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They walked over to his old Volkswagen Beetle, where he even opened the door for her to get in. The car was a nice contrast to the outdoors: warm, dry, and quite cozy. He had a few stickers in his car, most promoting a band or lifestyle. One in particular made her laugh. It read, 'Don't take life seriously; no one gets out alive anyway.'

Eric, a fairly big guy, somehow squeezed his way into the driver's side. "You likes the ride?"

Ashley nodded. "Why'd you buy such a small car?"

As he turned the ignition, he shrugged. "I don't usually cart too many people around in it. And I like the Bug."

They rode in silence for a while, the radio playing some kind of music Ashley had never heard before. When she asked about it, Eric told her it was Bob Marley.

"Oh, the Jamaican guy?"

"Yep, a big time Reggae artist."

She listened a little longer. "I like it."

Eric smiled. "Want to borrow the tape?"

Ashley smiled back. "You trust me with it?"

"You trusted me to get in the car. Guess I can repay you."

That gave her pause. Could she have looked that stupid as she puzzled it out? She knew Eric was very perceptive. He could see things no one would ever think to look for. Maybe he had read it on her face.

"Sorry about that."

He waved it off. "No apologies needed. It's completely understood."

She smiled her thanks, hoping he would be able to read how much that meant to her.

They finally pulled into the school parking lot, and Eric hit the eject button and handed the tape to her. Then he looked her over, tsk-tsking again.

"No, no, that just won't do," he said to her frown. He then proceeded to pull off his bomber jacket and draped it over her shoulders.

"Oh, Eric, I couldn't. You'll get cold. I've got a jacket."

He raised an eyebrow to that. "It isn't nearly thick enough to keep you warm. And don't worry, the only reason I wear this jacket is so I can give it to the cute girls who are in need of warming up."

She laughed at his wink. "Eric, I'll be ok, really--"

He held up a hand. "If you don't take the jacket, I'll be mad at you, and I won't bring you home today."

That made Ashley blink. "Why would you do that?"

His smile returned. "I live just down the street from you. It isn't out of my way. Besides, would you rather be cramped in my car, or do you like the bus?"

She shook her head vigorously. "No way! I'll take the car."

"Good. So, meet me out here after class?"

"Right." She turned to open the door, and struggled with it a bit before the latch finally gave way.

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