Before we start, I just want to say, Yes, I heard. I totally heard about E.L. James’s new book, and I’ve gotten many requests to add it to the Jealous Haters Book Club. I’m on the fence about running two selections at once, but I’m also filled with sick curiosity about what a non-stolen book from her is going to be like. Especially after what I read in the excerpt.
But right now, we have this other dumpster fire to put out.
We open with Parker staring at Abby during class:
America smiled and waved. “He’s already seen me. He’s still staring.”
I hestiated for a moment and then finally worked up enough courage to look in his direction. Parker was looking right at me, grinning.
So, he just stares and doesn’t talk to her, but he catches up with her after class.
“Don’t forget about the party this weekend.”
“I won’t,” I said, trying not to bat my eyes or do anything else ridiculous.
You know. Anything else girly that girls do.
I like that she has to try not to do those things. It means she’s fully aware that it’s something some people, including her, do naturally and have to actively concentrate on not doing. Therefore, it isn’t the batting eyes that’s an issue, but the fact that the girls don’t force themselves not to be girly. Or, she may still think it’s a contrived behavior, in which case she’s saying here that she had to fight the urge to engage in deceptive body language because she had that urge in the first place.
American mentions in front of Travis and Shepley that Parker had been staring at Abby.
“Who was it?” Travis grimaced.
I adjusted my backpack, prompting Travis to slide it off my arms and hold it. I shook my head. “Mare’s imagining things.”
You just saw this happen, reacted positively to the exchange, and now you’re gonna call your friend a liar right in front of her?
Travis’s expression twisted into disgust. “Parker Hayes?”
Let me guess. He’s a rapist and you have to do something drastic to protect her.
They all go to lunch, and Travis won’t sit by Abby.
Instead, he sat a few seats down. It was then that I realized he hadn’t said much during our walk to the cafeteria.
“Are you okay, Trav?” I asked.
“Me? Fine, why?” he said, smoothing the features of his face.
Huh? What does that even mean? Smoothing the features of his face? Do you mean he relaxed a scowl or something? I mean, I already figured he was scowling when he decided to pull his petty, “I’m not gonna sit by you and you can guess what’s wrong” move. All I can think of is stock footage of a hotel maid meticulously smoothing the wrinkles out of a duvet while someone does a voice over about luxury.
Some football players come up and sit at their table.
Chris Jenks tossed a french fry onto Travis’s tray. “What’s up, Trav? I heard you bagged Tina Martin. She’s been raking your name through the mud today.”
Again, I find myself fully perplexed that this guy has a reputation for having sex with women and callously tossing them aside, but they’re still sleeping with him. Why? Is it because of all those books out there that tell women that if a man mistreats them, it’s an invitation to save him?
I bet that’s why. It’s a good thing this book isn’t like that at all.
I leaned forward so the brawny giant sitting in front of Travis could experience the full force of my glare. “Knock it off, Chris.”
Travis’s eyes bored into mine. “I can take care of myself, Abby.”
“I’m sorry, I…”
“I don’t want you to be sorry. I don’t want you to be anything,” he snapped, shoving away from the table and storming out the door.
Now, obviously, he’s angry because she talked to another guy or has an interest in another guy. But of course, Abby has no clue what’s going on with him.
Shepley shrugged and turned his attention to his plate. “You should know by now that it takes patience and a forgiving attitude to be friends with Travis. He’s his own universe.”
That’s called a one-sided friendship. In order to be friends with Travis, you have to be willing to do all the work so that he can continue being self-absorbed?
I shook my head. “That’s the Travis everyone else sees…not the Travis I know.”
That is literally every single iteration of Travis we have seen on the page so far.
Shepley leaned forward. “There’s no difference. You just have to ride the wave.”
No! No, she doesn’t! Nobody does! These people are the most horrible people I’ve ever read about. I know I say that every time we start a new book, but Jesus Christ!
Travis is not that valuable. There are billions of people in this world. You guys don’t have to cling to Travis! And if you do keep clinging to Travis, it’s not like he’s going to magically stop being a douchebag. The fact that you’re all making excuses for his behavior and automatically forgiving him without him ever apologizing or making any effort to treat any of you better is a huge “red flag”.
By the way, over the weekend, someone sent me a link to a blog post the author wrote to explain her inspiration for Beautiful Disaster. I’m not going to link it here, because it will ping back to her site and she is well-known for siccing her minions upon anyone who dares criticize her, but the gist was basically that she had a crush on a guy in college and ran into him some years later when, horror of horrors, she wasn’t wearing makeup and her hair looked sloppy. This made her cry, and she was inspired to drop everything and write this epic “romance”…which she originally titled Red Flag.
The name of the book was Red Flag. That’s the title she chose. And it wasn’t a red flag that she either shouldn’t publish this trash or take a real, real deep look at why she would even want to write about a character like this in the first place.
So, I wanna talk about this. Real, real big time. In the book, the supporting characters are gaslighting Abby hard by telling her that she can never expect Travis to act like a decent human being and implying that she’s somehow not a good friend if she expects otherwise. And the author is gaslighting the reader with her constant insistence that Travis is totally not exhibiting the abusive and manipulative behavior she’s writing. I’m just boggled by this. It’s like she’s looking every reader in the eye directly and saying, “Don’t trust what you’re reading. Trust what I’m using the heroine to tell you.”
Is it really that hard to write love interests who aren’t abusive monsters? I do it literally all the time.
So, after class, Abby goes back to her dorm, where–SIKE! she goes to Travis’s apartment.
I went into his room and curled into a ball on his bed, resting my head on my arm. Travis had been fine that morning. As much time as we had spent together, I couldn’t believe I didn’t see something had been bothering him.
I can’t believe you didn’t see that he didn’t get surly until you started talking about another guy, but the entire plot so far seems predicated upon The Big Misunderstanding™, which requires Abby to be completely oblivious to point of unbelievable stupidity and an alarming lack of situational awareness to “work”.
Not only that, it disturbed me that America seemed to know what was going on and I didn’t.
So, I’m split on this America thing. Because she has been telling Abby what’s going on since practically the beginning of the book. However, I can’t be Team America: Story Police because of her actions in the next scene. After Abby falls asleep, she wakes to hear both America and Shepley reassuring Travis that all of his behavior toward Abby that day was totally fine:
“Abby gets it, Trav. Don’t beat yourself up,” Shepley said.
Yeah, Travis. Don’t feel bad about your shitty behavior. Abby has learned to roll with it. You’re safe to just keep on being a bastard.
“You’re already going to the date party. What’s the harm in asking her out?” America asked.
Friends don’t let friends date Travis Maddox. America has seen first hand the way Travis treats women. Why would she want her best friend to be treated that way?
I stiffened, waiting for his response. “I don’t want to date her; I just want to be around her. She’s…different.”
“Different how?” America asked, sounding irritated.
“She doesn’t put up with my bullshit, it’s refreshing. You said it yourself, Mare; I’m not her type. It’s just not…like that with us.”
First of all, Travis, Abby absolutely puts up with every little bit of your bullshit. She is one of the few friends you have, despite you somehow being Mr. Popularity. And it’s been established two pages ago that putting up with your bullshit is a requirement for your friendship.
Again, here’s the author saying, “Don’t believe all that other stuff I wrote. Only believe what the characters are saying out loud.”
Writing Tip: Speaking of what the characters are saying out loud, please note Travis’s somewhat repetitive dialogue pattern. Now, I’m 100% a champion of the ellipses. But ending two paragraphs of the same character’s dialogue with the exact same sentence structure is a little bit jarring. “I don’t want to date her; I just want to be around her. She’s…different,” and, “You said it yourself, Mare; I’m not her type. It’s just not…like that with us,” have the same punctuation and structure, so they stick out. If you find yourself in a position where you’re like, “I have to write these lines this way,” just throw on a dialogue tag so you don’t have two paragraphs close together with the exact same pattern.
Abby comes out of Travis’s room and says hi to everyone who was just talking about her, rather than bringing the discussion about her own life to her.
Travis stared at me for a moment, and when I smiled at him, he walked straight toward me, grabbed my hand, and pulled me down the hall to his bedroom. He shut the door, and I felt my heart pounding in my chest, bracing for him to say something else to crush my ego.
“I braced myself for the hero to make me feel like shit.”
Travis does initially own that his behavior was shitty and he apologizes for it, but the abuse-as-romance narrative can’t continue if he doesn’t give an excuse.
“I wasn’t mad at you. I just have a bad habit of lashing out at those I care about. It’s a piss-poor excuse, I know, but I am sorry,” he said, enveloping me in his arms.
Hey, you know what you should do with that habit? Fucking break it, rather than expect everyone to just put up with it.
Now, Abby, who has just heard her friends counseling Travis to ask her out, still has no clue what upset Travis. She has yet to put two and two together, so I guess it’s great news that she’s not a criminal justice major or something.
So, this is obviously the part where a good friend might suggest that Travis should stop lashing out at people he cares about and that if he truly cared about her the way he claims to, his apology would include, “And I’m going to work on that.”
But it doesn’t. Instead, Abby says:
“I can handle your temper tantrums.”
Feel free to continue to be a deeply infected pilonidal sinus, Travis. Abby will suck it up and learn to adjust, like so many heroines of ’10s “romances”.
So, of course, Travis accepts these conditions:
“I don’t know why you put up with me, and I don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t.”
By turning Abby’s willingness to be a doormat into an admirable character trait for which he praises her, Travis is training her to accept his bad behavior. She’s like a dog being given the treat of his affection for exhibiting the correct behavior.
So, Travis’s phone rings and it’s a call about a fight.
He quickly tapped in the information, sending exclusive text invitations to those who knew about the Circle. Those ten or so members would text ten members on their list, and so on, until every member knew exactly where the floating fight ring would be held.
I mean, basically, everyone is going to know where the fight is, because super secret fight club is open information to everyone, even from out of town.
The air in the apartment was tense and buoyant at the same time. Travis seemed the least affected, slipping on his boots and a white tank top as if he were leaving to run an errand.
Is he supposed to get dressed up? You gotta wear clothes you’re not going to get blood on.
“You have to change, Abby. You can’t wear that to the fight.”
And she gives her an outfit that looks like this:
I pulled on the deep-cut yellow halter top and tight low-rise jeans America had thrown at me, and then slipped on a pair of heels, raking a brush through my hair as I shuffled down the hall.
And Travis says:
“Oh, hell no. Are you trying to get me killed? You’ve gotta change, Pidge.”
America argues that Abby looks cute, but:
Travis took my hand and led me down the hall. “Get a T-shirt on…and some sneakers. Something comfortable.”
“Because I’ll be more worried about who’s looking at your tits in that shirt instead of Hoffman,” he said, stopping at his door.
A FEW GOD DAMN DING DANG NOTES HERE:
Anybody else notice how Abby never makes any of her own choices? Everyone tells her what to do and she just goes along with it. This is another hallmark of ’10s New Adult romance. If the heroine makes a choice, that might make the reader think things about her if they don’t agree with those choices. It’s so much easier to defend Abby and Ana Steele if you can immediately jump to, “THAT’S NOT HER FAULT [character] MADE HER DO IT!” So, we’re stuck with a lot of heroines who just have things happen to them so that the reader can never disagree with them.
Also, can we please remember that trying to control how you dress is a warning sign for abuse? And he’s yet again doing it to “protect” her, with a side of, “you’re going to negatively affect me if you don’t do as I say.” We’re clearly meant to take, “I will lose the fight if you wear that because I will feel so protective of you,” as a romantic declaration. But it’s possessive and creepy, especially considering his constant claims that he’s not romantically interested in Abby.
Travis looked down at my chest and then up at me. “You can’t wear this to the fight, so please…just…please just change,” he stuttered, shoving me into the room and shutting me in.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t adequately point out abusive behavior in these books because I can’t come down to a level where I can understand the mindset that would find this shit romantic and that leaves me with absolutely no idea how to approach it. This is one of those cases. Like, it should be obvious to every woman on the planet that a hero who tells you that you’re dressed too provocatively and you’re not allowed to leave the house that way, then actually shuts you in a room until you acquiesce (which Abby does immediately, putting on a t-shirt and sneakers and pulling her hair into a ponytail) is abusive. But it’s not. And that makes me want to burn down an Arby’s.
This is also a way that abusers knock down their partner’s confidence. Making them dress in sloppy clothes so they don’t attract sexual attention from other people is a sign of extreme possession and lack of trust. If a guy is doing this before he’s even dating a girl, do you really think it’s going to get better once he feels he has a claim over her?
Spoiler: it doesn’t. Ever. Not once in the history of abusive relationships.
Once Travis is happy with her outfit, he and Abby jump helmetless onto his bike and roar off to the fight. When they get there, Travis tells her they can’t go in the way everyone else is. Oh no, they have to go in through a window, so he can make his big entrance. And this pisses me off so much because he could have just said, “You might want to put on something like a t-shirt because we’re going to crawl through a window.”
He also could have just let her walk in with America and Shepley, who use the door. But then we wouldn’t have gotten the scene where she clumsily falls through the window and perfectly into his arms. Oh, and so he can protect her:
“They went in the other way. Just follow me out; I’m not sending you into that shark pit without me. […]”
A pit. But with sharks in it?
PIT OF SHARKS DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO
Travis tells Abby that the guy he’s fighting is from another school, which has its own secret underground fighting ring. Because why not. Abby expresses concern about Travis getting injured.
“If it’ll make you feel better, I won’t let him touch me. I won’t even let him get one in for the fans.”
“How are you going to manage that?”
He shrugged. “I usually let them get one in–to make it look fair.”
So, it’s unfair then?
Travis Maddox has 100% lost a board game or a foot race and said, “I let you win.”
“How much fun would it be if I just massacred someone and they never got a punch in? It’s not good for business, no one would bet against me.”
But they’re not betting on how many punches you guys take. They’re betting on who wins the fight, and we’ve already heard over and over that you not only never lose, but you rarely get hit at all.
So, Abby calls him out for sounding way too confident, and he says:
“Would you like to make a wager on that, Abby Abernathy?” he smiled, his eyes animated.
You can’t smile a sentence.
“If you win, I’ll go without sex for a month.” I raised an eyebrow and he smiled again. “But if I win, you have to stay with me for a month.”
“What? I’m staying with you anyway! What kind of bet is that?” I shrieked over the noise.
“They fixed the boilers at Morgan today,” Travis said with a smile and a wink.
Okay, so, a few things. It took them two weeks to fix the boilers? The entire dorm was without hot water for a full two weeks and there were no on-campus alternatives?
Another thing: you’re probably going, “But if she’s staying with him, it’s not like he’s going to be having sex with anyone, anyway.”
They go into the fight and Abby tells Adam she wants to put “two” on Travis. Two dollars? Two hundred dollars? What the fuck does “two” mean? I really seriously wanted Travis to lose the fight and have Abby find out that “two” meant “two thousand,” but obviously, that’s not the case.
Anyway, Adam says:
“You’re not the Goody Two-shoes I thought you were,” he said, giving me a once-over.
Adam has never met Abby. I went back and searched the whole book. The only time he’s even close to her is when she first meets Travis and Adam comes up and leads Travis away. They’ve never interacted. How does he even know who she is?
So, there’s a fight. It’s meh.
Instead of attacking, Travis took a few steps back. Brady swung, and Travis dodged to the right. Brady swung again, and Travis ducked and sidestepped to the other side.
“What the hell? This ain’t a boxing match, Travis!” Adam yelled.
It’s not a boxing match? What the fuck are they doing?
Both men were covered in sweat, and I gasped when Brady missed another punch, slamming his hand into a cement pillar.
I hope he’s still on his parent’s insurance because that fucker is broken.
When he folded over, cradling his fist beneath him, Travis went in for the kill.
He was relentless, first bringing his knee to Brady’s face and then pummeling him over and over until Brady stumbled and hit the ground. The noise level boomed as Adam left my side to throw the red square on Brady’s bloodied face.
Travis absolutely didn’t have to knock this guy out. Dude had just broken his hand and was all folded over in agony, and Travis doesn’t even bother to give him like, a warning punch and a chance to tap out. It’s just, oh, this guy just broke his hand, better beat him into unconsciousness. Like, to me, this isn’t a fair fight. I don’t remember the rules stating that one fighter had to be knocked out for there to be a winner. What is the point of showing the love interest going “in for the kill” when the person he’s fighting isn’t fighting back?
Anyway, there’s way too much description about how crowded it is as she tries to leave and her and Travis getting separated, etc. They do eventually catch up to each other to have this conversation:
“You’re really going to make me stay with you for a month?”
“Would you have made me go without sex for a month?”
You’re the one who came up with the terms there, buddy. But yes, now it’s officially a “…and there was only one bed!” fic.
They crawl back out the window rather than using the door (I don’t know, either):
The monkey grass that lined the sidewalk waved in the gentle breeze, reminding me of the sound the ocean makes when I wasn’t quite close enough to hear the waves breaking.
Bitch, you’re from Nebraska.
Also, I love the way it’s worded so that the waves don’t make that sound if she’s not there.
“Why on earth would you want me to stay with you, anyway?” I asked.
So he can micromanage every part of your life, Pidge.
Travis shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I don’t know. Everything’s better when you’re around.”
GOSH I DON’T KNOW WHY TRAVIS IS ALWAYS SO UPSET IF I TALK TO OTHER GUYS HE TOTALLY DOESN’T LIKE ME WE’RE NOT LIKE THAT I WONDER WHY HE REACTED THAT WAY BECAUSE HE DOESN’T LIKE ME WHY DOES EVERYONE THINK HE LIKES ME BECAUSE HE DEFINITELY DOESN’T GOLLY I WISH I COULD FIGURE OUT THIS PUZZLE OF A MYSTERIOUS, SEXY MAN.
They go to the dorm to get Abby’s stuff.
I breezed by Kara, who studied on her bed, held captive by the textbooks that surrounded her.
Isn’t it weird how Kara is only ever surrounded by books or doing homework on her computer? She never goes anywhere, she just sits there studying. What if she’s a ghost haunting the room and that’s why she can’t leave? And she’s studying because she’s caught in some kind of loop where she doesn’t realize she’s dead?
“Travis, this is my roommate, Kara Lin. Kara, Travis Maddox.”
Oh. Okay. She’s not a ghost. She’s Chinese. Just a Chinese character who studies constantly and who the white girls call a bitch.
This chapter is really super long because there is way too much filler. Stuff like, “How do we get your stuff back to the apartment” turns into a whole scene about calling Shepley and him arriving and them putting the bags in the car and walking back to the motorcycle and it’s like, come the fuck on, just do a section break and be like, “After we picked up my things,” and have them right back at the apartment. Do authors seriously have no clue how much this little bullshit between scenes undercut the important parts? We got no reaction at all from Abby as to how she feels about him winning the bet. There’s no tension or urgency, she’s not thinking gosh, do I want him to win or do I want to win, there’s none of that. It goes:
- They make the bet
- He fights
- He wins the bet
- They go get her stuff and he meets Kara
- They get on his motorcycle
It needed to be:
- They make the bet
- He fights, while every swing makes Abby question her feelings
- He wins the bet and Abby questions how she feels about that
- Section break
- They arrive at the apartment and Abby has more feelings.
Abby never has any feelings. We’re just watching her walk through actions without much internal reaction. She just…there. Having things happen to her.
At least there are some thoughts in her head as they ride the motorcycle. Of course, since they never wear helmets, those thoughts will probably get smeared all over the pavement.
At every stoplight, Travis would either cover my hands with his, or he would rest his hand on my knee. The lines were blurring again, and I wondered how we would spend a month together and not ruin everything. The loose ends of our friendship were tangling in a way I never imagined.
And they’re not particularly enlightening thoughts. They’re just more indication that she’s not super observant.
Inside the apartment, America makes more incredibly unsubtle jokes about Travis and Abby being a couple, because Travis seems so happy. Travis reminds her that he just won a lot of money in a fight.
“No, it’s something else,” she said, watching Travis’s hand as he patted my thigh. She was right; he was different. There was an air of peace around him, almost as if some kind of new contentment had settled into his soul.
The lines aren’t so much blurred as completely erased, then? Also, this is showing, rather than telling. What makes him seem more peaceful? Is his usual scowl relaxed? Does he seem less restless or fidgety? Is he smiling instead of smirking? Give us some indication of his mood change.
Shepley tells America to cool it, but she keeps pressing the issue, once again bringing up Parker’s interest in Abby.
America’s mouth spread into a mischievous grin, almost bobbing in anticipation. “He said he’d see you there, though. He’s really cute.”
And of course, this leads to Travis demanding to know if Abby plans to go to the party or not.
I already didn’t like America, but I’m liking her even less now. Earlier that day, she saw Travis throw a tantrum that hurt Abby’s feelings because of this very subject. Now, she’s looking to cause another fight? Another blowup? What is the point of constantly pressing the issue if she knows that the person who’s going to end up hurt in all this is Abby?
Anyway, Abby says she’s going to the party and asks Travis if he is. When he confirms he’ll be there, Shepley says:
“You said last week you weren’t.”
“I changed my mind, Shep. What’s the problem?”
“Nothing,” he grumbled, retreating to his bedroom.
America frowned at Travis. “You know what the problem is,” she said. “Why don’t you quit driving him crazy and just get it over with?”
America and Shepley are terrible. Like, seriously, they are angry that Travis and Abby won’t get together? Since when is it their fucking business? I get that Shepley is afraid that Travis’s behavior will ruin things between him and America. And clearly, Shepley and America aren’t on the same page as to whether or not Abby and Travis dating would even be a good idea. But you know who’s fault all this is? Everyone involved in this situation. Travis behaves badly and everyone around him enables him with their constant, unconditional forgiveness. Then, when he hurts them with his shitty behavior, that’s when they get riled up.
“Well, I’m glad everyone else knows,” I said.
And then there’s Abby, the victim of her own selective obtuseness. It is obvious to the point of narrative excess that Travis likes her. She admitted in the scene before this that she feels the “lines are blurring” between her and Travis. The fact that Travis likes her is outlined in radium, and she’s still pretending to be in the dark because if she doesn’t, the lukewarm romantic tension is resolved within the first twenty percent of the novel.
America goes after Shepley and they shut the door. While they’re in his room talking, Travis tells Abby that he wants to talk to her about something having to do with “us”…and then he goes to the bathroom.
I twisted my hair around my finger, mulling over the way he emphasized the word “us,” and the look on his face when he’d said it. I wondered if there had ever been lines at all, and if I was the only one who considered Travis and I just friends anymore.
This is the shit I’m talking about. How on earth is the author expecting us to think, “It’s reasonable that she’s not picking up these subtle hints?” No one has believed that you and Travis are “just friends” for the entire book. She is constantly having to correct every single character about her and Travis’s relationship being totally platonic. But only now it’s dawning on her that maybe people might think she and Travis are more than just friends? SHE HAS SAID MORE THAN ONCE THAT IT ANNOYS HER THAT EVERYONE THINKS SHE AND TRAVIS ARE MORE THAN JUST FRIENDS.
We’re supposed to forget all of that because if we didn’t, the author couldn’t write the most laughable confrontation I’ve seen since Fifty Shades Darker:
Shepley burst out of his room, and America ran after him. “Shep, don’t!” she pleaded.
He looked back to the bathroom door, and then to me. His voice was low, but angry. “You promised, Abby. When I told you to spare judgment, I didn’t mean for you two to get involved! I thought you were just friends!”
America tries to tell Shepley that it won’t hurt their relationship if Abby and Travis get together. I haven’t read very far ahead, so I don’t know if it does, but I have this wild feeling that America and Shepley’s relationship will be affected. Either way, Shepley storms off again, and Travis is still in the bathroom, which gives America and Abby time to rehash the “you like him,” “no, we’re just friends,” routine that, believe me, is not getting painfully boring at all at this point. Abby tells America that she overheard Travis saying he wasn’t interested in her “that way” and America insinuates that Travis has previously told Shepley otherwise. Abby is like, well, if he really liked me, would he be bringing a new chick home every night? And would I be going on a date with another guy?
I’m not seeing things, Abby. You have spent almost every moment with him for the last month. Admit it, you have feelings for him.”
Let it go, Mare,” Travis says, tightening his towel around his waist.
America and I jumped at the sound of Travis’s voice, and when my eyes met his, I could see the happiness was gone.
How did Abby see that Travis tightened his towel around his waist if it’s his voice that alerted her to his presence? This sentence is ordered wrong. She has to jump and look at him before she sees him with the towel.
But I laughed so hard throughout this entire thing, because I was like, “Did Travis just hold out on confessing his feelings to Abby so he could go and do a massive shit, first?” and then it turned out that he went and took a shower and that made it even funnier; hang on, Abby, I have to conveniently leave so we can have a big misunderstanding because the author wants to write a slow burn story but has no interest in the scenes that would make it a slow burn. She just tells us that Abby and Travis have spent a lot of time together, but she doesn’t show it to us. She mentions it before she jumps to another melodramatic scene. It’s like, race, race, race, to get to the drama, then oh, shit, this plot is wrapping up too soon. What do I do to delay their romance a little bit more? I know! I’ll have something interrupt him right as he’s about to express his feelings to Abby…what could I use…aha! He’ll just get up and go take a shower instead. I mean, the perfect opportunity to wreck the moment was provided by Shepley bursting out of the room all pissed off. Instead, the author has Travis go, we need to talk, and then be like, yeah, hold that thought, though, because I’m going to take a shower.
Travis goes to his room and America says:
“You don’t need to go to that party to meet a guy, you’ve got one that’s crazy about you right here,” she said, leaving me alone.
Yeah. A guy who treats women like garbage and ruins his roommate’s relationships. Why would Abby not want to pursue him instead of the guy who doesn’t act like the world owes him and isn’t paying up?
An hour had passed when Travis came out of his room and down the hall. When he rounded the corner, I expected him to ask me to come to bed, but he was dressed and had his bike keys in his hand. His sunglasses were hiding his eyes, and he popped a cigarette in his mouth before grabbing the knob of the door.
Abby asks where he’s going, he just says, “out,” and Abby waits up for him until two in the morning before she goes to bed.
I had nearly fallen asleep when Travis’s motorcycle pulled into the parking lot. Two car doors shut shortly after, and then several pairs of footsteps climbed the stairs. Travis fumbled with the lock, and then the door opened. He laughed and mubled, and then I heard not one, but two female voices. Their giggling was interrupted by the distinct sounds of kissing and moaning. My heart sank, and I was instantly angry I felt that way. My eyes clenched shut when one of the girls squealed, and then I was sure the next sound was the three of them collapsing onto the couch.
So, Abby is trapped in Travis’s bedroom while this is going on. And since he goes to his room for condoms, he’s aware that Abby is still there. But he proceeds to have a very loud three-way, anyway:
Seconds later, moans, humming, and shouting filled the apartment. It sounded as if a pornographic movie were being filmed in the living room.
So, he doesn’t even care if he wakes her up by loudly fucking two chicks. The girl he was about to confess his feelings for is in his bed, but he chooses to have a super rowdy threesome on his couch.
Whatever lines had blurred or disappeared in the last week, an impenetrable stone wall had gone up in their place. I shook off my ridiculous emotions, forcing myself to relax. Travis was Travis, and we were, without a doubt, friends and only friends.
Why would you even want to be friends with this guy? Tell me why. You have friends. You have a guy who’s interested in you who didn’t just bring two chicks back to his apartment and have sex on the couch while you couldn’t leave. This guy is gross.
The shouting and other nauseating noises quieted down after an hour, followed by whining, and then grumbling by the women after being dismissed.
They were whining and grumbling because their threesome only lasted an hour.
Travis takes a shower and gets in bed with Abby. And you’d think she’d be grossed out by the fact that he just fucked two chicks and got in bed with her, right? Not in an ew, gross, fluids! kind of way, but in a symbolic kind of angry way. But nope. This time, she’s more concerned about something else:
Even after his shower, he smelled like he’d drunk enough whiskey to sedate a horse, and I was livid that he’d driven his motorcycle home in such a state.
She had no problem with drunk driving in the last chapter. But if she doesn’t have a problem with it now, she has to blame her anger on Travis for choosing to have sex with those women. She can’t lay the blame for that on him, right? It’s the sluts’ fault he slept with them.
Abby goes to the living room and sleeps in the recliner, only to wake up and find Shepley and America on the couch watching TV with the sound off.
So, is this a pod people thing?
Shepley looked miserable. “I’m sorry about last night, Abby. This is my fault.”
HOW IS THIS YOUR FAULT? Did you go out and pick up two chicks and fuck them on the couch last night? Did you make Travis do that? Was it mind control?
America tells Abby she packed her things and can take her back to the dorm before Travis returns from the store. Where I assume he’s banging someone up against the milk coolers.
It wasn’t until that moment that I felt like crying; I had been kicked out. I worked to keep my voice smooth before I spoke. “Do I have time to take a shower?”
These people are the most shower-taking people I have ever read about. But this is what’s making you upset, Abby? Not the fact that Travis intentionally weaponized his sexual escapades against you? The fact that you won’t be staying in the same apartment for a month with the guy who intentionally weaponized his sexual escapades against you?
The good news is that Travis is “sweet”:
“When Pidge wakes up, let me know, okay?” he said in a soft voice. “I got spaghetti, and pancakes, and strawberries, and that oatmeal shit with the chocolate packets, and she likes Fruity Pebbles cereal, right, Mare?” he asked, turning.
When he saw me, he froze. After an awkward pause, his expression melted, and his voice was smooth and sweet. “Hey, Pigeon.”
I couldn’t have been more confused if I had woken up in a foreign country. Nothing made sense. At first I thought I had been evicted, and then Travis comes home with bags full of my favorite foods.
Okay, first of all, it was America, not Travis, who said you had to leave. So I don’t know what that part is about. But I do know what the food and the confusion are about: abusers manipulate their victims with patterns of hurt and comfort. He hurt her by having a loud threesome to prove he doesn’t like her. Then, he knew he fucked up, so he went out and bought this food in the hopes that once she sees that he’s noticed, IDK, basic, inconsequential details about her, she’ll be so won over by his thoughtfulness that all will be forgiven.
He goes on to offer to make her pancakes. And inform her that he also bought her “pink foamy shit” for shaving her legs and a hairdryer. Then he goes to his bedroom and sees that all of Abby’s stuff is packed up. He’s like, wait, whoa, you’re leaving? And America is like, fucking duh. I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist. Travis tries to apologize, but America is not having it:
Travis took a step, but America pointed her finger at him. “So help me God, Travis! If you try to stop her, I will douse you with gasoline and light you on fire while you sleep!”
Which is all well and good, but let’s see how long it takes for her to go back to trying to get them to hook up. Because you know she’s going to be #TeamMaddox again soon.
“America,” Shepley said, sounding a bit desperate himself. I could see that he was torn between his cousin and the woman he loved, and I felt terrible for him. The situation was exactly what he had tried to avoid all along.
And the situation is 100% caused by Travis. The blame rests entirely on him. But nobody is going to say a damn thing. They’re going to keep covering for Travis. Especially Abby.
I rolled my eyes. “Travis brought women home from the bar last night, so what?”
America looked worried. “Huh-uh, Abby. Are you saying you’re okay with what happened?”
I looked to all of them. “Travis can bring home whoever he wants. It’s his apartment.”
Yup. Abby is gonna do whatever it takes to cover for Travis’s bad behavior. Just like everyone else in the book. And I’ve yet to figure out what the fuck it is that makes Travis so appealing that everyone is behaving this way.
Travis is like, wait, Abby, you didn’t pack your stuff? And she’s like, no, and now I have to unpack it all because apparently America trying to get her out of the toxic situation in the apartment was unacceptable or something. She goes into the bathroom and slides down to the floor thinking about how she promised Shepley her friendship with Travis wouldn’t break up him and America and like, again, how the fuck is this Abby’s responsibility at all?
The door vibrated with the soft bump of Travis’s forehead against it. “I don’t want you leave, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did.
(Just pausing here to say the missing word in this excerpt is in the text and not one of my patented typos.)
“Are you saying I’m released from the bet?”
There was a long pause. “If I say yes, will you leave?”
“Well, yeah. I don’t live here, silly,” I said, forcing a small laugh.
“Then no, the bet’s still in effect.”
I looked up and shook my head, feeling tears burn my eyes. I had no idea why I was crying, but I couldn’t stop.
Because you’re emotionally overloaded from being constantly manipulated by this dbag.
Through the door, she hears America call Travis and selfish bastard and like…America? You were the one pushing and pushing and pushing them, trying to smash them together like Barbies.
Because like, everyone showers all the time, Abby does that.
After another knock on the door, Travis cleared his throat. “Pigeon? I brought some of your stuff.”
“Just set it on the sink. I’ll get it.”
Travis walked in and shut the door behind him.
That is NOT what she asked you to do. Nor did she ask you to stroll in and throw this bullshit at her:
“I was mad. I heard you spitting out everything that’s wrong with me to America and it pissed me off. I just meant to go out and have a few drinks and try to figure some things out, but before I knew it, I was piss drunk, and those girls…” He paused. “I woke up this morning and you weren’t in bed, and when I found you on the recliner and saw the wrappers on the floor, I felt sick.”
First of all, dickass, she never said everything was wrong with you. She said she didn’t want to date you because you bring home a new girl every night and she’s not interested in that. Then, she defended your right to do that just minutes ago. She wasn’t pointing out a character flaw. She was stating a reason she didn’t want to date you.
It’s okay that she doesn’t want to date you.
Nobody should want to date you.
Especially when he’s trying to paint this whole thing as the fault of the girls he brought home. I was just going to go out and get stinking drunk. Then these girls… THEN THESE GIRLS WHAT, TRAVIS? FORCED YOU TO HAVE A THREESOME TO SPITE ABBY?
But it’s cool, everybody. He feels really bad about it.
I cringed at his explanation. I hadn’t stopped to think how it would make him feel to hear me talk about how wrong for me he was, and now the situation was too messed up to salvage.
I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” I said, standing under the water.
You know what? I’m not even going to comment on how yet again, people are apologizing for Travis’s shitty behavior. I’m gonna focus on the fact that…where was Abby standing before? She’s been in the shower this whole time.
“I know you didn’t. And I know it doesn’t matter what I say now, because I fucked things up…just like I always do.”
I caused you pain. Feel sorry for me, because I always cause everyone pain and it makes me feel sad. Not sad enough to stop causing people pain. It’s the accountability that hurts me.
But of course, it works. Abby tells him not to drive drunk anymore (but how will any of you get around if you have to drive sober?) and that’s the end of the chapter.