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After reading for a few hours, a sense of normalcy returned to me. I still needed to think through my relationship with Mateo, but that would have to wait. Homework necessitated my attention, so I started it, saving Literature for last. As anticipated, I stopped frequently during my character analysis to reflect on Mr. Whitaker's behavior.

Rachel's silly assumptions were unfounded, right? There was no way our new teacher was interested in me. No way. Surely he wouldn't go for girls so much younger than him. But even if he did, he would pick the girls prettier or smarter than me, right? Who was to know these answers anyway? Getting to know Mr. Whitaker would be the only solution, and I couldn't get to know him. I'd make a fool of myself if I tried.

I completed my homework by five-thirty and decided to go for a walk, something entirely unusual for me. The fresh air would probably help clear my head. Once my tennis shoes were pulled on, I charged out of the house and down the stairs to the driveway. When my phone started ringing, I had just reached the end of my street. I paused my walk to retrieve my cell. The caller was Mateo.

"Hey," I answered.

"Hey, babe."

"How was practice?"

He breathed deeply, still sounding a little breathless. "Oh, the usual. Lots of running."

"Sounds like torture." I kicked at some stray pebbles littering the asphalt.

"It was. What're you up to?"

"Um..." My head lifted as my gaze flickered between the suburban homes around me. "Just taking a walk."

"Wow. I'm impressed."

I chuckled. "Mhmm. I'm sure you are."

"So I was thinking I could make earlier up to you. We can go grab dinner or something, if you want."

"You don't have to make earlier up to me. You already apologized, and I already forgave you."

"I know...but I still want to see you. I feel like we haven't had much time alone recently."

A blast of heat rushed through my body at his words. Alone time. We'd hardly been alone at all since we started dating three weeks ago.

"I'd like that," I confessed. "Do you have something in mind?"

"You know I'm easy. We can go wherever you want."

My teeth sunk into my lip while I considered our local options. "How about that Japanese place off the interstate?"

"Yeah, sure. I'll pick you up in half an hour?"

"Okay. Sounds good."

"I'll see you soon, Hazel."

"You, too." My body tremored excitedly. This would be fun. Our second date had finally arrived.

>>>

The blue dress I was wearing suddenly seemed too nice for this occasion. I turned away from the mirror to raid my closet again for a suitable outfit. What do people wear on second dates? This restaurant isn't fancy or anything. Maybe I should just slip back into jeans...

My phone's jubilant jingle interrupted my thoughts. Mateo must have just pulled up.

"Shoot," I muttered. Then, accepting the call, I said, "Hey, Mat."

"I'm out front," he told me.

"Great. I'll be out in a second." Then I hung up.

On the way out of my bedroom, I slung my purse over my shoulder. I stopped by the kitchen to tell my mom I was leaving.

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