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HALF TERM

It was the second Friday night in February and Lottie was home for half term. She dumped her squashy bag on the pink polka dot duvet and looked around her bedroom thinking how babyish it looked.  She absorbed the posters covering just about every inch of the flowery pink wallpaper.  Advertisements for glamorous fashion designers torn from magazines, male models with slick, naked chests, the latest actor to play Spiderman and posters of the boy band of the moment who all looked about fourteen. Her eye caught the bookshelf heaving with books from her childhood and current favourites, the pages loved, torn and worn.  Toys, trinkets and various memorabilia cluttered the top shelf, coated in a thick layer of dust like a winter coat.
Students were not allowed home until six weeks into the school term to make them feel more settled, but for Lottie it felt like years had passed.  That she'd time travelled in a tardis that took her to a place filled with real life designer clothes and girls her age who wore make up, got drunk on vodka, smoked cigarettes, dabbled in drugs and had sex.  A gentle knocking on the door awoke Lottie from her reverie and she turned to see her mother standing in the doorway.  She smiled at her and Bea took it as an invitation to come and sit next to her on the bed.  Lottie looked at her usual strangely put together outfit.  An ivory silk blouse with a large bow which was tucked into baggy striped thin cotton trousers that looked like pyjama bottoms and ugly brown sandals.  Her hair was a bird’s nest of long unkempt curls with a purple streak in her fringe.  Lottie used to find it amusing, endearing even, but now she was just embarrassed. She prayed she would stay in the car when she collected her from school an hour or so earlier, but Lottie jumped in to the passenger so quickly and threw her bag in the back seat so Bea didn't even get a chance to open the door. Lottie stared at the expensive cars in the queue leading to the school gates and looked disdainfully around her mother's car which was full of the detritus of her life; crumpled up pieces of paper, dirty tissues, ripped open empty envelopes, half full water bottles and sweet wrappers. Of course she was thrilled to see her mother and looking forward to going home, but she would miss her friends and the weekend routine which she had grown so accustomed to.
"Are you alright, darling?" Bea asked and put her hand on top of her daughter's.
"Yes, of course!" Lottie shook her head and tried to smile.
"It just feels a bit weird being back, that's all.
"Do you want to be back?" Bea asked.
"Yeah, I guess. I'll be fine, don't worry," Lottie looked at her mum's face which had gone from beaming to verging on tears in a matter of seconds and she realised she had really upset her. She put her arms around her and gave her a big hug.
"Sorry, mum, of course I am glad to be home and see you. It's just, er, a bit weird, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," her mother mumbled into her hair, over her shoulder. She let go and looked at Lottie, clasping her hands together, "Right, why don't you unpack and freshen up and I'll get dinner together. I have all your favourites; lasagna, spaghetti bolognese, pizza....what?" her voice trailed off as she noticed Lottie's frown.
"Thanks mum, but I'm not really eating carbs at the moment. Do you have anything else?" Bea looked at her daughter properly since she got into the car at the school. She looked much slimmer, her cheekbones more prominent. She was wearing clothes Bea had never seen before, certainly not purchased for her and her long hair looked lighter, her curls more defined. Her smooth skin was very matte and covered in layers of foundation and powder, her lips very pink and glossy.
"Er, yes, I guess so", Bea said. "Ok, let me go downstairs and see what I can get you then," Bea left the room and as she walked downstairs, she thought about all the trouble she had gone to for Lottie's return. The chocolate fudge cake she had baked which was sitting under a glass dome in the fridge. The way she had counted the minutes until she had to collect Lottie from school, but the reaction she had received had been as if she had popped to the shop for five minutes, not been living away from home for six weeks. She thought back to the past few weeks whenever she had called, Lottie could only ever spare a few minutes before she was called away. Texts had gone unanswered. Bea clung to the bannister as tears spilled from her eyes and wondered how her daughter could have changed so much in a matter of weeks and what the hell she had done by sending her to that school in the first place.

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