I am out front of the dorms at 9:25 on the dot. Early enough that I am here before FlamingRed, and I have the excuse that I have 'not been waiting long.' I pull out my phone as I sit on a metal bench, keeping myself busy. I honestly hope my suspicion is correct. If FlamingRed is Annie from the other night, she will have a bit of explaining to do. Five minutes later, someone calls my name, and it is a voice I recognize.


I look up and smile with relief. Annie is wearing a yellow and black, AU sweater-jacket, black skinny jeans, solid red Converse, and carrying a heavy-looking tote bag. Her red curls hang loose around her shoulders and her green eyes are full of excitement. I grin as I rise to my feet, shoving my phone into my back pocket.

"Suspicions confirmed," I say, bouncing on my feet. "You had me worried I would have to blow today off. That is . . . had you been a dude."

"I gave you plenty of hints to know that I was a girl," she says, laughing. "So, you didn't tell me how you know Emily C. Jenkins?"

"That is for me to know and for you to find out. Are those your books?"

"Only my top five favorites; the rest are for reading later."

I grin and motion towards the parking lot, where my car is. Annie smiles and skips alongside me. When we my car, Annie gasps.

"Please tell me you are a Transformers fan," she says as I open the door for her.

"Bumble Bee all the way," I chuckle, smacking my palm against the yellow roof of my Camaro. "Which one is your favorite?"

"Ironhide, but that is probably because my uncle had one."

Annie gets into the passengers' seat and I close the door. I am not looking forward to seeing Karissa, but I do love hanging out with my nephews. The moment I get the car started, I notice Annie opening a tiny medicine bottle. She pops two of the tiny tablets into her mouth and starts to chewing, shoving the bottle into her bag.

"Do you get car sick?" I ask slowly, turning on my favorite radio station.

"If I remember not to read in the car," she begins, looking at me with a smile. "I think I will be fine. I don't car sick unless I am in the back seat of a bus, and if I read in the car, I get headaches. Those tablets I just took should help, but I am not going to read . . . much."

I chuckle, "My mom loves reading," I explain as I pull out of the parking space. "So much that she was writing a short story section for a newspaper where I grew up . . . And this is where I tell you she published all those short stories into a compilation novel and she has written several other novels . . . under the pseudonym Emily C. Jenkins. She also published a memoir under her real name."

"Your mom is . . . No wonder you said knew her personally. I was thinking you were trying to string me in."

"I am not that kind of guy . . . At least; I would never string someone along like that."

I glance at Annie and she smiles.

"I kind of know that," she says, pulling out her phone. "Can I borrow your phone for a second?"

"Um . . ." I hesitate as I pull my phone out of my pocket. "Okay, sure."

I put in my code and hand it to her. She taps at the screen for a moment and then glances at her own phone as it dings.

"I put my number under FlamingRed19," Annie says, putting my phone in the center console. "Which means I am saving your number under DominEgo10. Next time you get frustrated and want to kick rocks in a parking lot, call me. By the way, when you called me Red yesterday, you reminded me of my brother."

"I didn't mean anything by it . . .,"

"You didn't even know my name, so I am not offended or insulted. My older brother teases the heck out of me. I am the only child in the family with red hair . . . which was cool in middle school. We did a history project on pirates and I got to be Anne Bonny . . . and I am chattering away again. Feel free to shut me up."

I laugh, as I turn onto the freeway.

"Chatter away," I say, shaking my head. "I don't mind at all. I can remember a story my dad told me, about the time he met my mom. She said the same thing about telling her to shut up."

"Are you close to your parents?" Annie asks, twisting in her seat to lean against the window as she looks at me.

"Very close," I reply, nodding.

"What about your . . . sister, was it?"

"Yeah, I'm close to my sister, and with her husband, since we all grew up together."

"What about with Jacks?"

"We used to be close . . . We kind of . . . We've grown apart over the last five or six years."

"Hmm . . ."

I glance at Annie. Her expression is thoughtful as she looks at the road ahead of us.

"Do you mind twenty questions?" she asks after a pause.

"Twenty questions? I guess," I reply, shrugging.

"Okay . . . Favorite color?"

"Cerulean, yours?"

"Cherry red. Favorite animal?"

"I am a dog kind of guy, but I've never owned one. What about you?"

Annie sighs, "I'm allergic to fur and feathers. So I have only ever been allowed to keep fish . . . That reminds me, can we stop somewhere to get a bottled water? I need to take my allergy medicine."

"Is that one of the questions?" I ask, chuckling.

"Heck no!" she replies, laughing.

Her laughter fills the car, but it is not like earlier. This laugh is different somehow.

"We'll stop at the next gas station," I say, nodding. "This is not part of the twenty questions . . . Be honest, why do you like to be invisible?"

Annie sighs and looks out the window.

"I kind of have to be invisible," she explains, lowering her voice. "A lot of people here, though more mature than in high school, they tend to think I get special treatment because my dad is the coach. So I go by a different name, instead of Farrah Taylor. I go by Annie Banks, since Annie is my middle name. Yes, my dad gets a discount for his kids, because he is the coach, but I don't want people to look at me that way. I actually did not ask for this super power . . . It fell on me . . . Okay, enough about that, back to twenty questions. If you could go back in time to a specific time in your life, what would it be and what would you have done differently?"

"Eeks," I clear my throat and turn off the exit when I see a sign for a gas station. "Um . . . I don't know . . ."

Total lie, I do know. I would go back to the day Karissa first spoke to Jacks. I wish I had asked if she was free before she noticed my brother's earring. I wish she had chosen me and not my brother. I wish it were me she had fallen in love with.

"Eric, you okay?" Annie asks, snapping me out of my head.

"Yeah," I reply, mentally shaking myself. "Sorry, it seems I do that a lot lately. I just zone out."

"I'm a good listener, when I am not being a chatter box . . . would you like to talk about it?"

"Maybe later . . . prepare to be bombarded by my nephews, my invisible friend. My sister's house is only twenty minutes from here."

I pull into the gas station and turn off the engine. Annie looks at me for a long minute before getting out of the car. I am about to follow her, but she motions for me to stay. Without thinking, I watch Annie as she walks to the store entrance. I double-take, when I notice her jacket rising up her back, revealing the tiniest bit of skin. I can see a mark peaking above her waistline. What is that?    

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