With a sigh Emma heaved yet another box across the room. ’This isn’t real’, she told herself. ‘It’s just a dream, and soon my alarm will go off releasing me....Except this was real life, no such reprieve in the offering. If anything her clock had become the doomsday variety.
Lulled into a false sense of security, after eight years‘ undisturbed tenure Emma had forgotten the precarious position of a renter. You could love a place, take the best of care and settle but it was never yours. It was a situation you accepted, making the best of it while things lasted but always prepares to move on. In a sense always transitory, but Alex her flippity jibbit of a landlady had matched her quirky ad.
Conscientious ”babysitter” for my inner city apartment complete with harbour view. Long term arrangement, reasonable rent if we’re a good fit.
From childhood Emma had never lived anywhere without a yard, but she’d been attracted to Alex Forrest’s quirky wording, Not to mention her name. Just like Glen Close’s nutty character in the movie Fatal Attraction. “Makes me more interesting.”, she’d chuckled when they met.
The apartment turned out to be one in an ageing sandstone block of flats, but that harbour view was a steal. They’d shaken on it, signed and with a flourish Alex had exclaimed. “I don’t fancy living slap, dab in the middle of a city even with the nice harbour view, and if I sell the kids will just hound me for spare change. Look after it for me, and when I croak they can haggle over it.”
Then she’d disappeared, on the Big O.E she’d passed on as a girl in favour of marriage, mortgage and mummy-hood. Midlife she’d done it all again, having been left well provided for in both cases.
In regular updates received by the property manager Alex described herself as having delicious fun. Reading between the lines this included romantic encounters.
Emma for her part would smile, thinking how nice. She also got the feeling that the property manager got a certain thrill living vicariously through her quirky client’s updates. Someone whose own life by comparison was otherwise quite mundane. Otherwise why would she repeat Alex’s private communication and with such relish? Poor Alex would be mortified if she knew.
Otherwise for Emma the years passes undisturbed, apart from occasional inspections. She passed with flying colours each time, and at Christmas Alex sent a gift basket. Five years down the track Alex having met a lovely man was domiciled in his villa on Corfu.
’Nice for some.’, Emma mused, her sense of security reinforced. After all no one in their right mind would exchange a Corfu villa for this anytime soon; harbour view and all.
Once upon a time she wouldn’t have exchanged a suburban house and yard for apartment-slash-flat living either. She’d reckoned without a cheating husband, a second mortgage he’d never told her about and debts in lieu of a settlement. Not to mention sole responsibility for their three children. Meanwhile cheating ex moved in with his latest girlfriend. Yet they’d muddled through and Emma had learned to live as a renter. With the kids out on their own she’d been attracted to Alex’s ad, that view the clincher, and with each, undisturbed year that passed her roots had sunk further.
‘I forgot that when you rent you’re never secure. That it’s always somebody else‘s....that I’ve only ever been here on Alex’s good pleasure,’
That in the space of days home could grow to resemble a prison, even the view a mocking reminder of her transitory status. ‘Just this time last week I was agreeing to host the coffee group’, she sighed, ‘Darn, now I’ll have to ring and cancel.”, and explain yet again rubbing salt even further into the wound.
In one short visit from the property manager everything had changed. She’d turned up unannounced on a beautiful day, with blue sky, and sunshine glinting off the water. Emma had just watered the herbs in her planter boxes. When the doorbell rang she’d been about to go out and sit at her table on the deck with coffee and a magazine. She was on the verge of suggesting that they share a pot of coffee out there, but the woman spoke first. Like she’d burst if this news was held in any longer.
“I’m sorry to intrude Emma, but I thought it only right that I come to see you in person. May I come in?” Emma recalled nodding. “I think you’ll need to sit down.”
’Like someone died.’
Poor Alex, no doubt a part of her was wishing she had.
According to the Property Manager she’d fallen victim to a romance scam. The lovely man had conned her out of her
remaining savings, while the Corfu villa had been rented. Alex
was having to pawn jewellery to pay the considerable arrears.
”The kids are paying for her to come home, but you’re required to move out by the first of next month. Alex is devastated, She knows how much you love this place, but it’s all she has left,”
“Yes of course, I understand.” Gulping back tears, pasting on a smile. “After all this is Alex’s home. It makes sense that she come here. Thank you for coming to tell me.” Polite when she just wanted to scream eff word included. Understanding when inside Poor Me clamoured to be heard, Emma had managed to keep Her at bay, because Poor Me didn’t shift a life with all that entailed and hang dog looks didn’t endear new key holders. ’First of the month no way. I’ll be gone asap.’
Because this was no longer home, just somewhere Emma no longer wanted to be. A set of necessary obligations to be fulfilled and memories she would have to leave. Through nights spent cleaning, discarding and packing away because she couldn’t sleep she wondered if they’d stick around as ghosts. Like the time her youngest daughter’s dog peed in a corner, or her youngest’s Irish dance class had borrowed the lounge for a Riverdance rehearsal. The girls had told her to leave the packing. They’d be down in the weekend. Their brother in Melbourne felt bad that he couldn’t be there in person. He was sending money “to help with moving expenses and a couple of month’s rent.”. They were good kids, but Emma needed to fill those huge chunks of time between cleaning. Otherwise Poor Me would take over. The bin was chocca, because moving was always a good time for purging. There was another pile for the charity shops. The girls could take care of that, while the Irish dance crew would do the big (meaning dirty) cleaning jobs. It was just as well too that one of them had a vacant granny flat. It was smaller than this, at the bottom of a suburban yard and with no harbour view. However unless the family sold up, which wasn’t likely it came with security. “Their granny died, and since then it’s only been used for storage. The crew really appreciated your putting up with Riverdance when their rehearsal space fell through.”
”Wow, I don’t believe it. Talk about luck of the Irish.”
Sitting down for a breather, Emma thought she’d done pretty well so far. Most of her life boxed up, stacked close to the door and a good deal of the cleaning ticked off. Once upon a time she’d be at work at this time of day, coming home to something quick and filling, It was just as well she had leave available. No way could she concentrate with this hanging over her head. In fact if she were honest since the property manager’s bombshell she’d felt desperately lonely. Even while knowing in the back of her mind that she wasn’t the only one. That unlike those unfortunates for whom required to move translated to homelessness she had support, The kids would never let it come to that, but even with the save thanks posthumously to an Irish dancer’s granny a requirement to move at others’ behest rather than a decision to move at your own was a lonely experience. One that even in a relatively more secure granny flat Emma would be prepared for in future. Because in the world she inhabited when circumstances changed being required to move was always possible.