"No, I'm telling you, that isn't how it works. First you take the idea and then you write out an outline," began Kyle as he slid his coffee out of the way so he could lean onto the table. "Afterwards, you put it into a story. It's all about the flow."
"But the problem is more than just that. You're talking about getting this thing going, but you're only focused on the writing." It sounded like Adam was getting irked with Kyle, though it remained a bit placid. Knowing these two, it could easily escalade.
"The hardest part is writing it out so it can be made!" argued Kyle, sitting back in an aggravated flourish, sighing heavily, as if he made perfect sense but the person he was talking to was as dense as a rock.
"Uh, sure," Adam demurred. He looked up at me as I came walking over, pursing his lips.
I smirked; and then looking at Kyle with what I knew was a glimmer in my eyes, I said in the form of a question, "Really? We're going down this road again?"
Kyle looked sharply over his shoulder at me, making a sound to get my attention while his mouth was full of coffee.
I countered him before he could finish swallowing his drink. "Hey, bro, just wait. I haven't had my coffee yet."
"It's four in the afternoon!" he whined.
Adam laughed and reached over, ruffling the younger man's hair. "It's okay, princess. He'll be back."
I went inside the coffeeshop and stood in line. I saw a pair of women standing at the condiment counter, talking. When we made eye-contact, I said, "Ladies."
"Don't smile that way at me, boy, or I might be inclined to knock that look off your face," Amber said coquettishly.
"Into what, I wonder?" I mused aloud.
The wisp of a girl standing next to Amber rolled her eyes, letting out an exasperated sigh. "Really, you two. You'd think you were dating."
"Not dating," began Amber, half-smiling in a way that didn't necessarily reach her eyes.
"More of a Mating Ritual," I chimed in.
"If you tell us to get a room again, Jolene, I'm going to drag you along to watch."
Amber choked back a snort as she went to take a drink of her coffee.
Jolene didn't necessarily gasp, but the look she gave me was good enough. "I swear, you act like you're a kid."
"Coming from the girl who's wearing her plastic tiara," muttered Amber to me as she walked by me, a few steps behind Jolene.
"Step right up, hurry, hurry!" said the barista like a barker for the circus. "The show won't last forever!"
I headed over to the table outside after getting a cup of coffee. Phones, packs of cigarettes, books, bags, and cups of caffeinated enjoyment littered the table top and around it. The group was now five strong, though Jolene was kind of sitting back, perusing her phone in silence. Adam and Kyle were still going at it—or at least Kyle was still talking to Adam who wasn't really paying attention.
"No dice, huh, Adam?" I asked.
He flipped me off.
Kyle leaned forward and wagged his finger at me as if he were lecturing me. "So, I've got it all worked out and I think this one'll sell."
I made a noncommittal sound as I took a seat. I leaned one way to take my phone out of its pouch and place it on the table; I leaned the other to remove my cigarettes and zippo.
The lithe man, who in his early twenties was one of the youngest of the group, slid a notepad over to me as he began speaking rapidly to which I only caught part of and lost all interest in within seconds. I looked over what he had given me, because there was no way around it. Even while I was reading it, he wouldn't leave me alone. He kept up a flowing commentary on his ideas for the storyline and how it would be made, but, like Adam had tried to tell him, there was nothing about how he was going to try to get it all put into action.
I told him that, but he didn't seem to be listening. Ah, well, it can go onto the shelf with all the other ideas he had had without ever really trying to get it done.
I slid it over to Jolene, "Here you go, doll. I think you'll enjoy this."
She gave me a scalding look. "I hate that, Leon, you know that."
"I know, that's why I do it. You're really very sweet, but so sweet, it hurts my teeth. So I have to be mean to counterbalance your overwhelming loveliness."
She looked at me firmly, but I could see that the compliment was working its way inside. She took the notepad without another word.
"Oi, chica! What's shakin', li'l miss?" I cried out.
She was talking with Adam quietly, joking around by the looks of it. They both looked over at me kind of blankly.
"What?" she asked.
I shrugged. "I dunno. Just didn't want you guys to hog the entertainment, whoever's the giver."
"You're doing a good enough job on your own," Adam said. He then looked over my shoulder and raised a hand. "Yo, Jake. What's up, man?"
A burly guy came walking up, kind of a contrast in everything he was. He was a big guy, but he wasn't fat by any means. I honestly believed he had more muscles in his barrel-shaped torso than I did on my entire body. His voice was always kind of subdued, but never weak, just a kind of quiet.
"Hey," he said, setting his stuff down, already carrying an Amp with him. "I swear, you'd think that work would get easier as you get older."
"Wait until you hit our age," said Adam with a smirk.
Amber groaned, "Don't remind us."
"No shit. I just started feeling like I was twenty-five again. Now that the curtain of disillusionment has been torn away, I just want to thank you."
There was this quaking in Jake's chest as he held in his laugh. He shook his head at me and grinned.
I quickly tossed my eyes at Jolene. "So, how about you, feeling old?"
Adam kind of blinked and watched her hand the pad of paper back over to Kyle. "Wait, how old are you anyway, Jo? I don't think we ever found out."
"And you won't," chipped in Kyle as he went back to work on fleshing out his story.
Jolene smiled benignly, but it was obvious that she had that secret buried deep.
"We could always take her license," chipped in Adam.
I barked out with an over-exaggerated laugh. "Ha! Let's go for it."
"She won't like that," murmured Jake.
A bemused, incredulous expression flitted onto Jolene's face as she looked at Amber. "I wonder why these boys never realize that I'm sitting right here!"
Amber smirked and shrugged. "Boys'll be boys," she said.
"They do realize that we won't answer them, don't they?" inquired Jolene.
"Hey, I heard that," I said, while still listening to Adam and Jake discussing the validity of hijacking Jolene's ID.
The idea was starting to spread like an infection. Us boys took it on ourselves to come up with the most ludicrous ways to accomplish our goal of finding out Jolene's age, which ended with all of us agreeing that we had to go to the Super Secret Ninja Base that was hidden beneath the pet food section in Target across the street. But then we couldn't agree on if there was failsafe exit located in Ben & Jerry's freezer or beneath the oven of Quizno's. Sadly, the latter option caused a riotous argument of whether the entrance was under or in the oven itself.
It was at this point that I looked up and saw Michelle coming over from the coffeeshop with her mocha in hand. And that was when inspiration hit me. "Hey, Chelle, you know how old Jo is?"
All the men, as one, turned their heads and stared longingly at Michelle. She was about the same age as Kyle and looked about five years younger. "Uh, yeah."
Silence broke out. After a moment of dead air, Adam asked, "Can you tell us?"
Kyle mouthed the word as Michelle answered, "Nope."
I rolled my eyes. "You, my dear, as about as helpful as a bag of rocks."
"Depends on what the rocks are going to be used for," retorted Jake.
With a blank look, I just stared at him with an open mouth, but no words would come.
"Yes?" he asked me innocently.
I flicked an unlit cigarette at him.
"Thanks," he said cheerfully and this caused me sigh heavily.
And then suddenly, Kyle had had enough. He barked out, "Dammit!" Everyone looked at him. "I swear it's going to be easier to plot world domination than getting her age."
"But we don't have enough ferrets," I muttered dejectedly.
Amber blinked at me, but Jolene and Michelle laughed. I don't think they got it, but the audacity of such an idea was enough to get them going.
I sat back and pulled another cigarette out of my pack, grumbling to myself, as if piqued.
Michael and Jason walked by, pausing long enough to grab Jake. Everyone greeted the two, but it was a quick affair. The three mentioned something about a project they were working on and began walking away. Kyle was sulking as he watched them leave.
"You should just ask them if you can work on one with them," Amber said, tucking her dark hair behind her ear.
He grunted and I got up to get another cup of coffee. "Be back. Anyone want a refill?"
Amber held up her cup and wiggled it. "You know how I like it."
With as innocently a look as I could muster—since I was far from innocent and the concept has been lost on me for far too long—I questioned, "Black and murky?"
"No, that's your preference," she countered.
"Ah," I said, nodding sagaciously.
"Oh, you know you'll find a good, sweet woman, Leon," said Jolene as she returned to her conversation with Kyle.
Adam laughed. "Yeah, right. When a woman can cut diamonds with her tongue, that's when he'll fall for her."
Feigning wounded pride, I placed my free hand over my heart. "Ouch," I said. "That cut deep."
"You going to get my coffee, or what?" she asked.
"What," muttered Kyle.
I took her cup and looked over at Jolene and Michelle, then to Kyle and Adam. "Anyone else?"
They responded in the negative either vocally or with shakes of their heads. Looking down at Amber, I stated, "And actually it's black coffee, little bit of cream—"
She rolled her eyes. "Leave your Adams kick at home."
I left them to their own devices, which is saying a lot, because depending on their mood, they would, honestly, wreak enough havoc to cause the National Guard to be called in. It was times like that that I wished I was there, because that's where the real fun was.
By the time I got back outside, I realized—though I probably always knew—that the sun was starting to set behind the buildings, casting shadows over the place. It was the kind of thing that we really never noticed, unless we had somewhere else to be.
The party had already started to break up—or would it be down? Things had seemed to mellow down, and I was wondering, not for the first time, whether or not I was going to stick around with it. While I enjoyed the atmosphere, it was when things began to get personal that I chose to take my leave.
I handed Amber her coffee and walked around the table, patting Adam firmly on the back once before going to my own seat. I looked to the others and watched them. I guess there was a point where I unconsciously made the decision to wait it out. And it was a good thing I did, too, because—as Jolene and Michelle decided to for a walk before things got too far out of hand—Kyle came up with this idea to convince the barista to give us free coffee while finagling him to hook everyone up with one of his hot, slutty friends—even the girls.
The thing was that Amber was more salacious about the whole thing than anyone—excluding myself—else was. It was at that moment that plans began to hatch to raise some hell, and if it involved make fools of ourselves…well, whatever worked for a laugh.