CH1 Lola's Money

THE WINNER

 

One stormy Saturday evening in February, Lola French was sitting quietly watching television in the lounge of the flat she shared with her boyfriend, Alan. She had lived all of her twenty-eight years in the village of East Calder, near Livingston. Most of that time she’d stayed in her family home with her mother and father, but for the last year or so she had been living in Alan’s flat, which was a one-bedroom, ground floor apartment on the Main Street.

Her elbow was resting on the arm of the settee and her cheek was resting on her hand. A few of her ginger ringlets cascaded over her forearm and she glared at them in disgust. She’d never liked her hair, and it was so difficult to manage, especially in damp weather, as it tended to be frizzy.

Lola was feeling disgruntled with life in general, and with Alan in particular. They seemed to be barely on speaking terms these days and she knew it was only a matter of time before they would finally admit that it wasn’t working and decide to go their separate ways. He had been out for most of the afternoon and evening with his mates and she was sick and tired of his behaviour. When he had asked her to move in with him the previous year she’d been delighted, but her delight had soon turned to disillusionment as time had passed and she had begun to feel that he only wanted her there to do most of the cooking and cleaning and to make herself available in the bedroom. They shared the household bills, but she bought most of their food.

Alan was at that moment clattering about in the kitchen making himself some supper because she had refused to do it for him. She knew that he wouldn’t bother to make any for her. Her temper had gone from ‘simmer’ to something approaching boiling point. She couldn’t stand this situation any longer. Enough was enough; she was starting to feel really trapped. She couldn’t even concentrate properly on checking her Lottery ticket against the results coming up on the screen. She had made her decision. She began to think about where she would stay when she left and how she would tell him that it was over. She decided she would probably go back home and stay with her mum to begin with, while she looked for a place of her own.

Suddenly she sat up, poker straight, and stared at the television screen in disbelief; then she took a long, deep breath and blinked a couple of times to clear her vision. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It couldn’t be true. She had imagined this happening so many times that she wondered if she had fallen asleep and was simply dreaming it. The numbers coming up on the screen seemed to be indicating that she had won – and not only won something, but won the jackpot. All of her numbers had come up, one after the other. She knew that if it was real, no matter how many other people had the winning numbers, she was going to come into millions because it was a substantial rollover week! She checked and re-checked her ticket. Her heart began to thump wildly as she realized that it was actually happening and that she wasn’t mistaken or dreaming.

She clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle an excited squeal just at the exact moment that Alan came back into the lounge and plonked himself moodily down beside her.  He glared at her and began to munch his two slices of toasted cheese in silence. After a moment he spoke, in his usual carping tone.

“Never anything worth bloody eating in this place!” he complained, for the second time that night.

Lola didn’t answer him, which wasn’t unusual these days, but after a moment or two, he paused in his eating to draw her a look.

“What’s up with you?” he asked argumentatively. “Cat got your tongue?” He’d obviously had quite a few beers and was spoiling for a fight.

“I’ve won,” Lola said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I’ve won!”

Alan frowned.

“What you on about? Won what?”

He stopped eating when he followed the direction of her gaze and saw what was on the TV screen.

“Oh, how much?”

“The jackpot. I’ve won the jackpot!”

“Lola, you’re winding me up!” he said, screwing his eyes up in disbelief.

She didn’t answer but simply shook her head.

Alan threw his plate to one side and stood up, grabbing the ticket she was holding in her hand. The results programme was over now, but he crossed the room to his laptop, which sat on a small table in the corner, and called up the results website. When he had verified that she had in fact won the jackpot, he waved the ticket in the air and shouted, “Woohoo, we’ve won – we’ve won!”

Lola stood up and faced him, snatching the ticket back from him as she did so.

“We, Alan? We haven’t won anything – I’ve won the Lottery. It’s got nothing to do with you! My stake - my winnings.”

“Oh, come on, honey. We live together. Don’t be so bloody selfish. This is brilliant news for both of us,” he said, trying to take her in his arms.

She shoved him away, holding him at arms’ length. She spoke clearly so there would be no doubt in his mind about the situation.

“Alan, this is my win, not yours. You’re not going to see a penny of it, I can assure you – not the way you’ve been treating me lately!” she told him heatedly.

“But babe, I’ve just had things on my mind. Bills and stuff. You know I’m crazy about you. Don’t give up on us now. Now that we can have everything we want.”

Lola looked at him with a cynical little smile on her face. She wasn’t going to fall for any of that nonsense.

“It’s over, Alan. I can’t make it any clearer than that, can I?” She couldn’t even be bothered to tell him that she had just been about to finish with him and move out of the flat before she realised she’d won. She knew he wouldn’t believe her anyway.

She looked at his face and could see the warring emotions written on it quite plainly. He obviously wanted to reply in kind, but the prospect of giving up that amount of money was holding him back and making him try to cajole her into backing down and staying with him.

As soon as she turned her back on him, however, stuffing the ticket into the pocket of her jeans as she did so, he realized that she meant what she said and his true feelings came out in a heated rush.

“You bloody selfish cow. I should have known it. Now you can have anything you want, you’ve decided you don’t need me anymore. After all I’ve done for you!”

“All you’ve done for me?” she spluttered. “You must be joking, Alan. What have you ever done for me, except use me and treat me like something you stood on in the street? It’s been over between us for ages and you know it. I don’t even like you any more, never mind love you!”

Lola turned on her heel and marched into the bedroom. She didn’t want to stay in this flat a minute longer than she absolutely had to. She threw open the drawers and wardrobe and hauled her bright pink suitcase out from underneath the bed. She laid it down on the bed and began to systematically pile all of her clothes on top of each other inside the case. Unfortunately, she had a great deal more gear than she’d had with her when she’d moved into the flat nearly a year ago, so there was no way her case was going to close if she tried to put everything into it. She tried unsuccessfully to squeeze the case shut and then sat down beside it to think. She needed another bag, but the only other case in the flat belonged to Alan, and she certainly didn’t want anything of his with her. She decided all she needed was a black bin bag to put the rest of her stuff in, so she went through to the tiny kitchen and drew a couple of bags out of the bottom drawer.

But as soon as she started heading back towards the bedroom, she stopped in her tracks. The door was now shut and Alan was standing in front of it with his arms folded across his chest and a closed, hard look on his handsome face. A quiff of dark blonde hair lay heavily in the middle of his forehead, which was now marred by a determined frown.

Lola felt herself starting to shake. She detested confrontations like this, which was the main reason that she hadn’t brought things to a head before now. She sighed heavily.

“Move, Alan. I need to get the rest of my stuff,” she told him, trying hard to hold onto her temper but also feeling a little afraid of him in his current frame of mind.

“Take it out of here,” he sneered at her, touching the tip of his nose. “If you’re going, you’re going without your ‘stuff’. You’ve got a fortune now, and you owe me, so get lost. I’m keeping everything. You can afford to get a load of new stuff now, can’t you?”

“But I don’t want new stuff – I want my own stuff!” she wailed, beginning to get really upset. “They’re my things. You can’t keep them. Get out of the way.”

She tried to push him aside, but he was six feet tall and well built. He just stood and laughed snidely at her.

“Don’t be pathetic, Lola,” he told her, standing his ground. She was raining blows on his chest now, but all of them were ineffectual.

Finally she stopped hitting him and her arms fell to her sides. She knew when she was beaten. He had dug his heels in and she knew she wouldn’t be able to shift him now, no matter what she said or did. She snatched the first jacket that came to hand in the hall cupboard and went into the lounge to grab her handbag before he could decide to take that away from her, too.

“Bitch!” he yelled at her as she wrenched the front door open and forced herself to step out into the stormy night. “Bloody selfish bitch!”

His words rang in her head as she ran a little way along the street in the pouring rain and threw herself into her Peugeot 206. She turned a corner and headed uphill along Langton Road towards her mother’s house, which, thankfully, was only a couple of streets away. The heavy downpour soaked through her lightweight jacket as she ran from the car all the way along the long garden path towards the front door. Her mother’s house had no driveway, so she’d had to park in the street. She could just feel Mrs Johnson’s blinds twitching. The woman’s house was directly across the street from Lola’s mum’s house, and she was the proverbial nosey neighbour.

By the time Lola reached the doorstep, she was soaked to the skin. She was glad of it, though, because she hoped it would help to camouflage her tears of anger and indignation. She didn’t want to upset her mum unduly, so she stood there for a moment, choking back tears and taking deep breaths to try to calm herself down, before she finally raised her hand and knocked on the door. When the door opened and she saw the look of total shock on her mother’s face, Lola had never felt less like a winner in her life.

 

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