Another day greeted Carly when she opened her eyes and found herself in a chair beside Logan's bed. Sunlight streamed into his room and onto Logan, almost illuminating his body.
"Good morning, Carly," she heard a familiar voice say.
When she followed the direction from which it came, she was surprised to see Charlie Cook standing in the doorway. Charlie, who had been nicknamed Cookie, was Laurie's ex-boyfriend.
"I heard what happened," Cookie said as he approached Logan's bedside.
Carly couldn't believe her eyes. Cookie had been Laurie's high school sweetheart, but when she got sick, Cookie broke up with her. Laurie was a reasonable person and understood why Cookie was afraid to be with her, but she was still crushed.
Logan wasn't as reasonable as his twin sister. He resented Cookie, hating him with a deep passion. Logan viewed Cookie's rejection of his sister as one of the facets that limited her morale. If Cookie, her true love, had very little faith that Laurie would win the battle her disease, how could she have faith that she would conquer it?
Carly looked hard at Cookie and began to stutter. "I don't know if... um... Cookie, I just don't think," she stammered. Carly took a deep breath. "I don't know if it's wise for you to be here. The Browns will be back anytime now and if Logan wakes up, I don't know how thrilled he'll be to see you."
"I understand," Cookie said as he stared down at the floor. "Do you?"
"Do I what?" Carly asked Cookie.
He looked up at her and gazed directly into her eyes. "Do you understand why I did what I had to?"
Carly looked away and at Logan, breaking Cookie's glare. Cookie had been the love of Laurie's life and he gave up on her. Logan was the love of Carly's life and she refused to give up on him.
She fixated her gaze back at Cookie and bluntly replied, "No."
Cookie closed his eyes. "Sometimes it's easier to let go sooner rather than later. It would have just been harder down the road."
A fire grew inside Carly. "Harder for you!" she accused. "Laurie died without your love. Do you think that was easy for her? She needed you more than ever at that time and you were selfish and only looking out for your best interest." Carly paused. "I'll be damned if I let Logan go when he needs me the most."
Cookie backed away from Logan's bed and headed towards the door. "I think I should probably go," he said. He hesitated for a moment. "I'm sorry."
Carly wanted to tell Cookie that he should be sorry, but who was she to condemn anyone? Instead, Carly took Logan's hands in hers and rested her head on his chest. With that, Cookie walked out of Logan's room and out of the hospital.
Soon after Cookie's departure, the Browns arrived with several shopping bags. Carly couldn't help but notice that they looked like they had had a rough night. They wore their emotions on their faces just like she wore her heart on her sleeve.
"I couldn't sleep," Maggie told Carly as she placed the bags down on another chair in Logan's room. "So I was up baking all night. I thought you might be hungry." She removed several plastic containers from the bags and handed them to Carly.
When Carly opened the container, she found that they were full of oatmeal raisin and pumpkin cookies, chocolate chip muffins, and apple pastries.
"The pumpkin cookies are still warm," Maggie told Carly. She held the container up to her nose and inhaled the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Maggie handed Carly a thermos. "It's French Vanilla coffee," she told her. "I thought you might need a pick me up."
Carly was appreciative of Logan's mother's kindness. "Thank you for thinking of me," she said.
"It's no problem. You know that," Maggie told Carly.
"Do you want to take a little break?" Marcus asked her. "Go home and shower maybe?"
Carly looked back at Logan. "No. I'm okay," she said. "I want to stay here."
Marcus put his arm around Carly and pulled her towards him. "You know that he loves you, right?" Logan's father asked her.
Tears filled Carly's eyes and a single drop escaped as it trickled down her cheek, leaving a moist trail down her face.
"He does," Marcus assured her. "He's just afraid. But I know, Carly. A father always knows."
"Carly, we need you to do us a favor," Maggie said. "If something happens to Logan -- "
"Maggie, don't talk like that!" Carly shouted.
"Listen to me, Carly. If something happens to Logan, promise Marcus and me that you will remain in our lives. You're like a part of our family and we don't want to lose you."
"I promise," Carly said, almost inaudibly. "But Logan is going to come out of this. He is," she stated.
Logan's parents smiled at Carly unconvincingly.
"He is!" she shouted. "A best friend always knows."
Carly grabbed a handful of cookies and poured herself a cup of coffee. She wasn't sure if it was wise to tell the Browns that Cookie had shown up, but she didn't want to keep any secrets from them.
Looking down at the ground, Carly said bluntly, "Cookie was here." She didn't look up from the floor, but she could feel Maggie and Marcus' stares.
"What did he want?" Marcus asked.
"He just came to offer his condolences," Carly answered.
"Well, he's not welcome here," Marcus replied. In his opinion, he irrationally believed that Cookie was one of the reasons that his daughter gave up her fight with her disease. He couldn't comprehend how anyone could be so selfish as to break up with someone who needed faith and love in order to survive.
Carly closed her eyes and winced at the pain of realizing that her will to wake up every morning was founded in the hope that Logan could one day love her. She wanted Logan to wake up, but even more than that, she needed Logan to wake up. If he didn't, how would she survive without him?
* * *
Standing on top of a giant hill, Logan looked over all of Paradoxica. It really was a beautiful place, but he was more than ready to get home. When he looked down into the valley, he saw his ticket home staring him in the face. Literally. The eye-shaped river was like something out of a fantasy novel.
"So now what do we do?" Logan asked Gary.
"We probably need to make our way down the hill and to the river," he offered a guess.
The pair headed down the lush hill and into the valley. Both were quiet as they cautiously watched their footing, being careful as to not stumble and fall down the steep knoll. It was Logan that finally broke the silence.
"I want to go home," he declared.
Gary nodded at him.
"I want to go home," Logan went on, "but I will never be able to live with myself knowing that I killed Bill. Why did he have to die?"
Gary took a deep breath. "Things are not always what they seem."
Logan paused. "What's that supposed to mean?"
The great leopard hesitated once again. "All I'm saying is that there is a reason for everything. Destiny. We're all here for a very particular cause. Our lives have meaning when we find what that motivation to live is."
"So Bill's purpose in life was to die for me?" Logan shouted. "How is that okay? How is it acceptable?" he continued to yell.
"Logan, it is what it is," Gary told him. "You must not get side-tracked. There are still other riddles to be solved if you are to get out of here and back to your home."
Logan nodded as he attempted to calm down. At the moment that he was finally able to relax, he discovered the next clue attached to a small toy sailboat beside the river. It surprised Gary when he saw a thoughtful look spread across Logan's face.
"What's the matter with you?" Gary asked.
"The sailboat," Logan stuttered. "Laurie bought me one just like that for Christmas one year when we were children, maybe nine years old or so."
Carefully, Logan picked up the sailboat and held it up towards the sun. There, under the tiny trinket, were the initials L.B.
"This is my sailboat!" he exclaimed. "How did it get here?"
Logan detached the note, which he knew to be his next clue.
The more you take away, the larger it becomes? What is it?
"I don't get it," Gary stated. "How can you take something away and make it bigger? It's just not possible."
Logan looked intently at the sailboat that he still held in his hands. He thought back to when he first received it on Christmas morning. That year had been the first that the children decided to buy gifts for each other. They worked hard for months, cleaning their rooms and taking out the trash, trying to raise enough allowance money to purchase the perfect present for one another.
When Logan and Laurie woke up on that snowy Christmas morning in Massachusetts, they were delighted to see that Santa Claus had come and left meticulously wrapped gifts for them under their tree. Giant bows and ribbons adorned all of the boxes that were displayed under the dazzlingly illuminated pine.
They tore open each of their gifts until all that was left were the ones that they had bought for each other. Logan proudly presented his twin sister with a stuffed animal, as she had a love for the zoo and its inhabitants at an early age.
Logan was delighted to see how pleased Laurie was with his gift, but was then equally excited when she gave him the sailboat. He couldn't wait to place his small action figures inside and let the boat set sail down the river behind his house.
Without thinking, Logan leapt up from off of the floor and ran towards the back door in the kitchen. When he swung it open, it was then that he remembered that his backyard was blanketed in snow.
"Logan Brown!" his mother yelled. "Get back inside!"
"But the river!" he whined.
"Logan, when the snow melts, then you can send the boat down the river, but until then, you will just have to wait. Put the boat in the bathtub if you want."
"But the men have to be outside!" he continued to whine as if his mother just didn't understand.
"Logan!" Laurie exclaimed as she got an idea. "Let's put our winter coats and gloves on and we can go outside and dig a large hole! We can fill it with water and have the boat float around in there!"
Leave it to his ambitious sister to find the solution. The kids snuggled themselves up and raced outside, carefully digging a hold in the snow and then filling it with warm water. The game didn't last long as the elements wouldn't quite work to their advantage, but Logan and Laurie were pleased just the same.
"Logan, it's impossible," Gary stated again.
"It's not impossible if the object is a hole!" he shouted excitedly. "The more of the hole you remove, the larger it becomes! We need to dig!" Logan declared.
Down on his hands and knees, Logan scraped away at the soil as Gary pawed along with him. Suddenly, the two felt the ground begin to shake. Perplexed, the two looked around, only to see Daniel and his men racing down the hill towards them.
Logan's eyes widened with fear. Daniel's band of rats had increased in size. He didn't know how he was going to fight them off with Gary alone.
"The sword!" he heard from behind him. "Use the sword!"
When Logan turned around, he saw a giant black bear bounding towards him and Gary. On the bear's back was another creature, an otter, perhaps, holding a sword that looked similar to his.
Logan drew his sword just in time. He had never used one before, but it seemed to have a mind of its own. One by one, Logan's enemies went down as the bear and the otter also assisted in fighting them off.
The battle raged on as Daniel stood back to disappointingly watch his men get defeated. He hadn't expected Logan to get so strong so fast. The boy had come to Paradoxica a hopeless mess and somehow managed to become a wiser man. In the time that he had spent in the magical land, he had grown and begun to use his knowledge to save himself.
Daniel had doubted Logan's capabilities for advancement. He didn't think that Logan could use his knowledge to empower himself, but he had, and now, knowing that he would be defeated, Daniel decided to retreat.
The boy still has a long way to go, he thought to himself as he escaped back into the woods.
* * * *
After all of the rats had been destroyed, Logan collapsed onto the ground, out of breath and out of energy.
"You did it!" the otter exclaimed.
Logan continued to try to catch his breath. "Thanks... to you," he said. "Who are you, anyway?"
"I'm Joe," the bear said. "The Queen sent me to defend you from your enemies. She was proud of how far you had gotten in her hunt and asked me to assist you."
"And I'm Adam," the small creature introduced himself. "I have a very special gift for you."
Logan looked at the otter with curiosity. He was anxious to see what gift he was going to be given, but was too tired to sit up. He closed his eyes as he listened to Adam's words.
"You've made it a long way and while you've done it with the help of some friends, you've still accomplished things you never could have before," Adam stated. "With that being said, I present you with your estranged friends."
Logan immediately opened his eyes and looked around him. He was delighted to see Frank, Marty and Tommy surrounding him. But as happy as he was, Logan was still disappointed that Bill was not there.
"Oh, wait," Adam said. "I think I have something else for you."
Tommy shook his head from side to side and out of his mane popped Bill.
"Bill!" Logan shouted. "I thought you were gone forever!"
"It appears that I was just another instrument in the Queen's test," his squirrel friend told him. "You sacrificed something you love to help others, but also showed a will to live yourself."
Logan thought about what Bill was telling him. Before he had gotten to Paradoxica, he hadn't cared about anyone or anything. He didn't even care if he lived or died. So much had changed for Logan over the course of his time spent in Paradoxica and he knew that he had become a better person. More than ever before, he knew that he needed to get home. He needed to get home to his parents and Carly. They loved him and needed him, he knew.
One swallow does not make a summer, Logan remembered. He now understood what Frank had meant. Just because Laurie's death was evidence to him that life wasn't worth living didn't make it necessarily true. There was more to life than just death. Logan understood that now.
"The hole!" Logan yelled when he remembered what had been going on before the attack. "Help me dig, guys!"
All of the animals quickly assisted Logan. Frank used his trunk to move the dirt from the ground as Marty pecked away and utilized his wings as an impromptu broom of sorts. The rest of the animals all used their paws to dig until they finally came across a small, white box buried deep within the earth.
"Here we go," Logan said as he reached inside the hole.