The Boyfriend from Hell: A Novel

Overview

“Eerie. Offbeat. Another winner from Avery Corman.” —Booklist

The spirit of Sex and the City blended with the terror of Rosemary’s Baby in this spell¬binding romantic psychological thriller.

Veronica Delaney, single, in her twenties, a writer working on an article about a satanic cult leader, becomes involved with a dazzling, charismatic man, and she is turned inside out. Is he a typically uncommitted male or is he hiding something? Is he dramatically high maintenance or is he ...

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The Boyfriend from Hell: A Novel

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Overview

“Eerie. Offbeat. Another winner from Avery Corman.” —Booklist

The spirit of Sex and the City blended with the terror of Rosemary’s Baby in this spell¬binding romantic psychological thriller.

Veronica Delaney, single, in her twenties, a writer working on an article about a satanic cult leader, becomes involved with a dazzling, charismatic man, and she is turned inside out. Is he a typically uncommitted male or is he hiding something? Is he dramatically high maintenance or is he inherently evil? A gripping tale that is true-to-life, highly absorbing, and, ultimately, terrifying.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Eerie. Offbeat. Another winner from Avery Corman.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569800997
  • Publisher: Barricade Books, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/7/2015
  • Pages: 249

Meet the Author

Avery Corman is the author of the memoir, My Old Neighborhood Remembered, and the novels, Kramer vs. Kramer, Oh, God! , The Bust-Out King, The Old Neighborhood, 50, Prized Possessions, The Big Hype, A Perfect Divorce, The Boyfriend from Hell. He has also written nonfiction for many publications, including numerous articles for The New York Times. He lives in Fort Lee, N.J.

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Read an Excerpt

The Boyfriend from Hell

A Novel


By Avery Corman

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2006 Avery Corman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-9242-6


CHAPTER 1

THIS WAS THE FORUM. The date. The "who-are-you, what-are-your-interests" venue. He reminded her of one of those preening males on the reality television shows where the women compete for attention, desperate to get to the next staged round. His blond hair was treated with something—she wasn't sure which particular hair product guys used to make their hair sit perfectly—gel, something. The hair was great, out of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and he was wearing an elegant pinstriped double-breasted suit she figured cost more than half her wardrobe; light brown eyes, narrow face; a former squash player for Williams College, which he wedged into the conversation, now a squash champion on the squash circuit. And a mergers-and-acquisitions champion, unusual for only twenty-nine, he told her. He needed to tell. He had a big day at the office and she happened to be his Monday night blind date. So he spun tales of himself, business warrior tales, converting the bar at the restaurant into his campfire, glowing with himself, a blondish, gelish glow.

He knew she had gone to Brown, so he seemed to place her somewhere within his social class and assumed she cared one whit about corporate life, or his corporate life. He rolled on, Lou Dobbs on Money Watch. With his credentials on the table he finally focused on her, obliged, according to the rituals, to show interest. She imagined him at this point with a Rockette, asking, "And how, exactly, did you learn to kick so high?"

He asked his questions and she answered. She was finishing an article for Vanity Fair about the new generation of young theater actresses. And how did she first get into writing? In high school. And where was that? Bronx Science. He nodded, saying nothing, and she surmised he had never heard of the place, or never met anyone in his life who went anywhere with a Bronx in it. He told her he once thought about writing for his high school paper—at Exeter. Exeter. Squash. They didn't play squash in her old neighborhood.

He was actually not completely terrible, this Sean. He went several minutes asking about her and seemed to be listening. She had sat for drinks with worse. What wasn't good was the smugness, the self-importance. He knew he looked terrific, he was doing well in the lists, making sure that she knew and, lucky girl, on a blind date she drew him. Did she have any idea what the odds were in this city to draw him? He never let on that he might have been lucky to draw her.

She was twenty-four, five feet four with a slender frame, small shoulders and a slim waist, modest breasts, ample enough as they were developing in her teenage years to save her from being taunted as flat-chested by the sidewalk savants in the neighborhood who were apprenticing to become jerks. She lacked the gym-sculpted upper body and neck muscles she recognized in some of the young actresses she had interviewed, and that was fine with her. She disliked the look and was bored in gyms. She ran around the Central Park reservoir a couple of times every few mornings, listening on a Walkman to National Public Radio. She knew it was elitist on her part, but she sized up her lover-aspirant as someone who never listened to National Public Radio, except for possibly Car Talk on a Saturday morning while driving through the Hamptons in his BMW.

"Do you own a car?" she said abruptly.

"Why?"

"Just curious."

"I do."

"What kind?"

"A BMW."

"What color?"

"Blue."

"Nice."

"Did you want me to drive you someplace?" he said, suspicious of her line of questioning. "Help you move something?"

"No, I was just asking. General background."

"And what does that tell you about me—as general background? You have me as one of those BMW guys?"

"But you are."

"But that's only part of me."

"Who said it was more?"

Her dark, nearly indigo hair was cut short with loose bangs, a contrast with her fair skin and pale green eyes, and she had a small pug nose. "My little colleen," the next-door neighbor, Mr. Flaherty, called her during her childhood years. The BMW owner was appraising her looks, calculating whether to go for another drink at the bar or offer dinner, applying his spreadsheet sensibility to whether or not he could get her into bed in the near enough future for it to be economically viable.

Smart enough to realize she had him down as a type on the car, defensively he went to his strength, his business wonderfulness. Claiming to value her opinion, he described a new company that he was helping to capitalize, movies on demand by computer. A long day spent transcribing interviews and now this champion-everything was apparently on a loop, right back to where he started, only with different corporate names, and she wanted to be in bed, alone. Not a terrible guy, just, well, who cared.

"I'm wasted. Maybe we could try this again another time."

"You don't really mean that."

"I do. The maybe part."

"Fascinating."

"What is?"

"I know it didn't work out and I know you're just saying maybe when you mean no way."

"I mean maybe."

"I haven't struck out like this since I was about fourteen."

"Then you're doing great. You've got nothing to worry about."

"You could've had a wonderful life with me."

"That's terrific. That's humorous." She took his shoulders as if she were a coach at a football game and shook him. "You could use more of that."

They parted outside the restaurant and she thought he showed a little flash there at the end, but she could see the signs. This guy needed a woman directly from his social background, someone who would be thrilled to listen to his CNN business riffs, or a Bschool graduate working on her own riffs, not Veronica Ronnie Delaney from the Bronx.


Nine weeks since the end of the relationship and someone as good-looking as the squash champion didn't have a chance when she compared him to her portly, defiantly unathletic ex-boyfriend. She had met Michael Ruppert at a restaurant opening, an invitation that came through her roommate. Michael, thirty-one, was the chef, round-faced, cherubic, with an endearing smile, five feet eleven and clearly on the wrong side of appropriate weight charts. He chatted with her until he was pulled away by the restaurant owner, not before Michael asked for her phone number. He called and offered to cook dinner for her at his place on his night off and she wondered why he would want to cook when he wasn't working and he said, "Because you're beautiful and I'm nothing to look at and cooking is what I do best in the world, so it'll make me look good."


Michael lived in a SoHo loft with spare furnishings, but for the professional island kitchen. He made a salad with fresh ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket, and spaghetti Bolognese from scratch, not a fancy meal at all, which she found spectacular. His hands were lightning fast as he chopped ingredients, talking her through the preparation, savoring every element, and she identified a quality in short supply in the New York dating scene, a passion for something, as opposed to a passion for one's self. He was also of the world, political, on the left side of the spectrum, a young chef who read The Nation magazine. "I know it reads quirky at times, but who else is saying this stuff?" When she went home that night she imagined being able to write a piece on "How I Fell in Love on the First Date with an Overweight Chef."


Ronnie and Michael began seeing each other immediately and exclusively. Michael was discovered while working as a caterer at a dinner party attended by a restaurant entrepreneur. He opened Stars and Stripes in SoHo, engaging Michael, who created a variation on a comfort food/road food menu that was an immediate success with critics and the public. After a year and a half Ronnie and Michael were both coincidentally in the same issue of New York magazine. He was in a group shot and included in a cover story on hot new chefs. She was in on a more mundane level with a piece she wrote about a zoning dispute on the Upper East Side.


The hours in dating and sometimes living with a chef were maddening to her. She was not a nocturnal person and liked to start the day early, the jogging and the National Public Radio. When she slept at his apartment she routinely set her clothes out in the living room the night before in order to make her early departures. He usually wandered in around 2:00 A.M., later if he went for a chef's night out with his colleagues. They made love as often when she was roused from sleep by the night owl as they did starting out together, as it were.


She couldn't equate how a Nation subscriber could be so aggressive professionally, so capitalistic. He was publicity-driven, no interview too small: cable television, radio, magazines, newspapers, conferences in other cities. Sometimes he invited her to travel with him, sometimes he said that she would only be bored.

"The Nation runs these cruises and they go to places like Alaska," he told her when they were at Pastis Restaurant on a Saturday, his breakfast, her lunch, "and they have lectures. And the thing is, the people who go, a lot of them are rich lefties. There's no contradiction between liberal politics and money. And I want to be successful."

"You already are."

"Not Emeril-successful. You get about two minutes at this."

"Andy Warhol said fifteen."

"Whatever. This is my moment. You have to know when your moment is."

Ronnie felt a specific bond existed with Michael. Both their parents were gone. Michael's mother died of leukemia five years earlier. He hadn't seen his father in twenty years; he didn't even know if the man was still alive. Ronnie's father, who worked as a botanist for the Bronx Botanical Gardens, died of a heart attack three years earlier. Her mother died when she was eleven. Ronnie's only living relative was an irascible uncle in Saratoga, New York, a retired horse trainer, whom she never saw. She called him each year at Christmastime and on his birthday and sent him gifts on both occasions. He did not reciprocate.

She lived with a roommate, Nancy Briggs, also twenty-four, a sturdy blonde of five feet four, a former lacrosse player at Brown, with wide bright blue eyes and freckles, so sunny and all-American-looking she could have been a poster model for women's sports. Nancy worked as an assistant to a literary agent. Ronnie and Nancy's apartment was in an old building on West End Avenue and 111th Street, a two-bedroom rent-stabilized place, courtesy of Nancy's boss, Jenna Hawkins, whose son owned the building; New York insider stuff. They both fashioned home/office setups in the bedrooms, decorated from the Workbench. The living room and small dining room featured hand-me-downs and flea market items.

Nancy's boyfriend was Bob Fox, a lawyer who lived a few blocks away, and Nancy slept at his house frequently, so on nights when Ronnie was not with Michael the apartment was essentially hers. As Chef Michael rolled along on his careerist track he and Ronnie were together about twice a week, usually sleeping at his place. They introduced each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. Then, with disastrous consequences for the relationship, he made room on his plate for another girlfriend.

He was working on developing a Cooking with Michael show for the new Dining-In Network on cable. Ronnie was enthusiastic; what could be more accessible for the general public than Michael's variations on basic home cooking? She was convinced he would be a great success with it. But he was unavailable to her for three weeks as the show went from production meetings to taping.

Nancy called Ronnie from work. She needed to go right out and get a copy of the current Time Out magazine. She did so and found a photograph captioned, "Rosetta Dupree, the cabaret singer, and ace chef, Michael Ruppert, at her opening." They posed cheek-to-cheek for the camera.

Furious, she made several calls and couldn't reach Michael; she left messages. She considered going to the restaurant and confronting him and decided against it for her personal dignity. She was going to give him the following day to call back, and then she would walk in on him at the restaurant.

He called the following morning at ten thirty.

"Hey, you were trying to reach me."

"Hey, I saw Time Out, Michael."

"The paparazzi. They escalate things."

"No, they take pictures."

"Main thing is, they gave me a green light on the show."

"Congratulations. And how long have you known this? Have you already celebrated with Rosetta what's-her-name?"

"Ronnie, I've been under a lot of pressure."

"Yes?"

"At odds and ends."

"And is this Rosetta an odd or an end? Are you sleeping with her, Michael?"

"That's not the issue."

"How can that not be the issue?"

"The issue is I need to be open to new things these days."

"New things?"

"Like the show. And new people. And new business opportunities. And I care for you too much to just string you along while I go through all this."

"You mean your moment?"

"For however long it lasts. I think an exclusive relationship feels a little too exclusive right now."

"So what are you saying, you want to sleep with me and sleep with her, or just sleep with her? And how exclusive can it be if we haven't been together in weeks?"

"Ronnie, this is hard to say. I think it would be better all around if we were just friends."

"You don't end a relationship, eighteen months, Michael, with a phone call. There are things to talk about, feelings to be honored. I'm coming over."

"No."

"Is she there?" He didn't respond. "She is, isn't she? And she's using soap I bought."

"That's not so funny."

"I mean it not so funny. A cabaret singer. I get it now. You keep the same hours."

"You're a tremendous person, Ronnie."

"I thought you were, too, but you just got less tremendous. All the best with the restaurant and the new show and the new girlfriend, or girlfriends, and the new business opportunities. Did I leave anything out?"

"Ronnie, this isn't going the way I wanted it to."

"It could get worse. I could take out one of those personals in The Nation and tell all your fellow readers that you and your cuisine only seem proletarian. Good-bye, Michael."


He sent flowers and called, not looking to get together again with her, rather to offer a rewrite on the break-up, which he felt he handled badly. He even clumsily offered for her to eat in his restaurant anytime, to bring a guest if she wanted.

"I think he may have blundered into giving me a lifetime comp," she said to Nancy over breakfast on the run.

"You should do it. Just keep showing up."

"The hell with him. It's a weird culture, to parlay meat loaf into celebrity."


Ronnie and Nancy discussed online dating as a means of meeting someone new and she went so far as making an exploratory move, registering with a Web site. It seemed daunting to her, going through the e-mail gamesmanship, marketing herself electronically. The clincher was an article in The New York Times Magazine, which suggested relationships that came by way of the Internet often had a way of rapidly ending, as if someone hit a delete button. She experienced the departure of Michael as akin to a "delete text." She wasn't eager to repeat the experience. Nancy offered the squash champion via her boyfriend as a way of Ronnie getting past Michael. Ronnie was untroubled that it didn't work out with the guy. She found work was turning out to be the best antidote. She worked hard on the article for Vanity Fair, it was accepted and scheduled for the March 2005 issue.

Ronnie Delaney was virtually the writer equivalent of the new generation of young actresses she interviewed for the Vanity Fair piece. In college she wrote for The Brown Daily Herald, largely features about campus life. She intended, upon graduation, to get a job with a newspaper, and then circumstances fortunate and unfortunate conspired to direct her toward becoming a freelancer in New York.

In her senior year she queried The New York Times Magazine about doing a piece on political correctness within the Ivy League and was given the assignment. Researching and writing carried her through the time of her graduation into the summer and she stayed in her apartment near school.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Boyfriend from Hell by Avery Corman. Copyright © 2006 Avery Corman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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