REWRITE. All of the details are at the end of this chapter.

I'm glad that you can forgive.
Only hoping that as time goes,
You can forget.

The cream peach-colored sky with purple swirls was magnificent and captivating; especially from the perfect view I had on the porch swing. I sat with my legs crossed, engrossed with an excerpt out of my favorite novel. Reading in rural America was beautiful, and it was easy to get lost in the sea of endless tranquility on a two hundred acre farm.

It was just barely the start of spring at the Stone Farm. The start of the new, warm season would give us all a taste of the busy, endless summer months. There weren't going to be any nights of sitting beside a crackling fire, and gazing wistfully out at the thick, white flakes of snow falling outside the picture window.

A new season, the dreadful season of spring, was an indication of all the socializing I'd be forced to do. And having an extreme phobia of people made spring out to be deadly dreadful. The thought alone was a nagging precursor of what was to come.

Spring was the season of life—new and old. With spring, everything came back to life—except me. I was emotionally dead. And more of a recluse than was good for me. I was never going to be good around people, and that was just the fact of the matter.

"Melaney?"

I brushed the non-existent dirt from my jeans and looked up. The deep, sparkling green eyes were the first thing I noticed. And the smell. In seven years, I'd never forget that smell. My nose would never let me. And it was those eyes and that particular smell that brought an onslaught of unwanted memories and pains.

"Hi," I squeaked, my cheeks flushing a deep pink. My book slipped from my lap, thudding onto the floor, and I was suddenly forced to revisit everything I swore I never would.

It was amicable Marcus Foster, the ex best friend, who was from a time in my past that wasn't worth stirring up. I had done a good job at forgetting everything he had done. Until now. And with the old, agonizing memories of Marcus Foster surfacing came the feelings that had remained dormant for seven years. There had been more than parting of bad terms.

Before that jagged break in our friendship, we had quite the track record. Many nights we snuck out late, playing pranks on our friends or conjuring new one. We were Marcus and Melaney all lumped into one word. Never just Marcus. And never just Melaney.

Marcus leaned against the porch post, slouching slightly to be eye level with me. "Remember me," he teased.

I laughed—god did I laugh the cruelest, bitter one I could muster. There stood the ex best friend, who once upon a time claimed that I was a cold-hearted bitch and that he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. It was kind of ironic how he came back for a second chance after years of unspoken words.

"Would it matter if I said I didn't?"

A skinny, long finger reached his lips. "I would think so."

"Then no. I don't remember you."

It was silent for the briefest of seconds. And after a long sigh, he spoke. "Is this what we're reduced to? Bitter hatred?"

I shrugged, refusing to acknowledge the awkward situation. If I ignored him, maybe he'd realize that I thought he was a stranger. Because even if he wasn't a stranger, that was all he deserved to stay.

"I don't want to remember you," I whispered, staring hard at my book.

"You've got to be kidding me," he bit out awkwardly. "Right?"

My tone was stoic. "I. Kid. You. Not."

Marcus snorted. "You seem a lot more unforgiving than I remember."

"Well, years worth of being abandoned kind of does that to a person," I muttered angrily. "Besides, I doubt you're the type that deserves forgiveness—from me, at least."

True to his stubborn nature, Marcus stayed rooted on the porch, staring hard at me. He was worse than a nagging, pregnant fly.

"That's cold."

"Well, you get what you deserve."

And he deserved it. He deserved whatever I threw back at him. The truth was: we weren't friends anymore. Seven years of silence was proof of that. And in seven years, I learned how to deal with his absence, and how to get over something that I swore I'd never give up.

Maybe our friendship was supposed to die out at the end of junior high—between the transition to high school. I had learned to live with that.

"What about a second chance?" he pleaded, shuffling nervously from one foot together.

"You had your chance, Marcus. That's all I've got left to say."

I got to my feet, ready to walk inside and pretend that Marcus hadn't come back to town, but in classic Marcus persistence, he blocked my way.

"Wait," he croaked out of desperation. "Just one minute. One minute and you can walk away and forget all about me."

Marcus was clearly crazy if he thought I'd ever give him the time of day, again. It didn't matter that our parting was mostly due to my own ignorance and selfishness, but it was his fault for not having the patience to work through the kinks.

Friendship wasn't supposed to be smooth sailing. But what we had was hard to call friendship. For one month, when we were twelve, we were friends. And once that's added up, a month of friendship doesn't amount to very much.

"I know you're going to think I'm a shitty person. But I came back because I needed you—and your help. And I need it desperately."

"Marcus, it doesn't work here," I shouted, anger running through my veins. "You can't come back seven years later and ask for me to forgive you—or even to help you." I paused. "You damn well know that's asking too much."

"Can't we just start over?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

I looked up, my eyes shimmering with tears. "I can't," I choked out. "Marcus, I can't pretend that everything is better now that you're here."

His eyes flashed hurt—probably years worth. "Then don't," he whispered tiredly. "Don't do this as a favor or because we were friends. Do this because you're a decent person."

I froze, desperately trying to figure out what was Marcus's angle. He couldn't come back seven years later and make me feel guilty, but he did. And it made me hate him that much more.

"No." I crossed my arms over my chest. "I don't need you, anymore."

"But you did need me at one point, didn't you?"

I didn't answer—not even as he walked away and screamed that he wasn't going to give up.

Maybe ignoring Marcus was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

And we learn as we age,
We've learned nothing.

Dinner, to say the least, was an awkward moment I wanted to avoid. Dad was in a less than desirable mood, his eyes dark and burning with frustration. And Mom was busy humming, pretending that everything was perfectly fine, but it wasn't.

The Stone's never had a peaceful dinner. That was asking far too much.

"Melaney."

I jerked forward, watching in slow motion as my fork slipped through my fingers, clattering noisily onto Mom's finest dinner china. Automatically, I winced, managing to look up and meet her worried, tired eyes.

"You've been spacey honey," she pointed out. "Are you okay?"

I wanted to say that I was always spacey and that I was never okay, but I couldn't. Instead I shrugged and mouthed, "I'm fine." I knew it was a blatant lie, but she didn't. "I'm just thinking about spring."

And it was somewhat true. I was thinking about springtime, worried about what role I would take on at the farm; I had given up college to stay at home. But I wasn't particularly fond of social situations. Last spring, when I was roped into interacting with customers, I had grown so nervous that my palms sweated, I couldn't breathe, and I was forced to nurse an obtrusive migraine.

They usually led to panic attacks. And Mom, after picking up on that, had reduced to me surveillance duty—regardless of the fact that it was the most humiliating, low rank job she could give.

Dad, knowingly, paled. "Please don't tell me that we're touching base with your social phobias, again," he moaned, simultaneously pushing his plate away from him.

All color drained from my face until I was sporting a very white, pale skin tone. And suddenly, I felt cold. Dad was a very forward guy, who always jumped straight to the point. Why did he have to bring up something I hadn't come to terms with?

"I don't think so," I whispered uncomfortably. "Er, I mean, I hope I'm not."

Mom patted my shoulder sympathetically.

"It's okay, Mel. It's only a phase."

"Phases aren't this permanent. At least, they shouldn't be. It's not normal."

Dad took that as the opportune moment to drop in his two cents. "Haven't we already established and recognized that you're the farthest thing from normal imaginable?

I was waiting for laughter. I was waiting for anything that proved that my own father hadn't made the most heartless statement ever; I swallowed, more offended than I let on, and stared at the wall. I was met by the worst kind of awkward silences.

"Unbelievable," I muttered, twirling my fork between my fingers. My appetite was long gone.

"Melaney Lynn, it's not my fault you're a social train wreck. We've tried to amend this before, and a lot of good that did us."

Mom took that as her cue to save the day. "Melaney, you know, I heard that Marcus is back in town."

"Knowing you, you've probably already had a run in with him. Am I right?"

She laughed. "Absolutely. We ran into one another at the bank. And he was so nice that I dropped him a slip of paper with our address, and I insisted that he come and see his best friend."

I took in a sharp breath. Marcus wasn't even back for half a day and he was already becoming the favorite—all over again. Despite our short stint of a friendship, he was always the better liked of the two. And it stung. Mom talked about Marcus like he was her long lost son. Yet, she spoke to me like I was nothing more than an acquaintance she lived with.

"Oh. That was a nice gesture, Mom," I exclaimed through clenched teeth and a forced smile. "And yes, he did drop by earlier in case you were wondering."

"He did? Well, that was nice."

Dad laughed bitterly. "Come on, Libby. Can't you tell that she was opposed to the whole thing? It's written all over her face."

"I'm sorry," I apologized hastily. "But forgiveness isn't something I give away like free samples."

"Melaney," he started eerily calm, "haven't you learned anything yet?" In an effort to prove his anger, he lowered his voice to a deadly hiss. "It's been seven fucking years. Don't you think it's time to grow up and stop dwelling on the past?"

Swallowing nervously, I excused myself from the table and ran up the stairs two a time. The whole while, I couldn't help but wonder if Dad was right. Here I was, seven years later, and I was holding the same grudges and using the same, played out excuses.

It was a habit I knew I couldn't easily break.


What's going on with me? In late August, I found out my grandmother had lung cancer. Between my rather demanding job, taking care of her, and making sure things run smoothly at her place - I am constantly drained of energy. And now my mom's in the hospital, my aunt has to get surgery, and a few people have been getting on my case about things I cannot control...so I've been insanely depressed and becoming more of a social recluse than I used to be. And it really took a toll on my writing. And I'm sorry. This isn't an excuse to get you to pity me or cut me some slack. I just think you are deserve to know.

What brought on the rewrite? As I said before, I hated the original direction of this story. The characters weren't who they were supposed to be. Things were unfolding too quickly, and I was heavily relying on readers for what I'm doing and what's good and bad. A lot of things were split down the middle. Some said things were progressing too slow and other's said too fast. So, I thought fast was better...until I pretty much ruined this story.

What's so different now? I have a better head on my shoulders. I'm learning to deal with situations a lot better than I used to be, and now that I'm so consumed by my obligations, I have zero social life. I don't go out. So, any free seconds I have - I write. Because it matters to me. And I realize how much I need it. And if i've failed to mention anything that you're concerned about, let me know.