Beautiful Sacrifice: Chapter 6
Last chapter ended with Taylor doing the usual Maddox move of forcing himself into his love interest’s life despite her constant protesting that she’s not interested. What made this one stand out was that he showed up at her doorstep with his laundry, asking to do laundry. This is really what’s happening.
He was a man I would normally stay far away from, and there he was, beautifully sloppy, standing in my apartment.
“Is this a satisfactory location to do your laundry?” I asked.
Nothing says forbidden love like laundry.
“Still better than the Laundromat?” I asked.
“Yes, but I can go if you want me to.”
How nice of you to say after the second or third time you begged and pleaded with her to do something with you after she repeatedly said no. Taylor really does do his laundry, which gives us this bafflingly detailed description of the process of doing laundry…
“Just turn it to whatever setting and pull the dial to start it.”
Taylor’s appreciative smile was actually a little—okay, a lot—cute. He followed my directions, turning the dial on the washer and pulling. The water began to pour out from the back of the drum.
…as well as the inevitable “get in my pants” joke this was all leading up to.
“There’s room in the washer,” he said, pouring in the laundry soap.
“My jeans don’t know your jeans well enough to be washed together.” […]
“I’m not trying to get into your pants, Ivy League. I’m just asking to wash them.”
Taylor assures her he won’t ruin her only pair of jeans because he’s “been doing laundry for a long time”. Falyn is surprised that his mom didn’t do laundry for him, which Taylor silently confirms, making the second time his mom came up without him mentioning that she’s dead. I’m kind of surprised Falyn hasn’t picked up that something’s up with Taylor’s parental situation by this point, but Taylor immediately blows her cluelessness way the fuck out of the water.
“If your parents are so rich, why are you in this shithole?”
YOU WERE THERE WHEN THEY GOT INTO THAT FIGHT AND SHE PRETENDED SHE WAS DATING YOU TO PISS THEM OFF ARE YOU EVEN PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR OWN MADDOX BROTHER NOVEL
Taylor takes off his sweatshirt and Falyn ogles him in his “thin, too-small T-shirt”. Hey-o. He explains that all his brothers have tons of tattoos.
“We all have them.”
“My brothers and me. Well, most of us. Tommy doesn’t.”
“How many brothers?”
He nodded, staring at whatever memory was playing before his eyes. “You have no idea.”
Taylor made a face. “God, no.”
Either he hated women, or he treated them badly enough not to want to think about them as people. No matter which it was, the longer he was in my apartment, the less I worried about guilt being a problem.
Don’t get too excited. None of the Maddox Bro books start with the female love interest thinking they’re anything other than a sack of shit. It’s interesting how this time around she actually wants to use that to rationalize her using him for some convoluted plan, but since this book actually exists, somehow I’m not expecting this to be the case for especially long.
Speaking of her convoluted plan to use Taylor to get a free ride to his hometown Eakins, Illinois, (somehow at some point) I can’t begin to guess what her plan actually is. Even Taylor doesn’t totally get what her angle is, and he doesn’t even know about her weird plan.
“Aliens,” I said, pointing. […]
“I saw Sixteen Candles in there. I figured you’d pick that.” […]
“Clearly, you don’t know me at all.”
“I can’t decide if you’re trying to hate me or trying to make me hate you.” […]
“You don’t have that kind of effect on me.”
He blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I’d have to give a shit about you to get angry.”
Is Falyn trying to pretend to like Taylor to get a free ride to Eakins, Illinois, or not?
“I don’t care that you have some sort of fucked-up issue with men. I don’t want within five feet of your pussy, and you’ve gotta know that now because I’d never use the P word if I’m looking to get laid. Girls hate that.” […]
“Five feet, huh?” I said. I crawled off my chair [and] over to where Taylor was sitting […] stopping inches from his lips.
“You sure about that?” I whispered.
Is Falyn trying to pretend to hate Taylor so she can pretend to like Taylor to get a free ride to Eakins, Illinois, or… girl, what is your plan? If he’s really cool with just being friends, then you don’t even have to use him to get a free ride to Eakins, Illinois. Or you could just be upfront with him about how you need a free ride to Eakins, Illinois. Surely there are easier options than whatever you’re doing.
And also easier than having to put up with a Maddox bro’s flirting…
“Saying you’re shit at conversation and that I have a feeling you’re a judgmental bitch is rude, but I wasn’t going to take it that far. But you are… and you are.”
One of my least favorite things in, like, people talking is when someone says they’re not going to say something insulting, and they weren’t gonna say it, but now they juuuust gotta say it. I mean, jesus, sexism aside, just grow a spine and insult a person.
“I cannot figure you out – like, at all. And I minored in women.”
“I MINORED IN WOMEN” I HAVE NO WORDS I’M DYING I AM DEAD
They sorta kinda agree to just be friends. Taylor tells her “you’re fucking weird – like, weirder than I thought”. I guess I agree with a Maddox bro for once.
a tiny part of me wanted to be polite and explain why I was being so hard on him, but I squashed it down to where I kept the old me. Explanations and apologies were a waste for someone like me.
What the hell else am I supposed to make out of Falyn “I DON’T APOLOGIZE… NOT ANYMORE” Falyn’slastname?
Taylor continues doing both his and Falyn’s laundry over the rest of the day. After the movie, she points out the dryer isn’t really good enough to get their jeans dry, but also asserts that he can’t sleep there. I did think this exchange was a little cute…
“You can’t sleep here,” I said.
“Okay. But can I accidentally fall asleep here?”
Although literally the last conversation they had before this one was agreeing to just be friends, so I don’t know if the only flirting in this book that I enjoyed actually counts as flirting.
I nuzzled my cheek against the arm of the chair, utterly content with how mean we were being to each other.
Whatever floats your boat, Falyn.
They talk a bit about Taylor’s hometown (which you might recall is Eakins, Illinois, I have a feeling this might come up later). He mentions that he usually goes home between fire seasons, but he does have another special occasion coming up.
“My baby brother got married this past spring, kind of on the fly. They’re planning a real ceremony on their anniversary, after the bachelor party and stuff. I’ll be going back for that for sure.”
“The second ceremony? I guess her best friend was kind of pissed that she wasn’t invited to the first one.”
I’m pretty sure Taylor’s out of the loop about the whole “Travis and Abby got married in Vegas as a last-ditch effort to give him an alibi to not get in trouble about the fire that killed a bunch of college kids” thing anyway, nor would he actually say anything about that to this girl he just met, but I genuinely kind of love the idea that this is all that Taylor took away from Travis’s entire story.
Falyn wakes up and realizes that Taylor is still there, folding clothes on the sofa, having finished their laundry over the course of the night. She gets annoyed because the only exit to her apartment is through the cafe, so her boss/landlord/coworkers without Netflix/friends will all know that Taylor spent the night and assume they hooked up. Taylor assures he knows exactly how to fix this.
Kirby stopped in her tracks, and so did Hannah. Phaedra noticed them staring, so she whipped around, her mouth falling open. The loud rumble of converging conversations abruptly silenced.
Taylor cleared his throat. “I didn’t touch her. She’s too fucking mean.”
He passed me, heading for the front door, and I watched him, trying to kill him with my expression alone.
Kirby burst into laughter.
I don’t know why Falyn trusted the same guy whose plan to hit on her was to ask to do laundry at her place with this situation.
Phaedra has a sense of humor about it and tells Falyn that “he’s ten steps ahead of you”. (I fucking guess?) Falyn is pissed and goes back to her room, takes out the shoebox of cash and memories, and we get our next clue what her mysterious backstory is:
I held the notebook paper to my chest and took a deep breath. The carefully scripted loops and lines informing me of everything I had missed was nearly four months old, and it would only grow older. […]
Of course it would be Taylor fucking Maddox. The last person on Earth who I want to need is my one quick ticket to Eakins. I pushed the thought from my head. I didn’t want a plan or to even think about it.
I just needed to get there. No expectations. No hopes. Just the opportunity to knock on their door. Even if they wouldn’t forgive me, maybe I could finally forgive myself.
Ok, I just realized what bothers me about Jamie McGuire novels. I mean, one more thing, specifically. And not all of her work does this, but Beautiful Oblivion‘s “the ex was his brother the whole time!” twist was the most egregious a-lie-is-not-a-twist we’ve seen on the blog, and Falyn’s backstory seems to be setting us up for a very similar narrative structure, so it’s worth talking about this. It seems like McGuire loves J. J. Abrams’s “mystery box” school of writing.
Filmmaker J. J. Abrams once did a TED talk about his writing technique, known infamously known as “the mystery box“. Basically, you can think of a story like a closed box of unknown contents. He explains the magic of this situation by observing that the unopened box represents “infinite possibility”, and up until you know what’s inside the box, “I find myself drawn to infinite possibility and that sense of potential. And I realize that mystery is the catalyst for imagination… What are stories besides mystery boxes?”
And, yeah, mysteries are fun. I’ve enjoyed plenty of Abrams’ work from LOST (except for the ending) even to Super 8 (except for the end… ohhhh, I bet this means something…). Stories where you know what’s in the box upfront are decidedly kinda boring and need a little something else to have an actual story to them. Stories should tease out a full understanding of what’s going on. But the trouble with mystery box storytelling is captured pretty well in this Film Crit Hulk piece where he discusses one such Abrams movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness:
A story with a well-presented air of mystery just has this natural allure, doesn’t it? It can always draw people’s curiosity… but in reality? The mystery box has no real dramatic function within actual storytelling.
Seriously. It’s not an actual storytelling construct. It’s about making people wonder what’s going on or what something is and then just revealing it at the moment one has to. It’s not inherently built around character, drama, arcs, and all the good stuff, but purposeful teasing.
I think it’s kind of important to keep this criticism about J. J. Abrams’ mystery box in mind, because Falyn’s motivation is literally kept in a box. A box that Falyn already knows the contents of, but the reader does not. It’s a mystery box. It’s a goddamn mystery box.
This post is running stupidly long, but what the hell, let’s compare the mystery of Falyn’s actual goddamn mystery box to the mystery of whether Falyn and Taylor are gonna fuck.
Here’s everything we know about Falyn’s mysterious backstory:
- She needs to go to Eakins, Illinois, and she’s willing to put up with all kinds of shit to do it
- As of this chapter’s ending, we now also know there’s someone there she owes an apology to
Here’s what we know about Falyn and Taylor’s mysterious sexual tension
- Roughly who they are as people
- They’re totally gonna fuck
We even already know the ending to the mystery of whether Falyn and Taylor are gonna fuck, and yet that’s still the way more compelling mystery. This is because we have an actual stake in it! We’re getting to know both of them as people. We don’t know everything about them right away, but it didn’t take long to get a general sense of who they were, and now we’re getting to know what they’re like together. I don’t even like either of them, and I’m curious to see how and why they end up fucking. I’m excited to see how it builds (or whatever the equivalent of “excited” is on this blog).
As for Falyn’s backstory, there’s no building there. All the story can do with it is deconstruct it, and that’s the exact opposite. Now, of course having mysteries isn’t inherently bad (otherwise mystery wouldn’t be a whole fucking genre), but there’s no way this gets to grow or develop like Falyn and Taylor’s relationship gets to. We’re just waiting for the story to let us be privy to it. The reader is more interested in getting an answer to a question they already know the answer to than a question that they don’t.
Because let’s be real, the fact that Mr. “Hey can I do laundry at your place” is somehow going to win Falyn over is way more intriguing than Falyn forgetting to tell us what’s in Eakins, Illinois.