Warnings for a bad word or two.
“Oh, shit–!” Josh leaned his head against the backrest of his computer chair, caught between groaning in despair and laughing at his ridiculous mistake. In an attempt to make his game character leap and kick his opponent, he had overestimated his character’s jump. He flew clear off of the arena and into a pit full of lava.
The chat for the game streaming was full of, “Really, Josh?” and “Nice air, man,” and other such teasing words. He laughed along with them, enjoying the normality of online gaming with some Internet friends. The chat wasn’t as full as it used to be, but Josh blamed his new time zone for that. His usual audience had grumbled at bit at his move, but most were supportive, if a bit confused like the rest of his friends.
He stuck with his rent story, citing another incentive to moving was because he got his own house. Apartments were nice, but it was even better to have a yard. Josh had met a few more neighbors, enjoying more than he thought he would at meeting new people, and Peanut was a great addition to his life. He would never have been allowed a pet in his previous apartment.
Overall, Josh had convinced himself that the move was good for him. He had needed a new start in a brand new place.
That and, no matter how much Ethan assured him it would have been fine, Josh couldn’t have moved back in with his friend, not with Linda having moved in recently too. Ethan’s girlfriend was fine – she hadn’t been bad as acquaintances went – but there would have been awkwardness with him living with a couple. Especially with how much of a dope Ethan was around her.
“Alright, we ready to try again—Peanut!”
With a meow, the cat had jumped up onto the computer desk, blocking the camera with her nose and gently batting at the computer screen. Josh took off his headphones and moved his microphone to grab her, all the while the chat cooed over his social kitty.
“Would have thought you’d be more of a snake kind of guy,” someone said in the chat, complete with a winking emote. Josh chuckled to himself before noticing that it was Ethan.
“Ethan’s in the chat everyone, give him some shit,” Josh said. “As a response to the snake thing, I was thinking of that, but I don’t like the idea of feeding them.”
The chat split into a couple of different discussions as Josh tried to refocus on his game, ranging from the topic of pet snakes to asking Ethan about his day. The chat had a good chunk of the same people who enjoyed watching both men stream games, especially since the pair had started on the streaming site together. They each had their own day jobs – Josh with his writing and Ethan with graphics – but their names had started circulating around the online gaming community together.
Josh’s gaze flickered to the chat as someone asked Ethan, “How could you let your best friend move across the country?”
“Hey, it wasn’t my idea,” Ethan said in self-defense. Josh alternated between trying not to die and reading the conversation in the rapidly-moving chat. “He kind of just announced he was going one day. We’re all still sad about it. YOU HEAR ME JOSH?”
“I hear you,” Josh said in response. “It was just time for a change, that’s all.”
“Dunno why,” Ethan typed out, either as a reply to Josh’s words or to someone else asking in the chat. “Thought everything was fine and dandy over here with us. Still, proud that he was able to get his own place. I got my own room in there, right Josh?”
Josh chuckled. “Yeah, yeah, I got a guest room all set for ya whenever you visit.”
“Linda and I are going to try to make it to one of the comic cons around there early next year,” Ethan said with a grinning emote. “Hope we can see you sooner, but at least we got that plan in place.”
Josh’s character got socked in the stomach, losing the rest of his hit points, when Josh glanced at the chat to see Ethan’s words. “Sounds fine,” Josh said, “but it is just a twin bed. Bring an air mattress if both of you are coming.”
“Both of us can probably fit in the twin bed.” Another wink emote.
The chat chorused with “Oooohhh!” and Josh ignored it for a while as he tried to beat his next opponent. The few times Josh’s eyes looked to the chat, it was just a few of the mutual watchers asking Ethan how Linda and their relationship was doing.
Josh died twice more before he stretched his limbs. “Well… guess I gotta practice more,” he said, grinning as a round of teasing agreement went through the chat. “I think I’m going to end the stream on that disappointing note. Gonna go get some dinner, maybe feed Peanut. I can hear her playing soccer with her food dish in the kitchen from here.”
Someone in the chat mentioned how they have never seen a more energetic cat than Peanut, and Josh said, “Yeah, I know, me neither, but she’s entertaining. You should see my neighbors’ pets. They have a Chihuahua named Moose and a cat named Panda.” A few laughing emotes made their way into the chat at the names, quite a few people liking the names. “Panda joined their family the same time I got Peanut, and Moose and he are starting to get along. They like to play chase, tag, let’s-trip-Josh…”
More laughing emotes, and someone asked who was winning that particular game. “Peanut,” was Josh’s immediate answer as he started shutting down his game. “Alright, everyone. Have a good night or afternoon or even morning. I can’t figure out time zones.” He gave the webcam a little wave as the chat echoed his goodbyes and finally shut down the rest of the equipment.
Glancing over at the threshold of the room, there was Peanut next to her now upside-down empty food dish, which was supposed to be on the other side of the kitchen. Josh chuckled and got up, collecting the dish as he passed her by. She rubbed up against his legs, making him slow his walk until she dashed ahead to the cabinet that held her food.
“I’m not giving you an excuse to get another point in let’s-trip-Josh,” he said dryly.
As he put Peanut’s food down for her, his phone buzzed with a text message. Ethan had said, “Dude, it’s so weird watching you stream rather than playing with you.”
Josh took a deep breath and replied, “It is. Had caught a few of your streams too, but really didn’t know what to say in the chat.”
“Don’t be a stranger, man,” Ethan said. “I miss your sarcasm and oh-so-helpful comments on how much I suck at video games.” An emote with its tongue sticking out accompanied the text.
“Glad you miss me for my wit instead of just my good looks,” Josh sent back.
“Oh, your good looks are definitely missed too!” was the immediate reply, a laughing emote with the words.
Josh’s heart hammered as he stared at the message for a minute before he put down his phone on the counter. Rubbing his face with his hand, he muttered, “Fuck, Ethan,” and heaved a sigh. His eyes went to a picture he had hanging on the wall in the hallway, a framed group photo. Josh himself had been in between Calvin and Ethan, with Ethan leaning more towards Linda on his other side.
“Peanut, you’re lucky you’re a cat,” Josh said. She hadn’t looked up from her food bowl, but her ears twitched in acknowledgment of his voice.
He should take a lesson from his cat. Live in the moment. Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on it. Focus on the future and healthy relationships.
Josh’s phone buzzed again, rattling against the tiled countertop, and he jumped as he snatched it up before it could vibrate off and to the ground.
Rebecca. “You busy Friday night?”
“Not after four,” he said, figuring that would be a good time to stop his workday. “What’s up?”
“Sarah won three tickets to that new superhero movie from a raffle at work,” Rebecca texted back. “Showing’s at 6:15. Want to join?”
He gave his phone a crooked smile and said, “Love to. I’ll buy the popcorn since you got the tickets.”
“I’ll drive since the tickets were free,” was the swift reply, complete with a smiley face. Josh finalized the details with her before figuring out what to make to eat.
Move forward. Make new relationships. He could do that.