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Our first lesson seemed to rush by. Boston was still reviewing the third chapter by the end of the second hour. I ran my hands over the now-cold latte cup and sighed.

"It's four-thirty," I said.

"Really? Huh." It didn't sound like he cared.

"Should we start wrapping this up...?"

Without looking up from my story, he asked, "Do you have somewhere to be?"

"Um, no. I don't think so."

"I don't either, so there's no rush. I was hoping we could get to chapter five today."

"You don't have other lessons?"

His snort caught me off guard as he finally lifted his gaze. "You're my only student, Hazel."

"Oh." I thought there would have been more. He was a good instructor, after all.

"Contrary to what your parents believe, my tutoring skills are not strictly professional. I've never done a private lesson before."

"So I'm your first?"

"Yes," he answered with a smug smirk.

I shifted in my seat to get some blood flow to my buttocks. "Well, I think I need a little break. My brain will explode if I have to stare at white paper any longer."

"Alright."

"You can stay if you want. This seems to be a lot of solo work anyway. I just need to clear my head."

"No, that's a good idea." Marking the manuscript page, he set the stack of paper aside. "Would you like to go for a walk then?"

"Sure," I replied eagerly. Not because I wanted to spend more time with him, but because I needed some fresh air.

He slipped the manuscript into his satchel, even though I offered to carry it, and we headed out of the coffee shop. We were directly in the center of our town's little downtown area, so there was plenty of sidewalk to follow. Conversation was nonexistent at first as we ambled down the street towards a park. I studied each storefront we passed to keep my mind occupied.

"Can I ask you something?" Boston asked quietly, peeking down at me.

"Hmm?"

Before he could continue, the door to the juice bar we were passing swung open, blocking my path. We paused while a group of young adults emerged. I realized they were all kids from my school, some of whom had graduated with me and some of whom had not. They all paused to stare at us.

"Hello, everyone," Boston greeted coolly.

"Hey, Mr. Whitaker." Juno stepped forward. I hadn't noticed her amidst her group, but I felt my blush deepen. "How's it going?"

"Quite well, actually. I see you're enjoying your summer."

"Yeah," she said with a glance at me.

I shifted anxiously between my feet, knowing exactly what thoughts were running through all of their heads. Anything I had to say would probably make the situation worse. They would never believe me if I told them Mr. Whitaker and I were having a writing lesson—even if it was the truth, which it was.

"Well, see you around," he told Juno and her friends.

After waving at them, he placed a hand on my shoulder and directed me around them and further down the sidewalk. I could feel their gazes burning into our backs, so I shook his hand off and put some space between us. He frowned down at me. I didn't acknowledge it. To my immense appreciation, he waited until we were out of their sight to remark on the matter.

"You don't know what they're thinking," he told me.

"I have a fairly good idea," I replied in doubt.

His sigh was sharp, like he was angry. "It doesn't matter what they think anyway, Hazel. Hanging out with a former student isn't a crime. Dating a former student isn't a crime."

"Not that we have to worry about that. You're just teaching me how to be a good writer."

"Hazel."

My eyes flickered up to him before regretfully falling back to the pavement beneath my feet. I had nothing to say to him. He should have understood my intentions by this point. I told him goodbye at my graduation party. Apparently, however, he couldn't catch a hint.

"You can't lie to me by saying you want nothing to do with me."

Those words made my breath catch. My gaze was firm this time as it rose to his. "I never said that."

"Actions speak louder than words sometimes, but I know that's not what you want. You enjoy my company or you wouldn't be here with me."

"Well, you didn't give me a choice."

"I mean, you wouldn't be on this walk with me. If you told me you didn't want me to come, I would have let you go."

All my self-control went to refusing the desperate urge to roll my eyes as I said, "I don't really believe that."

"Why not?"

"Because every time I tell you what I want, you disregard it. I don't expect you to transform into a suddenly respectful hero."

His brows furrowed in a scowl now. "I don't mean to disregard your desires...I just don't think they are in your best interests. Mateo, for example. You don't mind being friends with him, even though I warned you."

"This isn't about Mateo."

"No, but he is a good example of how your soft heart can put you in trouble."

"I must not be very soft if you have to try this hard."

"That's what I don't understand," he admitted. "I am the only person who can tell you with absolute confidence that you don't have to be afraid of being with me. If you let me, I can protect you from your fears. I can show you how to live without being afraid of what other people think."

My hands fiddled with my hair. "You could be the perfect match for me, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm not ready. I don't get why you even like me, Boston. I'm younger than you. Isn't that annoying?"

"No."

"Well, maybe it should be."

"There are many couples who face an age gap much larger than ours. You just have to be brave."

Brave. I hated when people insinuated me being a coward, though I was. I didn't like knowing people knew I was weak in that way. My teeth ground together to feel my exasperation.

"I can be brave when I need to be," I muttered. "This is not one of those instances."

"You can be so stubborn."

"I know. Now, can you take me home? I think I'm too tired to do this right now."

The look on his face suggested he didn't want to take me home and that he wanted to argue. He resisted, though, and I found myself following him back to his car. 

Meeting Mr. WhitakerWhere stories live. Discover now