Quarantine Post #2 – The Hating Game

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I usually go through periods of boredom and I will log into Audible and download a book to listen to on the way back and forth to work… Takes me about 90 minutes in the morning to get to work. So I could finish a book in a week. Audible is great for me… as an English Major… College ruined reading for fun and within the past year and a half I have gotten back to wanting to even crack open a book. To crack open a book, I would need to carve out time to actually sit and read and with my busy schedule there is not enough time in the day. So much so that last year, I added reading more to my list of New Year’s Resolutions.

With the order to isolate and quarantine, I had to look for ways to entertain myself. I figured I would start with number one on my list. (Read more.) This blog covers number 2 (blog more). I am not really one to criticize something and it is very hard to get me to not like something. So you’ll find that my posts have more to do with how I felt reading or watching something than giving a star rating. Needless to say… one of the books that I read that stuck with me… that I now have time to blather about is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I heard they are making this into a movie… So I am definitely going to be at the theater to see it. I have pretty basic tastes… I hear that a story has a haters turned lovers kind of thing….. fake dating trope (or in this case, wedding date trope.) and I am all for it.

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I am usually not great at picking books but I hit the nail on the head with this one. I got it done in less than 24 hours. And listened to it two more times. I have not had that type of dedication in a long time. But enough about me… onto the story….. *SPOILERS* The Hating Game is set in a publishing house where Lucy and Josh are Executive Assistants to the co-CEOs. And not only do the CEOs hate each other, but so do Lucy and Josh. (Sexual Tension everywhere if you ask me.) They’ve hated each other since the first moment they met.  But maybe that is not as true as we are first told. Oddly enough, I had an experience like this at a previous workplace.

The story is told from Lucy Hutton’s POV. She starts off by telling us just how much she HATES Joshua Templeman. (She uses a version of I Hate Joshua Templeman as her password to work computer.) Lucy works as the executive assistant for Helene Pascal, one of the co-CEO’s of Bexley and Gamin. Originally, Gamin had been a small independent publisher, but it merged with the corporation Bexley so that both houses could survive the recession. Lucy sits across from Mr. Bexley’s executive assistant, Joshua Templeman. The two of them play immature and unprofessional games with one another all the time, in an attempt to one up each other everyday. There’s the Staring Game, The Mirror Game, The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything.

I check Joshua, who is glowering at me with contempt. I stare back. Now we are playing the Staring Game.” – Lucy Hutton

These games are a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other. Lucy does not do anything at work without turning it into a competition with Josh, who she thinks of as her nemesis. The most interesting thing to me was going through his desk and making copies of his planner. (More on this later.) There is a thin line between love and hate indeed… It is revealed that they have called HR on each other a few times…. leading to each of them getting a warning. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

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For me, Lucy is an interesting and relatable character. AKA “Shortcake” (a nickname given to her by Joshua.) She had always dreamed of working with a publishing company and she leaves her parent’s house at the strawberry farm (hence the nickname) to work at Gamin in the city. I remember being that ambitious. Lucy was actively working through getting her dream job since she was a kid. She feels insecure about the merger as she is a people’s pleasure and worries about whether or not people like her. It didn’t help that Joshua lead the charge to cut the fat around the newly merged company and one of her only friends lost her job. This friend blamed Lucy even though Lucy knew nothing about people losing their jobs and even if she did wouldn’t have been allowed to warn anyone. Joshua, for his part, manages to save both sinking ships. But his push to let some employees go cause a ripple effect throughout the company. He is scary and intimidating to other workers who prefer working in Lucy over Josh. Although there is a scene that shows more why that is actually the case. Lucy gets a call from an older woman in another department… ( Her name is Julie…. and  I was so annoyed at her blatant rudeness…) It is made apparent that this character is supposed to have a report on Lucy’s desk either weekly, or biweekly (if I can recall)… but she always calls the day it is due to get an extension…I was left to wonder did this woman ever turn in things on time… and why she wasn’t let go of Gamin… She has a headache or sinus or some such other nonsense. Lucy, in her extreme need to be liked, always lets her get away with it. Meaning that it is Lucy that has to work extra hours to be sure that her portion of the report is done for her CEO. The coworker even points out how understanding Lucy is and how she is glad she doesn’t have to speak to Josh. (Well obviously because he wouldn’t stand for the bullshit and is not a pushover or really concerned what other people think about him). This isn’t a dig at Lucy as I have been there and done that but I so couldn’t wait for her to get a backbone. There is even a point in the story where this woman signs Lucy up to take her niece on for a shadowing internship. She doesn’t really ask Lucy but sort of politely demands that Lucy do this. She skips right over the fact that Lucy says she doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. Unlike Lucy, Josh runs a tight ship and is not looking to make nice or friends with those that report to him. He has an eye for numbers and governs by the bottom line. His decisions are not made emotionally or in a rush. They are opposite in their approach but seem to fit together perfectly.

It gets interesting when Mr. Bexley and Helene announce at the staff meeting that they are creating a new position, chief operating officer, and they both want their own executive assistant to fill the position. Lucy wants the position badly but feels insecure when comparing herself to Joshua. She thinks she deserves it because she loves books, works hard and has been her dream job since she was a kid whereas this is just another job for Josh. She is somewhat defeated at the outset as the person who wins the position will be the other’s boss. The idea of having to answer to Joshua drives her nuts. She vows that she will quit if he gets the job convinced that he will make her work life more of a living hell than he normally does. Oddly enough, this job posting starts a new game between them of “When I’m Your Boss”. The conversation, as per usual, goes off the rails after Joshua says, “When I’m your boss, I’m going to work you so fucking hard.” This statement leads Lucy down an interesting path.

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While not at work, we see that Lucy spends time Skyping her parents. Internally, she wonders why her mother settled down with her father on the strawberry farm. She views her mother as being a talented writer/journalist. Lucy believes wholeheartedly that her mother would have been at the top of her field. She wonders to herself if her mother envisioned something else for herself other than being married and being a mom or if she harbors resentment. Lucy feels as though her mother gave up everything to be with her father… whose life changed minimally. (This was an interesting take to me as I realized that the older children get they look at some of their parent’s decisions critically). Lucy’s very talented mother now keeps a blog on all things going on with the strawberry farm. In my mind, she was comparing her life to her mothers at the same age. Lucy sees herself as a single woman who is trying to jumpstart her career and also trying to determine if, in order to get and maintain a relationship with a man, will she need to give up her dreams like her mother had done. (Do I also need to give up the things that I want in life in order to have a husband and possibly children in the future? Should I downplay who I am and what I want in life for a chance at love?) Her parents are super supportive of their daughter. They seem to know all about Josh (who her father, in an attempt to lighten the mood and be funny, calls him every J name under the sun but Josh.) Aside from trying to coax Lucy into coming home to visit… they tell her that she is a shoo-in for the position.

Here is where shit really starts hitting the fan….. The sexual dream… Which in itself is not an odd thing. But it throws Lucy for a loop. She has a dirty dream about none other than Joshua Templeman. (In my mind, she spends more of her work time with him so that seemed natural…) This dream is based on the statement Josh makes about being her boss. Lucy is mostly perturbed by the fact that she was so turned on by the idea of her and Josh together. The next day is hard for her as she is super flustered by Josh. She can’t seem to meet his eyes. Josh notices something odd is going on even for her. She tells him about the dream in a roundabout way… leaving out the fact that it was sexual in nature and that he was the man in it. Of all people to share things with, Lucy chooses the guy she claims to HATE…. (interesting indeed.)

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Circling back to the company meeting, Danny is being celebrated because it is his last week… (it could be his last day but my memory is foggy.) Lucy and Danny manage to lock eyes with each other. It is revealed that he will be branching out to start his own graphic design company. Lucy makes small talk with Danny instead of spending time playing the antagonistic game with Joshua (which seems to set Joshua on edge. I mean, does he hate her or not?) It is this brief flirtation that Lucy uses when Josh questions her about why she is dressed up for work. ( “Wowsers,” he drawls, and I watch his pencil make some kind of mark.  “Got a hot date, Shortcake?”) She blurts out that she has a date at a local bar after work… He doesn’t believe her and allows her to explain more to hang herself. Josh lets it drop that he enjoys that bar and will be there that night. Letting Lucy know that he can’t wait to catch her in a lie. Lucy is quick thinking so she meanders down to Danny’s desk to ask him out. Her flirting is flawless. Danny is all game mostly because he is attracted to Lucy. (Enter the 3rd point in the triangle… Everyone romantic story needs a triangle.) She is satisfied that she has thwarted Josh’s ‘I know your attitude.’ Sadly, I have done this several times and it always leads to trouble.

Joshua Templeman, from Lucy’s POV, is very prim and proper. Everything on his desk is in the proper order. He is the exact opposite of Lucy. He even wears the same shirts in the same order of color. She finds comfort in being able to predict exactly what he is going to wear. But Lucy is also intrigued by him and I will admit so was I. On the way out of the office, Joshua asks if she needs a ride to the bar for her date. Why would she need a ride to her date…? Why wouldn’t you assume that she is taking a cab or that this other person was picking her up? But because she can’t think of a good excuse quick enough, she allows him to drive her. (Now, of course, I am listening to this on audible… but I was talking to my Alexa at this point…. like DON’T GO ANYWHERE WITH THIS MAN!!! They never listen to me. I suspect Lucy was still on a high from her dream.) They climb into the elevator together and this action is the beginning of the end for life as she knows it. Josh reaches over and stops the elevator. Lucy is thinking that he is going to kill her. (Why would you have gone somewhere with a man you thought was going to kill you? Why would he kill you in the elevator of his job?) Seems irrational but the fear was palpable. But Josh reaches down and kisses her passionately. The kisses between Josh and Lucy become more heated and she finds herself being picked up and propped against the railing as Josh kisses all over… (what kind of hate relationship is this? In my mind, I saw this coming but I wondered how it would play out. Dating someone you work with is not my idea of a good time.) But as abruptly as he starts the kiss… he ends it, leaving Lucy’s reeling. She clamors into the car and is solely focused on getting to the bar. When Josh pulls up to the bar, Lucy jumps out before he can say anything else to her.

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In her mind, Lucy is surprised that she enjoyed the kiss as much as she did and or the fact that Josh is a great kisser. She finds Danny but isn’t able to enjoy the night. Danny attempts to compliment her and Lucy excuses herself on the verge of tears. She made up in her mind that the only reason that Josh kissed her is to gain the upper hand for the presentations that are going to happen in a week. (Are people really this vindictive?) When she bumps into Josh on the way to the restroom, he notices that she is on the verge of tears and is at a loss for what to say. (Really, Lucy gives him and piece of her mind and doesn’t really let him get a word in edgewise.) She manages to salvage the night with Danny. It gives her something else to focus on besides Josh. She decides to call into work the next day…. (Apparently not something she has done in a long time.) She receives a dozen roses with a card (“You’re ALWAYS beautiful.” ) but it doesn’t say who it is from… She believes it is from Danny. (More spoilers…It isn’t.)

The next event for our two characters is planning a company team-building event designed to bring both sides (Gamin and Bexley) closer together. Josh and Lucy, being the two representing each side and with everyone knowing that they hate each other, are supposed to come up with an idea and run the events. Lucy comes up with a basic idea of meeting together and talking out idea… Joshua usurps with an idea of taking everyone paintballing and he solidifies his idea with making each employee pay for themselves. (He explains to Helene that employees will gladly pay out of pocket to shoot at their coworkers.) Lucy is annoyed that she is already being outshined by Josh. On the day of the employee retreat, Lucy and Josh are standing outside the buses collecting everyone’s $20 and their release forms… Danny makes an appearance even though his last day was earlier in the week. He is excited to see and talk to Lucy, but Josh steps over any tender moment and is SUPER RUDE to Danny. Lucy and Danny make plans to be on the same team for one of the rotations, which Josh points out can’t happen as all the teams have been chosen for the day… and that Lucy is with him ALL DAY…. (coincidence? nah son…. ) Danny is unperturbed and makes plans to sit with Lucy on the for the ride up but Josh makes sure to ruin that. She ends up sitting next to Josh and switches back and forth between feeling angry and annoyed to feeling feverish and queasy. The games get underway and in the first game, even though Lucy has no clue what she is doing, manages to hang on until second to last…. it is her and Josh left. She decides to bite the bullet for him…. as he is larger and faster than her…. (They are trying to capture the other teams flag.) In the end, he shields her from the onslaught of paintballs…. taking the brunt of the shots to the back. She enjoys being close to him more than she wanted to admit at the time. After the first round, she can’t take Josh’s unfamiliar behavior so she decides to switch around the teams. She moves herself to play with other coworkers. By the end of the day, she is not feeling any better… the day’s activity made her feel worse. She ends up throwing up and almost passing out.  Danny offers to take her home and Josh brushes him off insisting that he does it. (Really? You two are having a pissing contest, or continuing a pissing contest when Lucy is sick.) Josh takes Lucy to her house and stays the weekend with her. He manages to take care of her. Delirious with fever for most of the time, Lucy’s not sure she trusts her recollections of Joshua’s care. He makes sure to change her clothes, her sheets and cleans up her vomit. And while she’s being overcome by the vapors, he cleans her apartment. This seems like a lot for a person that hates her. At one point, she wakes up to another man in her apartment attempting to take her temperature… It turns out to be Joshua’s doctor brother. Lucy through her fever hears them arguing about attending his brother’s wedding. Josh has not responded to the invitation and we the readers start to get a glimpse into the character of the so far quite distant Joshua. Josh’s brother Patrick states that he expects Josh to be there and for Lucy to be his plus one. (This conversation is set up like Patrick already knows who Lucy is, like he has heard of her already.) Lucy and Josh manage to talk in between Lucy slipping in and out of consciousness. There is a lot of nice and interesting guy that is revealed in these talks. Once Lucy recovers from whatever has ailed her, she overwhelmed with Josh being in her apartment and practically pushes him out on his ear. She is so embarrassed that has not only seen her at her absolute worst but also took in all her private things while she was passed out. (I remember when I invited a guy over and he took it upon himself to walk into my room and look at my bookshelf… I felt so violated… but alas.. I got over it as he meant no harm but I got how she felt.) She gets a call from Danny who is worried about her. She finds out that Danny had been calling while she was slipping in and out on consciousness. Danny asserts that Josh is an asshole… And when Lucy begins to explain that Josh looked out for her while sick… Danny’s response is: “Oh, I’m sorry… I thought we hated him.” He offers to take Lucy to work… and brings her flowers in the process. Daises… which she likes but not as much as the red roses… the kind of red that matches her lipstick she enjoys wearing. Danny proposes they go out on a second date and she accepts just before exiting the elevator to her desk. When dropping her off at work, Danny makes a scene with Josh, mostly attempting to push his buttons, and while I recognize that Danny wants to even the score with Josh… Why are you doing this at her place of business? It seemed like he really gave her the daises to one-up Josh rather than because he actually thought she’d like them. Danny is attempting to draw lines in the sand and state his claim to Lucy in the worst possible way and Josh who is usually cool and collected is even more snarky than usual, pointing out that Danny doesn’t work there any longer and needs to leave.

“Danny kisses my cheek, and I am almost certain he did it because of our audience. It was a petty move on his part.”

She realizes too late that there is a single rose with a note on her desk… and it finally dawns on her who actually bought the roses for her. They have a fight as newsflash… Josh is not great at expressing himself… and he tells her that it obviously should have been Danny to help take care of her. When things didn’t unfold the way he thought they would, he reverts back to his old crappy self. When attempting to bring him out of his silent… ‘I am ignoring you because you hurt me even though you had no clue what was going on state’ Lucy offers to be his plus one for his brother’s wedding…. (Let me tell you guys… it is DRAMATIC.)

They have an interesting discussion in a broom closet at work where she tells him she wants to be friends… OR SOMETHING… and when asked what the ‘or something’ is, she is at a loss. It was interesting to me that she seemed to be okay with making out in the broom closet (or trying to since Josh puts a stop to things) and feeling Joshua up, but she did not want him to tell people what was going on between them. Fearing that it was going to make people talk about her or jeopardize her chances of getting the COO position… but then you wonder why do it in the first place? I mean the broom closet is a hell of a place to get caught. (Not shaming though… Get yours girl.) Lucy decides (more like insists) that she accompany Josh to his brother’s wedding. And Josh is skeptical at first but he eventually relents.

Lucy decides that she wants to sleep with Josh but that it will only happen once. Once it is over, both parties will go their separate ways.  Josh, however, is resistant to just sleeping with her. Telling her that he wants her to want him and that he can prolong gratification as long as he possibly can. Josh explains that he wants her to go on the date with Danny and to kiss him … in some sort of weird dare. But it is to prove that she has no feelings for Danny… He wants to be told that he is the better kisser. (Someone needs their ego stroked indeed.) But he maintains that he doesn’t want to be her experiment before she picks Mr. Nice Guy. It annoys me because Danny is not necessarily a nice guy. And while Lucy’s date goes as well as can be expected, (Danny spends much of the date attempting to dig for information about Josh’s background and making jokes at Josh’s expense.)… the kiss pales in comparison to the heated one she shared with Josh. They end the night by asking each other if they can remain friends… I wouldn’t have… but Lucy has no other friends…  She high tails it to Josh’s house (he gave her his address earlier in the day) after the date to confess that he is in fact the only one who can kiss her properly… Josh grants her the right to look around his apartment as she fears he did while she was passed out. Later on, they watch ER and he tells her a horror story of trying to make it through medical school in a past life…. as well as only watching medical dramas to point out their inaccuracies. No matter how much she tries, he blocks her attempts of kissing him continually throwing herself at him, and puts her in her car and sends her home.

She makes several trips to his house in the coming days for one reason or another. Where she spends the evening in his lap and kissing him all over. It becomes annoying to listen to her throw herself at him. It is apparent that he is used to women glomming onto him just for his looks and body and she is quickly falling to that category. However, she keeps missing that he is trying for something more than that. On some level, I understand not wanting to give yourself fully over to your feelings right away but Josh isn’t a piece of meat and there would be hell to pay if this was vice versa. I digress.

“You’re the sort of person who needs to be eased into things slowly.”

I open my mouth to protest, but he silences me.

“I know you, Luce, and you do. Your freak-outs are pretty impressive. Imagine we have sex right now. Right here, on the counter.” He slaps his hand down firmly on it.

“You’d be so awkward afterward, you’d never speak to me again. You’d quit ahead of the interviews and go and live in the forest.”

“Why would you care? I’d like to live in a forest.”

“I need you to compete with me. And maybe we can find a scenario that doesn’t involve running out of time.” He sighs and checks the omelet. “Do you have one-night stands? Like, do you go to clubs and pick out some hot guy and take him home with you?”

Even as he asks the question, his face grimaces. Maybe I’m not the only one who can imagine faceless suitors.

“Of course not. Unless you count. And I can’t even get one night.”

“I’m trying to make sure that when we do, you don’t have any regrets.”

After this conversation, when Josh asks if Lucy would rather be with Danny… She replies that Danny would have probably taken her to a movie… Joshua lets it slip that he would have been glad to take her to a movie. Like an actual date but Lucy misses it completely. She is too on her guard. While she wants to dive face-first into all things Josh, old habits die hard. She constantly questions Josh on whether or not his closeness is genuine or if he is trying to con her out of the promotion. The good thing is that her time with Josh has hardened Lucy to the bullshit… too bad for our rude and incompetent Julie who calls and attempts to get over AGAIN without having to do any work… needing a damn extension. With the help of Josh (who is sitting across from her), she tells Julie in no uncertain terms that reports are due by a certain date. To which this loser had the nerve to tell her:

“You don’t have any family here, or a boyfriend, do you? Late nights don’t affect you like they do for people with husbands and . . . well, people with families.”

I almost screamed at my Alexa. You keep getting extensions for bullshit and making this woman stay late for no reason… family, children or not… I wanted Julie to be slapped… but you know… I had to settle for her telling Julie…. to kick rocks… Well of course she was more polite than I would have been but nonetheless, Lucy was ecstatic and Josh was proud of her. What killed me was Julie crying about how Lucy must be spending more time with that awful Josh…. I guess that means Lucy must be a jerk for telling Julie that her job needs to be completed by the deadline…. or that if she is sick she needs to bring a doctor’s note….  Lucy extends her victim list to Mr. Bexley who usually is lurid when attempting to view her cleavage…. but she sends him packing too. (Go girl.) However, Bexley does stir up a tiff between the two causing Lucy to head out of the office for a break…

She meets Danny at a local Starbucks to discuss the presentation. Her ideas and how his graphic design company will fit in. But who should show up but Josh Templeman? (Insert eye roll.) I imagine he just had to have coffee at that exact moment. Lucy and Danny decide on her helping him get his name out there, talking up his self-publishing software and $300.  (Seems reasonable to me.) Danny points out the weird vibe he is getting from Lucy and Josh….. Lucy tries to deny there is any sort of vibe… But Danny pushes past her denial.

“But you know he’s in love with you, right?”

Danny and Lucy can’t make it out of the coffee shop without bumping into Josh. For some reason, they explain to him why they are together (which is the truth) but it comes out like they are keeping some sort of tawdry secret… (other than the topic of the presentation they decided on.) Does that stop Josh from being a jealous jerk… no… no indeed.

“You’re working on your presentation. Right. Okay.” Josh takes his coffee when his name is called and gives such an accusing look my face nearly melts off. “And were we doing that too, Lucinda? Last night on my couch?”

Now you know that she doesn’t want people in her business. Especially people that work or used to work where she works. I lose any sort of respect that I had built up for Josh in this moment. I really can’t stand people who kiss and tell….(Or Kiss and let slip in this case). He wanted to embarrass her and that did not sit well with me. (But alas, good people don’t always do great things…) Of course, Danny is super interested in this turn of events. Once they shake Danny and are on the way back to the office… Josh wonders why she is so hellbent on not letting one know about them. It is clear that while Lucy may want to sleep with him… She doesn’t trust him and on some level, she is still wrestling with what she views as an issue with her parent’s relationship and not wanting to do what her mother did.

“So, you’re embarrassed of me?”

“No. Of course not. But no one can know. I think he’s a gossip. Oh, don’t give me that sourpuss face. People will talk about us.”

“Newsflash, people have always talked about us. And you don’t care if people talk about you and him, but not you and me?”

“You and I work ten feet from each other. It’s different. I want to reestablish some level of professionalism in this office.”

While I feel that some of this is true… I mean could imagine what someone like Julie would attempt to insinuate if she knew. Here is the difference between men and women at the workplace… (or at least how it stuck out to me in for this book). Josh wants to know why it is a big deal if people know… It is not a big deal, and never will be because no one is going to say anything about him anyway. If people found out, his life would not change at all. In Lucy’s case, it really could jeopardize her chances at this new position. One rumor that Lucy slept her way to the top could ruin her. And while what Josh says may be true, (that people are already talking about them) the person of discussion would be Lucy especially since everyone is scared of Josh anyway. Josh continues telling her that since she should bring her clothes for the wedding to work with her on Friday as they will need to leave as soon as possible after work. She is freaking out because she is not sure that she wants to be in close proximity to him anymore. But she volunteered so she would feel bad if she backed out. She resigns herself to going but is not thrilled that she has to ride with Josh a few hours away and possibly spend the weekend with him.

At home, Lucy Skypes her parents again. Mostly in an attempt not to call Josh or speed off to his house. It is a very rare occasion as her mother is alone when she answers… Lucy endures her mother bellowing her father’s name but for a few moments, it is just the two women. Before Lucy can stop herself, she blurts out the question that she has been longing to ask.

“Before I was born, and when you met Dad . . . how could you give up your dream?” After her mother gives her the response she knew she would get… She puts the final nail in the coffin by asking:

“But don’t you wonder where you’d be now if you chose your career instead of him?” Her mother is sharp though (like most mothers are…) She pinpoints what is really bothering her daughter. She tells Lucy that she doesn’t need to give up anything. She can have it all as times have changed. There is no need to worry about the road not taken or the opportunity cost of being a businesswoman or a wife. Her mother points out that she just has to give it her all so she has no regrets. This conversation is one that I have with my mother regularly. I get the same response as Lucy does in the book. My mother was a stay at home mom and when I was younger for many years, I imagined this was the way of the world. So this must be what I had to look forward to in life. In recent years, my mother pointed out that she was a stay home mom because that is what she wanted, she didn’t give up anything. She took care of children because that is what she enjoyed doing. But if that is not what I want to do then that is fine. If it is, that is fine too. But I know the feeling that Lucy has here. Her father crashes Skype like a bomb… much like my dad would have but I find more and more that my parents are full of great advice. He comes in asking about if she is ready to beat Josh and win her coveted position… it brings sadness to the forefront. Obviously, she doesn’t see how she can not compromise what she wants out of her career much less life in order to be with Josh (even if she not sure yet that she wants to be with Josh… she totally does.)

Friday comes quickly… too quickly for Lucy. She will be leaving that evening with Josh to meet his family and do the wedding date thing. (Another romantic story/comedy trope.) Josh is in Mr. Bexley’s office and there is a lot of yelling going on. While talking with her boss, she lets it slip that she is worried about Josh’s wellbeing.  In preparation for the interview, both Lucy and Josh have cleared off their desks in case they are let go. It stands out that Josh has dressed differently that day.

He lifts a shoulder carelessly, reminding me of what he’s wearing. When he walked in today, he was wearing a pale green shirt I’ve never seen before. I’ve spent today trying to decide if it’s a harbinger of doom, or if I love it.

“What’s with the green shirt?”

“Green seemed appropriate, given my little scene in Starbucks.” I like a person that recognizes their shortcomings or their bad behavior and is at least apologetic about it. He says later: “Green, the color of envy. I’ve been a jealous psycho lately.”

The car ride to the wedding is interesting after a bit of a freak-out. Lucy admits to Josh that part of her insecurity about this interview is that her last friendship dissolved in the merger. They have an actual conversation and Josh opens up slightly but when she asks why he needs her, Josh doesn’t give a straight answer. Only telling her that he has baggage… and wrapping it all up in medicine. He points out that no one has ever tried to get to know him. At one point, they admit to why each of them plays passive-aggressive games and Lucy tells him the truth about her dirty dream. Lucy even tells him her initial date with Danny was founded on a lie. (I would have left that out but you know I get it.) I understand the want to clear the air. But somethings should be taken to the grave. They finally make it to the hotel. They have been given the same room…. (I smell another trope.) He attempts to get her the separate room that he promised her earlier in the week but alas… the wedding has booked up all the rooms. And they are stuck in a room together.

And the hot and steamy make-out session is underway.  Lucy is insistent on trying to get in his pants. There is a point in the session where he asks her to slow down. And she wonders if he is really into her. (I wonder why it is so unheard of for men to want to take things slowly. Or why women’s first thought is that they aren’t attractive or desirable as a result of a man wanting to take it slow. Been there done that. It struck a believable cord to me.) But no hot and heavy session is complete until it is interrupted. Here comes the annoying phone ringing, it while Josh ignores it for the first few times… but the person on the other end will not be ignored. (GOOD LORD YOU HAD BETTER BE DYING!) It is Josh’s mother who needs his muscles to move things. Lucy is now embarrassed. (Again been there done that.) Now that the sesh is over, she doesn’t want to be seen by either Josh or his family. Josh leaves to help his mother and Lucy is left in the hotel room with her thoughts. Lucy takes a shower and climbs into bed to wait for him. But she falls asleep waiting. They are so comfortable that they sleep well into the next afternoon. While rushing to get ready, Lucy asks Josh again for the 100th time if there is anything that she should know, and lets it be known AGAIN that she wants to know what she is walking into. Josh is purposely vague (RED FLAG). Josh has been down since deciding to come to the wedding. (That is a flag in and of itself but maybe not… because I mean, who doesn’t have family drama.) But prior to heading out for the wedding… They have a conversation about past relationships or past lovers… which could be seen as foreshadowing.

At the wedding, it is apparent that everyone is so surprised that Josh showed up. I wondered what that is about, I mean Patrick is his brother. Why wouldn’t he come? People are even more surprised that he brought a date. So something obviously went down. They make their way to sit next to Josh’s parents. His mother is super excited to see Josh and meet Lucy… (Ever been in a situation where everyone knows you but you do not know them? Yeah… it is odd to hear other people talk about you like they know you. Been there, done that.) …while his father is… not so much. Which is also odd to me anyway. Earlier in the story, on several instances, it is alluded to that Josh first went into the medical profession and couldn’t take it. While people at work (Danny, Mr. Bexley.) tease him about it, it is odd to imagine his parents being that upset about it still to this day. The ceremony is beautiful… but I wonder if most women see weddings as beautiful anyway. Once it is all over, Josh sweeps Lucy away from his family and the guests. He makes it known that he does not want to attend the reception. Which Lucy thinks would be rude. She tells him the ceremony went fine and they need to at least stop by the reception as it is only polite. (Now the only thing I am going to say about this is… she was warned he didn’t want to do it.) She gets annoyed during the reception when he is less than talkative with his family… (Probably because he knows something she doesn’t). He doesn’t do small talk well so he kind takes time to introduce Lucy… and then lets her handle all the questions… Mostly everyone wants to know where and how they met and what Josh does now. Another thing that strikes Lucy as odd is the sympathetic look they give Josh and the cryptic comments on how glad it is to see Josh with someone new. (Odd. But old people say weird things.)

When she tells Josh that he needs to stop playing at being shy and participate in conversations, she realizes it. He really is shy. Lucy fell for the old “good looking people must not have issues thing” (SMH… If I told y’all what I learned in this past couple of months about a particular person who I used to believe the same thing about… your mind would be blown. It is easy to look at someone and believe they don’t have inner demons or don’t struggle with the same things as you.) She realizes Josh is shy and struggles with dealing with people. It quickly becomes apparent why Josh doesn’t want to be bothered with the reception dinner. They have to sit with his family and his father is less than pleasant (that is what I will type for now… but just know I have some words to call him.) Scoffing at the mention of their job and how busy they are with work… UGH. I have no nice words for him so I shall move on. I will skip the speech he makes at the wedding where he pretends that Patrick is the only child he has. (Jackass.)

Josh excuses himself with the promise of explaining everything to Lucy when he gets back. Lucy can’t seem to figure out why all eyes are on the two of them. Lucy introduces herself to the bride (Mindy) to thank her. Mindy is yet another person who is super intrigued by Lucy. During their exchange of pleasantries, Mindy lets it slip that her and Josh used to date. (Not trying to be rude or mean but in a matter of fact way as if she thought Josh had already told her.) Mindy is interested in Lucy as the woman that caught Josh’s eye. Nothing more but it doesn’t matter. The damage is done. Now… Maybe it is just me… But I wouldn’t date brothers… or relatives in general. Not my thing. But to each his/her own MINDY. Mindy figures out that she put her foot in her mouth. She points out what she sees just as Danny had done earlier.

“…He’s so happy with you. I never would have imagined he’d be so completely smitten. He never was with me. I suppose it does make sense. Intense men like him usually fall pretty hard, when they eventually do.” This statement solidified it for me. Many times throughout the book, Josh makes references to being left for the nice guy. Sarcastically stating that everyone likes the nice guy or all women want a nice guy. I am guessing that being left for his brother may have something to do with that cynical outlook. However, don’t get me wrong, We have seen him be a jerk and overly possessive so… I am sure he had a hand in being left. I am simply pointing out… it came full circle.

Josh returns just in time for the throwing of the bouquet and Lucy, who is on the verge of tears is looking for a way to escape. (She is like me in more ways than one. I hate it.) Josh pushes her to participate with disastrous results. The flowers hit her right in the chest (as football players say… right in the numbers) and she makes no move to catch them. She turns on her heels and runs off with of course Josh on her heels. It is Josh’s mom who gets to her first. (Odd. Next to the last person, I would want to talk to beside Josh.) His mom talks with Lucy about how much she knows about Lucy through Josh. She knew when she heard Josh’s nickname for her that it was love. (WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?)

When his mom exits, Josh enters. Without really an explanation for why he didn’t tell Lucy of the drama, she was walking into. He insists that she is his date because he wanted her to be. He isn’t putting on airs because he couldn’t care less about his ex marrying his brother. (On some level, I believe this is the truth but come on dude.) Lucy tells him that she believed that he really cared about her only to find out that she was a rent a date. She points out that he had a whole week to prepare her and chose not to. He points out that he knew she would freak out and not come and he both needs and wants her to be there. The real issue is that she has just discovered how she really feels about Josh and doesn’t want to admit it. But while Josh acknowledges what he did (more like didn’t say.) he asks the right question.

He looks at me sideways, his face tense. “Now that I’ve promised that you’re not here as some part of an elaborate revenge scenario, can you tell me the real reason this bothers you so much? Other than my lie by omission, and people staring at us? People, that you never have to see again?”

Now I have a friend of many years who is bold and would have blurted out exactly what she was thinking at that moment and had it out. I imagine her getting annoyed about a lot of things in this book as she is more direct in life than Lucy (or I am). So I can say with certainty… what happens next she would never do. HAHAHA. Lucy, instead of admitting how she feels, storms off saying that she was going to take the bus back to the city. Running away… totally the only sane answer. She can’t lose him as she is so much shorter than he is. She even attempts to shut the elevator on him… (Good Lord, she really is trying to get away. Also she is a lot like me and I am not sure I like that.) Doesn’t matter though, Josh sticks with her up back up to the hotel room… and who should pop up again… DANNY! Mostly because he has been attempting to contact Lucy about his work for her presentation. She calls him back much to Josh’s dismay. (I really need him to deal with jealousy a bit better. UGH.) Josh manages to snatch the phone from Lucy, at Danny asking her what she is wearing… Josh hangs up on Danny… before pocketing her phone… (SIR.) Both of them are seething…. they are either going to kill each other or have sex or both. I find it funny that both of them have jealous outbursts and only end up staring at each other. (2 people come to mind when I read that.) Leave it to Josh to try to get the ball rolling because me and Lucy are the worst. Pointing out the obvious…

“In between Danny and Mindy, we’ve kind of had our fair share of jealous revelations today, don’t you think? I’m going to crack if you don’t just listen to me for once.” He wrenches out his cuff links and tosses them on the dresser and shoves up his sleeves, muttering to himself. “Little fucking asshole. What is she wearing? That guy has a fucking death wish.”

Our love triangle has become a square mostly because no one communicates… (This would be the point where my friend would say it would be a lot easier if they did _____ fill in the blank. I love to point out that this is how people actually act. ) After both of them admit that they don’t have feelings for either Danny or Mindy. This leaves Josh to tell the story of his family. Not a great one. His father is a douche and the very intimidating Josh is scared of his father. It is revealed that his father only wanted one son, obviously Patrick. Josh talks about wanting to do something to make his father proud. Patrick got his tuition paid for while Josh did not. (Odd thing to do…. mostly because it pits children against each other for no reason.) Josh goes on to state that Patrick is so nice and will go out of his way to help people (hence coming to help Josh when Lucy was sick.) making it hard for Josh to hate him… even though he wants to. The story of growing up with his father makes you understand why Josh has such a cold-hearted exterior… (although… It doesn’t mean being mean to people is the answer either.)  Josh continues to tell Lucy that he attempted to become a doctor to make his father proud. The height of sadness is when Josh describes completing pre-med. His mother through a huge party to which his father could not be bothered to attend. Apparently, in comparison, Patrick was given their father’s Rolex when he completed pre-med. After leaving the party where no one noticed he was missing, he decided that he would give up and take the first job that comes his way. Hence how he ended up sitting opposite of Lucy. Lucy is dumbfounded by the story. Her own father being so full of love. She is angry and sad on Josh’s behalf. Josh tells her the real reason he wanted her to accompany him to the wedding. In his mind, he is the failure of the family… right on down to having his ex marry his brother. When he says that Mindy and Patrick can have 10 kids and good luck to them I believe him. Needless to say that this conversation gives way to SEX.

SEX. Two long chapters of Josh and Lucy finally sealing the deal. To me, it was like FINALLY. I mean after all the tension and nonsense we deserve it. It does not disappoint but Lucy does make me cringe. Josh is very clearly against making this a one night stand and wants some sort of clarification that they are in this together. Her response makes me want to claw my eyes out. Although, I get it. She doesn’t want to admit she loves him as she is serious about trying to get this job. I mean, look what happened to her and her friend when the merger was complete. But COME ON LUCY….

“If we do this tonight, I’m not going to let you get weird on me.” His eyes are solemn as he braces himself up a little. “Are you going to have one of your infamous freak-outs?”

“I don’t know. Very possibly.” I try for a joke but he’s not remotely amused.

“I wish I knew how much I have of you. How much do I get?” He’s kissing me on the throat again, fingers tightening on mine.

“Until the interviews, you get it all,” I say into his skin, and he lets out a shaky breath, like I’ve offered him forever, not a few days.

I die a little inside for Josh. Poor guy… and really poor Lucy. She has had no personal life at all… Live a little, have a little fun. Let your guard down for someone. Anyways the morning after is riddled with shower sex and them arguing about going to breakfast with his family. She wants to go because… she’s hungry and he would prefer not to because… his dad is a dick. But of course, she wins out. They head down to check out of the hotel but not before the blonde behind counter attempts to throw her vag at him and he acts like he doesn’t notice. Breakfast is a disaster with Josh’s father making increasingly condescending remarks about Josh. What is great is that there is really no ill will between Josh and Mindy. He is genuinely happy for his brother and his brother’s new wife. Lucy decides that she is going to get more pastry. No lie she is gone for like 2 minutes and she returns to a shouting match. WTF. It annoys me when adults can’t be adults. Josh tries AGAIN to get her to leave with him but she decides to take matters into her own hands and tells his father off… (and while I enjoyed it… it seemed so out of place. Like this is your first meeting. I would have left and set up my life with Josh and never mentioned his father again but… I am the silent type. )

Once they make it back to his apartment they have a discussion about her starting to freak out about their sex. What is fun about their question and answer session, is that they turn it into a Truth or Dare game which is mostly them picking truth and actually being truthful. He finally answers what the marks are in his planner… shocker they are a record of Lucy’s actions in the office… she never could have guessed. They fall into a conversation about the interview and presentation for the COO position…  He apologizes for his poor behavior in the past. A genuine apology. They finally admit they love each other. Josh never actually hated her. It is just something she made up in her mind. He finally reveals that on his off day he interviewed with another company. That company offered him the position and he accepted. He is not competing with Lucy for the position and never really intended to. He tells her he didn’t want anything that meant he couldn’t have her. (How sickeningly sweet. Still doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love a guy to say that to me.) He will be working at B & G’s biggest rival and trying to get them up to speed. In a weird way, he will still be in competition with Lucy. (Is this legal? I have questions.) It is implied that with everything worked out… they live happily ever after… (That is what I choose to believe.)

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THINGS THAT WORKED FOR ME:

  • I loved the writing filled with witty banter between Lucy and Josh.
  • I am always game for a book whose main female character is an over-thinker like me.
  • I enjoyed her questioning her place in life as a woman… should she have to sacrifice her career for love? Like her mother or should she plow forward in her career to the detriment of everything else in her life…? Can she have the best of both worlds? Can any woman?
  • They worked out a system of communication that works for them.
  • Josh being a well-rounded character with flaws and actively trying to work through them.

THINGS THAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME:

  • The notion that Lucy is a “good girl.” What does that even mean? That she does whatever people tell her? Or that she is clean in the ways of a relationship? I was so over the labels of nice and good… And the way Lucy goes from hating Josh to wanting him to be some sort of piece of meat… annoyed me. (She gets past it eventually but it was annoying nonetheless.)
  • The notion of Josh being a Bad guy… He is a bad guy because he doesn’t take shit from people?
  • I was over Lucy being so naive… and needing approval.

Anyways… I have listened to this a few times and recommended it to several of my friends. I enjoyed it very much. It has quickly become one of my favorites.

5 thoughts on “Quarantine Post #2 – The Hating Game

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