He should have been putting the finishing touches on his article. He should have been proofreading it already and prepping it to send to the editor of the website. Instead, Josh was in a riveting game of tug-of-war with Peanut over his shoelace.
Rather, all he was doing was moving his foot for Peanut to chase the untied shoelaces. She was alternating between meowing and purring as she tried to pounce. Josh directed his gaze back to his computer screen, his torso twisted in a way that would probably hurt his muscles later – his front directed at Peanut, while his neck and shoulders were turned to the computer on the desk behind him.
“What do you think, girl?” Josh asked. “Send it as is or ask Naomi for more time?”
Peanut snagged the shoelace and yanked on it. His foot jerked, nearly kicking the cat.
The feline successfully tugged the shoelace out of his shoe and ran off with it. Josh sighed, took another glance over his article, and decided to send it. It wasn’t as comprehensive as his usual game reviews were, but Naomi would have to make do. Josh pretended that he hadn’t had as much time to play the game due to his move.
Considering it had been a couple of months, he probably shouldn’t use that as an excuse any longer.
Once the article was sent, Josh went in search of his cat, pretty sure that it wouldn’t be a good thing if Peanut decided to slurp up the shoelace like spaghetti. Finding her in the kitchen, he wrestled the chewed shoelace from her and laced back up his sneaker, batting her paws away like she was batting at his fingers and shoelace.
“Get outta here,” he said, no real bite to his tone. She responded in her own way and continued to try to hold and move his hand from his shoe. Josh reached over and grabbed a catnip mouse toy that was by her water dish and tossed it away, Peanut’s short attention span making her chase after it.
He watched her disappear through the kitchen threshold and into the living room, his mind wandering back to the conversation he had had with Ethan earlier that day.
“When are you coming back to visit?” Ethan had asked.
“Dude, I just moved out here.” Josh chuckled. “How about you coming out here for a visit?”
Ethan sighed into the phone. “I’d love to see your new place, but it won’t be anytime soon. Got a convention coming up around here. It’s gonna suck without you here too. You picked a lousy time to move.”
“I’m sorry, man,” Josh said. “But, hey, there are some conventions around here too. You should come out here for some of them. I have a guest room and everything, so you don’t even have to get a hotel.”
“I’ll take you up on it.” Ethan grew quiet for a minute before asking, “Josh, why’d you move anyway?”
Josh swallowed, having asked himself that same question since buying the house in the first place. “It’s cheaper out here, for one thing. My crook of a landlord had upped my rent, remember?”
“You could have bunked with me,” Ethan said. “You know, until you found a new place. I wasn’t that bad of a roommate a couple of years ago, was I?”
Josh chuckled along with Ethan, and joked, “Well, you did like to eat my cereal—”
“Oh, c’mon! That was one time I finished it on you—”
“Uh, it was definitely at least three times—”
Their talk dissolved into joking about all the wrongs the pair had done to the other during their stint as roommates until Ethan had to go meet up with a couple of their other friends.
“You are meeting new people, right?” Ethan asked before they said goodbye. “I’d hate for you to move to another place just to become a hermit.”
“Yes, I met some of the neighbors,” Josh said, rolling his eyes. “And I have a roommate in Peanut, my cat.”
“You got a cat? Send me a picture!” Ethan demanded before adding, “Alright, I really gotta go. I’ll talk to you soon, okay? Take care.”
“You too,” Josh said. “Greet Calvin, Grace, and Linda for me.”
Josh took a deep breath as he returned to the present when Peanut, who was perched up on the kitchen counter above him, drop her mouse toy on his head. He gave his cat a crooked smile and tossed the mouse toy again. He rolled his eyes as Peanut scrabbled off the counter to chase after it, and he dug his phone out of his pocket.
Before he could think better of it, Josh typed out a quick group text to the Millers: “You two around tonight?”
Sarah responded within a minute. “Yeah, we got no plans. Why?”
“Was wondering if you wanted to come over and order pizza together? Hang out, watch a movie, play games?” He sent the text, hoping it didn’t sound too dorky.
Instead of waiting anxiously for the sisters to text back, Josh got to his feet to be sure his place looked presentable enough for company. He was in the middle of tossing a few dishes into his dishwasher when Sarah got back to him.
“Sounds fun!” she said, complete with a smiling emote. “Would it be too much trouble if we bring Moose? He and Panda aren’t quite used to each other just yet and we don’t want to leave them alone for too long.”
Josh glanced at Peanut, who had returned to the kitchen with two mouse toys dangling from her mouth by the tails. Before he could respond, Rebecca’s name popped up in the group text.
“We can lock Panda up in a room, but the last time we did that, he had gotten nervous and ended up knocking over a vase,” she said. “Obviously we’ll put him in a more ‘cat-proof’ and bigger room if it’s too much trouble.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Peanut can hang in my room. She likes it in there. Redecorated it herself and everything,” he added, thinking of all the toys that lived in his bedroom. She was good at entertaining herself.
“Thanks Josh!” Rebecca texted. “When do you want us over?”
“Anytime.” He ran into the living room, Peanut deciding to chase him, to collect any other dishes that may have been sitting there to put into the dishwasher.
“Okay,” Sarah said. “We’ll be there in probably about fifteen minutes. Gonna feed Moose before going over.”
He replied agreeably before saying, “I can order the pizza now. What kind you two like?”
“We’re boring,” Rebecca said. “Regular cheese is cool with us, or Sarah also likes pineapple and I like mushrooms.”
Josh stared at the message for a few minutes before texting, “Cheese it is then.” He got a laughing emote from Sarah for that before he dialed the nearest pizza place.
“Alright, little girl.” After his order was place, Josh picked up Peanut and brought her to his room. She immediately made herself at home on his bed, curling up on his pillow with a purr. Josh brought up her water and food dish, double-checked the litter box that was in his bathroom to be sure it wasn’t too full, and closed the window so she wouldn’t get any ideas to scratch at the screen. “Maybe one day you’ll meet Moose but it will not be this day. Be good in here.”
She responded by washing her tail, and Josh shut the door.
“Okay…” Josh rubbed his hands together, taking a look through his living room and kitchen before dashing into the half bath to make sure that was clean enough for the Millers. As soon as he deemed it fine, a knock sounded at the door.
When Josh opened the door, a growl greeted him. Rebecca sighed as she gave Moose’s leash a short tug to as a warning for him to quiet down. “I swear, if he’s a pain, I’ll bring him straight home.”
“No worries,” Josh said as he moved aside for the young women. “This’ll be a good way for us guys to get used to each other.” He watched as Moose seemed to momentarily forget about Josh as he sniffed the new surroundings. After Josh assured Rebecca that the majority of the house was closed off to the dog, she unhooked the Chihuahua’s leash to let him roam.
“Your house is so nice,” Sarah said, gazing around his kitchen and living room. Her eyes lit up as she wandered closer to the framed posters he had on the wall. There were the minimalist style, showing a simple background with the silhouette of the main character of one of his favorite video games. “Dude, my respect for you just grew.”
He laughed. “Right back at you. Nice to know my new neighbors have a nerdy side, too.”
“And similar taste in movies.” Rebecca was by his case of blu-rays, her gaze moving quickly as she scanned the titles.
“Did you bring a few of your own?” Josh asked, pointing to the bag she was holding.
“Oh, no.” She unpacked what she had, revealing a couple of containers. “I brought over brownies and sugar cookies for dessert, and as a thank you for inviting us to dinner.”
“Speaking of which,” Sarah asked, “how long until the pizza comes?”
“And how much is it?” Rebecca added.
“They said about a half hour,” Josh said to Sarah, then turned to Rebecca. “And I got it covered. You provided dessert, after all. When did you whip these up?”
“Yesterday,” Rebecca said. “We celebrated a coworker’s birthday today in the office. You sure we can’t at least provide the tip for the delivery?”
“Positive.” Josh grinned at her and put the desserts in the kitchen. “Guess we should pick a movie for the pizza, right?”
“Sure, but first…” Sarah bounced over in front of him and smiled. “Can I meet Peanut?”
He laughed but obliged while Rebecca went to find where Moose had wandered off to. Peanut was delighted by Sarah’s attention, and Sarah was just as delighted in not only the cat, but also the other nerdy decorations Josh had in his bedroom. She cooed over a few of his game figurines and mentioned that he needed to share his comic book collection with Rebecca. When the pair made their way back downstairs, Rebecca had Moose in her arms and she turned from Josh’s computer.
“I’m sorry for being so nosy,” Rebecca said, “but you’re J. K. Stone?”
“You are not!” Sarah whirled around at him, eyes wide. “On Boss Mode?”
He scratched the back of his head, realizing that he had left his computer open on his account on the gaming website. “Uh, yeah, I am.”
“Dude!” Sarah spontaneously hugged him. “We love your articles!”
He chuckled. “Thanks,” he said, unsure of really how to respond. “Great to hear that.”
“Sarah, I think you’re scaring him,” Rebecca said with a small smile. The younger sister released him as Rebecca added, “It is awesome to meet one of our favorite writers, though.”
Josh mulled over that a minute before slowly grinning. “Thank you.”
“That so sounded more sincere than the thanks you gave me,” Sarah teased.
“Sorry,” Josh said. “I just… It’s nice to be thought of as a writer.”
“Well, you are,” Sarah said, clearly confused at his words. “Your articles are published online at a legit gaming website.”
“I know, but…” He paused. “Dunno, I guess because it’s not novels or about a more ‘serious’ topic, sometimes I get some flak for it.”
“That’s stupid,” Sarah said. “You’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
The doorbell rang and Moose gave off a series of shrill barks to protect them from the pizza delivery guy, saving Josh from responding to Sarah. The topic of his writing dissipated with the scent and taste of pizza, but he was okay with it. As the movie started, him settling onto his couch with the sisters on either side of him and Moose begging for a bite of pizza at his feet, Josh felt more content than he ever had since before his move.
Maybe this move had been a good idea after all.