A Ghost at Beck and Call
by winter baby

Now my inner dialogue is heaving with detest
I am a martyr and a victim and I need to be caressed
I hate that you negate me, I'm a ghost at beck and call
I'm falling and placating, berate myself for staying
- Sia, "Sweet Potato"

When the entertainment lawyer takes her father out of town again, Veronica doesn't exactly invite Logan over, but he shows up at her place anyway. He parks near the beach and walks the five minutes to her house, just like she told him to. He laughed and said it made him feel like a spy. She laughed and said, "Just make sure you do it."

Every time they see each other he brings her a little gift, like he has to placate her, win her over. She wonders why kissing him isn't enough to convince him that she likes him, or at the very least, likes kissing him. Today he brings her a Mars bar, which makes her laugh.

They sit across from each other at the kitchen counter, not saying anything really. When they're not insulting or kissing each other, she doesn't know how to act around him. The silence between them isn't awkward but it's weighted, so when she asks him if he's hungry, it's too sudden, too loud.

She digs through the grocery bag on the counter, offers him scotch tape, olive oil, an aubergine.

"What's an aubergine?" He tugs at the bag, but she swats his hand away.

"It's like an eggplant."

He makes a face. "I make it a point not to eat anything I can't spell." She pulls out a sweet potato and he smiles smugly. "P-O-T-A-T-O."

Watching him eat breaks a tension she didn't know was there. His hand moves from the plate to his mouth, and for a moment she lets herself imagine that mouth on hers, that hand on her skin. She thinks this is the easiest way to react to him, bodily instead of cerebrally, because trying to make sense of him doesn't work. She's used to gathering clues and fitting the pieces around each other, but Logan doesn't fall into place anywhere. Nine times out of ten, people will follow certain patterns and motivations, but he's the aberrant. Logan's too unpredictable, volatile one second and sweet the next. He has a way of pulling the rug out from under her, and while she might love the dizzying, breathless fall, she knows that at the moment least expected, the impact will get her.

Veronica's learned from experience that a tragedy without warning is the worst kind, and if ever there was a person who embodied that, it's Logan.


They end up watching her copy of The Big Lebwoski, but sit on opposite ends of the couch. He hasn't touched her all night, which is what she finds the most surprising. Usually they're all over each other, Veronica practically climbing him because he's so much taller. She doesn't like what this signifies, that maybe this isn't entirely physical for him. When he said he was moving on, he meant it, and what scares her most is that maybe she meant it too.

When it was about kissing Lilly's boyfriend, when it was about betraying Lilly, it was still all about Lilly. Veronica thinks no one but Logan could understand the way she feels, continually being left by the ones who love you the most. And if it just could have been about that, about that pain and those empty spaces people leave behind, then maybe she could have handled that. Maybe she could have justified it to herself, that the reason for keeping this - whatever it is that they are - a secret is because she's afraid of what people will say, and not that they wouldn't say anything at all.

Because if this isn't about Lilly, then it's about her, and maybe she's not so good at dealing with that.


Once, before Lilly's death, Dick got drunk at a party and fell into the pool, dragging Veronica in with him. She couldn't untangle herself from his heavy body, but instead of being scared, she was more angry than anything. She couldn't believe that she was going to die because of an overgrown buffoon.

But Logan pulled them out, and he stayed with her until somebody found Lilly. The entire time, he wouldn't take his eyes off her, like she would slip back into the water if he did. Maybe she kissed him a little while thanking him, maybe that time it wasn't about Lilly either. But it could have been a trick of the light, because Lilly came running out of the house, yelling Veronica's name, and there was nothing left to say except, I'm fine. I'm fine.


The sun set hours ago and the movie's been over for a while, but Logan hasn't made a move toward his jacket at all. He tells her, "I don't want to go home."

"My dad will be back by seven tomorrow morning. You'll have to leave before then."

He almost smiles. "It'll be like I was never here."

Please don't say that, she wants to say, but instead leads him toward her bedroom. He stops her at the door, presses his lips softly against hers, and the kiss feels exactly like the way he looked at her when he thought she was going to drown.

She changes into her pajamas in the bathroom, and Logan takes off his shoes and socks and belt, but nothing else. They lie side by side on her bed, stiff like Egyptian statues. Being uncomfortable around each other's bodies is so unlike them, but he kissed her like she had the power to hurt him, and that changes things.

She turns into him, curving her body around his and placing her head in the space between his neck and shoulder. She feels his body go tense, then relax again. A sob gets caught in her throat when she thinks how Lilly must have lain like this with him. How having a thought like that makes her morbid, or maybe just human.

Pain is what connects people, but once you move past that, there has to be something else. Logan figured out the truth long before she did. She has to continually remind herself that two broken people don't make a whole, that she can't force herself to fit around the empty spaces Lilly left behind. Instead, he's carving out new spaces for Veronica, carefully but unafraid. She doesn't understand how he can risk that, how he knows she won't leave him more broken than when she found him. Even she can't give him that guarantee.

She places her hand across his chest, feeling the opening and closing of his heart. It's dangerous, what they could do to each other.


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