"Are we there yet?"
"Barry." I glanced over at the blonde-haired boy sitting beside me, his arms crossed with a painfully bored expression on his face. "It's been approximately two minutes since you last asked me. We still have another hour and a half to go. Asking, 'are we there yet' every two seconds isn't going to make the bus go any faster. It's the theory of relativity, Barry."
He didn't look very happy with my response; sitting up more in his seat, he grasped the head of the chair in front of him and stared up at the bus driver. The look of pure disgust on that boy's face was enough to send a shiver down my spine. "If that bus driver doesn't go faster, I'm going to fine him a mill—"
"Barry," I repeated, and my friend pouted, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms again. He put his knees up against the middle of the seat in front of him, wiggling his feet as fast as they could go. All I could do was smile weakly at him, hoping that he could find something to amuse himself with for the rest of the ride. But clearly this wouldn't be happening.
I sighed, reaching into my bag and pulling out a deck of cards. It had been brought to this. He stared at them, watching me as I took the deck out of its box and began to shuffle it. Putting his knees down, he sat up a little bit, evidently more amused now than before.
I loved the kid. I really did. He had a very genuine personality, and though he couldn't sit still and usually refused to, I admired that about him. Reliable in the times when I really needed him, he was always there to give me a boost just when I needed one most. He was my best friend; however much I loved him more than that, so long as he was with me, I could hold off my feelings for him. Being with him, just as friends or otherwise, was perfect for me.
"The name of the game is 'James Bond'," I told him, putting down the tray in front of me as a surface for our cards. Barry followed suit, putting his own tray down, and I passed the cards out. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. I passed out six piles of four between the two of us, and then I placed the remaining four cards in the middle of our piles, spread out and face down. Barry looked very curious, and I smiled.
"It's a fast paced game. You need to be really quick." I winked at him, a tiny blush rising to his cheeks; I felt my own face heat up with his. "Okay, so here's how you play: you have six piles here. Keep them all face down. You can look at one pile at a time, but you can pick up whatever pile you want. If you don't see any moves for that pile, you can put that one down and pick up a different pile. Just make sure you only look at one at a time."
He nodded, his face determined now. "Got it."
"Good. So, what you want to do is get four of a kind in a pile. So, for example, if you have two Kings in one pile, you'd probably want to go for the other two Kings. Understand?" It was a complex game to get at first, but Barry looked like he understood just fine. "Once you get four of a kind in a pile, you can turn your pile face up. The objective is to get all six piles face up. Whoever does so first needs to shout, 'James Bond', and then they win."
Barry grinned now, ready to play. But as he looked at the four cards in the middle, he raised an eyebrow, the grin dropping off of his face. "And what about the cards in the middle? What do you do with those ones?"
"Oh!" I laughed, rubbing the back of my head and fixing my hat. "Sorry. Those are the cards you use to exchange the cards in your piles. Those cards will be face up when the game starts. You can pick up as many of those cards as you want, but you need to discard a card from your pile for every card that you pick up. There always needs to be four cards in the center." I paused. "I think that's it for rules. Want to play?"
Barry nodded, the determination on his face making me grin like a fool in love. "You better try your hardest, Dawn! If you don't, I'm going to fine you one billion dollars!" He winked at me now, and I felt that same blush as before rise to my cheeks. But I shook my head, trying to get a hold of myself. I was the expert on the game. I wouldn't lose.
"Fine," I agreed, and with a smile, I flipped over the cards in between us and began the game.
"I win! I mean, James Bond!" Barry threw his last pile on top of his tray, looking smug, and I shook my head, not buying it. I had been waiting for him to put down at card into the pile that would be my winning card, and it hadn't been put down yet. Theoretically, one of the cards in the center needed to be my card. And it wasn't there.
So, I reached to Barry's tray and looked through each of his piles until I found the one I wanted. Wiggling the pile at him, he reached out and snatched it from me, looking at it, dumbfounded, before shaking his head. Before he could do anything, I dropped one of my cards and picked up one of the three similar ones in the middle, holding it hostage.
In other words, he couldn't win.
"Dawn!" he shouted, and several people sitting around us glanced over. "Come on, give me the cards! This isn't fair! You've already won all the games. I was so close to winning…" He narrowed his eyes, waving his pile of cards at me. "Yeah, well, you can't win, either. I have your last card, don't I? So… ha!"
I looked out the window beside Barry, seeing our destination coming up fast. With a smile, I flashed the two cards Barry needed to him. "Drop mine, and I'll drop yours. Whoever is fastest wins. And don't you pride yourself on being faster than me at everything?" He just narrowed his eyes even more. "On the count of three, okay? One, two… three!"
I dropped his cards as he dropped mine, and we reached across to each others' tray, picking up the cards we each needed and slamming our piles down. "James Bond!" we both called out, smirks on our faces. But all I could do then was laugh as Barry began to argue that he was first.
"Fine, fine, you win. We're here, anyways. We can play on the way back home," I suggested, and he crossed his arms, clearly not satisfied with his victory (partially because I knew, deep down, that he understood that I had won that round). I put the cards back into the box, shoving it in my bag. "The ride wasn't that bad, right?"
Barry pouted. "Not that bad," he muttered, mumbling so I couldn't hear him as well. I still heard him all the same, and I smiled, putting a hand to my ear and leaning towards him.
"What was that? Not that bad, you say? Huh, who'd have thought it?"
He didn't find it funny at all. When I stood up to get off the bus, he stuck his leg out and tripped me just as I started forward, knocking me into the lady in front of me. I apologized quickly, feeling horrible about bumping her, but as soon as she looked away I stared right at Barry with a dark expression. All he did was laugh.
I managed to get off the bus without anymore scraps. The building we were entering was a large theater; I had never been to see a show before, but I had heard that these plays were phenomenal. After begging and pleading Barry to come with me to one of the shows, he finally agreed. But now that he was here, he didn't look particularly pleased about it.
When we got into the theater and found our seats, it took another twenty minutes for the show to start. Barry tapped his feet against the ground, thus causing many people to stare in our direction, and sighed. I felt bad for bringing him to something that he so obviously wouldn't enjoy. But I had annoyed him so much that he probably felt obligated.
The show wasn't bad. It was some weird opera about Pokémon and battling, and it seemed like a commentary about battling and mistreating friends. All the same, it was quite enjoyable, despite its music with words I couldn't understand and notes that made my ears hurt. Yet I found myself smiling throughout the first act, eager to see more when it finally ended.
Barry, on the other hand, didn't appear quite as impressed as I did. When the curtain closed for the first act, he stood up, stretching his legs and sticking a finger in his ear.
"I don't think I can hear anything anymore, Dawn!" he shouted at me, though I was sitting right next to him. "That was so boring! I don't know why you girls are so fascinated with stuff like this. And snooty rich people. They like this stuff."
"Barry," I whispered, and he sat back down, leaning towards me so his face was only inches away from mine. I swallowed.
"What was that, Dawn?" He grinned, a sly grin. "I can't hear you anymore."
Oh, right. Of course not.
I smiled weakly at the rest of our group who was staring once again. This appeared to be a common occurrence today, but I didn't mind too much. Barry was a fun guy, and I really could put up with anything he did. Always in a rush, always running off to some place far away, always shouting in my ear with that silly grin on his face.
"You don't like it." It wasn't a question, even though I phrased it like one. But he just continued to grin at me without saying anything, and I knew he was just trying not to make me feel bad about dragging him along. He was pretty good about that; I would drag him to stupid girly things all the time when we were younger, and he always pretended that he was having a good time whenever I asked him (but only when I asked him; the rest of the time he acted earnestly miserable).
So, sitting back down in his seat, he crossed his legs and folded his hands across them. I couldn't stop myself from raising an eyebrow at this uncharacteristically civilized behavior. But from that goofy grin on his face, I could tell he was joking around.
"It is wonderful. I have no idea what you are talking about, my dear lady."
"Oh, shut up." But the grin had spread to my face like a contagious disease. He winked at me, uncrossing his legs as the curtain rose again and the second act begun. That same blush as always came to my cheeks, and I turned away so Barry wouldn't notice.
The second act was better than the first, but I could see Barry tapping his feet and twiddling his thumbs throughout the entire thing. It was difficult for me to enjoy the show knowing that Barry was hating it, but I forced myself to enjoy it. If I didn't enjoy it, then it would be a waste for Barry to have come at all, I told myself, and it convinced me.
The commentary on the ethics of battling really caught my interest since both Barry and I battled our Pokémon, together or separately. But Barry looked completely unaffected by it, and he didn't tear up like I did when one of the Pokémon in the show became seriously injured. Even the happy ending, which made me tear up from joy this time, didn't bring a smile to his face.
It wasn't like I expected it to. Though he was happy more often than not, things like this just didn't seem to strike a chord with him. He liked battling, he liked exploring, he liked visiting different places. But he wasn't into stuff that confined him, and clearly this did. I could understand where he was coming from, but I didn't get to do as much with him.
Because I confined him. And that was obviously why we would never be more than friends.
"Barry, I'm sorry that I made you come with me," I told him at the end of the show. He raised an eyebrow, once again acting like he didn't know what I was talking about. "You didn't enjoy this trip, so stop pretending like you did. I know it probably bored you half to death, so I'm sorry that I made you come with me. I just didn't want to go alone, and going with a friend is always more fun than going—"
"Hey, hey, hold on a second." Barry crossed his arms, eyebrows furrowed. "I never said I didn't enjoy this trip. Sure, the show left a little something to be desired, but I still had a good time. I like spending time with you; don't apologize for making me come." He grinned again, and it was just as contagious as the last time. "I came because you wanted me to. And I'm glad I came."
"Barry! That's incredibly… nice of you."
"Are you saying that I'm usually not nice?" The grin stayed plastered on his face, and I put my hands on my hips, shaking my head.
"I didn't say that, now, did I? I just said it was nice of you, was all." I let my arms fall, and before I knew it, Barry had reached out and grabbed one of my hands. The blush rose to my face once again. "Uh… I'm glad you came, too. I, um, really appreciate it."
"Next time I'm picking where we're going on a date."
Date? I gulped, laughing awkwardly as my heart thumped in my chest. I was going to die of joy in a few moments, but the future date wouldn't happen if I did that. "Uh, yeah. I mean… yes! Yes, of course you can choose!"
I reached up with my free hand and fixed my hat. Because that was approximately all the motor-skills I had at the moment. Barry squeezed my hand, pulling me out of the theater towards the bus, dragging me along because my legs were barely moving.
I gulped again. "Uh-huh?"
"I'm going to fine you a million dollars if you beat me at James Bond one more time! It's so not going to happen! I am going to win, I promise you!"
Oh. I smiled, reaching into my bag and pulling out the deck of cards. "You are going down, Barry. No way you'll win!"
Friends or more than friends, this all seemed wonderful to me. What mattered was that we enjoyed each other's company, and we wanted and chose to be with each other. Our competitive spirits wouldn't make a difference in the world. Wasn't that what love was all about?
Barry managed to win all the games on the way home. And I can honestly say that it was fine by me.