In Comes the Nine

A boy enters, his face a little haunted, his hair long and dark. It brushes at the bottoms of his ears without managing to look scruffy. Behind him is another person, this one’s skin darker than the previous one’s, his hair short, cropped to his head. 

“Ran into Benji on the way here,” The dark-haired student offers by way of explanation of the other teen’s presence.

“Joseph will be here in a minute,” The other newcomer contributes.

Roxanne rolls her eyes. “Honestly, you two. Is it possible to invite one of you without having the entire gang come along too?” She looks condescending, and one of them ducks his head, looking a bit sorry.

The redhead scoffs and gestures for them to come over. “Quinn, this is Benjamin, but most people call him Benji-” she pointed at the teenager with the cropped hair, “- and Erik-” this time the Finger of Doom was in the direction of the darker-haired one. “- and apparently Joseph will be arriving here soon too, which means that Yvonne, Richard, Dave, Jimmy, Teddy, and Sam will be here too.” Roxanne sighed. “Well, get ready to meet the lot of them. They can be a bit of a handful, but just be firm and they’ll usually back off.”

Quinn managed to nod their head.

The two boys pushed the neighbouring tables until they were connected with the one holding Roxanne and Quinn, Erik sliding in next to the redhead and Benji coming over to sit next to Quinn. The three of them started chatting quietly, the student amid them still a little stunned.

Soon, an average-looking, unimposing guy found his way in, coming over to their table to seat himself. 

“I’m Joseph Blandt, and you must be Quinn Alexander. Nice to meet you.” He said in a mild tone, offering up a nod to Roxanne and quietly insinuating himself into the conversation between the two other males, Benji lighting up when he spotted Joseph.

Erik turned to Quinn. “So, what brought you to the little town of Blackbird, Coulton?” He asked.

“Um, my dad’s here. The deputy?” When Erik nodded in recognition, they continued, “It’s nice here, I guess, but it takes some getting used to. One of the firemen said hi to me the other day while I was grocery shopping, and I didn’t even know the guy. Everyone’s unnervingly friendly. Oh, hey, somebody told me to watch out for Stigma. Do you know what that is?” They asked, cocking their head. 

Erik’s eyes darkened, but before he could answer, a group burst through the door, Dani tutting at the inordinate amount of noise they were making. Only one of them was a girl - Quinn supposed that must be Yvonne. 

“Hey!” One shouted out, his blond hair standing out. Another muttered “Stop it Jimmy, you’re making the rest of us look bad.” 

They banged into one another and several chairs, but managed to make their way over to Quinn’s cluster of tables. Roxanne regarded the crowd with a cool gaze, but cracked a tiny smile when Yvonne came over, the strawberry-blonde grinning at her and pulling up a chair next to her, pecking her on the cheek and saying “Hi, babe.”

Benji rolled his eyes and turned to Quinn, forgoing his debate with Joseph for the moment. “Quinn, this is Jimmy-” the blond who had yelled out earlier “and Sam.” he pointed at a unathletic teen with messy brown hair. Upon closer inspection, he looked almost like-

“I’m Sam, as you already know.” the student cocked a grin. “Genderfluid. I don’t suppose you’ll have a problem with that, you being genderneutral and all, but i figure i should get that out there.   Generally I’m okay with ‘he’. Born female, but unless you see me in distinctly feminine clothes, please avoid ‘she’. Anyways, it’s been a pleasure.” His expression turned playful, and another of the new people leaned over and whispered something in his ear. He laughed and knocked them with his shoulder. 

“Alright.” Quinn tried to push down the rising anxiety about all these new teenagers suddenly surrounding them. Roxanne leaned over, and said “Just a piece of advice, Quinn: Dave, Joseph, and Teddy are the friendliest of us. Joseph’ll take a while, though. Richard’s a bit… boisterous, though. But the rest of them? A little more prickly then you’re used to, probably.” She glanced vaguely at the group of mostly-boys and then leaned back, extending her arm to throw it over Yvonne’s shoulders. 

Benji looked slightly annoyed about all of the interruptions. “Anyways, this is Dave-” he pointed at a dirty-blond with sunglasses on “- and Teddy-” the brunette with the eyebrow piercing gave a friendly smile “and finally, this is-”

A dark haired boy also wearing sunglasses barged in on the introduction. “I’m Richard. Most people go for Rick. Nice to meet you.” Pausing momentarily, he peered over the sunglasses. “Say, you’re cute.”

Benji rolled his eyes for what must have been the eighteenth-million time in the last two hours. “Ricky here is bisexual, if you couldn’t tell. He’s flirted with everything that has legs in this town. You’ll get used to it. Besides, you’ve got Lucas.”

Quinn’s eyes widened into saucers. “Wait, no-” they spluttered “Me and Lucas, we aren’t-” they tried to deny the implication. 

Dani had migrated over, and she just leaned towards the student, patting them on the shoulder. “Just give up, honey.” The barista slung her tea towel over her shoulder. “Alright, you bunch of idiots. Don’t destroy my fine establishment and I’ll let you stay. I’ve got to get back to the counter - Adam baked me some more cookies and I’ve got the munchies.”

Quinn just looked bewildered at the group of nine that had converged around them. 

The End

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