She found the shoe box while cleaning out her closet for the move out of the apartment and into their first house since her dad got canned. The book deal on the bus crash mystery had led to a movie deal and the ousting of Sheriff Lamb had led to the reelection of Sheriff Mars, and while Veronica was going off to college, she wasn't leaving home. Her father had promised that when they could afford it, he'd buy them a new house, and so he had. It wasn't much bigger than their apartment, but it was theirs, and Veronica wouldn't have to worry about nail holes in the walls for her posters.
But, in order to move, she had to pack, and while packing, she found some long-forgotten things.
Sitting cross-legged on her bed, she placed the box on her lap and slowly removed the lid. Flipping it over she smiled a bit sadly at the photograph taped inside surrounded by a big red heart drawn in magic marker.
It was a photo of Duncan lounging on the hood of Logan's car, taken three years before when the world had been so very different. As she looked at the image, she couldn't help but compare the youthful innocence on his face to her last vision of him--a bit harried and uncertain and so much older.
Setting aside the lid, she started to skim through the contents of the box, all items that held sentimental value from her first relationship with Duncan. But, as she flipped through an envelope of other photographs, she realized that there was so much more.
From one, Lilly smirked at her. From another, Logan, so young and seeming so innocent stuck his tongue out at her.
While she and Duncan had been a pair, in reality they had been four.
And now there were only two left.
Setting aside the box, Veronica rose to her feet and stuck the picture of Logan in her shirt pocket, then grabbed her purse and headed out the door.
The beach was crowded--it was a gorgeous, sunny June day. School was out and if you were an 09er, which meant you didn't have to have a job, you spent your days on the beach. Veronica stuffed her hands in the back pockets of her cut-off jeans and rocked on her toes as she ran her eyes over the crowd. Spotting her quarry sitting with his friends ogling under-aged bikini-clad girls, she rolled her eyes and tramped through the sand to him.
When she blocked his view of a particularly buxom red-head, he looked up at her and dragged his sunglasses down his nose to wink at her. "Well, look who we have here, boys. Daisy Duke."
"Dude, her shorts would have to be much shorter and her boobs much bigger."
"I see you're hanging with your usual charmers, Logan," Veronica said, shooting Dick a nasty glare.
"Dick, stop being a dick, and stop looking at my girlfriend's tits."
"Ruin all my fun," Dick muttered and turned his attention to a group of junior girls who were giggling and smiling at him.
Logan patted the towel next to him and reached for Veronica's hand, tugging her down next to him. "Hey, doll. I thought you were spending the day packing."
"Yeah, and I still remember how you managed to weasel out of helping me."
"I would have been happy to pack your undies."
Veronica laughed. "Perv." She punched him lightly in the shoulder, then pulled the photograph out of her pocket and showed it to him. "Remember this?"
"Wasn't I just adorable?" Logan sang in a falsetto.
"No," she shot him down. "I never did know why you stuck your tongue out at me. It flustered me and I screwed up the next several shots with my new camera."
"I was fifteen. That was flirting." He took the photo and his smile turned a bit sad. "The four of us were in Lilly's room. Her parents were out and you were spending the night because they didn't know you and Duncan had hooked up, and I snuck over. You were wearing bunny slippers and your hair was in pigtails."
"You remember all that?"
He turned the smile on her and brushed his hand over her cheek. "It was the first time I saw you as more than just Lilly's friend. I mean, you'd been going with Duncan for about three weeks, and I'd known you forever, but suddenly you weren't a kid anymore."
She gave him a skeptical look. "In bunny slippers and pigtails?"
"Very sexy bunny slippers and very hot pigtails. I had fantasies of those pigtails for months."
"Do not tell me you jerked off to that fantasy!"
Logan grinned and waggled his eyebrows at the disgusted yet kind of intrigued look she shot him.
"Dude, wicked. Did you get a photo of that? Was she in a shortie and/or sheer nightie?"
Without looking, Logan punched Dick hard in the shoulder.
"Geez, ow! You are so not fun when Mars, I mean, your goddess, is around. I'm going to go get a dog. Want one?" He hopped to his feet and stuck them in a pair of flip-flops.
"I'd like one," Veronica replied sweetly.
"Yeah, sure," Dick shuffled his feet in the sand, still uncomfortable around the reunited Veronica and Logan.
"Loaded for me."
Taking Logan's order, Dick led the rest of the posse across the sand to the snack bar.
"Sorry for Dick."
Laughing, Veronica leaned over and kissed him. "I know you actually encourage him. Dick will always be Dick."
Logan shrugged, not admitting anything, and slung his arm around his girlfriend's shoulder. "So, did you really leave the fun, fun, fun of packing to come ask me about a photograph?"
"I'm a trained investigator. I needed to investigate the tongue."
"I'm happy to show it to you." They kissed again and while she didn't see his tongue, she felt it brush over her and slip between her lips.
When they broke the kiss, they snuggled against each other.
"Did you really think I was pretty back then?"
"And you weren't just imagining me and Lilly and you in a three-way?"
Logan grinned. "What can I say. I am a guy."
Veronica laughed again, and lounged back on her elbows. "We were all so young and innocent back then. I could see it in the pictures, even in Lilly, who I never thought was innocent."
"She was born too mature," he agreed, neither being offensive in speaking of their lost friend. They both knew her faults as well as they knew their own.
"When I found the pictures, I just had this need to see you. We're the only two left, and while I know it's normal for high school friends to drift apart, but we didn't drift."
"We got torn apart," he finished her thought.
"I just...Looking at us back then, I realized everything changed. Every thing. I was so in love with Duncan and back then I was writing Mrs. Duncan Kane on every surface I could find usually in pink glitter ink with heart stickers. We were going to be together forever."
"Do you regret it?"
She shook her head, still smiling a bit sadly. "No, I don't. I'll never forget those times or him. I'll always miss him, but..." Reaching for his arm, she tugged him down on top of her.
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she kissed him again. "Even if you saw me as a grown up back then, I wasn't. None of us were. Now we are, and now is us."
"Such a romantic." Propped over her, he kissed her nose and her chin, then her mouth. "Of course, sex kicks romance's butt."
Veronica smacked his back and shoved him off her with a laugh. "I know I remember you swearing you'd take me out to a fancy dinner tonight since you were too busy with...what was it again? Meeting with your accountant, realtor and the all important masseuse today to help me pack?"
"None of it took as long as I thought. I was coming to your place right after..." Logan glanced around the beach and gave up. "Italian or French?"
"What's more expensive?"
Logan heaved himself off her with a heavy sigh. "I have a gold digger for a girlfriend."
Veronica winked up at him. "I'm worth it. Now, where's my hotdog?" At his arched brow and pointed look down his body, she rolled her eyes and kicked out at him. "A perv and a gold digger. We make a good pair."
"Wouldn't have it any other way."
"Me neither," she said with a smile and tucked the photograph back away.
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