“I’m going WHERE???” Ana stared at her father in horror. “I’m sorry honey.

” Her father looked away guiltily. “I know you were excited for school, but I really need to follow on this lead.” “Mooooooom!” Ana turned to her mother. “Why can’t I stay home?” “I have to go to the US and we can’t leave you home alone for three weeks.” “I’m 16 for fuck’s sake!!” “No swearing.” Her father leaned against the counter wearily. “Dad! You know I’m mature enough!” “Yes honey, but I could also use the help.” He gazed at her pleadingly. “Help your old man out please?” Ana wavered, before she got a grip on her reason. “Mom, come on! Why can’t I stay home? It’s only three weeks!” “Ana Cristina Chardon! That is enough! You’re going with your father and that is final!” Her mother covered her face with her hands. “I’m sorry for yelling. But please honey. Just go with your father, and don’t give us a hard time ok? If I finish early, I’ll come get you and bring you home. Ok?” “Promise?” Ana pouted. “I promise. I love you sweetie. Now go pack ok?” She kissed her forehead and headed for the study. “Thanks honey.” Her father leaned over and ruffled her hair. “Did I mention I’m sorry?” “Yup. Love you daddy.” She kissed his cheek and skirted around the counter, heading for the stairs. “By the way, a couple of my students are helping too!” “Ok Dad.” Closing the door behind, she grabbed the phone and dialled her friend Jenna’s number. “Hello?” “Jen? My dad’s dragging me on another trip.” “What? Where??” “The Mediterranean sea.” ---------“Where are they?” Her dad peered anxiously at the crowd as he stood beside their luggage. Ana crossed her legs impatiently and glanced up at the boarding counter. “Dad, we’re going to miss our flight.” “I know honey, but we can’t leave without them.” Standing on tip-toe, he gazed around at the sea of people. Ana tugged her baseball hat lower over her eyes, and switched songs on her iPod. “Sorry we’re late!!” Two young men skidded to a stop in front of her dad, one carrying a duffel bag, the other a backpack. “Got caught at customs.” “Where’s Emily?” Her dad looked past them. “Isn’t she with you?” “Emily’s mother is sick, so she can’t come. She said sorry.” The blonde-haired boy said. The brown-haired guy looked at the boarding counter. “We should get going Professor. They’re calling for last boarding’s.” “Right. Tyler, Patrick, meet my daughter Ana. Ana, this is Tyler and Patrick.” “Nice to meet you Ana.” Tyler (the blonde) stuck his hand out and she took it, shaking it roughly. “Nice grip.” He grinned and she grinned back at him. “Thanks.”

“Hello.” Patrick looked her up and down and raised an eyebrow doubtfully. “How old are you? Twelve?” “Sixteen.” She glanced over him. “How old are you, fifty?” Tyler snorted. “Eighteen.” He gazed at her suspiciously. “Good for you! You can remember how old you are!” She clapped. He glared at her as Tyler burst into laughter behind him. She grabbed her backpack and chased after her father, with Patrick following after her, still glowering. A laughing Tyler followed up behind. Later, on the plane, Ana sat beside the window, pointedly ignoring the guy beside her. Patrick followed suit, pulling a large book from his bag and flipping it open to the middle. “So why are you on this trip Ana?” Tyler peered past Patrick to smile at her. “My mom made me come. She’s going to the US on a book-signing tour, and apparently I’m not allowed to stay home alone for three weeks.” She grimaced and pulled a deck of cards from her backpack. “Wanna play?” “Sure. What game?” “Know 21?” “Isn’t that like blackjack?” “I suppose. I’m not allowed to gamble.” She glanced at her father across the aisle, concentrating happily on the movie. She grinned when he gasped. “I think I’ll get it if you go slow.” Tyler poked Patrick’s side. “Come play with the pretty lady, Patrick.” “I don’t see any pretty lady here.” He turned a page. “He’s just afraid he’ll lose.” Ana taunted, ignoring the small jab of hurt. “I never lose.” He smirked at her. “Prove it.” She challenged. “Fine!” He put the book down and gestured at the cards. “Deal away.” “Alright.” Dealing the cards, she peeked at hers, and immediately flipped them over. “Twenty-one.” She smirked at him. “So, jacks, queens and kings are ten right?” Tyler peered at his cards frowning. “Yup. And ace is eleven or one.” “I have…sixteen then.” “Twenty.” Patrick put his cards down. “Deal again.” “And I thought you never lost.” She gloated as she collected the cards and re-dealt them. “Hit.” Patrick took the card and placed his batch down. “Twenty-one.” ---------Ana gazed out the small window at the black sky. The lights were all off, and almost everyone on the plane was snoozing. “Goodnight Mom.” She whispered, reaching out absently for the blanket. A hand snared her wrist, effortlessly stopping her. “Do you always talk to windows?” Patrick whispered. “No. Let go of my wrist.” “I can’t. If you do, you’re gonna start fumbling around again. And you barely missed me the first time.” “Ewww!” She pulled her arm free and wiped it on the seat.

“I thought it was girls who had cooties.” “You’re so childish.” She snapped. Tyler shifted in his sleep and she froze. “So loud.” He muttered beside her ear. “Here.” He pulled the blanket free and threw it over her. “Thanks.” “No problem. Now go to sleep. It’s past your bedtime.” He smirked at her. “Jerk.” she said sleepily. ----------

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