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May 17, 2009

Luke surveyed the contents of his trunk, it was some sight. It looked like our dorm rooms had collided in a garish war. My bright purple duffle bag stood out from the grey tubs, flat screen, and guitar case carefully stacked on top of the back seat. Not to mention the floor lamps lancing my favorite paisley throw pillow.

I did a slow mental tally of all the things that hadn't fit in storage and were necessary to drag home for the summer before Dad could come back with the U-Haul. "Think we have everything?"

Luke gestured to the curb. The black glass eye of an oversized teddy bear leered at us from behind the rear tire. "Everything but that. Really, Callie, does Pooh's evil twin have to come with us?"

I had to admit, the bear's eyes were a little intense, but the burgundy bow around his neck softened things up some. His nose was squished from being thrown against the wall a few too many times-sometimes in more passionate attempts to boot him from my bed than others. The night after Adam had delivered him was a prime example of that. He was cast away with bobbing balloons, sheets and shirts. A small smile pulled the edges of my lips at the memory.

I was perfectly content with surprise visits, late night phone calls and my long distance relationship with Adam. We were doing great.

I nodded, giving Luke my ultimatum, "Yup. It's him or me."

Luke relented, his eyes softening a little. No doubt he still blamed himself for the bear's existence. "Fine, but he's not sitting in the front seat or anywhere I can see him in the rearview mirror. He gives me the creeps."

In the poor bear's defense, at least he wasn't clutching a satin heart or wearing a t-shirt with a sentimental saying emblazoned on it. I picked him up from the curb and tucked him into the backseat, being sure to obscure his presence behind a hamper of dirty laundry and an old take out bag. Luke shut the trunk with a resounding thud. I shook off the uneasy feeling as I slid into the passenger seat.

His seat belt clicked into position and he shoved his keys into the ignition, but I could tell something was wrong. My finger paused near the knob of the radio. He was busying himself with adjusting the rearview mirror, which was odd, since I'd have presumed he was the last one in his car. It was his baby. Loaning it to the roommates was usually out of the question. And he kept scanning the rest of the student body packing up their lives in the parking lot.

He looked tense, not like Luke.

My hand rerouted itself to his on top of the car's shift stick. He didn't flinch. In fact, he didn't do much of anything at all. No sly comment or sardonic smirk.

We just sat there for a few minutes like that, until I opened my stupid mouth. "Thanks for the ride, Luke. You know it's my favorite part of summer, right?"

The words sounded forced, but it was the truth. Summers at home, well, these annual road trips were like the calm before a country storm-a Dorothy spinning her black-and-white way to the Land of Oz kind of storm. I knew Luke didn't have to go through the trouble of dropping me off on his way through town. Every year he'd make up a slew of excuses to stick around for the weekend, making sure everything was okay. Making sure I was okay.

Last summer he'd even worked in a few extra visits. I was looking forward to it, especially with Adam not able to come down until fall.

Luke exhaled and then his features faltered, almost as if the intimacy of my words and my touch were too much for him to take. His hand jumped from mine and ran a jagged path through his hair. Then he revved the car and focused hard-almost too hard-on backing out of his spot.

"Mine too, Callie."

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