When Love Meets Lust

By: Stephanie Cross

This book is dedicated to my mother, Denise. Thank you for everything.


Love. Simple and pure. And unobtainable. For me anyway. Any potential Prince Charming within a 30 mile radius is either gay or spoken for. Only the frogs are left. The slimy, creepy frogs.

One-eyed Bill, the postman, is starting to look like a potential catch, even with his Captain Pugwash features and his Cornish accent. I don’t know where the accent comes from. I don’t think he has been any further than Epping Forest.

But needs must. Perhaps if I fake a peg-leg and get a parrot Bill will start finding me attractive too. Christ, I really am desperate. Fortunately, my twin sister Martha chooses this moment of deliberation to shout into my face.

‘Stop staring into space you doughnut and just get up and dance.’ She pulls at my arms, forcing me to my feet. ‘Oh come on, this is our leaving party before we head Down Under…In the words of Prince…let’s party like its 1999.’

I can’t be bothered to tell her that in 1999, when we were nine, partying consisted of eating jam sandwiches and drinking fizzy pop. This particular party is definitely not like that. As I shuffle from foot to foot, trying to engage with the music, I look around at our collective and sigh. I love them all. But they make the Addams Family look normal.

At the far end of the living room, Mum and Dad are serving pina colada, in the belief that it is as popular a cocktail in 2016 as it was in 1986. They are working from a makeshift bar, and Grandad Shane is sitting just to the left of it sucking sherbet lemons and looking miserable. Next to him is Grandma Betsy, with her pencilled eyebrows drawn in so high she looks in a state of permanent shock. She also has quite a severe blue rinse, reminiscent of Dame Edna Everage.

Aunty Libby, my Mum’s sister, is waving her arms around in the middle of the room. At 53 she’s two years older than Mum, but as a reaction to her divorce from Uncle Kevin, who ran off with a younger woman, she has taken to dressing like a 23 year old, with peroxide-blonde hair and so much make-up she makes Chuckie the Clown look pasty. Ageing does not look like much fun to me.

Our old school friends are here too. Dave, Rosie, Si and Mel. We all went to the same primary school and all our parents are a little on the crazy side. I remember when we all went to Si’s 14th birthday party and his parents thought it would be a good idea for us to sing ‘Kumbaya’ several times to him in the voice of David Beckham as an alternative to singing ‘Happy Birthday.’

I’ll miss these guys. We have lots of shared memories. Lovely memories. Memories of graduating university, spending long summer holidays cycling around Epping Forest and enjoying the sunshine on our backs as we whizzed through the green leafy landscape. Days of just being free and enjoying each other’s company. Not so carefree now. Time changes things, and we all have responsibilities: Dave and Rosie are now engaged, Mel is currently saving for a house, Rosie is just about to start her role as a junior doctor at Romford General Hospital and Si is about to embark on a PhD on the use of mummification during the Egyptian period. Creepy. But at least he is following his interests.

And then there is Martha. They say twins are supposed to be similar in characteristics and personality, but even though we both have wavy blonde hair and blue eyes, and are both five feet seven and three quarters (to be precise), that’s where the similarity stops. Martha is more outgoing than I am. If you see a crowd of people, Martha is bound to be at the centre of it. I prefer my own company. Someone has to be the quiet, sensible on. Two crazies together don’t equal sanity.

Sadly, despite being the sensible one, I seem to be the drifter, with no idea of what I want to be or do. Martha already has a job lined up in Australia as an IT consultant. I am tagging along in the hope that I will find more to life than watching a photocopier churn out another 100 pages of ‘blue sky thinking’ or answering the telephone to another imbecile who doesn’t know how to switch on a computer. But mostly, I am hoping that this trip will bring me Love.

As ‘Land Down Under’ by Men at Work starts to blare through the lounge speakers and Martha drags me into the centre of our circle of friends, everybody in the room gets up to dance. Even Granddad Shane has a go, clearly hyperactive after too many lemon sherbets. As I look around the room I realise, not for the first time, that I am so lucky to have these people on my side. Even if they are all weird. I love them and I will miss them, But tomorrow I am going to fly to the other side of the world and a whole new chapter of my life will begin.