Kate settled herself down on the sofa in front of the first applicant and tried to look welcoming. She knew that technically she was interviewing them, but given that her current housemate was leaving due to her own impossible behaviour, she sort of felt like she was on trial as well. She’d taken the day off to clean the house from top to bottom and make it look like the sort of place a normal, capable human being lived. Every time she got anxious though she could swear she smelt burned oven meal just lingering at the corners of her nostrils.
Ewan settled himself into the big armchair (that she had vacuumed an alarming amount of dust out of) and looked expectantly up at her.
“So,” she said, consulting her notepad with its list of questions, “Er, sorry - I’m not very good at this. I’ve never interviewed anyone before. So, you have a job don’t you?”
Ewan smiled and nodded, “Yeah, I’m a taxi driver. Is there a parking space with the house?”
Kate glanced out of the window. Somewhere beneath all the foliage that had burst out from in between bricks there was a functional driveway. “Yeah, I mean - we’d have to strim the garden back down but once we’ve done that underneath the garden is a driveway. You’re a taxi driver? That’s cool.”
“Yeah, I get to choose my own hours which I like. Meeting people but not having to meet them for long - control of the radio. It’s decent.”
“I don’t drive.”
“Ah, why not?” Kate looked into Ewan’s eyes and decided that “My parents died in a car crash when I was 18 and I’ve been too scared to get behind the wheel ever since.” Was too much to lay upon a person in the first 5 minutes.
“I just… don’t really need to. With buses and stuff. I don’t work very far away.”
“Where do you work?”
“At the university.”
“Oh, what do you teach?” Ewan smiled pleasantly at her and Kate felt a little rosy glow that he thought well enough of her to assume straight off the bat that she was a professor.
“I’m in IT.” She said, diplomatically - not wanting to lose the rosy glow nor lie straight to his face just yet. “So, my next question - do you have any pets?”
Ewan swallowed, Kate readied herself for what seemed like a negative response. “Yes, I do,” he said, “Is that ok?”
“Depends what it is!” Kate laughed, “I’m not going to say yes to like a goat or a snake or something, am I?”
Ewan’s face fell, “Oh. I have two snakes. I’m sorry - there was nothing in the ad that said no..”
“Actual snakes?” Kate was gobsmacked, “Why?”
Ewan laughed heartily, “What do you mean why? They’re gorgeous! I love snakes. Have you ever held one?” Kate shook her head violently, “Oh you should - they’re so soft.”
Kate snorted, “You’ve only been here 5 minutes and you’re already asking me to pet your snake!”
Ewan looked mortified, “Oh no! Not like that! Oh god - I’m not some kind of pervert. No,” Ewan blushed attractively and Kate found herself pulling her feet up under herself, “No, I actually have a girlfriend.” Kate’s feet went back on to the floor, “Well, technically I have three.” Kate’s jaw joined her feet.
“You have three?” She asked, leaning forward and trying to use a frown as a comprehension aid.
“Yeah, I mean - they all know about each other. It’s all normal and consensual - we’re just all into more open relationships that other people.”
“So,” Kate looked down at her notepad - utterly fascinated but trying to think how to get this back on track before the next candidate arrived, “So, would they be coming round here?”
“Not all together all the time - no.” Ewan was smiling again, relaxed, “But yes, if guests are permitted then I’d absolutely be having them over.”
“Right, yes that’s fine. My boyfriends are always in and out.” Kate stopped talking immediately and decided to just not look up from the notepad again, “So, a few more questions - do you smoke?”
“Good. And, are you happy with the rent as advertised and can you pay a month in advance?”
“Yes and yes.”
“Ok brilliant!” Kate stood up and offered a hand to shake Ewan’s, “I’m seeing a few more people and then I’ll be able to let you know hopefully by the end of tomorrow, is that ok?”
“That’s perfect, thank you. Look forward to hearing from you.” Kate showed Ewan out and organised herself a cup of tea to settle her jangling nerves.
The doorbell rang again. Kate shook her shoulders down and opened the door.
A very tall man stood on the step and immediately stuck his hand out to shake Kate’s. It was a fast and firm handshake and Kate felt her knuckles crunching against each other.
“I’m Tim.” Said the man, and then stepped inside the house. Kate showed him to the living room and sat down with her notepad wondering how many partners Tim had and how she couldn’t get one.
“Hello Tim, nice to meet you I’m Kate. Thanks for showing interest in the room.”
“We’re very excited.” Said Tim, and Kate looked up.
“Yes, myself and Ranulf.”
“Right,” said Kate, looking down at her notes again and wondering how she’d missed this, “The, er, room is for solo occupancy - the council tax clearly states that…”
“Ranulf doesn’t pay council tax, so don’t worry.” Tim smiled at her kindly. Kate nodded, and cleared her throat.
“Sure, yes, but the house isn’t quite big enough for more than two people.”
“Ranulf is a cat.”
Kate felt the world shift uneasily, this didn’t bode well. “Ah, a cat! Right!”
“You’re not allergic are you? Because if so we may as well end this here. I do nothing without Ranulf.”
“No, no - not allergic and cats are welcome.” Kate made a note on the pad that Tim came with a cat and the cat was excited about the prospect of moving in.
“Good. He isn’t keen on the sea, you see.” Kate stared at Tim. She felt like he was certain he was making sense, and yet everything that came out of his mouth seemed like a riddle from a children’s book.
“We currently live on a boat.”
“Ah right!” That explained the heavy waxy jacket he was wearing, Kate thought, it smelled like outside and adventure. “Er, how long have you lived on a boat?”
“Not long, we had to leave our last house because Ranulf was unhappy with the new neighbours - terrible dog next door and Ranulf just couldn’t relax so we moved onto my boat as a temporary measure.” Did everyone in the world have a boat? Kate wondered, she should introduce Tim to Graeme and they could go sailing together.
“Any partners?” Kate asked, hoping against hope that he would only tell her about his, and not Ranulf’s.
“No, Ranulf doesn’t share.” Kate laughed, but Tim didn’t so she stopped as quickly as she was able to. “May I see the kitchen?” Tim asked suddenly and then sprang to his feet and made his way into the kitchen where he whipped out a tape measure and started to analyse the size of the work surfaces and oven. “Not enormous is it?”
“Big enough for a bowl of Whiskers.” Kate joked, feeling defensive about her kitchen. Tim span on the spot and gave her a furious glare.
“I would never feed my cat that muck.” He spat and then continued his measuring. Kate stood quietly in the corner until he had finished. “Do you have any more questions for me?” Tim asked, leaning against the counter.
Kate reeled off the last few questions as a formality and then showed Tim out, promising him that she would speak to him before going to too much trouble to organise a welcome meal for Ranulf. As Tim turned right out of the gate the third candidate appeared from the left and Kate dusted herself down and invited him in.
“Hello, I’m Kate - you must be Harvey?” She said warmly, and smiled.
“I am indeed.” Harvey said, and shook her hand. As he passed her into the hall Kate had to hold her breath as the overwhelming smell of meatballs took her by surprise.
“Come on into the lounge.” She said, a little nasally as she hastily tried to develop muscles in her nose that could block it up completely.
As he settled into his seat in the living room the smell seemed to engulf them and she stared at him wondering how a person so clean looking could smell quite so… meaty. “Have you just had dinner?” She asked, unable to stop herself.
“Yes,” he said, “Brocolli quiche.” Well that categorically did not explain it, she thought, and consulted her pad - suddenly very tired.
“I have to ask, because it’s been the topic of the night - do you have any pets?”
“I do - two guinea pigs. Is that ok?” He asked, and Kate waited for what was going to be weird about guinea pigs.
“That’s… that’s fine. I’ve never seen a guinea pig in real life before.”
“Oh, they’re great - they go lovely with a bit of gravy!” Kate looked up sharply but he did appear to be joking. She laughed with him; she was too edgy, she needed to relax.
“What are they called?”
“Breakfast and Dinner.” She laughed again, but this time found he was not, “No, I’m serious he added. Those are their names. The last two were lunch and brunch.”
Kate made a note to google “Can you eat guinea pigs.” When he had left.
“And, er, what do you do for work?” She asked.
“I’m a writer; I’m writing a novel but I’m also a freelance content writer for websites and stuff. It’s decent, but I’m hoping to get the novel finished in the next year.”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but - you have a wage don’t you?”
“Oh yes, yes - plus a healthy advance on the book. I’m not writing a novel like everyone’s writing a novel - I’ve already sold mine.”
“Great!” Kate said, “What’s it about?”
“It’s about a world where the only food source is guinea pigs.” Said Harvey, “sort of, post-apocalyptic dystopian kind of thing.” Kate blinked.
“Sounds great, I can’t wait to read it. Well, um…” She reeled off the rest of her important questions and made notes of all of his answers. “Any questions for me?” She asked.
“Are you a vegetarian?” He asked, and she shook her head, “Would you be willing to be one? It’s just, I am - and I can’t abide the smell of cooking meat. With, well, only really one exception I can think of, so I could only really move in here if you went veggie too in the house?”
Kate blinked again wearily and stared at him, “I’ll give it some thought.” She said, smiling, and showed him out.
As she closed the front door she suddenly felt very weary and made her way up to bed wondering who on earth she was going to choose from her three candidates.
Who does she get to move in?