The bus ride to the game is pleasant. Annie sits next to me and Jacks sits in the bench in front of us. He joins our conversation now and then, well to his word, but minds his own business. Annie talks about all the times she hides in the mascot costume, sitting at the front of the bus so she does not get sick. I remember her mentioning that when we went to babysit my nephews earlier this week. We are sitting close to the front, since Annie was already on the bus when I got on.

"My dad told me that he plans to have you play in the championships," Annie says with a smile. "He must know your skills are something special."

I chuckle, "Yeah, he told me that too," I say, nodding my head. "How's Nick doing? I was thinking that we could pick him up on Sunday and take him to see my nephews, after church."

"That's a great idea," she replies as her smile brightens. "Actually, I talked to Nick this morning and he was asking about you . . . He kept asking that one question that kind of made me . . . Never mind."

"He asked if we were boyfriend and girlfriend, didn't he? He asked me that too, but I told him we were just good friends."

Annie nods; Jacks chooses now to turn around and join the conversation again. I suppress the urge to groan. I am glad my brother is keeping his word, but I rather want to get Annie talking about this topic more.

"Twenty Questions time," my brother says, wiggling his eyebrows. "Questions can be pointed at one person, or at everyone. We go clockwise . . . I'll start, and this question is for everyone. Would you rather be given a thousand dollars, right now, or receive fifty dollars a months for the rest of your life?"

"Pfft!" Annie says, waving her hand. "That's easy; fifty dollars a month for the rest of my life."

"A thousand dollars right now would pay for the rest of Jacks' car," I say, grinning. "Then he wouldn't have to borrow mine."

"Hey!" my brother says, leaning forward to smack my shoulder. "I rarely borrow your car anymore. Karissa and I always take hers now."

I shove Jacks back into his seat; he chuckles.

"Your turn, Eric," Annie says with a smile.

"Okay . . ." I think about my question. "Question for Annie. Would you rather live in Narnia, or attend school at Hogwarts?"

Annie tilts her head to the side, tapping her chin with her index finger, thoughtfully.

"Narnia," she says with a single nod. "Jacks, would you rather lose an arm, or lose a leg?"

"Easy," he replies, holding up his left arm. "I would lose an arm, because I can still play soccer without it. Eric, is Annie the most beautiful girl, in your eyes?"

I stare him through squinty eyes.

"We all know the answer to that question," I say, slowly turning to look at Annie.

Her cheeks are flushed, making her freckles camouflage slightly. I glance towards Jacks, but he is sitting straight in his seat, tapping away at his phone.

"He's pushing buttons," I whisper to Annie as I turn back to her. "If he takes it too far, let me know. I'll put him in his place."

"It's okay," she whispers back, touching my hand. "Besides, I am thinking about what you said earlier. I told you that I just need some time."

I nod and slide my arm on the back of the seat, behind Annie's shoulders. A few minutes pass, and Annie twists in the seat to lean her back against my chest.

"Wake me when we get there," she says softly, yawning.

"You've got it," I reply, kissing the top of her head as her eyes close.


Annie and I are sitting on the bench, cheering and clapping for the team. Jackson, Charlie and Jacks are at the top of their game tonight, running plays left and right. The other team does not even know what hit them. Charlie scores a goal, surging our team into the lead, 9-3.

"You want something to drink?" I ask Annie, raising my voice over the roar of the crowd.

"Lemonade would be great!" she replies, nodding.

"I'll be right back."

I hop over the bench and sprint towards the concessions stand. I sigh as I stand behind a woman and her young son, at the back of what seems like an endless line. However, the line moves up quickly. I guess people are flocking together, not everyone is actually buying something.

"Two iced lemonades please," I tell the girl when it is my turn.

"$2.50," she says as another girl fills two, large plastic cups from the dispenser.

I hand her a five, "Keep the change," I say as I take grab two straws.

I stick the straws in the cups when they are set on the counter. I take one cup in each hand before heading back towards the field and the bench. I see some guy standing next to Annie, talking to her. I can see her, visibly, inching away from him, but he closes the gap just as quickly. He is probably around my height, broad shoulders and sandy-blond hair. As I get closer, I can hear what he is saying.

"You are not from around here, are you?" he asks with a smirk. "I'm Brad, by the way."

"I came with the Panthers," Annie replies, nodding. "I'm Charlotte; nice to meet you. You know, only the team is allowed on this side of the bench."

"You're not on the team, and I wanted to talk to you, so I have a valid excuse."

"I'm the mascot, which is why I am standing here. I am not in costume tonight. You should really go. I bet your girlfriend is wondering where you are."

"She's out of town for the weekend," Brad says, shrugging. "Don't worry, she won't even know about this."

I raise an eyebrow and walk forward again, because I stopped to listen. I come around to stand next to Annie.

"Here's your lemonade babe," I say, giving her a look that tells her to play along. "Miss me?"

"I did," Annie replies, smiling brightly as I kiss her cheek. "Thanks, I'm so thirsty!"

I grin and slide my arm around her shoulders. She leans into me, away from Brad. He clears his throat and turns to walk away. I wait for him to be out of view before pulling my arm away.

"Thank you," Annie says with relief. "He just wouldn't take a hint!"

"No problem," I say as we sit on the bench together. "I heard the last bit of your conversation. His girlfriend probably treats him the same way."

"It's horrible that he would even consider doing that to her. We need more people like you, Jacks and Gil. Sorry for my dad, but it took him a while to realize what my mom meant to him. My brother bounces from girl to girl. He is probably Gil's age, but he has not had a proper reason in his head, to settle down. The one nice girl he always goes back to has three kids with him."

"Hmm . . ." I take a long sip of my drink. "I'm sorry about that."

"I am too. My brother does not realize what he has. I just hope he realizes it before she gives up waiting."

I nod; Annie sighs and watches the game, clapping without much enthusiasm as before. I let my gaze lower to her lips for a moment. Luscious and pouty-like. I think back to what Jacks said earlier. I should kiss her. Like now.

"Come with me," I say, taking Annie drink and setting it aside with mine, on the bench.

I grab Annie's hand, pulling her through the crowd that gathers between the field and the bleachers. We pass by the concessions stand, and I pull Annie towards the other side of the bleachers. No one is around, which is perfect. How do I do this?

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