Dear Porn, You’re Not Romance

Porn: Man sees woman, undresses her (with hands, not eyes), and they instantly engage in sexual acts. No names, no story behind their meeting or relationship. It’s raw and dirty. (I think this is how it works, I haven’t exactly watched porn. Did I just admit that to the internet?)

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The stigma associated with romance novels (and their writers) is a continuous clash between those who know the difference and those who think they know the difference. Many people truly don’t know the difference. So I’m here today, as part of the hundreds of people who have already discussed this topic, to hopefully clarify some misconceptions about romance novels.

Romance, noun: a (1) : a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural (2) : a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious (3) : a love story especially in the form of a novel

b : a class of such literature

I grabbed this definition from Merriam-Webster. As you can read, romance is a love tale that involves events, chivalry, adventure, etc. in the process of finding that person who you want to spend your life with. Romance is about the happily ever after, not just the happy ending. (wink, wink)

We all hope to find that special someone in real life. I know I do. The person you can laugh and cry with. The person to hold you tightly, and the person you push away when you’re angry. It’s all part of romance. Like any true love story (real or fiction), sexuality is a part of it. Say what?! I know, I know; how dare I speak of such things in public? But that’s just it. We live in a world where we are fighting to become more open and accepting of the truth we live, and having sex is normal.

I understand it’s been a taboo topic in the past. I know romance novels have been looked down on with snooty noses as not good enough literature, allowing people to look away instead of being educated on the topic. The thing is that everyone desires to be wanted. Everyone desires to have a connection with another person. That is what romance is about—the bond between two humans, who find in each other a connection that allows them to grow and move forward together.

It isn’t all about the sex. That’s porn. They’re very different. Porn wants to excite the viewer/reader quickly to get the job done (again—wink, wink). Romance is about the journey—the tale of coming together, overcoming struggles, and living your life with another person.

Now, let me tell you how our society works. Sex sells. A lot. So when we bring in marketing (for romance or anything else), sex is a big factor. Considering romance novels, most times, do include some kind of sexual activity, teasers and excerpts may be geared towards that because it hooks readers. It does raise emotion, entices them, and makes them want more. We’re human after all.

Just because something has a sex-geared advertisement doesn’t constitute it as porn. Let’s take a perfume commercial for example (oh, those can be hot!). A lot of perfume commercials entice the viewer with a good-looking man, a woman in lingerie, or a couple engaging in a steamy kiss. Does that mean the perfume company sells porn? What it does is sell the product. It hooks consumers. That’s their ultimate goal.

Nicholas Sparks has sex in his novels. Does that make him a writer of porn? You have sex in your life with your partner. Are you a porn star? (Role playing idea?)

When I first started writing romance, I was hesitant to answer people’s questions about the genre I wrote. I would think to myself, Oh God, they’re going to know I write sex in my stories. Yet, I love writing romance. I love writing about the bond between people, their struggles (this is my favorite—it shows their true character), and having balance in life. So little by little, I became more comfortable telling people who knew me before I was a published author that I wrote romance. (My mom was the hardest. Like, Mom, I wrote sex into my story. I still remember the day I told her I wrote a book, and it was explicit. Kill me now! She’s probably reading this. Hey, Mom!) I had that stigma attached to me until I said, fuck it, and owned it. Now, I giggle when people mix up the true romance meaning with that of porn. I don’t get offended; I get it.

I strive on making my stories about more than just the romance. I add topics that sometimes are difficult to read about, and other times I add humor and good nature. It’s a balance, or I’ll sink into this dark oblivion of heavy emotions. Regardless of the tone of my novels, I want to get a message across, so when people think I write porn it defeats the purpose of trying to convey this meaningful message. It also confirms that sex sells, because if what you remember most about my novels is the teaser you saw about some heavy kissing, then I’ve left a memorable (whether it was my intention or not) hook in you. Now to reel you in and catch your full attention. (Horrible fishing symbolism—I promise I can write better symbolism than that.)

I get that society, as sex-driven as it is, also scolds people for being so open about their sexuality. Again, many people don’t know the difference, come across a teaser about a man running his hands down a woman’s bare hip before cupping her behind, and think the story is sex-driven. There is so much more to romance novels, and I hope that each of us that know about it can continue to educate people on the difference because it is such a wonderful genre to get lost in.

We watch romance movies and don’t think twice about questioning if we will be watching porn. We eagerly schedule a girls’ night to watch the latest Rom-Com whilst drinking a glass of wine, yet doubt the morality of romance novels.

I ask that you don’t let the label of what people think the romance genre is to limit you from reading some fantastic literature. I have read novels that have stayed with me for years. Romance novels are real, raw, sweet, and flirty. They encompass so much life. As humans, we want to feel intimacy with another person. Romance is that. It’s the story of intimacy, trust, and opening our hearts.

With the way the world is nowadays, I’m glad I have a Kindle full of romance novels to show me hope. To prove to me love still exists, because if we, as writers, can come up with stories about love, then love must still be alive, right?

Ultimately, that’s what romance is about. It’s about love, the journey to get there, the strength it takes to overcome loss when love goes awry, and the power of relationships (friendships and more).

I’ll raise my glass to all of you romance readers and writers, for believing in love. I’ll raise it to all of you who are not familiar with it and hope you’ll indulge a bit in this beautiful community. While I’m at it, let’s be open to all types of romances and love stories. Romeo and Juliet is a classic tragedy that still remains very much alive in our world, and they ended up dead. (Spoiler alert)

In all seriousness though, I do hope we can come to an understanding about the essence of romance. I hope this helped to better understand the difference between romance and plain ole sex in a written form. May we all live a life full of love, intimacy, trust, and strength, like my favorite heroes, and not shy away from a topic that is human nature.

XO,

Fab

I thought I was done publishing, and then more words came

It’s hard to come from Twisted in You, which is a story I’ve waited years to tell (I think before I ever decided to write novels). I wasn’t sure what to write. I started on Bri’s story (Love You Through It), and it felt forced. Cash and Olivia were still too much in me to give Bri her own voice despite the VERY different tones in their books.

For me, Twisted in You was my ultimate goal. So I questioned if this was it. Is this where I close out my publishing life? Publishing this book was always my light at the end of the tunnel. That book is THE book for me. How can any other after it be justified?

I’ll be honest, it’s not the first time I question my publishing path. It’s hard out there, guys. I just want to share words. I want to create word art and express myself in a way that feels comfortable. Words are that for me. They always have been. Whatever shit I was dealing through, I’d write it. Death? Write a poem. Done. Anger? Write a letter to the person. Relief. Abuse? Put yourself in the perpetrator’s place. Compassion & understanding. Love? Write another poem. Acceptance that happy endings exist.

I won’t say writing was always a channel of expression for me, because it wasn’t. It took thirteen years to become aware of this gift. As a child I rejected reading and writing. (Joke’s on me, huh?) But damn, if it didn’t save my life multiple times. You all know how the story goes. 

Part of my life purpose is to help others heal. I’m aware of this, and it’s a path I’ve been working towards, finding my balanced footing on it. Writing is my way of doing that, whether it be fiction, blogging, or submitting articles to other sites. Because of this, I don’t know that I’ll ever fully be able to stop publishing. But, after Twisted in You was out in the world, I struggled with what to work on. What part of me was I ready to share next?

So I went back to where it all began—my teen years. One beta reader (who is a friend and knows me pretty well) sent me a text message the other day that said, “You are soooo Luna.” Yes, she sent that many O’s. And she was right. I am a Luna, because I am every character I write. I am the teen poet, using her words to express what she does not yet understand, or what she is not quite ready to share with the world verbally.

I went back to the girl who was shy, felt like an outcast with peers, and was so dead-set that there is more out there than the crap we deal with at times. I went back to my teen years because those were hard. And while I didn’t have a Carter, I had a brother like Becket and sometimes I took him for granted (He also slept with his basketball. AND I already dedicated a book to him, so we’re even, right?).

There was born Beneath the Stars. I’ve wanted to write a young adult for some time, and the story blossomed. There’s romance, mistakes (lots of them), confusion (even more so than mistakes), and hope. We have a girl who is trying to find her place in a space that she may not fit in. We have a boy whom she secretly crushes over finally pay her attention. We have a connection that bonds them and mistakes that tear them apart. We have a story of the confusion teen years bring, the struggles and monotony of them. So when I felt like I was done, I went back. I went to the beginning of my writing life and wrote who I was then. To a certain extent, obviously. I wish a cute basketball player was fighting for my attention back then (or now, because basketball players are cute!). 😉

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I am excited to share this story and the person Luna is. I include poetry in this book, so I was able to have my own creative expression, as well as novel writing. Poetry was my first love and helped heal so much of my past. I’m glad to be able to incorporate it into a story.

Read the synopsis here:

Quiet poet, observer, emotional teen. That’s me, Luna Gardner. When my lifelong crush, Carter, finally makes a move, it seems like I’m living out one of my poems. But like my writing, emotions are high and endings can be brutal.

One decision makes a mess out of everything. Being a teen isn’t supposed to be this complicated. No amount of poetry will fix the damage I’ve done. So, beneath the stars I get lost in the words and hope I can write a better outcome to my reality.

And add to Goodreads shelf!And add to Goodreads shelf!

Join Fabiola’s Fab Reads for EXCLUSIVE teasers and be the first to get all the 411.

I am so grateful for this gift, and never do I take it for granted. When one person sends  a message thanking me for a story that resonated with them, or for sharing something that is barely spoken about, my heart is full. My job is done. I want words to give people hope, heal the past, and know that HEA exists in all aspects of the word
because ultimately, when we are in love with ourselves, we are able to be in love with others and allow others to be in love with us. Romance has always been a part of history, and what a way to celebrate and share it. Words are healing, whether we are reading or writing them. SO again, thank you for allowing me to do this. ❤

XOXO

Fab

 

Reflection: Three years in this business~THANK YOU!

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Three years ago I published my first novel. In 2009, I wrote one of those Facebook Notes that were the craze back then—25 Random Facts About Me. The fifth fact was: I want to publish a book sometime in my life. I’ve told the story before—bucket list item I wanted to check off. However, it always seems unreachable. Two reasons why: 1. Up until that point, I had only written poetry and a few shorter stories. Dialogue and elaborating a plot were, in my mind, not my thing. 2. How was I going to get a publisher? All I wanted was to write a book to share and move on. It seemed impossible.

I was living in Spain during this time and shoved the idea to the back of my mind’s bookshelf, focusing on my work there and my college degree when I was back home.

Fast forward a few years, and I still had a story idea I began in 2009 running through my mind. Needless to say, I opened that file and began what is now PERFECTLY IMPERFECT with no idea how to publish.

It has been a unique journey these last three years, meeting new people (many I call friends now), learning the ever-changing ropes in this business (I am less business person, more creative), finding my voice in a world where many times we are encouraged to stay silent as to not stir society’s pot. My books are not liked by everyone, and I am perfectly okay with that. Writing is a part of my personal journey, a skill I use to express myself.

I never thought I would be okay with sharing my writing with anyone, let alone an entire audience. I’ll tell you one thing, publishing my first book is one of the most empowering things I’ve done. I went against my self-preservation tactic, against my comfort zone, ripped off my security blanket and shared pieces of myself to a world willing to know me. If that isn’t scary, I don’t know what is. I am a quiet observer in this community, in this world really, and turning the role of the observed on myself has been an interesting experience.

It has made me vulnerable, open, and accepting of myself. Writing novels, publishing them, has made me look at my reflection and learn more about who I am. When I write, I get into a sort of zone. Many times I don’t remember what I write. When I go back to re-read and prepare for edits, it’s as if I’m seeing myself for the first time. Every book is different; the mood is set according to my experiences and emotions at that moment in my life. I’ve always said writing is my form of therapy. It’s why I began in the first place—a safe way to express my emotions without the world judging me for feeling certain things.

So as I approach my third year of being a published author, I reflect on my experiences. I confess, more than once I have considered no longer publishing my work. I have two amazing friends to thank for staying in the game. It’s not always easy, especially for an introvert who bleeds onto pages to then be judged. I get it, it’s part of the package deal. The irony does not go unnoticed.

I’ve learned to not take things personally (read #15 in that FB note), and understand that people’s judgment of my work is their perception. Perception is everything in life. How we live and what we experience will influence our thoughts and emotions. If I can provoke emotion (positive or negative) through my writing, my job as a writer is complete. Reading is about feeling things, stirring things we have long buried within us, and travel to different places and be someone we may not dare explore in real life. I know when I read I want a book that stirs me. A book that leaves me feeling stagnant does nothing for my growth.

So although quitting this business has crossed my mind more times than I care to admit, you, my readers, keep me going. It’s your notes, messages, words of encouragement that remind me why I decided to share my words in the first place. This is a way for me to allow the world to know me, and for the opportunity and hope that you read my words and soak them up. I hope that you resonate with my writing in one way or another (for the good and bad), and can take a piece of it with you wherever you go.

Thank you for three of the best years of my life. For the opportunity to follow my passion and share it with you. Thank you for allowing me to be myself and share my voice when it can be so scary to do so. What turned into a fun challenge became so much more, and without any of you to share it with, this experience would have less meaning.

You can read two BONUS scenes for Perfectly Imperfect here: https://authorfabiolafrancisco.com/perfectly-imperfect/

Connect with me and join Fabiola’s Fab Reads to stay up-to-date with my writing, chat book and life stuff, and hang out with the best group of people: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FabReads/

XOXO,

Fab

 

 

Twisted in You is LIVE!

Hey Bookies!

I kicked off the month of April by hitting publish! I am so excited to share Twisted in You with all of you! This book feels like my baby even though it’s my eighth release (crazy! I know). It has taken over two years to get it out into the world, and it has been so worth the wait. I have put tears, sweat, and smiles into this story.

It is a deep, dark to light, new adult novel. In my humble opinion, it is a beautiful story about about two broken and lost people finding their way back to themselves and to love (in all sense of the word). I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this book!

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I want everyone to have the chance to read this novel, and it is 99 cents for a limited time!

 

• Amazon: http://amzn.to/2n1WGch
• iBooks: https://itun.es/us/4UW2ib.l
• Nook: http://bit.ly/2nOWrjt
• Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/twisted-in-you

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If you’d like to connect with me and chat about books, life, and hang out with a group of some of the most amazing people I know, join my reader group: Fabiola’s Fab Reads

Thank you for your support always!

Fabiola XOXO

Twisted in You Cover Reveal

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I am beyond excited to share this cover with you! Twisted in You is a book I had been working on for a couple of years, and seeing it published (soon!) is almost surreal. This book is emotionally dark and it does touch on subjects that are challenging, but I promise you the journey is beautiful. A story about healing oneself, understanding what self-love is, and opening our hearts and trust to another human being that will hold our hand and support us. It’s about light and dark mixing because we need both in order to live and grow. But mostly, it’s about being the heroine in your own life.

Hope you LOVE the cover as much as I do! Read below for a never-before-seen excerpt.

EXCLUSIVE giveaway in Fabiola’s Fab Reads!

XOXO Fabiola

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Excerpt from Twisted in You:

Not tired, I sit on my bed and continue working on the song. Before I know it, my notebook has more words scratched out than written. Too many thoughts when I was at the gym today. Too many memories.

Restless, I take a walk down the hall hoping to tire myself out or stop thinking.

“No!” I look up, confused. What the fuck? “Stop!” Another yell. What is going on? “Ahhh!” Does no one else hear that? Is this in my mind? It can’t be. I follow the noise and it intensifies. Is no one around to figure out who is yelling and why? Can’t they sedate these psychos?

Opening a door, I’m frozen in place. Thrashing and fighting back, but with who? Who is she trying to push away from?

“Please . . .” she pleads between sobs. I look around the hallway and no one is around to help her. This feels too familiar.

I carefully walk into the room, leaving the door open in case someone walks by and can help. “Red,” I whisper into the room. Nothing.

“Mikayla. Wake up.” I inch closer. My shaky hand reaches to slowly shove her shoulder.

Her eyes snap open, angry and scared.

“Get out!” Mikayla screams, yanking the sheets up to her neck, her eyes wild.

“I’m checking if you’re okay—”

“I said get out!” She cuts me off.

“Relax, I heard you crying and screaming. I’m not gonna hurt you.” I notice the flicker of fear in her eyes, but she quickly composes herself. I take a step towards her, and she jolts back in her bed.

“I said leave,” she hisses.

Sam comes into the room at that moment and looks around confused. “Tyler, what’s going on?”

“Sam, I heard her screaming and came in to make sure she was okay. Sounded pretty bad.”

“Thanks Tyler, but you should leave.”

“Whatever,” I shrug. “Didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

“Yeah, right.” I hear Mikayla scoff, but I leave before I give her a piece of my mind. I don’t need to be accused of anything. I walk out and head towards my room. By the look in Red’s eyes and the fear bouncing off her, I think there’s more to her than plain, crazy bitch.

Copyright 2017, Fabiola Francisco

You can meet Sam before Twisted in You releases! Red Lights, Black Hearts is on sale for $1.99 for a short time!

“An adult read woven with meaning and purpose.” Rachel Blaufeld, author, and blogger for Happily Ever After USA Today
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2mOASgw
Other retailers: books2read.com/u/4jKBE5

Note: While it is not necessary to read Red Lights, Black Hearts prior to Twisted in You, there are some minor spoilers mentioned in Twisted in You.

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Time to Get Real

Lovin’ on You was sent to reviewers a couple of weeks ago, and the feedback has been wonderful. I am so grateful for their kind words and honesty. Something I have enjoyed hearing is how much they enjoy the lyrics throughout the book (wishing these were real songs they could play). I was asked today if I had written all of them, this person knowing I write poetry as well. I did write them all. It was important to me to show how Cash expresses himself without inhibition. Music is that for him.

Every artist has a way to best express him/herself.

Now, I have no musical background, so I can’t say that these lyrics would really make for songs with rhythm, but this is about words. Their vibrations and their meaning. My best way to express myself, whether it be a blog post, a novel, or a poem. Hell, sometimes it’s a simple phrase with a complex meaning.

When I started writing (back when I was a teen), I thought the idea of writing was silly. Who would want to do that? I was that hard thirteen-year-old who as dealing with her own bullshit and didn’t have time to write a poem. But, I was assigned a project at school. We had to write a compilation of poems. *insert huge eye-roll* I thought it was the worst project idea ever. What would I learn by writing a poem?

You caught the part in that paragraph above that said I was dealing with my own stuff, right? Good, because what I learned by writing a poem was everything I was holding inside. What I learned writing multiple poems? A whole universe of pain I was barely keeping hidden. This was a time in my life where I was an emotional mess. The only way to pretend that mess didn’t live in me was acting as a stubborn rebel. Yet, this project exposed to me an entire world of healing. The written word became my savior when I don’t think a therapist at that time would be able to show me light.

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The poems I wrote were ugly, deep, pain-filled. These are not the poems I submitted for my project. These were my dirty, little secrets. These were the ones that would show the world who I really was when I was trying hard to keep that person hidden. So they were mine. For years, I wrote. I have a binder full.

A dam was open through my fingers, and I bled every emotion, every thought. I bled typical thoughts a teen may face when change was coming to her life, and I bled thoughts unfamiliar to the world I was being raised in. One where appearances mattered and people didn’t want to know about pain. Lord forbid you had any thoughts deeper than what dress you were wearing to the dance next month, or who was crushing on who. For a long time I felt like an outcast because everyone else around me didn’t understand why I felt the way I did, so I wrote. I wrote, and I vowed to always help people who felt the same way I did. (I’m not sure I’m winning too much with that vow, but I’m working toward it.)

We never know what people are facing. We don’t know if they have inner struggles they are trying to overcome. A smile can be very deceiving, but an honest one can also be a lifesaver.

I did have wonderful friends at the time, and I cannot discredit that, but at an age where we barely understand the world we’re living in, no one wants to deal with depressing thoughts.

I have debated writing a post along these lines for some time now, and I always chicken out. It’s scary to let people know you have struggled in the past, let them know you have demons you have tried to fight off. The reason I am writing it today is because I feel at a place where I can share this about myself with you. Because maybe you won’t feel so alone if you have felt this way in the past, or feel that way right now. So that you understand that writing for me is therapy. Even today when my smile is genuine. And maybe part of the reason to share this is to remind myself where I came from. It’s grounding to remember the purpose behind my writing when I can so easily lose track of the reason I share my words, and become a follower instead of a leader.

When I wrote Red Lights, Black Hearts, I found the voice of that thirteen-year-old girl who felt so lost. I thought many people wouldn’t enjoy it because it’s not romance. It isn’t pretty. I also debated having that be the last book I publish. I spent a good chunk of time telling myself I was done publishing after this one. This was my exit book. So why didn’t I? Because the same way writing is healing to me, reading is healing to others. If I could help one person feel through my words, I consider myself successful. It’s not about the money, guys. Life is so much more than money and fame. I promise.

I wrote that book for me (I had things I still needed to deal with that I haven’t dared to), the same I have done with all others, even the ones with more humor—man, sometimes I just need to laugh and relax. I write according to my mood, and I can’t apologize for that. I find healing while writing a story because it gives me the possible solution I can’t see on my own.

So many times, okay almost always, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m winging it (and not the eyeliner, can’t wing that for shit). The only thing I know for certain is that I’m here today because I found strength in writing. And that’s scary to admit to an audience of people. However, I want to be more honest with my readers. I want to be more honest with myself. It’s a heavy load to carry when you aren’t. This is about sharing a tidbit about myself and hoping that you find your strength when life gets hard. It’s also about my own healing. Being who I am, unapologetically, and showing that to the world. I’m a loner, so I can easily spend hours alone and stay in my head. That’s not always safe. So this post is also for me to grow and better myself.

My journey with writing may have started a little later in my life, after judging the skill for so long, but it began when I needed it most. I will always be thankful for that project for bringing out of me something I so desperately needed and knew nothing about. I wanted to share part of who I am with you. Thank you for allowing me that.

I’ll end with this thought: Fight hard for who you are because you are worth this life, and when you find your light, you can shine it wherever you go.

A Glimpse into the Future~ Restoring Us

I am surprised how quickly time has gone by. It will be two years that I published Restoring Us, my second novel, on January 11th. This was the first idea I had for a book back in 2009, and I feel blessed that I got the opportunity to write it and publish it a few years later.

Thank you to all who have supported me along the way. I am so happy to have met so many amazing people, and I am looking forward to meeting more and more of you.

Enjoy this bonus scene! XO

**This scene includes some spoilers for those who have not read Restoring Us.**


A Glimpse into the Future

Ava

“I resent that!” Dan yells. “I’m a fucking good father.”

“Facking,” Brooke, Dan and Jess’ youngest daughter, says. Yes, youngest. That means Dan’s a father to more than one child.

“Case in point,” Ethan points to her, and we all laugh.

“You’re just jealous.” Dan shrugs.

“My daughter doesn’t curse.” Ethan raises his eyebrows.

“You know, before fatherhood, you used to be cool. Now, you’re all serious and shit.”

“PMS?” Ethan mocks.

“Fuck off.” Dan stands and walks to the cooler housing the beers and bottles of wine.

I look around our patio and smile as I see our friends still united after so many years. We have been through ups and downs together, and these last two years have been interesting to say the least.

Actually, the last seven have been.

I watch Jess tell Stella, her oldest, to be careful with Arabella. I smile as Stella holds Arabella’s hand, and they walk towards the swing set.

Turns out that Jess was pregnant during our wedding, and both her and Dan kept it a secret until Dan got too drunk one day and spilled. Jess would have killed him, but we were ecstatic for them. Therefore, Dan has been a father for seven years. They were the first in our circle to have children. Now, they have two girls. I’m pretty sure it’s karma’s way of getting even with him.

I catch Ethan’s eye as I stare off at our daughter’s backside, and he winks. I give him a crooked smile and sip my wine.

It has been two years since Arabella entered our lives. Two years since we became parents and figured out how to balance life and a child. We’re still trying to figure it out. But no matter how insane the process of adoption could be, it was worth it to have my baby girl in my arms.

As difficult as our road to get here was, I don’t resent it. It’s perfect in how it was supposed to be. It took me some time to understand that, but I finally did. Ethan and I have grown together, and our love has matured.

“Ava.” I look up and smile at Stacy. “Where did you buy Arabella’s bow?”

“A small boutique not far from the gallery. It’s adorable, right?”

“Yes! I want one!”

“Umm… Relax. We don’t know yet if it’s a boy or girl,” Aiden tells Stacy. I chuckle as Stacy rubs her small bump. Aiden and Stacy got married two years after Ethan and I in a gorgeous, chic wedding in the gardens at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

“I think it’s a girl.” She raises an eyebrow, and I have never seen my brother back down from a comment so easily.

“They’re moody when they’re pregnant, right?” Ethan tells him.

“Fuck. Oh shit! Damnit.” Aiden rolls his eyes. “How the hell am I supposed to not curse around children? Or have sex,” he adds the last part quietly. Stacy smacks him in the stomach.

“Hit me all you want, I’m not sorry.” Aiden leans forward, his elbows on his thighs. “Tell me a newborn doesn’t fuck with your sex schedule.”

“Schedule?” Ethan asks with raised eyebrows.

“Yeah, like when you can have sex.”

“Aiden, sex isn’t some therapist’s office you schedule into your week,” says Ethan.

“But the crying and feeding and wake-up calls in the middle of the night.” I try not to laugh at my brother’s panic.

“Sex while they sleep. You’ll be exhausted but satisfied.”

“Ah, I knew I could count on you, Katie,” Aiden states.

Katie laughs as she rocks Caleb in her arms.

“She knows what she’s talking about,” Tristan says next to her, smiling smugly.

“This kid wasn’t going to mess up with my sex life.”

“Ah, so glad you love that child,” I joke.

“I do. Seriously. This kid is my world, but a girl has needs.” We all laugh as she shrugs.

“Yes, she does,” Tristan says next to her, kissing her temple.

I was so excited when those two finally admitted they wanted more out of their relationship. Katie had Caleb a few months ago (unplanned). And no one hates a surprise pregnancy more than she does.

After a few years of dating, Katie got pregnant with Caleb. I’m pretty sure he will be her only child. Mostly because she said she’d get her tubes tied after that delivery. Twenty hours of labor will do that to a girl. He really is the most adorable baby, and the only boy in our circle of friends. At least until we know what Stacy is having.

“Just keep that boy away from my babies,” Dan tells Katie. She laughs loudly.

“Aw, are you scared he’ll try to make a move on them? Karma.” She raises an eyebrow.

“My girls. Not for your kid to take advantage of.”

“Dan, he’s like five months old,” Katie widens her eyes.

“Yeah, but he’ll grow up.”

I try not to laugh at Dan’s overprotection. Ever since he had a girl, he has been a mess. From not knowing how to comb their hair to mismatching tops with bottoms. It has been so much fun to watch.

“You need to stop freaking out,” Ethan tells him.

“Look at them.” Dan points to his girls. “They’re so small and innocent.”

“They all are,” I nod, smiling. “They have each other though. They’ll be okay.”

You don’t realize how precious—and fragile— a child is until it is your own. You want to protect them from the bad in the world, but you know you can’t, so you give them tools that will help them. When I see our children, I see a mirror of all of us. Innocent and naïve, yet I know life can throw curveballs. If we teach them anything, it will be how to swing without striking out.

I sigh in contentment as I lean back in my chair. I love when we all get together like this and hang out. Our friendships  strengthen through the years.

After a few more hours, everyone leaves our home with grumpy kids and slightly buzzed husbands. Ethan walks down into the kitchen after putting Arabella down for bed as I finish cleaning up the patio and bringing the glassware inside.

“Do you need help?” He hugs me from behind and kisses the back of my neck.

I close my eyes, and my skin prickles with goosebumps.

“I’ll finish up tomorrow.” I dry my hands with the dishtowel.

“Did you have fun tonight?”

I turn in Ethan’s arms and smile up at him. “Yes. I love that we continue to get together and that our kids are growing up with our example of friendship.”

“Me too.” Ethan lowers his head and kisses below my ear. Then, his lips touch mine. “I’m glad they’re gone though.”

I lean back and smile up at him. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yup. I’ve been wanting to do this all night.” He pulls me tighter, his arm around my waist as the other hand cups my face, and he kisses me deeply.

I welcome the kiss, sighing into it.

“So no seven year itch?” I ask, teasing him, when we pull away from each other.

“Never. Infinity, remember?” He gently runs a finger over my infinity necklace.

My arms tighten around his neck, and I tug at the loose ends of his hair. “I remember. So… You’re going to show me how much you still love me?”

Wordlessly, he picks me up over his shoulder and rushes up the stairs. I laugh loudly.

“All night long, baby,” he says. “I’ll never get enough.” He stares into my eyes after lowering me back down his body.

“I love you,” I whisper, cupping his face.

“Love you, too.”


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