Cadillacs in our dreams

1984 Cadillac Eldorado BiarritzSo when I was 16, I had a short-lived stint at Shoney’s as a salad bar attendant. I’ve never worked that hard in my life on a consistent basis. I didn’t do well for several reasons.

My trainer was a woman who was ancient when Christ was born.[1] I felt so sorry for her, working herself to death at this shitty job. Shouldn’t she have moved up and on by now? She was nice, more inclined toward talking than training.

Anyway, I think I might have been gauche/crass enough to ask her why she was doing this job. She told me she was saving up to buy her husband a brand-new Cadillac. In cash. The fact that it was for her husband gave me pause, but I went with it.

She was almost at her savings goal and she could quit the job in six months. She told me this with the excitement of a kid twitching to get out of his room on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought. Now, to me, that was a worthy but totally overwhelming goal (I had yet to get my first paycheck) and I went about my work, stunned and awed and humbled. That she only had six months to go was a feat of astronomical proportions.

I went home with that tale. My dad sneered. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life working at Shoney’s so you can save up to buy a car in cash?”

We lived in the ghetto. It wasn’t like we had a dime to our names. I went to bed chastened. Possibly in tears. Because there was something wrong with what he said, but I didn’t know what, and all I really wanted when I was that age was my dad’s approval.

I approved of her goal but I didn’t know why. I kept my opinion to myself.

Her name was Hazel.

___________
[1] Huh. Seems my mentors are cantankerous old women.

Say You’ll Go

Sometimes love isn't enough...until it's the only thing you have left.

Sometimes love isn’t enough…until it’s the only thing you have left.

     Janelle Monáe: Say You’ll Go

“Tess … ” She stopped cold at the breath of a whisper, her heart slamming into her ribs so hard she thought it would fall out right there on the table and flop around. She turned slowly—so slowly.

She opened her mouth to scream at him for ambushing her, but she realized just in time that he was as stunned as she was.

And he was beautiful. More beautiful than he had been when he was nineteen. More beautiful than he was the night he’d left her. Yet nothing about him had changed.

His hair was still a mass of long mahogany-red waves past his shoulders. Bunches of hair at his temples had been braided into tiny plaits fastened behind his head. His earrings were medium-sized gold hoops. His stark art deco sun tattoo still spread its rays down along his neck, chin, and jaw. His shirt was blousy white linen floating untucked over oxblood leathers, the ties at the neck hanging loose. His wrist tattoos were on full display. Then she looked at his hands.

He was wearing his wedding ring.

She blinked and looked down at her own left hand. There they were: the circuit board wrist tattoo that matched his and the diamond he’d presented to her in an elaborate, public proposal. Because why do it privately when you could put on a show?

She looked back up at him, knowing all her heartbreak and joy and sorrow and love for him were written all over her face—and it was reflected in his.

This is exactly what I wanted to avoid,” Sebastian drawled with great irritation. “If some people had picked up her phone!”

She should’ve picked up the phone.

Tess didn’t move—couldn’t—but Étienne could and did, skirting his chair and striding toward her with that look, the pirate king, the one who wouldn’t be denied.

She sighed when he slid his big hands around her face, tilted it back, and brought her up to him for a kiss that scorched her soul.

It was magical. He was magical.

She closed her eyes and opened her mouth, feeling his tongue, so familiar, so talented. Tasting him as he had always tasted with an undernote of Dr. Pepper. She whimpered into his mouth when the pressure lightened, but he only tilted his head and went after her at a different angle. Sensation shot downward, and she moaned softly, ready to spend the next few hours feeling his bare chest against her naked breast, his legs twined with hers, his body inside hers, stroking her and assuaging this ache for him she’d never been able to contain.

“GET A FUCKING ROOM!” Sebastian roared, standing and pounding the table. “You two drive me fucking insane!”

They parted. Slowly. So slowly.

“I did not sleep with her,” he whispered, dropping his forehead on hers, his chest heaving.

“I know.” That surprised him, and she was strangely gratified.

Mon cœur,” he breathed.

“I love you, too,” she whispered back, equally out of breath. Then she gulped. “But love isn’t enough.”

He drew away from her, dropped his head back, gripped the back of her chair so hard it creaked. His chest heaved.

But somebody began to clap. A golf clap. Hushed. Mocking.

Someone else joined in. Then someone else.

Her heart was breaking—again—but she couldn’t hide her smile. Nor, it seemed, could he.

“Étienne!” Sebastian snapped. “Get your ass in this seat right now. Tess, siddown. Somebody has to be the adult in the room. As per usual.”

“We need to talk,” Étienne murmured, looking at her with those heartbreaking—heartbroken—ice blue eyes.

She nodded. “I know.”

To a therapist! I do have other things to do, you know!”

Étienne tossed Sebastian a bland smile over his shoulder. “Keep it up. You know we like to put on a show.”

Sebastian snarled but sat, and somebody began to chuckle.

He turned back to her. “You drew those for me?”

Tess, as in love as she had been at seventeen, could only nod. “I draw everything for you.”

from We Were Gods

Virginity as a feminist statement

Best friends forever...until the first kiss.

EMILIO: “Why is being a virgin when you get married so important to you?”

VICTORIA: “Because it’s not important to anybody else,” she snapped, then huffed. “No. What happened was, I saw girls in high school—and one at church—they’d have sex, almost always pressured. Sometimes it was date rape, but they didn’t have the guts to say so. Or they were confused or conflicted about it. And they’d either get pregnant or the guy would treat them like crap. Regardless of what people like to think, I’m not oblivious. I see and hear, and I remember. But I don’t care.”

Didn’t he know that! Her non-oblivion was a tiger trap.

“Now, I ask you. If you see a bunch of girls running around crying after having had sex, what conclusion are you going to draw?”

He pursed his lips. That had never occurred to him. Then again, he wasn’t a teenage girl.

“I drew the conclusion that it wasn’t fun. Not only that, but they ended up with labels that weren’t true at all. Slut. Whore. Easy. Whatever. I saw how the boys treated them and they were not nice. Why didn’t the boys get labeled? Why was it cool and fun for them? Why was it the girls who got all the bad side and the boys who got the good side?”

Emilio was, at the moment, sinking into a vat of goo whose main ingredient, he suspected, was shame. He’d been one of those boys.

And one of those young men.

And one of those almost-middle-aged men.

“Why did the girl have to leave school if she got pregnant, but the baby’s father didn’t? And why,” she continued, “was the girl always blamed if she had the guts to speak up and say, ‘He raped me’? Her skirt was too short. She was wearing too much makeup. She was where she shouldn’t have been. She had too much to drink. She was too flirty. She wanted it. She’s been asking for it. Oh, and my personal favorite—boys will be boys.”

Silver linings. He’d never raped a woman nor, so far as he knew, had he coerced one into doing something she wasn’t sure she wanted to do, which amounted to the same thing.

“Once ‘boys will be boys’ gets pulled out, the girl’s hounded out of town—by women! The boy’s mother will be leading the pack.”

Emilio had noticed this, in fact, and he was vaguely amazed this behavior crossed an ocean.

“It was the eighties. How many girls are going to ask their mothers to take them to the doctor to get birth control? How many girls are going to walk into a drugstore and buy condoms? None, that’s how many. Why? Because if they go on birth control, it means they expect to have sex in the future. And if they buy condoms, it means they’re planning to have sex right now. As far as I could see, there was nothing in it for the girl. And it wasn’t fun enough to have to deal with the consequences.

“It had nothing to do with church, particularly since the chastity lessons in Young Women also put the onus on the girls to keep the boys in line. Analogies like ‘nobody wants already-chewed gum’ and ‘nobody wants to eat a cupcake that’s got the icing licked off’—”

Emilio grimaced.

“—and another one of my personal favorites—I have so many!—‘Boys can’t control their baser lusts, so you have to cover up so they don’t have to discipline themselves.’ Why is it up to me to shepherd a man’s—any man’s—hormones? But the fact of the matter is, secular society, no matter how much it likes to pretend it’s open and tolerant, is no kinder than religious society.

“If I met a man who was willing to marry me for time and all eternity, I would have to assume he loved me and he thought he could put up with me. The risk is there, but it’s a shared risk, because if he changed his mind after, I’d divorce him and take everything he owned. You take me for a test drive, I’ll take you to the cleaners.”

“Oh,” he moaned, feeling that like a knife in his gut. “That’s cold.”

She granted him a haughty sniff. “And heaven help him when my family gets through with him.”

Emilio took a deep breath and released it in a long whoosh.

“Now refute anything I just said. And before you try, let me remind you of Yvette Mallery. Poor girl. She’s twenty-four. Lonely. Not too bright. Caged by her life. The only marginally admirable trait you have is you don’t string women along.”

Sebastian was right. Again. Victoria was awful when she was thoughtless. She was vicious when she set out to cut a man’s balls off, and Emilio felt like he’d been pummeled, held under water, and stretched out in the desert sun to dry and crack.

“I … can’t.”

“The woman takes all the risk and all the blame, even if she’s brutally raped. She could even end up with a baby she didn’t want if she doesn’t get rid of it somehow. Destroys her shot at making anything out of her life. That’s eighteen years of risk, eighteen years of poverty, eighteen years of her life, gone in forty-five minutes. She ends up alone and on the bottom of Maslow’s scale for the rest of her life.

“I’ve been mocked for being a thirty-two-year-old virgin. Why? Why would any woman over twenty be mocked for being a virgin in a society that also mocks women for choosing unwisely? Or following their bliss just like men do? Or being victims of a horrible crime? The only explanation is that the woman takes all the blame, all the risk just for existing.

“But you know what? I don’t care if people mock me because I may be a lot of things society thinks are horrible—especially in a woman—but I am not delusional and I am not going to screw up my life over something that seems to be about as fun as a drive-in movie, if that, and I refuse to be a victim. You’re upset about ‘Let’s be friends’? Give me one reason to believe you wouldn’t do that to me, too.”

••• TL;DR •••
I am fucking sick and tired of self-described feminists reviling women who choose virginity/celibacy as some backwoods, fundamentalist Christian, hick-r00b, sheltered, naïve victim of an oppressive patriarchal construct. Women who are happy in their sexuality and sex lives are no more empowered than a woman who chooses to remain celibate for whatever reason until whenever. Feminism is supposed to give women credit for knowing their own minds, making their own choices, and respecting those choices. All of them. Not just the ones you agree with.

We all know how it works

I read that once in a comment on a Mormon women’s writer’s blog bemoaning explicit sex in books. If I recall correctly, it was one where a bunch of the Deseret Book-published writers gather, because it was a “name” who said it. I don’t remember if my book was the one under discussion or not. Didn’t matter.

“We all know how it works.”

What struck me then and still does is that, No, we don’t all know how it works, especially the girls who’re told not to do that. I wanted to say something, but I’m not fond of walking into lions’ dens for the hell of it. This, that no, our girls don’t know how it works, is a ginormous problem. Not only do we not teach them what it is, what they’re supposed to be abstaining from, we teach them they have to dress so as to keep the boys from wanting to make them do it.

Then there’s this: When Virgins Collide, in which the newlyweds never do quite figure out how to do it right. I wonder where they are now and if they finally figured it out by trial and error or if they scraped up the courage to research the topic or if they gave up completely after kid number three. I shed tears to think that woman may never have an orgasm.

And this: Single, Female, Mormon, Alone, in which a 32-year-old woman had to go to Planned Parenthood for a Pap smear and an IUD because, I guess, she didn’t know she could call up a gynecologist to get that done. Seriously? Thirty-two? You’ve never had an exam?

No, Big Name Important Mormon Writer Person, we don’t all know how it works. Because useful, necessary details don’t get passed along. Talk about purple words and euphemisms! And because we aren’t taught, many of us have long-lasting difficulties trying to navigate something that’s so much fun! Or should be. But no! Since we all know how it works, we’re all having fun, right?

Theric, who’s my editor when he’s available (he did Stay and Magdalene), reviewed Paso Doble. He said this:

I know her work is too explicit for many Mormon writers, but I think you should read her anyway. We need to deal with sexuality more as a people and reading her work is a great place to consider how it can be done.

Yes, we do need to deal with sexuality more as a people because we’re regressing, not progressing. Throwback Thursday on Facebook, wherein I see pictures of my (devout) cousins from the 60s, 70s, and early 80s, make the contrast between what was considered “modest” then and what’s considered “modest” now makes that clear. We would be looked at askance now for what we were wearing then, when our (still) devout mothers were dressing us. I could see XX TD sent home from activity night for wearing what we wore then.

And then Scott Hales, the creator of the comic “Garden of Enid, Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl,” slid something into one of his comics that just floored me. (It took me about all day to see the sly wink in my direction.) (But I was busy writing sessytimes!):

But my not seeing that in-joke at first made me think how much I identified with Enid, where my sex education came from bodice rippers because in Young Women’s we were talking about “necking,” “petting,” and “self-abuse.” It’s true! Media is where we fill in the blanks and puzzle over labeling! Thank heavens for bodice rippers!

I don’t know  what they teach now.  They don’t let me near Young Women’s. I think they think I’m a bad influence or something. Not sure.

I answer XX’s questions straight up and give as much advice and knowledge as I believe she can understand. She’s 11. She’s very well educated on the topic. And when she hits puberty, I’m going to take her to the doctor to get her on birth control. She knows what I expect her not to do (explicitly). I operate under the premise “It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have.” I also don’t trust horndog boys who might play fast and loose with the “I love you”s and definitions of consent.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this since Theric’s review and Enid’s singular observation. I’m thinking that if a girl has to learn about sex from romance novels, well, at least she’ll get a good idea what goes on without all those purple words getting in the way. And I’m thinking, if she has to learn about sex from romance novels, she might as well pick mine.

Pssst, girls. Start with Paso Doble.

Or just ask your mother.

Book updates

1. ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF

allowme-150x225My story, “Allow Me to Introduce Myself,” that appeared in Monsters & Mormons has been ready for me to put up for sale for quite a while. I just haven’t gotten around to it. I hope to get that done before Christmas. Kidding. Not really. It won’t be on the Dunham site, so if you want to buy it from me (please do!) it’ll only be here, in the sidebar.

A Mormon nun battles demons and insecurity in the Louisiana bayou—with a baby alligator by her side and weapons powered by cold fusion.


2. SEEING RED

seeingred-150x225I’m almost finished with the first draft of Seeing Red, a category-length novel, an offshoot of Paso Doble. I plan to make it permanently free, but I change my mind a lot.

Anti-bullfight activist Pilar Bautista and star matador Alejandro Molina give each other what they need most—but can they keep each other and their integrity?

Sadly, I have no release date.


3. IT CAME TO ME IN A DREAM

A couple of weeks ago, I, like Stephenie Meyer, woke up from a dream and thought, “Damn, that’s an awesome idea.” Unlike Stephenie Meyer, there were no sparkly vampires involved. Then I began my daily routine, which includes checking in at Young House Love. Voilà! A plot bunny was born. Well. That plot bunny grew up into what will be a full-length novel, and I still haven’t named the poor little thing.

Blythe Marston was widowed at 28, nine years and four children after she and her high school sweetheart had married. She’d had the perfect life: husband, marriage, kids, house, in-laws, parents, friends, health. Until the cops showed up and told her a drunk driver had taken it all away from her.

As the condolences drifted away and she started putting herself back together, only one man stayed with her to guide her to her independence: Phineas Marston, her father-in-law. Six years after her husband’s death, she’d raised her kids, gotten an education and the most unlikely career, and learned how to be happy again.

But not alone. Never alone. There has never been anything between Blythe and Finn, no spark, no desire, no thought of anything. Her dead husband binds them and Finn grieved along with her. There has never been anything more than that between them—

—except kid drama, school events, family dinners, conversations, opinions, arguments, celebrations, work time, chores, advice, and the dozens and dozens of cookies she bakes for him to take to his office on the holidays.

There’s nothing between them.

Nothing at all.

This is marginally part of the Dunham world, although I may or may not mark it that way. That said, I not only don’t have a release date, I don’t have a title, either!


4. EXTRAS!

Remember, there are lots and lots of extras on the Tales of Dunham site you may not have seen. A Dunham family tree, new vignettes, and rebooted soundtracks are among them. In the future, I’ll attempt to update you when I do put stuff up. Which is why…


5. I’M BUILDING A NEWSLETTER MAILING LIST

If you get a newsletter email from me any time between now and the Rapture, it will be because you indicated to me you wanted to be on my newsletter or you bought a book from me directly. I don’t mean to offend, honestly, so please feel free to tell me to bug off when (if) you get one.


6. I’M PLANNING TO RE-EDIT THE PROVISO AND THEN PUT IT OUT A HARDCOVER EDITION

Can you believe it’s been almost six years since I published it? Eventually, they will all be in hardcover because I’m snobbish that way and, yes, I still like paper books.

7. A CRAVEN PLEA

Lots of authors have great marketing strategies. I don’t. I’m lost in a sea of advice, coupled with an aversion to marketing tactics, a lack of followup skills, and a desperate need to lock myself in a room and pour words out into my hard drive.

Doing a newsletter to alert fans and buyers of new books and new material on the website is my first step, but now I’d like to ask you readers who enjoyed my work to tell your friends. Now, I’m going to write regardless of sales (or lack thereof). I can’t not write, but wouldn’t you like to discuss these people around the watercooler?

Confessions of a wannabe foodie

chicken-fried London broilMy relationship with food is like having an abusive ex-boyfriend: He keeps coming back and coming back, every day, even though you don’t want to see him. You want to get rid of him but he won’t go away. It’s not an analogy of “I eat because I have to” and “I can’t really live without him.” It’s that you really don’t want want food in the house the way you really don’t want him to come back. That’s where the analogy stops.

And yet, I must eat. Because DEATH.

Anyway, part of my frustration is how I taste things, meaning, I like the taste of things, but I don’t like the texture. That leaves a lot of things out. A lot of things in a lot of dishes I would like to try. But don’t. Because basically, I’m afraid of wasting money. Yes, I said it. Afraid.

[Aside: All the eating Victoria and Emilio do in PASO DOBLE is an expression of my unwillingness to experiment and lack of ability to appreciate whatever flavors come my way. My palate is less sophisticated than a three-year-old's.]

All this means is I hate cooking and I hate trying new things. Because what if it’s icky? This worked well when I was single and low-carbing because all I had to do was throw a steak under the broiler and fix a salad. Alas, children have a way of growing up and eating you out of house and home and they have expensive taste in meat. My fault.

[snip rest of psychological profile]

For various reasons, today I tried something new.

I had a three-year-old (yes, that too) slab of London broil in my freezer. I wanted to marinate it, but I have no soy sauce, no Teriyaki sauce, no wine. This will be rectified in the future, but suffice it to say I couldn’t run out and get any right then. So this slab, I had intended to use to make beef jerky. It’s a long process. I had thawed it out intending one thing, changed my mind to another, changed it a second time, realized my lack of ingredients, but had a slab of London broil waiting for me to do something with it, so I went with door number four.

I sliced the London broil into 1/4″ wide strips, all the while wondering what to do with it. Then I wondered…chicken fried steak?

Soooo I got out ye olde almond flour*. Mixed it with parmesan cheese, onion powder, and garlic powder. I cracked an egg in a plate and scrambled it well. Put on a skillet with oil to heat up. Dipped the strip in the egg, coated it with the “breading” and fried it up. When the few strips were finished, I made gravy with the drippings (not a lot because there wasn’t much oil) using water and arrowroot powder.

Dude was the victim. He pronounced it pretty okay. Then he dipped it in some bleu cheese dressing. He liked that better.

I ate a bite plain. It was pretty okay. Needed spices (like a package of Italian Seasonings). I had a piece with gravy on it. That was really okay. I had a piece dipped in mayonnaise blended with some Italian Seasonings. That was awesome.

Next time I’ll put the seasonings in the “breading.” The meat is tender and moist, but my only complaint is I wish the “breading” was crispier.

My first victory. I’m not a foodie and I’m never going to be. But this was a food victory for me.

 

 

*This post makes more sense if you know I’m still trying to live a low-carb lifestyle, with varying degrees of success on a day-to-day basis.

Two new books

Best friends forever...until the first kiss.

Best friends forever…until the first kiss.

Sometimes love isn't enough...until it is.

Sometimes love isn’t enough…until it is.

PASO DOBLE
&
WE WERE GODS

go on sale today!

The print books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the regular places.

The ebooks are available from me (see links above), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the regular places (iBooks coming soon). From now until May 15, 2014, they will be priced at $1.99. After, they will be $5.99 and $4.99 respectively.

Get ‘em now!

Scheduling fun?

Laissez le bon temps roulez!I’m asking a question, but I’m not sure I’ll understand any responses I’ll get.

A long time ago, I wrote this post: Mommy, why don’t you smile anymore?

I was doing a psych eval for clearance for a surgery I hope to have some time this coming summer, and the shrink said, “You don’t know how to relax, do you?” Why no. No, I don’t. I don’t remember the last time I had actual fun that didn’t involve guilt for being unproductive.

Twittercrank linked me to this: Young/Old. I’m some depressing amalgam of each. I have a comfort zone. Some of those things I can violate. Some I can’t. Depends on the day and time of the month.

I was cruising Pinterest (as I do) (does gorging on eye candy qualify as fun?) (especially if I feel guilty for the DIY projects I’m not getting done?), and I saw this: How to plan for a busy week {college students}. Doesn’t apply just to college students. On the poster’s “must-do” list is to have fun (paraphrasing).

How does one do this?

I scheduled a fun night out with a friend who had a conflict at the last minute. I didn’t go. The fun part was having a friend to go to a thing who would also enjoy it. Dude offered to take a night off and go with me, but he would have hated every second of the three hours, and who wants to put their spouse through that, especially if they have to take time off work to do it?

Went out with Dude yesterday for lunch. Was it fun? Well, I enjoy being with Dude and I like the restaurant’s food and it was calming and relaxing, but is that fun?

I don’t find the same things fun that my kids do. WTF is fun? What is the concept of fun? Am I fun-deficient? Do I not know how to have fun? Rather, do I not know how to have fun with other people? Am I not paying attention? Is my attention span really that short?

Or have I just gotten so cynical that I’ve lost some sense of wonder about life? (Hint: This is the correct answer.) What I want, really, is to be able to laugh with my kids and husband and have fun with them.

Suggestions? How can I scale back my cynicism? How can I scale back my sense of guilt for not being productive constantly? How can I expand my narrow lifestyle’s worldview to fun so I can laugh with my kids? And, well, what is “fun”?

Blogging again

You may have noticed.

I have some things on my mind I’ve wanted to discuss, but my attention span these days is pretty rotten. I’ve been tweeting (and then Facebooking) way too long to be able to put a small essay together in a coherent fashion.

• Sunita has me thinking about productivity protocols and stationery.

• An ancient Twitter conversation has me thinking about doorstopper books.

Victoria and Emilio have me thinking about how / why I eat.

• Mike Cane has me thinking about the citizens of the world v their respective governments.

A whole bunch of people have me thinking about what to read when I’m out of writing mode.

Author friends I made when I first began this self-publishing journey have me thinking about author life post-debut title.

• Various Twitter conversations have me thinking about feminism, racism, privilege, and tolerance.

Liz Harrison and Missy Bourdius have me thinking about each week’s Conservative Feminist radio show, which should be renamed the Kinkservative Feminists.

Chris Henrichsen and Lee Stranahan have me thinking about newsletters. (The universe just threw up in its mouth a little, those two names in the same sentence.)

Minx Malone has me thinking about Google+.

• Emilio (see above) has me thinking about picking up an embroidery needle again.

• Mike Cane also has me thinking about power, from an original article by Leftsetz.

• Dave Grohl has me thinking about following your bliss.

• Various other conversations here and there have me thinking about really good movies I’ve seen.

I used to blog a lot. Building my brand. I got tired. The catchy titles that now read way too cutesy, trying way too hard. I thought I ran out of things to say, but I was saying them on Twitter in 140 characters because why blog asides and snark and memes? Then Tumblr came along and that’s what Tumblr’s for. And porn. People told me to get on Facebook and indeed! That is where the fans are, but I’ve covered that topic. Pinterest lets me post a crap-ton of pretty pictures, but I don’t think people browse other people’s pinboards just to see what they like.

But I decided to blog asides and snark and memes, along with things I’m thinking about because I need to get back into the discipline of essay writing. It’s always been my pet medium and I’ve neglected it terribly.

So to those of you who’ve got me in your RSS feeds and follow my mirror posts on Goodreads, you may have a deluge of posts for a while.

On parenting

Paradise by Judith McNaughtTess: “You know this makes us like all the evil meddling parents in all those novels who pay off the boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, and then are responsible for the seething hatred between their daughter and her boyfriend until they meet up twenty years later and have angry sex.”

Étienne: “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Tess: “But by that time, the boyfriend has used his seething hatred to make a billion dollars just to show her father up and comes back as a master of the universe to get his revenge on the parents and his girlfriend, even though she has never stopped loving him and was heartbroken that he never tried to contact her—”

Étienne: “This is the part where the evil parents had never passed his letters along to the girlfriend, right? And hers got waylaid on the way to the post office? And then she finds out her parents threw money at him to get him to go away, and she turns on them?”

Tess: “Right. So it’s all a giant drama, and the evil parents get their comeuppance.”

Étienne: “I don’t think we need to fear a raging billionaire coming after us in twenty years.”

Tess: [sighs dreamily] “I love those books.”

Étienne: “You know what I like about you, Tess?”

Tess: “Which thing?”

Étienne: “You’re worse at being human than I am. You just have a better filter.”

On credibility

“I,” Emilio said to his youngest brother, “am a manslut. That is a direct quote. Don’t be that. There will come a day—”

“A girl you like says, ‘Let’s be friends.’”

“You’ll turn forty-two and find out the woman you’re in love with thinks you’re the scum of the earth.”