7️⃣

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Talk about the most awkward evening of my life. Mr. Whitaker and two of his married pals sat across the table from me and my parents. Being the friendly person she was, my mom so graciously invited them to sit at our table. Part of me wanted to strangle her for it. This was seriously awkward.

    My dad started talking politics with Mr. Whitaker, which became nearly unbearable. Thankfully, they agreed on most everything, so I didn't have to worry about any heated debates between them. The torture didn't end there. Once the politics discussion was over, my mom started inquiring into Mr. Whitaker's love life. My poor teacher kept blushing and stealing awkward glances at me. I tried intervening in the conversation several times in the hope that I could distract my mom into talking about something else...but she refused.

    At last, I was saved by my phone yet again. Mateo's contact picture danced across the screen while I stared into his dark eyes. I didn't want to talk to him. The part that upset me the most was that I knew we were an unbalanced couple and that we should break up. I knew that. But I didn't know how to tell him or hurt him like that. Especially when we were making prom plans together. It would be so miserably awkward if I broke up with him before prom.

    The call finally died down and I began to put my phone up. Just when I started to relax, my phone dinged with a voicemail notification. Then I got worried. What if he did something royally stupid and needed my help? Or if his car just broke down and he needed a ride? So many tragic scenarios ran through my mind.

    "Is everything alright?" my dad asked.

    When I lifted my head, I found five pairs of eyes staring at me. I swallowed heavily and forced a smile. Why were they all looking at me?

    "It's fine," I said. "I just need to, um, take this. Excuse me."

    I rose from the table and hurried off to the city center's back porch. Some peace and quiet would help me, I hoped. The voicemail notification haunted me until I finally caved and opened it. It was a relatively short voice message, so I assumed it wasn't anything too important. Mateo's voice came on as the message played, but something was wrong about it.

    "Hey, Hazel. I just wanted to let you know—" Hiccup. "—that I l-love you and w-wish you were here!" An obnoxious laugh sounded in the background. "Craig says hi! Bye, babe." Belch.

    The voice message ended. I clenched my phone in my hand and shook my head. I couldn't believe him. He went and hung out with that creep and then got drunk with him? This was why I didn't like Craig. Mateo didn't drink, and he was a minor! I was pretty sure giving alcohol to a minor was like a felony or something.

    I wanted to call Mateo to make sure he was alright, but I also felt like calling would make him think that I was letting this go. And I wasn't. He knew I didn't like that guy but went to hang out with him anyway. I refused to give him the attention he was trying to capture. It was a stupid way to make me mad.

    "Are you okay?"

    Jumping, I spun around to face the intruder. Mr. Whitaker stood just inside the porch with me while his blue eyes studied me in concern. I couldn't believe he'd stepped out here with me. My parents would totally harass me for this later.

    "Oh, yeah," I lied. "I'm fine."

    "You don't look so fine."

    "Really, Mr. Whitaker—"

    "Outside of school it's just Boston, remember?"

    I sighed and anxiously touched my hair, forgetting it was up in a bun. "We should go back inside."

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