I've just read Beth O'Leary's 'The Flatshare', coincidentally just a week before I moved into my first house-share in years. Luckily, the pressure is off.
I'll only live in this room for six weeks until the landlord moves back in in mid-July, using it as a base to explore long term housing options. The temporary nature of the arrangement lowers the stakes, but I needn't have worried because so far my new housemates are completely lovely.
Driving up outside and texting that 'I've arrived' the instantaneous reply is 'come on in, the door is open.' Excellent - I did wonder whether they would be in, or awake, at midday on a Saturday morning. In my previous house-shares this was definitely not a given.
Lilly is sat at the wooden kitchen table in a turquoise and floral dress with off-the-shoulder sleeves and a wide skirt.
'Hello!' she says, 'I'm going to a wedding, we don't normally dress like this in the kitchen.'
The room is messy and beautiful, with rough wooden floorboards and fairy lights snaking around the tops of all the walls. Pots and pans and mis-matching ceramics fill every surface, with a fresh bunch of peonies dominating the dining table. we make the inevitably stumbling small talk about where I'm from and what brings me to Falmouth. I tumble over my words and reveal my lack of planning, but I get the impression that that's okay here because everyone is still smiling. The wedding is in Penzance; a childhood friend of Lilly's Cornish family. The sun is shining and the wedding will be wonderful.
Oliver quietly helps me with my room, fetching a desk from upstairs so that I can set up a writing space by the window. We awkwardly dance around furniture, bridging the gaps of our unfamiliarity. We know next to nothing about each other, except the general impression that the other is a nice and good sort of person who is potentially acceptable to live with. We've both done this 'new housemate' thing before and know that in a few days the air will have relaxed and awkward pauses and 'after you-ing' at doors will subside.
Ben, 'the guy upstairs' is out, but returning later. I'm alone in my room in the evening when I hear northern accents from the kitchen, and the boiling of the kettle. Swapping my pyjama trousers for a pair of shorts and piling on a jumper, I collect my empty mug to go and say hello. Then hesitate, faffing around a little. Should I wander in so obviously using the cup of tea as an excuse? We can all hear that each other is here, so perhaps it looks rude if I don't go and introduce myself. Who is the female voice? It's not Lilly, so it must be a guest. Would I be interrupting? Once I've plucked up the courage to walk three metres to the kitchen I'm met by Ben's Mum; smiling and friendly and visiting for the weekend. Ben himself soon appears and we run through our less stilted introductions. Our chat flows easily as his Mum tells me about her visit, but I'm keeping them from whatever dinner is boiling on the stove, so after a suitable length of time I retreat with my tea (complete with a splash of stolen, pre-food-shop milk.)
Now that I've met the house I'm relaxed, and close my bedroom door with the cat on the inside. Apparently she loved the girl in the room before me and slept on her bed every night. I suppose I could swap a dog-on-the-bed for a cat-on-the-bed for a while... just don't tell Ted!
I message my Mum and send her pictures of my new room, complete with feline companion. In the notes on my phone I make a list of things to buy tomorrow: phone charger (forgotten), matches (for my scented candles), some tall candles which would look amazing in the open fireplace, as well as food and clothes hangers. As usual, I put my audiobook on (quietly) to help me fall asleep.