Last night I took a cat to the vet to have a tick removed from its neck, and that experience was less painful than this story.
This month’s Red Hot Read is from a book called Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore and, despite the sentence above, it’s not terribly written. It also actually includes some red-hot content. (There was much rejoicing.) Before you stop thinking this is a comedy blog, though, let me dive in—it’s still pretty shitty.
When my eyes opened that first morning in the cottage they called Bittersweet…
I can think of a couple things that are bittersweet: chocolate chips for baking, dark chocolate, coffee with one of those milk chocolate spoons melted into it, and Kara getting to keep the Plot Puppy from Beautiful Disaster but never getting to kill Travis or Abby. I cannot, however, see how any cottage at all should be named Bittersweet. [Matthew says: I also feel it’s important to add that Kara adopting Plot Puppy isn’t canon and basically a lie BBGT chooses to believe in, which is probably also bittersweet. And weird.] [Ariel says: Whatever helps us sleep, amiright?] I feel like Beverly-Whittemore wrote this book with the title in mind and then, once the book was done, realized that she had written a cheerful erotic novel rather than an angst-ridden book set in high school. Instead of renaming her book, she just slapped the damn title onto the cottage and called it a day. How lazy.
Out the window, I could see a nuthatch hopping up and down the trunk of a red pine, chirping. The Vermont air was cool, and I was alone.
Later in this story, we’re going to find out that our narrator’s window is closed. Obviously she drilled a hole in a wall at night in order to feel how cold the Vermont air was in the morning. [Ariel says: You know what kind of crap we read on here, when I believed for a second that this was actually the case.]
Our narrator (who I just found out is named Mabel by actually reading the synopsis at the top of the page) [Matthew says: Mabel is one of those names that – through no fault of the story’s – always ruins suspension of disbelief for me because of this.] goes on to describe how the cottage isn’t shabby and gross like she thought it was when she arrived the night before.
But I understood now, as I took in the shining brass beds in the morning, the crisp cotton duvet covers, and the faint smell of coffee wafting up from the kitchen, that this was a quiet place, a country place, a place of baguettes and spreadable honeycomb, idyllic and sun-drenched…
From this paragraph (which was good in theory!) I’ve learned that my home can either be shabby or it can be in the country, where the “scent of mildew” is written off as idyllic and quiet.
Ev’s bed, the twin of my own, lay empty under the opposite window, rumpled sheets cast aside.
This description is really dramatic. It’s as if I was trying to tell people that, at this moment, I stopped writing this post to go to bed because I’m tired and have to wake up before 6 am to be at work by 7, but instead I said, “Closed, my laptop was a crumpled husk, cast aside as I ventured upstairs to find sleep, that elusive mistress of the night.”
I felt a hint of desire.
Let me point out that all I omitted in between the last quote and this one was Mabel’s surprise that Ev was up prior to 10 am (can we talk about the name “Ev”?) [Matthew says: I was about to! It sounds like quirky teen name that a quirky teen would give themselves, like “Tris” or… “Jil!”. Yeah, I ran out of examples really fast. You’re probably all gonna have to google who the fuck “Jil!” is.] and Mabel trying to fall back asleep. I guess rumpled sheets cast aside meant something more dramatic for Mabel, too. Like sex. [Matthew says: Yes, more importantly, she felt desire from what?][Ariel says: Need I remind you she only felt a hint of desire.
And so I (shyly, bravely) put my hand down between my legs and felt myself grow wet.
GUYS THIS IS IT. THIS IS THE RED-HOT CONTENT WE HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING TWO LONG MONTHS FOR (For which we have all been waiting two long months. Sorry). [Matthew says: I’M SO CONFUSED. WHY ARE WE MASTURBATING RIGHT NOW? WHAT BROUGHT US TO THIS MOMENT?] [Ariel says: THE HINT OF DESIRE FOR THE RUMPLED SHEETS!]
Soon my fingers were buried deep, and I was in another world.
For some reason, all I can imagine with the phrase “buried deep” is a squirrel nestling its way inside my vagina.
I tried to remember to listen. But there were always a few moments in which even I could not be cautious enough to subdivide my mind.
“Even I?” Is Mabel an expert at “subdividing” her mind during sexual encounters? This makes me feel like she’s looking at me and saying, “If I couldn’t subdivide my mind, what chance do you have?” I don’t know, Mabel. Maybe if there wasn’t a squirrel burrowing inside my hoo-ha, I’d be able to focus on other things!
…I felt the particular sensation of being watched… There, framed by wood and glass, was the face of a man.
See? The window is closed.
Oh, and someone is watching her masturbate. [Matthew says: This isn’t red hot at all. I’ve seen this scene in tons of horror movies.] [Ariel says: I’m sorry when did this turn into Black Swan?]
I screamed. He ducked. I covered my whole self with the quilt. I laughed, horrified, nearly suffocating under the duvet.
I would be horrified too, if I was so bad at pulling the covers of a bed over myself that I nearly suffocated. [Matthew says: Yes, but you’ve forgotten that the sheets are rumpled and cast aside, the twin of my own, which was empty against the opposite window, Ev’s window. It sounds really complicated.] I wouldn’t be laughing, though. I also definitely wouldn’t be laughing if a stranger had just caught me masturbating and then I tried to pull the covers of my bed over myself and ended up suffocating instead of just hiding.
Mabel gets dressed with “nun-like modesty” before Ev finally returns to the room, smelling like “a child who’d been playing in the forest…” Can I ask how a child playing in the forest smells different than an adult playing in the forest? Can Mabel smell mischief and innocence? Is that another one of her talents, other than subdividing her mind? [Ariel says: It’s a bittersweet talent.]
Ev offers to cook breakfast for Mabel, and there’s an awfully long description of the kitchen. I’m skipping it.
“Galway said he met you this morning,” Ev mentioned, casually…”He’s pretty awkward…Was he awful to you?”
“No, not awful. He just caught me masturbating in what was probably someone’s childhood bed and then almost killed me by forcing me to pull the duvet over myself. Ev, you know I can’t pull the duvet over myself without suffocating!”
But Mabel doesn’t say that. She just asks Ev a question and we find out that “Galway” is Ev’s brother. [Matthew says: Who the fuck is naming these children? I bet their parents are named like “Aardvark” and “Diaspora” or some shit.] Then there’s some more exposition that all leads up to this glorious closing line:
Even then, I was glad I’d come.
GET SOME, MABEL.