It smelled beautiful; even the packaging was beautiful: 1940s pretty, with a china cup painted in watercolors on the front and swirls of steam emerging, tiny roses drawn in the swirls.
“You’ll love it!” said Ilona, arriving back in the modern office, this time with her arms full of notepad and tablet. Ilona was always bringing things in to her boss: chocolates, biscuits, a Hungarian herbal tea her mother swore by but that smelled like cat litter mixed with patio yard sweepings.
If Leila didn’t know better, she’d swear Ilona was trying to cheer her up. But then Ilona knew—because Leila had told her firmly—that Leila had absolutely no need of cheering up.
It was business as usual at Eclipse. Leila Martin wanted people to know that she didn’t do heartbreak or any of that type of thing. She was pretty sure she had them all fooled.
She stared back at her rose tea.
It was healthy too. Probably lowered stress levels or boosted immune systems or did something proven in scientific tests by a fleet of people with PhDs coming out their ears. It
just wasn’t coffee.
Worse, it wasn’t coffee like Leila’s favorite cup of the day, which used to be the one her husband brought her in bed in the morning and which she could hear him brewing in the classic espresso maker that shook volcanically on the top of the stove and was probably the oldest thing in their apartment.
Since Tynan had left, no coffee tasted right.
Nothing tasted right.
Six months of having to do it herself and Leila still couldn’t make it just the way he had. How could a person go their whole life making their own coffee, enjoying drinking it in trendy cafes, and then fall in love with their husband’s coffee, so that when he left her for another woman and another city, she was practically allergic to the taste of anything else? It made no sense at all.
When she’d been fifteen and living in the country town of Bridgeport, she and her best friend, Katy, had adored the very concept of coffee, spending their pocket money ordering skinny cappuccinos and Americanos in the cafe near Poppy Lane, where Leila lived.
Katy lived on the outskirts of Waterford city, a stone’s throw from Bridgeport. Leila hadn’t been able to wait to get out of what she considered a desperate backwater and live in the big city. Fifteen years later, both the city and coffee left a bitter taste in her mouth.
“A latte’s quite nice,” Katy had urged the last time she’d been up in Dublin for a weekend with Leila. They’d found seats in a smart caf. and Katy was running a finger up and down the menu, dithering over syrups and double shots.
“No,” Leila said gloomily, “I hate lattes. All that milk. I don’t know what it was about that damn French coffeemaker yoke, but it worked for him. Not for me. He jinxed it. I’m back on the tea. Builder’s tea, Earl Grey—you name it. Has anyone ever checked whether a marriage breakup has a chemical effect on your taste buds? That’s the only answer. Or else he’s got a wax dummy of me in London and he’s sticking pins into its mouth.”
It sounded so ridiculous, they both laughed: the thought of the slick, modern Tynan believing in any sort of religious practice, including voodoo. He was an atheist, believed in nothing but the dollar, he said, which used to annoy the hell out of Katy, given that the Irish currency was the euro.
“If there’s any wax dummy to be made, you should be the one making it,” Katy said.
The two women had been best friends since they were in primary school. Both on the short side, one blonde, one brunette, and a force to be reckoned with when together, the partnership felt a bit lopsided to Leila these days. Katy was gloriously happy with her first love and Leila was very much unhappy.
Worse, Leila knew Katy thought she should be rejoicing that someone as disloyal as Tynan had walked out of her life and their one-year marriage.
Katy had said that—and more. The statute of limitations on criticizing appalling husbands was somehow up now that six months had passed. Katy wanted her friend to move on.
Unfortunately, moving on was proving harder than she had hoped, and both of them knew that Leila would take the cheating Tynan back in an instant should he turn up on her doorstep repentant.
So Katy comforted during late-night phone calls, mopped up tears via supportive text messages and tried to hold off on criticizing because the once-strong Leila Martin had been made vulnerable and fragile by love.