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Old 07-19-2016, 10:19 AM   #26
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Xy, you regularly inspire and entertain - and we are lucky for it - I hope to never take your talents for granted

But now we have given Starling a little tiny push too - so win-win.

I figured since I was in Minneapolis today, I had to get a bit more posted, even if its the wrong season; I know its not a hearty update, but more is not too far away...
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Old 07-19-2016, 10:24 AM   #27
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Part Five: Warmer regards

Logan stood in front of Meadow with his hands on his hips in an impatient stance.

Her eyes skimmed along his body for only a moment. Does he look even thinner? Dang it...

“So?” he demanded.

“Well,” she looked down, feigning disappointment, “It wasn’t good...”

He looked at her with such pity that she couldn’t keep her straight, sad face. Her news was too exciting.

“It was great! I got a first in the 1500! I came in at 2:09, which puts me in the pack for Nationals,” she beamed.

His face lit up and without thinking he put his hand on her shoulder in congratulations. “That’s so great Meadow! Awesome!” He would have hugged her, but she was, well… Meadow. She wasn’t one of those people you could just hug.

“Thanks,” she shrugged humbly, feeling her shoulder tingle from his simple gesture. It felt really good to share her excitement with someone who understood the thrill of competition, even if she was thrown off by his well-meaning touch. “I think I may start considering the 3000 though. I came in with a solid time in that heat without really even focusing on it that much. I need to talk more to Renate about that,” she reasoned.

“Longer distance suits you,” he smiled. “When we raced, it took you a few laps, but you caught up to me and I’m pretty damn fast,” he laughed.

“That’s true, I did start kicking your ass that day,” she nodded in mock agreement.

He shook his head at her clear exaggeration, but her ego was becoming almost charming to him.

“So now you get really serious.”

“I’ve always been serious,” she smirked playfully.

Oh, yes, that ego, he just smiled. "February?"

She let out a big sigh, “Yep. I really need Renate now, she can’t come back fast enough.”

“Yeah, even I miss her,” Logan joked, although because they were forced together with no referee, he could also see how their friendlier rapport was also forced along, which seemed to melt her icy personality a bit more.

“She’s going to be really happy to see you,” Meadow blurted the words before she could pull them back.

“Why me?” he asked, tilting his head in confusion.

“Your… progress over the last few weeks,” she had to acknowledge his reduction now that she had stupidly brought it up. It was hard to be enthusiastic, as she was never good at faking positivity. And it was wrong, especially from a professional standpoint, to be anything other than encouraging of his weight loss goals. What is wrong with me?

“She’ll have to give you some credit too,” Logan felt his face getting warm. Meadow had generally avoided much talk of weight loss with him. She had mostly focused on fitness and strength development, not talk of pounds lost, which was a relief in a way. But it had left the whole reason he was doing the morning sessions mostly unspoken between.

Deep down, Meadow did not want to take credit for his shrinking body, and the irony was continuing to torment her. “You should take the most credit since you’re the one doing the work,” she deflected the praise back to him. “Getting up early every day to get bossed around by women who’ve never played hockey before in their lives… not to mention depriving yourself of everything that tastes good,” she smiled sheepishly.

“It sucks, I’ll admit it. I want nothing more than a big greasy cheeseburger,” he shook his head. She had drawn the honesty right out of him.

“I hear ya,” she smiled, trying to hide her turned on flutters and fight off images in her mind of him pigging out with reckless abandon.

“Oh right, I bet you’ve never even craved a big greasy cheeseburger,” he chuckled. “I’m sure you were raised on kale and quinoa infused whole grain organic tofu and lentil patties.”

“Shut up,” she couldn’t help but laugh at his made-up crunchy hippie meal. “I’m just like everyone else. I’d eat a big hot fudge sundae every single day if I could. I miss the hell out of pizza, onion rings and chili cheese fries and everything that tastes good, believe me.”

“Stop,” he pleaded with a big grin, rubbing his cute, but shrunken gut. “Chili cheese fries? Geez, you’re making me hungry.”

“Then it’s time to get to work,” Meadow changed the subject in an attempt to squash her fantasies of his gluttony and formerly fatter physique. With the way she was feeling about those kind of thoughts, she figured she probably needed the workout more than he did.

***

After a mid-December speed and recovery session at the Oval, Logan and Meadow sat down on the benches to take off their skates. As the Zamboni began its long slow journey around the full 400 meters, the public skating crowd was beginning to hover around, getting laced up and waiting to jump on the ice.

Meadow studied them, young and old, in all different shapes and sizes. They were just average people looking to get away from their lives for an hour or two by gliding around in circles communally rather than competitively.

“When was the last time you skated for fun?” She asked Logan, thinking about all these strangers and their carefree approach to skating. “Like, just on the ice with no coach, no practice, and no competition?”

He looked at her with confusion, puzzled by the unusually introspective question. But her face was genuine in its inquisitiveness, so he thought seriously about it for a moment. He’d been training for elite play for so long...

“Probably middle school, at Cornelia or Lewis Park... but we’d always get yelled at or kicked off for being too aggressive, so we gave up on the public ponds,” he smirked over the memories. He hadn’t thought about those days in a while. Usually the guys in the neighborhood would just informally slap a puck around or play some pickup games, until girls showed up... that’s when they’d get rambunctious and usually get asked to leave shortly thereafter. The stakes got much higher when the scouts started showing up at his U14 games and his life quickly became all training, all the time.

She smiled knowingly, thinking to herself about how much she had detested those wild hockey boys, always showing off and hacking up perfectly good ice. Logan must have definitely been one of those boys.

“What about you?” He asked in return, suspecting that she had always been training for something. Imagining her having any kind of fun at all was a bit of a stretch.

Meadow wasn’t sure, actually. “I don’t know, probably grade school,” she shrugged. The only reason the question popped into her head was that she couldn’t remember the last time she had skated for any reason other than to train or compete.

“Well, Lake of the Isles finally opened,” he mentioned nonchalantly. Logan had a nostalgic habit of paying attention to news of outdoor rink conditions around the Twin Cities. “If you want to go skate for fun, it sounds like it’s not going to be too cold this weekend.”

“Yeah?” She felt suddenly excited. Just going out to a public park rink, and skating around casually in regular winter clothes? Wait, is he asking me to go with him or just suggesting I go do it myself? Meadow’s heart rate rebounded back to cardiovascular levels.

“You wanna go there and hang out?” He asked her more pointedly. He couldn’t believe he was asking her to go with him now... it just sort of slipped out. Now he was afraid she’d think he was asking her on a date. Wait, am I asking her on a date?

“For fun?” She asked him to clarify, scared to answer affirmatively.

“No, training, I was thinking of plowing a special 400 meter track just for you,” he playfully used some sarcasm, trying to ease his own nerves.

She laughed and shook her head. He’s adorable when he’s cheeky… one more thing I should detest about him.

“The team is on winter break, and besides,” he was relieved to have suddenly remembered an objective reason to suggest the whole thing, “Renate says I also have to do outdoor exercise every weekend, so you’d be helping me stay good with her.”

“Yes, Renate is a big believer in the invigorating power of fresh air,” Meadow rolled her eyes with a loopy grin.

“I have a meeting with Coach on Sunday, so Saturday is better,” Logan suggested, not wanting to mention the fact that he had a weigh-in and fat test on Sunday as well.

“I’m giving skating lessons until 4,” she told him.

“How about 6 then? At the warming hut?” He proposed. Logan was feeling almost confident these days. He couldn’t tell if it was because his weight loss was picking up steam, or it was that Meadow had become friendly enough that he could talk to her like... well, kind of like, a friend. As long as I keep remembering that she’s not interested in me for more than that, I can be cool with her.

She nodded and smiled, “6 it is.” She was half elated, and half uneasy, feeling caught completely between the distressing possibility that he might come on to her and complicate things, or, the depressing reality that he wouldn’t ever hit on her; because he didn’t like her that way at all.
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Old 07-19-2016, 12:50 PM   #28
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What a lovely surprise - an unexpected new chapter!

Although it is a bit surreal reading about ice rinks on the so far hottest day of summer with a high of 36°C/97°F .....
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Old 07-28-2016, 06:36 PM   #29
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Christmas music was humming in the warming hut as Meadow walked in. She found Logan in a corner already getting his skates on. He was wearing a sporty blue ski jacket with jeans, looking every bit the Scandinavian hunk that he was. His chub may have been disappearing, but he was still nice and broad looking, and that was some consolation to her anyhow. He looked up to see her in front of him.

“You made it,” he smiled; she sensed relief in his grin.

“Yeah, sorry I’m a little late, lessons went long. Parents like to talk a lot about their kids after classes,” she rolled her eyes in explanation to mask her nervous feelings. She had hustled back to her place quickly to shower and change, but found herself taking extra time to put makeup on and style her hair into a sleeker, high ponytail that would look nice with her lavender headband. But she really didn’t care for the butterflies that had been brewing in her stomach the whole afternoon.

Logan could see something was different with Meadow. She looked really pretty... well, she always looked really pretty... But this was the first time he’d seen her not wearing her usual workout gear or skating tights. She had on denim leggings with a purple form fitting puffer jacket; and her face was made up. She looked more like a girly girl than a jock.

Something else was different too; her demeanor and body language were sort of apprehensive, or maybe even a little anxious. Nothing like the confident strut she displayed in the gym, or while training on the ice. Odd... kind of cute, but odd...

“I brought my figure skates,” she held them up to show him she was capable of having fun.

“I don’t have any of those,” he laughed, “but I’ve got plenty of these bad boys,” he pointed the worn looking pair of Eastons on his feet.

“Those look like they’ve been around for a few games,” she nodded, feeling her nerves settle down a little in conversation.

“My dad spent a thousand bucks on this pair alone, so I feel like I have to find excuses to wear them even though they’re about cashed,” he explained.

“Yeah, I get that,” Meadow knew all too well the massive investment in having elite equipment. Her favorite pair of custom clap skates were almost two grand.

They headed out onto the ice. On one section, some 30-something hockey dads were playing pickup games. Nearby, families and coupled teenagers were making their way around the plowed oval, while a few fitness skaters zipped past them as well. In the middle, a handful of wannabe figure skaters were trying to twirl and launch some unconvincing loop jumps.

“Looks like a real game breaking out over there. You should join in and see if you can help,” Meadow pointed to the unsuspecting weekend warriors between the nets.

Logan shook his head with a knowing grin, “My game may be a bit off, but can you imagine?”

“Those poor guys wouldn’t know what hit them,” Meadow laughed.

“Kind of like what you would do to those guys doing laps over there,” Logan teased her.

“How about we just hang around the figure skaters?” Meadow suggested, feeling like that was neutral territory. Well… she could probably still pull off some spins and jumps, so it was not entirely fair, but she was out of practice enough to justify the idea.

“Sure,” he shrugged and smiled in agreement.

Meadow gently glided alongside Logan, feeling her way back into the fluidity of figure skates with some gentle crossovers, turns, and then a couple of short spins. It felt kind of fun to use those old toe picks again, and just loosen up and enjoy the ice. Her confidence was coming back; as it always did with skates on her feet.

She started feeling nostalgic and wanted to test her old skills. She sped up past him and landed a double loop jump, which felt good, and actually calming. Figure skating had been left happily behind her several years ago, but it was reassuring to know she still had a few of those skills still in her arsenal.

After her land, though, there was an odd silence. Meadow turned to look at Logan, whose face was stunned, as were a couple of the other curious skaters who were watching nearby.

“What was all that?” A surprised smile crept over his face.

“What was all what?” Meadow grinned sheepishly back at him.

“Those were some moves, girl,” he was still wide eyed.

“Renate never told you that I used to be a figure skater?” She tilted her head in mock obliviousness.

“No, she didn’t, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; next you’ll tell me you’re also secretly a brilliant hockey player too,” he teased her.

“It’s no big deal, I bet you could do half of the standard moves without even thinking about it; just takes some stability and confidence, and you’ve got loads of that,” she complimented him.

Logan smiled humbly, and admitted, “Actually, when I was in middle school, my coach’s wife had been a competitive figure skater. She worked with our team a lot on skating technique, so I learned a few graceful moves,” he winked. “But what she really showed us was how to control the edges more, and you know, keep the body aligned for power; make better use of shoulders when turning fast, and stuff like that. It really helped set me on track to be a better skater.”

“Yes, exactly,” Meadow smiled widely, excited by what he was saying. So few people understood that many of the nuances and biomechanics of skating were common regardless of sport. Sure, the rules, equipment and body types were all completely different, but the points of power and control on blades were similar in a lot of ways.

As they skated around together, she observed how big and gorgeous his rear looked in jeans. In looser gym clothes or athletic pants, a lot of his muscles and beefier parts were vaguely thick and jock-like. But somehow, the tightness of the denim really showed off how huge his thighs and glutes actually were. Just imagine those legs squeezing around me... with my hands on that ass... and if he put some weight back on...

She tried to pull herself back together by concentrating on skating, and threw a couple more figure skating moves at him. But then Logan really impressed her with a few freestyle maneuvers and trick stops... and then he performed a flawless grapevine.

“Holy shit, Logan!” Meadow exclaimed, “You’re a complete ringer!”

“Just hotdog stuff you pick up hanging out on the ice a lot,” he shrugged, thoroughly enjoying her praise but trying to be cool about it. “Sometimes you need a little friendly competition when you’re waiting around for practices, or warmups, or whatever. The key is the right sharpening.”

She loved getting into the dirty details of skates, “What radius do you sharpen to?”

“I’m a big guy, and I have a lot of control, so I go pretty shallow,” he explained, “I get more glide than bite but it works for my size and skating style.”

“These were sharpened deep,” she explained. “You know, for the tight turns and landings, back when speed wasn’t as important as control.”

“Weighing half of what I do makes a difference too,” he joked.

Those words made Meadow feel incredibly sexy next to him. She was absurdly excited by the fact that his blades were tailored to his heaviness. Time to change the subject again, she fought off those thoughts.

“Well, speed skates are like… egalitarian; they’re just nice and flat for everyone, no matter what size you are... Now show me the grapevine move again?” she was still astounded by how gracefully he moved.

Logan broke down the moves to her again, but she kept giving it too much toe pick to master the flow and rhythm, so he stood behind her, trying to talk her though the footwork. Just as he used his hand to support her side, Meadow’s skate slipped in between his blade and tangled up with it, causing her to fall on top of him. Her hand landed on one of his chubby sides to brace for the fall and instinctively she gripped into a softness that she could feel right through his coat. She found herself hanging on a second longer than she knew she should have.

“So, do you have any magic training secrets to get rid of love handles?” he acknowledged her obvious encounter with his remaining side flab, trying to make light of it. He hopped up and held his hand out to help her back up.

“You don’t have to lose those, do you?” she blurted, wishing that instant she could take those words back.

“What?” Logan wasn’t sure he heard correctly, instinctively putting his hands on his waist to try and cover them up. Did she just say what I think she said?

Her face felt hot. “I mean,” she stammered, “You know, they give you, like... character?” She averted her eyes down and spent an extra few seconds brushing the ice shavings off her leggings to avoid looking at him.

“Fat character,” he made a frustrated face. How weird of her to say that. Those damn things have always been the nagging reason my body fat is never low enough for my coaches. She should know that much.

“You can only build so much muscle before you lose agility. Wouldn’t a little extra weight sometimes give you the edge in checking?” she tried to weasel more around her words, since he wasn’t letting go of it.

“Nope, only the taller guys get away with it,” he explained with a sulky frustration. “The refs give them a pass, but they always penalize the fat guy.”

“But you’re the enforcer,” Meadow joked with a wry smile, now trying to compliment his toughness so he didn’t think she was insulting him about his weight.

“Well, too much time in the sin bin makes Coach crazy,” Logan tried to force a joke and a smile in return, but he was still shocked by the feeling of her hand grabbing into his flab and then her making that odd comment.

Then Meadow made what was becoming a recurring mental mistake: thinking about Logan in her sin bin. She couldn’t stop indecent thoughts like that from circulating in her head when she was around him, especially after feeling that sexy little bit of chub along his side.

At this point, she didn’t care if he got all the way down to 200, went back up to 300, or became completely, magnificently obese; or hell, just about anywhere in between. She could only think about how nice he would feel in her bed, intertwined with his broad strength and body heat bearing down on her. And oh, grabbing onto that big butt and those sturdy, broad sides.

Meadow shivered over these thoughts, prompting Logan to conclude that the evening was over. “You’re getting cold. We should pack it up.”

“There’s a good café over on Lyndale, if you’re hungry,” she mentioned, feeling hungry herself and not quite wanting the evening to be over just because she screwed up.

He looked at her with trepidation, “Am I supposed to be eating this late?”

“Did you eat any dinner yet tonight?” She asked him pointedly.

“Not really,” he cautiously told her, having felt too anxious about meeting up with her to eat anything, which was pretty rare for him. Besides, he was also trying to coast strategically into the pre-holiday weigh-in and body fat test that he faced the next morning.

“Well neither did I, so, let’s go,” Meadow was now famished, so she knew he must be feeling hungry too.
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Old 07-30-2016, 08:48 PM   #30
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OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod...... another absolutely fabulous chapter!!!! You have so lightly, gracefully, yet completely accurately captured the inner voice and hesitation of both Logan and Meadow, who should be 'an item' but haven't quite figured that out yet.

There are so many great lines in this chapter - I am so impressed. I especially liked "looking every bit the Scandinavian hunk that he was"and "She was absurdly excited by the fact that his blades were tailored to his heaviness."

Thanks again for keeping on with this story.

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Old 07-31-2016, 04:47 AM   #31
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Perfection.
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Old 07-31-2016, 04:48 AM   #32
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Simply perfection.
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Old 07-31-2016, 09:35 PM   #33
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Really great progress! I love how believable their growing friendship/romance is.
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Old 08-12-2016, 11:48 AM   #34
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“Logan!” Renate exclaimed, hugging him. She hadn’t seen him in more than two months. “You’re almost there, wow!”

“Well, not quite,” he half smiled, instinctively looking down at himself and rubbing his hand across the bit of softness still lingering on his torso. He was now hovering around 245, same as his previous year’s playing weight, although he definitely packed more muscle into that number now. Just 20 more fat pounds to go and he’d be back on the team. Getting his body fat down under 12% would be the Holy Grail to finally shut his coaches and team mates up once and for all. But the last 20 are always the toughest…

“You’ve worked hard. Be proud,” she patted him on the back.

“I just don’t know how long I can keep it up,” he admitted, grateful Meadow wasn’t around yet to hear him express his insecurities. Renate had been the one person he felt he could share his self-doubt with. He may have come far with Meadow, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell her how afraid he was of failure, or worse, how much power food continued to have over him.

“You don’t have to do it forever. You give it everything you have for only as long as you want to play hockey at this level,” Renate explained to him. “After that you can have your body back.”

“What?” He thought he understood her words, but no one had ever really talked to him about any ending to the pressure and constant vigilance.

“When you are a competitive athlete, Logan, you have agreed to give your body over to something else. You focus it entirely on your goals, and squeeze every last piece of pride, glory or money that you can from it. Then, once that’s done, you get your body back,” Renate enlightened him.

“I never thought about it that way,” Logan nodded.

“That got me through those days when my body ached, and I was so sick of racing around and around, with the smallest chance of ever getting a medal. But I surrendered myself to that goal. Once I got the medal, I decided that’s it, it’s all mine again,” she wrapped her arms around her still very muscular body.

He nodded more, finding her words oddly comforting.

“That day will come for you too. But you have this gift, and this very short space in time that your body can use it. Surrender yourself to it, and when you are done, whether it’s injury, age or you’re just bored, you’ll know you’re done, and you can have it back.”

“So that’s when I get to eat a whole rack of barbecue ribs again?” He was only half-joking.

Renate laughed and shook her head, “For me it was pastries. As soon as I got home from Nagano, I went to my favorite bakery in Heerenveen and bought a whole boxful of them.”

Logan laughed with her, “Yeah, I like that stuff way too much too.”

“Like what way too much?” Meadow had just walked in on their conversation.

“Gebakjes,” Renate hugged Meadow. “Oh, and I ate oliebollen and speculaasstaaf on Christmas,” Renate cooed, grinning from ear to ear. She was in good spirits about her time spent back at home, as her father was now in remission and his health had rebounded beyond expectations.

“Ugh, stop talking about Dutch pastries,” Meadow crossed her arms and sulked, knowing there would be no big sweets or baked treats in her coming months of training.

Logan was lost. He didn’t understand a thing they were saying but it was amusing to hear them be human enough to get excited over some delicious and forbidden carbs that he had never heard of before.

He still felt uneasy around Meadow though, having been pretty confused about her since that night they went skating before winter break. He should never have agreed to go out to eat with her, it was too weird. As soon as she suggested it, he felt a wave of anxiety come over him, but Meadow insisted. Why did she order all that food? And that comment about my love handles? Was she trying to mess with my head?

He just didn’t know what to make of her split personality. In the mornings while training, she was tough, serious and straightforward, treating him mostly like a client with a goal. Occasionally they might joke around like friends, but she always strutted around the gym with confidence and didn’t seem afraid to dig in and show him how to do things her way.

Yet these moments of vulnerability would show up in her, where she seemed less assured and maybe a little timid. Like the way she was at Lake of the Isles... while she was skating on the ice, she was mostly that confident Meadow; but once her skates came off, she became hesitant, harder to relate to, and impossible to read.

Logan thought about her a lot over the holidays, which made him even crazier. The upshot was that every time her face popped in his head, his appetite vanished. He lost ten pounds over the holiday break, which was faster than he had ever lost weight before in his life.

For her part, Meadow had been agonizing about the way that night had ended. It was the last time they saw each other before she headed up to her parents for Christmas, and she obsessed over what went wrong throughout her entire time away. She tried so hard to be normal with him... or what she thought was normal anyway, but she was terrible at being normal, she knew that much. In fact, there was nothing normal about either one of them, nor the situation they were in.

In hindsight, the more she thought about it, things did get extra weird between them after she slipped up and grabbed onto one of his cute, chubby flanks. But was it that big of a deal? His body had belonged to teams and coaches for years. How could he possibly be that sensitive about the meager amount of fat left on his body? I even tried to compliment him, for crying out loud.

He had been so peculiar about eating dinner too. She tried to order healthy things for them to share, but he didn’t say or eat much of anything. Instead, he pushed for a quick end to the meal. What had started as a fun evening, ended with her feeling like she had been defeated. I don’t do friendships or dates, she reminded herself. Why did I let myself even start to think that way?

When she saw Logan again after their return from the break, Meadow was stunned to see how much more weight Logan had lost. She was truly torn up inside, not knowing what to say to him about it, or whether to just ignore it. How could she congratulate him? It was success to their whole plan, but she didn’t want to give him the message that she thought he was now a better or more attractive person. She couldn’t resolve these conflicting ideas in her head to save her life.

“It looks like you two are getting along more nicely,” Renate noticed that despite their recent clumsy mutual tension, things were generally more congenial between her two pupils than they had been when she left the country two months before.

Meadow looked at Logan and gave him a mock insulted face and then winked at him with a smirk. He feigned an offended look back at her, but couldn’t keep his straight face from softening to an amused smile. This playful, yet unspoken banter was some relief to both of them.

“Yes, this is good. We make more progress when we get along,” Renate acknowledged their obvious improved regard for each other.


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Old 08-12-2016, 11:49 AM   #35
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“So, we are better friends?” Renate raised a suspicious eyebrow to Meadow once they were in the ladies locker room.

“Yeah,” Meadow said nonchalantly, trying to play it off like he didn’t matter to her that much, but it made her feel a little guilty because he mattered to her more than ever.

“Your face is different when you look at him now,” Renate paused with a curious smile. “Do you... like him?” Renate emphasized the word ‘like.’

Meadow just shrugged and looked away. She had no idea how to lie to Renate, so saying nothing at all was so much easier.

“He is looking so handsome,” Renate started to say with a sigh in her voice.

“I don’t care about that,” Meadow snapped back with impatience, hating the insinuation that Logan was suddenly dating material because he was now about fifty pounds lighter than when he’d first shown up in their lives last September.

“Why are you being so prickly about it then? You two seem to get on fine,” Renate was confused.

Meadow sighed, now unable to stop herself from spilling the news that they’d gotten together socially. “We went skating at Lake of the Isles last month, the Saturday before Christmas, just for fun.”

“What? Like a date?” Renate exclaimed, now with disbelief in her voice.

“No! Not quite like that,” Meadow tried to deny anything romantic, but she could feel her guilty face fighting a fine line between platonic friendship and the possibility of something more.

“Oh Meisje,” Renate’s eyes widened, clearly seeing the uncertainty in her tone.

“I mean, it was like, only hanging out, no big deal. But then we grabbed a bite to eat, and he started to seem really uncomfortable. It was weird...” she sputtered through the chronology of the evening. The confusion of it all had been rolling around inside her head for nearly a month now.

“He was probably afraid you were counting every calorie he consumed,” Renate suggested with a smirky grin, making light of his diet issues.

“No, I wasn’t though,” Meadow didn’t see the humor in it. “We went to that vegan place over on Lyndale; so nothing processed or greasy... I was offering him different things to try and he just got really quiet and distant. He told me he was tired… then he walked me back to my car and that was it,” Meadow reported the anti-climactic events. “It wasn’t a date at all, but it seemed to end really weird… I don’t know.”

“So he was tired... maybe cutting back on calories makes him cranky at night,” Renate grasped for more explanation.

“He doesn’t need to lose too much more, so I don’t know why he needs to cut back so much that it makes him cranky,” Meadow was now venting her frustration.

Renate just looked at Meadow blankly.

“I mean he’s got to eat something, he can’t train very well in starvation mode, you know that,” Meadow continued her rant. “I’ve never said anything at all about what and how he should eat anyway, so I don’t get it.”

“You of all people know how everything you put into your body affects competition, and he has a lot on the line right now,” Renate now seemed almost upset with Meadow. “We also know that he has a hard time shedding caloric intake, so stop being so sensitive about it.”

Meadow knew Renate was right, and that she was really venting frustration about something buried way deeper in her feelings for Logan. She had originally hoped that he would lose weight fast so he would become less attractive to her. She needed him to be the conceited jock asshole she expected him to be, making it easier to detach herself from any romantic feelings. But that plan backfired, and now she was falling for him, in spite of his leaner body, because he was a person she truly admired from the inside out.
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Old 08-12-2016, 11:52 AM   #36
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One night after practice in late January, Coach Mike met with Logan.

“Man of Steel,” he patted Logan on the back.

Logan smiled humbly, wanting more than ever to put the whole red shirt episode behind him.

“I was a little skeptical myself that a woman’s speed skating coach was the answer for you, but I have to admit, Renate and her training team have really helped you shed the bulk and get your edge back,” Coach smiled triumphantly.

“She’s pretty good,” Logan admitted, deciding not to talk too much about Meadow’s influence too, as that was more complicated. He now had a whole new respect for both her sport and her gender, but he wasn’t going to elaborate on it with Coach Mike. It was always better not to say much and just nod when Coach was talking to you.

“I almost wish I could change the rules and get you into these games now,” Coach smiled, “In practice you’re performing even stronger than you did last year, before all this weight business got out of control. The way I’m seeing things right now, you keep this up and have a strong off-season, and you may be our best defensive weapon on the team going into next season.”

“The hip feels really good too, which helps,” Logan rubbed along his flexor, knowing full well that his injury was a bigger issue for him last year than his weight. His ‘summer run amok’ in Denver did him no favors, but he was realizing, especially with what he learned from Renate and Meadow, that the hours of chronic pedaling on the exercise bike to try to lose weight probably worsened his injury. And all that time, his weight issues became the scapegoat for injury-related performance issues. Deep down inside he seethed about it, but at least now he knew more about how to balance the demands on his body in a healthier way.

How Meadow had become so important to him he could hardly understand, but she had. It was pretty corny to admit out loud, but getting up in the morning was much easier these days because he looked forward to starting the day with her. Actually looking forward to early morning workouts was an incredibly new and odd feeling. But everything hurt less now too, and his body felt more resilient. His weight loss had to happen so he could compete again, that was an imperative; but that wasn’t what was making him feel happy. Meadow was making him feel happy.

The problem now was how to stop having feelings for her. No matter how much I like her, she doesn’t feel the same way. He still felt terrible about how their evening at Lake of the Isles went. Once the food showed up at the table he couldn’t eat in front of her. It was like an Abbey flashback all over again. Meadow wasn’t like Abbey though. Meadow all but praised his stupid, stubborn side fat, and then ordered a bunch of food, encouraging him to eat. Why the hell did I agree to go out with her afterwards? I was such a tool. But Logan didn’t know how to explain this to her. It was too personal, and too embarrassing.

***

With Nationals just two weeks away and another taper looming, Renate wanted Meadow to focus at the Oval on starting strategies. She asked Logan to skate alongside her, knowing that would push her a little farther. He happily agreed to assist, beginning to enjoy bundling up in layers of fleece and skating distances with her in the crisp winter air. It was definitely better than being holed up in a dreary gym.

With their gloved hands draped over the barrier, they awaited clean, glossy ice.

“Always waiting on the Zamboni,” he muttered, filling the quiet air with conversation.

“Ugh, yes, always,” she laughed.

“I’m sorry we were jerks to you at the Mariucci,” Logan turned to face her, still feeling badly about the way his teammates had objectified her a couple of years back.

“You don’t have to apologize. You never said anything to me,” Meadow sighed. “Although you did give me some pretty condescending looks when I’d try to ignore your friend.”

Logan felt guilty about that. He had remembered it well, but was still surprised she had too. He looked into her eyes and shook his head, “That was just protection.”

“Protection?” Meadow did not understand what he meant by that. Protection against what? What did a hockey jock like him need protection against?

“You know, all the cake eater stuff, the fat jokes, harsh comments from fans during games... all the shit I’ve taken... even the ‘pretty boy’ chirping,” he sputtered out, feeling like he owed her a little more honesty. “Acting like I’m above everything and everyone is how I sometimes get through that kind of crap. It became who I was for a while, and I guess I kind of did it to you too.”

“You really don’t have to apologize,” Meadow repeated, now feeling empathy for what he must have had to endure. She was touched by his openness about it too, as he clearly didn’t like to expose any weakness. “At least you have an excuse for it. I’m not even sure why I am the way I am.”

“The way you are?” He raised an eyebrow.

“I know I can be cold,” she almost whispered, kicking her skate up against the barrier, feeling her own guilt over how she had treated him last fall. “I’ve always just assumed that every guy is a big jerk until they prove me wrong.”

“Have I proven you wrong?” Logan gave her an uneasy smirk, only half wanting an honest answer, fearing a negative response.

Meadow smiled at him and nodded, “Yeah, I thought you were going to be horrible... a real prima donna hockey star jock.”

He smiled, shaking his head, “And here I just assumed you looked down on me for letting myself get so out of shape,” he admitted, now looking her in the eye.

Meadow just looked back into his eyes, not knowing what to say. She was thinking a million complicated things about what she felt about him: his body, his strength and resilience, but didn’t have the right words to convey them. “No-,” she started to choke out.

“Let’s go,” Renate came over, abruptly interrupting Meadow’s distressed plea, and sending them both out on the ice with no further conversation to be had on the subject.

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Old 08-12-2016, 01:44 PM   #37
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*squeals* not fair!
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Old 08-13-2016, 06:45 AM   #38
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I am with Xyantha... Not fair to leave such a cliff hanger. I will pouting now...
Great story. Very believable
Thank you
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Old 08-14-2016, 01:28 AM   #39
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And of all things you forgot Borstplaat - my very favorite Sinterklaas candy, resembles a kind of vanilla-caramelly or chocolaty maple candy !

Great chapter, I love how convincing you portray navigating the insecurities and psychological pitfalls of young adulthood; how difficult growing out of the constraints of peer pressure is.
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Old 08-18-2016, 07:57 PM   #40
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I've been lurking on this story and Ashley, you never fail to create amazing relationships and worlds. I love how convincingly their relationship evolves and all the little details and bits of back story we find out about these two SO. DAMN. MUCH.
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Old 08-22-2016, 05:42 AM   #41
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This is such a wonderfully enjoyable story - I am so rooting for both characters! I'm so excited to see what happens next!
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Old 08-23-2016, 12:53 PM   #42
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I wish I could rep you again and again, ashblonde, but the system says 'not yet'......

Another great chapter!
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Old 08-29-2016, 11:38 AM   #43
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Part Six: Spring Heat

Meadow could sense victory brewing in her legs as she swiftly passed her opponent in the final lap. She felt so powerful, visualizing her whole body cutting through the ice with sharp, hot blades. She took the last turn with ever shred of energy that she’d been trained to reserve, pouring it on at the moment she most needed it. Winning was happening inside of her before she ever crossed the line.

Only then did she actually hear the crowd noise. When it was over, and she saw her time, her heart nearly pushed itself right out of her chest. She knew right then that it was enough to qualify for the national team, and take the next step in elite skating.

Her eyes found Renate and within seconds they embraced, hugging each other tightly, tears coming from both of their eyes. But her pounding heart almost stopped when her eyes landed on Logan’s.

“Look who I found,” Renate winked at Meadow.

“You came?” Her face turned from a triumphant satisfaction to a more stunned excitement.

Logan bent down to give her a light hug, “Congratulations, Meadow,” he told her in her ear.

Without thinking, she pulled him in and embraced his whole body like she hadn’t ever before, instinctively kissing him on the cheek. “I can’t believe you came,” she responded in an almost hoarse voice.

“I took the overnight bus and got out just ahead of the storm,” he blushed from her embrace and grinned.

“Really?” Meadow actually felt humbled that he made that long trip just to see her compete; and humility wasn’t a common emotion for her to feel.

“You were unbelievable out there; you really rise to competition, don’t you?” He had seen her skate well enough many times in their training, but he was still pretty impressed with the incredible velocity she had packed inside her amazing little body when the stakes were higher.

“It’s in her blood,” Renate nodded with pride. “Johanna will be so excited... and your parents will be so proud... you need to call them right away.” Another February blizzard had immobilized northern Minnesota, blocking roads south to the Twin Cities and preventing her parents from traveling to the competition.

“I will, in a minute,” Meadow rested her hands on her hips, still winded by pure joy as much as the intensity of the race. She looked again at Logan, astounded he had made the effort to get ahead of the southern tail of that snow storm; and then all the way down to the Pettit in time for her race. She wanted to talk to him, hug him more, and really give him a massive, sexy kiss on the lips, but a crowd was forming around her, including coaches from the US Team.

Logan leaned over to her and softly told her in her ear, “Looks like you have to talk to some important people, and probably give a couple of interviews. Be modest yet optimistic... let Renate guide you.” He couldn’t help but coach her through these things a little, as he’d had experience with winning in the public eye. “I’ll wait outside… just enjoy this,” he smiled with a wink, patting her shoulder.

“I’m just so glad you came,” she brushed her hand along his arm. Those same words were all she could think to say to him before Renate pulled her into an intense discussion with a US team coach.

Meadow was having a hard time focusing on the conversation, though. Renate did most of the talking, while Meadow absorbed what she could, but her brain lifted into a big, fluffy, overwhelmed cloud. The instant she saw Logan’s proud smile after the race, she knew she was in love with him. She had to admit that to herself, if not to anyone else. It may have been her winning euphoria that cleared her head just enough to finally and fully acknowledge it, but she could no longer convince herself that it was possible to fight her way past these feelings.

Logan sat out in the far corner of the lobby, away from the crowds inside. I guess it was okay for me to come, he smiled to himself, having wrestled with whether he should stay back home and not interfere with her big day. She looked so beautiful after the race, he thought. She was sexy in victory, confidently taking off her hood, shaking out her hair... all sweaty and glowing from her success.

He couldn’t help but feel encouraged by her reaction when she saw him, seeming genuinely happy he was there. She hugged him so tightly and even kissed him on the cheek. Is it remotely possible that she could like me as more than a friend? Coming off a race like that, winners are always full of joy and love for everyone they see; he knew that feeling well enough. Maybe that was all her reaction was, just general happiness rubbing off on whomever was around her.

He folded his arms firmly across his body. They no longer rested on a fat belly though; at least that albatross had pretty much disappeared. He was now just ten pounds away from his freshman year starting weight, with abs finally emerging through the flab that had previously lounged around his torso. I guess it’s possible she could be less disgusted by me now that I don’t look like an overstuffed glutton anymore. But, I have got to stop thinking there’s anything more than friendship there; that’s just plain dumb.

Logan distracted himself by catching up with sports news and hockey blogs on his phone to escape his itching thoughts of Meadow. Nearly an hour had passed when she finally came out with Renate and sat down next to him.

“Hi there,” Meadow’s face was bright and smiling at him, still maintaining that celebratory glow. She had showered and fixed her hair in a cute braid; and she had a tiny bit of sparkly makeup on her eyelids too, just like that night they skated at Lake of the Isles.

Now Logan was even more worried about how he felt about her. It was actually becoming dangerous. At one time he had taken pleasure in objectifying her, thinking of her as a one-dimensional mean girl with no heart... just a pretty face and a hot body that he could entertain dirty thoughts about. How was it that in just a few months’ time, she had become such a completely different person to him?

“Hey,” he sat up and smiled casually, trying to set those thoughts aside, “So now you’re in the big leagues?”

“It seemed like it took forever to get here. All of the training over the last few years... and now all of a sudden, I’m going to be competing internationally? Traveling to new cities every few weeks next winter?” Meadow was in a daze.

“She may go to World Cup events later this year,” Renate beamed with pride. “We’ll spend some weeks in Leeuwarden with your Tante too. She’s a much tougher coach than I am. She’ll make you do more cycling training too.”

Meadow smiled and nodded, knowing how lucky she was to have the family ties that helped her learn from the best.

“And by then you’ll be winning games at all the Big Ten arenas,” Renate reminded Logan of his destiny in getting back on his team.

“I’ll be spending more time here in Milwaukee,” Meadow blurted, now conflicted about the changes awaiting her. She felt incredibly alive and excited by the opportunity that had opened up to her within the span of a few minutes in competition. Yet she knew that Logan had a very different mission ahead of him. “They want me to move here this summer to train full time,” she informed him more, her stomach flipping.

Logan nodded and tried to smile, hiding his sinking feelings. He knew that their morning training sessions wouldn’t last forever, but this news still stung anyway. He forgot how quickly things could change. Why does everything good come to an end?

“Logan, you could come work with us over the summer. I know you have concerns about the off season, and we can help you here. Coach Mike is a fan of mine now,” Renate laughed, with a wink. “He would trust us to keep an eye on you.”

Logan’s heart lifted. Maybe things don’t have to end just yet? But is it a good idea to continue to be around Meadow? She’s been so good for my goals but it could all go very wrong… just as long as I don’t fall…

“Do you want me to talk to him?” Renate asked him, cutting off his dangerous thoughts.

“Sure,” Logan shrugged and smiled nonchalantly, hiding his rattled emotions. He knew logically that it was a good idea. He needed stability this summer to maintain his weight and conditioning. Maybe it would all be okay. And maybe Renate staying a part of their training would continue to keep him safe from saying or doing something stupid around Meadow.

Meadow nodded with a smile to reassure him it was a good idea. But as usual, Logan’s continued presence in her life inspired both thrill and terror inside of her, waging an epic battle that just wouldn’t go away.
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Old 08-29-2016, 11:40 AM   #44
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On their drive back up to Minneapolis, Renate cornered Meadow about her feelings for Logan.

“Was it good or not that I invited Logan to train with us this summer?” Renate asked Meadow.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Meadow was, as always, trying to hide any emotion about all things Logan.

“He seemed disappointed when you told him about your plans in Milwaukee this summer,” Renate explained. “And I really think he’s helped your training almost as much as you’ve helped his.”

“You think?” Meadow probed Renate’s observation with curiosity.

“Yes, of course,” her coach sort of laughed, as if Meadow was the last person in the world to have figured that out. “All the while he was working hard to satisfy you, you were working hard to beat him.”

Meadow silently processed Renate’s words. She’d always felt that she was the leader in their training dynamic; she had the education and experience anyway.

“You were giving me the same practice times for nearly a year before Logan showed up. Since training with him began, you’ve shaved a lot off those times,” Renate explained. “You don’t realize that?”

“I guess so,” Meadow murmured.

“You’ve gotten a lot better on starts and distance times; that wasn’t a coincidence,” Renate argued.

She nodded without objection. He has been good for me, hasn’t he? And here I thought he was screwing my training up. One more reason to need him in my life, damn it.

“But now I’m also worried that having him around may make things more complicated for both of you,” Renate was reading her mind.

“What do you mean?” Meadow tried to play stupid.

“Do you love him, Meisje?” Renate asked gravely, keeping her eyes on the road.

Meadow was frozen and scared. Could she really admit it to another soul? It would make it really true, if she finally acknowledged out loud. She was so afraid to say it, and let it be real.

“You do,” she had clearly seen it all over Meadow’s face when Logan surprised her by coming down to Milwaukee. A big sigh escaped Renate’s body and she shook her head in obvious disappointment.

Meadow could not suppress her emotions anymore, no matter how hard she tried. But she was also confused by Renate’s gloomy tone. Her coach had been pleased with their growing friendship a few weeks ago, and at times, even encouraging Meadow to find Logan attractive. Why was she distraught by it all now?

Renate continued, “I just worry about him.”

“What?” Meadow was now a little insulted. What about me? What about my heart? Why doesn’t she want to protect me from this insane leap of judgement? Why is Logan the one she’s worried about?

“Meadow,” Renate spoke soberly, glancing over briefly from the steering wheel, “It will not last.”

Meadow grew angrier, no longer caring whether Renate knew her true feelings. “Why?” she demanded.

“You have fallen for him now that his fat is gone,” she spoke plainly.

“What? No!” was all the response she could muster, feeling once again the pain of being an eternal romance misfit.

“He will be fat again,” Renate glanced back at Meadow, emphasizing the word ‘will’ with her tone.

Meadow was screaming on the inside, I hope he will be fat again! Please, God, let him be fat again!

She continued, oblivious to Meadow’s desires, “He’s confided in me, about his weight and eating problems... this has been a lifelong struggle for him.”

“I know,” Meadow agreed begrudgingly, now loathing herself for taking such pleasure in what clearly caused a lot of grief for him in his life.

“While he has hockey, he has a chance to stay lean. But even if he lasts through the next season and is lucky enough to get picked up with a professional team, I don’t think it will be too long... that hip injury has been a problem for him for years now, and it won’t go away, especially as the game gets really rough.”

Meadow felt badly for Logan on that issue, knowing full well how devastating an injury is for any athlete. And the chronic ones were like a time bomb just waiting to go off at the next slightest hit or fall. College hockey was a more controlled game; but pro hockey, especially the minors, has a ferocity that could decimate any vulnerability. Logan’s hip flexor would never be completely safe from catastrophic injury; and that would undoubtedly sideline him for good.

“Once he’s done,” Renate sighed and explained, “when he’s not working out and training two or three hours every single day, he’ll gain it all back. You even said it yourself once, Logan is naturally overweight. If you expect him to stay as hard as he is now, you will be let down,” Renate spelled it out for Meadow.

“I won’t be, I don’t...” Meadow continued to sputter, trying to pull her uncomfortable defense together. “I didn’t just start liking him because he lost weight, that’s not how I am.”

“You say that now, but what if he becomes obese, Meadow? I know you. You are a perfectionist. You will not be able to hide your disappointment,” Renate was pushing the issue hard. “It will devastate him if he can’t meet your high standards.”

How could Meadow explain how wrong her coach was? Could Renate ever understand that she looked forward to a day that Logan could be himself and soften charmingly up into his natural body? When he could even become obese, or whatever weight that he might progressively fall into? Meadow swallowed, feeling her whole body clench up, caught between embarrassment, frustration and desire. She hated being stuck in the car where she couldn’t just make some smart ass comment and walk away from it.

“You don’t understand, Renate, I am fine with... I like... I’m actually...I...”

Renate interrupted her stuttering with impatience, “What are you trying to say, Meisje?”

Meadow paused, took a deep breath and started over. “You assume my standards... you think you know what I want, or what I expect, but you’re wrong,” she finally protested. “I actually like bigger guys,” she said loudly, and then brought her tone down to almost a whisper, “like Logan was before.”

She turned her hot face way toward the passenger window, fearing Renate’s reaction to something so unorthodox to their athletic way of life.

Renate was just silent, apparently taking it all in.

“Do you remember Tim?” Meadow asked Renate, groping for something more concrete to explain her preference.

“I never met Tim,” Renate was still seeming to process what Meadow was trying to convey to her.

“Well, he was kind of...chubby, or whatever... and I liked that about him,” Meadow spoke apprehensively.

“He was?” Renate was surprised.

“Yeah,” Meadow nodded.

“So you are more flexible than I thought,” Renate’s concern now melted into a curious smile.

“Maybe? I don’t know,” she sighed. “I do know I don’t really get excited for cocky guys with six-pack abs,” she smirked.

“What is this six pack thing? I know what it’s supposed to describe, but I never understood this saying, what is a six-pack?” Renate asked Meadow.

Meadow now giggled at Renate’s confusion. Sometimes an English euphemism came up that Renate demanded an explanation about. Meadow sat up, lifted up her sweater, and flexed her toned middle to illustrate. “Where the tendons cross the abs,” she spread her fingers along the grooves of her well-developed abdominal muscles. “It looks like beer cans lined up in a pack.”

Renate glanced down at Meadow’s ripped torso and let out a loud laugh, nodding, “Ah, now I understand.”

“I don’t know, Renate,” Meadow pushed her sweater back down with a sigh, returning to the uneasiness of her love life, or lack thereof. “I’ve tried to keep him out of my thoughts since day one. I didn’t want to feel anything for him, I really didn’t.” She had now completely relinquished her long held secret, feeling it evaporate into thin air.

Renate nodded with a small laugh, “You did try hard to push him away.”

“It’s hopeless... I don’t know what to do,” Meadow cradled her head in her hand and glared back out the car window as bare, white farmland passed them by.

“Wait and see, Meisje, if it’s meant to be, it will be,” Renate sighed.

Meadow just shrugged, feeling especially uneasy about that kind of ambivalence. She was never comfortable with leaving anything to chance. Her approach to life was built entirely on taking matters into her own hands. But she was nauseous at the thought of telling Logan how she really felt, and was equally sick over the idea that she could lose him as a friend over it.

“So, you like the fat ones, hmm?” Renate broke the silence and teased Meadow with a wink.

Meadow hit her coach lightly in the shoulder in playful frustration, “Let’s talk about something else, please.”
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Old 08-29-2016, 01:03 PM   #45
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These are a pair of wonderful chapters! Thank you so much! I am so glad that Meadow has finally confided in someone...
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Old 08-29-2016, 02:44 PM   #46
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So delicate, so natural!!
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Old 09-06-2016, 12:07 PM   #47
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This is one of my favorite stories on this site. So well written.

(Long time reader, de-lurking to rave about how great this story is.)
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Old 09-09-2016, 02:30 PM   #48
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These comments are all making me grin and feel fluffy inside - thanks so much to the regulars and de-lurkers alike!

I'm close to having something of a denouement written/edited/nitpicked, but there's this whole 'what happens after that' thing to this story that I have been developing, and I'm debating whether to make it just one big epilogue.

And, I'm trying to figure out whether I care about epilogue brevity, structure, etc. Ah, what to do, what to do...
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Old 09-09-2016, 10:04 PM   #49
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Long time reader now surfacing - I've loved this story SO much, and I cannot wait to see how it all pans out. Thank you for sharing your work, this has been fun to follow and read!❤
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Old 09-28-2016, 07:23 AM   #50
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Finally a bit of denouement today... not the complete, total end - but tying up some ends that desperately needed to be tied
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