Chapter 21 The beach

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On a particularly hot weekend, after it had become official that Sean and Leslie were the new couple, he brought her to the beach and hung out with us. That wasn't his first attempt of trying to introduce Leslie to us, but I thought Leslie just wasn't very friendly and didn't make an effort to fit in with his friends.

Sean said I judged people too quickly and that I was annoying with my constant psychoanalyzing, which I had to agree. I reminded myself to keep an open mind and put aside my loyalty for Flora, who showed up in a white bikini, looking like she was here for a photo shoot.

"Gucci says hi," she told me, fingering the little bits of bamboo embellishments in the shoulder string. I had a pretty good idea about who it was for.

"New bikini?"

"Yup." She lay down and stretched herself lazily across the beach towel. Her gaze didn't stay very long on my face. I turned my head slightly and saw Sean taking off his shirt.

How tragic. Flora was as transparent as cellophane, and I didn't have the heart to tell her it was never going to work. Whatever lingering feelings he might still have for her, he'd blame it on the bikini and dismiss it as physical attraction, then he'd turn around and converse with Leslie as they connected on a spiritual level.

I hated to be right, but Sean didn't say one word to Flora or so much as glanced in her direction. He was too busy worrying about whether the sun was too bright for Leslie's taste, who was wearing a pair of extra-large sunglasses and an enormous straw hat to shield herself from the UV rays, along with a long-sleeved plaid shirt and a pair of shorts.

Sandra looked like she wanted to make a snide comment, but she bit it back and turned to me. She gasped. "Janet, what in the world are you wearing?"

"These?" I looked down at my feet. "What's wrong with wearing Crocs to the beach? They're waterproof and comfy."

"I'm sorry, but I can't be friends with people who wear Crocs. They're so hideous it's not even funny."

"Seriously?" I turned to Flora for support, who shrugged and giggled.

"Sorry, Jan. She's right. You can't wear Crocs unless you're a doctor. They only go with scrubs."

Beside me I could hear Sean and Leslie talking softly. He was asking her if she wanted to swim, and she shook her head quickly.

"Do you mind if I go? I'll be right back." There was hesitancy in his voice, as if he was worried we would eat her alive if he wasn't here to protect her.

"Go ahead, Sean," Carmen called out. "We'll take care of your girlfriend."

"You're in the way of girl-talk," Sandra said. All the other guys were in the water already.

He looked at Leslie, silently asking for permission, and she finally gave a nod. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. He smiled at her before he took off.

I could see Flora's face fell. She seemed to go through some inner turmoil, then she exhaled as if deciding she would be brave. She put on a bright Flora-style smile, like she was starring in a toothpaste commercial. "Leslie, aren't you hot? I'm sweating!"

"I'm sweating just looking at you," Sandra added.

"I'm okay," Leslie said, adjusting the straw hat on her head.

"You can borrow my extra potent sunscreen," Flora said. "This is imported from Japan and very expensive, so it should be effective. Here, try it out." She held out a delicate white tube.

"Thanks, but I already have sunscreen on."

"Then lose the shirt, seriously," Sandra said. "I'm starting to get a fever."

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