REGRETTING STACEY

Disclaimer: Ann M. is much too busy to object to this.

Summary: Five years after their fight, Laine drives to Stoneybrook to make amends with Stacey.

The idea for this story comes from a conversation I once had with someone - that regret is worthless if no effort is made to correct the mistake.

Author's Notes: I keep saying I'm focusing on humor. Dude, I'm such a liar. It's sad.

I'm supposed to be working on my Amsterdam and Kristy stories. As soon as this is published I'll get right on those. I promise. Really.

CHAPTER ONE: REGRETS

I had a pregnancy scare last spring.

For four days I believed it, agonized over it, threw up from the stress of it. And cried and cried and cried. I cried remembering the girl I once was, full of silly notions and ideas - but happy, so very happy. I cried realizing the girl I'd become, snobbish and cynical and cruel. As a young girl, I imagined myself growing into someone popular and stylish and trend-setting, but such things do not matter when the bad far outweighs the good. I wanted to be spectacular, but achieved only mediocrity dressed up in expensive packaging. How frightening to look in the mirror and see yourself and recognize yourself and admit that you are not the person you should be and nowhere near the person you want to be.

My mother slapped me. She screamed, "How could you do this to us?!" I held my palm against my cheek, red and warm where her skin and mine connected. I imagined what my father would say, what the neighbors would say, what the kids at school would say. I thought, girls like me don't get pregnant.

Correction, I thought, girls like me don't get caught.

"You've caused your father and I nothing but grief these past four years," my mother said, oddly calm, then stormed off to telephone Dr. Zimmerman. Relief flickered momentarily that I didn't have to explain about Tobin, the twenty-eight year old musician I'd met at a party in SoHo. I liked his music. He liked my tight ass. He hadn't called in a month and a half.

I wasn't pregnant.

That didn't matter to my parents. They stripped my room. No more television. No more stereo. No more computer. No more private phone line (no more phone at all). No more contact with the outside world. No more independence. No more life.

And no more semester in Portugal. I'd studied portuguese with a tutor for the last two years. All that work for nothing. My mother chuckled and said, "You won't see Lisbon before you're twenty-five," then tore the application and reference letters into slender strips and tossed them in the trash. In the fall, I didn't return to Alman-Vess Prep for senior year. Instead, I transferred to Miss Holloway's School for Girls, where we wore maroon skirts with tweed blazers. Make up wasn't allowed.

Deep down I was relieved to have my hand forced, to finally be boxed in by limitations. I had to change through necessity. Of course, I fought back, screamed at my parents, smashed a vase, and cursed them for ruining my life. But I didn't fight long. In truth, I was tired - tired of being someone else, tired of being superficial and shallow, tired of being with boys who wanted to posses me, and especially tired of secretly loathing the girl I'd become. Cracks split the facade and I had neither the energy or desire to repair them. So much had been lost to that cruel, selfish Laine Cummings. I couldn't risk another second in her skin.

The past year and a half has changed me. I've learned to balance popularity and style and trend-setting with true maturity - not the snobbish maturity of my high school years. I am much less superficial, much less self-involved. But as I've moved on, away from my former self, draining of the things I've come to detest, I find that I am filling with something that gnaws at me, tugging within my stomach, pulling at my memory.

Regret.

I regret so much from the last five years. I regret the wasted moments of my remaining childhood. I regret the cold, cruel words I spoke to lesser girls. I regret loving boys for all the wrong reasons, souring my relationship with my parents, forgetting my real friends, growing up too fast and -

I fear I will forever regret Stacey McGill.

Stacey has no way of knowing it, but I kept the last letter she sent. The one officially ending our friendship. I kept her half of our Best Friends necklace, too. When the letter arrived, I crumpled it, furious, and threw it in the wastebasket. In the morning, I dug it out, flattened it as smooth as possible, and slipped it beneath a binder in the middle drawer of my desk. Sometimes I forget it. Sometimes I remember and take it out. I don't know if I'll bring it to university in September. I hope I won't.

Stacey and I haven't spoken since eighth grade. A few months after our fight, we ran into each other outside the Starstruck diner. I was genuinely excited to see her, thrilled at the prospect of putting our friendship back together. Even if we'd never be best friends again, we could still be friends, a face from the past, a shoulder to lean on. I was having a rough time - problems with my parents, problems with my boyfriends, problems with friends at school - and needed a stabilizing force like Stacey.

Stacey felt differently.

She didn't hug me as tight as I did her. She smiled, but I looked into her eyes and saw the truth. Panic. Complete, absolute panic. I rushed on, ignoring her eyes and awkward hesitations. I invited her to sit with my friends and I. I thought we could catch up, forgive each other, and mend what I had broken. Mr. McGill said, no, they had something to discuss. I knew he was lying. Stacey promised to call. She never did. But then, I didn't call her either.