I’m so happy to be here with Nori on ReadWriteLove28 for my paperback release blog tour! I’ve got some cool things to share with you, including the first chapter you can read below and an international Goodreads giveaway– and a deleted scene! Keep reading for all the goodies.
Read the first chapter!
The deleted scene below was originally right after the main characters, Jackie and Marcus, had a big fight about whether or not they should celebrate their anniversary, even if it broke one of their rules. The younger girls in the scene are Marcus’s younger sisters, and the toddlers are his twin brothers.
I flopped on my bed and pulled my book off the nightstand. I was in over my head here.
Reading kept my mind off my jealousy and my non-relationship for a good hour, but the peace was short-lived. Angie started angry-screaming down the hall, and just kept right on screaming. I snapped my book shut and slid off the bed.
Why, in a house with four adults, were none of them ever around? Dad was probably working still, Mom must have gone off to the library or the school, and who knew about Uncle Ward and Aunt Shelly. I walked down the hall, searching for the source of the ear-splitting noise.
Angie sat in the middle of the bathroom, her mouth wide open, screaming in rage. “What is going on?” I demanded. Fear shot through me. Candace was filling the bathtub with water. One of the twins was half-naked and the other was completely naked. Both of the toddlers stood in the tub, crying. Water swirled almost to their knees.
I scrambled for the water faucet.
“We’re playing house,” Candace said.
By themselves. They’d put the twins in the bathtub. If the toddlers had slipped, they could have drowned. “You don’t ever put them in the bathtub. Never, ever. You know that—Angie, stop screaming right now. Why are you screaming?”
“I won’t let her be the dad,” Candace said calmly. Gage shivered and cried louder.
I grabbed a towel and lifted him out of the water, then reached for Nate. “Angie, stop it. Angie! No one is playing house anymore. You can’t be the mom or the dad or anyone else.”
Her voice just kept rising. I reached for her and grabbed her arm. “Angie!”
“Nate is peeing,” Candace said.
I whipped around. Sure enough, Nate was peeing all over the rug.
Fantastic. I wrapped Gage in a towel. “Candace, please go get dry clothes for both of them.” This was just ridiculous.
“What is going on in here?”
I looked up. Marcus. “I can’t get her to stop screaming.” Water pooled around me on the floor, mixing with toddler pee. Gage was still crying, and Angie was turning red in the face. Candace tried to push past Marcus. He let her go and grabbed Angie.
“Come on, Ang. You can’t scream like this. That’s baby stuff.” He set her on the counter, but she was in full on panic mode and struggled to get away from him. “Angie! Calm down. You’ll make yourself sick.”
I doubted she could even hear him. The noise was insane. He looked at me, wide-eyed, an arm firmly around her waist. “Fine.” Shaking his head, he carried her out of the bathroom, her feet kicking. Her screams trailed up the stairs.
I huffed and mopped up the water on the bathroom floor. Both boys shivered and sniffed, wrapped in towels. “Sorry, guys. No fun playing house, is it?” Gage waddled over to me and nearly tripped on his towel. He collapsed on my shoulder, crying and hiccupping.
Marcus appeared in the doorway. “I shut her in her room. Nothing to scream at there.” He held up dry clothes for the boys. “Candace gave me these.” His movements were clipped and the way he watched me told me he was still upset about what I’d said earlier.
I sat down against the wall and waited for him to meet my eyes. “Thank you.” I don’t know why I was surprised every time something like this happened and none of the parents were around, but I always was.
“Yeah.” He knelt near the damp towels and unwrapped Gage. “Do you think we should give them their bath since they’re already wet?”
“Well, Nate peed all over himself, so yeah.” I clunked my head against the wall. Angie’s screams had gone quiet. “Can you help me?” Normally I wouldn’t ask, because there’d be no question about whether he’d help. But now, I didn’t know.
“Well, yeah. I’m not going to make you do it by yourself.”
I watched Marcus as he dug their no-tears soap and bath toys from the cabinet, drained the cold water out of the tub, and dumped the soggy towels down the laundry chute.
How long had he been doing this before I moved in? Maybe the twins hadn’t been around before our families moved in together, but Angie and Candace couldn’t have been any more compliant as toddlers, and I didn’t even want to think about his brother being that young. Chris would have been a nightmare as two-year-old.
I moved toward the tub but Gage clung to me and shrieked. “Hey, hey, don’t worry, I’ll make it warm.” I adjusted the water until it was warm enough and let the tub fill an inch before dropping in the little red toy boat. “Look, there goes your boat. You want to get it?” He watched and stopped screaming, so I lifted him in and sat him down. Happy probably wouldn’t happen tonight, but I’d settle for complacent.
Marcus shoved the shower curtain to the side and set Nate in the bathwater. The kid immediately started splashing, his tears forgotten.
They were good kids, they really were. None of this insanity had been their fault. I squeezed the baby soap onto a washcloth and scrubbed it together to made suds. Gage laughed. “What, you think this is funny?” I scrubbed his foot because he was ticklish there. He kept laughing, high-pitched little sounds that made me grin.
“I’ll race you.”
I turned to look at Marcus. “You’ll race me? With what?”
He nodded to the twins. “You do Gage, I’ll do Nate. Last one done has to dress them both. But you have to be thorough.”
I went after Gage’s other foot. “I’m never not thorough. And you’re going to lose.”
“Not a chance.” He scrubbed Nate’s back while he played with the boat. I kept tickling Gage, which kept him happy and looking at me. Ultimately, the toy boat proved to be Marcus’s downfall, because Nate wouldn’t quit playing with it long enough for him to wash under the toddler’s arms.
“Hah! I’m done.” I rinsed the last of the soap from Gage’s hair and helped him stand up.
Marcus sighed. “You were too fast. That kid can’t be clean.”
“He totally is. He’s the cleanest thing in this house right now.” I lifted him out and toweled him off.
“Okay, fine, you win. I’ll dress them.”
Winning had been all I wanted. “Nah, it will take me like two minutes.” I fluffed Gage’s hair with the towel.
“That was the deal. I can do it.” He looked back at me while he rinsed off Nate.
I shrugged. “I got it.” I’d barely known his family before moving in with them, and if what I’d seen in the last two years had been the pattern, he’d given more baby baths than most people his age.
Maybe we couldn’t have—and didn’t want—a real relationship. But we could do this. We could help each other, balance each other, be there for each other. That was what mattered.
If our pseudo-anniversary was a big thing for Marcus, then okay.
He lifted Nate out of the tub. We had both of them dried and dressed in less than three minutes. Marcus led them out of the bathroom, one toddler clinging to each hand. His voice drifted down the hall. “Let’s go find your blocks. You guys can build a tower. How’s that sound?”
I drained the bathwater and shook off the toys. I was putting them back in the cabinet when Marcus came back into the bathroom. He closed the door with his foot.
I turned around. “What are you doing?”
“If anyone comes back here, we’ll just say we’re mopping up the water.” He leaned against the wall. His voice was quiet. “I really want to go somewhere with you, Jackie. Not a date. We can’t; I know that. I just mean I want to get out of the house with you and do something that’s not chores or bathing toddlers or errands or whatever. Just hang out. Please.”
Just hang out. If I wasn’t thinking of it as a date, it sounded amazing. “Nothing fancy?”
“Nope. Just some time away from the house. Is that okay?”
I met his eyes so he’d know I meant it. “That sounds great. When?”
He took the towel from me and tossed it down the laundry chute. “Tomorrow afternoon? Come up with a reason to be gone for a few hours and I’ll pick you up around back.”
“Deal.” Getting out of the house and away from everything for an afternoon sounded like a miracle.
He grinned. “Awesome. Wear whatever, and bring a book if you want.” He opened the bathroom door and winked at me as he left.
Praise for How We Fall:
2015 Silver Falchion Best YA Novel finalist- Killer Nashville
Kirkus Reviews: “Debut novelist Brauning tells a touching story of young, star-crossed lovers caught in a drama they have tried hard to avoid…. A sweetly written mix of mystery and romantic turmoil.”
School Library Journal: “Heartbreaking and well-paced, this mystery novel challenges readers to look past preconceptions and get to the know characters, rather than focus on an uncomfortable taboo. Brauning’s characters are well developed and their story engrossing. An intriguing thriller… this title will raise eyebrows and capture the interest of teens.”
ALA Booklist: “…an unusual combination of romance and suspense…There is also something universal about Jackie’s struggles with her feelings and her desires, and readers will identify with her emotions, while going along for the plot’s ride. This quest for identity, wrapped up in an intriguing mystery, hooks from the beginning.”