Hello friends of Song of Summer!
Thank you so much for your help in reaching 51 reviews on Amazon! As promised, here’s a never-before-seen deleted scene straight from an early draft of the book. I hope you like it!
SONG OF SUMMER
I tear a chunk of funnel cake from the greasy paper plate and fold it into my mouth. Savoring the spongy sweetness while attempting to brush away the stray powdered sugar that fell onto my t-shirt. This succeeds in smearing more across my chest, and the casual brushing turns into concentrated scrubbing before someone tugs on my arm. I glance down. The lights from the food booths and portable spinning teacups cast a carnival glow on my little sister’s face, exaggerating her pout even more.
“Carter! No fair!” Trina signs.
I lower the plate to her level and she rips off a giant piece, shoving the funnel cake into her mouth, powdered sugar already coating her cheeks. A drunken bee hovers near her face and I brush it away with the back of my hand before she sees it and freaks out. I’ve just waved it off when a couple of girls walk by, their mouths going, “Awww!” in unison as they press their hands against their hearts. Short shorts bare their legs all the way down to flip-flops and dusty feet with matching, perfectly pink toenails. I look back up to their faces and give them a half smile. Trina tugs on my arm again.
“Carter!” she signs. “We’re going to miss the fireworks!”
I give her the plate to keep her hands busy. “It will be impossible to miss the fireworks, Trina,” I sign back. “Giant balls of fire in the sky? Hard to miss.”
She rolls her eyes at me and turns on her heel, heading back to the field where thousands of people sit on hundreds of blankets and lawn chairs. I lunge forward and tap her shoulder. “You know where Mom and Dad are?” I ask.
She rolls her eyes again. Must be a very popular dismissal with nine year olds nowadays. Whatever happened to sticking out her tongue? “Yes,” she signs with her free hand.
“Tell them I’ll be there soon.”
“Okay.” She turns on her heel and swishes through the crowd, the flounces on her hot pink skirt bouncing. I turn back to the improvised midway. Every year, it’s an inauguration into this strange part of the state from my native New York City. We always leave the city in time for the Fourth of July celebration on Chautauqua Lake. The smells of fried food and people sweat are familiar, as are the game booths, food booths, mini carnival rides, and crowds of people who all seem to know each other.
I walk the dusty paths and people watch: tired parents with sticky-faced children, the occasional elderly couple who decided to brave the traffic for some real cotton candy, and preteens in giggly, lip-glossed groups. Also, of course, my agemates—teenagers in pairs with interlocked fingers, or mini-mobs of girls and guys eying each other up, deciding who they’ll kiss when the sky turns pink.
A group of teenagers blobs up the path toward me, weaving in and out of each other, ebbing and flowing like a giant single-celled organism. A dark blond guy with a five o’clock shadow pegs popcorn at a couple of girls near the front of the group. The tall, leggy redhead ducks and turns to yell at him, gesturing wildly, but when she faces front again, there’s a smile behind her eyes. The five o’clock shadow guy laughs at the back of her head and throws a piece of popcorn to one of his friends, who catches it in his mouth. Then he flicks another piece of popcorn at the leggy redhead’s friend, a short girl with her dark hair in a long ponytail. The dark haired girl removes the popcorn from her hair, holds it up in the air with a flourish, and sticks it straight in her mouth, brushing her fingers to dust them off pretentiously. Although she never turns to face him, the whole thing is clearly visible to the five o’clock shadow guy behind her.
“Thanks,” her mouth says around the popcorn.
I find a small smile on my face.
The leggy redhead grimaces, pointing at the dark haired girl as she chews the piece of popcorn that was once in her hair. “Eeewwww!” her face says, and the dark haired girl grins, shrugging. She swallows.
“What?” the dark haired girl’s mouth says, like it’s no big deal. She grins and looks away from the amorphous teen blob, catching me staring at her. I quickly start inspecting the brightly colored plastic flags strung across the top of the candied apple booth across the aisle.
After a few seconds—during which I gather that the flags are green, yellow, blue, and red, and not in as good of shape as they presumably once were—I glance back to the dark haired girl. Her back is to me, turned to talk to her friends again. Her hands move, not with any real communicative purpose, but the movement takes my mind to my friends back home. Tonight, they’re probably on the roof of Daniel’s building on Riverside Drive, watching fireworks explode over the Hudson. But what’s the big deal? This podunk Independence Day is the only one I’ve ever known. And at least this summer, I have my Ducati and a measure of freedom.
My daydreaming has caught up to me and the teen blob has passed, on their way to a blanket on the grass somewhere, I’m sure. I wander the mini fair for another few minutes, until the last bit of the sun goes down and a practice firework shoots across the sky. Then I, along with everybody else still left in the park, head to the field of blankets and lawn chairs.
It’s tough to tell who’s who in the semi-dark, but with the help of my cell phone, I barely make out Trina’s little hand waving in the air. I give her a nod and turn the phone off, sliding it into my pocket before picking my way across the field.
Then someone knocks me off balance.
I put my hands out to steady myself, but I’m never in any real danger of falling. She is, though—she’s holding a funnel cake and giant soft drink, and a family is sitting right at our feet, about to get drenched—so I reach out to her elbow and back, steadying her while she regains her balance. She takes a second, eyes gaping at the drink in her hand before turning them up to smile her thanks at me. My half smile returns unbidden. It’s the dark haired girl from before. The one who ate the popcorn out of her hair.
These are the moments I wish I could talk. I would say, “Oh! You! I saw you earlier, with the popcorn! That was awesome.” Then she would say something funny, and I would tell her I’m staying in Chautauqua for the summer if she ever wants to hang out. And I would text her my number. But I can’t just text her my number now with no small talk. So I shrug and let go of her elbow.
Still looking up at me, she covers her mouth with the hand holding the cup, her eyes squinting with laughter. Thankfully, she takes the hand away from her lips after a second.
“I’m so sorry!” her mouth says, the lights from the carnival turning her lips dark and her eyes bright.
I shrug, a smile on my face, and wave away the apology. Any time that girl needs catching, I’ll be happy to do it again.
She turns her head abruptly, and I follow her gaze. Her redheaded friend is waving her down, yelling something, but it’s too dark to see what.
The dark haired girl looks up at me again. “Gotta go,” her mouth says, and she grins.
I nod and, as I continue my trek to my family’s blanket, I watch her pick her way across the blankets to her friends, soft drink in one hand, funnel cake in the other. When she reaches the blanket, she settles down next to the popcorn-throwing guy for a couple of seconds. He casually throws an arm around her.
I sigh. Of course. Of course she has a boyfriend. What was I thinking? Then the redhead grabs the dark haired girl’s arm and makes a show of moving her to the front of the blanket, out of the popcorn thrower’s reach. I grin to myself as the dark haired girl goes with her friend. When she stands up, she glances back, searching the area where I caught her. I should have never left it.
A little hand taps my leg.
“Sit down, Carter!” signs Trina. “You’re blocking everyone’s view!”
The minute I sit down, fire streaks across the sky, exploding purple in the air and rumbling low in my chest.
Happy Independence Day.
I hope you like the extra sneak peak into Carter’s world! Personally, I loved writing a scene where we get to observe Jenni, Robin, and Trent “in the wild,” so to speak, from Carter’s point of view.
In my mind, this scene still exists in the world of the book, and you’ll notice that the first chapter of Song of Summer mentions that Violet’s “long, plastic fingernails shine red, white, and blue, the commemorative paint chipping from last week’s holiday.” In the world of the book, Carter and Robin did actually meet before that fateful day at the diner!
If you want to read the rest of the book, you can find it:
Thanks to CarrieAnn DiRisio for some incredibly helpful line edits, as well as Ashley Turcotte from Brown Owl Editing for copy editing this chapter to a beautiful shine! Thanks also to my awesome editor at Bloomsbury Spark, Meredith Rich for encouraging me to post this. As always, thank you to my most excellent agent, Uwe Stender at Triada US. And, of course, thank you to every single person that read and reviewed Song of Summer – without you, this chapter would have never seen the light of day!