When we last left off, Alex and Henry spent their first night together and we saw the beginning of their email relationship. This chapter is super long so I miiight split it again like I did in the beginning…we’ll see when we get there.
Alright fine I’m not gonna do that. Buckle up kids, it’s gonna be another long one!
“He discovers Henry sleeps curled up on his side, his spine poking out in little sharp points that are actually soft if you reach out and touch them, very carefully so as not to wake him because he’s actually sleeping for once.”
You are literally already falling in love with him, Alex.
“Beneath it, Zahra has begrudgingly written: Good work, you little shit.”
Words she would live to regret.
“You’re a mad, spiteful, unmitigated demon, and I’m going to kiss you until you forget how to talk.”
I just love Henry a lot.
“I knew he was a goddamn Pisces,” June says.
Henry’s b-day: 3/12/97
Alex’s b-day: 3/27/98
“On a Saturday, the C-SPAN stream on his phone gets interrupted by Henry on a sailboat, smiling into the camera with the sun bright on his bare shoulders, and Alex’s heart goes so fucking weird that he has to put his head in his hands for a full minute.
(But, like. It’s fine. It’s not a whole thing.)”
Sweet, stupid, summer child.
“He’s just as attracted to Henry’s cloudy tempers, the way he comes back from them, and the millions of shades in between.”
A big part of what I wanted to accomplish with Alex and Henry was to show a mentally ill person being loved not despite their mental illness but in consideration of it as part of the whole of them.
“I don’t give a damn what Joanne has to say, Remus John Lupin is gay as the day is long, and I won’t hear a word against it.”
This was originally a 350-word rant that had to be cut for space.
“He’s starting to understand what swelled in his chest the first time he read about Stonewall, why he ached over the SCOTUS decision in 2015.”
Alex making a conscious effort to explore and connect with his queerness in a big picture context is very in-character and also something I included to encourage baby queers to do the same.
“And just to remind you,” she goes on, “I will chop my own tit off before I let you pull some idiotic stunt to cause your mother, our first female president, to be the first president to lose reelection since H fucking W. Do you understand me? I will lock you in your room for the next year if I have to, and you can take your finals by fucking smoke signal. I will staple your dick to the inside of your leg if that keeps it in your fucking pants.”
My first Zahra rant…the Veep influence on this book shows up most in her.
“That thing I have two of. Do you use your dad’s? Henry Fox? That sounds fucking dope. Or does royalty outrank?”
Non-royal Henry would go by Henry Fox.
“Henry George Edward James Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor.”
We love a name that takes up an entire LINE.
“Alex laughs and kicks his files for the campaign away. He’s not coming back to them tonight.”
Very fond of this throwaway line that shows Alex blowing off his intense work obsession for Henry.
“He rolls over onto his stomach, considers, and very deliberately says, ‘Baby.'”
“He mentions Bea as often as Alex mentions June.”
This book is secretly about sisters–especially older sisters–and how they quietly create the bedrock of your life.
“Oh,” Alex says. He’s not sure how else to respond, reaching into his mental store of political platitudes and finding them all clinical and intolerable.
Here we have Alex beginning to soften on all fronts as a direct result of Henry.
“…stories about a man with Henry’s same sandy hair and strong, straight nose, someone Alex has met in shadows that pass through the way Henry speaks and moves and laughs.”
I’ll be honest, for a lot of the drafting process I pictured Henry’s parents as Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
“He talks about Travis County, making campaign posters with construction paper for fifth-grade student council.”
Of course he won.
“He hears about the assortment of guys from Henry’s university days.”
I love thinking about Henry’s uni days–freedom and adventure and hiding from the PPOs, always accompanied by Pez.
“I miss you,” Alex says before he can stop himself.
He instantly regrets it, but Henry says, “I miss you too.”
On the other end of the phone, Henry’s heart is fully in his throat.
“I know it looks disgusting, but would you mind leaving that? I was gonna finish it.”
A former Hillary for America staffer told me this was accurate.
“It’s got a giant smudge of pizza sauce on it because it makes him stress-eat.”
“Three. The Texas File.”
We love a gerrymandering subplot!
“They were all secretly holding out for the Lometa Longshot to take it in the end.”
My favorite press nickname in the book.
“Shit, June, I’m so sorry,” he says, jumping up from his desk and shoving his things into his bag.
Inspired by true events with my own extremely patient older sister.
“Because until now you weren’t fucking the Prince of England!”
June, who is not stupid, has known since Alex returned from the Polo match in a fantastic mood.
“You have so much in you, it’s almost impossible to match it.”
I love how much June loves Alex–they both think so highly of each other.
“He looks so different,” he says after a long minute, gazing down at the baby Henry on the page and his easy, unfledged sureness.
“Stop trying to Jane Austen my life!” he yells back.
There is a VERY strong case for calling this book a Pride & Prejudice retelling.
“He’s like some kind of billionaire, genius, manic-pixie-dream philanthropist.”
Yes, this is an Iron Man reference.
“Alex imagines he demanded an explanation when Henry literally made them flee the country under the cover of night after putting his tongue in Alex’s mouth in the Kennedy Garden.”
Please imagine Pez giving Henry shit all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Alex feels calmer knowing somewhere in Wales, Henry got a decent night’s sleep.”
I thought this joke was really funny until I had to pronounce it as a guide for the audiobook.
“A dozen of his classmates want to take a photo with him afterward. They all know him by name. He’s never spoken to any of them before.”
I love the idea of Alex being popular everywhere he goes, but he’s still lonely all the time.
“Y’all do school weird,” June says, crying a little.
Very proud, as a southerner, of the number of y’alls in this book.
“They probably got Jacinto in a windowless room and bench-clamped his dick to the table until he said he’d concede.”
If Richards is dark Romney, Jacinto is the Marco Rubio of this universe.
“It’s one of three windowpanes like this in the Residence. He found them during his first six months at the White House, before June graduated and Nora transferred, when he was alone, with nothing better to do than these little investigative projects around the grounds.”
Absolutely love the idea of Alex alone and unsupervised in the White House at age 18–pray for Amy’s sanity.
“There are muffled sounds of Oscar and Luna clearing out of the office, and Alex sinks down onto his ass in the mulch, wondering what the hell he’s missing.”
The Raf subplot was conceived during and inspired by the Weinstein scandal in late 2017–one of the original whistleblowers told me personally she appreciated how I handled it.
“Alex’s is lurid teal says HOE DAMERON.”
In the first draft it said INDIANA BONES.
“Pez gets up and launches into “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston”
Yes, this is an homage to Sasha Velour.
“Alex feels somewhere, under the fifty layers of booze, something crystal clear radiating off her, a shared knowledge of how rare and wonderful this version of Henry is.”
I love every June/Henry and Bea/Alex moment–the two people who love each of them most.
“I fully intend to put on a robe and investigate this french-fries-dipped-in-milkshake thing Nora told me about.”
In my head June and Nora have taken many trips to California to visit June’s dad and have become In-N-Out experts.
“Supersonic man out of youuuu,” Alex mumbles low, craning his head back into Henry’s ear, and Henry laughs and kicks his knees out from under him.
I put this sex scene so far into the book because I had a feeling this would be some readers’ first encounters with queer sex–I wanted to show that there are a lot of ways to have sex that aren’t this.
“Maybe some light lacrosse role-play?”
Henry definitely unearths Alex’s old lacrosse jersey at some point and wears it.
“The thing about sex with Henry is it’s never the same twice…Sometimes nothing gets him off faster than being talked back to, but other times they both want him to use every inch of authority in his blood, not to let Alex get there until he’s told, until he begs.”
I think what’s interesting about Alex and Henry’s sexual dynamic is the fact that they both have dominant and submissive sides. There are no set roles. And it gives both of them freedom they can’t get anywhere else.”
“Henry nods, so small that someone who didn’t know all his tics might miss it, but Alex knows exactly what it means, so he leans down and sucks Henry’s earlobe between his lips and calls baby again, and Henry says, “Yes,” and, “Please,” and tugs his hair at the root.”
Canonically into hairpulling.
“Afterward, he comes back into his own body in increments–his knees, still dug into the mattress and shaking; his stomach, slick and sticky, his hands, twisted up in Henry’s hair, stroking it gently.”
This is…arguably the most explicit sex scene of the book? But I definitely edited it down to PG13.
“And through it all, Alex realized with a start: He has friends now.”
Alex is very much the gifted kid with ADHD who is charming and popular on a surface level but deeply anxious and intense and sometimes overwhelming when you get to know him, which means he has struggled with making and keeping close friendships his whole life. Being the first son hasn’t helped. So this…is a big moment for him.
If you’re still here, hi and thanks for hanging! Please let me know if you prefer the shorter posts, because next week is another doozy that I should split but Zahra finally catches them together in the second half so AHHH I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN??? What do you guys think/want?