Christmas for me was unbelievably lonesome. I called one of my boyfriends to come over so that he could take me to the store to get paper plates for the family gathering, and while standing in line, he noticed a - what you might call a passion mark - on my neck that he didn't put there.Furiously he walked out of the store, leaving me in line.

When I got to the car, he didn't say anything and neither did I. We drove home in silence, and when I got home, he drove off.

I called later that day, trying to explain that it was nothing and that I was sorry. He said he wanted to be friends, and from there we would see how it went.

I can't bear this, because I love him with all my heart. What happened between me and the other person was because I was lonely, so I turned to someone else for attention. Help me! I want him back.

GENTLE READER - Before Miss Manners dutifully addresses your problem, would you allow her to say a sympathetic word about the gentleman?

If it is not unprofessional, she would like to venture the opinion that he is being more than fair - the word "foolhardy" springs to mind - in offering to re-form a friendship that would not preclude a reinvolvement.

All right; now for the advice.

Grab it. Be a good friend to him and let something more develop. He didn't storm off forever, and his conciliatory attitude shows that he cares, too.

And now please forgive Miss Manners if she forgot to say that she was sorry you had a lonesome Christmas.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - Two questions about sharing costs of common services:

1. Arrangements have been made to provide limousine service from the airport to the hotel. The limo can accommodate six people. There are three people going, of whom two are husband and wife. What do you feel is an equitable way to divide the fee?

2. Two families plan to vacation together and share the cost of a rental house. One family is a husband and wife plus four children, and the other is a couple with no children. What is an equitable way to divide the costs?

GENTLE READER - In dividing such costs, relationships don't count. Miss Manners does not care to spend the rest of her life decreeing whether significant others are more or less entitled to free rides than lawful spouses.

Generations may count, however, on the sometimes laughable assumption that children actually use less of the services than adults.

In your first example, therefore, the cost is divided into three. In the second, the larger family pays more, but not necessarily three times as much. If the four children are thrown into one room, for example - well, not thrown, but nicely tucked into bunk beds - paying twice the amount of the childless couple would strike Miss Manners as reasonable. But for goodness' sake, settle it one way or the other before you go, or it won't be much of a vacation.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - At my favorite bookstore, distinguished authors regularly come to read a chapter or so from their latest books, and they are then available to autograph books for customers.

I realize that such events are organized to sell books, particularly the book that the author is reading from. I suppose the goal is for members of the audience to purchase a copy on the spot, which they may then ask the author to sign. But is this the only way one may ask for an autograph?

I almost never buy new hardcover books unless they are sold as remainders, because I feel I can't afford them. My usual fare is paperbacks (not to mention used books and library books).

Would it be permissible for me to take to the bookstore a book I purchased previously - not the one being currently promoted, but an earlier one by the same author - and ask the author to sign it? If it was a remainder, I would remove the price tag first.

Would it matter if the book was a paperback? Should I take along a receipt to prove that I bought it at the bookstore hosting the event? I'm not certain the staff would recognize me as a regular customer. What if I bought it elsewhere?

It sounds a bit like taking one's own food to a restaurant, but the author might actually be flattered. At least my worn copy would prove that I had actually read the book, while some of the others might be destined to gather dust.

GENTLE READER - Flattered! Miss Manners, who has some personal acquaintance with the situation you describe, promises you that you can hardly flatter an author more than by showing up with an obviously treasured copy of any edition of any book he or she wrote.

The comparison with restaurants is not apt. Everyone connected with the book business should look beyond the immediate prospect of a sale to encourage reading in general and would therefore be grateful to see the signs of devotion you offer. The restaurant business does not depend on encouraging people to develop the habit of eating.

Judith Martin is author of the new book "Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium" (Pharos Books).

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.