Novels‎ > ‎Shot Down‎ > ‎

Chapter Two

Ryan’s mobile phone rang out and he snatched it up greedily.  Contact from the outside world was always a valid respite. 

            “Alright, man.”  It was Shaun.

            “Greetings.”

            “Feeling alright today?”

            “Positively sprightly,” Ryan replied flatly, purposely cryptic for the benefit of the prying ears of the office. 

            “Yeah, me too.  Bit much for a Monday wasn’t it?”

            “Something like that.”

            “Especially after the weekend we’ve had.  But anyway, get motivated.  There’s an unsigned night on at the Roadhouse tonight.”

            “Never been to a signed gig, to be honest with you mate,” Ryan said, a self-satisfied grin spreading across his face.  “I didn’t think deaf people really went to gigs!”  Maggie looked up, disapproving by default, probably hoping that her children would turn out to be nicer than Ryan. 

            “You make me piss, Ryan, I assure you.  I only keep you as my friend because you are the funniest man in Manchester.”

            They both laughed.

            “I’m gonna decline, mate.  I’m knackered.”

            “When did you grow old?  We made a pact, remember.  Two workplace hangovers a week, minimum.  You gotta keep the spirit alive!  Get ‘em in early this week and you can drink cocoa with your parents until Friday.”

            “I knew there was a reason why my mother hates you.”  It was absolutely untrue, but for the purposes of a put-down anything was fair game between the two of them. 

            “Not what she said last night,” Shaun retorted.

            “Predictable!” they said in unison and laughed again. 

            “Come on, mate, you must be used to people saying no to you,” Ryan continued.  “Just accept the rejection in the good faith you usually do.”

            “By getting a ‘Ryan Pendlebury is a loser’ t-shirt made up?  Start me a cult following.” 

            “There you go, you have something to do tonight now!”

            “Twat!” Shaun chuckled and hung up, leaving Ryan tempted to go out in spite of the irrepressible nausea that had blighted his day.  Shaun only had limited free evenings because of his bar job, and this often left him out of tune with his friends and their nine-to-five work-life balance.  For once, though, Ryan planned to be sensible.  He had been out four nights in a row under the influence of at least alcohol.  Tonight was all about loafing; something he could do much more easily when he was at University and was allowed to smoke weed in the house.  Besides, if he did go out, it would be sure to draw some barbed remark from his mother.

            Ryan couldn’t understand why his mother still worried. When he lived away from home, all such fears for her sons health had diminished, but the moment he returned she had regressed by three years.  Whenever he left the house, he was once again expected to give details of who, what, why, where, when and how to account for his whereabouts.  It was nice to be loved, of course, if a little stifling.  The need to move out had been creeping up in Ryan for a while now, and he was hoping to move in with some of his friends once their contracts expired, so that they could go back to the way things were. 

            Ryan firmly believed that the best years of his life were behind him.  The third year house that he shared with seven of his closest friends had to be the peak.  He and Shaun had found it wandering around the student haven of Fallowfield; a vast Victorian terrace with a vibrant cellar, great party potential and a widely fought over attic conversion.  Ripley and Faye had been together for eighteen months at this point and offered to share a room, whilst Jake and Rhianna did the same.  Shaun, Ryan, Lucinda and Barry had rooms to themselves.  This gave them a cheap rent and more money to enjoy themselves.  A pack mentality had descended over the group.  Therein was a constant source of entertainment and drama, and enough eclectic personality types to make for great living.  There were always guests and impromptu gatherings.  Always exciting, always interesting. 

            It was in dynamic contrast to the way things were now.  Jake and Rhianna were out of touch, Ripley lived alone, and Faye, Barry and Lucinda shared a place out in East Didsbury.  Ryan was even further out, living back in Sale with his parents.  They were dispersed and had to plan to meet up now.  Work consumed their time with varying demands, and everything seemed like much more effort these days.  Ryan saw Shaun the most, mainly because Shaun slept on people’s couches in lieu of having anywhere permanent to stay, and was therefore predisposed to needing to go out in the evenings, and he would always call on Ryan to entertain him.  Shaun was quite happy with his living situation, where he would stay just long enough not to wear out his welcome.  Most of the time, at least.  There had been one or two hasty departures, but overall he got by rather successfully.  He had shed most of his material possessions (well, he had left them at his parent’s house), and he was happy travelling light.  Ryan had been unable to convince his mother to let Shaun stay with them, which had strained the friendship a little a few months before.  Shaun had been in desperate need of a couch at the time but Denise just wasn’t comfortable with the idea.  He’d got sorted eventually, but Shaun didn’t think Ryan had tried as hard as he could.

            It just wasn’t the same as when they were all living together.  They had to make arrangements to meet up, and most of them went their separate ways at the end of the night.  Occasionally they’d head back with Barry and the girls, but they all had to part at some point.  They only got together en masse once a month, and usually someone had to drop out for some reason.  Ryan had drunkenly suggested that the six of them live together on their last big night out, and it had been met with an enthusiastic response.  It was an idea that had remained with Ryan into sobriety, and he had been making enquiries ever since.

            Ten to.  Packing up time.  Ryan had managed to think his way through the minutes, and he had barely noticed them creep by.  He commenced the plod-along process that involved washing mugs, last minute ablutions and making everything neat and tidy for the next morning.  He bade any passing colleagues goodnight and headed to the door, clocked off and lumbered out of the building.  He wasn’t even relieved by this point; just determined to get home as quickly as possible, get to his room and immerse himself in some music.  He looked rough and he knew it.  Five days without a shave combined with creased clothing had made him less than presentable for work that morning.  His mother would make sure he knew it as well.  It was definitely time to think about moving on.

            It was the height of summer and Ryan’s mood was out of tune with the day.  He was tired and jaded, and it was on these days that he struggled to see the positives in his life.  On these days it just felt like all of his good times had been and gone, and he had let himself down when it came to life decisions. 

           

It’s unusual for people to remember the first time they met somebody with absolute clarity, but Ryan could recall his first meeting with Shaun with flashbulb accuracy.  He had been nervous as hell on the day he moved into halls, wondering what his new friends would be like, if he were lucky enough to make any at all.  That had been a big fear, finding out that he was incapable of being interesting at all.  Ryan had confidence in his musical tastes and his politics, but he’d never really thrown himself out there before.  It was hard to predict how well he would be received.

Ryan had gone to University with two goals in mind; to find out what he wanted to do in life, and to find out who he wanted to be.  The latter, he believed he had achieved, but he still had no idea what he wanted to do.  He didn’t want to be tied to a desk job for the rest of his life, but a viable alternative eluded him.  Something in the arts would be great, but everyone else seemed more qualified.  Managing bands would be an ideal career, but Ryan had no idea how he would go about doing it, or what skills he needed.  Journalism demanded further study, and it was competitive as well.  Ryan knew that he lacked the motivation, but he hoped that wouldn’t always be the case.

            It had been the same at University, really.  They had led pointless lives, but their times were exciting enough to justify their existence.  Ryan had discovered Ryan at University, just as he had hoped he would.  He had moved into halls in the first year in a conscious attempt to leave his mediocre childhood behind.  At school he had managed to remain anonymous at best.  He wasn’t so bookish that he invited bullying, nor was he cool enough for people to expect him to be good at sports.  He could talk to girls quite freely, but he knew that he wasn’t to ask them out.  He and his friends existed outside of the high school hierarchy.  Most people would look back on old school photos and struggle to remember what their names were. 

            When he went to college Ryan’s horizons had broadened a little.  He made a small impression on a wide range of people, and allowed himself to be affiliated with rock music and gig-going, alongside his high school friends Joe, Phil and Brian.  And that had been the problem.  As a group they were so insular that they never tried to meet new people.  They were happy just being there, whereas Ryan always felt compelled to talk to the characters that surrounded them.  At gigs, many wore their personalities as images, so complete and happy as they were.  Aesthetically, Ryan had nothing in common with these people and that always prevented him from trying to strike up conversation with interesting looking people.  If he wanted to interact with others, it had to be with college friends on mainstream nights out.  By the time he was seventeen, Ryan had felt that his life was constricted by those he grew up with, and at that point he consciously decided to set them aside.