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1996 (90s Flashback Series) by Kirsty McManus (1)




Saturday 22nd June 1996

Dear Diary,

What a crappy day! I mean, it started out OK, but it ended pretty badly. I stayed at Kelsey’s last night and we slept in until lunchtime, so that was all right. But then I got home and Mum was all mad because I hadn’t done enough around the house or something…she has no idea how busy my life is! Between school, work, dealing with girl dramas, and managing my love life, I don’t really have any time left over to worry about stupid things like whether I’ve left my clothes on the floor in my bedroom. Does it really matter in the scheme of things?

Anyway, I had to work from 4 – 8 tonight and then Kelsey and I went to Rachel’s party. That’s when things took a turn for the worse…


“Anna! Are you still reading that damn diary?”

I look up at Ed, surprised by his tone. “What do you mean? I only found it this morning.”

“Yes, but you’ve been glued to it for the last hour and a half. It’s like you’re obsessed or something.”

“That’s a bit harsh. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed. Just interested in what I got up to back in high school.”

He wrinkles his nose. “High school was bad enough the first time around. I couldn’t think of anything worse than reliving it.”

“But that’s the interesting thing. I thought high school was awful too. I was always stressed out…I was insecure…and I never knew who my real friends were—but reading back now I can see it wasn’t all bad.” I close the diary and stand up to give my husband a hug. “But don’t think for a second I wish I was anywhere else right now.”

He half-heartedly returns the embrace. “Okay, sorry I hassled you. But what was I supposed to think? You’ve had this dopey grin on your face all morning. And look!” He points to the words I LOVE JOHN written on the spine of the diary.

I frown. “I don’t understand why you’d be annoyed by that. I don’t even know which John that was.”

“Well, that’s not very comforting. How many Johns were you in love with?”

“It’s not as bad as it sounds. Mostly celebrity ones, like Travolta. And Depp. Although, I probably would have written Johnny if that was the case…”

“Stop! I get it. You were a little groupie.”

I stare at him. “Why does this bother you so much?”

“I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem healthy.”

“Are you annoyed because you’re not mentioned in there?”

“Don’t be silly. We hadn’t even met.”

I squeeze his cheeks, trying to lighten the mood. “Aw, my poor little baby is jealous.”

He slaps my hands away. “I’m not jealous. Forget it. Do whatever you want to do. I have to go or I’ll be late.”

Wow. Okay. He is genuinely affected by this. “Do you think you’ll be out all day?” I ask in a small voice.

“I don’t know yet. I’ll text you later.”

“All right. And I’ll put the diary away. I’m sorry if I made you feel weird.”

He gives me a peck on the cheek. “I’ll see you this afternoon.”

I watch him leave, feeling a strange mix of emotions. I’m not obsessed with the past, am I? It wasn’t like I was gushing about all the people I used to be friends with, or all the boys I had crushes on. I really did not know who the John was on the spine, because I didn’t date one in 1996. And it’s not like I had started today determined to relive my so-called ‘glory days’. I had needed some inspiration for a new blog recipe and had gone to the garage to locate my old cookbooks. My parents recently downsized their house, and Dad had dropped off a box containing my diaries  and some other stuff a few months back. I forgot it was even there until this morning, when I stumbled upon it by accident.

It’s so strange, reading back over your life as an adult. The events are familiar, but it’s like they happened to someone else. And I was so clueless! Reading between the lines now, I can see how things really were. For example, I always thought of myself as a bit of a loner, but looking back, I was constantly surrounded by people. And I clearly didn’t appreciate how much my poor parents suffered with me flitting in and out at all hours, not considering their situation for even a second.

I carry my diary into the garage and tuck it back in the box. There are at least half a dozen other diaries in there, mixed in with some old CDs, stuffed toys and junk jewellery. I don’t have anything pressing to do today, but Ed’s reaction just now has made me feel strangely guilty. Further exploration can wait until later.

I go back inside and straighten the house. Not that it needs a lot of tidying. Ed and I are both very house-proud, so we always put everything away as soon as we’ve used it. We live in a restored Queenslander in Balmoral—a three-bedroom home with newly painted eggshell walls and blonde timber floorboards. Sometimes I wander down the hallway and marvel over the fact that I co-own this place with my handsome husband. We’ve both worked very hard to get where we are—Ed is a criminal defence lawyer at a well-known firm on Eagle Street—and I’ve made a bit of a name for myself as a food blogger. Today is Saturday, but lately Ed has been working on the weekends to try and clear a backlog of cases, so I’ve been treating Saturday as a work day too.

After making the bed and loading the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, I head into my study to boot up my computer. I run a healthy dessert website, and I am very fortunate to be paid for doing something I love. I got into the business before every man and his dog decided to do the same thing, so I already had all my processes refined, plus a loyal fan base by the time the internet got crowded. I have also published a cookbook, which brings in some passive income, and I have an ongoing sponsorship with a nutritional supplement company. They basically pay me to advertise their products and incorporate their ingredients into my recipes. I have over 400,000 Instagram followers, and my blog gets a couple of million visits each month.

Before I started doing this, I studied to be a pastry chef at a school in Paris, and then I did a dietician’s course when I returned to Australia. These days, I try and stay up to date with workshops and online study.

But my day begins fairly boringly with admin. I quickly skim through my emails and find the usual…a ton of spam and businesses wanting me to promote their overpriced detox diets and exercise programs. I don’t even reply to them anymore. I have an exclusive deal with my sponsor, and I only agreed to work with them because I believe in their products.

After approving a few dozen reader comments on my blog, I open up Wordpress to type up my next recipe. I already tested it out yesterday—a date and walnut slice made with almond meal and coconut flour.

I spend a bit of time creating a cute backstory—today’s being inspired by the past and recalling my grandmother’s fantastic baking from when I was a child. She was an amazing cook, even up to the day she died. I learned a lot from her.

I include all the ingredients and method for my latest creation, and then upload the photos I’ve already taken. Fortunately, this batch didn’t need much Photoshopping. I’m quite proud of my food photography. It took a bit of practice, but I noticed that my following increased once I figured out the best angles and lighting for my dishes.

After reading over everything a couple of times to check for errors, I click Publish. I then post to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, letting everyone know that a new recipe is up.


I then remember I wanted to do something nice for Mum. I spoke to her last night on the phone, and she’s going through a bit of a rough patch. I open up a florist website that delivers to her area and pick out a brightly coloured bouquet of gerberas. In the accompanying message, I say I hope she’s feeling a bit better and that I’ll visit her soon.

I sit back and rest my arms behind my head.

What now? I was supposed to plan a few recipes for next week, which is why I was in the garage earlier looking for inspiration, but I don’t really feel like doing that now. I could go to the gym, but it’s pouring rain outside, and I don’t want to get wet.

I think back to Ed’s earlier behaviour. Surely his reaction was a bit over the top? My husband is usually oblivious to what I do in the mornings because he’s busy getting ready for work. I’ve learned to give him his space so he can read the news and eat his breakfast in peace. The only time we really exchange words is when I give him his morning coffee, and even then it’s mostly just me asking if he’s got a big day ahead. He explained to me once that he has a particular set of thought processes that allow him to mentally prepare for the demands of his job, and any external distractions can have severe negative consequences for his clients.

The last thing I want to do is inadvertently contribute to one of Ed’s clients going to jail, so I always try and save any news I want to talk about until after he gets home in the evening.

Anyway, my point is, to have him be that affected by me flicking through an ancient high school diary is kind of strange.

There’s a knock at the door, happily giving me something else to focus on. I pad down the hall and collect a small box lying on my front step. The delivery guy has already disappeared. Weird. I don’t remember ever getting a delivery on a Saturday before.

I carry it through to the dining room, tear off the packing tape and peek inside. It looks like my latest bunch of supplements have arrived.

I pull out the containers, one by one, and place them on the dining table.

The first is greens powder. I could probably put that in my next smoothie recipe. The second and third jars are flavoured protein. I could maybe put them in an energy ball or slice.

The last jar is much smaller than the others. I hold it up and read the label.


YOUTH COMPOUND – Wind back the years with our revolutionary formula.
Feel instantly energised!

Dosage: Half a teaspoon dissolved in room temperature water. Effects will last for approximately twelve hours.

30 doses.


Twelve hours? Is that all? Is it supposed to have some sort of cumulative effect over time or something? I open the jar and smell the contents. It has a faint chlorine scent and looks like salt crystals. I shrug and go to the sink to fill a glass with water, sprinkling a few of the crystals on top.

The water bubbles and turns purple. I wait until it has fully dissolved before taking a sip.

Yuck! It’s a good thing I trust this company’s products. It’s like drinking poison! If they want me to advertise this for them, they’re going to have to work on the taste.

I down the rest in one gulp and wince. Maybe next time, I could disguise the flavour with some juice or sweetener.

I wonder how I’ll know if it’s working. Will it be like a caffeine rush? Or an alcohol buzz?

I might have a shower while I wait. I don’t want to be too distracted if the effects are only subtle. I walk towards the bedroom, starting to undress along the way, but before I even get there, I begin to feel woozy. Wow. This stuff is strong.

I unsteadily make my way to the bed and plonk down on the edge, flopping backwards and staring at the ceiling. My vision swirls. I hope I haven’t overdosed. Maybe I should call an ambulance.

The spinning gets faster. And faster.

Then everything goes black.



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