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Sunday Scribble – “Stream”

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Stream

Sarah claiming to be awesome at racing games was a severe understatement. When Josh had finally been able to convince Rebecca and Sarah to join him in a live stream – rather, when he had finally been able to convince Rebecca, for Sarah had been raring to go as soon as he had voiced the idea – it was to play one of the more popular racing games that were on the latest consoles, Burning Rubber.

Sarah had left Rebecca and Josh, and the other computer-controlled characters, in the dust right after the first lap, leaving Rebecca and Josh to duke it out to see who would cross the finish line first. Josh had a better handle on the controls, but Rebecca was trickier, able to use the course’s obstacles to her advantage much better than Josh was able to. She had even launched herself off of a ramp with the help of a speed boost, a ramp that Josh had never even noticed before despite how many times he had played the game.

Even though he came in fourth at the last second, with Rebecca zooming by his character for a third place, Josh couldn’t help but grin. If he had lost like that to Ethan and Calvin, he would have pretending to be angry, complete with pouting and name-calling. With the girls, he just felt like laughing.

Sarah had done a little dance when she came in first, much to the amusement and entertainment of those watching the live stream. She seemed delighted at the compliments and even answered a few questions to those who had directed them at her. Rebecca shared some tips of her own, even if she was a bit more soft-spoken to the camera despite her smiling. Josh planned on teasing Rebecca, normally so confident, for how shy she seemed in front of the webcam.

Then some asshole mentioned how the girls should take off their tops and other such insults, but before Josh could ban the user, one of his chat’s moderators did it for him. While the rest of the well-meaning chat tittered and scolded the asshole, Josh smiled and merely said, “Thanks, Ethan, for responding to that so quickly.”

“Oh, Ethan’s here? Hi Ethan! Responding to what?” Sarah asked, apparently having missed the asshole, but as her gaze skimmed through the chat’s comments, comprehension dawned on her face. “Ohhh… Dude, why would you want us to do that when there’s perfectly good porn all over the Internet?”

Josh spit out his drink at her casual question. Rebecca laughed and reached over to the wad of napkins they still had on the table from their pizza dinner, handing them over to Josh.

“Thank you, Ethan,” Rebecca said as well.

“Of course, ladies,” Ethan had typed in the chat. “That kind of disrespect should not be condoned by anyone.”

“It shouldn’t,” Josh agreed, pleased that the majority of the chat had been respectful to the girls so far. In fact, most of them seemed downright angry at the moment, especially some of his viewers that he knew to be female, and he feared that it would become a sticky topic in his chat if he didn’t divert their attention somehow.

“Thanks for your support,” Rebecca said, reading the chat as well. “Although, right now, I think Josh and I could use some support on how to get revenge on that computer character that beat us both in that last race. Should we bulk up with the missile or speed boost power-ups?”

“I like the idea of the speed boosts, keep him way behind,” Josh said, glad that the chat directed its focus on debating which power-ups were better thanks to Rebecca changing the subject.

Rebecca gave him a wicked grin. “I prefer the missiles, especially the firework-like ones.”

He raised an eyebrow at her, the corner of his lips twitching. “Should I be frightened?”

“Only if you get ahead of me in the next race.”

Choruses of “Ohhhh!”s and emotes ranging from laughing and devil horns spammed the chatbox.

“Speaking of the next race,” Sarah said, “are you losers ready to race again?”

“I’m leaving you behind with all those speed boosts too,” Josh said, picking up his controller and going through the options to set up the next race.

The girls beat him in that race, too.

“You have no mercy,” Josh said, whipping around to Rebecca.

She only shrugged. “I warned you.”

Someone in the chat was spamming, “SAVAGE,” and a few had posted applause emotes, Ethan included.

“I need to meet you two ladies in person,” Ethan typed out. “I’m going to challenge Sarah in a racing game and Rebecca in whatever game she feels she’s good at. As long as it’s not platforming.”

Sarah laughed. “I’d love you if you can kick her ass in a fighting game. Like, Mega Punch.”

“Dunno about that,” Ethan said, “but I’d love to try!”

“You guys are coming out here in a couple of months, right?” Rebecca asked, much to the delight of the chat.

“For Tradeline, yeah,” Ethan typed. “Josh, you’re taking the girls, right?”

“Of course I am,” Josh said, “if they’d like to.”

“Sounds like fun!” Sarah piped up. “It’s at the end of the summer, right?”

Rebecca paused. “It depends for me,” she said. “I’d love to go, but I have a wedding—No, no, I’m not getting married!” The chat went crazy with the question, asking if they could see the ring, who the guy was, and – much to his embarrassment – asking if the groom was Josh. “It’s one of my best friend’s wedding, I’m one of the bridesmaids. That’s all. Well, I shouldn’t say, that’s all, considering how much lighter my wallet is going to be after it’s all over…”

“You’ll probably be exhausted,” Josh said lightly. “The option will stay open, of course, if you find yourself wanting to join us at Tradeline after the wedding.”

“Thank you,” Rebecca said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to go with you guys.”

“Josh, I’ll be clinging to you the whole time, just so ya know,” Sarah warned.

Josh chuckled. “That’s fine. After seeing your sister use those missile power-ups so effectively, I don’t want to imagine what she’d do to me if I accidentally lost you at a convention.”

“Neither would I.” Sarah’s agreement was devoid of any mirth, and Josh choose not to comment on it.

“I hope both of you will be able to come,” Ethan typed. “We need a group meet-up!”

“Ethan, aren’t you guys staying at my place?” Josh asked, ignoring the small flip his stomach did at the though. “You’ll meet them, don’t worry.”

The chat began to speak about sleepover games, and Sarah joined right in. Ethan continued to type out comments about Tradeline to Josh and Rebecca, and Burning Rubber was soon forgotten. Eventually, Rebecca glanced at the time and mentioned that they should go back home.

“It was nice talking with you all,” she said to the chat, and the chat chorused back a series of goodbyes, well-wishes, and hopes to see the girls on Josh’s streams again.

“I would love to stream with these two again,” Josh said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do it soon!”

“Yeah, this was great.” Sarah waved to the webcam.

“You walking them home?” Ethan typed out.

“Of course,” Josh said, and the rest of the chat praised him for being a gentleman. He rolled his eyes in good humor and added, “Not that the girls need protection. You saw how fast Sarah was and how savage Rebecca was in a video game, didn’t you?” He said one final goodbye before shutting everything down.

“You don’t have to walk us back,” Rebecca said, gathering her coat and their share of the leftover pizza.

“I want to,” Josh said simply, tying up his shoes despite Peanut trying to eat his laces.

Sarah picked up Peanut to give her a goodbye hug, much to the cat’s chagrin. “If you’re sure,” the younger sister said, placing the cat down on the sofa.

It was a short walk, one that Josh spent the entire time trying to schedule the next stream that the girls would do with him. “I’m thinking maybe we should play Mega Punch?”

Rebecca chuckled, but Sarah said, “Yes! Rebecca will kick both of our asses, but it’s also an online game, right? Think Ethan can be player four?”

Josh paused for a moment, having forgotten that aspect of the game, and nodded. With a crooked smile, he said, “Sure, I’ll ask him. The time zone difference may be a little weird, but we might be able to figure it out.”

“Yes!” Sarah pumped her fist in the air. “And we can do teams for some of the fights, like girls versus guys, or old people versus younger people, who’s older, anyway? You or Ethan?”

Josh raised an eyebrow. “Uh, Ethan.”

“Great, Ethan and Rebecca versus you and me! We’ll totally lose, but it’ll be fun.” With that declaration, Sarah hugged Josh goodnight and skipped into the house.

“Thanks for tonight,” Rebecca said, smiling up at Josh. “You alright?”

“Huh? Yeah, of course I’m alright,” Josh said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

She gave him a half shrug. “Just wasn’t sure how you were doing with your crush, that’s all. You don’t turn red as much anymore when Ethan is brought up.”

“Oh.” Josh scratched the back of his head. “Well, he’s my friend first and foremost, as is Linda. I’m fine.”

Rebecca hummed and gave him her own hug. “Good night, then. We’ll probably talk to you tomorrow, if not sooner.”

“Good night, Bec.” Josh watched as she went into the house, chuckling to himself as he heard Moose’s excited yips at the girls finally being home, before turning around to walk back up the street by himself.

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Posted by on May 28, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Advice”

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Advice

Josh swung open the door that Saturday morning to find Sarah shoving a Starbucks frappachino into his hands before barreling into his house.

“Um, good morning,” Josh said mildly, closing the door and sipping from the surprise frappuccino. “Mmm… strawberry?”

“Strawberries and crème,” Sarah said, flopping onto his couch and slurping from her own Frappuccino, no doubt her usual mocha flavor. Peanut hopped up next to her, allowing the young woman to pet her while the feline tried to bat at the straw.

“Thank you.” Josh was keenly aware that he was still in his pajamas while Sarah seemed awake and alert enough as if she had run a marathon, wrote a novel, and detailed her car before going for a Starbucks break already that morning. “What’s up?”

She shrugged. “Nothing much. Rebecca had gotten called into work, guess the other dog trainer got sick, so she’s going to do the class that’s starting, like, now, while the manager of the place calls everyone else to cancel the rest of the day’s classes. Usually we’re writing in notebooks at the local Starbucks on Saturdays, but she got the call just as we got there, so we grabbed drinks and just left. I figured if you’re not busy, then maybe we can hang out. Or you can kick me out, that’s cool too.”

“You came with an offering,” Josh said, raising his Frappuccino in a salute. “I wouldn’t dream of kicking you out. Just, uh, let me take a quick shower and get changed and stuff.”

Sarah giggled. “Aw, but you look cute in your superhero pajamas—”

He ran up the stairs before he could hear any other teasing comments from her. Once he had gotten washed up and looked fairly presentable, he went back downstairs to find Sarah cuddling with Peanut on the sofa. The way Peanut turned to glare at Josh made him wonder if his cat didn’t want him intruding or was cursing him for leaving her alone with a clingy human.

“So,” Josh said, “any ideas on what you want to do?”

Sarah released Peanut – whom immediately dashed over to the bay window to escape – and sat up with a shrug. “Not too sure. It’s a really nice day out if you wanted to take a walk? We can go around the pond, although I’m sure it’ll be crowded…”

She trailed off and Josh asked, “So, did you just kill the idea of a walk around the pond because of the crowd, or…?”

“Well, no, we can still go,” she said. “I was just throwing that out there.”

“Might as well,” Josh said, moving to the closet to grab his sneakers. “We should walk off these frappuccinos. Am I driving or you?”

“You can drive,” Sarah said. “I hate parking over there. Oh, but can we take Moose? He’ll probably hate the people but will love the walk.”

Josh grinned up at her from lacing his sneakers. “Sure, why not—”

“Be right back!” Sarah was out the front door before Josh could blink and he paused, wondering if she was going to walk Moose down to his house or if he should meet her halfway in his car. During the time that it took him to be sure Peanut was fed and had a full water bowl, Sarah returned, being sure to keep Moose on his leash as she stepped into the porch. She even had a little backpack as if they were going to go hiking.

“What’s in there?” Josh asked. He bent down to let Moose come and sniff him, and he smiled when he earned a tail wag and a lick on his hands from the dog. Moose was obviously more used to him by now, but Josh still understood that the Chihuahua could easily be startled.

“Besides my wallet and keys, I got a water bottle and a little collapsible bowl for Moose,” she said. “It’s a warm day and he’s little, so wanted to make sure he got some water in whenever we decide to take a break.”

“Makes sense.” Josh grabbed his keys, led Sarah to his car, and revved it up. Moose seemed ecstatic to be riding in the car and he tried to bounce between Sarah’s and Josh’s laps before Sarah held him still enough in her own seat.

The walking path around the pond was a touch crowded, and Moose’s ears were constantly flattening whenever a stranger came too close. For the most part, the Chihuahua’s ears were perked as he took in the scenery while they walked and Josh was thankful that he seemed to grow more comfortable as they got further in the walk.

“How’s everything going with work for you?” Josh asked.

“Oh, it’s fine,” Sarah said with a shrug. “The kids aren’t bad, but sometimes the teachers are full of drama. It’s ridiculous considering we’re a preschool. What about you? How’s your writing and streaming?”

“It’s all going pretty well,” Josh said. “Thanks again for the donation on my stream the other night. Definitely took me a minute to recognize your username, haha!”

“Yeah, your face as recognition dawned on it was great,” Sarah said with a laugh. “But that was a fun stream, even though you really suck at racing games.”

“I always have,” Josh said, finishing up his Frappuccino and chucking it into the next trash can they passed. “How’s Rebecca doing, even though she got called into work today?”

“She may actually be heading home by now,” Sarah said, checking her phone. “She’s doing fine. Guess there’s a new guy working at the pet store, though. She told me how he’s a goof and sounds pretty good looking.”

“For her or for you?” Josh grinned as Sarah elbowed him.

“I was thinking for her,” Sarah said, “but I doubt she’ll do anything about it. She’d prefer to keep her work and personal lives separate, you know?”

“Makes sense,” Josh said. “Wouldn’t want anything to get messy. Have you two, uh, heard from Arnold lately…?”

Sarah shook her head. “No, not that I know of. It’s actually kind of nice, which probably sounds mean, but Rebecca doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear. That may not mean anything, since she can be good at hiding any negative emotions, but it’s probably a breath of fresh air for her. Shame that it happened, he really wasn’t a bad guy in high school.”

“He probably isn’t now,” Josh ventured to say, “not that I really know him, but it wasn’t fair of him at all to try to push Rebecca that way.”

“It wasn’t.” Sarah’s tone turned hard enough for even Moose to glance back at them instead of glaring at the ducks swimming on the pond. “He should have taken no as an answer and left it at that. You know, I hear guys complain about being in the friend-zone, but girls get stuck in the relationship-zone all the time. People should just be friends and then if, mutually, they decide to move to the next level together, that’s fine.”

“Makes sense to me,” Josh said, “but I can understand how much it sucks liking someone in a romantic sense and knowing it’s not going to come to fruition.”

“Fruition, huh?” Sarah echoed. “Fancy word. It does suck, but unless both parties are invested and communicating in the relationship, it’s not going to go anywhere. Arnold should have invested in time in other hobbies or meeting other people when he found out that Rebecca didn’t want to be anything other than friends.”

“What if he never got over his crush?” Josh asked.

Sarah shook her head. “Time would have helped. If he never got over it, then it would be obsession rather than love, and that’s not healthy for anyone. Love can be magical like how all the songs and romance stories describe it, but magic won’t keep people together. It’s actually work. People need to work to stay in relationships, they need to be a team. If only one half of the team is working on the relationship, then it’s not a relationship at all, but dependence.”

Josh nearly walked into a tree. “That’s… all really smart advice. Where did you hear all that?”

She paused and gave him a crooked smile. “It’s kind of a combination of Rebecca’s and my failed relationships. Like, my last boyfriend and I grew apart, especially once I realized we have different levels of ambition. We still care about each other, but we’ve let each other go once we realized that the kind of work we would have needed to stay in our relationship wouldn’t be worth it in the long run. Like, it wouldn’t be compatible with what we wanted in life.

“Rebecca…” Sarah thought for a moment, taking the time to lead Moose and Josh off of the path toward a bench and get some water for the dog. “Well, you’ve seen firsthand how her relationship with Arnold was. They weren’t together because Rebecca was being honest with him, but there have been guys like Arnold that she’s been with who think that a relationship is give and take. They thought that giving Rebecca stuff, compliments, gifts out of the blue, those kind of things, entitled them to take from Rebecca whenever they wanted, like she owed them. That’s not a relationship at all. Relationships are mutual work, understanding, and communication, not a riddled list of imaginary debts to one another.

“Rebecca tried to work on the relationships,” Sarah continued, “to keep them together, to try to be the right giver when her boyfriends wanted to take. Eventually she realized that her boyfriends and she were on different work shifts, if you will, when it came to the relationship. But that’s not how a relationship is supposed to work. You can’t work a shift and expect your co-worker to just come in and pick up where you left off without proper communication. You need to work the shift together to always know what’s going on and how well things are working out between each other.”

She suddenly laughed. “That a good metaphor for you?”

“It’s a perfect one, actually,” Josh said thoughtfully, his gaze watching Moose start to splash in the bowl. Sarah took that as a cue to take it away, apparently figuring that the dog had successfully quenched his thirst. She tossed the leftover water into the grass before collapsing the bowl and packing it up again.

“How’s Ethan?” Sarah suddenly asked, and Josh raised an eyebrow.

“Rebecca told you,” he said.

“Rebecca and I tell each other everything,” Sarah said. “Nothing leaves the two of us, though.”

“Figured,” Josh said, knowing that he trusted both sisters anyway. “Ethan’s doing great, as is his girlfriend.”

“Do you like his girlfriend?” Sarah asked as the group got back to their walk.

“I do,” Josh said. “I mean, Linda’s a good friend too. It just kind of sucks seeing the two of them together.”

“They weren’t the entire reason you moved out here, right?” Sarah asked. “I mean, no offense, but that’d be pretty extreme.”

“Nah.” Josh shook his head. “The thought was there, of course, and seemed like a bonus to move out here. But it is cheaper here and I did feel the need to have my own space. My friends are awesome and I love them, but it was also to try to find my own identity, you know? Online, I’m always grouped with them, which isn’t bad, but I still want to be seen for myself, and… I don’t know if I’m making sense.”

“I think you are,” Sarah said. “It sounds like your quarter-life crisis.”

“What?”

“Quarter-life crisis,” Sarah casually repeated. “It’s like a mid-life crisis, but instead of being in your fifties and getting questionable tattoos and investing in motorcycles, you’re in your late twenties or so and do some heavy thinking on your existence and place in the world.”

“Quarter-life…?” Josh shook his head. “Where on earth did you hear that phrase?”

“Rebecca, actually,” Sarah said. “She went through it, then my old boyfriend went through it, I’m kind of going through it right now… It’s totally a thing.”

“I’m not arguing against it,” Josh said, thinking on the meaning that Sarah had provided. “It doesn’t sounds real. I’ve just never heard of it.”

“Well, why would you?” Sarah tugged Moose away from the water’s edge where a duck was swimming a little too close and staring the Chihuahua down. “Back in high school, we all were told around the time of college applications that we needed to figure out what to do for the rest of our lives despite the fact that we still had to raise our hands for permission to use the bathroom. We were supposed to be prepared for everything, to have our lives in order by the time we graduated from college.”

“One of my old dorm mates is still taking random classes online,” Josh said. “Well, he was the last time I spoke to him, which was probably about six months ago in all honesty. He had no idea what he wanted to do after college so he kept going back.”

Both of Sarah’s eyebrows raised when she glanced at him. “Dude, how much money does that guy have?”

“He’s the only grandchild to his paternal grandparents.”

“Ah. Well, good for him, and good for his grandparents to help him like that. But that’s what I mean,” Sarah said. “Like, Rebecca has this theory about the differences between our generation and the older one, how they all settled and were focused on making enough money to survive. Our generation, the ones who first coined the phrase quarter-life crisis, are the ones who don’t just want to work to make money to survive. We don’t want to just survive, we want to live, and it’s why you see so many of our generation doing stuff that have to do with the arts, like drawing, writing, gaming and streaming… Then there’s the IT half of our generation, who work hard on creating new, digital ways to do stuff and, while the older generation calls us lazy, to us it’s another way to be sure that we have time to live rather than just survive.”

“You two have thought a lot about all this, haven’t you?” Josh asked, unsure if he had successfully kept all the amusement out of his tone. “It all sounds really plausible. The majority of my friends all have creative pursuits, and we’ve all been lucky enough to be fairly successful at them.”

“Lucky and hard-working, I’m sure,” Sarah said. “Rebecca and I have done well, too, and it’s let us buy our parents’ house when they had decided to downsize, so we were lucky on that end. Most of our friends are either just getting into the housing market, need to rent, or still live at home, which isn’t a bad thing considering we kind of grew up in a lousy economy. Rebecca, though, left a really nice office job to go into dog training, because she prefers animals to complaining people, but she’s gone back to dabbling in drawing like she used to do so long ago.”

“Rebecca draws?” Josh echoed.

“A bit,” Sarah said. “She did it a lot more when she was younger, then school hit, and everyone was like, ‘But what are you going to do for money?’ so she put it on hold for a few years. Think she regrets it, but she’s trying to catch up.”

“And you?” Josh asked. “You mentioned earlier that you two usually go to Starbucks on mornings like this to write in notebooks.”

“I really like to write,” Sarah said. “I wish I gushed more about it to you when we first met, but I didn’t want to seem like I was just buttering you up for writing advice or purely networking purposes, you know? That, and it was a little intimidating knowing that my new neighbor was one of my favorite article writers on Boss Mode.”

Josh grinned. “Awww…!”

She smirked. “Shush, you. But, yeah, I have a few first drafts of novels done and I’m working on editing them. Rebecca writes a bit too, but she mainly does short stories or small one-shot things instead of being able to focus on a whole novel. It’s something else that we do together.”

“What kinds of things do you write about?” Josh asked. “I’ve never written a novel before, so that’s amazing that you have a few of them!”

A hint of pink dusted the young woman’s cheeks and she smiled, pleased at the compliment. “I really like mysteries,” she said. “I have posters and sticky notes and charts all over my room filled with notes and timelines for my stories. It’s sometimes overwhelming, honestly, and Rebecca teases me for it. She’s the opposite when it comes to writing, just kind of hitting the notebook or keyboard and just going. No outlines for her.”

“I’m a bit in the middle,” Josh admitted. “My outline is more of a bullet list of the main topics I want to hit on in an article, then I just kind of write around them. Have you looked into any magazines or online sites that you’d want to write for? Get your foot in the door and all that?”

“I have,” Sarah said. “Boss Mode was actually one of them, heh. I’ve been looking more into parenting or educational sites and magazines since that’s what I know. Rebecca’s glanced more at video games and animal-orientated places for her own writing, as another income if she ever got around to doing something like that.”

“You know, if you two are that into gaming,” Josh said slowly, “maybe you two could join one of my streams sometime. I think it’d be fun!”

Her eyes widened and the pink on her cheeks darkened into a red flush. “Really? That’d be awesome! It would be totally fun, if your regular subscribers and everyone wouldn’t mind.”

“Who cares if they do or not?” Josh said. “They’d either be polite to you or they can leave the stream, by force if necessary.”

“Aren’t some still a little sore that you don’t do much with your other friends, though?”

Josh glanced down at his feet as they walked, realizing that the pair were getting closer to this car after looping around the pond. He vaguely heard Moose start to pant after every few steps but, when he looked at the dog, still saw the Chihuahua’s tail wagging.

“A bit, I guess,” Josh admitted when it became apparent that Sarah was waiting for a response from him. “I’m disappointed in that too, but…”

“But you wanted your own identity,” Sarah finished. “You’re still figuring things out and if inviting new friends to your stream is part of it…”

“Then that’s my decision,” Josh said, taking his turn on completing Sarah’s sentence as he pulled his car keys out of his pocket. “Seriously, though, we’ll have to plan that some night. What kind of games do you and Rebecca like to play?”

“I usually watch her, in all honesty,” Sarah admitted. She took a moment to give Moose one last drink from his bowl before packing everything up and opening the passenger door. Giving Josh a wicked smirk, she said, “For multiplayer games, though… I’m awesome at racing games!”

Josh groaned through his smile.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Fault”

(A very happy Mother’s day to all out there!)

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Fault

“Grace really misses you,” Ethan said.

“I would hope so,” Josh teased. “I hope all of you guys still miss me. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all, you know?”

“Dude, I can’t miss you any more than I already do,” was Ethan’s response, his chuckle coming out a little cackling through the phone. Josh smiled tightly, taking a deep breath through the nose to calm himself. Every time Josh thought his stupid crush on his best friend was waning, Ethan went and said or did something that made the crush ram back into his heart.

“No, but man, I mean Grace really misses you,” Ethan continued. “Like, pretty sure she’s kicking herself over not confessing her love for you before you thought to up and move.”

Josh nearly tripped over Peanut. “Confess? What?”

“She must have fallen hard for you at some point,” Ethan said. “She’s fine, but every time your name comes up, she gets mopey. How does she sound when you talk to her?”

“Pretty normal, I guess,” Josh said, shrugging to himself as he plopped down on the ground. Tossing one of Peanut’s toys for the cat to chase, he added, “She’s not sighing wistfully into the phone or anything, and our text conversations don’t have a million heart emotes or anything. Grace has always sounded cheerful.”

“Linda’s trying to talk to her into saying something to you,” Ethan said. “I’m probably not even supposed to be telling you this, but I figured we’re somewhat adults—”

“Just somewhat?” Josh asked, amused.

“Yeah, just somewhat,” Ethan said firmly. “We’re still figuring stuff out, like not to put aluminum in the microwave—”

“My God Ethan—”

“I didn’t do it!” Ethan protested. “Calvin did.”

“Of course,” Josh drawled. “Why the hell would he do that?”

“Wanted to see what would happen,” Ethan said, and Josh could picture his friend shrugging. “Anyway, I figured that you should be prepared for Grace telling you or Linda saying something.”

“Thanks for the warning, I guess,” Josh said, not entirely sure what to do with the information. “She could just miss me as a friend, you know. She always wore her heart on her sleeve.”

“That’s true,” Ethan agreed. “If Grace does suddenly confess, though, any idea what you’d say?”

“Why?” Josh asked, nearly hitting a vase that his mother had given him before the move with Peanut’s mouse toy. The cat wasn’t deterred at all from the toy smacking the wall and landing next to the vase on the end table. She wiggled in anticipation to jump up on the table, but Josh scooped her up and moved her away. There was no doubt that Peanut would knock over the vase in her quest to get the toy.

“Hey, if the feeling was at least a little mutual,” Ethan said, “that would be a perfect excuse for you to move back out here.”

Josh sighed and tossed the mouse toy a safe distance away from anything breakable. “Ethan, I’ve been out here for almost a year,” he said. “I have no plans to go back there anytime soon, if at all, alright?”

Ethan grew quiet on the other end, and Josh had a sudden fear that the pair were disconnected. Eventually, though, Ethan murmured, “I’m still not used to it. It’s still too weird to not have you here with us, playing games with us, ragging on my art while I complain about your writing, working together… It still sucks.”

“Ethan…”

“Seriously, Josh,” Ethan said. “What exactly made you move so far away? Did we do something? Did I do something? I just… I still can’t figure it out.”

“No, Ethan.” Josh leaned against the wall, opting to pet Peanut instead of throwing her toy again. Peanut didn’t seem to mind too much, if her purring was a good indicator, but she did bat the toy at Josh’s foot. “It definitely wasn’t your fault.”

It was mine.

“Whose was it?” Ethan asked. “Did someone say something to you? Was it Chris, the new guy who helps the girls edit their music—”

“No, no, no,” Josh said, hoping that Ethan wouldn’t go on a rampage against any person that had found their way into their little ragtag group. Shy Chris certainly hadn’t done anything. “No, seriously, it’s just me. I needed to move to figure out stuff about myself.”

“You couldn’t have done that around us?” Ethan asked. “I mean… I get it if you wanted to take a vacation from us, we all can be bat-shit crazy sometimes, but there wasn’t any hope of us helping?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Josh said. “I just really needed this move. I’m sorry that it took me away from all of you, really. No one is sorrier than I am about that…”

Ethan sighed into the phone. “Don’t apologize. I mean, if you know what you need, more power to you. Just wish it didn’t take you so far away, that’s all. On the bright side, since I really don’t want to end this conversation on a melancholy note, you met the Miller sisters! How are the cuties doing? That Arnold bastard still being a pain?”

“Don’t let Linda hear you say that,” Josh teased. Ethan scoffed and Josh answered his question. “Rebecca and Sarah are doing well, thanks. I honestly haven’t heard about Arnold in a bit, so I guess everything’s okay on that front? The sisters ask about you guys all the time too. Can’t wait for you all to meet.”

“We’re looking forward to it too,” Ethan said. “Just a couple of months until Tradeline! Don’t think we’re getting a panel, but it’ll be a nice excuse to just travel over there, you know?”

“Advertise to your stream followers that you’re going,” Josh said. “Some may be able to make it out here, too. I got a few of my regulars planning on coming to say hi, and Naomi has it advertised on the Boss Mode website for even more interest. Maybe if we get enough people appearing just to see us, the organizers behind Tradeline will be willing to give us a panel next year.”

“That’d be great,” Ethan said. “You got my room all ready for me?”

“It’s still there, last I checked,” Josh replied cheekily. He finally got up from the ground and, with Peanut trying to wind her way around his legs, went into the kitchen to get her supper ready. Josh paused a minute and, while trying to sound casual, asked, “Is Linda coming here too?”

“Well, not sure,” Ethan said. “Do you have room for all of us to crash at your house? We definitely want to see you as much as possible, but we also realized it was kind of shitty of us to assume that we could get free room and board over there. It’s completely up to you who you want there, myself included. Say the word and we’ll book a hotel.”

“No, I want you guys here,” Josh said, glancing around his house and trying to imagine where five of his friends would go. If anything, he could get an air mattress or two while someone took the living room couch, maybe. “Just, uh… bring sleeping bags just in case.”

Ethan laughed. “A sleeping bag? Dude, I haven’t had one of those since middle school, I think. I’ll try to find one, haha!”

Josh chuckled as well, putting Peanut’s food down for her. With a bright meow, she dug in and Josh leaned against the kitchen counter, just enjoying the connection he had with Ethan even though neither were saying a word at the moment. Silences with Ethan had always been comfortable, and Josh hoped that they always would be.

Eventually, however, Ethan said gently, “Hey, I’m going to go now, alright? I’m not sure what time it is over there because I suck at time zones, but I have to start prepping for dinner. I’ll talk to you soon, man.”

“Alright, Ethan,” Josh said, looking at his own clock. “Take care.”

“You too, Josh!” The line disconnected and Josh took a deep breath. He smiled down at Peanut as she cleaned her bowl before figuring he should surprise his followers with an impromptu video game stream.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Bittersweet Part Two”

Bittersweet
Part Two

Maybe this had all been a mistake. What had Logan been thinking when he had decided on getting a ticket on the first train out of his city to a town he knew almost nothing about except that he was sure he would be able to get a place with a reasonable enough rent that he could pay with the first job he had landed.

(It wasn’t anything remarkable, but the hiring manager had said nothing about recognizing Logan’s last name, so he took it. He had only that one round-way ticket for the weekend out of his city, and it had been the fourth interview he had been on in between the banking meetings that he had been sitting in on for his mother. Besides, he was sure he’d be able to earn decent tips as a waiter. At the very least, he was hoping to make back what he would pay in motel fees before finding a more permanent place to stay.)

Logan leaned back in his train seat, trying desperately not to miss his friends too much. He needed to focus on what he was going for, on what he was after, on getting a roof over his head before he could start even thinking about sending out texts and calls, wondering what they were up to, if they missed him just as much as he missed them.

(A glance at his watch revealed that the graduation celebration wasn’t even scheduled to be over for another two hours, most of them probably didn’t even know he had already disappeared, what the hell was wrong with him for being so sentimental already.)

(In hindsight, if he wasn’t so damn sentimental, he probably would still be in his mother’s house–)

Logan shook his head, as if the physical act would rattle in thoughts into some sense of order, and dug around in his carry-on bag for his tablet. He scrolled up and down countless pages of apartments, condos, and rooms available for rent in his new town, and he spent the next three hours of the train ride comparing rent prices and his new job’s hourly wages. His car was being shipped along with the train, so he wouldn’t have to worry about public transportation and bus schedules when it came to his job’s shifts, but he did have to think about if he would have his own parking spot at whatever place he could afford to rent.

He saved a few potential places until he started going cross-eyed from staring at screens with pictures that looked like the same damn empty room with the one window and one lamp swinging from the ceiling and too many dollar signs and obscene prices for one bedroom (honestly, he would barely be able to fit a bed in some of the rooms, why would he pay monthly for sleeping in a closet?). With a deep breath, he began to weed out some of the saved ones, looking for whichever places seemed to hold the most promise.

There was a particular place that was reasonably priced and actually had a few decent pictures of the room for rent from different angles. What really caught his eye was the image where there was one with a small black splotch at the corner of the ceiling and wall. The caption accompanying it read, “Sorry for the remnants of squashed spider guts by the ceiling, we’ve tried everything to get it off, but the soul of the spider will probably forever haunt this room. Hope you don’t mind a spider ghost sleeping with you.”

(Well, Logan figured living with a spider wasn’t any different from living with a bitch, so he may as well take the chance.)

Logan scanned the rest of the ad, finding the description of the place rather amusing: “Two people looking for a third roommate after we finally kicked a psychopath out of our lives (don’t worry, the room was thoroughly cleaned and fumigated). Six hundred bucks a month, which includes water and heat, but not the electric bill — that’s divided up each month. We don’t have a landline, so it’s mainly the Internet and television, and you’re on your own for your cell phone bill. The room up for grabs is 9×9, comfortable for a single bed and just enough room if you decide to haul a double mattress in there. Everyone shares the kitchen and the bathroom, so clean up after yourself, but you do have your own shelf in the fridge and bathroom closet. There’s also a third spot in the driveway (no garage, sorry) for your car, motorcycle, bike, scooter, whatever, if you want to use it.

“It’d be cool if you shared any allergies that you may have ahead of time. Unfortunately there’s no more room for pets in the place – we already have two dogs (dachshunds) and a long-haired cat. You can also probably count the quartet of crows that tend to gather around the living room window near sunset every few days since we started leaving a little bit of old bread out there this past winter. Be nice to them since they tend to bring back shiny trinkets for us as payment. We don’t ask where the trinkets come from and, if they happen to bring back a quarter or two, we put it in a jar towards getting them a bag of their favorite bird seed.

“We honestly don’t care where you are on the gender or sexuality spectrums, all we care about is if you’re comfortable so be sure to let us know if there’s certain pronouns you prefer or if something may trigger you somehow or whatever else you deem as important. There’s no smoking, no illegal drugs, and no underage drinking in the place. The fastest way to get your lease ripped up if down the line you’re trying to figure out how to get out of here is to bring home a bag of cocaine or get too drunk too often. The landlord is a good friend of our uncle (hence why he’s trusting us enough to pick out a third roommate, or he just doesn’t want to deal with interviews himself), so if you end up being like our previous psychotic roommate, be warned in advance that if we have trouble kicking you out, we have two guys who have worked in the same construction company for years together to kick your ass.

“If you made it all the way down here of this long-winded description, congrats, you passed the first test (or second if you already looked at the room pictures and didn’t freak out over the squashed spider guts). If you’re still interested in the place, email Glenn and we’ll set up an in-person interview at a public coffee place and we’ll go from there.”

The email was listed neatly at the bottom of the page and Logan opened up a new email to send a polite inquiry about the place. He figured meeting up with Glenn wouldn’t be a bad thing, and he’d rather get a feel of people in person instead of a simple call over the phone.

(He had tried that the weekend before, sneaking phone calls to potential landlords and roommates. The first question one had asked was about how cool Logan would have been with the landlord’s girlfriend coming over there all the time. Logan questioned about why the girlfriend herself didn’t just move in, and that opened a floodgate of ranting against the previous roommate and how he hadn’t appreciated anything that the landlord had done for him, and Logan tried to get a word in for about fifteen minutes before just hanging up.)

There were a couple of other email inquiries Logan sent out as well, but his mind kept drifting back to the room that may have the spirit of a spider haunting it, figuring that it had sounded the best out of the other ads he had seen. The description of the room and the general rules of the place sounded fairly normal, even with the few quirks about the place, and whoever wrote up the ad didn’t sound like a stiff. Logan hoped that he would at least hear back about the place.

It was during the fourth hour of the train ride that Logan noticed a new email in his inbox, and he got tentatively hopeful when he saw that it was a reply from Glenn. The first line of the reply was, “Damn, your email sounds so formal. Here’s hoping you won’t get scared off by us when we meet.”

Logan’s lips twitched upwards in a smile as the email continued with a friendly, casual tone that described a couple of meeting times and places in the next week that Glenn was available for if Logan was. Logan compared them all with his week’s schedule at the restaurant and settled on the first date, eager that he would be able to make it during the first time slot. The sooner he met Glenn, the sooner Logan had the chance of not sleeping in a dim motel room.

Glenn replied almost right away when Logan had sent back confirmation that he could make the first time meeting. “Sounds great then,” Glenn’s email read. “There’s a Starbucks at the corner of Main and Kingston Street with a little sandwich board outside that usually has some sort of coffee pun and cartoon drawing on it to get people to go in. You’ll know me by my gray baseball cap with the Batman logo on the front.”

Logan chuckled at that and tried to think if he had any easily-recognizable clothes or accessories packed away. Nothing sprung to mind except for a friendship bracelet that Aidan had made partly as a joke for their group of friends.

(“Logan, yours is in blue because it’s your favorite color,” Aidan had said as he gleefully yanked Logan’s wrist close enough to tie the woven bracelet around it.

“Aw, I thought you were going to say how it matches my eyes,” Logan teased.

“That too,” Aidan had agreed easily, the tip of his tongue poking out of his mouth as he fastened the bracelets. His own was woven with threads of greens, the ends of them dangling down from his skinny wrist and tickling Logan’s arm as Aidan worked.

“What made you make us friendship bracelets?” Carter asked with a chuckle, even as he admired his own woven creation. Reds and oranges, like a fiery sunrise.

“He couldn’t have done them just because he loves us?” Seamus asked before Aidan could respond to Carter. Seamus was smiling softly at the deep purples and one thread of bright yellow that Aidan had used to make his. “Thanks, man. I’m going to always wear this.”

Seamus did, even throughout graduation.

Aidan had looked up from Logan’s wrist to give Seamus a grin before answering Carter. “Was babysitting my little cousins, you know, the twins. Callie and Hailey, and apparently their entire class, are all into this friendship bracelet making stuff. It’s all they wanted to do, so I figured I’d join in. You should have seen how awful the first few bracelets I made were, ha! But I think I got the hang of it—There ya go, Logan.” Aidan patted Logan’s wrist where the bracelet was tied with a crooked bow.

Logan gave his hand an experimental shake to be sure it wasn’t loose enough to fall off, not wanting to risk accidentally losing it. His smile is genuine as he says, “Thanks, Aidan. I’ll always treasure your hard work.”)

Logan glanced at his wallet next to him on the train ride, a piece of navy blue thread poking out of one of the inside pockets. Logan would have worn it as often as Seamus and Carter had, had his mother not spotted it after school that evening. She had rolled her eyes and slid a pair of scissors across the counter at him with a sharp, “Cut it off.”

He took the scissors and went to his room, carefully untying the knot and placing the bracelet snug in between a couple of pictures in his wallet. He used the scissors to snip off a couple of loose threads from his blanket and a pair of jeans to make a show of tossing them out in the wastebasket when he returned the scissors to her.

(He still remembered the brief flicker of a frown that had crossed Aidan’s face the next day when his friend had seen Logan’s bare wrist. It still hurt.)

Logan settled on telling Glenn that he would be wearing a beige shirt and dark-washed jeans with a venti vanilla Frappuccino in his hands. If he could help it, he’d find a couple of seats for the pair of them by a window. Glenn had sent back one last email saying that it would be great to meet Logan and to not be late.

Logan spent the last half hour of the train ride meticulously trying to tie the friendship bracelet back around his wrist.

(It was impossible to do so with one hand.)

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Bittersweet”

Bittersweet

Logan’s ticket out of the city had been booked before the high school graduation had even had a solid date.

Sure, Seamus had offered the guest room in his family’s house for Logan to use after high school (“Even during college, if you want! You’ll always have a place with my family.”) that Logan greatly appreciated, but he just needed to get the hell out of the city. Connor had continuously mentioned that his older brother was looking for roommates in his new apartment off the campus of the local college, but Logan knew he needed a break from his hometown. Maybe one day he’d be able to return, but it wasn’t going to be any time soon.

There wasn’t much to do after getting handed his diploma except take a couple of group pictures with his friends. Aidan’s parents even insisted on getting a solo picture of Logan (just like how all parents were supposed to do with their children, had they attended their child’s graduation), cooing over how handsome Logan looked in his cap and gown, and promising to print out the picture and frame it for him.

(Aidan wouldn’t even be graduating until the next year.)

Logan just nodded along, smiling with all the kind words being said about the achievements he had reached in his high school career until he had been able to discreetly sneak out of the celebration being held on the high school’s lawn.

He took a deep breath in the early summer heat, yanking off his cap and tugging at the collar of the graduation gown as he trudged toward his car in the parking lot. He paused only due to seeing Madison leaning against the hood of his old Ford Explorer.

Her cap was crooked on her head, sitting atop blonde hair streaked with blue that reminded him of the cotton candy she had gotten at the fair they had gone to on their first date two years ago. The front zipper of her gown was undone, letting the few breezes that managed to muster up their strength to help cool the day billow the gown open enough to show off her light green sundress, the hem stopping just below the knee and letting his gaze drag down to the tanned calves that he had admired so often throughout high school.

“Were you really going to leave without saying goodbye?” Madison’s light tone snapped Logan’s attention to her face.

“I wouldn’t have,” he said, “if you had been with everyone else at the celebration. Apparently you came out here ahead of me for a dramatic confrontation.” Her flair for the dramatics had been what attracted to and repulsed him from her throughout the years. Seamus had half-joked often enough that she had been a magnet, a magnet for people and for trouble. (God, how he would miss that.)

She pursed her lips, stained with the remnants of some nude-shaded lipstick, and she pushed herself off from his car. She walked to him, putting her arms around his neck, and pulling him into a kiss.

Short, a small bite to the bottom lip, a retreat before they began to really enjoy it. It had been just like the one from their last break-up.

“Call if you need help or just want to talk, okay?” Her voice is as soft as the breeze, a promised whisper snatched by the wind.

“I will.” He won’t.

(At least, not her. He’s tried that before. It didn’t work.)

Neither say another word as Logan moves around Madison to reach his car, unlock the door, rev it up, and cruise out of the parking lot. He had glanced back in his rearview mirror once at the high school that had been his safe haven with his friends throughout the past few years.

He didn’t turn to look down the street of his mother’s house when he passed it by on the way to the train station.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Break the Tropes

  • A healer in a fantasy world that doesn’t have a calming bedside manner, one who has no qualms about smashing his/her/their healing staff over an enemy’s heads.
  • A wise old mentor who has forgotten the last couple of lines of the ancient prophecy.
  • The hero who hears the prophecy and nopes the heck outta there instead of “embracing their destiny.”
  • The princess who decides she doesn’t want to be locked in a tower anymore and breaks out on her own, taming the dragon and riding it off to freedom.
  • Perhaps the princess enjoys the solitude and kicks her would-be hero out once he “invades.”
  • Have the redhead be calm and collected rather than have a personality described “as fiery as their hair.”
  • Let’s have buff nerds and jocks wearing glasses.
  • Small cheerful characters kicking the ass out of bullies.
  • Characters that are open about their romantic and sexual attractions, no matter what they are.
  • Rather than dragons hoarding gold, having small domestic dragons that breathe water to help grow gardens.
  • Teenagers focused more on passing their classes than being caught in a love triangle.
  • Teenagers prophesied to save the world focused more on actually saving the world than being caught in a love triangle.
  • Teenagers prophesied to save the world focused on finding capable adults to save the world, refusing to believe that they are the only hope the world has because they are only teenagers who are focused more on passing their classes.

What else can you add to the list?

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2017 in Home

 

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Sharing New Books

Not that I need new books to read — I have a couple of shelves filled with to-be-read books, after all — but one of my friends had recently tweeted out this list of new LGBTQIA+ YA November and December books.

(On a semi-random note, I love how that’s, like, half of the alphabet.)

Representation is definitely important in books and other media, and finding lists like the one linked above is a great help in finding new books to scour through. The site seems to create a list like this every month, with each previous month’s list linked in the intro.

Do you have any newer books you want to share? Any that you’ve read or maybe just heard about that sounds interesting?

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2016 in Home

 

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