(Read part one here)
Hadley woke up earlier than him Saturday morning and tried desperately not to wake him as she took his manuscript into the kitchen. She was at least three chapters behind schedule on her first pass of the manuscript. Marcus needed to review her changes by the end of the week. They had tightened the production schedule of the book so they could print it while the hype around the National Book Award nomination was still high. Some of the other editors had been pressuring her lately to switch to digital editing to make the process run faster. She had acquiesced for most of her manuscripts, but not for this one. She wanted to edit this one the old way—with paper, a red pen, and coffee, like she pictured Maxwell Perkins doing with one of Hemingway’s manuscripts.
Marcus appeared behind her. “Why did you write tr in the margin?”
“It means ‘transpose.’ See this line here, you mixed up your words,” she explained.
“Yeah, good eye. I think I rushed through that part,” he mumbled and walked to the refrigerator. This, of course, was the difficult part about editing your lover’s work. Any mistake in the writing somehow translated to some mistake about him. These mistakes didn’t bother Hadley. It was her job to find these mistakes. It was her job to make the writing better. She could never say this to Marcus, though, because he was young and arrogant and thought his writing was perfect.
She turned the manuscript over and watched him. He stood in her kitchen in his underwear drinking a Mountain Dew. He wore black briefs. He always looked like he was flexing. She was sleeping with a peacock. His abdominal muscles were his plumage and his mating call was that raspy-voiced, “Come here baby, let’s go back to bed.”
She kicked him out of her apartment and told him not to come back until that night. She needed a full day alone with his manuscript, minus him.
“Fine,” he brooded in her doorway. “I’ve got that interview with Entertainment Weekly anyway.”
That night, they slept together and then ate Thai food in her bed. Hadley had grown used to this routine in their affair. Sex first, then food. It fit well into her schedule. It was a simple affair, as long as they kept his writing out of the bedroom.
“So let me see my book,” he said and playfully reached over her.
She slapped his arm away. “No, not here. We’ll talk about it this week when I’m finished reviewing it.”
“Well, what do you think of it?”
“That’s a difficult question to answer right now. I’m too deep in the writing, the mechanics, to answer that question.” She climbed out of bed and walked to the kitchen, hoping a change in location could avert an awkward encounter.
He followed her. “Stop, wait a minute. Why are you so hesitant? Do you have a problem?”
“A little one, but I’d rather talk about it in the office. I can’t discuss work when I’m standing in my bra and underwear.”
“This isn’t work, this is my book. What’s the little problem?” He pulled out a chair and sat down.
“I think the female lead needs more development.” She walked to the sink and filled a glass with water.
“You think my character needs more development? The New York Times said my last book’s protagonist was a ‘modern-day anti-hero, the twenty-first century’s answer to Holden Caulfield.’”
“Yes, Marcus, your male characters are superb. But your female characters are not as fully realized. Jules, she’s flat—she’s a Dickensian whore.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Dickens—all his characters were either madonnas or whores. This isn’t Victorian London, Marcus. It’s 2013, for Christ’s sake. We live in Brooklyn. Your story is set in Brooklyn. You need to flesh out Jules.”
“I’ve never read Dickens. And I want her to be a whore. She’s from Jersey.” His boyish bravado was infuriating. “Stop trying to destroy my story.”
“Destroy it? That’s outlandish. Why would you accuse me of that?”
“You keep telling me to change this, delete that. Now you’re going to tell me my character is flat. It’s my work, Hadley. I know what is best for it.”
“I understand that, Marcus. But I am your editor. I see the work from an unbiased perspective. You’re too close to it. I can point out the changes needed because I didn’t write it. That’s my job,” she put her hand on his shoulder and calmly explained.
He shrugged his shoulder and stepped back, letting her hand drop. “Yeah, I know you didn’t write it. You’re not a writer; I am. What is it they say? ‘Those who can’t do, teach.’ Well, those who can’t write, edit.” He walked off to the bedroom.
Hadley waited until the light turned off before she followed him. She was only hurt a little. She had known enough writers to see the difference between an insult and a defensive comment. She knew that he knew she was right. It was his choice whether to listen to her suggestions and rework his female lead. But Marcus was twenty-four and had the natural arrogance of a twenty-four year old male multiplied by premature success. He would not listen to her.
In bed, his body found hers, wound its way around her, and they slept soundly with the false intimacy of those who know they’ve come to the end. On Sunday, he returned to his loft in Williamsburg, and they didn’t speak again until he came into the office on Thursday to discuss her latest round of comments, most of which he rejected.
His book sold poorly and was deemed an unfit follow-up, as many sophomore novels are for writers lucky enough to make it big off their first book. She no longer saw Marcus. His next book was picked up by a smaller house, one that was experimenting with an all-digital catalogue. Their affair was brief, shorter than his tenure as a literary darling, but not by much. She swore off writers again.