The car pulled away and Dylan waved it off. Once it rounded the corner and was out of sight, he looked at the floor, he turned on his heel and re-entered the hall of residence that had been his home for the past nine months. He wandered back to his room, thinking about all that had happened and trying to put it into perspective. He lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling. His room seemed so empty without his posters and possessions. His parents had taken his belongings home for the summer but Dylan had insisted on staying until she had left. He had wanted to spend every second with her that he could.
Mark popped his head around Dylan's door. "Did she get away okay?" He spoke with genuine concern. Dylan had never known a man with so much compassion for others.
"Yeah," said Dylan. "She's gone. Can you believe I miss her already? It's crazy, I'm seeing her in a couple of weeks. It's just that can't imagine life without her."
"I'm not surprised. I know how you two feel about each other. I think we all kinda knew you'd get together in the end. It was just a question of when. Look, Dad's challenged me to a game of pool before we leave, do you fancy it?"
"Yeah. I've got nothing better to do."
Dylan grabbed his wallet and followed Mark out of the hall and up towards Rosser bar. Over the next hour, they had several games of pool. Dylan lost the first few games. He put it down to lack of concentration, but he was competitive and refused to leave until he'd caught up.
"We'll have to enter the tournament next year," Mark said on the way back to the hall.
"It might finally prove who's better," Dylan replied.
"I doubt it."
"When are you off on your travels?"
"A week Saturday. Andrea needs to sort out a few things first."
"I hope you two have a great time."
"I just wanted to say..."
"Don't, Dil. There's no need."
"Yeah, but ... I don't know. You're a real mate, you know that?"
"So are you."
"I'll see you in September."
"Yeah, see ya."
Dylan returned to his barren room, packed the last of his belongings into his car, and locked up. Before hitting the winding road home, he deposited his key at the reception and took one last stroll around the campus. He might have been there for less than a year, but he felt as if he belonged in Aber. It felt like home.
It was a glorious summer's morning. The sun was threatening to shine all day in a near cloudless sky. The general populous went about their business as they always did, albeit wishing they didn't have to and could spend the day be the sea instead. But a great many of Britain's eighteen year olds had something more important on their minds than the weather. It was the most important day of their lives.
For them, 'A' Level results day was when their future would be determined. Some would experience delight, as two years of hard graft paid dividends and they had their university place confirmed. Others would find themselves heart-broken, and be forced to undergo the nightmare of clearing. Control of their future was no longer in their own hands.
Dylan Thomas was worried. The potential physics student had tossed and turned for most of the night. He felt as if he had only just fallen asleep when his alarm went off and it was time to go and collect his results.
Dylan was desperate to get his place at Aberystwyth. Partly because he was the only person in his school that had a firm offer from a university, but mainly because it would make his parents proud. Not to mention that he thought he deserved it after all the work he had put in. Dylan got out of bed, had a shower, then dressed and went downstairs to where his mother had prepared a full English breakfast.
Another potential Aberystwyth physics student had slept very soundly, although that was probably due to the amount of beer he had guzzled the night before. Dave Jones never worried about the results of tests; he always passed them with flying colours. His school posted the results to students' houses, and so Dave had felt no need to get up early. No one would open his mail, they wouldn't dare. When the alarm sounded, he turned it off, rolled over and went back to sleep.
In Tranmere, Natalie Kinsey was on her way to her best friend's house. Joanne and Natalie had offers on the same degree in French and German course at Aberystwyth.
Natalie had barely knocked on Joanne's door before it opened. Joanne greeted her friend with a big smile.
"How you feeling?" Jo asked.
"I'm terrified to be honest." Nat's accent was more evident than her friend's. "I don't think I've been this nervous since I played the Virgin Mary in the nativity play at junior school."
Joanne closed the door and they walked to the bus stop. The pair were were often mistaken for sisters. Both dressed similarly, were a similar build and wore their hair the same way. Only Joanne's black hair set her apart from Natalie, who was strawberry blonde.
"You can remember that far back?" Jo asked.
"Oh, yeah. I remember that in rehearsals the baby Jesus' head fell off when I picked him up out of the manger. I was so scared that if it happened in front of the vicar he would think I was evil or something and banish me to hell."
"They fixed the doll and everything was fine. I wonder if remembering that story is an omen."
"There's no need to be scared because it will all work it in the end. That sort thing?"
"Exactly. There's no need to be scared 'cause in two months time both of us will be away from this dump."
"Remind me again why we opted for a tiny town on the Welsh coast, miles from anywhere. Aberystwyth doesn't even have a McDonalds."
"You know why, Jo. Besides, you remember the fun we had on that open weekend. Don't tell me you've forgotten those two rugby players already."
"I hadn't. I was just testing."
A couple of hundred miles south, on the Gower peninsular, Dylan drove his red Mini to school. He picked up his girlfriend, Claire, on the way. They didn't talk. All Dylan could think about was what would happen if he didn't get the grades he needed. He had studied hard for the exams, but wasn't confident about the results. He was sure that his answers had been gibberish. He excelled at maths, but he found it boring, and while physics fascinated him, it was his weakest subject.
When they got to school Dylan parked his car, locked it, and then accompanied Claire to the Head's office. There was a short queue outside it.
"Hi, Dylan," said Josh, one of Dylan's classmates. "You nervous?"
"Not at all. Walk in the park. Nothing to worry about."
"Don't listen to him," cut in Claire. "He's terrified."
"Oh good. Just as long as I'm not the only one." Josh hadn't been offered an automatic place but was hopeful his results would be good enough to get him a place through clearing.
The queue went down quickly. As people came out of the heads office some looked happy, others were in tears.
"Hey, Josh. Best of luck, man." Dylan said when it was his friend's turn.
"You too, bud."
They pressed their closed fists together, then Josh disappeared into the office and the door closed behind him.
The letterbox in Dave's front door flapped and several envelopes landed on the mat. His mother picked up one of them and placed it on a breakfast tray along with a bowl of corn flakes, milk and a mug of strong coffee. She carried the tray up to his room, knocked on the door and opened it without waiting for an answer.
"Come on David. Wake up, sleepy. It's here. I want you to open it now, before I go out."
"Aw, mom. It's early. Let me get some kip."
"No. I've made you breakfast. Besides, I need to know how you've got on before I go to work. I'm already late as it is."
"Then you should go. I'll call you when I open it."
"It's fine, David. Mr Lowe knows that you get your results today and told me not to come in until I knew what they were. I wouldn't get anything done until then anyway. So, come on. Or do you want me to do it?"
"If you want, just let me sleep."
"Okay, I'll open it. What is it you need again?"
Dave sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Three C's."
Dave's mom picked up a pen from the desk at the foot of his bed and used it to slice open the envelope. She tugged out the results card, unfolded it and stared, unable to speak.
"What, mom? Is it bad?"
"No," she said through tears. "It couldn't have been better."
Dave took the small piece of card from his mother and looked at it. He'd achieved three B's.
"What now?" asked a tearful Mrs Jones.
"I guess they write to me and confirm the place."
"Oh, congratulations, son. I'm so proud of you." She hugged him.
Natalie and Joanne got off the bus at the Sixth Form Collage stop, and ambled to the building that they had attended together for the past two years. They had been forced to go to the college because their previous school didn't cater for sixth formers. The college was huge, and drew students from the whole of Tranmere. The results had been pinned to a notice board in the building's main hall. The lists were in alphabetical order, and Joanne was on the first of five sheets. Natalie was having a little trouble finding the 'K' section that contained her results. While Natalie was still searching, Joanne came rushing.
"I did it! I passed them all!"
"Oh excellent! I'm so pleased."
"Have you found yours yet?" Jo asked.
"No, I'm still looking." There was a brief pause while Natalie ran her finger down the list. "Here it is."
Jo crossed her fingers and waited. Natalie remained silent.
"Well," said Jo. "Come on, what did you get?"
"What?" Jo was shocked.
"Not everything. I got B's in French and German, but only an E in Spanish."
"Well that's not too bad. You only needed C's. Lets find a counsellor, see if they're still gonna offer you the place."
"I hated Spanish. I knew I was gonna fail it."
"And it's not your main subject. You could still get in. Three C's is what, eighteen points? That's your target. Let's see, you got two B's, that's sixteen points, and an E is two points, which means you've still got eighteen."
"You're right. Let's go and find someone."
Jo led Nat to the guidance office to find a counsellor who could clarify the situation. When they found him, the Counsellor agreed with Jo's assessment, but advised Nat to phone the university's admissions office to be sure. He even offered to do it for her. Nat thanked him and waited while he made the call. He gave Natalie's name and candidate number, and the college's code number. There was a lot of "Um"'s and "Yes"'s, and eventually he put the phone down and turned to Natalie.
"They said that because the poor grade is not one of the subjects for your degree, and you still made the points total, that the offer still stands and you should receive confirmation of your place tomorrow."
Nat screamed, then turned and hugged Jo. The girls jumped up and down excitedly. It was a close thing, but in just over a month's time they would both be starting the same course. They were ecstatic.
Josh was in the head's room for a long time.
"I wonder what could be taking so long?" murmured Dylan.
The door to the office opened, and Josh came out looking despondent. He explained to Dylan that he had gotten good results, and they had tried the universities in Swansea and Cardiff, but he couldn't get a place. He was going to have to keep trying for the next few days to see if there was anything available further from home.
"Well that's kind of good news," said Dylan.
"Yeah, but I wanted to stay close to home. Now I could end up anywhere."
"Chin up, mate. It'll work out. Besides, the further away you are the less chance there is of your parents popping in to visit unannounced and catching you in bed with some bird."
"Hey," said Claire, "I hope that's not the reason you want to go to Aber."
"Don't be silly," said Dylan in a puppy dog voice. "Why would I do that when I've got you to come home to every weekend?"
"Yeah, right. There's no way you'll be back every weekend. You'll be too busy down the pub."
The headmaster stood at the door to his office "Well, let's see if that place is yours first shall we, Dylan? Come on."
Dylan followed the head into his office and closed the door behind him.
"Take a seat, Dylan." The head pointed to a chair opposite his desk. Dylan sat.
"What was it you needed? Three C's, as I remember."
"That's right, sir."
"Okay, lets see how you did."
He picked up a perforated envelope and tore it open. Inside was the small results card. The head looked at it for a moment. Dylan watched him intently. Finally, the head smiled.
"Physics grade C; Computing grade B; and Maths..." he paused, "Grade A. Congratulations, Dylan. That should do nicely."
Dylan was shocked. "You're joking right?"
"No. See for yourself." He handed the card to Dylan.
Sure enough, there in black and white were the results that the head had read out. Dylan sat quietly for a few moments while he took it in. Then he erupted with delight.
"I don't believe it. I blitzed it. I totally blitzed it."
He shook the headmaster's hand then left the office and told Claire how he'd done. She was pleased, and gave Dylan a quick hug before she went in to collect her own results. While he was waiting, Dylan went outside to give the news to some of his friends. They were all pleased for him, but no one was as pleased as Dylan. This was what he'd been working towards. He'd done it.