It's not like they avoided each other over the summer. It's just that their paths rarely ever cross outside of Greendale, like it's their only thing in common. They don't go to the same supermarkets, they don't show up at the same library. Maybe when he drives through that bad part of town, near the 7-11 that's just by that one place kind of almost close to her apartment, he thinks he should have turned around and gone the longer route, through the better parts of town where she might not be, but he needs gas and that 7-11 is just glaring at him.
The point is, he doesn't avoid her. They just don't see each other. On purpose. Mostly. It just doesn't happen, and that's not their doing.
So when he's passing through her bad neighborhood and he drives a little slower to see her writing something at her desk, he realizes there's a reason they have been non-purposefully not seeing each other, and it has nothing to do with Debate 101 or Britta or Slater.
It has everything to do with connection, and he doesn't share one with her. Obviously. If they did, they wouldn't be almost-purposefully-not-seeing-each-other. They'd be fucking on his couch or reading those dumb poems that she likes or spending all their days pretending to be lawyers when neither of them technically are. He'd be visiting her at her apartment and suggesting that she moves to a better neighborhood and she'd be treating him like he matters and they'd be an almost-thing that isn't a thing at all.
But they don't share that kind of thing, so he drives a little slower and watches her at her window and thinks to himself that she really should move out, but he doesn't tell her. And that's the difference.
So it's not like they've been avoiding each other. They just aren't meant to be.
If they were, they'd bump into each other more often.
And for the record? Summer moves at a slow pace when you're Jeff Winger who's just publicly broken someone's heart. Kind of. Summer creeps along like that stomach flu that you can feel sneaking up on you, so you eat a lot of soup and swallow a ton of Advil because you think that can make it go away, but lo and behold, next week you're sitting at home with a vomit bucket and watching Days of Our Lives (ironically).
Anyway, that's how summer feels. He doesn't go out in public a whole lot because he thinks he'll run into Britta. Not Annie or anything — because like he's been trying to tell everyone for the past few weeks, he doesn't care about Annie, and being confused and horny and kissing someone is something that he does a lot, okay? — but Britta and Shirley and all the people that would tell him, "You know, Jeff, you walked out on her and really hurt her!"
His summer is like a stomach flu. Long and drawn-out and painful. He's almost excited to go back to school. He's tired of sleeping with girls who are like eights when he should be sleeping with tens, but he's too wretched to go out in the popular bars.
He's not avoiding Annie. He's avoiding Britta, though, which is a fact he is 100% happy to announce.
He's tired of people expecting things from him that he can't give. He can't love Britta if he only likes her, and he can't be with Slater if he wants to be with other people. Jeff Winger doesn't do things half-assed.
So Jeff Winger sits at home watching Day of Our Lives (ironically) without paying attention to his phone (with mounting missed calls) and without paying attention to the pile of summer homework that he can'tbelieve he has.
And for the record? Making a fake degree was totally the shittiest thing he's ever done. He deserves to be a lawyer. He deserves to be away from community college and out of this shitty town and making a ton of money. He can be Jeff Winger without being Jeff Winger and His Study Group, thank-you-very-fucking-much.
About that meant-to-be thing? He totally thinks it's bullshit.
He sees Annie once at the 7-11 that's kind of near that place she almost lives by. She's buying a slurpee (which… of course she is, she's like twelve) and debating between the wild cherry flavor and that new Transformers-endorsed lightning blue thing, and although to most normal people, the decision is quite easy, she appears to be pretty conflicted.
He shouldn't talk to her. He's not avoiding her — remember? — but it's just asking for trouble.
Still. They're in the same 7-11 at the same time so it couldn't hurt too much to say hello.
"I'd get the wild cherry."
She gnaws stupidly at the straw like an elementary school girl, peering up at him as if he holds the answers to What Slurpee Flavor Should I Buy. "Yeah, but I've already had wild cherry. How do I know it's better than the blue thing if I've never had the blue thing?"
He stares at her. "The blue thing is pineapple and raspberries. That sounds disgusting."
"But have you ever had the blue thing?"
The way she's looking at him, so confused and earnest, makes him really wonder why she's so hot to him. Maybe it's a schoolgirl fetish, or maybe he just does it because it's just ironic enough to be cool. The girl is seriously about to have an existential crisis over slurpee flavors but he can't stop thinking that she's actually like, a nine. And that's not even being generous.
"Well, if you want something new, try the blue thing. If you want something that you know is good, get the cherry." He shrugs a little. "Take the safe route. I always do."
Annie looks at him. "But what if the blue thing is really really great, and you decide you never want cherry ever again?"
He thinks of Britta and Slater. He remembers feeling like an idiot when he stops kissing her even when she looks ready to get naked for him right there, and telling her, "Look, Annie, we're friends, yeah?" He tries to think if she was wearing blue that night. He doesn't think she was — but that'd be ironic, wouldn't it?
He cocks his head. "Okay, Annie. Get the blue thing."
When he's checking out with a bag of Doritos, she's still pondering over the slurpee flavors, but when he takes a casual glance back, he thinks he sees her picking cherry.
The second (and last) time he sees her over the summer, she just so happens to be outside her apartment as he drives through that part of town. It's a coincidence and a hilarity all at once. She sees him and waves excitedly, because he's special to her, and she recognizes his car apparently, which is… okay.
He slows to a stop as she dashes towards him, gesturing for him to roll down the window. "Where are you going?"
He really hates being here at this time of night. He has to pass through the neighborhood on his way back from a summer job, but it makes him uneasy even being there, and not for the first time, he thinks she should move. It seems so out of place for someone like… well, Annie.
"Just… heading home." That's not entirely true, but it's not exactly a lie, either. He was going to stop at the 7-11 to not-so-subtly hit on the hot girl that works from 6 to 12, because damn it, he deserves a ten for once, okay?
Annie frowns. "Oh. Okay."
She looks so upset — and whether he likes it or not, he cares what she thinks about him. He doesn't care about most girls, he doesn't care about Slater and the eights that he sleeps with on occasion, but he does care if she hates him, and the way she's looking makes him think that she will if he doesn't offer her some sort of adventure.
Annie's problem is that she expects everyone to be a lot more exciting than she is. Between overdosing on medication and winning debate competitions, her life is resorting to sitting at her desk and writing in her journal or whatever girly thing it is that she does, and she does shit else but wait for something awesome to happen.
So he takes her to 7-11 with him, and she finally caves and buys the blue slurpee flavor, and as they're sitting in his car in the empty parking lot, she says to him, "This isn't as good as the cherry one."
He raps his knuckles on the steering wheel and can't help but smile. "You should've taken my advice."
Annie twirls her straw through the thick liquid and mumbles, "I did, at first. Maybe I don't like the safe road."
"It's a slurpee flavor, not an epic quest."
She shifts to look at him, frowning down at her cup before setting it down in his drink holder. "It's still a decision. It doesn't have to be an important one, but it still matters, doesn't it?"
He gets the feeling that she isn't really talking about slurpee flavors. He plays along, like a good little boy. "You should stick with the one you know best."
For a second he thinks she'll say what's on her mind. Annie is good at that, usually. She's great at bursting out with exactly what she thinks at exactly the wrong time, like that time she called the Dean a bald freak and he sat crying in his office for the rest of the day. She felt bad, but the point is, she knows how to say what she feels, even if she doesn't mean for it to come out the way it does.
Instead she says, "I just wanted to try it."
That's probably why he says what he does at that moment. It's between thinking about how hot she is and remembering how old he is and then Britta and then Slater and all the bullshit he's been avoiding this summer. It's between all that. It just comes out. He's just as good as it as she is. He tells it like it is.
So he says, "That kiss, at the end of the semester. That was stupid, you know that, right? It was dumb. A mistake. I was acting weird. There was a lot going on and you were just there. You know that… right?"
After rambling on for a full minute he just watches her as she sits there, twirling her disgusting blue drink and frowning down at it as if it had just insulted her. She turns around in her seat and stares at the window, the flickering light of the 7 flashing in her eyes. The hurt is almost palpable, but he can't let the silence continue, so he just —
"Annie, I don't really like you like you want me to like you. I mean, I'm too old to like you like you want me to like you because I know that you like me the way that you want me to like —"
"Can you take me home?"
For the first time, he does exactly what she wants him to, and for the first time he is completely unable to speak. She's silent as he drives her slowly to her apartment. He wonders if he's just made a mistake, or if he's just done himself — and even her — a favor.
As she unlocks the door and steps out into the humid air, she turns around and says, "You know, Jeff, that kiss was totally a mistake."
He nods and fights the obstruction in his throat. "Totally."
"I was just bitter about Vaughn," she continues, and he avoids the look in her eyes, "so I thought kissing you would make it better."
He nods again, a dumb little bobblehead. "Yeah."
She smiles at him but it doesn't quite reach her eyes. "Bye."
He watches her prance up the stairs and then turns to the blue drink still nestled in his cupholder. He tentatively takes a sip and speeds off until the light of her window fades in the darkness of his rearview mirror. It's not bad, he thinks. It's just different. Maybe he thinks it's better.
She wasn't wearing blue that night he kissed her. He knows that now. Maybe that makes it so un-ironic that it's ironic. And irony is cool.