Chapter 30: Friends

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Joseph whipped his head around as soon as he felt the touch on his shoulder. He was greeted with Crobin's impish grin staring down at him. "Why are you eating with your eyes closed?" the boy chided.

"My eyes weren't closed," Joseph protested.

"Then how come you didn't see me approach?"

"You came up from behind me!"

"Well, I didn't come out of that door," Corbin gestured behind them, "So, I approached from the side first. You need to be more aware of your surroundings, my friend."

"It still wasn't nice for you to sneak up on me like that. I nearly choked on this apricot." Joseph wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Apricot? Don't mind if I do," Corbin plopped down on the stoop beside Joseph and held out his hand expectantly. Joseph removed the satchel from under his shirt, opened it, and let Corbin peer inside. "Looks like you had a good day," the boy said while grabbing a handful of dried fruit for himself.

"I was almost caught, if you want the truth. But yes, I stumbled upon a tavern with crates of food stacked in an alleyway, and I took advantage of their carelessness." A tinge of guilt flooded Joseph's chest. His father had owned a business, he knew that the margin between profit and loss could be slim. But he did his best to shrug off the feeling. He had done what he needed to. "How was your day?"

"Better, now that I see you brought us supper for the evening, my friend." Corbin smiled widely and slapped Joseph on the back.

"Does that mean you weren't successful in foraging anything for yourself?"

"For myself? I'm wounded." Corbin clutched his chest to show just how wounded he was. "We're a team, remember? Today you were lucky and will share with me, and another day I will be lucky and will share with you. Isn't that fair?"

Joseph considered his words. He wouldn't have found any food today if he hadn't taken Corbin's advice. He wouldn't have taken any risks and he wouldn't have been bold enough to take food from those crates. So in a way, even though he was the one who brought back a meal, he had only done so because of Corbin. "Yes, that does sound fair," Joseph slowly nodded.

They feasted again that night, sitting along the seawall under the nearly full moon. Joseph had initially hesitated; he knew it was more sensible to ration the bread and fruit over several meals. But again, Corbin had pointed out that bread only became stale with age, and that hoarding delicacies like dried fruit would make them vulnerable to theft. So, instead of being sensible, they ate until their bellies were full, leaving only a small portion for a morning meal.

The next several days were some of the most pleasant that Joseph had experienced since leaving Loconge. In the late morning he and Corbin would split up. Joseph would repeat Corbin's advice in his head: Midday made men lazy; Things left out in the open are donations to those in need; Not stealing food when you are starving is akin to murder, which is a worse crime. And everyday he seemed to find success. A loaf of bread. Enough coins to purchase a bowl of stew. A few oranges. It was a lot more than he had been eating when he was begging for food and depending on other people's charity.

Corbin, however, never seemed to return with quite as much as Joseph, if he had anything at all. He was going through a dry spell, he moaned. Opportunities just weren't presenting themselves. He was just as frustrated as Joseph by this, or so he claimed.

"So, what treasures have you stumbled upon today?" Corbin asked one evening in his usual upbeat tone. His green eyes sparkled in the setting sun, and he stretched his legs out, letting his tan skin soak in the last rays of daylight.

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