Matt was the great love of Lydia’s young life. But how can she possible survive, knowing that he loves another, that red-headed bitch Jeannie?
They got their happy ending, the white wedding, the house, the suburban life together. But every morning when he leaves for work, she secretly hopes he won’t come back.
Three years ago, A.J. and Diane were a couple. It didn’t work out and Diane grew a hard shell around her wounded heart and adopted a new tough personality to survive. But when she runs into A.J. at a wedding party, the past comes crashing back all at once.
Read an excerpt.
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Some background information:
- Heartache is a collection of three short stories and 4700 words altogether. The titular story “Heartache” was originally published in newleaf No.2. The other two stories are digital premieres and have never been published previously.
- “Heartache” is actually my first published story ever, published way back in 1996. It was very much a fluke, for it would take me another five years to sell another piece of writing. And I didn’t even see the issue in question until several years later, when I reminded the editor that he had neglected to give me my contributor’s copies.
- I wrote “Heartache” for a writing workshop with British Jamaican writer Vernella Fuller I attended during my second semester at university. I don’t know whether Ms. Fuller liked the story, but the editor of newleaf, the fledgling university magazine, did.
- The idea behind “Heartache” was to explore how fictional characters can sometimes be as important to us than “real people”, how they can break our hearts and how difficult it can be to make other people understand. I also wanted to contrast the parents’ passive TV consumption (which is socially approved) with Lydia’s active engagement with her favourite TV show, which is considered odd and extreme.
- I freely admit that there is a hint of autobiography in “Heartache”, because I’ve fallen for a few fictional characters in my time. And I’ve also come across spoilers I’d rather not have known in magazine articles. And I guess I looked very much like Lydia, shock frozen on her parents’ sofa, when I did.
- Because “Heartache” was first written and published in 1996, some of the references are rather dated. Lydia’s parents watch Quincy M.E., which – although a 1970s show – was on constant rerun on German TV in the 1990s. Foggy Estates, the show where Lydia spots her beloved was a riff on Beverly Hills 90210, which was still in its original run at the time (and which I still watched on occasion, though not religiously), though faded from its peak of pop cultural relevance. I have no idea what the “show about the lady lawyer” that Lydia’s mother watches was supposed to refer to, though I guess it is a reference to The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, a shortlived 1990s show starring Sharon Gless of Cagney & Lacey and Burn Notice fame as a female lawyer that my own Mom was quite fond of. I chose to leave all those references in, even though it would have been easy to replace Quincy with CSI and the teen show with Glee or Vampire Diaries, because the story is a product of its time.
- I actually think that Lydia turned out all right. Two or three years after “Heartache”, she’ll get internet access, discover fanfiction and after her first few clumsy Mary Sueish attempts, she’ll make a name for herself writing Foggy Estates slash.
- The other two stories were both written for the creative writing classes I attended at university as well. “Flashback” was written in response to the prompt “When love dies…”, which can also be seen as the overarching theme of this collection. In the workshop, the prompt “When love dies…” resulted in a lot of stories about doomed exchange student romances.
- Even though it was written in response to the theme “When love dies…”, “Flashback” is actually the most hopeful of the three stories in this collection.
- “Morning” was also written in response to a prompt given at the creative writing workshop, though I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. I suspect that it was a response to the work of another writer at that workshop.
- The cover image is a lovely grungy heart graphic by Indonesian artist BSK.
- There’s not really much to say about the original cover. It was an attempt at a graphic representation of the unifying theme of all three stories, namely heartbreak and relationships that don’t work, done in a grungy, faux vintage look.