Chapter Five: Atlas – Chapter Eight: Lily 

Chapter Five: Atlas 

When Atlas’ other restaurant Corrigan’s is hit by the vandal, Atlas realizes that he’s being targeted. He reviews the security footage and sees that the vandal appears to be a young man, who slept on the restaurant the night he tagged it. Atlas feels pity for the boy, who reminds him of himself during his homeless teenage years. Atlas then gets an unexpected phone call from his mother, Sutton, who he hasn’t spoken to since he was 17. He asks Sutton if she’s dying or if she needs money, and when she says no on both accounts, he hangs up on her and blocks her number, angry at himself for spending as much time on the phone with her as he did. He’s surprised at his strong emotional reaction to her call believing he’d be indifferent to her by this point. 

Chapter Six: Lily 

Allysa, Lily’s best friend and Ryle’s sister, and Lily are talking in the flower shop, brainstorming about Emerson’s first birthday party. Atlas arrives with lunch for Lily, which he calls the why are you avoiding me pasta. Allysa goes into the backroom. Lily is happy to see Atlas, but she’s also conflicted, which Atlas sees. He touches her lightly on the hand. Allysa returns to warn Lily that Ryle is coming to the shop. She hides Atlas in the closet so that Ryle doesn’t see him. Ryle visits briefly. An abashed Lily hurries to free Atlas from the closet. Atlas pulls Lily into the closet with him. He asks if he can call her that evening. She says her life is complicated, and Atlas asks if his presence complicates things for her or for Ryle. Lily tells Atlas he can call her whenever. Allysa questions Lily about what’s going on with Atlas. Lily says nothing and feels guilt knowing that there’s a part of Allysa that wishes that Lily was still her sister-in-law. 

Chapter Seven: Atlas 

Theo and Atlas talk about Lily. After some joking, Theo shyly reveals that his crush is on a boy. Atlas assures Theo that he won’t tell his father about his sexuality but assures him that his father would be accepting. The mood lightens when Theo teases Atlas for telling Lily that they’d made it to shore, something he said when they ran into each other on the street. 

Chapter Eight: Lily 

Lily’s getting ready for bed, after waiting all night for Atlas to call. As soon as she starts washing her face, he FaceTimes her, and she’s embarrassed to show him her face during her bedtime routine. They are both in bed as they talk to each other. Atlas asks Lily about her life, about parenting and the flower shop, and she says that she likes her business but it’s also really exhausting. They discuss how, if they do start a relationship, Ryle will be upset, and Atlas agrees to go slowly. Lily also mentions that Ryle read her teenage journals. Atlas asks if she still has them. Atlas persuades Lily to read an entry, and Lily reads one where Atlas comforts her and she realizes he likely saw her walking around her childhood room wearing just a t-shirt and underwear. Atlas begs Lily to let him read her other journals. Lily asks Atlas about his day, and he tries to brush off the question, but eventually tells her that both his restaurants were vandalized by a teenager, whose safety he’s concerned about. He tells her the boy may not have a Lily to save him. Lily has to go when Emerson starts crying but they agree to go on a date the following Saturday. 



The motif of vandalism represents a cry for help, which Atlas responds to with characteristic compassion. Atlas’s colleagues expect that he would call the police to report the crimes being perpetrated against his restaurants. Instead, thought Atlas doesn’t yet know that the vandal is his younger brother, Atlas recognizes that the young vandal is in a lonely and difficult situation and that he may need help. Atlas empathizes with the boy, who seems to be experiencing houselessness, recounting when he was a teenager without a home. He may not know what the vandal needs, but he is immediately thoughtful, considerate, and protective of the boy. Even though it becomes clear that the vandal is directly attacking Atlas, and even though Atlas’s businesses are impacted by the costly crimes, Atlas seeks to help the boy instead of pursuing criminal charges.  

This section explores the motif of closets as well, which reflects protective, shameful, and alluring power of secrets. In the first novel in this duology, Lily kept her abuse in the metaphorical closet, allowing it to continue. By bringing it out of the closet, Lily was able to end the abuse cycles and to start healing. In the second novel, when Ryle shows up at the flower shop, Lily hides Atlas in her supply closet to avoid a messy confrontation. The closet serves to protect both Atlas and Lily from Ryle’s rage and to protect their budding romance from Ryle’s jealous and antagonistic scrutiny. Though the closet serves a protective function, Lily is also mortified that her life is such a mess that she has to hide Atlas in a closet, which reflects her shame at being involved with a man who is incapable of coping with jealousy or handling his emotions maturely. Once Ryle is gone, though, the closet becomes a space of privacy for Atlas and Lily, an alluring and sexy escape from the everyday. Alone together in the closet, Atlas is able to ask Lily for a phone date, and Lily is able to fully feel her attraction to Atlas. This reflects the privacy that the two need in the early stages of their vulnerable relationship to let the feelings between them grow. 

This section also explores the negative and positive ways the past informs the present for both Atlas and Lily, suggesting that both are still learning from their past. When Atlas’s mother calls him, it is an unexpected and unwelcome intrusion from his past, a past that he never thought was going to resurface in his life again. When he immediately assumes that Sutton is dying or needs money, it illustrates how little trust there is between Atlas and his mother, as he can only assume that she would call for negative and selfish reasons. Though Atlas thinks that his mother doesn’t have any influence on his current life, the anxiety the call causes in him suggests that his past is not truly behind him. In contrast, Lily’s interactions with Atlas bring back a flood of positive memories from her adolescence, and their early relationship informs and deepens her attachment to Atlas in the first blush of their second-chance romance. Lily also notes how she has grown and has a different understanding of the world than she did as a teen, such as when she notes that she understands how rare Atlas is. In difficult and rewarding ways, both Atlas and Lily have to face and learn from their past.