She orders a whiskey on ice, pulls her cigarettes out of her jacket pocket and lights one up. The whiskey goes straight down the hatch and she orders another. It’s giving her the encouragement she needs and she starts to laugh too loudly, too abrasively at all of the bartender’s jokes. She leans back on the bar with her elbow and takes a quick surveillance of the room. The others get to see that once, a long time ago she would have been quite beautiful, it’s still there in her eyes a little but now – at this age – because of the hard lifestyle her complexion is quite haggard and her teeth are stained. These days she’s referred to as ‘skanky.’ But she just doesn’t care and in fact wears it as a badge of honour. She’s kept her figure, even if she is a little gaunt, too skinny but that’s the way she (he) likes it.
She tosses back her head and lets out her hyena laugh again and the bartender eyes her warily: had he said something funny? Maybe she was having her own private joke. But none of the men are taking any notice of her now, in fact they are very careful not to make any eye contact with her at all, and there’s a very good reason for that. They continue to ignore her.
She glances at her watch. Her kids would be making their way home from school now or would they be at their dads? Who knew from one day to the next, wasn’t her problem. She gave birth to them didn’t she? She’d done her job. Things were getting boring in here anyway. Might have to throw back a few more whiskeys, stroll over to the music machine and put on her favourite tune and then grab one of the guys for a dirty dance …
She knows she’s losing him and she knows there’s nothing she can do about it. She’s too soft, too accommodating, too bookish, too hermit-like, a homebody. And she loves her children and always puts them first. A tear slips down her cheek as she thinks of him and how difficult it will be to say goodbye because she really loved him; he had changed her life in every way. But she could never be what he wanted.
She marks the page with her Paris bookmark and then closes the biography of Virginia Woolf’s life. She’ll go to Paris one day, when the children are grown and she has her money to herself again. And who knew, maybe she would be just like Virginia Woolf one day. Maybe her writing would be looked at all around the world and make her famous.
She glances at the clock. It’s 2.15pm and it’s Tuesday. It’s been a tradition in her house to bake cupcakes for her kids every Tuesday for 20 years but today she toyed with the idea of not baking cupcakes. The fact was that the kids were getting older and sometimes the cupcakes wouldn’t get eaten what with their extra-curricular activities, busy social lives and fitness regimes. She glanced at the clock. It was 2.30pm. She could just pick up the book and keep reading for another hour or so. She bites her lip. It’s 2.35 and time to get on with it. She just knows in her bones that today the cupcakes will be needed.
The first child arrives home. She flings down her bag, swipes at the bench collecting a cupcake on the way, tells her mum she would like to start singing lessons and could they afford $25.00 a week and then rushes into her room to get onto her computer and talk to her Facebook friends. She’d always wanted her little girl to have singing lessons so somehow she will make the budget work. Her son rings to say he’ll be home at dinnertime.
But then the front door opens again and her 18 year old daughter bursts into the room. Her face is swollen and blotchy from crying.
“Oh my God mum, you’ll never guess what happened today!”
“Sit down darling and tell me all about it,” she says offering the plate of cupcakes to the distraught child.
“Oh mum, thank God for your cupcakes,” the daughter says and – it seems to her anyway – is completely healed now. It’s a thing called ‘cupcake healing,’ a phrase she had coined herself. She beams with pride as she watches her infant daughter devour her creation, getting the sticky, white frosting all over her fingers before reaching for another one.
“Oh boy mum,” she mumbles, between mouthfuls of cake, “you’ll just never guess what happened to me today.”
“Spill, darling – I’m all ears.”