Author: Morgan Rogers
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Publisher: Park Row Books
(Park Row Books; February 23, 2021; $17.99) by Morgan Rogers is a
stunning #ownvoices debut, a charming, lyrical, and introspective
romantic coming-of-age story about Grace Porter – millennial, Black
woman, astronomy Ph.D. – who wakes up after a wild night in Vegas
married to a woman she doesn’t know.
Strait-laced and structured all her
life, Porter now faces life without a plan for the first time ever.
Between her disappointed military father, the competitive job market,
and a consuming sense of aimlessness, finding and falling in love
with her wife across the country seems to be the only right answer.
But Porter’s problems are just as big in Brooklyn as they are
anywhere else, and she realizes she’s going to have to face
adulthood whether she’s ready or not.
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Grace wakes up slow
like molasses. The only difference is molasses is sweet, and this—the
dry mouth and the pounding headache—is sour. She wakes up to the
blinding desert sun, to heat that infiltrates the windows and warms
her brown skin, even in late March.
Her alarm buzzes
as the champagne-bubble dream pops.
Grace wakes in Las
Vegas instead of her apartment in Portland, and she groans.
She’s still in
last night’s clothes, ripped high-waisted jeans and a cropped,
t-shirt she didn’t pack. The bed is warm, which isn’t surprising.
But as Grace moves, shifts and tries to remember how to work her
limbs, she notices it’s a different kind of warm. The bed, the
covers, the smooth cotton pillowcase beside her, is body-warm.
The hotel bed smells
like sea-salt and spell herbs. The kind people cut up and put in tea,
in bottles, soaking into oil and sealed with a little chant. It
smells like kitchen magic.
She finds the will
to roll over into the warm patch. Her memories begin to trickle in
from the night before like a movie in rewind. There were bright
lights and too-sweet drinks and one club after another. There was a
girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair and, yes, sea-salt
and sage behind her ears and over the soft, veiny parts of her
wrists. Her name clings to the tip of Grace’s tongue but does not
The movie in Grace’s
head fast-forwards. The girl’s hand stayed clutched in hers for the
rest of the night. Her mouth was pretty pink. She clung to Grace’s
elbow and whispered, “Stay with me,” when Agnes and Ximena
decided to go back to the hotel.
Stay with me,
she said, and Grace did. Follow
she said, like Grace was used to doing. Follow your alarm. Follow
your schedule. Follow your rubric. Follow your graduation plan.
Follow a salt and sage girl through a city of lights and find
yourself at the steps of a church.
Maybe it wasn’t a
church. It didn’t seem like one. A place with fake flowers and red
carpet and a man in a white suit. A fake priest. Two girls giggled
through champagne bubbles and said yes.
Grace covers her eyes and sees it play out.
mutters, sitting up suddenly and clutching the sheets to keep herself
She gets up, knees
wobbling. “Get it together, Grace Porter.” Her throat is dry and
her tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth. “You are hungover.
Whatever you think happened, didn’t happen.” She looks down at
her t-shirt and lets out a shaky screech into her palms. “It
couldn’t have happened, because you are smart, and organized, and
careful. None of those things would lead to a wedding.
she murmurs, trying to make up the bed. It’s a fruitless task, but
making up the bed makes sense,
and everything else doesn’t. She pulls at the sheets, and three
things float to the floor like feathers.
A piece of
hotel-branded memo paper. A business card. A photograph.
Grace picks up the
glossy photograph first. It is perfectly rectangular, like someone
took the time to cut it carefully with scissors.
In it, the plastic
church from her blurry memories. The church with its wine-colored
carpet and fake flowers. There is no Elvis at this wedding, but there
is a man, a fake priest, with slicked back hair and rhinestones
around his eyes.
In it, Grace is tall
and brown and narrow, and her gold, spiraling curls hang past her
shoulders. She is smiling bright. It makes her face hurt now, to know
she can smile like that, can be that happy surrounded by things she
Across from her,
their hands intertwined, is the
girl. In the picture, her cheeks are just as rose-pink. Her hair is
just as pitch-black as an empty night sky. She is smiling, much like
Grace is smiling. On her left hand, a black ring encircles her
finger, the one meant for ceremonies like this.
Grace, hungover and
wary of this new reality, lifts her own left hand. There, on the same
finger, a gold ring. This part evaded her memories, forever lost in
sticky-sweet alcohol. But there is it, a ring. A permanent and
binding and claiming ring.
“What the hell
did you do, Porter?” she says, tracing it around her finger.
She picks up the
business card, smaller and somehow more intimate, next. It smells
like the right side of the bed. Sea salt. Sage. Crushed herbs. Star
anise. It is a good smell.
On the front, a
ARE YOU THERE?
late night show for lonely creatures
supernatural. Sometimes both.
She picks up the
hotel stationery. The cramped writing is barely legible, like it was
written in a hurry.
I know who I am,
but who are you? I woke up during the sunrise, and your hair and your
skin and the freckles on your nose glowed like gold. Honey-gold. I
think you are my wife, and I will call you Honey
Consider this a calling card, if you ever need a—I don’t know how
these things work. A friend? A—
it says, but crossed out.
A partner. Or. I
don’t know. I have to go. But I think I had fun, and I think I was
happy. I don’t think I would get married if I wasn’t. I hope you
What is it they
say? What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Well, I can’t stay.
Maybe one day
you’ll come find me, Honey
Until then, you can follow the sound of my voice. Are you listening?
from Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers, Copyright ©
2021 by Morgan Rogers
by Park Row Books
Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer
girls that are looking for their place in the world. She lives in
Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she
would love to write into a story one day. HONEY GIRL is her