Jade was escaping. She had just a few hours until she left behind their past for her future. She was finally free. All this promise, yet she found herself sat in a coffee shop in Silver Lake, reminiscing over the past.
The coffee lounge was nestled into the tropical greenery on the side of a mountain. The creamy exterior was permeated with scarlet hibiscus flowers and the sunburnt rust on the charcoal sign gave the shop its earthy aura. The interior was painted comforting beige and the chocolate fabric armchairs enveloped you in an embrace as you sat in them.
Jade sat by one of the large windows at the front of the building and watched the cars as they fluttered by without any interruptions. There were people, young and old, who wandered around the storefronts, without any notice of what the future held of them. Jade knew what was in her future; Juilliard, playwriting and fame. She was going to make it big. She was going to prove to her former acquaintances that she was so talented that she didn't need the help of numerous school plays or the Platinum Music Awards to succeed.
Jade had come a long way from where she was tethered just over a year ago. She had been an insecure girl clinging on to the guy that made her feel special, but now she was an independent young woman on the verge of pursuing her dream on the East Coast. Since the escapade at the Platinum Music Awards, Jade had focussed solely on her work. She began spending more hours planning and developing scripts to present to Juilliard and had even joined a playwright discussion group at school to scare people with her talent (and maybe pick up a few tips whilst she was there). She had also started working in a second hand bookshop in the backstreets of downtown LA to expand her apartment funds.
A small apartment close to the calm and tranquillity of Central Park was where Jade had decided to settle in New York. Signing her name on the lease had been one of the most daunting things Jade had to do. However, the promise of an enviable education in one of the most prestigious schools in America had fuelled the pen to cursively sign the documents. Once the deal had been done, Jade was able to start picking out the décor. She had surprisingly, and somewhat unwillingly, agreed to avoid black interior (except for a few splashes of onyx in the proposed fire red kitchen). But when Cat suggested pink in the living room (and the bedroom and the bathroom and the closet), Jade had to stop Cat's inner-interior designer to a grinding halt.
None surprisingly, Cat and Jade ad stayed loyal to their friendship and continued to talk, despite the split friendship groups. Cat was the person with Jade when she sent off her application to Juilliard and she was the person there when Jade opened her acceptance letter. It had meant a lot to Jade that Cat had decided to support her through her embark into adulthood, even if she spent three quarters of the time riding unicorns in her head.
Although, sometimes, having Cat around meant that Jade had to deal with Robbie too. He was no longer following Cat around like a lovesick puppy (albeit a puppy with the charming charisma of a twig); he had finally realised that no matter how sweet and delicate Cat was, if he wanted to make some sort of move on her he had to speak up, without dropping hints or using sentences over fifteen syllables long. So Cat and Robbie finally made some movement in their relationship and became a couple. Admittedly they were a couple who, between them, spent a large number of hours in therapy with Lane. Nonetheless, Jade was happy to have Cat's light mood around and Robbie did buy her coffee from time to time, so he earned his keep.
Cat and Robbie were really the only two people from her old group of 'friends' that Jade still talked to. As expected, Andre stayed close to Tori and Beck and Jade respected him for that. Andre was Beck's equivalent of Jade's Cat; they had been friends for a long time and a divide within the group wouldn't change that. The fact that Andre was so obliviously in love with Tori probably had some influence on him too. Jade and Andre did make small talk sometimes and Andre had asked Jade to sing backup on one of the tracks on his EP that he planned to send to various music labels. Jade had agreed to do it, for old time's sake.
Jade's gratitude to Tori for not kissing Beck hadn't stretched as far as allowing Jade to develop a friendship with her, however. There was too much drama between her and Tori and Jade couldn't let it flow away like water under the bridge; some of what Tori had done to Jade left cuts too deep to heal. Nevertheless, Jade didn't forget what Tori had done for her and kept that in mind when Tori babbled mindlessly in class.
Beck Oliver, however, was a different story completely. Unlike the other two, Beck had put up a fight when Jade decided to move on from the group. It seemed as though he had forgotten that a lot of major things had happened and he tried to carry on a friendship with Jade. Jade was stronger since the Platinum Music Awards though and she proved it to him on their first day back to school since the awards show.
The first day back at school after the Platinum Music Awards had been painful. Jade watched as people flooded towards Tori, offering her praise and some even asked for autographs. Every compliment Tori received stabbed Jade in her continuously shattering self-confidence. Jade had stayed true to her words though; she was done with her old group of friends and she was going to move on from them.
The first lessons of the day were easier to for Jade to maintain her new goal. Ever since she and Beck broke up, Jade had sat on her own in class. So Jade made no contact with Tori, Andre, Robbie nor Beck in Sikowitz's acting class, which seemed perfectly normal. However when Jade bailed on the gang at lunch to eat in the Black Box Theatre as she worked on one of her scripts, Beck noticed that something was up.
He had found Jade sat on the edge of the shoe-marked stage. She nibbled on the fresh lettuce leaves of her salad as her fingers tapped away on the keyboard of her laptop. Beck made his way towards Jade slowly, trying to gauge her reaction, and Jade made no attempt to move as she watched him from underneath her voluminous eyelashes.
"How come you're not eating with us?" Beck asked when he was only five feet away.
"I felt like a change," Jade replied slowly as she scrutinised him.
Beck tucked his hands into the pockets of his snagged jeans, "Well why didn't you tell one of us? Cat would have sat with you… or I could have."
"Yeah because that would have been a barrel of laughs," Jade scoffed.
"I'm serious, we need to talk about us anyway; this would have been a good opportunity."
"That's the thing Beck; I don't want to talk to you or any of the other idiots," Jade groaned. "And there is no 'us' anymore, so we have nothing to talk about."
"If we're going to be friends, we need to talk."
"We're never going to be friends, Beck. We have too much history and we've both said and done things which are too much to forget," Jade sighed as she gathered up her things.
"I'm not going to give up, Jade," Beck warned as she brushed past him.
Jade stopped by the heavy doors of the theatre to look at Beck, "Leaving me alone would be the friendly thing to do."
True to form, Beck Oliver did not keep to his word. That was the last conversation Jade and Beck had had, over a year ago. She was glad though, having Beck around would have been like having a new puppy; it was cute to watch, though eventually it got annoying and still wouldn't leave you alone. Not having Beck to deal with meant that Jade was able to stabilise other relationships that she had. She now had more contact with her mom; they'd meet for coffee every Wednesday evening. Jade had even managed to get her father to support her ambitions, something that her younger self wouldn't have been able to comprehend.
Jade had made all this progress, yet her past still tied her down. She had promised herself that she wouldn't let Beck Oliver control her life anymore and that she was not going to let her friends walk all over her. She stuck to her guns, but in spite of this Jade still felt an empty pang in her chest whenever Tori uploaded a new picture to The Slap of the group on the beach or when some pathetic Northridge girl threw herself at Beck.
A high pitched ring of the bell hung mercilessly over the door rippled through the soulful saxophone solo of the music track playing in the coffee shop. A shadow soundlessly moved towards Jade's table and the huff of air the armchair released at the impact of weight made Jade look away from the window. Sitting in the armchair opposite her was Beck Oliver.
His dress style was familiar; a cobalt plaid shirt and torn dark wash jeans accompanied by worn leather combat boots. As Jade studied him, Beck leant back in the in to the chair and watched her in return. Beck had the same smile, Jade noted; a small smirk that he held back when he was nervous. She eventually met his eyes for the first time in over a year and this was where Jade found a difference in his appearance; a shadowy purple tint under his eyes had replaced the boyish flicker that used to flitter through his pupils.
"Why are you here?" Jade asked in a whisper.
"It's a coffee shop, you want a coffee?" Beck offered with a minute smile.
Jade nodded slowly and Beck lifted himself out of the armchair and walked towards the polished wood counter. Beck's voice had gotten slightly deeper since she had last listened to him talk. There was also a tinge of melancholy to Beck's tone which plucked on Jade's heartstrings. As Beck waited for his order to be made, Jade noticed that he kept an eye on her. Even when she turned away from him, Jade could feel his gaze imprinted on her skin. Beck had always been able to watch her so intensely that she could practically feel it. When they were dating, his stare had served the purpose of quietening Jade when she was on a rant and also filled her with affection when he listened to her sing.
Beck returned to the table carrying two large cream mugs of bitter coffee. He placed one of the mugs in front of Jade and she muttered thanks to him as he sat himself back in the chair. Jade reached her right hand out towards the coffee and her assortment of rings clattered against the smooth porcelain. She sipped the coffee and monitored Beck over the brim of the coffee mug. The acidic liquid filled her mouth and she swallowed the coffee with a delighted sigh; he'd remembered how she liked her coffee.
"How come you're not at home packing?" Beck said to break the silence between them as Jade put her coffee back on the table.
"I leave in the morning; it would be a bit late to be packing now, wouldn't it?" Jade answered with an elevated eyebrow.
"I suppose so, but how come you're here?"
"Well this was where the last adventure of my life started, so I'm here for closure I guess," Jade shrugged.
Beck paused and thought about what the coffee shop meant to them both. Nearly five years ago, a juvenile Beck and Jade had met for the first time in the same coffee shop. Jade and Beck had been waiting, separately, for their coffees to be brewed. The barista slid a mug of black coffee across the serving counter and as Jade reached out to grab the mug; a tanned hand had beaten her there and swiped the mug. In typical Jade fashion, she had immediately started yelling at Beck claiming that chivalry was clearly dead in the boy. She then proceeded to snatch the coffee out of his hand and stormed over to a friend who waited at a table for her. From that moment, Beck Oliver was captivated by Jade West.
"That was one of the best days of my life," Beck smiled at Jade.
"Surprisingly, it's one of my favourites," Jade shrugged.
"Why is that surprising?" Beck replied with genuine confusion etched across his face.
"Because that was the day that led to a four year rollercoaster ride for me," Jade sighed.
"Sure rollercoasters have their ups and downs, but they're a lot of fun."
"Sometimes you aren't strapped in properly though, so even the ups hurt."
"But if you're in the rollercoaster with the right person they can help make it better."
"People aren't always focussed on the rollercoaster they're on; sometimes they think of the next one they're going to ride," Jade countered.
Silence followed their conversation. Both teens studied each other. Jade was astonished, and somewhat angered, that Beck appeared to think that everything between them was fine. Whereas Beck had expected Jade to still be brooding over their break-up, however he did not anticipate her to be so calm when she talked to him.
"I know we didn't have the best of break-ups, Jade, but you have to admit that we were happy when we were together," Beck said.
"That's the thing, Beck; you always seem to think that we were so happy all the time. The fact is that I was scared about what was going to happen in each day of our relationship. I didn't know whether you were going to be friendly and loving towards me, or whether you were going to be cold and hurtful." Jade explained.
"We might not have been the most functional couple on the planet but we worked through that."
"I know that and the abnormality is what I loved. Just towards the end of it, it all got too much to deal with; being a couple wasn't fun anymore."
"By 'towards the end' I'm guessing that you mean 'when Tori showed up'," Beck sighed.
"It wasn't all to do with Tori, but you knew how she made me feel, Beck."
"I get that."
Jade took a deep breath before she added, "clearly you 'getting it' didn't stop you from trying to kiss her."
This statement caused Beck to graciously spout his coffee over the carpeted floor and earned him some perplexed stares from other people in the shop. He looked at Jade like a deer caught in the headlights, but Jade remained composed as she waited for his reply.
"How do you know about that?" Beck asked desperately.
"It seems that none of your idiotic friends have the intelligence level to close a laptop lid."
"Stop talking in riddles, Jade."
"On the night of the Platinum Music Awards rehearsal, someone left the webcam running and I was fortunate enough to see you making moves on Tori," Jade explained as sarcasm practically trickled down her lips.
"You weren't supposed to see that," Beck winced.
"I bet I wasn't."
"I can explain-"
"You don't have to," Jade interrupted. "I told myself that I was done with you all, so there's no point."
"'Done' with us? What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I decided to start achieving my goals and to do that, I had to get away from you guys."
"So that's why you started bailing on us."
"You've always been such a genius," Jade deadpanned.
"Not all of us read three books a day."
"I don't read three books a day!"
"Whatever stops the tears."
Another blanket of hush swept over the two. It was difficult for Beck to process the awkwardness between them. Beck and Jade had always been so comfortable in each other's presence; the banter had flowed gently between them and Jade's voice had always a more welcoming sharpness to it than it had now.
"I do miss you though," Beck whispered hopefully. Jade obviously looked shocked by his statement, so he continued, "You might not want to hear an explanation, but you're going to get one anyway. The only reason I kissed Tori that night was for a test. When I constantly had my girlfriend, friends, teachers and family telling me that I liked Tori and that I was meant to be with her, I started to believe it. So what you saw that night was me testing the waters to see if they were right. But when Tori refused to kiss me, I felt relieved; relieved that I didn't have to kiss someone that meant nothing more than a friend to me."
"You kept insisting to kiss her Beck. Not to mention that you were insulting me," Jade emphasised.
"I was desperate, Jade. I needed to prove to myself that she couldn't compare to you! I only said what I did to try and convince Tori to kiss me. I know that it was out of line and I understand that you hate me for it, but you have to know that I'm sorry!"
"I don't hate you Beck, no matter how hard I try I can't find it in me to hate you," Jade whispered as she turned to look outside. The shadows had emerged from the darkness and they danced along the streets. "I accept your apology but I still can't forget everything that's happened between us."
Beck unleashed a beaming smile. Ever since Jade had asked him to leave her alone at the Black Box Theatre, the guilt surrounding his kiss with Tori had eaten away at his conscience. Jade meant so much to him and for him to hide such a thing from her pained him. He knew that he had acted like a jerk to her before they broke up, but the niggling feeling that had overcast his feelings towards Tori had come to control him.
"Look at me, Jade," Beck stated. Jade turned her head to face him again and Beck smiled, "thank you for listening to me."
"Well I'm leaving tomorrow so I may as well do my good deed for today," she shrugged nonchalantly.
"Juilliard, right?" Jade nodded, "New York's pretty far away; how do you think you'll cope?"
"We have this thing called technology which means I'll be able to text Cat," Jade cheeked. "And New York's a big city, I'm sure I'll find someone I can tolerate."
Beck laughed loudly and Jade had to try hard to hide her smile with her raven hair. Jade found it odd how they could not talk for over a year, have a serious conversation and suddenly be able to tease each other as if nothing had happened. It was comfortable rhythm that they had become accustomed to, she guessed; they'd often fight, ignore each other, and then talk out their problems which left them joking around with each other before they fell back into sequence all over again. It seems as though even time could not disturb their tempo.
"Maybe I could come visit you sometime..?" Beck suggested, which made Jade immediately stop thinking.
"As thoroughly uncomfortable as that sounds, don't you have a college to go to or something?" Jade stuttered.
"I'm actually skipping out on college," Beck replied sheepishly as he scratched his neck nervously. "I don't think that acting needs a qualification and I also scored a lead role in an Indie movie being filmed in Vancouver later in the fall."
"That sounds great…except for the Canada part," Jade smiled honestly.
Beck rolled his eyes playfully, "I think I'll handle the Canada part. But it doesn't start shooting for a while so maybe I could spend some time with you?" Beck repeated.
"No offence, but I'm going to do this New York thing on my own."
"You don't want me there?"
"I'm going to New York for me, Beck. I need to do this on my own, make my name known on my own."
"I understand," Beck sighed dejectedly. "How about in the summer, when you're out of school and I'm done with the movie, we hitch up the RV and just drive for a while?"
"Beck, I don't want to be the reason that holds you back from living your life. Just go out and enjoy your life, don't wait on what I'm going to do," Jade explained, watching Beck's reaction.
Beck leant closer to Jade and slowly reached over to take her hands in his. His left thumb swept over the skin of her hand and he started speaking.
"That's the thing, Jade; whatever I do, I'm always going to think about what's going to happen when you get back from New York. I can only picture my future with you, I know it sounds corny but it's what I feel."
Jade studied his toffee brown eyes as she absorbed his words. He appeared to be sincere, but Jade couldn't help but remember the other occasions where his apparent sincerity had won her over. His eyes also rippled with love for her. This posed a problem for Jade; her eyes might just have been showing the same emotion to him. Jade may have decided that she was going to follow her dreams but it seemed that some part of her heart was determined that Beck Oliver was one of those reveries.
That wasn't going to stop Jade from getting on her flight to New York the next morning though, it merely gave Jade another reason to go to Manhattan. Some time away from everyone in a city which would build her dreams into reality would be the perfect arena for Jade to discover what the future held for her and Beck. If she were to go on a trip with Beck next summer, maybe fate would take control and only time would tell what would happen. But for now, Jade was in control.
"Make sure you clean your RV before I get home next summer," Jade winked as she detached her hands from Beck's. She grabbed her monkey-fur purse from the coffee table and stood slowly. Beck watched her as she moved silently towards his chair. She moved her hand to Beck's shoulder to give it a quick squeeze. "Good luck on the movie, Beck," she smiled before pulling the door of the shop open and walking out into the cool evening air of LA.