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Next – a South Boston romance serial novella

In the spirt of Lena Dunham’s Verified Strangers for Vogue.com, we thought it would be fun to try our own serial novella for Caught in Southie! You know, while quarantining.  Next tells the story of Olivia – a 33 year-old, navigating life and love in South Boston.  We will post weekly chapters – so be on the lookout. Every second chapter, we need your help to decide where to take the story – via answering a question/voting on Instagram. However the majority of readers answer the question, that’s where we will take the story!

So follow us on Instagram and enjoy our first chapter below!

IT WAS THE AFTERMATH of a three-year relationship crashing and burning, that led Olivia to this point.  Not to mention the almost two month drought of no dates and zero relationship developments.  There was one time at the Supper Club that she had way too many Rosato Spritzes that she ended up making out with a guy near the bathrooms in the back.  Sweaty hands groping over his plaid button-down while his fingers ran across the waistband of her leather shorts as Legends of Summer played on stage.

She had made the decision she would go home with him but then ended up in an Uber with her roommate Maddy back to M Street after he threw up on the sidewalk at closing time. The next day she woke up in a hazy fog, the night’s bad decision rising to the surface of her consciousness. Her leather shorts in a ball next to the bed.  Regret settled on her shoulders as she reached for some water on the nightstand. She couldn’t pick him out of the line up and wondered if the next time she went to the Supper Club if she would recognize him.  She never did.

So now here she was, phone in hand, signing up for an online dating app.  The one she vowed she never would.  Maddy had met a few good men on Bumble.  Nothing serious but Maddy was never really looking for anything serious.  Men flocked to her. She was bubbly and light like a glass of prosecco. Her ice blond hair was wavy and shoulder length.  She had a sprinkling of freckles across her nose.

Maddy walked into the living room with a bowl of microwave popcorn.  She offered some to Olivia before taking a seat in the light blue chair near the TV. Olivia shook her head no.

“Just do it,” said Maddy.  “Get it over with. See what happens.”

Olivia knew she was right but there was part of her that felt like she was giving up on true love.  Like could you really meet someone and have a lasting relationship on a dating app?  She was 33-years-old and she was starting to feel the pressure. Something inside of her kept whispering, in a few more years, no one will want to date you. You’ll end up all alone.

The feminist in Olivia told that voice to fuck off.  She didn’t need a man to make her complete.  She was a senior copywriter at an online retailer making good money.  Enough to be renting a decent apartment with her own bedroom on the City Point side of South Boston.  No living like college with two in room for Olivia. But it was under the cover of darkness in her bedroom, when that voice was loudest.  Your sister is already married with a daughter.  She got married when she was 31.  You’re 33, almost 34.  You better hurry up.  That voice would keep her up at night – tossing and turning until she wore herself out and eventually fell asleep.   The next day, in the safety of daylight,
sipping a cup of coffee, she would shake her head and laugh pathetically at herself – that part of her that worried about that voice.

Olivia hit submit and watched as her new profile emerge on the screen of her iPhone. She hardly used anything to retouch the photo.  It was taken last summer on the deck of the house that she and Paul had rented with Thomas and Aileen. In the photo, her hair is swept up into the perfect messy bun.  Dark curly wisps around her sun-kissed face. It was the beginning of the end for them.  Boredom had settled in that summer.  Olivia convinced herself that she needed to leave Paul.  They didn’t have sex that week.  She avoided it by having too many drinks and passing out.  She slipped out of bed early in the morning each day. By Wednesday, Paul found her on the deck alone and took a hold of her hand and sweetly said, “I miss you.” But it was already decided.  She was moving on.

Now looking back at this decision, with her fresh new Bumble profile, she may have misjudged her relationship with Paul.  Maybe a breakup was just what they needed to rekindle the spark.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Maybe she should just check in with Paul.  As Olivia started to text, Maddy interrupted.

“Let’s see the profile,” said Maddy a little too enthusiastically causing Olivia to become annoyed.

“It’s not a big deal.”

“It is!  You’re putting yourself out there.  I’ll bet you’ll find a dozen guys who will want to date you.

“Please stop.”

“Seriously, you look hot in your pic.  Like Kendall Jenner. They’ll be lining up.”

Olivia pulled her phone away, and stormed off down the hallway to her bedroom.  She was compelled to get away from Maddy immediately.  The smell of her Moroccan Oil shampoo, the sleeve of her UMass Amherst hoodie brushing against Olivia’s arm, her mocking tone was all too much.

“Now, sign up for Tinder too,” Maddy called oblivious to Olivia’s anger.

Olivia draped herself across her bed and looked at her Bumble profile again.  She wondered if Paul could feel her pulling away that week.  Paul’s love felt weighted and heavy, pulling her under as she struggled to get out from under it.

They were at dinner one night at 224 Boston.  It was crowded and loud and filled with people.  Paul was telling her about a guy he works with who started raising chickens in his yard. “A chicken pen in his small city yard. He said he’ll bring in fresh eggs sometime for everyone.” Olivia looked around the restaurant. There was an older guy with silver gray hair and a younger woman.  Maybe his daughter?  Maybe a girlfriend? Next to the silver fox’s table was a young couple in their early 20’s.  A petite brunette wearing a vintage blouse with a giant pussy bow and he was tall with boyish good looks and a warm and contagious smile.  Olivia sipped on a Cosmopolitan contemplating whether to pull the pin and end it all at once or slowly let the air out until nothing was left.

OLIVIA LOOKED out her bedroom window and watched cars passing on her busy street.  In the house across the street, she could see her neighbors watching Law & Order on TV.  They were sitting next to each other on their couch under blanket. She looked down at her phone in her hand.  Without hesitation she typed.

I miss you.

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.