Victoria was hiding behind her sunglasses and way too much perfume as she attempted to navigate her way through the animated swarm of parents delivering their little darlings to school. As ever, at this time of day, she tried avoid both those she liked and those she disliked, she was not feeling up to the task of small talk with those she approved of, or pretending to not have seen those she didn’t. The latter being the vast majority of adults’ hurriedly patting heads and administering hugs and words of encouragement to their own kids as the school bell sounded. She was in fact, trying to not vomit as Lola swooped out of nowhere, flung her arms around her waist and told her she loved her, before being captured by the twins again and pulled toward the rest of her classmates as they trooped into the building. By the time Lola had joined the back of the line, Victoria already had her head down and was muttering insincere apologies to the other parents as she barged her way past them, her heels click-clacking on the paving stones as she lit a cigarette and departed in a cloud of smoke, bitterness and jealousy. She was back in her own bed within fifteen minutes, having stopped only to let in Mrs Jackson, the cleaner, then deposit a double gin into a glass and throw a couple of sleeping tablets into her mouth as she’d staggered past the optics en route to the stairs.
She’d never loved anyone before or since and the thought of him now pouring his attention on that stupid girl, a bloody teenager no less, tormented her every waking hour. Victoria’s abandoned existence, made more painful by the fact he continued to ignore the child he already had, was also haunted by Lola. She looked so much like her father and her face reflected his to the point that Victoria sometimes thought it was he, not their child, that she was softly kissing each time she said goodnight. The cold, asphyxiating reality that he was not ever coming back, seemed to strangle the very life out of her as the gin and tablets, slowly but fluidly, pulled her into an inebriated temporary refuge. The memories and hurt that stalked her outside of which, like a sinister predator clinging to the shadows of her past, were only offset by her devoted but painful love for Lola.