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Chapter Two

The bus inched through the Curry Mile.  This was the toughest part of the journey by far.  Little progress was made and Ryan was disappointed every time he looked out of the window and saw that the scenery had scarcely changed.  He tried to concentrate on the lyrics of the song he was listening to, but he found himself struggling.  He was preoccupied mainly by thoughts of a better life; a cross between any vague aspirations he held to make something of himself and wistful memories of what he believed may have been the best years of his life.  Even though the weekend had been great, it had been nothing novel or genuinely exciting.  Not like how it had been.

            Things had changed forever.  Jake and Rhianna had hastily moved on in life, so they wouldn’t be part of any future house-sharing plans.  They had become an item after much cajoling and deliberating in the second year, and had surprised everyone by getting married less than a year after graduation and moving to Somerset, where Rhianna had grown up.  They hadn’t returned to Manchester since they left.  If those that knew the group at uni found out that Jake and Rhianna didn’t contact them much these days, they would be astounded.  They had hopped onto career ladders and failed to keep in touch.

            Ryan had been surprised by how little he had missed them being around.  Proximity had obviously been an important part of their friendship, and it didn’t matter how much you wanted things to remain static, it was impossible to prevent change.  And when things did change, you adapt, and you try to make things better for yourself.  There were enough people around to keep things interesting, and in no time Jake and Rhianna barely cropped up in conversation.  Everything was just fine without them.  If Ryan thought hard enough, he could minimise their importance in the shared history of the group.  Those that remained had remained far more important to him, and they continued to make their friendships worthwhile.  They had monumental bonds; Jake and Rhianna were insignificant.  They had moved onto the real world, whilst the rest stayed in Neverland.

            Ryan opened his eyes with a start.  He hadn’t noticed himself drift off; his thoughts had appeared continuous, but he couldn’t account for the progress of the journey and the sudden departure of most of his fellow passengers.  He felt groggier than he had all day, and his eyes were weighed down with the sum total of his extravagances.  His music was still playing, but he couldn’t remember the last song he was consciously listening to.  He glanced out of the window, struggling to place where he was on his journey.  It took longer than it should have to become clear.  He was two stops from home.  Sleep had been a useful refuge on this particular journey, even if he hadn’t been aware that he was doing it.  Ryan placed his book in his bag having made next to no progress on it since he left home that morning.  He was sure he could make a better effort tomorrow. 

            The day had crept along painfully from the outset, so Ryan hoped that it would at least have the good grace to do the same for the evening session.  The time after he clocked off always seemed to ebb away rather too quickly and soon he would be back at his desk going through the same motions again, preferably feeling a little better than he did right now.  It was the sensation that dogged Ryan daily.  It was the feeling that life and opportunity were slipping away.  The feeling that he couldn’t commit to any one cause because he just didn’t believe in it enough. 

            Ryan left the bus, mumbling a thank you to the driver that wasn’t returned.  He ceased thinking at this point.  The walk home was an auto-pilot affair.  He had anticipated this part of the day for quite some time.  Three alley-ways and a right turn and he was home.  He was no longer required to function and Ryan couldn’t help but feel grateful about that.  He was less grateful at the prospect of facing his mother.  She would be home by now and distinctly unimpressed by his demeanour.  She would be in the living room catching up on the latest news bulletin, checking to see if she’d missed out on anything.  She would be missing Ryan’s father, who was away at another conference for the night.  Ryan expected her to take this out on his appearance.

            It was the familiarity of it all that saddened Ryan.  Most nights he would return to his parents home, the noise of the news emanating from the living room to the right of the front door, the smell of dinner coming from the kitchen directly in front of him.  It was Tuesday, so it would be some sort of fry-up. His mother would call out, asking if it were him, knowing that of course it would be.  She’d ask after his day and he would say the same thing.  It was alright.  It was always alright.  Even if it had been amazing or diabolical, he had no desire to share the details.  So alright had to do.  Ryan’s weekend comedown accentuated all that was staid and boring about his life; how formulaic and derisory it had all become. 

            He opened the door.  TV news and a fry-up.  The cat brushed passed his legs and made him jump a little.  He wasn’t well.  And he just didn’t have the heart to go and speak with his mother just yet. 

            “Is that you Ryan?”

            He slunk up the stairs; if she challenged him he would just say that he hadn’t heard her over the headphones, and then she could pick him up on how loud he must have had the volume.  He would speak with her later.  A quick change of clothes and a ten minute lie down and he’d be ready to face her.  Perhaps a shave as well.  That could only help.  He heard her call his name again, and he ignored her, a slight pang of guilt doing nothing to change his mind.

            He closed his bedroom door behind him.  He shut his eyes and allowed himself to be overcome with relief that the tough part of the day was at last over.  He could have slept through until morning from that point, he was sure.  And he would feel great about it as well.  At the very least, the world and its demands could wait until tomorrow, and that was enough for the moment.  Ryan loved his bedroom.  It was the one avenue of familiarity that he appreciated.  It was his own personal space, and he had worked hard to make it as glorious as he could.  His personality dripped from the walls and the ceiling, every factor a conscious representation of who Ryan believed he was.  He had managed to make it his own when he had moved back in after University, removing all elements of his pre-uni self and flooding the space with who he was by the time he graduated. 

            Ryan opened his eyes and scoured the room, suddenly at a loss at what to do next.

            Strange, he thought, I could have sworn I made my bed this morning.