by Hannah Safren
It’s four innings into an Orioles victory when Emma meets Mabel. Their flirty first encounter kicks off the sweetest of summers. One of Blue Ridge Mountain hiking, river floating, and steamy, coffee-fueled mornings. But as the summer closes, Mabel’s insecurities about her same-sex attraction emerge. She heads back to college. Without Emma.
Over the next four years, Emma juggles temporary loves, a big move, and new jobs, all while trying to shove down an imagined fairytale outcome with Mabel. Despite distance, Mabel keeps finding her way back into Emma’s life, forcing Emma to consider whether it’s some grand design bringing the two of them back together.
GCLS Goldie Awards
Mabel and Everything After — Finalist, Contemporary Romance: Short Novels.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"I went to college in Shepherdstown, WV. The opening location of Mabel and Everything After. The “Sweet Shoppe” that Emma works at is based off a real café: Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery. In college, after autumn rolled in, I’d swing by often for Hazelnut Coffee with a dash of cinnamon. Every brick building on German Street oozes history. It’s not just the main street though. It’s the mountains at dusk, the Sycamore trees that tower along the river. Everything about the town is magic. Fun to write about. More fun to visit.
Emma and Mabel are the two main characters. They are the pieces of people I know. Pieces of me, too. The style, the demeanor, the language, all pulled from friends, strangers, old flings, my wife. That’s what most of my writing is…a compilation of the people I’ve stumbled across, the cities I’ve stayed. Mabel’s character was a particularly fun one to imagine up. Her early struggle with her sexuality is something I’ve witnessed a dozen different times. She’s wildly willing and curious, until she overwhelms herself with perceived expectations. It’s all part of growing up. Getting to know yourself. To stretch and let yourself be. Something I’m still doing. Something I hope to always do."
Jessica R. - I loved this book. Emma and Mabel are everything. This book was everything. Thank you so much Hannah Safren for writing your love story for the world to see.
Caroline B. - All the feels! This is a book for those who believe in love at first sight. But it's not only about it, it's what happens after, when it's not the right time to be together, but it's a soulmate love. I rooted so much for Emma and Mabel in those four years. Their summer love was beautiful to read, but their growing up was what I needed to read as well.
Della B. - In Mabel and Everything After we are gifted with a heartwarming story of Emma and Mabel’s circuitous journey to each other. Safren has a distinctive voice with her writing style. She displays a depth and maturity with this being her second novel. Her storytelling reflexes have been honed to perfection. This is by far my favourite novel of 2022.
T. Geist - I LOVE love stories that take their time. I'm a big fan of realism, and sometimes you meet the one, but the timing is all off. But with stories like this one, you also get to see such growth of the characters, and that itself is a beautiful journey.
This book is told entirely from Emma's POV, and I thoroughly enjoyed her as a character. She was sweet and real. She had normal thoughts about her life and loves, so I could relate to her. I also loved Mabel "Mae" through her eyes. And in the end, you knew they were meant for each other once life settled down.
Rebecca T. - We start with Emma and Mabel meeting in the summer of 2008 and saying goodbye at the end of it. From there, we follow as they flit in and out of each other's lives over the years. I flew through this one in a single sitting. Really loved reading about Emma and Mabel, I felt genuinely emotional about these two.
Ashlee G. - This was a very consuming story; I was so invested in the HEA for them both. I really liked the idea that you may meet your match before being ready but still be able to work it out in the end. The book is told from Emma's perspective, so we see a lot of her daily struggles and growth as a young adult during a tumultuous time. …This was a great book and I'm looking forward to future books by Hannah Safren.
Leah M. - Mabel and Everything After by Hannah Safren is a new adult coming-of-age romance that highlights how important timing is with love…. This is a heartwarming romance but has some bittersweet moments as well. They both have a lot of growing up to do and must go through some painful truths before they’re able to find their happily ever after. This really touched my heart, and I was on pins and needles wanting them to finally get together. I highly recommend this and can’t wait to see what Safren does next.
Simone R. - Mabel and Everything After was everything I wanted it to be and more. A lovely coming-of-age new adult, college…romance, that was very lovely to witness. Loved spending time with Mabel and Emma.
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Tuesday, May 27
Massive screens flood Washington Boulevard and every penny-pinching twenty-something is sipping two-dollar Bohs.
“Lou!” I shout over the masses, pointing to the heavy rain clouds overhead. “Let’s head in!”
A flood of tipsy onlookers take the cue and maneuver their way into Pickle’s Pub: a neon-green Baltimore staple, just across the street from Camden Yards Stadium.
Lou, short for Louanne, is already lining up tequila shots with the bartender’s eager assistance by the time I shove my way over to her. “Louie, really?” I nudge. “I thought you were driving us home tonight?”
Home is Shepherdstown, West Virginia. A solid hour, plus, from Baltimore.
“Relax, Emmy!” Lou nods toward the bartender. “My good friend, Pete, here has bought us a round.”
She has definitely never met Bartender Pete before, and the way that she is avoiding eye contact tells me that she knows I know that.
Lou and I play on the Shepherd University women’s basketball team. We are both majoring in Recreation and Leisure Studies, and we share an apartment. This simply means that we spend entirely too much of our time together.
“Emma, meet my friends.” Lou steps back from the bar, flinging her perfect auburn hair over her shoulder. “This is Mabel and her boyfriend, Jack.”
I instantly recognize Mabel’s name. Lou and Mabel had worked together at River Rat’s Rafting as river guides last summer. Just recently, Lou shared how bummed she was that Mabel, her “favorite work friend,” wasn’t coming back for a second season.
I offer Mabel and Jack a polite smile before redirecting my concerned glare toward Lou. A glare that Lou, once again, hastily diverts by passing the tequila shots around.
“Mabel and Jack, this is my high-strung roommate, Emma.” Lou puckers up and gulps down the tequila. No salt, no lime. I follow suit, as do Mabel and Jack.
The sting of the liquor hardly settles before Lou turns to whisper, “We’ll stay at my friend Matty’s tonight. He lives just down the street, in Fed.”
The mile walk from the stadium to the Federal Hill neighborhood isn’t my concern. My concern is that I’ve been friends with Lou for three years and have never, ever heard of this “Matty” guy before.
“Won’t Max wonder where you are?” I quiz.
Max and Lou have been dating for about eight months. It’s still early, but it feels seasoned. She loves him, glows when he’s around her.
“Matty is his friend! Max is the one that suggested we stay with him.”
I roll my eyes in annoyance with the predictable situation.
“It’s right down the street, Em. Please,” she begs.
Realizing I’m not going to consent willingly, she hurries off to another rowdy group of orange and black. Jack disappears in the same breath, stumbling toward the bathroom, leaving Mabel and I to force a friendship at the bar.
“You’re not surprised, are you?” Mabel asks, referring to my apparent disappointment in Lou.
“Not the slightest,” I mutter, waving Bartender Pete back over. Clearly, during Mabel’s one summer working with Lou, she picked up on the three most important factors to consider when venturing out on a drinking escapade with Louie:
1. She is the queen of all social bees.
2. She cannot say no to a good time.
3. She is an incredibly unreliable designated driver.
“What are you drinking, Mabel?”
“Two of those please.”
Bartender Pete slides two icy cans down the chipped wooden bar, and Mabel and I cheers before swigging back the first gulp.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, Emma.”
The pureness in Mabel’s voice shifts my entire body toward her.
“Lou’s a big fan of yours,” Mabel continues.
Her long, thick maple hair is braided loosely over her right shoulder. She has a faded orange bandana tied lightly around her neck, which highlights her piercing seaweed eyes and emphasizes the dark freckles painted across her cheeks and her nose, and even the lobes of her ears. She is quite the beauty.
“Lou’s obsession with me is a bit odd, huh?” I grin, hoping my witty response will overshadow my delayed response. I take a large gulp before changing subjects. “Where do you live, Mabel?”
“With my parents, in Frederick—just for the summer. I go to school down in Wilmington, North Carolina, at UNCW.”
I know Frederick fairly well. It’s not too far from Shepherdstown, forty-five minutes at most, just over the Maryland border. I’m not as familiar with Wilmington, but I know enough about its neighboring coastal cities to keep the conversation flowing.
“Wilmington is a cool place,” I tell her. “I’ve been a few times for lunch. Right there along the waterfront.”
“Yes.” Her face lights up. “I love that part of town. So many great restaurants. What brought you there?”
“My grandparents lived in Southport for years,” I tell her. “So we’d make our way to Wilmington every now and then to switch it up.”
Southport is a quaint coastal town about thirty-five minutes south of Wilmington. Red brick sidewalks. Live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. Every porch dressed in red, white, and blue. It’s a popular filming destination for television and movies, but outside of Hollywood, its charm attracts retirees and red-nosed, rubber-boot fisherman.
“No way!” Mabel’s face ignites again. “I love that little town. When my brother comes down to visit, we go fishing off the Southport Fishing Pier.” Her smile is warm, her lips lush and captivating. “I’m actually contemplating moving there next summer after school ends.”
“To prolong the inevitable?” I chuckle.
“Basically. My friends own a fish shack on the Intracoastal there, so I figure I can work a little and fish a little and read a dumb romance novel or two while I figure out the next move.”
“Ah, cheesy romance novels. My favorite.”
She winks. “Who doesn’t enjoy a good love story?”
* * *
The Orioles beat the Yankees ten to nine in extra innings. My boozy victory toast with Mabel is interrupted by Jack, whom I forgot even existed.
“Let’s go, babe,” he slurs, flinging his chiseled arm around Mabel’s neck. Her petite but sturdy frame is accentuated next to Jack’s bulky build. His pigeon-toed posture and heavy, bloodshot eyes confirm that it is, indeed, time for him to leave.
“Okay then,” Mabel agrees in good spirit. She wraps one arm around Jack’s waist to help balance him, and with her free hand, she gently brushes my arm, grazing my fingertips before pulling away. Her touch sends an unexpected shiver up my spine. We lock eyes, just a breath longer. Does she feel what I feel? I shake the thought with a blink and a smile. “It was so nice finally meeting you, Emma.” And off she goes, arm in arm with her staggering partner.
* * *
It’s nearly two in the morning by the time Lou and I fall victim to mysterious Matty’s hand-me-down jean couch, a likely stolen-slash-prized possession from his fraternity years.
“How many people do you think have had sex on this couch, Emma?” Lou wonders aloud.
“We’ll wake up itching and you’re to blame.”
“Yes,” Lou admits. “I am to blame.”
I actually don’t mind the couch much at all; I’m too preoccupied with thoughts of Mabel. There is something about her effortless charm that’s possessing my tipsy thoughts. Is she thinking about me too?
“How long has Mabel been with Jack?” I ask.
“Couple of years, I think,” Lou mumbles, nearly asleep. “Max doesn’t think she loves him. I think she’s been dragging it out a little long as well. I also think Jack’s kind of a dick. A varsity one-upper.”
“Really?” I ask, not expecting such a harsh response from Lou.
“Who knows, maybe they’re meant to be, and we’ll have to pretend I never said any of this,” Lou drones with her eyes closed. “I just hope they’re not.”
I smile at her drunken declaration, secretly hoping for the same, before dozing off beside her.
Journal: Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I’ve met a girl with seaweed eyes. She’s swimming through me.
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