YASH - TEAM GOLD!
Welcome, Scavenger Hunters! You are currently hunting on TEAM GOLD - in case the graphic didn't make that clear! (Confused in general? Go to the YASH website for rules and regulations.)
I'm Beth Fantaskey, your hostess for this leg of the hunt.
Today, I'm excited to host the awesome Cynthia Hand, author of novels including Boundless, Hallowed, Unearthly, Radiant and The Last Time We Say Goodbye. (You can click on the titles to buy any of these books.) Would you believe Cynthia almost became a lawyer, instead of an author? The world would've missed out on some amazing, beloved, New-York-Times-best-selling books! Here's a picture of Cynthia, who originally hails from Idaho, but now lives in California with her husband and son. It only took me 8 - count 'em - 8 tries to cut and paste the photo into my blog. Not bad, for me. :-)
Cynthia has generously provided us with a deleted scene from The Last Time We Say Goodbye. I'll let her set the stage, below. (And when you're done reading, hop on over to Gretchen McNeil's blog, gretchenmcneil.com/blog. She's your next stop on the hunt!) Have fun and good luck!
From Cynthia: This is a long scene that was cut in the second round of revision for THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. It takes place in the middle of the book, when Lexie, who is trying to come to terms with the suicide of her younger brother, is roped into going to a medium by her friend Sadie, who lost her father to a heart-attack a few years prior. My editor and I both really loved this scene, and I’d done real, amazing research for it (ask Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton about the time we went to see the medium. . .) but it took us out of the forward-moving narrative for such a long time that I agreed that it should go—which doubly sucked, because it includes a mention of my editor’s dog, which I always try to slip into my novels somewhere--an idea that first came to me through Kiersten White. But that’s being a writer. So this is a murdered darling.
* * * * * *
Penny Meadow’s home is an apartment that’s been cut out of one of the big red brick houses in old Lincoln. Apartment B.
I start having second thoughts (and third thoughts and fourth thoughts) before we even reach the end of the sidewalk.
“This is stupid,” I say to Sadie as she’s knocking. “How much are you paying for this?”
“A hundred dollars for thirty minutes,” she answers.
I make a shocked noise. She shushes me.
The door opens, and there’s a tiny woman with white hair on the other side. She’s wearing black slacks and a white knit sweater with cardinals embroidered on it, accented by her bright red lipstick. She smells like tea roses and calamine lotion. She reminds me of a cross between my grandmother and Betty White.
“Madam Penny?” Sadie inquires.
“Just Penny, honey. Come on in.”
She leads us into her kitchen. I don’t know what I was expecting—maybe a dark room with velvet drapes and a crystal ball or something, but it definitely wasn’t this cheery yellow kitchen with black and white checkered tile and houseplants hanging from hooks on the ceiling. A tabby cat weaves around Penny’s legs as she walks. From a patch of sun in the corner, an orange and white dog lifts its head, smells in our general direction, then decides we’re not important and goes back to sleep.
“Have a seat,” Penny directs Sadie, and points to a worn kitchen chair. She pulls one over for me too, then sits down across from us.
“So you’re Sadie,” she says.
“Yes. And this is my friend Lexie,” Sadie provides.
Penny nods. “First let’s get the payment out of the way.”
Sadie shells out her hundred bucks.
Penny tosses the money into a cookie jar on the kitchen counter. She puts on her glasses, which are big and purple and fastened by a silver cord around her neck. Then she pulls out an old-school cassette recorder and sets it on the table between us. “I like to make a recording of my sessions. So you can take it home and listen to it later. All right?”
Sadie and I glance at each other. I don’t think either of us owns anything with which to play a cassette tape, but we don’t argue. “Okay.”
Penny presses record. “This is a session for Miss Sadie McIntyre, and Lexie. . .” She presses pause. “What’s your last name, dear?”
“Me? Riggs. Alexis Riggs,” I stammer. I feel jumpy, nervous, but I remind myself that it’s a scam and I’m only here to be a witness to a robbery—which it is—one hundred dollars right down the toilet.
“Alexis Riggs,” Penny adds once the machine is rolling again. “On the evening of March 5,” she states. “We should begin by having a few moments of quiet. We need to lower our vibrations, and the spirits must raise theirs, so that we can be at the same frequency. Try to calm your minds. Close your eyes.”
She and Sadie lower their heads like they’re praying. I don’t know what to do.
“I’m just observing,” I interject.
Penny’s head pops up. “What, honey?”
“This is for her, obviously. Not for me. I’m just here to be emotional support.”
“All right.” Penny fixes me with a serious gaze from behind her purple glasses. “But I’ll warn you, I might get something that’s intended for you. I don’t make the rules. The spirits do. And sometimes they have something to say, and they don’t care who paid for the session.”
I nod, my heart beating faster. I could still leave, I think. I could tell Sadie I’ll wait for her outside.
As if she can read my mind, Sadie grabs my hand. Her palm is clammy. “Go on, Penny,” she says.
They lower their heads again. In the ensuing silence Ibecome hyper aware of everything in the room—a cuckoo clock ticking softly over our heads, an apple smell like pie or turnovers, the dog lapping from its water dish, motes of dust floating in the air by the window.
“There are many spirits here,” Penny says, eyes still closed. “One of them is stepping forward.” She lifts her head. “You can open your eyes now,” she tells Sadie.
Sadie peers up at her, blinking a few times.
“It’s a male figure,” Penny says. “An older male.”
Sadie’s holding her breath. “Yes.”
“A kind man,” Penny continues. “A wise man.”
Sadie stops nodding. “A monk?”
“Like a priest. He is showing me that he lived a long time ago, in a monastery with many other monks, at the top of a cliff. He loved music.”
Sadie sneaks a questioning glance at me. I shrug.
“You love music too, don’t you?” Penny pushes her glasses up on her nose. “You play an instrument.”
“Um . . . piano,” Sadie mumbles.
I do my upmost not to snort. Sadie is capable of Chopsticks and Heart and Soul on piano, as far as I know, and that’s it. She dropped out of piano in third grade for what her teacher called “lack of musicality.”
“This is why he chose you. Because of the music. His name begins with . . . G,” Penny says.
“Gregory,” I fill in. I can’t help it. What other name is there for a monk who loves music?
Penny’s gaze swings to me, and she smiles in a tight way that communicates that she’s the medium here, so zip it. “Maybe you have a bit of the gift as well, Alexis. Yes, Gregory. That is his name.”
“I don’t understand,” Sadie says. “Who’s Gregory?”
“Your spirit guide,” Penny says. “He is there to direct you on your soul path. We each have a guide in this life—someone to guide us and help us along our way.”
If that’s the case then my spirit guide is fired.
“But. . .” Sadie doesn’t want to be rude, clearly, but Gregory is not who she came for.
“He’s showing me something about your ears,” Penny says. “A pair of earrings? Does that make sense to you? Gregory wants to call attention to a particular pair of earrings. I am getting a feeling like . . . diamonds. Does that make sense?”
Sadie stiffens. “Yes, sort of, but I thought. . .”
“Gregory is indicating behind him. He wants you to leave these earrings in the past. Let them go.”
I glance at the cuckoo clock. Twelve minutes down. We’ve wasted twelve full minutes (that’s fortydollars, I quickly calculate) on a bogus spirit guide.
“Enough with Gregory,” I say as Penny opens her mouth again. “No offense, but can we move on?”
Penny looks offended.
“Sadie was hoping to hear about someone else. Someone who’s passed, right? Isn’t that what you do—connect people with the dead?”
“Someone in particular?”
“I can only hear those who choose to speak to me, like Gregory,” Penny says, shooting me a sharp look. “But I can try. It would help if you had an object that belonged to the person in question. The spirits often attach themselves to objects. Might you have something like that with you?”
Sadie takes a quivery breath and digs around in her purse for a minute. Then she places a gold watch on the table.
I remember that watch. When Sadie’s dad rolled up his sleeves to teach long division, we’d see it gleaming on his wrist. Sometimes during class he’d pick one of the students to hold his watch and keep track of time when he read out loud to us—because he’d get lost in a story, he used to say.
Penny touches it lightly. Her eyes close for a moment, then open. “Yes,” she says. “There is a presence connected here. A male figure. He’s stepping forward.”
Brilliant deduction, Sherlock, I think. A male figure connected with a man’s watch.
“He is like a father figure to you.”
Sadie’s hand squeezes mine. Hard.
“He was also a good man. He had a nice laugh.”
Sadie draws in a shuddering breath. Even I can’t help but lean forward.
Penny says, “His name starts with an A.”
Strike one, Penny. Sadie’s dad’s name was Brian.
“Alvin or Albert or Arthur,” she says.
“My grandfather’s name was Aaron,” Sadie says slowly.
Penny’s eyes light up. “Yes. Your grandfather. He had a mustache? He was a farmer. Corn, I think. Does that sound right?”
“I think so,” Sadie admits. “He died when I was two. I don’t really remember him.”
Penny is undeterred by Sadie’s reluctance. “He is showing me that he held you just after you were born. He is indicating that he had something to do with giving you your name. He wants you to know that he has watched over you, all these years.”
“Well, he and Gregory, right?” I chip in.
Sadie gives me a look that says, really? and I shut up. I turn my attention to Penny’s dog, who comes over and sniffs at my hand, then stands with her head at Penny’s knee. Penny strokes it between the ears absently. It’s a nice dog, I think, the kind of dog I’d want if I had any inclination to own a dog again. Not too big, not too little. A spaniel. Nice, long and silky ears. Soft brown eyes.
At this point I’m preferring Penny’s dog to Penny herself.
“Your grandmother has also passed?” Penny inquires.
“About a year ago,” Sadie says.
I didn’t know this, either.
“She and your grandfather are together. That’s how it is on the other side. We are all together. We find each other.”
“Always?” Sadie wants to know.
Penny’s red lips twist. “Unless we need to be reincarnated. But even then, we all find our way back together in the end.”
“Why would we need to be reincarnated?” I ask.
“Because there are lessons we still need to learn,” she answers. “Experiences that we require to shape us into our perfect form. So we go back. We even pick our parents. We try again, until we get it right.”
Whatever. No way I picked my parents. I check the clock: twenty-two minutes down. Eight to go.
“Is there anyone else?” Sadie’s seen the clock, too, and she’s getting desperate now. “Anybody else who wants to give me a message?” She looks again at her dad’s watch.
“I’ll see.” Penny holds herself very still for a few seconds, like she’s listening. “Yes, there is someone else coming through. A young man.”
Sadie straightens up in her chair. “A young man?”
“I get a sense that he has recently passed. Suddenly. Without warning.”
“I know a guy like that,” Sadie says. “A friend.”
I try to catch her eye. I want to tell her No. Don’t play along, but she doesn’t look at me.
“The first thing he wants me to tell you is that he’s all right now,” Penny says. “He’s not in pain anymore.”
I stopped breathing about three sentences back. I try to tell myself that this is what I would have expected her to say. This is what the Long Island Medium says. It’s standard charlatan speak. But part of me has gone still and quiet, waiting to hear what she’ll say next.
Waiting to see if he’ll talk to me.
“He’s showing me a cell phone,” Penny says. “Did someone try to call him, after he died? No, he’s saying that he tried to call someone. Did he try to call you?”
My eyes burn.
“Um,” Sadie says. “I don’t know.”
She doesn’t know about the text.
Penny sighs. “No, this is wrong. He’s telling me that something is wrong.” She frowns deeply. “He wants to talk about somebody. He wants you to do something.”
Ashley, I think. He wants to talk about Ashley. Or Dad.
“Your boyfriend,” Penny says, still directing all of this at Sadie. “He has something to communicate about your boyfriend.”
“Doug?” Sadie squeaks.
Penny shakes her head. “No, not the boy you’re seeing now. An ex-boyfriend. He’s showing a broken heart. Do you have a broken heart?”
Sadie looks at me. I struggle to keep my face blank. I give the tiniest shake of my head.
Sadie doesn’t get the message.
“Maybe,” she says. “What else does he say?”
“He wants you to make things right with this boy,” Penny says. “He keeps showing love. Love is important. Love is everything. Love and . . . forgiveness. That’s what he wants. He wants you to find love and to forgive.”
“How do I do that?” Sadie asks. “Does he have any specific instructions?”
“Forgive him,” Penny’s hands tighten into fists on the table, like the message is causing her pain. “Now he’s showing me stars. Bright stars, against a deep blue sky. Blue lights.”
“Lights,” Sadie repeats. “Blue lights.”
“Tell him the truth,” Penny says, her voice gruff and low, like it’s not even her who’s talking anymore. “And forgive him.”
“The boy who broke your heart.”
“I’m not really certain who that is.” Sadie shoots another quick glance at me. “Can you give me a name? So I can be sure to forgive the right person?”
“His name starts with H,” Penny says immediately.
And just like that, with that one factual discrepancy, I stop believing her.
“Hmm, H,” says Sadie. I don’t know how much she knows about my love life, or if she even knows who Steven is. “I don’t know any guys who broke my heart who start with H. There was this boy Peter in the ninth grade, though. He did a doozy on me.”
Penny’s lips tighten. She can tell that Sadie’s not taking her seriously anymore. “Maybe the message isn’t for you.”
Sadie turns to me. “Did you get your heart broken by a guy who starts with H?”
I lick my lips nervously and shake my head. Sadie shrugs. “Sorry.”
“Maybe it’s a man from one of your past lives,” Penny suggests. “Ah yes. I can understand this now. A man from another life.”
Strike three, Madam Penny. You’re out.
Sadie gives a frustrated sigh.
“He had red hair,” Penny continues. “He was a pilot, I think. He’s showing me that he flew a plane. He wore a bomber jacket. He liked jazz.”
Here we go. I’d be willing to bet that she’s about to tell us that the red-headed pilot and Sadie’s past self bonded over their love of music.
“You used to dance all night,” says Penny.
“He loved you.” She presses her hand against the feather necklace on her chest. “So much. He loved you like the moon and stars.” She leans back. The dog lifts its head from her lap and stares at us with mournful eyes.
“All right, girls,” she says in a regular voice. “Your time is up.”
We’re quiet on the ride home. Then Sadie finally says, “Well, that was a huge waste of a hundred dollars.”
I try to keep it positive. “Hey, but it was entertaining. In a way.”
“Right. It was a real barrel of laughs.” She sniffles, and that’s when I realize she’s crying.
I open the glove compartment to find a pack of tissues. I hand her one. “I’m sorry, Sadie. I know you wanted to get something profound out of this.”
She shakes her head. “No, I’m sorry for dragging you along with me. That must have been, like, torture for you.”
“Yeah, just a bit. But I was curious, too.”
“You were right about everything. I’m naïve. I am a tool, seriously.” She sighs and blows her nose. “God. A hundred dollars.”
“It was an experiment,” I say. “You went in with an open mind.”
“I really thought my dad would talk to me,” she says. “I believed it.”
“So now I know.”
I don’t know what to say to this. “Well at least you found out that you had some hot red-headed pilot who used to take you dancing.”
She half laughs, half sobs. “Right. And a monk who loves me for my music. She had me going for a while, though.”
“Yeah. Well. It would have worked if you’d recently broken up with a guy named Hector.”
We’re both laughing now. “Blue lights,” Sadie says in her best, most dramatic Madam Penny voice. “Bright stars against a dark blue sky.”
“You must find love and forgive,” I intone.
“Tell him the truuuuuuuth,” Sadie drawls out.
Our laughter fades.
“Thanks for coming with me,” she says.
“Thanks for asking me. And asking me. And asking me.”
She breathes out a laugh. “You’re a good friend.”
No, I’m not, I think. “You’re a good friend, too,” I answer. “I’m glad you saw me running that night. I’m glad you took the time to figure out why.”
“Hey, I was serious when I said we should start running together again,” she says. “Just as soon as the weather warms up. You and me. Jogging.”
“Don’t push your luck,” I say.
She smiles, a genuine smile this time, the traces of tears still silver on her cheeks.
* * *
That was fantastic, right? Okay, on with the hunt. Remember - the number here is 8, and your next stop is with Gretchen McNeil. Have fun!