Her consciousness was fading. It was gradually getting darker and she couldn’t help but wonder about how she got here. She wondered whether if she made different decisions, things would’ve turned out differently. She thought about all her good intentions, all of her hopes and dreams over the years and then she started to remember.

She remembered. “My new place isn’t ready yet. I’ll be here for three months and then the place is all yours” the landlady said before continuing on “This place is simply too big for me now. I hope that you’re going to be able to create as many happy memories as I did here? Maybe you’ll be here long enough to have kids?” she asked with smile. The landlady wasn’t tall, she barely made it up to her own breasts. The landlady had her hair cut to the length of her chin and wore a muslin dress from an era gone, but she looked elegant. This landlady gave off such a good impression. The landlady seemed like such a nice woman with such a gentile smile that was so radiant and full of warmth. It was somewhat heartbreaking that she couldn’t stay in her own home. But one woman’s loss was this woman’s gain and this house was something she just had to have. It spoke to her. It reminded her of her youth and the person she grew into to leave that misery behind. The house embodied strength. Best of all, this house was cheap and it was going to be the fulcrum for her future. It was such a quaint home and an absolute steal. It was three stories. The top floor was where the landlady stayed which was a massive bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. It looked as though the landlady had been living solely in that room. She didn’t want to pry so she never took a tour of the top floor. She saw the bed, a sofa, a fridge, a microwave and way too many things. She didn’t even want to imagine getting past all of the clutter that seems to have accumulated in that room. She just hoped that the landlady never lost her television remote as getting to that television was a tactical assault course worthy of Tough Mudder on its own. The second floor was where she’d be staying for now. It was made up of a reception room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The ground floor had a majestic reception room and a kitchen.

She remembered. She remembered that she was excited that it was now the fifth week. She was thinking about how she’d endured to get to this point. She didn’t have to endure much, just that she never had that space that she yearned for where she could truly exist. Despite that, the landlady was actually incredibly nice and caring. So caring in fact that the landlady actually made her feel cared for. Up until the point she moved into this house she’d been all alone. She’d achieved everything on her own. Everything she had, it was all garnered with her own strength and it was actually nice to finally have someone caring for her. A small seed with the landlady’s love had been planted in her heart and so while she couldn’t wait to make this space her own, she actually enjoyed the company of the landlady. She was actually slightly saddened by the fact that they’d soon be parting ways. She told herself that no matter what, she’d visit the landlady once the landlady moved into her new place. She heard a ring hitting the metal rail of the spiral staircase that connected all of the floors of the place. It was a familiar sound she’d hear whenever the landlady descended. There was no door, the stairs opened up into the area where she’d watch TV. She was okay with that since the bedrooms were to the back of the reception room which each had one door to the reception room and one door to a communal bathroom. She looked over “Do you have a minute?” the landlady asked. “Of course” she replied. She was used to this and given that love that she’d received, she’d always make time for the landlady. The landlady walked over and sat opposite her, she looked her deep in the eyes and began weeping. “I feel so bad about this.” the landlady said “all I can do for you is give you back your deposit. Until you find somewhere else, you’re welcome to stay here. In fact don’t feel like you have to go anywhere. In terms of rent, don’t even worry about it. Occasionally I may need some help with one or two bills but aside from that, it’s not like I need the money to do anything. Until you’re ready to move on, this is still your home”. She was heartbroken but she could tell the landlady was upset and didn’t want to pry for fear of making things worse. She screamed internally but didn’t let the slightest hint of that show on her face. Instead she smiled and said “I don’t know what’s happened but with how you’ve cared for me, I couldn’t possibly leave you.” She got up and walked to the landlady and gave her a hug. Internally she screamed anew but outside she hugged the landlady and tried to console her joking “besides with the deposit money, I’m sure I’ll be able to buy something to make us both feel a bit better. It’ll be my treat”. Though she said this in a tone full of love and caring, it only lead her to feel more frustrated as she wasn’t allowed to change anything within the house. She’d been saving to make some significant changes after the landlady left.

She remembered. That oh so familiar clanging as the landlady would make her way down the steps. She glanced up and asked the landlady “Are you alright? What do you think?” as she was trying on a dress for a party. “That dress is a bit short. No one will respect you if you wear that. Why would you consider that? I’m wondering if you even respect yourself? On top of that, you’ve had such a stressful week, are you sure it’s a good idea for you to plan going out. If you don’t put yourself first, who will? Your friends won’t tell you this but I will because I truly care about you. I worry how you’d manage if I weren’t here”.

She remembered. “You there?” she wanted to hide but she couldn’t. She just wanted some her time. She was relieving stress from a long week and was laying naked, a phone in one hand and the other betwixt her legs. As that familar clang sounded, she quickly turned off her phone and ran to get something to cover herself. “Tell me all about last night” the landlady said as she finally finished descending the stairs. She didn’t particularly want to at this particular moment but what could she do? She went out and her penance was always that she’d have to share all of the details. The landlady always got lonely in her absence and her recanting of events made the landlady feel better. She emerged from the bedroom having thrown a maxi-dress on just as the landlady was sitting in her favourite chair waiting to hear all about the night previous and what she got up to.

She remembered. “I hope you don’t mind, but I get so lonely when you leave me and thought she might take the burden off of you”. Her eyebrows furrowed for a moment as she thought about the extra burden a dog would put on her, but she quickly hid that expression beneath a smile and asked “what’s it’s name?” “Her name” the landlady corrected before answering “Faith”. She knelt down and began playing with the dog. “I think she’s a good fit for us both” the landlady said with a smile. She didn’t know how she felt about Faith, she was so cute but she knew that all of the extra workload would fall solely on her and she secretly cursed to herself about the fact that the landlady had hoisted this responsibility upon her.

She remembered. How she quickly fell in-love with Faith. Faith wasn’t a good dog by any stretch of the imagination. She was untrained and unruly but cute. She adored Faith and Faith adored her. The landlady would always look at the two of them with pride. This was her first proper pet and she’d do anything she could for the dog. It wasn’t really her decision in the beginning but seeing that Faith was something that the landlady believed the house needed, she was willing to trust in that. She didn’t even mind the fact that she’d often come home to find that Faith had either piss or shit in her house, that was fine. What Faith gave her was unconditional love and she was always well behaved, even if a little attention hungry when people visited. Faith had filled her heart in a way that she thought felt like things were supposed to feel. She wondered if all dog owners felt like she had and yet here she was, saying goodbye. Just a week earlier she was looking through a paper looking for apartments closer to work that would accept Faith along with herself. She didn’t know if she was going but it was nice to look and see what’s out there. Now she was looking as faith was lowered into the ground at the pet cemetry. She was heartbroken and in tears. The landlady hugged her and told her “we’ll get through this together. Don’t worry, we have each other. We’ll get through this together”.

She remembered. How common her broken sleep has become and that she’d regularly wake up to find the landlady in her room. The first time she was scared out of her wits. She was initially furious that the landlady was invade her privacy and invade her sanctum like that, but she was informed that she had a bad dream and took comfort in the landlady’s presence. The landlady would sit on the edge of the bed and stroke her hair back from her forehead until she fell back asleep. Telling her over and over again that “I’ll protect you in the night and usher in the dawn. As long as I’m here, you’ll be okay”.

She remembered. How one day she dancing around her little reception room and singing with her headphones in and as she turned around, she saw the landlady looking agitated and shouting something. She turned off her music to see what the landlady was saying. “It’s all your fault” the landlady said. “It’s all your fault” the landlady repeated. She was confused and asked “what is?” while furrowing her eyebrows. “You’re the reason that George left” her jaw dropped. George? George? The last George she’d met was back in primary school. She wondered to herself just who George was. “If it wasn’t for you, George would still be here. If he wasn’t so captivated by you. You tempted him with that face of yours. You knew he couldn’t resist you. He would melt away at seeing your face. You stole him and forced him to leave. It’s all your fault”. She was confused and inwardly alarmed but the landlady was getting older now. Things like this were bound to happen. She hugged the landlady tightly until the landlady cried and fell asleep on the sofa.

She remembered. How she came in one day to find the landlady sitting in the reception room before her bedroom upon her favourite seat and she was crying. Not crying in a dramatic fashion, more whimpering. She asked the landlady what was wrong and the landlady said “you won’t leave me will you? You can’t leave me. I’ve tried my best to take care of you. I love you. Please don’t leave me. I can’t handle it on my own. I can’t afford it. You only help with a few bills. It would be so much more expensive elsewhere. You couldn’t afford to live and work if you lived anywhere else. If you think about leaving, I’ll chuck you out and then you’ll be all on your own.” She looked at the landlady mouth aghast for a fraction of a second and then went and hugged the landlady, kissing her on the top of her head and saying “I wouldn’t even think to leave you”.

She remembered. The time she came in to find the landlady in the kitchen surrounded by a bunch of broken dining-ware. It was rare to find the landlady on the ground-floor. She mostly just microwaves all of her meals. But the landlady stood there looking helpless crying. She looked at the landlady and felt pity in her heart before she moved to start clearing up. The landlady stood there, crying and looking as she swept up the various bits of plates, bowls, glasses and cups before saying “please don’t leave me. I’m sorry. I know I’m hard work sometimes, but I love you. Please don’t leave me. I feel so bad that you’re here taking care of me instead of living your life. I want you to spread your wings. I want you to be everything you can be. But please don’t leave me. I can’t live without you”.

She remembered. How she heard that all familiar clang of the landlady’s ring hitting the rail as she descended the stairs and it was accompanied by the tears of the landlady. She got up and met the landlady at the stairs and instantly hugged her. “What’s wrong?” she asked. The landlady struggled to complete a sentence through her tears. She brought the landlady to her favourite chair to hear what was wrong. The landlady began to tell her how her parents had fallen ill. Something that she found surprising as given the landlady’s age, she thought that they’d been long dead. The landlady finished had finished talking and had fallen asleep. She spent an hour talking about how scared she was to be left all alone intersecting the tales of her fears with memories of her growing up with her parents.

She remembered. One day they were sitting in her reception and while one of the shows that they’d watch together was on. The landlady launched into a blistering attack on men and how they’re all good for nothing. She remembered how the landlady had occasionally mentioned a man named George and assumed these feelings stemmed from her unresolved feelings towards that man. The landlady would talk about how to spot the signs, how the landlady would teach her to spot the signs to avoid falling into the same fate that she’d been resigned to. But the landlady said “despite the agony of my fate. I’m grateful because it’s given me you. I’ll take care of you”.

She remembered. One of her colleagues was having a leaving party. They were moving to a rival company but it was for all the right reasons. Better prospects and better money. No one in the company was sore. In fact they resented the higher-ups for not fighting to hold on to the woman. She’d been working from home all day and now it was time to head over to this party. She had gotten all dressed up and was on her way but to her surprise, the door was locked and she couldn’t find her keys. She went upstairs and started frantically searching for them but couldn’t find them. She shouted to the landlady and the landlady came down and looked around a while before saying “it’s a sign. If you force this situation and go out… I have a bad premonition about it. Our show is on anyway, let’s just watch our show together”.

She remembered. She was on the sofa reading a book when she heard the floorboard above her creak. And the landlady called her name. She quietly got up and went into her room without making a sound. She just didn’t want to be disturbed right now. She looked around and just thought, why not? She went and sat in the closet in her room and read her book. She heard the landlady enter her room, pause and turn around before she heard the clang of the ring on the rail and the landlady ascend the spiral staircase. She stayed there within that closet. It was her new sanctuary.

She remembered. She woke up to a scolding feeling. She screamed in shock and agony. The landlady standing above her a jug of coffee in one hand and a cup in the other. She heard a man screaming “what the hell? Who is this crazy old bat?” the landlady looked sheepish as she said “I’m so sorry. I tripped. I was just bringing you some coffee. I had no idea you had company”. She screamed internally. She didn’t even remember this guy let alone coming home with him. But she thought to herself that it was odd that she’d have someone over and not shut the bedroom door. She didn’t spend too much time thinking about the how. She realised that no matter what, he’d been rude and so had to go. “You need to leave” she said to the man before continuing “now!”. The landlady said “I’m so sorry” and she looked at the landlady and said “what’s done is done” before looking at the man who was looking at her with a dumbfounded look. “Now!” she repeated, this time in a sterner voice. The landlady looked at him and said “there are no guys allowed here” she looked at the landlady with a perplexed look on her face. This had been the first time she heard of this. She looked at the man searching for his shoe “NOW!” she shouted.

She remembered. The time that after another outburst about her being the reason that George left, she took the landlady to see a doctor. The doctor told her that she shouldn’t be left alone for too long. She asked the doctor is there was any help available as she had a full time job and had even struck her a few times. She’d literally only brought her to the doctor this time because the landlady had launched at her face with a nail file saying “if it wasn’t for your face, George would still be here”. The doctor gave his sympathies but said that it was simply so expensive that it wouldn’t be worth it. He prescribed some sedatives and told her that the landlady shouldn’t be left alone for too long.

She remembered. The time that the landlady was convinced she didn’t need the medication and in fact given the stress she was under, she should take the medication instead to help her. After two weeks off of the medication, she was back in the closet reading her book as the landlady trashed her bedroom screaming to herself how George would still be here if not for her. After the landlady left and fell asleep. She came from the closest to find a rip in the mattress. She couldn’t even think of how the landlady managed such a thing. She was lost in her book with her headphones on and music up loud. She flipped the mattress and decided that the landlady would never come off of her medication again.

She remembered. How she’d come in from work and shouted to the landlady. She’d bought her cake and flowers and was excited to give them to her. However when she called up, there was no answer, there was just the noise of the television. She put down the cake and flowers on the coffee table, kicked off her heels and went to turn off the landlady’s television. She got up the stairs and traversed the assault course over to the television but before she made it the whole way. She saw surrounded by a bunch of newspapers and bags, the rotting body of the landlady. She screamed as she thought it was impossible. She wasn’t an expert but she knew she saw the landlady just this morning. She had seen on all of the shows what a rotting body looked like and this body looked really old. She was just about to vomit when she heard the heavy front door slam shut. “Are you home?” she heard the landlady shout upstairs. She quickly took off her shoes, as not to make a sound and ran down the stairs. Just as she made it to her reception room, she heard the clang of the ring on the rail of the stairs and the landlady ascending. She didn’t know what to do, she ran into the her bedroom being as stealthy as she could be and got into her closet. “Are you home?” the landlady shouted and she sat there waiting. She quickly thought to call the police but realised she’d forgotten her phone on the table with the flowers and cake. She just sat there, waiting. How could the landlady be upstairs rotting and looking for her at the same time? She refused to move from the closet. She waited so long and was so tired that her conciousness was fading. It was gradually getting darker and she couldn’t help but wonder about how she got here. She wondered whether if she made different decisions, things would’ve turned out differently. She thought about all her good intentions, all of her hopes and dreams over the years and then there was nothing.

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