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“Thanks Nate! I had so much stiff competition, so I’m sure it was neck-in-neck,” Joshua beamed, gently resting his pile of textbooks upon the table and placing himself in the nearest vacant spot, shuffling slightly as he did so. The hardback plastic chairs in the Beale Library had always proved themselves to be particularly uncomfortable for Joshua, especially ever since his sudden growth spurt midway through sophomore year, and he had to wiggle around in his seat before he didn’t feel quite so awkward.

As the group spoke, a senior that Joshua vaguely recognised from the theatre shows he attended for yearbook approached the group and introduced herself as Jane. Joshua was about to introduce himself in turn and was contemplating inviting her to sit with them before she promptly left, situating herself in a nearby seat. He was saddened that she hadn’t chosen to pursue any more conversation with the trio, but was still grateful that he at least now had a name to match the face whenever he next saw her around.

Opting not to comment on the brief encounter, Joshua instead focused on Nate’s inquiry about leaving, and Lani’s assurance that she herself would be comfortable with him remaining. The puppy-dog eyes that the other boy made when he questioned his welcomeness tugged at Joshua’s heartstrings; he couldn’t bear the thought of upsetting him. In Joshua’s mind, there’d been no question about Nate staying if the others wanted him to; he was none too eager to split the duo up, especially with the company they’d provided for each other before his arrival. Plus, if Nate was having trouble with the same Mathematics test, then that was even better; if he could help just one more person than he’d expected to, it’d make his day even brighter.

“Oh, of course that’s fine! The more the merrier, right?” As he spoke, he lifted the first textbook off the table and sifted through to the appropriate section. “Are you having trouble with the test too, Nate?”

There’d been so many questions to get through that Joshua had almost forgotten about the Tupperware container of baking Lani presented him with, which he now turned his full attention to. He had to hold back a gasp at the intricate detailing of the brightly-coloured citrus balls; the effort she would’ve put into preparing them was obvious. In Joshua’s eyes, this was the perfect sort of gift for him: something homemade, personal, and in no way material.

“Oh, and these citrus balls, Lani! Thank you so much! You must’ve spent so much time on them!” Gesturing towards the container, he nodded at both Lani and Nate, eyes alight with excitement. “Please, both of you, have one!”
Version Seven:
Tristan O’Hara
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Mad Dewey Dash · Beale Library