When Jean saw her for the first time, he nearly froze, a hiccup in his mind, but let it go as a passing glitch. A janitor, after all, never stood a chance with an actual Tempus University student. However, when he saw her a second time, he could no longer lie to himself. It wasn’t just his programming.
So, for the next two weeks, he kept “bumping” into her, trying to play it off as a coincidence though it was an excuse to say hello, talk for a bit, and learn more about her, bolstering his obsession.
Her name was Estrella Fuentes, an engineering student, one of the best. She kept her hair short, styled to the left, and wore a flower behind her ear every day. But what caught Jean’s attention more was how she changed the flower depending on what she wore, making every day exciting. In the morning, as Jean dragged his mop around the school, he always wondered, what color will she wear today? His anticipation could, sometimes, grow wild, with Jean restraining himself from searching for her all over campus just to extend the suspense.
After the initial fourteen days of friendly chatter, Jean tried something radical. Abandoning his janitorial duties for the day, he spent the rest of it outside in the university’s gardens, a long and wide sea of flowers and trees of every shade and color his visual processor could label. There, he scanned every inch for a flower to match Estrella’s beauty. If he was going to do something bold, he had to do it right.
The next day, Jean made sure to be as clean as he could, spending almost an hour getting rid of janitorial gunk that had built up over the years, something he had ignored though it bothered him most of the time. And, after a deep cleanse, he looked almost like a different person; he shined.
Jean “bumped” into Estrella, that afternoon, his morning routine already compromised due to grooming. She walked accompanied by one of her friends, a red haired girl with a fox-like face. As usual, Estrella wore a flower on her hair, today’s color: yellow. Her dress also matched under her unbuttoned white lab coat.
“Good morning!” Jean said
Estrella’s eyes glittering like the star she resembled. “Hello Jean, how are you?”
Jean, unable to respond to her sweet voice, held out his gift, a blue flower he had known to be perfect the moment he laid his eyes on it. Its petals, four perfectly symmetrical leafs, burst outwards in perfect angles, the golden center shimmering.
“Oh. Jean. Is that for me?” she said, her voice was nearly angelic.
“I like you,” he blurted out, unable to restrain himself any longer.
“Oh…” her voice shifted and she covered her mouth. “Jean, I like you too, but I can’t like you that way. I think it would be better if we were just friends.”
His world shattered, Jean felt as if he were to fall into a swirling abyss, lost in a darkness he had never experienced before. It was as if her words, like a massive sledgehammer, crushed him into discarded junk. She rejected him. Dropping the flower, Jean ran away and hid behind the corner of the hall.
Estrella picked the flower and shook her head. “Poor Jean.”
Her friend, an eyebrow raised, turned to her and gave a crooked smile. “What’s up with the robots in this place.”