was bored. So bored, that he decided to dive into the world of Astrology on the Internet. Riley generally didn't stoop to this kind of mythology. He believed in the actual-factual-historical-legendary-mythological-real stuff. The stuff he made his money off of. The crazy-but-real stuff. This search was for a good laugh. Pure entertainment. He didn't even know his sign.
He scrolled down the list, Leo, Cancer—what a ridiculous thing to be, 'hey, I'm X and I'm a Cancer!'--, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Scorp—Oh. Aquarius. That was it. January 21st to February 18th. He was born February 18th.
Having decided that the name of his sign wasn't enough, Riley pulled up a new Internet Explorer and typed in in the address bar quickly. His thin fingers were fast and light on the keys. He didn't tap hard, only just enough to get the letter on the screen, and sometimes, not hard enough so that he had to go back and retype the letter.
Having always believed that the first link offered for any Google search was useless, Riley clicked on the third one. The page took a moment to load and he scrolled over the miscellaneous information until he got to some meaty paragraphs. He was a fast reader.
"Aquarians basically possess strong and attractive personalities," he read aloud. He snorted then, "Yeah, right." Riley read on, expecting to be unimpressed, but was surprised when he read, "They fall into two principle types: one shy, sensitive, gentle and patient; the other exuberant, lively and exhibitionist, sometimes hiding the considerable depths of their character under a cloak of frivolity." His thoughts slowed, and he tilted his head to the side. "Holy…holy…mother of…"
"Dammit, Ben!" Riley minimized the page he had been looking at and swiveled the chair to face his roommate. "You scared the crap out of me."
Ben shrugged. "Not the first time."
"Let me guess, not the last, either?"
"No, probably not," Ben sat on the arm of the couch. "Why are you sitting in the dark?" he asked, reaching up to turn on the light.
It was too late. Riley squinted, trying to adjust to the light. He had never been one to appreciate good lighting. He had enjoyed, in the past, reading by only the glow left after a sunset. And then even an hour or so after that. The computer screen had enough light to illuminate the room when he left, anyway. And the kitchen light was normally left on.
"Oww," he whined.
"You're going to be blind by the time you reach thirty-nine."
"Yeah, well, nothing. What good will you be if you're blind?" Ben teased. "You spend too much time at your computer anyway."
"Um, excuse me. Last time I checked, my computer skills, which I gained from hours at this glorious machine saved our butts more than once."
"True, but Patrick Henr—"
"I'm going to bed. Have fun with your porn."
Riley didn't respond. He had nothing to say that would sound remotely adult, but still insulting. Ben would only put him down again or find a better comeback if he said something with a juvenile tone. Ben left without another word, only stopping to grab a bottle of water out of the fridge. When Riley was sure Ben had gone upstairs, he pulled up the page again.
The next paragraph, he mumbled under his breath, "Both types are humane, frank, serious minded, genial, refined, sometimes ethereal, and idealistic, though this last quality is tempered with a sensible practicality. They are quick, active and persevering without being self-assertive and express themselves with reason, moderation and sometimes, a dry humor." Riley leaned back and read the paragraph over again, silently. "Well if that doesn't just pin the tail on the donkey."
He stretched, recovering from the eerie reality this assessment spoke of him. His shirt lifted over his stomach, exposing a thin line of hair leading from his belly button and a thin hip. His green and blue plaid pajama bottoms were a bit long on him, and didn't move much when he stretched again, yawning. Returning his eyes to the computer screen, Riley ground his teeth, and he scolded himself inwardly for it.
His eyes ran over the next paragraph: "They are nearly always intelligent (check, he thought), concise, clear and logical." The rest of the paragraph meant nothing to him. It was a lot of that historical-mythological crap that Ben went on about. A word at the bottom of the paragraph jumped out at him: devotion. "When some cause or work of this nature inspires them, they are capable of such devotion to it that they may drive themselves to the point of exhaustion and even risk injuring their health," the sentence read. Again, Riley snorted. "Ain't that the truth."
There was a paragraph on independence he skipped over, feeling that he didn't apply to it. He hated being lonely. He hated being alone. Well, not entirely: he didn't mind being alone if he had some sort of computer program to mess with. But otherwise, he was unsatisfied without company.
"In spite of the often intensely magnetic, forthcoming and open personality of the more extrovert kind of Aquarian, and of their desire to help humanity, neither type makes friends easily."
Riley disagreed with the first part. He didn't really care all that much about humanity. Did he want the world to survive? Yes. Did he want nucleic war? Of course not. But he wasn't exactly the star pupil when it came to community service. However, he felt he identified greatly with the making friends part. He had always been kind of shy around people he didn't know well, and sometimes wondered if his whiny and sarcastic persona repelled people from him. Ben had told him a thousand and one times that you have to like yourself before others will like you, and you have to have confidence and blah blah blah, but it didn't matter. No matter what he did, Riley Poole would never make friends easily.
"Aquarians work best in group projects, provided that they are recognized as having a leading part in them."
Riley grinned. Just wait until Ben got a load of this. That would teach him.
The rest of the internet page held little interest for Riley, but he decided to print it out anyway. Normally being with his laptop, Riley didn't get the chance to use his printer very often and when an opportunity aroused, he figured he might as well. It's not like he printed things excessively and had to buy ink all the time.
When he had printed it out, Riley decided it was time for bed. He stapled the packet of information quickly and then quietly ascended the stairs. Ben's room was the first door on the right, and he slid the packet underneath the door. Ben would be asleep by now, but Riley knew Ben would enjoy this.
When he fell asleep, Riley dreamed he was a fish.
center [- /center
In the morning, Riley woke up second. Ben had always been a morning person, and Riley, not. Ben woke up with the sun, and often took a walk before Riley even woke up. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, the younger of the two was not surprised to see Ben, already sitting at the computer, obviously intrigued by something.
"What'cha lookin' at?" he asked.
"Uh…nothing," Ben minimized the page, and Riley pouted slightly. He huffed and then left, in search of food.
"Want anything?" he asked from the kitchen, his backside sticking out of the fridge.
Riley shrugged and got the cream cheese out of the fridge, followed by the eggs.
"How old are these?"
"How old are what?"
"The eggs," Riley said, holding them up, even though Ben was still occupied by the computer.
"Not too old. Go ahead and eat 'em. Won't kill you."
"After what I've been through? Nothing can kill me."
Ben didn't answer. Riley sighed and turned on the stove. Having found no clean frying pans, he washed one quickly and dried it as best as he could. Then, he opened the cabinet over the stove and reached for the cooking spray. Even on the tips of his toes, he couldn't reach it.
Riley didn't answer; he waited for Ben to turn around. "Um…yeah," he said when Ben did.
Ben made getting the spray look easy. His shirt rode up a touch and he adjusted it when he came back to his normal standing position before handing Riley the spray.
"No problem," Ben said.
Riley nodded and then pulled the cap off of the can. He sprayed the pan generously—he hated crispy eggs—and then put the spray next to the stove, until Ben got back up when he could put it back.
When Riley finished making his breakfast, he sat down at the head of the table and noticed the packet he had slid under Ben's door last night. He flipped through the pages, to see if Ben had done anything to it or was just returning it to him.
"I especially liked the part about Aquarians being hypnotic and irresistible. I think it was on the second page…"
Riley turned around, but Ben was not looking at him. His attention was still directed at the computer which now displayed a game of Solitaire. At the table, Riley flipped through the pages until he found the paragraph Ben was talking about—it was on the third page, and Riley smiled, tickled that Ben was wrong for once.
In the middle of the paragraph, Riley spotted the words Ben had referenced to. He went to the beginning of the topic that dealt with it.
"They do not give themselves easily – perhaps their judgment of human nature is too good for that – and are sometimes accounted cold. But once they decide that someone is worthy of their friendship or love, they can exert an almost hypnotic and irresistible mental attraction on them and will themselves become tenacious friends or lovers, ready to sacrifice everything for their partners and be faithful to them for life," part of the paragraph said.
"Your research inspired me. You know who is compatible for Aquarians?"
Riley jumped slightly. Ben had moved behind him, his hands on the back of the chair.
"Leos. People born during the time from July twenty-third to August twenty-second."
Riley searched his mind for someone born during that time period. That girl he liked in eighth grade? No…her birthday was in April. Abby? No…that was in what…? October, maybe? Or was it November? Who else?
"Ben…Ben…when's your birthday?"
"July twenty-fifth, thanks for asking," he said matter-of-factly. "I'm going to the grocery store, want anything?"
Riley sat in the chair for a long time after, letting his eggs-on-toast-with-cream-cheese get cold.