“And they all lived happily ever after.” My dad would close the book cover and lean down to give me goodnight kiss.
“And then what?”
This was a common conversation when I was a teensy-Tiffany. Happily Ever After wasn’t enough – I wasn’t trying to get a stay of execution from bedtime – I wanted to know what happened next.
“Well, Tiffers, they lived happily ever after. So they were, er, happy.”
“But then what happened?”
I wanted to know if Prince Stephan woke up every morning and told Aurora how beautiful she was. Did he get mad when she kept pricking her fingers on spinning wheels and calling out: BAND AID! I need a Band Aid! (In my version of Sleeping Beauty Aurora passes out from seeing the blood – there’s no need for any enchantment on the spindle). Does Prince Charming ever get annoyed that Cinderella allows so many mice in the house? Were there kids: princesses and princelings? I wanted proof of these happy endings – I didn’t want to relinquish characters I loved.
I always thought I’d be happy to read a whole book full of the happy part of the happily ever after. Who needs the conflict and tension? I’d be thrilled to see the other Prince Charming pick wildflowers for Snow White, or hear Darcy speak sweet, proud, nothings to Lizzie.
Or would I? Jo’s Boys and Little Men aren’t as interesting as Little Women (this could be because I’ve never forgiven rotten Jo for breaking Laurie’s heart). The kiss exchanged by Clary and Jace at the end of City of Glass doesn’t have a tenth of the passion of the forbidden one they share in fairy court in City of Ashes. And Breaking Dawn? Everything I wanted for Edward and Bella happened in the first hundred pages, the next 600+ pages weren’t all happy, but the seemed to go on forever and continue long after the plot had dissolved.
Would I want to hear Darcy complain to Lizzie about drainage and tenants at Pemberley or know the details of Rochester’s lifelong struggles to cope with the loss of a hand and vision in one eye? Not so much.
If I want to hear a Prince Charming talk about laundry, dishes, or other day-to-day aspects of what’s next? , I’ll just turn to my St. Matt.
As much as I hate when characters I love are hurting, as much as I agonize over adding tension and terror to the lives of my own characters, a story isn’t a story without suspense and conflict. The happily ever after isn’t special if the characters didn’t struggle or overcome an obstacle to achieve it.
Maybe I don’t need to know what happens, after the Happily Ever After, after all.
Sometimes while I’m reading I like to imagine what St. Matt would say if I made him read/ listen to the audiobook. Usually I do this when I’m loving a book I know he wouldn’t enjoy. I give myself an approving pat on the back and think: I’m-such-a-good-wife for not making him read this — even though I really, really want him to.
I thought this while reading and loving The Season by Sarah MacLean. As I smiled like a puggle in a sunbeam and turned delicious pages, I imagined his reaction:
“Um, there’s a lot about dresses in there.”
“I know!” *dreamy sigh*
“What the heck’s a dance card? These girls have to follow a lot of rules. You, my sweet catastrophe, would not have done well in the 1800’s.” Then, kiss on my forehead, he’d walk away.
As usual, he’d be right. Even in my imaginary conversations, St. Matt’s irritatingly accurate.
I would have been an awful regency lady. Despite my love for all-things-Austen, I’d have failed miserably in her social circle. I’m impulsive. I’m outspoken. I’m entirely too uncoordinated for the quadrille and all the beautiful slippers, gloves and gowns would spontaneously stain and rip under my wear. I’d be scandalous.
On the other hand, the feisty heroines in some of my favorite books made rebelling against 19th century society seem like a recipe for love & happiness. Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, A Great and Terrible Beauty’s Gemma and Felicity, and The Season’s Ella, Vivi, and Alex were more admirable because they refused to conform. They were all impulsive, opinionated, rule-breakers like me.
So maybe I wouldn’t have actually been good at living back then, but – dancing skills aside – I’d make an excellent regency heroine (provided they don’t try and separate me from my Blackberry (Petunia) or yell at me for ripping my gloves).
Now if I can only talk St. Matt into dressing like Gavin…
And survival skills too.
It was math class and my students were diligently working their way through some operations with positive and negative numbers. I was playing with the Sony e-book reader that my colleague, Mr. Techie, had dropped off for me to explore as I continue to dither about if and what type of e-book reader I want/need.
I answered a question, handed out a few ‘good jobs’ and a ‘get back to work’ as I paged through Techie’s book selections. He had Pride & Prejudice, so I gave him + 10 cool points. He had all the Meyers books, which just made me laugh.
And then I got to last page in his catalogue and gasped: “Schmidites. Writer’s notebooks. Front rug. Nooow!”
Did I mention it was math class? And that I didn’t even have my whole homeroom and that some of the kids didn’t even have writer’s notebooks? Whatever. It’s called problem-solving.
The kids assembled themselves on our sharing rug; they were full of anticipation and questions: “What’s up?” “What’s going on?”
“I have something important I need to teach you. Now. This might be the most important thing I teach you all year.”
“What is it?”
“Kiddos, get the lights. “
And then I began to read to them from: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.
“There’s no such thing as safe,” I read to them, “only safer.”
We read about forms of transmission: bites, an open wound exposed to the virus (this begged for the comment: “Oh, so the next time I get a papercut, I shouldn’t go rub it on the nearest zombie?”), or if a zombie explodes on you. We read about the timeline of the disease’s progression: starting with fever, eventually death, then reanimation.
And then math class was over. “Writer’s notebooks!” I announced as the rest of my homeroom stumbled back in, bleary-eyed and drained from pre-algebra. Come to think of it, they looked a little zombified until they read the buzz of excitement and ran for their notebooks.
After we’d read about how to evaluate your zombie killing weapon, how to protect your home & school, and the list of items to have on hand (our favorite: earplugs to block out zombie moans), I turned the lights on and shared their writing prompt: “In your notebook, respond to the following: Zombies, dangerous or not?”
They would’ve written all afternoon if I let them. Many of them will write all weekend and share their zombie stories on Monday.
I felt like this was a book I had to read. After all, zombies are attacking… or at least infiltrating. Prior to October I’d lived a zombie-free life.
- There’s the Austen thing
- Then there’s Generation Dead by Daniel Waters (Kiss of Life comes out in May). I read this book in one night in October. I gave it to a co-worker the next day and haven’t seen it again because it’s been passed from one reader to the next.
- And what about Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry? This doesn’t come out until March 3rd, but I was lucky enough to read it early. You need to buy it on Tuesday (along with a copy of Brook’s book).
And who would have thought I’d plan on attending a zombie night – complete with zombie movies? Now that I’ve read the Zombie Survival Guide, I know I can handle it. (I hope). If you see me there, feel free to sit next to me. I’ll gladly keep you safe… until I run from the room screaming and crying for my mom.