Summary: Chapter Six
More than fifty days after Ryle comes to Lily’s apartment, Lily and Allysa hold a soft open of the flower shop. Ryle is the first customer, which makes Lily happy and frustrated. He buys flowers, and Allysa asks if they’re for a girl. He picks out purple lilies, which Lily thinks is ironic because of her name. Allysa asks Ryle if he’s bringing this mystery girl to her upcoming party. Ryle says no and asks if Lily is going. Lily can’t tell if he does or doesn’t want her to be there and tries to be noncommittal, but Allysa insists that Lily come to her party. When Ryle leaves, Allysa notices that he sent the flowers to the flower shop and thinks her brother is an idiot. Lily knows that the flowers are for her. The card he writes with them says, “Make it stop.”
Summary: Chapter Seven
Lily goes to the party with her friend Devin, who pretends to be her date, though he is gay. Devin can tell that Lily is really into Ryle, but she’s hiding it from Ryle. Devin also can tell immediately who Ryle is because Ryle is extremely jealous when he finds out Lily brought a date. Lily finds herself looking at a picture in Allysa’s house. Ryle comes up behind her and asks her if she likes it. She says she does, before recognizing that it’s the picture that Ryle took of her the first night they met on the roof. Lily tracks down Ryle on that same roof and confronts him for giving her mixed messages. She storms away and tells Devin she wants to leave. Just as they are about to leave, Ryle calls her name and asks Devin if he can borrow Lily. He then physically picks Lily up while the entire party is watching and carries Lily to the room he has in his sister’s apartment. Ryle shares his naked truth, which is that he can’t stop thinking about Lily and that Lily makes him want to be a better person. He asks what he can do to prove to her that he doesn’t just want to have sex with her. She says he can do it by not having sex with her. He agrees. He pulls off her dress and the two get in bed and fall asleep.
The next morning, Lily tells Allysa that she had met Ryle six months before she hired Allysa. Allysa starts to express doubt about her brother’s ability to be in a relationship, and Ryle walks in. The two have an uncomfortable conversation in front of Lily. Ryle has to leave to go to the hospital, and Lily thinks he looks attractive in his scrubs.
Summary: Chapter Eight
Lily’s roommate Lucy tells Lily that she’s moving out because she’s engaged. Lily is fine with living alone. She decides to read more from her journals about Atlas.
Teenage Lily enjoys watching Ellen with Atlas and wonders about the origin of his name. Lily is worried about Atlas, as it’s starting to get colder out, and decides she’s going to leave him some blankets.
Atlas helps Lily put compost in her garden and asks her about her interest in gardening. He says that plants and humans are just alike because they need to be loved and nurtured in order to thrive. He also says that he and Lily are alike. Lily is moved by this. They start to wrestle in the garden and Lily gets turned on. Lily wonders if Atlas thinks she’s strong.
After Lily’s mother parks in Lily’s father’s parking spot, he starts to choke Lily’s mother. When Lily tries to intervene, he strikes her, and she has to go to the hospital to get nine stitches in her forehead. Her mother instructs her on how to lie about it. Lily is disappointed because she thought her mother would see her injury as the final straw. The next day, Lily realizes that in the commotion, she forgot to give Atlas the blankets. His hands are freezing, and she feels terrible. He notices the cut on her head and says he heard her screaming and tried to help. Lily tells him he can never come in the house while her parents are home because he’ll get in a lot of trouble. Lily is embarrassed that Atlas knows about her father’s abuse. Atlas tells Lily that he’s been abused, too, and that he left his mother’s house because his stepfather used to burn him with cigarettes and his mother didn’t stand up for him. When Atlas tried to come home, his mother said it would upset his stepfather too much. Lily has Atlas sleep over in her bedroom because it’s too cold for him to stay in the abandoned house.
Analysis: Chapters Six–Eight
This section explores the confusing interconnection between abuse and love, which, in different ways, bond Lily to both Ryle and Atlas. The teenage Lily feels protective of her mother and tries to hide the abuse she suffers. This, in a sense, also makes her the keeper of her father’s secrets, and though she wants the abuse to stop, she’s too embroiled in her family’s dysfunctional system to get help. Atlas is able to see through the protective lies that Lily tells because he both witnesses the abuse in her house and recognizes the signs from his own experiences of domestic violence. As an adult, Lily is attracted to the very things in Ryle that make him like her father, and the knot of love and abuse that she grew up with makes it harder for her to avoid repeating her mother’s patterns, despite her best efforts. Like Andrew Bloom, Ryle is driven and self-aggrandizing, and labels himself from their first meeting as selfish.
Ryle’s behavior in courting Lily foreshadows his violent, selfish behavior later in their relationship. Lily considers Ryle’s courtship charming: he writes an intense note on her flowers, knocks on 29 doors to beg her for sex, and physically carries her against her will to his bedroom. But, with these actions, Ryle is actually demonstrating exactly who he is. The note on the flowers, a plea that Lily “make it stop,” reveals that Ryle truly is conflicted about the intensity of his emotions. On some level, Ryle doesn’t like to be out of control and does want his feelings for Lily to stop. By begging for sex after Lily said she doesn’t do one-night stands, Ryle is prioritizing his own needs over Lily’s, and ignoring her wishes. And when Ryle carries Lily through the party and into his bedroom like she’s a piece of furniture, he illustrates that he’s willing to physically overpower her to impose his will onto her. His actions in early courtship, which Lily reads as bold and passionate, give hints about his erratic, violent, self-focused behavior down the road.
Names give insight into each character’s passion and drive. Lily Blossom Bloom is embarrassed by how on-the-nose her name is, as though she was destined to be interested in plants and flowers. Lilies, like the ones Ryle gives Lily, often signify love and devotion, and throughout her life, Lily feels both the highs and lows of her love and devotion. On some level, Lily remains in love with and devoted to Atlas most of her life. The name Atlas suggests that, like the Titan in Greek mythology, Atlas is bearing the weight of the entire sky on his shoulders, as he struggles against tremendous burdens to simply survive his adolescence. The name Atlas also suggests a map, as though Lily’s relationship with Atlas maps a way out of her family’s cycle of violence. Ryle, in contrast, evokes the word rile, which means to “provoke” or “incite anger” in someone, illustrating that Ryle is driven primarily by his own rage, which he cannot control, and which ultimately comes to define him.