First Chapter Preview — Love’s A Disaster by Andrew Knott

Elizabeth Gilliland Rands
10 min readApr 1, 2024

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A closed door, second-chance romance with lots of humor and heart

Chapter 1

September 3, 2010

If Caleb Monroe could give all the guys out there just one piece of advice, it would be this. If you’re planning to propose to the love of your life at an outdoor punk rock concert during summer in Florida, do not, and this can’t be emphasized enough, wear black eyeliner. No matter how cool you think you look, it’s not worth the risk. Because if things go south, your would-be fiancée panics and runs out while you’re down on one knee, and the tears start welling up from somewhere deep inside, the waterfall of emotion will have your make-up running faster than, well, the person who just broke your heart into a zillion pieces. Getting rejected is hard enough. But having to jostle your way out of a mosh pit with black smudges on your cheeks after getting rejected? That’s even more humiliating. Because between the smudges and the damp, sweaty hair and the black tattered jeans and the leather choker with spikes, you’ll probably look like a bedraggled coal miner who shops at Hot Topic.

Now, this might seem like extremely specific advice. You might be asking yourself: Is it very likely that this advice will come in handy in my life? Well, it’s hard to say, but one thing is certain. Caleb Monroe wishes someone would’ve given him a heads-up about this particular possibility before it all went down.

Sometimes extremely specific advice is the best kind.

“Hey, I’m going to grab a drink before The Pigeontoes come on,” Caleb shouts over the thrashing of guitars and primal screams produced by the concert’s opening act. It’s Labor Day Weekend in the heart of Florida, so the air is thick with humidity and the smell of weed and sweat. “I’ve always wanted to try one of those Smirnoff things! Maybe something with pomegranate in it. I’m feeling a little crazy tonight!”

“Um, can you just get me a bottle of water?” Sadie replies.

“Okay! One bottle of water for M’lady!” Caleb gives a little bow like he’s a medieval knight at court. He thinks it’s kind of their thing. It’s unclear whether Sadie agrees.

Caleb and Sadie are positioned close to the stage and the crowd has filled in some since they arrived a half hour before. They are two small dots floating in an undulating, buzzing mass of exposed flesh, piercings, green hair, tattoos, and body odor. The sun is finally starting to dip behind the tree line, silhouetting the palm trees and tall pines on the horizon. The sweltering heat doesn’t diminish, it just changes shape.

Caleb takes a moment to get his bearings, identifying the path of least resistance to the concessions area. One path is blocked by a guy and girl who have been making out for so long that Caleb wouldn’t be surprised if their tongues are knotted together, perhaps requiring medical intervention. He leaves them to it, because sometimes people have to learn the hard way, and slides past an older man with a wild look in his eyes and a leather backpack looped over one shoulder.

While it’s true that Caleb is “feeling a little crazy tonight,” the prospect of a pomegranate-flavored alcoholic beverage is probably not what’s causing his stomach to churn relentlessly. His thoughts are scattered and completely lacking organization. Caleb’s mom would be very disappointed.

Where is the ring? It’s gotta be in one of these pockets, right? Will it even be possible for Sadie to hear my proposal over all the noise? Am I doing the right thing? At this particular moment in time and, you know, in general?

At last, the mass of humanity recedes, and the concession stand beckons. Caleb falls into line behind an extremely tall, lanky man who seems even taller because of his heavily shellacked, spiky mohawk that juts out at least six inches from his closely shaved scalp. The man orders three cans of Bud Light. After he collects his drinks, he gives Caleb a nod, his mohawk trembling menacingly, before moving aside to clear the way.

“Do you have any drinks with pomegranate?” Caleb shouts to the concessions worker so she can hear him above the din of the concert crowd.

“What?” she replies. She looks at Caleb as if he has two heads, maybe three.

“POM-E-GRANATE!” Caleb shouts a bit louder, enunciating the syllables.

“Um, I don’t think so? We have Mike’s Hard Lemonade?”

“That will do! And let me get a bottle of water and a beer. Actually, make it a double!”

“A double what? Two beers?”

“Sure! It’s a big night!”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah! I’m proposing to my girlfriend!”

“Wow. That is big. Here, the lemonade is on me then. For good luck. And since we didn’t have the pome… whatever.”

“Thanks! That’s really cool of you!”

Caleb gathers up the bottles and two cups of beer. A small rivulet of foam sloshes over the edge and drips down the side of the plastic onto his fingers. He belatedly realizes he ordered way too many drinks for two people. Especially since one of the people only asked for water. He’s not sure what he’s going to do with all the drinks now that he has them in his possession, but he has more important things to worry about.

“Hey,” the girl says as Caleb turns to leave. He looks back. She looks pensive. Maybe a bit sad. “Don’t mess it up,” she says.

Caleb flashes a nervous smile, “That’s the plan,” he replies. “I mean, trying not to mess it up is the plan.”

He leans down to take a sip from one of the beers to stop it from leaking all over him. Then he turns toward the crowd, ready to brave the maelstrom with way too many drinks in hand, one ring in his pocket (hopefully), and a destiny to fulfill. If he doesn’t mess it up.

The concert feels like it goes on forever. Has it been seven hours? Eight? Forty-five minutes? Caleb has lived his entire life in Florida, so he knows it is always hot in early September, of course, but is it usually this hot? The heat feels different somehow. Like it’s emanating from inside of him. He thinks back to summertime when he was in high school, and his Society for Creative Anachronism troupe used to suit up for medieval battles at the park beside the middle school. Wearing chainmail on a late-July afternoon before the daily thunderstorms descended was pretty damn uncomfortable, but this heat was even more all-encompassing. Maybe it’s the Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Honestly, the drink is a delight, but it does seem to be pretty potent. And perhaps pairing it with two beers wasn’t the smartest decision Caleb has ever made.

He begins to feel lightheaded and dazed. When he looks around at Sadie, the crowd, the stage, it seems like there is a film covering the world. Like someone unraveled a gigantic roll of Saran Wrap and covered everyone and everything except for Caleb. Maybe the gods did it? If gods existed, Caleb wouldn’t be surprised if this was how they chose to spend their time and utilize their powers. Messing with him specifically. And based on Caleb’s personal history, it certainly seemed like the gods did enjoy toying with him. Like bored house cats torturing an innocent mouse.

The Pigeontoes have been rocking out for quite some time now, but honestly, Caleb’s barely noticed. He’s been focusing on staying upright and keeping an eye on Sadie to see if she’s giving off any particular vibes he should be aware of. He studies Sadie’s face and his heart almost stops. She has a way of doing this to him. In fact, she has since the first time they met. Her black eyeliner makes her piercing blue eyes stand out even more. Just one look with those eyes can turn Caleb’s whole world upside down. He becomes so captivated he can’t think straight. Sadie looks in Caleb’s direction now and gives him a small smile. He gives her a big goofy smile back and he’s certain he looks like a complete moron.

From what Caleb can tell, Sadie is having a good time. She’s bobbing her head a fair amount, singing along sometimes, throwing her hands in the air when the lead singer says she should. Everything seems normal enough. She was a little distracted when they stopped for pizza on the way to the concert. She was on her phone most of the time and she didn’t eat much, but she falls into those moods sometimes. It’s like her mind slips away into another dimension for a few minutes or hours or days, leaving her body behind to steer the ship. And then suddenly, she’s back. Happy Sadie returns. Well, not Happy Sadie so much as caustic, sarcastic, and whip-smart Sadie. When she starts to poke fun at him for making puns instead of letting the puns slide by, Caleb knows she’s back to her normal self.

Oh god, the song is coming up. For weeks, Caleb has been obsessively checking online for information about The Pigeontoes’ shows. He has memorized their standard setlist, and the song they’re on now, “All My Favorite Hearts are Broken,” comes right before the song he’s been waiting for. Where is the damn ring?

While he’s searching the pockets of his jeans, Caleb pulls out his phone. A notification on the lock screen indicates a text message from Mom. He glances at it quickly and sees need to talk and it’s important. He doesn’t think much of it. Something is always important to Mom. She probably found an error in the Excel spreadsheet he emailed her this morning that they use to track sale prices at the local grocery stores.

No time for coupons now! It’s go time. Time to focus and land this plane. Maybe his preparation hasn’t been flawless, but what matters most is the moment. That’s what his high school robotics team coach, Ms. Farragut, used to tell Caleb when he got nervous before regionals. She would say, “Robotics stars aren’t made in the lab or classroom. They are made at that moment when the gymnasium lights are burning bright, and the first bits of metal begin to clash and clang.”

A different type of metallic clashing and clanging brings Caleb’s attention back to the present. The Pigeontoes have just wrapped up “All My Favorite Hearts are Broken” and the crowd is delirious. The drummer, shirtless and apparently enraged by something (maybe the heat?), has just put his foot through his base drum and tossed a cymbal stand across the stage. The spectacle, the clattering of the crashing cymbals, and the squawking of the pummeled stage mic only make the crowd more frenzied. In the pit, it feels like standing in the ocean when a hurricane is churning way out in the Atlantic. Waves of bouncing bodies undulate and crash around and against each other. Their brains are all melting, but goddammit, they are having the time of their lives.

For a terrifying few seconds, Caleb thinks he might die before his big moment. What a shame that would be, but also a bit of a relief, maybe? However, things settle down as the lead singer, his black hair damp with sweat and sticking out in every direction, steps up to the mic, stretches his arms to the side, and rasps, “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” while making the calm down motion with his hands. During the lull, Caleb gathers himself, slipping the ring out of his back pocket–that’s right! He had moved it to the back pocket so it wouldn’t fall out when he was messing about with his wallet or phone. He clenches the ring tightly in his sweaty palm, hiding it from the world.

From here it’s a blur. The song starts. The crowd quiets. Raising their cell phones in the air, illuminating the night sky with the flashlights. From above, it probably looks like the world has turned upside down. The sky with its twinkling stars has somehow switched positions with the muddy earth. From Caleb’s perspective, it feels like one million cars have directed their headlights straight into his eyes all at once. Is the world upside down? Right-side up? It’s impossible to say. With his last remaining thread of conscious thought, Caleb recognizes that the song’s bridge is coming up. It’s now or never. He hurriedly grabs Sadie’s wrists. She is quite obviously startled. He turns her toward him, gazes into her ocean blue eyes, and begins to sing along. Sadie is clearly uncomfortable now, her eyes wide, like a cartoon character who has just seen an anvil hurtling toward her head. The music fades away. The crowd seems to recede. All that’s left is Caleb down on one knee with a ring in his hand, saying something that Sadie may or may not be able to hear.

She pulls her hands away. Recognition in her eyes. And something else. Perhaps a twinge of… horror? She takes a quick look around to find a way out. Her eyes are watering. She races away, grasping, pushing, and shoving through anyone and anything blocking her escape.

Caleb is still down on one knee, one hand outstretched, the ring still clenched between his thumb and index finger. The light from cell phone flashlights glints off the small diamond. All that’s left in front of him are the shoe-shaped indentations in the mud where Sadie had been standing. And what feels like a billion strangers surrounding him. He looks up and catches a glimpse of Sadie disappearing into the crowd. One moment she’s there and the next she’s gone. It’s funny how that can happen.

Want to find out what happens next with Caleb and Sadie and their epic(ally awkward) love story? LOVE’S A DISASTER by Andrew Knott is available for pre-order now and will debut in ebook, KU, and paperback format on May 21st!

Amazon US — https://www.amazon.com/Loves-Disaster-second-chance-romance-ebook/dp/B0CWZDFK1G/

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Elizabeth Gilliland Rands

Writer, Mom, Wife, English Instructor, Dr., Chocoholic. Co-founder of Bayou Wolf Press and the Detours Ahead podcast: www.bayouwolfpress.com