I wrote TYFM a number of times, never liking what I had. I was two weeks away from turning it in, two-hundred pages in and…I trashed it. I knew it all had to go.
Before I trashed it all, the book had a different title. And Finley did not have an eating disorder–Erin did. Beckett, the famous actor from vampire movies, did not exist. A hard-working, man-of-the-house senior named Max did. Finley was still a hotel heiress, while Max helped put food on the table for his single mom. They disliked each other immediately. Eventually I was bored by the both of them and knew they had to change.
This is one of the many rough and deleted scenes in which eighteen-year old Finley finds herself at a party with her host sister, Erin. Finley’s worked hard in the last year to outrun her wild-child ways after the death of her brother. She just wants to experience this last year of high school in Ireland, stay out of trouble, and get her heart back. And things, of course, do not go according to plan.
Sometimes I think I have the gift of prophecy.
I just had this bad feeling about tonight’s party. It could’ve been how I’m so in touch with the universe. It could’ve been some well-defined sixth sense.
Or it could’ve been the fact that I’m crawling out of a two story window at eleven p.m., seconds away from either getting caught or pitching head first to my death.
“I don’t know about this.” I slip my foot into a nook on the trellis.
Erin’s labored breathing is enough to wake up the entire town. “It’s. . .” She reaches out to steady herself. “It’s going to be fine. I do this all the time.”
I don’t want to brag, especially when dangling one story off the ground, but I can read people. But I did not pick up on any “I like to get crazy on a school night” vibes from one Erin O’Callahan.
“And you’re sure this is going to be a Rated PG party?” I hiss as a splinter jabs beneath my fingernail.
“What do you mean?”
I’m just going to take that as a no.
With all the skill and idiocy of tightrope walkers, we finally make it to the ground.
Wiping the dust off my jeans, I follow follow Erin across the yard. “If there are gonna be drugs at this party, just tell me now.”
Erin stomps down the hill, in the direction of the road. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not that type of girl. My parents have something against Patricia Reiley. Only reason we didn’t get their permission.”
With the glow of street lights and our cell phones, we make it to the road, where Beatrice sits in her mother’s running car.
“You made it!” Beatrice squeals as soon as I slide into the backseat. “Oh, I love your sweater.” She eyes my pink cardigan and sparkly tank with approval. “Very rocker chic.” Next she inspects Erin, who struggles with her seatbelt. “That’s not what I told you to wear.”
Erin lifts her head, regarding Beatrice as if she’s just delivered a moral wound. “My new skirt was dirty. What’s wrong with this?”
“Nothing. It’s fine.” Beatrice chews on her top lip as the dome light dims. “It’s just that. . .well, stripes don’t really slenderize, if you know what I mean.”
Erin looks down at her gray and white shirt. “Oh. Yeah, I guess.”
“But it’s fine.” Fashion lesson over, Beatrice throws the car into gear and puts us into motion. It still feels weird to drive on the opposite side of the road, and like everything else new in my life, I wonder if I’ll ever adapt.
It’s a short drive to Patricia Reiley’s, and I try to memorize each left and right turn just in case I need to ride back with someone else.
Beatrice hangs a sharp curve then whips the car into a paved driveway that seems to come from nowhere.
“Here we are.”
The two-story yellow house looms before me as we walk behind Beatrice like dutiful followers. Music pounds from the inside out, and I can hear party voices before we’re even to the porch.
Beatrice walks in without a knock, and at least ten people shout out her name. A few greet Erin, who introduces me to everyone we pass.
Ten minutes later, I want to go home.
Not to the O’Callahan’s.
But my house.
Where my parents are.
To my friends.
And my bedroom
And my bed where I can listen to my iPod and pull the covers over my head until the world goes away.
“Finley, you want to dance?”
Beatrice motions me to follow her to the center of the living room where the furniture has all been pushed away.
“No. You go ahead.”
“Come on,” Erin says. “Give it a go.”
I open my mouth to refuse again. But then Erin tilts her head and looks at me. I’ve seen that face before. On Spencer the Loser Ex-Boyfriend. When he would tell me how my dark mood was ruining his good time. How I was never fun anymore. The face he wore when he broke up with me.
“Lead the way,” I say, and Beatrice gives a giddy squeal, like a pistol that officially starts the event.
Twenty minutes later I’m dancing next to Erin, Beatrice, some girl named Elizabeth, and three guys from Doolin. Two of the boys smell like the inside of a Miller Light can, but Beatrice and her group haven’t touched a drop of alcohol that I can see. Still, as I watch others come out of the kitchen with foaming drinks, I can hear my mother’s admonishment. Feel her disappointment a continent away.
“What are you doing after graduation?” Beatrice yells near my ear.
“No idea.” How is it my gloomy reality finds me even at a party? I’m pretty sure I didn’t extend it an invitation.
“I’m going to university. Gonna be a banker like my dad.” She turns to one of the guys. “Jonathan, what about you?”
“Still deciding between two universities. But I still want to go to med school.”
“Do you know what school you’re going to?” Beatrice asks me.
“No.” I have to yell above the music.
“You are going though, right?”
I shrug and narrowly miss Jonathan’s swinging arms, as his imitation of a windmill seems to be his signature move. “I don’t think so.”
“Of course you are.” She gives an exaggerated laugh, and I smell something fruity on her breath that I’m pretty sure isn’t Hubba Bubba. “You’re like American royalty. You have to go to school.” She throws her hands up in the air as the song ends. “Cigarette break!” Beatrice shouts as she holds out her hand to one of the guys nearby. He promptly places a pack of Marlboro’s in her palm. “Chat time on the back deck! Who’s coming?”
A cheer goes up from the group around us, and everyone follows Beatrice out.
“Erin, I don’t think I need to stay here. I—” Before I can give my exit strategy, Erin grabs me by the hand and pulls me with them. I might’ve done some stupid things in the last year or so. In fact, I have a list of regrets that could fill Max’s whole one subject notebook, but I don’t smoke.
At least fifteen people join us outside, taking up chairs, sitting on the floor of the porch, propping themselves up on the railing.
“I brought drinks!” A new guy joins us, holding up a pitcher.
“Ugh, I’ll regret it tomorrow, but pour!” Beatrice lights up a cigarette and holds it toward me like a present.
“I’m not a smoker either,” she says. “It’s just a party accessory.”
I think bigger earrings would look better.
As the guy hands her a drink, Beatrice takes a drag and blows rings into the air. Definitely not a novice puffer here. “Get Erin a drink!” She turns to Erin. “We’ll have to workout more tomorrow, eh?” The two laugh, and I feel myself pulling further away, sinking lower into my seat. My mind flashes to other parties, other groups of friends. Laughing, drinking, doing anything I could to numb the pain and keep Spencer in my life.
I can’t do this. I promised myself. I promised my parents.
This can’t be me anymore. I don’t want this to be me.
But yet I’m stuck.
“Who’s ready for a game?” Beatrice waits until she has everyone’s attention. I have a feeling she’s not about to drag out the Monopoly board. “Let’s play. . .truth or dare!”
Only the worst game ever.
I miss the days of elementary school parties where your mom would drag out a piñata. Not only did you get to whack it with a baseball bat until you felt like a new kid, but as a reward for your violence, candy would rain down like manna from heaven.
“Finley, you’re up first.”
My heart thuds in my chest as Beatrice fixes her full attention on me and everyone else does the same.
“Truth or dare?”
I have no idea what these people’s idea of a dare is. But I don’t think I want to risk it. “Finley?”
I open my mouth.
Then close it.
“I. . .” The words won’t come. Even as everyone stares at me, I can’t get the sentences to form. They might be the elite of the town, but I don’t know a single one of these people. They don’t care about me. My story. Where I’ve been. “I. . .” Have to go. Have to run. Have to disappear. “I have to pee.”
And I shoot out of my chair, knock over someone’s drink, and dash inside.
Erin’s hand on my arm finally stops me. I turn and see her. Really see her. Her drink in her hand, her vertical stripes. “I want to go back to the house.”
“We can’t.” Her eyes are pleading. “Not yet. Please, just stay a little bit longer. If we leave now, I might never get invited back.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” I look around and see the same mess I left back in Charleston. “You lied to me. You said this wasn’t going to be some crazy party.”
“You knew it wasn’t birthday cake and ice cream.”
And she’s right. I did know it was wrong, and I went along with it anyway. “This just doesn’t seem like your scene.”
Hurt flashes in her expression. “You barely know me.”
“I know you well enough.” I shake my head. “If this is what you want to do, fine. I definitely have no room to judge. But I can’t be here.”
She lifts her chin. “So you’re going to leave?”
“Can you find me a ride?”
She looks around, her face tight with embarrassment. “I don’t know who could take you.”
“Never mind. Just never mind.”
I squeeze through a group of dancers, sidestep a couple tangled up like a pretzel, nearly slip on a spill of who-knows-what, then finally stumble outside.
I stand on the front step and just let the air fill my lungs.
God, how much longer are you going to let me operate in freak mode?
I turn back to the house, see a few people staring out the windows.
I mentally retrace the map in my head of the way back to the O’Callahan’s and take off down the driveway. I hold my phone up like a weak flashlight and say a quick prayer that nothing will come along that could eat me. I have no idea if Ireland has wild beasts. It’s not like I’m in the ‘burbs.
I’m about a half mile down a rough road when my feet start sending SOS signals.
And when the headlights come my way.
The lights shine in my face, and my heart races at the thought of it being Erin’s parents on a search mission. My mother will kill me.
The lights grow brighter as it approaches, and I shield my eyes, trying to put on a normal expression. If I look like I’m just out for a stroll, nobody will stop. I smile with a peace I do not possess and pump my arms like I’m working on some cardio. Because who doesn’t go out for a power walk at midnight?
The vehicle stops a few feet away.
My skin pebbles in the cold, and I just keep walking.
“You want to tell me what the heck you’re doing?”
Relief pours over me as the vehicle takes the shape of a familiar truck, and I recognize the petulant face sticking out.
“Just getting some exercise,” I say as I cruise by Max’s driver’s side door.
“Get in the truck.”
His voice gets louder behind me. “You really don’t want to keep walking.”
“Actually I do.” My ankle turns, and I flail my arms to keep my balance. “Very invigorating.”
“You’re going the wrong way.”
My feet scuff on the ground as I stop. Well, hasn’t this been a humbling night? I try to sigh, but it comes out like a whimper.
Max steps out of the truck and walks to the other side, flinging open the passenger door. “Get in.”
“You’re big chance to dump my body in an undisclosed ditch.”
“Don’t think I haven’t thought about it.”
Seeing me struggle with the step up, he extends his hand. I stare at it like it’s a grenade, but I’m too tired to argue. My palm rests in his, and his calloused fingers clasp tight as he helps me into the truck. I hold his hand for a second too long, just enough space to compare the texture of our skin, the size of his hand engulfing mine.
I buckle up as he walks around and resumes his seat behind the wheel.
“So were you walking home?” he asks as the truck chugs into gear. “Or walking back to America?”
“Are you cruising the town or just trolling the streets for girls?”
“You answer first.”
I sit there for a few moments and let my head loll against the ragged head rest. “I don’t know what I was doing tonight,” I finally say. “Trying to fit in, I guess.”
“And trying to get in trouble?”
“It’s kind of my style these days. My thing.”
“So you thought you’d get in trouble with the O’Callahans? Is that how you repay their hospitality—by sneaking out to a party on your ______ night here?”
“Well, I was going to make them some banana bread, but that darn stove broke.” I didn’t really think tonight. I just. . .went. I feel trapped in this small town already. And anxious. And. . .alone. “And your cousin talked me into it, so don’t act like I’m the lone bad guy here. What are you doing out this late anyway?”
He slants me a look. “Worked late on some plumbing at the B&B. I saw you sneak out. You’re terrible at it.”
“My counselor says I subconsciously want to get caught.” He doesn’t know what to do with this, so I continue. “My parents sent me to one after my brother died last year. I went a little, um, wild.”
“Shopped at discount stores?”
“No.” It’s impossible to prove to the world you’re not some indulged rich kid when you have the same last name as half the hotels in the country. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I got involved in stuff I shouldn’t have and got in a bunch of trouble.” And this was supposed to be my chance to start over.
“I’m sorry about your brother.” In the quiet of the cab, his words sound like pistol shots.
Will would not exactly be proud of this moment. Or most of them from the last year. “He was older than me,” I say. “But we were close.”
“So why’d you leave the party?”
“I didn’t like their snacks.” He looks at me until I see his frown. “I’m not any fun.”
“Once upon a time I was a really good girl. I would’ve been home, safety tucked in bed.”
“And now you’re not that girl?”
How did I explain it? That I had something pursuing me, something dragging me down? “I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m definitely not the girl I was, but yet I’m not cool enough for the party scene anymore.”
“Cool? Is that what you call walking down the road in the middle of the night?”
We ride in silence for a few moments before I finally break it. “Tell me, Max of the Surly Disposition, do you know what you want to do with your life?”
He turns left on a rocky road. “Yes.”
I look turn away from the chiseled profile of his face and stare out the window, searching the night sky for any signs of life.
“Why don’t you worry about more pressing things right now like keeping out of trouble with Sean and Nora?” His voice sharpens with every word. “They’re good people, and they don’t deserve someone taking advantage of their hospitality.”
“It’s not like that.”
Max turns off his lights as the truck pulls into the driveway. “I don’t care how it is. Next time you find yourself roaming the streets, I won’t be there to pick you up.”
“I don’t believe I asked you to.”
“And we don’t need you influencing Erin to make bad decisions.”
“Me? Me influencing Erin? She all but shoved me out her bedroom window tonight. And notice she chose not to leave the party.”
His frown deepens.
“You can’t honestly tell me that was her first walk on the wild side.”
“No.” He runs a hand over the stubble on his chin. “I. . .I don’t know what’s gotten into her.” He considers this for a moment before snapping his eyes back to me. “But you’re not helping.”
“And if it happens again, I’ll be letting Sean and Nora know.” He leans over, his arm brushing mine as he shoves opens my door. “And I’ll make sure they send you home. Where you belong.”
My eyes blazing, I jump out.
“How am I supposed to get back in that house?”
A wicked smile curves his lips as he stares toward the second floor. “Same way you got out. That trellis is old though. I’d say a prayer with every step.”
He slams the door before I can. Leaving me standing there as he drives away.
My hands clenched at my sides.
And more alone than ever.
The character of Max has stuck with me since then, and I feel certain he will return, though he already has a different name. We’ll see if he finds himself in a story soon.