sickens me, as does his skill in inflicting it.
Then again, he was trained by the master.
For the hundredth time, I wonder if Aaron Echolls punished Lynn via Logan's skin. Kept her docile and controlled by threats to the only person she truly loved? What kind of message might that have taught his son?
For the ninety-ninth time, I push that rationalization away. He can't use his past as an excuse anymore. He's not fifteen and reeling from the death of his girlfriend. He's almost an adult. He's emancipated for fuck's sake.
If I was smart, I would call in and report him. Provide evidence that he's breaking the terms of his emancipation on a daily basis. Trina's already made it clear that she wants no part of guardianship. They would have to ship him off to Ohio to live with his drunk great-aunt, Marcia. Or maybe he would end up in foster care. Either way, he would hate me for it.
I couldn't care less. I've dealt with and survived Logan's hate before.
What I can't deal with, is the sick feeling that he won't make it to his next birthday. That the next shotgun blast will be through his stupid, pretty face.
Waves of nausea sweep over me. I close my eyes and clench my jaw until they pass.
I'm too young for this shit.
Boyfriend drama at my age should be about whether he checked out the cheerleader's ass (never) or whether he called when he said he would (always). Boyfriend drama should NOT be life or death.
Unsure why I'm still standing here when he's long gone, I close the door and return to my bedroom.
My resolve wars with curiosity. I want to open the box immediately. And I want to toss it out, unopened.
Pandora's Ring Box. Opening it will surely lead to another round of 'what if'.
What if he'd listened to reason? What if he'd cared enough about me to stop his ridiculous war? Where would we be right now?
I'm positive he had something special planned for my birthday. That trip to Catalina we've been talking about for months, probably.
And we would be happy. We would hold hands and he would skip every now and then, as if his joy outweighed any societal pressure to be stoic and manly. I would roll my eyes at his dramatics and fall a little deeper. There would be wining and dining. Maybe a little dancing. He would wait to present his gift until we were alone, though.
It's not the first time I've imagined this scene, and my traitorous mind eagerly backfills the setting details.
His father's yacht. Open sea. Champagne and strawberries. Moonlight and music. He would probably make another declaration of love. I would probably deflect it, while my heart sang.
He'd give me his gift. I'd give him my body.
Not that I hadn't tried already. Multiple times this summer during heated makeouts, he'd gently diverted my hands away from his zipper.
I'd never felt rejected. Sexually frustrated? Definitely. But his desire for me could not be more obvious. I'd never hidden mine for him either. A well-placed thigh between my legs could turn me into a shameless lust-beast.
It wasn't hard to guess his motives. He still carried guilt over his unintentional contribution to the…mistake…that cost me my virginity, and he wanted my first real time to be perfect. He wanted to provide all the romantic trappings - the hearts and flowers - I was denied the first time.
It was unnecessary. I would have taken him in his bed, on his couch, that day in his pool. Especially that day in the pool, pressed between his hard body and the slick tiles.
But it was important to him to give me that experience, and I cared enough to humor him..
Not without some push back, of course. Like that night on the beach when I'd wrapped my hand around the bulge in his pants. He'd moaned and - after a surge of his hips - relocated my hand to his chest with a soft kiss to the knuckles.
Soon? I'd asked, pulling back enough to see his face.
Soon, he'd confirmed in a whisper, eyes luminous with emotion and need.
I'd known then that he had a plan. With my birthday less than a month away, it seemed the obvious choice. I could wait that long.
And I have. Waited. But there won't be any romantic excursions tonight.
I won't be feeling the slide of his skin against mine. And I'll never know the experience of having him inside me.
Because Logan Echolls is a heartless jackass, and I have dinner plans with someone else.
My attention shifts to the paper fortune tucked into one corner of my mirror, and shame burns my cheeks.
What am I doing thinking about Logan when Duncan will be here any minute?
No regrets, Veronica. Everything turned out for the best. As it was meant to be.
I leave the velvet box on my dresser. Unopened.
Duncan holds my hand as we walk along the boardwalk. He seems happy, but not joyous. He doesn't skip, and I hate myself for noticing.
Of course he doesn't. Ninety-nine percent of the over-seven population doesn't skip.
This is nice. The company is charming, and we have time to linger, as our reservations aren't for another half hour. The afternoon's heat has tapered off and my turquoise sun dress flutters against my legs in the gentle breeze.
I am content.
A display of iridescent baubles bounces rainbows onto the boardwalk, and we stop to browse at a hand-blown glass booth.
A transparent orb, the size of a softball, sits nestled in a swath of magenta satin. I crouch down, intrigued by how it turns its setting upside down - sky at the bottom, pink at the top.
The proprietress - a brown-eyed, honey-blonde who looks like she'd be right at home at the Mooncalf Collective - places the glass ball in my hand. "Take it over to the railing," she says, pointing to the opposite side of the boardwalk.
At my hesitation, she says, "You have a trustworthy face. And your friend is still here, anyway. It's worth it."
Looking through the ball from my new vantage point, the blue/orange/lavender sunset is crowned by a sand and scrub sky. A boulder sky. A boardwalk sky.
I select targets from my surroundings - a clump of seashells left behind by a child, a gull on a stump, a paisley bandana stall. The glass ball flips everything top to bottom, creating a stunning effect.
I want to come back and photograph the world this way.
Finally, because I'm being cowardly, I lift the orb to the ocean, and the vision - formerly static and serene - comes to life.
The sun, a - golden orb within an orb - radiates from the center, sandwiched between reflective choppy waves and the streaky pink-lemonade sky. The effect pulls the air from my lungs.
I think of Logan.
Emotional as a tropical storm, tempestuous and destructive, roaring and rebellious, with a nasty tendency to bash himself against immovable objects.
Logan, vast and immeasurable. Concealing great depths and beauty beneath the surface. Alluring and playful and gentle. A warm caress to the skin. A healing balm for a tired soul.
All of the above. At once.
Dating him was like piloting a small boat.
What will it be today? An exhilarating zip across the waves, bouncing off the wake and screaming with laughter? Or will it be like floating on a tranquil sea, buoyed and cradled in his love?
Eventually, though, you'll find yourself amidst raging seas and crashing waves. It isn't a matter of if you'll capsize, so much as when. And the question you should be asking, is whether you'll wash to shore a little worse-for-wear, or be swallowed up whole.
I made it out alive, but it still requires vigilance to maintain my resolve.
My cell buzzes inside my bag.
It's him. I know it. His underwater familiars contacted him via the conch-shell network.
I'm being ridiculous. It's probably just my dad checking in with an update on Hiram McDaniels.
The text is from Logan. I drop it back into my bag, unread.
Nope. Not ruining this night.
I return to the glass maker's stand.
If Logan is the sea, then Duncan is the earth. Solid and stable. Dependable. Drama-free. A great foundation upon which to build a relationship.
He's talking to the lady, clutching a boot-shaped beer stein that even the proprietress seems to have a hard time taking seriously.
Ewww. Tacky. Put it down.
She smiles at my return. "So? What did you think?"
The fifty-dollar price tag is steep for something that will probably end up sitting on a shelf, and I'm regretting not accepting dad's offer of birthday spending money, when I open my wallet to find a suspicious hundred-dollar bill.
Sneaky, Dad. Very sneaky.
"I've got it," Duncan says, whipping out his wallet.
"No thanks, I can pay."
"Nonsense." He kisses my cheek. "It's your birthday. Let me buy this for you."
I'm adamant in my refusal. I can't allow Duncan to pay for something that made me think of Logan. To be honest, I shouldn't be thinking of him at all, but it's going to take time.
Instead, as I pay for my purchase, I steer Duncan towards a more elegant set of steins.
I still can't believe we're back together. For a year after Lilly's death, I'd wanted this more than anything. Hoped for it. Dreamed of it. To be reunited with my handsome, sweet boyfriend. To take my place back at his side, where nobody would dare ridicule me. To go back to normal.
I essentially shut down those feelings when he started dating Meg. If he was no longer an option for me, I could at least be happy for my friend. And anyway, I'd been distracted by Logan, who'd seemed on the verge of an emotional spiral when he showed up at the dance pantsless. Whether it was my influence or Logan's inner strength, we somehow managed to avoid that crises. And then it was on to the next disaster. For the past five months, I've managed to back-burner any tender emotions towards Duncan.
Until I opened his fortune cookie this afternoon. Until I kissed him.
Packages wrapped and bagged, we continue down the boardwalk, occasionally stopping to admire jewelry or novelties at the various booths.
It's four minutes until our reservation. Dominic's is straight ahead, and I can already detect the mingling aromas of roasting garlic, fresh bread, and marinara. My mouth begins to water.
"Yo, Duncan!" The voice comes behind us, and I groan audibly.
We turn, and I clutch Duncan's hand as Chester approaches.
I barely know the guy, but he's an 09er. Dim-witted and messy-haired with a middle-aged Hawaiian tourist esthetic. A regular at Logan's poker games.
"Dude, when'd ya get back in town?" he asks.
"I've been here all summer."
"What? Where've you been? You've missed everything."
"Uh…just laying low," Duncan answers, embarrassed. "Family drama."
"Oh. Well there's a party tonight at Dick's place. Total blow out! You should come. Bring your girl." The guy makes a vague gesture towards me.
"Wish I could, but we have plans." Duncan says.
"Break them. You can't miss this one." He glances over his shoulder and bellows, "DICK!"
"WHAT?" Dick Casablancas' voice responds from inside the open door of the surf shop, and my stomach drops.
Just my freaking luck.
"Get out here, and convince this idiot to come to your party."
Dick swaggers out of the shop, followed by his brother, Cassidy. His eyes sweep over me and Duncan, lingering on our clasped hands, and his lip curls up into a disgusted sneer.
"Not cool man," he says, with a slow head shake. "Not cool at all."
"Why not?" Duncan straightens his shoulders and his chin juts out at an obstinate angle. "I'm single. She's single."
"Logan needs you, dude."
I tug my hand free and grasp his bicep. "Let's go, Duncan."
He ignores me, and lets out a bitter laugh. "Yeah. He really looked like he needed me."
"He did, you ass." Dick punches him lightly in the bicep. "You're supposed to be his best friend, right?"
"I used to think so."
The unspoken implication is that Logan committed treason by dating me.
"You should have been there man. Dude couldn't take a piss without a reporter being up in his face." He holds up an imaginary microphone. "'Is it true your dad's a psycho murderer? Are you a psycho murderer? Are you a family of psycho murderers? Has Trina ever murdered anyone? Did your dad push your mom of that bridge?' And the whole town was screaming for his arrest and spitting on him. Shooting at him and his girlfriend."
Duncan seems unaffected. "Did it slip your mind who his dad murdered?"
"Did it slip your mind that Logan had nothing to do with that? Or were you too busy creeping on his girl?"
An intense feeling of disloyalty sits in my belly, although I'm not sure whether it's because I'm not sticking up for Logan or because I want to.
"Dick." Cassidy grips Dick's shoulder and whispers something in his ear.
"Good point," Dick says. He turns his attention to me and switches on the faux-charm. "Ronnie, I guess I should thank you for returning Logan's testicles only slightly mangled. Congrats on getting back together, and I hope you two crazy kids can make it last for a long, long time this go-around."
"Thanks, man." Duncan smiles, apparently placated, and I wonder if he completely missed the insult. Or just didn't care.
Dominic's is a special-occasion destination.
Soft light spills out of frosted-glass sconces on spice-colored columns - cumin, paprika, cinnamon - while lamp candles on crisp white tablecloths, complete the romantic mood.
Wealthy clientele murmur politely around spacious round tables.
It's not a place I would bring my father, with his animated stories and boisterous laugh. Not a place I would choose for myself either, to be honest. Too likely to run into Celeste Kane and her ilk. Logan had suggested checking it out once back in July, but hadn't pressed when I'd suggested Mama Leone's instead.
My meat lasagna drips with cheese and tastes like happiness - even with its ridiculous price-to-portion ratio. I dip a chunk of warm garlic bread into the sauce and let out a contented sigh upon tasting it.
Duncan is effusive and engaging. We fill each other in on what we've missed over the past year, and our plans for the upcoming year. He clearly wants to pick up where we left off, and I think I'm okay with that. We had something good before life went to hell and it would be great if we could get that back.
Still, the unread text message in my bag scratches at my attention, so when Duncan excuses himself to use the restroom, I decide it can't hurt to read it.
I pull my cell from my bag and stare in incomprehension at the gibberish displayed on my screen. A random string of letters and spaces. Not a single legitimate word.
Considering that the text came in at least twenty minutes before our run-in with Dick, it can't be a response to hearing about me and Duncan.
I hit the reply button.
Veronica Mars 8:04 PM Did a cat walk over your cell phone, or did you start drinking early?
Logan's response comes moments later as Duncan makes his way back to our table.
Logan Echolls 8:21 PM If you have to ask, that answers my question. Enjoy your reunion with your stalker and have a nice life.
I dream of tender hands exploring my body. The gentle rhythm of waves under a canopy of stars. The solid weight of his naked body and the taste of his mouth. Logan stares down at me, and I have never felt so loved.
I wake, gasping and sweaty. One forty-seven A.M.
I'm out of bed with the light on before I can second-guess myself.
I blink several times - adjusting to the harsh glare - and then locate my target . The blue ring box sits on my dresser between the mirror and the glass rose I won playing Skee-ball with Lilly in sixth grade. It opens with a slight squeak of its hinges.
I stare for several moments at the silver ring inside, and then pluck it from its velvet perch.
It's tall - the kind of ring that would come almost to my knuckle and I'm fascinated by its design - a feminine scroll overlay pattern sandwiched between thin, masculine hexagonal borders.
It slides onto my right ring finger as if it were made for me. Which…I suppose it was.
I laugh aloud when my thumb rubs the pattern and it shifts. A spinner ring!
In June, we'd stopped at a silver shop to repair an antique serving piece Logan had dented while roughhousing at Luke's house. During the short wait, I'd fiddled with the spinner rings while Logan smiled indulgently. I remember seeing him deep in conversation with the owner, but had assumed it was about the tray.
That sneaky boy.
Removing the ring, I take it to my bedside lamp to examine it more closely.
It's as if Logan captured my essence in silver - tough and dangerous on the outside, girly and romantic in the middle.
On my third spin, I discover what at first looks like a flaw in the design. A place where the scrollwork is cornered and square instead of rounded and curvy.
Upon closer inspection, I realize it's actually a small window, revealing the letter 'H' embossed upon the concealed inner band.
Above the window, the latticing cleverly forms a small arrow shape. I tilt the ring and find the entire alphabet engraved along the top edge. The arrow points to the letter "U".
I slide the center section to the right - so that the arrow points to "V". The letter "I" now displays inside the small window.
I spin the arrow to the letter "L". The window shows me a "Y".
Any part of me that was still holding-out melts into a gooey puddle.
Logan commissioned a secret decoder ring for me.
Unlike the ones that used to come in cereal boxes, the clever design ensures that anybody examining it on my finger would see only a large, slightly edgy piece of jewelry.
This thrills me and my heart swells. Nobody gets me like my smart and seriously hot boyfriend.
Except he's not my boyfriend. Hasn't been for weeks. Duncan is now.
I grab the ring box, examining it for any hidden notes, but the lining is firmly attached. No secret compartment.
Damn. I have a new toy and I'm ready to play with it.
The text message! From when I was looking out at the waves.
I rush to my phone and pull up Logan's message from earlier.
Logan Echolls 8:12 PM Happy Birthday Veronica. I miss you. Just know that if it were possible to go back, I would change everything. I hate that my stupid need for revenge caused me to lose what mattered most in the world to me. I am sincerely sorry.
My sinuses prickle and my vision swims as I use the ring to slowly decode his message.
He does still care.
I sigh his name, blot my eyes with a tissue, and compose my response. I assume he commissioned a ring for himself as well to code and decode with.
Veronica Mars 2:11 AM Thank you for the gift. It's lovely and I'm overwhelmed by how it embodies who I am. Your message means a lot to me, and I wish I'd communicated better before things went too far. I miss you too, Logan.
It can't be too late for us.
Duncan and I have barely left the starting gate. He'd understand if I changed my mind.
Logan's acknowledged his wrongdoing. We can talk it out. If he'll promise to drop the vendetta, there's no reason why we can't be together.
He loves me.
I love him.
The admission is like a heavy weight lifted from my chest, and I can't even wait until morning.
He'll forgive me for waking him up - especially once I've told him I'm willing to work things out. We'll discuss it like adults and then maybe, if things are going well, I'll convince him to come over and crawl in my bed. Dad's not here, and it would be wonderful to finally get a good night's sleep snuggled up against his warmth.
I dial his number and my heart flutters in anticipation of hearing his sleep-tinged voice.
Except…the voice is feminine. And older. Mid-twenties, at least.
I pause, checking the display. Definitely the right phone number. "Um…is Logan around?"
"He's in the shower," the woman says.
"Why would he shower at two in the morning?"
"If I have to answer that, then your Sex Ed class is wasting my tax dollars. You wanna leave a message?
"No." I disconnect the call, white-hot anger boiling through my veins.
I rip the ring from my finger and hurl it across the room.
I wake to the buzz of an incoming text message. Logan, of course.
You don't have to decode this, Veronica. Just delete it. You'll be better off.
I locate the ring behind a marshmallow-scented jar candle on the second shelf of my bookcase. It's undamaged, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
Logan Echolls 09:12 AM You're welcome. I'm relieved that you like it. Can we talk? You could call me or maybe we could get coffee?
It's too earnest. He doesn't know I called
Veronica Mars 9:15 AM No, we can't. Talk to your fuck buddy. The one who answered your phone last night while you were in the shower.
Damn. Could you sound more jealous, Veronica?
Why didn't I just go with a simple "it's not a good idea"?
Logan responds swiftly.
Logan Echolls 9:16 AM Forget I even asked. I must have misinterpreted your text, because clearly it's hopeless between us.
He follows up before I can respond.
Logan Echolls 9:16 AM Knowing how elated you must be to have Duncan back, I'm flattered you even took time out from celebrating to call me. Forgive me for not waiting by the phone.
What did I expect, groveling?
How had I not predicted he'd react this way to hearing about me and Duncan? It's classic Logan. He did this every time Lilly broke his heart. Why did I think things would be any different?
Veronica Mars 9:18 AM You're right, it is hopeless. Nothing's changed, and I still can't deal with the emotional roller coaster. Normal is STILL the watchword.
Logan Echolls 9:19 AM I understand.
My chest tightens.
Nobody's ever said the boy isn't a quick learner. I've trained him well to respect my decisions.
He doesn't beg for more chances. Doesn't promise to do better.
He just gives up on me.
Things might be finito for us, but I hate the idea of hiding the ring away at the bottom of some drawer. It speaks to me - size, weight, and aesthetic - and the sentiment behind it was heartfelt and personal.
I slide it back onto my finger.
I love him. God help me, I do. But being with him simply isn't worth the pain and heartache that come with the job.
Duncan and I have been back together for a week now, and it's liberating being part of a stable relationship.
It's as if we'd never broken up. He doesn't see "damaged goods with trust issues", he sees the pretty pink princess I used to be.
That I can be again. Nothing is stopping me now.
Duncan is tentative touches and soft kisses. Gentle and soothing.
He shrinks back from my sarcasm, and that's okay. I need to relearn politeness. The anger isn't necessary anymore.
Duncan offers safety and calm.
No secrecy. No fear. No heart-pounding worry every time the phone rings.
He's taken the penthouse suite at the Neptune Grand - oversized and modern and obscenely expensive. I can't help thinking that two months in this room would pay for a year of tuition and living expenses at Stanford.
We're cuddled up on his white, butter-soft, leather sectional watching his favorite movie, Forrest Gump. Again.
"What's this?" He lifts my hand to get a look at my ring, and my thumb automatically presses the back, preventing it from spinning and ensuring that the window is concealed. "Looks like something a dude would wear."
I snatch my hand away, crossing my arms.
He laughs. "I'll buy you a ring. Something pretty. With an opal, maybe. Or a pearl."
Something virginal, you mean. Something Meg Manning would wear.
There's no need to mention that Logan gave me the ring. What good could come from that?
"No thank you," I say instead. "I appreciate the offer, but I'm happy with this ring. It's special to me."
Duncan shrugs, already absorbed with the movie again.
Unlike last year, I don't approach the first day of school with dread.
My boyfriend is popular. No one mocks me in the halls. My locker is graffiti-free. And when I run into Madison Sinclair in the bathroom, she swallow back her poison. Playing nice looks painful on her.
My Stanford dreams are alive, and I kick-off the year with a two-part plan: get accepted, and find a way to pay for it.
The Kane Scholarship is still my greatest hope, and the irony is a kick-in-the-teeth. If Jake and Celeste hadn't destroyed my father's livelihood, broken up my family, and run off my mother, my college savings might still be collecting interest in the bank.
Then there's my job at Java the Hut. It might not pay much, but it's Normal. Nice and safe and Normal.
One thing that is NOT on the plan: Investigating.
It's the antithesis of Normal, and I've retired. Permanently.
Nothing can drag me back in. Nothing.
Except for Wallace.
They had to go and mess with Wallace.
Nobody messes with my BFF and gets away with it.
There's no way he failed that drug test. So…one more for the books. One and done. I can probably have this wrapped up before Duncan even gets back from visiting his dad in Napa.
Logan's M.I.A. so far. I exhibit remarkable self-control by not grabbing Weevil by the ear and demanding an explanation. Through strategic bathroom eavesdropping, I learn he's doing just fine as of Pam's party last night.
Like Duncan, he's simply decided to skip the first few days of school. A year ago, they would have been together. Now, they don't even speak to each other.
That's what happens when your best friend dates your ex, I suppose.
Speaking of friends and exes, the situation with Meg is…uncomfortable.
Duncan broke up with her months ago, while I was still dating Logan. Shouldn't she be over it by now?
Like you were completely over it two months after he dumped you, Veronica?
It's not quite the same thing. He was my first love. You never completely get over your first.
Maybe he was Meg's first. too. She'd gotten over Cole quickly enough.
Regardless, she seems to think I stole Duncan from her, when nothing could be further from the truth.
She's attending the field trip to Shark Field later in the week. Maybe we'll get a chance to talk and I can make her understand.
Weevil doesn't offer me a ride home from the crash site, and I don't ask. He takes off early, his motorcycle able to weave in and out of stopped traffic in a way that anything larger could not.
I wait in the limo with my classmates for twenty minutes, but after one too many callous complaints, I climb out, ignoring Duncan's entreaties to come back.
I feel a heavy numbness in my torso and my thoughts are still dazed.
Meg is down there, dead or dying.
So is Ms. Dumas, the bus driver, and five other students who are loved and will be mourned. And those assholes want to whine about inconvenience?
My phone still doesn't have a signal. I shove it back in my bag and set off in search of transportation.
The scene is pure chaos. Dust and smoke, flashing lights and helicopter blades. Sheriff's Deputies stand around aimlessly while Highway Patrol tries to restore order by cordoning off the scene, laying out cones to form a single lane, and sending out flaggers. Firemen and EMTs wait for instructions next to their vehicles. A few reporters huddle with their cameramen waiting for the noise to abate.
Every face displays a similar expression: shell shock.
Kamachi Kenkichi, my dad's friend on Highway Patrol, is screaming at Lamb to have his deputies "MOVE EVERY FUCKING VEHICLE OFF THAT PULL-OFF" so that the hovering Search and Rescue chopper can land.
He has a point. Five cruisers are parked haphazardly in the lot for the overlook while a string of fire engines, ambulances and state boys are forced to park on the grassy slope across the road.
I spy Sacks holding a cell to his ear and writing in a notebook. He beckons me over, and hands me the phone.
My dad's relieved voice. "Oh thank God. I was terrified."
I reassure him repeatedly that I am alive, fine, and don't have a single scratch, and then return the phone to Sacks. He's heading back to Neptune to relieve an off-duty deputy and I'm welcome to hitch a ride in the back of his cruiser.
Sure, the vehicle reeks of sweat and vomit, and the A/C doesn't quite cool off the back, but at least I'm not still back at the scene like those poor, inconvenienced, kids in the limo.
A ribbon of traffic stretches for miles in both directions, but luckily, we're moving away from the accident, and are able to keep up a steady pace.
About two miles from the crash site, my phone picks up a signal, and buzzes multiple notifications. I ignore my father's messages. Wallace and Mac haven't heard the news yet, but Logan certainly has. Six text messages wait for me in escalating states of urgency.
Logan Echolls 5:20 PM Are you okay? You were in the limo, right?
Logan Echolls 5:26 PM Nobody's answering their phones. Can you just text me back a simple yes or no? Your name isn't on the list of victims.
Logan Echolls 5:29 PM Your name isn't on the survivor's list either. Duncan's name is on the list. Why isn't yours? What the hell is going on?
Logan Echolls 5:45 PM I know we're not friends, but Is it too fucking much to ask for you to just let me know you're alive?
Logan Echolls 5:46 PM I'm fucking flipping out!
Logan Echolls 5:51 PM VERONICA! ANSWER ME NOW!
Maybe it's a nod to his concern for me, or maybe it's just my inner Mata Hari, but instead of simply responding, I spin my ring and encrypt my reply.
Veronica Mars 6:12 PM I'm alive and well, but couldn't get a signal at the crash site. Had a run-in with Weevil at the gas station, and the bus left without me. Who would've guessed that squabbling could save my life?
He responds a minute later.
Logan Echolls 6:13 PM I would. It's basic math. Your love of danger is eclipsed only by your love of bickering. I'm glad you're safe.
Ass. I laugh for the first time since the accident and text back my response.
Veronica Mars 6:16 PM You're so full of it. I'm cool and collected. I only bicker with jackasses who infuriate me
Of which, you're at the top of the list.
Logan Echolls 6:18 PM I rest my case. So how is my dear pal, Weevil? Pull any guns on you today?
Veronica Mars 6:20 PM PM Not today. He didn't deny it when I confronted him about it, but I still don't think he gave the order.
Ahead, traffic cones block off a large pothole and, with the Southbound traffic at a standstill, Sacks slows to a crawl to squeeze around the obstacle.
One of the stationary vehicles in the opposite lane is Logan's jackass yellow X-Terra. He never glances up from his phone as we pass, but the emotional turmoil on his features is like a punch to my gut.
Logan Echolls 6:22 PM Your unwavering faith in the local criminal element would be heartwarming if he hadn't tried to murder me.
My conviction that Logan didn't kill Felix has not wavered since the night he showed up at my apartment, and it has nothing to do with the concussion or broken ribs I made the mistake once of believing him capable of murder and the results were disastrous. It's just not who he is.
While he enjoys the occasional violence-as-recreational-activity, he prefers a good mind-fuck when it comes to revenge. Bruises fade. Emotional scars last longer. That's what the pool burning was, right? A symbolic kick to Weevil's balls every time one of his young family members wanted to go swimming. Every time he had to explain why it was impossible.
Veronica Mars 6:24 PM I was defending you, Jackass. And faith has nothing to do with it. He's losing control of the PCHers, and refuses to admit it.
Logan Echolls 6:26 PM Defending little ole' me? And The Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.
The size of your heart was never the problem, idiot.
Veronica Mars 6:27 PM All joking aside, watch your back, Logan. Weevil's convinced you stabbed Felix, and I don't think he's finished coming after you.
Logan Echolls 6:31 PM Always do. I could have told you that. Even if I had tried to call a ceasefire this summer, it takes two parties to end a war, and Weevil's in it until the bitter end. And by end, I mean MY end. Probably.
He nonchalant attitude about his demise makes me want to strangle him.
I don't text him back. What's left to say?
Meg survived. If you call being in a coma surviving.
She never should have been on that bus. Her rightful place was with the 09ers, in that limo. It wasn't them she was avoiding, it was me.
Duncan's attempts to cheer me up have the opposite effect. Why isn't he wracked with guilt? For months, he'd dated her. He'd thought she was kewl.
Is this how it is with him? Out with the old, in with the new? Clean sweep?
His pursuit of Meg had spared no concern for any tender feelings I might still be harboring.
Granted, he'd thought we were siblings at the time, but I hadn't. What I'd experienced seeing them together had been like bittersweet melancholy. She was my friend, and seeing her happy made me happy.
But Meg's reaction to my reunion with Duncan had been stronger, and instead of acknowledging her obvious pain, I'd tried to invalidate it. You were already broken up. I didn't steal him. I'm faultless.
It was my job to protect my relationship with her, not his. I should have been a better friend.
I've snapped at Duncan three times in as many days. He's avoiding me now.
I wait for him by his car. Contrite. He's only trying to make me feel better. Isn't that what boyfriends are supposed to do?
So that was sex. Making love. Knocking boots. A roll in the hay.
It felt…pleasant. Nice. I mean it wasn't painful by any means. Duncan was soft and tender, and I felt a closeness to him that's been elusive up until now.
But…that was what rules the world? Starts wars. Destroys careers and twenty-year marriages? Sells sports cars?
I guess I'd expected it to be a bit more life changing.
Maybe we did it wrong, he'd said, hearing the loud moans and pounding headboard coming from the room next door.
Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe I'm not sexy? Or exciting? He'd certainly declined my thinly veiled offer to try again.
Cable TV can't be that interesting.
I wait until Duncan's asleep to sneak out, stopping in the hallway to fix my pant leg where it's caught on my boots.
That's where he finds me.
Shame floods my body, thickening my throat and making my knees weak.
I'm not cheating, you're cheating. You're not cheating either. We're both cheating. Who is she? I'll ruin her. You're mine.
His own guilt is no more than a flicker in his eyes as he closes the door. With a single glance, he simply knows.
I thought I'd seen him in every emotional state - from elation to rage to despair - but I've never seen him like this. Logan is fire. He's an inferno of emotion burning everything in his path.
This icy person in front of me is a stranger.
I can't meet his eyes. I can't walk away.
"FYI, if the cuddling is the best part, he didn't do it right." His words are a weapon, but I fixate on them nevertheless as he walks away.
He didn't do it right. He's the problem. Not me.
I can't imagine Logan ever choosing SpectraVision over another round with me.
Who the hell is she?
Almost two A.M., and I'm wide awake. I stare at the vintage Cuba travel poster above my feet - Paradise of the Tropics - and consume copious amounts of ice cream.
It's not working tonight. Guilt has a way of ruining even Chunky Monkey.
It was unfair of me to compare boyfriends. Of course, Duncan would be different from Logan.
Logan's been at it for years with multiple partners. He was raised in a lifestyle where sex appeal was a commodity. He probably learned it alongside his ABCs.
Duncan doesn't have that experience. Like me, he's only ever had sex the disastrous night of Shelly's party, which left him scarred as well. For different, reasons, of course.
Give him time, Veronica. With a little more practice, he'll be rocking the headboard, too.
Still, I'd offered more practice. That's the part I'm stuck on.
My phone buzzes above my head, and my stomach drops. Only one person would text this time of night.
Logan Echolls 1:48 AM So, should I warn her?
Veronica Mars 1:50 AM Warn who?
Logan Echolls 1:52 AM Fine, I'll play along. The woman in room 1147.
Veronica Mars 1:53 AM And who might that be?
Logan Echolls 1:55 AM You tell me. I'll bet you had her identity in less than five minutes.
Can't say I wasn't close.
Logan Echolls 1:57 AM So, what'll it be? Canceling her credit cards? Adding her to the FBI's Most Wanted List?
He knows me too well. Only Duncan's fortuitous arrival on the scene had prevented me from doing something stupid.
Veronica Mars 1:59 AM Get over yourself, Logan. I could not be more indifferent to you or your sex life.
Logan Echolls 2:01 AM Keep telling yourself that, Veronica.
I do keep telling myself that. Eventually, it'll take.
On a list of my smartest decisions ever, joining FBLA would not be at the top. All the resume-packing and extra boyfriend-time in the world can't be worth sitting in the same room as Duncan and Logan.
Duncan seems to think if he just ignores the problem hard enough, it'll go away.
Nothing wrong here. Just a Regular Joe Billionaire and his girlfriend learning about Finance. That guy? Just an acquaintance. Not my closest friend for the past twelve years.
Logan won't play that game. Between his constant sullenness and the bitchy asides, he amps up the tension making club meetings unbearable for…well…basically, me.
After my daily visual inspection - no blood, no bruises, no bullet holes - I follow Duncan's lead, but it doesn't sit right with me.
Dick and Cassidy aren't forced to take sides. They laugh at Logan's jokes - at Duncan's expense - and everything remains hunky-dory.
Wish I was so lucky.
The fight comes as a relief.
I shouldn't admit that, I suppose. I should say something like: 'Violence solves nothing, and I don't condone it'.
It was absolutely necessary. Duncan needed the reality check. Logan needed to be heard. They both needed the catharsis.
Signs that my boyfriend is the absolute best: gets along with my BFF, makes us welcome in his home, willing to watch Pride and Prejudice.
Signs that my boyfriend is the worst: Laughs at Jackie's jokes.
The sex is improving.
Duncan's face is pressed into my shoulder and the rhythm of his movement is doing...something….to me on the inside I lift my hips to meet him, but he shifts in compensation and the feeling drifts away.
"Wait. Hold on."
"What's wrong?" he asks.
"Nothing." I roll him onto his back and straddle him.
I've never done this before, but I've seen enough TV to grasp the basic idea. I sit straight up, and already I prefer this position where I can control the angle and friction.
I'm just starting to recapture that feeling when I notice that Duncan's eyes are squeezed closed. His hands flop lifelessly out to his sides instead of guiding my hips like…
He seems to sense the moment my enthusiasm wanes, and he rolls me onto my back once more, pressing his face into my hair.
I can't say I don't understand what's going on.
After, we lay side-by-side, and despite Logan's words, the cuddling is pretty amazing.
"I'm not your sister," I say quietly.
"I know," Duncan kisses the top of my head, and just when I think that's all he has to say on the matter, he finally speaks again. "But I spent almost two years thinking you were. I'm still trying to adjust to the idea that what we're doing isn't wrong."
"Do you think…?"
"Yeah. I'll get there."
In a strange twist of fate, I do end up ruining HER.
Except, at the time when I turn Big Dick and Kendall Casablancas in for real estate fraud, I'm not aware that she's the same woman who's been sleeping with Logan.
I find that out later.
I know it isn't true. Know it isn't true. Love is just a lie. Made to make you blue.
The karaoke singer sandblasts salt into my wounds as as I die a little inside.
Knowing that Logan was seeing someone was a kick in the teeth. The visual of his stripping down for Beaver's step-mom is unbearable.
My chest burns and I see spots in my vision.
No Cassidy, Kendall's motel meetings with the County Assayer were innocent - sexually speaking. Why fuck that guy when my under-aged boyfriend is rattling the walls and making her scream?
Ex-boyfriend. Never forget.
As I breathe through the pain, I realize what's missing from this scenario. The flash drive.
This is Logan with today's inspirational message. To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best. William M. Thackeray.
I hang up and text instead.
Veronica Mars 10:03 AM I need to talk to you immediately. Quit sending my calls to voicemail.
And what kind of voicemail message is that anyway
Veronica Mars 10:06 AM If you don't call me back in the next five minutes, I'm coming over.
If he can't convince Weevil to kill him, he's going to find somebody else to do the honors. Logan's death wish is alive and well in Neptune.
He laughs at me.
He strolls around in that ridiculous bath towel - through the wreckage of capsized lamps and rumpled sheets - so smug in his belief that I'm there out of jealousy. Look at me. This is what you're missing out on.
I'm exposing too much.
So is he, but not in the same way.
No blood, no bruises, no bullet holes.
I'm tempted to bruise him, myself. Doesn't he get it? I've been kicking myself for months for not warning him to watch out for Weevil that night on the bridge.
Can't you see, I came through for you this time? I'm here to protect you, and, you're treating it like a joke.
I try to save his sorry, ungrateful, immoral, ass, and he throws my concern right back in my face. Devoted ex-girlfriend, my ass.
I'm done, Buddy. Consider my devotion officially and permanently null-and-void. Get yourself killed. See if I care.
Logan Echolls 12:18 AM For somebody who's made it their life's purpose to expose the truth, you're the biggest liar I know.
He woke me from (almost) sleep to say that?
Veronica Mars 12:21 AM Who have I lied to?
Logan Echolls 12:24 AM Yourself, every time you pretend you're satisfied. Which is the biggest tragedy.
Veronica Mars 12:26 AM It must be, if it's keeping you up all night.
My first slip-up was to be expected.
That drug test failure would have left a stain on Wallace's permanent record and ruined his future. What self-respecting BFF would stand aside and allow that?
The second backslide was a public service. Neptune High is bad enough without Jessie Doyle running around clocking any mean girl who looks at her funny.
And who wouldn't take pity on Beaver Casablancas, who just wanted to look like a hero in his father's eyes - thousand dollar check withstanding?
I have no excuse for Julie Block.
Refusing her case would have zero impact on my life. Dad doesn't want the job. He's already over-extended with his workload and his campaign for sheriff.
So why do I only pretend to cancel the job?
Admit it, Veronica. This is what you live for. You'd be so much happier if you would just stop fighting the inevitable.
Maybe Logan's text wasn't so completely off-base.
Julie's paranoia is contagious, though. It infects me like a rash.
So here's a dilemma. Two weeks ago, when I'd been wracked with guilt over my contribution to Meg's situation, Duncan's seeming indifference had disturbed me.
So shouldn't my discovery that he spends every day outside of Meg's hospital room come as a relief? Proof that I haven't misjudged his character after all?
He's clearly suffering from remorse, it just took longer to manifest than mine did.
I've been tied up all week - between my job and Julie's case - so when dad calls to say he's staying at Alicia's for a second night in a row, it's the perfect opportunity for a little alone-time with my boyfriend.
Recessed lighting bathes the penthouse in green and yellow when I arrive bearing Chinese. Baseball Playoff highlights stream on the television, and there's no evidence of his "cramming for tomorrow's Latin quiz".
I light the candle grouping behind the couch and the vanilla fragrance mingles with the ginger, garlic and sesame of our food.
Duncan joins me on the couch, taking away my plate and pulling me close. For the first time in days, things are about to get hot-and-heavy, and I can't wait.
I don't know what possesses me to choose this moment to ask him about his secret hospital visits.
He. Completely. Shuts. Down.
What did I expect? Guilt is hardly an aphrodisiac.
Where do I fit in? Are we still good, or do I serve as a constant reminder to him that his - our - actions contributed to Meg's decision to take the bus?
No. This is Julie's influence. Duncan loves me.
I remind myself later that he's only being sensitive to Lizzie Manning's feelings when he hides me in his bedroom like a common…Breathe, Veronica.
Julie teaches me a valuable lesson, though. When you go looking for signs of trouble, it'll find a way of presenting itself.
I suppress my urge to copy Meg's files onto my laptop and instead go looking for a different kind of trouble.
I stake out the entrance closest to Logan's last class and wait near the stairs to the upper lunch patio. From this vantage point, I'll be able to catch him regardless of which direction he takes.
A green sign to my left suggests "Don't bury your memories. Treasure them!"
Thanks for the advice, but I think I'll stick with burying. It works for me.
Students pass by dressed in tanks and tee shirts, while I'm still chilly in my blazer-layered hoodie.
The bus crash has been eating at me ever since Curly Moran washed ashore with my name scrawled across his hand. Did eight innocent people die in my place?
Duncan thinks I'm paranoid, but the facts add up.
Fact one: Were I to disappear, the case against Aaron Echolls would fall apart.
Fact two: Curly Moran was a demolitions expert and stunt coordinator for Aaron's first action movie, The Long Haul.
Fact three: The September 24th phone call to Weevil, tipping him off that Curly was responsible for the bus crash came from inside the Echolls estate.
Which is why I'm here, waiting for my jackass ex-boyfriend to get out of class.
Do I think Logan made that call? Of course not - he wouldn't do anything to jeopardize Aaron's conviction. But I need to determine who had access to the house on the date in question.
I cut him off as he exits the school, and he pulls up short.
He's extra-theatrical today with the hand-gestures and the mustache twirling.
No blood, no bruises, no bullet holes.
He banters, but his tone is caustic and there's no spark in his eyes. He's pissed.
For the first time since…ever…Logan isn't enjoying the bickering.
It scares me.
All along I've worried about the external threat. Weevil. The PCHers. Jealous cuckolded Gun-toting husbands.
I've entirely overlooked the internal threat. I've never questioned Logan's resolve to keep going - even after his night on the Coronado. He's strong. Stronger than almost anyone.
He had his war to keep him going. And he had me. That seemed to be enough for him.
What does he have now? All alone in that huge mansion with only Kendall Casablancas to keep him company. And Dick, I suppose, if they're still speaking since the affair came to light.
No parents. No siblings who matter. No Duncan. No me.
"Do you ever miss Logan?" I ask, when Duncan joins me for lunch. Some part of me is expecting defensiveness, but his sincerity surprises me.
He does. Probably even more than he's willing to admit. Sure, it's a little manipulative of me to frame the conversation around what's missing in his life, rather than Logan's. And when I casually imply that there would be no resistance from me if he wanted to resume their friendship? Just being a supportive girlfriend.
I give Logan the night to cool down and call him the next morning. He wearily agrees to figure out which phone dialed Weevil and get back to me.
He responds minutes later.
Logan Echolls 11:47 AM It rings in my father's office.
He doesn't encode the message. I encode my response.
Veronica Mars 11:49 AM Do you remember who was in there the night of your party?
Logan Echolls 11:51 AM Nope. I was drunk.
Still not encoded. Oh no you don't, Logan. You might want to quit our little game, but I don't.
Veronica Mars 11:53 AM Well think about it. Who was there that night?
Logan Echolls 11:55 AM Pretty much everyone.
Still not giving up, Jackass.
Veronica Mars 11:58 AM I'm going to need names. Pictures. Can you ask around if anyone saw somebody going into that room?
Logan Echolls 12:01 PM Has anyone ever told you what an unbelievable pain in the ass you are?
Encoded. I smile and exhale my relief.
Veronica Mars 12:02 PM Yeah, but he's a jackass, so it rolls right off my back.
As if my complete humiliation at the hands of Madame Sophie (and Jackie), wasn't bad enough; the subsequent fight with Wallace is devastating.
How can he expect me to just let this go?
I've almost grown accustomed to Logan avoiding me, so his text - and its vaguely supportive tone - comes as a surprise.
Logan Echolls 10:34 PM Mammo-Max? Didn't anybody ever tell you that more than a handful is a waste?
Veronica Mars 10:38 PM Easy for you to say when your hands are the size of catcher's mitts. Have you ever actually met anyone who was more than a handful?
I shiver at the remembered visual of his hands engulfing my breasts, my face, my waist.
Veronica Mars 10:40 PM Never mind. Please don't answer that.
Logan Echolls 10:42 PM Do you think Lilly really would have said that?
He's referring to 'should have stayed away from her boyfriend', not the part about body acceptance and I laugh quietly. For all his pretend skepticism, Logan isn't as immune to the Woo-Woo as he'd have people believe.
Veronica Mars 10:44 PM No, she was fed that information, and I know exactly who did it. Unfortunately, I've been forbidden from retaliating.
Logan Echolls 10:48 AM So just get somebody else to do it for you.
Are you volunteering?
I'm not sure even Jackie deserves Logan's particular brand of retribution.
The good news is that Duncan and Logan are friends again.
The bad news is that Duncan and Logan are friends again.
Which means Logan is here, at Duncan's Homecoming after-party - visibly high, and probably drunk. He holds court in the far right corner of the room, a tall silhouette against the pink and yellow glow of the wall.
I'm here right now because I don't know how to explain to Duncan that I'd rather be anywhere else. I hover in the opposite corner near the black iron sculpture, avoiding 09ers and replaying tonight's debacle in my head.
Party-goers are still arriving. They wander in and out of the bedrooms and gather in small groups behind the couch or beside the front counter.
Wallace should be here. It's my fault he isn't.
"Hey, Veronica," Kaylee McShane approaches. A cute redhead with a turned-up nose, her genuinely sweet personality more than compensates for her lack of intellect. "This is probably going to come across as gullible…"
"Hey, Kaylee. What's up."
She looks over her shoulder and then turns back, slightly embarrassed. "I got here a few minutes ago, and you know Logan and I are friends." Emphasis on the last word.
I nod. Go on.
"Well, I went to hug him hello, but he said that going forward, all touching of his body must be cleared by you first, otherwise you might get violent."
Deliver me from Logan Fucking Echolls.
"He's messing with you, Kaylee. And trying to mess with me because I confronted a friend's cheating girlfriend."
She rolls her eyes. "I should have known he was full of shit."
"Up to his eyeballs. Go forth and hug to your heart's content."
She laughs, squeezes my shoulder, and walks away.
I try Wallace's phone again. Straight to voicemail.
Maybe I should just head over to his place and explain myself. Grovel a little. It's not like I can enjoy this party anyway, with so much on my mind.
No. That might make me feel better. But isn't that the problem? That's it's always about me?
I stick around.
Now where did my Homecoming King boyfriend disappear to?
He's not in his bedroom or the extra room.
Logan has shifted slightly away from the group and appears to be deep in thought - or really really high. He looks good. I would have thought the blazer and jeans combo would look more…middle aged dad, but he pulls it off. Nicely.
He glances up at the sound of my voice.
"Where'd Duncan go? I thought he was over here with you."
Logan's spark is back. It blazes from his eyes as they travel down my body and back up again, and I suddenly feel naked. I shiver and my nipples tighten against the thin material of my dress. I don't dare look down.
He grins - boyish and lopsided. "If he's not polishing his crown? Probably went to get more booze."
I nod. Sounds logical enough.
His friends have moved a few feet away, over to where they can set their glasses on the console table behind the couch. I claim their spot on the wall, giving me a sight line to the entrance. Maybe a little too close to Logan, as I can smell his skin, his shampoo.
I feel his stare on me, and I glance up, surprised to find his face so unguarded. I can't remember the last time he looked at me without bitterness, resentment or disappointment.
"Kaylee told me what you've been saying about me." Might as well just get this out of the way. "It had nothing to do with you, Logan. I was standing up for Wallace."
"Right…after Jackie danced with three other guys. I was the proverbial straw. What does Wallace care, anyway? He dumped her before the dance."
He did? Wonder why I didn't get the memo.
Probably because I was already on his shit list for not being supportive in his 'Surprise-I'm-Your-Daddy' situation.
"Still," I say, "Jackie shouldn't have—"
"Wait." Logan interrupts me. "Does Wallace expect his exes to remain chaste and devoted, too? I thought that particular quirk was yours alone."
Shelly and two of her friends walk up before I can lob back a witty response - which is fortunate, since I don't actually have one.
"Hey, Logan." Britney Walker, blonde, with a body that could compete with Kendall's, slinks up to his side and tries to put her arm around him.
Logan twirls out of her reach. "Uh uh uh," he says, waggling his finger. "Veronica didn't approve that touch. Ask her permission, or she's likely to put you in a Full Nelson. Don't let her size fool you."
Am I dreaming? This is a nightmare, right?
All three girls stare at me as if I've suddenly removed an invisibility ring and yelled, "Boo." Shelly and Melina have the sense to look wary, but Britney lifts her chin, haughty and challenging. I've never liked Britney much.
You want to play, Logan? I'm game.
"No," I say, linking my arm through his and tugging him away from the wall. "No touching. He's off limits to all of you. Spread the word to your friends."
"But…I thought you were still dating Duncan," Shelly says, not quite concealing her interest in my boyfriend.
"Oh, I am. But seeing Logan miserable and alone, while I date the most wonderful guy at school?" I shrug. "Double the fun."
Logan glances over his shoulder as I drag him away, raises an eyebrow and says, "Guardian Angels. What can you do?"
I release his arm over by the couch, press a hand to his chest, and lightly shove, so that he sprawls onto the chaise section.
He smiles up at me, eyes crinkling with amusement and good cheer.
Everyone knows Logan is sexy. For the past several months, he's also been sullen and angry and bitchy.
I'd forgotren how stupidly, endearingly, cute he can be sometimes.
Fuck. I'm smiling back. Retreat!
I put on my 'strict parent face' "Stay here, and think about the consequences of spreading false rumors."
His smile widens. "I'll stay, but I'll probably be thinking about you storming over like a badass to rip Jackie off of me."
And…not so cute anymore.
His laugh follows me as a I walk away.
My cell buzzes.
Logan Echolls 11:16 PM Personally, jealousy has always turned me on.
I turn back around, meeting Logan's eye. He grins. I hold up my hand. He holds up his. I remove my ring from my finger and stuff it in the drawer where Duncan keeps extra napkins and silverware from room service.
Logan laughs and salutes me with his drink.
Where'd that come from?
Before I have a chance to locate Duncan, Gia corners me and tells me how she 'kind of likes Luke Haldeman but he didn't ask me to Homecoming…'
Buzz. From Logan. I ignore it.
Buzz. Another text.
"…does he like somebody else maybe he's more into Pam…"
"… and do you think we'd be good together as a couple…"
"…I mean he's nice and everything and his dad is congressman…"
"…but it doesn't matter because I kinda like this other guy but he seems more like a love 'em and leave 'em type and my dad always says…"
"Sorry Gia, somebody's really trying to get a hold of me."
"No problem. Talk to you later."
I shoot Logan a glare as I retrieve my ring from its hiding spot. I move back to the corner near Duncan's bedroom to decode the texts.
Logan Echolls 11:20 PM I'd wager
Logan Echolls 11:21 PM that it'll take
Logan Echolls 11:22 PM less than seven
Logan Echolls 11:12 PM messages before
Logan Echolls 11:23 PM your curiosity
He is such a jackass.
Veronica Mars 11:25 PM Fuck you, Logan
Logan Echolls 11:26 PM We'll always have our dreams.
"What's that?" Duncan says, sliding up from behind.
"Nothing." I shove the cell in my bag. "A code my dad has to crack for a case."
"Oh. Want me to take it to Kane Software? Have them run it through their databases?"
I'd rather take a bath in a piranha tank. "That's sweet of you, but let's save that as a last resort. The information is a bit…sensitive."
"Sure." He lets it drop. That's one of the great things about Duncan. He never pushes me to divulge anything I don't want to.
He wraps his arm around my shoulder, and I nestle against him as other 09ers close in around us.
My input is not required in the debate over whether to charter a yacht or rent out a club for the next blowout party, so I allow my mind to wander.
I need to earn Wallace's forgiveness. And I need to start being a better friend to him going forward. I guess I've gotten so used to Wallace being a low-maintenance BFF, that I didn't recognize the one time he actually did need me.
I will do better and I'll stop taking him for granted.
And then there's Jackie. What was she even thinking? Who was she trying to hurt? Wallace? For being the one to initiate the breakup? Or me? Wasn't it enough that the entire school found out about the Mammo-Max? She had to twist the knife a little deeper?
And here's where logic fails me. Because in order to hurt me via Logan, he would have to mean something to me. Which he doesn't. At all.
Here's a wild thought. Maybe Jackie genuinely likes Logan. Maybe she was just waiting for things to go wrong with Wallace so she could go after Logan.
Over my dead body.
My phone buzzes. Logan. How does he do that?
And what could he possibly be thinking by texting me with Duncan standing right here?
He's still sitting where I left him, and when our eyes meet, I drop the phone back into the bag.
He pushes to stand up, and I give him a downward "sit down" sign with my pointer finger.
He shakes his head back-and-forth. A three year-old's "No".
I repeat my sit gesture. Sharper this time.
He grins, ignores me, and joins our group. "Hey. I'm gonna get going now."
Duncan looks him over. "You sure? You're not looking too hot. Maybe you should call a cab."
"Not necessary." Logan snags a magnetic key card from his jeans pocket. "I got a room."
Duncan laughs. "Good luck finding it in this condition."
"Veronica looks bored," Logan says in that innocent voice that always seems to fool Duncan. "Maybe she can be my tour guide. So I don't end up lost and wandering the halls or something."
"No. I'm actually rooting for that outcome." I give him my iciest smile and gesture to the party guests. "But I'm sure one of these nice girls would be happy to help you find your room."
"They would…if you hadn't issued a ban on—"
I grab Logan's shoulder, pulling him away from the group.
"No need to get violent again," he says.
I pluck the keycard from his hand, and try to envision the hotel layout from memory. "Take the elevator down three floors. Make a right when the doors open and your room should be the second or third door on the right."
"I'll figure it out." His eyes take me in once more, burning and alive. "Read your text."
He squeezes my shoulder and leaves.
Duncan's still arguing for the yacht charter. His bedroom is empty and I slip into the bathroom just to be alone.
To loosen some of the tension, I take down my hair, allowing it to fall free around my face.
I try Wallace's phone one more time before decoding Logan's message.
Logan Echolls 12:06 AM You look beautiful tonight.
My chest constricts. Pleasure. Regret. Things I can't even define.
Veronica Mars 12:22 AM You're just saying that because you're wasted.
Logan Echolls 12:23 AM I could drink a case of you darling, and I would still be on my feet.
I hear him speak the words in that soft voice that used to make me melt.
Oh you're in my blood like holy wine. You taste so bitter and so sweet.
If I concentrate, I can feel his chest against my back, his arms around my waist. His breath on my neck.
I close my eyes. Inhale a remembered ocean breeze. Soon, he'd said that night.
"There you are."
I jump, startled, and my eyes meet Duncan's in the mirror. He has that affectionate expression that usually thrills me.
"What do you say…" He wraps himself around me and leans over to my ear. "…I tell all of these people to leave so I can be alone with my beautiful girlfriend?"
His mouth trails kisses down my neck. I close my eyes and try to enjoy it, but I keep seeing Logan's face. The hungry way he'd looked me over earlier.
Why is Duncan always so gentle? Doesn't he ever want to rip my clothes off?
Turning around, I shove Duncan into the shower door and smash my mouth against his.
The kiss lasts for mere moments before Duncan pulls away, laughing, "Control yourself, She-Ra. We have all night."
Translation: stop acting like a slut. Have some dignity.
"Actually…" I concoct an excuse on the spot. "I just remembered this research I have to do for my dad. He needs it first thing in the morning."
I kiss his cheek. "Goodnight."
He calls after me, but I pretend not to hear.
The elevator doors close, and my finger touches the button to Logan's floor. It circles the smooth glass, tests the pressure, and ultimately presses the Lobby button.
You can't begin to imagine my control, Duncan.
I repeat, the bad news is, Duncan and Logan are friends again.
The scene is so three years ago. Both boys are stretched out on the couch, watching TV, and inhaling cheesy puffs. I half expect Lilly to emerge from a bedroom, warning Logan to not even think about touching her with orange powder on his fingers.
I'd probably be overcome with nostalgia, if I wasn't so pissed.
Duncan sits in his usual corner, left arm splayed over the back of the couch. At the opposite end, Logan reclines like a diva on the chaise in that ridiculous argyle sweater. He toys with a decorative red pillow, spinning it by diagonal corners.
Midway between them I sit rigidly, in no mood for cuddling my boyfriend, and still humiliated by my three-second cuddle with Logan.
I can't decide who to channel my anger towards. Duncan, for thinking this roommate situation could possibly work? Weevil, for making it necessary by burning down Logan's house? Or Logan, for...general assholery?
I really only have myself to blame. He laid out the bait, but I didn't have to pounce on it.
I know his body. I know Duncan's. I should have noticed the difference immediately. If not by sight, then by scent, softness, and temperature.
Every time I glance at Duncan, my brain throbs.
"Sorry I didn't tell ya," he'd said when he walked in, with that "Oops" look on his face.
Sorry I didn't tell ya. Sorry I didn't tell ya. Sorry I didn't tell ya.
A dozen arguments surface. None make it past my lips.
I feel like this is a decision he should have run past me. 'Darling, Logan is homeless and I'd like to offer him my extra room. Would that make you uncomfortable, in light of your torrid, unconsummated fling with him last summer? '
Is it me? Am I setting adult relationship expectations on a high school romance? Or is it Duncan? How do I reconcile his claims to love me with his complete disregard for my feelings?
Did he deliberately leave me out of the decision? Or is he just so accustomed to not having to explain himself that it doesn't even occur to him to get my input?
Whatever it is, he's oblivious to my mood as he zones out to an episode of Bones.
Logan? Not so oblivious. From his expression, he can't seem to decide whether to retreat or laugh at me.
You should have picked retreat, Buddy.
My eyes harden, and I feel my lips twist into something ugly.
"So how was jail, Logan? Meet any new friends?"
"Nope. Only old ones."
I lift a brow in question, and he gives me the signal. A tiny head shake followed by a flick of his eyes towards my boyfriend.
We'll talk, but not while Duncan's around.
I tilt my head, intrigued. What could he possibly want to hide from Duncan but not me?
My bag is on the front counter. Under the pretense of making myself a cup of espresso in the fancy red machine, I retrieve my cell, wiggling it at Logan when Duncan isn't looking.
He smirks. My need to know everything immediately is a source of constant amusement for him.
I return to the couch, sipping my drink and waiting three excruciating minutes for Logan's text.
Duncan is absorbed by the TV, and I've become quite adept at deciphering messages without being obvious. Just the slightest tilt of the finger and flick of the thumb.
Logan Echolls 7:21 PM Our fearless sheriff planned a surprise family reunion for me. Tossed me in a cell with dear old dad.
That son of a bitch.
"Come on, Veronica," Duncan says, "Even I figured that out, and I'm not a detective."
Logan tilts his eyes towards the TV.
Right. He thinks I'm talking about the procedural.
"You come on. When that many clues point to a suspect, they're red herring bait. It was way too obvious."
Duncan seems to buy my explanation, and Logan smirks.
Veronica Mars 7:23 PM You just love watching me lie to my boyfriend, don't you?
Logan Echolls 7:25 PM Nobody asked you to lie. Feel free to tell him about our little game.
I shoot him a 'you've-been-sniffing-paint-fumes' look.
Part of me aches for him. I was there last summer every time he returned - drained and depleted - from his emancipation meetings with his father.
I'm the one who held him when he was vulnerable. Who covered his face with kisses until he was laughing again.
I still have a hard time believing this bitter and guarded person sitting to my left is the same boy. Maybe I shouldn't, considering his behavior after Lilly's death, but I thought we'd crossed an emotional bridge together. I guess reuniting with Duncan was as good as burning it down.
Veronica Mars 7:28 PM Anything I should know about? Why was he there?
Logan Echolls 7:30 PM He said they transferred him out of County. And yeah, I imagine you might want to know that he's trying to deflect blame onto your boyfriend.
"You have got to be kidding me!" I spring off the couch, ready to take action.
I have no actions to take.
"Veronica?" Duncan says. "It's only a commercial."
I glance over at the TV where an advertisement for feminine pads is playing.
"But it's completely misleading! It presents periods as this time of joy and serenity and sterile blue liquid where we all smile and dance and do yoga in white pants. Because God forbid we fail to protect the delicate sensibilities of guys like you!"
He's staring, open-mouthed, but I'm already on a roll.
"Well guess what, Duncan? It's all a lie. Periods are messy, and stressful and uncomfortable. They make you irritable, and you're shit out of luck when the belly cramps and the back pain are simultaneous and you only have one freaking heating pad. So don't tell me it's only a commercial."
And…mine is due tomorrow. Guess that explains the rotten mood.
Logan collapses into a fit of giggles.
Duncan responds defensively. "I had a sister, you might recall."
And...the room becomes suffocating.
I exhale heavily. Why am I taking this out on him?
"I'm going to leave now. I'll see you at school tomorrow." I kiss Duncan's cheek, and exit the suite.
I don't push the elevator button yet, instead taking a moment to encode a text message.
Meet me in the lobby in five min—
"Who ya texting?" Logan peeks over my shoulder, startling me.
"Nobody now." I press the elevator button.
The doors open, and I step inside. "Going down?"
He waggles his eyebrows. "Buy me dinner first?"
I roll my eyes. "Come on."
He gets in. We don't speak on the ride down, but it's not an uncomfortable silence.
"Want to sit in the hotel bar?" Logan asks when the doors open.
"No, Duncan will pass it on his way to…" hand-wring over "…visit Meg."
"So I hurried out of the suite. How would it look if I was still here, drinking with you?"
He practically strains under the effort to hold back his comment. "Okay, come with me."
I wait outside the hotel gift shop - which is more like a gift closet - while he grabs a snack, and then follow him down the back corridor and through an exterior door.
The immaculately-maintained swimming pool glows from dozens of underwater lights. Although the water is heated, the weather is too chilly for swimming, and therefore, the patio is abandoned.
I don't spare a second to mourn the loss of the Echolls' pool and the moments we shared there. Sexy, sexy moments. Nope, not a single second.
Logan doesn't claim one of the seagrass lounge chairs as expected. Instead, he crosses to the opposite end and turns a corner.
Tucked into the angles of the building is an outdoor lounge area - small conversation groups of black wicker furniture with apple green cushions.
At its center, flames dance on the aqua fire-glass pebbles of a fire pit table. Logan flops onto the nearest loveseat, and pats the seat next to him.
I have other options. There's a single-seater across from him, but there's no point in offending the person giving you information.
I take the offered seat. "I didn't know this patio was even out here. I wonder why Duncan never showed me."
"That would require leaving Meg's bedside."
Logan empties the contents of his bag onto the table. For himself, a Pepsi and a package of gourmet toffee-caramel popcorn. He hands me the Skist and a Godiva Solid Dark Chocolate bar.
Our eyes meet, linger for a beat, and we then both look away.
My face is warm. "Thanks."
Such a simple gesture. He knows how much I love chocolate. But I'd never told him that when I'm PMS-ing, only dark chocolate will do.
"No problem. So I'm guessing you dragged me out here to grill me about dear old dad?"
"Dragged you out here? I never even finished typing my text."
"Like I couldn't tell what you were thinking? I caught your sonar. Or is it radar? Telepathy?"
We lapse into silence.
When it comes to his father, Logan often needs time to gather his thoughts.
He shoves a handful of popcorn in his mouth and I concentrate on my chocolate, breaking off a square, eating it slowly, and savoring the taste. It's exactly what I needed.
Logan finally speaks. Monotone. "He said he followed Lilly home, but he didn't touch her. Duncan heard them arguing and flew into a rage. He left while Lilly was still alive."
"Did you believe him?"
Logan is clearly insulted by my question.
"Sorry, but he can be very persuasive."
"Not to me."
I lean forward, cupping my hands over the flames and absorbing their warmth. "I don't think we can afford to take this lightly, Logan."
"Why? He was just running his mouth. Trying to win me over to his side." His mouth forms a sour little twist.
"Your father isn't stupid. Anything he said would have been already cleared by his lawyers. It sounds like they plan to use Duncan as their alternative theory. I wouldn't be surprised if evidence began surfacing to support their story."
"You think my dad is planning to frame DK?"
He sighs and runs a hand through the front of his hair. "How can we stop him? We can't just let him get away with it."
I know exactly how to stop him.
'You know the drill, Veronica. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,' Clarence Weidman had said on the phone a mere two hours ago.
It would be so easy.
But - heinous psycho or not - I can't be responsible for Logan losing a second parent in less
than a year.
"I don't know," I say, "We'll think of something."
Logan sighs and leans back, puts his feet up on the edge of the table.
"How are you holding up?" I ask.
He shrugs, doesn't meet my eyes. "I've survived worse."
"He didn't…try anything, did he?"
His eyes harden and his mouth twists into a sneer. "You mean like 'whip-off-his-belt-and-beat-me-bloody' try something? Sorry, the California Penal System frowns on that kind of behavior."
I learned of Logan's abuse back in February. It took until July for him to feel comfortable enough to open up to me. From his expression, he regrets that decision now.
I put my feet on the table next to his, and we sit silently, eating our snacks.
Something else is bothering him. He's presented me with the facts, but a whirlwind of emotions still lurks beneath the surface.
How the encounter affected him. His fears and insecurities. How he would handle the encounter if he could do it all over again.
I know him well enough to see that he's aching to let it all out. Yet he doesn't.
I don't have his trust anymore.
Maybe I could convince him to open up for me. A soft touch on his arm. Lowering my mask and allowing my features to reflect all of the compassion and concern I feel on the inside. A hug, perhaps?
Instead, I bump his shoulder with my own and say, "That sweater is really ugly. You're wrong. Chicks do not dig argyle."
And there's the jackass grin. "Funny, it didn't stop you from draping yourself all over me."
Sometimes, opening yourself up for the obvious dig is all you have to offer.
Ninety minutes. Ninety horrible, jaw-clenching minutes listening to Kendall's porn-star impression in the next room. Logan passed 'endurance' an hour ago, and is firmly ensconced in 'showing-off' territory now.
Duncan thinks it's funny. That Logan has pulled off some kind of coup by screwing a Laker Girl.
Too bad Duncan couldn't make it all the way through the second movie. Forrest Fucking Gump. Again.
He's passed out on my right, softly snoring, while I'm stuck here digging my fingernails into my palms to keep from going in there and tossing Kendall out on her totally awesome looking ass.
I'm beginning to hate this movie.
This was supposed to be our night.
It started off so well. Dad out of town on a case? Check. Sexy new bra and panty set? Check. Horny boyfriend? Check.
Then Logan happened.
The mood was ruined and Duncan's 'no-big-deal' attitude was almost as off-putting as what's happening in that room.
Was happening. It's silent now.
Is he finally tired out, or just taking a break before the next round?
As if in answer, the bedroom door opens and Kendall emerges. She gives me a terse wave and shimmies to the door in her skin-tight black dress.
Okay, it's actually a great dress and she fills it out amazingly well, but is it necessary to dress like that to visit an under-aged boy? No wonder Logan never dates any girls from school. Who could compete?
Another ten minutes pass before Logan surfaces, freshly showered in a clean tee shirt and pajama pants. Pausing at the room service cart, he lifts the silver cloche lid. "Well, what do you know? Somebody ate my grilled cheese."
Yeah, and it was delicious. I hope you starve.
Logan flops down on the other end of the couch pulling his knee into his chest.
I gather all of my anger and resentment into a tight ball, and channel it through my eyes.
He laughs aloud. "Something wrong, Veronica?"
I glance at Duncan's sleeping form, and then snatch my cell from where it sits on the ottoman.
He watches, amused, as I stab my message onto the keys.
Veronica Mars 1:06 AM Can you please tell your *playmate* to stop with all the shrieking?
A chime issues from his room.
"Sounds like I have a text message," Logan says, all innocent-like. "I'd better check on that."
He leaves, returning a moment later with his phone.
I return my attention to the movie. I've said what I had to say. Who cares if he responds.
Logan Echolls 1:08 AM If I didn't know how much you dislike me, I might interpret that as jealousy.
What else would I expect from him?
Veronica Mars 1:10 AM Hardly. It's just very distracting.
Logan Echolls 1:11 AM If you're asking me to stop sleeping with Kendall, just say it.
I glance up after deciphering the message, and he's staring a challenge at me. He wants me to say the words.
Veronica Mars 1:12 AM Sleep with whomever you want.
He sighs and his shoulders drop.
Logan Echolls 1:13 AM Do you realize what you're asking of me?
Veronica Mars 1:14 AM Um…silence?
Logan Echolls 1:15 AM Which would require me to be a selfish lover, only taking care of my own needs.
"Oh come on," I say aloud, rolling my eyes.
Duncan shifts in his sleep, and Logan double-taps his phone as a reminder. Silence.
Logan Echolls 1:16 AM If all I cared about was getting off, I have two good hands and my memories of you.
I feel his response between my legs, and I inhale sharply.
Breathe normally, Veronica. He only said that to get a rise out of you.
Veronica Mars 1:18 AM You're full of shit.
Logan Echolls 1:20 AM Want to know my favorite thing about sex?
Veronica Mars 1:22 AM I've never wanted to know anything LESS in my life.
Logan smirks and tells me anyway.
Logan Echolls 1:23 AM I love giving. Hour upon hour of thorough, intensive giving. Without that, what's the point?
I hate my life.
Veronica Mars 1:25 AM Well can you GIVE a little more quietly? I hear ball-gags can be a rollicking good time.
Logan bursts out laughing, while Duncan sleeps on, oblivious.
I stare at the ceiling praying for an asteroid to hit the penthouse. To rescue me from this conversation and flashbacks of Logan's intensive giving last summer.
And to think he'd only made it as far as my breasts.
My entire body tightens in remembered pleasure, and I need to get the hell out of here.
I'll just head in to bed. Duncan can join me whenever.
Before I can even stand, my phone buzzes again.
Logan Echolls 1:28 AM Is the problem really Kendall's noise? Or is it the noise that you're NOT making?
Oh no, he didn't.
Flames burn through my body, and my phone bears the brunt of my anger.
Veronica Mars 1:29 AM Fuck off.
Logan Echolls 1:31 AM I've hit a nerve. I take it Duncan doesn't share my philosophy on giving.
Duncan hasn't even tried to initiate sex since his failed attempt Homecoming night. My cases and his own schedule have made it impossible to find alone time.
Tonight was supposed to remedy that.
Logan Echolls 1:32 AM I can talk to him if you'd like. Give him some pointers on how to treat a woman.
Veronica Mars 1:34 AM You mean like starting class wars that escalate to gunshots through the window?
Logan's eyes go hard and cold.
Logan Echolls 1:36 AM No, more like what kind of kisses will get you to ride his thigh. Or I could draw him a map to the clitoris. If I'm feeling generous.
That's it. I'm done.
Riding the wave of fury, I toss my phone in my bag, shove my feet into my shoes, and stalk out of the penthouse.
The elevator is taking too long to arrive, and my anger transforms into something else.
Squeezing my eyes closed, I will him to follow me out. To come for me. To press me to the wall and pour all of that giving intensity into me.
He doesn't catch my telepathy (or sonar or radar) this time. Or maybe he does, and is too spent to act upon it.
An hour later, in bed, I hear the buzzing of another incoming text.
I ignore it, too busy with my hand and memories of riding his thigh.
I read the messages in the morning.
Logan Echolls 2:41 AM I'm a jackass and I went way too far. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't mean it.
Logan Echolls 2:42 AM He can't possibly satisfy you.
I press the phone to my breast and exhale. The worst part is, I'm starting to believe him.
He's bold. I'll give him that.
After ridiculing my love life, he shows up in my bathroom office.
'Hey remember that time we made out against the sink and your legs were wrapped around my waist?'
I recognize it for the performance it is. Playful and flirtatious, designed to trade on our former physical connection without putting himself on the line.
'I thought you could do a little sleuthing for old time's sake.'
Old time's sake? I should tell him to scram. Or amscray. When will I ever learn?
Duncan doesn't even blink when he sees us coming out of the girl's bathroom together.
That's a good thing. My boyfriend trusts me implicitly.
But shouldn't he be at least a little jealous? I do have a history of wrapping my legs around Logan's waist.
Does he consider himself so irreplaceable that my eyes could never possibly stray? Or is it that he can't imagine Logan being interested in me when he has Kendall, the hot girl?
I find my time being split between the needs of two desperate boys.
Logan, desperate to clear his name, and Duncan, desperate to solve his coma-girlfriend's dilemma.
To be honest, I wish they'd help each other and leave me out of it. Aren't they supposed to be best friends?
The week brings with it a unique opportunity to peek behind the curtain of Neptune's families. Unsurprisingly, peeling back the layers only exposes more dysfunction and rot.
Duncan knows all of Meg's babysitting clients. He knows to look for her house key under the flower pot. He knows the meaning of the stuffed monkey on her bed - a gift from him, I suspect. He knows her secrets, her fears, and her bedroom hiding spots.
I'm tempted to challenge him to a round of Veronica Mars Trivia, but I'm afraid I won't like the results.
After the fear and adrenaline have receded, after I'm safe and secure in the comfort of my bedroom, I email Wallace.
I tell him about the trembling little girl in the closet - an image I may never erase from my mind. I tell him about stacks upon stacks of composition notebooks, the same words written thousands of times. I tell him about Lamb dropping us off at the side of the road instead of charging us with felonies.
I tell him that my boyfriend is in love with another girl. That his relationship with Meg was hardly the casual and fleeting thing he'd insinuated when we first got back together.
I don't tell him how this acknowledgment feels like a sinking sensation in my belly. That it's more like resignation than the blinding white heat I experience when I'm jealous.
I don't expect a response. I've emailed him every day since he left, and it's a bit like screaming into a void. While I find a sort of catharsis in the ritual, I fear my BFF is well and truly finished with me.
'Pretend for a moment that your dog's life is at stake.'
Logan's words from last night still burrow through my consciousness like a parasite.
Backup gallops across the sand, overjoyed by the unexpected morning jaunt to Dog Beach.
The glass orb I bought on my birthday rests in a divot on a log, and I crouch down behind it with my camera, capturing the sunrise through the viewfinder.
Thanks to a fitful night of tossing and turning, I arose from bed early, leaving myself an extra hour before school.
The change in scenery doesn't ward off the thoughts, but - between the comforting whir of the camera's shutter and the orb's flipped-on-its-head presentation of the world - I find a perspective I couldn't grasp in the dark of my bedroom.
Who am I?
I don't recognize the person I am when I'm with Logan. The one who allows - maybe even encourages - him to believe he's beneath an animal in my regard. The one who waits for him to crawl to me for help and then grades him on his groveling technique.
Day after day he watches me play the good guy - the hero - to friends and strangers alike. But when it comes to his own problems, I've developed a nasty case of stand-idly-by.
It's a complicated mess, and I suspect it's out of some strange sense of loyalty to Duncan. Just like he'd underemphasized his attachment to Meg, I've jumped through hoops to prove that I'm over Logan.
Except here's the kicker: Duncan doesn't care.
He can't imagine a scenario where he's not the good guy prince. Where he's not preferred boyfriend. The chosen one. He probably thinks I only dated Logan because he showed up first at my door.
That's why he doesn't sweat it when he sees Logan trail me out of the girl's bathroom. That's why - when he wakes to find Logan and I involved in an intense conversation - he's secure enough to leave us alone and head off to bed. Without even a 'Goodnight'.
He doesn't see Logan as a threat, and perhaps that's the real reason why his lack of jealousy rubs me the wrong way.
Because Logan is absolutely a threat. He's always been a threat - from the day I reunited with Duncan, to last night, standing in the orange glow of the entrance lighting, his eyes pleading for my help.
No matter how much effort and energy I put into my relationship with Duncan, I can't seem to expand our connection beyond a thin filament, while my connection to Logan is more like a thick rope that refuses to unravel - regardless of how much I pick at the edges..
'Pretend for a moment that your dog's life is at stake.'
He thinks I don't care about him. He thinks I'll stand back and watch him go to prison for a crime he didn't commit.
I've given him no reason to believe otherwise.
Today, the sand appears through the glass like an oppressive concrete blanket, smothering the citrus-colored stains of the sky.
Rotating to the right allows my camera to capture waves and sky instead.
I usually mark the burning of the city pool as the demise of our relationship last summer, but it was probably doomed from the start.
Above all else, I craved Normalcy - with a capital N. A slightly edgier version of the teenage dream.
Hello to long days on the beach, movie dates, and backseat makeouts. Goodbye to cheating spouses, insurance fraud, and stakeouts. Goodbye to Danger.
Logan tried. He really did. But he was too damaged to ever quite fit into the Duncan mold I attempted to mash him into.
I wanted Snark Ken and Leather Barbie.
He wanted to survive. Outside of a jail cell, preferably.
He never asked for my help.
Looking back, it's embarrassing how little provocation it took for me to backslide into investigating.
I could have cleared Logan's name in a matter of weeks. It never had to come to shotgun blasts and burned swimming pools. But I'd walked away from the life. I wanted Normal. And he respected my wishes. Kept me out of it.
I've harbored so much resentment towards him since our breakup, and I can't understand why.
It's not the pool burning. As horrible and inexcusable as it was, it no longer produces an emotional response in me.
And it's not as if can't logically understand what kept him fighting. Like he said, it takes two to stop a war.
Have I been subconsciously punishing him all this time for being unable to conform to my dream? Because Normalcy wasn't the only thing I wanted. I wanted him. I wanted him to choose to live a Normal life as my Normal boyfriend.
I still want him.
Logan was never going to be Normal. He's about the furthest thing from it. And that's fine, because he possesses other amazing qualities.
He's loyal and smart, creative and inventive. His sense of humor gels perfectly with mine and he can laugh at himself. As a boyfriend, he's romantic and affectionate. He's emotionally available, and he puts himself out there, even when there's the potential of getting hurt. He feels intensely. He loves intensely. He's considerate and observant. He's tender, patient, sexy-as-fuck and the best kisser in existence. He liked me exactly as I was, not some idealized version of me.
And he never ever made me watch Forrest Gump.
He's still far from being a saint. I haven't forgotten that he has a dozen negative qualities as well.
I guess they just don't seem as dire as they used to.
God, I miss him.
Veronica Mars 6:41 AM You up yet?
Logan Echolls 6:42 AM What's sleep to the condemned?
Veronica Mars 6:45 AM You'll learn soon enough. We're going to get you out of this mess.
Logan Echolls 6:47 AM Did you learn something new?
Veronica Mars 6:49 AM No. I just wanted you to know that I won't stop until your name has been cleared.
Logan Echolls 6:51 AM Somewhere in Neptune, a bad guy just shivered.
Veronica Mars 6:53 AM We have two objectives - discredit the witness, and find the real killer. Tomorrow's Saturday. Can you meet me at the penthouse at noon? We'll go track down that Danny Boyd character.
Logan Echolls 6:55 AM I'll be there. Thank you, Veronica. You don't know what it means to me.
Veronica Mars 6:57 AM Sure I do.
I'm never going to be Normal, either. I've built my life around it for months, and it's turned out to be disappointingly overrated.