When we last left off, our boys spent an entire chapter sending love letters back and forth via email and it was beautiful and lovely and everything was good.
As we all know, it will not last. Those pesky email servers will come back to bite them in the ass after all.
This is a hard one, y’all. Let’s just get it over with.
“There’s a diamond ring on Zahra’s finger when she shows up with her coffee thermos and a thick stack of files.
Purchased the same weekend as Alex’s visit to London.
“What–?”Alex starts, but his own phone buzzes in his lap, and he looks down to find a push notification from CNN: LEAKED SURVEILLANCE FOOTAGE SHOWS PRINCE HENRY AT DNC HOTEL.
In my head someone spotted Henry at the Beekman and tipped off the Richards campaign, and when Alex left the campaign they started to piece it together.
“I have an idea!” June finally half shouts. When they both look at her, she’s biting her lip, looking at Alex. “But I don’t know if you’re gonna like it.”
So yes, Alex was right to be annoyed by the photos of June and Henry dancing at the wedding, just different reasons than expected.
“Nora comes to him at the Residence wearing bright red lipstick and presses cool, patient fingers against his temples and says, “Take me on a date.”
There’s something I love about the bittersweetness of this–Nora is the only person Alex could do this with that wouldn’t make it hurt more for him.
“For half a second, he allows a small part of him to think about how much easier things would be if this were the truth: sliding back into comfortable, easy harmony with his best friend, leaving greasy fingerprints along her waistline outside Jumbo Slice, laughing at her crass jokes. If he could love her like people wanted him to, and she loved him, and there wasn’t any more to it than that.”
I think in some alternate universe Alex and Nora could end up together in a FWB marriage of convenience type of way. It would be useful for both of them. But once Alex knows love, he won’t settle for less.
“Henry’s hands are shaking, his breaths coming shallow, and Alex knows the signs, the low hum of an impending panic attack.”
I wanted to show Henry really pushed to his limit to make it believable when he decides to officially come out.
“Henry in his palace, in love, in misery.”
Love this line.
“When he was younger and the anxiety got this bad, when the stakes in his life were much, much lower, this would be the point of self-destruction. If he were in California, he’d sneak the jeep out and drive way too fast down the 101, doors off, blasting N.W.A., inches from being painted on the pavement. In Texas, he’d steal a bottle of Maker’s from the liquor cabinet and get wasted with half the lacrosse team and maybe, afterward, climb through Liam’s window and hope to forget by morning.”
Alex doesn’t struggle with depression like Henry does anxiety has always been a thing for him.
“I’m gonna ask Zahra to have one of our people put together a binder on it.”
Sometimes he truly is his mother’s son.
“He’s returning a box of borrowed files to his dad’s office in the Dirksen Building after hours when he hears the faint sound of Muddy Waters from the floor above, and it hits him.”
Originally Raf’s office was a lower floor but I visited the building and the lower windows don’t open.
“There are two empty, crumpled packs of Marlboros next to a lighter.”
In my first draft there was more Raf and there was a recurring detail of him only using matchbooks because he was trying to make smoking more inconvenient as he tried to quit– the lighter detail was to show he was losing control.
“Don’t call me that.”
Shades of Hamilton yelling “call me son one more time” at Washington.
“I don’t give a shit about what you owe us. I trusted you,” he says. “Don’t condescend to me. You know as much as anyone what I’m capable of, what I’ve seen. If you told me, I would get it.”
I think this line packed a little more punch in the first draft because that one had more of Alex doing shady recon and getting caught doing it by Raf.
“People don’t know a damn thing about me. They don’t know the half of it. And neither do you,” he says. “Jesus, Alex, please, don’t be like me. Find another fucking role model.”
Raf is one of my favorite characters because he is one of the few cynics on the side of good, and yet he still fights like hell.
“Here’s my advice: Don’t tell anyone. Go find a nice girl and marry her. You’re luckier than me–you can do that and it wouldn’t even be a lie.”
“And what comes out of Alex’s mouth, comes so fast he has no chance to stop it, only divert it out of English at the last second in case it’s overheard: ‘Sería una mentíra, porque no sería él.’ It would be a lie because it wouldn’t be him.”
When I came up with Raf, I immediately knew Alex’s relationship with him would end up here.
“Since when did you buy into it?” Alex spits. “You, me, my family, the people we run with–we were gonna be the honest ones! I have absolutely zero interest in being a politician with some perfect veneer and two-point-five kids. Didn’t we decide it was supposed to be about helping people? About the fight? What part of that is so fucking irreconcilable with letting people see who I really am? Who you are, Raf?”
I think Alex resonates with people because he represents what we wish politics were like–heartfelt and honest and actually set up to help people.
“…but i’ve kissed your mouth, that corner, that place it goes, so many times now. i’ve memorized it. topography on the map of you, a world i’m still charting. i know it. i added it to the key. here: inches to miles. i can multiply it out, read your latitude and longitude. recite your coordinates like la rosaria.”
This is one of the first emails I wrote and still one of my favorites. I wanted one with Alex grappling with how big this whole thing feels to him, even in intimacy. Inches to miles.
“9/25/20 6:07 AM
From Jean Cocteau to Jean Marais, 1939:
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for having saved me. I was drowning and you threw yourself into the water without hesitation, without a backward look.”
This email is supposed to feel heavy–Henry doesn’t have any of his own words for this.
“DON’T LET THE FIRST SON GO DOWN ON ME”
This part is very serious but I am proud of this tabloid headline.
“Fuck,” Alex says again. “I need my phone. I have to call Henry–”
Another huge character growth moment for Alex–his world just exploded and his first thought is for someone else. Loving Henry brings out the best in him.
“Should I tell you that when we’re apart, your body comes back to me in dreams…”
The biggest gut punch of the book.
“Was I not clear? Everyone, out, now,” she says. “I need to talk to my son.”
When I started plotting this book, I knew the only realistic way for them to get around the royal reluctance and campaign strategy and come out within the timeline of the book would be a public outing in the tabloids. I didn’t take that lightly at all–I made sure to show just how horrible and violating outing is and how much it harms the people it happens to.
OKAY IT’S OVER PHEW. Reading about the boys having to pretend they’re both dating girls as a distraction before being fully outed to everyone in the world is really tough for me. I think it is for a lot of people. Next week is another rough one, but at least Alex and Henry will be together again!
Only three more chapters, guys 😦 I’m so sad it’s all almost over, but I’m happy that soon you’ll have all the insider knowledge I do!