With apologies to Belle and Sebastian.
They don't see each other at all over the summer. Annie's parents are horrified when they find out about her abortive trip to Delaware, and whisk her off first to a relative's home in upstate New York, and then to Hawaii for an extended vacation.
Jeff doesn't do much during his break. He could have taken summer classes to accelerate his degree program, but he convinces himself that he needs a break in order to maintain his grade point average (3.2 is an admirable GPA in his book), and that is has nothing to do with the fact that he can't stand the thought of Greendale Community College without the rest of the group.
So he spends some time providing off-the-books legal research and advice at a tiny, less-than-reputable law office in a run-down strip mall downtown, for which he is paid cash. He spends more time at the gym and reading novels he hadn't previously had the time or inclination to touch, and he can't remember the last time he spent a summer like this. Probably never.
He sees a lot of Abed, though. Abed is working part-time at the falafel restaurant over the summer, and Jeff falls into the habit of visiting once or twice a week, usually in the evening when business is slow and Abed dumps the last few falafels from the fryer onto his plate with a complicit raise of the eyebrows.
Pierce invites him over to dinner a few times. At first ready excuses roll off his tongue, but one day he finds himself agreeing. Not that he's lonely, and not that he misses his compañeros de clase, but he's curious about how the whole Troy-and-Pierce thing is working out. He half expects to find Troy in a doorman's uniform and acting in the capacity of valet, but the housemates seem to have settled into a domesticated, equitable routine. Troy has a room in a wing that's comfortably distant from Pierce's quarters and a part-time job at an athletic supply store, so the two only see one another when they feel like having company.
It also happens that Pierce is an excellent cook, and Jeff finds himself regretting the evening less and less. He is given all the gossip about the missing members of the group because Pierce is using the internet to stalk their every movement ("It's not stalking, Troy, I'm just keeping up with friends." "Keeping up by trying to hack into their Facebook pages and doing white-page searches on their names?" "Semantics."). Britta is traveling in Asia, but is generally incommunicado aside from intermittent, cryptic Tweets that are partially in Nepalese. Or at least Pierce thinks they're Nepalese. Could be any Asian language, or even a European one, for that matter. Shirley has a temp job for the summer, and is otherwise spending all of her time with Elijah and Jordan. They don't discuss Annie's whereabouts, because what they know, he knows.
Jeff actually has communicated with Annie more than Pierce and Troy have, although they aren't aware of it. She sends him Facebook messages every few weeks, usually a few sentences of friendly cheer that could be directed at anyone in the group, although once she includes a link to a privacy-filtered, untagged album with pictures from Hawaii. They're innocuous photos of landscapes, flora, and fauna. Except for one. In it, Annie is wearing a white bikini, and she's laughing happily at something that's just off-screen. Jeff wonders who she's laughing at, and who took the picture, and who schooled Annie in the delicate art of psychological torture. He looks at the picture so many times that he finally becomes paranoid that she'll block him from the album, and so saves the image to his hard drive.
Other than that Jeff keeps mostly to himself. He has no desire to hang out with his former colleagues at the firm, and he's still avoiding his family. He goes out to night spots a few times, and once finds himself flirting with a pale, big-eyed brunette with a crooked smirk and a sharp tongue. They leave the bar together, but at her place they're surprised by her hulking boyfriend, and Jeff may or may not sprint back to his Lexus without even trying to talk himself out of the situation.
By the time Annie gets back to Greendale, it's the first week of August and the momentum has vanished. Jeff cannot imagine himself driving the Lexus up to her home in an affluent suburb (no, he hadn't used Google Street View. More than once.), possibly encountering her parents, then taking her out on a chaste, tee-totaling date to see a summer blockbuster. Greendale Community College is, he reflects, exactly like summer camp. Alliances and relationships are formed there that seem unbreakable, only to wither under the harsh glare of the real world. It's a completely artificial environment, one in which he and Annie have similar lives and daily schedules, and the differences between them are glossed over by the relentless conformity of the college experience.
First day of class is mild enough for him to feel comfortable in a sport jacket over his t-shirt – no sense in being a slob right from the get-go – and he's just decided not to buy any books at all until he's determined that he absolutely cannot get by without them, when he sees a slender young woman with a fall of sun-streaked dark hair, her arms loaded with textbooks. His predatory instincts come to the forefront, and in a few long strides, he's at her side with a rakish grin plastered to his face and an appealing quip at the ready.
He looks down and it's Annie. It's not that she's unrecognizable, because she isn't. She's tanned and her hair is a few inches longer, and that's it. But her demeanor is so different from the frantic, uncertain girl he met last fall that it's difficult to reconcile. She's even changed since the night of the Transfer Dance in some indefinable way, and that, more than anything else, robs him of his assurance. He realizes that his heart is pounding so hard that he can feel his pulse in his fingertips.
"Jeff!" At first she's beaming at him, then she's uncertain.
"Annie!" He matches her tone. "Good to see you!" He realizes that her blouse is sleeveless and cut lower than he's seen her wear, and there's no protective cardigan at all.
"So, how are you? Are you happy to be back at Greendale?" she asks. Jeff doesn't feel like answering, so he sidesteps the questions.
"What's more important is, it looks like you had fun over the summer. Learn anything new? Meet any interesting people?" It starts out neutrally, but by the end the inflection in his voice is an innuendo. This isn't the time, and he doesn't want to go there, but he figures it's inevitable in their interactions from here on out.
"I took several nature hikes exploring the endangered species of Hawaii. I did some pre-reading for classes this fall. It was pretty uneventful." She's being deliberately obtuse. Then, "So, you did see my pictures. It was nice of you to respond and comment on them."
Jeff quirks an eyebrow at her. "Didn't I? All that scenery was certainly inspiring."
She impresses him by refusing to rise to his bait, so he relents. "There was also a picture of an incredibly gorgeous woman on the beach, but my reaction to that was incoherent and inappropriate, so I remained silent. C'mon, did you really want that on your Facebook?"
Annie smiles in spite of herself, and to cover his awkwardness at his admission, Jeff says "Hey, let me take some of those books for you. I can hardly see you behind them," and relieves her of most of her pile of textbooks.
"Jeff Winger, are you carrying a girl's books for her?" Annie is enjoying this far too much.
"What? I'm preventing a friend from incurring dangerous lower-back strain by offering assistance!" A beat. "Yes. I am carrying your books for you."
And suddenly it's back, and he remembers exactly why he kissed her again on prom night, and why he didn't sweet-talk his way into someone else's bed this summer, and why he cares so deeply what Annie thinks about him. Greendale isn't at all like summer camp, and this is something frighteningly real.
Jeff looks her straight in the eyes. "I am happy to be back at Greendale, Annie. Very happy." He doesn't even need to apply his sincere tone, since it's already there.
She nods once. "Good. Because I am, too."