Today I want to share an excerpt of a scene between Elijah and Julian, two characters from The Lust Diaries, but first I want to share some thoughts around this series and the characters in it.
For a brief moment (a year actually) I had a Patreon. When I started it, I'd hoped that it would help me slow down and stave off burnout. Obviously that didn’t happen because I’m slowly healing from burnout now. But it was really cute that I thought that was actually a thing I could do. Hilarious, even.
But I digress…
One of the stories I wrote for my patrons was Every time I revisit The Lust Diaries world, I'm always so happy and content with the characters I've created there. Before I started writing Seventy-Two Ours, I took the time to reread The Lust Diaries Trilogy. Partially because I wanted to reacquaint myself with the characters, but also to read it a bit more critically. Pick it apart and acknowledge what I did well, what needed work, and what I'd missed about my writing... It was interesting, to say the least. But as I considered Yves in all of her awfulness, I saw something that I never noticed before.
Yves, with all of her bravado, recklessness, and selfishness was deeply ashamed.
Ashamed of what she'd done.
Ashamed of what she felt she allowed people to do to her.
Ashamed of not living up to her mother's expectations.
Shame, shame, shame. So much shame.
And she wasn't the only one either. All three of these characters were dealing with shame to some degree.
So of course this led me to Brené Brown, the shame researcher -- among other things.
Here's what she had to say about shame.
"We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don't come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there's something wrong with us -- that we're bad, flawed, not good enough -- and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop a resilience to shame."
-- Brené Brown
The more I think about this almost throuple and the complicated relationship between Elijah and Yves, the more I realize that their story (which has continued beyond book three in my head) is about vulnerability and them developing a resilience to shame as they find their way to an HEA.
Honestly, I keep trying to give up on Yves and Elijah but they keep pulling me back in.
SN: Seventy-Two Ours is probably the dirtiest, most emotional thing I’ve written that doesn’t end in a HEA. It’s probably the MIDDLE of a longer story that I've absolutely been writing in fits and starts. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but anyway, here's an excerpt from that story that explores the bond between Elijah and Julian. This excerpt is from Julian’s POV.
“JUST GREEDY. YOU ALWAYS WANT WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE.”
Yves Santiago has everything she never wanted in handsome, kinky, and dreamy Elijah Weinstein. Somehow that still isn’t enough. She can’t stop thinking about that summer she spent with her sweet Julian in Jamaica. It’s been more than a year since Yves ended her relationship with him, but her greedy heart wants more.
Julian Webster left Philly with a broken heart a little over a year ago. But the moment Elijah reaches out to tell him that Yves misses him, he’s on his Indian heading south to spend the day with her. A day turns into a night, and one night bleeds into another and he begins to question everything he thought he knew about himself. Has Julian’s heart healed enough for them to be friends?
Elijah knows Yves still loves Julian, and he’s not entirely sure if he should feel threatened by it. What he does know is that he will do anything to make her happy. Even if it involves sharing her with another man.
* * * *
Crickets whirred and chirped in the dense night, finding me where I sat on the rooftop deck of my condo building. It was late, and the space was deserted — just the way I liked it. The low four-story building didn’t offer much of a view this time of night except for the quiet tree-lined streets of the Greenville artists’ community that I now called home. During the day, I could see the Blue Ridges if it wasn’t too cloudy, but I could only just make out the dark outline of the closest ridge against the night sky lit by the full moon and stars.
It was quiet. Peaceful. The perfect place to drink about my feelings.
At least it was until my phone rang.
I stared at the number on the screen. Elijah Weinstein wanted to FaceTime with me.
My knee-jerk response was to refuse the call because fuck him. Like, what kinda bullshit was he on to call me on this night? The eve of the anniversary of my proposal to Yves? Especially when he was probably with her. Probably had just made love to her and climbed out of bed to call me.
That scenario pissed me off enough to answer. “Where’s Yves?” I asked without bothering to give him the greeting of the day…or night. Whatever the fuck time it was.
“Well, hello to you, too.”
“If you’re expecting pleasantries, you’ve called the wrong person. Where’s Yves?”
“You should go join her—”
“Don’t hang up. I need to talk to you. I waited until she was asleep to call because she’d be pissed if she knew.”
“Oh? I thought ya were completely honest with each other. That ya didn’t hide nuffin’ from each other and kept no secrets.”
“We don’t. I’ll probably tell her in the morning.” A brief pause. An assessing stare. “Are you drunk?”
I rolled my eyes and looked at the bottle of rum I bought this afternoon when I decided to have a drink about my woes. It was a third gone. “I guess I am,” I grumbled. “But that’s beside the point. What a gwan that ya feel like ya need fa reach out to me behind her back?”
Elijah sighed and shook his head. “We’re in Atlanta.”
I meant to speak. I meant to give him some sort of quippy and slightly hostile retort, but all that came out of me was a strangled sound as I considered what he said. Atlanta. Two hours away. In two hours, I could be there. I could have her in my arms.
“Did you hear what I said? We’re in Atlanta, Julian. And…she needs you.”
“Needs me?” I echoed, then laughed mirthlessly.
Elijah scrubbed his hand over his face. “Come the fuck on, my dude. Do we really have to do all of this? Tomorrow’s the anniversary of your proposal, and she’s been fucked up for days now. She’s here to host this workshop. It’s a big deal, and it’s important to her, but her head ain’t right.”
“And ya saying that’s because of me?”
“I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault. I’m just saying…she’s suffering, and you seem to be suffering, too. So why not end all that suffering for the both of you?”
I scoffed. “That simple, huh? Just end our suffering and come running because she needs me?” I sucked my teeth and shook my head. “Nah, she made her choice.”
“No, you made the choice for her.” Elijah’s voice had a stern, censoring edge to it that made me bristle. The steady, unblinking look he delivered through the screen felt like a challenge.
“That kinky daddy shit doesn’t work on me.”
His answering sneer was knowing, and I knew I would hate what he said next. “Not outside the bedroom, anyway,” he countered, lifting one blond brow.
Goddamn him. He really was a handsome fucker, and somehow that made all of this worse. As heartbroken as I was, I could still see why she chose him. Elijah was the kinda pretty that women fawned over. They literally melted in front of him. I’d seen it happen with my own eyes. Those green eyes, that floppy blond hair, and a crooked grin that said, “Who, me? I’m harmless,” when his actions were the exact opposite. He wasn’t just a pretty package, either, and that was the worst of it. He had that charisma thing going for him, too. I could see and understand why she wanted him and knew I couldn’t compete with that. That’s why I left.
“I don’t want to argue with you, Julian.”
“Fine. Let’s just end this call then—”
“Okay, but not before I invite you to come down for her book signing tomorrow. Let us take you out to dinner. Catch up face-to-face. I think the two of you need it.”
“And you? What do you get out of this?”
For the first time during this video call, Elijah dropped his gaze. Something about his demeanor changed that I couldn’t put my finger on. Something significant.
“I get to make her happy,” he said finally, then looked at me again. He looked as if he wanted to say something more, then shook his head. “Yeah, the week leading up to this has been rough. I just want to make her happy. Restore some of her self-confidence.”
“Restore her self-confidence?” I questioned, sitting up in my chair. “Is she doubting her work?”
“Worse, actually. I would say she’s doubting her purpose. She came down to lead a workshop on writing feminism and sexuality. Today she took an interview with someone that made her question it all. The interviewer accused her of playing into the over-sexualized Latina stereotype, called her memoir pornographic, and then…they mentioned you.”
“Yes, she implied that Yves used both of us to get to where she is now, and it hit her hard. Yves is a lot of things that she would readily admit to, but she’s not opportunistic. She would never do something like that. You know that.”
“How could someone even think that about her, let alone put it in an article?”
“People think and say lots of things about her, Julian. Usually, she’s pretty good at letting the shit roll off, but not this.”
It was hard to imagine that people would believe Yves was disingenuous when she put so much of herself out there, exposing the tenderest parts of her for public scrutiny. What could they possibly think she had left to hide?
Me. Our relationship. She had always been very protective of me and what happened between us. I knew that from articles and interviews where she refused to discuss our time in Jamaica and our breakup. I was thankful, but now I felt a bit guilty for letting her take the brunt of all that.
“Listen, I get that you’re setting boundaries, and going no contact with her is part of it. But you’re miserable, and she’s miserable, and neither of you seem to be getting over this, so…maybe this will help. Maybe it will give you some kind of—”
“I swear if ya say closure, I’m gonna end this call.”
Elijah chuckled. “Okay. So not closure then. Maybe you could find a way to…honor what you had to make sure it doesn’t turn into heavy emotional baggage.”
I rolled my eyes. “Likkle late for that.”
“Is it?” he asked, raising that blond brow again.
“Fine, if I do show up, I got one thing I wanna ask, though.”
“I wanna spend some time alone with her without you...lurking ‘round.”
“Heh. I get it. You wanna get her alone so you can see if she’ll still let you fuck. I think we both know the answer to that.”
“You are a truly bizarre man. I will never understand you,” I muttered and then said smugly, “but yeah, we both know what her answer will be.”
“Okay, well, you can ask her about that when you see her. You have my blessing. Either way, she needs to see you, and I want to make her happy, so I’ll text you the address of the signing. Choose to show up or not, but if you do, don’t bring her roses. Stargazer lilies are her favorite flower.”
And just like that, he ended the call.
His last words stung a little, though. The night I proposed to Yves, I brought her a big bouquet of red roses. I didn’t know that stargazer lilies were her favorite flower, and it had never occurred to me to ask.
“I know that now,” I murmured, remembering the painting I’d done for her of those same flowers when I realized I had to let her go. That night we spent together before my flight to South Carolina was meant to be the closure both of us needed. Leaving and cutting off all contact with Yves was supposed to be the end of all this.
But was it really?
Because I left the line of communication open between me and Elijah, which had to mean that I didn’t really want closure. That I wasn’t really done. I mean, did I even believe closure existed for us? I left because I knew she wanted to be with him and figured that at least one of us should be happy in the aftermath.
But if she wasn’t happy and she still missed me…
My phone vibrated in my hand, and I glanced at the screen to see the flyer for her signing at a bookstore in Little Five Points.
Sighing, I minimized the text message app and opened Safari to search for the florist closest to the bookstore because, of course, I was going to Atlanta to see her. And this time, I would bring her favorite flowers.