Today's the day. Today James had to sacrifice his sacred space. A space he'd always had all to himself. As of today James would have to share a room. He still couldn't believe what his mother had done, offering his room to a stranger. Well, Ben wasn't quite a stranger. They'd met from time to time at family events but other than the odd "How are you?" they were completely unknown to each other.
James and Ben's mothers had been friends for years, having worked together before either boy was born. They maintained their friendship over the years, bonding over their shared experience of raising kids. James blamed this bond for her betrayal. His bleeding heart mother, upon hearing that the Stokes had to move because of work commitments, had offered to take in Ben to allow him to continue his final year of high school with ease.
James and Ben attended the same high school for over two years, but had very little contact. So little in fact, that James really did feel that a stranger was moving in. As James dragged himself to ready himself for the day, he couldn’t not notice the new addition to his room. The newly installed bed made James feel a strange combination of anxiety, frustration and something he couldn't quite put his finger on. Resigning himself to his fate, James grabbed his shoulder and ambled out of his house, willing that today not be too painful.
The walk to school was shorter than James remembered, probably thanks to his wandering brain. In his memories Ben had always seemed cold and distant, despite the warmth of his parents. James' Dad, upon hearing a similar comment leave his mouth once had reminded James that not everyone was as much of an extrovert as James, and that what people Show of themselves in public is only a portion of who they really are. Haruki had always been a wise man, and a good judge of character. James had decided long ago that anyone his Dad liked was worth the effort, even if James himself, couldn't quite see it.
Wandering into the school grounds James found himself immediately walking towards the large tree in the back of the courtyard. He knew he would find his beloved life-long friend, Jed, sitting at it’s base, reading or doodling. This was their “spot", and they met here every morning.
As he approached, a tall, grey haired boy became visible. The morning light seemed to make his sun kissed skin glow even more than usual, and his dark blue eyes could barely be seen through his long eyelashes as he read a book, engrossed in the world written on it’s pages.
James chose not to say anything, and pull Jed out of his current literary adventure. James liked to see his best friend happy, and very little made Jed happier than a good book. Instead of disturbing the other, James simply sat next to Jed, leaning his head on the others' shoulder. His wordless greeting was reciprocated by Jed tilting his head to touch James'.
A scene of this warmth would have caused a great stir, if not for the fact that the entire school seemed to know that this was simply how they were. James had always been an affectionate person, and Jed had grown up by James' side. This kind of platonic intimacy was standard for the two.
It wasn’t long before the first bell rang, and both young men collected their things in their bags, before standing up and begrudgingly making their way inside.
The day flashed before Ben's eyes, and before he knew it he was standing in front of the school, waiting for his new roommate to pick him up. When Ben's mum and dad first explained that he would be staying with Mr. and Mrs. Winton, he wasn't too thrilled, but after some time he'd warmed up to the idea. The Wintons were lovely people, and James seemed friendly enough.
After a few minutes, Ben noticed a mop of auburn hair above the sea of students flocking from the school grounds. He watched the hair approach, and soon Ben found himself standing face to ... chin with James Winton.
"Hey" James mumbled, looking off to the side and rubbing the back of his neck nervously. " Ready to go?"
"Yep" Ben replied, grabbing his bag from the ground and following behind James
After a short walk Ben was standing in front of a two storey, red brick house with a small stone path leading towards the front door. The uneven stone was flanked on both sides by garden beds overflowing with flowers of all colours and shapes. He had no idea how but, despite it’s relatively large size and modern design, the place still had a cottage feel. The smells wafting up as Ben walked the path gave him a warm fuzzy feeling. Maybe this would be good for Ben. Maybe he would be happy here.
"Mum and Dad are at work. They work late on Fridays so we probably won't see them tonight " James called over his Shoulder as he opened the front door. Stepping inside, Ben found himself immediately in the living room. Behind the living room was a large archway, through which an open plan kitchen and dining room could be seen. Just to his left was a staircase, and before the staircase was a single door. The interior was fresh and open, with no shortage of windows to bring in natural light, yet it had a soft, cosy feel. This was the kind of home Ben had always imagined when he thought of those stereotypical “happy” families who spent time together and enjoyed each other’s company.
"Come on, " Ben heard. Looking around, he found James halfway up the staircase, shoulders twisted and eyes fixed on Ben.
As they reached the top of the stairs Ben became confused. While the house wasn't exactly a mansion, he hadn't expected such a small, dark hallway. The landing, barely large enough for the two to stand on, gave passage to a single door. One room? Where does James sleep, then?
"This is our room."
Our? That wasn't part of the deal!