I flick through the channels on the motel TV like I'm searching for the answers of the universe. All the while, constantly checking the clock.
I'm cinder-fucking-rella. All dressed up and no-one to take me to the ball.
While I'm not a dress person per se I've decided that a wedding is as good a chance as ever to go all out. I spent half a weeks pay on a designer dress. For a person who has never worn designer clothes in my entire life. It feels like heaven as I slip it over my skin. It's emerald green with spaghetti straps, a deep V (of course) and thigh-high side split. For a moment, I even forget the price and just enjoy.
But, at this rate, it will be completely wasted.
I recheck the clock and consider leaving without him.
I want to go to the wedding. I want to be there to support Wallace and Shae. But I really don't want to go alone. Sitting at the single table, having to make small talk with a bunch of losers looking to score when my guard is down.
Finally, there is a bang at the door.
I open it, just slightly, eye peeking out.
Logan stands, leaning against the doorjamb peering at me over the top of his ray-bans.
"Neptune escort services, reporting for duty," he straightens up and salutes me with a grin.
I open the door and let him inside.
"Sorry, I specifically ordered a short, balding male."
"Come on, Veronica. Let's be serious. If any escort service knew about your penchant for tasers you would have been blacklisted long ago."
"Yeah, yeah. I don't pay you for small talk. Get dressed; we're late."
He pauses mid-step, "you look…" his eyes drag up and down, taking a thoughtful breath, "passable," he winks.
Yeah, I know I'm looking hot tonight. I know because Logan's eye line takes an extended pause at the split in my dress. I had to shave my entire legs for this. It had been a while.
He throws his duffel and suit hanger onto the twin bed and pulls off his shirt.
I cover my eyes immediately, "Wooooah, big guy, whatcha doing there?"
Brows raised he looks at me, confused, "You told me to get dressed."
"In the bathroom! This isn't a strip show."
He shakes his head, takes his suit on the hanger and disappears into the bathroom.
Jesus, is he trying to kill me?
Pacing back and forth around the tiny room, I head to the mini-bar, rifling through for something to do. I take out a little bottle of whiskey, reach over and check the prices on the pamphlet, $14 plus tax. Then swiftly return it to its nest. We're about to head to a wedding at a winery with an open bar. Best to pace yourself, Veronica.
Then the man I once dated appears, suddenly neat, shaven in a dark grey suit and tie, carefully cut to his large frame.
Take a breath, Veronica.
He looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ magazine, I shake my head at him.
"You look… passable," I say, slowly dragging my eyes down Logan's body and raising my eyebrows at him.
He makes a throaty chuckle, and runs his fingers through his hair in the mirror.
"Right, right, we need to go now. We're going to miss the ceremony."
I shuffle him out the door. Thankfully we only need to take a short walk down to the vineyard where the outdoor ceremony is set up. It's a reasonably simple affair, chairs overlooking the beautiful hills and a small arbour adorned with flowers where Wallace waits for his bride. He spots us taking our seats and winks at me, looking a little nervous.
I scan the crowd for familiar faces.
Logan leans towards me, "Looking for fresh meat?"
I glare at him and shrug, "just scoping out the exits."
"Plenty of exits outdoors," he grins.
Logan takes my hand and gives it a little supportive squeeze. "I know you hate weddings. Repeat after me. Open. Bar." He looks me in the eyes.
We find our names on the seating chart and head towards the table.
"Oh God," I blanch. Spotting the motley array placed at our table. Of course, we don't know anyone. "They've put us on the spinster table," I shudder.
Logan laughs. "Um, Veronica. I think by definition, we are actually spinsters. I'm not sure what the official classification is, but mid-thirties. Check. Single. Check. No plus one even mentioned on the invite. Check."
I groan. "I better get some cats."
"You don't even like cats," he whispers to me as we sit down and start to introduce ourselves to the group, with smiles.
It really is a stunning reception, as far as weddings go. Personally, I thought marriage was an outdated form of torture simply instilled in society to justify ownership of a human. But, hey, I had a family history full of affairs, abandonment and divorce to cement my beliefs. Marriage was just a one-way ticket to disappointment. Hopefully Wallace and Shae would escape the heartache.
Logan's place card sits him next to a stunning brunette. Rebecca. My guess is late 30s.
My place card sits me next to an early 40s gentleman with a robust beard and an apparent penchant for extreme bodybuilding. Brett.
Brett was very excited to meet me as he'd "heard all about me from Shae." I set a mental note to take back my very expensive wedding gift. Spinster table and a setup. Kill me now.
Of course, Logan was happily enjoying a riveting conversation about his illustrious career as a fighter pilot. Rebecca was hook, line and sinker. I could just see the close of the night ending with me relocating to kill time at the bar while Logan hung a proverbial sock on the hotel room door.
Where is the waiter with more champagne?
Thankfully he must have picked up on my desperate searching and comes to fill my glass to the brim. The waiter isn't terrible looking, I make a mental note to re-visit him if the night turns to shit and I need someone to cheer me up.
After a while, Rebecca excuses herself to use the bathroom. Logan turns and casually puts his hand on my knee. It's a friendly gesture, something he regularly does. But, tonight my bare leg is exposed due to my long split. It shocks me, his warm skin on mine and I jump a little. I must have frightened him because he suddenly pulls his hand away like he was burned.
"How's your date?" he whispers grinning.
I pouted "I wish you'd let me bring my taser."
He shakes his head, picks up his beer and bring it to his lips. "Ahh, Veronica, always trying to electrocute someone… even at a wedding."
I shake my head at him, "Its not electrocution, its an electroshock weapon causing neuromuscular incapacitation."
He laughs, his whole body shaking, "You're so fucked up V."
"Tell me about it," I take a big gulp of my champagne.
The food finally arrives with alternate drops. Some kind of crusted red meat with jus and fish on a bed of fancy brown rice. The waiter places the fish in front of Logan and the red meat in front of me. We instantly pick up plates and swap the meals.
The fish is delicious. The wine is delicious. I'm sure this stunning reception is costing Wallace every bit of his savings. It had better be delicious.
Rebecca turns to us and asks, "have you two known each other long?"
"Too long," I say with a full mouth.
"We went to school together," Logan explains.
Rebecca looks a little curious. "Did you ever date?"
We both nod. "In high school, and a bit in college."
"That was a long time ago. It feels like centuries ago." I start to ramble, champagne finally kicking in.
He grins at me, "yeah Veronica, centuries," and rolls his eyes.
"He's more of an annoying older brother figure to me now."
Logan shuffles back into his chair a little, leaning back and looking at me, "OLDER brother, really?"
"Yeah," I talk, pointing my fork at him, "you are technically older than me."
"Exactly! Anyway, he acts like my older brother most of the time, so I think it fits."
I feel his calf under the table brush against mine.
"Brett," Logan asks "Tell me, do you work out?" then looks me directly in the eyes with just the shadow of a devious eyebrow raise. To the untrained eye, it was nothing, to me, it meant war.
Thankfully, punishment was swiftly dealt when Logan had to feign interest in a 15-minute diatribe about the pros and cons of eating carbohydrates while bulking. When Brett finally finishes I nudge Logans leg under the table. He nudges back, a little harder this time.
"Well," he turns to Brett, "You're sitting in the right place because Veronica just loves ripped guys."
I nearly choke, glaring at him.
A deep grin spreads across my cheeks, "Hey Logan, why don't you tell Rebecca about the two murder charges you beat. That's a good story."
He freezes mid-fork-into-mouth and stares me dead in the eyes.
"And that is why, when I asked Shae to marry me. I knew she was the only person in the world I wanted to kiss, every day, for the rest of my life."
Wallace's speech was pretty high on the schmalz factor, but I'll give him a free pass. It is his wedding, I guess it's allowed just this once.
Logan is a little glassy-eyed so I poke him with my dessert spoon.
"You getting all misty on me there?"
He blinks, clearing any trace.
Rebecca interjects, "That was a lovely speech. Wallace is such a great guy."
We nod. Logan picks up his spoon and pokes me back.
The band resumes playing. Some contemporary pop song and the dancefloor starts to fill.
Rebecca turns to Logan, "Care to dance?"
He sits back in his chair a little, suddenly uncomfortable. "Oh, sorry I'm not much of a dancer."
Poor Rebecca freezes a little on the spot. I look away.
"No worries. I'll go join the girls," and she scurries off to the dancefloor.
I raise my eyebrows at him. He raises them back.
The waiter appears behind us again and offers us a refill. I flirt with him a little, taking a moment to graze my fingers down his arm, convincing him to leave the bottle there with us.
Logan watches the exchange "You're diabolical," he muses, refilling his glass.
I scoff, "that was nothing, and you know it!"
Outside the air is crisp in the hills surrounding the reception hall. It's a clear evening and the stars are out, it's nice to see them. I missed them when I was in New York.
I stepped out for a bit of a break. The room is getting noisy and hot, and Rebecca is back at the table and her flirting with Logan is nauseating.
Wallace steps out onto the Patio to join me.
"Hey, I saw you come out, thought I'd follow."
I smile broadly, and he wraps his arms around me for a big bear hug. Other than a quick 'congratulations' as they left the reception, I hadn't had a chance to catch up with him: wedding duties and all.
"I'm so happy for you, Wallace. It's been an awesome night."
He nods, putting his hands in his pockets. "I'm spent, I wish we were in Jamaica already."
"Jamaica, rub it in," I roll my eyes at him. "Poor Wallace is tired from marrying his beautiful wife, and now he has to go back to his honeymoon suite and sleep before flying to Jamaica to stay for a week at a 5-star resort. Boo-freaking-hoo."
"Be careful Mars; you're starting to sound a bit bitter,"
I take a long gulp from my wine glass and shake my head, "Not bitter. I'm happy for you Wallace. You deserve it,"
"But you can tell that wife of yours to reconsider her seating chart next time! She really chose me a winner!"
"What's wrong, you don't like Brett?" he laughs, "He works at the school with me, he's alright. Logan seems to be enjoying his set up?"
"mmm," he repeats back at me with a smirk.
"Don't say it," I threaten with a finger towards him.
He holds up his hands, "I didn't say anything."
Everyone was always trying to have their say about Logan and I. Whether we should be friends, or something more. Everyone's pressure and speculation never did anything but annoy me. These things couldn't be forced. If it were going to happen, surely it would have happened.
Brett keeps trying to engage with me. I'd made so many excuses – going to the bathroom, needing a refill, needing to 'freshen up'. Why couldn't some people just get the hint?
Shae comes over to the table and pulls me onto the dancefloor, which is a welcome relief. I'm suitably drunk enough to oblige and follow her out willingly, and you can't say no to the bride.
It doesn't take long before my shoes are aching and I run back and throw them at Logan, he catches them with expertise. I can't see Rebecca or Brett anywhere, and the spinster table is looking very sparse.
I decide I need to relax, let my hair down. We sing at the top of our lungs and all dance around avoiding Shae's train dragging around the dancefloor.
Shae winks at me and looks over my shoulder. Logan is standing behind me.
He puts out his hand.
"I thought you didn't dance?"
Creases form at the corners of his eyes, and he wraps his arm around my waist and starts leading me to the music. A slower song starts, and we're not keeping with the beat. With my heels off, standing in bare feet, I have to look directly up to see him. We must look quite comical.
"So…" he hesitates for a moment. "I'm being deployed again on Thursday. I just got the call on the way here. I wasn't going to tell you tonight. But I felt like I should," and he exhales slowly.
"Oh," I get that sinking feeling deep in my stomach, "For how long?"
He shrugs a little.
Well, I'd better enjoy this time.
I'd gotten used to having him around again. After the madness of Carrie's death and Logan's subsequent murder investigation, my life took a shift back to Neptune. Piz and I had ended things, and I lost the job opportunity at Truman-Mann. Suddenly I was out of work, needing to find a new place and running out of cash, fast. Cash-strapped in New York is never a good thing. I was offered a job at a law firm in San Diego that focused on criminal law, and I snapped it up. Returning to Southern California was easier than I'd imagined. I fell back into the life quickly and comfortably. I'd also surprised myself how easily I'd fallen back into my friendship with Logan too.
We'd found ourselves in a situation where our existing friend circles were significantly diminished. Wallace had Shae and Mac was working in Los Angeles. The death of Carrie had proven to Logan that he had few true friends. Of course, he had Dick. But that was Dick. He didn't really count.
So for the last two years, we've settled into a comfortable friend routine. While Logan is away for extended periods, we keep in touch over emails and Skype, and when he returns, he is my movie/bar/couch/coffee buddy. Yes, we once dated but it was over ten years since we'd shared a bed.
He opens his mouth as if he's going to say something but then suddenly stops, hesitates and shakes his head. Instead, his hand shifts to my lower back, his large palm gently spreads out, and he pulls me closer. It's nice, just being close to someone. It helps that that someone is Logan.
As we dance in silence, I consider the near future that awaits me.
Party of one at Veronicas again.
We stay until the end—the last ones out of the building other than waitstaff. Finally taking the hint when the tablecloths came off, and we'd long ago said our goodbyes to Wallace and Shae.
The party was over.
It was time to go home.
We walk back to the room, stumbling across the footpath passing back and forth the last of the champagne in long swigs from the bottle Logan slipped into his jacket before leaving.
I look down over the hills. Vine leaves shine iridescent in the moon's light. I sneak a glance over to Logan, and his eyes are slightly glassy, focusing on the path ahead. He too seems deep in concentration.
Logan opens the hotel room door, and we enter in the darkness, I fumble for the light switch while he throws the key onto the dresser.
"Well I'm going to go and get changed in the bathroom, I don't want to offend your delicate sensibilities," he throws over his shoulder and closes the bathroom door.
That's probably a fair call. My sensibilities are certainly fragile this time of night, especially after close contact on the dancefloor.
I unzip my dress and make an effort to place it back on a hanger before putting on a tank top and shorts pajama combo. I commandeer the bed closest to the door and slip under the sheets, then get to work on removing the numerous pins from my birdsnest of fancy wedding hair.
Logan reappears from the bathroom clad in boxer shorts and a tight white sleeveless shirt. He's carrying two glasses of water and places one on each of our bedside tables.
I instantly shut my eyes and shuffle down under the covers.
Sheets rustle, and he switches off the light.
I exhale a deep breath I didn't realize I was holding.
"That was a good wedding," he muses.
I nod. Realizing the ridiculousness of a nod in the dark but I still don't speak.
"Shae looked beautiful," he adds.
"Yeah, Wallace is a lucky guy."
He giggles a little, "Do you ever wonder about the couple on their wedding night?"
"What?" I ask.
"You know," he's using his hands to explain, I realize it's dark, but I know Logan. I've known Logan for so many years now I can see his expressions, visualize his gesticulation without actually having to see him. "They talk it up so much for this big night of passion and romance, but I bet like 90 percent of couples are so tired afterward they just go to sleep,"
I chuckle, "90 percent?"
"Are you just making up percentages again, or is this based on an actual study?"
I hear him smile.
"I think I read it somewhere."
"Riiiight," I shuffle around, trying to get comfortable and turn towards his bed, staring into the blackness.
"I'm sure they're having a fabulous night."
"Logan, can we please stop talking about Wallace having sex?"
I ponder my next line of questioning momentarily before letting it fall out of my mouth. "Did you get Rebecca's number?" I try to make it sound casual. Not sure I'm succeeding I sit up and take a sip of water to enhance my don't care about the answer nonchalance.
"No," he responds after a pause. "Did you get Bretts?"
We both laugh at the question. "Yeah, I didn't think so," Logan adds.
He shuffles in the sheets, and I feel his body turn and face me. The twin beds are small, and I wonder how his vast frame can fit.
"Veronica," his voice is low, quieter. It kills me when he says my name like that. It takes me back to Hearst. To the Neptune Grand. To his satin sheets. I close my eyes momentarily and just enjoy the memory.
"Do you really think of me as a brother now?"
Fuck. I let it sit in the air for a moment before responding in a whisper, "No."
He lets out a breath, "good."
The room grows silent for a few minutes, the only sound I can hear is the cars on the nearby highway and the incessant thumping of my own heart.
"Goodnight," he calls out.
"Night," I reply. Squinting my eyes shut as tight as I can. Because for a moment, I feel the hot prickling of tears start to creep under my eyelids. I don't want to say goodnight yet, don't want this night to be over. Maybe, just maybe, I'd felt like this evening might go in another direction, a little further away from friends.
We lay in the blackness for what seems like hours. Logan keeps tossing and turning. I can't seem to do anything but stare at the ceiling, thinking.
A deep, protracted sigh comes from his side of the room. I wonder if he is thinking too.
I pull back my sheets and walk to his bed. He is silent, but I can feel him lift his covers to let me inside.
The bed is small.
I lie against him, and he opens up his arm so I can lay on his chest. He wraps his big arm around me, and I snuggle myself into his nook. The limited space is making me slip a little, so he hooks his leg over mine to anchor me. He is so warm, so bare, so Logan. It's been a while since I've been in the nook. It's undoubtedly a lot firmer than it used to be. It sure is a good nook.
We don't speak.
With my ear against his chest, I can hear the hard thrumming of his heartbeat.
It's fast, mirroring my own.
I momentarily consider bailing, pulling back the sheets and jumping back into my own bed. But it's so lovely, so comforting. The last few years the only thing I've cuddled has been my pillow.
His head moves towards me, and either gently kisses the top of my hair or sniffs it. I don't really care. It feels so good a wide grin sweeps across my face.
"Veronica," he whispers.