"Stop looking so glum, Jeremy," Evelyn Charm reprimanded her friend.
"I'm not glum, Ev."
Jet was slumped in his plane seat, gazing listlessly out the tiny window into the volumes of billowing cloud. It was true that he wasn't depressed about returning to his hometown after nearly two years of absence, but he wasn't exactly bursting with anticipation neither. No matter how many deep breaths he took, he couldn't untangle the jumble of knots he felt in his stomach. It's only natural that he should be nervous however, now that he's finally returning to a place he had left with such resolution.
But to the observer, Jet merely looked subdued.
"Really Jeremy, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were nervous. Are you scared of planes?"
"A little bit."
"Ah. Makes sense then. Don't worry, it's only thirty minutes till landing."
Already? "I see."
At his new school, Jet underwent no major change. He spent the first couple of months as a loner until he met Evelyn, who also stuck out like a sore thumb from the rest of the form. Evelyn was incredibly studious, with far-reaching academic and career dreams. As a result, she often shied herself away in the library during lunch breaks, and forever had her nose stuck in a book. With no Ash to distract him from his lonesome life, Jet also turned to the library for refuge during his break times, and found that once he put himself to it, that studying wasn't really as bad as it seemed. The two had formed a strange sort of friendship, which began with awkward smiles of acknowledgement that indicated messages such as 'Yes, this is the third time I've seen you in the library this week, and it's Wednesday'. As university entrance exams drew nearer, and their workload became ever more challenging, the two eventually began to study together at the same table, realising the benefits of having another person's opinion guide them through the difficult material.
Jet and Evelyn had gone on to become the two top-performing students of their form, and had both received Law scholarships at the most prestigious university in the country, which coincidentally, was back in Jet's hometown. And Jet had left his parents for the first time to venture out by himself into the big world of university dorms and college life.
"How do you feel about seeing your old friends?"
"I don't…I'm excited."
Jet preferred not to think about it. The one and only contact he'd had with Ash over the past two years was an email he found waiting for him in his inbox after they'd hooked up the internet at his new house.
Please take care. I'll miss you.
Jet had never replied. He had been meaning to, but hadn't known what to say, so he had procrastinated and procrastinated until the time came when Jet just didn't have the courage to say anything anymore.
The landing was a little bumpy, but Jet was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn't even notice.
Ash let out a sleepy grunt as something small and heavy landed on his chest. He forced open one eye and registered that the distant ringing in his ears was in fact the not so distant wake-up call from his alarm clock. He smiled sleepily at his seven year old sister, Catherine, who had indirectly done him a favour with her mischievous antics, although he was sure that those weren't her intentions at all.
"It's school time, Ash," she wagged her index finger at him disapprovingly, jumped off his chest, and skipped her way out his room.
Ash dragged himself slowly out of bed and threw on a pair of crumpled jeans and a white polo shirt that hung loosely on his thin frame, albeit accentuating his toned upper arms at the same time. He'd always been a slob with dressing, but this particular flaw is insignificant considering that it was difficult to find clothes that'd look bad on him anyway. A fact that he was blissfully ignorant of.
He followed his sister downstairs to where his mother was laying out breakfast on the dining table, and Catherine was already taking a sip out of her miso soup. His father had already left for work. His mother had adopted the Japanese convention of a light and healthy breakfast, and had always made a point that no one is to leave the dining table until every last piece of rice had been consumed.
He sat down and quickly wolfed down his breakfast, ignoring his mother's complaint that eating with such vigilance would do much damage to his digestive system. He forced the last bit of rice in his bowl into his mouth, grabbed his bag, gave his mother and Catherine a hurried and messy kiss on the cheek, and rushed outside to his car. He was a people person alright, but being on late on the first date of university can't be good for first impressions.
Ash hummed a cheerful tune under his breath on the way to college, excited about this turning point in his life. Ash had realised his passion for writing after joining the newsletter publishing team in high school, and in his last two years had worked hard to make it into the journalism faculty at his local university, a prestigious world-famous college that students struggle to enter from all around the country, and indeed the world. His high school wasn't exactly known for its academic achievements however, and most of his school friends will not be attending university with him. Ash was not worried however, as he had never had any problems making friends his whole life.
He rolled his car neatly into a free spot in the students' parking lot, and stepped out. The chilly autumn air gave him shivers, and he quickly pulled his jacket on. The campus was lovely – stylish modern three-storey buildings lining a wide tiled winding path which opened sideways to small courtyards, with plenty of trees, lawns and greenery to add to its aesthetics. Ash could already see himself sitting under a tree on a cool, sunny day, discussing theories and academic articles with his peers. He rubbed his hands together with excitement and rolled open his timetable. Professional Writing and Media was his first class, and he had exactly ten minutes to unravel the maze that is his new campus, and find his way to his first seminar room. He hitched up his shoulder bag that had begin to slip down his shoulders, and set off down the path, a bounce in every step.
Jet stifled another yawn. He couldn't believe how excruciatingly boring the material of his fourth and final class of the day was. Taking Legal Social Theory had never been a choice – it was a compulsory subject, and had he had a choice, he would have studied every other area available in his discipline before he ever stepped near ANY sanctuaries of philosophy. Jet had always been able to understand concepts which are principled and procedural, not mindless waffle that legal philosophers had attempted to pass off as theories.
He wished Evelyn was in this class with him, but she had been allocated to another time slot for the same subject. He slumped down lower in his seat, trying to weigh up the possibility of him getting caught for sleeping, and decided that he really couldn't give much of a damn. He couldn't stand the monotonous droning of his lecturer for another second, and decided that since he was sitting in the least conspicuous desk in the last row, his lecturer (and the rest of his class) probably hasn't even noticed his existence yet, and definitely wouldn't mind if he was to nod off for a couple of minutes.
He was awoken from his light slumber half an hour later by the sound of students packing their books and the drumming of feet leaving the room. He rubbed his tired eyes and promised himself that he would read the class material he'd missed twice over that night before going to bed. There was only a few students left in the classroom now, and he quickly stuffed his notebook into his backpack and made his way to the door, tripping clumsily on a desk leg on his way out. He heard an audible gasp from a student to his left, and winced as he heard something clatter loudly onto the polished floor, most likely a mobile phone. Not wanting to attract any more attention to himself, he quickly rushed from the room, heading into the nearby courtyard where he'd agreed to meet Evelyn to walk back to the dormitories together.
Ash blinked twice, and felt his breathe catch in his throat. He couldn't be sure, but he thought he'd just seen someone who looked immensely like his old friend Jet kick a nearby desk leg. He didn't see his face, as the other person was walking with their head down, but Ash could recognise that familiar posture and feet-shuffling anywhere. He cursed under his breath when he realised he'd knocked his phone off his desk in his shock, and quickly bent to pick it up. He looked up to see the other boy rushing out the door, and he quickly followed, but could only catch a glimpse of the other's back as they turned a corner and disappeared into another corridor. He walked back to his desk slowly, deep in thought, and decided that he would arrive early for this same class the next day to see if it was really Jet, or just his eyes playing tricks on him.
He picked up his bookbag and left the classroom, sighing in frustration. The day's classes were definitely interesting, and his lecturers and classmates were all very friendly, but he managed to arrive late to every class. He's never been very good with directions, and had spent an unreasonably long amount of time looking for each new classroom he was in. His university campus was about five times the size of his high school, and to him a million times more complex.
He made his way back to where his car was parked, assuring himself that the next day would definitely be easier, the lone figure with jet black hair never very far from his mind.