Author's Notes (May 7, 2011): This outtake was originally part of the Fandoms Fight the Floods Queensland, Australia relief effort. I'm supposedly not meant to post this 'til July or some craziness, but since this effort ended in late March, I'm going to break some rules.
"SINS OF THE PIANO MAN OUTTAKES"
CHAPTER 01 OUTTAKE: LOST
February 13, 1987, 12:32 a.m.
The elevator can't go fast enough. "Come on, come on, come on," I urge it as tears fall down my cheeks.
We'll get home, baby, I promise the nameless little person inside. I'm so sorry about tonight. I knew it was wrong to come, but I did it anyway… It'll be all right now, though. Don't be afraid. I promise it'll be okay.
It isn't easy thinking these things when I'm terrified of the man upstairs. No, not a man. He isn't a man, I know. He's a creature, a dark angel who's called me out on my sins. I feel dirty and chastised.
With a soft and indifferent ding!, the elevator opens up to the extravagant lobby. It's not as beautiful to me as it was an hour ago; now it's just a place for me to pass through as quickly as possible on my way back home. I wipe tears from my eyes and glance at the front desk, where a handsome young man in a suit and tie is sorting through a pile of papers.
I hesitate. Should I go to him? Should I tell him that there's someone upstairs who said he wanted to kill me? I should call the police.
Gasping, I bring these thoughts to an abrupt halt. Can Edward still hear what I'm thinking? He told me he'd know if I ever talked about this night. I believe him. I won't tell anyone, I chant in my head, over and over, just in case he can hear me. I won't tell anyone. I promise.
You can't tell anyone, anyway, I reason with myself. Because how can you say that someone read your mind? How can you tell them that you ran away from your husband, endangered your unborn child?
More importantly, Charlie, my sweet, mild-mannered husband, can never know about tonight. He's already insecure. To find out I've been in another's hotel room… He would be heartbroken by my betrayal. I'm heartbroken in my own way.
I take a cab back to the bar where I met Edward. It's past midnight, but if I drive through the night, I'll maybe make it back to Forks before Charlie gets up for training. He's working so hard to become a cop. And what have I done? I've run away. I've put everything at risk. What's wrong with me?
The four-hour drive isn't easy. I've been getting tired all the time lately, and my nerves are shot after all that's happened. Twice, I nearly sideswipe another car on the highway. I've never really been a great driver, and intermittent crying doesn't help.
I guess the fatigue's one of the first signs of pregnancy. Keeping a tight hold on the steering wheel with my left hand, I rest my right over my abdomen. Are you there? I wonder in silence. Who are you? Who will you become? Will you ever be able to love someone like me? I don't know how to be a mom…
But I'm going to be one. Edward, the fear he instilled, made it real to me.
It's no longer a matter of if or even when. I've fucked that up. We've fucked that up. When is now according to this other creature's time, this thing that is a baby, will be a baby, will be a child. Will be mine. Will be Charlie's.
Can I really do this?
Charlie will know, I think, and I'm warmed by this hopeful thought that allows me to lay the burden on someone else's shoulders for a little while. No one wants me at the helm. I'm no good at being a responsible adult. I'm late to all my appointments. I forget to pay the bills. No one likes my cooking. They think I don't know that. I know it. All our white underwear is pink, because I've washed the wrong colored clothing together—more than once. People think I don't know I'm this way—flighty, erratic—but I do. I just simply don't know how to change it. How do you turn that off?
It's me. I'm flawed.
At least…at least a baby is a shared responsibility. Knowing Charlie will hold my hand the whole way allows me to breathe a little more easily. He's a constant man, and he loves me, even though he shouldn't, even though he probably deserves much better. Especially after tonight.
Yes, Charlie will know what to do. He always knows. He's a quiet, grounding force in my life, the rope that tethers me to the earth when I'm trying to float away like a helium balloon on the loose. I resent him for it sometimes, because sometimes, I want to fly away—glide through a cloud-filled sky, touch the bright yellow sun. But Charlie knows I'm Icarus, that I can't fly for as long as I sometimes think I might be able to, that the sun will of course burn my fingers. Most of the time, I know that he knows best. That's why I love him, why I married him. He dots the I's and crosses the T's that I forget.
Charlie will know what to do, I tell my tiny companion. Your daddy will know.
I arrive home around five in the morning, but Charlie's not asleep like I thought he'd be. He's awake, sitting out on the front porch steps with a cigarette pinched between his thumb and index finger. The pale morning light falls on his handsome features, and I'm reminded, all over again, of how stupid I've been. How did I ever think that going to Seattle was okay, was even the right thing to do? Hindsight and I are not good friends.
I turn the car engine off, and Charlie and I stare at each other across the small distance. I give him a hesitant, awkward wave. He arches a bushy brow and flicks his ashes into the wind where they float away. I wish I could float with them.
Time to face the music.
I walk up to the porch and sit beside him on the steps. They're dampened by endless humidity. I hate this weather. I miss dry heat and warm sunshine. I haven't had a tan in a year. It's rarely warm and sunny in Forks, but Charlie loves it. He can't see himself living anywhere else. I struggle to see myself staying here for the next year, much less forever.
How are we going to make everything work?
Why am I pregnant? Not why. Why now? Why did we get married so young? Why, why, why?
He dots my I's and crosses my T's. I need that.
"Hey," I say after we've sat for a while. I'm hoarse from crying in the car, and my voice cracks even on the one word.
Charlie sighs. "Where have you been? I've been worried sick all night—haven't slept a wink." I can tell it's true. He's got puffy, dark circles under his eyes. I think he's maybe even cried a little, but I know better than to mention that. "I even called your mother, but she didn't know where you were, either," he adds, and we both laugh, despite the tension. Charlie hates dealing with Mom. She gives him a hard time.
Of course, that he did deal with her just shows how worried he actually was. I squirm under the weight of an ever-growing guilt.
I opt to be as truthful as possible, which won't be all that truthful, all things considered. "I went to Seattle," I tell him.
It's an answer, and he relaxes a little once he has it to chew on. Charlie can handle a mystery, handle not knowing everything, so long as he's got a few details.
"Seattle?" He doesn't even sound all that surprised. He's learned to expect the unexpected with me. I know it's one of the things he loves about me—that I surprise him—but it makes me sad. He deserves someone who's as consistent as he is.
"I just needed to get away."
"Think you got far enough?" he asks wryly. He has an unspoken fear that I'll leave him one day. I know it's eating at him now.
All I do is nod, because I did get far enough away—far enough to realize I needed to come back.
I reach over and take his hand. It's callused and warm, despite the chill in the air. I trace the lines of his palm and fingers, think of palm readers and fate and life lines, and how I'm moving along my own life line much faster than I'd ever planned to. And I guess that's because of fate. It certainly doesn't feel like I have any control over my life.
I feel so young to be doing so many adult things—life-altering decision making and marriage and mortgage and baby. Then what? Stretch marks and midlife crises? It seems like someone else's life story, but isn't. It's mine. It's just so far off from anything I'd ever thought it would be. I have dreams, and I can't help but wonder where they're all floating off to—maybe with Charlie's cigarette ash. Why can't I keep my dreams tied down to the earth, like Charlie manages to keep me?
Stop thinking of yourself, Edward had said. And he's right. I need to be less selfish.
I, I, I. I use the word too much.
Sensing my discomfort, he leans into me and looks at my face with those endless brown eyes. "What is it?" He's clearly afraid of what I'm about to say.
I am, too, but probably for entirely different reasons.
It takes a minute for me to gather up the courage to say it, and once I do, it comes out in a strangled whisper. "I'm pregnant," I finally say. It's the first time I've uttered those words, but they're somehow strangely freeing—not as scary as I thought they'd be, at least not when spoken to Charlie. I let out a deep breath.
The lines in Charlie's face relax suddenly, and he lights up with his golden smile, the one that reveals the dimple in his cheek and says that everything's going to be okay. He pulls his hand away from mine, so he can wrap his arm around my shoulders and hug me close. "Well, that's all right, then," he says with a stunned laugh. "A surprise, but all right." He kisses the top of my head, and I can feel him vibrating with joy and excitement. "It's more than all right."
"Do you really think that?" I ask. We're living in a small house in the middle of nowhere. Podunk, my mother calls it. That's what I think the humidity smells like. And Charlie's only training to be a cop right now, and even when he is an officer, a small town cop doesn't make a whole lot. Women without degrees get paid even less. We're fucked, as far as I can see.
I'm not ready to be a mom. I'm going to be one, anyway.
"Shit," Charlie mutters, and I panic, thinking he's on the same freefalling wavelength that I'm on, but then I realize he's just rushing to put out the cigarette that's burned down to a nub in his fingers. "I'll have to quit these things," he says resolutely. He kisses my cheek. "Everything'll work out, 'Nee. You'll see. This is a good thing."
He's grinning again—big, happy. My thoughts calm a little. We'll be okay. Maybe.
Charlie decides not to go into training today. Instead, he sits with me, holds my right hand as I eat cereal and a Pop-Tart for breakfast. He tries to talk me into pancakes at the diner, but I love Pop-Tarts. He asks when I found out about the baby, if I've made an appointment with the doctor yet, if I want a boy or a girl or twins!—could it be twins? God, I hope we're not having twins. I've never had much of a figure; I don't want to lose what little of one I've got.
He holds back my hair as I throw up most all of my breakfast an hour later. It's the third time it's happened in as many days. I'd just thought I had a bug.
I'm so stupid.
He helps me pull off my clothes, and we shower together, hold each other beneath hot water that burns and clears my head. I'm thankful that he doesn't ask any questions about the night I've spent away from him. He doesn't ask, because he's so happy that it doesn't even occur to him to ask. I feel the happiness with him every now and again—a little flutter of hope, a little excitement over this invisible third person that is unequivocally ours, but still a stranger. I'm afraid, so afraid, but his joy makes me curious and more accepting.
Who will you become? I wonder again.
As we lie in bed together, curled like spoons, resting but not sleeping, I think about how this baby connects us forever—to each other, to the universe. Maybe everything will be okay. Maybe…but I don't totally believe it yet. Everything feels too surreal—from finding out I'm pregnant, to running to Seattle, to meeting Edward, and coming home and telling Charlie. Maybe I'm lost in some dream about another woman's life. Part of me wants to be dreaming, while the other wants to be wide awake. It doesn't matter what I want, though, because I know I am awake.
Charlie rests a hand over my still flat stomach and whispers that he loves me. He doesn't say those words often, but when he does, I'm brought back to the present. Then he kisses my neck and does something that surprises me—surprises me, because of how much I like it. He whispers to the baby, and I smile in spite of my fear. He's my constant.
Watching the hazy light of a cloud-obscured sunrise, I think of Edward. I'm already questioning what I saw, what I felt, what happened. Edward—whoever, whatever he was—doesn't feel so real now. Charlie's real. Charlie's warm and breathing and living behind me. It's hard to believe I was trying to throw that all away just hours ago.
I do those things, though—panic and struggle blindly.
Be a fucking adult, Edward had yelled in the penthouse, and I need to be. So badly.
My mind stores the memory of Edward in a corner where I see him as an angel full of wrath and reprisal. But I also remember his concern for the one I carry within, the one I don't know how to love yet, but will keep no matter what, the one I strangely owe my life to. Perhaps Edward is a guardian angel, I think—here to protect the baby from my fickle ways. Everyone says God works in mysterious ways, after all. I believe it now. It's the only way I can explain the strange events of the night.
As I descend into cottony dreams, I send a little prayer to the angel who both scared me and led me back home. Resting a hand over Charlie's, I pray, Keep us safe.
Closing Notes: As you know, Queensland isn't the only place hit by natural disasters this year. Consider donating money/time to help those in need.