Title: Smell The Coffee
Jeremy Raan had never been a popular figure. He's never been comfortable with striking up conversations with strangers in the cafeteria line, nor does he feel wild urges to join the popular school teams to mix with the cool and the hip. When acquaintances wave at him, he smiles shyly and shuffles off quietly without staying behind to chitchat. He has sparkling green eyes which could make the coldest of hearts flutter, but the effect is lost when he tries his best to hide them at all times behind his mass of black bangs. During lunchtimes you would find him in the botanical lab, nurturing a variety of strange plant species which he has developed a fascinating interest in. Fellow classmates would describe him as introverted and soft-spoken, but not unfriendly.
It all changes when he is seen around Ashley Iwamoto. Ash is a rare mix of Spanish and Japanese blood, and it has done wonders for his features. His mother's Spanish heritage has given him an admirable height of 6 feet, dreamy hazel eyes, and soft wispy hair in the most exotic shade of light brown. At the same time he's retained from his Asian father a delicate facial structure and a thin frame. And incredibly, it works. Ash is warm, bubbly, outgoing and friendly to absolutely everybody. He enjoys taking part in extracurricular school activities, running events on the student board, organising parties, and plays a myriad of sports. He loves meeting new people, speaking to people, and just people in general. Everybody in school loves Ash, whether they be the emo goths, or the class clowns, or the school bullies, or the giggly obsessive cheerleaders.
Ash calls Jeremy Jet, because of his jet black hair, and Jeremy is the only person in the whole world that Ash has a pet name for. The two have been best friends since the both of them could remember, since they had slept next to each other's cots in childcare while their parents rushed hectic nine to five jobs. They attended the same elementary school, junior high, and senior high. Despite their clashes in personality, Ash is the only person Jet can open up to in the whole world, and whenever Ash is near, Jet can come cleanly out of his shell.
At school, Jet gives Ash his space, because he knows Ash loves people, and he himself could only be described as socially awkward. Everybody still knows that Jet and Ash are close however, because Ash would always find time out of his busy lifestyle to give Jet a call, or seek him out during lunch breaks, or walk home together after school. Which is why despite Jet's incredible timidness, the school bullies have always left him alone. Which is why Jet has found himself the deliverer of numerous love letters from desperate female students, and the occasional male classmate, all of which Ash have politely rejected. The only time others see Jet's smile reach his eyes, is when he is laughing at something Ash has said.
It all started falling apart in the beginning of the second year of senior high, when Madison Bennett transferred into their school. Ash was elaborately describing his new plans for the upcoming Orientation Dance to Jet outside his locker when he caught his first glimpse of Madison, all waxed legs, long blonde hair and perfect hourglass figure. Jet couldn't be sure exactly what it was that had hit Ash at that moment, but he'd probably describe it as something along the lines of 'love at first sight'. From then on, any point of contact between Ash and Jet had been consumed by Ash's tales of what Madison was wearing that day, what they'd talked about during a romantic cafeteria lunch date between just the two of them, how just the sound of her voice would set butterflies to his stomach, how the flutter of her eyelashes would make him swoon inside. Jet, although slightly stung, had continued to be the supportive best friend during the escalation of Ash's crush, and even when Ash and Madison had become the hottest couple at their high school.
But the peace was not meant to last. Madison had detected the incredibly close bond between Ash and Jet, and whether it was jealousy that drove her to it, or just a cruel instinctive nature of hers, but she had begun to slowly plot against them to make Ash completely hers. She went about her ways subtlely, deliberately demanding Ash's attention during moments which she knew Ash and Jet usually spent together. She dropped hints of her dislike, and set up enough traps to put the idea into Ash's head that his and Jet's friendship was slowly disintegrating. One such occurrence involved an elaborate plan of which she had propagated, where Jet 'stood Ash up' after agreeing to meet up for a movie, where she'd succeeded by secretly taken Ash's mobile and sending a cancellation of the event to Jet, and discretely deleting the sent message afterwards. Ash had confronted Jet about it, who had been genuinely confused, and Ash's recent lack of reason, mostly likely due to spending all too much time with one Madison Bennett, one would assume, had led what was originally a slight argument escalate into one of the biggest disagreements Ash and Jet had had in their 15 years of history.
With the onset of distrust still fresh in both Ash and Jet's mind, the final straw came during lunchbreak in their third month of the school year. Ash, uncomfortable with the way his friendship with Jet had taken an enormous turn for the worse, was determined to fix everything up and revert back to their original relationship. He spotted Jet sitting by himself at the darkest corner of the cafeteria, and had made a direct beeline for him. Unfortunately Madison had spotted Ash at the same time, and after the realisation of what he was about to do hit her, she'd rushed over on her 3-inch heels while balancing a bowl of hot pumpkin soup on a cafeteria tray.
"Aaaaaaash!" she'd cried shrilly.
Ash stopped abruptly when hearing her voice, and she'd had to apply immediate brakes to avoid crashing into him. She veered off to the right just in time, and 'tripped' ceremoniously over her heels, collapsing to a graceful heap onto the cafeteria floor. The bowl of pumpkin soup had splashed all over Jet, and he couldn't stop himself from letting out a soft yelp at the contact of hot stinging liquid with his bare skin.
"Oh my god, Ash! I think I sprained my ankle. Oh it hurts so much!" Madison had wailed immediately.
Ash had looked torn for a rather long moment, before he dropped to his knees beside Madison and helped her 'struggle' to her feet. He gave Jet a rather imploring look as he slung Madison's arm around his shoulder.
"I'm just going to take her to the nurse's office, Jet. I'll be right back. We need to talk."
Jet had waited half an hour in his sopping wet state for Ash to return, and when there was no sign of Ash even when the school bell signalled the end of lunch break, he made his own way to the boy's locker room, keeping his head low so no one would notice the tear streaks on his face, a heavy and heart-wrenching weight settling in the bottom of his stomach.
Jet had thought that perhaps it was all for the best when his father had announced suddenly that evening over dinner that that he'd received a company promotion, and he'd be transferred interstate to another province, where he would be senior manager of the company division over there. It was a quick decision, but a major opportunity that Mr Raan just couldn't imagine letting go of, and he'd wanted his whole family of three to move interstate with him indefinitely. Jet had been saddened by the news, but couldn't miss the indistinguishable feeling of relief settle within him. His reliance on Ash's friendship over his entire life had meant that he'd made no other lasting friendships, and he could not imagine himself filling that hole Ash had left in him with his recent neglect with anyone else when he and Ash were in such close proximity with each other. Moving to another state would mean a new beginning, a new opportunity for him to build a life which belonged to himself only.
Over the next couple of weeks as Jet's parents prepared for the move, Jet made a genuine effort to avoid Ash as much as possible. He wasn't ready for a confrontation, not with his newfound decisions. It wasn't very hard, as Madison now demands Ash's attention more than ever before, with her newly wrapped ankle and mock fragility on crutches. Jet had seen Ash head in his direction a few times, but before he'd even had time to turn away Madison would always appear miraculously by Ash's side. How she could manage that with a sprained ankle was a mystery to anyone, and Jet could only look on in disappointment as Ash involuntarily directed his attention back to her.
Jet had asked his homeroom teacher to keep quiet about his transfer, and the news wouldn't be broken to his classmates until the morning of Jet's flight. He tried not to think about the reaction Ash would have upon hearing of his sudden departure, whether he would care, or whether he'd just be momentarily sad that'd he'd lost one friend out of a million, and forget all traces of Jet's existence as soon as Madison turned her hundred-watt smile onto him.
His parents walked ahead of him into the departure carousel of his flight, and he took a deep breath, feeling a heavy burden fall off his shoulders even as his backpack weighed him down. He stepped into the carousel walkway and smiled his first genuine smile without Ash next to him. As he walked towards his new future, he thought he saw a tall figure with wispy brown hair and desperate hazel eyes rush towards him out of the corner of his eye, but he strode on ahead, not wanting to let false hope intrude, his pride refusing to let him turn back.