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Extraordinary Machine; Open!
Topic Started: May 29 2015, 06:43 AM (938 Views)
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JOSHUA BRACEWELL: START

It wasn’t often that Joshua Bracewell’s free period could actually be considered ‘free’. Any moment he spent at school not in class was usually filled with a myriad of other activities – studying, attending to any one of his numerous clubs, providing a tutoring session for a friend, or fulfilling one of his other commitments – so any times of reprieve were few and far between. Every so often, however, the stars would align and there’d be no pressing assignments or meetings he had to attend and he could just spend an hour relaxing; hanging with friends or listening to music.

This wasn’t one of those days.

He’d had a tennis meeting scheduled today, but when Coach Parkinson was forced to cancel at the last minute, it’d left him with a free hour and nothing with which to fill it. For a moment he considered texting one of his friends and asking them to hang out, but no one in particular came to mind and he didn’t want to give them such short notice. A solitary activity held similarly little appeal; his parents had been busy with work lately and Philippe was studying hard for an upcoming exam, so school provided him with one of his few chances to socialise before brunch with his cousin Louis that Sunday. It was awhile into his free hour that a solution to both his problems hit him: the morning announcements had advertised a need for volunteers to put up posters for an upcoming bake sale. After considering it for a moment, Joshua felt an immediate pang of sadness for having a much too busy schedule to accommodate that act into it as well – though he tucked it away in the back of his mind, just in case.

Having retrieved a stack of glossy posters calling for further volunteers – bakers, vendors, customers; all of which was inscribed in vibrant script around a cartoon cupcake – from the teacher-in-charge, Ms. Moreno, Joshua found himself gently placing them along the hallways of the East Wing, smiling all the while and rereading the posters’ text as he waited for someone to stumble across him. The sale was fundraising for an upcoming Spanish field trip, but whilst he wouldn’t personally benefit from his current task, it still felt good to be giving back.

And bake sales weren’t a frequent occurrence on his list of activities, so maybe that would catch his parents’ attention that evening when he told them about his day.
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Joshua remained wholly immersed in his task, only breaking out of it as he heard the sound of nearby footfalls along the hallway, accompanied shortly after by a witty comment about what the posters were advertising. A hearty laugh evacuated Joshua’s mouth and he pivoted on his heel, eager to greet whoever had provided him with a temporary diversion from the monotony of poster-pasting. In his haste to great the newcomer, however, he temporarily forgot about the large pile of items clasped between his arms, almost dropping the mountain of paper and wads of blu-tack.

“Hey Noah,” Joshua grinned, still lightly snickering at the boy’s joke and adjusting his grip so as not to risk spilling an ocean of posters across the carpeted floor. He really should’ve recognised the boy from his voice alone, but figured he’d been too focused on ensuring that he placed the paper neatly and orderly, as opposed to splaying it across the walls in a haphazard, unorganised mess. Noah Whitley was a year above him, but although the two didn’t have a class together or talked much throughout the years, the other boy had a firm place in Joshua’s mind. Whether it was from his YouTube videos (which he’d perused a few times) or from the school musicals where he’d played musical accompaniment, or just from the blond’s vibrant, exuberant personality, Noah wasn’t someone Joshua could see himself forgetting any time soon.

“That’s so true,” he continued, “so much better than asking for simple donations, and it’s as good excuse as any to bake a hundred thousand million cookies.”

Joshua’s smile only widened further as he heard an unmistakable cry arise from down the corridor, turning his head to see Abigail Floyd rocketing towards him, hands flailing and eyes alight with excitement as she did so. If Joshua had to name an upperclassman he was closest to, it’d have to be Abby. She was so perpetually optimistic and energetic, and her unwavering enthusiasm for the volunteering they regularly participated in together always warmed his heart. That said, their relationship wasn’t perfect; as Abby slowed in her approach and reached out to him – an action he reciprocated by clasping her hand within his own – Joshua was reminded of how whenever they were together, he couldn’t help feeling awkwardly tall in comparison, standing nearly a foot taller and having to fight the urge to bend over to get at eye-level with her.

“Hey Abby!” He said warmly, her energy proving infectious as he felt his demeanour grow even happier, and the chipperness in his voice crank up a notch.

“I’m so sorry!” He cried, and covered his face in a display of melodramatic, faux-apology, before lowering his hands and letting his features return to their usual cheerfulness and offering a small chuckle. “It’s next Friday, so there’s a wee while yet before we’re gonna need your expertise! I’m not too sure how much Ms. Moreno’s already got organised, but I know she’d never object to having more baked goods, especially if they’re made by you.”

He turned back towards Noah, not wanting him to be left out of the discussion and feel unappreciated, especially when he wasn’t. There wasn’t a single person in the world Joshua could imagine not wanting to talk to.

“And hey, speaking of bake sale contributions, what would you say to either you or Miss Bucket making an appearance at it?”
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Pies?

Oh, Joshua hadn’t had a proper, home-baked pie for far too long. Nobody in his immediate family had the culinary skills necessary for making one, whilst his mother’s side wasn’t too keen on that form of dessert – his Aunt Lilia’s apple crumble, though, was top-notch. So as Abby energetically expounded about the benefits of pies, he made a mental note to triple-check his calendar for his schedule that day, hoping that he wouldn’t be too preoccupied to make a quick visit to the bake sale and purchase a slice (or six) of Abby’s undoubtedly delicious goods.

He was glad Noah agreed with it too, happy that although his alter-ego Nina couldn’t make an appearance (that certainly would’ve made for an exciting article in the yearbook!), he was all for making a contribution to the mountain of pastries that would almost-certainly be there now that Abby had caught wind of it. Gosh, this was looking to be quite the event! Joshua couldn’t wait to return to Ms. Moreno and report back on how things had developed. The thought of the smile that’d be plastered on her face when he told her only made his own grow even further.

Joshua chuckled lightly at Noah’s next quip, one about his friend ‘Mary Jane’, despite being completely and utterly at a loss as for what it meant. He was certain he’d heard it said somewhere before, perhaps on television or in the newspaper or spoken by one of his friends, but he couldn’t place it. Not wanting the other boy’s joke to go amiss, though, he adjusted his line of vision to meet with Abby’s as subtly as he could and blinked his widened eyes, hoping she’d be able to manage a witty retort to Noah’s jest.
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Joshua breathed an internal sigh of relief once the conversation continued beyond Noah’s still-cryptic quip and back onto the altogether more familiar topic of brownie-making. He had no idea what he would’ve done had Abby and Noah gone into even more depth about the mysterious ‘Mary Jane’ and he was called upon to provide further comment on it. Thankfully, making brownies were a topic on which he could talk about for days on end. They’d always been a guilty pleasure for him – he was sure the cashier at the local bakery knew him by name from the amount of times he’d gone there – and whenever his mum was able to squeeze enough free time out of her schedule to devote to baking, a fresh, steaming, batch of brownies were almost always the end result. Slightly-burnt nature aside, it was always so wonderful to have something so personal from one of his parents.

He shook his head gently, blond ringlets bouncing as he did so, and turned back towards the wall to apply another advertisement to it. He’s gotten so caught up in the trio’s discussion that he’d almost forgotten about the task at hand, only remembering it when the image of returning to Ms. Moreno with some posters still unpinned floated through his head. As he ensured the paper was evenly lined up, he tilted his head in Noah and Abby’s direction and offered them a light smile, not wanting to seem standoffish as he continued with his work.

“Too true,” he replied to Noah’s query about the complexity of brownies. “But I guess the deliciousness varies with the instructions and the ingredients? For all we know, Abby’s granny’s one might be the holy grail of brownie recipes.”
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“See ya!” Joshua waved energetically at a departing Noah, returning the other boy’s peace sign just before he dipped out of sight. He turned to face Abby again, hoping for their conversation to continue as cheerfully as it had been, but sadly she too had something else worthy of her attention. Not too surprising, really – if there was anyone he could count on to understand what it was like to have such a hefty workload, it was Abigail Floyd.

Joshua smiled warmly as she skipped merrily down the corridor, before applying the few remaining posters still clutched against his chest. As he did so, he found the grin plastered across his face almost unshakeable with the memory of their rendezvous still fresh in his mind. Sure, their talk hadn’t progressed much beyond the beauty of baked goods and the mysterious ‘Mary Jane’ Noah and Abby had discussed, but all-in-all it was quite the enjoyable conversation. A more than welcome change of pace from the constant stream of meetings, appointments, and rallies he waded through every day. In his rare moments of solitude, Joshua often wondered what it would be like not to have so many obligations and pressures bearing down on him, what it would be like to be assured of his parents’ affections without having to dedicate so much of himself to so many things.

But – luckily, he figured – before any of that could really settle into his mind and he had time to ponder it, something else always came along to keep him occupied. And to help him forget.

((Joshua Bracewell continued in Mad Dewey Dash))
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