When Triple Love Score, my first “romance” novel made the rounds to book bloggers and interviews, one question kept popping up in my inbox: is any of this book true? While Miranda’s journey to find out what she really wants echoes my own, her finding internet fame with a Scrabble board and seducing a man or two along the way, isn’t my story. Her story though was born out of my own love story, and my desire to create something that reflected the choices I found myself able to make after a rough divorce as I stood the precipice of a fairy tale happy ending.
My feelings about fairy tales could be called mixed at best. I am a sucker for fancy dresses and love the fairy godmother’s magical wisdom. But the whole love at first sight concept rubs me raw. What if you miss it, you know, turn head slightly to the left or look over Prince Charming’s shoulder instead. And what do you really know at first sight anyway?
I met my ultimate prince charming one night at a going-off-to-college party for a friend. I found Avram in the kitchen making chicken Parmesan at midnight at the behest of a stoner friend eager for a midnight snack. We bonded over burnt chicken and dirty dishes, our mutual sobriety despite our “animal house” surroundings, and the strong, yet opposing, religious faiths our families raised us in. When I returned to college, I mailed him a recipe for blueberry muffins in the care of my best girlfriend from high school. When I never heard back, I didn’t think much of it. How many nineteen year olds, even dorky sober ones, had pen pals before the internet?
We caught back up with each other the following year at a house Avram shared with my best girlfriend and another roommate, a hot guy with long curly dark hair. We reconnected over a love of food and writing; I marveled at my luck at finding this interesting person again.
Later that night, my girlfriend slipped off with another guy into the bedroom I was supposed to share with her, leaving me no place to sleep as their place didn’t even contain a couch or a carpet on the floor. When the rest of the group broke up for the night, it wasn’t Avram who offered me a space in his bed, but the attractive and somewhat brooding roommate did—the offer being one of only things he said to me that night aside from a nodded hello.
In the year prior, my dorky, sober self gave way to some traditional college impulses. I found the whole package alluring.
“Sure,” I said to the hot guy.
So began the triumvirate that shaped life: my future husband, my new best friend, and me. I could have sex with the hot, complicated guy and hang out with the sober, nice guy—a pattern that lasted for the next nineteen years.
Once, a woman at a party leaned in close and asked, “Are you all just friends, or is it something more interesting?”
“It’s not like that,” I said.
“Oh,” she said with a tone of disappointment before turning back to her Pinot Gris.
Soon after, we agreed to call ourselves siblings to thwart any misguided rumors we didn’t want to explain to my seven year old.
The next Christmas, Avram gave me a bracelet marked, my sister, my friend.
I cried at the sentiment; genetics aside, the description fit.
After hearing about our friendship, my therapist asked whether there was ever any spark between Avram and me. “Do you hold hands? Anything?”
“No,” I said shaking my head, “Nothing.” I told her about a recent archery tournament. My score plunged dramatically, and I dissolved into a puddle of tears and frustration. I collapsed against Avram for a hug. His whole body went rigid; he patted my back awkwardly. It felt like hugging a board. A friendly board, but a board nonetheless. No chemistry, no spark, nothing that hinted at romantic love.
Things with the hot complicated guy didn’t really get any better. He stayed hot and complicated. We argued. We got married. We argued. We had a baby. We argued. She grew. We argued. After so many years and a bunch of counseling, I realized that hot and complicated didn’t always work for a marriage.
I asked for a divorce.
When I told Avram, he didn’t believe me at first. He offered the same old protest: “But he loves you.”
“Maybe. But it isn’t enough. It isn’t like this.”
I gestured to the space between us. While devoid of chemistry, that space radiated love. During my pregnancy when the doctors ordered bed rest, Avram took off from work and sat at the end of my bed, keeping me company while assuring me the baby would be fine. He laughed at my jokes and read the stories I wrote. After I hurt myself playing soccer, he took to coming to my games to make sure I was okay, and because I played soccer with reckless abandon, he more than once took me to the hospital the day after. When I took Statistics, he ordered the textbook and tried to work along side me to cheer me on. When I took up archery, he practiced right along side me.
I looked at him that night and saw all of these connections between us. All of this love between us. A light bulb moment—all of those things meant love. The actual every day work of love, not the fireworks fairy tales teach us to expect. And with a flash, I understood I wanted this love, even if our lack of chemistry meant we would live like old cat ladies together. The together mattered more than any sparks.
“What are you going to do after I’m divorced?” I asked him. “Are you going to step up or just hope the next guy is as accommodating as the last one?”
“No,” he said. “Things don’t work like that.” Then he left.
The next day we argued—our first and only time—back and forth via email. Like many of our conversations, the argument debated a metaphor about writing.
“Maybe we can write a new story. Maybe we can have a happy ending,” I protested.
“We can’t risk this,” he said. “You’re my best friend. And life isn’t a fairy tale.”
But then night came, and exhausted, I shut down the computer believing that maybe he was right; fairy tales didn’t happen in real life.
In the morning, I found this in my inbox, “Life, especially the life we choose, evolves, changes, picks-up new chapters, retells old stories, but it doesn't have an ending - we're living it. The story is about the journey. The story highlights humanity. Friendship, addiction, adversity, courage, growth, drive, cowardice, pain, song, laughter, silliness, happiness but mainly love. I love the heroine, and I love the story.”
It would be easy to rue the time we spent as only friends as wasted or lost, but doing so would invalidate some pretty wonderful things like my lovely daughter and all the amazing things we did share in our friendship. I could try to re-write this story as something else, as a fairy tale where dark forces kept us from finding true love, but that wouldn’t be true either. As much as the love we’ve found feels like something out of a story, I don’t want it to be the kind from a fairy tale. No offense to love at first sight, but there’s something to be said for taking the long way around.
So I turned to fiction to capture these feelings, the emotional echo behind my own story through Miranda’s in Triple Love Score. And I hope this answers the question about how much of my novel is true. In some ways, none of it is true. And in other ways, it all is.
This blog post originally appeared on the wonderful Cathy Lamb’s blog.