ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS: DELETED CHAPTER
BY STEPHANIE PERKINS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The following material was deleted from Anna and the French Kiss. Readers will no doubt recognize many of these passages, because they were readjusted to fit the current, published Chapter Twelve. You might even recognize a few descriptions that were repurposed later for Isla and the Happily Ever After.
My editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, and I cut this material for two reasons:
(1) PACING. The novel, which ended up around 80,000 words, was orginally 100,000. We'd already removed 15,000+ words that weren't helpful to the story, but the pacing in the first half was still dragging. This was the expendable scene.
(2) CLICHÉ. The original Chapter Twelve, though fun, felt familiar. There are a lot of novels that feature a protagonist who is terrible at sports—probably because so many authors are terrible at sports. (We were too busy reading. Or, perhaps, we read because we were terrible at sports. It's all very chicken or egg.) I am one of these authors. Throughout my entire schooling, I was picked honest-to-goodness last in gym class. If you've ever seen the television show Freaks and Geeks, recall the dodgeball episode. Recall the team-picking episode. That was me.
Nevertheless . . . I still enjoy this scene. I hope you will, too.
[We'll pick up toward the end of CHAPTER TEN . . .]
Rashmi opens her mouth to protest just as the teacher arrives. Every week it's someone new—sometimes administration, sometimes a professeur. This time, I'm surprised to see Nate. I guess all staff members are forced to take a turn. He rubs his shaved head and smiles pleasantly at our class.
"How do you know what I'm doing tonight?" St. Clair repeats.
"Pleeeeease," I say to her.
She gives a resigned grimace. "Fine. But I'm picking the next movie."
Nate clears his throat, and Rashmi and St. Clair look up. That's one thing I like about my new friends. They respect the teachers. It drives me nuts to see students talk back or ignore them, because my mom is a teacher. I wouldn't want anyone being rude to her. "All right, people, enough. Amanda, enough." In his quiet but firm way, Nate shuts her up. She flips her hair and sighs, with a glance toward St. Clair.
He ignores her. Ha.
"I have a surprise for you," Nate says. "Since the weather is turning, and there aren't many warm days left, I've arranged for this class to have a spot in the park for the rest of the week."
We're sitting in a park for class credit. I love Paris.
"We're going to have a football tournament," Nate says.
NOOOOOOOOOO. I hate Paris!
"Soccer," he clarifies, as if that makes it better. But, for some reason, my classmates are excited. Steve Carver pumps a fist in the air. What a meathead. Rashmi and I groan in a rare moment of camaraderie.
"Mer'll be gutted when she hears she's missing this," St. Clair says.
"Since we don't have time for you to change and get down there today, I thought we'd go over the rules . . ." Nate says.
One less day of soccer!
". . . and pick teams."
Oh hell no.
Nate picks captains—Steve Carver and a girl named Nicole, Amanda's best friend—and the selecting begins. Amanda is chosen first. Of course. And then Steve's best friend. Of course. Rashmi elbows me. "Bet you five euros I'm picked last."
"I'll take that bet. Because it's totally me, those people hate me."
"St. Clair!" Steve's voice startles me. Everyone turns to look at St. Clair who shrugs and heads to the front of the class.
"He's always picked early," Rashmi says.
Hmph. Must be nice.
Pretty soon it's down to me, Rashmi, an obese girl named Sarah, and a skinny dude that, for whatever reason, is called Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger is always wearing this expression of surprise, like someone's just called his name, and he can't figure out where the voice is coming from.
Amanda whispers in Steve's ear. He nods. "We'll take Sarah."
"Rashmi," Nicole says without hesitation.
My heart sinks. It's between me and someone named Cheeseburger. I can't even look up. Instead, I focus on a picture of me that Josh drew earlier today in history. I'm dressed like a medieval peasant (we're studying the Black Plague), and I have a fierce scowl and a dead rat dangling from one hand.
Amanda whispers again. I can feel her smirk, and my face burns.
Steve clears his throat. "Cheeseburger."
"You owe me five bucks," I say.
Rashmi smiles. "I'll buy your movie ticket."
"I can't believe I'm missing football." Meredith is pouting. Even her springy curls look limp and sad tonight. "We aren't playing it in phys ed until spring."
A breeze whips down the street. We hold our jackets tight and shiver. A dusting of brown leaves crunches underneath our feet as Paris hovers on the edge of autumn. "Isn't there some league you can join or something?" Josh asks, putting his arm around Rashmi. She burrows into him. "I see people playing around here all the time."
"Boo." A familiar disheveled head pops between Mer and me, and we jump like startled cats.
[The rest of this chapter plays out the same. Everyone sees It Happened One Night, and Anna and St. Clair have A Moment. We'll pick up again at . . .]
I dread La Vie all day. Nate instructed us to change into exercise clothes before class. We're meeting at a park not far from campus. So, not only do I get to humiliate myself in front of my peers, but I also get to do it in front of sophisticated ladies walking Yorkies and elderly gentlemen playing chess. Not to mention the other local students, ditching to smoke clove cigarettes and soak in the last warm rays of the year.
Even memories of last night—sitting next to St. Clair in the dark, his leg against mine, the look that passed between us—aren't enough to relieve my despair.
Besides, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced nothing happened. Because nothing DID happen. When we left the movie, Rashmi announced, "The ending was too abrupt. We didn't get to see any of the good stuff." And by the time I'd finished defending it, we were already back inside our dorm. I wanted to talk to St. Clair, get a sign that something between us had changed, but Mer broke in and hugged him good night. And since I couldn't hug him without exposing my thudding heart, I lingered behind.
And then we had this lame wave goodbye.
And then I went to bed, confused as ever.
What happened? As thrilling as it was, I must have exaggerated it in my mind, because he didn't act any differently at breakfast. We had a friendly conversation, as always. Besides, he has Ellie. He doesn't need me. All I can guess is that I must have projected my own frustrated feelings about Toph onto St. Clair. Toph and I are still talking, but nothing has changed. It's like our kiss didn't even happen.
And now the ticking clock in history—my last class before the Dreaded Event—is like the ticking suitcase bomb in a bad summer blockbuster. And I don't know which wire to cut, so I'm waiting for it to explode in my face. Josh isn't being helpful. He drew a picture of me tangled up in a soccer net, which might be funny if it weren't so close to what would actually happen if I got near the goal.
When class ends, I slink into the restroom to change and find Amanda Spitterton-Watts and Nicole Burby, captain of my unfortunate team, already in short shorts and strappy tank tops. They're all smooth legs and boobs. No wonder they're popular.
Being allergic to exercise, I don't own any athletic clothes, so I put on pajama bottoms (Oliphant clan tartan) and a black T-shirt (Atlanta Film Festival) instead. Too bad I don't own any Parisian-park-colored camouflage. Perhaps I'll note my surroundings during the game and wear more appropriate colors tomorrow. I'll be Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman in Fantastic Four. Except that movie sucked, and I'd rather be Violet Parr, the invisible girl from The Incredibles, instead—
"Watch it, Skunk Girl." Amanda sneers as I exit the bathroom stall. I wasn't even remotely close to her. She points to my pajamas. "Is your mommy going to read you a bedtime story?"
Is that the best she can come up with? Lame. I wash my hands. Nicole pulls her hair back into her usual tight ponytail—I swear she's cutting off circulation to her brain—and then says, "Maybe her legs are deformed."
So much for being invisible. I scram from the bathroom. Their laughter echoes against the tiles as I run smack into Josh's lanky frame. He steadies me and notices my red face. He frowns. "What's their problem?"
"Nothing," I mumble. "Aren't you going to be late for class?"
Josh examines me carefully, but he decides not to press. "Not going."
He follows me outside. "Pre-calc blows. I'm in the front row, and Professeur Babineaux drowns me in spit."
"Oh, I know. Mer sits up front and always leaves spotted." I check the sky, hoping at the word 'spotted,' it might decide to rain. No such luck. "But that's it? You're just gonna ditch?"
I've never ditched, and I don't understand how he can be so casual about it. For the briefest of moments, I wonder would happen if I skipped La Vie. Detention might be better than football. "Won't you get in trouble?"
"Probably." Josh flexes his hand and winces.
"Cramped," he says. "From drawing. It's okay, it's always like this."
It's true that I rarely see him without his brush pen. Strange. I'd never considered art injuries before. "You're really good," I say. "Is that what you want to do? For a living, I mean?"
We pass a typical brasserie—six round tables with cane chairs. A waiter in a long apron bulging with jangling change places coffee before a man with a newspaper. All but one of the tables is filled. I long to sit at that empty table.
"I'm working on a graphic novel," Josh says.
"Really? That's cool. What's it about?"
The corner of his mouth rises into a sly smile. "A guy forced to attend a snobby boarding school, because his parents don't want him around anymore."
I snort. "I've heard that one before. What do your parents do?"
"My dad's a politician. They're working on his reelection campaign. I haven't talked to 'Senator Wasserstein' since school started."
"Senator? As in a senator senator?"
"Senator as in senator senator. Unfortunately."
Again. What was Dad was thinking? Sending me to school with the children of U.S. SENATORS? We reach the park, and my classmates are already gossiping in the middle of a field. Locals amble along the gravel footpath and eye us suspiciously.
"Does everyone have a terrible father?" I ask. "Is it a requirement for attendance?"
"Rashmi and Mer don't, but St. Clair's dad is a piece of work."
"So I hear." Curiosity gets the best of me. "What's his deal?"
Josh shrugs. "He's just a jerk. He keeps a tight leash on St. Clair and his mom, but he's really friendly to everyone else. Somehow that makes it worse."
Rashmi stalks up to us. "What the hell are you doing, Josh? Are you trying to get kicked out of school?"
I edge away. Speaking of St. Clair, where is he? As usual, he's late. Nate arrives and calls roll. He doesn't notice the extra body—Josh, who isn't even dressed out—and it's hard to tell if this makes Rashmi more or less furious.
"Anna!" Nate says. "Where's your pal? Is he coming?"
I startle. The knowledge that Nate knows St. Clair is my particular friend shouldn't make me feel gloaty, but it does. He could have asked Josh, he could have asked Rashmi. But he asked me. "I don't know," I say. "Yeah."
We start without him. Nate calls us to the center of the field. He's carrying a large, canvas bag over his shoulder, which is filled with soccer balls, no doubt. But he unzips it, and my horror intensifies. Jerseys. Red, mesh jerseys.
Oh my God.
Many things in life gross me out: Those tiny, white airplane pillows covered in other people's hair. My ex-boyfriend's grease-splotched polo shirt from KFC. Public swimming pools filled with urinating children. Also on that list?
Used sports equipment.
"Nicole," Nate says. "Why doesn't your team wear the jerseys today?"
The torture never ends. My teammates pull the jerseys over their heads. I pluck one off the ground with my fingertips and hold it as far away as possible. Josh and Rashmi stare. I try not to make a big deal out of it but fail miserably.
"It won't bite," Josh says.
"No, but it may give me some kind of fungus."
"It won't give you a fungus," Rashmi says, perfectly at home in her own jersey. I glare at her as I put on mine.
"You might want to relax your arms," Josh says. "You look like you're doing the chicken dance."
And risk the mesh touching my bare arms? No, thank you.
We take our places on the field, and I position myself as far away from the ball as possible. Nate blows the whistle and everyone scatters. I shuffle around, trying to look like I'm playing without actually doing anything. I glance at my watch. Where's St. Clair? It's unfair he's missing this, when I'm stuck here. He'd also be something nice to look at.
No! I force my thoughts away from him.
I wonder what Toph's doing right now? I wonder what he's wearing? I loved those rare days when I'd see him in street clothes, when he'd come in to pick up his paycheck and he'd be decked out punk-style, bondage pants and safety-pin covered jacket—
"Move it, Skunk Girl!" I'm jerked out of my daydream by the terrifying image of Amanda Spitterton-Watts barreling down on me with the ball. I hurtle aside, and my teammates scream at me.
What? I don't want to get hit.
Amanda streaks down the field, and Josh zips by to block someone from stealing her ball. "Amanda's a bitch to everyone," he shouts. "Don't take it personally." Easy for him to say. He's clearly capable of ball handling.
Ball handling. I smirk to myself.
"What's so funny?"
I'm startled to find St. Clair beside me. His pale cheeks are flushed, I suppose from running here. He's changed into black soccer—football—shorts and a faded green T-shirt. My hormones take note of his lean, muscular legs. Who knew?
"I was just thinking that Josh is good at handling balls," I say, prying my eyes from St. Clair's calves.
"Ah, but not as talented as Steve." He points downfield to where Steve Carver is pushing aside his own teammate to take possession of the ball. Poor Cheeseburger falls to the ground. Steve kicks the ball and whoomp—it flies into the net. "Now there's a bloke who knows his way around balls."
"Where've you been?"
"I forgot to bring a change of clothing. Had to go back to my room. Love the clan tartan, by the way." He nods to my pajamas. "Do you have a matching smoking jacket? A hat with tartan earflaps, perhaps?"
"Shut up." The ball whizzes by. I dangle out a leg half-heartedly to stop it and miss.
"Football's only a week. It'll be over before you know it."
"Easy for you to say."
"Would you like to know a secret, Anna?"
I struggle to keep scowling. I love the way he says my name.
St. Clair steps closer and whispers. His breath is clean and spicy like cinnamon toothpaste. "I'm absolutely, positively rubbish at football. A complete embarrassment to my country."
"But—" I start to ask why he was picked ahead of so many people, but that's rude. Besides, I know the answer. He's attractive and funny and people will always like him. That's so irritating.
"Mind if hide back here with you?" he asks.
"Whatever. I bet you're not even that bad."
"Oh, believe me, I am. Terrible."
"Sure you are." I'm annoyed. No one that confident could actually be awful.
Steve and Nicole whiz past. This time I don't even pretend to try to stop them. "So prove it, Golden Boy."
"Did you just call me 'Golden Boy'?"
I place my hands on my hips, and then immediately throw them off. Ick. I touched the jersey. "Prove to me you suck at something. I want to see you out there"—I gesture vaguely around—"Sucking. Hard."
"Because I've only been here a month, and even I know you're good at everything." He opens his mouth to protest, but I stop him with a raised hand. "You're good at school, good with the teachers, good with our classmates. You dress well, tell the right jokes, speak fluent French, AND have a girlfriend in college."
His jaw hangs open.
"I'm also willing to bet that you've memorized the periodic chart, you're a master of tae kwon do, and you've never had a cavity. Ever." I square my shoulders. "So prove it. Golden Boy."
St. Clair shuts his mouth and shakes his head. And then he takes off running. Oh, no. He's angry. I can't believe I said that. And now he knows I think he's perfect! I could die, DIE, of humiliation.
Wait a second. He's playing. And . . . he's right.
I don't believe it. St. Clair is really, really bad. He dodges between Nicole and a beefy guy named Michel. Beefy kicks the ball, and St. Clair tries to steal it, but he trips and jabs his elbow into Beefy's stomach instead. Beefy doubles over and moans like a wounded hippopotamus.
"What the hell, St. Clair?" Steve yells, "He's on our team!"
Nicole snatches the ball and tears in the opposite direction, ponytail flying behind her. St. Clair chases after her, his arms flailing like limp fettuccini noodles. He moves in front of her for a steal, but she maneuvers around him, and he blocks Amanda instead, who's trying to save the ball from his clutches. Nicole kicks it in for a goal.
His team shouts and boos, but St. Clair keeps crashing into them. Finally, Nate blows the whistle. "Étienne! What are you doing? Get back to the other side of the field!"
St. Clair lifts a hand in a gesture of apology. "Sorry, sir."
Everyone in the park—Josh and Rashmi included—is shaking their head like they can't believe what just happened. Neither can I. St. Clair jogs back to me. His hair is sweaty, and he grins, waiting for my reaction. The game restarts behind us.
"Wow. I don't think I'll ever be picked last again," I finally say.
He laughs in his usual confident manner. "Aw, they'll forget about it by the time rugby rolls around."
He pokes me. "Only kidding. So how was I?"
"On a scale from one to ten?"
"Ten being Beckham, one being Posh."
"I'm gonna have to go with a deux."
He whistles. "And I was hoping for trois."
"I'm impressed. You stuck with it."
"Stick with me, and you'll never have to touch that ball."
I hold out my hand. "Deal." St. Clair shakes it. His skin is hot and damp, but I shiver.
He's right again. Everyone steers clear of us for the remainder of class, which allows us to discuss the best movie trilogies of all-time. I vote for The Lord of the Rings, but he thinks it's the original Star Wars—Seany would love him—even after I point out that it's not a trilogy, because you have to count the newer episodes. To which he replies, "Blasphemy!"
I'm glad he didn't say The Godfather, which is such a male cliché. I cringe, remembering that Toph claims it as his favorite. I'm not even sure he's seen the whole thing, because when I argued the pitfalls of Part III—it doesn't work as a standalone, the plot is convoluted, the ending weak—he changed the subject.
Nate blows the whistle again, and the game is over. I'm surprised. That was fast. I carefully peel off the jersey and toss it toward Nate's bag.
Josh finds us. "What the hell was that, St. Clair?"
Rashmi rolls with laughter. "I had no idea."
"Yeah, yeah," St. Clair says. He's in a good mood.
"No, seriously," Josh says. "I've never seen anything like it, and we've been friends for—how many years now?"
St. Clair shrugs.
"Whatever it was, it was awesome," Rashmi says. "Wait 'til we tell Mer."
"I've seen you play before," Josh insists. "You are not that horrible."
Startled, I look at St. Clair, but he won't meet my gaze. He did that on purpose? Why would he embarrass himself like that? For me? I don't know how I feel about this. Angry because he is good at sports, and he lied. Flattered because he likes me enough to draw the attention away from me. Embarrassed because he thinks I need his help.
"Anyone catch what Professeur Wakefield's paper is on?" St. Clair asks. "I wasn't paying attention when he assigned it."
Rashmi fills him in, while I think, Yes, you were. Stop changing the subject. As his lab partner (and, okay, someone who watches him a little too closely), I know for a fact that he jotted down our homework, because he wrote it next to this cute scribble of an elephant he made during a lecture on magnetic fields.
The wind picks up, and the chestnut trees rustle their yellow leaves. I rub the chill from my arms. St. Clair drops behind the others and walks beside me. "Oh, and Anna. One more thing."
He grins. "Don't ever call me Golden Boy again."