Rowe was born in
. She has a degree from the
, majoring in French, and has taught to Year 12 in country
New South Wales
has spent time in
and the French territories, getting to know these places well, and was awarded
a Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française
by the French Ministry of Education.
relaxation, Cynthia writes haiku, SMSes her friends and watches French
programmes on the ‘dish’. A published short story writer, STINGER IN A SUGAR
JAR is the third in a series of her books.
best friend stole my boyfriend. Which left me hanging out with studyheads and
brainiacs—one of the reasons my eighteenth birthday verged on the pits. You
see, the studyheads were doing what they liked to do best. And first year
university mid-terms were just around the corner.
my mum, was in bed with the flu. So I rocked on down to Acropolis on the Highway
with my second-best friend, Hetty Geiger (brainiac, but also wicked), for a
celebratory bite to eat.
forget I’m raw vegan,” I said, hitching up my new mature-age calf-length
skirt—a gift from Namilly, together with the usual bottle of Miss Dior.
said Hetty, “you can eat moussaka.”
Moussaka is cooked!” A wave of angry French perfume wafted about my head.
“You simply don’t get it, Hetty. Like, I said—raw
dips.” She flicked her Indian plaits back over her shoulders. “You can fill
up on dips, while I pig out on the lamb.” Then, “You are so
difficult, Genna Perrier. Why don’t you lighten up like the rest of us, and
eat meat?” She glared at me through her black-rimmed, oversized nerd glasses.
tried meat,” I said. “I ate bougna in Nouméa, but the lot went down the
Gen, you are so gross!” Hetty was the only decent friend I had, the one person
I could joke around with since Win Winstone hooked up with Stefan. “Have dips
then, and a Greek salad. Sans fetta.”
Hetty spoke French much better than I did, despite my origins, and received an
excellent ENTER score for the language in her Year 12 final examinations.
tucked our knees under the waxed, garlic-smelling tablecloth.
opening Hetty’s rite-of-passage gifts—an Australian Electoral Commission
enrolment form, a pre-paid driving lesson voucher and two yellow L-plates—I
hoed into my Greek salad, picking the cubes of fetta out of the iceberg lettuce
and arranging them on the rim of her dish.
Becker and Win, snogging at a corner table at the back of the restaurant (café,
really), ignored me. They were so hot for each other it was embarrassing.
Win—back from tip-rat to being supercool after her mum, Alice’s, death—was
busy stuffing olives in Stefan’s mouth between kisses. His face went as red as
his hair as he kissed her back, thereby transferring the pip into her mouth. Win
flicked back her ice-blonde locks, spat the pip on his plate, and they both fell
about laughing. And began to kiss all over again.
must’ve seen my hurt. She nodded to Spiro who wobbled out of the kitchen
carrying my cake—shaped like a carrot and composed of compacted raisins and
coconut, with a fringe of raspberries—on a marble platter.
cake in my mouth and feeling a thundercloud bearing down on me like a vast
blanket over my future, I felt my mobile phone shimmy in my pocket. Wriggling it
out, I pressed Show. One text message
anniversaire, tu arrives quand? r
heart did a little jig. This was my coolest present so far, an SMS from Roch
Colline—the guy I called Rocky—wishing me a happy birthday and wanting to
know when I planned to visit him.
considered my response.
leaned across the table. “Who’s the text from?”
decided not to confide that Rocky was the groovy Kanak kava farmer and freedom
fighter I’d met during my stay in
. And I wasn’t about to tell her he had the most amazing sculpted lips.
one you’d know,” I said, “just a guy who was forced to move from
in Far North Queensland, um, a few months ago.” I also decided not to say his
Peugeot had been destroyed in a car bombing.
got ver-y secretive since you went on that
work experience trip to that Pacific
island,” she said, chewing on one of my fetta cubes. “Sometimes I feel
you’ve become different. And, well, that
hairstyle also doesn’t help.” She pointed to my dreadlocks, tied back with a
fresh ribbon for the occasion. “Where’s Kooracoondoo, anyway?”
your birth mother live near
of. Sandrine’s on the Northern Beaches section of the
to me as though the two places are not very far apart.” Hetty pushed back her
chair. “Well, I’m off outside to roll myself a chop-chop cig, while you
compose your reply to your new friend.”
pulled out her pouch and Tally Ho papers.
only chop-chop,” she said, pointing to her pouch, “Mrs B’s el cheapo
illegal loose stuff from the Zabaglione Woollen Shop. And I did not
spike the contents of the cliplock bag you took on your trip, despite what you may or may not think.”
started to tap out my reply to Rocky’s SMS with my thumb:
I pondered on how to say the plane ticket was too dear—without sounding like a
loser—my mobile phone began to ring.
partner, Claude, whom I’d met once, was on the line.
I ring for Sandrine,” he said. Had he rung to wish me a happy birthday? “She
needs very much to see you.”
is she sick?”
She is not well.”
the illness serious?” There’d been no communication with Sandrine Bas
Salaire de Lyon since she briefly spoke to me in
, and I wasn’t in the mood for guilt trips that evening.
could hear the two of them arguing.
came on the line. “Claude is fussing. It’s nothing, only problems with my
sort of problems?”
dry,” she said. “By the way, the one-bedroom apartment is still vacant if
you wish to use it. Situated between Coral Cove and Urupu Point,
is very pleasant—”
I’m busy with my French classes at
, like assignments and stuff,” I said. “I’ll think about it. But I don’t
really have enough money to buy a ticket, and it’s kinda expensive.”
will pay for your ticket,” she said. Still not having mentioned my birthday,
it was clear she’d forgotten.
see.” I gouged a raspberry pip from my front teeth.
was about to press the Off button when Sandrine said: “Joyeux
you did remember!” My eyes were watering from the pungent odour of
Hetty’s rollie seeping under the Acropolis’ front door—and no way was the
sweet smell just chop-chop.
course I remember the day you came
into the world! How could I forget crying my eyes out because your father
wasn’t with me?”
I murmured. “Don’t you mean ‘with us’?”
did not reply. The word ‘eyes’ bothered me. Was this some kind of weird, not
so subtle, hint? I recalled Namilly telling me Sandrine’s mother—my
biological grandmother—went blind not long before she died.
might come,” I said. “I’ll let you know.”
revoir,” she said.
fingers felt sweaty as I pressed the Off button. Was Sandrine about to die? My
stomach knotted. And then I thought about her signing the Procuration document,
giving up her maternal rights and handing me over to Namilly’s care all those
years ago. She didn’t deserve my sympathy.
again, perhaps I should fly up and see her.
tapped me on my shoulder. “What’s wrong, Gen?”
off,” I said, “leaving Ravella, going north to see Sandrine.”
face fell. “Oh no, that’s not fair! You promised
to join me on Catch a Carp Day, at the stream running to the foreshore. The
growling grass frog so needs your help from the predatory carp!”
another sort of frog needing my help,” I said, “and not from the carp, but
some mysterious hereditary eye disease.”