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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was recently invited to a relative's home because my nephew was introducing his fiancee, "Macy," to the family. I asked my nephew what gift Macy might like, and he suggested a sweater and told me her size. I bought her a lovely one -- at least, I thought it was lovely.

After Macy tried it on, I was shocked when she handed it back to me and said she didn't like it. I couldn't exchange or return it because it had been purchased from a store where I live, and this store doesn't have a branch in their state. I took the gift home with me and got a refund. Now I don't know what to do.

Because Macy gave it back to me, does she forfeit the gift? Should I send her the amount of the store refund? Do I owe her anything as a substitute for the gift she refused? She will be a part of our family, and I need to know what to do if this happens again. I'd appreciate your thoughts. --GIFT-CHALLENGED IN IOWA

DEAR GIFT-CHALLENGED: If ever I heard about someone who needs an etiquette book, it's your nephew's fiancee. Make it a thick one, because she appears to be clueless in that department. As to what to do if this happens again -- you can prevent it from happening by not selecting any more gifts for her. A donation in her name to a favorite charity might work if you feel obligated to give her something.

DEAR ABBY: The love of my life, "Adam," is leaving for school in August. He's going to Portland, Ore., to pursue his studies in renewable energy engineering. My passion is nursing. I'm currently finishing up my college requirements and waiting to get into the program. My college credits won't transfer, so if I went with Adam, I'd either have to start over or wait until I got back home to resume.

I'm wary of long-distance relationships, but I don't want to be separated from Adam for two years. We have discussed taking turns flying out to see each other and staying in touch via phone and the Internet. But I still get sad thinking about the time we'll be apart. We are both determined individuals, and in the chaos of life we have managed to find a fairy tale. Everyone has given us their advice about our situation and it hasn't helped. Do you have any words of reassurance for us? -- LOVELORN IN PHOENIX

DEAR LOVELORN: You and Adam appear to be intelligent, focused and mature young people. Although you have built a "fairy tale" together, building a solid future will take some sacrifice on both your parts. Being apart will allow each of you to concentrate fully on your studies. If you love each other, and it appears you do, you will get through the challenge and emerge stronger than ever.

DEAR ABBY: I found out my high school sweetheart has cancer and only a short time to live. I would like to send her flowers and a message -- but without the knowledge of my wife of 43 years. Is this a bad idea? -- OLD FLAME IN ILLINOIS

DEAR OLD FLAME: Frankly, I see no reason why you should sneak around to do it without your wife's knowledge. Tell her word has reached you that the woman is dying, that at the time you knew her she meant a lot to you, and you plan to send her flowers and a message. If your wife is so insecure that she would tell you not to, don't do it. But, please, don't beat around the bush or sneak around. You're all adults, and being secretive is childish.

TO MY JEWISH READERS: It's time to hide the matzo again -- Passover begins at sundown. Happy Passover, everyone!

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)