“So what’s your room mate like?” Darren asked as he handed me a mug of steaming hot tea.
“I haven’t met her yet,” I said, taking a careful sip of the hot liquid. “She unpacked all her stuff and left before I arrived. Have any of you seen her?”
“I don’t think we have,” Joanne said, looking at Natalie who shook her head. “There was a girl hanging around earlier who might have been her. She had really long blonde hair.”
“That’s the girl I saw,” Owen cut in.
“Has anyone actually spoken to her?” I asked, but my question was greeted with a resounding silence. My new room mate was clearly quite a mystery. I only hoped that she would present herself to me before I went to bed; I didn’t want a total stranger coming into my room in the early hours of the morning.
“It’s the phantom student,” Olly said, putting on a stupid spooky voice and waving his hands around in a creepy manner. “You never hear her and you can only see her when it is too late.” He reached out and grabbed Natalie on the shoulder, making her jump out of her seat and the rest of the room burst into laughter.
“Don’t mess with her,” Joanne protested. “I’m sure your room mate is lovely, I can’t wait to meet her.”
“Well I hope she’s livelier than you lot,” Eric commented. “Look at us. Students on our first day of university, sipping tea and chatting. We must be the most boring students in the entire country. We should be drinking beer, not this muck.”
“Don’t you think one in the afternoon is a bit early to hit the alcohol?” Olly said, one side of his mouth twisting into a lopsided grin. Eric didn’t have a reply to this so remained quiet and took a slurp of tea from the mug Darren handed him.
“So what are you here to study, Nessie?” Joanne asked, turning the focus of the room back onto me.
“I’m on the History course,” I said nervously, aware of all the eyes watching me and listening to my every word.
“Watch out,” Eric said, “we’ve got a geek!”
Joanne pretended to punch him and Eric dutifully acted like he had taken the hit, clasping his face with his free hand and reeling back from the imaginary blow.
“There’s nothing wrong with History,” Owen said protectively. “And if anyone is going to be a geek it’s Natalie, she’s the one studying Bio-Chemistry.”
“Now look who’s being nasty,” Joanne said in Natalie’s defence. “And coming from the Media Studies student no less, everyone knows you’re just clever of everyone else’s brains.”
“I’ll have you know that Media Studies is a lot harder than people think,” Owen said, trying to be serious but the big grin on his face giving the joke away. “And I don’t want to be clever. If things go my way I’m going to be a big sports star, I won’t need to be smart then.”
“So why on earth are you doing a Media Studies degree?” Freddie asked.
“My parents didn’t want me doing Sport Science or anything like that because they said it didn’t lead to a ‘proper’ job so I chose something I enjoyed at school.”
“What do you play?” I asked.
“Rugby,” was the reply. “At least that’s what I want to go professional in, but I’m a big cycler and I play other sports too.” This brought a series of mutterings from around the table, some impressed and others approving of his choice of sport. “What about you lot?” He asked. “What are your dreams?”
Most people just shrugged and looked blankly at each other, not knowing the answer.
“As a kid I always wanted to be a doctor,” Joanne mused aloud. “I still did until a couple of years ago when I did some work experience in a hospital and found out that I didn’t like being around sick people. It’s the smell.” She shuddered. “I guess I haven’t found anything to replace that yet.”
“What about you, Nessie? Where’s your History degree going to take you?” Darren leaned in, intrigued to hear my answer.
“I guess I’m going to be a teacher,” I replied. “That’s what everyone keeps telling me anyway. I was voted most likely to return to my school as a teacher at the end of last term and all my teachers kept telling me how good I would be as a teacher.”
“But I’m guessing that’s not what you want to be?” James said insightfully.
“Not really, but at the moment you can’t be fussy about what job you have, you’re lucky if you have one in the first place. And I’m not sure what I want to be. I’ve always liked reading so maybe an editor or something like that. I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to go wherever the world takes me.”
“Well, I think that’s a great plan,” Owen said, raising his mug of tea to the ceiling. “Here’s to seeing where the world takes you.” Everyone raised their mugs in the same gesture, china clinking as they bounced off each other.