‘Where Love Lies’ (Book Excerpt) by Julie Cohen

Where Love Lies

Credit- Emma Townsend 2009

Julie Cohen studied at Brown University, earning a summa cum laude degree with honours in English. She followed it up with a postgraduate degree in English literature from the University of Reading. She has penned twenty books to date, published under her own name and pseudonyms. Her books have sold over three-quarters of a million copies and have been translated into fifteen languages. She has won/ been shortlisted for several awards, including the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romance Prize, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the HOLT Medallion. Her latest paperback, DEAR THING, was selected for the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club.Read her interview here. Below you can read an excerpt from her novel, Where Love Lies. Courtesy: Julie Cohen.

EXCERPT FROM WHERE LOVE LIES

I know exactly where I’m going.

I’ve only been to the restaurant once before, but as soon as I step off the train at Richmond everything looks completely familiar. I touch my Oyster card and turn left immediately outside the station. A young busker with wild dreadlocks plays ‘Walking on Sunshine.’ He throws his whole body into it, strumming and twitching and singing to the darkening London evening, as if he can make it midsummer noon with the force of his will. I dig into my jacket pocket and drop a pound coin into his guitar case amongst the litter of money.

I check my watch; I’m meeting Quinn in five minutes. I’m cutting it fine, but from what I remember, I have plenty of time to get there. I pass familiar shop fronts and turn right at the junction. The restaurant, Cerise, is round the next corner: it’s a brick building, painted yellow, with a sign made of curly wrought iron. It’s a treat for both of us after our separate days of meetings in London, Quinn’s idea because I’ve told him they serve the best crème brulée I’ve had outside of Paris.

I turn the corner and I don’t see the restaurant.

I stand for a moment, peering up and down the street. Maybe they repainted it. I look from building to building, but there’s no wrought-iron sign, no wide window with a view of the tables inside. Anxiety rises up from my stomach into my throat.

A little bit late isn’t a problem, said my editor Madelyne this afternoon, just a couple of hours ago, on the other side of London. But this is more than a little.

I shake my head. Of course. The restaurant isn’t on this street, it’s further on. How silly of me. I stride to the end of the road and over the junction.

Quinn is never late. Quinn is frequently early. He’d prefer to wait outside wherever he’s going, looking around him or reading a newspaper, than to be rushed or rude. You’d think he’d know me well enough by now to build in some leeway when he’s meeting me, but he never does. I tried suggesting this once, breezily, and he listened, as he always does when I try to explain something, and then he shook his head. ‘I’d still rather read the paper for a little while,’ he said, and that was it. I’ve learned that Quinn is Quinn, and he does not change.

And even though he never acts impatient or annoyed, I try not to be late so often. I even bought a watch. I hate to think of him waiting, over and over.

It’s warm and I’m still feeling anxious, so I take off my jacket and drape it over my arm. The restaurant should be right here, on the left. Except it’s not; it’s a Starbucks.

I frown. I must have got turned round the wrong way, somehow. This Starbucks looks exactly the same as every other Starbucks in the world, and definitely not like a French restaurant. I probably went too far down this road. I turn around and start back the way I’ve come.

My phone rings. It’s Quinn. ‘Hello hello,’ I say, as cheerfully as I think I should.

‘Hello, love. Where are you? Are you still on the train?’

‘No no, I’m in Richmond, I’m on my way. I took a wrong turn, I think, but I’ll be there in a tick.’

‘Right,’ he says. ‘See you in a minute, love.’

He hangs up and I put my phone back in my handbag. He always says love, always, leaving in the morning or greeting me when I come in the room or ending a conversation on the phone. It punctuates beginnings and endings. It’s something his father does with his mother, and he’s slipped into the habit as if he were born to it.

At the corner I catch a whiff of scent, something familiar, someone’s perfume.

I stop walking. ‘Mum?’ I say.

My mother isn’t here. Of course she isn’t here. But the scent is so strong, it’s as if she’s just walked past me.

I glance around. Two teenage girls sharing earphones, a man walking a terrier, a young couple, her with a hijab and him with a pushchair. There’s a woman near the end of the street, walking away from me. She’s wearing a sleeveless top and rolled-up jeans, her shoulders tanned. Her hair is a long silver plait down her back. The scent of flowers trails behind her on the warm air.

‘Mum?’ I hurry after her. She turns the corner, and by the time I reach it, she’s gone.

But I can still smell her perfume. It’s so familiar I can’t think of the name of it, and my mother never wore perfume anyway. This smell, though, is my mother: it tugs something deep inside me, makes my heart leap with hope and a kind of sweet agony. I run further along the street and think I see the woman ahead of me, crossing the bridge over the Thames.

It can’t be my mother. It’s impossible. But I’m still thinking of everything I need to tell her: I’m married, I’ve bought a house, I’m sorry. So sorry for what I made you do.

 

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