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HAZEL DIED on a Tuesday, which was kind of bizarre because until then it was the most boring Tuesday ever. We’d just been for hot chocolate at the doughnut place down the street from our school, because we had double maths last thing and figured we deserved it just for not sticking pencils in our eyes an hour in. Hot chocolate with Hazel was always interesting because for some reason that’s when she got super philosophical, thinking way outside the box, I mean not even in the same room as the box.

On that Tuesday afternoon, Hazel was spooning whipped cream into her mouth and staring at me with her emerald eyes in the way she always did, like she was simultaneously lost in her own thoughts and reading all of mine.

‘What do you think makes us free?’ she asked.

Pretty random, even for Hazel. I knew how much she loved these conversations, even if I couldn’t understand why, so I tried to engage my brain.

‘Um … I dunno,’ I said. I nearly said, ‘Doing what you want with your life,’ but then I remembered the careers fair we’d been to the month before, and hearing how everything that sounded even remotely interesting is stupidly competitive to get into. So I took a reality check. ‘Finding a job that’s semibearable must be part of it.’

Hazel narrowed her eyes as if she was giving this some thought, when it was obvious she totally disagreed. I was still feeling hacked off after double maths, so I just said, ‘Well then, what do you think makes us free?’ Because actually, that’s what she really wanted to talk about.

‘I think the whole point of a job is that you’re not free,’ she said. She looked at me even more closely, if that was actually possible. ‘Feeling loved, and in love – that would make us free, but we have to feel so many other things at the same time that it’s just not possible. Love has to, like … compromise with all the crap in life.’

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