Author's Note: My god, this was a monster to tackle! Anyway, this is the first fanfiction I posted up here, isn't it? :3 And a Phoenix Wright one, no less! It's only a one-shot, but I like it, anyway! This is basically another way to view something that happened in the Phoenix Wright series – that class trial. I'll definitely be submitting more kid!Phoenix, kid!Edgeworth, and kid!Larry trio stuff! It's so fun to write. :3 I literally dared myself to finish this thing in one day, and man am I proud of it! There is some stuff that would be nice rewritten, but overall I love it!
I won't tell you whose PV it is in. You'll find it out yourself.
Father had always told me that it would be good to start talking to other kids I had never spoken to and of whom never spoke to anyone else. He had told me before to make some friends, and that wasn't hard; all I had to do was join a club. But talk to people no one else talks to? Impossibility – I wouldn't even know ahead of time the interests of those kids. What if we got into arguments? Or, what if they made fun of me? No; that simply wasn't a risk I was going to take.
So when Father brought it up as he was reading case files, I felt annoyed beyond belief. It was night, and I was packing my backpack for school the next day. I had just been slipping in a notebook to take notes when he butted in with a simple topic.
"You know, I bet some of the kids at school are lonely."
It was a simple declaration. I hadn't even heard the undertones of what he was about to imply. Because of that, I didn't feel threatened. So, I simply answered, "Yeah, I guess. I wouldn't know." I returned to the task I had at hand of putting things away into my backpack, when I felt the presence of my father come into proximity to my own. Zipping my backpack, I turned to see him towering above me, and I looked up in order to meet his eyes with my own gaze. Instinctively, the negative response part of my mind kicked in, and I found myself saying, beyond my control, "What did I do? Did I say something wrong?"
To my surprise, my father beamed at me, seeding confusion further into me. I searched his dark eyes, trying to find a solution to this interaction, but I found nothing but laughter. He kneeled before me, his hand lightly resting on my shoulder, and his face was a mere few inches from my own. "No, you didn't," he placated gently, which I met with a scowl. I didn't need comfort, especially when I was confused beyond sense. His smile grew wider as he continued, "I was just going to suggest something. You like the people in your club, don't you?" Feeling too confused to answer otherwise, I nodded. "Well, how about you get to know some other kids?"
My mind clicked as I realized what he was suggesting, and indignation spread through me like wildfire. Immediately, I pushed down the feeling, hoping it wouldn't enter into my voice; the last thing I wanted to do was to make my father, my idol, upset. "No," I answered simply and defiantly. "I don't want to talk to other kids. I hardly know any of them."
It didn't take long for me to realize that that probably wasn't what my father wanted to hear, because I heard him sigh in sadness and in slight irritation. "You have a lot to learn," he simply told me, backing away from me a little, and standing up once more. I couldn't keep the defiant gleam out of my eyes as I tracked his movements with them. "You know those other kids are lonely. Why don't you give it a shot?"
"They'll be even worse if we get in a huge argument or something," I retorted, and, without any remorse, turned around with my back toward my father. I knew I would get scolded for it, but I wasn't in the mood. I was starting to get annoyed with Father's persistence. "Before you say anything, yes, I do know before I try. I have no idea if… if they'll have similar interests to mine."
I had been expecting my father to be mad at me for rejecting his "offer." I had expected anything but the amused chuckle. I whipped around to face him, astonished, and he spoke with a gentle voice, "You'd be surprised the kinds of people you can be friends with." I suppressed the urge to snap at him as he laughed like as if it was funny that I had fear of causing others to be angry with me. How was it funny? "Maybe you'll learn, someday," he continued, "that opposites have a way of attracting. Not just in magnetism, but in other things, too." He bent his knees and ruffled my hair, and the indignation came back with a fighting spirit. "Ah, you're only in second grade. You'll understand when you get older." And before I could even attack him with words again, he got up, and, deciding he was busy again even though he spent the past several minutes talking to me, he told me a quick, "I gotta prepare my case," and returned back to the files.
It wasn't a risk I was going to take, and yet there was truth in his words. At the time I didn't even notice these truths; who would? But I learned the lesson he was trying to teach me a lot sooner than he expected – when he simply said, "you're in second grade; you won't understand," it seemed to jinx me, because, incidentally, the time I learned was in second grade.
The next day, when I was trudging through my classes with my backpack slung over my shoulder, I heard the buzz of some of my club members. A few of them shared classes with me, which is why I saw them then. There was also two particular kids who shared a class with me, but I didn't know them that well – Phoenix Wright, and Larry Butz. All I knew for sure was their names, mainly because I had to remember them. (And remembering Larry's last name wasn't that difficult – I mean, who has a last name called Butz?) The kids who did share classes, especially first thing in the morning when I first got to school, were Jasmine Phillips, a sweet girl who typically just liked studying law like I did, and wanted to be a defense attorney, mainly because she wanted to stand up for people rather than send people to their deaths; Ollie Jermaine, a boy who was like the typical boy, wanting to stay up late every night playing video games, and only studied law on a side; and Zachery Zaine, who was one of those rare second grade flirts, and also a genius. Jasmine, Ollie, and Zach were three of the kids I definitely liked sharing classes with from the club, because all three of them never bothered to get into an argument with me. Jasmine was just too shy, Ollie just too lazy, and Zach was too smart and even-tempered.
They weren't always that nice, though. The buzz that I had mentioned I heard this morning was one example of that. As I was sitting down in class before the teacher readied the chalk board and her papers (I sat next to Ollie and Jasmine, and Phoenix sat behind me), Ollie tsked toward me, his green eyes sparkling and a grin firmly planted on his face. I gently set the backpack down beside my desk, and leaned over so I was closer to Ollie, and hissed, "Yeah?" to him. He obviously wanted something from me.
Ollie flicked his comb through his short black hair, and whispered to me, giggling, "That kid behind you. You know what he did?"
Jasmine leaned closer to us, her long blond hair swishing on her shoulders, and her hazel eyes intent upon us. "I haven't," she declared to us in a whisper. "But I heard it's bad." She found herself giggling too, and I swerved my glance between the two of them, back and forth, not knowing what to make of it.
"What'd Phoenix do?" I finally mustered up the courage to ask in a whisper.
Before my classmate could catch himself, he exclaimed as the class was about to get ready and all students were within their seats, "He fell off the swing! Twice! In a row! I thought phoenixes were supposed to be graceful!"
This definitely caught the attention of all the kids, and quite a bit of the class exploded in laughter. It was a bit of a pride matter, really. In second grade, we had pride ourselves in being able to swing very high on the swing. Not only that, but while younger children would have a harder time of staying on the swing, especially while being pushed, we had been proud of the fact that second graders were supposed to be able to stay on the swing. It was a milestone, really.
There were only a few kids not laughing, and Jasmine and Ollie were definitely not one of them. And I wasn't, either. I had felt myself starting up a laugh – and what I did next was quite shameful, and if I weren't so amused by what Phoenix had turned up to do, I wouldn't have done it. I turned around in my seat to face the kid, laughing loudly, to inquire, "Is it true!? Did that really happen!?"
Something in me, a small suppressed part of my mind in the amused state I was in, regretted the decision. I had clearly seen his face – blue eyes were glazing over like as if tears threatened to emerge, a deep frown, mouth drawn in a gasp like as if in shock, eyes wide, small frame shrunken back against the chair. But this something didn't emerge, and it didn't prevent me from continuing to laugh. It didn't prevent my friends from continuing to laugh, either, nor did it prevent quite a few of the kids to laugh. I didn't even notice what the teacher was doing, but I'm sure she wasn't as amused as we were. There was something that made me stop laughing, though, and that was the small words that came from Phoenix's mouth.
"You think it's funny?"
The incredulity of the tone showed off his belief in the understanding of people. I hadn't even realized it at the time; after all, it was only second grade. But the tone did make me stop laughing. However, with others around me, it only gave cause for them to laugh all the more harder at the poor kid. Maybe it was the fact that I had thought the same thing about my father's "sympathy" that caught my attention at such a young age. Whatever it was that did, it did its job, and my jaw was firmly clamped shut, so much so, that just to make sure it wasn't tempting to start laughing again, I turned and faced the teacher.
Who was, indeed, really mad.
"Children! Settle down!" she exclaimed. From the look on her face, I noticed she actually had been yelling for a while, and I felt an unexpected pang of guilt for not listening to an authority figure who had just as much power as my father. As if in a chain reaction, all of the kids gradually went silent and faced her just as I had. "This is not the way to act in a classroom. Now, Ollie, apologize to Phoenix right this instant."
Ollie sighed over exaggeratedly, and turned around in order to face Phoenix. All of the kids, including me, had turned to see Phoenix's reaction to whatever Ollie was going to say. To my horror, my friend spoke in a drawl, like as if making fun of the strange spiky-hair's intelligence. "I'm sorry," he said sarcastically, but believably enough that it would satisfy the teacher.
And indeed, it did. "Thank you, Ollie," she replied, looking relieved that Ollie decided not to be defiant. I scowled. How could anyone believe Ollie's little act? He was my friend, but even I couldn't help but feel ashamed that I had even joined in with his little stupid scheme. The teacher looked toward Phoenix, and told him, "Now you can forgive him."
The reply Phoenix gave was definitely not the reply everyone was expecting, especially not Ollie and I, because all of us whipped our heads toward Phoenix in shock. "H-He was lying," he muttered shakily. However, he gave way not long under peer pressure, and eventually he whispered, "Forgiven." And that was that.
How Phoenix was able to tell that Ollie was lying, I would never know and never care to find out. I knew for sure Ollie was lying; he was a good friend of mine, even though I didn't really hang out with him much (or like it, anyway), and it was impossible not to tell. However, that was because I knew him beforehand. Phoenix had not. And the guilt of the day haunted me as he realized, he was probably good at picking up at least some of this stuff after being teased for so long.
Being teased even by me.
That had simply been my first encounter with Phoenix – at least, it was the first day I truly acknowledged him. Phoenix himself truly didn't acknowledge me much either; he couldn't, considering there was no way of differentiating between – er – bullies. As for Larry, he had been one of those who had not been laughing, which is quite surprising, knowing now the person he is. The reason why I care to mention him is the fact that he is quite important; at then I didn't realize it, but Larry was going to be an excellent way of finding out my father's lesson, indirectly of course.
That was definitely the first time I had seen Phoenix as an individual, and even though second graders don't really cling to thoughts, somehow it was somewhere in the back of my mind. It was how I had felt empathy toward him when he had gotten into a certain situation, like as if I had understood why he was so upset. But, to be perfectly honest, I had thought that I wouldn't ever talk to Phoenix again. If I were to, it would be in collaboration with Jasmine and Ollie, making fun of him, or to laugh at him with Zach about how he would have too much trouble with his homework. There was a change in this routinely avoiding and trying not to think about the other, though, one day when we all had P.E.
Zach, Jasmine, and Ollie were hovering near me like flies to a light as I was preparing for P.E. Larry was absent, but Phoenix was in class; I didn't really notice either, however. Some other kids around us were giggling, some discussing about what they would do for P.E., some even talking about what they would do after school, which was a bit off by a few hours. Not that it really mattered, however; I wasn't one to dive into others' personal affairs, so most of what they said slipped my mind; not only that, but I hardly cared. As I left my backpack nearby all of the other ones, I headed off with the kids to meet up with the P.E. teacher. (At the time I could never understand the teaching system, especially the fact that they had different teachers for different subjects, such as a different science teacher or English teacher. I never really understood why they did that until I learned more about it in middle school.) He lined us all up, and he we all turned to face him, readying to do as he instructed.
Everyone expected him to say something about what we should do, but before he did so, we heard coughing from one of the other students. It wasn't one of those awkward, silent-driving coughs, nor was it just one of those occasional coughs; it was an actual cough, or more like a series of coughs, that signaled someone was sick. All of our attention turned to whoever was coughing, but we couldn't figure out who. Whoever it was kept moving.
Finally, all-curious Zach piped up, "Who keeps coughing?" For a while, nobody had the courage to answer. I glanced toward Jasmine and Ollie to see their opinions, but they both had reflected the same puzzled look I don't doubt I was holding on my face. All of the kids looked around, before a small voice came up.
"S-Sorry," whispered the kid, and I knew for sure his voice was familiar. Not only was it rough from coughing, but I had heard his voice before. Everyone turned their attention, and saw the culprit: Phoenix. "I… have a cold," he explained in the typical shaky voice I had heard days before, when I had acknowledged him, and it brought all of it up like a sledgehammer. Trying to keep myself from squirming at the sudden memories, I continued to listen as Phoenix muttered, "I didn't say a-anything, 'cause I thought I-I'd get in trouble."
The P.E. teacher's eyes softened, and he placed his hand on Phoenix's shoulder. "Why don't you head to the nurse's office?" he suggested. I felt confused that something as minor as a cold was worth concern, but then I saw how tired Phoenix looked, and I knew this was one of those bad colds. "I'll give you a note so nobody gets you in trouble, okay? Just don't go off campus or anything." Quickly, he took out a sticky note he held in his pocket, scribbling quickly with his pen, and handed the sticky note to Phoenix. The little boy reached upward to grab it. "Remember to ask about calling your parents. If it's bad enough it's best to get some rest."
Phoenix nodded, and almost gave way to coughing again, putting his arm over his mouth. "Th-Th-Thank you," he muttered, taking the sticky note and trotting off to the direction of the nurse's office.
My eyes followed his motions, and out of the corner of my eye I had seen a flash of orange hair. I didn't make much of it; my attention was mostly on Phoenix and on my teacher, and a color isn't that interesting when you see a whole bunch of them. When Phoenix disappeared in the distance, I felt awkward – a mixture of past guilt, and a mixture of relief that the kid had disappeared. I had never felt so… so decomposed before. But I kept these feelings in my head, and listened to the teacher as he spoke.
It's funny, how that little flash of orange didn't catch my attention; and yet, its owner had changed my whole perspective.
It was the day after Phoenix had abruptly left P.E. class because of his cold. But it wasn't that I had cared about at the time. The events of yesterday didn't really grab much attention in my mind. Except for one event, and it made me angry.
My lunch money had been stolen!
The day before, during P.E., someone had snuck into the classroom left behind and stolen my lunch money right from my backpack while I wasn't able to guard it. I was trying to put two-and-two together, trying to figure out who had done such a profane act such as that. I wasn't able to have lunch that day, and I had been complaining to Ollie, Jasmine, Zach, and the others from the club about it. However, my complaints had fallen on deaf ears, and eventually I had told the teacher, who promised the next day she would get to the bottom of whoever stole it.
So, it was the next day then.
And that was why it was bothering me. Theft, in second grade, for crying out loud! It had been unheard of, not to mention it was so uncouth. It wasn't the fact that $38 had been snuffed out right from under my nose; it was rather the fact that someone decided to steal something at all. I had thought that the kids I shared classes with were beyond that sort of thing, but apparently I was completely wrong in that assumption, and then I had been in deep water because of the false assumption that someone would actually have some morals in second grade like I did.
I entered the class, feeling rather peeved, and sat down at my desk, setting the backpack roughly on the ground. My expression was probably livid, for Ollie and Jasmine avoided talking to me at all, while most of the time before class started they would go on talking about last night. When I was angry, they typically avoided me; which was good, because I wanted them to avoid me. Zach glanced over me worriedly, but other than that he simply headed over to his desk. I had caught the look of concern in his troubled gray eyes, but it didn't bother me. I didn't need concern. I needed to find the culprit of this thievery.
And that's when I saw him enter. Larry Butz. I saw him enter with a huge grin plastered on his face, and, what was that, orange hair – I knew for sure it was him. He was screaming, "Guilty as charged!" with that expression on his face. He also avoided glancing at me, and though he was an oddball, he did have some similarity to others as how he shows off his emotions. And it was obvious he was feeling a little guilt. However, the grin wasn't wiped away from his face, and I couldn't help gritting my teeth in anger at him, with which he responded with a glance away. It was funny how ridiculously angry at him I was, but now, I wish he had done what he did sooner.
Zach tried to tame his brown cowlick when he got out of his seat and passed by mine once more. "Is it the lunch thing again?" he asked me quietly as Larry took his seat, out of my glaring vision.
"I know who did it," I replied angrily. "And it had to be a kid from outside the club. I have absolutely no way of contacting him and getting in his face."
Apparently Ollie had been listening into the conversation, because he himself suggested, "Why don't we ask the teacher if we can have a class trial?" He received a grin from Zach and Jasmine, who also was now listening. My expression was still angry, but I couldn't help but feel relieved that Ollie came up with something so brilliant when he usually was busy focusing on video games. "And I think I know who did it as well." He turned his gaze to the front of the classroom.
I stared at him, and somehow I had a gut feeling that he was thinking about a different person than I was. No matter who he accused, though, I would be able to find out for sure who did it through whomever he wanted to hold a class trial for. I still had my doubts – I had no evidence Larry did it, so I just had to make sure somehow that he was the one who truly committed the crime.
Ollie raised his hand right as class was about to start, and he was called with a little, "Yes, Ollie?" He took a deep breath, and said, "Teacher, I think we should hold a class trial!"
The teacher looked at him, her eyebrow raised. "What is this all about?"
"It's about Miles's stolen lunch money," Jasmine piped up before I could even say anything. What was it with my club members speaking for me nowadays, anyway? "You know, yesterday. We have a suspect, so we'd like to question him!"
I couldn't help but wonder who him was. Apparently, I wasn't the only one wondering, for the teacher asked, "Who's him? Who are you going to accuse?" I was waiting for her to ask, and who would be his defense attorney, but she didn't even mention it. Apparently, the juridical system wasn't that well known. Either that, or she didn't think any of them understood the concept of it – I certainly did, and I was sure that my club members understood it, too, but we were probably the only ones in class who particularly studied law. "You can't just go having a trial without someone to accuse!"
"Isn't it obvious?" Ollie slammed his hand on his table, and for a second I thought of him as a real prosecuting attorney. Wait. Prosecuting attorney? Yes, definitely, something wasn't right here. "It was definitely Phoenix!"
'Phoenix?' I turned and looked at the trembling boy, staring at Phoenix who was hunkered in the seat behind me. It seemed he had recovered from his cold, but that was something I wasn't concerned with at the moment. 'Why would they accuse Phoenix? I was sure it was Larry…' I turned my gaze over to Larry, who looked utterly shocked. The rest of the class looked startled for a minute, before they started to shout. I shrunk back in my seat with all of the class shouting, and felt helpless for once.
"Now, now, settle down," ordered the teacher, and all of the kids had settled down gradually. When they allotted her to speak, she spoke in a firmness I had heard her speak before, but only when someone was in trouble. "We will start a class trial for Phoenix Wright. Phoenix, stand at the center of the room."
I watched as Phoenix unsteadily got up to his feet, almost tripping over the leg of someone else, and I scowled – only just accused, and then everyone was getting hostile? Phoenix stumbled to the front of the class, standing before the teacher and fumbling with his hands. "I didn't do it," he immediately insisted before the teacher could say anything. "I-I swear I didn't do it."
And I found myself believing him. 'He didn't do it,' I echoed in my mind. Somehow, in some way, I knew for sure of all kids in the class, he would be the most likely to be innocent. It just somehow made sense and fit in my mind. He didn't seem to be the type to steal. In fact, it seemed his mannerisms were much like mine.
The teacher smiled gently. "Now, sweetie, I just want to find the culprit, okay?" she comforted. "Don't lie." She turned her gaze to the others, spreading her arms out a little. "Does anyone object to this?"
That was definitely the wrong question to ask from a teacher in particular, because immediately the class went into an uproar around me – which included Ollie, Jasmine, and even Zach. All of them were shouting, "He did it!" or, "He's a dirty thief!" or, "Get him in trouble!" or even, "I knew it from the moment I saw him he was a criminal!" Nothing good was being said about him, and everyone kept shouting all around me. I shrank back from all of the crowding suddenly around me, to get a piece of Phoenix. I had never known second graders could be so vicious up until then.
"I didn't do it!" Phoenix cried out indignantly. And frankly, I couldn't blame him. I would've spoken like that, too, even to a teacher, if I were blamed like that and innocent. "All I did in P.E. was go to the nurse's office! I-I didn't do it!"
And then, just with one person's word, it all took a turn for the worse when the kids' clatter started to die down. Larry, who had been the only one besides me not to join in the clatter, stared open-mouthed, and I almost couldn't prevent my own jaw from dropping, when the teacher spoke. "You know you shouldn't do that," she accused, and I felt despair immediately at those words. Phoenix looked up at her with widened eyes, and I felt pain, knowing the innocent was being accused of a criminal act – and nobody wanted to support him. "Now, go apologize to Miles."
And, as if things couldn't get horrifying enough – Phoenix started crying. I saw it. Tears were streaming down his cheeks rapidly, and he lifted his arm to his face to try to stop the flow, though it was an impossibility. Larry stared down at his desk guiltily, and I knew for sure then that he did it. But I quite frankly didn't care. I wanted to stop Phoenix from crying – I didn't want to see him cry and suffer… especially for a crime he did not commit, and I knew he didn't commit. "B-But I..." he started, but, sadly, couldn't finish. He was in no state to be talking or defending himself. I looked around for anyone, anyone, who would stick up for him, but everyone was simply glowering at him. I felt miserable.
"Go apologize," the teacher repeated, in a firmer voice. "Or would you like to go to the principal's office? He certainly wouldn't like to see you today." Now that was just horrible. Using the principal's office as a threat. I felt it couldn't possibly get any worse…
Still sobbing, Phoenix sniffed and managed to choke out, "O-Okay…" I felt indignation for Phoenix's sake start to rise within me, like a wildfire, like it had risen but for myself when my father had suggested that I would talk to people I didn't really know. Stumbling, he approached my desk, and I felt my heart go out to him. He didn't deserve this kind of treatment. He was being bullied, and nobody was willing to support him. This wasn't a class trial. This was a gang-up. As he approached my desk, words tumbled out of his mouth that had no meaning. He tried to say something – he tried to apologize, just as he was told.
Rage filled me, and I couldn't take it any longer.
"Objection!" I shouted at the top of my lungs, and immediately after the shout while all the other kids had been in the midst of muttering amongst each other, I felt twenty stares on me, one of which being the teacher, all in shock and disbelief. Phoenix himself looked up, tears still streaming down his cheeks, but no longer sobbing or bothering to wipe them; he stared at me with wide eyes, his blue eyes filled with uncertainty, distrust, and surprise. I knew if I were to say something, I'd have to be gentle, like my father had been – I knew Phoenix was the type to take things very strongly, through the time I had known him, though I hardly paid this much attention. "You don't have to apologize," I explained in a quieter and gentler voice. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"Wh-What are you saying!?" Ollie immediately demanded, staring at me with wide eyes. The other students around him nodded in agreement to his disbelief. "He stole your lunch money! He did do something wrong!"
"No, he didn't," I argued, which received numerous gasps from people around the room. Larry stared at me, and I could've sworn I saw admiration in his eyes.
"But Miles, it was your lunch money that was stolen," the teacher muttered, trying to make one last attempt to win me over. It didn't work, needless to say.
"I don't care if it was the president's money that was stolen," I told her sternly, not backing down, and the look of shock on each child's face grew into uncertainty. "You don't know Phoenix stole the money. You don't have any evidence he did it. In a court trial, you need evidence for everything."
However, despite my "inspiring" words, the class erupted once again into accusations towards Phoenix, and I felt rage eating my insides. Phoenix cowered from the hostility around him, and backed away toward my desk again. Somehow, I seemed to comfort him. Maybe it was because I was the one on his side in comparison to everyone else. It still seemed to be a hopeless cause, because I had been the only one to support him, until the one I expected least to speak spoke.
Leaning back in his desk, Larry drawled, "Aw, lay off 'im, would'ja?" He winked at me, and I knew for sure – he was so guilty that he got Phoenix into this mess that he was supporting him. For once, I had to suppress the urge to smile – the first time in a long time I've had to do that. "You don't know he did it, and you're all just jumping on him with no evi—whatever!" 'Evidence,' I hissed in my mind, but didn't say aloud. It wasn't important, anyhow. "You're all bullying him! Point is, Miles doesn't seem to be angry, so why would you all?"
I heard the class go into uneasy mutterings all around me. But the fact that two people supported him now provided some influence over the decisions. All of them had started to look more and more uncertain, like as if they didn't know what to think.
It seemed like a fairy tale. All of it eased, and the situation turned into nothing. And I'm sure no one remembered it, except for Larry and I. Oh, and Phoenix. Especially Phoenix. However, I thought nothing of it. And I didn't expect to contact Phoenix again.
I was leaving class after a long, long day. The trial had really worn me out, and not only that, but we still had to get an education on the same day. I didn't expect to talk to anyone on the way out. My backpack slung over my back, I headed over to the parking lot to await my father's arrival.
Before I had arrived, however, I saw a flash of orange. Again. 'Larry.' Why did he want me? I watched as the goofball of a kid approached me, a big smile lighting up his face, his brown eyes light. I turned to him, meeting him with my own dark brown eyes. I was curious, but I really wanted to get home as soon as possible. I just didn't want to talk to anyone, especially not the culprit of the stealing. It just didn't seem right, somehow.
He stopped before me, and his smile was replaced with an unusually serious look. "Hey, Miles…" He said my name like as if it was foreign on his tongue, and I internally winced. But it was no wonder; I had never spoken to Larry privately like that before then. "That class trial thing… It was, er, impressive." Apparently he wasn't used to complimenting people, either. Suddenly, the grin came back on his face – it was amusing to watch him switch through expressions so quickly; it seemed almost inhuman. "Sooooo, Miles…" He held out his hand to me, and I stared at it.
"Um, why are you doing that?" I asked, trying to keep the haughtiness out of my voice. I couldn't help feeling that way before kids like him who admired me. I just knew he did – I saw it within his eyes. But I'm not boasting. "Do you want me to…?"
Larry laughed merrily, and confusion seeded in me again, like it did when Father had spoken to me. "You've never had a handshake before?" he asked incredulously. "You have a whole club full of friends, and you've never had a handshake from one of them?" He lifted his hand again for more emphasis. "Well, then this'll be your first one, pal."
I sighed in exasperation, but… in my mind, I felt amused. In fact, I felt very amused. I felt like I did when I was around Ollie whenever he lost his video game – a teasing amused. I didn't expect to feel that way around a total stranger, but somehow, I was feeling that way around Larry. Reluctantly, I took his hand and shook it. "But, uh, why did you want to shake my hand?" I asked, feeling a bit awkward. Being social was not my forte.
Larry, taking his hand back, snickered, and I tried to muffle my surprise at his reaction. "Isn't it obvious?" he asked, and I dumbly shook my head in response. "It's a truce. And a friendship. Duh."
'Friendship establishment…?' No one had ever wanted to be my friend before, besides the club people, and even they weren't that friendly. It was true, they did some friendly things to me, but not like this… this was a level of friendship I had never experienced before. 'He… wants to be my friend?' I realized I was staring at him stupidly and Larry was trying to stifle his laughter, so I quickly said, "Um, okay, friends, I guess." I had never thought I would ever say that in my life.
Larry grinned. "You've got somewhere to be, right, Miles?" he asked. I only nodded in response. He smirked. "Well then, I'll see ya tomorrow! Maybe I can request I sit near you? How does that sound?"
'It sounds… nice, actually.' I would never admit that, though. "Go ahead," I simply replied, keeping my pride. Larry snerked, and, with that, he trudged off in a different direction, away from where I was going. Where was he going? I didn't know.
Feeling a bit strange, I quickly hauled my backpack and approached along the sidewalk into the parking lot. It felt a bit nice to have a friend for once. Even if he was a bit insane, and he'd get me in trouble, he actually seemed like a genuine friend. And, what was weird was the fact that he shared none of my interests. I had completely forgotten the fact that the person who had just asked to be my friend was the one who stole my lunch money – it seemed such a petty thing to me at that point.
I saw my father's car in the parking lot, and I approached it, but I noticed that my steps were lighter. One thing I noticed not too far from the car was the fact that the driver's door was open, and my happiness turned to curiosity. Why was the door wide open like that? It wasn't like my father to do that. Staring at the car for a little longer, I looked around for my father, and then called out, "Dad! I'm here!"
It wasn't long before I heard footsteps a few cars down, and I saw my father coming along. He had a gentle smile on his face, but it was apparent that the smile had come from someone else, and he hadn't adjusted his expression before he had approached me. "Miles, do you know this kid?" he asked, and suddenly a pang of curiosity hit me like a rolling wave. What kid was he talking about? Searching about, I saw nothing – until I saw a pair of blue eyes peeking out from behind Father's right leg.
"You followed me?" I couldn't help but blurt out to Phoenix without even answering my father's question. Dad looked at me with a confused expression, and I almost facepalmed.
Clumsily, Phoenix stepped out from behind my father and sighed shakily. "No… I actually looked f-for you in the parking lot," he explained, and I felt guilty for leaving him there almost immediately. Wait. Why did I feel guilty for leaving him to look for me? He looked for me on his own. He chose to do that. It wasn't like he was my friend or anything… "I-I couldn't find you. So I kinda… sulked. And then your dad… h-he found me." 'He sulked? Did he really want to see me that much?' And I felt guilty as soon as I heard his next words: "A-Are you mad?"
Quickly, I shook my head. "No, I'm not," I responded, admiring myself for how calm and indifferent I sounded. However, the lack of care in my voice, like as if I wasn't glad to see him, made Phoenix flinch. What was it with this kid? "It's just kind of… weird, you know? But I saw Larry… so I guess it makes no difference."
Phoenix sighed sadly, looking at the ground. The spiky-hair was definitely a mystery to me. Most kids wouldn't flinch when you didn't care if they followed. But apparently, he did. Was it because he thought my indifference meant that I hated him or something, or thought of him as a gnat? But then, knowing the kid, that actually wasn't that unusual… "A-All I wanted to do was… was say 'thanks' for what you did in c-class today," he explained, and that made me feel even more guilty, knowing that the kid was trying to say thanks and I sounded like a coldhearted jerk. "N-Nobody's ever wanted to stand up for me like that. So… thanks. I-I can leave now if you want." The little kid turned, and Father looked at me sternly in response.
I remembered what he said. Some kids could be lonely. And I saw it in Phoenix's eyes – he didn't have any friends. I was lucky to have the club. He was bullied constantly, and I had never noticed. I felt so enlightened – I just had to support him somehow, especially seeing now that Phoenix was a nice kid, and it was quite the wonder why he didn't have any friends. I spoke in a placating way, only by instinct – it was, per se, a slip of the tongue: "No, don't. I'm not mad at you." The kid turned back to me, looking at me with wide eyes, like as if he wasn't expecting that. And he probably hadn't. That's when I made up my decision – I would hang out more with this kid. "Do you want to hang out with me tomorrow? Larry will be coming," I added quickly, knowing it was right for Phoenix to know if we had company.
And then I saw something that almost made me smile – Phoenix's eyes glowed, and he looked extremely pleased, elated, and just generally happy. And I could hear it in his voice – the dejected little kid voice I had heard earlier turned into a goofy, genuinely kind, and happy voice. He was opening up, just because I decided to invite him. "O-Okay!" And for once, I saw the kid smile. For once. "Th-Thank you so much!" He turned around again, but this time he waved merrily at me, a bit like Larry did earlier. "B-Bye! See you tomorrow!" And he headed off, looking like he was soaring.
Father had always told me that it would be good to start talking to other kids I had never spoken to and of whom never spoke to anyone else. At first I had scoffed the idea, just like the club idea. But then, I had seen the light. And I couldn't have done it soon enough. The happiest thing that happened to me was gaining my two best friends – and of all the years, even after DL-6 and all the craziness that happened to me, my friends always stayed with me and kept believing in me.
All because Larry stole my lunch money.