CHAPTER 1

I was on a plane going back to Beckville, Texas, a place I once considered home, after years of living in New York. I had left six, almost seven, years ago, with nothing but the clothes on my back, the money in my back pocket, and my car.

Now here I am, arriving at my hometown with more than a million dollars to my name. I'm now a famous actress and singer. I used to be a shy teenager, afraid of the world and everyone in it. What happened to me? What happened to me, to make me this way; cold, hardhearted, and stronger than ever?

My sister died. And then my brother. Then there was nothing left for me, there at my hometown, where I had never really belonged. Absolutely nothing. My parents didn't mean a thing anymore, especially since they were too hung up on the deaths of their beloved children to remember their middle child. I was nothing but a nuisance, an annoyance keeping them from mourning Vivian and Edmund.

I missed my siblings, I really did. I still do, even now, six years later. I love them. I was fully prepared to suffer the ignorance on my parents' part. But one night, while I was sitting in what used to be mine and Vivian's room, my- at the time, drunk- father threw me out of the house, my mother, sober, watching and doing nothing to help me, not for the first time that day. It was in that moment that I just snapped. Whatever remained of the love I had for the people who raised me- if you could even call it that- was shredded to pieces. I grabbed my money and keys, and I drove, drove as if my life depended on it, not really knowing where I was going.

When my car stopped, I found myself outside Juilliard, in New York. I had been given a scholarship, and my parents hadn't intended to take it. I was already there, I thought, what was the harm in attending? My parents hadn't known where I had went, or even if I was alive, but I doubt they cared. Hell, they probably forgot all about Melrose Grace, their lonely middle child, who had to suffer just as much as they did.

I had lost my siblings. Loud, blunt, and yet so loving, Edmund, my baby brother. Confident, kind, and funny Vivian, my older sister. Yet did my parents care that I hurt, too? No, of course not. God forbid they actually care about me, much less even notice me! I was nothing to them, just as they were nothing to me.

Once upon a time, I wanted my parents' approval. I had craved their love, and I had strived to attain it. Good grades, perfect behavior, a kind smile to offer to everyone, I was, at the time, perfect. However, I could never compare to Viv and Ed. Got an A in math class? Vivian got an A+! Exemplary behavior? Oh, Edmund's behavior is the best! The message from my parents was clear; I could never be as good as Vivian and Edmund. It was then that I realized, no matter what grades, no matter what behavior, I would never amount to anything in my parents' eyes.

Sometimes, I resented my siblings. Yet most of the time, I loved them. They didn't want our parents' attention, they wanted our parents to pay more attention to me. The three of us had been close, but our parents had wanted Edmund and Vivian to be closer, with me cast to the side.

We had what was supposedly the perfect family. Beautiful mother, handsome father, pretty daughter, charming son.

I, however, did not fit in the category that the rest of my family did. While they had straight blonde hair, mine was wavy, and a strange blonde/ dark brown color. While their eyes were a beautiful, classic blue, mine were a stormy gray. I was tall and slim, while they were of average height and super-model weight. The list goes on and on, really, but I don't care to repeat what set me apart from my family.

Our small town adored my family. My mother, Mary-Ellen, was like the queen of our small town politics. My father, Chet, was the resident smart doctor. And of course, Vivian and Edmund, the sweethearts of the town. But you never heard the name 'Melrose Grace'. Oh, no, it was either Vivian or Edmund Grace, never me. People in Beckville had come to the understanding that my family, or at least my parents, had shunned me, and they were supposed to do like-wise. But they never openly disliked me. They didn't talk about me, and most certainly not to me. They had smiles to offer, though, whenever I passed.

The smiles were sympathetic ones, as if to say 'you don't seem like a bad kid. I don't understand why your parents act the way they do.'

So, naturally, I was alone at school. Well, except for one person; a guy named Callum Wilde. He wasn't just a guy, he was my best friend. I remember what he told me when I asked why he bothered to be with me:

"Mel, honestly, look at me." And I did. Tattoos, piercings, spiky hair, he had the bad-boy look down to a science. "I can't get anymore shit from the town than I already do. So, you answer me, why the hell not?" And all I could do was smile at him. He was so much more corageous than me, and so much more confident.

We were extremely close, and he was the only thing I regretted leaving behind. Even Callum hadn't known I was leaving. My heart had a gaping hole in it for that, and I told myself that if I hadn't left, the hole would only grow bigger until my heart disappeared. My guilt never quite went away, even when I would make up excuses about how I would have gone crazy staying in Texas. And even more often, I think about what would have happened if I had stayed for Callum.

What would it be like back home, I wondered. Would everything be the same? Would Callum still be sitting on his doorstep, as I had seen him last? Or would he be uptight and serious, something I had come to relate to growing up? What I was really thinking was, would he be glad to see me? Would he even remember me?

Sighing, I got out of my car and stepped out into a familiar driveway. Even though it was covered in dust, as was the yellow house, it was still the same. Nothing had changed back home, and for that I was both grateful and sad.

"Mom? Dad?" I cringed. I hated calling my parents that, as much as they hated hearing it from me.

"Mel? Melrose Kahlen Grace, is that you?" a soft, suprised voice asked. A very, very familar voice. Was that... no, it couldn't be...

Slowly, I turned around. Tears sprang into my eyes as my suspicions were confirmed. What happened to my strong exterior?

"Callum," I said, carefully masking my expression into one of indifference.

"Mel," he whispered. "God, it is you!" His expression changed into one of anger. "Why did you leave?" He then frowned. "Nevermind, stupid question. But Mel, why didn't you come back? More importantly, why didn't you tell me?" he demanded.

I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak. When I finally found my voice, I said simply, "You wouldn't have let me leave."

"Damn right, I wouldn't have!" he yelled. "Do you know what could have happened to you? A young girl, alone in New York?" I frowned.

"How did you know I was in New York?" He shook his head and snorted as if he couldn't believe me.

"C'mon, Mel, you've got to know that you're all over newspapers, magazines, t.v, everywhere. Melrose Grace, the famous singer-slash-actress. You'd have to be living under a rock to not know who you are." I looked down at my feet.

"Callum, I'm sor-"

"No. Don't say you're sorry, because I know you're not." I gulped. "You think that you would have broken, staying here after..." he hesitated. "After what happened. But you just left the baggage here, and you probably knew that it would come back, and so would the problems. Melrose, why? Why did you do this to yourself? To me?" I looked up and stared at his pained expression.

"Callum, I had to leave. I just had to. I couldn't take it. It hurt too much," I told him, swallowing my tears.

"Mel, have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, I could've helped with that?" I, in fact, had. I just didn't want to. It felt like if I told someone about it, it would seem more... real.

"I couldn't talk about it. I couldn't. Callum, you have to understand," I begged. His features distorted into something I recognized as more pain. His father had died when we were thirteen, and he couldn't talk about it to me or to anyone.

"I know I should be the one, of all people, to understand. I know I should. But I can't. Melrose, you were the most important person in my life. What was I supposed to do, shrug and say 'oh well'? My mother was... less than amazing. My father was dead. My sister didn't care about me. Then my best friend goes off and runs away. Can you imagine how I felt? Can you?

I used to think that you would come back. I would be sitting at the lake, waiting. Everyday, every hour, I waited. After a year, I realized you were gone, and you were gone for good. That was the time when it really registered; my best friend had abandoned me. She hadn't care enough, at least not enough to stay." He laughed bitterly.

"Callum, you know that's not-"

"Fuck it, Melrose! I know it's true! I know that somewhere, deep in your subconcious, you hadn't really cared about me enough to think before you got in your car and ran off to Juilliard."

"Callum..." I said, looking into his eyes. His expression softened.

"Melrose, I need to tell you something," he said.

"What is it?"

"Your parents..." he gulped. "Your parents... they're dead."