Bad Grass has just been awarded Second Prize Junior Fiction in The Society of
Women Writers NSW Biennial Book Awards 2011.
is a must-read for parents and teenagers who wish to better understand the
complexities of body image and schoolyard bullying so common today.
has a degree from the University of Melbourne and has taught secondary and
tertiary French and English in Victoria and New South Wales. Most of her working
life has been spent teaching teenagers to Year 12. She has been writing for many
years and has won an award in the Society of Women Writers NSW 2007 Biennial
Book Awards for her Young Adult novel, Ants in My Dreadlocks (2005).
Cynthia has also spent time in France and the French
Territories and was awarded a Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française
by the French Ministry of Education. She is a Writing Fellow of the Fellowship
of Australian Writers NSW Inc.
She has published three Young Adult novels: Our Hollow
Sofa (2004), Ants in My Dreadlocks (2005), Stinger in a Sugar Jar
(2007) and a general fiction novel Couscous Threads (2008).
Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s Day,
That’s Life!, Tarralla 5 and have been broadcast on National
Community Radio. Her poetry can be read in numerous literary magazines in
Australia and overseas.
Cynthia’s play ‘Not the Vice-Chancellor’ was performed in the
Sydney Short and Sweet Festival 2008.
Bad Grass is her fifth book of
fiction and fourth book in the Genna Perrier series.
The chocolate had melted. She was
Elizabeth Stubbs traced her finger
over the gooey maps beneath the cellophane. Telling herself the biscuits would
taste no different, she slid the packet deep into her knickers’ drawer to be
eaten later. Or would she only admire the wrapping?
She was sweaty from the bus ride
home. Her shirt was sticking to her armpits. She slung her backpack under her
desk and unlaced her school shoes. Kicking them away, she peeled off her socks
and padded across the carpet. The afternoon sun mirrored the flecks in her
jellies as she scooped them up with a grunt, feeling as clumpy and awkward as
The mattress sagged beneath her
weight. Soft toys went crabwise. Valance frills fluttered as she settled on the
edge of the bed.
The front door slammed shut.
“Are you home, darling?” Her
mother’s voice echoed up the stairwell.
“Yes, Mum.” Inserting her foot,
Elizabeth adjusted the buckle.
“How did your English exam go?”
She could hear Florence mounting the
stairs. “Good, Mum.”
“Well,” called her mother
from the landing.
“It’s grammatically correct to say
“The exam went well, Mum.”
“You must be famished after all that
Florence’s shoes made a different
squeak as she went back down. “I discovered a new cake shop in Kingston—Italian,
the best on the Mornington Peninsula—and I bought you a teensy reward for
studying so hard!”
“I told you. I’m not hungry!”
“You must be.”
“It’s too hot to eat. My pen melted
all over the place and I just want a cool glass…”
“Don’t be silly. I’ll put the kettle
on.” Her voice rose from the kitchen. “We’ll have coffee and you can tell me
which essays you chose and why and what you wrote and—oh, everything. We can
pig out—like sisters.”
“Yeah, right. You never eat
anything, ever!” Elizabeth muttered.
Removing her school shirt, she
pulled on a baggy top, eased a pair of drawstring shorts over her hips and went
to the window to check out the Becker’s place diagonally opposite. Her azure
eyes scanned Ravella Crescent. She was just able to make out Stefan’s silhouette
as he moved about his bedroom.
Elizabeth watched Stefan Becker
often. She never told anyone, but she was sure Genna Perrier knew. Sensed it,
somehow. Genna and Stefan hung out after school most days, hunting blue-ringed
octopuses in the rock pools together. Elizabeth trembled with envy. She yearned
to be funky like Genna, to have eyes so dark you could hardly see the irises.
A sigh burst from her lips.
Genna had a tan to die for. It was
almost as if she were perma-bronzed, whereas Elizabeth’s skin remained wishy and
pink no matter what the season.
Running a comb through her
hair—“chic bob” her mother called it—she pulled her mobile phone from her
backpack, plugged it into the charger on the dressing table. Skirting the
life-size polar bear on the landing, she descended the stairs.
The dessert sat on the kitchen
table. Beside the silver dish were spoons and two mugs of coffee.
Florence’s taupe shift toned with
her hair—also cut in the same “chic bob”. “Da-da! Tiramisu!” she said.
“I told you, I’m not hungry.”
“Do you have an aversion to wog
food, or are you dieting?”
“‘Wog food’? I hate it when you talk
like that!” Pause. “No, I am so not dieting. I’m just kinda hot. I’m hanging out
to go for a walk on the beach and, you know, clear my head.”
“But tiramisu means ‘pick me up’ and
contains espresso and cocoa.”
mascarpone cheese and zabaglione cream and the others already call me,
well, they say things, that I’m fat, and I totally dislike it.” She slumped onto
“Zabaglione? Does the word remind
you too much of that dingy little shop on the highway—which I’m sure you
never go into?”
Elizabeth tensed up, hoping her
mother hadn’t poked around among her school socks and discovered the chop-chop.
Illegal rolling tobacco padded with straw and purchased from Mrs B at the
Zabaglione Woollen Shop.
She decided to change the subject.
“Did you see Bron while you were in Kingston?”
“Briefly, dear.” Florence pleaded,
“Go on! Just have a tiny bit! They say during World War 1 northern Italian women
made this scrumptious dessert for men to give them energy to fight and return
“But it’s not healthy. Genna’s a raw
vegan, and she’s really, really skinny.”
Florence’s eyes went from blue to
slate. “Raw vegan? I’m sure you’re wrong. Namilly Perrier eats tinned
food. I see her tossing the empty cans over the fence onto the vacant block of
land next door. I’ve watched her pollute our environment, the flies,
“She and Genna have separate
“So, why would you wish to emulate a
family—with dysfunctional eating habits? What would that Euro friend of
yours know about diet?”
“Genna’s not from Europe. She’s a
Caldoche, born in New Caledonia.”
“Your father said a New Caledonian
has just moved into the house on Ti Point.” Florence twisted her pearls around
“Yes, and I wonder why a New
Caledonian would come here? Do you think he’s a relation of Genna’s?”
“Can’t be. She’s adopted.”
“Yeees. I remember Namilly Perrier
turning up in Ravella years ago, small child by her side, some ugly
furniture—and no husband!” Florence buried a spoon in the fluffy
concoction. “Let’s forget about Genna.” Pulling the dessert out with a plop, she
handed the spoon to Elizabeth. “Please try this. The food will give you lots and
lots of energy. You need energy to study.”
“Oh, all right.”
The shaved chocolate skimmed down
“Which topics did you choose?”
Florence sipped on her coffee, making tiny slushy noises.
“Aren’t you having any? It’s great!
Try it before it goes all melted and disgusting.”
“I’ll have some in a minute. First
tell me about your essay topics, the ones you liked best.”
“Well, I was hanging out for, you
know, the one on—remember I talked to you about the amazing book, Not Without
My Daughter, written by Betty Mahmoody?” Elizabeth’s cheeks bulged as she
“Was that the poor woman with the
frightful terrorist husband? And wasn’t there a movie—”
“Moody wasn’t a terrorist, Mum, only
“Same thing.” Florence took another
sip of her coffee. “They all believe they’ll go to paradise if they kidnap or
“That’s so not true! Moody was
pressured by his family. That’s the reason he changed.”
“And what did the others think of
“Oh, he hated it. Like he said he
thought the whole thing was totally biased towards us chicks.”
“Vince Becker was telling Joe he
plans to have Stefan learn about the service station business with a view to
taking over after he graduates from high school.” Florence pushed a packet of
cigarettes around in circles on the shiny surface of the table.
Elizabeth gave her spoon a final
lick. “Nup. He so won’t do that. Stefan will never go IDB.”
“Into daddy’s business.” She pushed
the empty dish away. “Nope, Stefan’s into nature, stuff like blue ringers and
marine spiders, Palaeozoic rocks thrown up by the seismic activity of Selwyn’s
“He’ll never make money from
“I’m off.” Elizabeth turned to
“Where are you going?”
“For a walk. I told you!”
Easing the front door to behind her,
Elizabeth headed for the gate. If only her mother weren’t so clingy,
overprotective. Had Bron caused that? About to tug at the latch, she hesitated.
Guilty from having eaten the dessert, she made sure the coast was clear. She
pushed her finger to the back of her throat, bent over.
The tiramisu rose up.
She hawked the dessert into
Florence’s prized azalea bushes.