Logan wasn’t quite sure what he was feeling when he woke up to half a dozen texts from Aidan:
8:01 am: Dude, your mom just called my mom. Didn’t even know that she had our number!
8:09 am: Why is my mom asking where you are? Didn’t you go on that senior trip? Shouldn’t you be home by now?
8:15 am: Seriously this isn’t funny. If your mom doesn’t know where you are, and she ALWAYS DOES, then where are you?
8:22 am: Did you run away? Please tell me you’re okay.
8:33 am: Seamus says not to worry about you, that you had contacted him at the beginning of the senior trip, and Carter is cool with that but I’m still really confused. Where are you?
8:37 am: Just please fucking respond and tell me you’re okay.
Logan groaned as he dragged himself off his creaky motel mattress, his back popping like firecrackers as he stretched. Considering how young he was, he could only pray that getting a better mattress in a new place would help his spine not sound like an old man every time he moved.
He glanced back down at his phone, knowing that he couldn’t leave Aidan hanging. Before he could talk himself out of it, Logan hit the call button next to Aidan’s picture on his contact screen.
Aidan picked up on the first ring. “Logan?!”
“Don’t ‘hey’ me!” Aidan said, sounding as if he had just run a marathon. “Are you okay?”
“I’m alright, Aidan,” Logan said, trying to sound calm instead of inwardly panicking at the difficult conversation he was about to have. “I just moved out of Mother’s house, that’s all.”
There was a pause on the line. “Logan, judging by how she spoke to Mom, I don’t think your mother knows that you moved out. What’s really going on?”
“I, uh, may not have told Mother yet,” Logan said.
Aidan barked out a laugh, one that was the result of nerves rather than amusement. “Wait, wait, wait… What do you mean she doesn’t know? Hang on.” Logan listened as Aidan spoke quietly to his own parents with Logan hearing snatches of the conversation such as, “Yes, this is Logan and he says he’s okay,” and “Dunno where he is yet.”
“So, spill,” Aidan said as soon as he was back on the phone.
Logan took a deep breath. “Well, uh, I didn’t want to go back to Mother’s house, so after the graduation, I took my car to the train station and made my way to Belleview.”
“Belleview?” Aidan’s echo sounded heartbroken. “You’re that far away? Why?”
“It was cheaper?” was Logan’s offered response. “I just… I was able to get a room and a job here that I found last month during that weekend I was sitting in on bank meetings for Mother.”
“B-but…” Aidan took a moment to gather his words, and Logan could just picture his friend biting his lip as he usually did whenever he was trying to carefully think of what to say. “Will we still hang out this summer?”
“Of course,” Logan said. “Aidan, of course we will, I just needed to get away. I couldn’t… I wouldn’t have been able to stand living with her for another summer. I needed to leave her, not you or Carter or Seamus. Please understand that.”
“No, I get it.” It didn’t sound as if Aidan totally did, but Logan would let it slide as Aidan continued talking. “I had just been hoping we could have done more with each other since you guys were all leaving for college in the fall, you know? I really don’t know what I’m going to do without you all.”
“Aidan, you have friends in your class,” Logan said.
“Yeah, but not like you guys,” Aidan said dismissively, and Logan silently agreed. Aidan had tagged onto their friend group since he and Carter had been paired up together for a project in one of their shared elective classes when Aidan had been a freshman and the rest of them were sophomores.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about me next year,” Logan said, padding in his slippers across the motel room to stick the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the outside of his door. “I’m not planning on going to college. Not right away, anyway.”
“Really?” Adian’s voice went up about an octave in his surprise. “But you got accepted to, like, a dozen Ivy League schools—”
“No, I didn’t,” Logan said with a scoff that turned into a chuckle at how much Aidan could exaggerate. “I was only accepted to three universities, none of which are Ivy League.”
(His mother complained all the way up to his graduation day as to what a waste of her money it would be to send him to some mediocre school instead of Harvard or Princeton. Logan said nothing in his defense. Even back then he knew he wouldn’t be going to college.)
“Well, still, getting accepted into some universities is awesome,” Aidan said. “I’m sorry you’re not planning on going right away, but that does mean I can call on you more often than the others during the school year!”
“You would have been able to call me anytime either way,” Logan said.
“I know you wouldn’t have minded,” Aidan said, “but I would have felt like I was bothering you guys, ya know? College is a big deal and you all would have been hella busy.”
“You’re going to be hella busy as a senior, you know,” Logan warned.
“Yeah, right!” Aidan laughed. “I remember how often Carter slacked off! Seamus worked his ass off because Seamus isn’t happy otherwise, and you…” He trailed off, and Logan felt a frown touch his lips. “School was always easy for you.”
(Thank goodness it had been. Way to not mention how Mother made Logan jet off to the nearby cities to get a taste of the business he had been supposed to inherit instead of enjoying his last year of high school with his class, Aidan.)
“I was blessed that way, I guess,” Logan said, trying to keep his tone casual. It didn’t really work when he added, “Um, Aidan, are you or your parents going to tell Mother where I am?”
“Uh, well…” Aidan hesitated. “She did call looking for you, man. I imagine she’s worried that you didn’t go back home after the senior trip. Shouldn’t you tell her that you moved out?”
“She’s probably more worried about our family’s reputation,” Logan muttered.
“C’mon, Logan, she must—”
“Look, please don’t tell her where I am, alright?” Logan interrupted. “I mean, tell her I moved out, but didn’t tell you where, okay? Please?”
Aidan was quiet on the line for so long that Logan had a fear that the pair had been disconnected. Finally Aidan said, “Alright, I promise, Logan. Mom is going to want to know the details, though.”
“I trust your parents,” Logan said, “as long as you trust that they won’t tell Mother the truth. Rather, the whole truth.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll make sure,” Aidan said. “I’ll just have Mom tell your mom that you… Uh, what exactly should I say?”
“Tell her that I moved out,” Logan said. “It’s honestly as simple as that.”
“Your mom isn’t going to be happy with just that as a response,” Aidan deadpanned.
“No… No, she’s not,” Logan agreed. “Better have your mother tell her, your mom can handle her, I think.”
“Oh, definitely,” Aidan said. “Dad would probably get all flustered trying to talk to your mom. And we’ll of course let your mom know that you’re okay.”
(Logan wondered how the hell Aidan was so pure enough to think that Mother still gave a damn about Logan’s wellbeing past the fact that he was heir to the family name.)
“You are okay, though, right?” Aidan’s voice snapped Logan back to the present. “Like, you’re staying in a good place?”
“Um, yeah.” Logan glanced around the sparse motel room after killing a fly against the bathroom sink with his bare hand.
“Gee, that sounded confident,” was Aidan’s sarcastic reply.
“No, seriously, I’m fine.” Logan wiped his hand on one of the towels. “I’m staying at a motel right now, but I’m actually going out later this afternoon to meet with someone about a room in an apartment.”
“In a public place, right?” Aidan asked immediately. “So you can make sure this person isn’t a psycho? Dammit, I wish I was there with you, I can read people like books.”
“You are good with people,” Logan said sincerely, and the warm thanks he received in return made him smile. “I’m pretty sure these people aren’t psychos, though. It’s a pair of sisters, actually, and they have an extra room in the apartment. I met the older sister already, in a public place, and she seems cool. I’m meeting her again with the younger sister at a park today, see how we all get along.”
“Good, meeting in the daytime, I like that. Don’t let them lead you down any dark paths at this park, okay?”
“I’m serious, man, that’s how people disappear—”
“I’m going to hang up on you—”
“No, don’t!” Despite Logan joking, it sounded like there was legit panic in Aidan’s voice. “I miss talking to you.”
“Aidan, I miss you too,” Logan said, trying to keep his voice gentle, “but I’m not that far, not really.”
“I know that, but…” Aidan sighed, then gave off a light laugh that really didn’t sound as if it held any mirth. “You know, I’ve been complaining so much about applying to colleges, enough so that Dad asked why I was so against them. I answered that it’s because college makes my friends go away… I know you said you’re not going to college, but you’re still farther than I’d like you to be.”
“Aidan, you’re talking like we’re countries apart,” Logan said, trying to bring some amount of common sense back into the conversation. “We will see and talk with each other as often as possible, I promise. And, hey, maybe you can apply to a college close to Belleview.”
“You’ll still be there next year?” Aidan asked.
“I…” Logan trailed off, a mistake that made Aidan do that stupid, humorless laugh again.
“Okay, how about this,” Aidan said. “Tell me whenever you decide where you’re going to be next year and I’ll find a college as close as possible to you, okay?”
Logan rolled his eyes in good humor. “Alright, that sounds fine. Hey, do you ask Seamus and Carter about things like this too, or is it just me?”
“The first two colleges I’m going to apply to are their schools,” was the immediate answer.
“Oh, I see how it is,” Logan teased. “I thought I was special.”
“You are very special, Logan,” Aidan said. “Their colleges will be a backup just in case I can’t keep up with you.”
“Keep up with me?” Logan echoed. “Aidan, my friend, you’re leading the way.”
Aidan laughed, a real one this time, into the phone. “Alright, well… Good luck with your meeting with the sisters. I’d better go and let Mom know all about your situation. Text me later, will you?”
“Of course,” Logan said, and the pair said their good-byes.
The phone felt heavier when the line clicked dead.
Did Logan do the right thing? Moving so far away? Yes, he was away from Mother, away from those social and family obligations that did nothing except control his future, but… Would having a secure future, even one he couldn’t make himself, be so terrible if he was closer to his friends?
His cell phone slipped out of his hands and onto the floor with a clatter, snapping Logan out of his thoughts. He shook his head, checked that his phone still worked, and muttered, “Get ahold of yourself. Your life is fine, everything is okay, this is what you wanted…”
Logan glanced at the time and stepped into the shower to be certain that he wouldn’t be late for his shift at the restaurant.