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The party went better than I expected. I was mostly able to ignore Boston's presence in order to fully focus on the friends and family who so graciously came to celebrate this feat with me. They showered me in affection, compliments, and plenty of money to help me survive my first year in college. All the attention kept me anxiously on my toes, and by eleven o'clock I was ready to be alone.

My parents helped me walk everyone out, couple by couple and family by family. Boston was the last to leave. He'd so generously stayed behind to help clean up. I shot a scowl at his back every chance that I could. It was like he knew it annoyed me that he was growing on my mom, so he was sucking up to her.

"You're really done enough, Boston," my mom told him as he washed his hands at the kitchen sink. "It's getting late, and I don't want you driving home alone at this hour. Hazel, be a doll and walk your teacher to his car."

I paused what I was doing—which happened to be putting away leftover cake—and squeezed my eyes shut. The man could walk his own freaking self out. But I had to be polite or my mom would know something was up.

"Of course," I replied, pushing the last plastic container into the fridge.

Boston smiled at me with those big, white teeth. Pretending like I didn't see it, I walked straight to the front door. Once the front door closed behind both of us, he jogged to catch up to me. His silver sedan, I'd begrudgingly noticed, was parked like a block down the street.

"Slow down," he pleaded, catching my hand. "We never finished our conversation."

"I didn't know there was anything left to say." I kept my eyes trained forward, afraid of what his eyes would convince me to do.

"Hazel. Please. Just give me a shot."

"I don't..."

My chest ached. I wanted him. I mean, how could I not want him? But it wasn't good. This wasn't a good time in my life to fall in love, and he wasn't the right person. He was my teacher up until today. We might be able to let that go, but the world couldn't.

"Stop fighting it," he whispered into my ear as his arm wound itself around my waist. "I fought it for weeks, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of hiding what I feel."

We were different in that respect. I could hide my feelings for an eternity if I thought life, both for me and others, was better that way. In this case, I thought it would be just that way: life would be better for everyone if I contained what I felt for Boston.

Pulling me to a stop in the middle of the dark street, he said, "I know what you're scared of. You're afraid of what people will think. You need to let it go. Their opinions don't matter."

"They do," I insisted and jerked out of his hold. "I want people to respect me, Boston. They aren't going to respect me or you if we're together. They'll think you're a pedophile, and they'll think I'm some naive little girl who just went along with your schemes."

His brows drew together, but he didn't say a word. He knew I was right.

"I can't be that girl." My voice was quiet and weak. "I can't do this with you, and I'm sorry. I want to, but I can't. This...this has to be goodbye. It's just easier that way."

As he let out a long, slow breath, his eyes pinched close. "Since when is the easier way ever worth it?"

Why didn't he get it? Why couldn't he just understand? I wet my lips and backed away from him in the direction of my house.

"You should find someone who makes you happy," I told him. "Have a good summer."

"Hazel! Hazel, wait!"

He didn't chase after me, though, and I was glad. My resolve was weakening. I could only say no so many times until I broke. The intense need I felt to make everyone happy would crush me. There were too many pulls in too many different directions. If I didn't stop this now, it would tear me apart, limb by limb.

So I did what I had to.

I walked away.

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