Previously, on Handbook for Mortals: Jackson invited Zade to come see his show, and Mac took her on a magic motorcycle ride that ended with passionate kissing. Zade went to the mall to buy a dress for her date, and ran into Carrot Top and Wayne Newton. Finally, a random magic girl attacked Zade, said some cryptic shit, jumped into a bright orange Lamborghini and sped off.
Just a warning: this is a long one.
This time we open just as Zade arrives at the bar where Jackson’s band is playing, and she’s feeling overwhelmed by her encounter with Strange Lambo Girl:
I had so many things to think about that my head was starting to hurt.
It is a very pressing matter, and also the first sign of a plot unrelated to which guy Zade will choose. How will Zade deal with it?
I probably should have worried more about the girl in the parking garage but I just wasn’t ready to deal with her yet.
Oh. I guess the thing that was making Zade’s head hurt was the problem of which guy to choose. We were so close to something actually happening.
Zade takes a moment to look at her refection, and surprisingly we are spared an in-depth description of her appearance. All we know is that she looks hot. She tells us that Mac is already inside, and then we get a flashback to the aftermath of their motorcycle makeout: apparently he invited her back to his place, but she declined.
Spending time with Mac under that awning was probably the most romantic thing that had happened to me in my small amount of dating experience, and I decided that perfect rain kisses were a great place to leave the “to be continued.”
Especially when that “to be continued” picks up at a bar where you’re ostensibly on a date with another guy! Genius. This is how Zade has planned to proceed with Mac:
Since I hadn’t talked to him all day, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t act like anything had happened–unless he did. Truth be told, I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t either.
Now, I’m not saying that Zade is responsible for Mac’s feelings, but she did just learn that he was wary of relationships after misinterpreting a casual encounter as something more, and that Zade is the first person he’s put himself out there for. What I’m saying is that Zade is ice-cold.
I sorta wondered to myself how I got into such messes like this.
Dating two coworkers at once has that effect.
Zade enters the bar:
He eyed my up and down, and gave my ID a long hard glance before handing it back to me and stamping my hand. My baby face always made them double check and usually bouncers would look at me the way he did–they never looked like they believed I was actually old enough to be in a bar.
This is the saddest form of wish-fulfillment I’ve ever seen. Lani Sarem is 35, and she has cast herself as a 25-year-old that passes as 20. That’s a little bit revealing, and kind of sad. Looking 20 doesn’t mean you look attractive. Looking 35 doesn’t mean you look unattractive. Being 35 and insisting you look 20 is just a little bit delusional.
Anyway, after being verified as not-20, Zade walks into the bar, and sees Tad, Cam, Mac, and Riley (wait, is Riley supposed to be old enough to drink?).
I made a calculated walk just to the right of where they were standing and approached the bar. I pretended not to have noticed them and looked towards the bartender as if my focus was on getting him to come over.
Wha? So she’s like right next to them but ignoring them? I don’t know what her goal is, and it’s never explained. Finally, just as Mac catches Zade’s eye, Jackson’s bandmate Tim (who I think is literally supposed to be Tim Lopez, the lead guitarist of Actual Band the Plain White T’s) comes over and Zade gives him a hug. Jackson also arrives on the scene, and greets Zade enthusiastically with a hug and
. . .as he started to release me from his hug, he kissed me lightly on the lips. It was one of those kisses that a friend might give you and it would not mean anything–or I could have taken it in a much more romantic way. I wasn’t sure how to take it, and, of course, I wondered what Mac thought since I was sure he had seen Jackson kiss me.
Oh, a friend-mouth-kiss, yeah, that’s a common thing people do on dates. Maybe it is in Las Vegas?
Jackson has another friend with him, who Zade thinks she recognizes from the show. He is introduced as Dave, who I’m guessing is Dave Tirio, the rhythm guitarist of Actual Plain White T’s.
Jackson says that the band is just about to go onstage, but tells Zade he’ll buy her a drink when he’s done. Finally, Zade gets to say hi to Mac, Cam, Tad, and Riley. Mac hugs Zade, who says that Jackson is clearly into her (wasn’t this established when he asked her out?).
I started to pull away and just as our faces were directly in front of each other I softly and quietly said–so only he could hear: “Jealous?” I asked, and I raised my eyebrow.
I don’t know, Zade. Maybe the guy you spent the most romantic motorcycle night ever with might also be into you?
All the other guys say hi to Zade. Is she the only female employee of Charles Spellman’s show that went? It seems like Zade, Sofia, and sometimes Mel are the only women in the show.
Jackson, Tom, Tim, Mike, Dave, and their drummer who’s name I didn’t know were stretching and fidgeting as they talked.
For those of you keeping track, that’s Tom Higgenson (actual band’s vocalist) and Mike Retondo (actual band’s bassist), and I’m guessing the drummer who’s name Zade doesn’t know is De’Mar Hamilton (actual band’s drummer, and only black member)(TFW you accidentally erase black people).
So Zade comments on how full the bar is, and Riley says that they’re rumored to have a record deal! Fun fact: IRL, The Plain White T’s have 7 records (oop).
An older “only slightly overweight” man walks onto the stage. For some reason, this excites everyone:
Most of the crowd pushing and shoving at the front of the stage were female and by the way they reacted you would have thought they had just found out Justin Bieber was coming on to the stage.
Has there ever been a time when people over 18 went crazy for Justin Bieber?
Zade considers joining them:
I contemplated trying to push my way to the front as well; it did look like it might be fun to be towards the front in the middle of the excitement.
But Zade decides not to, and contradicts herself a few ways:
I chose to hang back. It wasn’t because that’s what Mac, Riley, Cam and Tad were doing—though had they gone up front I would have joined them.
If Zade would have gone up front if everyone else had as well, but ends up staying back, that means her decision depended on what they did, doesn’t it?
Regardless of whether that excuse makes sense, she also says she didn’t hang back due to fear of looking like a groupie. The real reason Zade stayed back is this:
Mainly I liked observing not just the band but also all the fans that were at the front. They were so enthralled by the band that they didn’t notice how uncomfortable they were jammed next to each other against the stage.
Zade just said that crowding towards the stage looked fun, and that she would have done it if her pals had.
So Zade notes that some girls were watching the band with “googly eyes” while others are giving “come hither” stares. I’ve never been in a mosh pit, but something tells me it’s hard to be give a convincing bedroom eyes while jumping up and down and screaming.
Lastly, there were the girls who were pretending to ignore them as if they weren’t there; when it was even more obvious they were trying hardest to get the boys’ attention. I laughed at how funny the whole thing was.
Hey Zade, remember that time a couple pages ago when you pretended not to notice Mac even though you were right next to him? Remember that time that is literally right now when you decided to hang back and not look over-eager? I think this is another instance of Zade projecting her motivations onto others.
While all this is going on, by the way, the show hasn’t even started. Finally, the “only slightly overweight” guy introduces the Plain White T’s, and the dumb girls who aren’t Zade all try to crowd even closer to the stage.
So while the band is playing loudly, Riley gives yet another run-down of the band members, and what they do.
“De’mar is the drummer for us, and–as you can see–also for the T’s. They’ve been around a few years now and I heard they just got offered a record deal.”
At least Riley remembers who De’Mar is.
Also, the Plain White T’s have been around since 1997. That is literally 20 years. I’m not sure if Riley was even born by that point.
And, before you say “Oh, well, maybe this book’s supposed to take place in 2000 or something,” I would just like to remind you that it is at least 2012 because Zade mentioned Game of Thrones having at least two seasons.
Oh, remember that guy who’s name is either ‘Pete’ or ‘Trig’? No? Don’t worry. He’s here too, but he doesn’t do anything this chapter.
Zade tells us that the songs are really good. So good, in fact:
close to four hundred people–if not more–who all seemed to know all the words to the band’s original songs and would sing along, scream and dance.
Is it normal for bands who just got a record deal to have songs with widely known lyrics? I’ll guess I’ll take Zade’s word for it.
So Mac leans over towards Zade, and he tells her that with Jackson, she’d always come third, after the band and work. Zade wonders what Mac expects from her after their romantic night in the rain. Then, Mac tries to get her alone-ish:
Mac edged me a little farther away from the other guys, who had been joined by Zeb, so he didn’t have to speak quite so softly.
A wild Zeb appeared! He and Jackson have to be working together. Why else would a cranky middle-aged man like him come to a rock concert full of 20-somethings? Maybe the Plain White T’s were originally just the normal line-up, and Zeb has bewitched everyone into thinking Jackson’s always been a part of it.
Mac gets all serious, asks Zade if she’s into Jackson, and Zade says that she doesn’t really know him, but she always keeps her word and therefore she’ll get a drink with him. Also, she correctly points out that Jackson did ask her out before anything happened with Mac.
Zade thinks about how she enjoys that she can be open and honest with Mac, and oh my god this is the worst love-triangle ever does anyone actually believe she’ll end up with Jackson? We’ve had several scenes from Mac’s point of view! We’ve seen Mac and Zade talk about their interests! All Jackson’s done is have sparkly eyes.
Mac talks more about how if he hadn’t seen Jackson moving in on Zade, he never would have made his move. Zade thinks about how stressful it is being in the center of a love triangle:
For the moment I just had to wonder what to do like everyone else. Maybe I didn’t like this “normal” thing so much after all.
Yeah, being fought over by two megahottie guys and getting into Hulk Smash fights in mall parking lots after hanging out with Carrot Top and Wayne Newton is like super normal. It happened to me just last week. It’s stressful, yeah, but it’s better than having a weird, abnormal life, right?
So then Mac goes to chill with the other tech dudes, and Zade watches the rest of the show. The Band sings a song called “Someday You’re Gonna Love Me”:
I couldn’t be quite sure, but it almost felt like this song was directed at me. The lyrics said something about allowing the girl time to go have fun because the guy was going to just wait around
The World Revolves Around Zade #17!
She keeps gushing about how the song’s totally about her, and then second-guesses herself and wonders if everyone is thinking that (probably not, because most of the fans probably haven’t been consistently hit on by him for several weeks.) Mac apparently noticed the theme of the song as well, and Zade feels kind of guilty about it.
So the show winds down, and Jackson comes over to see Zade. They sit together talk while they eat:
I was quickly learning that he was very easy to talk to and was actually very funny. Although I hadn’t planned it, I found myself flirting with him. His smile was hard to resist and the more time I spent with him, the more I could swear his eyes would sparkle on cue.
This is so lazy. Like, I prefer it to excessive amounts of flirty dialogue, but it also emphasizes how much characterization Mac has comparatively.
So while that’s going on, Mac is still sitting with the rest of the show people, and occasionally looks over at Zade and Jackson. Zade hears Tad say something about being ready to head home. Also, Riley is pretty wasted. Mac says that he’s “drunker than a skunk,” which is something I’ve never heard but may need to start saying.
Everyone says goodbye to Tad, Mac, and Riley. Zeb has a line, and I honestly can’t find a way to interpret it in a sinister or interesting way:
“You know, when I was his age, if I had gotten that drunk someone would have definitely messed with me.”
Cam says that he’s ready to go, and Zeb asks him if he’s still giving Cam a ride. Zeb tells everyone to be careful getting home, and he and Cam leave. So cranky Zeb and Cam are friends. That’s surprising. Maybe literally everyone is secretly working for Zeb?
At four in the morning, Zade goes home. When she gets there, she thinks about everything that’s happened in the past 24 hours. Apparently “everything that happened in the past 24 hours” does not include the assault by the random Strange Lambo Girl, but that’s a minor detail.
So Zade really likes Mac, but she also really likes Jackson! She thinks that she needs to choose quickly, since they all work together and Mac and Jackson are kind of friends. Love triangles are so complicated!
It reminds her of this poem by Christopher Poindexter (who?)
“is it possible to love more
than one person at a time?”
i asked, staring grievously at
the bottom of my glass.
“of course,” she replied,
“just not with the same intensity.
they don’t tell you that because it scares them shitless.
love is an energy thing.”
I don’t know poetry, but that sounds like it was written by a highschooler.
Zade is quick to clarify that she doesn’t love either of them, and thinks about how she wasn’t even looking for a boyfriend. She thinks that she needs to figure it out. Again.
So she opens her bedside table, and we are going to get some TAROT CARD READING! I also don’t know anything about tarot cards, so I can’t really criticize this too much.
Zade says that you have to concentrate on the issue at hand when doing a tarot card reading, or the answers will be all weird. For a moment, Zade remembers that maybe there’s another pressing issue she’s forgetting:
For a split second another issue flashed through my mind: It dawned on me I should really be worried much more about the strange girl who I encountered at the mall and what that was about.
Good thinking! We’ve just had pages and pages of this love triangle bullshit. Let’s get back into the actual plot:
As much as I knew I should be trying to figure out who she was and what she wanted—and why that whole encounter had occurred in the first place—I just wasn’t as concerned with her at the moment as I was with my love life.
Oh well. First things first, I guess.
I promised myself to do a reading on her when I was done with this. (For what it’s worth, I did—and I came up with nothing. The cards made no sense, which told me that someone had gone to great lengths for me to not get a reading on the situation at all.
Yeah, let’s mention a scene that might actually have been interesting as a parenthetical aside! Lani Sarem is a master storyteller.
Now, we get more self-helpiness as Zade takes the time to discuss spirit guides. Everyone is born with spirit guides, and they help us through the difficult times in life and give us guidance:
You’ve probably noticed yours before and just not known who they were. Your guides are the little voices that tell you to “slow down” or “buy bread” or “take notice of the cute guy in line in front of you”—all of those are direct communication from your guides or higher self. This is why a lot of people think of their guides as guardian angels, cause they are in a way, guardians angels with great advice.
Without spirit guides, we would never remember to buy bread or check out hot people. Why, we’d all be practically blind and aimless. Thank you, spirit guides. I sure am glad you keep reminding me about the ice cream in the freezer. I was wanting to save it for later, but I guess this is a sign I should eat it all now.
Many people dismiss their voices—also called “intuition”—because what they hear is not always pleasant or what they want to hear. Do not mistake your ego for your intuition, however. Following your gut instinct is also a manner in which guides try to direct you.
Like that time she literally just decided to shove the more pressing matter of the Lambo Girl out of her brain to focus on which guy to choose? Or were her spirit guides telling her to focus on the guys? Spirit guides are tricky that way I guess.
So tarot cards give you messages directly from spirit guides, and Zade asks them if she would choose Mac or Jackson. She says to show her the King of Wands for Jackson, or the King of Cups for Mac.
I’m going to gloss over this next bit because I don’t understand tarot, and I’m sure that when Jenny Trout gets to this chapter, she’ll give a good, in-depth analysis of how it’s all wrong and terrible.
Here’s the short version, though:
Jackson’s pile basically says that he’d be a good choice. That’s it. Also, interestingly, her intuition is telling her that the entire combo (eight of wands, three of pentacles, three of cups, the sun, the five of pentacles, the nine of cups, and the king of wands, if that means anything to you) is telling her something more that she can’t quite put her finger on.
Mac’s pile consists of the ace of cups, two of cups, ten of pentacles, four of wands, ten of cups, the wheel of fortune, the eight of swords, the queen of cups, and the king of cups. This, according to Zade, means that he’d love her, they’d have a family, get married, or maybe everything could go completely wrong.
Zade thinks it looks as though either one of them could be The One, and that there’s something weird about both.
It looked like Mac could also be the cause of all hell breaking loose.
Why? How? What does this mean? We’re never told.
So then Zade uncovers one more card, to represent the future.
It is: THE TOWER!!!!!!!
Suddenly, we’re in third-person italics again! This time we open on Zade’s mom Dela, who is also doing a reading, and also just uncovered THE TOWER!!!!!!! It turns out she was also trying to get a peak at Zade’s future. The two other cards were the Death card and the World. Dela wonders how this could be. I also wonder how this could be, because I know nothing about tarot cards so those all mean nothing.
Dela at least clarifies a little bit? Maybe?
“Oh, Zade. You have a very difficult journey ahead. I don’t know how, but after everything falls apart, it will be OK again.”
So Dela’s been doing these readings every day since Zade left. Doesn’t that mean Zade’s future changes every day? If Dela’s concerned about what the cards said this time, she shouldn’t worry too much, because by tomorrow it will probably be completely different anyway.
Suddenly, an early-20’s girl with stringy brown hair and loose clothes comes in. She says her name is April. She looks nervous, and says that she’d like a reading. Dela assumes that April is heartbroken, and April is surprised that she could tell.
Dela explains tarot cards to her. Basically, Dela will call it like she sees it, and what she sees will be based on whatever path April is currently on. The path is changeable, though, sometimes, assuming it’s not predestined.
And if you thought April might be important, ha ha. Ha. Of course she’s not. Just as her reading is about to begin, we return to Zade. Does April ever turn up ever again? Ha. Haaaa. Nope.
I don’t know if this chapter ever ends, actually. There have been a couple logical endpoints, but we have to get in once more totally consequential scene.
We rejoin Zade at the mall. Even though, Zade assures us, she doesn’t really enjoy shopping, she realized she had very few “going out” clothes and needs more. At this exact moment, she is buying lemonade.
The cashier is young; probably around 19 or 20. Zade takes a moment to assess his physique.
He was like most teenagers and some parts of his body were manly–like his filled-out arms–while other parts like his scrawny legs sticking out of his shorts still looked more like those of a boy.
I don’t know why this is in here, but it’s ew.
Zade looks for cash in her purse, and as she’s doing it, she realizes he’s spontaneously fallen in love with her, the way all guys seem to,
I looked up I noticed he was just staring at me with the biggest puppy-dog eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m not trying to be weird. You just have really great hair.”
The World Revolves Around Zade #17, everybody. If you think that this scene has any purpose beyond being a creepy fantasy about being lusted after by a teenager, you are mistaken.
“You have really striking eyes, too. . . . I’m Alan, by the way”
Of course she does.
Zade thanks Alan, and moves out of the way to wait for her lemonade to be ready. I guess they need to squeeze it fresh, just for her? Zade fiddles with her phone for a bit, and when she looks up, Alan is still staring at her.
Suddenly, Zade notices a “short, stocky girl with mousey brown hair”. The uggo notices that Alan is staring at Zade. Uggo tells Beautiful Zade that Alan is taken.
Zade expresses confusion, and the girl comes over to Zade and gets all up in her face:
“I said, he’s taken. So you can cut it with that cute routine you’ve got going.”
The World Revolves Around Zade #18! Zade’s just so beautiful that other girls can’t help but to be jealous when she accidentally steals their boyfriend!
Also, Zade realizes that she must be his girlfriend. Zade says she wasn’t doing anything.
“Don’t give me that, you little skank,” the girl spat as her voice got louder. You could visibly see her blood pressure rising. “I saw you batting your eyes.”
Why is this here? Maybe Zade somehow stole April’s boyfriend from across the country, also? I don’t know.
Zade tells the sad, desperately, hopelessly trollish girl not to start anything, and balls her hands up into fists. Zade starts shaking, and so does the vat of lemonade sitting on the counter! The practically deformed girl doesn’t notice, and continues to escalate:
“I’ll back off when I want to back off, you miserable bitch”
I would pay so much money to know who Lani Sarem imagined to fill this role.
But Zade’s not playing anymore, and gets mad:
Sometimes I guess someone just pushes you over the edge. I wanted to teach her a lesson. Sad, though I doubt I actually taught her anything, I’m sure she will never forget out encounter.
Why is Zade the worst? What is wrong with walking away? Is this supposed to be empowering?
So, what happens is that Zade squeezes her fists together, and this causes the vat of lemonade to explode, which Zade says sends the lemonade and shards of glass flying everywhere!
This is a great use of magical powers.
The unfortunate girl has not fared well:
When the vat broke and the lemonade went everywhere it had bowled her over and knocked her to the ground. She was drenched in sticky, sugary lemonade.
But don’t worry about collateral damage:
I had made sure that the other customers and any passerby had all “miraculously” been spared being hit.
Zade is a good person, you guys. She only magically assaulted one person. Also, what about all that glass? Did the ugly girl get hit by that too?
The dumb stupid dumb girl is stunned, and tried to get up. Because Zade is so cool, she just says “When life gives you lemons. . .,” and then she walks off.
And this chapter is over! Hurrah!