“Yeah, I’ll let you get to that.” Jeremy points to the office door. “I should probably go check on Crew. Make yourself at home. Food…drinks…the house is yours.”
Jeremy closes the door, and I settle in at Verity’s desk. Her desk chair alone probably cost more than a month’s rent in my apartment. I wonder how much easier writing is for someone who has money to burn on things I’ve always dreamt of having at my disposal while I write. Comfortable furniture, enough money to have an on-call masseuse, more than one computer. I imagine it would make the writing process a lot easier and a lot less stressful. I have a laptop with a missing key and Wi-Fi when a neighbor forgets to password protect theirs. I sit on an old dining room table chair at a makeshift desk that’s really just a plastic folding table I ordered from Amazon for twenty-five bucks.
Most of the time, I don’t even have enough money for printer ink and computer paper.
I guess being here in her office for a few days will be one way to test my theory. The richer you are, the more creative you’re able to be.
I take the second book of the series off the shelf. I open it, only intending to glance at it. See how she picked up from where book one left off.
I end up reading for three hours straight.
I haven’t moved from my spot, not even once. Chapter after chapter of intrigue and fucked up characters. Really fucked up characters. It’s going to take me time to work myself into that mindset while writing. No wonder Jeremy doesn’t read her work. All her books are from the villain’s point of view, so that’s new to me. I really should have read all these books before arriving.
I stand up to stretch out my spine, but it doesn’t even really hurt; the desk chair I’ve been sitting in is the most comfortable piece of furniture my ass has ever pressed against.
I look around, wondering if I should go through computer files next or printed files.
I decide to check out her desktop. I browse several files in Microsoft Word, which seems to be the program she prefers. All the files I find are related to books she’s already written. I’m not too worried about those yet. I want to find any plans she had for the books yet to be written. Most of the files on her laptop are the same as the files on her desktop.
Maybe Verity was the type of author who hand-wrote her outlines. I turn my attention to the stacks of boxes on the back wall, near a closet. A thin layer of dust coats the tops of them. I go through several boxes, pulling out versions of manuscripts at various stages in the writing process, but they’re all versions of books in her series that she’s already written. Nothing hinting at what she planned to write next.
I’m on the sixth box, rummaging through the contents, when I find something with an unfamiliar title. This one is called So Be It.
I flip through the first few pages, hoping I’ll get lucky and find that it’s an outline for the seventh book in the series. Almost immediately, I can tell that it isn’t. This seems…personal. I flip back to the first page of chapter one and read the first line.
I sometimes think back on the night I met Jeremy and wonder, had we not made eye contact, would my life still end the same?
As soon as I see Jeremy’s name mentioned, I scan a little more of the page. It’s an autobiography.
It’s not at all what I’m searching for. An autobiography isn’t what the publishers are paying me to turn in, so I should just move on. But I look over my shoulder to make sure the door is shut because I’m curious. Besides, reading some of this is research. I need to see how Verity’s mind works to understand her as a writer. That’s my excuse, anyway.
I carry the manuscript to the couch, make myself comfortable, and begin reading.
So Be It
The thing I abhor most about autobiographies are the counterfeit thoughts draped over every sentence. A writer should never have the audacity to write about themselves unless they’re willing to separate every layer of protection between the author’s soul and their book. The words should come directly from the center of the gut, tearing through flesh and bone as they break free. Ugly and honest and bloody and a little bit terrifying, but completely exposed. An autobiography encouraging the reader to like the author is not a true autobiography. No one is likable from the inside out. One should only walk away from an autobiography with, at best, an uncomfortable distaste for its author.
I will deliver.
What you read will taste so bad at times, you’ll want to spit it out, but you’ll swallow these words and they will become part of you, part of your gut, and you will hurt because of them.
Yet…even with my generous warning…you’re going to continue to ingest my words, because here you are.
“Find what you love and let it kill you.” - Charles Bukowski
I sometimes think back on the night I met Jeremy and wonder, had we not made eye contact, would my life still end the same? Was it my destiny from the beginning to suffer such a tragic end? Or is my tragic end a result of poor choices rather than fate?
Of course, I haven’t met a tragic end yet, or I wouldn’t be able to recount what led to it. Nevertheless, it’s coming. I can sense it, just as I sensed Chastin’s death. And just as I embraced her fate, I will embrace my own.
I wouldn’t say I was lost before the night I met Jeremy, but I had certainly never been found until the moment he laid eyes on me from across the room.
I’d had boyfriends before. One-night stands, even. But I’d never come close to imagining life with someone else until that moment. When I saw him, I pictured our first night together, our wedding, our honeymoon, our children.
Until that moment, the idea of love had always felt very manufactured to me. A Hallmark ploy. A marketing scheme for greeting card companies. I had no interest in love. My only goal that night was to get drunk on free booze and find a rich investor to fuck. I was already halfway there, having downed three Moscow Mules. And judging by the look of Jeremy Crawford, I was going to leave that party an overachiever. He looked rich, and it was a charity event, after all. Poor people don’t show up to charity events unless they’re serving the rich.
Present company not included.
He was talking with a few other men, but every time he’d glance in my direction, I felt like we were the only two people in the room. Every now and then, he would smile at me. Of course he did. I had on my red dress that night, the one I stole from Macy’s. Don’t judge me. I was a starving artist and it was ridiculously expensive. I intended to make up for the theft when I had the money. I’d donate to a charity or save a baby or something. The good thing about sins is they don’t have to be atoned for immediately, and that red dress was too perfect for me to pass up.
It was a fuckable dress. The kind of dress a man can easily bypass when he wants between your legs. The mistake women make when they choose their clothes for events like the one I was at, is that they don’t think about them from the man’s perspective. A woman wants her breasts to look good, her figure to be hugged. Even if that means sacrificing comfort and wearing something impossible to remove. But when men look at dresses, they aren’t admiring the way it hugs the hips or the cinch at the waist or the fancy tie up the back. They’re sizing up how easy it will be to remove. Will he be able to slip his hand up her thigh when they’re seated next to each other at a table? Will he be able to fuck her in a car without the awkward mess of zippers and Spanx? Will he be able to fuck her in the bathroom without having to remove her clothes completely?
The answers to my stolen red dress were yes, yes, and hell yes.
I realized, with that dress on, there was no way he would be able to leave the party without approaching me. I chose to stop paying attention to him. It made me seem desperate. I was not the mouse, I was the cheese. I was going to stand there until he came to me.
He did, eventually. I was standing at the bar, my back to him, when he put his hand on my shoulder and leaned forward, motioning for the bartender. Jeremy didn’t look at me in that moment. He simply kept his hand on my shoulder, as if he were laying claim to me. When the bartender approached, I watched in fascination. Jeremy nudged his head toward me and said, “Make sure you only serve her water for the rest of the evening.”