"If all you can do is crawl, start crawling. Soon, you’ll be able to stand."
S’renaty James lives a privileged life most her age only dream of living. She is beautiful and popular with her entire life ahead of her. Life could not get any better.
Until her entire life shifts, crashing around her...
Bound by devastation, persecuted by the ones she used to call ‘friends’, haunted by disturbing nightmares, and filled with self-blame, she vows to overcome.
Stefan is everything S’renaty swears to avoid. He is carefree and charismatic. He is primitive, complicated and a total badass. He makes her melt like fine chocolate under a hot summer’s sun the first time their eyes meet. There is something about him, and she makes it her mission to find out.
When he meets S’renaty James, he is not prepared for what comes over him because for the first time ever, a girl leaves him breathless. Now, his primary responsibility is to keep her safe.
He will do anything to protect her. Even lie...
Stefan is the one person she has trusted with her heart. After keeping an unforgivable secret, he could be the one to shatter it to pieces. In fact, he may even destroy her beyond repair. Will she overcome and forgive, letting go of the pain, guilt and shame? Or this time, will she be stronger than the hardest lesson of her life — and, become totally ShameLess?
With my head propped against my mother’s warmth, and my body wrapped in her love, I open my eyes and see the reflection of my half of the ‘best friends forever’ necklace shimmering in the beams of sunlight coming through my bedroom drapes. It is hanging where it always has, over the photo of Elle and me at my eleventh birthday party at the beach. The picture was taken the day she got it for me. Both of us are wearing our party hats as colored balloons with their matching curled and spiraled strings hang around us, providing the perfect backdrop. I can’t take my eyes off them.
My mother missed this one photo. She missed the necklace, too. It may only be half of one heart illuminated by the sunlight, but in this particular moment, it illustrates the clarity and depth of my pain. Ironically, it is exactly how my heart is now without her. It is only half of what it used to be. It is only half of what it should be still. My heart will never be whole again. Best friends forever, Elle. I love you. Always have; always will. My mind projects the words to her without saying it aloud.
Overwhelmed with agony, I clench my eyes shut and hold onto my mother. I cannot bring her back. I cannot go back in time and change the outcome. The present moment is all I have now.
My heart bleeds as my eyes overflow with the pain pouring out from the depths of my soul. I will never be the same. I am the reason Elle sped off that night. This is entirely my fault. It should have been one of the happiest moments of our lives together and of our senior year. It turned out to be the worst. I killed my best friend.
Not far in the distance, I see him. His back is to me, but he looks somewhat familiar. His head rests in his palms, and he is on bended knee. What do I do now? I can’t just walk over there and intrude. I don’t want to interrupt his moment with his loved one. Oh my god, he is standing. Do not turn around. Do. Not. Turn. Around.
Quickly, I hide myself behind the thick trunk of a nearby oak. Holy shitballs! Just great! Luckily, I think I ducked out of sight in time, so he wasn’t able to see me prying or spying on him. Whew! Thank the sweet Lord and all of his Angels above. Angels…
Immediately I am taken back to the verse engraved on my friend’s headstone. Thanks for having my back again, Elle.
Seconds pass. I glimpse around the oak to sneak a peek while my heart slows down. I see him. He is sitting now. His head is hanging, and he is running a hand through his dark wavy strands. He appears agitated. Maybe he did see me? Nah, I honestly don’t think he did.
Fuck! It’s him!
Now, I can’t take my eyes off of him. He looks like a Greek god, especially how, on bended knee he looks like a statue, and the sunlight shadows his face. I’m more intrigued. I can only see his back, but his broad shoulders expand against his cotton T-shirt. It is snug as the sleeves hug his bicep muscles. Damn! He was so incredibly arrogant at the Dr.’s office. Now, he seems fragile, nearly lost. I just want to head over there and hug him tight, letting him know he will be all right. Then again, who am I kidding? I am just now making my first visit to see my best friend after two full years. Maybe his loss has been hard on him, too. This makes me feel even sadder for him. Strangely and ironically, I feel closer to him, despite how he acted earlier. At that time, I wouldn’t have cared if I had ever seen him again. Now, my heart is breaking for him.
Okay. I am actually starting to freak myself out. I am standing in a cemetery, scrutinizing some hot guy, probing into his business, and acting as if I give a crap after how he treated me earlier. The fact is that I do give a crap. Why? I have absolutely no freaking clue. I shouldn’t care one iota. Yet, here I stand, peeping out behind the protection of an aged oak, watching and stalking him. Yes! I am officially a creeper.
“Oh Elle, wouldn’t you just razz my shit over this?” If only you were listening. If only you could.
I steal one last gander at my newfound ‘mystery man’, taking in the hot Greek god in his entirety, then take off in the direction of my car.
On the heels of the truth surfacing in my head, my body reacts. Rapidly, I do a half-turn, lunging down and digging my right foot into the sand, and spin. I push off, hard with my foot, and take off darting back down the sand heading in the direction we just came from. I don’t wait for a response or a reaction from Stefan. I just run fast and hard. I allow my body to dictate its speed. I sprint, running parallel with the raging tides inspiring my motivation. It’s absolutely fucking freeing. Emotional tension blends with the sexual tension surging, pushing me, and giving me additional grit to push on.
“Who needs a rest now?” I cry out into the air now blowing at my back. Dazed, Stefan didn’t see that one coming, and I chuckle as I continue racing down the beach.
In no time, he catches up to me as we near the house. He grabs my hand, halting me, pulling me to his side. Both of us are covered in sweat, and sex oozes off him. I just want to scream. Instead, I lean forward, placing my hands on each of my knees, gasping through huffing breaths. Damn that felt great!
Before I know what is happening, he whisks my entire body up slinging me over his shoulder, and takes off running. We both plunge straight into the ocean. The frigid water bitch slaps me; no cold shower needed. Together, we come up for air. Freezing water runs down our faces.
“What the hell, Stefan?” I stutter out through chattering teeth as shivers possess me. Between the cool breeze off the ocean, and the frigid water, I can’t get warm.
He pulls me to him, wrapping me in his arms, “I told you, you would be in my arms, Star. And, cheaters always get due punishment. I don’t play.” His words, playful, and firm, offer heated softness. I allow myself to welcome the warmth. How is there any possible way to respond to that? I can’t.
In the next instant, Stefan takes both of his hands to each side of my face, saying, “You will always be in my arms,” then leans in closer introducing his lips to mine in a more passionate kiss than any I have had with him or by anyone else.
In this moment, it feels like the first one. I’m dying inside. This icy water holds no refuge to the fervor his body offers mine. He attempts to pull away, but I bring him to me this time, and take all of him, seizing his lips with my own. I bite his bottom lip, sucking it in, nibbling a little harder, and letting him know I want all of him, not just his lips. I want all of him!
Time has a way of transcending. It surpasses more than the grandest of any of our unanswered prayers. It offers us gifts every single day. Pap is right. Each day is truly a gift. Our past is a gift for our present to open. I’m in the present with the most amazing guy. Right now, nothing else matters except for opening my gift, and accepting my present. God knows exactly what we need exactly when we need it. I thank God for giving me the strength to be here, in this moment.
Tomorrow may still be a mystery, but today is unraveling, slowly. It’s like opening a gift, and one I have every intention of treating with care…unwrapping it gently to savor its blessing. Here is to the present; to us!
Mel Ballew resides in rural Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter, along with their two adorable cats.
An avid reader, she has always had an equal passion for writing and has written her entire life, to date. Her mother initially birthed, inspired, and encouraged these loves. The two often discussed writing together but unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition.
Years later, this happened, that happened—life happened.
She stepped away from writing to place more focus on being wife and a full-time mom. Today, she would not have changed a thing. The day her daughter was born became the first day she realized a significant rhythm to her heart was also born. Her daughter, now preparing to go off to college, has grown into a beautiful and responsible young adult.
A twisted turn of events in September 2009 left Mel unable to work outside of the home. Forced to consider other options, and while embracing a therapeutic approach of transcribing all of the challenges facing her, post-accident, she returned to journaling. Once again, the writer within her has been re-birthed—awakened from slumber.
Mel is a hopeless romantic. Blessed, she has her very own soul mate, which she calls husband, best friend, and lover.
She is a simple country gal, with a profound love of true simplicity. She is just as hopeless in her love of nature and regards many of her writing aspirations to appreciating its beauty, although every single story is birthed from her dreams. Sometimes, in life, simply enjoying a chilled glass of sangria on a warm summer’s eve or indulging in her love of chocolate and peanut butter is an expression of enjoying such simplicity. For her, these moments are truly d’vine.