Welcome to another ‘writing sprint’ – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!) Don’t be bored, give it a go.
This week’s five words are:
Trying Fast Trapped Smidge Lamp
I also saw another Tweeted writing prompt this week and so I’ve used this to influence the piece this week:
“I’ve been trying to do it right, I’ve been living a lonely life…”
So, this piece links to last week’s sprint and is another snippet from a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – quite enjoying adding to these little episode-style chapters.
Thursday 5th July 2007
Age: What does it matter when you’re looking at moving back in with your parents?
Life Lesson: When looking for a housemate think Friends, not Single White Female
It was warm in the lunchtime sun, and the outdoor tables at The Alchemy Lounge were packed full of office workers trying to grab an hour’s worth of vitamin D, before they headed back to their max-packed, air conditioned offices. Suit jackets were discarded and there were plenty of legs and tanned arms on show.
“Kate. Over here!”
I looked around, searching for a familiar face and owner of the shouting voice. Then, at the far side of the outdoor booths I spotted Becca, her dark blonde head visible above the shorter people around her. Moving in that direction, I saw her gesturing with animated hands, to let me know there was a glass of wine waiting for me.
At least one thing was going right today then.
“Hey! How’re you doing?” Bec greeted me as I arrived. I plopped down into the only other vacant chair, amid the throng of bodies. She was already sat down after waving me over, and she didn’t stand up to give me a hug or kiss, like some of my friends would have. Becca wasn’t really a hugger, and a lot of the time, neither was I, so that worked out well for us. Becca was all about practical help and sarcasm – and I definitely needed a lot of the first right now.
“Urgh,” I said, flopping back in the chair to take a long drink of the cool, pink wine.
“Wow. That good, eh?”
“Oh yes,” I agreed. “It’s that good.”
Becca sipped at her own glass. “What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s official. I either need to move – and the housing market has just decided to fall off a cliff – or I need to find a housemate.”
We’d talked about this already, when I was having a post-break-up freak out and decided I was going to abandon the house and go back to live with my parents. Becca had been wise enough to talk me out of that plan, and talk me out fast.
“The money?” She guessed.
“Yeah,” I sighed.
“Bankers screwed you on your job and now they’ve cocked up the housing market too?”
“Exactly right – I took quite a pay cut when I finished at Ingham & Moore… wasn’t even on half what I was getting at the bank. It wasn’t a problem when there were two of us paying in to the house, and I thought I could manage everything once Matt had gone, but it’s more than you think once the utilities and stuff come in. And now I’m kind of trapped – nothing is selling unless you do it at a loss, or I find someone to move in.“
“Don’t you get some reductions on costs?”
I shrugged. “It’s a smidge,” I said, demonstrating just how small an amount it was between my finger and thumb. “They give you twenty-five per cent reduction on Council Tax. But, everything else costs the same for one as it does for two – you just have no one else paying in.”
“Yeah, that sucks.”
I nodded. “Staying in the house seemed like a good idea at the time…”
“It was a good idea. You were just too nice to him: paying him out half and letting him take most of the furniture. You didn’t need to feel guilty and let him have so much, he screwed you over, remember?”
I wasn’t having this conversation again. I remembered being a pushover well enough on my own. “You know I just wanted him out and everything finished. Being super reasonable seemed the best way to do it.”
“Yeah, well – I still think you could have torched his shit on the front lawn instead of giving him the big TV – I reckon most people would have considered that reasonable.”
“Not sure the police would have. Or the neighbours… Anyway, too late for getting my revenge on pyro style – there’s nothing left of his in the house.”
Becca rolled her eyes at me. “That’s because there’s bugger all left in the house, full stop. Except for that awful lamp you love. Do you even have a sofa yet?”
I ignored the lamp jibe, I loved my lava lamp and didn’t care if anyone else didn’t. ”I have the Buddah Bag.”
Becca shook her head. “Yeah, that doesn’t count. If you have to roll out of a seat, rather than stand up normally, it doesn’t count as a sofa. Also, just to clarify, if you’re still sleeping on the Buddah Bag on a regular basis, that doesn’t make it a bed either.”
“I know. But it is more comfortable than the air mattress thing and it was the best I could get. My sister gave it me and you wouldn’t believe how heavy that thing is. It filled the entire car once we squashed it inside.”
My Fiesta had looked like a giant poop had been crammed inside the back seats – that was the downside of the Buddah Bag being a dark brown colour. The upside was that it didn’t show up Millie’s black dog hairs too much, so you know, there was a bright side.
“I know how heavy it is,” Becca pointed an accusatory finger towards my face. “I helped you move it from the dining room to the lounge if you remember? I nearly died.”
“You’re being a bit dramatic,” I told her. “It was a mild aneurism if anything, you were a long way from death.”
“Whatever,” she retorted, “I still can’t believe you and your sister actually managed to carry it to the car on your own – it’s like manoeuvring a whale that’s been roofied.”
I smiled. “Her husband laughed at us and said we’d never be able to do it. Scorn and stubbornness can make a girl pretty strong.”
Bec nodded in complete agreement. “That would do it for me too. Rage + Mockery = Motivation, in girl world.”
“That sounds almost like a real psychological theory when you put it like that.”
“I’m pretty sure it is!”
It was warm in the sun and I shrugged out of the light linen jacket I’d thrown on that morning, knowing that the office would be freezing with AC running full blast. “Summer when you’re working is so weird,” I observed. “You add layers to go inside, strip them off to come out.” I took another sip of cool wine and leaned back into the hard, water-proof chair.
“Only if you work in posh offices with air con, like you do. I was on a shit works in a south-facing, pre-fab cabin all day yesterday. It was not my best day ever, I’ll be honest.”
“Ooh, sounds lovely,” my nose screwed up, just imagining the smell.
“Well, that’s the exotic life I lead as a Health and Safety Auditor, isn’t it?”
“You do get to the best places,” I agreed.
Flicking her sunglasses down from the top of her head, Becca settled back too, holding her wine glass by the stem. “So, anyway, the house thing… You’re seriously thinking about getting a lodger?”
“I have to.”
“I don’t think I could stand having a housemate now. Uni was bad enough – to do it again…” She shuddered as if it was a fate worse than death.
“I know, I know.” My mind immediately flashed back to a memory of my squeaky-voiced flatmate complaining about my inability to keep the place tidy, whilst we stood in the living room that looked a brothel’s laundry with her animal print and multi-coloured pants hanging everywhere. “But, we’re grown ups now: we have jobs and are sensible and everything. It will be better.”
“Really? You believe that…?”
I nodded, hoping I looked sure.
“OK – tell me the worse girl you lived with and why. Maybe that will help jog your memory.”
Easy. “Carrie Monk – her of the ultra-sonic voice fame – who used to wait until someone got into the shower, to get whatever random guy she’d brought back with her the night before, to hump her against the adjoining wall.”
“Nice!” Becca laughed.
“Nice? I suffered several shampoo bottle related injuries due to her rampant antics knocking things off the shower shelves.”
“And your revenge?”
“Moi? Revenge?” I was all wide-eyed innocence, before laughing. “It was very tame really. Carrie always had nice posh shampoo – her student loan was for fun and shoes, not food and rent like most of us – so I became well acquainted Charles Worthington and Frederic Fekkai, whilst she acquainted herself with half of Leeds.”
“Sounds like a truly lovely young lady,” Becca agreed. “I think I remember her from when I came to yours – the blonde one that dressed as a cow girl when we went to that crap fancy dress night on the party bus thing?”
I cast my mind back, it took a little while. Uni felt like a million years ago… “Was it the one where I was a pirate?”
“That’s the one – you kept slapping poor little student boys on the arse with your plastic sword, if that helps jog the memory?”
I chuckled. It did. “You came as Betty Rubble and had a club, I recall?”
“I did – and I took over from you with anyone who looked robust enough to graduate from sword play to a proper spanking.”
“Yeah, you made that big rugby guy cry I think?”
“I did, but in fairness I did let him spank me back, if he wasn’t going to fully commit he shouldn’t have stepped into the ring.”
“Yeah, what’s the point in having those big arms if they’re not going to use them, eh?”
Becca grinned at me and clinked her glass against mine. “Exactly!”
I leaned back again and closed my eyes, tilting my face up to the sun.
“Well, I’ll help you write an ad if you want?”
I frowned. “Really? I could come up with Intolerant and emotionally battered lady seeks female housemate to help pay the bills by myself, I think.”
Becca shook her head. “Yeah, that’s why you need help. You can’t be honest on these things. You’re going to have to project just the fun-loving, great to be around Kate into this – not the depressing cow you’ve grown into.”
“Wow, tough love AND a glass of wine. You should think about charging people for your company, I think you’d make more money than the health and safety gig.”
“I would give it some serious thought if you didn’t have to have safe words and crap like that – where’s the fun if you can’t push things too far?”
The faraway glint in Becca’s eye actually scared me; I had no doubt she was serious.
“Jeez, Mistress Whiplash calm down. Remind me how long you’ve been dating your latest victim?”
She smiled at me, softening a bit for once. “Two months now, and you know what, it’s actually going really well. He doesn’t irritate me much at all.”
“Well, I’m sure he’d be pleased to know that, you old romantic you!”
“He knows, you don’t need to worry about that.”
Oh my. Yeah, I definitely didn’t need to worry OR know any more about that…
“So,” I sipped from my glass again. “The housemate thing. What do you think?”
Becca pulled out her phone and flicked through onto a website. “There’s this one called SpareRoom.co.uk – one of the guys from work found his place on here, it’s supposed to be quite good. I think the guy that launched the site was from Manchester…” She flipped the phone around and pointed it in my direction.
A clean, simple and neat website greeted me.
“You can look for specific people to share, or you can post your place and people will come to you,” Becca explained this as she managed to type my postcode in – upside down – into the bar in the middle of the screen. It brought up a surprising number of profiles of people apparently looking for rooms in my area.
“And I just create a profile and include pictures of the house?”
“Looks like it. Probably worth creating a better profile than the one we did for you on those dating sites.”
“Ha ha. I actually quite liked that in the end – I could tell you’d really taken control of the narrative for my ideal date being in a public place, well lit and with a high number of CCTV cameras…”
“Cheers dude,” Becca grinned at me. “I had your back, I think sarcasm and comedy in your profile will keep away most of the dull ones and anyone too dumb to see through it, as well as any psychos.”
“Well, judging by the dates I went on, I’d say you had maybe a ten per cent success rate from that point of view, but you definitely must have thinned the herd a bit.” I chewed my lip a little, pondering. “You know, I really don’t think internet dating is for me anyway. It’s too much pressure: do you like them, do they like you, do you like them enough to be on an actual date with them, why were they funnier on email, are they wondering how many filters I used on my profile pictures…?”
“It sounds pressurised when you put it like that,” she agreed. “But, knowing you, I can see why you wouldn’t like it. You are an all or nothing person when it comes to things like this – you will put in so much effort, passion and loyalty when you really want to do something; but if you don’t feel like it, no amount of pushing, pain or coaxing will get you there.”
I smiled at her, knowing that my long-standing friend really did get me. As much as I got her for these parts of us that were very similar. She was my only friend that really understood how I felt about this stuff. “That’s all true. Very true,” I told her.
Suddenly serious, Becca leaned forward and took my hand in hers. “You will feel like falling in love again, you know? It probably won’t happen when or where you expect it to, but it will happen – and from what I know of you, you’ll be ready to put that effort and passion into making it amazing when it does.”
I squeezed her fingers and let go, properly touched by her words but unable to actually say so. “How many wines have you had lady? It’s lunchtime for goodness sake.”
Becca smiled at me, knowing exactly what I had just done. “I’ve just had the one. And I’m done with the deep now, you’ve had your bi-annual compliment from me, so back to sorting out the shit-show that is your finances.” She flicked her thick hair over her shoulder, we were obviously now moving into serious mode.
“OK,” I flicked my own dark hair (that needed a decent cut, if we were completely honest) over my shoulder, and leaned forward putting my glass down so that I was fully concentrating. “So, where do we start?”
“We need to work out how much you need to charge someone to cover what you need to stay in the house; then make a list of all the good features about living at your place, and then about you.”
I nodded, that sounded simple enough. “What about Millie?”
“I think people will see it as a plus point – at least someone in the house will be friendly.”
“Thanks mate,” I snorted quietly. “Anyway, I can be friendly,” I muttered to myself.
“Do you know what kind of person you’d like to share with?”
After a traumatic flashback again to Carrie and her leopard-print underwear, coupled with the memory of her high-pitched fake passion squeals, I took a deep breath and focused. “Professional job, so that we’re probably in and out around the same times? Maybe someone quieter, who likes similar stuff to me?”
“Work obsessed hermit?” Becca checked off on her finger. “Bothered about male or female?”
I sat back. I had automatically figured I’d be looking for a female housemate. But then when I thought about it, hadn’t I generally had more male friends than female? And weren’t things a bit simpler then…?
“I suppose I don’t mind actually. I’d rather have someone that fits into being quite relaxed and easy, than being a boy or a girl.”
“OK, well, I think that will help open up the field a little – there seem to be more guys looking in your area than girls.”
“It’s fine. There’s two bathrooms – I can live with someone taking over that one and I’ll stick to the en suite. But no one good looking,” I told her.
“Why – do you think it’s not a good idea to be tempted at home?”
“It’s not me I’m worried about – Ally would be on him before I even got a rent deposit in my bank account – I honestly can’t face sharing a wall with that.”
“Good point,” Becca noted that down. “You sound like the opposite of Joey in Friends asking for a female roommate, non-smoker, non-ugly.”
“All applications considered – gender not important – must be non-smoker and non-handsome-slash-pretty… sounds good to me.” I drained the last of my wine and looked around us, hating to make a move from the lovely outside and go back to the office, but it had to be done. “Do you think you have everything?” I asked Becca, looking at the list she had jotted down into a small notebook she’d produced from goodness knows where. She was totally organised.
“I think so,” she checked the list. “Do you fancy grabbing dinner later and we can get it finalised and set up a profile on the site?”
“Dinner sounds great,” I agreed. “Somewhere reasonable though, I’m so broke,” I reminded her.
“No problem,” she finished the wine and gathered her stuff together, both of us standing up. “We can do somewhere quick and then we’ll find you a housemate and hopefully get you back on track.”
“That’s the plan – and you know I could end up with someone great, you know, like in Friends.”
“Sure, sure, like Friends. Just not that crazy guy Eddie that lived with Chandler.”
Oh dear God. That’s what I was going to end up with wasn’t it? Either that, or I was Eddie…