Okay! It's time for more of the deleted scenes from Lying Beneath the Oaks! If you haven't read the novel, get it now in paperback or eBook (links at right). The below scenes are full of SPOILERS, so don't scroll down if you haven't read!
These are snippets from Molly's life as a teenager before she left Michigan. Most of this information made it into the book, but the story flowed better all in one timeline.
Still with me? Just checking -- you're not going to read SPOILERS, are you? No, you wouldn't do that. Perfect. If you've read the book, here they are!
SIXTEEN YEARS AGO
I missed the bus on purpose, skulking in the hallways after seventh period. I’d have a long walk home, but I had to try. I needed her.
Demetrius Taylor left the classroom, his swagger sending his pelvis out the door first. He looked me up and down, lingering on my chest. “She catch you, too? Wouldn’t a thought you’d be cheating, brainiac like you.”
I shook my head.
“All right, then. Later.” He slunk down the hall.
Inside the history classroom, Ms. Sinclair sat shuffling papers in a shaft of orange sunlight that lit up the chalk dust in the air that she’d set in motion when she’d cleaned the board.
“What can I do for you, Molly?”
I stared at her, suddenly aware I’d come burdened with too much hope. Ms. Sinclair cared about her students, more than most, but what had given me the idea, even for a second, that I’d matter enough to her for this?
“It’s…it’s things at home. I don’t know if I can stay there.”
She went still, reminding me of a cornered animal. “Are you being abused? I have to report it if you are.”
“N-no.” A lie, but a necessary one, now that I understood this conversation had been over before I came through the door. “It’s just that things are kind of bad. I might need somewhere…somewhere to go.”
At the crumpled look on her face, I knew. She cared. Other teachers barked out directions or read us passages from the textbooks in a monotone. Ms. Sinclair asked about our lives. She probably bored her friends with stories about the unbelievable hurdles her students jumped. She volunteered in soup kitchens and gave money to the United Way.
But she had a one-bedroom apartment and a boyfriend who liked to stay over.
She wouldn’t help me.
Nobody could help me.
SIXTEEN YEARS AGO
Staying in her embrace wasn’t an option. It was so tempting to pretend there was safety somewhere. Better to sit across from her than to let myself fall into the trap of thinking this was anything more than an illusion. A visit, into other people’s normality.
“Do you mind setting the table, honey? I can’t see well enough when it gets this time of day, now. That home health nurse says I’ll have to go into a home, if it gets much worse. I sure do like looking at your beautiful face, though. How come your mama hadn’t brought you by more often?”
“She’s been busy,” I said, keeping my face turned away, not wanting to upset her by admitting her daughter was busy passing out drunk or high and getting more and more vocal about my need to contribute to the household. Tonight I’d been allowed to come on the condition that I’d raid Grandma’s purse. (“She can’t see nothing, the old bat. Piece of cake,” my mother had said.)
For thirty whole minutes, I’d eat KFC with the one person who cared about me. I refused to be jealous of other girls who didn’t appreciate what they had. Just for today.
The punishment I’d take later when I brought nothing home would be worth it.
Hi! I am so thrilled about the response to LYING BENEATH THE OAKS! You guys have been amazing and so supportive. Some readers have told me in their reviews that they wish there was "more," that they wanted to hear more about Molly than what we could fit in the published story. CAUTION: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven't read LYING BENEATH THE OAKS, please stop here and come back when you have.
(Did you stop? You're not going to ruin the story for yourself, are you? Good.)
Originally, each of the story's chapters were separated by little snippets of Molly's life when she was a teenager before she left Michigan. The book flowed better without them, so I took them out, but I'm happy to share the first two of them here, right now. I'll do two each week until I run out. Again, last chance to bow out before you run across some spoilers! Thank you all so much for reading, and here you go (have mercy on me -- these are unedited and unpublished):
SIXTEEN YEARS AGO
Shameka held out a hand to me.
“Come on, lazy ass. Mr. Rice is going to kill you if you say you can’t change for gym again.”
I waved her hand away, clutching the splintery locker room bench with the other. She meant well, but I flinched at hands outstretched toward me. They never meant good things. I couldn’t change for gym, not today or any time this week. If I did, they’d see. Thank Whoever for Michigan’s cold weather. I needed the coverage of the jeans. The long sleeves, too. The lowered grade didn’t matter. My highest hope was a diploma and a good retail job.
Shameka was as close a friend as I had, but that wasn’t saying much. To have a friend, you had to talk. Had to share pieces of who you were, and I could never do that. I’d offended her today. Her smooth skin wrinkled as she absorbed the rejection and turned away.
“Okay. Fine. Do what you want.”
I watched her go, unblemished legs on display in the school-issued shorts. Friendship required regular watering, and I’d long since been wrung dry. She was patient with me, but soon she’d move on. With so much I couldn’t say, I took more friendship than I could give.
It was the giving that really mattered.
I knew that, even while I held it all in.
SIXTEEN YEARS AGO
“Slut. Where you been?” Her voice, ruined by cigarettes and other things, hissed from the stained Barcalounger in the corner like smoke. She sat drinking in the dark, coiled to strike. The sticky sweet scent of peach Schnapps combined with menthol Camels, burnt fish sticks, unwashed body, and overflowing garbage, making me gag.
“Great. Give me the money. We need groceries.” Groceries weren’t what she wanted. The Schnapps bottle lay empty on its side on the floor.
“I don’t have it, Ma. I don’t get my paycheck until the end of the month.”
The air shifted. In the dim light, she stood, hidden strength in her slack, wasted body. I put the ancient sofa between us; I knew better than to let her get close enough to reach me.
An ugly bark of a laugh sent the smell of her decayed teeth and the Schnapps into my face. I could smell my mother anywhere.
“You wanna play that way? You got a real job with a paycheck? Play away. You better get me $50 by tomorrow. I need it. I don’t give a shit how you get it. Told you before: them boobs ain’t for nothing.”
I only had one thing anybody would pay $50 for.
It was a game I played.
How long I could keep from selling it.
LYING BENEATH THE OAKS, coming Jan. 15, 2019. Buy it by clicking below!