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About the author:
I'm an Australian, originally from Melbourne. I currently live in the UK, and am still scarred by the memories of my first winter! Love, Tears, & Coffee is my first book. As well as being the story of Emily and Laura, it is also a story about Melbourne (particularly its northern suburbs) and the Australian landscape. Maybe I was a little bit homesick when I started writing it!
What inspired you to write your book?
The book is set in my home city, Melbourne, but written while I was living in the UK. It may be at least partly inspired by homesickness. It is mostly set in my old stomping grounds – the inner northern suburbs of Brunswick, Carlton and Fitzroy. The opening scene, and the character of Emily came to me very clearly, and from there, I felt compelled to write the story – I knew from the outset how I wanted it to turn out! There are also some scenes set on the fringes of Melbourne's music scene, inspired by some of the great gigs I've attended in Melbourne, in pubs and other venues around the city.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Emily stirred brown sugar into her coffee and glanced around the café, letting her gaze take in the customers sitting at the other tables. They were all young, successful, and trendy. The men sported hipster beards and haircuts swept back in clean-cut perfection. The women wore quirky sleeveless dresses coupled with artfully styled hair falling past their shoulders in long open curls, and rectangular, nerdy glasses, worn ironically. Tattoos and piercings ornamented perfect young bodies, badges of their independence and nonconformity. All these people worked in creative industries. They’d never had to deal with anything as old-fashioned as a dress code in the design houses and up-and-coming startups peppered around this particular part of inner city Melbourne.
It wasn’t that she looked out of place—her sundress was as pretty and floral as the rest of them, her glasses no less on-trend. Perhaps her Betty Page haircut was a little more retro, but it was a matter of degree, not kind. Somehow though she felt like she didn’t fit in. Everyone in the café oozed confidence. They were all coupled up—talented young man with beautiful young woman—like a commercial for expensive jeans or the latest must-have electronic device. Their chatter was bright and happy, as if their lives couldn’t be any more perfect.
That wasn’t how Emily felt. She’d come to the café by herself, trying to improve her Sunday morning and make it a little more normal. It wasn’t working. No matter how she spun it, she wasn’t feeling great about herself, and it turned out being surrounded by all these examples of inner-city perfection didn’t make things any better. She flicked through the menu, marveling at the multitude of ways chorizo and smashed avocado could be incorporated into a breakfast. It all looked delicious, but she was tempted to pay for her coffee and leave.
Maybe she was more stressed than she realized. When the couple at the next table turned their heads in her direction it took her a moment to register what was bothering them. It was her spoon, clattering against the rim of her cup with the violence of her stirring. Emily put the spoon down and stared at the table, embarrassed. Today didn’t seem to be going her way.
She had been dumped.
No, that was the wrong word. She’d been used and humiliated. Last night, at the party, he’d seemed so nice. When he came over to talk to her, he’d been funny and flirty and had spent all evening hanging onto her every word. He was cute! And tall, much taller than she was—she’d loved the way it felt, looking up at his eyes. She’d liked his eyes too. Blue-grey and deep, like an ocean, the kind of eyes she could imagine staring into for hours. With his dark, slightly scruffy hair and day-old stubble he exuded a rugged and athletic charm—totally the type she went for.
When he came back with drinks for both of them she touched his arm to say thank you, and from then on, her hand rested on his the whole time. It had all been really comfortable and natural. When he bent to kiss her, she opened her mouth to him and kissed him back, deeply and passionately. Emily always thought of herself as sensible. She wasn’t promiscuous and on the rare occasions she dated she did the whole three-dates-before sex thing. So when he asked her back to his place, she surprised herself by saying yes without even a hint of hesitation.
His name was Alex, and from the moment the door of his house closed behind them he lavished attention all over her body, making love to her with his mouth, his tongue, and finally, sliding inside her to bring them both to a body shaking orgasm. When it was over, she curled up alongside him and slept wrapped in his arms, convinced she’d met a keeper.
In the morning Emily’s first thought was to reignite the flames from the night before. She moved closer to Alex and stroked his hair. When Alex woke he sat up and brushed her hand away. He looked her up and down with an expression on his face like she was something the cat threw up then said, offhandedly, “You’d better go.”
“Why?” Emily asked.
“It was great, honestly, but you’re not my type.”
“What do you mean?” Emily said, offended.
Alex pulled a face, like he was trying to decide how honest to be. In the end he said, “You’re not exactly a skinny girl, are you?”
Emily’s happiness drained from her. Her first instinct was to yell, “But I’m not fat!” but after years of her mother making disapproving comments about her figure she didn’t believe it herself, so at first, she didn’t say anything—it was difficult to process the awfulness of how Alex was treating her. The sense of deflation, of all her confidence leaking away, wrenched at her stomach. She felt sick and knew she was one wrong word away from bursting into tears.
Eventually, she managed to force out the only thing she could think of saying, “I thought you liked me.”
“You were okay. For a quick fuck,” Alex said, dismissively. When Emily continued staring at Alex with a confused expression on her face, he said again, “You’d better go.”
Emily’s resolve dwindled away to nothing. All she managed to say was, “But why?”
There was no way Alex was ever going to answer the question properly and explain how he could behave so badly. Even so, she never expected him to give a demonstration of exactly how much of an A-grade shit he was.
“My girlfriend’s coming over soon. You have to go. Now.”
Emily burst into tears.
* * *
In the café, Emily was crying again. Not loudly, but as she sat staring at her coffee a tear rolled down her cheek and she sniffed, trying to hold back the sobs. The couple at the next table turned to look at her again. Just thinking about the way she’d been made to gather her things without even having a shower or brushing her hair upset her. She poured more sugar into her coffee and stirred it. She didn’t want breakfast. As soon as the coffee was finished she would go home—all she wanted to do was hide. Hide and cry.
It was true she wasn’t what you’d call skinny, but nobody had ever said anything so mean to her face before. And although she often couldn’t be bothered with the whole dating thing, she’d never struggled with a lack of male attention. Yes, she filled her dresses, and overflowed a little at the top. She’d always thought her cleavage was sexy, and knew it was eye catching. Maybe she had a bit of a stomach and a bottom that wobbled a little. And if she was going to be honest, the best word to describe her thighs was probably ‘full’. But if she’d been asked to label herself Emily would have said she was curvy, not fat, and her mother’s comments aside, she’d always been comfortable enough in her body and happy with the person she was.
She knew she should be stronger. She should have told Alex to go fuck himself. Two hours had passed, and she’d recovered enough to be angry, both with Alex and with herself. But at the time she’d said nothing and self-respect is a funny thing—now she’d been hurt she couldn’t tell whether the bad feeling tearing her to pieces was because of what he’d said, or because she’d let herself be hurt by his cruelty, or because of her failure to stand up for herself. Emily knew she should get up and go home, but it was proving difficult to find the motivation to do anything.
The coffee was gone. She didn’t want breakfast. There were no more reasons to stay in the café. There was a waiter serving someone by the door and another near the tables at the back. Both looked busy and it didn’t seem like they’d be heading towards her any time soon. Two more staff members stood behind the counter—a barista, relentlessly churning out lattes, cappuccinos, and flat whites, and a waitress standing next to the cash register, chewing on her pencil and staring into space. She wanted to leave. The waiters wouldn’t spot her for ages. She might as well pay at the counter and get going.
It was Emily’s habit when she went to the counter to pay to take her cup with her, to save the wait-staff the trouble of clearing her table. The waitress flashed a smile of thanks at her when she placed the cup on the counter and despite herself Emily smiled back. The act of smiling, of sharing a moment of human contact, made her feel a little bit better.
As she opened the cash register to give Emily her change, the girl behind the counter looked Emily up and down and said, “You okay?”
She shrugged, and said, “Yeah,” in a non-committal, ‘I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it’ kind of way.
“You sure?” the waitress asked, “You seem pretty upset.”
Emily raised her eyes from the counter and looked at the waitress, properly, taking in the expression on her face. The concern was genuine, but Emily was one of a million unhappy people in the city. If she didn’t say anything the girl would have forgotten her by the time she left the café. The girl on the other side of the counter was about the same age as she was, in her early twenties. Her skin was pale and her lips and fingernails a dark shade of purple. Her shoulder length hair was dyed black with a streak of purple the same shade as her lipstick running through it. Emily found her face difficult to read. Was the smile supportive, or was the girl laughing at her?
The waitress was about to turn away. If she didn’t speak now, she would probably go home and not speak to another person all day. Their fingers touched as Emily took her change from the girl’s hand. Her skin was warm, and suddenly Emily blurted out, “It was a guy.”
“He stood you up?”
She couldn’t bring herself to say it. Not all of it. Not even a little bit of it really. What would the girl think of her? So she stood there, saying nothing.
“Men can be dicks, huh?”
The waitress took another look at Emily, a closer one. Emily knew she must look a sight, with her smudged makeup and tear-stained face. What would the waitress think of her?
She picked up her order pad, scribbled on it and tore the page out. “Here, take this. I’m Laura. This is my number. If you need someone to talk to, give me a call.”
Emily took the piece of paper from Laura and stuffed it in her handbag along with her change.
She didn’t know what else to say, so she turned and walked out of the café, sensing Laura’s eyes following her. As she pulled the door closed behind her she turned around, but Laura was already speaking to another customer. The sun was out and the weather was beautiful. It might as well have been a rainy day in midwinter for all Emily cared—she was going to spend the rest of it hiding in her bedroom.