29 March 2017
Once upon a time there was a girl called Brittany who had just secured a very well paid starter job in the big city. Having baulked at the sky high rents in the area, Brittany had decided a shared home with communal kitchen, bathrooms and living areas – along with separate, lockable, private rooms – was the way to go. She found an advert for a place that looked nice. The ad specified: WORKING PROFESSIONALS ONLY. She phoned the number and booked a viewing for the following week.
Brittany knocked on the door and was greeted by two girls whom introduced themselves as Geri and Franny. They welcomed Brittany inside and walked her through to the communal living room and introduced her to the other residents: Holly, Bella, Nattily, and Lu. There were two other girls whom Geri was also considering for rooms: Iris and Dana. Everything went well and Brittany, Iris and Dana were all told by Geri they were welcome to stay. Geri went on to explain the house rules; how they all sat down each week and worked out what shopping they each wanted and brought together – so as to take advantage of bulk deals and so fourth. This seemed a great idea to Brittany.
Things went brilliantly for the first couple of months. Then Iris was a bit short for shopping and rent one week. Geri suggested that from now on everyone should give her their wages so that she could buy the shopping, pay all the bills and then divide up what was left to be shared equally amongst them. As always, Franny and Bella agreed instantly with Geri; sycophantically telling her what a brilliant idea it was. Everyone else also agreed so, despite her reservations, Brittany reluctantly said ok.
The next morning at breakfast, Geri shared out the remaining money among the housemates. Everyone round the table was ecstatic at how much extra money they had except for Brittany, who would normally be left with £600 but now only had £300.
Things carried on as they were for a few more weeks until Geri took in Grace, Portia and Esparanza, all of whom were on minimum wage. Brittany was left with even less wages.
One morning a few weeks later Geri, egged on by Franny and Bella, suggested that they all take the locks off of their doors to their rooms. Everyone agreed except for Brittany, much to the annoyance of Geri. Eventually Brittany agreed that she’d never stop any resident entering her room but was keeping the lock.
Over the coming months Geri allowed another 16 housemates to move in. Most didn’t work and some, including Romona, had just been let out of prison. Brittany ended up with less and less money with each new arrival. Stuff started going missing from people’s rooms and around the house. Brittany tried talking to Geri, Franny and Bella about the problems but was instantly fobbed off. Brittany said she was thinking of moving out and getting her own flat. Geri, Franny and Bella laughed at her and told her she’d never survive on her own. Geri rung the landlord whom owned the house and put him on speakerphone so that he could mockingly tell Brittany that she would be “back of the queue” if she walked into his letting agency asking for a flat. Then Bella started making veiled threats about Brittany “not getting friendly treatment” should she move out. Geri commented that “she would not welcome back deserters.”
The next day Brittany woke, walked out of her bedroom and was stunned to see tramps, and winos, sleeping and milling about in the corridors and landing. Geri was enthusing to Franny and Bella about what lovely people they were, and how they had a duty to feed and clothe them. Geri was even posing for selfies with them!
Suddenly there was a shrill scream and Brittany turned just in time to see a group of tramps tearing at Grace’s dressing gown. Geri ordered Franny and Bella to destroy the footage from the CCTV camera covering the hallway – it was imperative that the other residents didn’t get “the wrong idea” about their lovely new guests. Brittany went back to her room and began to pack.
It was a bright, sunny morning as Brittany left her lovely, contemporary, penthouse apartment. She was wished goodbye by the concierge as she left the building, and started walking towards the tube station. She marvelled at what a lovely home she’d ended up with; shortly after leaving the shared house, the manager of the letting agency that had threatened to put her “at the back of the queue” for a flat had been sacked. As such Brittany had tried her luck with the new boss there, and asked if she could rent a new place on her own.
The new manager – a loud, brash, but warm and friendly man – had been no fan of his predecessor or his problem tenant Geri, and had told Brittany that moving out on her own was a “beautiful thing”. He’d shown her pictures of a stunning penthouse in a highly desired area in the city. Brittany had said she loved it but that she was sure it would be too expensive for her to afford. The new manager had cut her a very reasonable deal on the rent though, and she had moved in within a week.
“Got any change?” – a familiar voice. Then: “Brittany! You’ve got to help me out. I’ve nowhere to stay. I couldn’t afford to cover the bills and rent by myself once you left.
“With the arrears, the state the place had gotten into and the constant police visits to the house to investigate sex assaults, we were already in trouble. Then when the new landlord took over, he threw us all out! Then I got arrested for covering up for the poor homeless guys, my employers found out, and they sacked me. You have got to let me stay with you!”
Brittany looked down at the pitiful Geri, sitting in a shop doorway, plastic cup full of pennies in hand, and said: “do I know you?” before continuing on her way to work.