Gone

To say that I'm stunned is a little bit of an understatement. However, there truly is no denying the awful truth. I put so much into our relationship and in a blink of an eye it's all gone. I guess I really shouldn't be surprised. I guess what the old people say is true: you give your heart and soul to something, but always end up getting the shaft anyway.

Whatever…I'm over it.

Still, why does it hurt so much? Why does it hurt every time I walk by her or see her with another guy? I know it's supposed to hurt for a little bit, but it's been months. I should really be over it by now, but I just can't shake it. I just can't seem to get her out of my head.

It's like all the good things in life left with her. I don't know why and I know that can't be true, but it sure feels like it. Once she left, it was like my world was turned upside down. It really does feel like I'll never be happy again, never to able to move on from all the pain that she caused me.

Yes, it is pain.

I mean, it's not like she's a saint or anything. She fed me lies, told me just what I wanted to hear in order to get me to do whatever she wanted, and so on. It's not like I really shouldn't have expected the outcome to be any different. I mean, just look at her. I was stupid enough to think that she would ever want me in the first place.

I really could kick myself a million times for not seeing it earlier. I should had seen that we were falling apart long before it even started. I should had known that this was where we were going to end up.

Yet, whenever it did finally hit, it hit me hard and, man, did it hurt. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach and beating me over the head at the same time. I knew I would never be able to get back up again and move on.

She's gone…She's actually gone and there is no way that I'm ever going to be able to move on from her.

!

"Why are still wasting your time on her?" Annie mutters as she sits down next to me. Her laptop case not too far away.

I raise an eyebrow at her. "Don't you have a book to be writing?"

Annie waves her hand at me. "It will be there tomorrow."
I just shake my head. "And what does the publisher think about this?"
"I'm one of the few women nonfiction writers they have. They can't get rid of me."
I just roll my eyes. It is actually true. Her publisher isn't about to get rid of their top nonfiction writer. Though she is only twenty-six, she has already written two international bestsellers and presented three television shows. I wish that I could have it like she does. Granted, she is also on the road nine months out of the year and doesn't get any kind of vacations. I guess maybe it might not be as grand as what it appears to be.

On the other hand, she could be. I went to university with a major in business management and, yet, everyone just takes one look at me and laughs. I apply for other jobs and no one will hire me because I'm too expensive. I did manage to get a part time gig at a local grocery store managing the produce department, but it doesn't even come close to paying the bills.

Let alone giving me a chance of moving out of my childhood bedroom.

Annie taps me on the arm. "You're doing it again, Noah."
"Doing what?"
"Drowning yourself in self-pity."
I blink. "Sorry."

We both watch as a lone pick-up kicks the dust as it beats its way down the road, coating us both in a gritty mess. I sigh. I guess this is what we get for sitting on the side of a dirt road when it hasn't rained in almost two weeks.

She looks up at me with wide eyes. "You know, you need to do something. I'm only here for a week and I am not about to let my best friend waste it by not getting over a break up." She gets to her feet, pulling me up with her. "I have a book to write and you are going to help me."

I watch as she bends over to pick up her laptop. Why she brought her super expensive laptop out here is beyond me. I guess that inspiration really can strike at any time….Or so I've heard. I've really understood any of that.

We start walking down the road, kicking up even more dust behind us. The dry spell has been very good for the first cutting of hay, but the second one is going to be rather lacking. I just hope we don't have another hard winter.

"So, what are you writing about?" I ask.

"Cleopatra and Marc Antony or rather how did they die," Annie answers.

"I thought that's already been decided. They killed themselves."
She shakes her head. "That may be true, but Cleopatra's death hasn't been fully decided. No one can really seem to agree on just what happened to her." She pauses. "Of course, it would be a little easier to figure out if we had a body."

"I see." I stare up at the sky. It's just as cloudless as it has been for days. The sun beats down on us, like it's taunting us-trying to see just how hot it can make it before we are forced inside. "Shouldn't you be in Egypt them?"
"I'm going there next week for a few months."

"Oh." I cringe at the mention of a few months. I don't know why, but it somehow bothers me. "Will the book be done by then?"

She snorts. "No, I'll be lucky to have it done by next year."

"But you've already written two," I point out.

"And one of them was my senior thesis, so that hardly counts." She paused, staring at a corn field. "It just takes a lot to write a book."
"I see." I stare down at my worn boots. "Will you be back after that?"
"I don't know. It will depend on if I can get enough material to write it. Some much of Egypt's stuff is scattered throughout the world. It could be awhile."

"Oh." I kick at the dust, coating my boots and the bottom of my jeans in it even more. "I guess I didn't realize it would take so long to write a book."
"Yes, I'm afraid it does."

"Would fiction take as long?"
"I've heard that writing fiction is actually worse. You can't just do the research and write it down. You have to build your own world."

"Got ya."

We walk down the road to a little grove of trees. Right away, I feel so much cooler. The branches seem to model above us, blocking the hot sun from reaching us. I guess the sun won this battle because we did actually end up having to hide from it.

She pulls me further into the grove, away from the road; her laptop case banging against her leg as we walk. I really don't think it's a good idea for her to bring that down here, but whatever. It's not my money that bought it.

She ducks beneath an almost rotten fence. The ground beneath our feet is moist from the underground spring. The air becomes cooler, beating against my face as we come to a stop in front of the creek. Actually, I always thought it was bigger than a creek. You can actually swim in it without your feet touching the bottom.

She sits down on a large rock, letting her feet dangle just out of reach of the water. "Being by the water always lets me forget about what is going on out there."

"I see," I say as I sit down next to her. I stare down at the unmoving water. Little fish swim around beneath us as if they don't have a care in the world, which they probably don't. "Why is that?"
She shrugs. "I don't know. There's just something calming about it that allows me to forget what is going on. It's good for the soul to clear your head every once in awhile."
"I suppose, but it doesn't make all of the trouble go away."

"No, it doesn't," she echoes. "However, it is nice to be able to forget for a little bit."

"I guess." I stare out at the water. "Annie, do you think that everything will be okay in the end?"
She smiles at me. "I really do believe that good things happen to good people and you are good. You will get everything you deserve in this life and more, Noah. You just have to wait until the right moment and you will see."
"I hope so," I mutter. It really doesn't seem like anything is ever going to go my way. I don't know what it is about me, but everything really does seem to be stacked up against me. Here I am with nothing really going for me. It's just hard to be around someone as successful as Annie.

"Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself. I will not have you ruining my happy spot with all of your negativity. We left all of those negative thoughts out there. Let's just let the good times roll in here and see where that gets you."

I smile and shake my head. "What do you have to be negative about?"
Annie just gives me a sad look. "You'd be surprised what I have to go through in a day. It's enough to bring anyone down."
I just raise an eyebrow. "Like what? At least someone saw your talent. Me, I'm still trying to get someone's attention."

She nudges me. "Someone will see what a talented person you are and those who shut you down will realize that they made a huge mistake for not seeing it when they had the chance."

"I hope you're right. I've been trying for so long trying to get people to give me chance and each time I only end up getting burned. I don't know why people who are less capable than me get what they want, but, yet, I get stuck on the outside looking in." I sigh. "It's like no matter what I bring to the table someone else always brings something better than what I have to offer."
"Which will only make their sorrier," Annie points out. "One day, Noah, you really are going to set the world on fire and I can't wait to see all of their expressions. Just think, one day you could be ruling the world."
"That would involve marrying royalty."

"Hey, you never know, it could happen." She taps her chin. "Though I think you would have to take a shower first. No offense, but you don't smell the greatest."
"It's just a good thing that you have that expensive laptop with you or you may had went swimming."

Her laughter rings out against the rocks. "Come on, Noah, you and I both know that you would never do that to me. You're too nice of a guy."

I raise an eyebrow. "Do you want to put that theory to the test?"

Eyes dancing, she shook her head. "No, I'd rather not. I wouldn't want to make you do something you'd regret and, then, have to down yourself in guilt. We all know that's what you would do."

"I think you really do doubt my character."

She shook her head. "No, I just know what kind of a person you are."

"We'll see about that."

Her smile widens. "No, you just don't want to admit that I know you that well." She fingers her laptop case. "It's like you said. Life does come calling and we can only forget for a little bit. I need to write something today or I am going to be in trouble."

I elbow her. "Maybe you are the one who needs to take a break."

She returns my elbow-hard. "That may be so, but I do love my work." She sighs. "Though it is good to unplug every now and then. There is nothing like taking some time off."

"Why do you need to write today? I thought you were off this week."

She gives me a small smile. "That may be so, but my line of work never stops. There's always review, columns, articles, you name it to write. Everyone wants their stuff by a certain date and there's no certainty that they will even use it."

"That sucks."

She shrugs. "That's just the way the business works."

"Do you at least get paid?"

"Yes, but it's not about the money. It's about getting to say that you are published and your words mean something. Not only that, but it is nice to have people read your stuff."

"Yeah, that is kind of the point of being a writer."

"Yeah, it is."

!

The sun doesn't let up all day. Even after it has set, the air is still hot and sticky. The fact that the air coordinating is broke doesn't help matters eithers. I have my window open and three fans pointing right at me, but it doesn't help at all. The sticky air clings to me, coating me its wetness. Sleep is going to be out of the question tonight. I sigh. Not only do I have to work tomorrow, but Dad said something about fixing the back fence too, which is going to make for an extremely long day if I can't get some sleep tonight.

I roll over, staring at my alarm clock. It's only ten o'clock. Normally, I spend my evening watching Youtube videos, but turning on my laptop will only add to my misery.

My parents aren't saying anything about the lack of an air coordinating. I don't get how they can stand it. Then again, they grew up without one and are probably used to the suffering. Maybe they don't feel it at all. If I had still been with, I could had crashed at her place. She doesn't have hovering parents and we could had been left in piece.

I sigh. Am I really the only person in my age group who can't get it together? Why does it seem like everyone else is going somewhere while I'm burying myself in a rut? How hard is it for me to get it together?

Tomorrow, my paycheck will go to paying for my student loans, which is getting me nowhere. Most days I wonder why I even bothered going to college. It's just pulling me further down.

I roll over onto my stomach. Annie claims it not good to wallow in self-pity, but what does she know? She's one of those people who has everything going for her. She's one of the lucky ones.

I close my eyes. What difference does it make if I sleep or not? It's not like I'm going to gain anything out of it.

The heat presses in on me from all sides, making feel as if I am being pressed together on all sides. It's actually not a good feeling to have. No matter how I move, I just can't seem to get away from it. I open my eyes. What is the point in any of this?

The darkness surrounds me. Through my window, a little breeze blows in on me, relieving my burning skin. It only lasts for a brief second, but it feels so good. I lay there and wait, hoping for another round, but once again, I am only greeted with disappointment. I sigh. Why did I think that this was going to be any different?

I get out of bed and go over to the window. In the distance, I can hear the yip of the lone coyote, but other than that, there is nothing but beautiful silence. I know a lot of people have issues with silence, but I find it be very welcoming. We don't need noise in life to feel good about ourselves.

Personally, I don't see how people in the city deal with all the noise all the time. That's a question I'm going to have ask Annie the next time I see her. When she's not here or on the road, she has a place right in the heart of the city. That is assuming she wants to be around me again or even has time for me.

She didn't seem to like being around me since I didn't really have anything positive to say. I really don't like being a downer, but when it feels like the world is against you, it feels like you can't be happy, no matter how hard you try.

The breeze blows against my face again. I lift my face up, letting it hit my neck. The sweat runs down my chin, hitting my chest, making me feel even more stickier than before. Once again, no matter what you do, you can't win.

I turn away from the window, sitting down on my bed, looking at my mobile. Maybe Annie is stull up and I tell her how miserable I feel. Though, it would be wrong to both wake her up or pull her away from her work. I don't want to that person who made her miss an important deadline or miss her sleep.

I'm not even sure if her old number is her current number. We really aren't the kind of people who talk through a mobile; we prefer this thing called face to face communication. It's a skill that we are trying to bring back for our generation.

In the distance, heat lightening race across the dance in a brilliant dance. The little bolts fly across the sky like a jet, while a much longer one filters in behind it. They kept on blending into one until they are like fireworks in a beautiful, controlled show.

I hold my mobile up. It's something that Annie would like to see. I used to send pictures like this to her, but she never really seemed all that impressed by them. Maybe it is a good thing she ended it. We really didn't have the same interests and I'm pretty sure that's almost a requirement for any relationship.

The lightening keeps on darting across the sky. It would be nice if it brought some rain with it, but I know that's not going to happen. The air just doesn't feel like rain.

I turn away and lay back on my bed. Everything is okay to be okay. Maybe if I keep telling myself that, it will actually happen. The heat closes in around me again as I wait for something to happen, but it never does.

Nothing good ever happens to people like me.

!

The morning is just as hot as ever. A cold shower only cools my body for a few minutes before the heat blasts me again. The only good thing about going to work is that it's air coordinated. Though knowing my luck, it will also be broken.

I creep out of the house. The sun is barely up yet. It's actually surprising that my parents aren't up; maybe they have found some kind of relief by sleeping in the heat.

The air doesn't move around me as I climb into my ancient truck. I crank the key, willing it to come to life. It will be the next thing that goes wrong in my life. It was on its last leg whenever I bought it a the rip old age of sixteen and that was nearly ten years ago. Everyone keeps saying that I should just break down and get another one. However, that requires money, which is something that I'm currently lacking. After about three tries, it finally comes to life.

Maybe there is a little bit of luck on my side.

The early morning light warms me a lot faster than I want. I crank up the air, but it just hits me in the face with a warm blast. I try not to wince as I turn on the radio. The air will work in a few minutes…I just know it.

I turn onto the main road. Other the occasional semi-truck, I am the only one out. The steam rises from the road, only adding to my suffering. The town is empty when I reach it. Just another forty minutes and I will be at work.

Why couldn't life be as simple as this sleepy town? Why did the real world just have to come out and ruin it for everyone?

Or maybe not…

I just I'm not the only one out this early. At first, I think it's all in my head, but it's not. There is certainly no mistaking the soft glow of the laptop and her outline. Why she's writing on a bench in front of a run down gas station is beyond me.

I stop the truck in front of her, slowly rolling down my window. "What are you doing, Annie?"

Annie looks up at me. "Why are you stopping in the middle of the road, Noah?"

I shrug. "Do you see anyone coming?"

"I guess not," she says, looking back at her laptop.

"Didn't people ever tell you it was rude to go back to work when someone is talking to you?"

"Didn't anyone ever tell you that you shouldn't bother someone when they are working?"
I laugh, shaking my head. "Annie, Annie, you have no idea how my mind works."
She looks up from her laptop with a raised eyebrow. "Trust me, Noah, I'm not sure that I want to know how your mind works. It probably can be a rather scary and disturbing place." She goes back to her laptop.
"Well, I've been told otherwise." I pause. "So, are you really working or are you looking at pictures of Jamie Dornan?"
"I don't know. Do you have a picture of Dakota Johnson pinned over your bed so she's the last thing you look at every night?"

I roll my eyes. "I don't even know what you're talking about."

"The fact that you know who Jamie Dornan is enough for me." She doesn't even bother to look up from her screen. "You just need to admit that you are a secret Fifty Shades fan and get it over with."
I open and close my mouth. Now, I have actually seen the movies. It was something that I did with her. Whenever I tried to laugh about it with her, she would get really made.

Annie looks up from her laptop smirking. "What? Did I get you backed into a corner? Besides, Jamie is much better on Once Upon a Time. He has the accent."

I raise an eyebrow. "So, an accent makes everything a lot better?"
"Yup, just get an accent and girls will be in love with you, no matter how bad you look."
I roll my eyes. "You always know how to break a guy's heart."

"Hey, I'm trying." She looks at me. "Don't you have someplace to go?"

"I'm supposed to be a work." I shrug. "Maybe I'll skip together."

Annie just snorts. "We both know that won't happen. You are the type who will never miss a day of work even if you are on your death bed."

I shrug. "Maybe I'll surprise you."

She rolls her eyes. "That's not going to happen."

I reach across the seat and open the passenger side door. "Get in and maybe I'll just prove you wrong."

"I have to finish this book review."
"And it's not you have internet on that bench. If you come with me, maybe I'll take you someplace with good internet." I raise an eyebrow. "Plus, I thought you were supposed to be on vacation."

"Haven't you ever heard of a working vacation?" she fires back.

"I guess, but it just doesn't sound like my kind of a vacation."

She moves closer to the truck. "And what is your idea of a vacation?"

"Um…I'm get back to you when I can think of it." I look down at her. "Now, are you coming or not?"
She sighs. "Do I really have much of a choice?"

I shake my head. "No, not really. You can either climb in the truck on your own free will or I will make you get in."

She slowly climbs into the truck. "You are going to pay for this if I can't get my review down in time."

I put the truck in drive. "Then, read me what you have."
"I don't think it would be your type of reading."

"I'm not going to be the one doing the reading, you are. I'm just going to be listening. It's not the same thing."

She just sighs as she slowly opens her laptop. The light hits me in the face, but I don't say anything. After all, I am the one who asked for this. "It's kind of boring. At least, I think it is."

I turn left onto the state route. "I don't see how anything you write could be boring."

"Have read my books?"

"Well, no, but I'm sure they're good. Otherwise, they wouldn't be best sellers."

"A book doesn't have to actually be good to make it on the best seller list. It just has to sell a lot of copies."

"Which means that a lot of people liked the book and recommended it to all of their friends and family."

"Or you just have a good marketing team."

I roll my eyes. "Are you going to read the review to me or not? Don't leave anything out. I want to know everything."

"Fine, but I'm telling you that you're not going to like it."

"Before we start, did you actually read the book and enjoy it or did you not read it and claim that you love it? Better yet, did you actually hate the book and are saying that you loved it?"

Annie raises an eyebrow at me. "Why did you just ask me that?"

"Well, I think it's good to be hones about these kinds of things. I cannot if people are not honest with their intentions."

She blinked. "Are you finished?"

I nod. "I think so." I pause. "You can read your review now if you'd like."

"Good." She looks down at her screen. Silence fills my truck. Then, her beautiful and strong voice rings out.

Book: The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women

Author: Elizabeth Norton

Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

This is an interesting book that focuses on the lives of Tudor women. While, it does focus on wealthier women, we do get a glimpse into the lives of some not so well known women. We are taken through the seven ages of what being a woman was in Tudor England. This really isn't like other Tudor books that I have read. This one really doesn't look at the historical elements of society, but rather the social structure.

There are many interesting things in this book. For example, women getting pregnant to get out of jail-that one was a new one for me. We get to see the rather darker side of Tudor women, something that a lot of historical books don't really focus on. If you are like me, you have a read a number of books that really seem to focus on how "good" and "Godly" women were in that time period. Elizabeth paints a different picture. We get to see just how far these women would go to protect their image, even going as far as to murder their own children. I don't know why, but all of this just really drew me into the book. I like reading about things that aren't always covered.

We are presented with a different society than the one we live in. Women, back then and in some cases today, were watched all the time. One little step out of line could end up with them in jail or/and being trialed for witchcraft. They were under complete control of the men in their lives. Elizabeth shows us how the Tudor women dealt with all of this. She gave us examples of strong women who dared defy society, which in some cases ended up costing them their lives.

The book was very well organized, I thought. I found it very easy to read and follow. I liked the simple, everyday language and how the sections were broken up into predictable, manageable chunks. There was no jumping around and what not. Everything just flowed together real nicely. I wasn't bored in any parts, which means that it's not really written like a textbook.

Overall, not a bad a read. If you are interested in Tudor England, then I strongly encourage you to pick up this one.

She looks shyly up at me. "What did you think?"

"Why didn't you give it a five star if you liked it that much?"

She shrugs. "I don't know. It just didn't feel like a five star book to me. I mean, it was good, but didn't have the wow factor that I look for in a five star book."

"I see." I pause. Though the sun is up, as we roll into the town where I work, the streetlights are still up. "I really did enjoy the review. I like listening to people talk about things that they are interested in."

She nods as she looks out the window. "And what are you interested in, Noah?"

"I really don't know. I guess I'm still looking."

"There must be something you are interested in. You can think about while you work."

"Who said I'm going to work?"

Annie just rolls her eyes. "You and I both know you are, so there's no point in denying it."

"And what you going to do?"
"I'm going to find me a good internet connection and get some stuff done."

"Then, what?"

"Then, you are going to tell me what you are interested in."

"What if there's nothing I'm interested in."
"Everyone is interested in something."

"Well, maybe not everyone."

"I think there is more to you than what you are letting on."

I smirk at her. "Did you ever think that I'm not most people?"

"More than once, but still doesn't change anything."

I just roll my eyes. "I'm going to be late if I don't get in there."

Annie grabs the keys out of the ignition before I can even think. "Good. While you are working, just come up with something you are interested in. if you can't come up with anything, then I'm sure I can find something for you."

I raise an eyebrow at her. "What are you going to do in the mean time?"

"I already told you."

"You can't mean to work on a vacation?"

She shrugs. "Sometimes you have to do things on vacation that you don't want to, but there's no getting out of it." She smiles. "Just think, it will give me more time later on with you to find something that interests you."

I shake my head. "I don't think it's going to happen."
She reaches across me and opens my door. "Now, get out of here and get to work. After all, you don't want to be late." She smiles as she moves away from me. "Go on."

I look down at my open door and back at her. "Are you really kicking me out of my own truck?"

She smiles innocently up at me. "Is that a problem?"
I sigh. "No, it's not good."

"Good."

I slide down from me truck. Where she reached across me still tingles. I really can't explain what it is, but it's a feeling that haven't felt in a long time. It feels both right and wrong at the same time. I don't know if that's possible, but that's how it feels.

My truck roars behind as Annie takes off. I turn and watch, assuming that she will be back for me at some point.

But, this Annie O'Donald. She's one of those people that anything is possible. I guess that's why she's my best friends, which makes all of this tingling in my body even all that much more wrong. I am not supposed to be having these feelings for her. She's like my sister and it's just not supposed to happen.

However, the moment I enter the store, the thoughts leave my mind. The real world is calling and there is no way that I can turn my back on it.

!

All through my shift, I really do try to think of things that interest me, but my mind is going blank. It's like being back in university where you have been studying for your final all week and think you know everything, but the moment the test is in front of you, you can't remember anything. Does anyone know what I'm getting out? If you haven't experienced that feeling, then you really are one of the lucky ones.

Somehow, though, I do actually manage to get some work done and it must be right, because no one seems to be complaining too loudly. Granted, not too many people get all that worried about fruit. Most people around here don't even buy their fruit in story. I can't say that I blame them either. The stuff you get from the orchards is so much better and way cheaper.

Marketing is clearly not my strong suit.

My glaze flickers over the report in front of me. I do know one thing that isn't interesting to me is different fruit companies. What difference does it make which one we pick? They all have the same extra chemicals in them; I don't care what their marketing company tries to say.

I keep looking back up at the clock. Annie will be back in an hour and I don't have the answer to her simple question. Am I really that boring? I shift around in my seat. This is not going to work. I just know that I am going to be in trouble if she comes back and I don't have an answer.

I really do hate to think about what she has cooked up.

I guess I could play up the fact that she is on vacation and is still working. She really is the one who needs to let go a little bit. However, at least she does have a full time job and isn't stuck on the family farm.

Now, it's not that I'm against the family farm, but my parents sent me to school so I would not have be a farmer. They didn't want me to rely on the prices of crops and livestock to keep me going. Yet, that seems to be my fate. It's not a bad one, but it's just not what I had in mind.

It's funny how these kind of things just have a way of coming back to you.

I turn the page of my report. I guess farming does interest me, but it's not my heart. I run my hands through my hair. I really don't have any interest. The pass eight years of my life have been about her. Have I really forgotten about myself? Have I really lost myself that badly?
I tap my chin. No, I haven't. Annie just caught me off guard and that's what is making this so difficult. Why did she have to go and do that? I look down at the numbers in front of me. At the rate I'm going, I'm not going to get my work finished today. It really shouldn't be this hard to focus on my work.

I really hope Annie is struggling just as badly. It would make this day feel a lot better. No, I take that back. I would actually feel really bad if Annie was feeling the way that I am. She's a nice young woman who doesn't deserve any ill will.

Outside, I can hear people talking, laughing even. They are probably some tourist here on a weekend getaway at the lake. No one from around here talks that loud or not in English. I know my boss is going to try to them the most expensive items we have. I give him five minutes before he hounds in on these poor people, who have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

I lean back in my chair. I know I shouldn't complain about my job, but it does actually suck. Whenever I went into business, this is not what I had in mind. I don't know what I had in mind, but this was not it. Somehow, I did actually picture myself on the farm. Which if that was what was going to happen, then why did I waste four years of my life and thousands of dollars? I clearly was not thinking back then.

I look back up at the clock. Thirty more minutes and this nightmare would be over. I also need to start thinking. Annie is going to want answers and I will have to give them to her. Why did she have to give me such a difficult question to answer?

I sigh. Why is coming up with something about yourself the hardest thing ever? I guess if you like to talk about yourself it's not a problem, but if you don't, then it is one of the hardest things to do.

"Think, Noah, think," I mutter. I know if I say something that I do every day, then she is probably going to laugh at me. Whenever she says interesting, I really think she is meaning something I enjoy doing. The truth is: I haven't really done a lot of things that I personally enjoy in years. I have always done what others have told me I would enjoy instead of branching out.

Great…I really am a boring person.

I look back down at my report. There is no way that I am going to be able to finish this. I probably should just quit this job and give it to someone who actually wants to be here. Though that really would not help my position.

What am I interested in? Well, other than farming, not much. I'm not a reader, don't watch a lot of television, don't travel, and since she dumped me, I really don't go out. Yeah, not the most exciting life ever.

Am I really gone? Do I really have nothing left of myself? Have all the good parts of me left? Am I really that far gone? I really am gone…I really am a shadow of who I used to be.

I look back at the clock. There are only fifteen minutes left and I have gotten nothing to prove for myself. Annie is going to think of me as being a huge failure. I am never going to be able to live this down. She will never do anything to help me again. I can just see it coming. How I am ever going to be able to come back from this?

I run my hands over my polo, which is another thing that I can't stand. I would never have worn something like this before university. In fact, back in high school, we used to make fun of males who dressed like I am. It's another thing that I cannot believe that I have let happen to me in my life.

Only five more minutes now…Okay, I am just going to have to man up and be upfront with her about this. This is Annie I'm talking about, not her. Annie will understand my problem and she will not make fun of me. In fact, she will probably help me overcome this. That's just the type of person she is. She enjoys helping people get out of rather messy situations; she lives for this sort of thing.

I run my hand over my face, feeling the bit of stubble I missed this morning. I could pull this off. I would find a way to overcome this. I look back down at the unfinished report. It would here whenever I came back, I guess.

Annie, on the other hand, is only here for the week and I did not want her to go away thinking I am a failure at life. Not that she would ever say anything like that to my face; she's just too nice of a person to think such thoughts.

Okay, Noah, just take deep breaths and think about what you must do to make everything okay again. You need to first off actually focus on your job and get Annie out of your head. She's not anything but a friend, so you don't actually have to impress her. I guess I could tell myself that, but why did I feel like I had to do this? Why did it feel like I had to make her happy? She has far more in life than just me. She doesn't need me to make herself feel good about herself.

Then, do I need her? Do I need her to make myself feel good, to feel important? It sure is starting to really like that.

The clock chimes above me. It's time to go and face my fate. I look down at the unfinished report again; it's a good thing that they don't need it until next week.

I give my desk on final look over before getting to my feet. Maybe Annie isn't back yet and I have more time to think. No, she will be out there. If Annie is anything, she isn't late. Even when we were little, she was never late for anything.

I step outside, peering carefully out into the nearly empty parking lot. There is my truck, sitting right where it was parked this morning. Annie is sitting in the driver's seat, looking right at the store. I try not to groan. Why couldn't she be like most people and just be late every once in awhile?
I slowly start toward the truck; the heat hits me right in the face, making my stupid polo stick to me even more. I don't care what Annie has planned. I am going to change before we do anything else. When you drive a truck that doesn't always run and spend a great deal of time walking, you keep extra clothes handy.

By the time I make it to the truck, the polo is clinging to me so tightly that it feels like its pulling me down. Annie just raises an eyebrow as I slide into the passenger side and slam the door shut behind me. "It's hot out there." I reach over and turn the air coordinating up a little bit.

"Yeah, it did warm up a good bit," she says as she puts the truck into drive. Her laptop rests in the middle of us. "Did you have a good day at work?"
"As good as a day at work can be."

Annie raises an eyebrow. "I thought you were supposed to be passionate in whatever you got a degree in. Isn't that the point of it?"
I shrug. "It's not that I'm not interested in business. This job isn't the one for me."

"Are you looking for other options?" She turns right, heading in the direction of the more touristy part of town. It's the part of town that I would not be caught dead in. It's where city people go who want to feel country for a day. I think it's just an excuse for the locals to charge double the price for everything.

I shrug. "There's really not much for a business degree around here."

"I see and you wouldn't dare think about relocating either."

"Well, not. I really don't have any other place to go."

"I suppose."

The tourists look up as my big truck roars through the quiet area. They give us looks like the noise is a big inconvenience. These are the same people who complain when they get behind a tractor or Amish on the road. Not only that, but they enjoy complaining about the smell of the air. I don't get it. You come out here for country and complain about it when you actually find it.

Annie just keeps on driving like she doesn't see the looks she's getting or doesn't care what they think. "You could show farmers how to manage their farm income to make the most profit. Isn't that what a lot of farms are looking to gain?"

I shrug. "I guess, but no one is going to want to pay for any of that."

She smiles. "You may be surprised about that."

I lean back further into my seat. My polo sticks right to the seat, making me wince. I reach up and turn the air up even more, letting its icy blast hit me right in the face. Annie just gives me a long look, but she doesn't say anything. She just reaches over and turns up the Montgomery Gentry CD up. I just close my eyes and try not to smile. Though she may be a big time author, she has never forgotten her roots.

I roll down my window, letting it blare out at some tourists, who just give us a dirty look. Annie and I exchange looks before laughing. "Yeah, that's right! That's country music people!" I yell out the window.

Annie just rolls her eyes. "You really are something, aren't you?"
I just smirk as I reach under the seat and pull out my duffle bag. "Baby, you ain't seen nothing yet!"
Her smile widens. "I take it you've thought of something interesting that interests you, then?"
"Um…Well it's a bit more complicated than that."

She raises an eyebrow. "And how is it more complicated than that?"
"Well, it is. I can't explain it, but it's just not as easy you would think it is."

"And why isn't it as easy as I would think it is?" She pulls off the side of the road just as we reach the end of town. She looks right at me. "I just asked you to think of something that interested you and you couldn't do that. Have you really lost yourself that much, Noah?"
"Um…Well, I'm not really sure. It was just a hard question and you know how I hate talking about myself."

She rolls her eyes. "It really wasn't even talking about yourself. I just wanted you to think of something interesting, something that maybe could get you out of this slump you seem to be in."

I pull my sticky polo away from my body. "I know that's what you wanted to do and I'm sorry that I couldn't it enough together to make that happen."

"Don't apologize." She pulls back onto the road. "It's just going to take more work that I thought it was that's all."
"Where are we going, if you don't mind me asking. Dad is going to need to help tonight."

Annie gives me a long look. "Don't worry about the farm. I've already cleared it with your dad. He thinks the same thing. It's time for you to get over her."

"Huh?"
"You aren't going to be happy until you move on."

I bend over and open the duffle bag, pulling out one of my old football shirts. "I don't know what you are talking about."

Once again, Annie rolls her eyes. "I think you know what I'm talking about, but you are too thick to admit it."

I open and close my mouth. "What are you getting at?"

She glares over at me. "There you are doing it again. Why can't you just admit it?"

"Admit what? I don't know what you are talking about?"
"You are wallowing in self pity and you can't seem to admit it. Let's be honest, ever since you two broke up, you haven't been able to do anything. You don't know how to act when you're single!"
I stare out at a passing cornfield, unsure of what to say. I know it's true, but she doesn't have to be so harsh about it. She could sugar coat it a little bit to make me feel better about myself. It's not that hard of a concept.

Annie watches me out of the corner of her eye. "Well?" she presses.

"Well, what?"

"When are you finally going to admit it?"

I press my lips together. "I can be interesting by myself."
"Fine, prove it." She pauses. "Tell me something that interests you."

I open and close my mouth. Geesh…She doesn't know how to give people a break. I just look at her, but don't speak. She just smiles as if I am only further confirming what she already knew. It's annoying when other people are right and I just can't seem to see it.

I pull of my polo and slid on my T-shirt. Right away, I feel better. "So, what are you going to do?"
Annie is just gives me a side long look. "I really wish you just wouldn't strip in my presence."
I smirk at her. "Admit it. You liked what you saw."

She just rolls her eyes.

I laugh. "Come on, Annie, admit it. You think I'm good looking."
"Yeah, right," she snorts. "I am not going to help you build up your ego. I'm here to make you feel better."
I elbow her. "Isn't helping my ego going to make me feel better?"

She gives me a look. "I don't think so."

My smile widens. "Come on, Annie, couldn't you pretend for a few minutes? It really help me."
She just sighs as she punches the gas. "I'm not that kind of person, Noah. It will not help you at all get over this."

I look at her. "Get over what?"

"You know what I'm talking about. Don't pretend otherwise." She twirls a piece of hair around her finger. "Don't you ever get tired of it?"
I blink. "Tired of what?"
"Of all of it. By not moving on, you really are letting her win."
I sit back in my seat. "It's a bit more complicated than that."
She raises an eyebrow. "Are you sure it's more complicated than that or are you just making it more complicated?"

"Why do you keep on double talking?"

"I'm not. I'm just presenting the facts."

"I thought you were a writer, not a lawyer."

She turns down a dirt road. "And you going to forget about that."
The road jolts beneath us as she hits every pothole in the county. I'm not sure if she's trying to do it on propose or if it really is that hard to avoid them. The county, I guess, has more important things on their mind than taking care of the roads. What, though, I'm not sure.

The cornfields press around us on both sides, making it seem as if we are the only people left in the world. The CD comes to an end, leaving us in silence. Somehow turning on the radio doesn't feel right now. The silence, like the corn, feels right somehow.

I look over at Annie. She stares right at the road, as if she's trying not to look at me or she really is fed up with me. I sigh. No matter what I do, I can't seem to win with the female gender.

!

We drive to the end of the road before Annie stops. I step out, looking around. A large hayfield greets us. The bales from the first cutting dot it with the new hay growing in around them. I never understand that. The farmer is going to ruin his second crop trying to get the first out.

Annie steps in so she is standing next to me, staring out at the field. She jerks her head. "Come on, there's something I want to show you."

I raise an eyebrow. "Other than the hayfield?"
She nods. "Did you really think I brought you out here to look at a hayfield?"

I shrug. "It's really hard to tell with you."

Once again, she rolls her eyes as she starts across the hayfield. I put my hands in my jeans pockets, looking down at my boots. I really do need to get some better clothes to wear to work. I look over at her; she's walking, not even looking back to see if I'm coming or not.

I kick at the dust. It really is wrong to let a lady go by herself. My grandmother is probably turning her grave knowing that I've let Annie go that far without me. Sighing, I start across the field after her. Why do I keep doing this to myself?

The grass crunches beneath my feet. We need the rain now more than ever if we are going to have a chance at getting a second cutting. At this rate, everyone is going to be buying hay for the winter or be forced to sell off some of their livestock.

Annie stops next to a haybale, staring out at the never ending hayfield with her arms crossed over her chest. "It took you long enough."

I just shrug. "I wasn't sure if you were actually going to do it."

She looks over at me. "Do what?"
"Walk across the hayfield."

"Well, someone has to take the first step and it clearly wasn't going to be you."

"What makes you think that?"

"Look how we came out into the field. I started out and you followed me." She starts forward again. "You are a follower, Noah, and I think that's a problem for you. You are more than capable of being a follower. You should be a leader."

"I didn't come out here to get a lecture."

She gives me a half shrug. "Well, I think you need to look for more in life then. You may not want to hear it, but you have so much offer the world."
"Why are we out here anyway? You could had told me this someplace else."

"Because you would not had listened."

I kick at a bit of hay that the baler missed. "You don't know that."

"Oh, I most certainly do know that."
"Is that all you wanted to tell me?"
She shakes her head. "No, there's more to it than that."

"Of course there is." With Annie, there always is more to it.

I look up at the sky. It will be dark in a few hours. "We probably should get at it."

She nods. "Yes, we should."

We keep on walking across the field. I don't know where we are going or why we are still walking. She doesn't speak, just keeps on going as if she doesn't have a propose, but this is Annie. There is always a reason for what she does. She just doesn't bring someone out to the middle of a hayfield just to yell at them. Granted, she didn't actually yell at me, but it sure does feel like it.

Bugs jump out at us, hitting us on the legs and arms. She would had been screaming now, but not Annie. Annie keeps on going as if they aren't there.

The edge of the hayfield drops off into a watering hole. I peer down at it. The water looks like it hasn't been disturbed in a long time. It looks back up at me as if it is begging to be disturbed, to have someone jump in it and use it for what God intended.

Annie peers down at the water, then back at me, then back at the water. I know what's going to do, but I don't have time to react before she grabs onto me and shoves me down. My feet kick out from underneath me. I don't even have time to grab onto her to pull her down with me before I started toward the water.

The water pushes around me as I hit it. I kick off from the bottom and hit the surface in a matter of seconds, staring up at her with a frown. Water runs from my hair down into my eyes. I reach up and wipe it away. "Very funny."

Her laughter rings off the edges. "It's pretty funny from my point of view."

I just roll my eyes. "You would had killed me had I not known how to swim."

"But you do," she fires back.

"You didn't know that."

"I actually did."

I glare up at her, treading water. "Well are you going to leave me hanging or are you coming in?"
She looks down at the water, then at me. "Why?"
"Aren't you the one who says that I need to live a little more?" I start wo swim toward the edge. "From the way I see it, you are the one standing and watching me have fun. I think you need to come in and see just what you are missing."

She raises an eyebrow. "Why?"

"Come on, Annie, start doing what you are preaching. You can't tell me that this isn't tempting you at all." I duck my head under the water. "You really can't be okay with just sitting there and watching me have all the fun."

"Oh, trust me, I'm fine with it." She takes a small step back from the edge. "Don't you get any ideas, Noah Daniels!"

"Why not? You pushed me down here, I think it's only fair!" I creep toward the edge. "Annie, get in here and have some fun!"

She shakes her head. "I don't think so!"
The edge is slowly starts to fall away. I smirk as it rains down on me a little bit. She peers down at me with wide eyes. "Come on, Annie!"

She kicks off her shoes, looking down at me. "You owe me big time!" She jumps in, splashing me in the process. She comes up right beside me, looking at me. "There, does that make you happy?"

I splash her. "Yes, it does."
!

The night finds me sitting beside my father watching the local news. It's the normal bad news: riots, death, and more sadness. There has be some good in the world out there. I don't know why it's not put out there just like the bad. If there is more good in the world, then maybe it would be a better place.

"Annie sure seems to be spending a lot of time with you," Dad says as a beer commercial starts to play.

"She's just a friend," I mutter, looking back at the TV. "There isn't anything going on."

Dad just snorts as Mom comes into the room with a book tucked under her arm. "A girl like that doesn't stick around without a good reason."

I raise an eyebrow. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"She's going places and it's a place that our town simply cannot take her. She is going to have a place in the bigger world," Dad goes on.

Mom looks at him. "Maybe she's just trying to give back to the community. It will do this town to have a celebrity. Maybe they finally improve the schools around here."

I look at Dad. "See, maybe that's why she's still coming around. Maybe she wants to make an impact."

"I think she wants to make an impact, but I don't think it's on the schools though." He looks right at me as he speaks. "I think she has very different things in mind."

"I can't imagine what she has on her mind," I answer.

Dad just snorts as the news comes back. "I'm sure you can't."

I just look down at my hands. What has Annie done to me?
!

Annie is at my front door early the morning. It's much worse than that. She's sitting at the kitchen table having breakfast with my parents and they all seem to be having a good time. The world clearly is a cruel place.

All three of them look up at me as I stumble into the kitchen. The thick silence that falls could only mean one thing and one thing only: they had been talking about me before I entered. I fill up my coffee cup, watching them with a careful expression, daring them to keep on talking.

Annie butters some toast, peering carefully at me. "You know I don't have a lot of time, Noah. So, sit down and eat. We have a lot to get done today."

I give her a long look. "Maybe I have plans today."

She looks over at my parents. "He doesn't have any plans today, does he?"
Dad shakes his head. "Nothing that can't wait until another day."

I cough into my coffee. Since when is Dad okay with letting things go a day? She must really have some kind of magic on him.

Annie looks at me with a wide smile. "Good, because we have big plans for today, don't we Noah?"
My parents look at me with smiles. Annie's eyes narrow, daring me to question her intentions. I have no other choice, but to nod. What in the world had I gotten myself into?

I look carefully over at her. "I guess we are going to have fun today."
Annie leans back in her seat. "Indeed we are going to have fun today. Just wait until you find out what I have planned."
I take a piece of toast. "I can hardly wait."
From the smile, she is giving me, I should had known what kind of a day I am about to have.

!

The actual day really didn't turn out to be all that bad. We just kind of drove around the back roads, stopping whenever we saw something interesting, which with Annie happened a lot. The sun starts to set before I know it and I really don't want to go back home.

When we pull into my drive, Annie gets out, handing me a note. "Be there in an hour and don't ask questions."

She walks over to her car, leaving me there holding the note, and wondering what she has in store for me.

I watch as her taillights grow smaller and smaller until she is out of sight.

I look down at the note. I know the place pretty well and know that is a well known drinking area that the cops tend to ignore. Does she really plan to go out and get me drunk? I smile. It really is something that only happens in high school and the last time I checked, our high school days were long gone. Oh, well, maybe it will do me some good to get out there again.

Plus, it's been awhile since I've actually been drunk.

!

"You're here!" Alyssa exclaims throwing her arms around me. I quickly look around at the group. Most of the old friends are actually here. Some of them I haven't seen in years, but, yet, here they are, looking at me as if nothing has happened. I guess that's the good thing about having the same circle of friends since preschool: they will always be there when you need them.

I briefly return the hug and looked around. This is going to be a good thing; I can feel it in my bones. Only, I'm pretty sure that most of them will not be getting drunk. In fact, I don't see any beer or anything of that nature.

Annie comes smiling through the crowd. "And late," she adds.

Alyssa shrugs. "At least he's here." She walks back to party.

Annie puts her arms around my waist. The skin beneath my belt tingles. This is so right…This is the way it's supposed to be. "I really am glad that you could make it." She pulls me toward the group. "I'm still not sure if this is a good idea. I know what's it for. I'm just not sure if it's the wisest idea."

I look at her. "Isn't this your idea?"

She just smiles. "Just because it's mine doesn't mean it's a good idea."

I put my arm around Annie and lead her to the bonfire. "We should just enjoy it. Besides, tomorrow could be our last day."

"Why do you always have to be so negative?" she asks.

I just shrug. "I don't know. Why do you always have to be so positive? Besides, you're the one leaving in a few days."

I watch her as someone hands me a cooking stick loaded with marshmallows and hotdogs. I hold it over the fire, looking around at the group. I have no idea how she managed to get everyone here, but it makes me feel good. It feels right with everyone here again. It's almost like no time has went by at all.

Annie grabs the stick from me. "You're going to get ashes over everything."

"Like you could do better," I counter with a smile.

"Anymore could do better than you," Haley replies as she sits down and bit into a freshly roasted marshmallow. "As we all know, cooking is not your strong point."

"And I suppose you know what is?" I ask.

Haley winks at Annie . "I'm sure Annie does," she says suggestively.

"Okay, then," Annie says. "This conversation just took a wrong turn."

I feel the heat forming on my face. How could Haley say something like that? Annie and I…No, that would never happened. However, why did feel like it is something that I want to happened? I am going to have to learn to get control of myself.

"How so?" a voice asks from behind us.

Annie 's friends, who I think are called Lisa, Leanne, and Alex, joined them. I wonder where all these people are coming from and why they seem to enjoy ganging up on me. It's just not fair. If people are going to insist on doing this to me, I should at least have some kind of say in the matter.

"Shut up!" Annie exclaims as she dunks the food into the ashes.

I take the stick back from her. "And you said you could do better than me."

Annie is not paying attention to me. "We are not finishing this."

Haley smiles. "Why not?"

"I would love to hear all about it," Molly says as she joins us.

Damon sits down next to me . "What are we talking about?" he asks me.

I stare into the fire. "I'm not sure that you want to know."

"Oh," Damon says.

Annie pulls out the stick out of the fire and offers me a marshmallow. "Yeah."

Alex Greenbrier, Chris Derrick, and Collin Haynes join us. Peter and Melissa Long are unable to come tonight, because of their baby, Emily; they don't want to have her out so late. It's strange to think that people my age are married and have a family. It somehow doesn't feel right and makes me feel really young and even more not put together.

I bit into the marshmallow and study the area around us. The meadow is big and airy with trees along the edges that block the outside world. This meadow is the perfect spot to block out what is happening in the outside world. Here time stops; it is like there is no tomorrow. It feels right; a lot more right than I felt in years.

Annie bit into a marshmallow. "Speaking of relationships...Where's Blaise?" she asks Haley.

Haley looks at her feet. "We broke up," she says softly.

I felt his eyes narrow as I look at her. Haley is a good young woman, a second grade teacher at the local elementary school. Blaise probably didn't get what he wanted from her and left her out to rot.

"Oh," Annie said. She also doesn't press it any further.

"Well, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm tired of talking about all of this depressing stuff," Alyssa starts in, giving Annie a rather pointed look. "Let's do something fun."

I have a feeling that Alyssa and Annie's definition of fun and mine are not going to be anything close to the same thing.

"Like what?" Lisa asks. "We could torture young Alex here." She points Annie 's friend Alex.

Alyssa shakes her head. "I was thinking about little game of capture the flag."

"Six and six would work," Annie says. "Collin and Annie could be our captains. Sound good to you two?"

Collin and Annie nod.

Internally, I try not to groan. This is a complete set up, one that is not going to end well for me. I am terrible at capture the flag, a fact that Annie is fully aware of. I don't know why she keeps on trying to torture me like this. It's probably only because I still haven't given her an answer as to what interests me.

"What will be our flags?" Haley asks.

Alyssa pulls two pieces of fabric out of her back pocket. "I've already got that taken care of."

I try not to roll my eyes. Alyssa is known for making things seem spar of the moment, but she really spent a lot of time planning things. Knowing her, she and Annie have spent the last week planning this game of capture the flag.

"Great," Molly grumbles, who hated almost all sports. This is mainly because she had almost no hand and eye condition.

"Live a little," Alyssa says to Molly before turning her attention back to Collin and Annie . "So, who wants to pick first?"

Collin and Annie look at each other, neither one of them volunteering to make the first move.

"Come on, don't be shy," Alyssa says.

"Fine," Annie says looking around at the group. My heart flutters as she settles her gaze on me. Why does this keep on happening? "Leanne."

Good…She didn't pick me, but why do I feel a little disappointed? I ran my hand through my hair. I really do need to learn to get control of myself.

Collin studied everyone. "Noah ."

"Lisa."

"Damon."

"Stupid Alex."

Alex just glares, but doesn't say a word. The rest of us start laughing.

"Haley."

"Other Alex."

"Chris."

"Alyssa."

"Molly."

The two teams stand on opposite sides of the fire eyeing each other in a friendly revive kind of way.

Alyssa steps between the two groups and hands Annie and Collin a different colour flag. "Does everyone know how to play capture the flag. It you don't know, speak up now or forever hold your peace."

"Why are you quoting a wedding ceremony?" Damon asks.

Alyssa eyes him. "Why can't you just accept things for what they are?"

Damon rolls his eyes and feel silent.

"So, does everyone know how to play?" Alyssa asks again.

Everyone looks at each other, but no one speaks up.

"Good."

"What are the boundaries?" Chris asks.

"You have to stay in this valley. If you put your flag on the hills, you will lose," Alyssa answers. "Any more questions?"

No one says anything else.

"Let, the games begin!"
Both teams take off running in opposite directions of each other. I ran beside Damon until the group comes to a stop beside a small brook.

"So...Where should we put this thing?" Collin askes

Haley, Damon, Chris, Molly, and I just stare back at him.

Collin shakes his head. "You guys are no help."

"You're welcome," Molly replies.

Collin give her look. "Can anyone in their group climb?"

"I don't even know three of them," Damon mutters..

"Can Annie climb?" Collin asked me.

I shrug. "I've never seen her climb." I look right at him. "What makes you think I would know?"

Collin looks around at the trees. "I was thinking that we could put it in a tree." He just smirks at me as he speaks.

"No dip," Molly remarks. "It wasn't as if you asking if anyone could climb gave it away."

Collin gives her an evil look. "Just for that, you can put it up there."

Molly shrugs, takes the flag from Collin, and begins to climb a tree to our left. I watch her with my heart racing. I am not a fan of climbing trees; I never have been. There's just too much of a risk in doing it. Those who love it are just downright crazy in my book. A few minutes later, Molly returns to the ground; the flag dangles a few metres off the ground.

Collin is eyeing his team now. "Chris and I will stay here and grab the flag. The rest of you are faster runners than we are."

Molly, Haley, Damon, and I nod.

We walk deeper into the woods, back toward the bonfire. By the time, we reach the most of it has burnt out. We keep walking past it, heading right where Annie's team was last spotted.

Once inside the woods, we stop and listen. Everything is still; there isnt' even a bird chirping.

"They're close," Haley muses.

I nod. "They probably thought that we wouldn't look for them this close to the fire."

"Not that smart then," Haley adds.

"It's actually genius. If you didn't stop and think about it nor listen, then you would have probably just kept going," Damon pointes out.

I look around. There is no one in sight. It is almost as if it is too easy. "I think that's the point."

Everyone turns and looks at me.

"What do you mean?" Molly asks.

"I mean that they want us to think that the flag is near or they are near, but they're not."

Haley shakes her head. "You don't make any sense."

"I mean it's a trap," I says. "Alyssa has been planning this and she's on their team."

"So, she's up to something," Damon says, looking around.

I nod. "The question is what though."

We move forward slowly, keeping our eyes out for anything that Alyssa could have planted. We walk for several minutes without seeing anything or anyone. It could have been possible that we were wrong, but I seriously doubt it.

No, something is up.

We walk around a tree near the brook when the ground below us moved. Before we even have the chance to jump back, the earth opened and sent us tumbling into the ground below. I stare up, not even wanting to know how they pulled this off. They've probably been working on this all week; there's just no other way that they could had done this.

"Well, that is just peachy," Molly mutters as she climbs off of Damon's head.

Damon spat dirt out of his mouth. "That isn't peachy, that is pure and utter evil."

Haley picks herself up off the ground, groaning. "I want to sue for almost murdering us."

I got up and roll my eyes at Haley. "Don't be a drama queen."
"You are one to talk," Haley shoots back at me.

I just glare, but didn't say anything.

Damon is studying the hole above us. It is far too tall for any of us to climb out of. "We're going to have to hoist either Molly or Haley up there."

"And how do you propose we lift you and I out?" Molly snaps. "Both of you are too heavy for us to lift up."

"Bet you two wish you didn't eat all of that food tonight," Haley adds.

Damon and I both roll our eyes.

"Do you have anything better?" Damon asks.

"Three of us could lift one of you and, then, that person could pull someone out," Molly says. "Duh, boys."
"This is why your gender should never be left alone," Haley says smirking.

Neither I or Damon wanted to admit that we hadn't thought of that one. If the girls found that out, we would never hear the end of it.

"Okay, then," I say. "If it doesn't work out, don't say we didn't warm you."

Haley smiles at me. "Trust us, it will work."

"Whatever you so," I mutters.

"Good, because you're going to be the first one we hoist up," Haley replies.

I fell my mouth open and shut.

"Is that a problem for you, Noah?" Haley sweetly asks.

"Not at all," I answer.

"Are you sure?"

I go over to the corner of the hole. "Just shut up and hoist me up."

When this is all over, I am going to kill Annie.

I am slowly lifted upwards. I claw at the ground, pulling myself up. Though my muscles scream a little at me, I do manage to wiggle myself out. Breathing a little bit hard, I turn and look around. Well, I did it. I took a chance and managed to get myself out of a rather sticky situation. Now, I just have to get the others out.

I reach down and offer Haley a hand. She grabs it with a strong grip. Someone clearly isn't the weak girl she was back in high school. Grunting, I pull her up.

She smiles at me. "Half way there."
Together we pull out Damon and Molly. It takes everything we have to pull Damon out, who has absolutely no climbing abilities whatsoever. I guess when you are trapped in a hole with people you tend to learn things about them.

Once out, we look around, but the flag is not in sight. I pinch my temples. Alyssa really does have dirty tactics. She and Annie must get together all the time and come up with ways to make people feel bad enough themselves. I don't get how people can be evil without really being evil.

"Let's go," Molly grumbles, starting back through the woods. "This is getting a bit ridiculous."

"Are you telling us that you didn't enjoy your dip in the hole?" Damon asks with a smirk.

Molly just gives him a long look. "I am in my last year of law school. I am too old for this nonsense."

Damon smiles as he wraps his arm around her. "Come on, Molly, learn to have a little fun."

"I don't think so." She looks at me. "Right, Noah, don't we have better things to do in life now?"
I shift around as all eyes somehow manage to find their way to me. I can feel the hairs on my arms starting to stand up as I try to come up with a response. These people actually think that I have it together when it is far from the truth. No matter what I say, it's going to be a lie and that will be hard to come back from.

"Well….I think we should look for the flag and get back to the bonfire," I say, not looking at them.

"Okay, then," Molly says.

Haley falls in step next to me as we walk. "What was that all about?"
"Nothing," I say.

The woods is quiet, too quiet in fact. We are either getting close to the flag and the others are hiding or there is something else nearby. I'm hoping for the first option. There have been rumours of mountain lions in the woods. Though I have never seen any signs of them, anything could be out there.

We kept on walking; the undergrowth crashes beneath out feet making it sound as if an army is coming through instead of just four people. I keep looking around, looking for any signs of someone, but there's nothing. I want to speak to the others, but can't. I don't know what I'll say to them.

The silence echoes around us. If we are getting close to the others, they will start to launch their attack in a few minutes. I keep looking around…Some they will attack. I just know it in my bones.

I listen to the cracking of the undergrowth, waiting for the right time to say something. So far, I don't hear anything but us. Maybe we are going to get out of this in one piece. It could happen…It really could happen and we could put this all behind us as a bad experience.

"Listen," Haley whispers about fifteen minutes later. "Do you hear it?"

I listen. At first, I don't hear anything, but after a few minutes of hard listening, I hear it. We are not alone. I stop walking, listening. Now, there is nothing, but silence. Maybe whoever is following us realized that we know they are there.

Molly looks around. "Do you think it's them?"
Damon shrugs. "If it is, then they should know that they need to be a little bit quieter."

I keep on listening. There is still nothing. They are probably listening in on what we are saying. Good…Let them listen…

I take a small step forward, listening and waiting. They will make a mistake, everyone messes up when it comes to these type of things. You let your guard down and give someone a chance to backdoor you.

My heart is ponding in my chest, willing the others to come out and get us. Let's just get this over with…Let's just be done with this nonsense…I just really want to go home at this point…Okay, maybe not that last part, but still this is getting kind of ridiculous.

The undergrowth rustles to our left. We all turn as one, waiting and wondering just what they have in store for us. I know in my bones that this may not end all that well for us. I know that we are probably going to end up losing everything that we have.

Granted, it will only be a flag, but it still doesn't feel very good.

I move around and wait.

"IT'S OVER!" someone screams.

We all turn just as Annie and Alyssa emerge from the trees, carrying our flag. The rest of their team flanks in behind them.

Annie comes over to me with a big smile. "How did you like the sinkhole?"
"Ha, ha, very funny," is all I can say.

She just laughs as we follow the others back to the bonfire. Somehow we end up behind everyone. I wrap my arm around her, enjoying her warmth. Much to my surprise she doesn't pull away. Huh, maybe this is how things are supposed to be.

The only problem is that she's leaving in two days.

!

I keep staring down at my hands, unsure of what to do next. I didn't see Annie at all yesterday and now she's leaving. I what to see her before she heads off to Egypt for who knows how long. The problem is that I don't want her to leave, but I don't know how to say that. What reason do I have for wanting her not to leave?

There is no way that she is going to stay behind for someone like me and I am not that type of a guy to ask her. I also don't expect her to wait for me to get my act together either. I just, I guess I really don't know. I just don't want her to go.

I never knew that I could possibly feel this way with her. I can't explain it, but whenever I'm with her, it feels right. By right, I mean it feels really right. It's nothing like I felt like with my ex. I thought I had it with her, but that was until Annie came back in my life.

I am really falling for my best friend? Can I really be that cliched and corny? I pinch my temples. Why can't I at least be a little bit original?

I watch as the sun starts to come up. I'm not sure what time her flight is, but I don't want to wake her. I get to my feet. However, I am not about to let her get away from me again.

Again? I never had her in the first place.

I shake my head. I cannot sit by and let this moment get by me.

I pull out my keys and head toward my truck. I have to get to her before she leaves. I can't let us fall apart like this…What I am saying? We never had anything to fall apart from.

I gas my truck. The dust kicks up behind me, showering the back with little bits of gravel. I don't even bother to wince as I keep on going. This is not going to happen. I will get to her before she heads into the city. She will not go to Egypt without seeing me.

I turn down her road, willing her to still be there. She surely wouldn't have an early flight…Please, don't let her have an early flight…She really would be the kind of person to get out here early so she could get to work all that much earlier.

When, I reach her house, it's dark. I'm not sure if this is a good sign or not. I turn the truck off and stare at the house. I should just go knock on the door and wait. If she doesn't answer in ten minutes, then she's not there.

I keep on staring at the house, unable to make myself move. I can't do this…I really should just turn around and drive away. She probably thinks that I'm just a useless person who can't even come up with something that interests him. Yeah, I really am that pathetic. I just don't know how I can do this.

I shift around in my seat. She's really going to think that I'm not that great of a catch anyway. I really shouldn't bother with any of this anyway. It's over…I just know in my heart that it's over.

Like all the good things in life, she's already gone. It's not a normal gone either; she's gone for good. Once again, I am the one left behind.

I slowly open my door and let slid down. My boots kick dust up behind me as I slowly start to walk toward the house. My heart beats against my chest, feeling like it's going to explode out of my ribs. I rub my hands on my jeans, wishing that the stickiness would go away.

The more I walk, the further away the house seems to be. I blink. It really is trying to torture me. I keep looking back at my truck. It doesn't seem to get getting further away. I sigh.

The house is finally starting to come closer. It is still dark and there doesn't seem to be any kind of life on the other side of it. My heart is dropping even more. She's gone…I just know it in my heart that she's gone and there's no way that I will be able to come back from this.

I step onto the porch and stare at the door, feeling like my high school self the first time at a girl's house. I take a deep breath. There's no reason for this nonsense; simply no reason at all. I crack my knuckles before raising them and knocking.

I take a small step back and wait. I'm not wearing a watch so I don't know how much time has went by. I shift around and pinch my temples. I just know that she's gone…I just know in my hear that I'm too late.

I got my hopes up that things would be good between us. Whenever I get my hopes is whenever I tend to get in trouble. One thing I've learned is to never get your hopes, then that way you don't end up getting hurt. It's simply just not a good idea to really expect anything out of life.

Sighing, I turn away from the door. See, I am right. I got my hopes up and ended up getting hurt.

"Noah?"

I turn. Annie stands just right behind me with a tried look on her face. She opens the door and steps out. She slowly comes over to me, leaning over the banister, peering down the long drive. I lean in next to her, unsure of what to say or do. It's kind of funny how these things happen. Why can everything feel go perfectly in your head, but when it's time for it to happen, everything falls apart?

I take a deep breath. "I've thought of something that interests me." I wince as I speak the words. This is going to be so corny.

She raises an eyebrow. "And?"

I move closer to her, reaching out to touch her hair. "Yes, I have." I pause. "I'm really not sure how to say this without sounding like a stupid romance novel. Um…Well, the thing that actually interests me isn't a thing at all. It's a person, Annie, and it's taken me years to realize that." I shift around, willing my heart to slow down. I take another deep breath. "It's you, Annie. It's always been you."

She blinks. "Me?"
I lean in closer to you. "Yes, Annie, it's you and I was stupid for taking so long to realize that."
"Noah-"

I hold up a finger. "I know it might be weird and everything, but I don't care. I had to say it before you left. You don't have to commit or anything. I just wanted you to know how I felt."

Annie's gaze flickers out to the driveway. She's not speaking, which I'm not sure is a good thing or not. I know she's going to end up breaking my heart before this is over. She slowly turns back to look at me. She's smiling…I feel the relief rush through my body.

She moves closer to me and presses her lips against mine. "It's about time," she whispers. "It's really about time that you get yourself together."

!

Two Years Later

I feel so out of place here, but I promised her that I would be here. It's taken her two long years to finish the book and I've been here through it all. I never knew how much pressure there was in writing a book. She has spent a lot of time in my arms both in tears and smiling. Now, it's done and she's wanting me to tour the country with her.

Of course, I can't come to them all. I have now started up my own business in farm management. I'm not really managing the farms, but offering famers advice on how to maximize a profit. At first, it really didn't take off and I almost quiet, but after my dad started bringing in a lot money, others started paying attention. It's not anything grand, but it does pay the bills and has allowed me to build my own cottage. Of course, it's still on the farm, but, hey, it's better than nothing.

Annie tugs at my sleeves. "Did you iron this?"
I blink at her. "Was I supposed to?"

She rolls her eyes. "I don't know why I even bothered asking that." She pauses. "At least, you don't smell like the barn."

"Hey, I know how to shower!"

She raises an eyebrow. "Sometimes, I really do question that."

"And I also went to Egypt, not once, but three times. It's a big step for a country boy like me." I pause. "Not only that, but the research team loved me."

She smiles. "That is also true." She looks up at the clock, gripping my hand. "Are you ready for this?"

My gaze flickers down to the ring on her finger; the one that I had put there a few weeks ago when she agreed to marry me. "Yes, are you?"

She nods, her face glowing. "No matter how many times I do this, there is nothing like talking about my books."

I smile as I lean into her, kissing her sweet lips. "Well, you should be able to brag and enjoy your work."

"Is that all?"
"Well, I would like to say that the rest of the world should get to enjoy me, but there's just not enough of me to go around." I smile at her. "Not only that, but I don't think you would be willing to share me."

"I think you're right about that." She pauses. "Once this town is over, it will time to start on the next project."

"Which is?"

She kisses me once again. "Our wedding."

"There is that indeed." I give hand a squeeze. "Shall we?"
"We shall."
We start to walk forward into the great unknown. The future can be a scary place, but it's a better if you have someone by your side. After all, when everything good seems gone, there may be something better waiting just around the corner. You just never know what is out there.