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The Fifth

A Love(s) Story

MP Boisvert

Translated by Monica Meneghetti

A contemporary novel about polyamory, full of eclectic and refreshing characters navigating love, life, and desire among their chosen family.

Critically acclaimed in the original French, The Fifth offers a refreshing take on sexuality and desire. Alice, Gayle, Camille and Simon live together in a polyamorous relationship, affectionately referred to as the Family. Camille, a trans woman, and Gayle are lovers; Simon is in a relationship with Alice; and Alice is in a relationship with everyone. But when Alice invites her seemingly straight ex-boyfriend Eloy to move into their Sherbrooke, Quebec apartment—albeit temporarily—the Family’s dynamic begins to change in unexpected ways.

Narrated by each Family member along with script-like interludes, the daily lives of Alice, Gayle, Camille, Simon, and Eloy show a loving and satisfying non-traditional relationship. Infused with Quebecois culture, The Fifth is a story rarely represented in Canadian literature. Not about infidelity or possessiveness, rather, it is about the individuals as they navigate love and desire, and punch stereotypes and stigma in the face. Now available for the first time in English from translator and award-winning author Monica Meneghetti, The Fifth is honest, delightfully unconventional, breaks down barriers and challenges norms in our society.

“The vignettes of The Fifth emanate wit, warmth, and charm—a celebration of queer, polyamorous community and the joyful mess of ordinary life. It’s easy to love these characters as much as they love each other.”
—Kim Fu, author of The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

“A unique take on polyamory in a Quebecois setting. MP Boisvert—as translated by Monica Meneghetti—beautifully captures how an unknown roommate can turn into an intimate ally, how our insecurities can overwhelm us and that love can be heartbreakingly complex, no matter the number of partners. The Fifth gives us a fly-on-the-wall view of the struggles and depth of what it takes to choose your family and stand by those relationships.”
—Jenny Yuen, author of Polyamorous: Living and Loving More

The Temporary Arrangement (July)

ALICE
     thinking deep thoughts before he arrives

For the third time since the sun decided to wake me up at six o’fucking clock in the morning, winning the war with curtains I should’ve replaced a long time ago, the no-pressure shower head trickles glacial water down the length of my back.

I sigh with contentment.

It’s not quite nine and everyone else is still asleep – except Gayle, as per ‘yoozh. Eloy’s not here yet. I’m back in the shower because I’m hot. The living room is just as much of a sauna as my bedroom. The timid gush of chilly water reminds me I’m intelligent and intelligible; a human being, not a walking dishrag.

Might as well stay in here. Cold water is practically free, and who cares if my teeth are chattering? My knees were already shaking anyway.

His arrival—more like “his return”—reminds me there was a time when I tried having Just One™. One at a time. Like you’re supposed to. I’d forgotten.

I’d paired up with Just One™, a Monogamous-but-not-monosexual, and I was one of those too, or I thought I was. I thought we were two of a kind. We were head-over-heels, it was True Love. Head-over-heels, as in words can’t express how much I love you, people say they’re in love but they have no clue what it means because no one could possibly love each other as much as we do, other people are doing it wrong, other people are losers.

It was hopeless. Our love snobbery oozed from every pore.

And then, shenanigans. Someone else came along and I fell head-over-heels againa different head-over-heels of course, but no less intense, so I wanted them both and tried to have them both. Without telling them. What a great idea.

Soon, instead of having Just One™ times two, I had none at all. You can’t mess with the trademark, but I didn’t understand that yet.

Even worse, the second one wasn’t up to par. Actually, people were always reminding me of it. That he wasn’t worth the trouble. As if I didn’t know.

My hair doesn’t need washing, but I tip my head back and wet it anyway just to take the cold with me when I get out, to keep it on my head a little longer. My skin dries too fast.

Whether it’s a novel or a film, it’s always the same: you’re supposed to choose. You absorb that. I absorbed that. I thought I needed the ease of a relationship and the excitement of cheating. All I had to do was not mention my partners to anyone. That’s how it is in the fairy tales. I just had to do the same in real life. I wish I could say I read the wrong stories, but the right ones, the ones suited to my endless supply of love, weren’t exactly available. That’s always the problem, the lack of available options. That and limited time: you can’t read all the stories.

The ultimate curse.

I debate whether to wash because I already did, just after I was forced out of bed. I have no problem with the feel or smell of my own sweat. I only took a shower because I couldn’t take the heat anymore but since I’m here, I might as well soap up again. I have nothing else to do but think …

… oh wait, Eloy did this too, just before we met for the first time. He took three showers before I got to his place, to escape his parents and little brother. It was the only way of getting any peace and quiet in their little house in Saint-Eustache, he told me later. That was before his parents went back to Temiscamingue, before we were old enough to see each other without them breathing down our necks. He also told me, when I questioned his choice of wearing jeans in that heat, I don’t wear shorts.

Maybe I shouldn’t have insisted he come live with us. Nostalgia, pity, all that shit – they got the better of me. He said he was looking for a place just for a few months, just until I find a job and already the next day, I was discussing it with the 5th floor Family.

No, I shouldn’t have insisted because now if it backfires, it’ll be my fault. But really, how could it go wrong? He’s not judge-y, he understands, he wants to fit in, I just know it, even though he never said it in so many words.

But it’s not like he’s the most transparent guy, so maybe I shouldn’t put my faith in him. Too late, he’s on his way here. There will be a bed in his room, another towel in the bathroom and another place at the table. There will be five of us. Too bad. Four’s a good number, a square number, literally. Four corners, four sides. Although we’re less a square than a triangle with a line extending from one of the corners that’s kind of unrelated to the rest—a nameless polygon.

Four was good, but I’m incapable of saying no to someone I love. Or rather used to love. Someone I loved a little less over time. Well, not really less but differently. Actually, I never really stopped loving him. So, I still love him, but not in the same way, you know?

I couldn’t say no. Plus, he fits in well. He will fit in well. Just have to give him some time.

No matter how much I concentrate on each swipe of soap over my body’s endless peaks and valleys , I can’t help thinking about him moving in – angsting, that is, over the concept of him being here. Showers are too routine. I should have taken a bath, balanced a computer on the lid of the toilet to watch a movie, but that would have meant cleaning the tub – too much work. I was hot. Still hot, actually.

He’s not even here yet and I’m already imagining the inverted triangle of sweat on the back of his t-shirt. If it weren’t against the law, I’d definitely be topless while helping him with his boxes—it’s so unfair. I could always encourage him to take his shirt off instead – “It’s legal for you, so why not take advantage?”—even though he’d never take it off willingly. No one should ever glimpse his skeletal body carrying boxes, those non-existent muscles flexing under milky-white skin.

And yet, I find him attractive. Ok, the last thing I need is to start fantasizing. I’m hot enough already.

I finish by soaping my crack, fishing out the stray hairs that washed down my back and lodged there when I was wetting my head earlier. The clump of hair doesn’t go down the drain. I stick it to the tiles, hoping I don’t forget it there.

The iced tea must be ready, but if I get out of the shower, I run the risk of bumping into Simon and being assailed by his judgements – you’re too nice to him or so, when are you going to sleep with him? or, best-case-scenario, Ack! Where’d you find that towel? ? Might as well give it a shot anyway. Maybe Simon will still be in his room and Camille will sleep until ten.

Even though we try hard to keep the place cool by keeping the windows shut and running the portable air conditioner, the kitchen is humid with the scent of freshly-baked cookies. Gayle greets me with a sticky hug I want to disentangle from ASAP – with both of us wearing undershirts, our arms slide against each other, as greasy as the cookie sheets. Still, I’m grateful. In her arms, I may drip sweat but being there calms me.

Good stress/bad stress. If he knocks right now, I’ll jump ten feet in the air. Gayle opens the fridge and hands me the iced tea. I lean over it and stir, arrange everything on the tray and taste again: perfect. I’ll go back outside and wait for him like a groupie. I’ll sit on the garden wall with my legs crossed and everything. Cute eh?

Simon’s waiting to be proven right, I just know it: It didn’t go well with the last cis-dude roomie, I don’t see how this guy would be any different. I know Eloy is Simon’s type, even if he’d never admit it—when I showed him a photo of Eloy, he swallowed funny. I shouldn’t try to convince or comfort Simon. He doesn’t need to hear how good looking and nice Eloy is either, so don’t mention it. Don’t enable.

If they wind up sleeping together, I can brag about sparking some slash fiction between my ex-boyfriends. If Simon knew that had crossed my mind—even if just for a fraction of a second, tops—would he hold it against me?


Book Launch with Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium
February 27, 2021
5 pm (PST) / 8 pm (EST)
with author MP Boisvert and translator Monica Meneghetti