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“Tori, are you listening to me?”

The entire class turned their attention to the back of the class; to a girl with black hair, wearing round-framed glasses and a black schoolgirl dress with matching leggings. It was her first class at Pollock Secondary School, and she had her eyes buried in her notebook to avoid attracting attention. Up until now, that is.

“I…I’m sorry, Ms. Rama,” she stuttered as she looked up.

A blonde girl chimed in, “I don’t think those were math notes she was writing, Ms. Rama. Clearly, she’s too smart for you.”

“That’s enough, Abigail,” Ms. Rama snapped. “I can teach the class by myself, thank you very much.”

The class sniggered as Abigail slunk back into her desk, grimacing. Ms. Rama moved over to Tori’s desk, seeing sketch lines of Aqua from Kingdom Hearts in her notebook.

“Would you mind presenting your masterpiece to the entire class, Miss Haruna?”

“Please no….” Tori cried. “I’ll behave from now on. I promise!”

“Look Tori,” Ms. Rama lectured. “Math class is not the place for your cartoon characters. Save it for after school.”

She walked back to the board as several students in the class sneered at Tori.

“Oh, she’s one of those anime freaks.”

“What a loser.”

“Betcha she’s another one of those fake geek girls,” Abigail taunted. “The ones who are only in it to get popular.”

“Okay class, I would like your attention, please,” Ms. Rama sternly stated, drawing a right triangle on the board. “The sine function is also expressed as opposite over hypotenuse. In other words…”

Tori sighed, struggling to pay attention and ignore her classmates’ mocking before her mind wandered off again.

 

 

—-

Stacy was on the phone, talking to her best friend Oliver. She was excited at the prospect of forming her own club, inspired by the suggestion Lydia gave her at the Super Smash Bros. tournament that previous summer.

“Okay, we need a cool name,” she stated. “How about…Stacy’s Funhouse?”

“Really, Stacy?” Oliver fired back.

“Fine, fine. Stacy and Oliver’s Funhouse.”

“You’re missing the point here.”

Stacy paused for a bit.

“…right. So what do you suggest then?”

“Well, what’s the point of this club?” Oliver inquired. “Why join our gaming club when one already exists?”

“You see,” Stacy explained. “The Gamer Club is for a very specific kind of player, those that are hardcore enough or whatever. Our club is open to everyone that just enjoys games; no ifs, ands, or buts.”

“That reminds me…” Oliver contemplated. “Satoru Iwata once said, ‘Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone!’ Maybe something along those lines…”

“That’s perfect!” Stacy exclaimed. “We’ll make that our slogan! And our name: Games for Everyone.”

“Not bad,” Oliver replied. “Now for the hard part: getting people interested.”

“I’ll make the poster. What other ideas do you have in mind?”

“I’ll have to think about it. My shift starts in 10 minutes. Gotta go! Bye!”

“See ya, Olly. Have fun at your new job.”

“I wish,” Oliver sighed as he hung up.

Stacy put down the phone, sighing elatedly. Finally, she thought. The gaming club she only dreamed of being a part of. A chance to meet new friends and bond over geeky interests.

She turned to her computer, searching for images for the poster.

—-

 

 

It was the next Monday, after the bell rang for lunch hour. The Games for Everyone posters were up all across the school. Stacy and Oliver sat at their booth, waiting anxiously for new members.

“It’s been half an hour already, Stace,” Oliver complained. “No one’s even looked in our direction.”

“Then we’ll just have to be more patient,” Stacy snapped.

Soon after, two familiar faces showed up.

“Hello again, twerps,” Lucas sneered.

“Oh, it’s you.” Stacy said, annoyed. “What do you want?”

“I just thought I’d check out the competition, that’s all,” Lucas replied, barely repressing a smirk.

“We’re not competing with you, Lucas,” Stacy retorted. “This is just a club for everyone who felt the Gamer Club was too intimidating for them.”

“Oh, a club for phonies?” Abigail replied, equally as condescending. “It’s a good thing you losers aren’t competing with my brother, then. You’re not even in his league. I mean, I could come up with that poster in 5 minutes.”

“Seriously, guys,” Oliver chimed in. “Don’t you have better things to do? Like, managing your own club?”

“I’m not a part of the Gamer Club, you idiot,” Abigail replied. “I just think you two are in over your heads. Is that so unreasonable?”

They walked away as Stacy and Oliver glared at them.

“Don’t listen to them, Stacy,” Oliver said. “They’re just trying to get a rise out of you.”

“I know…” Stacy replied as she gritted her teeth.

A few minutes later, a friendlier face arrived.

“Hi, Ren!” Oliver exclaimed.

“Hey guys,” Ren replied. “Seems like an interesting club you’ve got there.”

“Wanna join?” Stacy asked.

“No can do, Stacy. Lucas will be at my throat if I did. But I might join you guys some time.”

“Lucas?” Oliver responded, exasperated. “He and his sister were just here mocking us.”

“Yeah, I heard all that. They can be quite rude sometimes. Still, he’s kind of right about the poster. Random fonts and clip-art isn’t exactly convincing.”

“I guess,” Stacy sighed. “I don’t know anything about graphic design.”

“I don’t either,” Oliver added. “Got any ideas?”

“Sorry, but I’m as clueless as you guys,” Ren answered. “But you should both keep at it anyway! Good luck with recruiting!”

“Thanks anyway for the advice, bro,” Oliver saluted.

As Ren walked away, Stacy started to become dejected.

“This is a lot harder than I thought.”

The girl in black nervously watched the pair from a distance, her back to the wall. She wanted to walk up to the booth to talk to them, but when she started to move, she froze on the spot.

I’m not good at video games, Tori thought. There’s no way they will ever accept someone like me.

Staring sadly at Stacy and Oliver, her anxiety won out as she turned to walk away.

—-

That night, Stacy was hard at work on revising the poster, furiously changing fonts and trying out multiple different backgrounds and images.

“That doesn’t work,” Stacy sighed. “Maybe if I try this…”

Suddenly, the front door opened. Stacy’s dad appeared at the door, and a chill rose up her spine as he hung up his work clothes and walked towards her room.

“How was school today, Anastasia?” her dad greeted.

“Oh hi, Dad,” she replied sarcastically. “It was a total blast.”

“Are you still trying to set up that dumb gaming club of yours?” her dad taunted. “You and your crazy ideas.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Give it up. You’re wasting your time. Stop daydreaming about your video games and do something useful.”

Stacy sighed.

“Fine, whatever you say.”

But her dad continued.

“If she was still here, your mother would be so disappointed in you, dreaming your life away.”

Stacy gritted her teeth.

“I know, Dad. I’ll get back to work,” Stacy said, though clearly wanting to say something meaner.

“That’s my girl,” he mock-complimented as he prepared to leave the room.

Stacy listened to his footsteps, and when she could hear the TV turn on downstairs, she slammed the door, with angry tears in her eyes.

“What about you then?” she yelled to the wall. “All you do is sleep in front of the TV! Do you think you’ll really bring Mother back with that attitude? Do you?!”

She stopped herself, frightened that her dad might have heard all that. But there was no response.

Stacy sighed. “Oh, now I’m out of ideas. I guess I’ll just try again tomorrow.”

She turned off her computer and the lights, and fell onto her bed, grabbing her pillow to cover her remaining tears.

—-

Days passed. Stacy and Oliver sat and sat at their booth, all across lunch break and for hours after school, with different poster designs going up every day, but no matter what they did, they received no response. Finally, it was late Friday afternoon, and everyone had already left the school. Completely defeated, they decided to pack everything up. Oliver saw how sad Stacy was, and tried to comfort her.

“You did your best, Stacy. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. I really wanted to help, but work got in the way.”

“No, Oliver,” Stacy replied, dejected. “Don’t blame yourself. It’s all on me. It was a stupid idea in the first place. Lucas was right. Dad was right. I was never cut out to be a club leader.”

They prepared to walk out, but as they reached the door, they saw the girl in black coming towards them.

“Wait!” she cried. “Is…is it too late to sign up?”

Stacy and Oliver turned to the young girl. They were so surprised they couldn’t think of anything to say.

“I…I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner,” she stuttered. “I wanted to, since you looked…you both looked so sad and lonely. But I was…scared…because there were so many people around…and I didn’t know what they’d think of me. And…”

She started to cry.

“I know I’m not much of a gamer, but…I don’t have any friends either, and I thought…it was unfair that no one wanted to join you. It was hard…seeing you both so alone, but I didn’t think you would ever accept…someone as worthless as me.”

Stacy, who was listening intently to every word, finally spoke up.

“Look, Tori,” Stacy quietly replied. “All you have to do is ask. We don’t judge anyone’s worth on whether they’re good at games or not. There’s no entrance exam or anything.”

The girl stopped crying, wiping away her tears.

“Really?” she exclaimed.

“Yep,” Oliver answered back. “What’s your name?”

“Tori.”

“Nice to meet you, Tori. I’m Stacy.”

“And I’m Oliver.”

“And we both want to give a warm welcome to our newest member, Tori!” they proclaimed in unison.

“Say Tori,” Stacy continued. “Whatcha got in that notebook of yours?”

“Nothing,” she replied. “Just my bad manga drawings.”

Stacy and Oliver gasped, glancing at each other in excitement.

“May we take a look?” Stacy asked inquisitively.

Tori handed it over, looking away in embarrassment as Stacy and Oliver flipped through the pages.

“Tori,” Stacy began. “I think you just saved the club.”

Tori gasped. “W-What do you mean?”

“We’re… bad at art, to say the least,” Oliver explained. “You saw our posters. We could really use someone like you to polish them up.”

“But I’m not very good at drawing,” Tori claimed.

“And we’re outright terrible,” Oliver retorted. “Anything you do would be an improvement.”

“So, Tori, what do you say?” Stacy asked encouragingly.

Tori pondered for a while, stunned by their warm response.

“I-I’ll do it!”

“YES!” Stacy and Oliver cried, with Oliver fist-pumping into the air.

The three of them smiled at each other as they walked out of the school towards the setting sun.

“So Tori,” Stacy asked. “Where do you get your inspiration from?”

“Well, I’ve always liked girls’ manga, and the art is so pretty, so I wanted to try drawing it myself. Have you ever heard of…?”

—-

“Dear Lydia,

Thanks for giving me the idea to start our own gaming club. At first, we didn’t think it would succeed, but someone joined up after all! Her name is Tori, and she’s quite the artist! We’re both really glad to have her on board, and she’s willing to help fix our crappy posters. I know Games for Everyone still isn’t much, and she only joined because she felt sorry for us and wanted friends, but hey, three is better than two, right?

Yours truly,

Stacy”

Exhilarated, Stacy read over the sent email. She could only imagine what kind of poster Tori would come up with. Suddenly, she received a new message notification.

“Hey Stacy,

Your new friend sounds really cool! I can’t wait to meet her. But wasn’t your goal to bring people together who wouldn’t otherwise think of themselves as gamers? Then why do you act as if Tori feeling sorry for you is not a good reason to join, or that the club is inadequate because only one other person joined? You need to be more confident in yourself and your friends.

Regardless, good luck in your new role as leader. I’m looking forward to seeing the club grow in the coming months.

Love,

Lydia Li

李雪芬

P.S. By the way, could you send me some of Tori’s artwork, especially once she finishes the poster? Pretty please?”

Stacy was delighted.

“Sure thing, Lydie. Whatever she comes up with, I’m sure it’ll be spectacular.”

(next)

(table of contents)

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