Chapter 1

"No matter under what circumstances you leave it, home does not cease to be a home. No matter how you lived there – well or poor." – Joseph Brodsky

It was raining so heavily by the time Sookie and I had drive off the turnpike and onto the Scranton Exit. The large droplets of water smacked against the windshield so violently that Sookie, even with her prescription eye glasses, was having a hard time seeing the road ahead of us. I wiggled uncomfortably in the passenger side trying to unstick my bare legs from the leather seat beneath me.

We were coming down from New York and so far we had been driving for three hours straight. I was beginning to feel restless. The three cups of coffee I had chugged down before we left were starting to wear off. None of this is even worth it, I thought to myself. The weather was dreadful, my ass was numb, and if I had to put up with another one of Sookie's sing – along sessions to Brittney Spears, I was going to die. Seriously.

"So," Sookie began, breaking the silence between us, "are we visiting your parents first or mine?" she asked. I eyed her carefully as she fumbled through her CD bag and pulled out one that read "Brittney Spears's Greatest Hits" and popped it into the radio. Damnit.

"Yours" I sighed. Suddenly, 'Toxic' started blasting through the car speakers. I cringed.

"Why?" Sookie asked thoughtfully, bobbing her head back and forth to the music. Sookie was my one and only best friend. Our friendship had been on and off for much of our high school days. We reunited back in twelfth grade and moved to New York together. We both studied at NYU. I did musical theater, she did art. Sookie had sand colored hair that was sort of frizzy. She wore glasses and even though she wasn't the thinnest girl in the world, she was probably the most loving and talented.

"You know why." I pointed out, trying to make my voice louder than the music.

Sookie rolled her eyes and turned the stereo down. "You're going to have to see your parents sooner or later. Besides, what's so great about mine?"

"They aren't psycho." I said flatly putting emphasis on the last word.

"You're exaggerating, Steph." I thought about my parents. They always made themselves look like the perfect family, always trying to keep up appearances. My mother was a controlling woman who never said she was sorry and my father was a quite yet extremely submissive man who would probably jump off the empire state building if my mother told him too. My mother was like Doctor Frankenstein, and my father was Igor, her faithful servant.

"You know I'm not." I said. Sookie heaved a sigh of defeat. She did in fact know the ridiculous things my parents put me through, but she would rather I forgive and forget. We're adults, she would always say. Although she fails to realize that she's not the one who spent most of her teen years in hell.

"Listen," I said shifting myself so that I was facing her, "Part of the reason I moved to New York was to get away from them and this whole place in general. I've come so far and I've moved forward with my life. Being back makes me feel like I've taken a giant step backwards."

"Even though coming back was for a really good reason?" Sookie smirked. I smiled.

"It's not that big of a deal." I lied.

"Dude," Sookie banged her hands on the steering wheel, "Are you kidding me?" My smile grew wider. "You're on of the four recipients of the Home Town Achievers Award for landing a starring role on Broadway!"

"Okay, it's a really big deal." I admitted. Receiving a role on Broadway right after leaving college was almost completely unheard of. In all honesty, I had no idea it was going to happen. After college, I started doing work shops for a new contemporary musical called, One and the Same. It's about two women, a princess and a peasant, who try to maintain a friendship despite their different social classes. We started off Broadway and just moved our new home at the Gershwin Theater in November. It was my dream come true.

So, it was a big deal. A huge one, in fact. "But…I don't know." I tried to gather my thoughts, "Being back here again just reminds me of things – and people - I'd rather forget."

"Well, at least try and enjoy it." Sookie offered. By this time, the rain had turned from heavy droplets to a slight drizzle. I peered out the window. We were driving down the Cross Valley, slowly, of course, because Sookie was always afraid of hitting some type of rodent.

"I suppose." I pressed my fingers up against the glass. It felt cold beneath my skin. I could finally see the mountains surrounding us since the rain had subsided.

"We can do all the things we used to do in high school." Sookie beamed. "Remember how we'd go into that store up at the mall? We'd always try on exactly six items of clothing because that's the maximum amount you can take in the dressing room?"

I giggled softly as I remembered all the good times Sookie and I had together. I was suddenly feeling a lot better.

"Remember when we went to that coffee shop and those boys sat next to us?"

Sookie's eyes widened. "Yes! And they were speaking fluent Spanish even though they were clearly American?"

"We spent the whole time trying to figure out what they were saying!" I laughed. Sookie and I had fit a lot of crazy stuff into our last year of High School. Unfortunately, Sookie and I also had some horrible times, as well.

When we finished our giggle fit, an uncomfortable silence filled the car. I was thinking about the past. Judging by the concentrated look on Sookie's face, I wondered if she was too.

"Everything will be fine." She said after a short while. "I promise." She placed her hand over mine. We smiled at each other and our eyes locked.

When Sookie returned her eyes to the road, she turned the stereo up and began singing along to whatever song was playing. I wasn't paying attention.

I leaned my cheek up against the window. Slowly, I traced a heart on the slightly fogged up glass. As I watched the tiny water droplets running off the window, it almost appeared as though the heart was crying.

Funny. So was mine.