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The feel of someone touching my hand jolted me awake. I instantly felt soreness in the vertebrae of my neck as I sat upright, eyes scanning the hospital lobby for the threat. Instead of a burly bear with enormous jaws and pointed claws, I was met with a pair of deep blue eyes. My gaze dropped to where Boston's hand now rested on the arm of my chair where my hand had been a moment prior.

"What are you doing here?" I asked groggily, rubbing my eyes. They were crusted from tears and sleep.

"I heard about Rachel...I knew you'd be here," he said. "I knew you would need support."

Rachel. Oh, God. I massaged my face with my hands. If I hadn't already cried out every ounce of water in my body, I would likely fall into another fit of sobs. The last time I saw her, nurses were rushing her down a blank hall on a gurney. She was hardly alive.

"Hazel?"

My eyes traveled back to Boston's face. His features were drawn together in concern. This time he succeeded in capturing my hand in his warm palm.

"Sorry," I told him. "I'm still trying to process everything."

"Don't apologize. How are you holding up?"

I gave an uncertain shrug.

"That was a dumb question." He shook his head with a sad smile. "Forgive me. How long have you been waiting here?"

"I'm not sure...what time is it?"

"Almost six o'clock."

"A.M. or P.M.?"

"P.M."

Well, duh. He wouldn't be dropping by the hospital at six in the morning. I needed a cup of coffee. And I didn't even like that stuff.

"I guess it's been about five hours then," I told him. "I don't remember when I fell asleep."

The stress must have taken a bigger toll on me than I realized. All I remembered was crying in the chair after they'd taken Rachel back, having no shoulder to cry on or with. I remembered feeling so scared and alone. Her parents had been called by the hospital and had arrived within the hour. They had been with me all along, though I wasn't sure where they had gone off to now. I hadn't called my own parents yet, but Rachel's mom had let mine know where I was.

Squeezing my hand, Boston drew me back into the moment again. "Maybe you should take a break? We can go for a little walk."

"I can't leave," I instantly replied, shaking my head. "The doctor could come out at any second with her news. I can't leave."

"Hazel, her parents can text you if the doctor comes. I promise you won't miss anything." He began to massage my fingers. "You're just looking a little pale. I just think it would be a good idea if you got your blood flowing."

When I opened my mouth to protest, I was interrupted by Rachel's mom. She and her husband were settling into their seats on the other side of me now. They each had a cardboard cup in hand.

"I agree with him, Hazel," she said. "We'll be here. I'll call you if the doctor comes. You should get something to eat, too. I know you missed lunch."

I sighed. Though I could argue against Boston, I couldn't argue against Rachel's mom. She was basically a second mother to me, so disobeying felt disrespectful.

"Okay..." Pursing my chapped lips, I rose to my feet. My knees and elbows popped as I quickly stretched.

"Come on," Boston said while ushering me out of the waiting room. He made certain not to touch me until we were out of Rachel's parents line of sight. Then he rested his hand on my lower back.

Meeting Mr. WhitakerWhere stories live. Discover now