he morning was calm. Not a cloud littered the ground with shadows, and only a light wind escorted the leaves through the street.
Tommy rode his bike through the swathes of leaves left behind the storm, dispersing them.
He was on his way to the coffee shop to meet his friends. It was a weekday routine they had all agreed on a little over a year ago. Since three out of their group of seven worked at Geil’s, it was convenient, and usually a good start to what always seemed like such a long day. The shop itself was placed in a pretty part of town anyway, and only a few blocks from Geil’s, making it one of the best hang-out spots for the group.
Thomas very much enjoyed sitting near a window and looking out. Even on overcast days, the town was so peaceful it was hard to feel depressed. The little town square that the coffee shop sat in was always filled with people, and Thomas could name nearly all of them. Having lived in this town his whole life, he’d gotten to know very many of the residents, and since few people came or went, they all knew him as well. It was all very comfortable and relaxing to him.
He could remember one time, while he was in elementary school, a few older boys tried to rob him of his Gameboy on his walk home. He had been terrified and unsure what to do. He’d never had a problem with bullies (at least at this age), and though he’d seen and heard many conversations having to do with solving the issue, he’d never experienced it first-hand. So he ran. He ran all the way into town, all the while followed by the relentless boys, whom he soon realized weren’t really after his Gameboy at all, just fresh meat to grind.
He ran into Juno’s, a popular deli where everyone knew him, and pleaded to the employees to help him.
They ended up intercepting the boys on the sidewalk outside and calling their parents, who arrived a few minutes later, red-faced and angry.
He never had any issue with those boys again, or any other real bullies since. He merely dealt with the periodic mocking of fellow guys and a few girls who found him to be ‘too nice’ or ‘soft’. Those comments he just rubbed off. He didn’t care what they thought about him. And they were so few anyway.
When he arrived at the coffee shop, Taylor was already there, accompanied by his ‘not-girlfriend’, Sierra, and Cruise’s girlfriend, Olivia.
Cruise and Sierra’s brother were no where to be found.
“Hello,” Thomas said casually as he pushed his bike into the rack on the sidewalk. His friends had chosen an outdoor table this time, shaded by a lush tree and lined with a few bushes in front.
“Hey.” Taylor scratched his head, fixed his hair. Sierra was sitting right next to him. He was hoping he looked decent. He hardly brushed his hair this morning. He woke up late, hardly had time to brush his teeth before he had to jam.
Such a dumbass, he thought, inwardly slapping his forehead. Of course, the day Sierra decides to sit next to him he has to make such a screw-up.
Thomas smiled, reading his best friend like a book. He always thought it was funny how awkward Taylor was around Sierra, not in a jerky way, but in a, hey, I’m your best friend, I have to bug you, kind of way.
Taylor had never even had a girlfriend, so of course he didn’t know how to act. He had short blonde hair that stuck up like he slept in hair gel all night, and dark brown eyes that always seemed to look rather vacant. Accompanied with the fact that he was scrawny and slightly seemed to resemble an emaciated dog, or maybe even an insect, he wasn’t too attractive to girls. He knew he wasn’t very attractive, too, and so he mainly kept to himself, and avoided most girls all together.
Thomas was kind of the same way, though certainly not unattractive. And he didn’t try to avoid girls, really. Taylor was even awkward around female customers at Geil’s, whereas Thomas had no problems talking to the opposite sex. He just had no idea how to ask a girl out. Besides that, he’d never really found anyone special. Sierra was sweet, and funny, but he wasn’t wanting a romantic relationship with her. He known her for too long, it would almost seem awkward if they were to date. Besides, he still wanted to see if Taylor would ever find the balls to ask her out.
He sat down across from Sierra, diagonal from both Taylor and Olivia.
“What was up with the wind last night?” Olivia asked the moment he sat down. He had forgotten about it nearly all morning until she brought it up.
“That was weird, wasn’t it?” Taylor answered. “It was perfect out all day until then.”
“It pushed me off my bike,” Thomas told them.
Sierra gave him an amazed look. “I know, right? The tree in my backyard? That huge branch that points out toward the mountains, it broke right off! Smashed our lawn-mower. Good thing I guess, my dad didn’t really want to fix it, but damn!” She shook her head. “That branch was about as big around as Cruise and it looked like it just snapped like a twig.”
“That was crazy scary last night,” said Olivia.
“You don’t think there’s going to be a tornado or something?” asked Taylor. Sierra looked at him skeptically.
“If there would have been a tornado it would have been last night. And today is beautiful. There’s hardly any wind, just a breeze.”
“That’s what it was like yesterday, too!” Taylor argued, then shut his mouth. He couldn’t argue with Sierra, couldn’t risk deterring her from him. She was the only girl (besides Olivia) that would ever hang out with him. But he knew his statement spoke the truth.
“Yeah, I know…It’s just very unlikely.”
Olivia smiled at someone over Thomas’ shoulder. He turned to see Cruise pulling up his old ‘76 Jaguar. The thing ran like piece of crap, spitting out smoke from the exhaust and stalling every so often, but Cruise had to keep it. It’s a Jaguar, dude, he’d say. Besides, I’ll get it fixed one of these days. It had been about two years since that statement.
He slammed the door shut and started up the sidewalk toward their table, winking at his girlfriend and shooting a brief smile at the rest of them.
“’Sup Tom Cruise.” Taylor smirked.
“Shut up, stickbug,” Cruise retorted. It seemed rude, but stickbug was actually a somewhat affectionate name for Taylor, coming from Cruise. They had grown up next door to each other for years before Cruise’s house got burned down by vandals; a rarity in Riverside.
Cruise had nearly black hair and brown-grey eyes, just like the actor with the same name (and yes, Cruise’s first name was Tom. He preferred be called ‘Cruise’ because the name wasn’t common, and for Thomas’ sake), but a build slightly larger. He worked out at the local gym at least three times a week after work, which gave him a status among peers as ‘popular’, though most people knew he was an ass. Popular kids just don’t care, as long as you’re ‘cool’, which Cruise apparently was.
Thomas often wondered why Cruise hung out with them. Taylor he could somewhat understand, having lived next to each other and played around a bunch as kids, but other than that it was strange. He assumed it was because Olivia liked them, but even that was strange, because she was one of the ‘popular’ kids in high school as well. ‘Populars’ didn’t hang out with people like Taylor, or Sierra, or even Thomas. Thomas had relatively level status in high school, Taylor a bit below, and Sierra a little popular, even somewhat well known for her skills in art. But there was no real reason as to why Olivia chose them to hang out with.
Maybe she was actually smart and realized how boring the popular kids can be. Maybe she secretly made fun of them behind their backs. Maybe it was just a combination between Cruise’s friendship with Taylor and Olivia’s fondness for Cruise.
Olivia smiled lovingly at her boyfriend of three years. “Hey. We were just talking about the wind last night.”
“Crazy shit,” he answered. “I woke up and my Jag was completely covered in leaves and shit.”
“Probably where it belongs, bro,” Taylor said to him.
“Fuck you, stickbug. She’s beautiful.” He turned to Olivia. “Like my other girl.”
Thomas rolled his eyes as they kissed. They never seemed to get the message that PDA among their friend group wasn’t very welcome. It was just awkward.
“Where’s Freddie?” Thomas asked Sierra as soon as the make-out session was over.
“At home. Says he’s sick.”
Freddie was Sierra’s hypochondriac brother. He always thought he had some kind of disease or severe illness that would somehow kill him or make him so debilitated that he’d wish he would have died. Even when he had a minor cold or flu bug, he’d ask to see a doctor to make sure it wasn’t a prelude for something more deadly. He happened to be very well known at Riverside Hospital for that reason.
“Uh oh,” Thomas muttered.
“Yup. He found a tick in his hair last night. Says he’s absolutely sure he has Lyme disease. Drove him crazy when mom said she wouldn’t take him to the hospital.”
“I’m surprised he hasn’t walked there already.”