Chapter 24 The end of summer (2)

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Sean

I didn't go to the airport when Leslie's plane took off. She believed in a clean break. From the moment we said goodbye, she wiped me from her life like a deleted file. I expected some tears and a lot of bargaining, but there were only silence, blank space and unanswered calls.

The cruel thing about goodbyes is how it clarifies everything. Sometimes you don't know how important something is until you lose it, but on the contrary, sometimes it's exactly what it takes to make you realize you can do without it. 

When summer was over and school started, strangely I wasn't as beaten up about Leslie as I had feared. The last time I went through a break up, the emptiness was unavoidable and harsh, chewing its way through me viciously. The time I felt empty too, but if I were being totally honest with myself, it was a light kind of empty. Part of me even felt a little relieved.

I told myself it was because of the exhilaration of senior year, or perhaps not seeing Leslie around school helped. As the temperature dropped and the green leaves gave way to amber ones, we all went to the beach again to catch the last sliver of warmth and sunlight, before autumn was officially here. I looked at the tanned girls around me and had a flashback of the night with Leslie on the beach, but I couldn't remember how it felt when her hair brushed against my face. It was almost like a dream now.

"How could Leslie string you along like that when she knows all along she's going to Austria? I think that's beyond evil," Janet said. She was still convinced I had been under some sort of spell.

"J, for the thousandth time, please don't talk about her like that. Besides, I wouldn't use the word evil on anyone and certainly not Leslie."

"I wouldn't say Leslie is evil, either." Flora rolled over on her back. She was wearing a black one-piece swimsuit with the area around the waist cut out. Different from the white one she wore last time, but just as provocative. Now that was what I'd describe as evil. "Maybe she just has the biggest crush on Sean and she couldn't help herself. Not that I blame her. Sean is very crush-worthy. Dry and tasteless as a boyfriend, maybe, but juicy as a crush."

Ever since my knee got better, Flora had decided to go back to being my enemy. I hated all her implications about how boring I was as a boyfriend, and I remembered right away why we didn't work.

"So I guess you're back to having a crush on me," I said.

"I think you guys should date again and get each other out of your systems," Dylan commented beside me. "All this sexual tension and romantic bantering really hurts my brain."

Not wanting to reply to this comment, I said, "Actually, the brain itself can't hurt because there are no pain receptors."

"See?" Flora rolled her eyes. "This is exactly why I can't go out with him."

***

Two very unfortunate things happened in senior year. One was that I had world history with Flora, and Mr. Goleman was a very strict, no-nonsense type of teacher. He assigned our seats as well as history partners, and of all the instances, Murphy's Law just had to apply in this one. When my name was called after Flora, we both froze in our seats.

Flora was chewing a piece of bubble gum and it popped. She turned in her seat, three rows in front of me, and glared at me before raising her hand, as if she suspected I bribed Mr. Goleman into pairing us up.

"Can we pick our own partner?"

The appeal was denied, and Flora turned to shoot another round of daggers at me. I felt a flicker of irritation rising up. If anyone should be unhappy with the arrangement, it should be me. Flora wouldn't contribute much to our written paper and oral presentation, because she was a smart but lazy student. Besides, I found myself alternating between being mildly attracted to her and severely annoyed with her, and neither of these emotions was healthy. I really just wanted to stay away from her.

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