We are in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium, and once again, Ryan has forgotten where we left the car. I keep telling him that it’s in Lot C, but he doesn’t believe me.
“No,” he says, for the tenth time. “I specifically remember turning right when we got here, not left.”
It’s incredibly dark, the path in front of us lit only by lampposts featuring oversized baseballs. I looked at the sign when we parked.
“You remember wrong,” I say, my tone clipped and pissed-off. We’ve already been here too long, and I hate the chaos of Dodger Stadium. It’s a warm summer night, so I have that to be thankful for, but it’s ten P.M., and the rest of the fans are pouring out of the stands, the two of us fighting through a sea of blue and white jerseys. We’ve been at this for about twenty minutes.
“I don’t remember wrong,” he says, walking ahead and not even bothering to look back at me as he speaks. “You’re the one with the bad memory.”
“Oh, I see,” I say, mocking him. “Just because I lost my keys this morning, suddenly, I’m an idiot?”
He turns and looks at me; I use the moment to try to catch up to him. The parking lot is hilly and steep. I’m slow.
“Yeah, Lauren, that’s exactly what I said. I said you were an idiot.”
“I mean, you basically did. You said that you know what you’re talking about, like I don’t.”
“Just help me find the goddamn car so we can go home.”
I don’t respond. I simply follow him as he moves farther and farther away from Lot C. Why he wants to go home is a mystery to me. None of this will be any better at home. It hasn’t been for months.
He walks around in a long, wide circle, going up and down the hills of the Dodger Stadium parking lot. I follow close behind, waiting with him at the crosswalks, crossing at his pace. We don’t say anything. I think of how much I want to scream at him. I think of how I wanted to scream at him last night, too. I think of how much I’ll probably want to scream at him tomorrow. I can only imagine he’s thinking much of the same. And yet the air between us is perfectly still, uninterrupted by any of our thoughts. So often lately, our nights and weekends are full of tension, a tension that is only relieved by saying good-bye or good night.
After the initial rush of people leaving the parking lot, it becomes a lot easier to see where we are and where we parked.
“There it is,” Ryan says, not bothering to point for further edification. I turn my head to follow his gaze. There it is. Our small black Honda.
Right in Lot C.
I smile at him. It’s not a kind smile.
He smiles back. His isn’t kind, either.
After I Do
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.
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Reading Group Guide
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Read through Lauren’s flashbacks of her and Ryan’s relationship, leading up to the night of the Dodgers game. At what point did you notice a shift in their dynamic? Discuss with the group.
2. Early in the novel, Lauren playfully says of Ryan–“He always loved making me say the things he wanted to say.” In what ways does this become a loaded assessment of their relationship?
3. Turn to page 135, when Lauren and her mother are discussing marriage. Lauren says that she doesn’t want to fail at her marriage, which her mother dismisses: “If you stay married for a number of years and you have a happy time together and then you decide you don’t want to be married anymore and you choose to go be happy with someone else or doing something else, that’s not a failure.” Do you agree with her?
4. Even though the underlying question of the narrative is whether Lauren and Ryan’s marriage will survive, Ryan himself is not an act see more