In spite of the disgrace of expulsion, I felt overwhelming relief. Compared with the misery of flat sharing, the prospect of a forced sojourn at my parents - even at the elderly age of 24 - was joyous. I was too slothful to initiate my own departure from Nicole's, but having been ordered out, I couldn't wait to leave. First, vacating the premises might resuscitate our ailing friendship, and second, I would never have to see David again. Living with the pair of them had been hell. After all, the realisation that you irritate, annoy and, eventually, alienate your peers is profoundly distressing.
And it had started off so well. Nicole had purchased a smart three- bedroomed flat and advertised for friends to help pay her mortgage. When I offered my services she happily accepted. She knew me as my social self - the Anna who bought a small gift when invited round to lunch, who stood up for pensioners on the Tube and who was unfailingly courteous to other people's parents. Unfortunately, she didn't know me as my primitive self - the Anna who only washed dishes at gunpoint, who sulked every morning because the day started too early, and who had dinner parties where people drank too much and broke furniture. So I moved in. There was a honeymoon period of roughly two weeks, during which we all walked around like Stepford wives offering each other cups of tea and chitchatting. Then I thought, good grief, I'm paying for this, I'll behave accordingly.
I became taciturn and stopped offering David cups of tea. His tendency to spend half-an-hour in the bathroom every morning, leaving it looking and smelling like a seal's paddling pool, was beginning to irritate me. He also spent ages on the phone and laughed like a braying donkey. Worse, he had an unhealthy habit of rolling up his ties like liquorice wheels in neat rows on top of his chest of drawers.
While David behaved like a PR from Homes & Gardens, my aversion to housework was becoming apparent. After a gruelling day at the office and the pub, I didn't feel like scraping burnt pasta off a saucepan so I'd leave it to soak for five days. Nicole would occasionally beg me to wash up / empty the bin / remove rotting produce from the fridge / pay rent etc. All of which I took as personal criticism and grouched accordingly. I only felt a twinge of shame when we were burgled and Nicole called at work to say that they'd "really turned over your room" leaving a "terrible mess". I rushed home to discover that, if anything, the burglars had tidied up.
Nicole subsequently hired a cleaner, but there remained enough bones of contention to fill a cemetery. Admittedly, I was careless to leave hairpins in my shirt pockets when I used Nicole's new Zanussi washer-dryer, which broke the machine. I was foolish to allow my friend to drink a bottle of David's Glenfiddich - particularly when he returned home to catch them draining the dregs - and to replace it with Sainsburys own blend. And I shouldn't have allowed my guests to smoke 200 cigarettes over the course of an evening in Nicole's lounge and burn three holes in her beige carpet when it was a no-smoking flat.
But I did feel justified in setting my alarm at 7am to beat David to the bathroom, spending half an hour reading Cosmo on the toilet while he banged on the door, and squeezing three spongefuls of water over the floor in a pre-emptive strike, because I knew he loathed me anyway. By this point we'd stopped speaking. Nicole was caught in the crossfire and asking me to leave was the only way to prevent hostilities escalating into war. I knew David regarded me as the Wicked Witch of the West and himself as Dorothy so I was thrilled that Nicole decided to boot him out as well. It made everything worthwhile.
Five months later, I bought a one-bedroomed flat where I now live, alone. My parents advised me that I should to buy a two-bedroomed one and get a friend to move in to help pay the mortgage, but no way. My friends are, without exception, delightful, but I know that even the most wonderful, kind, good- natured people can turn out to be flatmates from hell.