Victoria trudged through the rain soaked mud behind the old bakery, her arms folded and her head hanging limply to one side in defeat. She hadn’t even made it to lunch. A tear rolled down her cheek leaving a track through her make up and ruining her mascara, probably. She didn’t give a rat’s ass. She didn’t give a rat’s ass about anything anymore; it all just seemed so pointless.
She had made it through English with no dramas. Her and Eva had sat at the back of the classroom and played hang man on a sheet of paper. Eva was determined to think of the dirtiest phrases she could, and although they didn’t manage to make Victoria laugh like they normally would, they did make her feel that her friend was finally making an effort. But then a particularly saucy something, that Eva had written herself, made her snort with laughter. The teacher had given her a stern look and carried on reading whatever drivel she had been reading. But she was the only one that was annoyed.
Jill Carey had been sitting in front of them, tapping her foot in a very irritating way and muttering under her breath. She appeared to have lost her cool when Eva had snorted loudly and whipped around to glare at the two of them.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” She spat at them through clenched teeth.
Jill, in Victoria’s opinion, had a huge steel rod stuck up her ass. She was the studious type, top button always done up and hair tied back so tight there was always the chance her scalp might snap off in protest. She was chubby and had more freckles than facial expressions. She thought she was better than everyone else. She didn’t have any friends at school, and Victoria suspected that she didn’t have any outside either, and ate by herself at lunch times outside whatever class she had next. Jill was always early and she always sat up front. Today was a rare exception. Two of the boys had called the teacher a few unflattering names at the start of the week and their punishment was to sit at the front until she was sick of looking at them.
So Jill had taking the only free seat in front of Victoria and Eva, at the side of the room where the seats were separated into couples. Jill was alone.
Eva and Victoria exchanged an astounded look before Eva broke down into silent laughter. Victoria didn’t think it was so funny. The statement had been directed at her.
“What?” Victoria hissed back with a kick to the leg of Jill’s chair.
Jill turned again. Her face was the colour of beetroot, from either fear or embarrassment. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Coming back all dolled up trying to get every guys to stare at you again. Sitting there laughing like nothings happened. It’s like you don’t even care. You don’t even care that your own mother killed herself.” She stared at Victoria straight in the eye with a look of utter disgust and loathing before turning back around.
Eva stopped laughing. The class continued around them; unaware of the harsh words being exchanged. The teacher had finally stopped talking and was turning to the white board to write up their assignment. Victoria stood up and was standing directly behind Jill before Eva could even reach out her hand to stop her. She had been suspended from school for fighting before and had quite a reputation for them. She had never lost.
She grabbed a handful of Jill’s hair and squeezed. The rage ground her teeth together and made her blood run hot. With one quick movement and all her strength, she thrust her classmates head into the desk with a bang that made the entire room jump. She heard a crack and let go of Jill’s hair. Jill jolted back up with the sheer force of the hit and fell sideways from her chair, leaving a few drops of blood behind her. Victoria looked down at her breathing heavily, waiting for her to get up and fight back, and the whole class looked at Victoria. No one moved. No one spoke.
The door to the class room opened and Mrs Walker, the guidance counsellor, poked her head around the door. She was looking directly at the teacher who was staring dumbstruck at Victoria. “I was wondering if I could steal……” Her eyes followed the gaze of her colleague and stopped on Jill who let out a low moan. Her eyes rose to Victoria standing over her. “….Victoria.” She finished.
Victoria looked up at the sound of her name. Three girls closest to Jill finally moved to help her. Victoria looked around as if she had been woken from a trance. Everyone was staring at her like she was dangerous, unstable. She turned to Eva. Surely Eva understood. But Eva had her hands gripping the desk in front of her, staring wide eyed and pale at her friend. She shook her head once. That was when Victoria knew she was in trouble.
“BUT SHE INSULTED ME!” Victoria screamed across the desk.
“AND I DON’T CARE!” Mrs Walker screamed back.
They were in her office and both were standing at either side of the desk and leaning towards each other, both were filled with rage. Victoria turned away from her and punched the door. She hadn’t even made it to lunch. All because of that little bitch.
“We are going to have to call your father Victoria.” Mrs Walker said in a strained voice, trying to compose herself.
“Ha! He won’t answer.” Victoria spat over her shoulder.
The guidance counsellor sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. She had been on her way to the class to speak to Victoria, to ask her why she had come back so soon and if she thought it might be a good idea to take some more time off. She should’ve done it before the bloody class started.
“You broke her nose.” She said loudly, barely holding on to her anger. Victoria just shrugged her shoulders. She had her own problems. Mrs Walker opened her mouth to yell again. Never in her life had she wanted to smack a student so much before, and never had she found one who needed a good smack more either. She stopped herself from yelling and took a deep breath. “Do you know why she said what she said?”
Victoria rolled her eyes at her. “Yeah. Because she’s a nosy little bitch and she thinks she’s better than everyone else.”
Mrs Walker decided to ignore the profanity. “Wrong.” She said simply and crossed her arms. “When Jill was seven her father hung himself in the middle of the night.” Victoria’s stomach felt cold. “She found him hanging from the stairs. She was alone, just a scared little girl, and she had to wait until morning for her mother to come home.”
There was silence. Victoria stared at the floor and clenched her jaw. “I didn’t know-“
“And you didn’t care.” Mrs Walker interrupted. She leant her hands on the desk and tried to make her tone sound sympathetic. “I know you have been through a lot lately Victoria, but you do not break someone’s nose over-”
Victoria turned and wrenched the door open before she could say another word. She ran down the hallway and into the English class where the teacher was trying and failing to restore order to the hysteric class. A hush descended when Victoria burst in though. She strode to the back of the room and threw her bag over her shoulder. She didn’t look at Eva.
As she left the room she could see the guidance counsellor hurrying down the hall towards her to try and block the stairs and stop her from leaving. She made a run for the stairs and didn’t stop running until she was out of the school gates.
And now she was trudging through the mud. She hated herself more than she had ever hated anyone. More than she had ever hated her parents. She had broken Jill’s nose. The girl was soft. She had obviously never been in a fight in her entire life. It was like kicking a puppy. What’s wrong with me? Victoria moaned into the empty air. No one was going to answer her. She had to do that herself. But how long would the list end up being?
She groaned and pressed her cold hand to her forehead. And if Jill’s mother was anything like her daughter, then she would want to press charges. What the hell was she supposed to do then? They would come to the house to tell her father, see the state that he was in and call social services on the spot. She had never had any dealings with them in the past, but she was sure that she didn’t want any strangers in her house, prying through her business. What if they put her in a foster home? What would happen to her father then? He would drink himself to death. The thought was so firm and final and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was the truth, that she quickened her pace. Afraid of what she might find when she got home.
She didn’t slow down until she was on the doorstep. She paused at her front door and unfolding her arms, she turned back towards the drive. Her dad’s car was gone. Did that mean that he was sober, or that he was drinking and driving? A sudden rush of panic that stole the air from her lungs and threatened to engulf her rose in her chest. She fumbled for her keys but the door wasn’t locked. Stumbling over the threshold she threw her bag on the hall floor.
“Dad! Dad!” She called up the stairs and down the hall to the kitchen. The house stank of cheap liquor and was a complete tip. Victoria felt a fresh wave of guilt as she looked into the pig sty of a kitchen. Dirty dishes everywhere, food dried into the counter tops and empty food packaging littering the floor. Who did she expect would take care of this? Her intoxicated dad? She had never even considered doing the dishes in the past couple of weeks. She sighed. She had to do something.
A trip up the stairs and a glance into the spare bedroom confirmed her suspicion that her father wasn’t in the house, but she hadn’t really gotten her hopes up. She went to her bedroom instead and changed out of her uniform into jeans and a t-shirt. She pulled a hoody on over the top and actually jumped when her stomach rumbled. When was the last time she had eaten? She hadn’t had breakfast or lunch and she hadn’t been hungry enough to eat last night.
She ran down the stairs only to have to run straight back up again to throw her school bag in her room. It made little difference to the overall mess of the place, but she had to start somewhere. Next she went into the toilet to remove her make up. She looked as much of a mess as her house did. It was a relief when her face was clean and fresh again. She glanced around the tiny room. Just a sink and a toilet and barely room to turn around in when you closed the door. It made the upstairs bathroom look positively luxurious. But she couldn’t go in that room anymore. Two rooms in the house that neither her nor her father could go into anymore. That wasn’t the way a home was supposed to be.
She went and stood in the kitchen. Now she had another task. She wasn’t finding her mother’s diary now, just her cash stash. This thought twisted her gut for a second. She had forgotten about that little white book. Her eyes rose to the ceiling as if she could see through the floor and into the wooden chest in her room. She placed a hand on her stomach. “No.” She told herself, “I have to get this done first.” She searched the kitchen, every nook and cranny, every place that she thought you could hide a stash of money in before she finally found it in an ornamental milk jug of a psychotic looking pig on top of one of the cupboards. It was the type of image that she knew would haunt her in nightmares to come. There was at least a hundred there, but she only took forty for now. She wasn’t sure how long she had to make this last.
She took one last look at the house before she left. She paused long enough to open the windows in the living room to try and tease out the stench. She would have her work cut out for her when she got back, that was for sure.
She was glad that school was still in because she wasn’t likely to run into anyone on their journey home. She didn’t know many others her age that did the shopping by themselves. This thought depressed her. She had her earphones in when she entered the shop, music up loud and blaring. She didn’t listen to music much, only when she wanted to escape from her surroundings. She had made a list in her head of what she thought they needed; what she normally saw in the fridge. She felt like everyone was staring at her, like everyone was wondering why there was a girl her age with a trolley full of food. Where are her parents? What’s wrong with them?
She kept her eyes down, trying to ignore the heat rising in her cheeks. That was when she felt it. She could feel eyes between her shoulder blades, boring into her as if they were trying to get to the other side. She stood up straight, dropping the jar of milk she was holding into her trolley with a dull thud. She didn’t like this look, this stare. It was cold, it was intrusive. It was wrong. Her breath caught in throat as she turned to see who or what could possibly make her feel this way.
It was a blind girl.
She stood a few rows back in front of the cold meats. Her face was hidden behind big sun glasses, designer sunglasses, and she had a retractable stick hanging off one wrist. She was taller than Victoria, her long blonde hair swept back in a graceful ponytail. She was dressed in clothes that looked like they fell off a runway in Milan. She had to be a model. But she was blind, Victoria just knew. Yet she was facing Victoria with her lips slightly parted in awe as though she couldn’t believe her eyes, but she obviously couldn’t use them. They continued to stare at each other, that feeling of coldness spreading through Victoria like a pool of blood slowly spreading over bathroom tiles… Bile rose in her throat and just then the blind girl moved. Her mouth opened wider and her hand twitched convulsively upwards as if to grab something. To grab Victoria.
She turned and had to restrain herself from running down the aisle and round the corner. She was done. She didn’t stop to check if she was being followed. She rushed passed the other customers, receiving many glares for almost running people down in her haste to get to the till. The checkout girl was agonisingly slow. Victoria bounced up and down on the balls of her feet, willing the vapid looking girl to speed up. She paid, snatched her change from the now disgruntled girl and hauled her bags to the automatic doors. They were heavy and she just prayed that they didn’t burst before she got home, before she got away.
She was through the door when her earphones dislodged themselves from her ears and started to tangle around her legs. She cursed under breath and struggled to drag them back up without dropping her bags. And she felt it again. Ice cubes sliding down to rest between her shoulder blades, permeating her chest, making her feel like every fibre of her being was being scrutinised. She didn’t want to look, but then she heard an almost hysteric voice.
She was at the automatic door. She appeared to have dropped her stick and was feeling her way along the wall outside the store, her shopping basket still clutched in the crook of one arm. A member of staff was trying to drag her back into the shop, obviously thinking that she was a very bad thief. She was fighting the teenager off, her dead eyes locked on Victoria behind the shades.
“Don’t go home!” She was almost yelling. Her voice was straining, veins showing on her neck as if someone had their hands round her throat. “PLEASE! Don’t go home! Whatever you do!” The teenager was losing his cool now. She had dropped her basket and he had her by the waist, trying to drag her backwards. Victoria turned away. She was cold all over, tremors starting to rock her body. She felt like she was going to be sick.
“HE WILL HURT YOU!” Was the last thing that she heard before she broke into a sprint.