The University of Life

Shutterstock / klyaksun © A student's bedroom Illustration: Shutterstock


They feared what they would see in their daughter’s first flat!

“I do hope it isn’t too ghastly,” Jennifer said, as they flashed past signs for the university. “Do you remember my first flat?” She shuddered. “That horrible lino!”

Andrew took one hand off the steering-wheel and patted her arm. “It’ll be fine. It’s all part of the growing-up process. Good for the soul. It’s only by living in a grotty student flat – or house, I suppose, in this case – that you really appreciate your first proper flat. She might even appreciate her parents’ house a bit more,” he added grinning. “And anyway, student living isn’t what it used to be. They’ve all got fridges and washing machines and proper heating and all sorts of things we didn’t have. Just you wait and see. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Jennifer nodded, though her lips were pursed. “I expect you’re right. I just can’t help thinking about Sasha’s room last year in hall. I felt so awful I bought the cleaner a huge box of chocolates, do you remember? How could a daughter of ours possibly be so messy?”

“Well…”Andrew paused.

Are you implying that I wasn’t very tidy as a student either?

Jennifer’s eyes narrowed. “In any case, I was nothing like as bad as Sasha!”

“I’m saying nothing,” Andrew said.

“Wise decision.”

For a few moments they both looked out at the increasingly urban scenery. Then Andrew spoke. “Sasha was untidy from birth. Maybe because you… we… cleared up after her?”

“You mean me, and yes, I probably did but, well I had to! Hang on… I think we were meant to turn left there.”

Ten minutes later they were standing outside a peeling front door, knocking loudly as the bell didn’t work. Andrew and Jennifer exchanged looks as footsteps approached from inside.

The door opened and a lanky boy in a torn T-shirt gave a lopsided smile.

“Hi, you must be Sasha’s mum and dad. Come on in. Oh, I’m Ian by the way,” he said over his shoulder as he led them across an obstacle course of bikes, a crate of beer and a pile of assorted trainers. “Sasha will be down in a sec,” he added, showing them into the sitting-room before loping off.

Jennifer looked around at the saggy sofas and untidy magazines, her eye resting on a mug of long-forgotten coffee. “Is that… mould growing on it?” she whispered.

“Looks like it,” her husband replied nonchalantly.

They peered through the grimy windows until a clatter on the stairs made them turn round guiltily.

“Mum! Dad!”

Sasha rushed into the room and gave them each a swift hug. She was wearing pressed jeans and a soft red lambswool sweater, her long hair hanging like a silk curtain. She looked, Jennifer thought with relief, totally out of place.

“Say nothing,” Sasha murmured, glancing around and rolling her eyes, then added, “Come up and see my room.”

The stairs and landing were as bad as the hall. Jennifer picked her way delicately over a box containing a congealed half-eaten pizza, and nearly tripped over a guitar.

“Matt!” Sasha shouted. “Move your guitar before it gets broken! Or someone breaks their neck!”

“Yeah, coming, sorry,” a voice said from behind a closed door.

“You see what I have to put up with?” Sasha hissed, rolling her eyes. She opened a door at the end of the landing and ushered them in.

“Oh what a lovely room!” Jennifer said instantly, before she’d even looked inside. She’d been rehearsing the line in her head for the last week. It was to be followed by a comment on the room’s size, its sunniness, the view or whatever she could think of to avoid mentioning what she was sure would be the elephant in the room: the appalling mess.

“But it’s so tidy!” she blurted out instead.

Andrew and Sasha both laughed, as Jennifer gazed around at the jug of blue irises, the neatly made bed, the hoovered carpet. Books were carefully aligned on the shelves, some pretty mugs stood by a spotless kettle, and the desk held Sasha’s laptop and a few sheets of paper. Just enough evidence of work to satisfy a visiting parent, Jennifer found herself thinking happily. Then she looked through the crystal-clear window.

“Who are you, and what have you done with my daughter?” she asked eventually, turning round and looking bemused. “I mean, the rest of the house is a… a disaster-zone!”

“It’s the others,” Sasha said, looking shocked. “I don’t know how they can bear it! I’ve never met five such irredeemably untidy people in my life! Their rooms are like pigsties! I bet you’ve never seen anything like it!”

“Actually,” Jennifer said, going over to Sasha and hugging her, “I think I have. But welcome to my world!”

Pick up a copy of My Weekly every Tuesday for original fiction stories, and look out for new fiction content on our website every week. Plus this week we bring you a touching tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.


Our Sept 24 issue

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.