Lucas smiled as he gazed up at the open sky above him. It was a perfect end to a perfect day. After their afternoon at the spa, he and Melanie had walked around the mall together for a few hours, met up with Noah and Camryn for a late dinner, and had now headed back to the grassy park area near the spa to watch the stars.
“You know something?” Melanie said softly.
“Mmm?” Lucas glanced over at her.
“That night at the bar, when you started talking to me…” She paused, then laughed softly. “I thought you were just some dumb, drunken kid trying to impress his friends by hitting on me or something.”
“Uh-huh… And what would be so impressive about that, exactly?” Lucas asked, amused.
She shrugged. “Well, aren’t ‘older women’ supposed to be like… exotic or something?” She turned to face him.
Lucas laughed so hard that he nearly snorted.
Even in the darkness, Lucas could see her cheeks begin to redden. “Okay, please forget that I ever said that.” She let out a small, nervous laugh.
It took a few moments for Lucas’ own laughter to finally begin to subside slightly. “Know what though? Now that you mention it, I’m pretty sure Noah made a comment like that on the drive home that night.”
Beside him, Melanie giggled. “Oh great, if it’s something Noah said I feel so much better.” She rolled her eyes, then sat up, preparing to stand. The task proved a bit challenging in her long skirt and heels.
“Oh, here…” Lucas stood quickly, then reached down and took Melanie’s hands, helping her to her feet.
Lucas had never held one of Melanie’s hands before, let alone both of them. They were soft and warm in his, and Lucas could not help but relish in the feeling for a few moments. He felt his heartbeat quicken slightly at the sensation.
Melanie did not pull away. In fact, she began gently stroking the back of his hands with her thumbs, her lips curling into a smile. “What I was trying to say before…” She said softly, looking intently into Lucas’ green eyes. “Is that I’m really happy you talked to me that night.”
“Me too.” He smiled gently.
“These last couple of years haven’t been easy for me, you know?” She continued, releasing his hands slowly. “And, well, you know me… I don’t have a lot of friends…” Melanie shrugged. “It was lonely.” She confessed. “And I didn’t know how I could ever be happy again after I lost Christian…”
Lucas’ heart had begun to beat even faster than before. “Mel…”
“Lucas, you changed everything for me. You gave me something that I didn’t even know I was missing…” She laughed. “God, that sounds so corny, but it’s true.” Melanie paused and bit her lip nervously for a moment. “I remember what you said that first night… That you weren’t looking for anything. And neither was I… But isn’t that supposed to be when you find the best things?” She drew closer to him. “When you aren’t looking?”
And then, it happened.
It was sudden, brief, warm, and very, very sweet.
A million thoughts seemed to flood Lucas’ brain at once. Like how soft Mel’s lips were. And how good she smelled. And how his heart was surely about to burst from his chest with happiness.
But there was one thought that stood out, louder than the rest – Evelyn.
Lucas pulled away with great reluctance. “Look, Mel…” He began uncomfortably. “I really like you… A lot.” So much more than I should… “I just…” Lucas paused, leaving the thought unfinished. “I gotta work in the morning, so I should really go…” He stared down at his feet for a moment. “Maybe… this is a conversation we can continue later?”
“S-sure…” Melanie replied, her face falling. The way she looked at him broke his heart. “Lucas, I’m sorry, I –”
“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” He cut her off. “Have a nice night.”
Melanie said nothing as he turned and walked away.
What am I gonna do? Lucas felt like he was going to be sick.
It was a guilt that seemed a thousand times worse than what he’d felt the morning after his birthday. But why? He asked himself.
Because that was meaningless. A second voice in the back of his mind seemed to answer. But this… Lucas thought of Melanie’s smile and the warmth of her hands in his.
Lucas was done trying to kid himself — Mel was not just a friend. She was so much more… And she had been for a long time. He had been suppressing his true feelings for so long, but there was no use anymore.
But what about Evelyn? Lucas shook his head. How do I do this without breaking her heart? He wondered.
Wait… What am I thinking? Was it really that easy? Had he already made up his mind?
Lucas crept through the front door, his head hung low. His parents had already gone to bed, it seemed. He couldn’t help but feel grateful – He was in no mood to face anyone right now.
I need to go to bed, sleep on it… Figure out what I’m gonna do…
“Lucas?” A voice called out from the darkness.
It felt like his heart had stopped beating.
A pale blue form floated before him in the moonlight. “We need to talk.”