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Lori Johnson begins college with the hope of being just another freshman. Some kids like to stand out from the crowd, but Lori wants to blend in. She spent much of high school being the unwanted center of attention, accused of "faking" a painful disease.

If only that were true.


In constant pain that only varies by degrees, Lori decides to hide her invisible condition for as long as she can, until she knows she can trust the people around her, or until the inevitable happens and she can hide her pain no longer. She trusted people to support her before, and learned the worst way possible her trust was unfounded. Her slate is clean now, and she hopes she can be Lori first, her disability not at all.


Dating wasn't in her overall fly below the radar plan, but Dylan is there from day one and she can't deny it feels good to be with someone who doesn't question her, or do the opposite and treat her like an invalid. When she opens up to him and tells him her whole truth, he stays true to the boy she has seen since the beginning. He supports her and treats her like a person, not a disease, which is all she could ever ask for.


Life goes on, and as much as she tries her best to avoid the inevitable, the day comes when she can't hide her pain any longer. Now is the true test. Who will stay true to their word and be there for her when she faces the hardest part of her life? Who will disappear when the road gets tough? Who will surprise her completely? Either way, Lori has learned to stand on her own two feet -- even when she needs a cane to do it -- and she will continue to hold her head




"I'm a very busy woman." Lori smiled. "Are you going to eat anything, or is coffee your life blood?"


"You got it. Poke a hole in me and coffee will come out, not blood. Who needs blood anyway?"  To make his point he drew a line down his arm, like he was tracing a vein, then picked up his mug and pretended to tap into a vein. "Coffee is life."


Lori nodded and raised her mug as well. "Yes, yes it is." She sipped her drink and smiled. "So, you don’t talk until you get your coffee? Is that why you didn't say hello at the meeting?"


"Instant human, just add coffee." He grinned and finished his mug. "Feed two to three times a day."


Lori laughed and shook her head. "Okay, that was a good one. I'm going to use that now when trying to explain the need for coffee to my mom."  Shaking her head again, she looked to her food.


"Go ahead and take it, I got a million of them." He smiled and leaned back in his chair. "My family calls me the joke machine."


She really liked this. She was having a conversation that didn't start off with "why are you sitting like that?" or "so why do you do this?" It was just an honest, getting to know you, talking over coffee, about coffee conversation. For possibly the first time in the past few years, someone saw her for her and not what she had. High school was hell for that reason, and college, if it was anything like this conversation, was going to be a breath of fresh air.


They continued to talk, eat, and drink coffee until they had to leave for the next group meeting. They'd been warned before the break that "volunteers" were needed for carpooling. Lori was glad she'd returned to the dorm before going for breakfast, just to make sure she didn't risk being caught without her painkillers.


"Are you going to volunteer?" Dylan asked as Lori scoffed. "No car?" he asked.


"Yeah, I have a car, but no way am I volunteering. This might be the only real resting time of the day. I'm not going to take that time and waste it by driving." She moved her hand and waved it in front of her, brushing the idea away. "I'm crazy, not stupid."


"Well that's one way to think about it... I didn't offer, because the truck is in the shop." He smiled and walked alongside her making their way back to the grassy area.


"Okay, either you're trying to sound impressive and you don’t have a truck, or you're looking for a reason better than mine not to drive." Lori chuckled.


"Does it sound impressive?" He smiled wider. "Because if it does then it's an added bonus."  Lori looked at him and was silent, waiting for a better answer than that. He sighed and shrugged one shoulder. "Okay, how about trying to sound impressive, and looking for a reason not to drive that's completely true."


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