coffee shop therapy – a short story

Coffee predicted the future; Jasper knew this for certain. If you stared into the milky depths of a classic brew, you would see the career you retire from. If you delved into caramel swirls, you would see the pets you’d own at any given time. If you dared to mix raspberry and chocolate, your true love would appear.

Now this last one was tricky because often the fates thrust a person through the café doors just as the future was predicted. One longing glance into the cup and ting-a-ling the bell would ring and a human came into focus. Whether coincidence was a jerk or coffee was truly divine was a question that often arose.

A lonely town off the main drag was home to the most superstitious group of human beings the world had ever seen. However, it was also a magical place by all definitions, so the denizens had every right to be superstitious. Anything and everything that could possibly happen had happened. So, imagine their collective surprise as the new “coffee prediction” phenomenon took the town by storm. Finally, a way to be sure of the future! Or, at least, some aspect of it.

Even though coffee crystal balls sounded like an easy concept to grasp, not just anyone could predict the future. The lucky few that could were taken aside, assigned stations, and dispersed throughout corporate hotspots and indie cafes. The only condition? The place had to sell coffee. The fortune tellers appeared across town wearing civilian clothes so no outsider could abuse their powers. Patrons had other means of finding out who in the shop was the teller of truths…

So there Jasper sat, in a cushy corner of the local Starbucks where the seat cushion was molded to his form. The orange pleather upholstery squeaked as he shifted to cross his legs, the fabric stressing at the seams. His large brown sweater sat unevenly on his shoulders yet his navy pants hugged his legs. Curly, unruly blonde hair fell into his face as he gingerly sniffed his caramel latte. He was waiting for someone.

“Wafting is for wussies.”

Jasper’s eyes traveled slowly from his cup to a pair of bright blue eyes. He smiled at the start of the secret phrase. “And beans are for brutes. Sit down.” He kicked at the chair in front of him, which slid out for the customer to sit. The body fell into the chair and collapsed with his head resting awkwardly on his outstretched arms. The man had no coffee to read; he simply came for the therapeutic conversation.

“Jazz, ya gotta help me. You’re the closest friend I got.”

“What else is new? You’re here so often people think we’re brothers,” Jasper purred, pretending to count his nonexistent customers. He pushed a thin wooden stirring stick in the man’s direction and whispered, “I know it helps you think.”

“Thanks,” the man blubbered into his arms. He snuck the stick under his arm and popped his head up with the stick firmly balanced between his teeth. His hair, unlike Jasper’s, was slicked back and straight, a jet black that almost looked blue in the dim lights of the café.

“Please don’t ever mention it. So, tell me, Lou.” Jasper placed his hands lightly on either side of his steaming latte. “What ails you?” Jasper lightly blew on the drink, the caramel scent traveling up and away past recognition. He was going to get a stray cat in a few days; the prospect was exciting and inevitable.

Lou chewed relentlessly on the end of the stirring stick, the visible interpretation of what his mind was going through. “It’s… the ladies.”

That was hardly a new answer. Jasper refrained from rolling his eyes by sticking his face in the wide-brimmed latte cup and taking a large gulp. Upper lip graced with milk foam, Jasper stared ahead. “Paint me surprised.”

“I’ll paint you an entire landscape if you can help me,” Lou cried. His shriek attracted the attention of a few tourists across the floor.

“I don’t have room in my flat for your subpar artwork, you know this.”

Lou nodded sadly. “I know, I know.”

“But seriously, be specific. What ladies?” Jasper humored his friend. He was well-versed in Lou-ology to know that there weren’t multiple ladies—in fact, it was just the one.

“Harper. She’s driving me insane, Jazz!” Lou said.

“Ah yes, that old vixen.” Harper was a reader like Jasper, though she operated down the street in a family-owned coffee shop called WholeGrounds. “Tell me, Lou,” Jasper mused, “Is there a reason you keep trying?”

The question made Lou drop the stirring stick, mouth agape. Jasper had never dared to ask that question—it was possible Lou could see it as a bit too personal—but apparently, all bets were off today. Did the barista put cinnamon in his latte? Sometimes that made him a bit spicy.

“Has Harper shown any signs of love? Any little hints?” Jasper asked. Lou began to raise his finger in thought, but Jasper pushed it back down. “I only ask because this is killing me inside.”

As Lou continued to look perplexed at the thought of considering someone else’s feelings, Jasper slipped his phone out of his pocket and sent a quick text.

Lou frowned. “Well, come to think of it…”

Just as Lou was about to ramble on about signs that Harper was definitely not in love with him but made her seem like she was, Jasper caught the eye of a potential customer. She looked away shyly, but the classic coffee smell was unmistakable. She was waiting for a reading.

“Hey, Lou, can we talk about this later?” Jasper asked, patting Lou’s arm.

Lou turned and noticed the waiting customer. He nodded and lumbered towards the checkout counter. Jasper watched him fumble through his wallet and wait in line to order a drink, something Lou rarely did. Before he could analyze Lou just a bit more, the girl in waiting sat down and placed her coffee gingerly on the table.

“Wafting’s for wussies,” she chirped a little too loudly.

“And beans are for brutes.”

He couldn’t let Lou leave his sight.

Luckily, the girl’s reading didn’t take too long. She and Jasper discussed her career prospects, consulted the coffee, and came up with a reasonable solution for her future. As she left the Starbucks, Jasper frantically searched for Lou.

Abandoning his station, Jasper combed the small, yet jam-packed, coffee shop. A couple people looked up to see what the fashionable young lad was doing ducking and bending around the close-knit tables, but overall no one seemed to notice him. He finally found Lou sitting in the farthest corner of the shop, a cup of steaming liquid in between his large hands. Lou was sitting quite close to the rising steam, little droplets of moisture forming on top of his nose.

“Lou, what are you…?” Jasper asked.

“Shh! I’m trying to read,” Lou whispered, as if the coffee could hear their conversation.

Lou never acted so strangely. Jasper frowned and eyed the dark milky brew. He knew that combination anywhere, especially in his place of work.

“Raspberry and chocolate,” Jasper said aloud. “What are you doing?”

“Hush, Jazz!” Lou waved a hand at him. “I’m looking into the milky depths… how do I know when my true love walks through the door?” He despaired.

“You just sorta—” Jasper was interrupted by the door’s bell ringing. “Oh my God.”

“You don’t think…?” Lou whispered in amazement.

“No, I don’t think. Now just drink your coffee, okay?” Jasper snapped, ditching a confused yet hopeful Lou.

Jasper made a beeline for the door and, more specifically, the person who walked through. She was a young woman, dark red hair against olive skin, bright eyes that always asked how you were doing. Today she wore a gingham dress under a homemade apron, the name “WholeGrounds” embroidered on the front.

“Hey, Jazz! Something the matter?” She asked as she noticed Jasper’s glare.

“Just turn around and exit the building, Harper. Meet me at WholeGrounds,” he hissed.

“But you texted me—”

“Yeah, I know what I did! Just turn around!” Jasper pushed her and tried to ignore the hurt look on Lou’s face from across the room.

Jasper picked up his satchel, exiting the coffee shop. His caramel latte sat unfinished atop the chipped granite of his table, the final stems of steam dissipating before the bell on the door rang.

“Do you want to tell me what that was about?” Harper asked, pulling her keys out of her pocket. She fiddled with the key until the WholeGrounds door opened. Turning on the lights, Harper tossed her jacket to Jasper. “Hang that up, will ya?”

Jasper hung the coat over a large hook in the wall and slumped into the large couch in the center of the café. Compared to the stuffy and crowded atmosphere of Starbucks—which Jasper tended to like anyway—WholeGrounds was more open and intimate. There were hardly any lights except for the coffee bar, and the only seating areas were tables against the windows, large sofas in the center. The place forced you to interact with strangers but let you talk in secret if you desired.

“Poor timing, that’s what!” Jasper said, playing with his phone case.

“Poor timing? Poor timing made you push me out of the store?” Harper laughed and began setting up shop. She set little coffee pods across the counter labeled with “free sample” stickers and started writing up the evening’s specials.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” he responded.

“It’s whatever. But really, what’s going on?” Harper asked.

“Well, do you happen to know a rather large and imposing man named Lou?”

At the sound of his name, Harper froze; the C she was writing derailed. “Lou? That’s a pretty common name.”

“Maybe so, but this Lou is pretty unmistakable.”

“How so?”

“Well, he kinda loves you. Like, a lot.” Jasper smirked as Harper dropped the chalk and sighed. “Now, do you know Lou?”

“Yeah, I know him,” Harper said quietly, fixing the C. ”What about him?”

“He uses me as his therapist.”

Harper snorted and finished the word she was writing: chocolate. “Well that was his second mistake.”


“His first was using me as his reader and… falling in love with me. It’s a joint mistake, really.”

Jasper gasped so hard he coughed on his spit. “Um, excuse me, what?”

“Well, you know I’m a reader, right?”

“Yes, Harper, we established this a few years ago.”

“And you know I started reading here at WholeGrounds, right?”

“Yes, and now you work here. Wish Starbucks would offer me a position…”

“No, you don’t, and yes, now I work here. I still read during my lunch breaks, though. That’s when Lou first came to me.”

Jasper was aware of how much Lou loved Harper, but he had never imagined that it was because of any previous interaction he had with her. Harper was an attractive woman by pretty much any standard; by definition that meant Lou would most likely love her. But once Jasper sat down with Harper, he realized there was more to the story.

The two returned to the large couch. Harper began to gush about how lovely Lou had been, how kind, how sweet. She painted a picture for Jasper about their first meeting and how Lou bought her a coffee so she wouldn’t feel awkward reading his drink. She blushed and laughed, all of these little memories of Lou lighting up her face like a Christmas tree.

“He ordered every drink on the menu just to spend time with me. I was flattered,” Harper said.

“How did it go wrong, then? You seem so smitten,” Jasper commented.

Harper blushed again, her face turning a bright scarlet. “Well, he left the chocolate raspberry latte for last.”

Jasper nodded.

“And I was about to tell him to drink the coffee and see who walked through the door, but someone had just dropped off a bunch of vintage coffee mugs outside the shop. So I went outside for a few minutes to thank the donor and returned.”

Despite the seriousness of the story, Jasper was hooked like it were a soap opera. “And then?”

“It was me, Jazz.”


“I am Lou’s true love.”

Jasper clapped his hands together and jumped with the energy. “Well that’s perfect then!”

“What do you mean?”

“He loves you! He isn’t just making it up!”

Harper shook her head at Jasper’s exclamation. “But I don’t know if these readings really work, Jazz!”

“That’s ridiculous. We tell people everyday exactly how their lives are going to play out.”

Harper laughed bitterly. “Have you ever checked back in with your patrons? See if their life path is really how you predicted? Have you ever had someone throw coffee in your face because you didn’t predict something happening to them? Have you…” Her voice tapered off, her eyes watering.

Jasper frowned and pat Harper’s hands. Taking one between his own, he warmed her hands.

“Well, no, none of those have happened to me. Honestly, I’m thankful. However, the answer seems pretty easy to me. Why don’t you drink the latte to find out if Lou is your true love? What harm could it do? At the very least you get a great cup of java out of it.”

“That’s ridiculous. It doesn’t work like that, Jazz; life doesn’t work like that!”

“Well doesn’t love trump all? Can’t you just do it to see?”

Harper was silent for a moment. Just as the quiet became too much, she whispered, “But what if it isn’t him? What do I do then?”

Jasper shrugged. “Well, at least then you know. You could move on.”

WholeGrounds was busier than normal, though perhaps that was because of the evening’s special. The main barista, Harper, was shouting orders left and right, but her eyes were bright with the adrenaline rush. Her customers were happy, so she was happy.

After what seemed like years, Harper took her break and sat down next to one of the windows. The early evening light gave the seat a cool glow, though it cast a shadow on the person sitting opposite her.

“Are you ready?” He asked, pushing the latte cup towards her.

Ignoring the cup, Harper looked across the table at Jasper with pursed lips. “I’m not sure.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“…being hurt. Knowing for certain.” Harper looked out the window to avoid Jasper seeing her nervous tears.

Before Jasper responded, he checked his phone. With a smile he said, “Look at it this way: you’re going to know eventually, so why not ask the fates now?” Jasper put his hands over Harper’s. “The worst they can do is be right. Or not put anyone through the door, which could be a blessing if you think about it.”

Harper laughed. Nodding, she took a deep breath and pulled the cup towards her. She could feel the warmth around her fingers and closed her eyes. Raising the cup up to her lips, she took a deep breath and a small sip.

The bell on the door rang.

It had been weeks since Jasper saw Lou; the big guy usually came through once a day and asked for therapy. Lately, the Starbucks had been quiet without him.

The usual customers came and went; after you had so many readings, you pretty much knew everything a brew could tell you. Especially if you came to Starbucks; the options there were truly limited. But, Jasper had to admit he missed Lou and his sob stories. In fact, he also missed Harper, though he could just hop in and say hi whenever he wanted to.

Harper still worked at WholeGrounds and actually picked up more readings on her days off. Whenever Jasper did stop in, he had to watch that she wasn’t giving a reading; he couldn’t have anyone falling in love with him anytime soon. After the stress event that was Harper and Lou’s matchmaking, Jasper couldn’t take any chances.

As Jasper sat on his comfy orange lounge chair, he looked at his phone. At the top of the list was Lou’s name in bold print. “Thanks” was all it read. Jasper sat back and looked out the window next to his chair. He had long dismissed the ringing of the Starbucks bell—it was so busy that the bell became background noise—but this time he looked up to see bright blue eyes and a smiling face.

“Reading’s for rookies,” Lou teased.

Jasper laughed and handed Lou a stirring stick. “Yeah? Well love’s for losers. Take a seat, wise guy.”

The two talked until Starbucks forced them out the door and into the world. It was a strange and mythical world, but it was one where coffee and flavor shots determined your love life. Unless, of course, your therapist had a cell phone and the power of influence.

Featured image: Cappuccino Italiano II by Christopher Clark


sunrise – a story in parts

On the tiny island of Minoa, there lived two respected families: the House of Ilios and the House of Daed. Though they were not of the kind to fight over their differences, they existed on different planes. The Ilios family served the people through hard work and volunteering in order to humble themselves. The Daed family, on the other hand, served the people through business ventures and taxation. To the denizens of Minoa, it was clear which family served the community best. Without the assistance and compassion of the Ilios family, the people would go unheard and unrecognized. Under the watchful eye of the Daed family, the people were frightened and cautious. The island couldn’t suffer the reign of Daed without the support of Ilios.

For years it continued in this way: the Ilios family raised the people up while the Daed family pushed them back down. Though the Ilios family tried their best, they were never fully able to overcome the Daed family’s influence on the Minoan people. Instead, they gave back to the community in little ways. They continued volunteering and doing odd jobs around town, eventually procuring enough money to buy the long-abandoned building in the heart of Minoa. They had grand plans for a place that would serve the people by providing warmth, food, and community to anyone who was in need.

It was around this time when Sunday Ilios, the lone child of Mel and Jasper Ilios, was born. The sun shone brightest that day; the warmth practically enlivened the people to join in the construction of the new community building. Day in and day out, the Minoans chopped, hammered, and grouted away at the mess that was the old town winery. Baby Sunday squealed in the background and enchanted the townspeople with her sunny disposition. The child never cried, even when the Daed family came to reclaim the building.

It was also around this time when Russ Daed, the lone child of Mika and Ali Daed, was born. Russ was to be the heir to the Daed fortune, but the world had other ideas. The child grew up in a world of tension and disappointment. The day the Ilios family bought the old winery was the day Russ’s world truly turned black. His father left him at the house in the arms of his nanny, weeping at the absence of parental presence. Meanwhile, Ali Daed rushed down to the building himself and saw to it that the construction was halted. He couldn’t have the street rats giving the Minoans hope. How dare they believe in such a childish feeling. He began shouting and throwing anything he could find. Some undercover Daed supporters began joining in the fight and, soon, the place was a massacre. Mel took Sunday back to the house, but there were no safe places in the era of Daed.

The fight died down after much persuasion at the hands of Mel and Jasper, but Ali made sure his message was clear.

“Mark my words. Whenever you find success in any small amount, I’ll be there. I’ll be watching. I’ll make sure your kind are never given more than what they deserve,” hissed Ali. His hands were bloody with the memory of the battle. He scanned the frightened mob of denizens, each face etched in fear and uncertainty. His eyes at last fell on Mel and Jasper, standing tall and holding Sunday close. “And you. Sunday Ilios. May your days be ravaged with the memory of today. The righteous will always fall.” He wandered up to the unfocused child and marked her forehead with a bloody finger. Mel slapped his arm away and sent him back to his mansion on the hill where little Russ waited.

As Ali wandered back up the hill, little Sunday Ilios let loose a wail that ran a chill through Minoa. The era of Daed had begun, and no one was safe. Not even young Russ Daed who lay, weeping in silence, waiting for the return of his father. While the town mourned the day their delicate harmony crumbled under the weight of solemn victory, the Ilios and Daed heirs entered a new world where they were connected in a way they would never quite understand.

In the days that followed the fight, Mel, Jasper, and the Minoans built up the winery into a rugged yet organically beautiful soup kitchen. Mel and Jasper served the community from behind a shiny countertop with cheerful Sunday kicking away in her highchair. As the years continued, Sunday grew up in the soup kitchen, her days filled with cleaning dishes, taking orders, cooking meals, and eventually taking over the joint. When Sunday was old enough, her parents left the soup kitchen in her hands as an act of trust.

“You’re so strong,” Jasper whispered to a humbled Sunday. “We have complete trust that you can bring this kitchen to greatness. Own it with pride, Sunny. And respect it as if it were living.” Her father kissed her forehead and draped her favorite apron over her chest. Turning her around, he tied the strings and placed a gray beret atop her head. “To Sunday!”

“To Sunday!” The town roared back.

In the days after the fight, Russ was forced to believe that the townspeople had risen against Ali in an act of violence. He cried for days fearing for his father’s safety; he truly believed the Minoans were dangerous people. While these foul thoughts filled his mind, the people outside celebrated a new dawn with the opening of the soup kitchen. When Russ was old enough, and after much persuasion, Ali allowed Russ to leave the house with at least two bodyguards in an act of frustration. Russ was determined to experience Minoa for himself instead of blindly believing his father’s grandiose stories.

Russ took careful steps at first, but once he understood that no one was walking the streets he began prancing like a wild pony. The bodyguards initially acted amused, but they quickly became hostile at the sight of the gathering outside the soup kitchen. They were just about to spring into action when Russ raised his hand.

“Leave them be,” commanded Russ. He had plenty of practice using his patented Daed demand voice that the guards froze in their steps.

Russ peeked around the side of a nearby building and watched Sunday be crowned with her beret and apron. Her auburn hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, dusted with flour and spices from the kitchen. In a word, Russ was smitten.

“To Sunday!” Her father crowed.

“To Sunday!” Russ was surprised to find himself cheering along with the Minoans, his smile widening as Sunday beamed with her head to the sky and tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Mom, do you have my apron? I can’t seem to find it…” Sunday rummaged through her meager belongings with such force that clothes were flying in every which direction. Mumbling to herself, she clawed at a few sweatshirts on the ground. “I know I left it here somewhere…”

“Heads up, Sunny.” The apron landed on Sunday’s head, splaying over her hair, still wet from the shower. “You washed it last night, silly.”

“Oh, right. Thanks, mom.” She threw the garment over her overalls and yellow “Minoa Minnows” shirt from summer camp years ago. After slipping on a pair of sneakers, she slipped an elastic around her wet hair, tossed on her beret, and kissed her mother’s cheek. “Gotta go, mom, love you bunches.”

Sunday blew into the kitchen and kissed her father’s cheek, slipping a pancake from his plate as she did so. “Thanks for the breakfast, dad! See you later, okay?” She took a bite of the steaming pancake and closed the door behind her.

Within minutes she was on her way to the Minoan soup kitchen. It had only been a few years since her parents passed the business on to her, but she was still just as in love with it as she was the first day. She had come to call the cramped area her second home, complete with a second family that she found in her regulars. Although most soup kitchens were meant exclusively for the needy, the Minoan soup kitchen served any and all who chose to enter the premises. Even if that meant Ali Daed, the self-proclaimed enemy of the establishment, anyone was worthy of service.

Sunday couldn’t help but smile as she saw the brick-walled kitchen appear on the horizon. The early morning sun was still cresting the hills of Minoa, and yet the kitchen’s patrons waited eagerly outside for the doors to open.

“Good morning, Leslie! Kett, you’re looking well,” Sunday greeted her two favorite regulars. They were always first in line for opening and warmed up to Sunday since she began managing the kitchen.

“Mornin’, Sunday! Beautiful day for some fish, hm?” Leslie suggested, elbowing Sunday’s ribs as she tried to open the doors.

“Just because you fish all day does not mean I want to cook fish all day, Les. You know this.” Sunday laughed, finally succeeding in opening the doors. She and the patient patrons flooded in and turned on the lights, the sound of pleasant conversation rising to a healthy din.

“Leslie, if you eat so much fish you’re going to become one yourself,” Kett chided gently. She ran a hand through Leslie’s sea salt-encrusted gray mop. “You’re also a fright. Let’s get you cleaned up!” Kett, Leslie’s patient wife, took Leslie’s hand and brought him over to the sink behind the counter.

As the two chattered over the cleanliness of Leslie’s appearance, Sunday took it upon herself to start lunch. Today’s special was tomato soup, as it was every Wednesday, and it was a town favorite. If she didn’t start early, Leslie wouldn’t leave enough for the rest of the town.

Sunday unpackaged the ingredients and smiled as Kett quietly took up a knife and began slicing tomatoes. Leslie, though less precise than Kett, began chopping basil with a large machete-like knife. Kett made a joke about the knife being sharper than Leslie and the three of them laughed so hard they naturally salted the ingredients with their tears. At some point in the morning Sunday began to realize just how lucky she was to have this family, to have this kitchen, to have this life. What more could she possibly want?

“Pops, do you have my satchel? I seem to have misplaced it…” Russ paged through his expansive closet like a well-worn book, piece by piece moving left to right in a steady rhythm. No matter how long he stared, he couldn’t find the satchel.

“I swear, if you ask me where that piece of trash is one more time, I’ll burn it.”

“That’s saying we find it first,” Russ retorted, finding a different bag in the back of his closet. He puffed it out and dusted off the top with a smile. “Never mind; this’ll do.”

He began packing the bag with his “Day Out” essentials: water, pencil, and his trusty notebook. Russ never heard a response from his father about the bag; it was probably better that way. When Ali Daed was in one of his moods, the household was essentially a prison.

That’s why Russ wanted to get outside. He wanted to escape the mood swings and possibly, if he were lucky, get a good story to write for the Minoa Chronicle. The thing Russ liked most about the town’s newspaper is that the management didn’t care that he, Russ Daed, was the son of the richest man in town. That being said, he was finding it difficult to break the barrier and enter the journalism world.

“Write a story, plain and simple,” the editor had said. “Once you give us a story and it doesn’t sound half bad, we’ll consider your application.”

That sounded simple enough, but finding a worthwhile story in Minoa when the same hundreds of people lived there each year wasn’t easy. Plus, most businesses in town were not willing to hire the snotty rich kid from up the hill; after all, he had all the money. What did he need with more?

For Russ, though, it wasn’t about the money at all. It was about the search for truth, justice, and the occasional act of vengeance. Being raised in a house of lies was enough fuel for the journalistic fire that burned within Russ’s mind. His first step towards being his own human was getting this job.

Russ was out the door before Ali could ask where he was going. The walk from his house to Central Minoa was a bit long, but there was no way he would get a good story if he didn’t walk. So thus the journey began.

By the time Russ reached Central Minoa, his legs were throbbing with the strain from the exercise. At that moment, he would kill for a water; he had already gulped down the bottle he brought on the way down his own hill. He figured there would be plenty of cafes that sold beverages in Central Minoa, but Russ couldn’t see any. There was also no way he would survive walking even a block in any direction, his legs were so sore.

He plopped on a bench and massaged his ankles. While he did so, the sounds of chattering Minoans got louder and louder. Was it a mob? Another confrontation? It had been years since the last one, so that would be interesting…

Russ stood up begrudgingly to see what the ruckus was about. He hobbled over to the wide street and noticed the crowd of people waiting to get into a brick building. As he walked past the long line of people, he could pick up certain dialogue.

“Have you heard what soup it is today?”

“Tomato basil, my favorite!”

“Do you think Sunday’s cooking today?”

“Of course, don’t you smell the spices?”

Russ forgot about all pain. All he could think was: Soup. Sunday. Spices. This is the soup kitchen line. It was surreal to see so many people waiting for some tomato soup. It was even more surreal that Sunday was just beyond the crowded doors still holding up the business. Perhaps it was most surreal that Sunday had no idea who Russ was and yet Russ practically worshipped the ground Sunday walked on.

Eager to fix that minor detail in their relationship (or lack thereof), Russ hopped into the soup line and began mingling with the Minoans. Some recognized him as a relative of Ali’s, the two didn’t look alike save for the same black hair and copper skin, but no one held it against him. In this neck of Minoa, everyone was accepting and simply eager to enjoy some of Sunday Ilios’s tomato soup. Within his waiting period, he learned that this year was Sunday’s fifth year of management, hence the long line and popular soup.

By the time, Russ entered the soup kitchen, it was past noon and the place was just as busy, if not busier, than it was before he jumped in line. The inside of the soup kitchen was decorated with banners celebrating Sunday’s fifth year as well as confetti and streamers in varying shades of orange. The line dwindled down before him, but as he got closer he noticed Sunday struggling to get the soup out of the pot. He heard the scraping of metal on metal and saw a flash of panic across Sunday’s face.

At last it was Russ’s turn. He stepped up to the counter and caught Sunday’s eye, smiling. She was in the midst of requesting the next large pot from an older woman off to the side, but she still managed to crack a smile.

“Well, you’re a new face! Ever been here before and I just haven’t noticed?” Sunday asked, leaning on the counter while she waited for the soup. Her auburn hair was barely held in an elastic band under her beret; the locks fell around her face like a lion’s mane. Her shocking blue eyes met Russ’s, leaving him gaping instead of responding to her question.

“Uh… uh, no! No, unfortunately I’ve never been inside.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“That is to say, uh, that I was at your crowning.” Her eyebrow stayed raised. “When you were given the kitchen? I… I was there then.”

“Oh, okay! I don’t remember seeing your face, and I’m usually good with faces.” She laughed, a lilting sound that reminded Russ of wind chimes on a summer day. “Well are you here to eat then…?”

“Russ, the name is Russ,” he spattered.

Sunday nodded and took the large pot of tomato soup from the older woman next to her.

“Well, nice to meet you, Russ! I’m Sunday. Enjoy your soup!” She exclaimed, ladling the soup with such precision that she must have done it at least one hundred times today.

The fact that Russ was walking away from Sunday hit him as he sat down to eat his meal. He hadn’t even talked to her! He just spat out his name and took the soup without even saying thank you. What kind of person did she think he was after that? And it wasn’t like he could just run up to her and start apologizing for his awkward mannerisms; when your father never let you leave the house when you were younger, it was tough to acquire social skills. No, he needed a reason to speak with her again…

Russ looked around for Sunday, but of course she was behind the counter serving the rest of the Minoans. His eyes fell on the banners about Sunday’s fifth year… and click. An excuse to talk to her again. The news story he so desperately needed and, after a quick scan of the room, no other seedy journalists were lurking. It was his big break!

Russ stood up so forcefully that his chair toppled to the ground, the sound making everyone turn to stare. Even Sunday raised a hand and called out, “Y’all right, Russ?”

The sound of his name on her lips made him beam and wave in response. “Yep, all good here!”

Sunday smiled like she knew that wasn’t true. Laughing to herself, she continued ladling soup. She started spilling little amounts of tomato soup at first, just little dots of red sprinkling the countertop. But, by the time Russ appeared at her counter again, she had just finished spilling an entire ladle’s full over a poor woman’s hands.

“Oh, goodness! I’m so sorry, Mrs. Peters! Do you want another bowl?” Sunday gave one to her anyway and sighed heavily. What was wrong with her?

“Hey, do you have a moment to perhaps, uh, talk?” Russ asked, hanging off to the side of the counter to give people room.

“I’m a bit busy…,” responded Sunday. She was intent on watching every drop of soup enter each bowl, so looking at Russ was not an option, never mind speak to him.

“Well, it’s for the Minoan Chronicle… I wanted to do a story on you!” Russ blurted out.

“A story? On me?” Sunday responded, dropping the ladle into the pot with a splash. She wiped the soup off her cheek and covered the pot. “You’re not serious, are you?”

“Serious as I’ll ever be, I’m afraid!” Russ responded.

“Well, um, okay! Yeah, sure, okay,” Sunday tried to keep her smile small, but the thought of being in the town newspaper was a bit exciting. “Kett, could you take care of this? Thank you so much.” She beamed and tossed her apron over a chair behind the counter.

When she came out of the kitchen, Russ directed her back to his table where his soup sat uneaten. At the sight of the full bowl, Sunday’s heart sank.

“Uh, you’re not going to write a story about my cooking, are you? Seeing as… seeing as you didn’t like it.”

Russ looked down at his bowl and gasped so loudly the surrounding patrons looked up in alarm. “What? Oh my, no! I wanted to write a story on your experiences here after five years of management!” Russ laughed.

“Oh!” Sunday laughed along with him, grateful for the relief. Experiences were better than talking about her cooking. “Well that’s fine, then!”

“Perfect!” Russ took the notebook out from his satchel and the pencil from behind his ear. “Sunday, have you ever been in the paper before?”

Sunday knit her brow and tried to think, but she couldn’t remember a time when her business with the soup kitchen was published in the Chronicle. The little pamphlets that were passed around town always had her face on them—she always assumed they were menus of the soups for the week, even though she never published the list officially—but otherwise her stories were untold to the richer society of Minoa.

“Well, no. I don’t believe I have. Not the Chronicle, anyway,” she responded.

“We’re going to change that,” Russ replied with a smile.

The two began talking, a situation that changed from awkward to familiar in a short amount of time. Anyone who looked over at them would notice the reddish tint to Sunday’s cheeks, the genuine smile on her lips, and the way she nervously played with her hair. Russ was a ball of sunshine, his cheeks straining from the laughs and smiles Sunday caused. A few times he put a hand on her shoulder during a particularly powerful laugh.

There was a point when Kett was about to ask Sunday to return to the kitchen, but she realized how happy she looked just enjoying the moment. Instead, Kett and Leslie served the Minoans until there was simply no soup left to provide. Luckily the Minoans had come back for seconds and thirds before they ran out of soup, so no one was left without food.

“What school did you go to again?” Russ asked, leaning back in his chair.

Sunday was perched on her chair with her knees up to her chin, but that didn’t stop her from chuckling.

“Minoa Middle, you know? The Minoan Minnows?” She pinched the shoulders of her shirt and pointed to the logo. “We’re the Minnows!” She made an obnoxious sound and dissolved into fits of laughter when she saw Russ’s concerned face.

“I always knew it! The Minoa Middle Schoolers were the worst! They were such hooligans; no wonder you went there!” Russ teased.

“Oh yeah? Well where did you go, Mister High and Mighty?”

“Minoa Prep, of course.”

“I always knew it! The Minoa Preps were the worst!” She mocked him, waving her hands in the air like she was telling a ghost story. “Only problem is, you don’t seem to be as big of a jerk as the rest of the Preppies.”

“Oh, and that’s a problem?” Russ asked, smirking.

“Well, when you put it that way… no. No, it’s actually a good thing.” Sunday examined her nails to avoid Russ’s gaze. The comfortable silence hung between them for a little longer than Sunday was used to, but it was nice.

Russ looked at Sunday, Sunday looked back. Russ smiled, Sunday smiled back. When Russ stood up and gathered his things, Sunday followed suit.

“I’m sorry to break this up, but I really need to get going and finish this story,” Russ apologized. “I had the best time today, though.”

“Me too.” Sunday smiled.

“Uh, I’ll let you know when the story’s out!”

“Yeah, yeah! Of course! Don’t be a stranger, Russ,” Sunday replied, reaching out to put Russ’s pencil in his hand. She closed his fingers over it and pat them before disappearing behind the counter once more.

When she entered the kitchen, Kett stared a hole into the back of her head. “What—”

“Kett! He’s still here…,” Sunday hissed, waving as Russ exited the building.

“Who was that?” Kett exclaimed, her voice reaching stratospheric pitches. Her hands clasped around the ladle she was cleaning, soap flying everywhere.

“Oh, just… Russ.” Sunday bit her lip to keep from beaming and turned to the dirty dishes.

“Sunday and Russ…” Kett murmured to herself as Leslie laughed.

“We gots ourselves a little sunrise at sunset,” Leslie boomed, smacking Sunday on the back with a smile.

Russ worked tirelessly to get the story finished before the morning Chronicle was delivered. He was eager for his story to be considered; the sooner it was published, the sooner he could return to Sunday with a fresh paper in his hands. Hands.

If he thought about it long enough, he could still feel her warmth on his hands. He had been so surprised by the gesture that he was sure to burst from happiness, but he had left before he could make a fool of himself. All these years, aspiring to be in Sunday’s social circle, and it only took an afternoon to fall. Sunday Ilios was his soulmate, he was sure of it.

The only thing he could do now was submit the story and wait. He ran down to the Chronicle at midnight, knowing they were working on the morning publication even this late. He burst through the door and held the draft in his hands.

“I have a story for you, boys!” Russ bellowed, passing the draft over to the editor.

It had been at least a week before Sunday saw Russ again. She’d be lying if she didn’t admit to waiting like an idiot by the door every morning, watching for his ink-black hair and bright smile. His hazel eyes were imprinted in her mind, the way they squinted when he laughed, which was often. The way he praised her work at the soup kitchen made her insides feel like her own pot of soup, all warm and churning.

On the morning of the seventh day, though, she only half expected him to show up. It wasn’t that she had given up hope, but the odds of him returning or even getting the story published were pretty slim. Sunday had thought about this a lot, but why would a rich people newspaper want a story about the child of a family who tried to take down the Daeds? Wasn’t that just asking for humiliation? Come to think about it, maybe it was for the best that the article not get published. Though, a part of her still wished Russ would come back, even if the story were rejected.

The evening of the seventh day came and almost went. Sunday was just locking up the kitchen when she heard hurried steps.


She turned around to see Russ running at a dangerous speed down the slanted road to the kitchen.

“Sunday, look!”

In his hands, he held what looked like a paper, flapping in the wind. She couldn’t believe it. Was her story really published?

Russ ran up to her and thrust the newspaper into her hands. Flipping through it, she found the story and began reading. Russ had said so many nice and wonderful things, and the story itself was written wonderfully, but how did the Chronicle decide to publish it?

“I still don’t understand… why would the Chronicle want a story about the Ilios family when the readership worships the Daeds?” She asked.

He flinched at the mention of his family name but tried not to show it. “They really wanted a breath of fresh air, Sunday. And you’re it!”

“I… I just can’t believe it.” She could feel tears, but she refused to cry.

“Well, believe it, Sunday! You’re a star now. The whole of Minoa is watching, so stay on your toes.” He winked and put out his hand for the paper. “I need to return it to the Chronicle so they can copy it for tomorrow’s release.”

Sunday gave the paper back reluctantly. She couldn’t wait to show her parents tomorrow, but they didn’t get the Chronicle in this part of town. “Hey, Russ?”


“Would you be able to get me a Chronicle tomorrow? We don’t really get that paper over here.”

“Oh, uh, sure!” Any excuse to see Sunday again was good enough for him. “Meet you here tomorrow?”

“Of course.”

The two looked at each other, waiting for the other to either continue or end the conversation.

“Well…” They both started at the same time, laughing.

“Well… thanks, Sunday. You’re a star, now! No longer a minnow, but a large fish in little Minoa,” said Russ. He hugged Sunday, smiling when she returned the gesture. They stood that way for a few seconds, just relishing each other’s company.

When they finally broke apart, Sunday blushed and began backing up to go home. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Russ.”

“You got it, Sunday.”

“Oh, and Russ?”

He stopped in his tracks. “Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

He smiled and waved, tucking the paper into his satchel and strolling down the street with his hands in his pockets.

As Russ disappeared into the streets, Sunday ran up the stairs and into her house, her face flushed with excitement. She was going to be a star! All of those years at the soup kitchen really paid off. Plus, she made a new friend. It wasn’t Kett or Leslie, or even her parents, but a human her age. If that weren’t enough, she remembered that Russ was due at the soup kitchen tomorrow with her copy of the paper. She had even more reasons to be grateful.

As Sunday sat on her bed, she flung herself backwards and closed her eyes. In the morning she would see her name on the Chronicle. In the morning she would see her parents, Kett, and Leslie proud. In the morning she would see Russ. Pure, simple, rounded Russ.

In the morning, there would be a sunrise, possibly the best Sunday would ever see.

Featured image: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (~1558) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder via Wikimedia Commons

the past is passed – a short story

The park was always busy around bank holidays, especially Labor Day. It also happened to be Bailey’s favorite day, something about childhood memories and warm fuzzy feelings. She wasn’t too clear on the details. In honor of those days, every year Bailey would sit below the old peach tree and watch the neighborhood families make memories. Memories that she once had. Now, all she could do was look on and try to remember those for herself.

The first year she sat at the park alone was the easiest. She was filled with so much joy and hope that she simply had to remember something. Sadly, nothing. Each year after became more disheartening.

Year after year Bailey sat with her knees to her chest and stretched the boundaries of her memory to find a detail. Anything. A name, a word, an action. Instead, all she received were the familiar squeals of children being chased by their parents and hugged around the middle when they were finally caught. After so many Labor Days, Bailey began to wonder whether that warm fuzzy feeling she had was made from actual memories or just from these watchful days.

This year, though, Bailey had a feeling something was ripe to change. The air seemed crisper, the sun warmer. The families had multiplied and grown, the children who were young once now more mature as they watched the festivities. In the distance, Bailey could see the towering cornstalks swaying in the gentle breeze. Something clicked in her brain.

She stared ahead and swore she could almost hear the stalks rustling against each other. Another click. The children in front of her screamed and splashed in the day-after-storm puddles. Corn, rustling, screaming, puddles… click.

The earth fell away from her feet, the peach tree faded from view, and the sunlight dissolved.

The squeals of children somehow remained.

“Bailey, come on! The storm’s coming!” Though the voice was shrill with fear, it gave way to a giggle that made Bailey’s eyes shoot open. There was something about it, the way it lilted at the end and fell into a shower of hiccupping breaths and staccato notes.

She sat up and breathed heavily as she took in the scene. Dark and pointed cornstalks shot up around her and darkened her view beyond. The bright blue sky on her left didn’t match the dark black clouds on her right, and the wind made the corn bend at a ninety-degree angle. But none of these things made Bailey scared or intrigued; the voice that shrieked her name was what was most concerning.

“Bailey!” The voice rang out again, not too far away. Bailey stood up and noticed immediately how the corn, though sideways, was much taller than her. The ground was closer than she remembered. Despite this discovery, Bailey took off at a sprint towards the high voice somewhere in the distance. Something about the timbre of it hitting the wind made Bailey desperate to find the source.

She pushed aside errant cornstalks until she heard loud gasps interspersed with laughing fits. Bailey wanted to call out to this stranger who knew her name, but how could she when she didn’t know their name? Desperate, Bailey yelled, “I’m here!”

“Bailey?” The laughing stopped abruptly as her name was raised.

“Yeah, right here!” Bailey gasped.

“Bailey!” The corn immediately in front of Bailey parted and revealed a teen with blonde hair, gray eyes, braces, and a pink tutu mussed with dirt and grime. “I thought you’d never wake up.” The girl’s eyes watered as she took in Bailey’s appearance. Just as Bailey was about to stammer some emergency comfort, the blonde burst out into the same laughing fit as earlier and slapped Bailey hard across the arm. “Come on, Bails, we’re gonna miss the storm watch!”

The storm watch… Before Bailey had a chance to investigate further, the girl took Bailey’s hand and began running. The girls ran against the wind, hair smacking into their faces and getting caught in their throats. It wasn’t lost on Bailey that her shoes fit perfectly in the divots engrained in the runny soil. Wasn’t lost on her that her companion who was currently pulling her arm did so with a routine in mind. The corn, the rustling, the storm. This had happened before. This was the past. Bailey was reliving a moment.

Bailey’s revelation forced her to stop short, making the girl dance on the tips of her toes before half-falling into the mud.

“Bailey, what gives?” The girl shrieked, shaking mud from her hair.

“Who are you?”

The sudden question made the blonde stop and scrutinize Bailey’s face. “Only your best friend in the whole world, silly!” Though the words were lighthearted, something in the girl’s face made Bailey think this exchange had happened before.

“Right, right. Sorry, uh—”

“Linda,” the blonde responded, saving Bailey the embarrassment. “It’s Linda.” Her face softened though Bailey could see her eyes watering.

But before Bailey could comment on Linda’s state, Linda shook her tears away and grabbed Bailey’s hand. “Come on, Bails! The storm watch!”

After a good amount of tripping and giggling past the awkward moment Bailey and Linda shared, the girls arrived at the cornfield clearing with the other children. The storm watch was about to begin.

Naïve Bailey thought the storm had already started – what with the crazy wind speeds and sideways corn – but Linda laughed when she brought it up.

“The storm doesn’t start until the winds knock us down and the rain makes this place look like a rice paddy!” Linda exclaimed, clapping her hands together. This seemed to be a routine affair considering all of the neighborhood’s children were here waiting for the storm.

“And why do we care so much about it?” Bailey had to ask. Storms were cool, she’d admit that much, but what was so special about sitting in the rain and risking a cold?

Linda’s face contorted slightly as she searched for the practiced response. “There’s not much else to care about,” she murmured, pushing a damp tendril off her cheek.

Bailey cleared her throat to respond, but a crack of thunder interrupted.

“Hush, it’s starting!” Linda pushed Bailey and opened her arms wide.

The rain poured down in buckets and droves, the wind pushing it every which way. Bailey couldn’t tell which was louder: the thunder or the screams of possibly fifty children. Looking around, she could tell that the other children followed in Linda’s example. All fifty pairs of arms spread wide and accepted the onslaught of rain. Not wanting to look out of place, Bailey bared her already-soaked torso to nature.

It was exhilarating.

Before long, Bailey found herself screaming with the others and splashing in puddles without abandon. Socks be darned, shoes be forgotten! Now was the time to live.

Bailey managed to sneak a peek at Linda once or twice. Both times the blonde was twirling and singing with a small but clear voice. Bailey only ever caught a few words over the din, but she swore she could hear the past is passed among the cacophony of voices and nature. Over and over, the lilting melody became as much a part of the scene as the storm.

By the time the storm ended, the clearing was empty save for Bailey and Linda lying in the mud. The neighborhood children had long disappeared, the rain long gone. The world was quiet for a while; the blue skies had returned and the smell of fresh rain rose up from the field around them.

After a few minutes of content silence, Bailey heard Linda turn (as evidenced by the squelching mud) and look at her. “So, what did you think, Bails?”

Bailey allowed herself a smile and a genuine laugh. “It was the best moment of my life, I think.”

Silence spread between the two of them. Luckily, Linda had the foresight to break it by saying, “You’re always so melodramatic. I thought the one last week was better.”

Bailey frowned. If she was in this young body, reliving this young memory, shouldn’t she be able to remember things like this? This conversation, the storm last week, Linda’s name? The girls seemed so close in this moment, but Bailey had no recollection of them ever bonding like this. No storm watches, no Linda in her pink tutu, no young Bailey with muddy shoes and knotted laces. Was this memory where those warm memories spawned from? Or was this just a desperate dream to remember those memories she thought she had?

Linda seemed to notice the growing and tense silence again. “What are you dreaming about, Bails?”

It was like Linda could read her mind. “Oh, uh, nothing. Just thinking.”


“About how things will never be like this again,” Bailey whispered, closing her eyes to the ironic blue sky. She could hear Linda’s sharp intake of breath before she once again traded her emotions for positivity.

Linda gently poked Bailey’s arm and smiled when Bailey looked up at her. “Come on, let’s get moving.”

As Linda stood up, leaving a Linda-sized mold in the ground, Bailey’s vision went static. She could feel Linda’s hand pulling her upwards and then, nothing. Sound became silence. No more soft cornhusk rustles, no more Linda.

Bailey woke up before her body knew how. The memory was painstakingly etched into her mindscape, each line and curve written in vibrant colors. The events were almost too blinding to recall, and yet Bailey could remember the way the mud smelled as she lay in it with Linda. The best moment of her life was long gone, so where did that leave her?

It left her with someone vigorously tugging on Bailey’s arm. She cracked open her eyes one at a time, noting a woman with curled blonde hair and intense gray eyes behind tortoiseshell glasses. Behind the woman, who was abnormally close to her face, Bailey could just make out the playground and the continued squeals of toddlers. She was back in the present.

The woman moved her head to be directly in front of Bailey’s gaze. “Are you okay? That was quite the tumble,” she said. The way the woman cocked her head in genuine concern was so confusing. How had Bailey fallen down the hill? Tripped somehow? Maybe rolled in her sleep?

She didn’t have time to question the figure, however, because she was gone by the time Bailey came to her proper senses. People were beginning to crowd around her, none of them the girl with gray eyes, and the world was beginning to crumble. She saw a flash of blonde hair disappear beyond the playground where the cornfield was, but the crowd wouldn’t let her leave so easily. Bailey stood up on unsteady feet and stumbled her way through the small mob that was forming around her. Instead of voicing her pain, she began running.

Her feet slapped the pavement in disjointed rhythm past the peach tree, the playground, and the cornfield. After a quick assessment yielded no sign of the blonde, Bailey kept running past blooming trees, cavernous sidewalks, and loud main streets. A few people stopped and watched her as she ran by, but no one confronted her. Lucky they didn’t, because Bailey might have broken someone’s nose in her hurry.

There was something terrifyingly familiar about the blonde with the gray eyes and the way she stared into Bailey’s own. There was a myriad of emotions bare in the woman’s eyes: concern, loss, confusion, disappointment. The last part was the most distressing. How could a stranger show that much negative emotion towards a random person?

Unless, that person wasn’t completely a stranger. And Bailey wasn’t some random victim.

Bailey halted in her tracks and analyzed her surroundings. She wasn’t too sure about this neighborhood – she didn’t remember running that far past the convenient mart – but the smell of musky dirt was too hard to ignore. Memories of the storm watch came rushing back. She swore she could even see a flash of blonde hair somewhere, a pink tutu not far behind. She looked across the street from where she stood and noticed the abundance of cornstalks lying dead in the field.

Sure, it was early fall, but that meant corn was ripe for the picking. There was no logical reason for the corn to be dead, not that many stalks anyway, and yet there it was: the complete and total devastation of an entire field of crop.

Even though this couldn’t possibly be the same field the storm watch happened in, the sight was enough to tip Bailey over the edge. Her tears fell down her face in streams, leaving glistening pathways around her cheekbones and down her neck. Thoughts of the blonde with gray eyes disappeared in light of the cornfield graveyard. Time passed in minutes and possibly hours before Bailey decided to start walking home, wherever that might be.

Before she left the scene, Bailey took one last look at the expansive cornfield. She noted the browned husks and dried out stalks. She processed the muddy puddles in random spots around the field from the previous day’s storm. She let herself remember this moment and others before it, when things were simpler and she knew people like Linda.

As she made the move to walk away, she didn’t notice the lone stalk alive and well to the far left of the field. She didn’t process the way it swayed and glowed with fresh color. She didn’t let herself see the woman with curled blonde hair and tortoiseshell glasses sitting beneath it with a notebook in her lap.

Bailey walked away from the field with her heart heavy and her gaze glued to the pavement. She didn’t hear the sound of the notebook closing, the pen clicking, or the soft rustling of the corn stalk as the blonde woman stood up and brushed its side. Bailey would remember this moment—the corn, the death of a memory, and even the blonde with gray eyes—but only because she didn’t bother to look.

Featured image: Summer: Young September’s Cornfield (1954) by Alan Reynolds

3.18 – a short story

I was given a month, day, and time. Notice how the year is conveniently missing. I was told that if anyone found out about this unfortunate condition of mine, something terrible would happen. Again, the important details were not included. Regardless, I wake up living on March 18 at 12 noon. The powers that be give me another year.

I look around the room I’m in, all hiccups and stale beer. Attractive people are draped over every piece of furniture with various shades of Solo cups strewn in every direction. It’s a perfect disaster, and because I’m miraculously alive for 365 more days, I’m honored to be a part of it.

To my left is the girl I spent St. Patrick’s Day with — we’re wearing “I’m with Stupid” / “I’m Stupid” shirts. Somewhere in my booze-encrusted mindscape I remember choosing the shirts unironically. Terry is pretty stupid sometimes, but that’s why I love her.

I reach out and trace a mascara trail down her cheek, relishing the feel of her scarred skin under my calloused fingers. It occurs to me that there will be a day I can’t touch her. Can’t feel her breathe under my fingertip. When the death day comes, she might think I disappeared and maybe she’ll be relieved, but I’ll be devastated. I’ll never tell her that, though. We tolerate each other in our absence of labels and kiss in the shadows of society’s gaze. We’re desperately horrible for each other, but if her love kills me I’ll welcome it with open arms.

I stretch my arms and arise from my comfortable slice of the floor. My back screams so loudly that my ears fear bursting, but otherwise I’m functional. Somewhere in my stomach lies the sour remains of my drunken escapades from the day before, and yet the kitchen calls to me with promises of hydration and a full stomach. I dance over feet and legs to reach the fridge. I grab the orange juice and chug straight from the bottle, the pulp lingering long after the harsh taste. I find a passable pan, a single egg, and some oil to get started. The sound of breakfast fills my ears and goes unheard by the sleeping masses.

Lost in the moment, I hear a familiar buzz. The buzz of reality coming to a halt. I look around and the bodies have evaporated into fuzzy nothingness as if hidden behind a gauzy curtain. The egg sizzles on another plane, and even the pulp stuck between my teeth dislodges. Out of habit, I look for Terry and hear my heart in my throat fearing the worst. Then I see her gentle curve on the floor next to the coffee table. Untouched. Alive.

“So we’ve come to another year. Congrats, Pea!” A voice echoes.

It’s only a matter of seconds before the disembodied voice takes physical form. A grand show of glitter dust spins in place until a dapperly-dressed someone steps out of the clouds. He’s the perfect description of Mardi Gras throwing up onto an outfit — all yellows, greens, purples, and white trim. His voice is legato and somehow knocks the wind out of me, leaving me constantly gasping for breath.

“You seem surprised,” I reply in bursts of wheezing air.

“Pea, Pea, Pea. Always a kidder,” he purrs, laying a cold finger under my chin. The gesture sends shocks through my body.

When I give no response, Mardi (as I’ve come to refer to him) removes his finger and points it to the sky. “Before you even ask, dear Pea-uh-turr, your time hasn’t come nor will I tell you when it will. All you can know is that you live to see another year.” His voice drones on with the burden of practiced speech. With a jolt I realize this is —

“Our fifth year together! Oh, Pea, I’m so glad you remembered. I know in the past I’ve given you the gift of extended life, but I think this important milestone deserves an extra prize, hm?” Mardi gives me a crazed grin that sits like a rock in my gut.

Without my realizing, Mardi disappears from the alternate reality and actually wraps the curtain-like state around his body like a cape. His figure fazes in and out of my sight as he walks. I’m frozen to my spot with the sound of my egg sizzling suddenly a deafening noise. I can smell it burning, can taste the orange pulp. This is happening.

Mardi hovers over my lover-but-not-girlfriend and follows the mascara trail, an action which lights my body on fire. Beyond my reach, Terry stirs and reaches for a familiar body. Mine. When her hands find air, she really wakes up — eyelashes fluttering and pupils large with panic.

“Peter?” She calls out, looking around. All of our friends have become translucent, and not even her trained sight can find me in the stark-white kitchen.

“Hello?” Her voice grows shrill. The way she whips her body back and forth makes me realize she senses something. Does she see the way I’m flailing? The smell of burnt egg? The pop of the stove being on long after its task is completed?

Then I see him — Mardi comes up behind Terry and looks uncertain as he performs his task. He unlatches his cape and twirls it around her shoulders in a long arch. With a mesmerizing leap, Mardi disappears into a rift. Terry shakes as the cape’s translucency shrouds her body and squelches any sense of normalcy. Meanwhile, my reality creeps back phase by phase.

First, the drunk idiots continue to snore on couches and banisters.

Second, I stumble forward as my feet gain purchase on the linoleum.

Third, Terry is gone.

I know her fate before my body; I run around like mad feeling every corner of the room, every fiber of the carpet. I know Mardi has taken her. I know Terry won’t return. But why can’t I understand it?

I was given the supreme gift of knowing the date and time of my death. The ultimate sacrifice included in the fine print was that no one else could know. As I think this, my tongue burns and I choke up black ink. As the drops fall on the carpet, one message becomes clear.

I know. You know. Now, she knows.

Featured image: reverse of volume RG by Yasuaki Oishi via My Modern Met

twelve | twenty | seventeen

Welcome to 2017! You may be expecting a book review (which will come soon, I promise), but today I’m coming at you with something a little different. Hopefully that’s okay.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I write book reviews and the occasional (totally unprofessional) movie review. While that’s all fine and dandy, I do write some other things in my spare time! If I’m not reading books, watching movies, or writing reviews for either, I’m writing short stories. I can hear you asking: so what?

Related image

WELL… This year I’ve made a promise to myself to write at least one short story a month. I was playing around with different venues to post the stories on (or just keeping them for myself), but then I realized my blog wasn’t getting enough love or attention from yours truly. So, without further ado, I present to you:


twelve | twenty | seventeen

twelve stories in twenty-seventeen


I hope you’re as excited as I am! Make sure to keep a lookout for a new story here each month. If you like what you see, let me know and leave a comment! Share it with your friends! I love getting feedback, so please do not hesitate. The first story will be uploaded very soon and I’m already working on the next one! Thanks for reading and staying with me on this exciting journey!


Featured image from Magic4Walls, Gif from Tenor Gifs

Whoa, It’s Magic! [Book Review]

5194yo0pydl-_sx322_bo1204203200_It’s a fairly warm afternoon but the chill of an incoming rainstorm hangs in loose ribbons around my table. I rarely sit outside for this sort of thing—the bugs and random wind chill are really bothersome—but tonight I make an exception. I prop my bare feet on the bench and open the book in hand: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I had heard plenty of acclaim for this novel; my friend named a stray cat after one of the characters and a professor of mine sang its praises just days before I started it. While the book itself wasn’t heavy, the expectations weighed it down.

With the hymns of Goodreads users and verbal reviewers in my mind, I gently open the paperback cover, careful not to break the spine of the borrowed book. Almost immediately, the refreshing scent of ink on paper combined with the domestic scent of everyday life fly from the dust motes and transport me into the text.

The circus arrives without warning.

The wind picks up and flips the pages, words springing from every sliver of papyrus. In surprise, I throw the book in the air and gasp at the sight of it rising quickly into the trees above. All of a sudden, the words that escaped assemble in front of me. As a I read a word, the next appears slightly behind it, leading into the forest. Without a moment of thought, I push back my chair and wander forward. Minutes pass and reality has disappeared, leaving lightning bugs in black and white in its midst.

As the monotone mist clears, I see tents rise and pop like a cartoon. Faerie lights line the edges, giving the entire scene a hazy dreamlike feel. I take a hesitant step forward and the path materializes beneath my feet. More tents seem to appear as I navigate the circus; hours, possibly days could have passed before the scene explodes around me. Without warning, I’m back in my chair with the book nestled safely against my chest.

All right, fictional scene aside, The Night Circus is something special. Maybe I won’t go into excruciating detail about the wonders that lie between the pages—you’ll thank me for that, I promise—but I can tell you why it struck a chord with me. Nay, not just a chord… it performed a symphony.


False Advertising

You may think this is a bad thing, but it’s probably one of the best things that could have happened to this novel. The description on the back of the book (at least for the Target Book Club edition I read from) advertises The Night Circus as a story about the romance between two main characters, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. While this is true (not a spoiler because it’s on the description, come on), there is a romance, it is certainly not the central plot. The circus itself is the center of attention and the descriptions of how intricate and intertwined it is within itself make it deserving of the central focus.

Call It Magic

For something that is purely seen and not uttered by the characters in this book, Morgenstern does a fantastic job with describing the brands of magic Celia and Marco employ. You can’t even see it happening, but after so many pages you learn how to differentiate Celia’s powers from Marco’s and what their limitations are. You learn the names of all the circus members and what they do, to the point that just a simple name drop makes you recall everything that’s happened to them thus far. The magic of this book is definitely within the magic itself, but it’s also within the circus itself. Every tent exhibits something different—again, I’m not explaining because the descriptions are worth experiencing unspoiled—and when you finally close that book, the longing you feel is something unlike book hangovers felt before. It’s like a wanderlust after you return home from abroad.

But that Romance Though?

CELIA AND MARCO FOREVER. I honestly can’t say more, because I’ll ruin it. Read. This. Book.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is worth experiencing. You might tell your friends that you “read” the book, but you’ll know deep down that you “experienced” it just like the rest of us. It might not be an adult form of Harry Potter, but it makes you believe in the magic of circuses and love.

Sources: Desktop Images, Amazon, GIFSec

Warmth in the Winter [Book Review]

i'll give you the sunDuring the summer of 2015, my best friend and I picked up I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, the author of The Sky Is Everywhere. I had heard from my Young Adult Literature professor (shout out to Dr. Bittel!) that Give was highly praised and weighted with award authority. If there’s anything I’ve learned from award-winning books in any discipline, it’s to tread carefully and keep expectations low. Sometimes what you consider award-winning isn’t what Newbery or Printz believe, and that can be disappointing.

However, Nelson’s novel deserves all of the awards and then some. I’m not kidding or even exaggerating when I say this book is beautiful. The language, the imagery, the dialogue, the pacing, the characters: it’s all gorgeous and breathtaking in a way I never thought possible. I spent years lusting over John Green’s language-wielding powers, and I still do to a point, but with Give Nelson has cast me under her spell. I have found another teacher to whose talent and quality I aspire; she joins the ranks of JK Rowling, John Green, and Neil Gaiman. A pretty hearty cast of characters, if I say so myself.

I can hear you asking: is this just Riley gushing over a book because of the honeymoon stage (yes, that exists in books, I swear)? When I first read it, I would have discredited my high praise because of the honeymoon stage. If you’ve been here a while, my review on Divergent was a result of the honeymoon book stage, and I definitely have different views on it (and the series) now. However, the love for Give is real and legitimate. Six months later, I’d still start a life with this novel and swear to read nothing else (except maybe Harry Potter). It’s that entrancing.

A brief summary: Noah and Jude Sweetwine are twins estranged by the twists and turns of life that force them apart. However, at age 13 when the book starts they aren’t separated just yet. In the second chapter, at age 16, the separation is definite and you aren’t sure why. Nelson switches between ages 13 and 16 (with Noah and Jude as narrators, respectively), and the answers to rising questions aren’t revealed until the very end. As described on the back of the book: “The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s.” With that in mind…

What makes this novel so good? Let’s look at the breakdown.

IGYTS quote 1Organization

Switching between two different characters at two different times in life may seem risky, especially when those two characters are twins, but Nelson manages to make the transitions clean and swift. I often found myself longing to continue the story of Noah by skipping a Jude chapter, but once I started with Jude I couldn’t possibly skip her point of view. You soon realize both perspectives are necessary because what you get from one you won’t get from the other, especially because of the age differences. The chapters begin as typical 20-ish pages, but by the end of the novel they escalate to 70 pages a piece. While this seemed a bit nonsensical at first (I’m one of those who needs to finish a chapter before I do something else), the total immersion you get as a result is significant to how you understand the story and how you feel about the characters.


Speaking of characters, they are definitely a large reason this book is so wonderful. The first page of the first chapter begins with Noah Sweetwine: “This is how it all begins.” Very fitting. With this sentence, he looks at the reader, takes them by the hand, and sits them down. He eases the reader into the narrative with six words of welcome. In contrast, the first page of the second chapter begins with Jude Sweetwine: “Here I am.” Instead of taking the audience by the hand, she stands like a piece of art waiting to be judged. She presents who she is without beating around the bush and doesn’t give the audience a chance to sit. She’s fast-paced, using half the words her brother does to greet us. To be honest, these sentences are very telling about the characters who say them. While the focus of the novel is definitely on Noah and Jude, the background characters are just as rounded and dynamic. The Sweetwine parents, Grandma Sweetwine, Brian, Oscar, and Guillermo all jump off the page and beg you to listen to their words. Trust me: when I listened, they pulled me straight into the pages and refused to release me. Even to this day, when I haven’t read the book in six months.


Holy goodness gracious, the language. I spouted about it earlier, but it is beautiful. It changes between Noah and Jude because of their vast difference, as you would expect, but Noah’s chapters have the best descriptions. In describing why guys like Jude, he says: “And because of her hair—I use up all my yellows drawing it” (3). You can immediately see him drawing pictures of them together, all of his yellow pastels wasted on the curls of Jude’s hair. It’s a striking image to me because of how little is said to get such detail. Noah also uses names of hypothetical paintings to summarize a scene. When he imagines Zephyr, a surfer, walking away with the ocean at his back, he uses the following title: “Portrait: The Boy Who Walked Off with the Sea” (3). This happens with every large point in Noah’s chapters, whereas Jude uses verses from Grandma Sweetwine’s bible to rationalize her strange decisions. In the second chapter when Jude is about to walk into her art critique, she cites the following passage: “A person in possession of a four-leaf clover is able to thwart all sinister influences” (24). The language each twin uses captures the world through their eyes and sets them distinctly apart from each other. It’s interesting to watch their words fluctuate and evolve as chapters continue and events occur; their language grows with them.

One thing I will warn about is that, with Noah’s language at least, it becomes hard to tell whether he means things metaphorically or literally. It warrants having to read the phrase or sentence a couple times over, but I would argue that’s part of his charm. He is so beyond reality that his language and thought processes stretch with him. In contrast, Jude’s language stays close to home and vague normalcy while her mind floats beyond the realm of rational possibility. Another concern that’s been aired is the convenient way things tie up at the end. I’m not going to say much more on that, but I liked how it ended.

IGYTS quote 2

In the interest of keeping this review spoiler-free, I won’t continue with my thoughts on character relationships and the like, but I will leave you with this: Give delivers emotions and laughs in a carefully-wrapped brown paper package tied up with string. I can only hope it’ll become your favorite thing, for the sake of rhyming. If you do happen to read Give, let me know! I’d love to talk about it. I’m in the process of rereading it and would love to hear your thoughts. Until next time!


Feature image from Wikia, cover image from Tumblr, first quote image from Goodreads, second quote image from WordPress

Christmas Break Broke Me.

It’s become a semester-ly tradition of mine to read some “destress books” to wind down from the grueling high-brow literature of the English major canon. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this; you all understand the struggle that comes with a mission like “destressing.” By the very nature of the word “destress,” the book should be something simple and mindless to read with some nice outcome to keep your mind off the previous semester. Sometimes I hit some really great hidden gems (*coughcough* Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins…), but most times I smack the ground hard. I was going to say I won’t mention any names, but isn’t that what you’re here for? To avoid the cringe-worthy plots and sad characters of specific books so that you don’t dole out the money? Well, if you are here for that, read on. I won’t disappoint.

In ascending quality order, here are some rants. Ratings are my own.

this is what happy looks like

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (2 stars)

Because of some coincidental spelling mishap when typing his agent’s email address, teen heartthrob Graham Larkin contacts Maine-based nobody Ellie O’Neill, the girl with all of the L’s and E’s. While it sounds ridiculously cheesy, that’s kind of why I bought it. It was $3 at BAM, the cover looked promising, and I’m all for a cheesy romantic YA destress book. HOWEVER, this book is quite the annoying doozy of events. Neither character is likable. Plus, they have all of this pent-up passion after half of the book but all they do is kiss maybe twice (I’m not looking for erotica—duh it’s YA—but how is that realistic?! YOU REALLY LIKE EACH OTHER DON’T YOU?!) In short, it’s unsatisfying. The ending is strange and unresolved, the Graham/Ellie relationship is sort of sweet but quickly turns annoying, and some characters just feel like faceless add-ons.

Read It: fluffy stupidity for those who wish of a Hollywood romance taking place in Maine (it can happen? I don’t know), mindless reading, decent writing

Don’t Read It: annoying characters, random father plotline, weird mother plotline, actors owning pigs (seriously, what is that about)

to all the boys i've loved before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (3 stars)

A girl, for some unknown reason, writes letters to each of her crushes (detailed and very full of feelings), addresses them (there’s no reason for this), and keeps them in an old hat box. There are many things wrong with this idea to begin with, but the novel hopes you’ll put those details aside. Spoiler: I didn’t. My Kindle version is littered with shouting-caps notes about how dumb the plot is. Regardless, my biased opinion aside, I only picked up this book because of a BookTuber, polandbananasBOOKS, or Christine May. She said in one of her last videos of 2015 that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before would satisfy the need for cheesy love that Stephanie Perkins’ novels give you. If you’ve read my reviews of Anna and Lola by Perkins, you’ll know I LOVE those books. I was so excited! Until I read the first couple chapters and lost every sense of my suspension of disbelief. Sorry, Jenny Han, I won’t pick up the second novel P.S. I Still Love You until I am promised it gets better. I’ve heard it doesn’t.

Read It: Peter is a guilty pleasure character (jerk but he’s fun to read), you feel vindicated when Lara Jean starts hating Margot (BECAUSE SHE’S THE WORST), mindless reading

Don’t Read It: empty characters, annoying characters, stupid love triangles that shouldn’t exist, weird sister falling in love with older sister’s ex-boyfriend nonsense, letters never meant to be sent but are addressed, and unresolved ending, THE WRITING

an ember in the ashes

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (4 stars)

A dystopic world and star-crossed lovers. No, this isn’t Divergent or The Hunger Games, this is SPARTA. No, just kidding, but the world is inspired by the ancient greats. This little number is the only novel this season I finished quickly without skipping chapters and wishing it would end swiftly (you know, like the other two). Two stories—a Scholar slave Laia and an Empire soldier Elias—and a beautiful world. I read the entire 400-page tome in two days and couldn’t put it down! The characters were fully rounded (albeit developed a bit too fast in terms of Laia), the settings were beautiful descriptive, the weapons were flipping cool, the whole Empire concept was inspired, the love plotline was delicately approached, and YES DIVERSITY IN YA HOLY GOD! My only criticism, and one I’ve noticed across Goodreads, is that the love rectangle present was a bit strange on the Laia side. You’ve been warned, but maybe you understand it more than I do. Regardless, I absolutely cannot WAIT until the next in the series.

Read It: characters with life, heartbreaking motives, kick-butt women soldiers, family plot twists, beautiful world building, THAT WRITING THOUGH, THAT DIALOGUE

Don’t Read It: weird love rectangle, love plot pushed to the back (which is fine with me, but might be sad for others?)


So, there you have it. Three books read in a span of a month, each of them vastly different than the others. It was an emotional rollercoaster in good and bad ways, but I survived. If I was able to, I think you should as well. What did you all read over the holiday break? Let me know in the comments and recommend me some books! I’m always looking for new literature, and obviously I have no bias to what I read. Until next time!


Featured image from FreeJupiter, all other images from Goodreads


Keep Calm & Carry On

Anglophiles, we’re going back to the UK. YA enthusiasts, Rowell is back with gusto. Fantasy fanatics, this will feel familiar. Why? Because Carry On, set in the UK and based off the fanfiction written by Cath in Fangirl is essentially Harry Potter. Not really, but I may be getting ahead of myself.

If you haven’t read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, you haven’t lived. And that’s saying something, coming from me, considering I badmouthed the book (without reading it for shame) until I found it for bargain price at BAM. Morgan and Gillian, two of my loveliest friends, recommended it up and down to me but I wouldn’t budge. To this day I can’t really say why I opposed it so much; I’m just sorry I waited so long.

But, anyway. I’m not over-exaggerating; this book is fantastic. If you’re anything like me—a geek who grew up loving Harry Potter so much that sometimes the divide between fantasy and reality was a bit too wide—then you’ll relate to the story’s protagonist, Cath. She is ½ of the dynamic sister duo, Cath and Wren, at her new college. However, things aren’t all peachy-keen. Being a twin is difficult because not only are they growing apart, but Cath doesn’t know how to be herself without Wren. The only thing she does know is Simon Snow, and that’s the world she prefers. Of course there’s an adorable male love interest, Levi, but you need to read the book to discover him.

Now, this isn’t a Fangirl summary or review, but I think you get the gist. Essentially Cath writes enormous amounts of fanfiction about Simon Snow, and she’s afraid that makes her strange. Maybe in some circles it does, but I completely relate and feel that fanfiction is, in fact, not strange. From a writer’s point of view, what better way to explore characterization and keeping true to it than by fanfiction? Besides, it’s not like you’re publishing it officially (I’m looking at you, E.L. James).

Regardless, being a huge fan of Harry Potter, it’s impossible not to get caught up in fanart and fanfiction. Like I said, I even write some myself. It’s a creative way to explore the world you love even further and in a more intimate way. There was a point when that sort of thing used to be strange (How dare you use someone else’s characters and make them do things they don’t do in the books! BLASPHEMY!!), but now with the age of Tumblr and countless fanfiction websites, it’s the norm. If you’re not reading/writing/reblogging/drawing for your favorite things, you aren’t an active part of the fandom (says Tumblr at least).

Enter Carry On. Originally the fanfiction Cath writes for her favorite series, Simon Snow, before the final book comes out, now Rowell is actually publishing it as a book. And not really tied to Fangirl at all, just a book on its own. I can’t even fathom how excited the publication of this book makes me. Fangirl is one of my favorite books of the past decade, and the Simon Snow fanfic parts were some of my favorite bits. Now the whole romance-yet-not relationship of Simon and Baz (reminiscent of Draco and Harry) can live on in full book form! My heart is singing with excitement, to say the least.

To wrap it all up, I’m beyond ready for Carry On to be safely in my hands smelling of fresh paper and ink. I’m completely prepared to laugh, maybe cry, and definitely feel mountains of emotions for Simon and Baz. But most importantly, I’m fully amped to share this all with my two greatest friends who introduced me to Fangirl and remind me every day that I am that weird geek, that girl lost in her fiction worlds, but that’s part of the reason they love me. Besides, they can’t complain because they’re the same way!

Now, stop reading this and go read Fangirl before Carry On comes out on October 6. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

My Weekend with Anna and Lola

Happy summer and happy annual revamp of Booking Awesome! Today I’m coming to you with the fact that I’ve read 2 YA romance novels in 2 days. It may sound like no large feat, but, boy, did my heart take a beating because of them. The novels in question? Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, both by Stephanie Perkins.

I’ll start by saying that I heard about these books recently because of people like Kristina Horner (italktosnakes on YouTube) and other BookTubers and they had great things to say, but I was in a bit of an anti-romance novel state at the time I heard about them. There’s just something about YA romance that gets me a bit depressed, and it’s strange because I’m 21 and past that age of high school first loves (but really, are we ever past that stage? –boos for corny comment–). But, I must say, there’s something different about the way Stephanie Perkins writes her characters and their stories because the only depression I felt was after finishing the books. Dang it, Perkins, write more books so I can live on and on in your wonderful YA romance world of fabulous men and wonderful ladies! I’m in deep, if you can’t tell.

annaI remember picking up Anna in my local BAM and eyeing the pink cover with the Eiffel Tower looming in the background. I also remember thinking: Hey, Paris! Super romantic city, something about French kisses in the title, and pink is the color of love. This could be totally cheesy. Or, past me, it could be totally enthralling. I decided to buy both Anna and Lola for my Kindle because they were cheaper, but I feel like I’ll end up buying them in print just because of how much I loved them both.

Now, on to my analysis review deal.

No matter how much I adore these books, I knew they’re not for everyone. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief you need to have before entering their worlds; while they do take place in modern-day Paris/San Francisco, the relationships that take place almost seem otherworldly. Brief plot summary of each: Anna goes to a boarding school in Paris and meets this hot British-accent American who treats her like a queen pretty much. Lola goes to high school in San Francisco and her first crush returns to his old home right next door and he treats her like a queen pretty much. See what the issue is here?

I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be treated like queens, but that certainly isn’t always the case in every relationship. I’m also not saying that Perkins should have written these true-to-life (I mean, it is fiction), but it’s something to consider when you’re wondering if you want to read them or not. I enjoy gushy adorable things and literally squealed when I read both of these novels, but I know a lot of people who hate that stuff. I’ll just suffice it to say that, if you think it’s something you’d like, go for it. If you think you’re going to hate it, don’t buy it. Get it? Got it? Good.

Anna might be my favorite book out of the two so far (and there is a third, Isla and the Happily Ever After that came out last year I think), but it’s not really because of Anna’s character. Anna herself is pretty plain and vanilla for a character, but her relationships with Etienne and her friends make her more interesting. Alone, she’s pretty bland. Etienne St. Clair is charming, sweet, thoughtful, and attractive to boot. The way Perkins writes him makes him unbelievably real. I remember when I first read his description I rolled my eyes. Of course he’s British, I thought, of course he’s British and of course she’s in Paris and white girl problem white girl problem etc. If you read it and find yourself thinking the same things, trust me it gets better. Etienne is pretty much the man I thought I’d find on my study abroad trip to London. Turns out he was waiting in Paris this whole time and ran off with Anna Oliphant to San Francisco. Drat.

With Lola, the dynamic is completely changed. She’s still in high school, is a budding costume designer, and is completely and utterly eccentric. I loved her. She wore crazy outfits, didn’t give a crap about anything anyone had to say, and had this hipster band boyfriend, Max. He was pretty great until, well, he wasn’t. The love lolainterest of Lola’s story is the one and only Cricket Bell, a darling eccentric weirdo who wears multiple bracelets and pinstriped pants and adores all of Lola’s quirks. He’s literally the boy next door you wish you had, one who built little machines for you and found a way to travel between your window and his. Lola’s main issue is that she loves Max, but her heart is set on Cricket. In my opinion, where’s the competition? The dude’s name is Cricket but goodness’ sake and he knows how to braid hair and make little trinkets. Plus, he’s friends with St. Clair. Swoooon.

My only issue with these two novels is that I could predict where they were going. While the way Perkins executed the books was unexpected and kept me on my toes, the basic plotlines were pretty obvious to me. Though, to her credit and to my own, I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately (mainly romance despite my anti-romance kick earlier this year), and the way they play out are generally the same. I find that, with YA romance, the characters make the story more than the plot. Going into the stories, you know that the main couple will be introduced in the first 10 pages, they will hit it off almost immediately in some way (positive or negative), and there will be obstacles but they’ll end up together in the end. The tension will lead up to this explosive kiss at the end and everything will be awesome until you turn the last page. Then? Ultimate book hangover.

The great thing about these three books from Perkins (Anna, Lola, & Isla) is that the book hangover holds you over into the next book. For example, Lola works at a movie theater that Anna and St. Clair also work at, so you get to see their relationship progress from the first book without the book being about them specifically. The same with what I read of Isla; she’s mentioned in Anna as a member of the junior class at the Parisian boarding school, and that she likes Josh, a member of Anna’s friend group. The way all of these characters are intertwined satisfied my desire to know what happened to Anna and St. Clair, and only time will tell if the whole Lola and Cricket relationship has progressed through Isla’s story (though, admittedly, they live in San Fran while Isla and Josh are in Manhattan/Paris). No spoilers, please!

So, in short, this review wasn’t actually a review, it was a love letter to Perkins’ love stories. I guess, though, it’s also a plea for you to read the books as well so we can talk about them! As we speak I’m reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, so Isla will have to be put on hold, but once I read it I’ll be sure to report back.

Until next time, DFTBA!