The Becoming of BECOMING BONNIE (Aka Deleted Scenes)

This week, we’re sharing deleted scenes from our novels. BECOMING BONNIE has a bit of an interesting history, besides being inspired by history. When my agent and I pitched editors, the novel was originally for young adult audiences. We ended up with two offers, one from a young adult publisher and another from an adult publisher. I went with Tor/Forge, the adult publisher, and BECOMING BONNIE went through quite the transformation.

While there are many elements that remained, including Bonn’s age at the onset of the novel (17) and many of the coming-of-age experiences she encounters (so I think the novel is still appropriate for YA readers), I told a greater portion of her story in the revised book (and even more in the sequel BEING BONNIE set for 2018). My original novel was around 65k words and my soon-to-be published novel is 95k.

Funny thing is that many, many scenes were cut in order to get to this much larger word count. With Bonn being a teen, I had numerous scenes set in high school. With BECOMING BONNIE stretching a longer timeframe, many of these high school scenes were consolidated. Here’s one, which picks up after Bonn has a rather devastating fight with Roy, her long-term boyfriend (yes, Bonn had her eye on a different boy before Clyde Barrow stole away her heart). And to help set the scene: Blanche, she’s Bonn’s bearcat best friend. And Doc’s is the speakeasy at which Bonn is secretly employed. Welcome to the 1920s 🙂

***

Sunday goes by in the blink of an eye. I go to church with my family, something I still do every week though singing gospel doesn’t get my heart pumping quite as much as the music from Doc’s. But that doesn’t stop me from pressing my shoulders back, wearing my Sunday best, and belting out a tune that would make my daddy proud. And, that’d maybe make God look down on me, and my family, more favorably.

After church, Ma and I talk more ‘bout her situation, my situation, and it helps a little. But I still can’t tell her the real reason why Roy stormed away from me.

“Give him time to adjust, Bonnelyn, to how you’ve changed. He gave you time to become who you are these past few weeks,” she says.

I ain’t sure if time is the answer. I listen to her advice just the same, resisting the urge to run across our little town and throw myself at his feet. Maybe tomorrow, a week from now, he’ll be less upset.

I sigh, honestly having no clue. Not only ‘bout how much time he’ll need but also what he’s feeling. When we fought, his tone was clearly mad. But his eyes—his eyes looked more hurt than anything.

I do know one thing for sure: I do not want to see Blanche at Doc’s tonight; surely as self-absorbed as ever.

I call in sick.

Come Monday morning, I suggest to Ma that I stay home from school to ***Deleted for Spoiler***. She sees straight through me—even though it’s only a partial lie.

“You’ll have to talk to Blanche sooner or later,” Ma says.

I begrudgingly go to school. Typing class is torture. I don’t look at Roy once, but every fiber in my body knows he’s there, every fiber in my body wants to turn around and plead for a forgiveness I don’t know how to put into words. So in my next class, I try to put it into a doodle, hoping to mimic one of the many drawings Roy had made for me over the years.

Roy and I’s house becomes the backdrop. The sun is shining. Birds speckle the sky. On the porch, we sit in rocking chairs, holding hands, smiling. Coming from my stick figure’s head is a thought bubble: Grow old with me.

It’s not quite an apology. It’s more of a promise. A hope. A reminder of the life we always said we’d have together.

I neatly fold the drawing, tuck it into my notebook, already unsure how I’ll have the nerve to take it out and give it to him.

When the bell rings, I wipe my sweaty palms against my skirt. Chemistry is next, with both Roy and Blanche.

I take a deep breath before rounding the corner into the classroom, exhaling when Blanche isn’t at our lab table. I timed it so I’d slip in right before the bell. Figures Blanche would outdo me and come in even later.

I settle behind our table and, again, resist looking behind me to where Roy and his lab partner’s table should be: last row of desks, next to the windows. I stare straight ahead, too much of a coward to see what expression Roy wears on his face. Instead, I busy myself with copying the blackboard assignment into my notebook.

Identifying an unknown compound.

The following are tests and observations to make on your unknown…

“Bonnelyn Parker,” I hear, and I jolt, leaving a stray lead mark on my paper. Mrs. Anderson gestures for me to come forward.

I stand, my chair scraping against the floor. A few of my classmates titter, assuming I’m being called up to Mrs. Anderson’s desk ‘cause I’m in trouble. Am I?

I self-consciously paw at my hair, eventually tucking it behind my ears. The walk may only be ten or fifteen feet, but it feels like a mile.

My mind bounces between knowing Roy is watching me, hating that Roy is watching me, wondering what I did wrong, and wishing that my damn classmates would take an interest in something other than me.

“Bonnelyn,” Mrs. Anderson says, keeping her voice low. I lean forward, smelling coffee on her breath. “I do not wish to ignite the gossip mill.” I lick my lips, waiting for her to go on while her head shakes at her rowdy students. “But, Blanche Caldwell no longer attends our school.”

“What?” I whisper.

“Yes,” she says. “So that leaves you without a lab partner for the remainder of the semester. As one of my brightest students, I’m sure—“

“Excuse me, Mrs. Anderson. But there has to be a mistake. She’s probably sick.”

Mrs. Anderson shakes her head. “I shouldn’t provide further details, but I assure you Blanche is no longer enrolled here.”

My teacher goes on ‘bout me working alone, but I feel stupefied and too distracted to listen. So many names form for Blanche: coward, self-seeker, quitter… deserter. For as much as I’d like to ring her skinny neck for that stunt she pulled ***Deleted for Spoiler***, my stomach flips upside down that she dropped out of school, leaving me alone with Hazel and her gossip hags.

“Bonnelyn?” my teacher says, and I refocus my gaze on her. “Would you rather work alone or be added as a third to another pair of students?”

“I, um…” I try to clear my thoughts.

Mrs. Anderson scans the room, stretching her neck. “Actually, it appears Mr. Thornton’s partner is absent today. You could join him.” She says this last part with a smile, as if she’s doing me a favor. Roy and I dating is no secret, even with teachers.

She says his name louder, addressing him. My knees buckle and I find Mrs. Anderson’s desk with my fingertips to steady myself, to stop the words on the blackboard from swirling. I hold my breath, waiting for his voice.

“Good, problem solved,” Mrs. Anderson says. I look up, confused. I didn’t hear him speak. But my teacher’s face looks pleased. “Bonnelyn please join Mr. Thornton at his table.”

Problem solved? Did he nod in agreement? Does he want to work with me? I lean forward, adding more weight to my fingertips, staring at the scratches on Mrs. Anderson’s desk from years of use. Or is Roy being Roy: respectful of authority, agreeing to be my partner ‘cause our teacher asked it of him?

“Bonnelyn?” There’s a pause. “Bonnelyn.” Mrs. Anderson’s tone includes more irritation. “Ms. Parker, I advise you take your seat now. Class has begun.”

I look up again, meeting her eyes. I silently will her to dismiss me from class. Send me to the nurse, to the principal, anywhere. She gestures toward the back corner. A few of my classmates snicker, no doubt listening closely to the entirety of our interaction and already knowing that things between Roy and I have grown sour. Hazel has made sure of that while trying to dig her own claws into him.

Mrs. Anderson gives me a get-moving look. Reluctantly, I turn. In a room that’s gone silent, with too many eyes watching me, each step I take now sounds like a canon firing.

I want to scream at them, tell them to mind their own beeswax, that there’s nothing to see here, but Roy’s face says otherwise. He could very well have a sign above his head that reads: anyone but her.

Our eyes meet and he looks away. The sun streams in from the window, making his golden hair shine. It hurts to know that I once could run my fingers through it whenever I had the urge.

The seat beside him is pushed in. Roy would normally fall over himself to be a gentleman and pull it out for me. I pull it out myself; slide into the seat, trying not to attract any more attention.

“Let’s begin,” Mrs. Anderson announces. Twenty-some heads shift to face the front again, and I exhale. “Today,” she says, “we’ll be observing the physical appearance of a compound to determine what it actually is. You’ll be studying a white powder for this lab. Please come collect your supplies.” She points to a table on the other side of the room.

Roy jumps up, leaves, before I can offer to go.

When he comes back, I whisper, “Thank you.”

He doesn’t respond; instead, busies himself with setting our test tubes, vials, and glasses on our desk.

“First,” our teacher begins, “we’ll determine the solubility of compound number one. If the solid dissolves in your vial of water we say that the compound is soluble. If it does not dissolve, it is insoluble. If some of it dissolves, then it is slightly soluble. Understood?” She looks around the room, smiling when a few heads nod. “Good. Get started, please.”

At the same time, Roy and I reach for a test tube. Our hands collide and a tingle shoots through me. Hopeful he felt it too, I look up at him. His face is blank, yet he rubs his hand as if he’s been burned.

Roy no longer melts at my touch.

When he reaches again, I don’t move. He pours our unknown powder in the vial, the water doing nothing.

“Insoluble,” I say softly.

Again, Roy says nothing to acknowledge me. He simply writes the observation on our worksheet.

I fold my hands in my lap, waiting for Mrs. Anderson to give us our next direction. Roy stares out the window. I’d give anything to know what he’s thinking. I squeeze my hands tighter; otherwise I’d lightly touch his arm. I’d whisper his name, show him my doodle, tell him I’ve been a fool, and ask him if we can go back to how things were.

Before Saturday night, he was ready to do that, we were moving in the right direction. Now I couldn’t feel further apart. That’s what keeps me from moving. The doodle in my notebook and an I’m sorry aren’t enough to fix things.

Mrs. Anderson’s voice cuts through my thoughts, explaining how to determine the density of our solid. I let Roy take the lead, too afraid to do anything to make this more awkward. When he lets out a low, frustrated breath, I finally speak up. “I can help.”

“I don’t need you, Bonnelyn,” he fires back. “Do you think I’m too stupid to do this on my own?”

“Of course not,” I whisper. “You’re one of the smartest people—”

“Don’t do that,” he says, slamming the test tube down on the table. I jolt at the noise, at his anger. He bends toward me, lowering his stern voice. “Don’t you dare tell me how great I am. You can’t do that anymore.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, it slipping out. I rip the doodle from my notebook without thinking; drop it in front of him. “I drew this for—”

“You’re sorry?” he growls, pinning me with the hurt in his eyes. “For which thing? For… *** Deleted for Spoilers***

I feel my bottom lip quiver and I bite down on it.

“Don’t cry and make yourself the victim, Bonnelyn. You did all of this, not me.”

He’s right, which only makes his words more painful. I bite down on my lip harder.

“Okay, class,” Mrs. Anderson begins, and Roy turns his head back to face the board. I’m left staring at a small scar by his ear he got when he was swinging on a rope at the river. A branch sliced him, without him even knowing it at the time. “Get your taste buds ready,” our teacher continues. “The last exercise determines if your unknown solid is acidic.”

She goes on, but I stop listening, too lost in the memory. When Roy came out of the water, a trail of red ran over his jaw, down his neck. The water was cold that day and I refused to go in. But when I thought he was hurt, I splashed in, fully dressed.

Mrs. Anderson stops talking, and I wait for Roy to complete the observation. But he doesn’t move. His arms are crossed tightly across his chest and he stares again through the window at the trees that separate our school from the river. My drawing sits untouched in front of him, folded in half to hide how we should be living happily ever after.

I hesitantly reach for the test tube; afraid he’ll yell at me for helping. When he doesn’t, I dip my finger in the powder to taste it.

Bitter, I write.

I take a sip of water to clear the taste from my tongue. I work up the courage to glance another time at Roy, but he could care less ‘bout what guess I have for our compound’s identity.

I close my eyes, wishing I could disappear. There’s no need to guess how Roy feels ‘bout me.

***

Sorry for those spoiler deletions, but if you want to see how Bonn betrays Roy, Blanche betrays Bonn, and how Bonn ends up in Clyde’s arms, you may want to read the final adult version of BECOMING BONNIE. She’s on Amazon, BN, IndieBound, Book Depository waiting for you 😉

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.