Walking Disaster, Chapter 16

This is a chapter-by-chapter review of problematic romance novel ‘Walking Disaster’ by Jamie McGuire. Posts in the series will all be linked back to the initial post, here.

This was initially a companion series to the magnificent Jenny Trout‘s review of the original novel, ‘Beautiful Disaster’. Jenny has since stopped her review, not wanting to give McGuire any further publicity in the wake of her attempts to run for office.

Content warning: Violence against property. Pushy stalkery-type behaviour with complete lack of respect for boundaries.

Chapter 16: Space and Time

I really hope that title means that Abby’s headed out of Travis’s life in search of those things.

At first, I didn’t panic.

Aha! That sounds delightfully promising; this implies some panicking will shortly be involved!

As I hoped, Travis wakes up to find Abby not there. Although he initially assumes she’ll be in the bathroom or having breakfast, he rapidly realises that there’s no sign of her. This is where Travis does start panicking, so he storms into Shepley’s room (without knocking, because he’s a dick) to see whether they know what’s going on. They do, as it happens; once he’s woken them up (and then dashed out of the room to look for Abby without waiting for an answer), Shepley says that Abby woke them up in the middle of the night and said she wanted to go home, so Shepley went ahead and drove her back.

Travis slams him against the wall demanding to know why, because he is still an asshole who resorts to violence first, last, and always. America comes out and demands to know what the hell is going on, which is a damn good question. She tells Travis that Abby just hates goodbyes and she wasn’t surprised Abby wanted to leave before Travis woke up. Travis, worrying that that Abby’s regretting having had sex with him, asks whether she was crying, and America wants to know exactly why that’s where Travis’s mind went, which is another damn good question. This is the first scene in which I’ve actually liked America’s character.

Shepley also asks whether something happened, and Travis punches him. Or… maybe just punches in his general direction? The writing is ambiguous:

Without thinking, I flipped around and swung, nearly missing Shepley’s face.

I mean, if he nearly missed Shepley’s face, surely that means he hit it? But the narrative then has Shepley grabbing his arms and yelling at him to calm down, which doesn’t sound as though Travis actually hit him (I mean, if you’ve just been punched in the face by someone who makes his living as an illegal fighting champ, surely it’d be a few minutes before you can do anything other than grab at your face and try to get yourself upright.) I think McGuire might have had the phrase ‘near miss’ in mind and not thought about the fact that the way she uses it doesn’t make sense.

Shepley yells at him to call Abby, which Travis does; she doesn’t answer. She doesn’t answer on the next three attempts, either. Yup, that’s four attempts in a row at phoning her. Travis, you’re turning into a stalker.

Oh, bloody hell, it gets worse. Travis loses it completely and starts wrecking the apartment and smashing stuff, up to the point of ripping his bedroom door off his hinges. Well, that’s going to go down well with the landlord; hope you didn’t care about the money from your deposit, you two. Oh, yikes… and he’s also thrown a fishbowl at the wall (he doesn’t have fish; it was what he kept his condoms in, I don’t know why), so now there is broken glass all over the floor and no way to shut the puppy out of the room because Travis just ripped the fucking door off. Great.

Shepley screams at him to stop. America pleads with him, saying she’ll go see that Abby’s OK and have her call. My goodness, I hope that’s just a case of her saying whatever’s going to make the scary dangerous violent guy quiet down and that she doesn’t actually mean that she’ll try to get Abby to call. Anyway, it works to get Travis to shut up and stop smashing things, so he stands there getting his breath back while America gets dressed in a hurry and runs out. Much as I would like to think she’s going to go straight to the police station, I’m guessing that isn’t the case.

Shepley tells Travis to sit the fuck down and that he’s lucky he stopped because Shep was a couple of seconds away from calling his father and brothers to come deal with him. That would not have been a bad idea. He tells Travis to talk and Travis tells Shepley they had sex, to which Shepley says “Last night was tough for both of you” which… what? Weird thing to say. I mean, it probably was tough for Abby realising that she just chose to lose her virginity to someone who only cares about his own pleasure in bed, but sleeping with Abby was exactly what Travis wanted; why does Shepley think it was tough for him?

Anyway, neither of them can figure out why Abby left. Sadly, I’m going to guess that it’s not because she realised she’s with the sort of man who won’t think twice about wrecking the place when he gets upset. Both of them are talking as though this is some kind of mysterious puzzle they have to get figured out, instead of Shep pointing out that Abby would be a bloody sight safer away from him.

Shep gets Travis fixing the door while Shep sweeps up the broken glass:

Just after making the last turn on the screwdriver, my cell phone rang.

His cell phone was turning the screwdriver? On a practical note, how the hell was he screwing the door back on? For him to rip it off its hinges, the wood must have given way where it was attached. Does McGuire think the hinges tidily unscrewed themselves ready to be screwed back up?

Anyway, it’s Abby on the phone, and guess how Travis reacts:

“What the fuck happened to you last night? I wake up this morning and you’re gone and you… you just leave and don’t say goodbye? Why?”

….says the man who expects women to leave right after sex and sneers at anyone who thinks sex might mean they’re in a relationship.

“I’m sorry. I -”

“You’re sorry? I’ve been going crazy! You don’t answer your phone, you sneak out and – wh-why? I thought we finally had everything figured out!”

So, his first overwhelming reaction isn’t concern for Abby and whether she’s OK; it’s anger at her. And, yes, I’m well aware that this is all because of his upset and pain and unhappy past, and you know what? A person who has such a hard time dealing with their own pain that they turn it into lashing out at others is a person who’s not yet ready to be in an intimate adult relationship. I wish all such people well and I hope they get whatever it is they need in terms of help or support or counselling to help them move forward, but ‘have a partner who puts up with being on the receiving end of all that anger’ is not a valid solution.

Abby says she just needed some time to think. Travis asks her about what, but doesn’t wait for an answer because he moves straight on to ask ‘Did I … did I hurt you?’ So we do finally get a bit of concern from Travis, except that it’s hard to take it that seriously when he showed no indication of caring about this possibility until Abby walked out and he was faced with her reaction impacting him. Travis, you could have asked after sex. You could have – you should have – asked during sex. Or, much better, you could have set the bar higher than ‘did not cause actual physical pain’ and actually tried finding things she’d enjoy instead of just sticking your dick in her.

They have a conversation that’s basically Travis still being angry that she left without speaking to him, and Abby being apologetic and trying to placate him, and you know what? Some days you just have to write fixfic.

Just after I finished fixing the door back to its hinges, my cell phone rang and I scrambled to answer it. America’s number was lighting up.

“Mare?” I choked out. But the voice that answered was Abby’s, and it had an iciness to it I’d never heard before.

“Travis. What. The. Fuck?”

I was shocked by her tone for a fraction of a second, then my temper flared. “What do you mean, what the fuck? What the fuck happened to you? I wake up this morning and you’re gone and you… you just leave and don’t say goodbye? Why?

Her voice could have cut diamonds. “Travis. Never mind that for a second. America just told me you went crazy and smashed up the flat! She said you ripped one of the doors off! She was terrified! Travis, what the actual hell is going on?”

“Fuck, Abby, you left! I woke up and you were gone! Didn’t tell me you were going, wouldn’t answer your phone… I lost it, OK? I’ve been going crazy! Why the hell did you just walk out like that?”

“Jesus Christ, Trav, are you seriously complaining that a woman leaves you alone after sex? Hypocrite much? How often have you done that to other women?”

I felt a stab of guilt; my mind fled from it into anger. “Is that why you left? My past? You couldn’t trust me to change?”

“But you haven’t changed, have you? Travis, the minute you got upset about something, you wrecked the place because you couldn’t handle it!”

I heard her heave a sigh. Some of the force left her words.

“Travis… I’m sorry I left the way I did. I was kind of freaked out about stuff and I had to get away, had to get my head clear… I couldn’t face talking to you. I should have at least left a note. I’m sorry. But, Trav? What you did wasn’t OK. Do you get that?”

“I was angry!” I protested. How could I get her to understand?

“And that’s going to keep happening when you’re angry, isn’t it? You can’t stop and talk it over or find other ways of managing it. You just… lash out.”

I sighed, dropped my head, rubbed my forehead. How could I get her to see? “Abby, it’s what you do to me. I… goddammit, finding you were gone… it just freaked me out.”

“Travis…” I could hear her hesitate. “Have you ever tried therapy?”

My anger flared again. “You think I’m crazy? Just because I lost my temper?” I all but spat the words at her. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Shep snap into high alert, ready for me to kick off again, and the sight fuelled my creeping shame.

“Wow. Can you cut it out with the mental health shaming, for a start? What’s your problem with the thought of getting therapy? You just wrecked your apartment and attacked your best friend because you were angry! And you’re telling me that’s just your reaction to me leaving you alone? Travis…” She sighed. “I think you need something. Therapy, anger management… I don’t know. But you’re not in a good place for relationships right now.”

I felt myself go cold all over. “So… this is it? You’re breaking up with me?”

“We weren’t exactly going out, were we? Look…” She cut across my protests. “Never mind. We’ve been good friends and you mean a lot to me, and I hope you’re OK. But… well, I just don’t feel safe around you any more.”

“Pidge! How can you think… how…” My voice thickened. “I would never do anything to hurt you!”

“Until you lose your temper again? Until you convince yourself you’ve got a good enough reason so it’s all justifiable? Trav, I wanted to make things work! I kept trying to tell myself it would work! But… the minute something doesn’t go your way, you’re back to acting like a fucking toddler having a tantrum!”

“I…” I stammered, fighting for words. “I’m sorry. I just… I…”

“Trav…” She sighed again. “You need to sort yourself out. I hope… I hope you get the help you need. But I think…” Her voice cracked. “I think we need to take a break from each other.”

“No! Pidge, please… I… You can’t do this!” Panic was rising, overwhelming me. “I need you! Don’t… don’t just leave me!”

“Travis… You want me. You need help. Proper help. With your temper. With… everything. Just… please… do that.” Her voice was shaking so hard she could barely form words. “But don’t put it on me. You need to sort your own life out.”


“Goodbye, Travis. I wish you well, OK? Take care of yourself…” Her voice dissolved into tears, then the line cut out.

OK, that went on longer than I intended. But you get the idea; it’s not genius, but I think it’s better than the cack that’s actually been written. All right, let’s see what the book actually says.

Travis tells Abby she ‘can’t just drop out of my life’, and, yes, Travis, I think you’ll find she can. Well, no, scrap that; she could, but you won’t find this because she won’t do it. Anyway, she says she’ll see him tomorrow, doesn’t want anything to be weird, but just needs to sort some stuff out. She hangs up. Shep reminds Travis that breaking the door again would not be a good idea and Travis manages to show a bit of self-control this time.

America comes back. Apparently Abby said she’ll ‘keep her promise’ and that by tomorrow Travis wouldn’t miss her, which sounds interestingly ambiguous. Travis draws his own conclusion:

“She’s not coming back,” I said, falling to the couch.

The phrasing tempts me to find a .gif of someone swooning onto a fainting couch, but I can’t be bothered.

Trav says he thinks the sex was Abby’s way of saying goodbye to him. Given Travis’s age group and general lack of maturity this actually works as an overdramatisation (as in, I can see it being something that Travis would think even if he didn’t have actual reason to), but doesn’t make much sense to me as any kind of realistic assessment; if she disliked him enough that she didn’t want to see him again, I can’t imagine she’d have wanted to lose her virginity to him in the process. Anyway, America sympathetically tells him he doesn’t know this and Abby just needs space, and why the actual freaking hell are you talking as though it is any sort of a good idea for your best friend to stay with someone this violent, America?? Seriously? WTF? Wasn’t this the girl who’d decided Travis was already on his last chance? Now suddenly she’s happy to overlook the fact that he’s just wrecked the apartment when things didn’t go his way? Why, America? Why??

Anyway, America tells Travis that Abby’s just scared of her feelings for him and she can’t explain it properly because Dramatic Backstory which she’s promised Abby she won’t tell anyone. Travis wants to go round and see her despite the fact that Abby’s just tried to put him off and America has just advised him to give her some space. Instead of pointing that out, America says Abby’s going out. Travis promptly guesses that she’s meeting up with Parker, and America confirms it.

I couldn’t believe she was going to do that to me.

FFS, Travis, she is not doing it to you. She’s making her own choices about whom she wants to see. As Captain Awkward would say: she’s not choosing her social life at you.

It was just cruel.

…says the man who’s been bed-hopping for over a year and thinks of women who object to this as excessively clingy.

America rapidly tries to distract him before he starts smashing things up again, saying they’ll go out to a comedy and then go-karting. Then she sends him off to take a shower, which made me smile at the recurrence of the Shower Theme. Trav frets over how being without Abby is ‘like being stuck in a nightmare’ and he wants her to ‘save me from the terrible pain I felt without her there’ and, oh gods, Travis, this isn’t just breakup angst, this is ‘you need therapy’. This is such a terrible foundation for a relationship. And, while he does manage to swing round to a more positive outlook during the shower, it’s not because he’s focusing on how he’ll get through it even if Abby doesn’t want him, it’s because he’s realised he might still be able to convince her to come back, or, as he puts it, ‘I still had a dog in this fight’.

Scene break (with an actual line break so it’s easy to tell, which is nice to see as it has not always been the case in this book). They’re getting back from go-karting and Travis is trying to fight the urge to call Abby ‘for the thirteenth time’ and America sees this and encourages him to call and ask her out tomorrow, so, so much for the whole ‘give Abby a bit of space and time’ plan. This isn’t romantic, this is bordering on stalking.

They get inside. Travis goes ahead with calling Abby, so clearly he wasn’t fighting the urge that hard. (This is, by the way, when she’s still on a date with Parker. Despite this, she answers her phone instead of turning it off.) He says he wants to go bowling with her tomorrow. She says she’ll call him tomorrow to talk about it, OK?

“No, it’s not okay. You said you wanna be friends, but we can’t hang out?”

Not if you’re going for this level of fucking stalkery clingy behaviour, no. And then he correctly figures out she’s rolling her eyes at him, and has the fucking nerve to tell her to stop. She’ll stop rolling her eyes when you stop pulling this shit, Travis.

“How do you know I rolled my eyes? Are you stalking me?”

YES, HE IS FUCKING STALKING YOU. He’s called you over and over when he knew you wanted some space and he’s now calling when he knows you’re on a date with someone else. He’s refusing to accept boundaries even to the extent of ‘call me tomorrow when I’m not on a date’. This behaviour is so much not OK. Please stop putting up with this, Abby. Please.

Travis pushes her for an answer on the bowling tomorrow and she agrees to it, with ‘a smile in her voice’. Wow, thank you, Jamie McGuire, for reinforcing the idea that women actually like really pushy behaviour; I’m sure that won’t lead to any problems at all. (The reason this sort of behaviour is often mistaken for romantic behaviour is because people focus on the idea of how good it is to have someone wanting you this badly. But the problem is that Travis is completely disregarding what Abby actually wants, and instead focusing only on his wishes at her expense. That is not romantic; it’s a massive red flag, very dangerous in a relationship.)

Trav sits at home fretting over how the date is going and whether Abby’s going to have sex with Parker. Shepley tries telling him it’s her choice and he’s got to let it go. Travis ignores this, heads out to his bike, and calls Abby. When she tells him the date finished five minutes ago, he tells her he’ll be there in another five. There are not enough facepalms in the world at this point.

Travis heads over to the dorm parking lot. Abby comes out and asks what he’s doing there. Stalking you and being generally inappropriate, Abby. He says he was going to take a ride and wants her to come with him. No, he can’t wait till the date tomorrow, and complains that he’s not getting to see enough of her now. She tells him it’s only been two days, because McGuire’s inability to keep track of a basic timeline is now apparently so bad that she can’t count to one, which is the number of days it has actually been.

Travis tells him he misses her and to get her ass on the seat. (Yes, we’re getting these things as commands, not as requests. ‘I want you to come with me.’ ‘Get your ass on the seat and let’s go.’ Yup, our romantic hero.) She climbs on behind him. Travis feels he can breathe again. Chapter ends.


  1. Katydid says

    Wow, this story is terrifying. How old is Travis to be throwing tantrums and destroying things in his rage? Three? He’s one of those Lifetime Network movies about men who stalk and kill women and then whine that *he’s* the victim.

  2. Dr Sarah says

    @Katydid: That is exactly what he’s like. And this is what McGuire is presenting as a sweet romantic relationship. Absolutely terrifying.

  3. brightmoon says

    Omg , my late father acted like that . He was a horrible person even though he never hit my mother or destroyed property. In real life I’d tell any one to run and fast.

  4. StevoR says

    Your fan fic version is so very much better here. Well writ & thankyou.

    Oh, yikes… and he’s also thrown a fishbowl at the wall (he doesn’t have fish; it was what he kept his condoms in, I don’t know why), so now there is broken glass all over the floor and no way to shut the puppy out of the room because Travis just ripped the fucking door off. Great.

    (Italics original.)

    So..where is the puppy in all this? I’ve lost track. I really hope it wasn’t there cowering in a corner in terror at the noise and Travis’es violent tantrum.. Hope someone responsible was looking after it?

    He tells Travis to talk and Travis tells Shepley they had sex, to which Shepley says “Last night was tough for both of you” which… what? Weird thing to say.

    Yup. So much especially afterTravis has just kinda maybe punched him in the face.. I mean I guess he can hardly say, poor Abby having sex with a scumbag like you without Travis getting really violent again but still..

    She climbs on behind him. Travis feels he can breathe again.

    Narrator voice over : Unfortunately it was already too late and Travis hadn’t been breathing so long he was already brain dead. Not that it would make a discernible difference in his conduct… Surprisingly, Abby did not seem to notice she was already holding onto one of the undead..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.