eighteen || leslie's fear

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"So, how've you been?" Leslie's mother asked as she sat down. The four each had a plate in front of them, piled high with Mrs Lowry's delectable cuisine. She was a chef at heart who had given up her dreams of running a Michelin-starred restaurant to raise a family, supporting her husband's mediocre income with her nursery-teacher salary. She earned a pittance but she enjoyed what she did, in particular aiding a four-year-old boy with Down's Syndrome.

"Very well," Leslie said, picking up her cutlery to begin the meal. Her family was not one to say grace, except in the company of religious friends. "How about you?"

"Oh, come on, Les. More than two words!" her father said. His ruddy cheeks glowed under the light that hung above the table. "How's work? Friends? Anything ... else?"

Cloe was remarkably silent, with no sign of exploiting her sister's trust to reveal her relationship with Greg. Her attitude had dulled a little since the day before, when she had picnicked with her sister, but her parents didn't seem to notice. So rarely was it that Leslie stayed for a meal, their attention was on her.

"Work's fine," she said, ignoring the fact that she had taken three days off quite unnecessarily, in the name of one lazy morning. "Friends are, y'know. Iffy."

"Iffy?" her mother questioned. Leslie shrugged.

"I just fell out with Molly. She said some things that I really didn't appreciate so I'm kind of taking a break from her."

"A permanent break?" her father asked, cautiously.

"I'd like to think so." Leslie sighed and stabbed a stick of asparagus. "I mean, what she did was kind of unforgiveable so I'd be a flake to go back to her."

"Or the bigger person," her mother said. She didn't ask for the details of her daughter's falling out, having already had them explained to her by Cloe.

"I'm happy to be small."

"Well, as long as you're happy."

Leslie smiled, slicing her chicken into cubes. "Oh, I'm happy," she said, a grin lacing her lips. Both of her parents stared at her. Even Cloe looked up from her plate.

"Oh?" her father said, to break the silence and prompt her to say more. "Something we should know, perhaps?"

"I'm kind of seeing someone," she said, her cheeks going pink with six eyes trained on her.

"Is it serious?"

She nodded. "I'd like to think so."

Her mother was on the edge of her seat. "Go on then, Les! Tell us his name."

"You already know him," she said, laying down her cutlery to take a sip of her wine. "Remember Greg?"

Her mother clapped her hands together. "Of course I remember Greg, the dear. Such a lovely young man." It was a couple of seconds before she put two and two together. "You and Greg?"

Leslie nodded, closing her lips around the rim of her glass. She saw her own reflection in her knife, her cheeks red.

"Since when?"

"About a week."

"Eight days," Cloe said, momentarily jumping into the conversation before retreating, popping a boiled potato in her mouth. Leslie eyed her for a moment.

"Eight days," she echoed.

"And you're already saying it's serious?" Her mother seemed wary, pursing her lips.

"Mum, I know what you're thinking, and we don't want a repetition of the Rick fiasco, I know, but Greg and I have been best friends for eight years. I mean, dating hasn't changed us. We've practically been dating since uni," she said. Cloe nodded her agreement.

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