After hanging out with Annie all morning, and most of the afternoon, I do not want the day to end. I have yet to run into Coach Taylor. I went by his office, but he had gone out for lunch. Annie and I are in the library when Charlie comes towards our table.

"How're you feeling, Annie?" he asks softly, sitting across from us.

"Better, thanks," she replies, focusing on the book she is reading.

"I saw Coach Taylor entering the locker rooms," Charlie turns to me. "He looked worried."

I glance at Annie, but she keeps her gaze in her book.

"When did you see him go there?" I ask, slowly pushing myself away from the table.

"Before coming here," Charlie replies, placing a textbook and notebook on the table.

"Annie," I say and she looks up. "Chill out with Charlie for a bit. I will be right back."

She nods and turns back to her book. I sigh; Annie has been rather quiet today. I guess she is still recuperating her energy. I sling backpack over my shoulder and head for the exit. The library building is on the east side of campus. The locker rooms on south side next to the field, which is quite a ways to walk from here. I cut through the lawns and through the east dormitories. I catch Coach Taylor coming out of the locker room entrance when I arrive.

"Coach," I say, walking up to him. "You got a minute?"

"I do," he replies, looking at his watch. "We still have around an hour before the team meeting. What can I do for you?"

"It's not so much for me . . . I know that Annie is the mascot and that you might not want her to participate at tonight's game. I think she should wait until next week's game before getting back in the suit."

"Which she should," Coach nods as we head down the walkway. "Annie's high-spirited; she might not like the idea of sitting out from the game."

I nod, "I was going to ask if she could still go to the game," I say after a moment. "She could stay on the bench, near me, and she would not be using too much energy."

Coach stops walking and turns to look at me.

"Did she put you up to this?" he asks, eyebrow arched.

"It was kind of a joint idea," I reply slowly.

"What is my daughter to you, Eric? I know you are not one to do pranks, or hurt someone intentionally . . ."

"I enjoy Annie's company," I explain, shoving my hands into my pockets, scuffing the soles of my sneakers on the pavement. "I would never do anything to hurt her, because that's not me, it never was. Annie made it clear that she only wants to be friends, and I want to take advantage of that."

I look back at Coach's face and am surprised to see he is smiling.

"You wish it were more," he says, adjusting the strap of his bag on his shoulder. "I can see it in your eyes."

I sigh, "I do, but she made it clear that she doesn't," I say, shrugging. "But that does not mean I'm going to just stop talking to her. I have been stuck in the blues for too long and I think Annie just needs to see that I do not care . . . I care about her; what I don't care about is how long she has left. I mean, I do care, I just . . ."

"You just want her to know that you are serious. Eric, you certainly seem to know what you are getting into. You took care of my little girl the other day and for that, I am ever grateful. I am willing to strike you a deal."

I watch him for a moment, narrowing my eyes, waiting for Coach to go on.

"I do not know what tonight's game will bring," he says, motioning for me to follow him into the admissions office. "I told you that I am saving you for the championship game, and I am a man of my word. If you want Annie to come to the game, I ask that you keep a close eye on her. Do not let her out of your sight, and if it should ever occur, you will have my permission to be more than friends with my daughter."

I stop in my tracks and stare at Coach Taylor. He watches me for a moment before chuckling.

"Kid," he says, resting his hand on my shoulder. "I am sure your own father has told you this at some point in your life. A father knows things, even before his own children realize it. Now, go enjoy the rest of your free time. I'll see you at the meeting."

I nod slowly, still frozen in place with slight shock as Coach Taylor turns into the office building. I shake myself awake and turn in the direction of the library again. I shove my hands into my pockets as I walk, a gentle smile creeping its way across my face. Annie is walking out of the library as I am about to walk in. She catches my arm and tugs me around the side of the building.

"Whoa," I say, chuckling. "Slow down there, partner. I don't have to be anywhere for another hour."

"How can you stand Charlie?" Annie asks, scoffing. "He's friggin' annoying! He never shuts up!"

"I tolerate him," I reply, grinning at her annoyed expression. "Yes, he's annoying and never knows when to shut up. He wasn't my first choice for a roommate, because Jacks and I shared the dorm until he got initiated into a frat house."

"Have you told him anything about me?"

"No; why? What was he saying?"

Annie's green eyes grow wide, possibly because of whatever Charlie was saying. I lean back, against the wall of the building, my hands shoved in my pockets. I wait in silence, watching as Annie's eyes fall to my feet and work their way, slowly, back up to my face. I hold back a grin, thinking of the possibility that Annie might freak out if I call on her checking me out. Which she was most definitely was doing just now.

"Charlie was asking me a million questions about you and me," Annie explains, sighing as she comes to lean against the wall, next to me. "He wanted to know why you had been hiding your relationship with me and what took you so long to get me to share a bed with you. I wanted to slap that stupid smirk off his face."

I chuckle, "I would have loved to see you do that," I say, leaning on my shoulder as I face her. "Ignore Charlie; he likes to provoke people, a lot. He knows very well that I am not the kind of guy who bring girls to the room, and that I have not been in any sort of relationship since college began. He once asked Jacks if I was straight or not."

Annie's eyes grow wider as she turns to look towards the campus lawn.

"What did my dad say?" she asks after a pause.

"Stick to me like glue, and you can go," I reply, nodding. "I am to keep a close eye on you all night."

A soft smile sneaks its way across Annie's face. A gentle breeze raises, her red curls covering her face. I chuckle and reach to help push it out of her face; she laughs softly, tossing her head as she starts to pull her hair back. We lock eyes for a brief moment. Something flashes in Annie's eyes before she breaks our gaze. I sigh and face the lawn.

"Want to grab a snack before I have head to the team meeting?" I ask, glancing at her.

"Sure," Annie replies, nodding her head slowly. "Maybe we can accidentally pass by Charlie, so I can grant your wish to see me slap him."

I laugh, "We could, but that would only confirm his stupid suspicion that we have something going on . . . which we don't."

"Yeah . . ."

Neither of us moves at first. I offer Annie my hand,which she takes slowly, but without hesitation. We head towards the café, which is on the north side of campus. We do not run into Charlie, which is good because I like holding Annie's hand. I don't want her to let go.    

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