My heart is racing and my palms are sweaty. I wrap my fingers tightly around the steering wheel and stare straight ahead, seeing the sign for Hartford come into view.
My hometown and where I’d run from years ago. Every time I think about this place one person comes to mind.
Even now, my heart starts racing at the thought of his name. He was a friend, the first person to welcome me to town when I moved here with my mother fresh into high school. He befriended me, made me feel welcome when I was an outsider. And I swear I fell instantly in love with him.
I can’t believe I am coming back here. It’s a town I thought I’d never return to, all because I am too scared—was too scared—to tell the boy I loved that I wanted him in my life as more than a friend.
Going to college in another city was the perfect excuse to leave Hartford, and my feelings for Logan, behind. But truth was I never stopped loving him.
I never will.
And even though it has been five years since I’ve seen or spoken to Logan, the point where I realized I needed to let him go is still so fresh in my mind, just like it happened yesterday.
The music is so loud that my ears are ringing. I’m trying to find Logan in the sea of bodies at the party, but everyone seems shoulder-to-shoulder. I feel like I’m lost at sea in this moment.
I push my way past people and head into the kitchen. At first I don’t see Logan, but after a few seconds of looking around the room I finally spot him with a group of guys off to the side. I make my way over to him, my heart thundering, my love for him so intense I suffocate from it at times.
I wish I was strong enough to tell him how I feel, to let him know that he’s the only one I’ve ever seen myself with. I want a future with him, and even though I’m only seventeen and we’re both graduating this year, I know what I want in life. And that’s him.
But I have a feeling my emotions are one-sided. I feel like Logan doesn’t see me as anything more than his friend, a pal to hang around with. Although I’ve never seen him with a girlfriend, not in the four years that we’ve been going to school together. And that makes my heart full, makes it feel like maybe I do have a chance if I ever get the nerve to say something to him.
But still I’m realistic. As much as it pains me that I’ll probably never be anything more to him, I’m also not going to stop being in his life, even if it’s only in a platonic way.
No, I’ll just keep how I feel to myself, because in the end that’s the safest thing to do, the one thing that won’t have me ruining everything.
I slow as I notice Melinda Atkins, a girl I know wants Logan, walking up to him. She’s been trying to get with him the entire school year. Although Logan has never shown any interest in her, that doesn’t make my jealousy any less real.
Melinda is beautiful and perfect. I’m homely and average. She’s the head of the cheerleading squad. I’m an outsider that never really fit in. I’ll never know why Logan doesn’t want her, because every other guy in school does.
I square my shoulders and move toward Logan again. I can tell he’s been drinking quite a bit, but he’s also smart enough not to drive anywhere. He’ll probably crash in one of the rooms upstairs. That has me thinking about how I’d like to lie beside him, feel him holding me, his strength surrounding me. I can hear Melinda saying something to him, her high-pitched voice grating on my nerves. I’m pleased when I see Logan push her away, but before I can go to him I watch as he pushes past everyone and heads out of the kitchen and up the stairs, stumbling as he makes his way.
I should take him home. I haven’t had anything to drink, and I hate that we are even here. As I’m about to follow him, convince him it’s time to leave, Brody, one of Logan’s friends, stops me. He starts rambling on about something, but I’m not paying attention. For ten minutes I’m stuck there listening to Brody slur on about football, college, and the occasional “pussy he snagged.” I nod and smile, but excuse myself and go upstairs.
Once I’m at the top of the landing I glance around. The house where the party is at is huge, with several doors on either side of me, all of them closed. I can hear moaning coming from some, despite the loud pumping of music. Just as I’m about to check the rooms, a door opens at the end of the hallway and I see Melinda coming out, her shirt partially unbuttoned, her skirt skewed. She has this sour look on her face, as if she’s pissed.
My heart plummets to my stomach as I think about who she might have been in that room with. She walks past me, her blond hair slightly disheveled. When she sees me, the pissed-off look vanishes and she grins at me. She stops in front of me, the cloying scent of her perfume nauseating.
“He’s all yours, princess,” she all but sneers. She moves past me and I watch her go down the stairs. I face the hallway again and make my way into the bedroom she exited. There, sitting on the edge of the bed and staring out the window, is Logan. I can see his shirt is pulled out from his pants, but at least he still has the latter on.
Did they have sex? The very thought of him with Melinda makes me sick, not just because she’s a mega bitch, but because I love him so damn much.
“Logan?” I say softly, and step into the room.
He looks over his shoulder at me, a distant, almost sad look on his face.
“Hey,” he says and smiles.
I walk in farther, and the new position I’m in shows me that his pants are unbuttoned and the zipper is down. I feel everything in me turn to ice. Although I have no reason to be upset, because I have never told him how I feel, just knowing he was with someone makes my heart hurt.
He stares at me for long moments, as if he wants to say something to me, but I don’t even want to hear about what happened with Melinda. I don’t know if he will tell me, but he’s drunk enough that he might inadvertently say something. But this part of me rises up, one where I want to tell him the truth, where I want him to know how I feel.
“Logan.” I say his name softly again, feeling my heart thunder wildly. “There’s something I want you to know, something I need to tell you.” His eyes are glossy and red-rimmed, and I almost don’t say anything because he’s been drinking. I’d prefer he were clear headed, but I don’t want to wait anymore. “I care about you so much. So, so much—”
He smiles at me. “I care about you, too. You’re my best friend.”
And just like that I shut my mouth. I’m his best friend. His friend. I shake my head, on the verge of crying. “How about we leave?” I smile and hold my hand out, forcing the tears to stay back. This town isn’t for me. And as much as I want Logan in my life as more than a friend, I realize that it’s just not in the cards. I need to let it go. I need to let him go.
My fingers start to ache and I loosen my grip. I am chasing a job back in Hartford, or maybe deep down, where I refuse to admit it out loud, I’m actually chasing my feelings for Logan. I can’t lie and say I’m not anxious to see him again, even if I know it’ll be a little weird. We never talked about that night again, not before I left for college.
My mother, who still lives in town, makes sure to tell me about him now running his father’s farm, how he’s “grown into a strapping young man,” how the years haven’t been good to him because he’s parentless and alone.
And my heart aches for him, knowing he doesn’t have his parents around anymore. I wish I had been there for him back then, wish I could have held his hand and told him everything will be okay.
Things happen way too fast, and I hate that so much time has passed between us, that I haven’t been able to see him, hear his deep voice, let him know that I’m sorry I’ve stayed away.
I wish I would have done a lot of things differently, but maybe this is my chance to make things right. Maybe this can be the perfect time to reconcile our friendship.