The walls were dominated by posters of sporting personalities. Many of them were now old and tattered, signifying an occupation that had, at one time, dominated his life but now jostled for time with many other interests. He was grateful for the widened perspective that this development in his life had given. On the other hand, he could not fail to acknowledge the fact that additional interests and responsibilities required increased maturity and one skill in particular. A skill that had come to be summarised by a phrase endorsed and manipulated by both teachers and parents the world over. The bane of many a suffering student. Time management. At the moment he had plenty of time and little to manage. In fact, he could not help feeling that if he had not had to take his girlfriend to college that morning there would have been little reason for him to get out of bed at all. But that didnít bother him anymore.
The doleful, sunken eyes of Kurt Cobain stared directly at him where he lay, this poster taking pride of place on the main wall. Images of fellow musicians were sprawled across the wall behind Jasonís head interspersed with occasional glossy shots of glamorous young women, in varying states of attire, many subtlety revealing coral breasts and pert bottoms. Jason didnít care for them much any more. More important to him now were the photocopies of all the local newspaper headlines featuring his name or one of his many sporting achievements. They punctuated the colourful spread but even these, he couldnít help sometimes feeling, were simply a desperate attempt to salvage something that had once set him aside and maybe even ahead of the others. They made him feel special. Besides, he had his own serious love-interest now and turning his head to the side he saw her smiling at him. He smiled back.
The smile came from the collection of photos forming a collage on his bedside table. They were snapshots of friends from different circles and different times and collectively they made up memories, or at least a trigger for them. The eccentric-looking male students, depicted in a slightly faded photograph, formed a group of which he had been a part whilst studying at his local comprehensive school. It always drew a smile to his face when he remembered their individual eccentric but endearing traits. He could remember just how it happened. It was always that way whenever he had finished with one phase of his life to approach another. An argument would ensue between Jason and his father. Jason refused to accept the idea that it would only be natural for him to lose touch with his current circle of friends, despite the fact that they seemed so dear at the time. His father called it Ďpersonal developmentí or Ďgrowing-upí depending on his state of temper and consequently his state of reasonability. Unfortunately this was just another incident when the differences in the values and priorities of the two men were highlighted and brought into conflict. Unfortunately also, his father nearly always turned out to be right. Nearly but not always. Seeing as he valued his fatherís opinion more than anyone elseís it was surprising that he so often had trouble accepting it. Jasonís father was a sergeant in the army. He wasnít around much. That was alright though. Apparently Ďabsence made the heart grow fonderí. And there were always the promises.
The close huddle of his new college friends reflected the closeness that that he had come to feel with many of them, particularly his best friend from Africa, George. He had first met George when they had started college together. He was a tall, broad-shouldered young man with a deep voice and extraordinarily large hands. George was new in the country and spoke with a thick accent and still used a great number of his native phrases. For the first few weeks in this new environment he was a welcome companion for Jason. He couldnít understand a word that George said, but he made him laugh and feel at ease all the same. But it wasnít just that. Probably the thing that Jason came to love most about George was the way that he was never reluctant to show the sensitive side of his character and make it quite clear how much he valued their friendship. Jason could talk to him about anything. They had spent a great deal of time together at college; George trying to understand as much as he could about the country and itís people and customs, and Jason trying to understand what it actually was that George was saying to him. It always made Jason laugh the way in which George nearly always addressed his father by his first name. He spoke to him in the same way that he would talk to any of his other friends, but still maintained the deepest respect for him. They respected each other. Jason often found himself wishing that he could have a similar relationship with his own father. Everybody loved George.
The newest addition to his collection of photographs was a picture of the friends that he had made at the local youth club. They displayed many an outlandish hairstyle, demented facial expression, and shocking fashion statement but most importantly they were a group of unique characters. He laughed. Next to them, the girls were posing in their figure-hugging, short skirts and tight-fitting tops, each one blonde and exquisitely pretty.
He loved these photos. He loved the smiles and memories. But one smile always stood out amongst the rest and his eyes always came to rest on it last and for the longest. Jason had never known, or considered it possible, for a smile to light up a face in that same way that it did with Amberís. Perhaps it would have been more fitting if her hair had been blonde or maybe even auburn owing to her name, but it wasnít. She had beautiful, long, chestnut-brown hair that she always wanted to cut off. It matched her eyes. Jason could always tell when his girlfriend was thinking by looking into those eyes. Well most of the time anyway. It was an ability that she irritatingly reciprocated. Her eyes were playful like her personality. When she was happy they glittered like two large diamonds. She had a rich bubbling laugh that always made Jason smile except when it was directed at him. She laughed at him quite a lot but he didnít mind. They were engaged to be married. For the rest of their lives.
Jason sat up and turned to pull the pillow, that smelt faintly of Amberís perfume, to rest behind his back so that he wouldnít feel the cold wood of the head-board against his back. From here he could look through the window. Jasonís room was situated at the front of the house which looked out over the main village road but from where he sat Jason could not see the road or the traffic that passed along it. If he tried hard enough he could just about imagine that he did actually live in the exciting wildness of the countryside. Away from the bustling confusion of the town. Where he could be himself. Across the road was a narrow belt of woodland with ash and oak trees that looked fresh and alive in the summer months but drab and damp in the winter. It was Autumn. Behind this almost impenetrable tangle of brambles and bracken, sectioned off by a coarse wire fence, was a large field that appeared to be used as grazing land for the few scruffy cattle that huddled in itís far corner and to house the two large BBC Satellite dishes that perched offensively at its northern end, despite numerous attempts that had been made to camouflage them. In the middle of this field was a small derelict, concrete construction merged into the border of an island of oak trees with a fence around them. This building had always excited Jasonís curiosity as a boy. Unfortunately he had never really been given the scope to be the kind of child who cut through wire fences and trespassed onto private land in quest of the adventures and fantastical happenings that he read about in books. They always happened to other people. Few people were aware of the imagination that Jason entertained, but at least he never got into trouble.
A dull-grey mist hung lazily over the field. Looking at the trees that gently swayed and rippled in the almost imperceptible early-autumn breeze and the cows that stood stolidly with their heavy heads bent to the grass, he was able to think about things that were far removed from things at home. Over the last few days, Jason had had little opportunity to live in the present as it were. His parents kept urging him that he needed something to occupy his mind. He either spent lazy afternoons such as this deep in his own thoughts and revelling in old memories, or worrying about the future. Worrying about what preparations he needed to make to deal with what the future may throw at him. Amber always told him that he worried too much, but he didnít expect much to change until he actually did leave for university, when everything would obviously work out for the best. He had tried to explain to her what a significant, and often intimidating step this represented in his life, but he didnít think that she really understood. He didnít think anyone understood. He didnít mind though. He was used to dealing with things on his own.
Suddenly very tired Jason slumped back against the pillow. It collapsed under his weight and he hit his head on the head-board. He laughed at the pain. Resting his tired eyes by closing them he watched the random, colourful shapes spin across the insides of his eyelids. For a while he found himself devoid of any particular thought and he smiled contentedly at this unfamiliar but welcome respite. He was tired of thinking. He was sick of thinking. He took a long, deep breath and smiled again. The smile of someone who knew. The smile of someone who knew exactly where his life was going. The mist had finally lifted for him. He was finally free of all that expectation. After all, why shouldnít he smile? It was quite clear to anyone that Jason had absolutely everything going for him. Everything. The future was within his grasp. He just had to reach out and claim it for his own.
A cold draught made Jason shiver and he reached for a corner of the duvet. His fingers came to rest instead on the crumpled envelope. He smiled as he carefully prised open the sticky seam and tipped the contents out onto the palm of his hand. It was a ring. The bright glittering colours of the two large diamonds winked at him conspiratorially. Everything going for him. Everything. Everything and nothing. The fingers of his other hand closed around the only other object on the bed. Jason knew that his father always kept it hidden in the top draw of his desk. He used it for work. He wished that George was there. He would know just what to say. Permitting himself just a semblance of hope, Jason opened his eyes and surveyed the stuffy interior of his bedroom. As usual nobody was there. He smiled, and pulled the trigger.