Room hunt

Living with her landlady had not the best decision but she wouldn’t learn the lesson yet. In any case, she had only lasted there four months. Now she would have to move Tilda’s things with her to her new place, but that was the biggest of her worries. The biggest would be to find that new place. And she had less than three weeks.
Paula spent the next two weeks buying the Loot to find a room but there were ever only two or three rooms each week within her budget. Her colleague suggested to get the paper first thing in the morning, at six or so, to get the best chance. She did that too but could not keep up during the day, calling back landlords who had left a message in their answering machine. She was not allowed to make personal calls during working hours.
She took a day off from her holiday. She bought the paper at six in the morning and started to ring. At nine, phones started to give an answer. She arranged visits for later in the day. She went to one next to work. That was ideal location. The room was grim. Hardly enough room for the single bed. A wardrobe in the corridor, too small even for her bare two cases. And it was above budget, she had only come to visit it because it was so close to work. In another place, the room had too many wardrobes.
“There is not enough room in my room for a wardrobe, so I will keep it in your room. That is why you will have two wardrobes, one I will be using.” Paula stared at the landlady. “You already knew that, I mentioned in on the phone.” Paula controlled her stomach to hear more.
“You can use the washing machine on weekdays, because I can only use it during the weekend.”
Paula was already exhausted when she arrived to Richmond, to inspect the only room in south west London available that day for less than seventy pounds a week.
She identified the smell of food that was so London and yet so foreign, the moment that old lady opened the door. She led her up the narrow, carpeted stairs. The light was dim and the red on the carpet and the indefined colour of walls and ceileing did not help. A girl came out of a door Paula had missed on the way up.
A cat crossed the landing before they arrived. At the end of the corridor, another three cats looked at them from a kitchen.
“How many people share that kitchen?”
“My eleven cats, the thirteen girls who live here and myself. We are like a family.”
Paula did not need to see the room that was vacant to decide she could not live there. It was claustrophobic and it felt like this old lady was running some kind of harem. It would have been rude to refuse to see the room, so she allowed the old woman to open that door. She observed there was no keyhole. Paula mumbled some comment and the old lady snapped:
“Of course. It is my house. I need to keep an eye in all the rooms.”
she disguised her dissapointment until she was let out of the house, promised to come back once she could make a decision and broke down once outside. She did not stop walking until she found somewhere suitable and private enough to sit down. Then she cried.
It was not very late but it was winter time, so it had been dark for a few hours. The street was not busy, and if there had been people passing, she had not seen them. Then one man passed and asked her if she was all right. She just wanted to be left alone to cry.
“Yes, I’m all right.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes!” (I’ll just be even better when you disappear and I can continue crying)
She got back to the public transport system and was conscious that the day was over when she twisted one of her feet as she walked home from the last stop. The deadline to vacate the house was approaching and she hadn’t even found a half acceptable room. She remembered how, when she was little, she had wondered, “where will I be in 2000?” and she responded to the little girl now gone: Here I am. Looking for another room because my landlady is chucking me out. You didn’t expect me to be like this, did you?

She started to cry again in desperation when her phone rang. One of the landladies that had not answered their phone now wanted to make an appointment for the following day.

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