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Seven Days in June



Seven Days in June PDF

Author: Tia Williams

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Genres:

Publish Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN-10: 1538719096

Pages: 352

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2019, THIRTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD EVA MERCY NEARLY choked to death on a piece of gum. She’d been attempting to masturbate when the gum lodged in her throat, cutting off her air supply. As she slowly blacked out, she kept imagining her daughter, Audre, finding her flailing about in Christmas jammies while clutching a tube of strawberry lube and a dildo called the Quarterback (which vibrated at a much higher frequency than advertised—gum-choking frequency). The obituary headline would be “Death by Dildo.” Hell of a legacy to leave her orphaned twelve-year-old.

Eva didn’t die, though. She eventually coughed up the gum. Shaken, she buried the Quarterback in a drawer full of hip-hop concert tees, slipped on her ancient cameo ring, and padded down the hall to wake up Audre for her BFF’s Hamptons birthday party. She had no time to dwell on her brush with mortality.

While she’d admit to being a damn good mom and a capable novelist, Eva’s true talent was her ability to push weird shit aside and get on with life. This time, she did it a little too well and missed the obvious.

When Eva Mercy was little, her mom had told her that Creole women see signs. This was back when Eva’s only understanding of “Creole” was that it was vaguely connected to Louisiana and Black people with French last names. It wasn’t until junior high that she realized her mom was—what’s a fair word?—eccentric and curated “signs” to justify her whims. (Mariah Carey released an album called Charmbracelet? Let’s blow rent on cubic zirconia charms at Zales!) Point is, Eva was wired to believe that the universe sent her messages.

So it should’ve occurred to her to expect a life-altering drama after Tridentgate. After all, she’d had a near-death experience before.

And that time—like this one—she woke up to her world forever changed

A TOAST TO OUR SEX GODDESS, EVA MERCY!” HOLLERED A CHERUB OF a woman, raising her champagne glass. Eva, whose throat was still raspy from yesterday’s gum incident, coughed back a snort at “sex goddess.”

The forty women crammed around long dining tables cheered loudly. They were bombed. The book club, composed of rowdy, upper-middle-class white women on the business end of their fifties, had traveled from Dayton, Ohio, all the way to Manhattan to celebrate Eva with a brunch. The occasion was the fifteenth anniversary of her bestselling (well, formerly bestselling) erotica series, Cursed.

Lacey, president of the chapter, adjusted her purple witch hat and turned to Eva, who was at the head of the table. “Today,” she bellowed, “we celebrate the magical day we met our bronze-eyed vampire, Sebastian—and his true love, the badass unwicked witch, Gia!”

The tables erupted in squeals. Eva was relieved that Times Square’s deliriously cheesy S&M-themed restaurant, A Place of Yes, had provided a private room. And oh, what a room. The ceiling was awash in red velvet, and a web of bondage ropes and riding crops decorated the walls. Goth candelabras dangled dangerously low over the black lacquered tables.

The Menu of Pain/Pleasure was the tourist attraction. Depending upon your selection, waitstaff in bondage gear would lightly flog you or do a lap dance or whatever. If you so desired.

Eva did not desire. But she was a good sport, and the Real Housewives of Dayton had traveled such a long way. These were her people—the rabid fandom who kept her afloat. Especially recently, as the vampire phenomenon (and her book sales) had cooled off.

So Eva chose “Cuffs + Cookies” off the menu. And now she was seated on a gothic throne, her hands cuffed behind the chair while a bored waitress in a pleather corset fed her snickerdoodles.

It was 2:45 p.m.

She should’ve been mortified. But she was no stranger to this scene. After all, Eva did write supermarket-checkout porn. While most authors had speaking engagements at bookstores, universities, and chic private homes, Eva’s events were, well, raunchier. She’d done signings at sex shops, burlesque clubs, and tantric workshops. She’d even sold books at the 2008 Feminists in Adult Film (FAFFIES) after-party.

This was the gig. She smiled indulgently while her readers swooned over the two horny, dysfunctional permanently nineteen-year-old basket cases she’d invented when she herself was a horny, dysfunctional nineteen-year-old basket case.

Eva had never set out for her name to be synonymous with witches, vampires, and orgasms. As a double major in creative writing and advanced melancholia, Eva had accidentally stumbled upon this life. It was sophomore year, winter break. She had nowhere to go. So she holed up in her dorm room, pouring her teen angst and horror-fan daydreams into a violent lustfest—which her roommate secretly submitted to Jumpscare magazine’s New Fiction contest. She got first prize and a literary agent. Three months later, Eva was a college dropout with a six-figure multiple-book deal.

Ironic that she made a living writing about sexy sex. Eva couldn’t remember the last time she got naked with anyone, undead or otherwise. Between authoring, touring, single-mothering a tween tornado, and fighting through a chronic illness that ranged from manageable to utterly debilitating, she was too depleted to romance a real-life penis.

Which was fine. When Eva had an itch, she scratched it in her books. Like a boxer abstaining before the big match, she used her unconsummated lust to give Sebastian and Gia’s story a wild edge. It was fiction ammunition.

But in the social-media era, nobody wanted to picture their favorite erotica author zonked on painkillers, drooling on her couch by 9:25 every night. So in public, Eva looked the part. She had her own tomboy-chic take on sexy. Today, it was a gray T-shirt minidress, Adidas, vintage gold hoops, and smudged black liner. With her signature sexy secretary glasses and collarbone-length curls, she could almost convince anyone she was a man-killer.

Eva was brilliant at faking things.

and bless you,” continued Lacey, “for instilling our faith in passion, even though Gia and Sebastian are bound by an ancient curse to wake up on opposite sides of the world the moment after orgasm. You gave us a community. An OBSESH. Can’t wait for Cursed, Book Fifteen!”

Amid applause, Eva smiled brightly and attempted to rise. Unfortunately, she forgot she was handcuffed to the chair, and she was abruptly yanked back down. Everyone gasped as Eva plummeted to the floor. Her dominatrix-waitress sprang to action two seconds too late, uncuffing her from the overturned chair.

“Whoa, too much merlot,” giggled Eva, popping back up. It was a lie; she couldn’t drink alcohol with her health issues. Two sips would land her in the ER.

Eva raised her glass of seltzer up at the sea of happily wasted boomers. Most of them, like Lacey, were wearing Gia’s signature purple witch hat. A handful had a blingy S pendant pinned to their Chico’s blouses. It was Sebastian’s S, meant to emulate the vampire’s scrawled signature ($29.99 at evamercymercyme.com).

Eva had the same S branded on her forearm. A regrettable decision made years ago on a blurry night by a blurry girl.

“I can’t thank you enough,” she gushed. “Really, your support keeps the Cursed world turning. I hope book fifteen lives up to your expectations.”

If I ever write it. The manuscript was due in a week, and paralyzed with writer’s block, she’d barely cobbled together five chapters.

Swiftly, she changed the subject. “So, does anyone read Variety?”

This was a Redbook and Martha Stewart Living crowd, so no.

“Exciting news broke yesterday.” Eva sat down her glass and clasped her black-manicured fingers under her chin. “Our wish was granted. Cursed has been optioned for film rights!”

There were shrieks. Someone threw a witch hat in the air. A flushed blonde whipped out her iPhone and recorded Eva’s speech so she could post it to Cursed’s Facebook fan page later. Along with several Tumblr and Twitter fan accounts, Facebook was a deeply important book-promo platform for Eva, where her readers shared fan art, gossiped, wrote obscene fan fiction, and debated casting decisions for the movie they’d fantasized about for years.

“I landed a producer”—a Black female producer, thank you, Jesus—“who really gets our world. Her last film was a steamy Sundance short about a real estate agent seducing a werewolf! We’re interviewing directors now.”

“Sebastian on film! Imagine?” swooned a faux redhead. “We just need a Black actor with bronze eyes. One who’s a good biter.”

“Eva, how do I ask my husband to bite me?” whined a Meryl Streep look-alike. This always happened, the sex talk.

“Arousal through biting is a thing, you know. It’s called odaxelagnia,” Eva divulged. “Just tell him you want it. Whisper it in his ear.”

Odaxelagnia me,” slurred Meryl.

“Catchy,” Eva said with a wink.

“I’m stoked to see big-screen Gia,” said a husky-voiced brunette. “She’s such a fearless warrior. Sebastian’s supposed to be the scary one, but she’s killed armies of vampire hunters to protect him.”

“Right? The force of teen-girl passion could power nations.” With a twinkle in her eye, Eva launched into the mini-monologue she’d perfected ages ago. This part was still fun. “We’re taught that men are all animal impulse and id. But girls get there first.”

“And then society stomps it out,” said the brunette.

“Word.” Eva knew the pain was close. Before an episode, her mask slipped and the Black popped out.

“Look at history,” Eva continued, rubbing a temple. “Roxanne Shanté out-rapping grown men at fourteen. Serena winning the US Open at seventeen. Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein at eighteen. Josephine Baker conquering Paris at nineteen. Zelda Fitzgerald’s high school diary was so fire that her future husband stole entire passages to write The Great Gatsby. The eighteenth-century poet Phillis Wheatley published her first piece at fourteen, while enslaved. Joan of Arc. Greta Thunberg. Teen girls rearrange the fucking world.”

An electrified hush fell over the group. But Eva was sinking. The pounding in her temples was sharpening by the millisecond. Sugar triggered her condition, and she’d been force-fed all those cookies. She knew better—but she’d been cuffed.

Absentmindedly, Eva snapped the rubber band she always wore around her right wrist. It was a pain distraction. An old trick.

“Remember when Kate Winslet escapes the Titanic?” asked the brunette. “And then jumps back on to be with Leo? That’s teen-girl passion.”

“I’d do that today to get to Leo,” admitted Lacey, “and I’m forty-one.” She was fifty-five.

“Just like Gia,” gasped a petite woman with a clip-on bun. “In every book, she fights her way back to Sebastian—despite knowing that when they have sex, they’re cursed to lose each other again.”

“It’s a metaphor,” said Eva, her vision blurring. “No matter how perilous the journey, it’s never over for true soul mates. Who doesn’t want a connection that burns forever, despite distance, time, and curses?”

She didn’t. The thought of perilous love made her nauseous.

“Confession,” whispered a flushed blonde on her fourth glass of rosé. “My son plays Ohio State basketball, and I get so horny during games. To me, all those beautiful Black players are Sebastian.”

Speechless, Eva gulped down her seltzer.

This’ll be my legacy, she thought. I have friends organizing protest rallies and writing Pulitzer Prize–winning New Yorker essays on race in America. My own daughter’s so militant that she begged a cop to arrest her at the Middle School March on Midtown. But my contribution to these troubled times will be inciting white women of a certain age to sexually profile Black student athletes who’d really just like to make it to the NBA in peace.

Then Eva’s head was seized by a thunderous hammering. She clutched the edge of her seat with trembling fingers, bracing herself for each blow. The world went fuzzy. Features were melting off faces like Dalí’s clocks; the competing perfumes in the room made her stomach lurch, and then the hammer slammed into her face harder and faster, aiming to maim, and she heard everything at a punishing decibel—the AC, clanging silverware, and merciful Christ, did someone open a candy wrapper in Connecticut?

They always escalated so fast, the ruthlessly violent migraines that had tortured her since childhood and baffled the most decorated specialists on the East Coast.

Eva’s eyelids started to droop. In a well-practiced fake-out, she raised her brows to look alert, shooting a dazzling smile at her audience. Looking at those bawdy broads, she felt the low-grade envy she always felt in a group. They were normal. They could do things.

Regular-ass things. Like diving headfirst into a pool. Holding up their end of a conversation for more than twenty minutes. Burning scented candles. Getting tipsy. Surviving an F-train ride while a subway saxophonist blared “Ain’t Nobody” for nine stops. Enjoying sex in ambitious positions. Laughing too heartily. Crying too mightily. Breathing too deeply. Walking too swiftly.

Living, period. She’d bet these women could do most of these things without shredding agony smiting them like punishment from an angry god. What was it like, the luxury of not hurting?

I’m an alien, Eva thought. She’d always felt as if she were impersonating a human, and she accepted it. But she’d never stop fantasizing about being unsick.

“Uhhh…excuse me for a sec,” Eva managed. “J-just need to call my daughter.”

Calmly clutching her tote, she swept through the red velvet door of the private room. Weaving through tables of suburban theatergoers gushing over Hamilton, she spotted the ladies’ lounge behind the hostess area. She rushed in, burst into a handicapped stall with a sink, and vomited into the toilet.

For moments afterward, Eva stood there, breathing deeply through the pain, the way her team of neurologists, acupuncturists, and Eastern healers had taught her. Then she vomited again.

Swaying, she grasped the sink rim for balance. Her eyeliner was a mess now. This was why she wore it smudged. She never knew when an episode would strike—so if her makeup aesthetic was Rihanna-at-3:00-a.m., then she could pretend it was intentional.

Eva pulled her box of disposable painkiller injections out of her bag. Yanking up her dress, she exposed her scar-addled thigh, jabbed in a needle, and tossed it in the trash. For good measure, she grabbed an Altoids tin and chose a medical-marijuana gummy bear (prescribed by NYC’s top pain specialist, thank you very much). She chomped off an ear. Fuck it, she thought and tossed the whole thing in her mouth. This would take the edge off until nighttime, so she could get through mommy-daughter after-school rituals and then crash.

Gingerly, Eva leaned back against the tiled wall. Her lids shuttered closed.

Sickness wasn’t sexy. And her disability was invisible—she wasn’t missing a limb or in a full-body cast. Her level of suffering seemed impossible for others to fathom. After all, everyone got headaches sometimes, like during coffee withdrawal or the flu. So she hid it. All people knew was that Eva canceled plans a lot (“Busy writing!”). And was prone to fainting, like at Denise and Todd’s wedding (“Too much prosecco!”). Or forgot words midsentence (“Sorry, just distracted”). Or disappeared for weeks at a time (“Writing retreat!”—definitely not an in-patient stay in Mount Sinai’s pain ward).

White lies were easier than the truth.

Case in point: what would the Orgasmic Ohioans think if they knew she wanted to strangle Sebastian and Gia? To banish them to wherever those Twilight fuckers went?

She loved her books at first. She wrote to tickle herself, the ideas sparking like wildfire. Then she wrote for her readers. Now she lifted entire plot points from the comments sections of Cursed fansites—the depth of author-cheating.

She just couldn’t peddle “tortured romance” anymore. Years ago, she’d thought love wasn’t real unless it drew blood. She, Sebastian, and Gia were all teens once, sharing the same twisted brain. Sebastian and Gia didn’t grow up. But Eva did.

She wanted Cursed to die, but the series provided a stable, secure life for Audre. Eva had fought dragons to spare her baby from the childhood she’d had. And she’d won. She just wished she could find her spark again. The movie might help her rescue it.

Not only that, but deep down, Eva hoped it’d give her a fresh start. With her cut from the deal, she could finally afford to take a break from writing Cursed and work on her dream book, the one that’d been buzzing under her skin forever. She was so much more than her silly, raunchy romance (at least, she hoped she was). It was time for her to prove it to herself.

Feeling a bit better, Eva rinsed her mouth out with her travel-size mouthwash. Almost unconsciously, she raised her left middle finger, where she always wore her vintage cameo ring (she felt naked without it), to her nose and inhaled. It was an old habit—the barely there scent of some long-ago woman’s perfume always soothed her.

Finally, in a quiet moment, she decided to check her phone.


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