There used to be eight of them. Called themselves The Herd. They'd met each other and become friends at school, and for a time they were as inseparable as any good friends are at that age. They'd all sit together. They'd all eat together. They'd all go to 7-11 together after class, and they'd all go to movies together on the weekends. They were eight very different individuals, but they each belonged to the same group, and they each enjoyed each others' company.
The parents all met, and The Herd lived on with its original eight members for quite some time. Only gradually did it begin to dwindle in number, and at the heart of the dissolution - as is at the heart of every dissolution - was the lure of girls. It was a lack of girls that had brought The Herd together, and it was the attraction of girls that was, ever so slowly, breaking it apart.
Diamondbacks was first. Diamondbacks grew impatient, and showed up one morning wearing all the evidence of a haircut and a trip to the mall. It wasn't long before he had a date to the luau, and from that point on, he grew more difficult to reach. He was just having trouble finding the time. The Herd said they understood.
Angels was next. Angels had gone to the luau with the rest of the group, but found himself separated towards the end. Alone and uncomfortable, he found company with a girl he knew from rhetoric, and the two hit it off. They made plans for homecoming before saying goodbye for the night.
And one by one, The Herd continued to disperse. Astros found a big-hearted soccer player, to everyone's surprise. Rockies met a girl from another school during a piano recital. Rays was able to land one of the popular ones, but Rays had been lifting weights and had grown out of The Herd anyway, long before the formal split. For weeks, he didn't seem to fit in anymore. The Herd understood. There just wasn't enough time. No one ever has enough time.
The three of them were sitting by a bench outside of a classroom. They'd all arranged to have the same 1pm free period Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and during this particular free period they were playing Fight City, a card game that Nationals had received from his aunt for his birthday. Mariners was leaning forward, picking the cards up off the ground and placing them into a haphazard stack, while Nationals double-checked the rules on the back of the box.
"I can see why they call themselves Cheapass Games," Mariners remarked, turning cards in his hand. Nationals smirked.
Rangers leaned back against the bench and looked left, towards the parking lot. His eyes lit up, and he turned to his friends.
"Oh hey, you guys," he said as a girl approached. She was not too tall and not too short, with olive skin and bright, engaging eyes. Mariners glanced over as Rangers reached his arm out, gesturing hither.
"This is Michelle."
Mariners looked up, then down, and then back at the cards in his hand. "Hey." Michelle smiled.
"Yeah, I ran into her in the library," Rangers went on. "I guess Mr. Davis assigned us both the same project so we were trying to check out the same books." Michelle kept smiling. Mariners thought it was a weird time to keep smiling.
Nationals kept staring at the box. "You guys want to play?"
"Actually," Rangers said, pushing himself to his feet, "we're gonna go try to work on this presentation in the library. Since we have the same topic, you know, we can probably help each other."
Mariners shuffled the cards in his hand. "K."
"All right, so, hey, another time, right?" Rangers put on his backpack and turned with Michelle towards the library. "I'll catch up with you guys later."
Mariners mumbled, looking up as Rangers and Michelle walked away, exchanging what looked to be cheerful smalltalk. They walked with the same pace in a diagonal across the lawn.
Nationals kept reading the box, bringing it closer to his eyes. He turned it over to each side before looking at the back again and setting it down on the ground.
"So, you want to play again?"