Hey all! As this is the week leading up to Saving the Date‘s release, I thought I’d take today to give you a teaser of Morgan, and where he’s at before the story begins. One of the things I wanted to accomplish with Saving the Date was to show how Morgan, as a survivor of violence, was working with a therapist (and had a supportive friend network) and has been doing so for years. One of the things I find frustrating in fiction is the “magic fix” of a relationship. The reality is often quite the opposite, so I wanted to at least have it on-page that Morgan has been working for three years.
“I was thinking about the whole Christmas for Misfit Toys party thing my friends do.”
“Christmas for Misfit Toys?” Theresa raised one eyebrow. “Do we need to have the don’t-refer-to-yourself negatively discussion again?”
“It’s tongue-in-cheek, I promise. It’s the party we take turns throwing for us queerlings who haven’t got a family holiday to welcome us. Have I never called it that before? That’s what we named it. It’s evolved into a pretty big party. And it occurred to me I’m ready for that.”
“You’d like to have a party? On the fifteenth?” Theresa’s tone had softened, which gave him confidence.
“Yes,” Morgan said. “Well, no.” He shook his head. “Not a party. But…I want to go out. I want to do something else. I don’t know. Basically?” He leaned forward, knowing he wouldn’t shock Dr. Macedo. “I’m ready for a date. Preferably a sexy date.”
Theresa tapped her chin. They’d discussed all manner of personal details in the last three years. Morgan’s body image after acquiring scars noticeable enough to garner comment. The conflicted emotions around sex and attraction, given the kind of man Morgan found attractive, conflated with the image of the man who’d beaten him.
“So, you’re organizing a date?” she said.
Morgan shook his head. “No. I guess I figured I’d hit a bar. Dance. I’m not going to drink.” He held up a hand, forestalling that particular objection before she could make it. “But I want an organic opportunity to meet someone, and maybe—if it goes well—take them home.” He shrugged. “Then, next year, when the day rolls around, maybe I could remember the date instead of the bashing. Or at least as well as. What I want out of this is a stronger memory.”
Theresa leaned back in her chair. She tapped her lips with one finger She smiled.
Morgan felt a tension he’d been trying hard not to show release from deep within his chest. His shoulders relaxed, and he found himself smiling back at her.
“I’m proud of you,” she said.
Morgan wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but those words weren’t it. His eyes filled, and he had to swallow, hard. “You are?”
“Morgan, you’ve worked your butt off. First your physical recovery, and then even harder through your emotional recovery. It’s safe to say I’ve never met anyone as willing as you to face your demons and do what you had to do. I’m pleased to see you taking this step. You’ve got a healthy awareness of your own limitations, and I happen to agree. This could be a decent way to rob the anniversary of some power.”
His grin evaporated.
She held out her hand. “No, hear me out. I’m not disagreeing.”
“Sorry,” he said.
Her smile returned. She leaned back and opened the top drawer of her desk. “I’m not sure a random potential hook-up is the way to go.”
“Okay.” Was it weird to hear the sixty-year-old woman say “hook-up”? Yes. But more to the point, if a bar night wouldn’t cut it, then what? He didn’t want to use an app. Too many built-in assumptions about where the night would lead. He wanted the opportunity to bail.
Just in case.
“As you know,” Theresa said, “I do a lot of work with sexual assault survivors, and I’m also involved with sexual advocacy work for persons with disabilities.”
Morgan nodded. It had been one of the reasons he’d been referred to her. He’d never had a surfeit of positive body image, always felt too skinny, and the less said about being a freckled ginger, the better. Toss in scars, physical therapy, and the reality of having the crap beaten out of him and being left to bleed in the snow by a guy who’d inspired the thought, “Wow, he’s hot,” prior to the attack?
Well. Sex had become a minefield.
But Dr. Macedo had walked him out of it, with only one or two explosions along the way.
From the drawer, she pulled out a small, elegant business card, tapping it once on the top of the desk before offering it to him. Morgan took the card and read it.
“Madame Evangeline?” He raised his eyebrows. “Madame? As in…?”
“It’s a matchmaking service,” Theresa said. “But if you’re asking for a memorable night, trust me when I say you’d be far better served this way. It’s better than leaving things to chance, no?”
Morgan looked at the card. “There’s no phone number.”
“It’s a referral service. Word of mouth.” She smiled again.
“So you’ve…?” Morgan wasn’t sure where to go with his question.
“Madame Eve is how I met my husband,” she said.
“Wow. Okay. Not trying to get married, though,” he said. “Like you said, I know where I’m at right now. I’m figuring out how to be good in my own skin.”
“I think you’re not giving yourself enough credit. Again.” She nodded. “But yes, it’s a date. And with Madame Eve at the helm? Definite potential for a sexy date.”
He nodded, glancing down at the card.
“Okay.” He felt a thrill in his stomach. “Yes.”
Theresa smiled. “I’ll connect you. There’s a bit of a questionnaire.”
“Is there a checkbox for ‘Please no violent bigots’?” he said.
“I promise you, that’s not something you’ll need to worry about.”
Morgan held the card, heart thudding.
Thing was? He believed her.