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The week dragged on. I avoided Mr. Whitaker like the plague. We didn't make eye contact even once from Wednesday to Friday. Whenever he would call on me, I would either look down at my paper or up at the board. It didn't seem to bother him until the end of class on Friday.

"We should have a sleepover," Rachel was saying. "Maybe you can come to my house for once."

"I would love that," I admitted, zipping up my backpack. "I'll bring some snacks if you figure out what to watch."

"Deal. I just got the new Just Dance, so I think we should take it for a trial run—"

"Sorry to interrupt," Mr. Whitaker said, which made Rachel and I both jump, "but I have a quick question for Hazel."

This was the first time I made eye contact with him in days. The muscles in my gut tightened up. It was like I couldn't look at him without feeling ashamed because I now knew I actually liked him. He smiled a little, completely oblivious to the muddle of my heart and mind.

"There's a writing conference tomorrow that I'm going to with a buddy of mine," he told me. "The principal said I could write off my expenses if I take some students along. Are you interested? I know it's last minute, but I thought I'd ask just in case."

I would have never guessed that was what he would say in ten-thousand billion years. After a second of stammering and catching my breath, I managed to form words that sounded slightly coherent.

"Sounds like fun," I squeaked out.

"So you're interested?"

"Well, I need the, um, details."

"Sure. I have a flyer online that I can print out for you."

Nodding, I said, "Okay."

Then the bell rang. Mr. Whitaker strolled back over to his desk, leaving me stunned in his wake. Rachel grabbed my chin.

"What was that?" she demanded.

"It's like a field trip," I replied shakily, hoping and praying I was right. "I'm probably not the only student he invited."

"Still! This could be huge, Hazel."

"Huge for what?"

"Our pathetic love lives."

I rolled my eyes. "Get out of here before you hurt yourself."

Laughing, she blew me a kiss and headed for the classroom door. I was still shaking my head at her when Mr. Whitaker came back to my desk. He placed a colorful flyer down at my fingertips. It was easier to look at that than his pretty eyes.

"It's in Jacksonville," I noted.

"I know," he remarked. "It'll be a little bit of a drive but not too bad."

"And it starts at nine A.M. That means we have to leave at..."

"About seven."

I groaned on accident. While I blushed, he chuckled. "I think I can make it. I'll have to make sure we don't have anything going on tomorrow, but I'm sure we don't."

"Great." His face lit up in excitement. "I'm glad you're going to come."

"Thanks for inviting me. I didn't know our school would even sponsor things like this. They're so strict about everything."

"Tell me about it," he complained with a teasing grin.

"So...are we carpooling or do I need to drive myself?"

He waved a hand in nonchalance. "We're all going down together. There'll only be four of us."

"Awesome. Am I the only student?"

"No. Juno is coming along too."

Oh, duh. He wouldn't invite me over the creative writing club president. I forced a smile and nodded. What did I get myself into? Being stuck in the car with him for four hours and attending a conference with him, my hopeless crush, would be complete torment. Maybe I'll get something out of the conference, though, and it'll be worth it.

"I'll see you tomorrow then," I told him while rising from my desk, slinging my backpack over my shoulders.

"Sounds like a plan."

"Oh, are we meeting here, at the school?"

"Just text me your address. I'm picking the other up, too."

"Okay." I started for the door before realizing I didn't have his number. Turning around, I awkwardly smiled. "I guess I'll need your number then."

His forehead furrowed confusedly. "You don't have it already?"

"Uh, no. I don't think so." Why would I have his number?

"Oh. I thought I gave it to you at the first club meeting," he said, shaking his head. "My mistake. Here, hand me your phone and I'll plug it in."

I did as told. He handed it back, and I headed out again, hoping this time I would actually escape the classroom.

"Hazel?"

Halting, I sighed. I was never getting away. Facing him once more, I answered with a polite, "Yes?"

"See you bright and early." His enchanting grin made my face warm.

"See ya."

Then I was out of there faster than a cheetah. 

Meeting Mr. WhitakerWhere stories live. Discover now