As reward to myself for dutifully slaughtering all of my weekend homework in a single, three-hour sitting, I called over Perry, and instead of playing Anarchy, we decided to spend our Friday catching up on the newest episode of BBC’s Sherlock, which had been long in the rafters, awaiting completion. We started it twice, but had to stop for reasons unrelated to the show. Once it was because Serah had pulled away Perry, the other was thanks to my internet gloriously turning into a potato and deciding to crap out for the rest of the evening. Hopefully, neither of those were destined to be problems this time around.
As is most appropriate for such occasions, we made up some pizzas, because the best compliment to extended television-viewing is clogged arteries. About half-way through the episode, there was a knock at my bedroom door. I paused the show and beckoned entrance.
My dad opened the door, “Am I interrupting anything?”
“Nope. What’s up?”
“Oh, hello Perry. So you are here. I thought that was your car across the street.”
“Good evening, Joe.”
“Do either of you guys know a couple of girls named Serah and Jasmine?”
We collectively sighed, “Yes,” I dragged the word across nails and tacks, “What does she want?”
“I don’t know,” dad shrugged, “They’re at the front door asking for you.”
Perry took to full stature, some of his pudginess bouncing, “Hold on. I’ll be back in a second.” Perry shimmied past my dad and started down the stairs to our front door.
“They’re cute,” dad said.
Predictable father thing to say. “I know. One of them is Perry’s girlfriend. The Vietnamese one.”
“Are you kidding?” He reeled, and I wondered what exactly was crossing his mind to make him jerk back with such fervor.
“Huh. How about that.”
Perry returned with Serah and Jasmine at his back. Jasmine was one of our schoolmates. Perry and I had little actual interaction with her, but she spent a decent amount of time with Serah, so some encounters were unavoidable. She wasn’t particularly pleasant to be around. Not as accepting of nerd culture as Serah had been.
“I thought you said you were going to take care of it?” I said, annoyed that we might not finish this episode yet again.
Perry’s brow tented, “I never once spoke anything like that. I said ‘Hold on. I’ll be back in a second.’ No allusion to me kicking them off the premises or exiling them to another kingdom.”
My dad took the liberty of removing himself from a situation he knew he didn’t belong in, which I appreciated. Not that I wanted to exclude him, but what could he contribute at this moment other than an awkward presence?
“So what do you want?” I snapped, slightly peeved.
“Okay, firstly,” Perry cut in, “I know you guys roast each other all the time. That’s fine. In fact, I encourage that, as it’s great entertainment. But Joel, please watch the tone. She’s just stopping by for a bit.”
A sweep of indignation lit up my chest like a Christmas tree, but turned to ash in the next breath, “Sorry.” I said, tingling at the wash of sudden humility. “How can we help you?”
“Oh my goodness, it can learn!” Serah said.
I thrust out my hands like a bridge to guide the bullet train of See-She’s-Mean-Too-Look-Look! right at Serah’s face. Perry turned and gave her an expression, “Really? I was trying to make this a good moment. You couldn’t have saved the comeback for at least thirty seconds?”
This time it was Serah’s turn to look humbled, and I’ll admit, a human part of my heart enjoyed it.
She sighed. “Okay. Sorry, Joel. We have thirty seconds and then everything is fair game.”
“You’re not playing Anarchy?” Serah asked, “Even with the tournament tomorrow morning?”
Perry sat down on the futon (yes, I had one in my room) and started tugging free another slice of his hamburger pizza, “Nah. We’ve been playing all week. Rest is important, too.”
“What are you ladies up to this evening?” I asked again, the still bitter part of me noting it to be the third time I’d asked a question of this nature.
Serah bounced to a rhythm alive only inside her head, “Karaoke at Carmen’s.”
I did not know this Carmen person, but was willing to bet she wasn’t very good at singing. At least, not as good as Serah. “Nice.” I was acutely aware that Jasmine was estranged in my room, trapped in a conversation with people she didn’t like or even know. Sudden curiosity as to the natural odor of my room also began to plague me. Not often did girls breach the doorway to my living quarters. I showered daily and kept things tidy, so it shouldn’t be too bad. Right?
“Your place was along the way, so I decided we’d stop by for a minute to see how practice was going, but instead you’re doing what? Watchin– Oh my god, Benedict Cumberbatch!” Serah disregarded all social protocols and thrust her entirety towards my television, stuck on a still of Sherlock himself, played by the talented mister Cumberbatch. She was practically, no wait, literally hugging my screen.
“Marry me, Benedict,” she said, purring, “You suave, gorgeous hunk of man.”
I was waiting for her to actually kiss my television screen. Thankfully, she never did.
“I love you too, hon,” Perry said, taking a bite of pizza.
“You’re allowed to be jealous.”
Perry smiled, “That’s alright, as long as you understand you have no chance against Demi Lovato.”
“Really?” I pursed my lips and sat back in my chair, “Demi Lovato?”
Sacrificing the hand which was supporting the tip of his pizza, Perry thrust an indignant finger in my direction, “You have no room to talk, sir. Need I bring up your closet crush on Paramore’s Hayley Williams? Or T-Swift before that? Or, oh, who was the one before Taylor – OH YEAH, Misty from Pokemon.”
My dad’s laugh could be heard from downstairs. A flash of red went through my cheeks as both of the girls and Perry turned to look out the hallway of my door, following the noise.
With the scraps of my dignity, I tried to compose myself, “Hey now, that was a long time ago. And you liked Misty too, don’t give me that crap.”
If Jasmine had felt out-of-place before, now she’d become lost in enemy territory, which also happened to be as disquieting and bizarre as Alice’s Wonderland. Discomfort crept through her face and I couldn’t help but notice the nervousness in how she kept crossing and uncrossing her arms. Poor girl. She’d underestimated us.
“Awww,” Serah pulled herself away from Sherlock and bit her tongue lightly through a smile, much like a child with a joyful secret, “You liked Misty, Pear? That’s adorable.”
Perry stopped chewing mid-bite, “Um, okay.”
Serah walked by and rustled Perry’s tangled mop of hair, “So you wanna be the very best, too? Just like all of the Pokemon trainers?”
Oh, great. I knew where this was going.
“Wait,” Perry’s eyes widened, “Don’t-”
Serah bolted down into a flaring stance, craning her voice into the sky, “I WANNA BE THE VERY BEST, LIKE NO ONE EVER WAS!”
She was getting louder and though I’m relatively immune to embarrassment, the horror in Jasmine’s eyes told me we’d breached some sort of social wall. I started to cringe.
“TO CATCH THEM IS MY REAL TEST! TO TRAIN THEM IS MY CAUU-AH!” I launched from my chair and throttled Serah in the back, ushering her towards the door and cutting off the song.
“What?” Serah grinned over her shoulder, “Am I embarrassing you guys?”
“No,” I pushed harder and she leaned against my force, “You’re embarrassing yourself,” I looked at Jasmine, “I’m sorry she’s your friend.”
Jasmine was still in shock when Serah freed herself from my expulsion and playfully glared at me, “Uh, rude.”
“At least you aren’t stuck with her,” Perry said as though the floor was his only audience. It was meant to be heard, though, and I grinned at the indignation of Serah’s curling lip.
“Hon, I hope you die tomorrow,” Serah said as she stepped out of the door, Jasmine skirting around us slowly.
“You’re the best. Love you,” Perry lifted a soda can to her in respect and took a swig.
“I can’t believe we’re somehow all friends,” I said, “Thanks for coming over guys, have fun at karaoke.” I smiled a true smile and closed the door on them.