It sure has been a while since we last spoke. I'm deeply sorry. You've been far too kind in your patience, much more patient than I deserve, but your tolerance only further proves how wonderful of a friend you are. I'm sorry that this email will not reach you until after I have left Sugar Valley, but I hope you will forgive me for departing without a formal goodbye.
It's not really goodbye, is it? We'll keep in touch. We will still be friends, no matter the distance. I do hope you'll take the time to visit me in Mapleville. It's quite a long travel, but I'd be more than happy to cover your travel expenses. Maybe over the holidays...? I'm sure Bibiane would be more than enthusiastic about it.
Until next time,
With a sigh, I reread the message for the third time. I wasn't sure how to reply.
Shale - someone who had quickly become one of my dearest friends - was leaving...well, had left. I knew it was coming. His residency was over, and in the end he decided that Sugar Valley wasn't for him. He wanted somewhere quieter, somewhere he could become well known as a doctor and work with a close group of patients. Apparently Mapleville had all of this.
It wasn't easy, losing him so quickly, even though I knew it had been coming. I had hoped he would at least stop by before running off to the airport, but maybe it was easier for both of us this way. No need for fractures when you can have a clean break.
I was at the library, supposed to be looking up famous Berry artists for my class. Yep, that's right. I was enrolled in the local college and - get this - decided to major in Art and Literature. Working at the gallery turned out to be one of the most life changing experiences. While I enjoyed studying and showing others masterpieces, I enjoyed creating them even more. Over the past months, blank canvases and acrylics had become my best friends.
I glanced at the stack of books beside me. I hadn't the faintest idea who any of the Berry Sweets featured in the biographies were; Madame Annice Le Grapes, Sage Crêpe, and Blanc Sugar were just a few. Even though I felt disappointed after the email, I decided I might as well try and get some homework done. My professors expected all of my assignments to be turned in on time - and unfortunately it didn't matter whether or not I was left feeling a bit broken hearted.
I only managed to get an hour in before I started to get distracted, and the rhythmic tick of the clock was drowned out by the conversation of a study group coming over from the high school. I wasn't going to get any work done with them around, and honestly I didn't have any desire to read about the childhood of Sugar Valley's greatest painter.
Logan was just finishing work at the theater, and texted me asking if I'd like to meet up for drinks. He had quit his job at the grocery store a while back after seeing a Help Wanted sign posted in the ticket booth. Turns out it was actually from the theater's guitar instructor, and he needed someone to help him out with organizing students' schedules and maybe even teaching on his own in the future. All day around a gifted musician and free guitar lessons? To Logan this was like being handed a check for a million dollars.
When I saw him sitting at the table, I smiled. It was harder than I hoped it would be, and apparently even less convincing.
"Are you all right, Snow?" was the first thing he asked when I sat down across from him.
"Of course!" my voice was way too cheery to be natural. "Why would you think otherwise?"
"You just look upset. Did something happen at the library today?"
"Nope, just studying."
"Oh. For your research paper?"
"Yep. This is so much harder than I thought it would be, Lo. The other people in my class grew up hearing about these artists in their schools. I have to teach myself all of it in two weeks."
"I know, but you'll be fine. If you haven't discovered it already, you're a trooper, Snow. If you can handle being thrown into an alternate reality, I'm pretty sure you can write an awesome essay."
He gave me a reassuring smile and reached over the table to take my hands. "If you need help with anything, I'm here for you. Why did he have to be so amazing? I felt guilt twist my stomach as he stared at me.
His eyes were so clear, so honest. I didn't want to keep things from him, but to be honest, I didn't think talking to him about Shale - and how upset his departure made me - was a good idea. Logan was far from being his biggest fan. It was strange, because as far as I had witnessed, Logan liked just about everybody. Except Shale. He always got this sour expression on his face whenever I told him who I was hanging out with, and the one time I suggested we all go out to dinner...let's just say I made sure it wouldn't happen again. He looked at me as if I'd just admitted to murdering his family.
"Out to dinner? With Shale?" the tone in his voice had been unmistakably betrayed. It sounded like jealousy, but that couldn't possibly be true. Why would Logan be envious of Shale? So what if he had a better job. So what if he and I were close friends. Logan was the one who saved my life. He was the one I confessed my love to. You would think that would be enough.
So, to make a long story short, Shale wasn't going to be brought up that night if I had any choice.
"Let's go over to the park." he suggested after we finished our drinks. "It's so nice out...I'm not ready to go home just yet."
"All right, I'll meet you over there." I said before standing and making my way across the street as he paid for our drinks.
Rainbow Skittles Park was almost an entirely different place at night. No children ran through the flowers, no parents chatted while their little ones tried to splash in the central fountain. It was darker, more serious, but peaceful and relaxing.
When I sat down, the whole world seemed to stop. It was just me and the hum of an early summer's night around me. A place to think.
"You okay?" Logan's voice asked from behind.
I smiled as he sat beside me. "I already said yes."
"I'm sorry," he sighed and held open his arms. I gladly moved closer. "You just seem...I don't know...preoccupied."
"I'm fine," I said softly. "I promise."
"I believe you," he said. His hand squeezed my shoulder. "I just want you to know that if anything, no matter how stupid or small you may think, is bothering you, I'm here to listen."
"I know...and I'm very thankful for that, Logan. You really have no idea what you mean to me." We moved closer together after that, and our faces - and more importantly, our lips - were only inches apart.
Every time I kissed Logan, it was as if his lips had never met mine. A light shiver caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand, but it melted away into a warmth at the pit of my stomach that enveloped my entire body. Everything else seemed to fade away, and instead of feeling like I was the only person in Sugar Valley like I did in the park, I felt like I was the only girl in the world.
Logan was up early the next morning.
He was in the bathroom, showering and later running water in the sink. I lay with my eyes shut atop my bed. I stayed up late the previous night doing homework, and by the time I typed my concluding sentence on the Life and Work of Madame Annice le Grapes, I was so tired that I only managed to change into my PJs before collapsing on top of the blankets.
Fast forward a few hours and I listened to the muffled sound of Logan's voice through the walls.
I couldn't quite make out the words, but by his tone it sounded as if he were nervous and trying to give himself some sort of pep talk. Soon enough, I began to forget I'd ever woken up in the first place and was comfortably drifting back into oblivion.
Logan's voice still flitted into my ears, but he sounded as if he was successful in convincing himself and soon fell quiet.
With a sigh, I snuggled closer into my pillow. I could have sworn there were footsteps nearby, and I thought about getting up to see where Logan was, but before I had a chance, he clapped his hands together and called for me to wake up.
"Come on, sit up! I have to tell you something."
I sat up with a groan and brought my knees to my chest. The clock on the nightstand read nearly 2PM. Wow. I guess it wasn't so early after all.
"Okay, are you awake?"
I grumbled something unintelligible and then asked, "What is it?"
"We're going somewhere."
"You. Me. Out. We're going to spend the afternoon together."
"But Logan I want to sleep..."
"Please? It'll be fun. Plus, I have a surprise for you. Now get dressed!"
Peaked at the idea of a surprise, I quickly followed his orders while he headed outside.
"So were are we actually going?" I asked.
He studied me for a moment in silence, as if debating whether or not I should know. "Peppermint Pier." he finally replied.
My excitement plummeted, but I didn't let my smile follow suit. Peppermint Pier was great and all, but it was far from being a surprise. I'd been there dozens of times over the course of my life in Sugar Valley, and I highly doubted there had been some massive renovation since I'd been a whole five days ago.
Nevertheless, I played along and acted as giddy as I could. Logan took great pleasure in this. I could tell by the smile that stretched across his face every time he looked at me on our walk there. It stayed once we reached the beach, and I soon learned that our afternoon wouldn't be so bad after all.
We played around on the swing set....
and watched the waves. Eventually we wound up at one of the patio table's and began to talk.
"So, have you had fun so far?" Logan asked as I bobbed my head along to the beat of a song playing from the nearby stereo.
"Yes! Today was actually a lot of fun."
"Well then, are you ready for your surprise?"
My eyes snapped open then. "You mean this isn't it?"
He titled his head back and laughed. "Snow, why would you think this is your surprise? You've been here a dozen times before."
"I know," I said with a smile, feeling my cheeks heat with embarrassment. "When you didn't say anything else, I guess I just assumed."
"Well don't worry, I actually do have a real surprise. Do you see those rocks?" he nodded behind me, down the beach at the large cliff formation.
"We're climbing them."
My jaw dropped slightly and I lifted my hand to point at the towering rock. "We're going to climb that?"
He nodded and smiled. "I know how much you used to love hiking. I thought it would be a nice way to end the day...plus, the view from up there is incredible."
"Okay!" I wanted to squeal. Hiking had been one of my family's favorite pastimes back in Michigan. I had so many fond memories of making my way up a rocky path, the soles of my boots digging into the ground and beads of sweat clinging to my forehead. Sometimes Dad would bring along a tent, and we'd pitch our own campsite at the top of a big hill. Of course it was never very far from any civilization, but huddled together in our sleeping bags beneath the stars...it was perfect.
Despite my love of the sport, I hadn't hiked for a long time. I hadn't really been getting any physical exercise lately, with me and Logan's workouts being cut back to maybe twice a week. The trek to the top of the rocks was brutal, and by the time we stopped walking the muscles in the back of my calves were on fire.
"You all right?" Logan asked, sounding only slightly out of breath.
I nodded several times before looking up. I gasped at what lay before me.
We were surrounded by trees - thick, mighty pines - but in front of us were the same rocks Logan had mentioned. The ocean spread out before them, stretching on for as far as I could see. The waves were tinted a light tangerine as the sun began to set, and all I could manage to say was "Wow."
We were by ourselves, in this magical little part of Sugar Valley. Only a glimpse of the beach could be seen through the branches of the trees, and it was hard to believe I'd been there only an hour ago.
Logan and I walked to the cliff's edge and looked down.
"This is...this is amazing, Logan."
"You really like it?"
"Yes, I'm just...I'm speechless."
"I know the feeling." he mumbled.
I faced him with a confused expression and he laughed.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing, nothing. I just...wow, um...yeah. So Snow?" he ran his hand over his face and laughed again. The sound was nervous, rushed. I realized that he had the giggles, just like a five-year-old who has been put on the spot.
"I knew this would be hard, but I just..."
"There's something I want to do."
"Logan, are you...?"My heart began to slam against my ribs. Something was about to happen. Something big.
"Snow, I love you." he laughed again when he said this, unable to fight the smile that crept onto both our faces. "You're the sweetest...most amazing girl - no, person - I've ever met. You've shown me so much in so little time. It's been almost a year since we met and I know this is so sudden but...I feel like I've known you forever. And this feeling...I can't let it go. I don't want to."
Now I was the one giggling. Only one thought was racing through my mind; Oh my Gosh, Oh my Gosh, Oh my Gosh. He's going to --
"Snow, I know this is so selfish of me to ask. You're so bright and talented and...you could have someone so much better than me in the blink of an eye. But you choose not to. You choose me, every single day and that...I can't tell you how much it means to me."
I bit my lip and smiled even more. He let out a shuddering breath and squeezed my hand.
"What I want to know is if you would continue to make the same choice every day. Would you want to be with me...forever?"
I barely managed to whisper "Yes." As soon as the syllable left my mouth, Logan's lips met mine.
When he straightened, his eyes nervously fell to the ground and we stood there, just like that, for a few minutes. Finally, he mumbled something. I didn't hear him well at first, but then I realized what it was. "Thank you."
Thank you. For choosing him. As if it were a job. As if there was anyone else I would possibly want to be with.
Suddenly, I grabbed him and yanked him forward.
"Snow, I -- ?"
"I will always choose you." I said before pressing my lips against his.