Summary: Chapter Twelve

Lily has the grand opening of her flower shop, and it’s such a success, she realizes she needs more employees. She creates a steampunk-themed centerpiece for the window display, using an old boot as a reclaimed vase. She and Allysa are busy all day. After, they go out for onesie day with Ryle and Marshall, all four of them in onesies. At the bar, Allysa declines to drink and announces that she’s pregnant. Everyone is ecstatic. 

Lily comments on the fact that Ryle and Allysa are really close in age. Allysa says that her parents had three kids in three years. Lily is startled to learn Ryle and Allysa have a third sibling, and they tell her that their brother died when he was a kid. 

Despite the awkward admission, the four have a wonderful evening. When Ryle and Lily go home, he introduces himself to her departing roommate as “Lily’s boyfriend.” Then they make love, and Lily considers it one of the best days of her life.

Summary: Chapter Thirteen

Lily and Ryle fall deeper in love. They make love and talk about their families. Ryle says his mother is overbearing, judgmental, and religious, but Ryle smiles when he talks about her. His father is a psychiatrist. When Lily asks about his brother, Emerson, it’s clear Ryle doesn’t want to talk about him. Ryle says his mother is very excited about Lily and plays a voicemail of his mother talking about Lily. Lily says she’s excited to meet his parents, too.

Summary: Chapter Fourteen

Ryle and Lily flirt over text as Ryle is on his way over to Lily’s. Lily says she’s wearing just an apron as she starts preparing dinner for him, a casserole. When he arrives, he’s very excited, both about work and about seeing Lily. He tells Lily that he has a major surgery the next day, and that he’s going to separate conjoined twins. 

Lily talks to her mom on speakerphone. She asks Ryle where they’re taking Marshall and Allysa to celebrate the pregnancy later in the week, and Ryle says Bib’s. Lily tries to disparage the restaurant so that they all won’t go to the place where Atlas works, but she’s unsuccessful in dissuading Ryle.

Lily realizes she forgot about the casserole. They open the oven and smoke fills the kitchen. It’s burnt, ruined. Before Lily can stop him, Ryle reaches into the stove without an oven mitt and tries to take the casserole out, burning his hand. He drops the casserole, and it shatters. Lily laughs at the suddenness and ridiculousness of what happened, and that they’re going to have to clean up a huge mess. Ryle is furious, running his hand under cold water. Lily keeps laughing and before she realizes what has happened, Ryle pushes her and she falls to the floor, knocking her head on the cabinet handle on her way down.

Lily feels instantly distraught and completely heartbroken. Ryle yells at her about his hand. Then, the switch flips, and Ryle starts to apologize. Lily can hear her father apologizing to her mother, using the same words. She needs his apology and tenderness and lets him kiss her and they make love. After, they tend to each other’s wounds, and Ryle continues to apologize. Lily says if anything like that happens again, she’ll leave him without a second thought. For the first time, they both say that they are in love with each other.

Analysis: Chapters Twelve–Fourteen

Lily’s dark and twisty take on flowers mirrors Lily’s journey as she learns to accept the light and dark aspects of the world. When Lily creates the flower shop, she sets out to celebrate the dark side of flowers. While flowers typically represent spring, new life, and rebirth, she wants to be bold and unconventional by exploring the way flowers can also be associated with darkness and death. She wants her shop to celebrate Ryle’s idea that all people have good and bad parts of them. Her flower arrangements, in a sense, are physical representations of Ryle’s belief. This belief reemerges after Ryle first abuses Lily. Just as Lily’s flowers are put in dark arrangements and decorated with hard elements, Ryle first tells Lily he loves her only after he is violent with her. As Lily works out how much darkness she wants in her romantic life, she continues to make flower arrangements that attract customers for the way they defy easy binaries. 

This section explores the grip of the cycle of violence and how trauma can repeat itself unexpectedly. Lily works hard her entire life to escape the dynamics of her parents’ marriage. Growing up in an abusive household, she knows the terror, chaos, and pain involved when physical violence is part of a romantic relationship. However, though she was aware of the dangers and makes choices she thinks take her away from violence, she finds herself in a relationship with someone who hurts her, too. When Ryle hurts her for the first time, Lily can’t stop thinking of her mother and father. She even hears her father’s words in Ryle’s apology. The beautiful, exciting life she built with a man she loves turns quickly to the traumatic pain of her childhood. From the moment Ryle hits her, Lily struggles to make sense of her life, and to make choices that will lead her away, not towards, the violence of her childhood. Similarly, though Ryle tries to escape the violent trauma of his past, he can’t control the anger within him and continually hurts the people he loves.

This section also explores the confusing connection of love and abuse in Lily’s life. As a teenager, Lily grapples with her mother’s decision to stay with her father and often is confused and hurt that her mother won’t leave. She imagines her whole life that she would never find herself in that situation. However, as soon as Ryle hits her, the black and white understanding of her parents’ marriage begins to give way to something more nuanced and complicated. When Ryle hurts her, Lily wants two conflicting things with equal intensity. One, she wants the person who hurt her to get as far away from her as possible. Two, she wants to be comforted and reassured from the very person who caused her pain. This rift inside of her leads her to both resist Ryle’s apologies and to let him back in. Her behavior becomes heavy with her own ambivalence, and she understands that love doesn’t go away as soon as Ryle hurts her. From this moment on, it takes the rest of her relationship with Ryle for Lily to fully extricate herself from the cycle of abuse and reconciliation. This illustrates both that abuse and love coexist for her and that it takes time and healing for her to understand she wants more for herself.