The Flatshare Page 2

Mo and Gerty exchange a look. Gerty closes her eyes in pained resignation.

‘Well, you clearly cannot live here.’ She opens her eyes and holds out a hand. ‘Show me that advert again.’

I hand her my phone, flicking from Justin’s message to the Gumtree ad for the flatshare.

Double bedroom in sunny one-bed Stockwell flat, rent £350 per month including bills. Available immediately, for six months minimum.

Flat (and room/bed) is to share with twenty-seven-year-old palliative care nurse who works nights and is away weekends. Only ever in the flat 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. All yours the rest of the time! Perfect for someone with 9 to 5 job.

To view, contact L. Twomey – details below.

It’s not just sharing a flat, Tiff, it’s sharing a bed. Sharing a bed is odd,’ Mo says worriedly.

‘What if this L. Twomey is a man?’ Gerty asks.

I’m prepared for this one. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ I say calmly. ‘It’s not like we’d ever be in the bed at the same time – or the flat, even.’

This is uncomfortably close to what I said when justifying staying at Justin’s place last month, but never mind.

‘You’d be sleeping with him, Tiffany!’ Gerty says. ‘Everyone knows the first rule of flatsharing is don’t sleep with your flatmate.’

‘I don’t think this sort of arrangement is what people are referring to,’ I tell her wryly. ‘You see, Gerty, sometimes when people say “sleeping together”, what they really mean is—’

Gerty gives me a long, level look. ‘Yes, thank you, Tiffany.’

Mo’s sniggering stops abruptly when Gerty turns her glare on him. ‘I’d say the first rule of flatsharing is to make sure you get on with the person before you move in,’ he says, cannily redirecting the glare to me again. ‘Especially in these circumstances.’

‘Obviously I’ll meet this L. Twomey person first. If we don’t get on, I won’t take it.’

After a moment Mo gives me a nod and squeezes my shoulder. We all descend into the kind of silence that comes after you’ve talked about something difficult – half grateful for it being over, half relieved to have managed it at all.

‘Fine,’ Gerty says. ‘Fine. Do what you need to do. It’s got to be better than living in this kind of squalor.’ She marches out of the flat, turning at the last moment to address the estate agent as he steps through from the balcony. ‘And you,’ she tells him loudly, ‘are a curse upon society.’

He blinks as she slams the front door. There is a long, awkward pause.

He stubs out his cigarette. ‘You interested, then?’ he asks me.


I get to work early and sink down in my chair. My desk is the closest thing to home at the moment. It’s a haven of half-crafted objects, things that have proven too heavy to take back on the bus, and pot plants arranged in such a way that I can see people approaching before they can tell whether I’m at my desk. My pot-plant wall is widely regarded among the other junior staff as an inspiring example of interior design. (Really it’s just about choosing plants the same colour as your hair – in my case, red – and ducking/running away when you catch sight of anyone moving purposefully.)

My first job of the day is to meet Katherin, one of my favourite authors. Katherin writes books about knitting and crochet. It’s a niche audience that buys them, but that’s the story of Butterfingers Press – we love a niche audience. We specialise in crafting and DIY books. Tie-dye bedsheets, design your own dresses, crochet yourself a lampshade, make all your furniture out of ladders . . . That sort of thing.

I love working here. This is the only possible explanation for the fact that I have been Assistant Editor for three and a half years, earning below the London living wage, and have made no attempt to rectify the situation by, say, applying for a job at a publishing house that actually makes money. Gerty likes to tell me that I lack ambition, but it really isn’t that. I just love this stuff. As a child, I spent my days reading, or tinkering with my toys until they suited me better: dip-dying Barbie’s hair, pimping up my JCB truck. And now I read and craft for a living.

Well, not really a living, as such. But a bit of money. Just about enough to pay tax.

‘I’m telling you, Tiffy, crochet is the next colouring books,’ Katherin tells me, once she’s settled herself down in our best meeting room and talked me through the plan for her next book. I examine the finger she’s waggling in my direction. She has about fifty rings on each hand, but I’ve yet to discern whether any of them are wedding or engagement rings (I imagine that if Katherin has any, she’ll have more than one).

Katherin is just on the acceptable side of eccentric: she has a straw-blonde plait, one of those tans that somehow ages well, and endless stories of breaking into places in the 1960s and peeing on things. She was a real rebel once. She refuses to wear a bra even to this day, when bras have become quite comfortable and women have mostly given up on fighting the power because Beyoncé is doing it for us.

‘That’d be good,’ I say. ‘Maybe we could add a strapline with the word “mindful” in it. It is quite mindful, isn’t it? Or mindless?’

Katherin laughs, tipping her head back. ‘Ah, Tiffy. Your job’s ridiculous.’ She pats my hand affectionately and then reaches for her handbag. ‘You see that Martin boy,’ she says, ‘you tell him I’ll only do that cruise day class if I have a glamorous young assistant.’

I groan. I know where this is going. Katherin likes to drag me along to these things – for any class she needs a live model to show how to measure as you go when you’re designing an outfit, apparently, and I once made the fatal error of offering myself up for the job when she couldn’t find anyone. Now I am her go-to choice. PR is so desperate to get Katherin into these sorts of events that they’ve started begging me too.

‘This is too far, Katherin. I’m not going on a cruise with you.’

‘But it’s free! People pay thousands for those, Tiffy!’

‘You’re only joining them for the Isle of Wight loop,’ I remind her. Martin has already briefed me on this one. ‘And it’s on a weekend. I don’t work weekends.’

‘It’s not work,’ Katherin insists, gathering her notes and packing them into her handbag in an entirely random order. ‘It’s a lovely Saturday sailing trip with one of your friends.’ She pauses. ‘Me,’ she clarifies. ‘We’re friends, aren’t we?’

‘I am your editor!’ I say, bundling her out of the meeting room.

‘Think about it, Tiffy!’ she calls over her shoulder, unperturbed. She catches sight of Martin, who is already making a beeline for her from over by the printers. ‘I’m not doing it unless she is, Martin, my boy! She’s the one you need to talk to!’

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