"Where did you disappear to after the game?" asks my roommate and fellow Panther, Charlie.

"Locker rooms," I reply, my focus on the virtual soccer game I am playing on my PC. "I, uh, had a headache and the noise was becoming too much."

"That's not what it looked from where I was standing. You were long gone while your brother made out with Karissa before the game."

"I really don't want to talk about my brother's disgusting make out session."

I pull on my headphones, drowning out Charlie's voice with the game's sound effects. The chat box for the game pops up as my internet opponent sends me an IM.

FlamingRed19: How are you losing 10-3 right now? I thought you were a soccer genius. (smirks)

I raise an eyebrow as I send a reply.

DominEgo10: I am a little out of it today. You should be thrilled that you are winning for once.

FlamingRed19: Dude (. . . you are a dude, right? Gotta double-check.) I don't know if you realize it, but I have been kicking your ass since first year. You need to up your game.

DominEgo10: That is a lot of talk for someone who has never set foot on a soccer field. (Yes, I am a dude.)

FlamingRed19: Whatever makes you sleep at night :p

I chuckle, shaking my head as I score a virtual goal.

FlamingRed19: That's more like it. It's too bad Coach Taylor keeps benching you.

DominEgo10: So you DO go to AU . . . How come I've never seen you?

FlamingRed19: Because . . . it's my super power to remain invisible.

I blink at the screen as I click the pause button the game on my end. What the heck? Why do I feel like I have heard that phrase before? Because I have heard it before.

FlamingRed19: You still there?

I snap out of my haze and quickly send a reply.

DominEgo10: Yeah, sorry, I was talking to my roommate. If you attend AU, I must have seen you at some point.

FlamingRed19: Doubtful, because sometimes I can be like the Flash. I zip in and out of the classrooms with blinding speed. (winks)

DominEgo10: Okay . . . (why the wink?) I think you have had your head in too many comic books.

FlamingRed19: (do you not want me to wink at you #10?) Actually, I read a small amount of comic books and a healthy amount of Christian fiction novels. It is a healthy balance and my mom prefers that I keep it way.

DominEgo10: (now I have to meet you face to face and find out if my suspicion is true, grins) What authors do you like? If you happen to say a name I recognize, I can promise that you will have a friend in my mom.

FlamingRed19: (I'm invisible, remember? You will never find me for a face-to-face meeting. Suspicion or not.) Emily C. Jenkins is my top favorite. My mom buys each of her new books the day it releases.

DominEgo10: (Super power or not, I'll find you. winks) Hmm . . . You just named an author I know personally. How would you like to meet her and get some of your books signed?

I grin in triumph as I wait for FlamingRed to reply. My phone buzzes on the table next to my keyboard. I slide my headphone around my neck as I look at the caller ID.

"Hey Ma," I say, keeping my eyes on the chat box. "I was just thinking about you."

"Is that so?" she asks with soft laughter. "That's so nice! Listen Eric, I know you've got class tomorrow, but I was wondering if you could watch Ethan and Micah for your sister. She and I are taking Karissa out shopping in the morning. Gil has three private classes, but he will come relieve you afterwards. We tried to get Jacks, but Karissa's father invited him to their country club to play golf."

Like a punch in the gut, the feeling from the other night smacks me in the face. Karissa's entire family eats out of the palm of Jacks' hand. How much more now that he is the fathered a child with Karissa? However, just as quickly as it came, it leaves at the sight of a new IM from FlamingRed.

FlamingRed19: That would be awesome! How would you work that out?

I stay silent for a while, until Mom's voice snaps me out of it.


"Sorry," I say as I run my free hand through my hair. "I think I can swing it . . . on one condition."

"There is always a condition with you," Mom says, laughing.

"Well, I have this friend who reads some of your Christian fictions. I offered to get some books signed and . . . how long would you be shopping for?"

"Just a few hours, I guess . . . I think I could sign some books when I get back. Who is the friend of yours? A girl?"

I gulp; what if FlamingRed is a dude? That would be too weird. I pinch my phone between my chin and shoulder, my fingers tapping furiously at the keyboard.

DominEgo10: How does tomorrow sound? (and I should warn you that you will be stepping into nanny shoes as payment) I could meet you in front of the dorms and you can ride in my car.

"Thanks Ma," I say, holding my phone in my hand again. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"You have some explaining to do, but okay. I will see you tomorrow. Love you honey!"

"I love you too, Mom. Bye."

I end the call and wait for another IM.

FlamingRed19: Tomorrow is fine with me. (sounds like my usual routine when I visit home) Okay . . . what time?"

DominEgo10: How's 9:30 sound? (oh, so you're a nanny?)

FlamingRed19: Fine by me. (Yes, my older sister has four kids, all under the age of six. She's a breeding machine. I guess that does make me a nanny.)

DominEgo10: All right, see ya tomorrow Red! (Yikes, that is a lot!)

FlamingRed19: See ya! (You have no idea!)

With that, FlamingRed's user goes offline. I place my hands behind my head, thinking how I might react to meeting Red for the first time. We began playing together during my first year at AU. Every time I log into the game, I make sure FlamingRed is my opponent. I don't know what it is, but we get along really well, even though it is through the internet. Now I am kind of worried. What if FlamingRed is a dude? Then again . . . what if it is a girl . . . a girl with flaming red curls and the ability to knows exactly what to say without even knowing what you are going through. I pull off my headphones and push away from my desk. I need to shower and finish some last minute assignments. Tomorrow may be my free day, but I am not prepared to fall behind.

"Where you going, man?" Charlie asks, looking at me with an odd expression.

"Showers," I reply, grabbing my towel. "Don't have a party in my absence."

I slip out of the room and head down the hallway towards the bathrooms. Unlike Jacks, whom was initiated into a fraternity house, I stay in the co-ed dorms. It's not so bad, as long as I don't accidentally see girls in the showers, wearing nothing but a towel. Which only happened about six times, but I covered my eyes and waited for them to leave. It is somewhat embarrassing, but Charlie seems to wish he were the one with those types of experiences. For a guy who grew up with five sisters, I would expect him to be a bit more respectful. Not.

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