Miss Matilda Wilde always locked the door to her flat carefully. She always placed the key in her handbag, and made certain that the zip and clasp of the bag were securely fastened. She always wiggled her toes in her flat soled, black patent leather shoes, ensuring that they were firmly tied and comfortably fitted before walking down the stairs to the parking lot. It was such precautions as these that meant she had lived all of her 43 years without experiencing any major accidents or upsets. It was also such precautions as these that made Miss Matilda extremely trying to live with. She had very little patience for carelessness and foolish behaviour. If she never tripped over a shoelace, or dropped her keys, or lost her handbag, she saw no reason why any other member of the human species should do so.
Her niece Ella was well aware of Miss Matilda’s cautious habits, and of her disapproval of thoughtless actions. And she knew (or guessed) how very trying Miss Matilda would be to live with. But she was also well aware that her aunt had inherited all the money that Ella’s maternal grandfather had accumulated, including the apartment with four bedrooms and a sea view.
Ella had sometimes wondered why her grandfather had passed her own mother over in such an apparently malicious fashion. But being a sensible young woman, she had reached the conclusion that her staid forbear had probably made a wise decision. Meredith had had a marked inclination to do silly things on a regular basis. She’d started at the age of 16 with the teen pregnancy which had produced Ella, and ended at the age of 45 with an illegal and unsupervised bungee jump which proved, unsurprisingly, to be fatal.
Nonetheless, her grandfather’s foresight had left Ella in an uncommonly tricky position. Having just reached her third decade, she found herself both motherless and moneyless. Her father was lost in the mists of high school romance; her grandparents were long deceased, and her mother had engaged in a relationship terminating quarrel with Miss Matilda several years prior to her unexpected death. Ella herself was intelligent and well educated, having acquired a Masters degree in Philosophy at a well regarded university, but she found that few institutions were willing to hire either a vastly over qualified secretary or a vastly under qualified business manager. Neither was her landlord particularly sympathetic to her well thought out arguments regarding unpaid rent. And her bank was beginning to become distinctly unsympathetic about extending her student loan for yet another year.
As a result, Ella found herself outside the Miss Matilda’s apartment complex, dressed with singular care and hoping (with a streak of her mother’s optimism) for a very particular and favourable outcome.