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Page 26

“The bed and breakfast isn’t busy. It’s a lot of work, though. I still miss Dad.”

Mrs. Mason nodded. “Is your mom still talking to someone?”

I shook my head. “She’s better.”

Mrs. Mason could see that I was lying. “Catherine,” she began.

“I have a new friend.”

Her eyebrows lifted, creating three long lines across her forehead. “Really? That’s great. Who?”

“Elliott Youngblood.”

“The new quarterback. That’s fun.” She smiled. “He seems like a good kid.”

“He lives down the street from me. We walk down to Braum’s sometimes.”

She sat forward, clasping her hands together. “I’m happy. I just . . . he’s new. He seems . . .”

“Popular? Well liked? Socially opposite of me?”

Mrs. Mason smiled. “I was going to say he seems shy.”

I blinked. “I mean, I guess. I hadn’t thought of him that way. I can’t get him to shut up most of the time.”

Mrs. Mason’s singsong laugh filled the room. The bell rang, and she stood. “Darn. I was hoping we’d have more time. Is it okay to meet again next month? I want to talk to you about college options.”

“Sure,” I said, pulling on my backpack.

Mrs. Mason opened the door to reveal Mrs. Rosalsky standing on the other side of her desk, chatting with Elliott.

He turned to me, looking relieved.

“Mrs. Mason, Elliott needed to speak with Catherine before he left for football practice.”

“I wanted to make sure you didn’t need a ride home.”

Mrs. Mason smiled at me, glad to have confirmed my claim. “That’s very nice of you, Elliott.”

He knew I wouldn’t turn him down in front of school staff, so I agreed and followed him out. He even took my bag, and Mrs. Mason seemed thrilled.

Once Elliott pushed through the doors that led to the parking lot, I snatched my bag back and turned toward home.

“I figured,” he said.

I stopped, turning on my heel. “Figured what?”

“That it was for show. A thank you would be nice.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Why would I thank you?”

“For giving you a chance to fool Mrs. Mason with whatever you’re trying to fool her with.”

“You know nothing,” I said, continuing my walk.

Elliott jogged to catch up to me, tugging gently on my bag to slow me down. “I still want to take you home.”

“I only accepted because I knew that would make Mrs. Mason feel better. I just have a few more months before I turn eighteen. If pretending not to hate you will keep her from calling DHS on my mom again, that’s what I’ll do.”

He frowned. “Why did she call DHS on your mom?”

I walked away from him, holding the straps of my backpack.

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