By Taylor Bartlett.
“Oy! Wake up you bastards!”
Rick awoke blearily, wondering what the hell Vyvyan was shouting about now. As his eyes slowly adjusted to the natural light of day, Rick realised that there was a suspicious lack of daylight beyond his curtains. He then turned his gaze to the clock standing upon his bedside table and he had to close his eyes for a moment in order for his brain to try and process what his eyes had just seen. The clock’s hands read half past seven. Sure that his half focused eyes had been playing a childish joke on him, he glanced at the clock and blinked again. No. The hands of the clock were definitely showing the time as half past seven, in the morning. Rick had never seen a clock at half past seven in the morning before and the very notion shocked him. Why in the name of the lord was Vyvyan up at this hour? And come to that, why was Vyvyan trying to get everybody else up at this hour?
After a short and blissful spell of quiet, Vyvyan’s voice again echoed through the house, screeching unpleasantly like finger nails down the blackboard of Rick’s brain. “Oy!” he yelled again, if possible, even louder than before, “I said, get up you bastards. It’s a college day today, and we don’t want to be late.”
That statement was enough to force Rick’s legs to move. He pushed the sheet off his body and pulled himself out of bed, unable to properly comprehend what he had just heard. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and tried again to force his sleep addled brain to for God’s sake work correctly. He was fairly sure that he had heard Vyvyan to insist that they not turn up to college late, and that was most unlike vvyvyan. In normal situations, Vyvyan couldn’t have given a toss whether or not he turned up to college late, or even if he turned up at all. His number of missed classes totalled over two hundred and until today, he had never been very bothered.
Stepping out onto the landing, Rick boggled at Vyvyan, who was standing in the doorway to his bedroom, a suitcase on the floor at his side. In an unusual display of obvious effort on the part of Vvyvyan, his spikey orange hair was jelled up in an oddly neat manner. Rick paused in front of him, noting that his house mate was wearing somewhat fresh and tidy clothing, though his shirt was creased and his jeans were of the patched and shabby type that he normally wore. When the medical student opened his mouth to shout once more, Rick noticed that his normally unbrushed teeth were gleaming whitely in the light from the hallway bulb above Vyvyan’s head.
“What you starin at?” barked Vyvyan in annoyance, glaring at Rick, who only had the time to process that at least Vyvyan’s mannerisms were unchanged. If he had wished Rick a cheerful “good morning,” then he would have disappeared into the living room to phone the ambulance.
“Just wondering what you’re so eager to go to college for,” rick replied in his best winning voice. He then pointed at the suitcase lying at Vyvyan’s feet. “What’s that for?”
Vyvyan gave Rick the sort of look that one often gives to a piece of dry rot and said, in a voice thick with sarcasm, “it’s graduation day, you poof. Once the day’s out, I’ll be able to piss off out of here and leave you over payed girly tossers behind. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going down to have some chicken vindaloo before the bus comes.” He wheeled about, absent mindedly digging his elbow into Rick’s ribs as he went, and raced off downstairs, his orange hair bounsing as he ran.
Rick stood at the top of the stairs for a moment, more confusion washing over him. Ah, yes. Graduation. Rick had of course known that graduation was on the cards, though he hadn’t truly believed that such an event would ever be on the cards for him. He had been a student at Skumbag for the better part of four years, and he hadn’t to his knowledge completed any of the course work with any kind of distinction. He was of the opinion that only the best were given the opportunity to graduate. He wondered why Vyvyan was so excited about it. Had he performed better than his house mates had thought? Would he be leaving their college with a grade of some sort?
“I forgot graduation day was today,” Rick said conversationally as he entered the cluttered kitchen, spying Vyvyan at the table devouring a heaped plate of chicken vindaloo as if he hadn’t eaten in days.
Vyvyan looked up, his usual expression of scorn plastered across his features. “Well,” he told Rick in a blunt fashion, “that’s because you’re thick as mince, isn’t it?”
Rick wandered aimlessly over to the box of Cherios that stood on the counter and reached for the milk, trying not to allow his hurt to show on his face. After four years of sharing a house together, Vyvyan still refused to treat him as any kind of friend and it still upset him, though today of all days, he was more upset than he usually would be.
The door opened and Mike and Neil slouched in, waring their usual clobber and rubbing the sleep from their eyes. Mike gave Vyvyan an unfriendly look. The boy was clearly not a happy bunny this morning.
Mike pointed at the kitchen clock, large enough to be seen from miles away. “What time do you call this, Vyv?” he asked pointedly, giving Vyvyan a glare.
Vyvyan mearly glanced up and said simply, “I’d call it twenty to eight.” He grinned.
Mike did not. “What the hell do you mean by this, Vyv?” Mike demanded, throwing himself down into a creeky wooden chair which groaned beneath his weight but luckily held.
Vyvyan sighed and looked up. “I’ve already said, Michael,” he told Mike unhappily, “it’s graduation day. I want to be there on time so I can finish as soon as possible.”
“But the ceremony will take all day,” Neil told him, smoothing down his chip pan hair, flopping into a second chair and looking morosely round the kitchen.
“Yeah,” Vyvyan replied, “but there ain’t no way I’m hanging around clapping the other bastards. I’m not wasting my time. As soon as my name’s read, I’ll be going up there, getting my certificate and getting the hell out of that dump.”
Rick returned to the table and said, “I’m not sure I want to leave.” He recoiled as the lookf of total incredulity were aimed his way.
“Seriously?” Neil asked, raising his eyebrows at Rick, “everybody knows Skumbag college is a complete shit hole. Why the hell do you want to stay there?”
Rick dearly wished that he hadn’t said anything. “I don’t want to stay,” he said slowly, “but I’ll just be kind of sad to go. I mean.” He took one swift and searching look round the kitchen, taking in the filthy pots and pans, the cluttered worktops and the cupboards that looked as if they would fall apart at any moment. “I’ve spent four years at that college and in this house. I’ll just miss it. That’s all.”
Vyvyan, Neil and Mike mearly stared at their house mate as if he was mad.
Rick opened his mouth a third time, wondering whether he had the nerve to say what was on his tongue. But then, he threw caution to the four winds and said in a rush, “will any of you miss me?”
The laughter was more or less immediate. Mike put a hand over his mouth in an effort to conceal his snort of derision. Neil gave Rick a scornful look and Vyvyan threw his head back, his laughter exploding out of his mouth. Rick felt the familiar blush creeping up his face and heating his brow. He looked down, unable to look anybody in the eye. His unusual display of centimmentality had taken a lot of courage and they had simply taken it as a joke.
Vyvyan took a deep breath as he fought to keep control of his murth. “Are you on something?” he asked, wiping at his streaming eyes with a dirty cloth, “of course not. What would I miss you for? It’s you I’m looking forward to getting away from. Get a grip, Rick.”
The journey to college was a subdued one, with nobody uttering a single word as the bus rattled down the familiar road for what would be the last time. Rick, Mike and Neil were sitting on the same bench as the bus neared the college gates. Vyvyan, as usual was sitting alone, looking out of the window as the houses rushed past him.
He wasn’t quite sure if he had told the truth to Rick earlier that morning in the kitchen. He was sure that he had put up a good show of telling the truth however. His laughter had been jenuin at first, though Vyvyan’s laughter had been a result of shock more than anything. He had been surprised that Rick had had the balls to ask such a question – a question he himself had been pondering for some time. That very question had been on Vyvyan’s mind for some time, though he would never be brave enough to reveal it.
The bus halted at the gates of the college and Vyvyan stood up, barging past Rick as he alighted on to the pavement. He walked swiftly into the building, looking neither left nor right as he made his way into the drafty lecture hall that would be used for the graduation ceremony. He took his place at the back of the room and settled down to wait for the bloody thing to be over with. The sooner it was over with, the sooner he would be able to leave and try to forget Rick and the others forever. He pushed his uncertainty down into the very pit of his soul and tried to ignore it.
The ceremony went in the direction he had been sure it would go. It took hours. There were so many students leaving that day that the staff had placed a number of chairs in the atrium as the lecture hall hadn’t been big enough. The A list alone took two hours. Katie Anderson, the pretty and rather intelligent head student of biology swaggered forward and received her certificate with good grace and an Oscar winning smile. Paul Andrews almost fell over on his way to the stage and Becca Armstrong was white faced and tense.
When Vyvyan’s name was called, he marched forwards, towards the stage with as much confidence as he could outwardly display and accepted his graduation certificate from Miss Dean, his own tutor, who offered him one of her tight lipped smiles. He walked quickly back to his chair and thought that he would stay to see Rick getting his own certificate, wanting to see the look of quiet triumph on his house mate’s face. Rick’s smile would be something that Vyvyan would take away with him, and he wanted it to be good.
He waited patiently, and when the name “Rick Britain” was called, Vyvyan looked up sharply to watch Rick ascend the stage.
He appeared slowly out of the crowd, walking swiftly up to the stage and almost bounding up the stairs. Vyvyan watched him go with a smile. The youth looked so pleased with himself, and his face glowed with pride upon receiving his graduation certificate. He turned and walked back to his seat, holding the certificate for sociology gently in his hand as if it was made of gold rather than mear paper. He passed Vyvyan’s chair on his way out of the door and the medical student quickly lowered his head, lest Rick realise that he had been watching with avid curiosity.
Vyvyan waited for a few minutes before he got up and left the room, not wishing people to think that he wanted to follow him. He slowly stood up and left, walking quickly out of the door and towards the bus lane in the hopes of catching a bus back to the flat that he would no longer be able to call home.
“Oh, Hi Vyv,” called a voice behind him.
Vyvyan spun round and saw Rick walking towards him, one hand clutching his certificate, the other a bag of miniature mars bars. Vyvyan smiled at Rick despite himself as the other student wandered over to him.
“Want one?” Rick asked, holding out the bag of mars bars.
Vyvyan nodded, dipping a hand into the bag and lifting out two mars bars. After a pause, he muttered, “thanks, Rick.”
The two boys stared at each other for a moment before Rick once again had the nerve to break the silence. “Well done on your graduation, mate,” he said awkwardly, shuffling his feet. His face went red again just as it had done in the kitchen as Vyvyan looked at him. Rick then looked down as if embarrassed at his sudden boldness.
Vyvyan wanted to rescue Rick from his embarrassment, and so he said, “you to. Well done. What are you going to do with it?”
“Frame it,” replied the sociology student simply, holding up the neatly typed award. His face glowed once more and against his better judgement, Vyvyan’s heart gave an involuntary spasm of something that he didn’t understand. Was it excitement? Or was it simply sadness?
Rick broke into his house mate’s thoughts. “Where are you off to anyway?”
“Oh, just off home,” Vyvyan muttered. He was suddenly unable to look the other boy in the eyes, so he just stared at the ground. He looked up. “What about you?”
Rick shrugged. “Oh, I’m off to my sister’s for a few days. I’ll be home to get my stuff in a day or two.”
“I’ll be gone by then,” Vyvyan said, his heart sinking so fast that he could practically feel it falling through his chest. He paused for a moment, looking down at the ground again. “I suppose this is goodbye then, Rick.”
Rick nodded. He shifted the bag of miniature mars bars around until it rested beneath his arm as he smiled at Vyvyan. “I guess it is. But still, never mind ay.” A sad look crept into his eyes as he stared fixedly at the top of the medical student’s head. “It probably doesn’t matter anyway. I mean, you said it yourself. You won’t miss me.”
The note of melancholy in Rick’s voice made Vyvyan look up. He dearly wished he was brave enough to tell Rick that that wasn’t true, that he would miss him more than Rick could possibly imagine. Vyvyan, a boy who was perfectly at home with using violence to get what he wanted, did not have the guts to say what he knew needed to be said, and shame twisted inside his heart at the very thought of it.
“Er…” he managed after a short pause. He had no idea what he was going to say, but he had to say something. “Er…” he repeated, even more nervously and awkwardly than before, “erm… well… That’s not exactly true.”
“What do you mean?” Rick asked, confused.
Vyvyan had no time to form a response, for a bus roared up to their stop right at that moment. His opportunity was gone. The driver opened the door and glared down at Vyvyan who was making a show of carefully folding up his certificate, in the hope of giving himself some more time to chat with Rick.
“Hurry up, son!” the bus driver moaned as if he had been inconvenienced with time wasters all day. “Come on lad. Who cares if it’s folded properly. Hurry up.”
Shame faced, Vyvyan put a foot on the first step and turned to look back at Rick who was staring back at him. It seemed that neither one wished to look away from the other as the bus driver waited with increasing impatience for Vyvyan to board.
“So…” Vyvyan said quietly, “I’m going this way.”
Rick nodded. “And I’m going this way.”
Another long pause while the irate bus driver huffed and puffed behind the two x students.
Vyvyan opened his mouth, not knowing what would come out.
Again, Rick took the words out of Vyvyan’s mouth. “Best of luck mate,” he said with a wave of a hand.
Vyvyan bit back a much more centimental reply, and just said, “best of luck.”
Vyvyan then stepped up into the bus and made his way directly for the seat right at the back. Taking his place, he unwrapped one of the mars bars and bit into it, glad for something to do.
The bus moved away from the college campus and Vyvyan leaned over to the right, looking out of the window for a final glimpse of his x house mate. Rick lifted a hand and waved once more, his certificate flying through the air as he did so. Vyvyan lifted a hand and waved back, waving until Rick’s face fell away, left behind in the wake of the bus’s speed. Vyvyan settled back into the seat, the half eaten mars bar melting in his fist. Rick was gone now. It was likely that he would never see the other boy again, much as he secretly hoped he would. Both would start a new chapter in their lives. Separate chapters. Chapters that would not contain the other.
Vyvyan sighed, allowing the bus to sweep him back to the house. He would pick up his bags. Then he would be off, ready to begin the next part of his life. As the bus rattled onward, Vyvyan had time to hope that he may see Rick again one day. He hoped that their paths would cross again, some time in the future, and he smiled at the notion. Maybe he would have Rick as a patient in one of his surgeries someday. He smiled at that thought. It could happen, he thought. Who knew what was around the corner.