Sweet hazelnut nectar with honey gummy orbs at the bottom, every single one disappearing along with the drink. A massive straw to take the spheres from the ground of the plastic cup, all for a cheap half a dozen dollars. With pricing like that, every sip must taste literal gold. For Noah, he considered it something close to that.
This cafe was lively at the start of the night. Board games were stacked on top of each other in pillars for college students to use in their free time. Stacking four pieces of the same color in a row served to be a difficult task, though Noah was convinced that there was hardly any strategy that went with this. It wasn’t like he thought much further than a turn ahead, improvising was a good descriptive word for his actions.
Admittedly, making friends was difficult in this sort of environment. Many had their own circles. Noah acknowledged that he’d probably do the same, though that didn’t make this any less annoying. Sitting at the table next to a window with no one on the opposite end made for a lonely experience. It was still fun to sit down and wait for strangers to play against, but Noah didn’t see a single stranger return after their game.
“Hey, are you waiting for a game?” A quiet male voice greeted, volume nearly hushed to a whisper. Despite the volume, Noah could read lip well enough to nod his head without a word.
A brunette with short brunette hair, even while it was combed forward. A clean cut that wished to look different, Noah felt some pity. The uniform suggested that this one preferred to be buried in books, social successes always took those off in order to look somewhat decent in society. Guesses, mere guesses. But psychology majors tend to read into common tropes such as these with a scary level of accuracy. Raspberry boba tea didn’t exactly scream “Extrovert” and “Friendship” on a guy either.
Judging a man based on his drink preferences. Noah was a charmer.
“I’m sure you know the objective of this game.” Noah stated, playing a red circle piece up before placing it through one of the scene slots. With dull half-closed blue eyes, he followed the red piece down to the bottom. A typical start made so quickly. “Four in a row in any direction and you win.”
The student on the other end of the table took a small sip of his tea before placing it back. His chewing indicated a boba sphere caught, that was where the fun came from. With his free hand, the student rolled a yellow piece on its edge between his thumb and his pointer finger. Nice balance.
“Nice to meet you, by the way.” The student said, his tone slightly more confident. Shaky, but at least the volume didn’t force Noah to read lips. “My name is Tyler. This is my first time here.”
Was this a club? “First time here”, as if Noah was a regular. Sarcasm wasn’t the best way to greet someone who barely possessed the voice to speak above the crowd. Perhaps a little less formality would be nice, but he read in between the lines. The intent was to warm up to him over a cup of tea and a casual game.
“Noah.” He replied before pointing the tip of his finger around the edge of his cup. “First-time? I… Wouldn’t go that far. This is a shop, it just happens to have some games.”
“Ah. I see.” Tyler replied with a saddened tone. His eyes shifted to the left while his lips lowered into a small frown.
How lovely, a sensitive one. Did Noah just invite a child into the game? Previous guests weren’t this sensitive, Noah wasn’t in the mood for this either. A soothing sip of his own tea would calm him down, though no boba spheres managed to find their way into his straw. Pity.
The yellow piece finally found its way inside the grid, though this “Tyler” kid seemed less focused on the game with those gazing eyes. Was there something in that direction? Noah didn’t care enough to check, but would instead place his right arm out in front of the face of the newcomer. Two swift snaps of his fingers would bring the attention back where its supposed to be.
“Are you paying attention?” Noah asked with his eyes lazily staring. “You just made a random move, you should start paying attention.”
“M-My apologies.” Tyler replied, looking at the grid to see where he placed the yellow circle. It landed in an interesting area, though one that wasn’t the most desirable if any of the previous games told Noah anything. Perhaps there was some method to this madness.
Or perhaps he was just dealing with that much of an idiot tonight. Challenge brought fun to these games. Tyler wasn’t going to be that fun.
“It’s whatever.” Noah replied before placing up a red piece, dropping it quickly into the grid yet again. If this game required no effort, he may as well lazily rest his head on his left palm. The elbow was placed against the table to hold the weight. Rude, but when has that ever stopped him?
“Oh, um. I just moved into the neighborhood.” Tyler stated. This time, he focused on the game by picking up the yellow piece. It rested against his chin as he thought. Yay, strategy. A recovery would be interesting. But instead, he took the reckless block to immediately shut down the most obvious victory. Interesting, but no foundation to build off of.
“Cool. I’ve been here all my life.” Noah explained before he quickly placed a red piece of his own down. The grid was slowly filling up, but it’ll be quicker than either of them could expect. That’s just how the game was played, either there was always too much or too little time
The both of them played in silence, dropping the pieces down into the grid with full focus. Neither of them said a word, the drinks were barely being touched. Admittedly, Tyler seemed to recover well. Noah stopped insulting the student by no longer holding back. His head no longer rested on his palm, but then it would look at a face that had a small smile equipped.
“It’s a bit too late for that.” Tyler stated, recognizing body language the indicated something different from the previous gameplay from before. “I’m two moves away from victory.”
“You speak boldly for someone who couldn’t speak above a crowd five minutes ago.” Noah retorted, taking another sip of his tea. At least two boba came through this time, a calming success. Unfortunately, that was always temporary.
“So what does that make the guy who loses to that someone?” Tyler asked, approaching calmly with the cornering question before dropping a yellow piece into the grid. By the time he did, Noah noticed two traps readied for him. Naturally, there was no escape.
This was something unimaginable. One of them managed to lure him into a false sense of security to ensure a victory. Reckless plays forced Noah into this trap. All that could be done was move the slider at the bottom to the side to let all the pieces crash onto the table. A few managed to find their way over the edge of the table.
“You were never the type to give up a game so easily.” His opponent continued, placing the tea into his lips again. Still, that straw can silence no one. “I’m afraid you’ve lost your touch.”
“Nice to meet you too.” Noah quoted in turn, gripping his tea and clenching his teeth. “Those words are a lie.”
“Everything about this is a lie.” Tyler replied, rolling his eyes as he continued drinking. “A lie you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. Not so bliss a fantasy, me thinks.”
Taunting words from someone who couldn’t… Hm, that was said before. Noah knew what he meant. Perhaps it wasn’t the best delivery, but this wasn’t something new to him either. Noah looked to the side where Tyler seemed to look before. A couple students playing a board game. They were no different from the rest, but two was a lonelier number than three.
“A circle can’t be made with two.” Tyler continued. Yes professor, this lecture was indeed necessary. “A line, perhaps. Three makes a triangle. Four makes a square. If anything, adding more gets one closer to a circle.”
“We are two!” Noah replied with a defensive tone emitting from hostile lips. “I need no one else! Forget a circle, I’m a perfect dot.”
“I, don’t, ex-IST!” Harsh words to smack a lonely college student back into reality. As if the last syllable was a spell in itself, Tyler began to fade with it. Slowly, like a ghost finding its way to the afterlife. “You have to let me go…”
Noah closed his eyes and bit his quivering lips. Cars… Hated with a burning passion. He just HAD to be the only one to survive, he just HAD to be the one left! Years went by and he still saw his friends every day, but no one else could see them. They weren’t real, but they were his friends.
Upon opening his eyes again, all of the pieces on the table and the floor were his. Every yellow piece remained inside the box. Most importantly, not a single Tyler in front of him to continue their lovely chat.
“I… I…” Noah stuttered, talking to nothing with his prickly and defensive nature. The girls still played their board game out in the side. They were real, they were happy with each other. That… Looked like fun.
“Let me go…”
With his cup in hand, Noah stood up from his own board game. It was time to go.
Hopefully those two could add a player three to their game.
Care to read a few tales? I just happen to have a few!