There was a Chicago Version of Falling Under at one point, due to the request of my first agent who left the business before she got a chance to submit it to publishers. The agent I landed with preferred the Toronto setting and so it all got changed back, for which I am grateful. But there were some scenes that were written just for the Chicago version, scenes I had fun with but which did not translate back to Toronto. I’m pasting one below. (I don’t think there are any spoilers for the book, in case you’re worried.)
A tiny bit of set-up: my protagonist, Mara, who hates crowds and doesn’t even like to leave her house, has been roped into attending what she thinks is a pro-gay marriage march, but which actually turns out to be a rather intense anti-gay marriage protest. Somehow in the middle of the chaos Mara and Bernadette end up charging through a pack of rabid homophobes, into the Chicago Marriage License Bureau and applying for a marriage license…even though Mara is straight and there’s no chance their petition will be granted. The experience is a bit much for Mara who normally considers a trip on the subway (the L, in Chicago) enough excitement for a month or two.
I crash for twenty-four hours, missing my meeting with Hugo plus a whole day of work.
Nothing to be done, I am overwhelmed, exhausted, can’t get up.
Can’t do anything.
The next evening I emerge slowly, making coffee and sitting in the dark kitchen as it brews.
I’m okay. I’ll be okay.
But I’m sad, very sad about Hugo and standing him up last night.
I can’t even call to apologize and he can’t call me either, since we haven’t exchanged numbers and don’t even know each other’s last names. I wonder how long he’ll have waited, wonder if he’ll go back and wait tonight or be pissed off and give up on me. That might be best for both of us, since I am the headcase of the century.
The light on my machine is flashing. I pour myself a coffee and then press “play”.
Bernadette: “Just calling to make sure you’re okay. Call me tomorrow.”
Bernadette again: “Oh my God, call me!”
Dad: “Hey sweetie. Uh … I have to admit, I’m feeling a little out of the loop. And hurt. This is all very hurtful.”
Bernadette again: “Shit. I’m so sorry. Call me at work.”
And then: “Hi, ah, Mara? I hope this is you. I think it is. Well, the bad news is you stood me up and I couldn’t get hold of you to find out why. The good news is, I found out your last name and looked you up. But again, bad news, I think maybe you have something to tell me that I’m not going to like. Regardless, I need to know. Please call me so I don’t go crazy wondering. Oh yeah, it’s Hugo. Here are all of my phone numbers … ”
My stomach clenches.
And then: “Hello, Ms. Foster? This is Amelia Charles from the Tribune. First, let me commend you on your courage. As the new face of lesbianism in Chicago, I’d like to hear your thoughts, feelings and plans after the events of yesterday. You can call or page me at … ”
The new face of lesbianism…?
And then I remember the cameras flashing. Cameras flashing and people yelling, some of them yelling questions…
I set my coffee down hard, spilling half of it onto the table in my haste to get to the front door.
On the front step is this morning’s paper. I pick it up, shut myself back inside, take the rubber band off and unroll it.
I am on the front page.
On the front page holding the marriage application in one hand and Bernadette’s arm in the other. I look intense and determined, the hand holding the application is clenched in a fist. My name is printed underneath, clear as day. “Lesbian activist, Mara Foster (and her unnamed partner) lead yesterday’s charge … ” And so on.
Well, look at that…
I’m a famous lesbian.
* * *
There was a whole other scene I wanted to post that comes right after this, but The Oppressor said it was too long…
Sometimes he’s right.