Though snow won’t fly for at least a month in Central Oregon, I spent yesterday driving to the middle of nowhere for a good deal on a set of snow tires. It was a three-hour round trip through cattle country, with directions that included phrases like, “head west past Beaver Street, turn right on Cum Flat, and go 13 miles until the pavement ends.”
There’s something about that sort of road trip that puts me in the mood to listen to country music. It’s not my normal fare, but since I went to college in Montana, I was required by law to listen to it and even have a few songs on my iPod.
The stories appeal to my author sensibilities. If you can listen to Rascal Flats sing Ellsworth and not sob like a baby over Grandma’s descent into dementia and unwavering love for Grandpa, you are dead inside.
I rolled down my windows and sang at the top of my lungs with Pam Tillis and Trisha Yearwood, and I swear only two or three cows covered their ears with their hooves. But when Suzy Boggus started singing Cinderella, I shut up and listened to the lyrics.
It starts with one girlfriend reminiscing about the other’s fairy tale wedding, then cycles through the realities of their happily ever after – kids, jobs, disillusionment, aging, lost dreams – all the fun stuff country music is made of.
It was the chorus that really caught my ear:
Hey, Cinderella, what's the story all about?
I’ve got a funny feeling we missed a page or two somehow
Oh, Cinderella, maybe you could help us out
Does the shoe fit you now?
There’s something ironic about a romance author divorcing the year her debut novel hits shelves. I’m doing ridiculously great now, so you can skip the butt pats (though you’re welcome to give me a flirty little pinch if the urge strikes). I can say with 110% certainty that things happen for a reason, and I’m in a damn good place now.
Still, my happily ever after doesn’t look much like I imagined, nor does it look much like the ones I write. Or does it?
I doubt I’m giving away any shocking spoilers by telling you that Alex and Juli sail off into the sunset together at the end of Making Waves. But then what?
As a romance author, I’m forced to end the story there, but that doesn’t stop me from imagining what might happen next. Maybe Alex waits five years into their marriage before confessing he’d like Juli to spank him with Cookie’s pancake turner on a nightly basis.
Maybe Juli’s OK with that.
Or maybe Juli gets drunk one night with Malcom the literary pirate and neither of them can remember later how she ended up with paper cuts on her thighs.
Given what I know about real-life happily ever afters, those things could happen. Does it make the ending of the novel any less poignant? Does it taint the tenderness of the happily ever after to know it might not look exactly the way you picture it when you’re surrounded by candlelight and the heady scent of squished roses?
I don’t think so, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Do you ever consider what comes after the happily ever after in love stories? Why or why not? Please share!
Oh, and just so I’m not the only one with that song stuck in my head all day, here you go: