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Land of Milk and Honey, Don't Fail Me Now; shy kid 2x combo
Topic Started: Mar 29 2016, 03:12 PM (717 Views)
Rorick Skyve
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((Maxim Kehlenbrink continued from Where The White Boys Dance ))

There he was again. Unkempt, shirt stuffed into his jeans and sporting his eternal frown. Only unlike usual, he was actually part of the crowd this time. Even though he didn't feel like it, not one bit. He was more of a foreign body in a pool of mirth, as far as he was concerned.

Admittedly, the organizers of the bake sale had picked an excellent day for the event, sun shining, baby blue sky, no clouds to be seen. Sounded like a perfect deal. Well, not for Maxim. It wouldn't have made a difference for him if it had been clouded, foggy, raining, snowing - maybe even all at the same time. The fact stood that there were simply too many people there for his taste, too many strangers, too many faces. A shame, really, but what had he expected? Of course it was going to be like this.

It was him first attempt at taking part in a bigger social event again ever since...Well, ever since the day he had sworn to become the high school equivalent of a hermit crab and embrace his loneliness as the status quo. Had worked out for him for about four months. His father had been way too wrapped up in his work to notice and his aunt - well, Maxim wasn't really sure how much of her surroundings she was aware of at all.

Long story short: He had told himself to overcome his own demons and visit the sale. At least try to get in touch with people. The sweets were only a bonus, though he had yet to buy a single one of them. Twenty minutes in and he could already draw a sobering conclusion: He was not feeling comfortable. That being said, he was by no means content with that realization, to the contrary, he felt highly disappointed.

He had had high hopes prior to the event, expecting to somehow be able to get into it. Sadly, he was simply not feeling it. And that left him with very limited options, one of them being total retreat back home. Not what he had in mind. Strangely enough, he didn't feel like he wanted to leave the premise entirely. Maybe just go offside a little, find some sort of hiding spot. A shadowy one preferably, since his body was starting to overheat, or so he felt. Too much sun for his taste.

As he started to wander off, away from the cake ogling masses, something came to his mind. What had that one guy from gym class always been talking about? Something, something, "ninja table." Bingo. Maxim remembered the story behind that rather silly sounding name: There was a single picnic table somewhere around the corner of the building, forlorn, obscured by Cochise's shadow. Reminded him of himself, somehow.

In any case, it sounded like the place he was looking for. Somewhere to rest for a bit, maybe even read a little - right, he had forgotten to bring a book with him. Didn't matter, he had made his decision.

It didn't take Maxim too long to find the place. Just had to walk a straight line and around one single corner. There it was, the fabled ninja table of dubious fame. However, to Maxim's chagrin, it seemed like another adventurer had ventured off to seek it out. The quest had apparently drained his energy, since whoever the other boy was, he was sort of hunched over the table, eyes closed.

Maxim wasn't sure he recognized him. He had probably seen him walking around the school before, but that was it. Normally not reason enough for him to approach a complete stranger. This time around, however, he felt oddly compelled to stick around. Maybe his sense of curiosity was the cause, maybe the fact that he didn't want to resign and abandon this opportunity to find respite; he didn't know nor did he care to think about it.

Slowly, he inched closer, until he stood directly in front of the table. He could still walk away, not too late for that yet. Only he didn't feel like he wanted to and thus, he carefully took a seat on the opposite end of where the other boy was dozing.

Edited by Rorick Skyve, Mar 30 2016, 01:55 AM.
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Now he'd done it. Whoever that other boy was, Maxim had just managed to disturb his righteous slumber, awaken him. Then again, what did he think would happen? That he'd just sit there and watch Sleeping Beauty do their thing? Of course this had been bound to happen the moment Maxim joined him at the table. And now that he thought about it, he had absolutely no clue how he was going to explain himself.

Yes, he definitely didn't know who the other guy was, it was certain now that he was able to really see his face. Looked Mexican to him, what with the tan and all. Not that it mattered in any way. There certainly was a word for this kind of situation in the native language of the guy as well and it most likely translated to 'awkward'.

The other boy had asked him something. If he could help Maxim in any way? Why, that was an excellent question, actually. He would have liked the answer to it himself, because he had absolutely no earthly clue what he had intended to achieve by taking a seat at that table. But he couldn't just answer him with that now, could he?

He was starting to feel nervous. He had only just escaped the clutches of the crowd, only to end up in yet another rather uncomfortable situation. Though the latter was the preferable one to him, no doubt. At least this guy seemed like he was a polite enough fella. Maybe he should just give it a shot, try and make his visit of the ninja table worthwhile?

Ah shucks. He could still retreat later. At least if he embarassed himself now, only the other boy would bear witness to it.

Maxim cleared his throat, then fiddled around with a strand of his hair for a moment, before starting to talk. "I, well- No, you're not in my seat, or anybody's - at least I don't think so!" A brief silence followed. What to say next? Honest approach, maybe?

"You see, I - I really don't have a reason for sitting here, except...well, except that I don't wanna be over there where all the people are. That's it."


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Interesting. He had expected the other boy to be weirded out, or at least slightly taken aback by him suddenly joining him at the table. None of that was the case, to the contrary, the guy, who was apparently named Cristóbal, had even met him with cordial politeness. Now that certainly was a welcome change of pace.

"I'm not waiting for anyone, no." Bit of a curt response. The other guy deserved more than that, for his patience to put up with a complete stranger alone. "Just...just staying here for a bit, I suppose - granted you don't mind, of course!" He had practically panted out the last bit, a hasty afterthought, thick with his German accent. Trying to be as polite as possible, as usual with the same predictably awkward results.

Maxim started drumming his finger on the table. Nervous habit, just something to distract the inner demons. He had no reason to get anxious like that. Curiosity had led him here, made him stay and he had not regretted it yet. Just had to say something else now, before the pause of awkward silence got stretched for too long.

"Cristóbal, huh? That's a pretty cool name. Interesting, I mean." Not the smoothest of transitions, but something to work with. He was getting there.

Raising his head slightly, he took a moment to get a better look at the other boy's features. He liked the hair. Something delightfully audacious about it, he couldn't really tell how else to describe it. Not only that though. His entire appearance didn't seem much different than that of all those "cool kids" that he couldn't stand one bit. But Cristo didn't have that same demeanor, that sort of proud arrogance, one trying to put their alleged superiority on display. No, this guy was clearly not like them.

Maxim allowed himself to a weak smile, the best he could muster to show his own goodwill. "I'm Maxim. And yes, I don't think we've spoken before. I'd remember a face like yours - that's not supposed to mean anything, I just have a good memory, is all." He barely knew the boy and he had already gone over to not so subtle bragging. Bravo. "Anyway - nice to meet you."
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This was going way better than expected. Not only was that Cristo guy rather polite about Maxim's presence, he even seemed to be genuinely comfortable with it, granted that he was interpreting that look on his face correctly, of course. He had misjudged people before; this wouldn't exactly be a premiere in that regard. Still, his gut was telling him that this here was a good egg, as people used to put it. Not sure why he loved those outdated terms all that much, but he did.

"I'm sure there are people who don't. I'm not one of them, though." Half a jest, he was getting there. That feeling of anxiety was still there, like a rat gnawing at his nerve tracts - lovely image - but weakened in intensity. Maxim's smile grew a little wider.

"I haven't tried any of those sweets yet, though. Not sure why. I guess I just didn't feel like going up to someone and asking for them? Might be laziness, might be something else. I don't suppose it matters now." Self-pitying, not really the best way to not put people off. Change of topic needed, ASAP.

Maxim reached into his jeans pocket, uncertain about what he was hoping to find. Some miraculously convenient object to keep the conversation going, maybe? Certainly nothing he could offer the other boy, except his wallet, but that was out of the question for more than obvious reasons.

There was something else there. Small in size, rectangular, kind of coarse surface. He actually had no idea what it could be nor why it was in his jeans. Unless - yeah, had to be it. That box of matches he had found lying around at the bus station the other day. He had only really pocketed it to give it to his father later, an old-fashioned chain smoker like him certainly knew how to put it to good use. Only that he hadn't seen his father much during the last few days, him being all busy with work, so that matchbox had now taken roots in his jeans instead, faded into obscurity. Useless to him right now, he didn't smoke, after all. But maybe Cristo did?

He scrutinized the other boy for a second, as if that was going to help him determine the answer. He had no idea at what age his peers usually began to indulge in that sort of pleasure, he only knew one person that was smoking, namely his dad. Only one way to find out then.

Maxim pulled the tiny object out of his pocket, fingers shaking ever so slightly and carefully placed it on the table in front of him. "Uh...do you happen to smoke?"
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He didn't smoke. Of course he didn't, why did he even ask in the first place? Stupid of him to assume that, or even consider the possibility. All had gone well so far, but he just had to bring in the awkwardness, like always. Now Cristo probably thought of him as a chain-smoker, or something to that effect. Nothing good, that much was sure.

Maxim struggled to find his words for a second, his fingers still lingering over the tiny box on the table. He had to clear up the misunderstanding, right? Only logical thing to do here, better than to let the subject float in the room, or on the table. Not sure where he had wanted to go with that metaphor.

He set his hand down on the matchbox, firmly grasping it. "I see. Sorry for asking, I just- doesn't matter why I asked, really, too complicated to explain. In any case, I don't smoke either. Probably doesn't seem very believable after such a question, right?" Erasing the doubt by tackling it head-on. Best strategy he had.

"My father's a smoker, so I guess that's why I had those in the first place." He demonstratively waved the matchbox around, causing muffled rustling noises. Could one call that rustling? Maybe clattering was the correct word? There he was again, trailing off. Had to focus on the matter at hand.

"So anyway, I just wanted to clear that up, alright? I have actually told my father to quit this habit more than once, for years now. To no avail, sadly. Suppose there's nothing I can do about it."

He tried to smile at Cristo, going for a natural one, though the final result looked rather helpless. Maxim looked back at the box of matches in his hand. Suddenly, he felt an irrational hate for it rising within him. This thing, it represented that habit of his father that would kill him sooner or later, he was sure of it. Not only that, but now it was the reason for his conversation with Cristo to derail, make him feel insecure again, just as he had grown comfortable around the boy. He began to apply more pressure on it, tried to crush it with his hands. To hell with it.

He looked back at his table partner, avoiding eye contact at first, but finally found the courage to look him straight in the eye. "Hope you don't mind if I do this. Just don't be frightened, okay?"

With that, he raised his hand with the box, only to swing it forward and release his grip on it, sending the tiny object to fly. He had aimed for no specific direction, just anywhere away from Cristo. Maxim didn't even see it landing nor did he care to know where it had landed. He simply was glad to be rid of it.

It took him all but one moment to regret his action. That certainly didn't help in making him look any less strange. The other boy probably wanted him to leave now, they always did after he did anything unusual. Maybe he should just up and leave by himself, before Cristo could ask him to? Spare himself the embarrassment? He wanted to, but he couldn't. Something kept him glued to his seat and so all that was left for him to do was sheepishly stare at his new acquaintance, feeling like a wounded rabbit in front of a snake.
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That was new. Yes, it most definitely was, that usually didn't happen when he behaved strangely. Someone actually reacting with genuine interest. People just ignored him most of the time, made some offhand remark, but he knew, he always knew when they wanted him gone, he could see it on their faces. And he could see it in Cristo's face right now- that was not that same dreadful look. That was the face of an honest young boy, as far as he could tell. Which didn't say much, but still, it was something to start with.

"Me? Talk about something?" His surprise hadn't worn off yet and his tone showed that. Little bit of accent thickening as well. He wondered if even that perpetual frown on his face was gone for the moment. Because now, he was sure of it, that crushing feeling of anxiety was no longer omnipresent. It was still there, somewhere deep within, but not the prevalent one among his feelings. No, what he felt now was...gratitude?

Maybe, yes. The longer he looked at the other boy, the more he felt that way, felt grateful. He had allowed him to sit here, when he could have easily sent him away. He had answered his inquiries, tolerated his quirks, he had suggested to him that he was welcome.

Maxim could feel a slight itch in the corner of his eyes. Was he tearing up? Now that was just silly. No need to get all sentimental here, really. Besides, Cristo would get the totally wrong impression if he did that.

Turning his head slightly, so the other boy wouldn't notice, he began to speak again. "Not...really. I mean, not about the thing that just happened, you see? That was nothing of importance, best to ignore that. Sorry."

Was that all he wanted to say? Strangely, no, it wasn't. Maxim suddenly felt the urge to tell the other boy a great deal more, make him see how he felt. He felt he owed him that. Not only out of gratitude, but because he felt like he could trust him. Even if that trust was to get betrayed, possibly, he didn't care. Right now, he wanted to share. And so he would.

He turned his head back to face Cristo directly again, even managing to smile a little, his eyes still glistening slightly wet. Didn't matter. "Well, you see...I don't mean to be all that aloof, yes? Truth be told, I'm just scared, okay? I didn't think you'd be happy about me sitting here in the first place, or anything I would do or say. So, like...I wanted to thank you, I guess? For being patient with me and all. Yeah, thanks."

Maxim was quivering slightly, but still smiling. He was actually being hopeful for once.
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Apr 18 2016, 08:00 PM.
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Maxim's eyes lit up the moment Cristo had finished his last sentence. There, that right there was his entire existence in a nutshell, or so he felt at the moment. This guy here knew, he understood. Maybe he had suffered through the same hardships as he himself had? Maybe they had even more in common, even more beyond that.

He let out a sigh of relief, closing his eyes momentarily. Hell, he knew fate was just some made up fairy tale, something to lull little children and religious nutcases, or some people like that. But this here, the way this entire situation came to be, it felt like some higher power had intervened on his behalf. That was bogus, of course, absurd. He had simply gotten lucky. But even so, it all worked out for him. Some days, getting out of bed really was worth the effort.

"Tell me about it", he responded, chuckling lightly, only to immediately raise his hands in a defensive gesture right after. "Oh, I didn't mean that in a sarcastic way or anything, yes? Just meant to approve of your statement, to, uh - to show I agree with you. I made that clear, right?"

Gee, he really needed to simmer down again. He had no reason to get anxious like this. Cristo understood him. He understood him. He understood. For a few moments, he repeated those words to himself in his head, his lips silently shaping them as well. It was like he was muttering to himself without really muttering, almost mantra-like.

Finally, the procedure bore fruit, and his mind returned to a state of ease. He looked Cristo back in the eyes, wearing a rather self-ironic smile. "I pretty much just proved your point right there, didn't I? I'm a real piece of work, I know."
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The longer Maxim listened to Cristo, the more he got the impression that he had not erred in his judgment. No, not only an impression, he was certain now. Coming here was the best idea he had all day, probably even all week. He couldn't remember the last time he had had a talk with one of his peers, no talk he deemed pleasant and insightful in retrospect, at least. No talk he didn't regret.

It was fascinating to him, really. The things the other boy said seemed so simple, common almost. Things he should have known himself. And yet, to him, it felt like he was witnessing an almost prophetic revelation, trickles of earthly wisdom seeping into his brain. Awfully hammy, but those were the words he came up with, he couldn't help it.

Ha, right on cue. As soon as he started praising the substance of their conversation, Cristo switched to something so mundane again. Maxim's choice of sweets. There was something funny about that, he couldn't deny it. He had to grin.

It didn't stop there, though. Somehow, that one question, that one silly phrase, it sparked a reaction within that surprised himself more than anyone else. ." If you were going to get something from the bake sale, what would it be?" Hell, what in the world made that so hilarious to him?

Maxim laughed. Rather short-lived, wheezing a bit, but he did laugh. In fact, it felt quite pleasant to him, like all the remaining ballast of his repressed, pent-up anxiety was just falling off of him, crumbling into dust. He actually had no idea what to answer either, so many possibilites. This got another chuckle out of him, looking and sounding almost like a remnant of a hiccup.

"Sorry, sorry. Just...thought of something funny. Nothing important." He wiped away a single tear from the corner of his eye, holding back a final snicker. "But well...I'm not sure, honestly speaking. If I had to choose spontaneously, I'd go with...muffins, I think. The ones with blueberries. Either them, or...do they sell scones here? If so, then a few of those, yes."
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Maxim slightly grimaced the second Cristo brought up raisins. One of the few times he could find himself agreeing with a vast majority of people; those unholy spawns had no place in something as innocently delicious as a cookie - or anything at all, as far as he was concerned. Still, he found himself agreeing with rest of the other boy's statement.

There were quite a few bakeries around town, none of which he had paid a visit to thus far. He had by no means a sweet tooth, but still, he deemed it a shame, a neglect even. Actually, what if he just went there right now? What was stopping him? Well, Cristo, obviously. He had come here, started a conversation, he couldn't just up and leave now. Or could he?

Maxim saw an opportunity present itself. Just a stupid little idea that grew in the back of his head, one that required Cristo to actually want to spend more time with the likes of him. Should he ask him? His eyes glanced to the side, fixating a lonely tree for a moment, then returned to the other boy's face. He felt reluctant. Just asking someone to stop whatever they were doing and accompany him, that was not his style, not at all. And yet, this moment seemed so ideal for it. He had pressed his luck thus far, with more than satisfying results, even more so than he would have imagined.

Maxim bit his lip. He really wanted to do it and at the same time, he didn't. No, that was not true, he did want to, absolutely did. No merit in trying to convince himself of the opposite. So...

He cleared his throat in order to interrupt the other boy. His fingers weren't shaking anymore, were they? Just to be safe, he slid both his hands under the table, out of view. Nothing to fear now. "Hey, sorry for interrupting, but I figured...we both seem to have nothing better to do right now -" He immediately raised one hand again, feeling the urge to touch his own face. "Didn't mean for it to sound like you...I was just speaking for myself, alright?" Deep breaths. All was fine.

"To get to the point right away: Would you like to go to one of those bakeries together? Not even right now, not necessarily. Whenever you want, if you want at all. Just something that I thought of, you know?"
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He could see it in the other boy's eyes, no, written all over his eyes. The question had taken him by surprise, startled him. Of course it had, it had come out of nowhere, after all. Had he been too rash, overconfident? What if Cristo took it the wrong way? He barely knew him for a few minutes, after all and he was already being pushy like this.

Maxim could feel his heart sink a bit, fear creeping in. Cristo wasn't taken aback by him now, was he? Anything but that, please. He didn't mean anything by it, he had only gotten excited, happy to be comfortable around someone for a change. That was no crime, was it?

But it seemed he had worried over nothing - again. The other boy didn't seem to be angered, annoyed or even rattled. He was either hiding it quite well or he was legitimately content with his request. So he had been right in the end. This one was someone to latch onto - only figuratively, of course. He just had to refrain from overdoing it, which could very well happen, given these new sentiments of overwhelming excitement. He couldn't let that get the better of him. Stay relaxed and go along with it, all he had to do.

"I'd be happy to! I mean, I don't really have plans for the weekend either, nothing I can't do at another time, at least. So...yes, why not?" He was genuinely smiling by now. These would be some tough few days to get through until the weekend finally rolled by. Burdened with impatience and unease and all that. But it looked like it'd be worth it in the end. Yes, definitely looked like it.

"Just one thing: It won't be too crowded there, will it? The places you intend to show me, I mean. Because...you know, I'm not really good with crowds. Reason I came here, after all."
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Maxim nodded, once, twice - almost every third word out of Cristo's mouth was met with a nod. He was barely even catching what the other boy said, focusing more on making himself look as agreeable as possible - no, agreeable wasn't the right word, was it? Approving, consenting, that was probably it. He still wasn't as impeccably fluent as he would have liked to be. Bother.

This Cristo though, he seemed to know the ropes, be at home in the subject of localities. Knew his way around, well versed and all.
....

Too many synonyms. He really needed to stop thinking so much about what he was thinking - overthink everything. This guy here, he clearly was all relaxed, casual, didn't look like he was worrying about anything at all. Didn't look like it took him much or any effort either. Maybe that was what he, Maxim, should try. Be all casual. Worth a try, at least.

"Sounds good, yes, it does! I'd die for a good sandwich. Not, uh, literally, you know what I mean. " Maxim chuckled. Didn't feel like he was forcing himself to do so. Well, maybe a bit. But he was getting there or would eventually, at least. Maybe. Possibly.

"In any case, we have an agreement then, right? Meet up at the weekend and all." Yes, this was working out for him. Only had to seal the deal now. Like proper grown-ups. So much for casual.

Maxim, albeit reluctantly, extended one hand, reaching out towards Cristo over the table. He didn't like the prospect of touching someone else, but he needed to be sure, sure that Cristo was giving him his word, no empty promises, even though the boy certainly didn't look like one to do such a thing. Still, it had to be done. This one security, he would insist on.

"Shake on it?"

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For a brief moment Maxim was all too worried that he was going to grip Cristo's hand too tightly, somehow manage to scare the other boy off, right in front of the finish line. That fear however, evaporated as soon as their hands met. He had expected it to feel wrong, unpleasant, icky, itchy and many more less than desirable terms. Yet it just felt...normal? Neutral, more like. Just a quick touch of foreign flesh, one firm shake and it was over. Really not that bad. Still, he had no desire to repeat that gesture all too soon.

Cristo was grinning at him. Maybe he was amused somehow? He most certainly seemed to be content. Happy, even. Yes, there was no reason to worry, no reason at all. It was done, dealt with, happy ending achieved. Maybe it was the overwhelming feeling of relief washing over him, or maybe that other boy's smile was just highly contagious, either way, Maxim had to smile back at him.

"I'll be looking forward to it. So yeah...thanks again." The car pulling up behind them in that moment turned out to be yet another relief. He had already run out of things to say, without sounding awkward in any case. So his disappointment about his potential newfound buddy leaving didn't last all too long. He waved back at Cristo as he left, still keeping up his smile. Yeah, it was for the best, really. He'd think of more things to talk with him about until their next planned meeting, he was sure of it. Maybe the two of them even shared some hobbies, who could know? Almost too good to be true, but quite possible. Still, he was content with how it had turned out either way. Could have handled it worse, way worse. Result spoke for itself.

Maxim kept sitting at the lonely bench for several more minutes, silently contemplating what to do next with his day, until he finally concluded that he had no clue. Which basically translated to him going back home and continuing his campaign of Neverwinter Nights. And he was totally fine with that. After all, he had certainly achieved more than enough for one day.

((Maxim Kehlenbrink continued elsewhere))
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