I wake up to a gentle movement in my arms. I don't open my eyes at first, but when I do, all I see are red curls in the morning light. I smile and close my eyes again, nuzzling my face in Annie hair. She smells like cherries again; it's intoxicating. Sleep pulls me in again and I dream of her.

I wake up a while later to the sound of moaning. I open my eyes and see Annie yanking at her jacket, but her eyes are closed. I prop myself up, best I can without moving my arm from under her head, and gently shake her.

"Annie," I say softly, but suddenly become more concerned. "Annie, hey; what's wrong? Talk to me."

"It hurts," she replies, repeatedly; now she is pounding her fist against her chest.

I push up and start to unzip her jacket. Midway, I stop and press my hand to her forehead. Annie feels warmer than usual. I throw off the covers and jump out of bed. I work quickly and adjust Annie to the middle of the bed so she will not fall off. I then pull out my phone to check the time. It's only 7:30am, and my class is not until nine, so I have time.

"Annie," I say, kneeling next to the bed, running my fingers over her forehead. "What can I do? Talk to me."

"I think I'm going to throw up," she replies, her hand flies to her mouth and the color drains from her face.

I jump up and grab the trashcan from beneath my desk, thrusting it under Annie's mouth just in time to catch the vomit. I stand to pull her hair out of the way, grimacing.

"Should I call someone?" I ask softly as worry starts to fill my head. "Your parents, or your sister, maybe?"

Annie shakes her head, spitting a few times. I look around and grab a bottle of water, offering it to Annie to wash out her mouth. I sit on the floor in front of her, waiting for her to tell me what to do.

"I don't think you should go to class," I say, reaching a hand up to rub her knee. "Is there someone who can take notes for you?"

"You could," Annie replies, groaning as she falls sideways onto my pillows.

"I don't like the idea of leaving you alone," I shake my head as I get up and sit on the bed beside her. "I should call your parents."

"No!" she shouts as I start to reach for her phone. "Don't call anyone . . . please Eric, don't call anyone. They'll just make a fuss like they always do . . ."

Annie starts to sob softly. I touch her cheek and lean down to kiss her warm forehead.

"Okay," I whisper, "I won't call your parents . . . I'll skip class and stay here to take care of you, okay?"

"Okay," she whispers back, nodding slowly.

I look up as the door to the lounge that joins my room to Charlie's room opens. He walks in and glances at Annie in my bed.

"Is she okay?" he asks in a hushed voice.

"She doesn't feel well," I reply, not wanting to go into details. "Would you ask around and see if anyone has Aspirin?"

Charlie nods and disappears, closing the door behind him. I look back at Annie and sigh when I see that she is resting. I reach for my phone and scroll through my contacts until I find Jacks' ID. My thumb hovers over the green icon until I finally dial the call and bring the phone to my ear.

"What's up, bro?" he asks, clearly wide awake and ready for the day.

"I know I said you don't owe me, but I really need a favor," I reply, gently squeezing Annie's shoulder. "I need you to give an excuse to Professor Chaplin, who teaches my nine o'clock class. I . . . I can't make it today. Something came up and I won't make it to class."

"What happened man? You sound worried."

"I am worried . . . I'll tell you about it later. Can you do that for me?"

"I've got you covered, Eric. You have a doctor's appointment and you are diagnosed with mono."

I chuckle softly, "You and I both know it would be you who would catch that," I say, lowering my voice when Annie starts to moan again. "Listen, I gotta go. Thanks a million, Jacks."

"No problem," he replies before hanging up.

The door opens again and Charlie enters with a bottle of Aspirin in his hand. He tosses the bottle to me, concern streaking his face as he comes to look at Annie.

"You cannot tell anyone that she is here," I warn him, opening the bottle and pouring out two gel-tabs. "If you tell anyone, you'll regret it."

"I wasn't going to say anything to anyone," he says slowly. "She's Mandy's roommate, isn't she?"

"I don't know who her roommate is," I reply, shaking my head as I help Annie sit up to take the Aspirin.

Before I can get Annie to put the gels into her mouth, she gags and I lift the trashcan to her mouth. Charlie groans, covering his nose and mouth as he backs away.

"You're such a wimp, Charlie," I say, grinning as I shake my head. "Annie, I'm gonna need to empty this afterwards."

Annie nods and falls into the pillows again. I turn to Charlie.

"Watch her," I say sternly. "I'll be right back."

I take the trashcan and slip out my door, heading in the direction of the bathrooms. I pass a few girls who make gagging noises when they see what is in the can. I empty the contents into one of the toilets and go the sink to rinse out the can. When I return to my dorm, I rush to Annie's side and help her sit up.

"Here," I say, holding up the gels and the water. "Take these."

Annie obeys, swallowing the remaining water. I glance at Charlie briefly before looking back at Annie as I run the back of my hand over her forehead.

"At least I know why you're sick," I whisper, helping her to get comfortable in the bed. I raise my voice when I speak to Charlie, "I've got it from here, if you have somewhere to be . . ."

"Text me if you need anything," he says, nodding.

"Will do," I reply as he closes the door behind him.

I look at Annie, shaking my head as I lean down and kiss her forehead again. I just want her to know that I am here to help, that I am not leaving until she is all right. I can remember the time I caught a bad flu and all I wanted was to know someone was there with me. I was ten years old and my parents took turns taking care of me. When they were both at work, Sabrina was with me. Jacks was not allowed to come near me, because Mom and Dad did not want him to catch the flu too. Sabrina had already had the flu once before, so she was not worried about catching it again.

"Eric?" Annie says in a soft voice, curling on her side, but not opening her eyes. "I'm sorry . . ."

"Don't worry about it," I say, leaning close to her ear. "You just rest, okay?"

"How can you not be grossed out by what you just witnessed?" she asks, coughing a couple times and clearing her throat. "Jason . . . my ex ran away every time I got sick. Said he couldn't handle being with me anymore. That he did not want to sit around, waiting for me to die. He went to study abroad."

"He's an asshole . . . is that why you . . ."

I stop myself; I do not need to ask a question when I already know the answer. Whoever this Jason is, he made Annie believe no one would want to be near her, aside of her family, supporting her when she needs them most. I climb into the bed, behind Annie, and wrap my arm around her waist. I kiss the back of her head and hold her close. The smell of vomit is prominent, but I do not care. Annie needs me.

Superpower (A Trigger Novel)Read this story for FREE!