It was a great meal, with great food and great company. He didn’t want it to end, but more than that, he wanted it to happen again.
Last time, he had the buffet tickets as a prop. This time, he only had himself. Gathering the tatters of his remaining courage, he tentatively asked if she was free the next weekend.
“Sorry. I’m going out with some friends.”
He hid his disappointment with a weak smile.
“Come with me,” she said, “A few people are bringing their friends too so you won’t be the only new face.”
It would be different with a group than with just the two of them, but it could be a good different.
Love Rival takes place after this.
Genre: slice of life
“That tower looks horrible.”
“I don’t like that colour.”
Art lovers whispered among themselves as they walked past his painting. He stood unassumingly nearby, pretending he was just another visitor in the art exhibition and that the comments he overheard didn’t sting.
He had lingered around for feedback on areas to improve on. Instead, hours of negative comments had eroded his already fragile confidence to nothing. He didn’t know if he could take another two days of the same.
He was about to leave when two girls stopped before his painting.
One more, he thought. If they could stop to look at his art, he could stay, just in case.
“I like the wings. They look very delicate.”
“The leaves are the same too. I like how the layers make them pop. Must have taken forever to paint them all.”
Not forever. Just three months. And by the time he started on the tower he only had a few days left.
“I like it.”
“Thank you girls,” he said.
The girls spun around, shocked and embarrassed. They shared a polite, awkward conversation. After much blushing from both sides, the girls moved on. He stayed, buoyed by their compliments.
Even if the rest of the exhibition brought only criticisms, this one positive conversation was enough.
Genre: slice of life
Talks about characters from Mission Gone Wrong. You’ll want to read that first.
“Eileen is like sugar. Sweet, but have too much of her and you get fat,” Theo said.
Eileen, who was offering cookies she baked over the weekend, looked at Theo. “So you don’t want any?”
“Gimme. I can be fat for you.”
“What about Vincent?” Thomas asked.
“He’s like pickles,” Theo said after some thought. “Best in small doses.”
Across the room, the vice-captain was freaking out over… something.
“Agreed. What about Alan?”
“Captain is like… meat. He’s the big man. He gets things done.”
“What about me? Aren’t I the big guy of this team?” Thomas flexed his arm.
“You’re like a turtle. We can throw you anywhere and you’ll still come back.”
“We’re talking about flavours, not animals.”
“We ate turtles on our last mission.”
“Fine. What flavour is Ezra?”
Theo’s eyes shone at the mention of the senior who had mentored him when he first joined the team. “Ezra is salt. Just sprinkle a bit of him on anything and everything becomes ten times better.”
“That sounds weird.”
“The conversation was weird from the start,” Ezra commented behind them. Theo choked on his cookie.
“What about you? What’s your flavour?” Thomas asked once Theo could breathe again.
“I’m bread. No. Rice. I don’t taste like much. I’m just there. But, I’m more flavourful when I’m with the rest of you.”
The last part was said in a mumbled whisper, but the rest of the team caught it anyway. Nosy eavesdroppers.
“Aww. Our little newbie is growing up.”
“Here. Have another cookie.”
“I knew we kept you for a reason.”
Theo ducked his head, cheeks burning but lips curled in a helpless smile.
“Don’t sell yourself short. I like rice. Rice goes well with a lot of food,” Ezra said.
Theo’s smile widened into a grin that lifted his whole face.
“You’re right. A little sprinkle of Ezra makes everything better,” Thomas said.
A few elbows dug into him.
“Shh. Don’t ruin the moment.”
Genre: slice of life
Everyone had a thorn in their side. His came in the shape of a little girl with thorny protrusions on her left arm.
He took a deep breath, then stepped out into the living room.
“Good morning, uncle!” His little niece threw her arms around his middle. The thorns dug into his side. Something tore.
“Good morning.” He patted her head. “What are you doing today?”
She happily chattered about her upcoming playdate. He nodded along and looked at her while trying very hard not to stare at the thorns.
One more week, and they would have the surgery to remove their ‘thorny little problem’.
He snickered to himself.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. Let’s eat. I’m hungry.”
Genre: slice of life, humour
As part of their “let’s get to know our new teammates better” initiative, they were writing each other’s official profile.
On the other side of the circle, they heard, “Has a penchant for honey-dipped pens.”
“You eat pens?”
It wasn’t difficult to pinpoint ‘you’ as the scowling lady.
“Don’t write it like that,” she complained to her activity partner.
“I like my version better. Comedic gold.”
She frowned, then dictated loudly as she wrote, “Preferences: Has a penchant for bad jokes.”
Genre: slice of life
There was a festival in the city.
There were also three young cousins under her care.
“We’ll be back before anyone knows you left,” her friends said.
She wanted to go, but she couldn’t disobey her family and leave the kids alone, even if they were already asleep.
“Sorry. Maybe next time.”
“We’ll get you something nice,” they promised as they left.
The next day, she found her friends in the hospital, each crippled in some way because of a drunk driver who smashed into their car.
There was a peculiar girl in the village, who talked about horses that never tired and little boxes that could answer any question, but looked confused at their moons and bread trees.
They found her last year in the forest, asleep and half buried under the snow that almost took her fingers.
“I shouldn’t be here,” she said when she woke up.
So they tried to help her return home, but they recognized none of the places she mentioned. The only familiar word they heard was “London”, but that was an animal, not a place.
Eventually, they turned their focus to making a home for her in the village. She accepted their kindness, but there was always something about her that was a little… different.
One day, she fell ill. They took turns watching over her as she slept the days away. Then, between one blink and another, she vanished.
Genre: adventure, puzzle
They had a finite number of chances to solve the riddle. The question was how many chances did they have? And was it enough?
“Let’s try this,” the others said as they messed around with the patterns they were supposed to arrange on the wall. The guardian statues’ eyes flashed with every wrong attempt.
“Stop that. You’re wasting our tries,” he said
The puzzle pieces locked into place. The guardians’ eyes blazed red.
Somewhere, something rumbled.
Genre: general, action
Their strategist predicted an infiltration point underground on the West side, so men were dispatched to guard that area.
Days passed, but the enemy appeared everywhere but the predicted point. Little by little, the team leaders made the call to move their team to other more heavily attacked areas to provide support, until only two teams were left.
“We trust the strategist,” one said.
“We like the vacation,” the other teased.
The infiltration attempt they anticipated came without warning a little after midnight, two months after the strategist’s prediction. By then, the two teams were itching for a fight, and they walloped every enemy they saw.
The next day, the war ended.
They call it “education” and “promoting awareness” instead of what it really is.
Brainwashing and bullying.
“Everyone accepts it,” the activist says.
“I don’t. And I know a lot of people who feel the same way,” she says.
In minutes, she is surrounded by a mob of angry people screaming obscenities at her. She stands her ground.
If they have a right to have an opinion, so did she.