He grabbed his brown coat from the hook by the door and tied a navy blue scarf around his neck. The autumn air was chilly and, even in the abundance of flaming colours outside, there was still a bitter blue cold that whooshed through like a cobalt coloured flame. Grabbing his keys from the coffee table he took one last look at his dishevelled apartment and shut the door with a sharp click. Hurriedly, he jogged his way down the several flights of steps to the ground floor, where his pale periwinkle blue eyes met a young boy of around six or seven with pastel brown hair and dark hazel eyes. He was sure he recognised the face...but the boy had the features of someone he’d known a long time ago...someone he hadn’t seen for years...and someone that could not possibly still be a mere infant. The boy’s eyes briefly caught his and he realised he may have been staring, yet he couldn’t break his gaze just yet.
Suddenly, Devin was overwhelmed in a pool of memories and his brain sifted through every recollection he had until it pulled something out.
Once he had had friends, once he had a best friend.
A young Devin wandered in nervously to a class of lively children, chattering away to other kids they presumably knew. Devin sat as far away from the other children as possible, like his mum had told him. At the back of the class he watched in awe at the children mixing in with each other, getting to know each other. Whilst he sat there restlessly, wishing he could join in, but having no idea how to. He had only ever been taught to stay away, not mingle. It wasn’t in his nature. He hadn’t been nurtured that way. A young boy strolled up to where he perched, alone.
“Hello” the boy said, Devin glanced up briefly “my name is Jack Redcliff, what’s yours?”
“Well then who are you, Devin or Deangelos?” Devin thought out his reply, but Jack just smiled and started giggling sweetly and Devin realised he should too. “You’re funny”
“No, as in you make me laugh” he chuckled again
“You’re strange” he chortled, taking a noble seat next to Devin. “I like you”
That was the first friend he ever made. Jack Redcliff. A boy with pastel brown hair and dark hazel eyes, a boy he seemed to click with instantly, who was confident and could have chosen anyone, yet he chose the weird boy. Jack was always intrigued by what he didn’t know or who he didn’t know. He was fascinated by new things and always sought more. A trait Devin wished he had learnt from him.
They always did so much together all those years ago, he knew him for such a long time, he was the only one that really got him and whilst Jack was by his side, he needn’t worry about being picked on. Jack had a quick wit and was much more popular than him, people never dared.
Flashbacks whirred through his brain in a pattern of irretrievable colours and familiar scenes.
Two boys sat by a pond, getting to know each other better, in a yard of a big farmhouse. They weren’t meant to be there, but the farmer never noticed.
“Do you like super-heroes?” Jack asked
“They’re okay I guess” Devin mumbled
“Do you like pizza?”
“How about games, like jungle king?”
“I’ve never heard of that”
“Oh it’s the best, we go into the woods and we’re these super cool explorers that swing from the trees like monkeys and climb and jump rivers and run away from the bad guys and defeat them too!”
“Really?” Devin’s face lit up
“Are there other explorers?”
“Some...well not that you can see, I kind of made it up myself...I usually play alone in the kingdom...but Ithink it needs another king now”
“Yes you, if you want?”
“Then what’re we waiting for?” Jack began to run into the distance “come on, we need to make loads of noise, to attract the demon gods away from the animals!” Jack started to scream and shout and sprint into the dense forest at the end of the field. Devin launched himself forward and joined in, much to the farmer’s dismay, as he came out, shouting and yelling at them in their moment of bliss, threatening them, but they didn’t care. Why care when you could have so much more fun? Why care when you can take a risk? Why care when you can be the riot?
In the impassably thick forest, the two boys darted through trees, still screaming, jumping rivers, swinging off of branches and collapsing in fits of giggles.
‘Who knew you could have so much fun?’ Devin thought.
“What’s this feeling?” Devin giggled uncontrollably
“You mean, you’ve never laughed before?” Jack guffawed
“Not like this!”
“You’ve never been in stitches before?”
“No, am I hurt?”
“You’re not used to this are you, having fun I mean”
“Not so much”
Jack wore a serious expression now
“Let’s change that”
Jack succeeded. He did change that for Devin, for a time. He made everything seem worth it, he was as a best friend should be; he was the perfect best friend. He never questioned, even though his curiosity killed him inside sometimes, he just helped and made a puddle of mud feel like a field full of daisies.
There were other memories too; they were flicking tadpoles onto lily pads and then tipping them back into their homes. Another, they were being chased out of a supermarket for walking mud all around the aisles and touching the packets of food with grubby hands...and for bursting packets of flour. More memories: they were eating jelly beans in the back of their class, they were being told off by the head for writing graffiti on the walls in the playground, they attended a meal with Jack’s parents at a local restaurant and watched, humouredly, as Jacks dad sang karaoke drunk, they made a small incision on each other’s palms and clapped them together as the blood trickled gently over their life line and down their wrists, flowing like the great rivers they’d leaped, flowing strong and passionate and free.
But then there was a memory that Devin could never forget; the day Jack wasn’t Jack.
He skulked into class, hunched over with anger, aged eight. Flinging his bag at the side of the desk, his backside collided with the chair in a massive thud, as he slid down it miserably.
“What’s up?” Devin quizzed
“Nothing” he tried to brush it off, but the boy was troubled, even Devin could read this.
“Liar” he said
“You want to know so badly? I bet you wished you didn’t when you find out.”
“Find out what?”
“I’m leaving, Devin”
“Because we’re going across the other side of the world.”
“Some job offer my dad got”
“Can’t they let you stay here, live with your nana or something?”
“No, they told me I have to go with them until I’m old enough to understand my decisions.”
“When will you be back?”
“We won’t” Jack said angrily, beginning to raise his voice “we won’t be back, Devin, we’re never coming back, when we leave we will be gone for good. To Australia. To the other side of the world. In another country, in another culture, in another life!”
“When can I see you?”
“God Devin, what don’t you get here?” he had tears in his eyes, grabbing his bag he hauled himself up abruptly and exited the classroom in a huff.
Devin’s eyes scanned the room; Jack wouldn’t be leaving for good, surely. It just was unlike Jack. Maybe this was a story plot for jungle king...maybe Devin would have to go and save him. Yes, that was it. Devin thought.
“I’ll come visit” Jack was saying as he was about to leave to board the flight “I promise Devin, I won’t leave you, I can’t, where would you be without me?”
“I don’t want you to go” Devin said, tears in his periwinkle blue eyes, smearing them with fright and anger, cuddled in a mist of faults.
“I’m sorry buddy” Jack said, laying a hand on Devin’s shoulder “I have to go, but I’ll see you soon, promise”
“Promise?” Devin repeated
“Goodbye Devin” Jack reached out his cut hand, where the scab had peeled off and the scar was almost faded, like the depth of the cut had closed ever so slightly since they made it, counting down the days ‘till he’d be gone. Devin took it with his cut hand and then off Jack went, into another country, into another culture, into another life.