I’m sitting in The Cornish Bakery on Fore street in St Ives. The smell of pasties and pastries mingles with fresh coffee and my stomach is rumbling. Through the window I spy Lucinda, or Lu, as most call her. She’s the protagonist in my book Another Mother. Lu’s looking both ways before crossing the narrow street, her raven hair lifting on the breeze as she walks. As she enters the bakery, her lively green eyes light up and her smile reflects mine as she hurries over to my table. She looks self-assured comfortable in her own skin. She’s come a long way, and that makes me happy.
‘Hi Lu, how are you?’ I say giving her a quick hug.
‘I’m good, thanks. Really good.’ She smiles again and sits opposite.
‘You look it. Now, can I get you a pasty or a pastry?’
Lu looks towards the counter at the delicious food on offer, and then back to me with a mischievous twinkle. ‘Hmm, can we be naughty and have both?’
I laugh, and we select a pasty each and a delicious almond croissant too. Back at the table she regards me thoughtfully over the rim of her coffee cup. ‘What brings you to St Ives today then, Mandy?’
Lu always uses Mandy rather than Amanda. ‘To see you of course. It’s been a while. Also, would you mind answering a few questions, so the readers of Another Mother can get to know you a little more?’
‘I’d be delighted. Anything to help.’
‘Great. Okay, first question, how old are you?’
‘You know the answer, you gave me life after all.’
‘I did indeed,’ I say from the corner of my mouth as it’s full of pasty. ‘But then I know all the answers. The readers don’t though.’
‘And what do you do for a living?
‘I run a café with my partner Rosie, just along the coast a bit.’
‘How’s that going?’
‘We are so busy, I had to rope Rosie’s mum in to cover for me today while I came.’ Lu blows on her pasty and takes a big bite. ‘I like busy though.’
‘You sound happy, are you?’
Lu swallows and gives me a huge smile. ‘I have never been happier.’
‘Couldn’t say the same a year or so ago though, eh?
A dark cloud slips behind her eyes. ‘No.’
I feel guilty for dragging up the past, but if readers are to know Lu, we must visit it. ‘If you’re okay to, would you mind if we went back to your childhood for a bit?’
A deep sigh. ‘I guess not. All that stuff’s all behind me now…all I can see ahead is sunshine.’
I take a sip of coffee and plunge straight in. ‘So, you were adopted as a baby but never really accepted it. You felt different and were bullied because of it at school, weren’t you?’
‘Yes. Kids can be cruel. But because I felt rejected by my birth parents and betrayed by my adoptive parents I kept it all a big secret. Then I confided in my so called best friend and she told the school bully, Megan. Megan was a vile girl. She haunted my dreams for years, even after I’d left school.’
I nod and give her an encouraging smile. ‘What do you mean by betrayed?’
‘Well, they didn’t really, I just saw it as that. They told me I was adopted when I was seven. I couldn’t take it in, couldn’t believe that they weren’t my ‘real’ parents. Overnight I’d lost them and felt as if nobody wanted me. My birth mum obviously hadn’t had she? I really didn’t know who the hell I was anymore. Everything I had ever knows was false. I was false. Unloved, unwanted. Or so it seemed back then.’ Lu dabs at her mouth with a napkin and stares at her plate.’
‘But they did love you really, didn’t they? Your birth parents?’ I put my hand on her arm.
She looks at me and nods. ‘God yes. I couldn’t have wished for better parents. That’ why I was so destroyed when my mum…’ She tails off and picks up her croissant but doesn’t eat.
‘When your mum died?’ I pick my pastry up too and take a bite. She copies me and gets icing sugar on the tip of her nose. I point it out and we laugh. The misery lifts and she washes the mouthful down with coffee.
‘Yep. After she died I knew I needed to find my birth mother. I wanted to for years but felt like it would hurt my birth mum. Make her feel like she wasn’t enough, you know?’ I nod. ‘Dad totally understood, said they had expected that I’d do it much earlier. He was fine about it, though he did miss me lots when I came down here to Cornwall from Sheffield, my home town.’
‘This is where your birth mother’s address was, here in St Ives?
She gives me a withering look and yawns. ‘You know it was, you wrote the story. This interview is a bit daft really. Can we talk about you for a change? I never really got to know much about your life.’
‘Er, perhaps another time. Humour me.’
‘Okay. Yes. This is where I found her.’
‘You were over the moon, finding her after such a long time?’
‘To start with. Then there were a few let’s say, inconsistencies in her personality that began to ring alarm bells.’ Lu swirls the last of her coffee in her cup and drains it.
‘Is it safe to say that your dreams of finding your birth mother quickly turned into a nightmare?
‘It certainly is. Once, we were on the boat and I—’
I hold up my hand. ‘No, don’t mention that. In fact, I think we have enough now to give readers a flavour of who you are and what your story is about.’
Lu shrugs her shoulders and pushes her plate to one side. ‘Make your mind up, Mandy. First you want the low-down, then you want me to stop.’
‘That’s because the story’s just waiting to be discovered. No point in giving the game away before the readers have even opened the first page is there?’ I smile and drain my cup too.
‘Right. Shall I fill you in with what I’ve been up to recently?’
‘Best not, because that might give too much away too,’ I say and shrug my coat on. ‘Let’s go down to the pub for a drink. The readers won’t hear us there. I’d love to hear all your news.’
Lu grins. ‘Now you’re talking.’
We stand and I follow her out of the café into the bright sunshine of St Ives.
If you have enjoyed finding out about Lu, you can get her full story here.