Chapter 22 The knee injury

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Sean

"I'm sorry I ruined your day," Leslie said.

"No, it's my fault. It was a bad idea to go to the beach." I honestly thought it'd be a pressure-free way to hang out with everyone, but I underestimated how sensitive she was to sunlight.

"I didn't want to spoil it for you," she said in a small voice.

"You didn't." I smiled to assure her as I opened the car door. She slid in the passenger seat, light as a cat, and I made my way around to the other side. I was about to start the car when I noticed that the sun wasn't the only thing that was bothering her. Leslie stared at her lap like it was one of the geometry problems we went through.

My fingers left the car keys. "Hey, is everything okay?"

"Yes."

With Leslie, it was always better to double check. She wasn't like Flora who'd start recapping every emotion she went through the minute she saw me.

"Were you uncomfortable around my friends?"

A second of silence, then a nod.

"Why? Did they say something rude to you?"

"Well, not aloud." Her expression was hurt. "But I know they all secretly judge me and compare me with Flora."

I was speechless. I couldn't blame her for feeling that way because I knew I did it too. Constantly. Subconsciously. I just did five seconds ago.

"Nobody does that," I said.

Leslie sighed. "Whenever Flora is in the group, I feel really threatened. She's so confident and...talkative."

"But Flora is friendly to you." Which I secretly admired her for it. If she had brought a boyfriend, I knew I wouldn't be half as gracious and mature as she was. Flora didn't have a jealous bone in her body.

"It's just an act. She's so fake. It's clear she still has a thing for you."

"Oh no she doesn't. You saw how she flirted with the surf team."

"That's just one more thing. Your friends are so boy crazy! They rated those surfer guys on their abs before they even talked to them."

I didn't tell Leslie how Dylan, Jake and I gave girls scores too, and it's how willing we were to sleep with them on a scale from one to ten. Jake gave everyone a ten.

"It's all harmless fun," I said. "They don't know these guys, so of course they're only going to judge them on appearances."

"Yes, but why judge at all? Why do they have to be so shallow and put so much emphasis on looks? They don't have much substance."

I thought Leslie was taking all this a bit too seriously. "Come on, they're not that bad. They want to chill out and have a good time at the beach, that's all."

"They live in a deranged world where Crocs are unacceptable and Carmen Belles is considered fat. Can you believe that?"

"I'm sure it's just talk." In a way, it was cute how she stressed over such things, but at the same time I thought Leslie was just as judgmental if not more.

"They make me feel so self-conscious," she complained. "And I'm not athletic, which makes it even worse."

"You don't have to be a volleyball player on top of being an amazing violinist, right? You're great at what you do and that's cool enough."

Leslie shook her head. "No, they think it's cooler that Janet has a band. They don't know who Paganini is and they're Twilight fans."

"Well, I'm with you on that." I smiled, wanting this to be over. "I hate Twilight too. These vampires are immortal but all they want to do with their time is hit on high school girls."

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