Jake & Set; first meeting

The white-haired boy sitting on the bench looked up, seemed to be almost chocked, judging by the size of his eyes.
Jake smiled.“Strangers never say hello to you?”
“Well… Happens sometimes.”
“Aha.” Jake sat down beside him on the bench and crossed his arms over his chest. He actually had no idea why he did this, but it didn’t really hurt to talk with strangers, so… why not. This stranger had somehow caught his interest, and he wouldn’t want to let this moment pass. He was pretty sure he hadn’t seen him before. As long as the boy didn’t punch him in the face or thought he was scary and walked away it should go just fine. He hoped. It was hard to believe that the boy would punch him, though. He seemed innocent and sweet, almost like a child, even though he had to be around Jake’s own age.
“So, what’s your name?” Jake asked when it had been a little bit too quiet a little bit too long.
“Set”, the white-haired said quietly, almost as if he was scared or nervous. The word ‘cute’ popped up in Jakes mind.
“I’m Jake”, he said and soon forgot about the cute-thing as he instead thought of the boys’ name. Could he be..? “Are you the Hargreaves’ son?” he asked, warily.
“Yes, I am.” The white-haired let out a sigh. It seemed like he was embarrassed about confessing it. Jake took a big chunk of his own tongue and bit it. Damn, he hadn’t recognized him at all. He hadn’t seen him before so it wasn’t that weird, but ‘everyone in this part of London should know who the Hargreaves are and what they look like’ or something like that. Common knowledge, apparently. Not that he cared that much about lords and ladies, but now when he met one of them, it was pretty embarrassing not to know.
“I’m sorry”, Jake said and scratched his neck. “Didn’t realize it was you.”
“Oh… never mind that.”
“ Never mind what?”
“That you should recognize me. People recognize me only because of my known family, not for who I am. They don’t even know anything about me, so they shouldn’t pretend like they do”, the white-haired said sourly, then he seemed embarrassed again, like he’d said something he shouldn’t. “I’m sorry”, he added a few seconds later and shifted his gaze down to his hands. Jake slowly raised his eyebrows.
“You don’t have to say that”, he said in a low voice.
“I shouldn’t speak like that…”
“Who says you shouldn’t?”
“Well, no one, I guess. I usually don’t speak like that”, he mumbled. “But my parents would kill me if they heard what I just said.”
Jake looked around. The park was as empty as it had been when he first came here. It was just the two of them there, and maybe some doves in a tree somewhere. He was pretty sure they wouldn’t tell anyone.
“Doesn’t seem like they’re around”, he said in an easy tone. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw that Set had trouble fighting one himself.
“Lucky me.” The boy carefully ran his fingers through his snow white fringe. “But it’s not right being angry at people just trying to be polite, they’re just saying ‘How are you today, young Mr. Hargreaves?’ or something else just as briskly. It’s just that… I’ve heard it so many times, and I would actually want to be treated like a normal person, because that’s what I am.” His chest heaved when he sighed. “God, I’m sorry. I’m just blurting out weird things like this to a stranger.”
“It’s ok”, Jake said. “I would have felt the same way.” He had thought about it many times, how hard it would be to be involuntary famous. If you wanted to get famous for your music, like he had imagined sometimes, at least you had a choice.
“You would?” Set asked quietly, looking at Jake with big brown eyes. Jake tried to not reach out a hand and give him a comforting pat on the shoulder.
“Yeah. Definitely.”
“Oh.” Set smiled, but as his thoughts seemed to trail away the smile faded again. “Everyone’s just telling me to be more proud of being a Hargreaves’ child…”
“Who’s everyone?”
“Mom, dad. Teachers. Other relatives.”
“But their opinion doesn’t really count in this case… don’t you think?”
“I guess you’re right.”
“What does your friends say?”
“I don’t have that many friends…” Set smiled softly, looking up at him again.
“Oh”, it was Jakes turn to say this time. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked. “Sorry.”
“It’s ok.” Set span a fringe from the scarf around his finger. “It’s not like I’m depressed or anything. I have one friend, who’s amazing, and that’s what counts.”
“Same here.” Jake smiled once again, couldn’t simply resist doing it. He liked this kid, the way he saw things and the way he apologized for being impolite, like a proper gentleman. Because, that’s what he was, after all. A Hargreaves’ child.
Set smiled softly in response, then nodded.
“I’m really glad I have him”, he started. “He’s just… a friend. A good one. Nothing complicated. He doesn’t care about me being a rich man’s child or anything. He just treats me like a friend should treat a friend.” His voice softened a bit in the end of the sentence, and the smile on his lips almost made Jakes heart melt in a way he hadn’t experienced before. It made him slightly nervous.
“I have a friend like that too”, Jake said, answered Sets smile with one of his own. He bet it didn’t look half as cute, though.
“Really?” Set asked, pure curiosity glittering in his eyes.
“Mhm.” Jake nodded. “Not that my parents are rich or anything, but… I know quite a lot of people, in that way where you say hello in the street and stay and talk for a while, you know? Some of them are nice. I like them. But… some of them think that there’s more to it, that we’re best friends in some way, just because… I don’t know?” Jake paused when he didn’t really know how to proceed. Set made a quiet encouraging sound, something between a ‘yes?’ and a ‘hm.’ Jake leaned his elbows on his thighs, sighed quietly. “I don’t really like how it sounds but I guess I’m one of the popular guys. There’s people who want to be friends with me for ridiculous reasons, they try too hard and they don’t know me at all, they just want to hang around me because I… well, you get it.”
“I get it”, said Set quietly.
“Good”, Jake said in a breath. “They disgust me. I love to get to know new people, it’s not that, but when they come and talk and stuff and you actually thought you made a friend, but then you hear it the other way that ‘oh, you know Janice is best friends with Jake now’, and they only used you to make everything sound so great and to get themselves a good name and shit? Fuck that! Fuck them.”
Suddenly everything felt too quiet. Jake swallowed, kneaded his hands nervously. He had got way too carried away there. Lost control over words, which he never did, he never told anybody how he felt about that.
“I don’t understand people who do such things”, Set said, carefully. Almost as if he was afraid of making Jake angry.
“Yeah”, he sighed, feeling a bit bad over the way he’d almost screamed. “I didn’t want to become a popular kid. I just sort of did, and I try to roll with it. But I don’t like all the negative attention.”
“I agree with that.” Set played with the fringes on his scarf again, seemed to think over what he wanted to say before he opened his mouth once again. “We’re not popular in the same way, and people don’t really do that kind of ‘friend’ thing to me, but… The negative attention, I’ve… experienced some of it.”
“Sorry to hear that”, Jake said, silently wondering what he meant with experiencing it, but he didn’t ask. It felt too private.
“It’s ok now.” Set nodded slightly, then looked at Jake, smiling softly.
“Thanks”, Jake said.
“For what?”
“For understanding.” Jake leaned back against the backrest, gave the starry sky a quick look and breathed out a heavy sigh. “Most people seem to think it’s awesome to be a popular guy. I guess it takes another popular guy to actually know it’s not some kind of fairytale.”
“I guess”, said Set, tilting his head just a bit.
“It’s not just bad though. I happened to get to know a bunch of cool people, I wouldn’t have if Jacob hadn’t introduced me, and I wouldn’t have known him if I didn’t know another bunch of people first. But sometimes you just get… too tired. Too tired of all the shit to focus on the good things.”
“True. But… you said you had a friend, like mine?”
“Yeah, Ash. But he’s still living in Chicago”, said Jake with a sigh.
It went quiet again for a while, then Set silently cleared his throat. Jake turned his head toward him.
“I knew you weren’t from here”, he said, a bit embarrassed. “I just couldn’t place your accent. But it’s… Chicago?”
“Yeah. Chicago it is. I almost thought I had lost my accent entirely, I’ve lived here for quite a while”, Jake smiled.
“Ah, no, I totally heard you were an American. I’m just really bad with the accents”, said Set with a low chuckle.
Jake’s smile widened when he heard it. He had no idea why, but it was something so special about him and that smile, and that voice. Suddenly everything felt kind of unreal, so unreal Jake had to run his fingers through his own hair and then tugged it a little to make sure he wasn’t dreaming some kind of weird dream. He wasn’t.
“Shit.” Jake breathed out a laugh. Set looked at him, surprised. “I just, wow. I never tell people these things, and now I somehow blurted it all out in front of you. Complete strangers and all.”
“Join the club?” said Set with a laugh. “I blurted out things earlier.”
Jake nodded, still laughing a little, without knowing why. He didn’t use to laugh much at all, and specially not like this. Not with a white-haired stranger boy on a park bench, almost in the middle of the night, thinking way too many thoughts about him already.
When the laughter had slowly drifted away and got replaced with silence, they just sat there, looking at the sky. It was a comfortable silence, almost like they’ve been friends for a long time and no words were needed. Jake couldn’t stop wondering about it.
The mesmerizing feeling of looking at the stars with someone by your side wasn’t something Jake had believed he would appreciate. But now he sat there and appreciated it so much he felt so completely different from when he had left home. He had went out with boredom and fatigue aching in his chest, and it had blown away in the breeze so easy when he just decided to greet a lonely boy in the park. He felt so much better about it all, at least for the moment, and just a small thing like that made him hopeful.
He had missed the feeling of actually having someone to talk true and honest things with, and somehow he had let it happen when Set accidentally told him things of meaning and not just shallow stuff. Jake really wanted to get to know him. It surprised him, but he couldn’t deny it, because it was a fact so true it almost embarrassed him.
He almost jumped when a signal suddenly broke the silence. Set picked up a cell phone from the front pocket in his jeans, pressed a button and held it up against his ear. Jake couldn’t help but watch him in silence, as the white-haired boy quietly answered what seemed to be somewhat irritating questions. Jake gave him a wondering look when he put the phone back in the pocket.
“I’m sorry”, Set sighed. “My mother wants me back home as quick as possible, so I’m afraid I have to go.”
“You better go then”, Jake said with a light smile, tried not let the disappointment shine through. He didn’t feel like walking home yet, but not stay here alone, either.
“I will.” Set got up on his feet, carefully adjusted both the red winter jacket and the scarf so that it would look good. He looked up, let the gaze fall on Jakes face and smiled that soft smile once again. “It was nice talking to you.”
“Same.” Jake smiled back. “Bye.”
Jake watched him as he walked away. The red back of the jacket, the light gray jeans and the snow white hair. It felt a bit sad, somehow. Would they meet again? What if they kept on missing each other and he wouldn’t be able to get to know him at all? He let out a silent sigh. That sort of thing was just stupid to think. It would be alright, and what he needed to do now was to get home before his own mum called, worried.
Just when Jake was about to stand up and leave, he saw a figure coming with hurried steps back along the path, with cheeks flushed pink and an apologizing smile on his lips.
“Hi?” Jake said, both with smile and surprise in his voice. Set smiled back, embarrassed.
“Hi”, he said. “I just… I was just wondering if you would like to give me your number?” The pink flush on Sets cheeks, which he thought had come from the walk, deepened to light red, and Jake thought he would smile his own face in two parts.
“Gladly”, he answered.

© Amanda