There’s good news and bad news. I can’t ask which you’d want to receive first, so I’ll get the bad news out of the way:
I’m canceling the e-newsletter.
No matter how I cut it, renting a PO Box is the only way to get around the physical address requirement. I wish that wasn’t a dealbreaker for me right now, but for the time being, it is. This is one of those things I’m going to put on the backburner and look forward to doing in the future. I’ve removed the sign-up field from the blog. Thanks to all of you who signed up! I’m so sorry I jumped the gun on this one.
But, from the ashes of my poor, defunct newsletters, comes a wicked-cool piece of exclusive content–the good news! This is a deleted scene from a book I haven’t yet released. I’d planned to share it in the first newsletter, but since the newsletter is no more, I’m sharing it here. Enjoy!
“That’s not good for you, you know.”
Zander looked up to see Callum eyeing her through the haze of cigarette smoke she let bleed from her lips, tendril arms that stung her eyes. She blinked. “I know that. Trust me.” Her chest was heavy, like her heart was getting tired of beating, her lungs tired of breathing in moisture-thick air, wanting for the crackling cold she’d thought she was glad to leave behind.
“Then why do you do it?” He didn’t try to sit beside her on the step, though there was room. He kept his distance, which was at least respectful of the mind-f* he’d put her into this morning.
She shook her head and took another drag sending sweet and bitter fire down her throat. “Don’t know,” she exhaled. “It feels like the right thing to do when the world is upside down.”
He nodded and looked down the block, then back to her. “But you don’t do it all the time.”
“World’s not upside down all the time,” was her simple response before taking the last drag and rubbing the lit end onto the brick stair. “What do you want?”She was tired. She hadn’t slept. Instead, she’d sat here and smoked a pack of cigarettes, watching the campus night go from busy and bustling, to quiet—late turned to early again. “Were you watching me all this time?”
“No.” He shook his head definitively. “You needed space, and I had to go home for a bit anyway. What I want is for you to believe I’m not crazy.”
She laughed humorlessly under her breath, a bitter edge to what was supposed to be soft and forgiving. She suddenly had this image, so quick it was like a Lightning Bolt of a thought, of her and Callum under covers. Of sharing the pliable, come-inside kind of laughter that lovers did. It was gone before the image could fully develop, more an old photo-negative than the image itself.
“What?” he asked curiously when she glanced up at him.
“I don’t think you’re crazy,” she replied. And she really didn’t. In fact, she knew, in her bones, that he was right. That’s why she’d smoked all these cigarettes. Why her skin was crawling and her stomach was sick with nicotine overload. Because she knew he was right. It was just overwhelming to finally have a name to apply to all the ways she’d always known she wasn’t normal.
“I don’t have the same dad my sisters do, though,” she said.
It was then he approached, then he decided to take a seat next to her. “It must be your mother then, who gave the traits to you all.”
The stair wasn’t wide, and his shoulder was warm against hers, his arm sending prickles of electricity where it touched her own. Zander nodded and picked up the pack of cigarettes again. If she smoked the last one, she’d be sick. She knew that. Seemed like a good reason not to. But still, she stared at the pack until Callum’s strong, graceful hand entered her field of vision.
He covered what she held, blocked her sight of it. “You should go to bed,” he said quietly. “It doesn’t do any good to just sit here and keep smoking.”
Without thought, without responding, she put the side of her face against his shoulder. He stiffened, but he didn’t move, didn’t object. He took the pack of cigarettes from her hands, tucking it out of sight. Then he put his hand on her knee, his elbow bent, pulling her to lean into him. She felt sick and antsy, but, right then, even with hours of nicotine-energy running under her skin, she didn’t want to move. So she pressed the side of her face more firmly to his shoulder and gave into the hyper apathy. After minutes of sitting still and quiet in the slowly lightening dark, when her hands wouldn’t stay still any longer, she brought her fingers to the back of his hand. She traced the lace and lattice shape of the veins and tendons, muscle and bone under his skin.
“We should put you to bed,” he said quietly, so quietly his voice was barely more than breeze as he watched her fingers glide over his.
“Will you stay?” she said. “While I sleep. Will you stay with me?”
“I’ll stay until you fall asleep,” he replied. “And I’ll be there when you wake up, if you want me to be.”
She just nodded, knowing he’d feel her response against the muscled firmness of his arm.