When his song was finished, Joshua left his guitar to hang and he focused his attention on his hands. His fingers were stiff, and his joints ached, and he had started doing whatever he could to warm them up; but he never stopped smiling, even as he worked the feeling back in to his fingers. He caught Bianca's smile and returned it threefold, and as an awkward silence fell over the group, he turned her words over in his head. Coffee, huh? I'll have to stick around then, he thought, and tried to hide the smirk from coming out after his smile had faded. Arthur seemed distracted for a bit, but he eventually snapped out of it and complemented Joshua's singing, which he responded to with a quick smile that soon disappeared as the awkward silence hung around. The silence stretched on, started by a delay and exacerbated by a lack of conversation material, and Joshua swore he could see the daggers that Miranda was staring at Arthur. He didn't see any reason for her to be so angry at poor Arthur, but he didn't say anything at first. He just started to think she was kind of a bitch. His aunt would smack him for that, but Joshua was sure that she would say the same if she could see the way Miranda was acting without any apparent reason for it.
Joshua was standing there and mulling over what he was going to say to Bianca, and what he could say to spark up conversation, when Ian chirped up with a line that was about as close to 'classic Ian' as he could get. He picked a subject and threw it in to awkward silences like a grenade, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. It was his not so subtle way of saying "So, how about them current events?" Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't, but it was a shot in the arm that this little gathering needed. Bianca came in with a word or two on topic, but Joshua could feel the tension in the air as Miranda was glaring at Arthur, and for a moment he imagined Arthur as poor Milton from Office Space. He felt for the guy, he really did, and he was happy when Miranda was distracted by the newly started conversation about sports. She made herself look a fool, but Joshua just smiled and picked up on Bianca's question. "I don't follow it professionally as much as I should, but I do play Soccer. I followed it for a while, but no one ever seems too interested in carrying on a conversation about recent soccer games half the world away. At least not until the world cup rolls around," he said with a laugh at the end, and that smile that seemed to follow just about everything he said. "Besides, I like to play it instead of talking about it."
Miranda's attempt at confrontation and subsequent phone call cut off any further conversation, and as she answered it and talked to whoever it was on the other end of the line, Joshua's opinion about her was pretty well cemented. He thought she was a bitch, through and through. It may have been circumstance, but the way she was acting, and the way she had been staring at Arthur, and the added rudeness of answering her phone and not excusing herself but rather standing there and carrying on her conversation as if they didn't exist, it all added up to make Joshua think she was a bitch. Even his aunt wouldn't smack him this time. He was sure of it. But he didn't show it, not as long as she was around. So as she talked and finally hung up, and made a snippy remark directed at Arthur before leaving, Joshua just smiled. But the moment she was gone, it faded and was quickly replaced by the closest thing to a scowl that Joshua could manage.
He felt for Arthur, he really did. To him, Arthur was like Milton. To him, Arthur was a lot like any number of friends he's had, and pretty much exactly like Joshua was in middle school. Socially awkward, not sure of what to do or say in most situations, and never really knowing if it was the right thing to say or not when he finally works up the courage to speak. Joshua knew what it felt to be that guy, so his heart went out to Arthur. When Arthur offered up his feeble defense, Joshua really just wanted to pat the guy on the back and tell him it was okay, but he knew that wasn't going to help much. He knew how it felt to fuck up like that, and how much he ended up fretting over it afterward. Being told everything was going to be alright almost never made him feel better, and he doubted it would do much for Arthur either, but Joshua still felt bad about not saying it. He tried to think about what he would be worrying about in Arthur's situation, and he realized that the biggest concern was what Miranda had last said to him, that remark about seeing him in school.
Of all the things that Joshua dreaded happening when he was younger, it was someone spreading rumors about him in school and fucking up any possible relationships, friendly or otherwise. Just the possibility that someone could be talking about him behind his back had been horrible. He knew Arthur must be feeling the same way and racked his brain trying to come up with something to say, anything that could alleviate that slowly building panic that settles in the hollow pit opening up in his stomach. As the moment slowly passed by, Joshua realized that the best thing he could do was mention himself. Not just himself, either. The best thing he could do was mention the three other people standing around Arthur. Thinking about whether or not Bianca and Ian would be agreeing with him distracted Joshua. His thoughts drifted in Bianca's direction, and the comment she made before Miranda left, the one about coffee. He resolved to say something to her after he did what he could for Arthur, and forced his thoughts back to the subject at hand.
"Hey man, don't worry. You've got the three of us to bear witness if she says anything in school. We know you're not a creeper, and I think more people will believe us over her. Try not to worry too much. I'll personally vouch for you if anything is said. And between us, I highly doubt that is the first time she's ever been 'photographed'," and he put emphasis on the word photographed, a slight inflection added to the word to make up for the lack of air quotes, but he doesn't pause his short and fast monologue. "No offense or anything, Bianca, but Miranda is kind of... how to put it," he said, pausing to come up with something that was both insulting, and not insulting, and failing miserably at finding a compromise. Eventually, he gives up trying to find something, and settles for the description that he came up with after listening to her make her best confrontational tones and doing her best to stare daggers into Arthur. "She's a bitch, honestly. I've heard some of the things she says about people around school, her and the rest of those girls she hangs with, and I really think she's just a bitch. Sorry if I offend anyone, but that's just what it comes down to with me."
He took a breath at the end of his little monologue, and realized that he probably said a lot more than he should have. He realized that Bianca may very well have been closer to Miranda than he thought, and that every word he just said could make it back to her ears, but in the end he comes to the conclusion that he doesn't really care. After the way she handled that situation, and the way she acts in school, hanging out with her 'popular' friends, he just doesn't think he can see her as anything but a bitch. But given how Miranda just left Bianca behind without so much as a proper goodbye, he doubted they were very close. He even thought for a moment that Bianca may feel the exact same way. But then he realized that he was scowling at where Miranda had only just been standing, and he tried to put on his friendly demeanor again, despite the fact that it felt a little forced at the moment. He smiled at the group, and took a page out of Ian's book, and did what he could to change the subject, opening his mouth to say something only to realize that he didn't have anything prepared to say.
He tried to come up with something to say at the last second, but nothing substantial was coming to him. The best thing that he could come up with was to bastardize Ian's playbook and literally burst out with "So, how about them current events?", and he knew that was simply unacceptable. So he tried to find something else, something better, and the only thing that came to mind was Bianca's comment about coffee. He had been thinking about asking Bianca out, and that was the only thing that came to mind as he frantically tried to find something, so he abandoned any other thought and focused in on that one thing. The only thing he could think about. Coffee. "So, how about that coffee?"
It was an awkward question and he asked it at an awkward time, and he realized it a moment later. But it bought him a little time to catch his thoughts and organize himself once again. He worked out what he was going to say, and flashed that smile of his once again, trying to dissipate any lingering awkwardness and tension. He knew he went a little far with what he said, so he tried to make up for it. It was probably a bad time to ask just Bianca to coffee, so he figured that he would extend the invitation to everyone. "Well, what I mean is, how would you all like to go get breakfast? I know a place nearby, it's got really good coffee and amazing omelets. My treat, if you guys are up for it," he said, and flashed that smile of his again. That ever present smile.
Boy #??? - Joshua Edwards
Hanging out somewhere, playing his heart out.
Writer and local retail slave at the comic book store.
Girl #??? - Viktoriya "Vika" Starikova
Floating in the void, unfinished and half-formed.
Hot headed member of the soft ball team, secretly wishing she could fly.
- [+] Spoiler
- Boy #14 - Alex P. White
Where he started, and where he finished.
Tried his best and tried too hard, and fucked up royally at every turn.
Boy #61 - William M. Hearst
Where he began, and where he ended.
Did what he could and tried to do more, but ran out of time.
Girl #48 - Kaitlin Anderheim
Where she was, and where she went.
Found her strength and her will to live, and survived despite it all.
Girl #101 - Sofia I. Martelli
Where she rose, and where she fell.
Started out angry and alone, but died on her own terms, in love.