The plan was to get on the bus before them. Meg figured if she was one of the first to board, she could get a window seat and not have to worry about motion sickness (morning sickness), and hopefully avoid anyone she didn't want to talk to. Of course, the plan was foiled when she dropped her armful of textbooks in a spectacular display of clumsiness.
As she knelt to gather them up, the familiar sneakers of Duncan Kane stopped next to her, and he crouched down to help pick up her things. She fixed him with her steeliest glare.
Duncan's eyes widened in surprise as he threw his hands up and backed away. Meg watched, disgusted, as he jogged to catch up with his new (old) girlfriend. She slowly picked up the rest of her books to make sure that she wouldn't catch up to them at the door to the bus.
Her attention went back to them, however, when she heard Logan Echolls' familiar drawl.
"Ah, young love."
Meg snickered and watched as Logan continued to make Veronica and Duncan squirm. Logan dipped his head close to them so Meg couldn't hear what he was saying, but it was clearly making Veronica uncomfortable. The pair finally stepped around Logan to board the bus, and he gave them a funny little wave through the window.
Her books now in her bag, Meg hopped to her feet too quickly and got lightheaded, swaying into Logan as he passed.
"Whoa," he said, grabbing her shoulders to steady her. "I thought I told you to lay off the booze on school days."
Meg blinked hard, trying to regain her equilibrium.
"Are you OK?" Logan asked, concerned.
She put her hand against her forehead. "Yeah, I think I just stood up too fast. Thanks for keeping me upright."
"Anytime." Logan saluted and Meg turned toward the school bus with a loud sigh, dreading the trip.
"You're not actually going on that trip with the Prom King and his consort, are you?" Logan asked from behind her.
Meg turned to face him again. "Ashley talked me into it, but then she blew me off when Enbom asked her to 'hang out' with him," she said, using finger-quotes.
"All the more reason to skip it," Logan said, flicking a hand in the direction of the bus. "An afternoon of listening to a corporate suck-up wax poetic about his pitching staff, all while attempting to avoid sugar shock from the presence of Neptune High's newest power couple? I'd rather eat glass."
Meg looked pained. "Yeah…"
"C'mon, play hooky with me." Logan nudged her with his elbow. "We'll hang out and commiserate."
Her eyes narrowed as she mulled the offer.
"I don't mean 'hang out' like Ashley and Enbom, I mean 'hang out' as in 'play video games and eat junk food and do nothing productive for an afternoon,'" he clarified with an eye-roll and a half-smile.
Relaxing at Logan's mansion sounded far more appealing than riding a smelly, too-warm, bumpy bus with people she couldn't stand, so Meg agreed with a grin. "OK, you've persuaded me."
"I knew you were corruptible," Logan said, obviously pleased. "I'll meet you at my front gate in 15."
Lying back on the comfy couch, eating delicious snacks prepared by one of the remaining housekeepers, Meg realized that she had definitely made the right choice. The pregnancy was making her exhausted, and lately it was hard to stay awake in the late afternoon.
As Logan took his turn at the game console, Meg felt her eyes grow heavy as her controller slipped out of her hand. She didn't know if she'd been asleep for a few minutes or a few hours when she was roused by Logan shouting for her to wake up.
She sat up quickly, momentarily disoriented. "What…?"
Logan was pointing frantically at the TV screen, where the local station had cut in with breaking news.
"The school bus… it went off the road… into the water…" he stammered.
The overhead shot from the news helicopter showed the broken barricade that the bus had gone through, along with some other vehicles and people milling about. Meg stared for a moment before her brain kicked into action.
"Maybe… maybe that wasn't the bus… maybe they weren't on it… a mistake…," she suggested, her words spilling out faster and faster. "Try calling someone!"
Logan was almost catatonic.
"Logan!" she yelled, smacking his shoulder to get his attention. "Call one of them!"
He grabbed his phone from the coffee table and dialed the first number on his call log. The two sat silently, holding their breath for a few very long seconds while they waited to see if someone picked up.
"Beaver!" Logan shouted into the phone. Meg exhaled. "Beav—you're OK! …Yeah, we're watching the news—there's a bus… Why weren't you… Who was with you?"
Logan was silent for a few minutes as he listened to Cassidy Casablancas explain what he had seen. Meg watched him, trying to read his expression for any indication of what he was hearing. Suddenly, Logan dropped his phone with a clatter, and ran to the bathroom. Before she could call after him, Meg heard him retching. Her own stomach rolled, but she managed to take a deep breath and pick up the phone.
"Cassidy, it's Meg. Did someone get hurt?" she said, trying to keep her voice from betraying her. "Was it… is Duncan OK?"
"Duncan's fine, and so's my brother—some of us took a limo instead of the bus," the boy explained.
"So why did Logan… oh God, where's Veronica?"
"She didn't come with us," Cassidy said, yelling over the sound of the emergency vehicles. "Veronica was annoyed with Dick, so she…wait!"
"What? Tell me what's going on!" Meg cried, growing more agitated. All she could hear was the growl of an engine and some indistinguishable yelling.
"Meg! Veronica's here!" Cassidy finally shouted into the phone. "She got a ride from someone else—she wasn't on the bus. Tell Logan—I have to go!"
Cassidy hung up and Meg hurried to the bathroom, where she found Logan sitting on the floor, hugging his knees and staring at the ceiling blankly. Tears rolled slowly down his pale face.
"Veronica's OK, Logan. Cassidy just saw her," she said. He lowered his eyes to meet hers, his expression one of disbelief.
Meg kneeled in front of him. "Look at me, Logan. Cassidy just saw Veronica at the crash site, and she's fine. She wasn't on the bus."
Her words finally seemed to register, and Logan dropped his head against his knees with a thud. His breath began to come in quick, shuddering gasps, and Meg jumped to her feet. She glanced around the cavernous bathroom until she noticed a small hand towel on the counter. She quickly ran it under the cold water, folded it into a rectangle, and gently put the cold cloth on the back of Logan's neck.
She rubbed his back soothingly while speaking in soft tones, just as she'd done so many times for Lizzie and Grace. "Come on, take some deep breaths, everything's all right."
They sat silently, the only sound the quiet whiff of Meg's hand grazing the fabric of Logan's shirt. After a few minutes, he finally stirred, to Meg's relief.
Taking the towel off his neck, he ran it over his face. "Ah, nothing like a nervous breakdown to make the day more exciting," he said, rising to his feet with a groan.
"Yeah, not the relaxing afternoon you promised. You've gotta work on your hospitality skills, Echolls," she said, trying to make him laugh.
Logan cocked an eyebrow at her in the mirror as he used the sink. "My apologies, ma'am."
The sound of Meg's phone interrupted them. "Oh!" she yelped, her eyes wide. "That's my mom's ringtone—I better get that!"
She dashed into the living room and dug through her purse for her phone. "Mom!... Yeah, I'm OK. I didn't go on the field trip… I didn't feel well after school and a friend invited me over… I didn't want to bother you at work… OK, I'm on my way."
Meg snapped her phone closed as Logan entered the living room. "You'd think that my narrow escape from death would be the most important thing," she spat as she threw her bag over her shoulder. "But no, I'm in trouble for skipping the field trip without asking permission."
"Maybe when they see the cameras being shoved in the grieving parents' faces later tonight they'll get a little perspective."
"Doubt it," Meg said, heading into the foyer. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow at school. It's going to be interesting."
"Listen, um, about what happened earlier," Logan said as he opened the door for her. "Can you…not tell anyone? You know…"
"Don't worry," Meg said sincerely. "I can keep a secret."
The next morning at the school was chaos. Meg had to wait in a long line of cars just to get into the parking lot, then fight her way through a phalanx of reporters just to get to the line for the metal detectors. She scowled at her classmates who were accommodating the media by giving tearful interviews. After a long night of writing Bible verses about disobedience, she was tired and crabby.
When she finally got through security, Meg walked quickly down the main hallway and turned the corner toward Logan's locker. Just as she'd hoped, he was already there, digging through a pile of crumpled paper and barely used textbooks.
"Hey," she said as she approached.
"Just a sec," Logan replied, his arm buried up to the elbow in locker detritus. "Ha—got it." He pulled out a nondescript, black ballpoint pen.
"You risked a limb for that? You don't have other pens?" Meg said, a little snappishly.
Logan gave her an impish grin and she couldn't help but cheer up a little bit. "This one's my favorite."
He stuck the end of the pen in the corner of his mouth while he zipped up his backpack. He then threw the bag over one shoulder, took the pen out of his mouth, and gave it a little twirl before tucking it behind his ear. Meg watched the process with amusement.
"Was everything OK when you got home last night?" Logan asked, once he was settled.
"Yeah, it was fine," Meg lied. "My parents are jerks, though. I'm just waiting to leave for college."
"I know the feeling. If you're interested in emancipation, I know people…"
Meg giggled. "I think I'll just wait until my eighteenth birthday, but thanks." She paused to change the subject. "Listen, when I rushed out yesterday, I didn't get a chance to thank you."
"If you hadn't convinced me to blow off the field trip, I might have been on that bus and…"
"Just lucky," Logan said, waving her off. "I guess not all of my luck is bad. Maybe it's a sign that things are turning around for me!" He bounced up on his toes in mock glee.
"Well, I still feel like I owe you one."
"Restrain yourself from kicking my ass at video golf next time and we'll call it even."
"It's not my fault your putting sucks."
Logan clutched his heart. "Aw, Manning, you really know how to hurt a guy."
Meg laughed, but then stopped as she saw his expression sober up. She looked over her shoulder to find out what had changed his mood so dramatically, and saw Veronica coming down the hall toward them.
"Veronica," Logan said as the girl grew closer. She didn't respond.
"Hey," he said, reaching out to grab Veronica's arm as she tried to pass them. She looked up at him briefly and then back down at her shoes. "I'm glad you're OK," Logan continued.
Meg saw Veronica's cheeks turn bright red.
"Thanks, I'm fine," Veronica mumbled. Logan's hand dropped away and she went on to her first class.
Logan stuck out his lower lip and exhaled. "Well, it's comforting to know that some things haven't changed. I'm glad I can still annoy with the best of them."
Meg just looked at him sympathetically.
"I'd better get to class. Ms. Murphy's gonna give me detention if I'm late again," Logan said. "Catch you later."
"Yeah, later…" Meg said, lost in thought as he walked away.
Veronica felt something for Logan, Meg knew, but it wasn't annoyance. Her blush at his words made that pretty clear. Veronica never backed down from a verbal battle—in fact, only one person seemed to leave her at a loss for words, and that was Logan.
If she still had feelings for Logan, Meg didn't really get what Veronica was doing with Duncan then, but she knew firsthand that he could be surprisingly persuasive. The more she thought about it, Meg realized she wasn't really mad at Veronica—her anger was at Duncan. And Veronica did help get her back on the cheerleading squad, even if her involvement in the case was mostly for Wallace Fennel.
She looked over her shoulder and saw Logan shuffling down the hall, his shoulders slumped and his good mood once again shattered. In that moment, Meg realized how she was going to pay him back, and it didn't involve video golf.
Down the opposite hallway, Veronica had stopped at her own locker, so Meg broke into a jog. "Veronica!"
Her former (future) friend looked up in surprise as Meg approached.
"Hey, I'm sorry I've been such a bitch to you," Meg said honestly. "So, um, can we talk?"