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Tuesday morning came sooner than I would've liked, but I was glad I was that much closer to Friday. I made awkward eye contact with Mateo in the parking lot on my way to first block. He looked angry and tired, so I ducked my head and hastened my step.

Part of me still couldn't believe I'd followed through with the breakup. I knew it was for the better, even if I was a little sad at spending less time with him. Well, I probably wouldn't be spending any time with him now.

I didn't see any of my friends until lunch. This was the period I'd been dreading the most, because I wasn't sure what Mateo would do. I almost decided to totally wimp out and hide in the library, but I didn't. Hiding wouldn't ease the tension between us. Hopefully, time and patience would.

Rachel and Grace were already seated at the table when I got there. Grace seemed to be gossiping about the way some couple had been all over each other in the hall. I flashed them an uneasy smile before rushing off to the lunch line. After I got today's venue, a burned grilled cheese sandwich and cold tomato soup, I headed back for the table.

I almost tripped over my own feet at the sight of Mateo. He was sitting right beside my chair, just like he did before. Except things were different now. Was he trying to torment me?

"Hazel," a masculine voice greeted me.

Partly still in shock, my gaze slowly lifted. Mr. Whitaker stood there smiling at me, one hand tucked casually in his khaki pocket while the other gripped his styrofoam cup. My oh my. All of my nightmares unfolding at once.

"Hello, Mr. Whitaker," I said amicably with a small smile of my own.

"How are you? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Feels like I've seen one, too," I grumbled under my breath.

His brows rose. "What's that?"

"Oh, nothing. I should be going. See you in class." I smiled once more and started for my table.

Rachel noticed me as I approached and gave me a pitying look. Fabulous. Taking a deep breath, I closed the distance between myself and the table and placed my tray down. Mateo didn't even look up to acknowledge me. I could tolerate that.

Yet when I pulled my chair out and sat down, he did look up. His dark eyes were red and swollen. Had he been crying? Frick.

I wasn't sure if we were talking or not, so I picked up my sandwich and took a bite. His gaze burned craters in the side of my face. It was already awkward but couldn't he at least look away?

"Hey, Hazel," Grace called.

"Hey, Grace," I replied.

"Have you talked to your hot teacher at all lately? Now that you and Mat are a thing of the past?"

My jaw dropped. I glanced over at Mateo. His lips were pressed into a straight, white line. He appeared to be on the verge of exploding. I reached out to touch him before remembering who we were to each other now. My hand fell idly back into my lap. I turned my attention back onto Grace, thinking about how she was probably just itching to make Mateo erupt.

"Grace, please," I said, annoyed. "Don't ask silly questions."

Though she shrugged, the smug look on her face was thinly veiled. What was her problem? Did she like making people upset?

Mateo hardly spoke a word to his friends. I didn't even try to make conversation, with him or anyone. I wondered how long it would be until things would be almost normal with him. Of course, maybe it was naive to hope it would ever get to that point again.

When the lunch bell sounded, I darted out of the cafeteria as quickly as possible. Rachel would understand why I didn't want to walk with her at the moment. I didn't slow my pace until I reached the physics classroom. This much-hated class had somehow become my safe haven.

By the time Literature finally rolled around, I found myself oddly happy. Only one class left to go, and I would be free for the day. Mr. Whitaker wasn't by the door today, thankfully, so I went straight to my seat. I pulled my binder out and waited for Rachel.

She came in right before the bell rang and collapsed into her seat, gasping for air. I assumed she'd been running, so I wasn't concerned. However, I was worried about who had been chasing her; she never ran for another reason.

"What happened?" I asked.

"My stupid gym coach let us out late." Rachel shot a stank eye at Mr. Whitaker's empty desk. "It seems my hurry was unneeded."

"Yeah, I wonder where he went."

As if on cue, the man himself appeared in the doorway. He smiled apologetically at the class and closed the classroom door.

"Sorry, class," he told us. "I was in a quick meeting with a few other teachers. Anyway, clear your desks and get out a pencil. It's test day."

Meeting Mr. WhitakerWhere stories live. Discover now