Thursday, July 13, 2017

Modern Love

About the Book

"Love at first sight wasn't meant for millennials," thinks Alice Aberdeen: art student, recovering addict, David Bowie enthusiast. Alice is among the recently dumped and only wants to keep her nose to the grindstone until she finishes her degree. Her sister has other ideas and sets her up with new-in-town Will Murphy--tall, dark, and aloof. To say it wasn't an instant attraction is an understatement: He finds her abrasive, with her sharp tongue and don't-screw-with-me attitude. She thinks he's excessively reserved, too damn serious. But the more time Alice spends with Will, the more their slow burn begins to thaw her heart. A man of two worlds, half-Irish, half-Indian, Will feels at home with Alice. He soon realizes her tough shell is hiding extensive scar tissue--from her addiction and recovery to her spectacularly bad ex-girlfriend to the loss of her mother. Modern Love isn't a story about love at first sight but learning to love yourself before being able to see the one you love.



He grinned, throwing my equilibrium off-kilter. It was a good smile, open and even. I tried, Lord but I tried, not to notice the way his shirt rode up when he bent to get another beer out of the cooler, exposing the smooth, taut skin of his back. He stood and turned, offering me a bottle and another sunny smile, putting the new cracks in my lone wolf veneer.

“Beer?” he asked, and just like that, my shell was once more intact.

“Ah, no thanks.”

He slapped his forehead. “Shit! That’s right. I keep forgetting you don’t drink.”

“I don’t, but don’t let that stop you. It doesn’t bother me. Bartender, remember?”

What I didn’t say was that alcohol had never been my drug of choice, just something I’d avoided to make sure I stayed clean. I’d never liked the taste of it, the hollow ache it caused between my eyes the next day, the way it made my mouth feel like a dried-up riverbed. I didn’t like the sickness it brought, the weight of it. I’d loved things like Percocet and Vicodin, Oxycodone, and the weightless Zen they’d brought. It was bliss, it was rapture, sickly sweet like circus peanuts until they’d stopped doing the job, until I’d needed more and more to reach that feeling. That feeling of a balloon tethered by the thinnest of strings, bob-bobbing in the breeze. The further I floated, the more I needed. The names of things I put in my body became more and more arcane. Dance Party, Swanky Purple, Babble Yam, Cotton Eye: my strange litany of sins that took a sharp left back to reality. Morphine. Fentanyl. Temporary highs bought at unspeakable prices that I had yet to reconcile myself with.

“So, are the program?” Will asked, clearly uncomfortable. I smiled. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I was an addict, now six years sober. I couldn’t change it. As much as I might want to share a beer with my friend and put him at ease.

“I go to NA when I need it.” There was always a bit of awkwardness when my sobriety came into conversation for the first time. “Which, thankfully, isn’t as often as it was six years ago. But, seriously, don’t let it make you uncomfortable. I don’t mind if you drink, as long as you’re not expecting me to be the sober friend who babysits drunk people.”

He put his beer down on the picnic table, brows drawn together. “You’’re kind of amazing, you know that?”

“Murphy, my good man, you have no idea.” He looked up at me and smiled—smiled in a way that made the Earth tilt ever so slightly, and me with it, towards him. Drawn by the gravity of a greater object. My stomach flopped and for a lingering moment there was a fuzzy static deep in my ears. If that was the kind of magic his smile could work on me, what would it be like to actually step forward and kiss him? To let my fingers spider-walk under the hem of that green shirt, touching the warm skin of his belly. Would it be firm? Smooth? More importantly, why the hell was I thinking about kissing and fondling Will Murphy?


Alex waits until our second game of pool before he mentions her. We talk about family and friends back in Chicago, how my sister, Gilly, is doing in college, my upcoming trip to the UK for work, and how this place is his favorite burger and pool joint, but my hopes aren’t very high. The interior of the place is dim and shabby, smelling of old grease and the ghosts of cigarettes past. My shoes stick to the floor, making a sound like pulling tape when we walked to the back room. In the back, everything is clean and neat as a pin. Rows of pool tables fill the room, their flocked green surfaces cheerful and inviting. The beer is cold and the food is hot. I order a basket of fries, a basket of jalapeno poppers, and fried mushrooms, and the whole time I wait for him to spring this conversation on me. My fingers are now slick with grease and I start to feel sick, but it’s salty and good and stuffing my face is a handy way to avoid Alex’s needling.

“You like her,” he says as he lines up to take his shot.
“Hmm?” It’s not a yes or a no. It’s chewing.

“That cutie with the pigtails at Gabe’s cookout. Allie. You like her, man.”

I don’t think much of Alex calling her a cutie, but I do like her. Friends. That was my idea, and at times, I regret it sorely. You don’t tell your friends that they make you hard just looking at them. At least I don’t, because I’m a goddamned gentleman. Allie Aberdeen drives me nuts. I get jittery and weird just being around her. When I find myself daydreaming of her, I’m disturbed by the lurid detail of these imaginings...the soft sound of her sighs, the way I imagine the skin of her neck might smell, her pale, pliable legs wrapping around me.

But here’s the rub: I actually like her. If I just wanted to fuck her that would be one thing. That is a scenario with only two outcomes: you find yourselves in bed together or the inclination eventually fades (though it never really goes away, does it?) Maybe something comes of it, maybe you go your separate ways, avoiding each other’s eyes now that you’ve seen each other in the awkward moment of climax. That’s not what I want with Allie. Not what I want for Allie.

“She’s cool,” I say to Alex. Cool. As if such a lame word could encapsulate this girl, this woman, hiding what I suspect are acres of baggage behind a lot of tough talk. I want to move all the bravado and posturing aside and open every suitcase and trunk. I want to know why some offhanded comments make her look so tragic, and why praise seems to bounce off of her without leaving a mark.

“Cool, mmmhmm,” Alex says, clearly not buying my bullshit. “Then you won’t mind if I ask her out.”

I most certainly do mind. Alex has me trapped and he knows it. “I’d rather you didn’t.”

Alex grins, takes one of my fries and points it towards me like a finger. “That’s what I thought.”

About the Author

Beau North is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with English Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, an internet collective focused on pop culture.

Twitter: @BeauNorth

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