Start at the beginning…
I like this continual scene because it gives you an idea of the chemistry between these two (Linc & Tally). It’s a long novel so it doesn’t give too much away either.
Excerpt from Chapter Seven of This Much Is True
The lies have just built upon one another. One follows the other like connected dots on a road map; but this path leads me to him, and I can’t stop now. Not yet. I hold my breath and take quick inventory one by one of the lies I’ve told him. Name. Age. Birth control. What am I doing? Why am I doing it?
He shakes his head. Then he walks over to his night stand, blithely opens the drawer, and holds up a foil packet in triumph. I take in air and slowly exhale with relief and nod with approval of his Cracker Jack prize. When it comes to contraception, I’m normally better prepared than this—but then nothing is normal anymore.
“Oh, good. Yes, let’s use that, too.” Then my nerves get the better of me and begin to take over. I’m shaking. What the hell is wrong with me? This is standard operating procedure. I attempt to affect a casual air, slip off his bed and out of his arms, and resume my innocuous tour of his room. The top two rows are filled with books. I finger each one and read the names aloud. “Shakespeare, Hemingway, Cheever? Have you read any of these?”
“No. I’m pre-med at Stanford, but the major leagues are interested. The draft is coming up. We’ll see what happens with baseball soon enough,” he says, looking a little uneasy.
“Stanford. Nice. My dad went there. He’s a doctor—a surgeon. They’d like me to consider Stanford, but I like NYU…” I shrug with nonchalance and have to hope he won’t ask me anymore and wonder why I brought all this up to him in the first place. I’ve sent in registration papers for NYU, but I won’t have time to go there. But isn’t that what a twenty-year-old would be doing? Going to college? Desperate at my over-sharing ways, I switch topics. “Dad saves a lot people—most of them anyway.” I turn, look at Linc, and frown. I’m momentarily stopped by all these thoughts of Holly that unexpectedly come rushing back at me in saying this. We can’t save everyone, now can we? “Is that what you want to do? Save a lot of people?” I can’t keep the sadness out of my voice.
“Saving people is the ultimate,” he says with this disquiet. His grey-blue eyes darken, and he gets this intense look.
I’m not completely sure what I’ve done or said to upset him as much as I have myself. I automatically step back from him, intent on fighting the demons plaguing me from the inside alone. Our unsteady breaths begin to match up, and I look at him in growing bewilderment.
“I don’t need saving.”
“No one said you did.”
“Really? No one said anything to you at the party? Marla didn’t talk up my particular assets? Lay the Landon girl because she fucking needs it.”
“I’m Holly and definitely not the one you want to get involved with.” I start toward the door. For some unknowable reason, he scares me. I feel out of control. This whole scene has become too much, and all I want to do now is leave. Then I remember my bag. I put it on his bed at one point. I close my eyes for a second, willing myself to get it together. I turn around and face him. “My bag. I need it. It’s got my stuff.”
He’s just staring at me—wary, of course—because I’m sure I sound like a flipping lunatic.
“Stay. I’m scared, too, because baseball is my sole focus.” Then, he shakes his head and gets this apologetic look. “Med school is a plan B. I’m trying to finish early with an undergraduate degree in biology, but it doesn’t really matter. My dad is intent on me having me play in the Majors…Baseball is my sole focus. If all goes according to the plan, I’ll get drafted in the first or second round, play in some minor league working up to triple-A ball and eventually make my way up to Major League Baseball in the next couple of years. Baseball. That’s all there is. That’s the way it has to be.”
He gives me this quizzical look as if to ensure I’ve heard all he’s said. Then he slowly appraises me just like before. It’s disconcerting as if I’m auditioning for some kind of part. He shakes his head and slowly smiles. “We should go.”
“We should go,” I echo his words, defiantly lift my chin, and look right at him. “Most definitely.”
He doesn’t say anything for a few minutes. He seems to be wrestling with indecision. Frustrated by his silence, I turn and start toward the door again.
“You’re an incredible dancer,” he says from behind me. “But you know that.”
I glance back at him again with a little smile and then turn to face him more fully. “I’ve been told…I have talent. I’m expected to be the next Polina Semionova.” I smile wide and laugh at his confused face. “And you don’t even know who that is.” He gets this sexy half-smile and shakes his head side-to-side, looking apologetic. I nod and flip my hand toward him. “That’s big, like Major League Baseball kind of big, Elvis.” I shake my head at him. “Look, I don’t want anything from you.”
He looks relieved at what I’ve said and I battle this distinct feeling of crushing disappointment at seeing it. “And you shouldn’t expect anything from me, either,” I say more unkindly than I intended.
Now he looks surprisingly disconcerted by what I’ve just said. I take a step back from him because, for some reason, I’m on edge again. As a counterbalance for feeling so mysteriously out of control, I put my hands on my hips and breathe out, daring him to come closer, daring him not to.
I hesitate and weigh my options—leave or stay.
I’m not really sure what I’m doing here any longer. Seducing guys is normally the easy part. I get what I want. They get what they want. We move on. One night together, here or there; sometimes not often, a party or two afterward together; and then there is the inevitable ending. Because nobody gets that I have dance class. All the time. That I don’t ever have a night off. That I don’t eat often. That I rarely drink. That I do little else but dance and train.
Sure. People admire the dedication but then they resent it. And me.
So. There are no promises. No phone calls. No texts. No birthday cards. No love notes. No flowers. No dates. No prom. There is only dance class and training; and rehearsals and performances. A decade of those. A decade of life on a stage or in a class. Five picture albums capture every performing moment and every starring role I’ve ever had, but little else, because there has been nothing else in all that time. Because when you’ve got the talent you have to constantly train for it and perfect it in order to reach and remain at the top—the most exceptional level of high achievement. Always.
Surely, the baseball player knows this.
It was easier to conduct these superficial encounters in New York last summer. Marla and I soon discovered after our arrival there that everyone was on their way to being someone else. The superficiality of it all was not lost on anyone in that town; there, everyone seemed to know that relationships were deal-breakers on the way to fame and fortune. Surely, Lincoln Presley knows this, too. Because who has time for such a distraction? The rules—in perfecting a God-given talent and ultimately seeking fame—are known, followed, and kept. Things are casual, however physical, and definitely noncommittal. The way things are.
Even so, here in Palo Alto’s hometown sphere, the moral considerations for casual sex and no commitments have become strangely confusing. I’m caught between who I was before Holly died and who I am now. Is there a difference?
The old Tally needed casual sex; wanted it, in fact. I was noncommittal, detached and uninvolved. That’s all I asked for and needed. Then.
And now? I steadfastly hold on to the belief that there can be no commitments of any kind beyond ballet because I don’t want any complications. I still say no to: most phone calls, to most texts, to most movies, to most parties, to all school dances, to all Friday-night football games, to all prom and dinner dates. What’s the point of going to dinner with someone who is just going to end up questioning why I don’t ever eat anything?
I don’t need them. I don’t want them.
I am so right about this.
“Would you like to go out sometime? Not this weekend.” He shakes his head side-to-side and looks hopeful. “I fly out to Tempe, Arizona tomorrow, after my game. And then we have Regionals next weekend, but I know this great Italian place we could go to sometime and maybe we could catch a movie or something afterward.”
It takes a full minute to comprehend what he’s just asked me. I take a step back and eye him in disbelief. “Are you asking me out? On a date? To dinner and a movie?” I’m incredulous that he’s somehow guessed at my most recent and truly errant thoughts.
“That’s about the safest thing I can think of…to do…with you.” He half-smiles and looks a little dazed and unsure of himself at the same time.
“The safest thing?” I wave my hand around his bedroom. “I don’t do dinner or go to movies. And this is a strange conversation to be having here in your bedroom.”
“How about now? Did you eat dinner?” He moves swiftly past me, opens the door, and starts down the hallway.
“No.” I follow him more out of curiosity than anything wondering why we’re talking about a future date and dinner.
“Did you want to go back? To the party?” he asks, turning back to me briefly.
I don’t answer. No. I just slowly trail after him and watch him make his way to the kitchen.
“Yes.” I finally say, with this discernible, petulant whine. “I want to go back to the party.” I cross my arms across my chest, but he essentially ignores what I’ve said and keeps on walking. “I don’t eat, actually,” I say airily.
He turns back to me again, shakes his head, and gets this secret smile as if I just presented him with the ultimate challenge. And maybe I have.
“Bring it, Elvis.”