“He’s going to ask you out again today,” Mallory said.
“No, he’s not.” Annie pulled off her hat and smoothed down her hair. It wasn’t quite as cold as she expected. “Saturday wasn’t a date so there’s no again, and I brought my little brothers. I think that was a good hint of where I stand.”
“But you had fun.”
“We did. As friends.”
“So you’d agree to do something with him again?”
Annie sighed and opened the door to the library. “Not the way you say it. You make ‘do something’ sound like a betrothal. Besides, he’s not going to ask me out in the middle of the study group.”
“It’s just going to be four of us today. Aaron is taking Hannah out for her birthday.”
“Oh, yeah. Still… we’re here to study.”
Mallory snorted. “You don’t have any homework this week. You’re here to hang out with Jake and make him fall for you even more.”
Annie issued a playful shove in response. She wasn’t going to argue against a relationship with Jake yet again.
He and Carlos were already at their usual table. They sat at opposite corners. Carlos had his back to the girls as they walked up and was laughing at something Jake said before Annie was close enough to hear. She took the seat next to Carlos and was about to ask what was so funny.
Mallory leaned close and made a sniffing noise in Annie’s ear. It was a jab about her obviously smelling Carlos, which she hadn’t even been thinking about. She gave Mallory a look that she hoped conveyed significant displeasure with her mock sniffing.
Jake smiled at either the sound effect or the reprimand. There was a lack of amusement in his eyes though that made Annie uneasy. She felt a sudden need to explain that she’d only sat next to Carlos out of habit. The thought caused several others to trip into a pile in her head. First was the knowledge that she had in fact taken the seat next to Carlos out of habit. Next was the idea that she wanted Jake to share that knowledge. Last was the dawning understanding that something had changed.
Somewhere between giving her mom flowers and treating her little brothers like friends, Jake had formed a connection to Annie. It wasn’t anything like a lifelong bond, but it was enough to make Annie curious about a stronger connection. Curious and… interested. She unzipped the backpack at her feet and started pulling things out to cover her unexpectedly flustered state.
“What are you doing?” Mallory asked.
“I’m… getting ready.”
“For what?” Mallory was sending her a concerned look. “You said you didn’t have any homework tonight.”
Annie was going to say she was getting ready to study. Surely she had something she could review. But Carlos spoke first.
“You don’t have homework?” he said. “Great. You can help me with this awful poem.”
Jake groaned. “Well, she’s got to be better than me.”
“Yeah,” Carlos said. “He wanted me to rhyme sunset with not yet.”
“What?” Annie laughed and looked at Jake. So did Mallory.
He shrugged. “You didn’t give me much to work with. Tell them what you have so far.”
“I’m supposed to write couplets about something in nature,” Carlos explained. “I have ‘I’m sitting by the window to watch the sunset.’”
There was a pause before Mallory said, “That’s it?”
“I’m not a poet,” Carlos said. “Do you think if I wrote a few more random lines I could get half credit for half couplets?”
“Yet could work.” Annie gathered some thoughts. “I’m sitting by the window to watch the sunset. I realize it hasn’t started yet. The sky is still blue. Uh… lots of things rhyme with blue. Someone help me.”
Mallory tried. “The sky is still blue. The grass is covered with dew. I guess it’s still morning.” She looked around the table for a suggestion.
Jake said, “How about… This very long wait will be boring. But if I sit all day I bet… I might get to see the sunset yet.”
“We already used yet,” Mallory said, trying to keep a straight face.
Annie was also working to swallow a laugh. It wasn’t only awful because they’d used yet, and Jake’s face said he knew it, too.
“We did.” Jake winced again. “That was so terrible.”
Carlos was writing it all down. “But it’s pretty close guys. I’m just going to change the last two lines to ‘But I have nothing else to do, maybe I’ll watch the sun rise, too.’”
Annie didn’t think that was much better. At least it was something Carlos wrote himself.
He closed that binder and opened a different one. “On to statistics,” he said. “That class always has the most homework.”
When he shifted to a new subject, Annie caught a whiff of that nice cologne. She still enjoyed the scent, but it was like smelling cookies. Nothing personal. She asked Mallory if she wanted to study Geology, the one class they had together. Jake finished the assignment he’d brought and took Annie’s textbook to let the girls compete to guess vocabulary words.
Carlos finished his statistics, and they all began to pack up. The four of them walked away from the table together. “Wait one minute,” Mallory said. “I want to check out a book while we’re here.” She disappeared between two shelves of fiction.
“See you next week.” Carlos kept walking towards the exit.
Jake stopped next to Annie.
She felt her stomach turn sideways, then inside out. The idea that this was a chance for Jake to ask her out was now less unsettling than the idea that he might not take it.
“Are you going home again this weekend?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“Any plans here?”
She continued the side to side movement. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“They’re doing the first outdoor movie of the year on Saturday,” he said.
“Already? It’ll be cold.”
“Probably. People will bring blankets.”
“Do you know what they’re showing?”
Now Jake shook his head. “Would you be interested in finding out? I mean, you and Mallory could both come with me to find out.”
Annie smiled at the way he saved her the trouble of inviting another person. “Will you carry our blankets for us?”
“No matter what year it is.”
She smiled again, more self-consciously because of his reference. “Okay. I’ll tell Mallory.”