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I burst through the cafeteria doors, heart pounding

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I burst through the cafeteria doors, heart pounding. Despite the pleading in his eyes, I've walked away. And away is where I intend to stay. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Across the quad, the fair is in full swing. The hubbub and laughter helps to lift my dampened spirits. Bright neon lights adorn each stall and sparkle on the frosty grass, turning it into a jewelled carpet, and the air was sweet with candyfloss. Every space is busy with activity: chattering people queue for the whirring dodgems; couples huddle together by Miss Delilah's stall; giggling girls watch as the football players prove their strength at the High Striker.

Cricket slips her fingers through mine. 'Ok, plan of action. I suggest we do the teacups first. Miss Delilah's hot chocolate with cherries is not to be missed, but it ain't pretty when you overdo it too early.'

'I vomited one time,' whines Anna-Beth, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment. I squeeze Cricket's hand and giggle. 'Sounds perfect.' I turn to Elodie. Her eyes flickering around the fair as if searching for something.

'You can go find James, Ellie. I'm fine now.'

His voice cuts across the din, causing a few people to turn. I freeze. Cricket's hand stiffens in mine, but I shake my head; the last thing I want is a scene. I don't turn to face him. Instead, I inhale, and keep my eyes fixed ahead.

'Walk,' I say, pulling Cricket towards a tombola ahead.

Around us, a few people notice my sweatshirt. Those who understand it whisper behind their hands.

'Martha, wait.' He grabs my free hand and pulls me to a stop. Cricket goes to step in, but Anna-Beth stops her. Finch moves around me until I face him. Despite my better instincts, I look up.

I raise my hand before he speaks. 'Finch, please. I just want to enjoy the carnival.'

'I need to say that I wasn't trying to hurt you - '

'I get it. You never thought I'd see it.'

'That's not it,' he says, taking a step closer and lowering his voice to a whisper. Up close, I smell the familiar intoxicating scent of washing powder and cologne. His eyes glitter, and my weak resolve wavers.

'Please,' he says, gesturing to an empty spot away from the crowd. 'Let me explain. I didn't mean it the way it reads.'

Nodding, I follow him, feeling the gaze of at least a dozen people watching us. After last Friday, I owe him a chance. I don't want to show any emotions and give credence to rumours.

'I can't excuse it,' he says. 'I feel awful.'

'You should.'

He moves closer and I shuffle back. 'Look, I was an ass. I was just sour about what you did on Friday. But I swear it wasn't meant as an insult.'

My face flushes white hot. 'What I did? I didn't do anything.'

'You know what I mean.' His voice betrays his anger.

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