Chapter 20 The kiss (1)

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After the recital, things winded down. Leslie was once again sweet and demure, and even though Janet was convinced she had a crush on me, the signs weren't there anymore.

The nature of conversations between us couldn't be more innocent. There were never any suggestions or any flirty remarks, and she never even paid me a compliment. We didn't call or text each other, and when me met most of the time we talked about geometry.

I ignored Janet's opinion and continued to study with Leslie, and when her sixteenth birthday rolled around, we had gotten to the point where conversations were no longer essential. The silence was comfortable, yet whenever we talked, I felt like she understood me.

I was invited to her birthday party. To be exact it was hers and Lucia's, but judging from all the attention Lucia got, there seemed to be only one birthday girl. The other one, forgotten and ignored, was standing in a corner alone. I felt bad watching her and I made my way over.

"Are you having an okay time?"

She shrugged. "Nothing like feeling invisible at my own birthday party, right?"

I followed her gaze and saw that Lucia had jumped on top of the coffee table in the living room and was dancing in a hot pink bra and jeans. A crowd had gathered around her.

"Well, all you need to do is get up there with her." I refrained from mentioning the bra because it seemed inappropriate to say anything remotely provocative to Leslie.

She shook her head. "I'm just waiting for this to be over."

"If you'd rather be somewhere else, I can keep you company."

"Actually, that'd be nice." She looked up at me. "But I probably can't leave my party altogether. Not that anyone would care, but still. Maybe we can just go talk in the backyard?"

After that things spiraled out of control pretty fast, and I wasn't sure exactly what happened. There were people in the backyard too, but it was a lot quieter and we could hear each other without shouting over the music. We sat down, and at first we were just commenting on the party, then the conversation slowly drifted towards how she envied Lucia sometimes and she felt lousy being compared to her sister all her life.

I was in the middle of telling her that she was a very unique person, when out of nowhere she started to cry. I completely panicked.

I could handle a girl being mad at me, and I could flirt when I was inspired, but crying always froze my brain right on the spot. Whenever I fought with my sister Linda, as soon as she turned on the water works I'd declare defeat right away. That was how she got the bigger bedroom, by the way.

I stammered some consolation along the lines of how great she was, that she and Lucia were different people and there was no need for comparison.

"You're one of the sweetest people I know," I said. If I had known this would happen, I would've rehearsed my lines. "You're considerate...and driven...and..."

"Being sweet and considerate isn't enough because boys still like pretty girls better," she muttered.

"That's not always true. And besides, I think you're pretty too." It wasn't a lie and I did think she was kind of pretty, although not in a Flora-Morgan-obvious way, but still I liked looking at her.

She seemed to cheer up a little bit and gave me a faint smile. "Do you really think so?"

"I never lie, Leslie. I really think you're pretty."

She smiled wider. Aha! That's what she wanted to hear.

"I really don't want to see you cry, Leslie. I know you hate the party but it's your birthday after all."

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