November 23, 9 o'clock in the morning in the warm, scenic and coastal city of San Maria, California. On most mornings such this, in a place where the sun retained its heat despite the late time of year that it was, people would be either going through their daily routine or having a relaxing day without school for the holiday week as though it were summer rather than winter. However, this was not the case for Brandon Araradian.
The slender boy with hair of chestnut brown and eyes of light purple simply couldn't sit down. For once it was not his hyperactivity, but his nerves that made him act this way as he paced the floor of his bedroom with a panicking face nearly permanently locked onto his young high school student face.
"How could I have forgot?!" he thought to himself in this panicked state he was in, "He's my best friend and I just let him down! I'll never be able to forgive myself" he then gasped, "He'll never be able to forgive me!"
There was nothing that he could think to do. It was the birthday of one of his two best friends childhood, and with all of the Thanksgiving feasting the previous day it seemed to have slipped his mind to purchase a gift for his friend, even despite said friend's lack of ever really wanting much of anything.
Even if it was true that his friend had many wonderful things, it still made the Armenian-American feel selfish. It wasn't until a he looked at a picture of him and both of his friends together that he knew just who to ask about this predicament:
"I know!” he exclaimed with an amount of newfound optimism,”I'll call Ryker up and ask if me and him can share gifts!", a smile of hope was now yet again plastered on his face as he took his smartphone from his desk and into his hands, surfing through his contacts until his best friend who wasn’t having a birthday at this specific day was whom he was waiting to hear an answer from.
Brandon however was not known for being a patient boy, and not very long after he placed the call did he begin a small bit of whining:
“Come on Ryk! Pick up the phone! Please! I need you! Coby needs you! But mostly, I need you!”
With some tapping of the feet and a bit more whining later, Brandon was finally greeted with a familiar hispanic accent coming through the other end of the phone:
“Ryker! Finally!” Brandon chirped, “What took you so long to pick up?”
“It was not long time, Brandon” the Mexican-American chuckled on the other end, “You need more patience.”
“No, I don’t!” Brandon replied swiftly, “What I need is help, scratch that, what Coby needs is help! It’s his birthday and ‘cuz of Thanksgiving I forgot all about it!”
“It’s Coby’s birthday?”
“Yes! November 23rd! Don’t you know?”
“Meirda!” Ryker exclaimed back, “Thanksgiving made me forget too, and I still recovering from much food!”
“So you didn’t get him anything either?!”
“No, no I did not!”
“Gah!” Brandon nearly screamed as he heard those words from his ‘amigo’, his panic returning, “What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?!”
“Brandon!” Ryker called out, “Frío! There is simple solution to problem!”
“Like what?! What could possibly make up for what we’ve forgotten?!”
“Go to store and buy something?”
“Oh” suddenly Brandon was back to being calmed - even giggling in response as he reflected on how he was acting, “Ha, for some reason that idea didn’t slip my mind!”
“Should tell Mamá or Papá to drive us?”
“Ryk, come on, you know it’s faster if I handle the travel over there! I know just the place to go to,
“You have good point.”
“You bet I do! Get ready, cuz I’m coming right over!”
Within just a few minutes further, far faster than what most normal humans would be capable of, Brandon arrived to Ryker’s house, with the youthful athletic boy just having the time to get dressed and step out door before he was grabbed by his left wrist and whisked away with just a gasp and the sudden rush of wind blowing past him as Brandon - with the power of superhuman speed, didn’t bother to say anything more.
Then again, speaking while traveling at such speeds was something that one needed to be adjusted to. The latino brunette was still adjusting to speaking english in general.
“AY MAMACITA!” Ryker shouted to his friend as loud yet also as clearly as he could, “Al menos avisame para cuando vayas a correr!”
“No time!” Brandon replied back at the same volume, understanding his language perfect “We have to make it there as quick as we can! You know what day it is!”
“Si! I do!”
The destination to which they were rushing was none other than the local shopping mall, located just before San Maria’s more metropolitan downtown, compared to the suburban community in which they live in. Given Brandon’s speed, it was not that long of a trip nor than many people blown away or confused by the sudden blur of red that zoomed past them. There also weren’t that many ladies that had to pull down their skirts or dresses to avoid embarrassment either.
However, as the two found out; reaching the mall was only the easy part of their last minute shopping trip. The moment that Brandon finally breaked at the sidewalk opposite the front door - and after Ryker inevitably slammed into him due to inertia, accidentally sending both of them tumbling to the ground with a thud, the two were soon gasping with open jaws at the sight before them.
Saying that the mall’s parking lot was busy would be an understatement, as not only was every single available parking space taken, but there were numerous parked vehicles that weren’t even close to being inside of a proper parking space - and even more that were getting tickets for being parked rather illegally. The sight of the parking lot was but a minor one though, compared to the crowd of mad shoppers lined up by the front door, fighting like an angry mob for their chance at entry into the shopping center. Screaming, foul language, growling and even hissing could all be heard.
The two young boys were confused, until they squinted their eyes to see the signs plastered across the walls of the mall’s front entrance:
‘BLACK FRIDAY SALES! 80% OFF!’
After seeing that, the two turned to each other silently before Ryker was the first one to speak:
“You did not tell me it was this day.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know?”
“You could look at calendar?!”
“Well, you could do that too, silly!”
“Don’t patronize me! You wanted to do this!”
“Ryk, come on, don’t get so angry, it’s Coby’s birthday and we need to get him a gift!”
“But it also Black Friday! There is no way in!”
“Ryker, that hasn’t stopped us before, has it?”
“No, it has not.”
“Then let’s put our brains together and think something up!”
“I could use my fire?”
“That’s the spirit! Could plan! But…...how you going to avoid burning down the building?”
“I have no idea right now, I getting to that!”
“Please, give me some time, this is not peaceful day anymore.”
“It is okay, amigo.”
“Alrighty then, take a deep breath and let’s get Coby his present! Sorry if I’m not as good at this as he is...heheh.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, amigo.”
With one sheepish grin from Brandon in response, it was up to Ryker to find some kind of way to get safe entry into the mall itself - something much easier said than done on this particular day. But just as Brandon was thinking complete with fingers to the sides of his head, Ryker looked both ways for reason of caution before he ultimately decided to quietly use his fire breath on a dry bush near the entrance. That done, at the top of his lungs he turned to the crowd and:
“Fire! Fire! The entrance is on fire!” he, screamed, “FIRE! RUN! THERE IS A FIRE! LOOK!”
“OH M GOODNESS!” one of the mobbing shoppers found herself screaming, “That young boy is right! Look! LOOK!”
“I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!” another screamed.
“THIS MALL’S TRYING TO KILL US!”, was another righteous sample that was able to be heard before many of the patrons who were within earshot of this were suddenly mobbing away from the mall rather than towards it - much like a stampede of cattle. The problem was that this stampede was heading directly for Ryker and Brandon.
“Oh...that’s convenient!” Brandon chirped.
“Out of the way, amigo!”
Ryker quickly grabbed Brandon by the collar of his shirt and made an effort to help him evade the raging stampede of ex-shoppers by running towards and latching onto a nearby street light pole and clinging onto it for life - Brandon following right after him. The two closed their eyes tightly and hoped for the best.
“I hate Black Fridays!” Ryker shouted, though it was hard to hear over the sound of the stampeding crowd around them.
“Don’t be so mean, Ryker, it’s just a day!” Brandon, who had just overheard him, answered back.
“Whatever! We need to get Coby gift, and that what we do!”
“Yeah, but how do we get past the stampede?! We can’t just stay up here forever! Can we?”
“No, we can’t.”
“Okay then!” with that having been said by Brandon, Ryker opened his eyes and looked in the direction of the mall’s direction. Without much planning or thinking, he grabbed his friend by the shirt yet again and made his move: using his flame throwers to propel himself and glide with said amigo across both the parking lot and the crowd, with the customers themselves being none the wiser since all of them were far too busy struggling to look up and see anyways, all they felt was a little bit of a warm sensation in the air.
Brandon the entire time, just chuckled as he enjoyed the ‘ride’. Ryker looked back at Brandon and smiled a little as the two descended down right at the now vacant front door. Though the inside of the store was still bustling, they at least now had their way in. The two kept entering, moving around with the little mobility they had given the shoppers who hadn’t heard about the so-called ‘fire’ outside, until they were in something of an intersection where they had four halls to go down complete with a fountain in the center, a few benches around it but most importantly a map to look at.
“Ooh, here’s a map! Let’s check it out first, buddy!” Brandon pointed at the information map next to them, and started to check on the stores they could go, saying to himself “Now, to guess which store has something that Coby would like most of all!”
“Si...I mean, what could Coby can like?” Ryker asked “He usually so shy and reserved..”
“Yeah, but we’re his friends, so if anyone knows what he’d like, it’s us!”
With that two went on searching, darting their eyes across the map to try and think of ideas:
“How about the sports store?” Ryker asked “He can use new tennis gear, right?”
“I don’t know.” Brandon was doubtful, “I don’t think any of his stuff got broken.”
“How about the art store?” Brandon asked, “He loves that stuff!”
“Yeah, but...I don’t think good enough for birthday gift.”
“Hm, maybe you’re right….we need something big! Something that will make him jump for joy!”
“Right, right...hmmm….clothes are not gonna cut it, so that’s a no...and a new couch would be too big for him-”
“Why would he need a couch?”
“I don’t know!”
“Well, hm, how about….a dish washer?”
“Why would he need a dish washer?”
“I, I have no idea.”
The two kept looking around, and pondering...until...Brandon had an idea, like that of a light bulb turning on inside of his head:
“How about we go here?” Brandon said as he pointed to the electronics store, “The electronics store! We could get Coby a new video game system!”
“You think that could work?” Ryker asked to Brandon, who happily nodded:
“Absolutely positive!” Brandon smiled “Now let’s go, it’s a long way from here!”
So began the journey through the forest of hectic shoppers - with the occasional shopper getting into a fist fight with another. Even then, the two teens were persistent in their quest for the electronic store as they passed through the herd like spirits passing into the afterlife, or stray dogs through the street. By the time they finally arrived at the store however, they soon realized they had to act quicker than that as things were inevitably disappearing from the shelves at a lighting fast pace.
“We better hurry!”
The two guys kept going through the rowdy crowd, going down and crouching to avoid any sucker punches or kicks; it was like the center of a war zone for them. The path become more treacherous as they arrived to the video game area. It was bad enough that the adults were fighting for video game boxes, consoles, controllers, accessories and even video game related paraphernalia all in the name of younger family members safe at their homes - but there were one or two children tugging and arguing on who saw it first: it starts young.
The sight was already horrific enough for Brandon and Ryker, but the two gulped and decided to ‘suck it up’, so to speak: they went in.
“Which system we get?”
“Hmmm….how about the…..which ones do they have?”
“How do I know? They’re flying off the shelves!”
“Well, we should get one that’s still on the shelves!”
“Easier said than done!”
“Then let’s do it!”
“Let’s get this one, the Playcast 4!”
Ryker wasted no time at all in reaching for what appeared to be the last vacant Playcast 4 box, however, just as he picked it up to hold near and dear to him, another hand rather violently grabbed on it and attempted to tug it from the young boy’s grasp. Had it not been for Ryker’s grip, not only would it have succeeded but he would’ve been brought to the floor as well.
“Hands off, you little brat!” - that voice was not Brandon, nor was it Ryker. Rather, it was the shrill, aged voice of a woman who was well into her 40’s yet dressed in a bright pink tracksuit as though she had just gotten out of the gym before arriving at the store. Despite her age, she was trying to pull the box out of Ryker’s hands like a child would.
Ryker however, was not one to surrender to anyone.
“Oye! We saw it first!” Ryker barked, only to be barked at right back:
“Well I’m a mother of eight so I’m entitled more than you two children are!”
“Children!?” Brandon said, feeling insulted “We’re at high school now, ma’am! We prefer adolescents, or teenagers, if you don’t mind!”
“Brandon!” Ryker remarked, “Now is not the time! I handle this!”
“Handle what?” the woman said as she stared the boy down, “You really think you’re scaring me, little boy? Don’t make me laugh! Now give me the game system before I get violent!”
“Señora, no need to get feisty!”
“Bullshit!” and then the older woman shoved the console’s box back at Ryker, but without letting go. She actually used her body weight to slam the box into Ryker’s face in an effort to send him to the ground in order for her to take full hold of it. She didn’t check to see if he was alright like Brandon did with a gasp, but she did make off with the box while he was down.
Once he got back up, he was not a happy boy:
“A LA CARGA!” Ryker shouted as the two went off to outright face off against the woman, or really he did. Brandon just chased after him with a pleading voice:
“Ryker! Wait up! Let’s not do anything we’ll regret!”
“QUE!? SHE HIT ME! SHE DESERVES TAKE DOWN! HURRY OR BE LEFT!”
“All right, all right! Fine, just don’t do something illegal!”
With that, Ryker gave chase to the woman while Brandon followed if only to make sure things did not escalate. The woman was quite sure of herself on her way to the store’s crowded check out, until she saw the infuriated latino boy rushing directly towards her that is.
“OH FUDGE!” The woman grunted as she tried to get out to the register, pushing anyone aside that she could while continuing to squawk, only to ultimately fall to the floor when Ryker outright tackled her to the floor: Brandon just watched with hands to his mouth in a shocked gasp.
“ESTE JUEGO ES MIO, PERRA!”
“DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!” the woman desperately clinged to the box, trying to shield it away from the boy the best that she could, “I WILL BREAK YOU IN HALF, YOU LITTLE BRAT!”
Eventually, even though she tried to bite as his arms, he grabbed the box and yet again was fighting a tug of war with her over it - though the positioning was rather awkward for such a thing. Just as Brandon moved to get involved, trying to help his friend, the box slipped from both of their grasps and flew through the air until landed in the arms of someone else: a balding, elderly man complete with a walking cane and all. It was with his free hand that he held the box.
“Well would ya look at that!” the man said with a laugh, “This’ll make the grandkids hella happy, thank ya very much, punks!”
Like that, he was off as fast he could to the register. While Brandon and Ryker wouldn’t dare strike an old man, the ‘mother of eight’ wasn’t having any of it, she quickly shook Ryker off of her as she yelled out:
“Over my dead boy, old man!” - and like that, she charged at the old man, roaring with anger before anyone else knew what was happening. Before the Old Man could see her coming she actually ran up to him and throw a kick right into his stomach, making him drop the box as he let out an ‘oof’ of pain.
The old man was quick enough however, to take his cane and whack her on the head with it just as she tried to bend over and reach for it. With her briefly incapacitated he tried to use his cane to scoot over to him so he could do the same, only to have her get up and grab his cane in an attempt to tug it away from his grasp - despite the fact he needed it to actually walk correctly.
“It’s MINE!” the woman screeched, “I saw it first!”
“Finders Keepers, Losers’ Weepers!”
“Oh shut up and fight!”
“Alright lil missie, it’ll be your funeral!”
“Not before it’s yours!”
As the two old coots were fighting each other, Brandon and Ryker tried to look for where the box was: Ryker still determined to get it no matter what happened.
“Vamos! If we find the box, we get it if no one notice it!”
“It’s right there, on the floor!” Brandon pointed, noticing the adults’ feet having just kicked the box across the floor in their scuffle. Brandon quickly took it from the adult’s noses, Ryker following right behind him as he sternly said:
“Hurry, speed, now! Vamos!”
“But, we haven’t paid for it yet!”
“Riiight, still, do we have to? We have little time!”
“Yeah, but we’re not gonna give Coby stolen goods!”
“Alright, fine. Register first.”
With that having been Brandon went on using his super speed to ran off as fast as they could, leaving the two fighting adults to finish their battle without the two boys watching. Ryker would have preferred heading directly to Coby at this point, but he wasn’t in the mood to argue with Brandon. Instead, it was first to the cash register line. Much to Ryker’s horror however, the line was both quite large and quite slow with the near hundreds of people checking out their purchases and arguing over who was purchasing what.
The boy could only grown and prepare for a miserable, impatient wait.
With the passage of time, it felt like more than a few hours had passed before the two had actually purchased the game system with money shared between both of their pockets, and finally Ryker was piggy backing Brandon with the box in the latter’s hands - finally on their way to the destination.
“That took far too long!” Ryker commented just as they zoomed out of the front doors.
“Aw, I didn’t think it was that bad, Ryk!”
“Who needs one hundred smartphones?! That girl was loco!”
“Hear hear!” Brandon cheerfully remarked back. For both of them, at least it was now just a one way trip to a single destination: the Markos residence. Upon reaching the front door of this impressively large suburban home complete with a crystal clear pool in the backyard, the first thing they said upon the door being opened was in unison and also a cheerful:
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOOOOOUUU!”, while holding out the box they had just bought, of course. The person they were holding this gift out to was thankfully who it was intended for: Coby Markos, their best friend and the birthday boy. Same age and middling height compared to them, dressed in pajamas though having that brown hair with blonde streak highlights he was most known for. The boy couldn’t help but give out the most happiest of looks as he took his gift into his hands and looked to his friends:
“Thanks guys!” he said, “I knew you wouldn’t forget!”
“Of course we wouldn’t!” Brandon nudged Coby’s shoulder, “That’s what being besties is all about!”
“Si, amigo!” and Ryker nudged the other one, “We went through a lot to get this for you!”
“Wait, you bought this, today?”
“Are you nuts? Today is black friday!”
“What’s done is done” Ryker commented with a shrug, before there was a pause of silence between the three of them. At least that is, until Coby ended it with a simple:
“So, what to go my room and play some games on it?”
With that, the three amigos rushed up the stairs to where Coby’s bedroom was - the same room ultimately being where they spent most the rest of the morning in, playing whatever games it was that the system came with.
Though, Brandon couldn’t help but ask:
“Hey, just wondering, but what else did you get for your birthday Cobes?”
“Oh, we’re celebrating my birthday tomorrow, actually.”
“Que?” Ryker asked, raising a brow.
“My mom wanted to do the actual birthday party and stuff tomorrow, because it’s, you know, Black Friday. But thanks for going out of your way to get this for me!”
“S-sure...heheh….anything for you….hehe.” the two boys expressed in a rather awkward manner - debating in their heads whether or not what they had just done was pointless or had purpose. Either way, the two would try to distract themselves by playing the new video game system with their friends and not dwell on that thought.
After all, it was Coby’s happy birthday.