It’s been a long dayweekmonthyear, and it’s all beginning to blur already as he downs another shot, pushes the last of the partiers out the door, and calls for nightcap. But he remembers a few things.
He remembers the way the light gathered around Veronica and slid over her skin and hair, how simple and beautiful she looked, like for the first time in a long time she was comfortable with who she was. He remembers that song she loves that felt oddly out of place, clashing up against the words he had to say. He remembers saying something about lives being ruined, about her leaving. He remembers her skin under his fingers. He remembers her pulling away and a lance of pain through his gut.
He remembers apologizing for last summer.
He remembers last summer.
Lilly would laugh. Throw her head back, lift her face to the sun, and let out a shriek of laughter that was as familiar to him as his mother’s voice waking him up in the morning, the opening strains of “Highway to Hell,” or the tension that would creep into his dad’s tone when he got…a little upset.
She would smile, and she wouldn’t be the least bit jealous. Lilly Kane didn’t know how to be jealous. No matter what she told anyone—him or Veronica or Duncan or those girls at school who followed her around bestowing her with all kinds of compliments as though she was a goddess or something—she never broke up with him because of his “dalliances,” as she called them. She didn’t give a damn about Yolanda. He didn’t give a damn about Yolanda. She knew that he knew that she knew that he’d kissed her because he was trying to provoke that jealousy in her.
It never happened. She broke up with him because that’s what Lilly did. She got tired of him after a while, grew sick of his lovesick eyes always watching her, needed the drama. He thinks now about what Veronica said—I know she loved you. She didn’t love him. Sometimes she just loved that he loved her.
He worshipped her. She was so alive and vibrant, and nothing touched her. She had never spent one moment caring what anyone thought about her, and that was endlessly appealing to a boy who spent every moment caring.
He loved her for that reason. Veronica did, too. In a way, they both wanted to be her.
In another very different way, they have both become her.
He knows because he had never been sure of what Lilly would say in any given situation. She was always surprising him, and he doesn’t know how many hours of his life he wasted on wondering what she would say or do next.
But now he knows. He knows that she would laugh, then lean close to him and brush those amazing lips across his teasingly and say, “Good for you, lover. We take what we can get. Whatever we can get.”
The bruises throb when Veronica kisses him, but he likes it.
It figures that Veronica’s cop ex-boyfriend would be the one to take him in. After all, Lamb’s too busy arresting the murderer of America’s sweetheart Lilly Kane to care about the 09er who stabbed a PCHer. And the universe just has a sense of humor like that. The ride is silent, and he won’t meet Leo’s eyes in the mirror.
But that one night of jail—because it takes Veronica almost eight hours to convince Trina to bail him out (even though it’s his money and all this just proves how stubborn and selfish Trina really is)—isn’t so bad, though. See, Dad’s one cell over.
They avoid his house as much as possible. He avoids it, actually—she would strut right up the drive, ignoring the photographers and the vigil keepers, but he wants to keep her as untainted by all that as possible. He’s petrified that one of his dad’s obsessive fans will realize who she is—the girl who had the Sexiest Man Alive, Aaron Echolls, arrested for murder.
He remembers when he was little, at the zoo with Mom and a petulant Tina. A woman with a crazed, possessive fire in her eyes had run up to them, waving a gun and screaming about how Lynn had “stolen” Aaron from her. He remembers the tightness around Mom’s eyes, the way her nails dug into his arm as she pulled him behind a dumpster, Trina’s cries and the pounding of security guards’ feet. Then there was the woman who sent the fake bomb wrapped in her underwear or the man who was always waiting outside Starbucks when his dad pulled up in the morning before dropping him off at school. The lady from the tabloids with her scrapbook. The crazy lady with her ice pick who had stripped away all the gilded trappings of his Christmas.
He’s lost all of his illusions—she’s in danger, and he’s never wanted anything in his life the way he wants to protect her.
But they can’t hang out at her house, either. They tried, more than once, sprawled out on the beat up, mismatched sofas that are nothing like the designer ones his mom picked out but are worn into hollows just where Veronica likes to curl up or where her dad sits to watch TV at night. They scrounge through the fridge, eating week-old pizza and ice cream from the cartons and sandwiches featuring foods he never would have considered combining—at home there’s always fancy cuisine in labeled Tupperware in the refrigerator tucked there by one of their cooks, but this is better. They have to choose between the five and a half channels she has; at home he has six thousand.
He likes that life, though, likes it because it produced Veronica, and she’s comfortable here. But she understands why he isn’t.
It’s her dad. He likes Keith alright, admires him, is grateful to him because of Veronica. But Keith doesn’t like him, and he knows it. He never pulls him aside for a little “what are your intentions towards my daughter; you hurt her, I hurt you” chat. He’s never cleaning his gun when Logan arrives. He never even makes those subtle barbed comments that come so easily to the Mars clan.
But Logan knows. No one would have ever thought him observant, attuned to the subtleties of human behavior. But Logan grew up with Aaron Echolls. He grew up with a constant awareness of the tiny clues: the clenching and unclenching of the hands, the tightening of the jaw, the hardening of the eyes, the edge in the voice that all signified the coming storm. Logan Echolls is a creature of instinct, and these are his survival skills.
So he picks up the little signs of displeasure and aggression that Keith displays when he comes into the room to grab a beer. And Keith notices that he notices and smiles tightly and that scares the crap out of him, and there’s no way he can stay in that apartment with that smile.
He can’t hang out at the Sac-n-Pac either, because that Fennel kid hates him as much as Keith does and is much worse at hiding it. He shoots Logan pointed looks as he and Veronica chatter with such an easy rapport that Logan is dogged by jealousy. He’s not comfortable there, either.
So they drive a lot. Rising gas prices and carbon-dioxide emissions don’t bother a movie star’s son, and so the Xterra sees a lot of miles that summer as they drive up and down the PCH with his classic rock and her emo bands blaring out of the radio, the windows down and the wind in her hair, the sun in her eyes, and she’s gorgeous.
And he’s comfortable.
Sometimes he talks to Mom and pretends she can hear him—mostly he screams at her for leaving him.
He doesn’t remember the trial. Doesn’t remember the best (most expensive) lawyers in Neptune coaching him on what to say (he didn’t listen; Logan’s got more survival instincts than anyone else in the world, and his gut tells him what to do. It’s when he listens to his brain that he gets in trouble). Doesn’t remember Felix’s mom’s sobs or the glimpse he gets of Molly Fitzpatrick’s tearstained face, way back in the back (what the hell is she doing here?). Doesn’t remember the paparazzi and their exploding camera lights and shouted questions.
What he remembers is before, meeting Veronica on the beach at the crack of dawn, the feel of her hands and her lips and her skin and her breath all telling him that he is innocent (and making him so and he doesn’t miss the irony of the “sluttiest” girl at school giving him absolution), that she knows that everything would be all right.
The trial seemed pretty anticlimactic after that.
Duncan hasn’t come around once since the night of his surprise “birthday” party. Logan pretends it doesn’t hurt as much as it does. He always though he and DK were real friends, like Veronica and that Fennel kid, the kind that stuck with each other. He never thought a girl could come between them, but it’s all very Camelot. He figures he’s Lancelot, though he was never pure of heart or a paragon of virtue, and Veronica’s got more spirit than a thousand Guineveres. But Duncan could easily be King Arthur, and maybe Neptune is rent in half by the betrayal.
He won’t—can’t—call Duncan, because guys don’t do that, and besides, it would be admitting he was wrong. And he isn’t. Duncan should know that Logan needs him, should show up at the house and act like nothing happened. That’s what a real friend would do.
Because this is bigger than Veronica (though a small part of him is beginning to think that nothing is more important than her, but Duncan can’t possibly have felt even a fraction of what Logan feels for her, so it’s not like he should act like he’s all hurting and betrayed); this is about his life, about maybe ending up in jail for something he’s (almost) certain he didn’t do. Veronica’s here, holding his hand, confident (he hopes) that he’s innocent, and it’s (almost) enough to erase the bitter sting of the memory that she actually could have thought, even for a moment, that he hurt Lilly (part of him knows that that memory will haunt him forever and he’ll spend his whole life trying to prove her wrong).
But (Mom’s gone, and there’s only Veronica in the world and) he needs Duncan, too, needs someone else to believe in the best in him so that he can live up to it (and not end up like Dad).
He feels like he’s going to crumble under the weight of everyone’s judgment, the accusations, and he isn’t sure Veronica’s strong enough on her own (though she’s plenty stronger than he is) to hold him together. She’s got dark smudges under her eyes, and he knows they’re relics of sleepless nights spent worrying over him, and he sort of blames Duncan for not being there to help her.
He walks down the steps past the reporters and relief is bursting in his chest like fireworks or maybe bombs, and there’s nothing better than Veronica waiting in the limo to hold his hand, but Duncan (and Mom. And Lilly) should be there, too.
Trina moves back to the Grande, and he’s alone in that house. Somehow, he doesn’t mind.
One night now that they know the Kanes are away, they climb over the back fence. In the darkness, she strips down to her panties and bra and him to his boxers and they jump into the lukewarm water of the pool. They float on their backs and look up at the stars that seem far too close tonight. It’s nice, knowing they’re thinking exactly the same thing, but not having to talk about it.
She does flips in the water and he dives off the board like his mom taught him when he was a little boy. They have water fights and then climb onto one of the rafts and both squeeze on, wrapped up in each other, and the water laps slowly over their bodies and there’s just enough light for the shadows to play across her face and make her more beautiful than ever.
As they climb out and pull their dry clothes on over their wet bodies (they blame each other for forgetting the towels), neither one of them look at the dark brown spot marring the stone.
She tastes like guilt.
She tastes like triumph.
She tastes like fear.
She tastes like hate.
She tastes like forgiveness, redemption, salvation any other clichéd word for something like the same thing. And the words start coming out.
He’s not supposed to tell her. Even when he’s saying it, he knows he shouldn’t, but the words are coming out, and five seconds later, karma kicks in.
Logan isn’t stupid. He knows that there really isn’t some universal rule that all the people he loves will be taken away from him. Dad (he really did love him, once, a long time ago, back before Aaron decided he needed to grow up and be a man). Lilly. Mom. Now Veronica.
He knows it isn’t true. But that doesn’t keep the most primitive, superstitious part of him—the part no human being can truly banish—from believe it. And the sound of the shattering of glass, the engine’s roar, Veronica’s shriek, all of these are like confirmation, like a warning.
They tell him to back off, to cut her off from him, not to let himself keep going down the road he’s going.
He doesn’t listen.
There’s never been anything as satisfying as seeing his father’s eyes peer out at him from between the bars. A poetic sort of justice, and it’s the first time he’s thought he could ever appreciate poetry.
Logan knows his dad is there because of Lilly, and he deserves to be, but he kind of likes to think he’s there because of Logan, too. Maybe those convicts in there will beat him up, tear into him without mercy, give him one scar for every one he gave Logan.
Now that would be justice (poetry).
Sometimes it feels dangerously close to normal. All hand holding and going out for ice cream and “I love you beary much.” He’s teaching her to surf, and she’s miserable at it, but they both like the feeling of their bodies pressed close together with the security of the board underneath them and the steady rise and fall of the waves. He begs and teases her and finally she gives in and watches Easy Rider with him, even though, as she reminds him several times, that’s one movie she won’t even watch with her dad, so she doesn’t know why she’s doing it for him. They have a popcorn fight and make out and she falls asleep with her head on his chest.
She comes to school to eat lunch with him, and they don’t sit in the courtyard at the lunch tables. They sit on the ground beside Lilly’s fountain, their backs to the wall, and they talk, and maybe neither one of them pretend Lilly’s there, too.
He stops by the Hut during her breaks and she gives him free pie and they don’t watch the news. They go to movies and sit in the back row and make fun of what’s going on onscreen till they get hissed at “Shhhh!” and finally get kicked out by the management. He even takes her to a fancy restaurant one night and they stick their noses up in the air and pretend not to notice the snooty, disbelieving looks they’re getting from the glitterati of Neptune.
It’s all so normal, and sometimes he can pretend they’re living in a world that didn’t shatter either one of them, a world that never existed. But that doesn’t last very long, because he can’t shake the knowledge that in that world, they wouldn’t have been together like this. He would have kept going back and going back to Lilly till she shattered him once and for all; he would have let that ruin him, and he never would have been able to offer himself to Veronica after that for fear he’d taint her.
But if he’s really honest, he knows that sooner or later the world would have broken her, too, that there’s no world in which she could have remained the sweet, innocent, generous girl he once knew, much as he likes to dream of that.
Logan knows perfectly well that there’s no such thing as normal.
All his dreams are nightmares, and in all of them she leaves him.
He knows that Dick and Beaver are a poor substitute for Duncan, but at least they’re there. Dick has always sort of worshipped him (he reminds Logan a lot of the way Veronica used to worship Lilly), and Logan always knew that the other guy didn’t really care who Logan was dating (the birthday part was just Dick not thinking). Besides, after one shiner, Dick never says anything about Veronica again.
He likes being around the Casablancas brothers because they’re always arguing—they’re always making noise, and that’s good, because silence gives Logan headaches. Besides, their family’s almost as screwed up as his.
They’re game for anything, even the Beaver, which surprises Logan (he never thinks to question why it’s the younger kid who comes up with the idea for setting the pools on fire). And they keep coming back, ignoring his caustic comments, and that’s something.
Sometimes he holds her too tight, too close to him, but he just can’t let go.
Self-destructive behavior, lashing out at the whole world is cliché, and he knows it. He knows that it’s typical for him to begin a sort of war with the PCHers, that it’s exactly what everyone expects. Usually he would care, but right now, he just doesn’t.
It isn’t just the pool. That’s just the last in a long string of adventures he and the Casablancas boys and Enbom and Rams have gotten into. Veronica disapproves, but (he’s glad) she doesn’t know the half of it. If she did, she’d probably tazer him for putting himself in such danger, for fanning the flames and using this rift that’s tearing Neptune apart as an excuse to lash out and get back at daddy.
She doesn’t know about the night they walk right into La Hacienda, doesn’t know about the wild brawl that only ends when someone calls the sheriff (everyone clears out of there long before Lamb actually arrives); she doesn’t ask about the bruises and the new set of stitches. She doesn’t know about the three motorcycles they rip up one night out on the cliffs. She doesn’t know about the night he gets drunk out of his mind and backs Weevil up into a corner in an alley and spews horrible things about him and Lilly (Dick and the Beaver and the other guys pull the other boy off of him before things can go too far; Logan never gets around to wondering where Beaver got a gun).
At least, he thought she didn’t.
Suddenly the lamp hits the wall and he’s shouting he doesn’t know what and then his arm’s twisted behind him and his cheek is pressed to the cool plaster.
Keith’s voice is dangerous, and he’s saying something, and Veronica might be crying, but Logan can’t hear it over the roar in his ears.
It isn’t till he sees her kissing Duncan at the Hut that he really believes it’s over (like he always knew it would be).
That night, he goes to the Casablancas’s, knowing full well that the boys are out on the boat with their dad.