Title: Ben Takes a Chance by Katherine Applegate
Summary: Aisha found out first and she told Nina who had to tell Zoey, who let it slip to Lucas. Now Ben’s big secret isn’t a secret any more and they’re all waiting to see what will happen when…
Ben in the title and it opens with a Zoey entry. We’ll all be lucky if I don’t break into bullet points within the first 50 pages. Or maybe we’ll be lucky if I do.
Zoey is writing about sex. It makes her feel like screaming sometimes because Lucas won’t stop trying to have sex, and because it’s everywhere, in all the commercials. She’s not wrong. Sex sells. She admits she’s pretty ignorant in the sex department. Darla tries to talk to her about it, but Zoey always claims she learned everything she needs to know from Our Bodies, Ourselves and Forever by Judy Blume. I mean, realistic for the 90s.
Sex also brings up the other big issue in Zoey’s life: Lucas vs. Aaron. Lucas is in a huge hurry to have sex. Aaron doesn’t believe in sex before marriage. And — and you BELIEVE that? Of AARON? Oh, Zoey, I probably shouldn’t hate you as much as I do, because you are the most naive, sheltered kid on the island. You just can’t help yourself, can you? (Except she totally can, and it is her actions and her culpability that I hate, so.)
Anyway, sex is a big deal to Zoey because to her it symbolises growing up and having to worry about consequences. Which is true, but also, the way you make things a big deal, you certainly act like you’re worrying about the consequences of a bunch of things — though generally for other people, it’s true. [Dove: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think Zoey’s sex hang-up comes from the expectation that she should be in true love and they will stay together for ever, and get married and have babies at the appropriate age, when in reality she could be in love with someone, have sex, fall out of love and move on to the next, etc. And I respect Zoey’s right to not have sex until she’s ready, of course, but I feel like she might never be ready because of that expectation of forever, ironically, despite her sex knowledge coming from Forever by Judy Blume, and we all know how that “forever” relationship ended.]
Lucas journal entry, also writing about sex. Ugh, this book is not going well so far. Lucas, I’m sure you’re surprised to hear, wants to have sex with Zoey and thinks about it almost every minute of every day. He only stops when he’s talking to his mother. If he can’t have sex with Zoey, he wants to have sex with someone else, someone beautiful and experienced. And he wouldn’t have written that down yesterday, but things have changed since then and he no longer knows if there’s any point in waiting for Zoey. So break up with her and be done with how terrible you two are for each other, god.
Aisha and sex. She’s had sex, pretty much only Zoey and Nina know about it, and Christopher definitely doesn’t. She’s not telling him because she doesn’t want to have sex now and she doesn’t want him to think just because she has before she will now. She also says that “women try to learn from our mistakes, unlike the inferior, stupider half of our species.” Okay, Aisha, you’re redeeming this book for me some. She had a pregnancy scare in Boston, and it changed how she looks at sex and relationships and boys. She wants to keep her wits about her now, with her entire future at stake. I love you, Aisha, and your focus on what you want from the future.
Christopher and sex. He loves everything about sex, but it’s been a long time since he had it, so he’s talking from memory. Aisha’s a virgin, so he knows they have to take things slowly, and she’s totally worth waiting for. He knows there’s passion in her, he just has to wait until the time is right. Oh boy.
Benjamin wakes up around 9 a.m. on Sunday, even though that’s the day he normally sleeps in. He’s too worried to sleep, because in less than two weeks, on 27 December, he’s going to have surgery at Boston General Hospital to try to restore his sight. And this is a good reason to be nervous, but I still hate him, so I’m struggling to be sympathetic. [Rosey: For those keeping score: I still don’t hate Benjamin, but the way he treats Lara is pushing me closer.] [Dove: I don’t just hate Benjamin, I actively loathe the entire Passmore clan (sans Lara).]
He’s excited about the idea of seeing the world again, but also terrified, and because of it, he’s been fighting with Nina more and more. Of course, they’ve also gotten closer what with the whole having sex, another thing that excited and terrified him. And yet you certainly don’t seem to mind being a dick to her all the time now.
His thoughts turn to what he used to want for his future — to be a police officer, a fire fighter, a veterinarian — but he can’t let himself fantasise too much about what he wants for his future if he can see, because it’s far too dangerous to get his hopes up. Ugh, Benjamin, this is all so realistic and believable and emotional. Stop making me feel things for you.
Zoey wakes up feeling terrible, because her “strict code of love and morality had not been strong enough to hold up to forbidden fruit.” So, do you mean last night with Aaron? Or that other time with Aaron? Or that time with Lucas? Or that other time with Lucas? Or … I think you see what I’m getting at here. [Rosey: Zoey is such a paragon of virtuous virtue. It’s hard for her, guys.] [Dove: Uh, can we not keep forgetting she cheated on Jake twice – with Lucas and, years ago, Tad Crowley. There is not a single partner of Zoey’s that she hasn’t cheated on, so can she just absolutely fuck the fuck off with her motherfucking virtue.] [Wing: Yeah, I zero percent remember Tad Crowley. So yeah, that other time with Tad because FUCK YOU ZOEY.]
She made out with Aaron again and hurt Lucas when he caught them together. At that moment, Zoey realised Lucas was the guy she really loved. Sure he is. You’ve certainly proven that. Uh huh.
When someone knocks on her bedroom door, Zoey decides last night was a nightmare and Lucas is there to apologise. Yeah, he’s the one who needs to apologise. Truly. Uh huh. It’s just Darla, though, who made breakfast for her kids — and for Lara.
Zoey is sent up to get Lara for breakfast and is a dick about Lara in her own thoughts. I see your sweetness and light showing through, Zoey. Lara’s not home, though, and Darla’s worried about where in the world she might have gone. Uh, you care now? Because none of you have really shown that to Lara before.
Jake and sex. He doesn’t remember losing his virginity because he was “wasted out of my mind” at the time. All he remembers is one clear image of Louise Kronenberger’s smooth, firm thigh.
Claire and sex. She’s never had sex, though she likes to let people wonder whether she has or not. She’s not an intimate person, and she prefers to keep people, even the ones she loves, at a distance. Or maybe she has some strange little voice inside that still tells her she should be married before she has sex. That is not what I expected from this journal, I must say. Oh, the voice might belong to her mother, instilling “good old family values” in the girls before she died.
Jake wakes up to Lara naked in his bed. Lara convinced Jake to get drunk with her the night before even though he’s been trying to stay clean and sober. They went through Lara’s bottle of Jack Daniels and then Jake got another from his father’s liquor cabinet. And now he’s regretting everything.
He doesn’t tell Lara that, though, because he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. UGH JAKE. Why are you so awesome? How did I never see it before? STOP. [Rosey: Seriously though? Why is Jake so awesome? And how did none of us see it??] [Dove: Thirded. Why did we like Lucas and not Jake before this recap project. I’m ashamed of us.]
His mom comes by his room to tell him to get ready for church, but doesn’t come inside, which saves Jake from being caught but also sets Lara off on teasing him about it.
Jake tells her they shouldn’t have gotten drunk the night before, and when she tries to make it like he’s saying he doesn’t like her, he points out that the point is that he made a promise — last night they both made a promise — not to drink anymore. He’s pretty sure she’s not going to keep that promise, though, and he doesn’t know what he’ll do when she comes to him with more alcohol. He doesn’t know if he’ll have the strength to tell her no. Oh, honey, you can do this, but you’re probably going to need some help. [Rosey: “Why won’t anyone fucking help Jake?” #HonestBookTitles]
Aisha dodges a phone call during family breakfast, which makes Carol, her mom, wonder if something’s wrong. She swears she just wants to spend a peaceful breakfast with her family, but no one is really convinced, including me. Especially when it turns out that Aisha put syrup in her coffee and sugar on her waffles. Neither of those sound completely horrible, but apparently they don’t work for her.
She flees from breakfast to get ready for the day. Aisha can’t believe the world keeps going on as normal after what happened last night, even though she’s also aware that only she and Christopher know what happened last night. She hopes it was a dream.
When she finds the tiny velvet box in her drawer, she knows it was not a dream. Christopher asked her to marry him. He wants her to be his wife. Forever.
Aisha is not dealing with this well, obviously. She loves him, but committing herself to a lifetime of anything isn’t something she necessarily wants to do right now. She hasn’t been able to say yes. She hasn’t been able to say no.
When she puts on the ring, she’s not sure she ever wants to take it off.
Claire’s on her widow’s walk, her favourite place in the world. Mine, too. I love how Claire loves the weather. Weather has always been her hobby and her life, and she wants to study in Antarctica where the weather is the most severe.
She also has a new hobby now: Aaron. He’s the first guy she’s met in a long time who she thinks she might be able to fall in love with. Yeah, because you are a superficial dick when it comes to Flyer. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about that shit. [Rosey: #NeverForget]
She likes that Aaron has fooled the rest of the island with his charm and manners, but she recognises the truth, that he is as manipulative as her, as frustrated with banal people, as obsessed with being in control.
But Aaron’s not making it easy on Claire, since he’s gone for Zoey.
Claire is feeling kind of bad about sending Lucas to catch Zoey and Aaron together, because even though she thinks it was the right thing to do, she knows he must be hurting. But, you know, when people aren’t doing what’s best for them or for her, she has to take care of things herself. Which is what makes her terrible and wonderful all at the same time.
Nina is feeling so bad she doesn’t even want to listen to music. She never really spends any time looking at her naked body, but now that she’s had sex, she wonders if there’s some sort of physical change to her. The “rosy glow” that Zoey’s romance books (the ones she reads, not the first chapter she always writes) talk about.
She’s worried that if the surgery is successful, Benjamin will dump her because he’s gorgeous and she’s ugly. God, I hate everything that makes her worry about this.
Claire interrupts these thoughts to tell her to get downstairs because Sarah and Aaron are turning up for family time any second. Nina’s not so happy that Burke is dating even though she’d spent months worrying about him being alone. Sarah’s nothing like Nina’s mother, though, and she doesn’t like it.
Nina and sex. She, too, knew about sex from Forever by Judy Blume, which is basically that sex could get you pregnant and then you (a) had an abortion, (b) had a horrible adoption that would become a prime-time miniseries (HEY NOW), or (c) kept the kid and became an adult fast. Or you could die from AIDS. Wow.
Now she’s not a virgin and she could probably write an entire book about the experience. It was weird and nice and she thinks she loved it but she was also relieved when it was over. I love this combination of good and bad for her.
Benjamin and sex. Sex takes on a special importance for a blind person because so much of it is tied to touch. Sex with Nina was the most incredible thing he’s ever experienced and he felt like they were really, finally together without his blindness coming between them, and he hopes it was as good for Nina.
So, if you love her so much, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU TAKING AWAY HER AGENCY BY DECIDING THAT BREAKING UP WITH HER IS WHAT’S BEST FOR HER?
Sunday night. Lucas is sitting at home depressed. The house is decorated for Christmas, but that just makes him feel worse, because he spent the last two Christmases in Youth Authority for that whole false confession when Claire was driving drunk and killed Wade, Jake’s older brother.
He had been looking forward to this Christmas, but now that he knows what’s going on with Zoey and Aaron, he can’t find any happiness in the holiday, especially because he’ll be stuck with his parents, who are two of the least cheerful people he’s ever met.
I have such conflicted feelings for his parents. I think they’ve been through a lot of pain and that Lucas being locked up changed them in deep ways. His dad is pretty cold and blunt with him, but that’s something I recognise in some of the people who love me. (And in me.) His mom tries to keep a peaceful home, but Lucas lashes out. I don’t even know where I’m going with this. Just thoughts.
He goes to stare at Zoey’s house for awhile, then forces himself away from it. Good. He has to get away from his house, though, and that leads us to a Christopher scene where Lucas has come to visit. Christopher, of course, expects Aisha coming to say yes to his proposal.
“He understood that women liked to play hard to get, but there was only so much a man could take.”
FUCK OFF INTO THE SEA, YOU PRESUMPTUOUS, SEXIST JACKASS.
Lucas groans about Aaron for awhile, Christopher hasn’t heard anything, in part because he and Aisha have had more important things on their minds that local gossip, and Christopher is shocked that Zoey cheated on Lucas.
REALLY? You’ve been on the island awhile now. This is status quo around here. [Dove: Name one person she hasn’t cheated on, Christopher. You’re meant to be smart. Keep up.]
Christopher does call Lucas on his hypocrisy because it wasn’t all that long ago that Lucas was hooking up with Claire in the back of the Mercedes. Lucas swears that’s different because he thought Zoey was getting back with Jake and Lucas was angry over it, but dude, no, that’s not actually an excuse for being shitty. You and Zoey both suck. [Rosey: I don’t think I noticed as a kid, but as an adult, it really bothers me that the central relationship is the most dysfunctional in the series. We aren’t even halfway through and I’ve lost track of how many times these two have cheated.] [Wing: Rosey, why must you say such terrible things? Don’t you like us anymore? Surely we are more than halfway through. Surely. *sobs*]
Lucas turns this around and brings back all the times Christopher cheated on Aisha, which Christopher totally cops to but says he’s changed and he’s loyal to her now.
Christopher lets it slip that he’s basically Aisha’s fiance and Lucas shrieks over it. For some reason, I am dying over the image of Lucas shrieking, his voice up like five octaves. Christopher didn’t mean to let that slip just in case she says no, but Lucas kind of knew about his plans anyway, so now he’s coming clean about how he did it.
Lucas agrees to keep things private.
Over to Aisha, who woke up from a dream of Christopher in army gear with an AK-47 waiting for her at the altar with Uncle Sam about to marry them. In reality, he’ll be coming by any moment at the end of his paper route, and she does not want to see him yet. She’s still awake when he gets there, though, and she knows he’ll notice if she pretends to be asleep.
He’s on a bicycle and absolutely freezing when she helps him into her room. He sold his car to pay for her ring, though he doesn’t come right out and say it. She feels guilty about this, both that he did it and that she didn’t realise the money for it had to come from somewhere.
UGH. I may get annoyed by Christopher a lot, but this is such a complex, painful situation.
Aisha tries to talk him into letting her buy an island car for herself and then whoops loan it to him, but he’s having none of it. He’s there to talk about the proposal, and she’s not ready to make that decision, still. She says she wants to marry him someday, but she’s not sure right now is when she wants to do it. He thinks he’s losing her, she swears she loves him, it’s all pretty heartbreaking, and that’s without even getting into my emotions over him going into the army so he can afford school and how that leads to a disproportionate amount of people of colour making up the US armed forces and how their lives are treated as disposable in so many ways.
Okay, moving on.
Monday. Jake’s alone on the ferry. He’s still recovering from that drinking binge on Saturday. Zoey’s the only other island kid on the deck because of the weather. He still, after everything, thinks she’s the most attractive girl he’s ever known.
Excuse you, you know Aisha and Claire. Nina too, though I think she downplays herself to quirky cute. [Dove: ZOEY IS THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.]
Zoey’s in a bad mood, of course, and grumps at him a little. He hints around about how bad his Scarlet Letter paper, hoping that she will offer to help him rewrite the entire mess because he needs at least a C in English to stay on the football team.
Wait. Football season is over. Aren’t you a senior? So you really shouldn’t care about the football team anymore.
Of course, he’d forgotten about how Zoey can make him feel like shit for what kind of student he is (and other things). Fuck out of here, Zoey. Jake’s awesome and going through a shitty, shitty time. She knows Lara spent the night with him, and she warns him that Lara is bad news.
Jake hates this conversation and so asks if she and Lucas had a fight. She shuts that down fast, but then asks if he thinks she’s a bad person. Despite everything, he doesn’t, of course. She says she’s been a bad friend to him, she cheated on him, she told him about his dad’s affair …
Zoey, you are shitty for all of that list except for the affair part. You might have gone about it the wrong way, and you were shit to your parents over everything and also hypocritical, but he deserved better than to be the only person not to know.
He reassures her that she’s a great friend and an awesome person. She argues that she keeps messing up, but he says everyone does that. And he’s right. God, Jake, how are you so amazing? Zoey doesn’t deserve this support, but you are a good friend to her despite her being a bad one to you most of the time.
Benjamin sits alone in the cabin on the ferry. He’s wearing headphones but he’s not listening to music, he just likes the privacy it affords. I like this, too. [Rosey: Me three.] He also uses this time to eavesdrop on the others. I do not, because I don’t hear well enough to do so, alas. I bet it would lead to interesting things.
He hears Claire and Lucas talk about Aaron and Zoey. Benjamin is certain Claire’s hiding something, because the more dismissive her comments, the more important it is to her for whatever reason. Claire says she told him because she knows he and Zoey love each other and she thought he should know and she wants the two of them to make things right between them.
Benjamin is pouring over this as Lucas leaves, until Claire tells him that she knows he was listening. She hasn’t fallen for that trick in years. I love Claire so much.
Lucas goes to Benjamin for information about Zoey, which is something he hates to do, but he is desperate. GO. TALK. TO. HER.
Lucas helps him through the lunch line, as one of the island kids always do, and they make small talk a bit until Lucas turns it to Zoey, of course. Benjamin finally gives in and tells him that Zoey is miserable and crying all the time. He also tells Lucas to work things out because he has too much to worry about already without his sister being broken hearted.
Claire’s watching Nina, Zoey, and Aisha eat in mechanical silence. She knows what’s wrong with Zoey, obviously, but not Aisha and Nina. Claire prompts Nina to make a joke about the lasagna: Gee, Claire, I hadn’t noticed how much it resembled decomposed entrails until you forced me to stop and evaluate.
Which is great, except that she stops instead of going on with her things being funny in three, her rule of comic tautology.
Claire turns to Aisha next, asking about how she’s prepping for exams which start next week. Aisha doesn’t rise to that, either, even though she’s normally obsessed with doing well.
Exams are, of course, the least of Zoey’s worries, and she’s upfront about that and her plan to cram everything she can, spill it during exams, and then forget it all. Claire pushes a little harder, talking about how she thinks The Scarlet Letter and Othello will be a big part of their English exam because it will include an essay on adultery.
This, of course, gets a rise out of Zoey, and then, conveniently, Aisha notices Lucas and Benjamin talking intensely across the room. Claire knows she’s done enough and takes herself away from the cafeteria, thinking about her plan to woo Aaron.
Monday afternoon. Zoey approaches Lucas, because they have to talk about things, they can’t just leave them hanging. Lucas snarks at her about how she’s just going to say it didn’t mean anything, she wished he was Lucas the whole time, etc. Zoey has nothing to say to that. Then Lucas suggests that it was a final act of revenge for that time he fooled around with Claire. So, you’re aware that you’re both festering hypocrites, right? [Rosey: why can’t they just break up? We could have a book where Lucas gets a hobby and Zoey doesn’t cheat on anyone.]
Zoey’s certain that it wasn’t about revenge, which, to Lucas, is the same as saying making out with Aaron did mean something to her.
They argue back and forth over what the real problem is with their relationship until Zoey finally snaps at him that he’s a “cheating, immature sex maniac of a boyfriend.” He promptly grabs her by both arms and shakes her, because yeah, that’s just what this needs, some domestic abuse. Damn it, Lucas, how did I ever like you?! [Rosey: Fuck you, Lucas!] I’d completely forgotten about all of this, mostly because I can’t stand how he and Zoey are together so I promptly blocked it out, I’m sure. [Dove: WTF? I remember this entire plotline being Lucas wants sex, Zoey cheats as often as she can, rinse and repeat. I didn’t remember it being so toxic, and I definitely don’t remember Lucas grabbing her. Goddamn, Lucas. Wing and I really regret writing you as not a dick in our fanfic.] [Wing: SERIOUSLY. I hope there’s some redemption for him at some point in this series or I am going to have to have a little chat with fic-writing-Wing, goddamn.]
Anyway, he demands she not turn the conversation around on him, though you know again HYPOCRITES THE BOTH OF THEM, she says he’s scaring her, he says she’s scaring him, and then Lucas storms off, telling her not to call him, he’ll call her.
Later that night, Benjamin wonders if he should check on Zoey because she came home obviously upset. He finally does go in and tells her that he had a talk with Lucas at lunch. He’s not there to give her a lecture, even when she pushes him to because she’s the worst person in the world. Needlessly overdramatic, yes, you are.
Zoey says she’s never been so confused in her life, and Benjamin asks if she wasn’t confused back when she was cheating on Jake with Lucas. Point to Benjamin. Zoey says no, because she loved Lucas and she knew she and Jake were going to break up. HYPOCRITE OH MY GOD I HATE YOU.
She still loves Lucas now, but she’s also still super attracted to Aaron and she doesn’t know what to do. Benjamin says she could have come to talk to him, but she doesn’t want to add to the things on his plate. He decides she doesn’t want solutions, she just wants to wallow for awhile, and so he leaves her to it. [Dove: I know over on the Famous Five recaps, I’m all “let George have her emotions, let her work through them”, but in this case, no. I feel like part of Zoey is so keen for attention that she deliberately gets herself into situations like this so she can dramatically throw herself on the bed, listen to Whitney Houston, and weep over the ROMANCE OF IT ALL. I bet she’d be the kind of Facebook friend you only keep because the ongoing drama has a carwreck quality to it.] Before he leaves, though, he asks if Nina said anything to her, but Zoey doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He thinks it is curious that Nina didn’t tell her about them having sex.
Tuesday. Nina and Benjamin cuddle on the ferry on the way home from school. They decide to go to Nina’s to hook up, but he has to stop by the restaurant first. As she watches him go, Zoey and Aisha show up to invite her to come eat at Zoey’s house; when she says no, she’s already meeting Benjamin, Zoey gives her grief about never having time for her best friends.
Are you … are you fucking kidding me right now, Zoey Passmore. ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.
Nina actually calls her on it, saying she’s making up for all those years Zoey disappeared to Joke’s house (still not a typo) for days at a time. Zoey shrugs this off.
Zoey and Aisha eat potato chips, Pop-Tarts, and Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey (for the unfamiliar, it is banana ice cream with chunks of fudge and walnuts, and it is disgusting. For me, at least, because it tastes like fake banana. Normally their ice cream is great, though). Zoey dramatics and bangs her head against the table then admits to Aisha what happened with Aaron. They talk about that for awhile, and Aisha wonders if people weren’t really made to be faithful to one person for their entire lives, because back when marriage was invented, people only lived until what, thirty? Forty tops? Now that people live until eighty or ninety, maybe they shouldn’t get married until sixty.
I love you Aisha. [Rosey: She is the best antidote to Zoey.]
This, of course, leads Aisha into telling Zoey that Christopher proposed. Zoey, of course, goes wild with this. Aisha still has no idea what she’s going to say. Zoey wants to know why high school is so complicated when it was supposed to be proms and cheerleading. Well, in your case, you’re the one making it complicated for yourself, Zoey, so.
Benjamin and Nina did not manage to have sex because Nina was too nervous about her door being unlocked that she kept getting up to check on it and Benjamin is so stressed about his surgery that he couldn’t get into the mood.
Benjamin’s going to head home, but he needs to talk to Claire first. He’s there to talk to her about Zoey and how worried he is. He says she belongs with Lucas, and Claire agrees with him, but says that who Zoey dates is her own decision. Aww, Claire, I love that you say that even though you’re also manipulating things all over the place.
She’s not making it easy on him, so finally Benjamin just blurts out that he knows she wants Aaron. She calls him a matchmaker and the trace of nerves in her voice is enough to confirm that for him. He wants her to get on with her plan for Aaron so that Zoey and Lucas can go back to being a happy couple. Uh, Benjamin, have they ever been a happy couple? Ever? [Rosey: I think they got on really well when Zoey was in a couple with someone else.] [Dove: Nope. Before they could be an official couple, Mr Cabral planned to ship Lucas off to Texas. And so began the “Oh, Lucas!” wailing and the infidelity samba.]
Aisha goes by Christopher’s studio after she leaves Zoey’s house. He answers the door wearing only sweatpants and she’s struck nearly speechless to see how gorgeous he looks shirtless. Get you some, Aisha. (Or, you know, don’t. I know she’s about to break his heart sometime soon.)
She tells him that she can’t decide right now because of exams and Christmas stress. He decides that means everything else in her life is more important than him, which is a shitty thing to say, and Aisha agrees. He then says he’s not a patient guy, and I want her to walk the fuck out. Dude, you asked her to marry you. That’s fucking huge, especially at her age. Give her some fucking time.
Anyway, she’s there to tell him she can’t see him or talk to him until Friday because she needs to focus on her exams, the last set of grades she gets before she applies to college wait a fucking minute here, aren’t you all seniors except for Zoey? You would have applied to college back in the fall at the very fucking latest. Some people are already getting acceptance letters in December.
Jake’s been working on his Scarlet Letter paper again and has stretched it out another five pages, so he’s proud of himself. Of course, he still needs to go over an entire semester’s worth of notes from Zoey before he’s actually ready for the exam. He tries to study, but his brain is too fried to concentrate. Unfortunately, his body is wide awake.
He wants a drink to help him sleep. He hasn’t really craved drinking since he got drunk last time. Maybe that means he’s kicked the habit so that he can have a beer once in awhile. He can’t be an alcoholic, because they need to drink. He doesn’t need it. He’s proven that again and again, and there’s nothing wrong with relaxing with a nice, cold beer at the end of a long day. Not only will one can of beer relax him, it will help him sleep and that will just help him with his exam.
Jake. Honey. No. Please. No. [Dove: *sigh* Poor Jake.]
He goes to get beer, but his dad is still awake and in the kitchen, which foils that plan. He thinks about Lara probably having alcohol, maybe. She swore she wouldn’t drink, but he doesn’t really believe she’ll be able to hold to that. She really has a problem, unlike him.
He can’t call over there because someone else will answer, probably Zoey, and he can’t deal with another lecture. Instead, he’s going to visit Lara, maybe have a beer if she has any, and be home in plenty of time to get a few hours of sleep before he gets up to study in the morning. It’s a great plan.
Jake, it’s a terrible plan, and you are breaking my heart.
Oooh, fun formatting section. I love these.
A look at exams (otherwise known as the condoned, ritualistic torture of defenseless high-school students).
Wednesday, 18 December
- Zoey, Claire, Aisha, Jake, and Lucas report to the cafeteria where all seniors are given their final English exam. (I WAS FUCKING RIGHT YOU ARE SENIORS WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU ONLY APPLYING AFTER THIS, AISHA?! Sure, some people would, but she’s so driven about college she would have been on top of all of this.)
- Claire takes exactly twelve minutes on the true-false section and then twenty minutes on each of the three essay questions. She’s done eighteen minutes early.
- Jake and Lara got drunk on beer, he only got three hours of sleep and didn’t go over the notes, and now he’s hungover. He guesses at thirty of the forty true-false questions and races through short answers to the essays. He leaves with fifteen minutes left because he’s given up.
- Zoey does the true-false questions fast, and then spends forty minutes writing the most insightful essay she’s ever written all about the themes of adultery and betrayal, and then knocks out the last two essays in fifteen minutes each. When she leaves, she wants a redo.
- Aisha’s in a different class and has no true-false questions. She takes ten minutes for the multiple-choice section, gets through the identifications quickly (I’m not even sure what this means; recognising passages from works?), and then spends the rest of the time writing about William Butler Yeats’s love of Maude Gonne, a woman who wouldn’t marry him. She ends the essay by saying that Maude would have married William if he hadn’t pushed so hard for her to make a commitment before she was ready. Subtle. She leaves at the same time as Zoey.
- Lucas is apparently in yet a different class, because his exam has true-false, multiple choice, identifications, and an essay. He wastes some time staring at Zoey and then writes an essay about how Othello felt when he thought Desdemona fooled around behind his back. He’s supposed to write about loneliness in Robinson Crusoe. As he leaves, he explains to his teacher that he misread the question. Somehow, that works, and his teacher will give him a break because Othello is perfectly valid work to write an essay about. Except that wasn’t the goddamn question.
- Benjamin reports to Mrs Daily’s classroom for her to read his exam to him. He has fifteen characters to identify. He knows ten, guesses on three, and doesn’t know two, which are from books Nina read to him when they first started dating and kept losing their concentration. He then gives an oral essay on the nature and consequences of risk-taking in three of the works he studied. He gives an excellent speech for fifteen minutes and gets an A. Mrs Daily then wishes him luck on his surgery.
Thursday, 19 December
- Nina stomps into the cafeteria to take her English exam with the juniors. She tries to write about the use of metaphor in Cry, the Beloved Country but gets distracted by the smell of the cafeteria. She tries to write about desire in Romeo and Juliet but gets distracted by the fact that Benjamin hasn’t wanted to have sex with her after that disastrous attempt. She finishes her exam and decides to buy The Joy of Sex for pointers.
Friday, 20 December
- Zoey is ready to take her French exam. She leaves seats around her for Lucas to sit in if he wants to be near her. He shows up three minutes later and sits as far away from her as possible. He does this both to make her feel bad and to keep her from distracting him. They conjugate a dozen verbs. Zoey messes up the subjunctive. Lucas messes up the pluperfect. I want to know why the fuck they’re only having to conjugate a dozen verbs in their goddamn exam.
I’m also wondering where the rest of the exams are for everyone, because we skip straight to Friday afternoon next.
Zoey’s at work at Passmores’ but there are no customers and she’s grumpy over it. Aaron comes to see her and she gives him free coffee. He tells her that he’s come close to calling her at least twenty times but he knew she needed to study and didn’t want to interrupt. Her heart swells over this, because of course it does.
He apologises for making things bad between her and Lucas; she tells him it’s not his fault. Yeah, about half of it is, since he knew, but okay. She calls herself horrible, he says she’s perfect, she wishes Lucas would say stuff like that to her, I wish she and Lucas would just break the fuck up already.
Aaron says she’s better than he is because all he wants to do is ask her to come celebrate the first day of her holiday with him, which makes her all weak-kneed, but he goes on to say he won’t ask because he knows she’s a good girlfriend and she’d say no. This makes Zoey feel like crap because she was thinking about saying yes. [Dove: … hey, wasn’t this book about that blind boy getting an operation on his eyes… can’t remember his name because he’s only been in it for about three words. This should really be called Zoey Pointlessly Wobbles Between Two Hot Boys. Damn, that’s what we should have done. We should have given every single book accurate names in the recap.] [Wing: …fucking hell, that’s brilliant. We should do that going forward. Though, it’s quite possible that all books will be Zoey Pointlessly Wobbles Between Two Hot Boys.]
Up on the widow’s walk, Claire’s writing in her journal. She writes about the weather first, which I love, and then starts to write about her plan for Aaron — just as he comes up to join her. Well then, that’s pretty damn familiar of him.
They flirt, Claire sharp edged and lovely, Aaron smarmy mostly because I know what he was just doing to wind up Zoey. He calls her on being the one who told Lucas about Aaron and Zoey. This impresses her; she thought at most he would figure out it was her, but she never expected him to confront her about it.
Aaron asks why she cares whether he’s with Zoey, she tells him that most people would assume she was being a good friend but then adds that it’s possible she has an ulterior motive. She also says she won’t make him guess, she’ll tell him — when she’s good and ready.
He laughs at this, and they both walk away from the encounter pretty pleased with themselves. Or, well, Claire walks away, back down to her bedroom, leaving Aaron on the widow’s walk. His only way down that doesn’t involve falling (PLEASE FALL) is back through her bedroom, so her little dramatic exit here is pointless.
The first night of Christmas vacation
- Benjamin and Nina talk about how insecure she feels, he reassures her, they have sex, she continues to worry.
- Claire reads What You Don’t Know About Your Atmosphere, and I love her, wonders if Zoey and Lucas have gotten back together, considers how long it will take Aaron to catch on he’s in love with her, and around midnight realises Nina and Benjamin have been in Nina’s room a very long time. Heh.
- Aisha and Christopher make out for a long time, both of them avoiding the whole proposal thing, and she leaves when he pushes for sex.
- Jake and Lara drink a bottle of Jagermeister. BLARGH. She won’t tell him where she got it.
- Lucas thinks about going over to talk to Zoey but is too worried that Aaron is there.
- Zoey considers calling Lucas and even starts to go visit him but stops when she hears male and female laughter coming from Lara’s room. She leaves once to go see Aaron but doesn’t complete that trip either. She writes a poem about Lucas and decides to have a slumber party the next night.
Saturday. Slumber Party.
It’s Zoey, Nina, Aisha, and Claire, of course. Claire and Nina snark at each other. Zoey forbids them from talking about men at all (you mean boys, my dear). Instead they watch It’s a Wonderful Life.
Nina’s bored and wants to have sex with Benjamin instead. Zoey shoots down her even asking when Benjamin will be back from Christopher’s.
By midnight, Claire’s bored. She thought Zoey would talk about her weird love triangle, but no, she’s been silent. Since Benjamin came home, Nina has, too, and keeps staring mournfully at the door. (Get a grip, Nina!)
Aisha goes on a soda run, Zoey continues to talk about her history exam, Nina tells her to stop. She goes to get purple nail polish from Aisha’s bag and finds the ring, of course. Oh god, Aisha, you’re carrying it around with you and you don’t think your friends will see it? Girl.
She finally admits that it’s an engagement ring and they talk about it. And the fact that Zoey already knew, because of course she did. Then Aisha lets it slip that Zoey fooled around with Aaron, which shocks Nina. Nina’s reactions make Claire realise that she’s probably had sex with Benjamin and, of course, she knows exactly what buttons to push to get Nina to tell the truth.
Lara shows up and lets them know that most of the house can hear them and now Darla’s digging up safe sex pamphlets, which makes all of them laugh but Zoey, who is now grumpy that her mom will think she’s having sex. Aisha asks Lara if she wants to join them, because Aisha is amazing, Claire snarks at Lara, Lara snarks back about how she’s helping Jake at the moment, Zoey and Claire know she’s drunk, and Zoey decides Lara is trying to recreate her life: she moved into Zoey’s house, she’s working at Zoey’s job, and now she’s going out with Zoey’s old boyfriend.
God, self-centered much? [Dove: We’ll know for certain that’s Lara’s plan if she cheats on Jake.]
Claire calls her paranoid and Aisha turns talk back to Nina and her sex life and birth control. Nina calls a condom a “thingy” at first. Oh god. Claire suggests she go on the pill specifically to see Nina get embarrassed. Awww, siblings.
They move on to Christopher’s proposal, and Claire bides her time until she can get them back to her most interesting topic: what Zoey is going to do about Lucas. God, Claire, don’t phrase it like that. At least put the focus on Aaron, who is terrible but isn’t as eye-rolling horrible as Zoey and Lucas.
Nina journal. Will Aisha say yes to Christopher? Pro: She’s in love with him. He’s in love with her. Marriage offers security. (Security she wishes she’d have with Benjamin; if they were married before he regained his sight, he couldn’t leave her. God, Nina.) If Christopher goes into the army without them being married, maybe he’ll forget about Aisha. Just like Benjamin will forget about Nina when he gets his sight back and travels the world. Aisha’ll probably forget about Christopher, too, but Nina would pine away until she was “nothing but an old flannel shirt and a pair of Doc Martens.” GOD. NINA. MY HEART. Con: Nina will probably have to be a bridesmaid and wear an ugly dress and no one looks good in fuchsia taffeta.
Claire journal. About the proposal, of course. She thinks it’s the worst idea she’s ever heard. Christopher’s eyes have a will of their own even though Aisha believes he’s loyal to her now. Aisha is immature and seems to think that just because she’s good at school she’s also a rational, pragmatic person, but she’s really even more of a hopeless romantic than Zoey. Also, you know, Aisha’s going to college but if she gets married she’ll get pregnant and abandon her education and the chance to have a fulfilling career. Plus they’ll get divorced in five years or less. Claire will keep her opinions to herself. Mostly. Maybe just a subtle suggestion here and there, but no opinion. Just choice questions.
Oh, god, I love you, Claire.
She also doesn’t want to be a bridesmaid because she doesn’t want to wear an aqua faux silk dress especially while knowing that Aisha is throwing her life into the trash.
While Claire has some assumptions about women and what is worthwhile in their life, she’s also pretty solidly correct about some of the reasons it would be a bad idea for Aisha and Christopher to get married at this point.
Benjamin journal. On the proposal. Of course. He also thinks the answer is a big fat no. They’re isolated on the island, they live their lives as if they’re never leaving, and their perspectives are completely skewed. They’ll all leave Chatham for college (I mean, Christopher’s clearly going into the army instead, but okay), and even if they’re in love now, as he is with Nina, they should visit more of the world before they make those kinds of decisions. Though, if his surgery doesn’t work, his options are limited, and he’s terrified.
Ugh, Benjamin, my heart goes out to you.
Lucas journal. On the proposal. But mostly on consummation of the love that leads to marriage. Of course. Oh god, Lucas. He would marry Zoey in a heartbeat if it meant they could have sex. That is not, not, not a good reason to get married. He loves her and he’s sure that he will for as long as he lives — except for, oh, that thing with Aaron. Things have changed now and he’s not even sure what’s going on. He goes on to talk about how guys have a natural territorial instinct. Like what makes dogs pee on things to establish that it’s theirs.
ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME. RIGHT. NOW.
How the hell did I ever like you as a character? Jesus.
He wants to put a sign on Zoey’s neck to show she’s Lucas’s, a tattoo across her forehead.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
PEOPLE ARE NOT PROPERTY. WOMEN ARE NOT FUCKING PROPERTY. TEENAGE GIRLS AREN’T FUCKING PROPERTY. YOU DON’T GET TO PEE ON THEM TO PROVE THAT THEY ARE YOURS. OH MY FUCKING GOD YOU JACKASS. FUCK. OFF. INTO. THE. SEA. [Rosey: Wing goes BOOM? Also: Fuck you, Lucas.] [Dove: *toasts marshmallows and hands them out* It’s been awhile since Wing went BOOM, and she did it for us all.]
Jake journal. Marriage in general and Aisha and Christopher specifically. Marriage is a huge thing, he always thought he would marry Zoey, and then the whole thing with Lucas happened and now they aren’t together and all his dreams blew up in his face. He’s pro marriage, and he’s not the dumb jock most people think he is, he thinks about life, too, and death. He learned from Wade’s death that love and relationships are the most important things in life. He’d treat his wife and kids with respect and loyalty, or at least he hopes he would. His dad seems good but is pretty scummy. Jake’s not sure he knows anything about love considering how many times he’s thought he was in love before this. If Aisha and Christopher do get married, the wedding will be amazing; it’ll be the first on the island, so everything will be formal and fancy and the girls will wear long fancy dresses and the boys will rent tuxes and he thinks it will be nice. And maybe he’ll get to dance with Zoey.
Damn it, Jake, you deserve better than Zoey. You dear, sweet, boy. [Dove: Jake, you are too good for this sinful earth. And far too good for a self-obsessed dramallama like Zoey.]
Zoey journal. On the proposal, and how she doesn’t know what Aisha should do. What? Zoey the Fixer doesn’t know what someone should do? You’re really falling down on your whole Elizabeth Wakefield saving the world thing. Anyway, she would normally wax poetic about marriage, but her relationships are shit and she shouldn’t really say anything. She does know that Aisha is in love with Christopher just like Zoey is in love with Lucas. Because it always has to be about Zoey. Long story short, if she can cheat anyone can. UH YOU CHEAT ALL THE TIME. What she’s learned is that none of them really know anything, and that’s the goddamn truth. If Aisha does get married, Zoey wants to help pick out the bridesmaid dresses because she’s always wanted to be a bridesmaid. [Dove: What the fuck is Zoey’s logic here? Because she can’t keep it in her pants, Aisha can’t either? Aisha isn’t a serial cheater. The only time she “cheated”, she had amnesia and if you are under the impression you are seriously dating the person you’re kissing and have literally no clue your current boyfriend exists, then I’d be hard pushed to call that cheating. FFS, Zoey. It’s not about you. Fuck off.]
Saturday. Aisha’s circling the mall looking for a parking space. Nina and Zoey feel like they’re either in purgatory or hell. The girls have dragged Aisha Christmas shopping even though Aisha’s done already. She bought everything on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when Nina and Zoey were buying stuff for themselves. Hee. I love how smug you are, Aisha, and how organised you are. [Dove: If you’re under the impression that nobody else here sees the similarities between you and Asiha, Wing, you’re wrong. I know it. I bet Aisha would jump at the chance to go planner shopping with you.] [Wing: This is the best compliment I’ve had all day. *preens*]
They’re with Aisha because Claire took off with the Mercedes and Darla is using the Passmore van to get restaurant supplies. Aisha finally finds a parking spot, and they start talking about what they’re getting people. Aisha bought Christopher a $120 island car, which is adorable.
Claire hides from Nina, Zoey, and Aisha because she doesn’t want Nina to yell at her for taking the car. Shopping with groups is annoying and inefficient. I love you too, Claire. And your logic.
The last person on her list is a present for Aaron. She’s struggling to figure out what. Silk boxer shorts are too obvious. Fisherman’s sweater too boring. Books too pretentious. (Really?!) She almost bought him a fedora, but decided that someone’s taste in hats was nearly impossible to predict. [Rosey: If the re-releases had made it that far, I could really see 2014Aaron in a fedora]
She heads out to try the small antiques store and if she doesn’t find anything there, maybe she’ll wrap a bow around herself and give herself as a gift. Yes, this is different from Lucas’s ownership thing. She’s not making someone else into an object.
Who bought whom what for Christmas: The Girls
- Mom: silk scarf
- Dad: tie-dyed long-sleeved t-shirt from Jerry Garcia’s Last Tour
- Benjamin: collected works of Robert Johnson (this is a great, great, great gift)
- Lara: conservative white blouse (fuck you, Zoey)
- Lucas: leather wallet with his initials in gold
- Aaron: Best of the Blues songbook (WTF ZOEY)
- Dad: wallet like Zoey bought Lucas and Brut cologne
- Claire: Chanel nail polish and lipstick
- Sarah: potpourri
- Aaron: t-shirt with STUD written across the front [Rosey: 2014 Aaron would totally wear this with his fedora] [Dove: Should have been coal. COAL FILLED WITH HERPES!]
- Benjamin: silk robe and Nine Inch Nails poster (she’s going to tell him it’s a photograph of the Grand Canyon)
- Dad: Hermes tie and gold-tipped fireplace matches (oooooookaaaaay)
- Nina: Zippo lighter without butane (ADORABLE)
- Sarah: silk scarf
- Aaron: antique wooden cigar box
- Mom: Martha Stewart cookbook
- Dad: The Encyclopedia of Main and Other Great States
- Kalif: miniature Nerf basketball and hoop
- Christopher: island car as previously discussed
Here’s my favourite Robert Johnson song:
Monday. Jake, Lucas, Christopher, and Benjamin are at the mall. Jake’s also having a hard time finding a parking space and wonders if they can use a handicap space. Benjamin’s snarky over this and the “handy Crippled sign” he carries around. Uh, but you are eligible for handicap plates and hang tag, so … [Dove: Benjamin, don’t bitch. It’s our one piece of privilege. And I fucking love mine. I call it a Crip Stick, just to make people wince. *beams*]
Even though Jake is doing the other three a favour by driving them around, Lucas has been giving him shit since they got on the ferry. Lucas is taking out his anger about Aaron on Jake, Jake calls him on that, and it’s all annoying as fuck. Dump them and run, Jake.
They talk about what they’re getting people, Lucas lets it spill to Jake that Christopher got Aisha a ring, because Jake is the last person to know, I guess, despite that journal entry earlier. He thinks life is crazy. So crazy he needs a drink. Oh, honey.
MORE LIST TIME YAY.
Who bought whom what for Christmas: The Guys
- Mom: silver and copper earrings (That’s an interesting colour combination.)
- Dad: John Lennon-style sunglasses
- Zoey: leather-bound journal
- Lara: wall tapestry
- Nina: silver heart-shaped locket and one pack Lucky Strikes
- Mom: sturdy apron
- Dad: waterproof thermal gloves
- Zoey: silver charm bracelet
- Mom: Ombre Rose perfume
- Dad: Time magazine subscription
- Lara: rhinestone earrings
- Mrs Gray: scented hand lotion
- Mr Gray: Crime and the Inner City
- Kalif: Yankees baseball cap
- Aisha: silver barrette
Tuesday. Christmas Eve. Party at the inn Aisha’s family owns. Christopher’s worried about what Aisha will give him for Christmas — an answer?
Aisha: short red dress, upswept hair, bright red lipstick.
She shows him the island car she bought him. He tells her he loves it, but he won’t have a lot of time to use it because he got a call from Lieutenant Lang and he ships out on 5 January. Goddamn, that’s soon.
Aisha, understandably, freaks out. And she still doesn’t have an answer for him. She hasn’t even told her parents. You, uh, should probably wait on that until you have an answer.
Lucas goes to the party to talk to Zoey, because sure, someone’s holiday party is exactly the place to hash out your relationship crap. They make out for awhile without actually talking about things until Zoey gets tense when Aaron comes up. Lucas lunges at Aaron and nearly starts a fight.
Claire talks to Mr Gray about where she might go to college (she’s considering Harvard and MIT) because she hasn’t been able to slip away from the conversation. Best hurry, dear, Aaron’s up to his same old shit. In fact, when he walks past, she excuses herself and takes off after him. Sure enough, she finds him with Lucas and Zoey. Claire talks Lucas down from hurting Aaron, Zoey checks on Aaron and not Lucas, Lucas snaps at both of them and storms off. Claire’s annoyed that Lucas blew her careful plan.
Later that night, Benjamin and Nina go explore the inn so they can find an empty room with a lock. Oh god.
Jake and Lara are drinking rum and Coke in the downstairs bathroom. (Really? That’s probably not the best place if you’re trying to hide.) Lara kisses him and then invites him back to her place.
But first, they need to go shopping. In the kitchen. Where Lara steels a jug of wine and Jake a bottle of vodka.
Aisha is struggling to get Zoey into her coat, because Zoey’s managed to get herself drunk on eggnog. Why in the world didn’t your parents have non-alcoholic eggnog for their underage guests, Aisha?
Zoey wants to go home with Lucas, but then when Aisha reminds her that Lucas isn’t there, she proclaims him mean and wants to go find Aaron. Then, after Benjamin and Nina turn up again, she wants to find Jake who is clearly her one true love. When she hears that Jake’s with Lara, she says that Lara can have her leftovers. Gross, Zoey. Maybe you and Lucas do deserve each other.
Christopher comes back from warming up the car, and Zoey tells him that soon he’ll be Mr. Aisha Gray. Which would be delightful for him to take her name, but also is shitty of Zoey to talk about. Aisha’s angry as hell, but knows that Zoey’s drunk and didn’t realise what she was doing when she drank the eggnog, so … she’ll find some patience.
As a group, they get Zoey out of the house, but not before she gives Aisha and Christopher more grief and then starts singing. They learn Zoey is tone-deaf, and then drag her home. [Dove: Zoey warbling I Will Always Love You (Whitney, not Dolly, obv), is so Zoey. Dolly loathes that version. She thinks it’s overblown, rather than heartfelt. Just like this situation.]
Christmas morning. Zoey’s hungover, which is the least she deserves. She wakes up to her dad all gung-ho for Christmas. She is not in the mood for it. After she cleans up a little and chugs some orange juice, she thinks maybe Christmas morning can be salvaged — until she finds Lara in the living room with the rest of the family. Zoey’s a dick about this, because of course she is. [Rosey: Seriously, Zoey? Where did you think she’d be? I guess you are as shocked as the rest of us that your amazing parents didn’t make her spend Christmas alone in the garage.] Also: orange juice is a terrible thing to drink during a hangover, unless it has alcohol in it for that whole hair of the dog thing. Anything acidic like that is not going to go well.
Benjamin’s distracted during the festivities because he can’t stop thinking about heading to Boston the next night. Benjamin thinks it’s sweet that Lara is trying to fit into the family even though she awkwardly gives him a pen (so he’ll have one when people ask him if he does, because people always do); Zoey’s a dick about her again. Fuck off, Zoey.
Claire’s lunging around the living room, her silk robe intentionally falling open to expose some of her bare leg to Aaron. He keeps checking it out. She finds this progress. Nina teases Sarah about how the next part of their tradition is dancing and singing around the Christmas tree, which makes me laugh. They’re really going to help Sarah make a full Christmas dinner. Sarah’s Jewish, so this is her first Christmas and she’s delighted by it. I, too, had my first Christmas when I was older, in my late teens, and it is a strange and kind of delightful thing.
Claire thinks about the framed map of the solar system he gave her; she’s always gazing at the sky, he said, she should know what she’s looking at. Claire is unbelievably touched by this gesture. And it is pretty great, though I still hate Aaron.
Zoey visits the Geigers’ to take a gift to Aaron; she, Nina, and Aisha had agreed to not buy each other gifts, but she has that one for Aaron, because that’s weird as hell. Nina’s disappointed that Benjamin isn’t with her, but he’ll be over later, Zoey promises.
Zoey asks if Aaron’s there, Nina reminds her that she decided Lucas is the one she loves; Zoey’s angry at him and refuses to give him his gift until he begs for her forgiveness over the scene he caused. God, you two do deserve each other. You are such shits. Zoey whines that he ruined Christmas, Nina says he was understandably upset, Nina calls her unreasonable, Zoey points out they’ve both cheated on each other, I want to punch you both in the face.
Nina calls Aaron a snake, Zoey says he’s the sweetest guy on Earth, Aaron interrupts this grossness. Nina takes off (to make sure Claire doesn’t poison the apple pie), Aaron apologises to Zoey for the scene at the party and suggests maybe she should dump him because he’s unstable. This makes Zoey feel defensive because she’s the only person who can put Lucas down. Jesus, Zoey, I hate you.
They exchange gifts; Aaron gives Zoey a harmonica and a beginner’s teaching guide to it, and promises that they can play together when she gets good. That is a weird fucking gift, Aaron. When she points out that he’ll probably be gone by then, he tells her to think about him when she plays, because he’ll be listening. This leaves Zoey lightheaded because this is more than just friendship.
Before I can bash my head into a brick wall, Claire turns up to tell Aaron that they’re ready to eat. Aaron kisses Zoey under the mistletoe, which leaves her even more enchanted with him but also guilty for going behind Lucas’s back again and then confused because she and Lucas are more or less broken-up. UH, really? Are you? Because that’s not what anyone else seems to have taken away from the argument, but okay.
Christmas night. Jake’s alone in his room drinking that bottle of vodka. He and Lara had plans, but she cancelled them to stay at the Passmores to play Pictionary and make the effort to do the family thing.
Jake’s family thing is being sad over Wade, which is miserable and understandable and Jake wants no part of it. [Rosey: If only Jake had a little sister he could focus on having good family time with…] [Dove: Jeez, even I’d forgotten about Holly at this point.] [Wing: Oh fuck, that’s right! Damn, and we even make fun of the series for doing that.] I don’t blame him. That is a difficult thing. Ostrich’s brother died at Christmas a few years ago, and it is still incredibly rough on everyone.
Jake’s drunk enough that he falls trying to turn on the radio. His dad comes to check on him, finds him drunk, and shouts at him for how much he’s been drinking, stealing beer from the garage and adding water to the liquor bottles after he’s drank out of them. Jake snaps that he drinks just like his dad does, like Wade did, and his dad loses it a little, because look where that got Wade: dead and leaving the rest of them to pick up the pieces.
Jake’s broken over this, because he knows he’s a complete failure as a son. His dad talks about how neither he nor Jake’s mom could stand it if the same thing happened to Jake; Jake lashes out that he knows his dad is cheating on her all the time. His dad drags him into the bathroom to show him his reflection. How he looks would break his mom’s heart. All the fight leaves him, and he collapses against his father, sobbing and talking about how he tried to stop and he doesn’t want to be this way. His dad promises that he’ll help Jake and not let him slip away, not like he did with Wade.
He puts Jake to bed, they exchange I love yous, and his dad promises that they’ll take him to an AA meeting first thing in the morning. [Rosey: FINALLY!]
UGH MY HEART I LOVE YOU. [Dove: If nothing else, Jake is saved. Almost everyone else could be taken out by a rogue wave, but as long as Jake (and Claire and Nina) are safe, that’s fine.]
Christopher and Aisha are alone together at the inn, everyone else off to bed. Christopher admits it means a lot to spend Christmas with her family, he never had anything like it. Aisha loves him so and tells him he deserves a Norman Rockwell Christmas every year. He says he wants that, and he wants it with her. Aisha pictures them together in twenty years and loves it, but she knows marrying him isn’t the same as Christmases and fun stuff. She promises him an answer by New Year’s Eve.
Benjamin says good-bye to Zoey, who is staying behind to take care of the restaurant while their parents go with Benjamin. She’s broken-hearted that she can’t go with him; she’s been trying to protect him ever since he became blind and it’s hard to let him go off like this.
At the restaurant that evening, Lara decides to make popcorn in some oil. Oh dear, this isn’t going to go well, is it? Lara leaves the oil heating up and comes out to help Zoey set the tables. They talk about Zoey and Lucas and whether they’re back together; Zoey demands to know whether Lara wants Lucas for herself. Um. Zoey. Not everything revolves around you and your boyfriends. Especially when she says that Lara already took her old boyfriend and her dad (way to have priorities there), so why wouldn’t she want another man in Zoey’s life?
Lara calls her a pathetic little brat, which is much nicer than she actually deserves. Just as they’re fighting, FIRE IN THE KITCHEN.
Zoey calls Lucas to come help, because she can’t remember the number of anyone on the volunteer fire department. You don’t have one emergency number to call? Jesus.
Six hours later, Lucas is holding the gift he wrapped for Zoey. He’s not sure if he’s going to give it to her still, even though Claire told him Zoey bought him a gift too. He puts it away, though, because Zoey was flirting with Aaron at the party – or at least being friendly – and she ruined everything.
But she called him when she needed help earlier, not Aaron. Surely that meant something. By the time he showed up, Zoey already had the fire out using the extinguisher. He didn’t give her a hug, even though he wanted to. Instead he told her she didn’t need him after all and left again. WTF Lucas. That’s some shit behaviour even from you.
Lara comes to see him and asks for some advice about Zoey and how to get along with her better. Lucas doesn’t know why she’d come to him for advice about Zoey and all he wants is for her to go away.
Nina’s sharing a room with Darla. She and Benjamin have been making out and she sneaks back into the room late, but Darla is still awake. Once Nina gets into her own bed, they lie in silence for awhile and then Darla says she overheard part of the conversation the girls had the other night.
Darla gives her a little sex talk because her mother isn’t around to do it for her. It’s awkward and short and uncomfortable and I am embarrassed for both of them. Then Darla promises Nina that Benjamin will be okay no matter how the surgery goes. Which is super sweet of her, because she, too, has to be worried about him. Nina hopes Benjamin and Zoey know how lucky they are, because despite the awkwardness, having a nice set of parents can be good to have around. Sometimes, at least.
Benjamin and his dad have a similar talk (about the surgery, not sex) and how Benjamin is doing the right thing in taking the chance no matter what happens.
Zoey’s home from the restaurant after she and Christopher spent hours cleaning up after the fire. She sits at the kitchen table, holding Lucas’s gift, and talks herself into taking it over to him. She lets herself into the house, because for some reason the door’s unlocked. She sneaks up to his room and as she enters, she tells him she loves him, only to find Lucas and Lara sitting together on his bed. Lara’s wearing the top Zoey gave her for Christmas.
Zoey calls her a slut and Lucas a bastard, because Zoey’s a dick, and runs away. [Dove: How dare you wear a conservative blouse! You WHORE!]
Claire’s on her way to the inn. She knows where the spare key is and lets herself inside, then makes her way to Aaron’s room. Aaron giving Zoey a gift and kissing her under the mistletoe were minor setbacks. She knows Aaron is using Zoey for his own entertainment, just like he did that naive girl who wrote him a letter, the one she found last time she sneaked into his room. But Claire’s a woman who sees and appreciates the real Aaron.
She slips into his bed, covers his eyes, and when he wakes up, tells him to kiss her. He calls her Zoey, she points out that she’s not Zoey, he’s pretty glad to see her, too, and she says she was just in the neighbourhood.
Benjamin dreams of being two weeks in the future, taking off his bandages, and seeing nothing. His family and friends leave him the middle of the forest, alone and lost. He wakes up shouting for his dad, who comes to comfort him, and then it’s time to go to the hospital.
Nina and Benjamin clutch at each other, then start making morbid jokes to feel better, which delights me about them. Even the adults are entertained and laughing at this perverse, inappropriate humour (their words), and I kind of love them all in this moment.
While Benjamin’s still in pre-op, the doctors let Nina come in to say something to him. She promises she will be out there waiting for him with candy bars. He tells her he loves her, she’s near tears in response, and then as she’s leaving, she yells it back to him, which makes the doctors and nurses laugh. Aww, this is adorable, actually, despite how much I dislike Benjamin. [Rosey: Benjanina <3]
As Benjamin starts falling asleep with the anesthesia, he hears one of the doctors tell the team to give Benjamin a miracle.
UGH MY HEART.
Huge portions of this are infuriating, mostly around the relationships because the majority of people are dicks. Even the ones I like can be terrible at times in here. Though Benjamin had some strong, deep emotional moments that really made me feel for him.
Of everyone, Jake continues to be the best even when he’s making terrible decisions. Zoey’s pretty much the worst and far too much of this book was about her relationships. Christopher and Aisha are breaking my heart. And Lucas sucks just across the board right now.
[Rosey: I’m starting to get scared that all the remaining books are just rehashes of Zoey/Lucas cheating drama with not nearly enough of the other characters peppered in between.]
[Dove: I’m thinking Rosey is right. I bet there isn’t a run of more than four chapters where they’re happy together. Zoey is an insufferably toxic person, and Lucas needs drowning in Big Bite Pond. Jake continues to be epic and gives me all the feels. I feel sorry for Lara because the Passmores are doing the barest minimum to accept her. Nina and Benjamin’s relationship is sweet, and I did actually like the awkward birds and bees talk from Darla to her. It was one of the few moments where Darla didn’t suck as much as her daughter.]
[Wing: There’s at least a short, shining moment when Lucas and Zoey aren’t together at all, right? I swear I remember that. Of course, I was also certain we were more than halfway through the series at this point and then Rosey broke my heart.]