Brenna's note: This is an earlier version of a scene that exists in the final book where Mackie tries to go somewhere with Tate in her Buick, which is solid steel, and has to ask her to pull over because he can't breathe. It's very different from the final version and happens at a completely different place in the story. The biggest changes were to the dialogue and the urgency and the . . . everything. Also, Tate mentions a character who doesn't exist anymore.
She sat next to me on the bank and didn't say anything else. After a little, she reached for my hand and I let her hold it. Her fingers slid over my knuckles, my palm. She was kind of massaging the inside of my wrist with her thumb and it felt good.
“Your hands are cold,” she said.
I nodded, keeping my eyes closed.
“Are you actually okay?”
“Yeah, I'm really sorry. Give me another minute, I'll be good.”
“Jesus, don't apologize. I thought you were going to pass out.”
“I'm sorry. I just—I don't usually do that.”
When I finally opened my eyes, the light had changed a little. The sky was getting paler as the sun went down. Tate brushed her hair away from her forehead and let go of my hand. I kind of wanted to reach for her, hold her hand for real instead of in a cheap, embarrassing way where she was sorry for me and I was a huge loser.
She looked down at me, hugging her knees. “Are you sure you still want to play poker? I'll take you home, if you want.”
“It's fine. Don't worry about it.”
We stayed on the bank, the ground solid at my back. She didn't touch me again.
She was looking off over the dead sunflower fields and the road. “You miss a lot of school,” she said suddenly.
“Some. Not that much, though—not a lot.”
“More than average. Look, I don't want to be obnoxious or anything, but is there something wrong with you?”
I didn't answer right away. I had a feeling that even if I managed to answer without using specifics, she'd just rephrase the question and ask me again, so I skipped to the most basic part of it. “Has there ever been something about yourself—or about your life—that you just really hate?”
She laughed, a sharp little bark of a laugh. “God, where do I start? So, uh, have you talked to Nick at all—ever?”
“He said something the other night.”
She nodded, but she was already looking someplace else.
I reached up and touched her arm. “Nick Sheffler is a total [jerk].”
The look she gave me was cataclysmic and I took my hand away fast.
“You think I don't know that? You think he hasn't made that abundantly clear by now? Look, if any guy at school is interested in going anywhere with me, it's because Nick said that I'm guaranteed to pay out.” She said it perfectly clear, perfectly calm.
“That must suck, having other people just decide how you are.”
“There are worse things.” She leaned back on her hands, elbows locked behind her. She was still looking at me, sort of smiling and then her face changed.
“Nothing. Just, your eyes are really dark.” She took a deep breath and said the next part fast. “Like, scary-dark.”
I nodded. Her expression was thoughtful, and a little worried, like she wasn't condemning or judging me, just looking.
Thank you, Brenna, for sharing that!
Now for your chance to win a signed copy of The Replacement, Fill out THIS FORM. US only. Contest ends December 5.