The third week of semester two was hell. Alec had decided I was ready for more challenging weight exercises and I was definitely feeling the burn. Adding to my physical pain, was the mental strain of slaving away at one nasty essay for Art History. By the Thursday, I was wrecked and I shoved the stupid assignment in the submission box, glad to be rid of it. I glanced at the clock on the wall and decided that I had better put in an appearance at dinner. Candy and Briar had been starting to nag. I'd eaten dinner in my room all week, whilst writing the essay. From what I saw of Stone at breakfast and in bed, I could tell it was starting to bother him too.
The group was deep in conversation when I sat down next to Stone and I suddenly remembered why. I fought back a groan. One of the aspiring musicians the band was friends with was having a party this weekend. They'd hired out a heap of cabins at a nearby bush 'resort' and by the sounds of it, it was going to get pretty wild. I really didn't want to go, so I was grateful that my phone buzzed with a message before anyone could ask me.
E, come stay at my place this wknd!
I stared blankly at the text from Logan. He couldn't be serious. I felt Stone stiffening beside me and realised he was reading over my shoulder. I shot him a nervous smile and quickly sent my brother a reply.
The reply took a while, presumably because he was at work.
2 spend time 2gether?
I thought about it for a moment. I could get dragged to this god awful party…or I could go to my brother's place, relax, watch some movies and maybe even get to the bottom of his weird behaviour. There was no contest.
Sounds good, I sent in reply.
Cool. Will pick u up at 5 2moro.
I shut my phone and pushed it into one of my jean pockets.
"Who was that?" Briar asked curiously, shooting a worried glance at Stone's dark expression.
"Logan," I said quietly, "I'm going to spend the weekend at his place."
"Oh," she said, looking a bit disappointed, "So you won't be able to come with us this weekend?"
"No," I confirmed and then added in a small voice, "He's been acting strange lately. I'm worried."
"He's cheating on you," Jamie said casually, shoving a burger in his mouth. We all turned to look at him.
"What?" I asked with a frown.
"You said he's been acting weird," he said with a shrug, "I bet he's either banging someone else or getting ready to dump you."
"You're such an asshole sometimes," Fredi said with a laugh, whacking him across the head.
"Hey!" he defended, putting down his burger, "It's better she knows now."
"He's not my boyfriend," I reminded him with a shudder, "Ew."
Alec looked incredulous. "Ew?" he repeated, "He had girls all over him and you think he's yuck?"
"Of course I do!" I said indignantly, but Donny cut off the rest of my sentence with a hard nudge.
"Sure you do Evie," he said with a wink, "That's why you're spending the weekend with him."
What the hell are you up to Donny? I thought, shaking my head.
Donny grinned and glanced around the table. "One of these boys need to step up and make you his," he said with a chuckle, "Otherwise they'd better get used to sharing."
He got up from his seat quickly and jogged off with a laugh. The silence at the table was intense and I shivered with apprehension.
"What-" I started to ask, but Briar frantically shook her head at me, her face a little pale. She glanced beyond me to look at Stone, then grabbed my hand and tugged me away from the table.
"Where are we going?" I asked her a few moments later, feeling extremely unnerved by what had just occurred.
"The general store," she told me with a friendly smile, as if nothing had happened, "I want to get a magazine and some chocolate."
"O-kay," I muttered in confusion, "But, what happened back there?"
She rolled her eyes, her smile growing. "Don't worry about it Evie," she said lightly, "Just boys being boys. I'm sure you know how it is."
Sure, I knew boys. What I didn't understand though, was what had set off the challenge or even just what the challenge was. I was missing a vital piece of the puzzle and no one seemed inclined to fill me in. I shrugged. It was their business and I'd keep my nose clean if they didn't want me to know.
The band had a late practice session that night, but I had some work to do so I didn't go along. Stone didn't join me in bed afterward and I assumed it was because he didn't want to wake me. I wasn't asleep though. I spread out on the mattress and shivered a little. I was used to his warm body beside me. I stared up at the ceiling and wondered why he came to sleep with me in the first place. Eventually, I gave up on trying to sleep and got up to pack for Logan's.
After my last class the next day, I slowly walked out to the car park with my overnight bag to wait for Logan. I paused when I noticed Stone. He was loading a big pile of bags and boxes into the band's van. I considered just ignoring him and sitting down at his table to wait for my brother, but decided that was cowardly and rude. He was hardly a stranger after all…he'd slept in my bed.
I made my way over there, stopping beside him and shifting awkwardly. His head turned to look at me and he stood up straight. Neither of us said a word. We simply stared at each other.
"D-do you need some help?" I whispered nervously. He didn't answer straight away, his eyes narrowing on my face as they examined my features. I dropped my gaze and eyed the things at his feet. The cartons of beer looked heavy, so I opted to pick up a suitcase instead.
"Ooof!" I grunted, swaying a little with its weight. The serious, surly expression on Stone's face cracked and he quickly took the suitcase from me, effortlessly lifting it into the back of the van.
"That's Briar's," he explained gruffly, then shot me a small wink. I glanced back at the hot pink suitcase and couldn't hold back a smile.
"Oh," I said softly, "I should've known."
I looked back at the pile and took a step towards a small, navy blue suitcase. Stone shook his head.
"Jamie's," he said. I raised an eyebrow in question.
"One change of clothes," he replied, "Rest is bourbon."
Ahh, it's filled with heavy bottles. I looked around at the other bags. There was a small, red tartan bag near Stone's feet and it was covered in various badges, most of them saying something crude.
Fredi's! I thought as I picked it up, only itty-bitty clothes in here!
Stone's eyes shone with amusement, as if he'd heard my thoughts. I blushed a little, but stepped forward and daintily placed the bag on top of some stacked cartons of grog. I turned back to look at Stone. Thanks, his eyes seemed to say dryly. I blushed again at how small and useless my contribution was. My eyes dropped from his face to examine the large muscles in his arms. He certainly didn't need my help and I'd wasted more time then I'd saved by putting the bag in. I sheepishly looked down at my feet.
His hand reached out toward me and he tipped my chin upward with one long finger. He opened his mouth to say something, but a car honked loudly and I jumped nearly a metre into the air. I heard Stone growl softly as I turned my head to look at the offending vehicle.
My older brother had pulled up behind us and was grinning at me through the open window of a snazzy new sedan. My mouth dropped open in shock.
"Where's The Beast?" I murmured in awe. Logan had always driven a big, noisy utility. This car hadn't made any noise when it'd snuck up on us. He must be borrowing this one. There was no way he'd ever give up The Beast.
"I traded it in," he said with a shrug, "Do you like it?"
"Yes," I answered slowly, suddenly very worried about him, "But why…?"
Logan huffed impatiently and his smile turned to a glare. "I just felt like a change, Eve. Get in the damn car," he snapped.
Whoah, sensitive topic, I thought, picking up my bag and walking around the car to climb in the passenger side. As soon as I moved, Logan's smile returned and he eyed up Stone. "Who's your boyfriend?" he teased me.
"Just a friend," I quickly corrected him, not looking at Stone, "You met him and the band at the club the other night."
Logan's grin widened and I knew he was still watching Stone. "Just a friend, hmmm?" he said, turning to grin at me, "If you say so, Evie. If you say so." He dropped a kiss on my cheek and waved cheerfully at Stone as his foot pressed down on the accelerator and we started to leave the parking lot. I snuck a peek back at Stone's face and shivered at the harsh glare there. It was then I realised I'd forgotten to say goodbye. Was he mad? He turned and punched the van, before reaching into his pocket for his Smarties.
Yep. He was mad.
Instead of taking me to the apartment where I'd visited him previously, he stopped outside a medium size house. It was two stories and had a high fence for privacy. I got out of the car cautiously, wondering what we were doing here. He couldn't have bought a house. Logan was the world's biggest commitment phobic, and not just when it came to the ladies. His commitment to the flying doctors in recent years had been the only thing he'd ever stuck at. Mum said it was because he bored easily.
"Like it?" Logan asked, taking my bag from me and locking the car. He pushed open the gate and grabbed my hand, pulling me into the front garden.
"It's beautiful," I said, admiring the desert-flowered garden. Whoever had planted this garden knew what they were doing. There were vibrant reds and yellows and I smiled wide, pleased to see so many native plants in one place. I frowned on a sudden thought.
"What's wrong?" Logan asked, looking around the garden with a worried face.
"I forgot my camera," I grumbled.
He laughed and gave my pony-tail a tug. "It'll still be here next time," he assured me.
"Next time?" I asked him, my eyes wide.
He grinned and rolled his eyes. "You're welcome here anytime, Eve," he said pulling me away from the garden and towards the front door.
"It's yours?" I asked incredulously.
"Yep," he said proudly, then shrugged, "Well, mostly the bank's."
"When…" I trailed off, glancing around at the really unfurnished house that smelled like paint and was filled with boxes. I looked up at him suspiciously.
"You invited me here because I was the only family member in town to help you with unpacking and stuff huh?" I asked playfully, but feeling quite hurt.
He snorted. "No offense, Evie," he said, "But I think I'll get the boys from work to help with the moving and renovating."
I breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm a lot stronger than I used to be," I informed him, "My friend Alec has been helping me weight train."
"And you look good," he said, giving my slim, but toned arms a squeeze, "Maybe Zane and the big trips will finally realise you're a big girl, now that you don't look so frail."
He shook his head. "Zane wonders why I don't respond to an email that is composed entirely of questions. Whether I'm keeping an eye on you, are you eating or am I being nice to you."
He growled lowly, "Then the rest of it was him nosing into my personal life. Who's this girl they'd heard about, is it serious, will I be taking her to visit Mum?"
I quashed the urge to ask about her, knowing that he wouldn't respond nicely.
"That's just Zane," I said softly, "He thinks it's his job to look after everyone."
Logan's expression clouded over and I bit my lip in regret for bringing up the subject. "Ten years this year," Logan replied, going to the fridge to pull out a beer, shoving one at me as well.
I raised an eyebrow at my beer, not acknowledging what he'd just said.
Logan smiled. "What?" he said, rolling his eyes, "You'll be eighteen in a little over two months and it's not like I never drank underage."
He took a swig from his beer and then shot me a worried look. "Just don't tell the others," he said quickly.
I grinned at him and took a long swig from the bottle, without letting it froth over. "Not bad," I said, pointing at the label, "TEDs are better."
He laughed and poked me in the stomach. "When have you been drinking?" he asked me cheerfully.
I shrugged. "Paulie buys the little trips alcohol. He won't buy me any, so Jake always asks for more than he needs and gives it to me."
Logan laughed again, his bad mood completely gone. "Jake's a good kid," he said with a fond smile.
I chuckled, "Not according to his teachers."
Logan grinned and shook his head. "Those boys are always in trouble, aren't they?"
I nodded slowly and sent him a shy smile. "Show me the rest of your place?" I asked tentatively.
Logan beamed and grabbed my hand. "Love to," he said with pride and then dragged me from room to room explaining what he wanted done.
"What's happening to this one?" I asked curiously when we bypassed the door across from his bedroom.
Logan shrugged. "Probably a guestroom," he said, pulling me past it and excitedly showing me what he planned to be a games room. I shook my head. It was weird to see Logan this excited about a house. Usually he moved from place to place, often switching which Flying Doctor base he worked from, meaning he had to move across country. He'd been in Alice for the past two years though and it made me uneasy that the wanderer was putting down roots.
I had a surprisingly great weekend. Logan took me to see a movie and even cooked me dinner! The dinner was a disaster though and I had to step in and help. My poor big brother had been crushed and I'd promised to come around again soon to teach him to cook. Apparently he'd been living the bachelor's life, buying microwave dinners and packets of chips and pizza and such that you just cooked in the oven. I wondered if he was trying to impress this girlfriend of his by cooking from scratch…and he'd invited me over to be his guinea pig.
Having never been close, Logan and I had lots to talk about. He knew very little about the last five years of my life and I knew just as much about his. I was almost sad to go when Sunday afternoon came. He drove me back to the university and promised we'd catch up soon. I promised him those cooking lessons again and watched him drive off. Maybe he was lonely? I thought, twirling a piece of hair around my finger. I sighed and made my way to my room. I smiled when I noticed it was empty and threw my bag into a corner. I debated whether or not to go to dinner, worrying that Stone was still mad at me.
In the end, I decided that I was too tired and full, so I bought a sandwich from a vending machine down the hall and slipped into bed. I waited nervously for nine o'clock, wondering whether Stone would make an appearance tonight. He did. Right on nine, he knocked on the door and I meekly called out for him to come in.
He opened the door and stood in the doorway, his intimidating grey eyes studying my face intently. He had to lean to one side so that his head fit under the frame and I shifted uncomfortably, knowing that he was much bigger and stronger than I. I bit my lip and, without breaking eye contact, moved over on the bed, holding up the covers. He pushed his weight off the frame and turned off the light, climbing into bed beside me. I rolled onto my side to give him more room and he mimicked my actions. He didn't pull me close though. He didn't wrap an arm around me. He lay there stiffly and I knew he was still angry at me.
For not saying goodbye?
For not joining them this weekend?
I didn't know what the reason was, or if I even deserved it.
I just knew that I didn't like it.