4. Sad Topics

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"Oh, I see! I get it now," I said with a smile while listening to Max talking about football.

Max looked at me with a disbelieving smile. "No, you didn't," he chuckled.

"No, I didn't," I sighed in misery. "I'm sorry. I'm just stupid sometimes..."

"Don't say that," Max said, and patted my shoulder. "You're not stupid."

I couldn't help but imagine the lie in his voice. Max had spent the past half an hour trying to explain the basics of football, but I just didn't understand a word he was saying. It was like he was suddenly speaking a whole new language. He was nice enough not to get frustrated with me, but I believed it was irritating for him when I couldn't understand even the simple things.

"It's all right..." I muttered.

Max frowned at me before he turned to look at the mall in front of us.

"Well, you know a lot about nature, so you can't be stupid," he said. "It's not a big deal if you don't care about sports."

I didn't know what to say. I knew he was just being nice, like he always was. I followed him silently through the huge doors into the mall and almost bumped into him when he suddenly stopped.

"Where can we get the camping equipment?" Max asked, looking around.

"It's this way," I said quietly, and started walking towards a set of escalators.

The shop that sold primarily camping and hiking equipment was located on the third floor where the not-so-cool stores were. I had seen some of our classmates and other teenagers on the first and the second floor, but I had never seen anyone of my age coming to the third floor. I led Max past the shops that sold everything from knitting supplies to baby clothes.

I noticed that Max was looking around, but he wasn't interested in anything he saw. He did look out of place. There were only adults with small children around us, and even they seemed to be wondering why Max was there. I was blending in perfectly, but he was like a neon sign.

"It's here," I told him, and stopped in front of a quiet shop.

I was a regular customer there, so the cashier waved at me with a friendly smile on his face when he saw me.

"Do you know him?" Max asked with curiosity in his voice. "I thought you moved here a month ago."

I blushed lightly. "I've been here a few times..."

The truth was, I'd been there a few times every week after moving into the city. I kept breaking or losing my stuff, so I had to come buy new ones. Sometimes I just came there to pass some time since I didn't have much to do after school.

"Oh, okay," Max said and looked around. "So, what do I need?"

"Boots, for one. And a sleeping bag. Follow me," I told him, and walked towards the back of the shop.

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