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MELANCHOLY CLINGS to Mason's gaze as he leans against the locker next to mine

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MELANCHOLY CLINGS to Mason's gaze as he leans against the locker next to mine.

"Is everything okay?" I ask for the third time, anticipating the hollow tone that has shaped his voice since picking me up for school this morning.

"Mmm." He offers a staggered nod and pretends to find the invisible dirt beneath his nails more interesting than me.

The walls around my heart crumble, but I refuse to let them cave. Maybe he just had a bad night after I left.

Though I can't help but feel responsible for the chaste kisses and avoided glances he's given me; when last night was an entirely different story.

I spent hours curled in the strength of his arms after school, inhaling the essence of eucalyptus threaded in his clothes and bedsheets. Sheets we sighed and tangled under for twenty-minutes before his parents came home, forcing me to sneak out.

"So..." I nudge my knuckles into his shoulder and crack a smile, luring him to reflect my delight. "Ready to start tutoring me in calc and AP Gov?"

"Ah. Yeah." He tugs the collar of his jacket as if to free up enough room to breathe before muttering, "There's actually something we need to talk about."

Unease wraps around my lungs and I'm one step away from my locker and another closer to my boyfriend. "What's wrong?" I reach for his hands, but they disappear into the pockets of his jeans as if my touch were poisonous.

"We...should talk in private." Each word shrinks between gentle lips. "Meet me on the field at lunch?"

"Um...sure? What's wrong?"

My only answer is a sharp flick of his gaze above my head. The corners of his eyes crinkle but are swift to even out. Soft lips brush against my forehead, and the gentlest touch of his fingertips graze the back of my arm.

"I'll see you later." Mason doesn't spare a lasting glance. A mere duck of his head and he's backing away and slipping around a cluster of passing students and out of my sight.

My heart plummets into the pit of my stomach. What does he want to talk about?

"What's up with Hyeong Rhee? You guys okay?" Lucas' deep voice brushes the air behind me. I whirl around to my best friend and greet his smile with a grimacing one. "Seemed a little tense," he adds and taps my arm with a rolled up notebook.

"Yeah? I think so. I'm pretty sure." I tuck loose curls behind my ear and mimic his nonchalance. "He just seemed weird. Said he wants to talk about something. We haven't been fighting or anything."

"Hm." He lifts his shoulders in indifference and begins striding down the desolate hall. "Probably not a big deal then."

"Probably," I mumble and stare at the ground to align our steps. Overhead lights bounce off the white tiles beneath our feet and capture my attention, morphing into odd shapes as we stride over them.

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