I held it together while Annie was here, but when the front door shut behind her, the full-on anxiety attack that'd been building since her invitation came to fruition.

I had to sit quietly and breathe deeply for a good half-hour until my body and brain calmed down. It wasn't a date. It wasn't a hook-up. I hadn't even known Annie a week. She was just looking for company while she went shopping., that's all.

Times like these, I wished I had siblings I could talk to, or even parents that'd be willing to talk about my feeligns without bringing the conversation back on themselves. James, unfortunately, had Friday nights off, or else I'd ask him to come down.

A ding from my personal computer drew my attention. By this time, I'd be logged into my normal social sites. Oh, wait, maybe they'd be able to help me. I hurried over and sent out a request.

Need to talk to somebody.

My phone rang in a couple of minutes, and I hurriedly grabbed for it, seeing that a fellow techie, Stu, had been online and answered my plea for help.

"Hello?"

"Aug, what's up?"

"Stu, buddy, I need to talk to somebody," I said, dropping down onto my couch.

"I'm here. Spill it."

"I got a date. For tomorrow. I don't know what to do."

"Holy crap, Auggie. How'd that happen? You never leave your house."

Despite my mood, I had to laugh at that one. "She's working with me. Company assigned her to come here every day, working out of my house for a few months. I just met her Monday."

"And you asked her out already? Don't know whether I should say congratulations or advise you to call your doctor 'cause you've obviously been taken over by a Pod Person."

Again, I laughed, easing my anxiety even further. Though I'd never met the man, Stu and I got along just fine. For one, I doubt anyone at the company would have gotten his joke. I wonder if Annie would?

"No, no," I said hastily. "I didn't do anything except say yes. She asked me."

"Huh. That's pretty cool."

"She is pretty cool. I mean, I still prefer working alone and living alone, but weirdly enough, I don't mind her being here."

The line went silent, and I wasn't sure if our connection got lost, or he hung up on me or –

"Stu? You still there?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm here. You kind of threw me here, you know."

I scoffed. "You're thrown? God, Stu, I'm a grown man. I've had girlfriends before, but it seems like a lifetime ago. What the hell do I do?"


I'd talked to Stu a good hour last night, but he was pretty much like me, a computer expert more at home with himself than in a crowd. We commiserated and ended the phone call with me promising to give him all the details afterwards.

I don't know what he expects to hear. After thinking about it through my normal end-of-day routine, I realized that she probably asked me to go with her out of some kind of pity or sympathy. Not the "poor little baby, let me make it all better" sympathy I'd gotten from women after being blinded. No, over the past week, save our first day together, Annie's treated me with kindness, respect, and genuine niceness. The few years I'd been holed up here in my personal cave has apparently jaded me to those kinds of people.

Well, that and having parents that didn't know their title also acted as a verb on occasion.

Nevertheless, here I was, sitting in my living room waiting for Annie to arrive to go shopping. My normal Saturday routine got pushed to Friday night and this morning, and then I stood in my closet wondering what the hell I should wear. Even when I had my sight, I'd never been to a Farmer's Market. I assumed by the title it was just an outdoor grocery store, but Annie had mentioned food and crafts and music, hadn't she?

The weather was nice, so I opted just for what I normally wore, a t-shirt, jeans, comfortable shoes, and I tossed a light jacket over everything. If Annie made a comment about it, there shouldn't be a problem with changing before we left.

A knock resounded from the front door, so I hit the remote to open it and stood. "Annie?"

"You'd better hope so," she responded. "What if I were a robber or someone bent on doing you harm?"

The teasing note in her voice made me smile. "Never heard of a robber yet who knocked first."

"Hmm, if you say so."

"I wasn't sure what to wear," I said, grabbing up my jacket and barely used cane. "And the weather report called for temps in the 70s with passing clouds and only a 10% chance of rain showers. I thought I'd bring a jacket, just the same, if we're gonna be out in the open. Is the ground paved or gravel? I wore sneakers, but I've got some hiking boots with a stronger heel that'd be better to navigate with."

The soft tread of something other than heels came towards me, and I felt her hand come up to my shoulder. "Auggie, you look fine. I'm wearing the same thing, and the place is paved, so you shouldn't have any problems."

"Are you sure?" I asked, trying to swallow down the nervousness I'd been experiencing for almost a full day.

"Yeah, I am," she replied, cupping her hand on my jaw, which I involuntarily leaned into before it was suddenly gone. "So if you're ready, let's blow this joint."

"Okay," I said.

We'd gotten to the front door and through it. It locked automatically, and I extended the cane out in front of me, waiting for her to take my arm. It never came. "Annie?"

"Yeah?"

Damn it, I thought. Not even a few steps out in the big, wide open, and we'd already hit a roadblock. "Give me a hand?" I asked, biting back the words even as I said them.

My anxiety through last night to this morning had me replaying possible scenarios that might happen today. This, however, wasn't one of them. Annie had been so accommodating of my blindness, making me feel, save our first meeting, like I was normal again, I'd forgotten that she'd pretty much have to act as my nursemaid.

"Sure," she said, and I felt her grab my hand and start walking again.

"Whoa, wait," I said, stumbling a couple of steps behind her. Once our momentum had stopped, I continued, "Could I just hold onto your arm as we walk? The cane'll do the rest."

"Oh, of course. Didn't realize there was a protocol to all this. You'll have to teach me all your secrets."

Her lighthearted tone and what I took as a smile behind her words eased my anxiety again, and as we moved down the path to where she parked, I felt as if I was stepping off into some kind of unknown reality that, at the same time, was very familiar.

The windows were open as we drove off, and the wind blowing across my face and ruffling my hair took me back to my life years ago. The reasons I'd sequestered myself were many and very real, but at the moment, I couldn't think of one of them.


A/N You know me, any reason to bring Stu back. :) Hope I've portrayed Auggie with just the right amount of excitement and anxiety.

Please Review.