"Malissa, I thought you said this party was at one thirty!" yelled Malissa's mother, Myra. Malissa could hear the slight annoyance in her mother's voice. Typical mom, she thought, rolling her eyes. Heaven forbid she was ten minutes late to anything…

She finished tying up her hair, grabbed her bag, and headed downstairs. Her mother was waiting, arms crossed, at the foot of the stairs. "I did. That's when it all starts, but Dany could care less if I was there three hours later."

Myra pursed her lips as a self-restraint, surely wanting to retort. Malissa gave her mother a kind look, trying to reassure her. Her mother had been having difficult with adjusting to Malissa's sudden freedom. Having just graduated high school, she was truly living it up. Myra often wondered if it would dramatize once Malissa turned eighteen, although the thought brought much discomfort to Myra.

Sighing is frustration, Myra asked, "So what is this party all about? Is it just you and Dany or..?"

Malissa grabbed her car keys, playing with them subconsciously, almost a nervous reaction. "It's basically a parting of ways type of party. You know, live it up as kids before we all go to college or move or start work. Technically the last summer as kids."

Malissa wasn't too keen on going, but this was also, in a way, a farewell party for a few of her friends. Seeing as Malissa didn't have much money, the idea of visiting them was highly unlikely. As it was, Malissa was only staying with her mother and step father until she had enough money to stand on her own two feet, perhaps a little longer to ensure security. Malissa wasn't sure how long that would be, but she knew that it was the smartest thing to do. And besides, she knew it was going to be hard for her mother. Malissa would never admit it, but she was sure that Myra felt like Malisa moving out would be the same as losing her, and Malissa did know that was her mother's worst fear: losing another child. Every time Malissa thought about it, a shiver ran up her spine and she'd have to shake her head to clear it. So, staying with her mother wasn't such a bad thing, because she'd be able to say goodbye while saving her mom the overwhelming emotions of Malissa leaving for too long of an extended time.

Perhaps this party wouldn't be so bad after all… Her friend Dany was a lot of fun to be around. Malissa and Dany had gone back since seventh grade and managed to stay friends, though they attended two different high schools. It was a hard thing to manage, considering how life happens. Things come up, and now being thirty miles away was a hard bridge to cross, sometimes.

As Malissa was slipping on shoes, Myra gasped. "Malissa, it's twenty after one! You're going to be ten minutes late if you don't hurry up!"

Malissa sighed, choosing not to retaliate. It was her mother's best coping mechanism, and Malissa never felt right trying to call her out on it. "I'm going!" She hugged her mom and ran out the door to her car. Malissa saw her mom watching her from the living room window, mouthing 'Be safe!' Malissa laughed in spite of herself as she climbed behind the steering wheel. And soon, she had pulled out of the drive way, the radio blaring, and was headed on her way.

Though it was a hot summer day, Malissa rolled down all the windows, where the warm air seemed to caress her. It comforted her and warmed her, making her attitude towards the party skyrocket. Perhaps today would be better than she could have hoped.

Dany had called her there before then, inviting her. She had told Malissa that it was at the old public park near where she used to live, which had a nearby pool. Malissa was uncomfortable about the prospect of swimming with a bunch of teenage guys, for Malissa knew Dany was sure to have them there, but she figured she ought to just let a little bit of risk steer her life for now. Her mother and step dad were always on the protective side, but Malissa had never thought to question it. She didn't mind being guarded.

And, as a result, Malissa was labeled as the good girl next door type. Malissa didn't go out to parties, didn't skip on homework for anything, and tutored kids who needed help, volunteered for the food bank and homeless shelters. She was a straight A student in all her classes except for Algebra, which she landed a solid 'B'. She knew how to have fun and all, but her school work came first. She'd have friends over on Saturdays, and occasionally on a Friday night, she'd meet up with some girls from school. But Malissa was into the quiet life, and didn't care if she was labeled as a good girl. She had too many negative memories with too much attention when she was little, so peace and quiet was welcomes. To Malissa, it was a compliment to be that good girl. She knew she could have a lot worse labels.

The only thing that had ever distracted her was her ex-boyfriend, Hugh. They had dated since the end of sophomore year. On a rare occasion, she would put off her homework a few hours to go out with him and be a seemingly normal teenage girl who was slightly lovesick. But the relationship fell apart halfway through their senior year. Hugh had wanted more than Malissa was willing to give, and decided she wasn't worth waiting for.

For now, Malissa was fine with being single. She was a little crushed when Hugh ditched her, but she realized quickly he wasn't worth being sad about. She new that someone would come… Malissa shook her head when strange thoughts floated in it that she didn't want to face, mainly because she knew it'd do nothing for her. But she was soon distracted anyway.

With a minute to spare, Malissa arrived at the park. There were several cars there already, and a good number of people. As Malissa had predicted, there were lots of guys. But she sighed and figured it would make things a little interesting.

She grabbed her bag, bracing herself, and headed to where she saw Dany. She was locked hand in hand with her boyfriend, Al. Al was the quiet type, but dark and fairly handsome. The only thing Malissa thought was strange was his hair, which always looked like bed head. This apparently meant that he, according to Dany, had Spanish blood. What that meant, Malissa wasn't sure, but figured it was a good thing. Dany looked happy with him, for she was smiling as radiantly as ever.

Dany was different from Malissa in a lot of ways. She was definitely a woman that loved to be with guys. Not in a bad way, but she preferred guy friends to girl friends. Weight was not a setback for her. She wasn't large, but had curves. And she knew how to use them. She also was much more into beauty than Malissa was. Malissa was no ugly duckling, but she never did much to make herself model material, like most girls did at school. Dany, though, was into that. She was into fashion and the whole nine yards. She had long, wavy, coal black hair, which she knew how to use to her advantage. Dany could easily be a model, and Malissa knew it. It slightly intimidated her, but she didn't care enough to let it get to her.

When Dany saw Malissa, Dany's jaw dropped, a look of pure delight flooding into her tanned face. "If it isn't my bestest friend, Malissa!" She dropped Al's hand and ran to hug Malissa. Malissa beamed, forgetting how much she had missed Dany. They were, perhaps, the closest that she would call best friends. Well, at least of the people she met from school. She had some really close childhood friends that she was practically inseperable from. Again, strange thoughts went through Malissa's mind. But they ended when she and Dany broke apart, both smiling. "How are you, darling'? Holding up alright?"

Malissa shrugged. "Not dead, am I?" She laughed in spite of herself.

Dany nodded. "Well, that's definitely a plus. I don't think I'd be too happy if you were. So… You're good. That's good. Now," Dany said as she grabbed Malissa's shoulders, steering her through the throng of people, "it's time to turn 'good' into 'fantastic'!"

After they made it through the crowd, there, alone, sat a girl in the grass. "I figure you'll be happy to see her." And Malissa was, for there sitting in the grass was none other than her friend Renee. She had moved to California a few years previously and they hadn't talked since. But that split moment of figuring out who was sitting there was followed by Malissa's squeal of surprise.

Renee jumped up casually, smiling. "Dany promised that's you'd react like that," She said, half laughing as she hugged Malissa. "Miss me, much?"

They broke apart, Malissa beaming. "Um, just a little! The three of us were kinda, like, B.F.F.'s, you know?" Renee laughed, tossing her curly tan hair out of her face.

"Well, I figure a little reunion wouldn't be too bad. I'm in town for a few days, anyway. I'm helping my cousin move stuff to California. So, I heard about this cozy little get together and figured I'd crash the party. There's even a chance I'll move here. I guess you'll have to put up with it."

Dany and Malissa laughed. They flew into conversation of anything and everything that had happened between them in the past few years. They sat in the grass, oblivious to the throngs of people arriving every few minutes. Malissa hardly noticed that there was practically a hundred, if not more, people there because Malissa only cared about two of her old best friends. She seemed to have forgotten how much they were together back then. Then they all moved away, and it all just seemed to fall apart. She was glad for a chance to reconnect.

But after a while, Dany had to go greet the multitudes of people, as Renee and Malissa continued to talk. They shadowed Dany, occasionally being introduced to people whom Dany was really fond of, it seemed. But for the majority of the time, they only followed Dany as to keep them from being intruded on. Renee, though very outgoing, was not much of a people person, as far as spontaneous meetings.

After a while, people were pulling out food and volleyball nets. Many abandoned their benches at the cluster of tables under one of the shaded areas, so Renee and Malissa seized their chance to claim spots. They had so much to talk about, and were having fun doing so. Dany's social butterfly wings had taken flight, and she seemed to be everywhere. Malissa loved hearing about what Renee had been up to, including things with her family. Renee had a younger sister she loved and was very involved with. She loved taking her to do things and so hearing the funny and adorable stories made Malissa smile. And Malissa talked too, about her relationship with Hugh and school.

But after about an hour, people started suggesting swimming, and soon everyone was off to the neighboring pool. Renee was just as reluctant to go as Malissa, but they went anyway. It was hot, so the water was very soothing. Even though they went, Renee and Malissa had trouble talking which didn't really help their reluctance to be swimming, since everyone seemed to be in the massive pool. It made it seem much smaller than it really was.

Not after long, Malissa and Renee gave up on the pool and stretched out on some of the lounge chairs. They continued to chat casually, as they watched the hoard of people quickly grow rowdier. Dany, among it all, was soaking it in. She was chatting with a boy who was fairly attractive. He had mousy brown hair and eyes the color of rain clouds. He had a slightly charming smile, as far as Malissa could see. He was appealing on the eyes to a degree. Dany was talking to him with great ease, as if he was her brother, though occasionally, she would flash her flirtatious smile at him.

Renee and Malissa entertained themselves by watching the various groups of people, periodically returning to the hansom boy and Dany. This sparked various conversations, but hardly carried them long. Fortunately, people were starting to leave the pool and go home or lounge around the pool. At some point, Renee excused herself, for she had to call her aunt to check in, leaving Malissa alone. She was slightly uncomfortable, being alone in the sea of people, knowing very few of them, but decided to stay where she was. She distracted herself by flipping through her schedule planner. It was for no real reason. In some ways, this was one of her sown ways of coping with stress. This left her quiet and quite alone for a while, until Dany came to her, the hansom boy with her. He looked slightly sheepish beside Dany, whose confidence seemed to radiate around her.

"Malissa! You have got to meet my friend, here. His name is Mitchel Robertson. We've been friends a while, now. He's a good guy, and I think you two would be good friends." She turned to the boy Mitchel. "Mitch, this is my very best friend Malissa Benson." She then addressed both of them. "You two should talk while I go say goodbye to the people leaving." And with a slight flip of her black hair, Dany was gone.

Mitch looked slightly uncomfortable at first, but then he gave one of those charming smiles as he pulled up a chair beside Malissa. "Er, nice to meet you, Malissa."

Malissa gave a shy smile, "Same to you, Mitchel Robertson." Mitch chuckled.

"No need to be proper. Just call me Mitch. It's easier."

Malissa nodded. "Undoubtedly."

They were silent for a while, both not really knowing what to say. But after long, Mitch grew restless. "So, I hear you just graduated. From what school?"

"It's a private school called Emerson. It's quite big, actually, but not many people seem to know about you. How about you? You obviously have graduated. Well, you look like it, at least."

Mitch nodded. "I went to school with Dany. I graduated last semester, though. I've been working for my father ever since." A slightly sour look came across Mitch's face. But he quickly broke his train of thought, continuing to talk to Malissa. They talked casually for a while, uninterrupted.

However, soon after, Malissa's phone went off. "Sorry," she said quickly, rummaging through her bag for her phone. She answered, a little exasperated.

"Hello?"

The voice on the other end was her mother's. "Malissa, are you going to be home anytime soon? Remember, I want you home early so you can get rest for tomorrow. That interview is very important for your future, if you want to go to college."

"Oh, mom, I totally forgot that was tomorrow! Okay, I'll just say goodbye here and I'll be home in about half an hour. Is that alright?"

"Yes, that's fine. I'll have dinner ready for when you get home."

"Alright. Thanks, mom. See you in a bit." She hung up, sighing. She turned to Mitch. "I totally forgot I have a job interview tomorrow. I have to get up early. It's at this little day care center near my house, and they want to interview me before they open, which is at about five in the morning." She gave a little nervous laugh.

"That's fine. It was nice meeting you, Malissa." He smiled at her, shaking her hand. She flushed a little, when a thought occurred to her. It was a little intimidating , but she thought that for once, she ought to go out on a limb and take a chance. She reached into her bag, grabbing her pocket notebook and a pen. She wrote down her name and phone number.

Handing it to him, she said, "Give me a call sometime. Maybe we could talk some more? I trust Dany when she say's you're great." No sooner than when the words left her mouth, Malissa regretted them. they sounded strange and just plain awkward.

But Mitch smiled. "Of course, it'd be my honor." Malissa flushed again. She tried to hide this as she stowed her pen and notebook back into her bag.

"Alright, see you, then." She smiled and sought out Dany or Renee. Sure enough, she found the two talking. She bounded to them, wanting to say goodbye.

Dany turned to Malissa and beamed. "There's the lady of the hour!" She giggled. Malissa frowned, then stuck her tongue out at her friend for teasing her. "How did you like Mitch?"

"He's nice," Malissa said distractedly. She was digging for her notebook and pen. As she was writing her information down, she said, "I have to go. I forgot that I have a job interview early in the morning, so I need to be on my way." She handed each of them a paper before tucking the pen and notebook away. "I'm sorry I can't stay long. But we'll keep in touch, alright? We can't go another several years without talking. That's just not going to do."

"Yeah, sure," Renee said with a smile, hugging Malissa.

"No problem," Dany said, hugging Malissa after Renee.

"Okay, well, I'll see you, then!" And with a final wave, Malissa rushed home.