My editor thought, and rightly so, that August to the next August was just too long a time to pass between when Clara arrives in Jackson and when the fire actually takes place. So she suggested that I have the Gardners move to Jackson in January. She also thought (and again, totally right!) that there shouldn't be two formal dances in the book.
So I rewrote the entire beginning of my book to take place in winter. And I cut Homecoming Week and the dance, and ended up cutting an entire side-story where Wendy starts dating the captain of the football team and ends up breaking up with him. Poor Wendy. In my editor's words, "Wendy always gets shafted." Her scenes so often get cut.
So, without further ado, here is the Powderpuff game, two entire scenes with Wendy that ended up on the cutting room floor. Enjoy.
UNEARTHLY, first draft, Powderpuff game
Wednesday after school, Wendy hunted me down in the girl’s locker room to tell me the shocking news: she’d been asked to the Homecoming dance by Brady Hunt!
“Wow,” I said, watching her face carefully. “I guess you’re going to need my dress.”“Yes, please,” she said. Her smile was genuinely happy.
So Tucker hadn’t narced on me.“I still have the potato and the needle, if you change your mind about the earrings,” I teased.
“I’ll think about it.”“Whoa, I was only kidding,” I said.
“It’s just, I didn’t even know that he’d noticed me,” she said. “It’s weird.”
“Never look a gift date in the mouth,” I said. I pulled a bright orange football jersey over my head. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into playing football.”“The Powderpuff game is only once a year,” she said. “It’s fun. Wait until you see the boys dressed up like cheerleaders.”
I had to admit that sounded funny.“But don’t expect me to do much,” I said. “I don’t know anything about football.”
“It’s not hard,” she said, as if she hadn’t grown up watching football. I’d watched exactly one football game in my life, one of Jeffrey’s back in California. Mom and I had both been hopelessly confused about when to cheer. Being strong and fast wouldn’t help me play this game if I didn’t understand the rules.“Tucker’s not a cheerleader, is he?” I asked.
Wendy snorted.“No way. He’s out of town with the rodeo team.”
That, at least, was good news.“Come here,” she said, grinning. She smeared two black lines across my cheeks, then laughed.
“You’re one mean running back,” she said, dragging me over to the mirror. My hair chose that moment to slip out of its ponytail. I blew a strand out of my face.“Kay Patterson’s knees will be quaking with fear when she sees us,” said Wendy.
“We’re playing against Kay?”“Yep,” she said. “She’s on the black team.”
I grinned at Wendy, reached for the black face paint to mark her cheeks.“Bring it on,” I said.
#Christian was a cheerleader. When he came out onto the football field with the other boys he was wearing a tiny white tank top with a makeshift JHHS written on the front in marker, and an orange and black cheer skirt, unzipped in the back because it obviously didn’t fit. Someone had pinned the front of his hair to the side like bangs, and I’m pretty sure he was wearing lipstick.
Somehow, he still managed to look hot.In spite of the fact that I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, I had fun. I took the ball when it was passed to me, threw it to my teammates when I saw an opening, jogged around where they seemed to want me to go, tried to tag the other side when they had the ball. I didn’t run too fast, or try too hard. My mom was watching, after all. I could hear her cheers from the sidelines.
It was all going well until the fourth quarter, when we started to lose the game. I wouldn’t have really cared about that except that Kay was so happily winning. She always seemed to have the ball, always seemed to be doing exactly the right thing. She looked amazing, cheeks flushed, hair dangling in one long, looped curl from her ponytail, eyes bright with victory. Not to mention that every time she made the tiniest little move, I could hear Christian cheering like she’d won the World Series or something.
It shouldn’t be legal, I thought, for anyone to be that perfect.
It would get on any girl’s nerves.Then she actually tackled Wendy during a pass.
Whistles blew, and one of the coaches yelled a warning to Kay.
“Hey,” I protested, running up to help Wendy to her feet. “I thought this was tag football, not tackle.”
“Sorry,” said Kay lightly. “I forgot.”
“Don’t worry, I’m tough,” panted Wendy. But Kay didn’t hear her. She was already running down the field. Wendy looked at me and shrugged and gave this pathetic little smile, and I kind of lost my head. I’d show her a tackle. On the next play, I made certain to knock Kay down just hard enough to knock the wind out of her for a minute. Of course she was furious, but too breathless to make a fuss about it yet.
Then something unexpected happened.
Somebody shouted my name. I turned.Suddenly I had the ball in my hands. I looked up, startled, right into Kay’s brown eyes.
Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I could just win this game right now? Leave Kay in the dust, for once?
The clock was about to run out. I glanced toward the end of the field. It didn’t seem too far away. There was a clear path, if I ran fast enough.
And I knew I could run fast enough.
I dodged Kay easily and then sprinted down the field. It seemed like everyone from both teams was running toward me. The crowd began to cheer wildly. Even the girls on the other team were screaming.
I stretched my legs and ran, tucking the ball under my arm the way I had seen Jeffrey do it that one time. The rest of the world slowed down. I could feel the crisp fall air on my face. My hair was out of its ponytail again and trailing behind me. The grass under my feet smelled freshly cut. The mountains in the background glowed a peachy gold, lit by the setting sun.
I was over the goal line. The noise from the crowd peaked in a big surge. Everyone was standing on their feet, shouting.So this is what it feels like when Jeffrey wins a game. Not bad. I was starting to understand why he did it, why he refused to be anything but spectacular. It was a great, superior feeling.
Then I saw Kay’s face as she ran up the field toward me, and I knew immediately that something was wrong. She was smiling. Not just any smile, but a full, gloaty, victorious sort of smile. I looked around for Wendy. I spotted her much farther back, standing with her arms hanging limply by her sides, staring at me with an expression I didn’t understand.
I hadn’t run that fast, had I? So fast that I was suddenly freaking everybody out?I spun around, looking from face to face. The girls in the orange shirts, my teammates, were looking at me in disbelief, shaking their heads. The girls in the black shirts were laughing.
I looked to the bleachers where the crowd was still standing. Jeffrey was laughing, clutching at his sides like some stupid cartoon character. Mom’s mouth set in a thin, disapproving line. I saw Christian, Christian in his cheerleader getup, running toward Kay on the field. He reached her, shouted something, and then lifted her up and spun her around in the air.He was laughing too.
In a flash I understood what I had done.
I had run in the wrong direction. I had just scored, all right. For the opposing team. I’d lost the game.
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I stared at the football in my hands, then let it drop from my fingertips. It bounced away on the grass. I looked again for Wendy but she was walking away, they all were, my entire team walking off the field toward the school.
I couldn’t go back to the locker room now. Maybe not ever. I looked up into the stands and met Mom’s eyes. She grabbed Jeffrey by the arm and started to tow him toward the parking lot.
I needed to get out of there. I forced myself to walk slowly off the field, keeping my head down. I didn’t know where Mom had parked so I just picked a row of cars and started to wander down it. My vision blurred.Mom pulled the car up next to me. I got into the back seat.
“Seat belt,” she murmured.I fumbled with the seatbelt, finally heard it click, then slumped down and turned my back to the window.
Jeffrey coughed to cover a laugh.“A little sensitivity please, Jeffrey,” said Mom in a low voice.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Let him laugh.”Someone knocked on the car door from the outside, startling me. It was Wendy, still in her orange jersey, a big grass stain on the front from when Kay had tackled her. I hesitated for a few seconds. Then I rolled the window down. I wanted to tell her I was sorry, but the second I opened my mouth to speak a huge lump rose in my throat. To my horror I started to cry.
“Hey,” she said, reaching through the window and touching me on the shoulder.I shook my head.
“It’s all right,” she said. “It’s just a game.”I nodded miserably.
“I guess I’ll be the last one picked in P.E. from now on,” I tried to joke in a shaky voice.She laughed. Invisible or not, she was a true friend.
“See you tomorrow,” she said. She stepped back, and Mom drove away from the school. I couldn’t stop thinking about the way Christian had run to Kay and lifted her up like that, twirled her around and set her down again, smiled at her like he was about to kiss her. Both of them still laughing at me.That did it. I was definitely never going back to school.
The next scene, I will mention, she was back at school. Hee hee.
Wow. Reading that over again today I am struck by a lot of things. Like wow, that was a long time ago. Unearthly has changed so much since then! I've changed so much as a writer since then that it reads a bit primitive to me now.
Cavewoman Cynthia writes football scene. *grunts.
But seriously. It amazes me how the simple act of writing and revising can change you from the inside out.
You might have noticed that the book was in past tense back then. About halfway through the revision process I decided to shift it all over to present tense (and you can't simply "shift" a book from one tense to another--you must, then, almost completely rewrite it, argh, but it was so worth it), because I liked the rhythm of the language better in present. It felt more immediate, and, because it was more immediate, I didn't have to worry about what Clara knew and didn't know at the time of the telling. (I could explain this more but it would wreck some stuff for Hallowed, sorry). I could simply be with Clara in the moment.
Another thing I'm struck by is how much Clara changed in that process. My editor and I were working, working, working to make Clara stronger as a character. Not that I think it makes Clara a real loser because she runs the wrong way during a football game (this idea stemmed from a particularly painful experience I had in fifth grade during a basketball game that pretty much squashed the idea of me ever playing competitive sports ever again. . .) but I don't see her strength in this scene. I only see her struggling.
All that aside, I still think it's a pretty cool scene. Wendy rocks. Poor, poor Wendy, always gets cut.
And there's Christian dressed as a cheerleader. Can't forget that.