Novels‎ > ‎Shot Down‎ > ‎

Chapter Two

His parents had questioned his decision to move twenty miles away into halls of residence, but Ryan had insisted that he wanted the complete University experience.  He had wanted to establish himself with a personality that he was happy with.  He didn’t want his dull friends any more, with their modest hopes and small-town thinking.  He wanted interesting people in his life, and to be an interesting person himself.  As luck would have it, the first person he met at uni was Shaun.

His parents had driven him over to his halls with his belongings and helped him to unpack the car.  Then they had all stood in Ryan’s room in some form of suspended animation.  Ryan was itching to meet new people and he didn’t see his parents as a good look for him on this particular day.

            “Are you sure there’s nothing else you need?” his mother asked, scouring the room for inspiration.  “You don’t have a toasted sandwich maker!”

            “Honestly, I’m fine, Ryan replied, the same as he had to all her other suggestions.

            “You don’t have clothes pegs.”

            “I’ll buy some.”

            “All of your clothes are ironed, so make sure you put them away neatly.  I hope there’s enough room for everything.”

            “It’ll be fine.”

            “And…”

            “Come on Denise, let’s leave the lad be,” Ryan’s father had intervened jovially, and Ryan had shot him a look of sheer gratitude.  He knew that it was a big day for them as well, their only child heading off to uni, and he didn’t wish to take that away from them.  It had been a shared dream of theirs for many years.  But at the same time, he didn’t want to be labelled ‘the boy who’s parents stayed too long’ either.  He wasn’t ungrateful, per se, he just wanted the space to embark upon the first day of the rest of his life.

            Ryan took the opportunity to hug his mother and thank her for her support.  He shook his father’s hand and was slightly disappointed that Trevor didn’t try to slip a twenty pound note into his hand.  It would have been clichéd, but rather nice and memorable at the same time.  He showed them to the end of his corridor and watched them leave.  He walked back into his room and looked at his packed up belongings, and suddenly an empty feeling passed through him.  Ryan had built up to this for so long, yet he hadn’t considered what he would actually do once he arrived.  There had been the bigger plan – go to uni and start a new life – but he hadn’t planned for how he was going to achieve it. 

            How did you go about meeting new people without imposing yourself upon them?  How did you meet the right people?  The first days were going to be hugely important and he didn’t want to end up lumbered with the Joe’s, Phil’s and Brian’s of the campus.  If he made the wrong in-roads, it could ruin his entire University experience. 

            Ryan paced around room thinking about what to unpack first.  It would probably be advisable to get the packing over and done with now.  If he made his room inviting people would be more inclined to pay him a visit.  CD’s were important; he would sort out that shelf first.  He had spent many hours at home that week agonising over which CD’s to take, deciding on an equal mix of obvious favourites and personal discoveries.  There were conversation pieces in there, and Ryan was sure that it would make the right impression.

            A conversation was occurring out in the corridor and Ryan wondered whether he should introduce himself.  Three male voices were chattering enthusiastically, very pleased to meet each other.  Would it appear too needy to poke his head out of the door?  How did one behave if they wished to appear natural in all of this?  Ryan feared that he had thought his way into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that he would only make a bad impression.  That was enough to temporarily shatter his confidence and quash all designs on meeting people.  He turned his attention back to his CD’s and set about placing them on the shelf.  Alphabetically, of course.  Then he would unpack the stereo and put his Dali poster on his wall.  Once he had unpacked, he would bite the bullet and introduce himself in the best possible way.  When he figured out what that was. 

            He was just positioning a Chemical Brothers album when he found cause to sniff.  He could smell weed.  It had definitely started smelling like weed.

            “Alright,” a voice said and Ryan turned to the door with a start.  He hadn’t noticed anyone walk in.  The voice was holding a joint and sauntering into Ryan’s room and resting on his bed.  He exuded a confidence that Ryan would often envy over the years.  He was someone that Ryan felt immediately subservient to.  The voice was around his age, with long streaked brown hair, an ostentatious pair of sunglasses, a tatty suit jacket and a pair of corduroy trousers.  He was a fully-fledged image, complete with joint, confidence and the requisite level of aloof.  He had the look of someone who never needed to worry where his next friend was coming from.

            “Hi,” Ryan said, relieved that his voice hadn’t let him down and squeaked out a response, like it had done so many times during the puberty years.        

            “I’m Shaun,” the voice introduced himself and passed Ryan the joint.  He then started to look through Ryan’s belongings.  Ryan took the joint to his lips hesitantly.  His experiences of weed were relatively limited and he didn’t wish to appear naïve by coughing and spluttering instead of blowing smoke-rings.  He inhaled a little and managed to hold it down.  Shaun wasn’t even looking; he was much more concerned with his rifling.  Ryan wondered whether it was too late to say his name in response and took another toke on the joint, which tasted sweeter than the one he had experienced before.  It would seem he had a new hobby.

            Shaun found a bag of Ryan’s wall decorations and started browsing through the multitude of gig tickets and photographs with only a mild sense of interest.  Ryan worried that something embarrassing would present itself, but Shaun failed to mock anything he glanced at.  He cast the bag on the floor carelessly and moved over to the CD player.

            “You were about to hook up the stereo, right?”

            “Next on my list,” Ryan replied.  “I’m Ryan, by the way.”

            “Bit of a scally name isn’t it?”

            Ryan was in awe.  He couldn’t believe his luck.  He had come seeking characters and one had wandered straight into his room.  There was a further tense moment as Shaun perused Ryan’s CD collection; a stony silence as Ryan waited to be reprimanded by the clearly clued-up master.  Shaun eventually spoke.

            “You like Radiohead?”

            “Who doesn’t?”

            “I don’t.”

            “Really?”

            “Well, not the ones everyone else likes.”

            “Of course,” Ryan smiled.