Design by Iris Tsouris

While Declan browsed in McNally Books, talent-scouting for the next star of his tea-rose sheets, his fiancée Carys attacked wild strawberries in their garden, telling herself that Declan wasn’t cheating, just earning more lived experience for The Novel. The Novel, The Novel, Carys mocked, digging with her red-chipped, chewed-up fingernails. She smelled sour after five days of refusing to bathe. Her denim gardening jeans were stiff with mud. A snail trail of snot and soil streaked her acne-scarred cheeks. Carys was forty-eight, old enough to see through her younger fiancé’s tinselly allure, but too old (in her mind) to restart with a rosier candidate. Her hope of lifelong companionship resided in the thirty-something writer in his carmine peacoat, who at the moment was probably talking up a Rutgers sophomore about the ‘right way’ to read the Quran. Maybe The Novel would be finished soon. Maybe Declan would come home and kneel in the dirt to help weed the red sorrel. Maybe none of those things would happen, and the sophomore would leave candied lipstick on her pillow, and Carys would wilt with that red-handed hack, always living out The Novel, The Novel.

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