“Mr. Forrest lets me poke around his law office,” he said.

Zachary Taylor tells Lily that Mr. Forrest, a town lawyer, allows him to “poke around” his office from time to time to look through his files on various cases. Zachary is determined to be a lawyer someday and works on August’s farm to earn money for college. Clearly, Zachary is willing to go above and beyond to prepare for his future as a lawyer, and, thankfully, he finds a willing supporter in Mr. Forrest.

It’s gonna be all right. You’re gonna be a fine writer one day.

Zachary reassures Lily that he didn’t mean to hurt her feelings by seeming dismissive about her dream to be a writer. Zachary understands the importance of having a goal in life, since he’s working hard to get himself into college to become a lawyer. One of the reasons why Zachary and Lily are able to establish a strong friendship is their shared experience of having a personal dream. They understand the hard work reaching their dreams will require, but they know life feels meaningless without those dreams.

“This is for you,” he said. “So you can get a head start on your writing.”

Zachary gives Lily a notebook to encourage her dream of becoming a writer. With this one small act, Zachary changes Lily’s world, giving her a sense of possibility and hope and helping her to understand that her desires are worth something. Zachary wants to encourage Lily as he is beginning to form an attachment to her.

Lily, I like you better than any girl I’ve ever known, but you have to understand, there are people who would kill boys like me for even looking at girls like you.

Zachary reveals his feelings to Lily. Even though he is young, Zachary feels courageous enough to express his feelings directly to Lily. However, Zachary wisely understands the possible ramifications of his feelings. Zachary doesn’t want to put Lily in danger, and so he ultimately refrains from pursuing her.

He would never open his mouth. He was trying to say to me, I’m sorry, but these are my friends.

Zachary finds himself in a difficult situation, caught between defending his friends and leaving a racially tense situation to save himself. Here, Lily notes that Zachary decides to stand beside his friends, even though such an action will likely result in him going to jail and may threaten his chances of going to college and fulfilling his dream of becoming a lawyer. Zachary’s decision to stand with his friends demonstrates integrity.

“We can’t think of changing our skin,” he said. “Change the world—that’s how we gotta think.”

After Lily shares that she’s upset that she and Zachary can’t be together due to the color of their skin, Zachary offers Lily sound and meaningful advice about their world, the world that teems with racial injustice and hostility. Zachary wisely notes their reality but also demonstrates a feeling of hope: He sees the world as changeable. Zachary views his situation like a realist, but he lives his life with determination and faith.

Sometimes, Lily, I’m so angry I wanna kill something.

After Zachary meets Lily at the side of the river, where she’s been hiding to find peace and healing, he tells her how getting arrested changed him. Being in jail produced in Zachary an anger that he didn’t have before. Both Zachary and Lily are trying to navigate an unfair world—she as a girl born to an abusive father and he as a Black man in a racist society.

Nobody will believe how hard I’m gonna study this year. That jail cell is gonna make me earn grades higher than I ever got.

As they sit by the river, discussing their troubles, Zachary tells Lily how he will use his experience in jail to help him reach his dream. Zachary’s time in jail sparked a deep anger in him, an anger that now fuels his drive to become a lawyer. Such a situation reveals how personal experiences with the unfairness of racism can drive individuals to better themselves and their world.

We can’t be together now, Lily, but one day, after I’ve gone away and become somebody, I’m gonna find you, and we’ll be together then.

Despite wanting to be with Lily in the present, Zachary explains that their relationship will have to wait. They each need to achieve their personal goals first, and while they are doing so, perhaps the world will change and be less unfair. Zachary wisely understands the value of pursuing dreams and the impractical reality of their situation as a mixed-race teen couple.

So you won’t forget it, okay?

While they’re sitting by the river, Zachary gives his dogtag to Lily as a token of their promise to be together someday when they’re older and have achieved their dreams. Zachary’s sentimental gift shows his love for Lily and also his caring, sweet manner and deep sensitivity toward those around him.