Chapter One: Atlas – Chapter Four: Lily 

Chapter One: Atlas 

Atlas arrives at work to find evidence of a break-in. His restaurant has graffiti on the backdoor, which is misspelled in a way that reminds Atlas of his mother. Atlas and his coworkers investigate the incident. Atlas’s coworker, Brad, reveals that the person who broke into and defaced the restaurant only stole some croutons. Atlas, concerned that the person vandalizing his restaurant may be hungry like he was when he was homeless, decides not to contact the police. Though Atlas’s coworker Darin is concerned their second restaurant, Corrigan’s, will be targeted as well, Atlas assumes the incident was a crime of opportunity. His attention is split between the discussion and his phone, as he’s waiting for a text back from Lily after running into her on the street. Darin and Bruce are eager to hear about what’s going on with Lily, but Atlas keeps it as private as possible, nervous about making their reconnection into more than it is. 

Chapter Two: Lily 

Lily is shaken after running into Atlas, worried that she said the wrong things and worried about her messy, maternal appearance. Lily’s extremely busy at the flower shop, though, and has barely had a second to think let alone text Atlas. When she fulfills an order for an apology bouquet, Lily recalls the cause for her own apology gifts and wonders if the man hit the woman who he bought roses for. Lily worries that her abusive ex-husband, Ryle, will have an issue with her reconnecting with Atlas. Ryle’s jealousy toward Ryle was the source of many violent fights between Lily and Ryle in the past. Lily wants to process her feelings, so she turns to her familiar journal, which she addresses to Ellen DeGeneres. She tells Ellen that she divorced Ryle, and he still has custody because she didn’t want the separation to get ugly. She still is afraid that her daughter, Emerson, will experience Ryle’s violent side. Though Lily doesn’t want Ryle’s opinion to affect her, because he’s Emerson’s father, she’s worried he would make life with Atlas impossible. 

Chapter Three: Atlas 

Atlas turns to Theo, Bruce’s 12-year-old son, for advice about Lily. Theo teases Atlas about using a Finding Nemo reference in his conversation with Lily. Theo tells Atlas to text Lily back because it’s been eight hours since they saw each other. Atlas texts Lily that it was good to see her. She replies, “You too.” Atlas hopes for more, but she doesn’t say anything else, and Atlas feels defeated. 

Chapter Four: Lily 

Lily receives a text from Ryle that he’s taking Emmy to Lily’s house, which he’s able to do because he still has a key. This makes Lily uncomfortable. She knows that if she wants to be with Atlas, she’s going to need to set better boundaries with Ryle. When they are eating dinner, she gets a text and lunges for her phone. It’s her mother, not Atlas, but Ryle senses something is up and asks her if she’s seeing someone. She says it’s none of his business. Ryle gets upset when Lily asks for the key to her apartment back and suggests that he will take her to court to get more time with Emerson. Lily holds her ground and Ryle relents, asking when he’ll be able to have overnights when Emerson. Lily says when she can talk, so if something happens, she’ll be able to tell Lily. Wordlessly, Ryle returns Lily’s key and leaves. Lily revisits the list she made of reasons why she divorced Ryle, which includes that he was physically abusive to her, tried to force himself on her, and that she wants to protect her daughter. 


This section explores the ways that Lily is still haunted by Ryle’s abuse. Though Lily and Ryle have been separated for a year and a half, Lily is still hypervigilant when it comes to Ryle, anticipating topics that will make him angry and fearing his response to her life choices. For example, in this early stage of reconnecting with Atlas, Lily stresses over Ryle’s reaction to her dating Atlas as much as she thinks about her own potential for happiness. She’s concerned not just for the immediate ramifications in her life but a lifelong struggle with Ryle, borne out of his jealousy and rage. Worried that happiness might not be possible for her because of Ryle’s out-of-proportion reactions and jealousy, Lily even considers not entering a relationship with Atlas. This suggests that Ryle’s emotions and tendency toward violence still dominates Lily’s life, impacting her ability to make her own choices, to do what’s best for her daughter, and to fully move on from their relationship. This illustrates how difficult it is to escape cycles of violence. Though Ryle is not physically abusive Lily, she still bears the emotional scars of his violence and rage. She is still locked in a mental and emotional abuse cycle wherein Ryle continues to hold power over her. 

This section explores the contrast of healthy love and toxic love through Atlas’s and Ryle’s interactions with Lily. Though it is early in their romance, Atlas illustrates that he is more considerate and caring of Lily than is Ryle. In the past, Atlas repeatedly held back his romantic feelings for Lily, not wanting to complicate her life. In contrast, in the past, Ryle prioritized his own needs and emotions, complicating Lily’s life and causing her immense physical and mental pain. Once they reconnect, Atlas is concerned about how Lily feels, hesitating to reach out to her in case she’s scared, confused, or wants something different than he does. In contrast, Ryle continues to prioritize his own emotions, threatening Lily with legal action when she tries to set boundaries with him by taking back the key to her apartment. While Ryle forces his presence on Lily, often disturbing her peace and causing her fear, Atlas holds himself back, taking Lily’s lead in deference to her autonomy. Comparing Ryle’s behavior to Atlas’s illustrates the difference between Ryle’s toxic attachment to Lily and Atlas’s loving devotion to her. 

This section introduces the symbol of the list of reasons why Lily divorced Ryle, which represents how difficult it is for Lily to escape Ryle’s abuse and manipulation. Lily revisits the list often after arguments with Ryle, which reminds her of the ways Ryle has abused her and how she left him in order to protect Emerson. This illustrates how difficult it has been for Lily to believe herself and her own experience in the face of Ryle’s continued abuse and gaslighting. For example, on the rooftop where they met, Ryle asks Lily what they are doing, suggesting that their separation was a mistake and trying to gaslight her into thinking the divorce is a mistake too. Because he continually attempts to erode her boundaries, make her believe her feelings are invalid, and overpower her into coming back to him, Lily needs the list to remind herself of the truth. Ryle’s tactics illustrate that, though Ryle no longer hurts Lily physically, he still perpetuates the cycle of emotional and psychological abuse by attempting to dominate Lily and override her desires.