So still did she sit. Waiting for her imagination to dismantle reality. However, reality persisted on remaining in its current state. At least, that’s how it seemed.
Victoria, thinking of better days, watched as a caterpillar ascended a blade of overgrown tussock grass. A breeze swirled its way across the grassy hills, causing a refreshing coolness to surround her as she sat on a mound in the Spring sunshine looking across the paddock. Often there were sheep milling about, on other days there were rhythmically chewing cows passing the time away. Today, however, the paddock was empty. It was just her and the caterpillar.
Victoria often stopped here for moments of solitude on her way home from school. Although, you could say her whole day was an abundance of solitude seeing as how no one spoke to her. Not in a friendly manner anyhow. The other girls often shouted, laughed and made fun of her. As annoying as it was at first, Victoria soon learned to take it in her stride. Anyway, she quite liked being by herself, she was used to it. Her mother worked in the medical clinic all day and studied at the library in the evening, leaving very little time to spend with her.
Her father had left almost five years ago, which she thought was unusual as he was her best friend and always made her laugh and smile. They’d play silly games, make mud-pies and tell imaginary stories full of adventure and intrigue. Her mother would get angry at them because of the mess they made, especially when they painted together as they often ended up using each other as a canvas.
She remembered the day her father went to the high school to help with setting up the equipment in the new science lab. He was always playing around with his own scientific contraptions and when they asked him if he could assist, he was very excited. As he walked out of the house he said to her,
“Victoria, you’ll have the best equipment in the world when you go to high school. In a few years, you’ll be able to experiment, discover and invent the most wonderful things!” She spent the day drawing up plans and illustrating step-by-step instructions for her future experiments. He never came home to see them.
Now that she was almost a teenager and had spent three months at the Humbleton High school for girls, Victoria wasn’t that impressed by the science lab. A few bunsen burners, some cracked beakers, stained test tubes and a wonky microscope were hardly worth shouting about. Mr Loom, the science teacher, was nice to her. He was the one who had knocked on the door and asked the then eight year old Victoria if her mummy was home all those years ago. Back then her mother was often singing as she prepared meals or tidied up the family home. Mr Loom and her mother sat in the kitchen as Victoria finished off her detailed plans for an experiment. Hearing her mother sobbing, she walked to the kitchen door and stood watching as Mr Loom handed her mother tissues. She doesn’t remember much more from that day apart from a lot more crying. Her mother never explained what had happened, all Victoria knew was that her father had gone.
The caterpillar slowly swayed in the breeze as it gripped the tip of the blade of grass. Victoria closed her eyes and breathed in the air. The smell of freshly cut grass, pollen and the unmistakable aroma of dried cow manure brought back memories of long walks with her father. She could feel the warmth of the sunshine on her closed eyelids, causing a smile to spread across her face. Smiling wasn’t a frequent occurrence these days. With a mindful exhale Victoria slowly opened her eyes, the glare from the sun caused an exhilarating blindness.
For a brief moment she thought there was someone standing in front of her. As her sight adjusted to the light, she peered around but couldn’t see anybody. A trick of the light she thought to herself. Stretching out her arms, Victoria looked towards her companion only to find a blob of chewed pink bubble-gum stuck to where the caterpillar had previously resided. “How unusual,” she said to herself as she moved closer and sniffed the gum. “Cherry flavoured.”
The breeze was picking up as the afternoon sun began descending to make way for the anticipated arrival of the moon. Victoria brushed strands of grass from her dress and adjusted the shoulder straps of her school bag as she wondered whether her mother had remembered to prepare any dinner. She considered purchasing fish ‘n’ chips but on second thought decided she would pick a few fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from the vegetable garden and buy a loaf of freshly baked bread.
The sky had become a collective of blue, orange and crimson. Victoria made her way across the hills towards the township. The mound where she sat remained in the moment until a seemingly rambunctious young girl carrying a well-worn soft-toy rabbit bounded upon it and encased a bewildered caterpillar into the glob of cherry flavoured pink bubble-gum. Pleased with her effort, she smiled at the caterpillar and said, “HELLO!”