Hi all and welcome! We are under two weeks away from publication of You, Me and Us. And as such, this week I would like to give you all an extract! Please find below, the Prologue, ‘City Coffee’. I hope this wets your whistle in anticipation of reading the entire thing…
Prologue – City Coffee
Fuck you for breaking my fucking heart. Just fuck you so very much. Even after all that time, and dragging myself out of the absolute pits of despair I still want to say fuck you.
And maybe that’s what I’d say once I got to the coffee place. Or maybe not. Why on earth was I doing this? I’d spent the last eight months avoiding you at all costs and then I actively walked towards a place I knew you were. Not only did I know where you were, but I was the one who told you to go there, so I would be there too. So, we could meet. Fucking meet! Meet?! Why would I want to meet you? Seriously what deranged thought was I having when I asked to do that. What’s my reason? To show off my amazing new physique? Yes, it is amazing thank you. And yes, I am showing it off slightly. But come on I’m going out my mind. I needed to smoke. I haven’t smoked in nearly six months but good God did I need one then. I should’ve just left you waiting there. I should’ve turned around and headed straight back home. I should’ve left you on your own. You deserved that. Actually, you didn’t. You didn’t deserve the privilege of being stood up by me.
My brain was going a million miles an hour but my feet were dragging underneath me almost as if they were trying to stop my body from ever getting to the coffee shop. At least my body seemed to have some sense. It must’ve been thinking “you’re telling us after six months of vegetables and training you’re now going back towards this black hole? Come on!” My body had the right idea. I should’ve listened to it so much more. My eyes were darting all over the packed street.
Deansgate on a Saturday, what a terrible idea. The busiest, biggest road in Manchester is a horrendous place on Saturdays. Each side of the road is built up by huge buildings which cause the majority of the pavement to be in shadow which to be fair, was excellent for a day like today because it was roasting hot. Thankfully the weather also meant my eyes were hidden from sight, so, thanks to my £1.50 Primark sunglasses, nobody could see them flitting across every single person on this street. Finally, I spotted one. It was dangling from the mouth of a bloke in a suit who was stood up against a barber’s door. I dodged the middle-aged mum carrying twins outside Greggs and did a hop, skip and jump until I was in front of him. The smell of it was glorious. I could feel my mouth start to water. I was stood right in front of him. He must’ve been from here because he was pretending I wasn’t stood directly in front of him staring at his cigarette. I swallowed the extra saliva down and let my lips form a request.
“‘Scuse me mate, you haven’t got a spare cig I could buy, do you?” I asked.
Ridiculous. How could he have it to spare if I was buying it? He looked me up and down as he probably tried to decide if I would stab him or not if he said no. He was trying to decide if I was crazy or not.
“How much?” he barely looked at me.
Shit did he actually think I was going to pay him?
“What?” he laughed. “Fiver? For a cig?”
“Yes.” I was beginning to get annoyed.
“Why don’t you just go buy a pack?”
“Well I don’t smoke.” Why was he asking me so many questions? “Not usually anyway. It’s just I’m about to meet my ex-girlfriend for a coffee and last time I felt like this I ended up buying a ‘wonder-vac’ and- look. Sorry. Do you want a fiver or not?”
If he was still wondering whether I was crazy or not he probably had his answer. I was.
“Nah you can’t give me a fiver for a cig, here just have one.”
He pulled the packet out of his jeans and flipped it open, pushing one out with his thumb. I pulled at it, and remembered how one felt between my fingers. Glorious.
“Err, do you need a light?”
The laughing smoker had interrupted my chain of thought and I realised I was staring down at the cigarette.
“Shit. Yeah, sorry mate.”
He put the packet away and withdrew a lime green lighter. For a split-second I thought he was going to click it on for me and make me light it whilst the lighter was in his hand. Thankfully he passed it to me. This is it, no turning back now I thought. I had a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. My mind suddenly flew back to when we met in the smoking area of that club. Fuck you. Fuck this. I shoved the cig in my mouth, flicked the lighter into life and took a deep drag, lighting it in one fell swoop.
Fuuuuuuuck-ing hell. I breathed out slowly and looked up towards the perfect blue sky. I passed the lighter back to the joker smoker and mouthed a silent ‘thanks’ as I let the smoke fall out of my mouth. God, I love smoking. Why did I ever give this up? Oh yeah, influenza, heart disease, cancer and a slow painful death.
I continued my traipse towards the coffee shop and let the cigarette hang in my mouth. I slowly inhaled and exhaled. God I’d missed smoking. I slipped my hand into my jeans, and whipped out my phone. 1:02pm. I was two minutes late, oh, and even better there was a text from you.
1 NEW MESSAGE- +447765412453
I’m here. How long will you be? Shall I order? What do you want?
Yeah how about the last year of my life back? God why was I doing this? I noticed once again that the sun was beating down on me with its judgmental glare. At least it meant I’d been able to leave my coat at home, my snug t-shirt showed off my body. I had every reason to wear it, the degree was nearly the same as my waist size. If I’d have made that comparison a year ago the entire human race would’ve melted into piles of liquidised skin and bone. Cockroaches and Nokia 3310s would be the only survivors of an apocalyptic heat wave. I’d decided not to text you back, I was only two minutes away, you could wait.
Well that was a liberal two minutes, as I’d been enjoying the final drags of the cig whilst avoiding the typical foot flow of Deansgate circa every Saturday ever. Kids, mums, old people, businessmen and women, street cleaners, buskers, all sorts were filtering past me, left and right which made me jump back and forth every other step. Although traffic and foot flow could piss me off at times, Manchester is the greatest city in the world. It’s a fact that never really leaves me but every now and then, a day comes along to remind me of it. A day like today. I smiled, stubbed my cig out on a bin and looked around the fabulous street. The beautiful buildings, the marching millions and the sunny sky.
The variety of buildings alone is enough to clue you in on what Manchester is all about. Culture, working classes and spirit all melt together in my city. As the rows flew past my left-hand side I took note of each individual shop, store and stall. There was a guy selling fidget spinners, a bookies, a tattoo shop, two types of bakers in a row, a retro game shop, an art gallery, a coffee shop, a second-hand bookstore. Whoops.
I’d walked past the coffee shop.
I turned on my heels and looked back at the coffee place we’d agreed to meet up. I looked up at the sign above the door: City Coffee: Dark, Wet and Sweet. The front of the building was classic British red brick yet the door and windows were made from faded oak. It was trying too hard to be cool, one of those places. I could almost guarantee there’d be a guy in rounded specs, socks pulled right up, with his laptop open on a blank word document writing nothing. Dickhead. I took a few more steps towards the entrance and felt my heart start to pound against my chest like a terrified rat cornered by a cat in a cage. My feet were frozen to the spot, why couldn’t I move any further forward? The hairs on my neck were stood on end. My heart was racing, I couldn’t move and all my hairs were on end…yep I was terrified. Petrified in fact. I needed to focus. I closed my eyes, come on what does Antonio say I thought to myself? Breathing is all about control. Your breath can control everything from your heart to your brain to your balls. And right in that moment, I needed it to control all of that and more. My eyes were still shut, I took a deep breath in for ten seconds. Held for ten. And slowly exhaled for ten. The residue from my cigarette burnt my throat. I decided to breath once more to try and clear the debris from my wind pipe. My eyes were still shut as I took my second intake of breath. I was preparing to move in thirty seconds. I breathed in. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5-
I coughed and spluttered at the sound of my own name. I was hunched over trying to regain my composure. I managed to gulp some air back in my lungs as I straightened up and opened my eyes, confirming the truth of my fear upon hearing that oh so recognisable voice.
My eyelids were fully open and I was upright.
You, Erin Poppet, were stood right in front of me.
Thank you all for your time this week, I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse inside the world of You, Me and Us. There is still time to pre-order here.
I will see you all next time when we will be within touching distance of publication…
Peace and love,