I toss and turn all night. The feeling I get when I think about Jacks and Karissa is completely gone, and replaced with the unexpected disappointment that Annie does not want us to end up dating. I understand that she does not want to start something and us getting hurt in the end, when she . . . I squeeze my eyes shut because I can't even bring myself to think that she will die. I sit up and look out the window to the night sky. Charlie is not here; my guess is he decided to crash with his girlfriend, or something. I groan and let my head fall back to the pillows. I can feel the exhaustion, but sleep keeps evading me. I have too much in my head, all thought revolving around Annie. Is it possible that I am feeling something for her?

"She doesn't want that," I say to the ceiling.

It does not mean she does not like you, a voice at the back of my head tells me. The voice sounds a lot like Sabrina's for some reason. I sigh and decide to take a walk. Maybe the night air will help me relax and clear my head. I shove the bed covers aside and pull on my jeans, which hang from my desk chair. I pull on my Converse, but I do not bother with the laces. I am not going to be walking for that long. I grab the keys to the dorm, and my jacket because it is starting to get cold, and slip into the quiet hallway.

Once outside, I close my eyes and breathe in the night air. I zip up my jacket, shoving my hands into the pockets as I start to walk around the lawn. The moon is out, and the stars are twinkling. I drop to the damp grass and lie on my back, looking up to the sky. I can remember going up to the roof at my parents' apartment, watching the stars in the middle of the night. Sometimes, if there was going to be an eclipse or a meteor shower, Dad would set up blankets so the family could wait and watch together. That was before Jacks and I started high school, though.


I sit up and look towards the voice. A dim light, possibly from a cell phone, approaches and slowly reveals Annie's face. She's wearing a thick, hooded jacket and woolen pajama pants. I try to hide a smile, because her pajamas are Marvel themed.

"What are you doing out here?" I ask, pushing myself to my feet as she stops next to me.

"I was about to ask you the same question," she replies with a gentle smile. "I was tossing and turning. I thought a short walk would help."

"Great minds think alike. I think my body is so exhausted that it doesn't have enough energy to fall asleep . . . You want to sit with me for a bit?"


Annie turns off her phone as we sit on the ground, side by side, and lie back to look up at the night sky. We stay silent for a while, but then I start to tell Annie about my memories of watching the sky with my family. She listens, but says nothing. After I finish my story, I let my voice die down. It is a long time before Annie says anything.

"Eric," she says without sitting up or looking at me. "I didn't hurt you when I said I only want us to be friends . . . right?"

I sigh, "I know why you said it," I reply, unsure of what else to say.

"You sounded disappointed after I said it . . ."

"Jacks invited me when he invited you. I never go out with him and Karissa. This would be the first time . . ."

"Eric, it's just that I don't want us to hurt each other, knowing the inevitable. I don't want you to think you are not a great guy, because you are . . . You're going to meet a nice girl and you won't have to worry about getting hurt because little old me is dying."

"Stop it Annie," I say, my voice breaks as I sit up and face her. "Don't talk about yourself like that. I get that you don't want to start anything, with anyone, but by saying that you don't want to hurt me just makes it worse. I can handle being your friend, don't worry about me."

After gazing into her eyes beneath the moonlight, I lie on my back, hoping Annie does not notice I am crying. I seem to lose myself a lot whenever Annie is around. Maybe I shouldn't be friends with her at all. I contemplate getting up and just leaving without another word. That is not you, and you know it. I try to be subtle as I raise my hand, swiping it beneath my nose. I swallow hard and close my eyes.

"I should go," Annie whispers and I open my eyes to see her push up from the ground.

"Don't," I find myself saying, pushing myself to grab her hand. "Don't go."

Annie looks up at me and I notice the glistening in the moonlight. I quickly pull Annie to me, wrapping my arms around her shoulders. Slowly, I feel Annie's arms wrap tightly around me, and she is shaking.

"I'm sorry," I whisper into her hood. "What I said was harsh."

"It's okay," Annie whispers back. "I'm sorry too."

I hesitate, but pull my head back enough to kiss her cheek. I feel Annie relax and I gently turn us to walk towards the dorms.

"I'll walk you to your dorm," I say, keeping my arms around her shoulders.

"Actually," she whispers, "I don't want to be alone right now . . . My roommate went out and hasn't come back yet."

"Okay . . . My roommate is out too, but I don't think he is coming back tonight. Do you want to come up and hang out with me for a while?"

Annie nods and I pull her towards my dorm building. We shuffle through the hallway to the stairs, barely making a sound. When we enter my room, I release my hold on Annie's shoulders to take off my jacket, but she keeps hers jacket on. I pull Annie towards my bed and pull down the covers.

"Are you cold?" I ask, kicking off my shoes before climbing under the blankets first.

"A little bit," Annie whispers, sitting on the edge of the bed to take off her sneakers. "Will you wake me up in an hour?"

"I'll set an alarm on my phone," I reply, retrieving it from where I stashed it beneath my pillow.

I shove my phone back under my pillow, connecting it to the charger before pulling Annie down next to me. I pull her to my chest, wrapping my arms around her, protectively. She leans into my chest, her arms bent between us as she tries to get warmer. I sigh and kiss her forehead, gently, tenderly. I just want to stay like this forever. I close my eyes, listening as Annie's breathing slowly becomes more calm and steady. A few minutes later, sleep takes me.    

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