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I took a deep breath and took in my surroundings. I was driving on a lone road that was surrounded by greenery and reddish brown rocks. In the distance I could see the large rock structures and plateaus. The sky was light blue and cloudless. This is exactly what I needed. I needed some peace and quiet.
The last few weeks had been hectic to say the least. I found out about my little sister’s surprise engagement and after that it was finals week. The exams that I took had been exactly like I expected: easy but long. I knew for a fact that I aced all of them, just like I always did. It was my sister’s engagement that still had me riled up and uncomfortable. My smile fell as I remembered the day I found out…
I had been waiting in the little cafe that I was supposed to meet them at. I knew that they had been dating; I just didn’t know that they were serious.
“Logan!” Ashley said as she and Jason came in through the door.
I had barely stood up to greet them before Ayesha practically jumped into my arms.
“Whoa there,” I had said. “It’s good to see you too.” My smile was easy as I looked down at her beaming face.
She was very mature looking for her 19 years. She didn’t just look mature, she was mature as well. Even though I was four years older than her we still hung around some of the same people while growing up. That was where she met Jason.
“Hey man,” Jason said to me after Ashley had let go. “It’s been way too long,” he said as he stuck out his had. He had a strange look on his face, a mixture of nerves and determination.
“I would try to come down more often but it’s a long way from Harvard, lots of work too.” I responded with a slight smile. I had always liked Jason. He had been my best friend while growing up. Our families were good friends and he was only a year younger than me so we had been close for a long time. We drifted apart when I left for college five years ago. We had tried to keep in touch but we were to busy. Me with work at Harvard and him with work at Marquette. While we grew apart he and my little sister grew closer.
“I can imagine bro,” he said while nodding in understanding. “But I’m glad you came down for spring break. There’s something that I want to tell you that’s probably better in person.”
I raised an eyebrow at this. I couldn’t imagine what they would want to tell me.
“Let’s sit then,” I said while motioning to the booth. I slid in with Jason and Ashley on the other side. He has his arm casually thrown on her shoulders.
The waitress arrived at our table to take our order. I ordered the usual black coffee. Jason had his with cream. Ashley had hers with cream and sugar. The waitress took our orders and walked away.
After she left I looked at my little sister and her boyfriend expectantly.
Jason recognized my “no bull” look then chuckled. “I know you’re not one to beat around the bush, so I’m just gonna come right out and say it.”
He took Ashley’s right hand while looking at her lovingly. It seemed so private that I might have felt uncomfortable if I wasn’t waiting for him to just say whatever it was that he wanted to say. He broke his gaze from her and looked me square in the eye. “I asked your sister to marry me. And she said yes.”
I suppose it shouldn’t have shocked me as much as it did. I hadn’t really been paying any attention to them in the last year or so. I had no idea how serious they had become. I was incredibly surprised on the inside, but on the outside I struggled to keep a calm composure. I needed to appear nonchalant. The look on my face must have told him to continue because he did.
“I did ask your father for permission.” He said while looking back at the encouraging expression on Ashley’s face. He looked me in the eye as he said the next part. “I had really wanted to tell you man, but it didn’t seem like something to ask through a text or email.”
I had to agree with him. Asking something important in such a casual way would have been inappropriate. But that still didn’t make me feel any better. I was still surprised and this whole thing was a big concept to grasp.
Jason continued his speech with the same confident tone. “So now that I can’t ask for permission I’m going to ask for your approval.” He straightened his posture. The hand that was holding Ashley’s tightened around hers. “Logan, can have your approval for your sister’s hand in marriage?”
My gaze didn’t leave his for a few seconds that felt like hours. He held strong, never breaking the eye contact. When I looked away my gaze softened from what people told me could cause the president to tremble in fear, to something that I saved for my family alone. I looked at my baby sister
with a caring look and said “are you happy?” My voice was confident and steady just as I must have looked. An appearance that I was told looked intimidating to those who didn’t know me well.
She smiled at me brightly before answering. “Yes big brother”, she beamed at me while saying “very much so.” She turned to Jason and gave him the same loving look that he gave her a few minutes ago.
I closed my eyes. The confident and intimidating shell that I had always enclosed myself in was threatening to shatter around me. I breathed through my nose before looking up with a softened look. A small smirk, that rarely appeared, graced my face. “Whatever makes you happy, Ashley.”
My face became covered by it’s usual mask as my gaze feel back to Jason. “Jason,” I started. He looked a little scared, but still determined. “You’re a good man, and I do give you my approval.” His face beamed with relief but dropped slightly when I continued speaking. “Don't screw this up.” My voice was steady and my expression in its usual, unconsciously intimidating form.
His smile never fell. “Don’t worry, man.” He looked back at my sister. “I would never.” She beamed back at him.
I looked away and leaned back in the booth in relaxed but still together manner. Crossing my arms I said “Let’s hope not.”
A bird squawking in the distance brought me out of my memory. I glanced up at the sky while driving so slow it could barely be considered that. While glancing back to the road in front of me I contemplated how the rest of my time at the little cafe had gone.
Ayesha was animatedly talking about wedding plans and plans to go shopping with some of our old friends before I left. I agreed to go without really thinking about it. I had other things on my mind. They were the same things that crossed my mind now.
Now, I sit here and I think. I think about whether or not Jason will be able to keep her happy. I think about if I made the right decision in giving them my approval. I think about how happy Ashley will be in the long run. I think about the reactions that our family and friends will have. But the biggest thing that I thought about two days ago in the cafe and sitting here now was that two of the most important people in my life were moving on and leaving me behind with only my shell.
This peaceful ride on the lone road is exactly what I needed. Being able to clear my head from all of the stress is very healing.
But it seems that my life is a constant roller coaster. I never seem to get a break. Every time things slow down enough for me to catch my breath, something happens and my life goes back to being hectic.
This drama will start as soon as I get that call from my sister. I know she must be wondering where I am right now. She and I have to go on that shopping trip with all of our old friends. The one I barely remember agreeing to.
My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. I sighed while getting it out. I smiled dryly when I saw the ID. I wasn’t an Ivy league kid for nothing.
“Big brother?” Ashley asked as soon as I put the phone to my ear. She sounded worried.
“Yes,” I answered. I held my phone to my ear and made a U turn with the other.
“Are you coming with us to the mall?” She still sounded worried, as if I would ditch her.
“Of coarse,” I said with a strong voice. “I’ll be meet you and everybody else there in 30 minutes.”
“Okay,” She answered, I could hear the smile in her voice. “I’ll see you then.”
I put my phone back in my pocket after she hung up. Still driving with one hand, I sped up to 60 MPH just to fell the familiar rush of air through my hair. At least I would get to enjoy that for the 30 minute drive back to civilization.
Driving back I though about the my friends that I was about to see. I hadn’t seen most of them for years. I usually spent my summers taking extra classes so I could finish my bachelors in three years instead of four. It was hard to see them during the small breaks that I did come home for because I would be working at the hospital with my father or I would be reading science articles for my own enjoyment. I am a very dedicated student and take my studies seriously.
I suppose that would make most people nervous, seeing friends of theirs that they hadn't seen for a long time. But, I’m not. In fact, it will probably be like old times. Our friends we cool like that. We didn’t hold grudges over those kinds of things.
The sign for the mall came into sight too soon for my liking. I wanted another few minutes to myself. After I parked my convertible I sighed. I put on my sunglasses and stepped into the warm air. It felt good against my skin.
Walking in I was immediately spotted by my friends. The girls all excitedly waved from the store that they were waiting outside of. Most of the guys looked up and nodded at me. I walked toward them with purpose in my step.
When I reached them the usual “Hey man, what’s up?” and the “how you been bro?” were exchanged between us guys. The girls smiled shyly, I nodded back at them.
The day was just like I thought it would be. I joked with my friends, just like we used to. We talked about nothing of importance, simply strolling the halls of the mall. It was a lot more fun then I would have expected to have. I felt like I was in high school again.
These were the thoughts that were going through my head, now, as I drive back to my house. I haven’t felt like that in a long time. It seems that being so caught up in my studies affected my social life more than I thought. Now that I look back, I didn’t have too many friends at Harvard either. And of the few that I had we would mostly just study together. I didn’t “go out” like I just had. I suppose part of the reason for my social inadequacies was my demenior. People were intimidated by me. It is, however, completely unintentional on my part. It has just come natural to me over the years.
My father greeted me as I walked in through the door. “Hello son,” He said while barely glancing up from his laptop.
“Hello Father” I said with a stiff nod while taking off my coat. He was doing work, obviously. That was all he ever did. As I walked up the stairs to my room I realized, I was just like my father.
Now, this isn't a bad thing. No, not at all. My father was a highly successful man. He got his MD from Harvard. He had his own practice opened up by the age of 30 and now had over 200 patients. His business was expanding. He has a beautiful house on the lake.
I was exactly like him, now more than ever, because all I did was study. Study. Work. Study. Neither of us ever had fun, or enjoyed. I can’t even remember the last time he had a day off. Even when we went on vacations he would work from his laptop. I cant remember the last day that I didn’t do something for my education. It was either reading more, working more, or practicing more.
I sit on my bed and contemplate this. I had always been told that we were similar. but now that I was in college it seems that I am more like him than I ever realized. Again this isn’t a bad thing.
We were both in shells, intimidating, stiff and confident. Both straight forward and stubborn. Most of all, when we wanted something we got it. No questions asked. We were driven.
Because of these characteristics we weren’t made for the social scene. It just wasn’t us.
The person today at the mall, I realize, wasn’t me. It was who I used to be. When I went to college I changed, not drastically, but enough. Now that I look back at my time in the mall today I see that it was fun. But it’s not what I want my life to be.
I want to do great things. I want to be good, better, best. Going away for college made me realize that I wanted different things than my friends, classmates and sister did.
My sister. As I think back to this afternoon see that she was acting just like I had: carefree and fun-loving. She was having a great time. It may not have been my scene, but it sure was hers.
She belong in that kind of setting with people and care free laughter. She belonged with belonged with friends, family and constant smiles. It was her setting and I will let her have that. I will accept her as she has accepted me.
She and Jason might be drifting away from me but, I’ll let her be happy. I’ll support them through everything. They deserve that much from me. I won’t hold them back with my usual kill-joy attitude. I won't drag them down with my shell.