Cows, that's what they were.
Logan Henderson half-dozed in his chair. He didn't need to listen to his college classmates ask the professor pointless questions. Most of them hadn't even read the play and it showed. They'd either rented movies based on the play or read Cliff Notes. Logan only had to look at them and know that the human race was doomed.
Apparently finished with her lecture, Professor Charing turned from the whiteboard. She crossed over to her briefcase and glanced up at the clock. "I've finished grading your papers, so if you'll be patient, I'll pass them out."
A worried hum rose from the class. Most English professors usually assigned two or three five-page papers for the course, but Charing was tough. She required that the papers be ten pages long. If a student's essay was shorter than she expected, she deducted points. When she'd announced her grading policy, the students had whined for weeks.
The girl sitting next to Logan clutched her notebook to her chest. "I hope I get at least a C. If I don't, I'll just die!"
He slouched deeper in his chair. He heard cries of dismay from his classmates as Charing made her rounds.
She put his paper in front of him. "Exceptional work as usual."
Logan only shrugged. Even before he'd started typing his essay, he'd known he'd ace it. The real question was if it was an A plus or an A minus.
Yeah, the suspense was killing him.
He flipped to the last page where Charing had written her comments. Random words leapt out at him: insightful, excellent, and organized. Yadda, yadda. He'd gotten an A plus, arguably the only one in the class.
Another girl a few seats in front of Logan shrieked. "Oh my God! I'm going to throw myself out of a window!"
"You do that," Logan said shortly. He stuffed the paper in his backpack. "If you want, I'll open the window for you."
She gaped at him like the cow she was.
He left the classroom behind. Thank God he was done for the day. He walked to where he'd parked his Porsche and tossed his backpack in the passenger seat. If he hurried, he'd barely make it to his therapy session.
His mood soured. He didn't know why he bothered to go to therapy, but at least it wasn't his money. His father paid the bills.
Dr. Elspeth Ludlow was in her office when Logan entered. She clasped her hands on the top of her knees. Sometimes Logan wondered if the woman practiced that pose because she used it every session.
"How are you?" Ludlow asked.
Logan slumped in the reclining chair opposite from her. Thank God Ludlow had never insisted that Logan try out the couch. Therapist Number Eight had suggested that once, and Logan had instantly gotten up and walked out of the office.
"How are you?" Ludlow repeated.
"What do you think?"
She scribbled in her ever-present notebook. "We've talked about this. I'm here to help you, but I can't do that if you won't cooperate. Why don't we try again?"
Logan rolled his eyes. "What's there to say?"
The woman took off her glasses. She rubbed her eyes, a sure sign of exasperation. "Despite what you may think, I want to help you, Logan."
"And the size of my father's paycheck doesn't have anything to do with it?"
"Would you prefer to see someone else? A church pastor, maybe? I can refer you to another therapist if you'd like."
"Giving up already? I thought you'd stick around for at least one or two more weeks. Wow. The lure of my father's money isn't all that, huh?"
Ludlow studied him. The probing look in her eyes deepened. Logan had the unsettling feeling that the woman had finally found a weakness to exploit.
"That's the second time you've referred to your father," Ludlow said. "You never talked about him before."
"He married my mother. Knocked her up and here I am."
"Aren't you an only child?"
"You know I'm not."
The doctor shrugged. "Humor me a little. You have a brother, I think?"
"Two. I'm the middle son."
"And their names are?"
"Alec is the eldest, Ryan the youngest." Logan shifted in his chair, working out the kinks in his back. "Is this a new version of Twenty Questions? If it is, I've got to say I'm not impressed. Come up with a better game."
Ludlow raised her eyebrows. "Am I making you uncomfortable?"
"Seeing that we have forty more minutes left..."
Logan didn't bother hiding his yawn. God, how had his father found this woman? In a way, Logan supposed it was his fault. He'd endured a gauntlet of therapists over the years and by now he knew their tricks.
"How is school?" Ludlow asked.
"My GPA's perfect, my classmates are idiots. What's there to say?"
"Your father said that you'd attended Yale previously. That's quite an accomplishment."
Logan snorted. "Did he tell you how they almost expelled me? It's why I had to leave. Yeah, I bet he left that part out."
Even now, it still pissed him. A professor had accused him of plagiarism because his papers had sounded "too advanced." What the hell did the man think Logan was? Logan had argued his case and used his other papers as evidence, even the old ones from high school, and Yale had finally believed him. Even so, they said he had an attitude problem. He'd finally washed his hands of Yale and its hypocrisy.
Ludlow's calm expression didn't change. "No, your father didn't tell me that. How would you describe your social life?"
"I have friends. I go out sometimes."
"Do you date?"
His tone seemed to amuse her. She held up her left hand, displaying her wedding ring. "I'm afraid not. However, you're a remarkably good-looking young man-"
Logan widened his eyes in mock incredulity. "Keep that up, Doc, and I'll think you're really interested in me."
"And so it would make sense if you do date. Do you?"
"No. I've never had a girlfriend."
Almost immediately, he regretted his answer. It only handed Ludlow more ammunition.
She straightened slightly. Her head tilted to a side as she studied him. "That's quite a strong statement, Logan. May I inquire as to why you've never dated?"
He glanced at the clock. Thirty-five minutes to go. God, this wasn't going well. Why didn't Ludlow just shut up? She had no business prying.
"Why have you never dated?"
Logan crossed his arms. "That's not what I said," he corrected. "I never had a girlfriend."
Ludlow inclined her head. "I see. So you've never had a serious relationship?"
"I'm a college boy, Doc. Hormones are in, emotions are out."
"You're saying you've had some experience?"
"You want all the intimate details? I've never had - what would you call it? - full-on intercourse, but hey, a girl's mouth has its uses."
A faint hint of distaste crept into Ludlow's face. She tried her best to hide it, but Logan saw it anyway. Excellent. It was easier if she didn't like him.
Logan stared at her straight in the eyes. "Yeah, women suck, but women sucking can be a really good thing."
Ludlow pursed her lips. She scribbled something on her notepad.
He wondered if she'd written: "The subject is a deeply troubled young man who objectifies women. He has a misogynist streak."
"I believe you said you had two brothers?" she said. "What can you tell me about them?"
"Alec's a fag. And no, he's not a cigarette."
"He's come out of the closet?"
"Yes," Logan said shortly.
He didn't like to think about that day when Alec had told their parents. Alec claimed that he'd had to do it, but where had it gotten him? Now there were four placemats at the dinner table instead of five.
Ludlow didn't push further. "What about Ryan?"
"He's the family's golden boy."
It was true. No one could charm a smile out of their father quicker than Ryan. People had always compared Ryan to Logan because of the black hair and blue eyes they shared, but after that, all similarities ended. Ryan was taller, his eyes more brilliant. He smiled, he beguiled, and he got all the glory.
"How old is he?" Ludlow asked.
"Ryan? He turns eighteen next week. Alec is twenty-three."
"And you are..."
"Nineteen. Twenty this summer."
Ludlow nodded. She twirled her pen almost absent-mindedly. "How would you describe your relationships with your brothers?"
"We always go on those heartwarming camping vacations where we bond with each other and with Mother Nature."
He hadn't meant to sound so harsh, but Ludlow picked up on his tone anyway. "Does it make you uncomfortable to talk about your family?"
"Then you wouldn't mind me asking more questions?"
Logan's mouth twisted. "Yes, I mind. It's none of your goddamn business."
Ludlow didn't look startled. She had a good poker face, Logan would give her that. Nonetheless, he could sense her mentally shifting gears.
"How would you like me to help you?" she said.
"By shutting up?" he suggested.
"I agreed to take you on as a patient because your father asked me. However, there is no reason for you to comply. You're not a minor, Logan. If you wished, you could get up and walk out of my office. So the true question is why you are here."
Logan raised his eyebrows. "You sound like the Matrix movies. I'm here because there's no other path; therefore I must be here."
Ludlow's smile flickered. "Did you like the movies?"
"Somewhat. Interesting premise, lousy execution. There's a lot of psychobabble. You'd get a kick out of it, Doc."
"Why are you here, Logan?"
"My father's paying for it."
"You're here because it's his wish?"
He could still remember what his father had said only a few days ago. They'd been sitting at the dinner table. As usual, Logan's father hadn't acknowledged his presence, though he'd spent the entire time talking to Ryan. Just when Logan thought he'd make a clean getaway, the other man had finally spoken up.
"I received a call from your therapist. He doesn't want to continue seeing you, so I'm sending you to another one. Dr. Elspeth Ludlow, that's her name. You don't have a choice. Your attitude is inappropriate-"
"Is it now? I was going for disrespectful and insolent," Logan had replied.
"That's the kind of attitude that I won't tolerate-"
Logan stood up. "Cut it short, Dad. You're great in the courtroom, but not in the dining room."
The other man tossed his napkin on the table. "Don't you turn your back on me!"
"Whoops. I'd say I'm sorry, except I'd be lying. And since I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God - I'm not sorry."
"Dr. Ludlow is a promising therapist. And frankly, Logan, you could use her guidance."
"What part don't you understand? Maybe I should send a note to your law office. 'Dear daddy, I hate therapists. Love, Logan.' Would that help?"
The argument was apparently lost on Logan's mother. She studied the brand-new curtains draping the window. "They really are old and hideous," she said, smiling. "Gregory, dear, do you think a floral pattern would be better?"
Ryan was the only one still eating. Logan glanced at him, but Ryan had his head down, shoving food in his mouth as fast as he could. Typical.
Ludlow's voice called him back to the present. "Then if it is your father's wish that you are here..."
Logan said nothing.
"Why do you think your father wants you here?"
He glanced at the clock again. Twenty minutes left. He knew Ludlow saw his impatience, but he didn't care. He'd had a lifetime of experience dealing with therapists trying to screw with his mind. The best thing was to run them off. But if he ran Ludlow off, he'd only have to put up with yet another new therapist.
So he answered. "He wants me to be normal. Remake me into a perfect son with a job and a girlfriend. Make me like Ryan."
Ludlow clasped her hands again. "I assume Ryan has a girlfriend?"
Logan snorted. "The question is when he doesn't have one. He's now dating his best friend's sister. How cute can you get?"
It still made him roll his eyes every time he thought about it. He'd never liked Raleigh Chase, even if she occasionally amused him. Ryan had made a bet with her brother, claiming that he could make any girl fall in love with him. For four months, Logan had watched Ryan and Raleigh wallow in faux teen angst.
Still, there was always the heartening possibility they'd break up. Ryan had a well-earned reputation for going through girls like a man dying for water in the desert. Sometimes Logan wondered if Ryan was trying to over-compensate because Alec was gay and because Logan didn't date.
Ludlow had no idea what he was thinking, of course. She only said, "You think that your father wants you to have a girlfriend?"
"Yes. He's said it many times. Why are you so interested?"
"It's my job."
Logan crossed his arms. "Talk about something else."
"All right then. You haven't said anything about your mother."
"She's a homemaker. She's old money. Her ancestors sailed on the Mayflower and signed the Declaration of Independence."
All of that was true. Teresa Henderson was still beautiful and graceful. She was also kind and loving, but Logan doubted she'd even spared a thought for him. She'd handed her three sons to the care of nannies and promptly forgotten about them. Still, there was no malice in her, and sometimes it was nice to pretend she cared.
"That's quite impressive," Ludlow said.
Logan shrugged. "They're dead. Who cares?"
"What do you care about?"
"Nothing much. Give me a beer and some peace and I'm happy."
"You like drinking?"
"I got to hand it to you, Doc. You never give up."
Ludlow's face was a picture of polite interest. She didn't lean forward, nor did she scribble in her notepad. If she was curious, Logan couldn't tell.
"You like drinking?" she said.
Logan stretched out his legs. He had no idea how Ludlow managed to make the clock go so slow, but as it was, there was a few more minutes.
"Sure. Name a college boy who doesn't."
He almost expected Ludlow to pursue that line of questioning, but she only switched to another train of thought.
"You said you had some friends. What can you tell me about them?"
"We go to parties. We play video games. What were you expecting? Deep soul-searching conversations?"
Ludlow gave him a pleasant smile. After her initial exasperation, she'd seemed to settle into a mood of placidness. No doubt she was counting the minutes, just like he was, so she could get the hefty check from his father.
"It doesn't seem as if you're close to them. Is there anyone you consider a close friend?"
The question silenced him. He'd had a best friend once. Someone who had been closer to him than anyone else.
"Logan?" Ludlow said.
"No one," he said.
"Do you want-"
He cut her off. "Time's up."
"So it is. That was a good session, Logan. I'll see you next week."
About to stride from her office, he stopped. "What makes you think I'll come back?"
Ludlow's smile flickered into existence. "Call it a hunch. Good afternoon."
Her cheerfulness irritated him. Without so much a goodbye, Logan left the building. It wasn't night yet, so he decided to visit the bookstore near his home. It was his second home, and even better, his family didn't hang out there.
After killing a couple hours at the bookstore, Logan drove home with a bulging bag of books in the passenger seat. If anything, books were his vice. He bought too many books every week, but he always read them all.
His family lived on a street where the neighbors constantly tried to outdo each other. Cars, kids, swimming pools, mansions, and whatever else. It was a neighborhood where everything looked good on the outside and everything rotten on the inside.
The family's maid must have spotted his car because she opened the front door for him. "Your father is not happy," she whispered. "You be careful."
He grunted. If she had been anyone else, he would have ignored her, but Rosa had worked for his family fifteen years.
"Hurry," she said.
He briefly considered skipping dinner. It was the same old argument he'd had with himself for years, but hunger usually won out. Whatever faults Logan's father might have had, he did employ a chef who worked magic.
The family had already begun eating when Logan sat down. A glance at his father told him that Rosa was right. There was a certain coldness surrounding him.
His mother was warmer, though. "Oh there you are," she said. Her smile was dreamy as she gazed at him. "I wondered where you'd gone."
Mr. Henderson dabbed his mouth with a napkin. "To the therapist's office, I hope?"
Logan dropped his fork on his plate. "And we were getting along so well. Way to ruin my appetite, Dad. You're good at that." He pushed his chair back from the table.
"Come back here! Logan!"
He stalked upstairs. His bedroom was his sanctuary. Lots and lots of books, his computer and music, and a few snacks. He didn't have to leave unless it was for school. He turned some music on, and started organizing his new books.
A little later, Ryan knocked on his door. Logan knew it had to be Ryan because their parents never visited his room. The door opened, but Ryan didn't come inside. He leaned against the door frame.
"Jesus, Logan," he said. "Dad's still steaming."
"Get the hell out of my room."
Ryan flushed. "Listen, I wanted to ask you-"
"I'm not babysitting Raleigh's baby brother again."
"No, it's not that." A hint of a smile crept into Ryan's face. Logan had seldom seen him so happy about a girl, but ever since he'd begun formally dating Raleigh not so long ago, he had been nauseatingly happy. "It's something else."
"Uh-huh. So what is it?"
"Remember my birthday next week? Anyway, so I'm having dinner with some friends. You want to come? Alec's going to be there."
It was on the tip of Logan's tongue to say no, but his brother was looking at him in an expectant way. He was smiling hopefully, and somehow Logan couldn't deny him.
"Fine, I'll come. Scram."
Logan flopped onto his bed after Ryan left. He stared up at the ceiling, suddenly not in a mood to read a book. Ludlow had asked too many questions about his family. But what was there to say?
A domineering father? Check. A vapid mother strung out on drugs? Check. A token gay brother holed up with his lover? Check. A younger brother who could do no wrong? Check. Such was Logan's family.
Home sweet home.
AUTHOR NOTE: Yes, this is the sequel to "Against All Odds." If you haven't read that story, I strongly urge you to read it first. Some characters from AAO appear here, for example. This story is entirely from Logan's POV. As usual, every chapter is 10 pages unless I state otherwise. I should mention that since I am already working on too many stories, I won't be able to update this one frequently until I finish "Mating Habits of the Popular and the Petty." In any case, you can see what Logan is like. It'll be interesting to see if you hate or love him. Enjoy :)