* 2009 *
Logan Holloway narrowed his eyes at the snowflake clinging to the window. It slowly slipped down the glass, leaving a tail of water in its wake. Slightly bending his knees, he leaned forward and noted the miniscule, yet intricate design of the single flake, glistening in the headlights of recently parked cars.
The snowflake dripped further down the glass, resembling nothing more than a single tear upon the window. Logan peered outside at the darkening sky, slate grey woven among purple clouds, and watched as snow blanketed the world in white.
Ignoring his nervous stomach, forbidding himself to register his fear, he looked at his reflection, realizing how it had changed from the last time his feet had occupied Fairfield ground. His once shaggy, sandy hair was now speckled with grey, and although his long strands still established a boyish vibe, there were soft lines along his forehead and the corners of his mouth that had not been there before.
He was a tall man, reaching the height of six feet two inches, and his body assumed a lean shape. His hands were clenched in fists inside his pants pockets, and he kept his eyes outside, ignoring the crawling of the clock, ignoring the slowly growing crowd in the Hilton’s ballroom. Clearing his throat, he glared down at his shoes, only now fully acknowledging his attire. Neatly pressed khaki pants fit him comfortably and a clean, navy blue polo shirt complemented the outfit.
He sighed at the scuff marks along his left toe.
Logan had sworn—he had promised himself—that he would never return. After all, what else was college but four years of preparation for a career? No emotional attachment was required; there was no reason for him to come back.
He just wasn’t that guy anymore.
Whoever that guy was, he thought wryly.
He shook his head, rattling his commentary out of his brain.
But even though he had sworn, nothing prepared him for the letter that arrived six months ago, inviting all Fairfield University graduates from the Class of 1999 to participate in a ten year reunion. He had not expected to read her name typed out neatly at the bottom of the page.
“Her…” he chuckled humorlessly under his breath.
But it wasn’t just reading her name that struck him. Lately, his daydreams had comprised of Audrey Walker, fantasies where they would coincidentally run into each other—in the supermarket, at the movie theatre, in a restaurant—and they would both be swept off their feet and back where they had left off.
Or where he had walked away.
His dreams of her were unwanted, but unstoppable. Her pale face, sprinkled with light freckles and framed with dark brown bangs, seared itself into his brain like dry leaves caught in a forest fire. He could nearly feel its heat on his face, singeing the flesh off his bones. His whole life before and after her had been one dull simmer, a constant agony, like burning the tip of a finger on a stove, but never as fierce as physically lighting on fire. He thought perhaps he would prefer that kind of pain. At least it would be passionate and real. Not numbing.
He clenched his left fist, his thumb gently stroking his naked ring finger. Lindy had kicked him out nine months ago, and he only just recently removed the promise ring they had exchanged with each other. For so long he harbored hope, wishing not necessarily for reconciliation, just companionship to escape the monotony of his days. He had loved Lindy. It wasn’t the same as Audrey, but it was still real.
Now all he had was the blaring of ambulances and the exhaust of trucks for company, the early morning wind shrieking around the building as his lullaby.
So his mind drifted to Audrey.
There might have come a day when he would have married Lindy. But she would only ever be the woman he’d love second best.
New batches of people started entering the room and Logan turned to see if he could recognize any old faces. He squinted hard as the strangers drew near—a short, balding man with an equally short woman on his arm passed him, a woman with black reading glasses and hair tied back in a harsh bun anxiously surveyed the room, among others—but the people might as well have been passing figures in the snowstorm outside.
The next person to walk into the room was a tall man in his mid-thirties with black hair that was slicked back, the dark color of his locks matching the shade of his suit. Logan’s jaw unhinged at the sight and before his brain registered his actions, he was shouting, “Hey! Bryan!”
* * *
Bryan Killeone’s brown eyes shot in the direction of the distant, yet strong voice. A moment passed as he froze, his legs in mid-stride, before he pushed out a grin at the man, the skin near his eyes pinching into tiny webs.
“Logan.” He offered his hand and received a firm squeeze.
Logan laughed. “I can’t believe it. What’ve you been up to?” He playfully motioned with his hands. “What is this?” Logan leaned forward and tugged at his tie. “Real preppy.”
Bryan forced himself not to pull away.
“I could say the same about you.” The words slipped through his teeth. “Look at you, all dressy and clean-cut.”
“Looks like life’s been treating you well.”
Bryan’s cheeks stung as he pushed his smile further across his face, his cheeks burning. All the while as he pulled on his pants and slipped on his jacket in the hotel room, he’d imagined meeting his estranged friend. Logan had severed ties with Bryan approaching college graduation, grabbing every memory they shared and releasing them all, like a horde of balloons floating into the sky.
Logan’s eyes were raw and brimmed with red, exhaustion saturating his skin. His height was hardly noticeable as he stood with rounded shoulders, curling his spine.
Bryan found the silence excruciating. “Yeah,” he offered, “and that’s not all.” Bryan proudly raised his left hand. Logan surveyed it until his eyes widened in shock at the gold band around his ring finger. Bryan grinned, noting with a tinge of pleasure the slight drop of Logan’s jaw. “Been five months.”
“Wow,” Logan laughed. It didn’t reach his eyes. “Congratulations.”
Bryan’s grin pulled even wider as he delved inside his back pocket to retrieve his wallet. He opened it and pulled out a small snapshot of a woman in her late twenties, lean with thick blonde locks and illuminating blue eyes.
He handed the picture to Logan.
Logan smiled at Bryan; an imitation of the same fake grin that he knew was plastered on his own face. “She’s beautiful.”
“Thanks.” He tucked the wallet back inside his pants’ pocket and explained, “Her dad works in my office. I met her at a Christmas party three years ago.”
Bryan’s study of Logan wavered as he caught sight of a woman standing in the corner, not ten feet behind Logan’s shoulder. She wore a soft, blue dress. Elegant, yet casual. Her straight brown hair brushed against her shoulder blades as her body shook with laughter, the sound soft and timid, like wind chimes, or a hummingbird.
He straightened as she slowly turned.
Her blue sapphire eyes were unfamiliar at first sight, her dark hair pulled gracefully out of her face by two silver clips on both sides of her head, and as he looked at her, he noticed that her fair complexion blended angelically with the dark shade of her bangs. “Oh wow.” Bryan gave a low whistle, his mind racing.
He almost grabbed Logan’s arm to prevent him from turning, but instead grasped at air and shoved his hands into his pockets.
Logan looked over his shoulder, bringing his wine glass to his lips. As the liquid slid easily down his throat, his eyes surveyed the scene.
At the same time, the woman, the hummingbird, turned her long neck, and was lost right in Logan’s eyes.
* * *
She paused, letting his name linger in the air. How odd it felt, after all these years, to feel his name roll off her tongue. She could feel her cheeks flush as silence weighed down on them, and she nervously ran her fingers through her hair.
“Hi,” he whispered, his brown eyes staring at her, wide, never blinking. His eyes were not nearly as vibrant as she remembered, but were still freckled with youth. Still intoxicating.
“So how are you?” Audrey asked, brushing her brunette bangs off of her face.
She looked intently at her drink, her index finger running around the rim of her glass.
“Glad to hear it.”
Niceties. Small talk. Is that to where they had regressed?
Behind Logan, Bryan was staring. She refused to catch his eye.
“What have you been up to?” She forced her voice to remain cool.
He shrugged, still not blinking, his neck taut and strained like he was also holding his breath. “You?”
She could not begin to wrap her mind around what hurt her most—the casual demeanor to which Logan addressed the situation, or the obvious hope of a civilized meeting. The last time they had stood together, it had not been in a fancy ballroom surrounded by their long lost peers, but in a windswept alley, faces maroon from the cold, tear streaks raw on their faces. Smoke had infiltrated the air, swimming into her mouth and nose as the house party raged on, music and booze drowning out the painful monotony of school, her peers in its strict confines, drinking further and further into obscurity.
She had gripped the fence and pulled herself up the stairs, her breath catching in her throat as she slid on a patch of ice. Her hand had slammed down on the fence, breaking her fall, splattering her palm with drops of blood.
And Logan’s back was retreating down the hill, walking into the dark abyss of the college campus. She could still remember his figure silhouetted by a distant street lamp as he walked away, his shoulders squared and chin tilted high, his right hand clutching an unopened umbrella.
* 1999 *
“You look beautiful tonight,” he whispered huskily in Audrey’s ear, pulling her body close as they walked through the door.
“How long do we have to be here?” she murmured through her teeth as she linked her arm around Logan’s.
“Until I get my buzz on,” Bryan said with a smirk, brushing against Audrey’s right shoulder on his way to the kitchen.
“Not long, I promise.” But she had heard that promise before.
She nodded wordlessly, her eyes carefully skimming the room. A group of girls huddled together in the corner, talking animatedly, the pungent stench of alcohol on their breath. Behind her, a boy yelled boisterously into his cell phone, his sentence strung together by slurred words. Finally, her gaze fell upon three boys lounging on a tattered orange sofa, white stuffing spilling out of its armrests. Her throat constricted as they found not her face, but Logan’s, and lazily pushed themselves up.
“Hey,” the middle boy greeted Logan as they neared. Audrey averted her gaze, not caring to stare at the boys’ sloppy grins or their unfocused eyes. “We began to think you weren’t coming.”
“Yeah, Karl.” Logan squeezed Audrey’s hand. “Decided last minute.”
Audrey took a breath and shifted her eyes, jumping her stare from one face to another, alien with the whole lot. Logan pulled her tightly, her head ending where his shoulders began.
“Well come out back with us,” Karl said. “If you’re still game.”
Logan raised an eyebrow. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
The two boys on either side of Karl chuckled, but Karl just smiled widely. “Well then prove it.”
Audrey looked down at the ground, not trusting herself to gaze up into their eyes, fearing they would wander to the backpack Karl had draped over one shoulder. She knew what lay packed inside its pouch, knew that the liquor stuffed in the bag was the mistress with whom Logan shared himself. Countless times she watched him deteriorate under alcohol’s seductive trance, as getting drunk was like laughter…contagious, watching one person do it started an irrevocable cycle, and with each sip, she watched him drift further away.
The three boys were pushing their way to the door. Logan stole a glance at her, and she gave a small smile in return. “Go,” she insisted in her small voice. She gently unwrapped herself from Logan’s arm. “Really.”
He was going anyway. In his mind, he may have already gone.
“I’ll be back in two minutes,” he promised hurriedly, the corners of his mouth twitching up into a grin as he gave one last look at Audrey before following the train of boys outside.
But two minutes became ten that became twenty, and Logan never came back.
* * *
Bryan reached into the open refrigerator, cool air blowing against his forearm as he grabbed a bottle of Heineken.
“Excuse me…” a soft voice muttered.
Bryan glanced up, his cheeks burning in reaction to the familiar tone. He clamped his lips together, fighting back a smile as the girl sidestepped into the kitchen.
“Sorry!” she timidly apologized after almost tripping into a group of three boys congregated in the doorway.
“Audrey?” Bryan chuckled, followed by the slamming and suctioning of the refrigerator door. He ignored the way he cradled her name on his tongue.
She turned, smiling before she finished her 180 degree whirl. “Bryan!”
His grin widened. Guilt pulled at his chest at the pleasure Audrey’s excitement gave him, but he still allowed himself a fleeting moment to imagine that her enthusiasm was aimed toward him. It was impossible.
He stepped forward, loosely holding his unopened beer bottle in his right hand. He quickly scanned the faces behind her. Hunching his shoulders, he hoped his words sounded as indifferent as his body language. “Where’s Logan?”
She shrugged and pushed out a small smile. “He stepped out a minute.”
Bryan rolled his eyes. “Of course he did,” he murmured.
Audrey’s eyes lowered to the frayed edges of her grey hoodie, and as Bryan watched her fidget with her sleeves, he placed the beer bottle on the counter and nodded toward the front door. “Let’s get some air.” He smiled.
Audrey enthusiastically agreed as a girl bumped into her, stepping down on the heel of Audrey’s shoe, wiping mud down the back of her jeans.
Bryan turned her around and let her lead the way out, the two of them squeezing through the college crowd with the effect of a sausage in a grinder.
He followed the back of Audrey’s head—standing half a foot short than his own—out of the house. The burst of wind, like a funnel, slammed into her as she stepped onto the front porch. Her ponytail whipped around her face, covering her eyes, as she stumbled and grasped the railing. For a quick second, Bryan nearly reached out for her, but she righted herself and turned around.
He leaned casually against the side of the house, smirking. His dark hair was spiked and slightly damp, like he had recently stepped out of the shower, and as she stared at him, he crossed his arms over his chest.
“Yes?” He tried to hide the amusement in his voice.
“I don’t know what I’m doing.” She shook her head, her hair whipping carelessly around her face. Lightning flashed. Her face, lonely and lost, was momentarily illuminated in the light. “I’m…”
“Not a party girl.” Bryan shrugged stiffly, clenching his hands tight as he stared past her shoulder. “No worries.” His lips twitched upward as he fought back a sardonic grin. “I’m just here to babysit ‘til Logan gets back.”
Audrey scoffed, brushing flyaway strands of hair from her eyes. She hugged her arms tightly around her stomach.
“I was surprised to see you still here,” he offered, trying to keep her talking. The tranquil sound of her voice in contrast to the pounding of rain and distant thunder made his head swirl. “I had you guys pegged for leaving almost immediately.”
Audrey sighed. He tried to catch her eye, but she refused. “That’s what he said.”
Bryan was silent then, staring at his feet as he shuffled his shoes along the dirt strewn porch. The wind picked up, and as it smashed against Audrey and Bryan, he thought he saw her eyes glisten.
His heart dropped like an elevator to his stomach. “Hey,” he whispered as he pushed off from the house and stepped forward, his eyes locked on her face. His grin was gone, replaced by an intense stare that puckered his eyebrows together, forming faint creases in the skin between his eyes.
She glanced up, her eyes rimmed with pink. Her gaze immediately darted to both sides of the house where Bryan knew she anticipated Logan to emerge through the curtain of trees and fog.
And suddenly anger surged up inside him, fierce enough to rival the fire he had struggled to smother for so long. His hands wrapped around her upper arm, his fingers gently toying with the loose fabric of her hoodie.
“It’s okay,” he managed to murmur. He pressed his lips tightly together and closed his eyes.
The feel of her small arms under his touch left his skin prickled with goose bumps, the fine hairs along the back of his neck standing on end. A cool blast of wind doused the heat that emanated off his body, the breeze bringing tears to his eyes.
Releasing a haggard breath, he released her left arm from his hold and gently grazed his fingertips along her jaw. Her creamy skin felt just the way he had imagined: silky and warm.
But in a single clap of approaching thunder, it had gone, suddenly replaced by the cold chill of a downpour. “You’re kidding me!”
Bryan flung his arms down, vaguely hearing them smack against his jeans as he hurled himself around. Next to him, Audrey stumbled forward, flinging her hands to her chest, digging her fingernails into her hoodie. For a fleeting moment, he imagined her heart stutter under her palm.
* * *
Logan’s fist banged against the off-white siding of the house.
“Logan!” Bryan greeted, plastering an uneasy grin to his face.
“I’m gone for…for two minutes and you start hitting on my girlfriend?”
Bryan stole a glance at his wrist watch. Logan walked toward them slowly, deliberately placing one foot in front of the other, keeping his hand on the side of the house as he advanced. Puffs of air circled around his mouth as he exhaled into the night. Even though the wind sliced through his body, his cheeks remained warm.
“Nothing was going on,” Bryan said calmly.
“Don’t tell me that!” Logan picked up a folding chair and catapulted it against the house with a grunt. “I just saw you holding her!”
“You’re acting crazy.”
“I knew something was going on—”
“Logan, please…” Audrey whimpered. Bryan wordlessly squeezed her shoulder.
“Don’t fucking touch her!” Logan turned, slowly dropping his arm to his side, glaring at her from over his shoulder.
“Logan!” Bryan snapped.
He ignored him. In the dark grey world of this storm, all he could see was Audrey’s eyes. They stared at him, unblinking and round. What was she waiting for? “What were you doing with him?”
“What are you talking about?” Audrey screamed hoarsely, shaking Bryan off her shoulders. “You left me, so I went to find the only other person I knew!”
Logan’s eyebrows rose, sketching lines across his forehead, his face igniting with fury. “Left you?” he bellowed. “You told me to go!”
And there was Audrey’s voice again, a hummingbird against a torrent of crows.
“Just calm down, listen…”
Now it was her time to be ignored as he glared over her head at Bryan, who responded with a clenched jaw and upward tilt of his chin. “You want her?” he spat, not looking in Audrey’s eyes. “Have her.”
* 2009 *
His head hung low, his chin nearly brushing against his chest as he heard the exchange of words.
Logan’s body was angled in such a way to remove Bryan from the interaction, but regardless, he still heard his whispers above the dull growling of his aging peers.
“I thought about calling you so many times.”
Audrey’s jaw tightened and her shoulders squared, like she was bracing herself from a physical onslaught. Her eyes were different than the last time Bryan had gazed into them, still blue, but cloudier somehow. Guarded.
She tried to turn away.
Logan grabbed her arm. “Audrey…”
“Logan, stop.” She sighed. “I’m engaged.”
The words seemed to pass by her lips in slow motion, like he stood at the base of a mountain, watching wide-eyed at an approaching avalanche, his feet buried underneath the snow.
“I’m engaged,” she repeated, meekly holding up her left hand.
Bryan raised his gaze to Logan’s taut face, his breath catching in his throat.
“Do you love him?”
Bryan winced as Logan asked the question he knew he desperately needed to know. When the words dragged out of his mouth, they resembled those from a man being sentenced to death, heaved away to the gallows, learning that the previous evening was the last time he would ever witness the setting of the sun.
She took a deep breath, her lips pursed tight. “Yes,” she answered, her eyebrows raised, nearly disappearing underneath her bangs. “I do very much.”
His stomach plummeted, not in horror, but in anticipation. Logan kept perfectly still, his face blank, the calm before the storm. Bryan braced himself for the thunder.
But the storm never came.
Maybe after so long, the rain clouds run dry and the skies forever turn grey. Never sun, never rain. Just apathy. What would it be like to miss the occasional rainbows? To never feel the electricity of lightning spark behind the eyes? If every day, every emotion, was the same as the last, was that even a life?
Instead, Logan blinked slowly; his jaw clenched, and turned his gaze back to the window. Upon graduation, Bryan truly felt like college was the best life had to offer, the shining years of his life. Then came obligations. Responsibilities. It was a long journey away from all-nighters and 2am runs to the nearest open diner.
But then he met his future wife, Rosaline, and his skies opened up again. Promise and hope coated the horizon, dreams of the future cradled him as he slept.
And what did Logan have? What had he to show for anything?
College was just where everything started. Or is that where it had all ended for him? Were those nights ten years ago, holding Audrey close, the beginning, or were they the sudden ending of the story of his life?
And if that was the end, where was he now?
* 1999 *
His brown eyes, bloodshot and round, stared through her glassy blue spheres. Her breathing was haggard, hitting her chest before spitting out of her throat. Her hoodie rose and fell with every gasp and as Logan forcefully, yet gently, grabbed both of her upper arms, a single tear rolled off her cheek and onto his sleeve.
She wanted to close her eyes, to let her eyelids gather with tears and let them seep out of the corners and smear down her face. She wanted to yank her arm out of his grasp and ignore the heat of his hands, wanted to run away from those big brown eyes that hooked into her.
But all she could do was stand with her shoulders slumped, shaking.
His eyes were like a band-aid placed over a broken bone. It was too little and he was much too late.
“Audrey.” His voice was low and firm, and he spoke her name slowly, using it as a weapon to slice through the wind. He slightly bent his knees, keeping him at her eyelevel.
She could not think, could barely remember to breathe. Only when her chest ached did she release a struggling breath. As it slipped through her teeth, it resembled a whimper. She bit down on her lower lip.
His eyes were doing what he, just a while ago, had not. They cradled her, they pulled her. But who was this boy that possessed them?
“I trusted you,” she whispered, her throat raw from pushing back tears.
“—no, you don’t. I trusted you and you left me there by myself.”
“Audrey,”—he winced—“I’m sorry. I was angry…”
“You left me, Logan. You always leave. Every time. I was so—so embarrassed—”
“Hey!” Logan’s voice rose, and Audrey’s breath caught in her throat at the panic she heard woven into its inflection. “Hey! I’m really sorry.”
His eyes were the deepest brown she’d ever witnessed. They were like sun to her, but all Logan brought was the rain.
She sighed softly, the back of her throat itching as she fought a wave of tears.
He looked so familiar, but the warmth that used to squeeze her tight at the mere hint of a smile on his lips, or the woozy sensation she recalled whenever his eyes focused on her, was gone.
Did it vanish? Had it even been there in the first place?
“You’re not the only one who gets to walk away,” she whispered. Holding her breath, closing her eyes tight, she jerked her body out of his grasp.
She whirled around, throwing out her arms to steady herself as she hurried down the hill. Closing her eyes, she grimaced as the wind beat into her. She cut her way through the storm, the cold stiffening her jaw, numbing her hands.
He didn’t follow her.
She kept walking.