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((Hazel Jung continued from Hot Problems))

Hey sweetie, that’s right. Just coming now xx

Without looking, Hazel hit the ‘send’ button on her phone screen and eased herself out of the cushy leather seat she’d been situated in for the last quarter hour. She knew it screamed of over-preparation, but something in her just wouldn’t let her precede Min-jae’s arrival by less than fifteen minutes. It’d given her time to calm down, at least – the hummingbirds of mild anxiety and nerves that’d been flitting through her having become thankfully subdued during her wait. The butterflies were still there, but that was to be expected after all. Was there ever a time when they weren’t?

She opened the camera application on her iPhone to give herself a final once over, but immediately regretted her decision as a bundle of flaws she hadn’t known were there flooded into her vision. After a half-second’s worth of self-criticism, however, Hazel shook her head and slammed her phone down onto the tabletop, inwardly chiding herself as she did so. No. She was being silly. This was a study date, nothing more, and what about that promise she’d made to herself? Sure, Min-jae seemed different from all the others, but that was exactly how she’d felt about Jacob and Isaac and all the other boys. She knew she couldn’t help having a crush, but she could control how she reacted to it. And letting herself fall head-over-heels so easily and back into that familiar spiral of dependence and self-loathing was not a path she wanted to take.

Hazel slung her handbag over her shoulder and slipped her phone into the back pocket of her jeans, before edging herself out of the booth she’d reserved for herself and Min-jae. After allowing herself a thirty second pause to ensure her breathing was nice and even and the first words out of her mouth wouldn’t be a shaky, incomprehensible mess, she confidently strode towards the entranceway, finally ready.

Her face instantly lit up at the sight of the boy before her as she stood in the doorway of the restaurant, the butterflies of just moments before subdued – but not fully vanished.

“Hey Jae,” she offered him a bright smile, and leaned in to brush her lips gently across his cheek. “How’ve you been?”
Version Seven:
Tristan O’Hara
Dorothea Rodriguez
Ariana Simpson

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