NOTE: If you haven't read THE ART OF LAINEY, this blog post will be spoilery.
Most readers have liked the way the novel ended, so I feel like my agent, editor, and I made the right decisions when we cut three chapters from the end of the book. The submission draft had the the first half of the last chapter with Micah and Lainey in Micah's car as written, but then continued for three more chapters--one at the coffee shop, one at soccer tryouts, and one when Lainey returned to school in the fall. The coffee shop chapter could have been the end of the book, and the other two chapters both felt like epilogues, which I eventually decided the story didn't need.
I'm waiting for publisher approval to post these chapters on wattpad, but while I wait I thought I would share one of them with you. What follows is the chapter in the coffee shop that would have taken place after Chapter 41 in the book. The original draft had Lainey losing her cell phone at the airport, and then Chapter 41 ending on page 373, after Micah says "I might show you. Someday." (So before they discuss their relationship at all). The main reason it was cut was because the book was running long and the surprise element that happens in the coffee shop felt repetitive. I do really like some of the Denali interactions here, though. Let me know what you think!
I pace back and forth in front of my dresser mirror. It’s the first day of going to work since Micah and I officially became a couple. At least I think we’re a couple. My lips pulse just thinking about yesterday. After I called my mom back on Micah’s phone and totally lied about having a dead battery, Micah and I stayed snuggled together in the Beast all day. I think we might have set some sort of kissing my record. My lips actually feel a little swollen.
I stare at my reflection. My blotch of freckles is finally fading. Otherwise, there’s no evidence that anything is different. But it is. Will everyone at work know the minute they see us together? What’s Micah going to say? What kind of smartass remarks is Ebony going to make?
The red numbers of my alarm clock creep upward. An hour. I’ll see him again in an hour. I trade my tank top for my Denali tee shirt. What if he pretends like nothing happened? Is that what I want? I definitely don’t want to make a big deal out of things. Sighing, I turn away from the mirror. I wish I could talk to him. I’m going crazy without a phone.
I debate calling in sick again. Good thing my parents own the place or I’d totally be fired. Now that I’m not getting paid to fake-date my best friend’s boyfriend, I might actually need to keep a job.
“Lainey.” My mom knocks on my bedroom door. There’s someone here to see you.”
I open the door a crack. “Who?” I ask suspiciously.
She smiles. “That nice mohawked boy from Denali. Didn’t you know he was stopping by?”
“Oh, right.” I feign absentmindedness, something I’m pretty good at. “He’s giving me a ride to work.”
“Please tell me there’s nothing wrong with your brother’s car,” my mom says.
I shake my head. “No, we’re just carpooling. Saving the environment and stuff.”
Her lips twitch as I push past her down the hallway. “Well isn’t that socially responsible of you two.”
Micah’s standing inside the front door in baggy cook pants and his black Happy Cheetah tee shirt. His eyes light up when he sees me.
“Let’s go outside,” I say. I tug him through the kitchen to the back door. Behind me, I swear I hear my mom humming some cheesy love ballad. I’m totally going to strangle her later.
I sit at the picnic table, facing away from the house, but toward Mom’s creepy totem poles.
Micah sits next to me. “Sorry I didn’t call you. I didn’t know your house number. I just came by to make sure you weren’t freaking out.”
How does he read my mind like that? “I am not freaking out,” I insist.
He arches his pierced eyebrow. “No?”
“Okay, maybe a little bit.”
He twines his fingers through mine. Turning, he whispers in my ear. “Stop freaking out.”
My insides go all fuzzy. I wish we could just take the Beast somewhere and hide out again, kiss for hours, ignore the rest of the world. “How do we tell people?” I blurt out. “What do we tell them?”
“We could always let Ebony discover us making out in the walk-in cooler,” he suggests. “Let her tell people for us.”
“I’m being serious.”
“Me too.” He leans in to brush his lips across my jawbone and I almost slide right off the picnic table. He squeezes my hand. “How about this. We’ve been pretending to date for most of the summer. So I say we just keep doing our thing and let people think what they think. If they ask specific questions I’ll direct them to you and you can say whatever you want.”
“But what do you want me to say?” I protest. “What are we doing?”
“Label it however you want,” Micah says. “I just—”
The back door opens with all of the subtlety of a gunshot and I spin around to see my mom standing in the doorway, a teacup cradled between her hands. God I hope she’s not going to start going on about new love in front of Micah. That would be all kinds of awkward.
“Your dad just called,” she said. “Leo is going to be late. Can you guys head in a little early?”
“Sure,” Micah says.
We walk hand-in-hand to his car. My mom smiles but she doesn’t say anything.
Denali is packed. By the time we clock in, the line for the front register is almost out the door. Ebony is staying over to work the back with Micah while Bee and I work the front. I don’t have time to wonder what Micah has planned. Bianca rings up order after order and I run from the blender to the espresso machine, making drinks as fast as I can to keep up with the line that never seems to get less than six or seven deep.
In the middle of the afternoon, things finally slow down. A guy in a tracksuit with a cap pulled low over his eyes comes in carrying a small brown box. “Package for Lainey Mitchell,” he says, peeking out from underneath his hat.
I look back toward the prep area. Micah and Ebony are standing in the hallway outside the manager’s office, watching me. I shoot Micah a suspicious look. He shrugs his shoulders as if to say he doesn’t know anything about it. “That’s me,” I say, “Who’s it from?” I ask the delivery guy.
“You’ll have to check out the card.” There’s something weirdly familiar about his voice. I give him a long look but he’s got sunglasses on so all I see are a pair of dazzling white teeth and the beginnings of a blond beard. “Can I get an iced caramel latte with skim milk too?” he asks.
I set the box down by the register and start to ring the delivery guy up an iced latte. Just then, I see two big burly guys pacing back and forth in front of the large plate glass window. Oh crap. The security guys from yesterday—they found me!
I freeze, mid-order. “Bee, can you finish…” My voice dissolves in my throat as I try to decide if I can get away with sneaking out the back. I inch back from the register.
Bianca is busy opening the box. She pulls out a phone.
My cell phone.
“Hey. Where did you…” My words stick in my throat. The delivery guy removes his hat. He’s got thick spiky blond hair, a lot like…
“Ohmygod.” The jug of skim milk slips out of my hands and ends up on its side on the counter. Milk pours across the Formica and onto the floor, nearly missing the shoes of none other than Caleb Waters.
“Whoa.” Caleb jumps out of the way, his trademark dazzling smile still glued to his tan face.
“Oh. My. God,” I say again, unable to come up with any other words.
Ebony slides between me and Caleb with a dry towel. She begins to mop up the milk, apologizing profusely. “You’ll have to excuse her.” She points at me. I’m pretty sure my mouth is still hanging open. “She’s got some kind of medical disorder. Your drink is on the house, of course.”
“No problem. It’s nice to meet all of you,” Caleb says.
Bianca is still standing next to me holding my phone. “It’s nice to meet you too,” she says.
“Right,” I squeak. “Nice to meet you.”
Caleb shakes everyone’s hand while Ebony finishes making his drink. “Sorry about what happened with the security guys. Unfortunately the studio insisted on deleting the pictures you took, but hey, we can take one together now if you like.”
“That’d be great.” I slide out from behind the counter, almost like I’m in a trance.
“Excellent idea,” Bianca says. She’s already got my phone ready to go.
I come around to the front of the counter and Caleb Waters puts his arm around me. “Your boyfriend tells me you’re one hell of a soccer player.”
“I play striker for my high school team,” I say. “I’m hoping to play in college.”
“That’s fantastic,” he says, grinning for the camera.
“Wait,” I say. “Get in here too, Bee. Micah, you take the picture.” I turn to Caleb. “She plays halfback for the team.”
“Excellent. I was a halfback in high school.” Caleb slides his other arm around Bianca. She giggles. Micah snaps two pictures.
Caleb looks movie star handsome in both photos and Bee looks radiant. My grin is so big it’s almost demonic. I crack a joke about how Bee should cut me out and hang my picture with the scary tribal masks.
“Thank you so much,” I say. “We’re really big fans of yours.”
“I’m a big fan of yours too,” he says. “The crew really enjoyed the barbecued chicken pizzas you guys delivered last night. Very thoughtful.”
I turn around to give Micah another look. I wonder how he managed to pull that off. Then my dad appears from the back, an impish grin on his face. The two of them look borderline ridiculous standing next to each other. Micah and his mohawk. Dad and his spectacles. They must have worked together on this one.
Caleb poses for a few more pix with both Bianca and me. We’re both red-faced with shock by the time he slips on his shades and disappears back out into the heat. Through the glass, I see No Neck One and Two hovering right outside the door. I hope they liked the pizza.
“I can’t believe you guys did this,” I say. I am dangerously close to tears.
Micah holds his hand out toward my dad and Dad gives him an awkward high-five. “Never underestimate the power of good food and drink,” Dad says.
Ebony raises one painted on eyebrow. “Wait a second. I just realized something. Did that guy call Micah your boyfriend?” she asks. “Does that mean you two are finally official?” Smirking, she looks back and forth between Micah and me while we both stand there like speechless blushing idiots. “Thank God. I like foreplay as much as the next girl, but eventually you’ve got to just get it on.”
My dad chokes on his coffee. My blush goes from pink to red to purple to whatever color comes after that.
“Metaphorically speaking, of course.” Ebony cackles with glee. She points through the side window at a sky-blue Taurus backing into a spot. “Look. It’s Leo. I’m out of here.”
“Me too,” I say. “If anyone needs me I’ll be in back, dying of embarrassment.”
“Yeah,” Micah says, shooting Ebony a death glare. “I just remembered something I need to put in the oven. My head, maybe.”
Ebony laughs again. She gathers her purse and a copy of the Riverfront Times and heads for the front door.
Micah slings his arm around me and together we head to the back. “I think that went well,” he says, once the door is safely closed behind us. “Except for the part where your dad now wants to kill me.”
We pass the manager’s office and turn into the hallway where the lockers and bathrooms are located. “Don’t worry. He’s afraid of you.” I wrap my arms around Micah’s neck and pull him close, drinking in every tiny detail--the scar on his temple, the bend of his nose, his beautiful hazel eyes. “But I’m not.” I touch my lips to his. Just a quick kiss to last me until later. “You’re amazing, you know it?”
“Mainly I wanted to get your phone back for you.” He taps his foot on the floor. “And my boot. Coming by the shop was all Caleb’s idea. Turns out your celebrity crush isn’t nearly as much of a douche as I imagined.” Now Micah’s smiling almost big enough to qualify for the tribal mask wall.
I look down at my phone, at the picture of Caleb Waters, Bianca, and me. One major life goal complete. Time to come up with some new stuff.
Bee shuts her locker and slides up to me. She sighs in amazement as she looks down at the screen. “I swear, Lainey. Being your friend is a nonstop adventure.”
“Primetime drama, you mean.” Micah winks.
Leo rounds the corner. “Mr. Mitchell says Lainey and Bee need to get up front.” He looks back and forth between the three of us. “What did I miss?”
“Lainey lost her phone and Caleb Waters returned it to her,” Bianca says.
“The soccer star? That’s pretty impressive, even for you, Lainey.” Leo whistles. “Did you get his number? Talk about the mother of all ways to make your ex jealous.”
“I’m actually done with that whole plan,” I say, slipping an arm around Micah’s waist. I glance around at my friends. “War is overrated. Besides, I’ve got all the numbers I need.”