Some scenes I reimagine during the writing process. The first two scenes are scenes where I chose to deliver the information in a different way. The third scene I cut completely and in this case an entire book character was relegated to a mere mention.
Andy woke in the night. She glanced at the clock. Two am. Someone was in the room. Not a nurse. They usually announce their entrance. There was enough light from the LED glow in the room to see it was a woman.
“Got a bulldog keeping guard or what?” said a familiar voice.
“That man is tenacious.”
“Who?” Andy was only half awake and wasn’t sure what Carla was talking about.
That word jolted her awake. “Shhhhh. He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Well anyway, he’s not letting anyone in to see you. Quite a protective little bugger.” Carla raised her eyebrow on the word protective.
“No, he’s making sure I don’t get out.”
“Or get away.”
“No he’s worried I’m going to escape.”
“That’s one way of saying it.”
Andy didn’t want to think about what Carla was implying. Instead she changed the subject. “How did you get in here? It’s two am. Visiting hours end at nine.”
“You know how I am with rules. I don’t follow them. But it just so happens that the guard knows that my father is one of the contributors to this hospital and he was persuaded to let me in.”
“Ah, by persuaded you mean charmed.”
“Call it what you will. I had to see you. It’s about my brother.”
“You remember Scott?”
“You tried to set me up with him once.”
“He thought you were cute.”
“But not society enough for him.”
“I don’t think he objected to the purple fishnet stockings. They were just a tad much for the Symphony Fund Raiser.”
“We’re in different leagues, Carla, you know that.”
She passed her manicured hand with a sweep through the air like shooing a fly. “Well, it doesn’t matter. There’s a little something that I need cleared up, for my mother’s sake.”
Andy raised an eyebrow. She’d met Carla’s mom. And she wasn’t impressed. Carla must’ve got all her charm from her dad. Not only was Carla’s mom face frozen from Botox, but it didn’t seem like her heart was much warmer. The woman didn’t crack a smile the whole three painful minutes Andy stood at the unrolled darkened window of her limo in their uncomfortably long introduction. Andy sometimes didn’t understand high society. They had everything yet seemed so displeased with it. “What do you need?” Andy’s head was throbbing.
“Scott has been falsely accused of some nasty stuff and he needs to be absolved.”
“Don’t you have oodles of lawyers that do this sort of thing?”
“Yes, but this has to be handled with tact. Some of those lawyers have the tact of a rhinoceros.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’ve got all the information here in this envelope. I need you to see Scott, without any other, uh…what shall we call him…adoring fans for witnesses.”
Andy snorted. “I think you’ve misinterpreted our relationship.”
“Nonsense, I’ve got eyes haven’t I?”
Andy wasn’t sure if the room was bugged or not and really didn’t want anyone listening in on this conversation.
He looked handsome, his arm—those twenty inch biceps, draped over the back of the booth. Andy dreaded what she had to do. But she had to do it. She couldn’t work with him, she couldn’t trust someone who lied to her. Could she? Out of all the people she’d met, he was different. Instinctively she trusted him. That was not a good thing when he’s a lying double agent. But she couldn’t risk having him tag along. Alone, she could be stealthy, sneaky, no one noticed a girl moving about. Two people were much more cumbersome. Besides, her feelings toward him were…confusing.
He clasped his hands around a soda in almost childlike anticipation. “So, what’s our next move.” Our? She wanted to ask, but she knew better than to let on to what she was about to do. She must be stoic the whole time. He was one of those that would pick up on the slightest hint she gave consciously or unconsciously.
“Sometimes there are things you can’t find on the internet and you just have to personally interview people.”
“Is that what you’ve learned as a journalist?”
“So, we go to the university and ask a bunch of questions.”
“How did you know I was going to university?”
He tapped the BU magazine poking out of her bag. “And you’re dressed—“his eyes gave her an up-down—she tingled, unwillingly— “as a college student. So, BU?”
Andy resisted the urge to bite her lip in disappointment. So what if he knew. She’d be on a plane long before he could catch up to her. If everything went according to plan.
“Well, I have some business there, totally unrelated.”
“I don’t mind coming.”
“You’re welcome to come.” Her hand slid into her bag and grasped her little vial. Or pills or whatever it is. “But you’d probably get bored. You know my small town sluething is nothing compared to your international—“
Hugh stopped her with a look, then took a long drag on his cola. Andy looked passed him.
“I guess the Shaft is going out of business.”
She was hoping he would look out the window behind him so she could slip the sleeping meds into his drink. But he just stared at her, that attractive, see-right-through her stare. It was almost as if he were reading her mind.
“Uh-huh,” was all he said, another drag on the soda—his incredibly sexy stare right into her eyes.
This was going to be harder than she thought. She only had a few minutes before she needed to catch her flight. Time was ticking down.
Andy tried not to fidget. It was one of her tells that she couldn’t get rid of. Only with men she was attracted to. She tried hard not to be attracted to him.
Andy’s memory stretched back to that day, a day she wanted, struggled to forget but relived in painful recollection so many times since then. Conner had invited her to go boating. He said he had something he needed to talk to her about. It was mild for May. The grass on the shore of the man-made lake at the Club was dewy with residue of the morning thunderstorm, breaking the heavy humidity that had pressed on them for the past few days. She’d been anticipating a promotion at work. They’d been dating for what, two years? Andy was certain this day held promises, future. A memorable day. It was indeed memorable. Just not in the way she hoped it would be.
Looking back with over a year of perspective, she should’ve known something was wrong. It started out normal, he opened the door for her, smiled. Then after dinner, he became quiet, nervous, not his usual charismatic self.
How foolish she felt when he took her from everybody else. Andy was wild with excitement to be alone with him.
Andy felt the whole scene romantic, the night closing like a curtain on the azure sky, leaving a jeweled night. The lights twinkled across the inky lake, doubling the effect. The wind picked up, and she could smell his scent coming off his body as he held her close to his chest. He spoke in low tones about the future, his whispering breath tickling the hair around her ear.
She had already been to David’s Bridal and picked out a Vera Wang from her White collection. She allowed Carla to persuade her to try it on. Oh, how the empire waist made her already long legs seem even longer, and the wrapped charmeuse top added dimension to her bust. Carla said she looked like a Greek goddess. They were having a sale, half off. So Andy bought it, with a hope and a prayer that this day would come.
But quickly she realized something was off. The tone of his voice was all wrong. His mood, languid. He spoke of his job, his promotion—things that should lead to a more exciting future, for them but instead, he only thought of himself. Awkwardness instead of anticipation was his tone. When he came to the words, “That’s why we can’t see each other any more,” Andy felt like she had been burnt by a bolt of lightening.
“What?” She turned her face upwards, watching his face for the slightest hint of teasing. But even in the half light, she could see that he was serious, his jaw set, face tight. But she knew behind the facade, the mask he liked to wear, his heart, his heart was breaking. She could feel it, even though there was no outward manifestations. It was as real to her as if she were a doctor and could see the internal injury on an x-ray.
“I don’t think that I’m going to have time for our relationship. I’ll need to focus all my efforts on my career,” he said.
The ground swallowed her whole. Her body felt suspended over a pit. The world seem to stop moving, a knot formed in her stomach. Breathing was a chore.
“Are you saying…” Andy could scarcely draw breath much less talk. A kick in the stomach would have felt more pleasant. She knew, she’d been kicked many times in the ribs. “Are you breaking up with me?”
“I need to focus more time at work. Refocus my priorities.” He said it through straight lips, expressionless. If she had been any other girl, she might’ve been fooled that he didn’t care about her anymore. But his eyes. Conner’s eyes never lied. They were full of pain. His were the eyes of the tormented. He wanted to be out of this uncomfortable situation. He wanted to flee. He hated seeing her hurt and with so little explanation, so cheaply worded. She knew he felt like a cad, that he had built up her expectations. And now they were dashed.
There were no accusations, no bawling. At least not in public. Andy gulped down her pain, stuffed up her head with thoughts to occupy her mind until she could think about it, dismantle it and cry about it later. Now was not that time. Now she’d put on a steely face, steel her heart.
The ride home was strange and awkward. Andy savored his goodnight kiss on the doorstep. Then he was gone.
Once he was out of sight, Andy crashed to the floor in grief, her pent up emotion breaking out, her heart splitting in two. Sobs heaved in her chest, the noise animal. When she’d cried herself out, she went to the closet, opened it up, found the white Vera Wang dress bag, unhooked it from the bar, slung it over her arm, walked out to the trash chute in her apartment, stuffed it in there.
As she watched the white mass slide away, ebbing in the darkness, she didn’t cry a single tear. Pain overtook grief. Her heart felt like it had been brutally extracted, like someone had reached through her ribs with a pair of forceps and ripped it, beating, right out of her chest cavity. She vowed never to cry over a guy again. She convinced herself that she didn’t hurt and the pain eventually went away. But her heart was never the same. It was shriveled, like burned scar tissue. Like a raisin. Like a sun-dried tomato.
All these months later, she remembered the pungent smell of the trash slide, the stench coming up from the darkness, as her hand pressed open the door to the chute, long after the dress had faded from sight. She remembered the conversation, every word etched into her heart, her anguish that outlasted the smell his cologne soaked into her sweater.
So when this man says they met the next night, so much trauma had pushed nearly everything but the conversation out of her mind. That explained why she’d barely recognized him, but couldn’t remember where she’d met him.
Her brain couldn’t go back there. Physical pain kept her from going there. Some scraps of memory floated to the top. She didn’t want go because Conner might be there, but he’d heard Conner say he was relocating with his promotion and wouldn’t be coming.
She barely remembered Brad’s boss. Tyrone. A heavy-set man with a deep and deliberate guttural laugh, “Ha, ha, HA.” She didn’t like the looks of him, dark suit, a sharp man with keen black eyes observing everything under his bushy eyebrows. She remembered him for his round face, like a bagel.