"You really want to marry me?" Annie asks as a smile breaks through her tears.

"Yeah I want to marry you," I reply, sitting up while pulling her with me. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't want to marry you. Aside of what we previously discussed."

She beams, "I find none."

"Good, because I don't see any reason either . . . This is rather sudden. As you can tell, I didn't really think about this and I don't have a ring. Bu-"

Annie stops me from talking by putting her finger to my mouth. She shakes her head. I kiss her finger and pull her as close as I can get her. We stay like this for a while. My brother enters and sits in the chair at my desk. He doesn't say anything, staring at nothing while scratching at a loose splinter in the wood.

"Jacks," Annie says, pulling away from me. "We need you to be a witness."

"Witness of what?" he asks, glancing at her with a gentle glance.

"Of a contract . . . A contract similar to the one you would have been signing . . . Um . . ."

She gives me a questioning look. Which I immediately understand.

"Be my best man at our wedding," I say, looking at my brother. "Its next week."

"Name the time and I'm there," Jacks chuckles, shaking his head while running a hand through his hair. "You gonna go before a judge?"


He nods and asks, "You're being serious?"

"Dead serious," Annie replies, leaning her back into my chest. "We have to pack a lifetime of experiences into less than that, so."

"Have to cross off as many items from the bucket list as we can," I add, holding my girlfriend tight. As spontaneous and crazy as this is, it does feel like Annie and I are joking with my brother. But we're not.

"I had a feeling you'd marry her, bro," Jacks says with a chuckle.

The look of genuine happiness almost catches me off guard. With everything that has happened with Karissa, I know both Annie and I were expecting a different reaction. We end up talking and making plans for the following week. Jacks agrees to meet us at the courthouse and offers find a judge. Then comes the matter of whether Annie and I will tell our parents. I'm sure my parents wouldn't even bat an eye. Coach basically gave me his blessing, but Mrs. Taylor will be tricky to convince.

"No, you know what?" I say, shaking my head as I move to my feet, glancing between my brother and my girlfriend. "Annie and I are gonna elope."

At first, neither of them says a word. Then Annie starts to laugh as if I've made the dumbest joke on the planet. My brother joins in, but not quite as enthusiastic.

"Very cute, Eric," Annie says, reaching for my hands. "Be serious; our parents would totally kill us."

"Babe," I get to my knees in front of her, resting our hands on her thighs. "I promised I'd give you every experience in three months, right?"

"Yeah, but eloping?"

"It's an experience I want to give you. It's crazy and spontaneous, but totally something I want to do. Eloping, I can pull off. A decent wedding with the whole 9-yards? It would take longer than three months for me to pull that off. I want to fit as much into our timeline as I can."

Annie makes a bad attempt not to smile, and her flushed cheeks her are a dead giveaway. She starts giggling. I rub her nose with mine. Then I kiss her. I kiss her. Until Jacks clears his throat and the moment is gone. But lingering.

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