Lucas headed straight for the park after work. Sure enough, he found Melanie waiting for him on one of the benches near the entrance.
He approached her nervously, trying to fight the feeling that he was going to vomit. For the first time he could remember, she did not smile when she saw him.
“Hey.” Mel said softly as Lucas took a seat beside her on the bench.
“Hey. Thanks for coming.” He replied.
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few moments.
Lucas took a deep breath, then broke the silence at last. “Mel, listen… About last night…” He hesitated for a moment. “I meant what I said, about how much I like you… But I’m just not sure if we…” He paused, then tried again. “I mean, I just don’t know if…” Why was it so hard to just spit it out?
“I get it, you don’t have to explain.” Melanie cut in, allowing Lucas to leave his thought unfinished. “I’m sorry about what happened. It was really stupid of me…” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“You don’t have to apologize, Mel.”
She finally met his gaze, a small, forced smile on her lips. “Can we just pretend last night never happened? It was a mistake… You’re a great friend, Lucas. Maybe the best one I’ve ever had. And I almost messed that up…”
Melanie rose to her feet, turning away from him.
Lucas looked up at her uncertainly. He’d been so sure he was doing the right thing… So why did he feel even worse than he did before?
“So… we’re good?” He asked nervously.
“Of course.” She turned around, the same forced-looking smile on her lips as before.
Lucas got to his feet, pulling Melanie into a hug. “Thanks for understanding.” He said sadly.
“Goodnight, Lucas.” She said as she pulled away from him. “I’ll talk to you soon, okay?” And with that, she turned and walked away.
Lucas felt a heaviness in his chest as he watched her leave. She’d tried to put on a brave face, of course. But he knew how much his rejection had crushed her. And he could feel his own heart breaking as well as he watched her get further and further away.
And that’s when he understood.
The night before, when Evelyn had turned away from him, he felt more guilty than he’d ever felt in his life. Lucas had run after her, desperate to explain himself, to help her understand.
But not, he now realized, desperate to win her back.
But standing here now, watching Melanie walk away from him, only one thought crossed his mind: This is wrong. I can’t lose her.
“Mel, wait!” Lucas called, racing down the crumbling sidewalk.
Melanie stopped in her tracks and looked over her shoulder, confused. “Lucas, what’s wrong?”
He reached out, holding one of her hands in his as he spoke. “I take it all back.” Lucas said seriously. “I’m the one who has to apologize, Mel.” He shook his head. “I guess I was just… kinda scared.” Lucas admitted. And though it certainly was not the whole truth, not one word he said was a lie. “I’ve never had a… A real relationship before.” Painful to admit, but also true. “I wasn’t sure if I was ready for something like that… But it’s what I want, Mel. With you.”
There was a tiny, guilty voice in the back of his mind that seemed to whisper “You used to want that with Ev too, remember?” Lucas did all in his power to chase the thought away. Now was not the time for guilt — Now was the time to make sure he didn’t make the biggest mistake of his life.
“A-are you sure?” Melanie asked, hopeful but uncertain. “I meant what I said about not wanting to mess this up…”
Lucas reached up, stroking her cheek. It was soft, and warm, and perfect. Melanie sighed at his touch, and Lucas was sure he felt his heart heart skip a beat at the sound.
“I’m sure.” He replied. “When I saw you walk away like that… I knew.” Lucas paused a moment. “So… Do you forgive me?” He asked nervously. “I mean, do you still –”
Without a word, Melanie’s lips were on his. And this time, Lucas did not pull away. Melanie ran one of her hands up his chest as her mouth moved against his, her lips parting slightly. Lucas accepted her invitation eagerly, sighing against her as he deepend the kiss.
After a few moments, she pulled away from him slightly, her sparkling brown eyes meeting his green ones.
“Does that answer your question? She whispered.
Lucas wrapped his arms around her in reply, pulling her close to him once more. And, in that moment at least, all thoughts of guilt, or doubt, or worry about Evelyn had fled his mind.
He thought only of the slight curve of Melanie’s back beneath his hand, the pleasant warmth of her body against his chest, and the perfect feeling of her soft pink lips moving slowly against his.