This has taken a long while to get up here and I'm truly sorry. I don't know how many loyal readers I have, but if you're out there, I am so sorry. School has been killing me lately so writing this story has had to take a back burner. Hopefully I'll get better. I'm finishing up all my papers soon so, hopefully after that, I'll have more time. Hope you guys enjoy this chapter. And please let me know what you think! I wanna make sure I'm still keeping you interested--despite my slow updates. :)
There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. It was the most picturesque day anyone could have imagined. The sun was shining, the weather was somewhere between cool and warm, and Logan was finally going to get to talk to Rachel. Logan stopped running as he reached his apartment and glanced back at the scenery surrounding him. Yes, it was going to be a good day.
Without delaying anymore, Logan rushed through the door and headed straight for the shower. There was no time to waste. He had asked Rachel to meet him at nine o'clock. He only had 45 minutes to get everything ready.
The first step to success would occur if Rachel knew where to meet him. He had no doubt that she wasn't confused. He had intentionally not specified where he wanted her to meet him. Back when they had been dating, there was never a need to give so much information. They had their spot. Logan hadn't been there in a long time. There were so many memories associated with this particular place. It was almost as if nothing bad could happen when they were there, together.
By the time Logan had showered and dressed, he was down to 35 minutes. He'd always been a quick shower-taker. Wasting no time, he rushed into the kitchen and grabbed the cooler he'd pulled out the night before. Unlike his usual tendency, he'd put a lot of thought and planning into this day. He grabbed a few more containers out of the fridge, all things he knew Rachel loved, and placed them into the cooler. He grabbed two bottles out of the fridge: one filled with chocolate milk and the other with vanilla coke. Still sitting on the counter from his shopping trip the previous day were the boxes of cookies and the bags of chips that he'd bought specifically for this outing.
When everything was securely packed in the cooler, Logan rushed back into his room and grabbed a pair of socks and his running shoes. There was no doubt that he was excited. He never moved around this quickly. Usually everyone was trying to make him move faster, constantly informing him that he was going to make everyone late. Not today though. Today he simply couldn't wait to lay eyes on the only girl he'd ever loved. It had been far too long.
Despite knowing that he would still be early, Logan grabbed his car keys and the cooler and left. He pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards the place where he had, once upon a time, fallen in love with a girl, changing his life forever.
There was no doubt it was a beautiful day. Rachel stood outside her door, trying to calm her nerves by breathing in the fresh air. Fall was on the way. Without being able to calm herself down, Rachel turned back into her apartment. She was supposed to be meeting Logan in twenty minutes and her heart was trying to hammer its way out of her chest.
Rachel walked back into her room and glanced in the mirror. She had on a pair of dark jeans and a short-sleeved green shirt. Nothing too special. At least, nothing special to the untrained eye. To the all-knowing eye, she was wearing the jeans that she'd been wearing when Logan proposed and the green shirt that he'd given her for her birthday the previous year. She was sentimental, there was no way to deny it. This outfit held similar significance that the white dress she'd stupidly opted to wear to her recent rehearsal dinner held. Logan might remember buying her this shirt—he had told her that the green made her eyes look brighter—but she knew he wouldn't remember the jeans. Only she'd remember something like that.
Returning to the kitchen, Rachel saw the container of brownies, half gone at this point, still sitting on the counter. Logan hadn't told her where to meet him. He'd merely said 9 o'clock. She reread the note only to confirm what she remembered. It didn't matter. She knew where to go. That's what Logan had been counting on.
Finally, after realizing that her heart wasn't going to stop pounding, Rachel made her way to the front door to leave. She caught a glimpse of her face in a mirror on the wall. She had hoped it wouldn't be obvious upon first glance that she was beyond nervous—but it was very obvious.
It's OK! It's going to be fine. Just breathe. Calm down and breathe.
Rachel tried to talk herself down but it didn't seem to be working. Before she could convince herself not to go, Rachel opened the front door, and left.
The tree was still there, just as big and beautiful as before. It created a large circle of shade, the perfect place to sit down and have a nice, long heart-to-heart. Logan set down the cooler with the picnic blanket he always had in his car. It hadn't been used in a while but it had always been there.
This tree was perfect for climbing. Even the most inexperienced tree-climber could climb this tree. It was as easy as climbing a flight of stairs—pretty much effortless. He'd climbed it many times. But right now, he had to wait. He couldn't climb it right now. Right now he needed to sit and think. And pray.
Luckily, Logan didn't have to wait too long. When he saw Rachel walking his direction, his heart did a bit of a flip-flop. She was so beautiful. Her dark brown hair was down, curls hanging a few inches below her shoulders. Logan couldn't remember a time when he'd gotten bored of looking at her.
Logan stood up as Rachel got closer. She glanced up at the tree, down at the cooler, and then back at him.
"Care to join me?" Logan asked, feeling suddenly more nervous than he'd felt before.
Rachel shrugged. "What are you doing?"
"You knew I was gonna be here, didn't you?" Logan teased. "I was pretty sure I put that in the note."
Rachel smiled a little bit. Not enough of a smile to really see her face light up, but enough of one to make a few of the butterflies leave Logan's stomach.
"I knew you were gonna be here but…what's that?" she asked, nodding her head in the direction of the cooler.
Logan smiled. "Oh that? Nothing. It was here when I got here."
"Logan," Rachel started, smiling a bit more now. "I know that blanket. We've had a million and one picnics on that blanket."
"Oh wow. A million and one. I guess that would make it memorable. I mean, a million—nah! But a million and one, it's a dead giveaway."
Rachel bit her lower lip through her smile. "OK, I'll join you."
They both sat down after Logan had spread the blanket out. When they were both comfortable, leaning against the tree, Logan opened the cooler.
"Alright, here we go. Now we don't have to eat all this right now, but we're not leaving till we've solved something and I didn't know how many days that would be. And I didn't wanna starve."
Rachel pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged her legs. "Show me, show me!"
"We've got…" Logan paused for dramatic effect, "chocolate chunk Chips Ahoy!" He tossed the food items at her as he called them out. "Chocolate-covered raisins! Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips! Peanut butter cups! Wheat thins!" When he got to the containers, he stopped tossing and resorted to setting the items down. "Chocolate mousse—homemade. Fruit dip, complete with strawberries, grapes, and apples already mixed inside. I would have added bananas but I thought they might go bad overnight. And last but not least, cold maple and brown sugar oatmeal, just like you like it."
Rachel had a real smile on her face now. "You hate cold oatmeal."
"Yes I do. But you love it."
Rachel picked the container up. "Yes I do. Did you bring me a spoon?"
Logan smiled as he pulled a plastic spoon out of the cooler. "And to drink, there's chocolate milk for me and vanilla coke for you."
"You really went for the most nutritious foods you could find, didn't you?" Rachel teased as she took a bite of the oatmeal.
Logan looked at her with a hurt look on his face. "Is there anything here that you don't like?"
Rachel took another bite of oatmeal and shook her head. "You didn't forget much of anything, did you?"
Logan opened the box of cookies. "You can't forget a lifetime worth of stuff in a year, Rach."
Logan ate a few cookies and drank some of his milk, trying to figure out where to go next. They had started out quite lighthearted and amicable. He only hoped it would stay that way. Perhaps not lighthearted, but at least amicable.
"Why'd you want me to come, Logan? Why'd you do all this for me?"
Logan smiled. "You really cut to the chase, doncha?"
"Do you really think we can take this anywhere?
"Look, I don't know how today is gonna go. I don't know if it's possible to work this out but I do know that I can't keep going on like this. I know that I have spent an entire year regretting only one decision: the one where I decided to be a prideful idiot and let you call off the wedding."
Rachel's head snapped up. "Me? What are you talking about? You did the calling off, Logan. Is your memory really that bad?"
"I didn't. I came to you and said that I'd been offered a job in Washington. A good job. A job that I would enjoy. I did not suggest calling off the wedding. I did not say that I wanted to wait to marry you. I was telling you because I thought that it was the kind of thing to discuss with my soon-to-be wife. You didn't want to go, Rach."
Rachel looked at Logan, tears already forming in her eyes. She was stubborn though. She wouldn't be letting those tears fall anytime soon.
"We were getting married in a week, Logan. At that point, I thought we were staying here. You had a good job here. This is where everything happened. I was tied to it for all sorts of silly sentimental reasons. But that's not what matters. You just sprung it on me and it just sent me for a bit of a spin."
"When had we ever decided to stay here forever? I love it here, just like you do, but I never thought it was the plan to live her for the rest of our lives, did you?"
Rachel set the bowl of oatmeal down and glanced up at the tree. "No, Logan, I didn't think that. But I didn't think a move would be happening that soon. And you did suggest calling off the wedding."
Logan threw a cookie at Rachel. "No I didn't. I suggested postponing it. But I hadn't planned on saying that and I didn't mean it either. Your reaction to my good news upset me. I said something out of anger when I hadn't meant it."
"Then why didn't you take it back?"
"Because I was an idiot. I told you, babe, I was mad. I was too prideful to give in because I felt like you were the one that needed to come to me and apologize. It was stupid, I know that now. Aren't those the same reasons you didn't try to come to me?"
Rachel nodded her head slowly. "I guess so."
"Do you know how much it hurt to find out you were dating someone else? That was when I started running. I went out that day and ran for an hour, maybe more. I was so angry and hurt. I actually ran all the way to your apartment and stood on the sidewalk, staring at the front door. I wanted to punch him. I wanted to cry. There aren't many times that I want to do either one of those, and definitely not both."
Rachel's eyes had even more tears now. Logan could see that he was hurting her by telling her all of this but there was no way around it. He wanted to hold her in his arms again and the only way he'd be able to was if they got everything out in the open.
"I'm sorry," Rachel whispered. "I'm so sorry, Logan." The tears escaped. She hugged her knees tighter and wiped her face on her shoulder.
"Rach…" Logan felt bad. He hated making her cry.
"No, Logan. Don't apologize. I need to cry. I need to feel bad and realize what a mess I made of everything. There was not one day where I didn't think of you. But everyday that I did, I felt more and more hurt that you hadn't tried to contact me. I thought that by dating someone else, I'd be able to move on and be happy again. It amazes me that I could have thought that when I couldn't even wear half the clothes in my closet without being plagued by painful memories. I hurt you, I was hurting myself, and Josh was an innocent bystander who got a whole lot of baggage and pain he hadn't bargained for. I hate the person I've been for the last year, Logan. I hate her. I hate what I did. I hate that I let you go and that I wasn't willing to move. We didn't get married because I wasn't willing to move! How stupid is that? All I wanted was to be with you. That's it! And that was completely possible in another city!"
Logan scooted closer to Rachel till he was right beside her.
"Don't be mad anymore, Rach. I don't hate you," he said gently, hoping that her tears would subside. "I love you. I didn't like admitting that. Not when you were with someone else and especially when you invited me to your wedding. But that doesn't change that it's true." Logan lowered his voice. "I feel like a complete sap. Like I'm in a chick flick or something."
Rachel glanced over at him and laughed a little bit. Her green eyes were shining from the tears but they were right there, as bright and beautiful as ever, looking right at him.
"I really want to make this work," Logan finally said. "I never want to receive another invitation to your wedding unless the groom's name is mine. And I don't mean any other Logan Sparks. I mean me. I want to work through this and I want to give you back the engagement ring I bought you. And I want to get married and live anywhere you want to live and have a family and grow really old together. And I want to keep climbing this tree at least once a week like we used to."
Rachel dried the last few tears off her cheeks. "I never knew you were so sentimental."
"It's the old age."
Rachel laughed. A real laugh. "Ah yes, the ripe old age of twenty-four."
Logan smiled. "What's your first memory of this tree?"
Picking up the cookie that Logan had thrown at her before, Rachel took a bite before she answered. "We were freshmen in high school. We went for a walk one evening and came upon this tree. I was marveling at how incredibly huge it was while you were strategizing how to get to the top. Before I knew it, you had jumped up and were already climbing up a few more of the branches. When you were about a fourth of the way up, you turned around and asked what was taking me so long. I told you I wasn't going to climb the tree but then you told me that it was your ultimate wish that I would chase you up a tree. So I did. And right there, on that branch," she pointed, "I caught up to you. Mostly because you waited for me. I then declared this tree to be our spot, the place no one else could know about." Rachel paused. "And then you kissed me. My first kiss. Our first kiss. And I still get goosebumps thinking about it." Rachel smiled at Logan.
Logan felt happier than he'd felt in a very long time. He hadn't remembered all the details of that story. Not even half of them. But he had remembered the main points of it.
"So what are you thinking, Pretty Girl?"
Rachel took a bite of oatmeal and looked up at the tree.
When she looked back at Logan she seemed to know what she wanted to say, but wasn't sure if she should say it. Logan could feel his heart beating faster than it had in a long time. He wanted to hear her say that she was willing to give it another chance. He wanted to hear her say that no matter what had happened in the past, it was time to start over. He wanted to hug her as tightly as he could and never let go. But right then, all he could do was wait.
The incessant knocking finally forced Chase to get up off the couch. It had been a wonderful morning so far. Logan was out—somewhere unknown—and Chase had finished up enough assignments to be able to relax. He didn't get many days off but when they came, they were wonderful.
He finally opened the door, and smiled when he saw who it was.
"You're not Logan," Allie said as she dropped her gym bag on the ground.
"Aw, I knew you'd be able to figure it out one of these days. Was it the darker hair or the height that helped you figure it out?" Chase teased through a smile.
Allie rolled her eyes and smiled. "Is Logan still out?"
"Sure is. You need something?" Chase moved out of the doorway to let Allie inside. "Hungry?"
Allie picked her bag up and walked in the door. She closed the door behind her and walked towards the kitchen.
"Thirsty. You have any juice?"
Chase surveyed the fridge. "Oddly enough, no juice. Can I interest you in a milkshake?"
"You any good at making milkshakes?" Allie narrowed her eyes.
Chase widened his eyes in mock surprise. "Now that, Ms. Allie, is a ridiculous question. I am an expert milkshake maker. Just you sit yourself right down on that couch and let the master work."
Allie smiled and headed towards the couch. She unzipped her gym bag and pulled out some clothes. Without saying anything, she headed into the bathroom.
Chase pulled out the best chocolate ice cream known to man and put a few scoops into the blender. He poured some chocolate milk inside, and squirted some chocolate syrup into the mixture. After he'd found the lid, he started mixing it.
There was something so fun about having Allie around. It was just so easy to be around her. Relaxing and fun. He'd known Allie just about as long as he'd known Logan. He'd seen Allie go through a lot. She was like a little sister—sort of. He didn't have a little sister. He only had a younger brother, Landon. He was really close to his brother. Chase was only a year and a half older than Landon and they were a lot alike. They both liked to joke around and tease, and they'd always been known for their good looks. Chase hadn't always understood the attention he and Landon had received, but it had taught him a good many things about dating and girls: most weren't worth it. He'd had too many negative experiences and seen too many girls say stupid things and treat guys in a way that he had no desire to be treated.
There were a few girls who had made him believe that love was real and relationships weren't completely pointless, but then they'd also changed his mind. Rachel and Logan had been one of those couples that Chase had seen hope in. He had thought that there was nothing to tear them apart. It was still incredible to him that they weren't married. When everything had happened, Chase had never been able to believe that they'd had called off the wedding. He knew that it was both Rachel and Logan's fault that everything had gone wrong—but he had lost his faith in the loyal woman when he found out how Rachel had reacted to Logan's news. The entire situation was confusing and far too complicated.
Then there was Allie. She was different. She really had loved Blake, her fiancé, with her whole heart. She was committed to him and he had never seen anything like it. There was a certain level of commitment that she had that he hadn't seen in many other girls. But at the same time, Allie had also impressed him with the amount of independence she'd had. After Blake's death, Allie had been different. She'd put on a good façade for most people, but Chase could tell that his death was changing her more than she wanted people to realize. It was to be expected that she would be sad—but no one had seen just how deeply she'd sunk into a state of depression. Logan had been more determined to bring his sister out of her depression than he'd been to do anything. Half his heart had been missing but he hadn't focused on that. Logan loved Allie too much to focus his attention on anything else—especially anything selfish.
Allie had eventually come out of the depression and had started working at the local gym as a personal trainer—a good one too. She was motivated and she looked just as in-shape as she expected anyone else to be. Chase had been just as happy as Logan when Allie finally started acting like her normal, upbeat self. And now, he felt as though he knew Allie better than he had before, and he was so grateful for that.
When Allie emerged from the bathroom, Chase had already poured the milkshakes into two glasses. Her hair was wet and she was wearing jeans and a flattering top. She was a beautiful girl, Chase always managed to notice.
"Did you take a shower?" he asked as he walked towards her and handed her the milkshake.
"Yeah. I just finished my shift at the gym so I felt gross. Don't worry, I used Logan's shampoo."
"I was worried. Thanks for putting me at ease."
Allie smiled. She had a beautiful smile.
"You don't mind if I wait here till Logan gets back, do you?" Allie finally asked.
"On one condition," Chase said right before he took a long slurp of his milkshake.
"You have to work your wonders and make me one of your fabulous lunches. Like back in the old days!" Chase announced.
Allie laughed. "Chase, may I remind you, that when we used to do that, Rachel helped me cook. She was the mastermind behind the operation. I was just the pretty face," she joked.
Before the two had a chance to continue the conversation, Logan walked in the door. Chase wasn't sure where he had been but Allie seemed fully aware. Allie looked at him expectantly, as if he was going to walk in the door and start the story immediately. It was a silly concept. Logan never did anything like that. Even his face was unreadable. Chase had no idea what had happened today, but if Allie was this interested in it, Rachel was definitely involved.
"What? What's wrong?" Logan finally asked.
"Logan!" Allie exclaimed. "You know exactly what's up! What'd she say? What happened? How'd it go? Come on! Spill it!"
Logan shrugged. "It was fine. What have you guys been doing?"
Allie looked back at Chase with a shocked expression on her face. She looked as though she was about to beat Logan up for the information she wanted. Chase knew that Logan was just being difficult. He liked giving his sister a hard time.
"Not much. I didn't wanna do anything. On my days off, I take them seriously," Chase answered Logan's question.
Allie eyes widened more. "No! No! Come on, Logan. You're killing me. Tell me what happened."
Logan walked into the kitchen and got a glass down from the cabinet. He poured some chocolate milk into the glass, finishing off the gallon.
"We need more milk," he said as he tossed the empty jug into the trashcan.
Allie glared at him as she crossed her arms across her chest. She was clearly not amused by his stalling.
Logan smiled at her before he took a big gulp of his milk.
"OK, fine. We talked."
Logan leaned against the counter and sighed. "We came to a conclusion."
"Logan…" Allie was getting annoyed now.
"We're gonna go on a date. We're gonna start over. So tomorrow night, we're gonna go out like any normal couple and see if we can make this work."
Allie finally smiled. "Really?"
Logan nodded as he took another gulp of his milk. Allie jumped over to Logan and gave him a big hug. She started asking him incessant questions while Logan simply shrugged his shoulders or gave her a typical, "I don't know," answer.
Chase simply stood by, watching the interaction. He usually joined in on these types of conversations. He'd never been one to sit in a corner and silently watch. But this time he didn't know what to say. He was glad that they were going to try to work things out. But deep down, he was also worried for his best friend. Logan wasn't emotional and definitely wasn't the type to talk about his feelings. But Chase had a feeling that if things didn't work out this time, Logan would never recover.