Student accommodation… in the old days…

I seem to be doing two things with the story I’m writing for the National Novel Writing Competition; writing the story of my mystery character Milla, and writing her back story – the back story actually owes a lot to my own life.

here Milla is writing about when she was first at University; all the actual details have been changed, story-lines altered, and ‘characters’ onluy very vaguely based on my own experiences:

Before she had lived in the awful flat she had found two different places to stay; one was just temporary for a few days, relations of a friend of her parents. Now she couldn’t even remember their names, only that they had been very kind and welcoming. Had they met her at the station when she arrived by train after the long journey from home? Thinking back now she thought maybe she had caught a bus and travelled out to the suburbs where they lived. Had she been nervous? Probably? But she couldn’t remember. She had stayed with them for a few days before she found – maybe on a college list, maybe in the ‘accommodation – to rent’ section of the local newspaper, maybe by word of mouth from the other new students – a room to rent in someone’s house who lived at the opposite side of the city, and a longer bus journey out.

It wasn’t satisfactory; the lady who owned the house (there may have been a husband,  Milla didn’t remember) had been very posh and Milla hadn’t felt at home there. She sat alone in the dining room and the lady of the house brought her breakfast as if it was a guest house not digs. She felt trapped in her room in the evenings and nervous of even venturing out to go to the bathroom.

Milla met another girl, who like her had started college later than the others. They became friends and Milla suggested she might also like to lodge at the house… which she did. They may have stayed there three weeks, certainly not much longer, and it was an awkward time, they didn’t feel at ease in the house at all – for no real reason.

They found the flat at the top of the Victorian house and they moved out, Milla leaving a cheque for her last week’s rent as usual  on  the decorative plate on the hall table, the place where the post was left.

A week after they left they were called to see their tutor; their former landlady said Milla hadn’t left her rent money. Milla was astonished, alarmed and a little angry – she told her tutor that she had indeed left her cheque, and showed him her cheque book with the stub filled in. He seemed satisfied with her explanation – and looking back she guessed he had seen her innocent outrage and had believed her. She felt insulted that anyone should believe that she wouldn’t be honest.

Looking back much, much later, Milla wondered if her flat-mate had stolen the cheque… in retrospect she thought it was the sort of thing the girl would have done… but she didn’t think this until years and years later…

She would never know now of course, even if it mattered. The flat-mate had died… in her thirties, Milla had no idea how or why or what from, only that the friend from the first year she had lived away from home, was dead.

They had stayed in the flat at the top of the old house for two terms, and then after Easter moved into a lovely room in an Edwardian villa… they lost their deposit on that too. Milla had left at the end of term and returned home to get a summer job, her flat mate had stayed on, her Iranian boyfriend had moved in, and Milla had the feeling that they had wrecked the place… what a great shame…

© Lois Elsden 2017

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