This is a deleted scene from the first draft of Pumpkin. In the first draft, Pumpkin was written in the heroine’s perspective.
The scene takes place after Pumpkin’s second date with Darrell. During the first draft, Darrell’s name was Nate. It ends much differently than in the book.
Seth, Pumpkin’s son, was named Max. But my critique partner advised me that having Malika, Manny, and Max would be too much for the readers.
Manny and Lorielle were dating!
Manny’s mother was still alive, and she was pretty mean.
Here’s the scene:
When Nathan dropped me off at my door, I held still for the kiss. I concentrated so hard on trying to seek out the slightest sensation of a spark that I’m sure my lips were pursed. He didn’t seem to notice. He smiled and told me good night. When he was gone, I slumped against my door. A moment later it unexpectantly opened and I fell backwards into someone’s arms. Nice strong arms attached to gray eyes, looking down at me in concern that quickly turned to amusement.
“Hey Malika. Fancy meeting you here.” It was Manny. What the hell?
“What are you doing here?”
He slowly righted me and I straightened my dress.
“My aunt called. Said she had some emergency she needed to tend to.”
My eyes narrowed. “Emergency, huh?”
His eyes raised in agreement with my suspicion. “Yeah, that’s what she said.”
“But you were at dinner with your mother and Lorielle.”
He shrugged and closed the door behind me. “I somehow doubt they notice I’m gone. They were talking about women in the club and the scandals of their husbands when I left.”
He leaned against my door and crossed his arms over his chest. He was in jeans, a t-shirt, and no shoes. I had never seen him this casual. He looked boyish, more so with that mischievous smile.
“Oh,” I sighed in exaggeration at the unfairness of it all.
“Well, I’m so sorry you were taken away from such an exciting evening. I’m home now and you can head back to them.”
I stared at him, challenging, he blinked first.
“Well, it would be rude of me to leave Max without saying good night.”
I chuckled at his transparency. “Where is he?”
He sighed good-naturedly. “I managed to get him clean – mostly. And in his PJs -well, just the bottoms actually. We couldn’t find the matching top, so we settled on an undershirt. And we were working on selecting a book to read for the night.”
I had a fit of giggles at his recap.
“Man, I have a healthy new respect for mothers.”
“Twenty-four seven dude!” I walked past him and down the hall to Max’s bedroom. I poked my head in the door. Max was sitting in serious consternation at his bookshelf with three of the old Beast Quest books Nate had loaned him. “Hey buddy!”
He looked up and smiled. “Hey mama!”
I came in and sat on the bed. “Did you have a good time with Auntie Gale?”
“Yeah,” he grabbed a vial off his dresser. “We made the dragon elixir. Wanna smell?”
I put up my hands in protest. “No. No thank you. I can believe it works.” The garlic was already meeting my nose from the dresser.
“But then she had to go and Mr. Charming came over.”
“He said I can call him Manny, but I told him I have to ask your permission first.”
I smiled. “Its okay with me. Did you have a good time with him?”
“Umm hmm. Is Mr. Nathan here?”
“No, sweetie. He went home for the evening.”
“When is Mr. Nathan gonna come over?”
“Oh? Um. Maybe we can have him over this weekend.”
“Cool. I wanna show him my science project.”
I nodded. Max didn’t always take to new people. It was a wonder he held conversations with Gale and Manny. It seemed he’d really taken to Nathan though.
“Alright, buddy. Chose a book. Its bedtime.”
He grabbed one of the Beast Quest books from Nathan and hopped into bed. I pulled the covers up and tucked him in.
“Too tight, mama!”
“Well, I don’t want you to escape!”
He giggled. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Good, because I would search to the ends of the earth if you did. Good night Maxie.”
“Aw, don’t call me Maxie!” He wrinkled his button nose.
“Oops. My bad. Good night Max.”
“Good night, mama.”
I kissed him on the forehead and headed out the room. When I headed back down the hallway, Manny was wiping down my dining room table.
He looked up when he saw me and smiled. “You got him down?”
“I did,” I said. “Thank you Manny. I really appreciate this.”
“It was no problem.”
“No. You had your own stuff to do tonight, with your own family and…”
“Listen, Malika,” he reached out and put a hand on my arm. Where he touched me I could feel a hum.
“You seem to be under this impression that you’re all alone in this world. And, I don’t know, maybe that was true a couple of weeks ago. But now you’ve got me and my aunt nosing around in your affairs. We’ve got your back.”
It was hard for me to receive that, so I made a joke. “Nosing around is right. Its why you’re here tonight.”
“What do you mean?”
I hadn’t meant to actually say that. I had meant to call him a big nose…or something juvenile. “Gale seems to think you and I…”
Manny looked at me expectantly. “You and me what?”
I shifted uncomfortably. I didn’t want him to laugh at me. I knew the idea was ridiculous. “I think she’s trying to play matchmaker…with you and I.”
And then my worst nightmare. He burst out laughing.
“I know,” he said through his fit of laughter. “I just wanted to make you say it. I love watching you squirm.”
“What are you? Ten?”
He continued laughing.
“I know, its ridiculous, right.”
He slowly sobered. “What? What’s wrong with me?” He began inspecting himself. And for a second, I almost fell for it.
He chuckled again, then turned and settled himself on the couch. He stretched, looking very comfortable, like he was in no hurry to leave. “She said I glowed golden around you.”
“Yeah, she told me the same thing.” I sat down in the opposite corner of the couch, though he was sitting in the center. “You believe any of that energy stuff she talks about?”
He shrugged, then leaned over, put his chin in his hand, and studied me. “The force is strong within my family.”
I giggled at that, and he grinned at my comprehension of his joke.
“I do believe that some people’s senses are heightened enough to see and feel things others can’t. I believe that my aunt sees that you’re a special person.”
I could actually feel my chest swelling at his words.
“But I think she’s biased, too. She likes you. So, do I. I know that I like hanging out with you.”
I blinked, coming back down to ground zero. “You like making fun of me, you mean.”
“You always start it,” he shoved me playfully in the shoulder. Had he somehow slid closer? “You look beautiful by the way. Hope Nate took you someplace nice tonight.”
“Yeah…it was nice.”
Manny raised his eyebrows and continued to study me. “Nice,” he repeated.
I frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with nice. Nice is dependable. Nice is steady.”
“You’re describing a new car, Malika.”
I sighed. “Passion is synonymous with drama, turbulence. I’ve had enough of both in my life. I just want to be happy and feel safe. Nate and I make sense.”
I hung my head and a strand of my hair escaped. Manny reached out and brushed it back in place. My breath caught. There it was again, that hum of electricity, but now it was definitely a spark. The spark I had been searching for with Nathan. Manny’s hand jerked. And I wondered if he felt it too. Our eyes locked. He smiled, a bit uncertainly.
“Nate’s a good guy,” he said finally. I wasn’t sure if he was saying that to me or to himself.
I nodded my head. “Yeah, he his.” His hand was still in mid air. “Lorielle’s nice too.”
His hand fell and he chuckled softly. He looked down at his hand, then back up at me. “We make sense, too.”
For a second I thought he was talking about me. But no.
“She and I,” he clarified. “Perfect political couple.” “And that’s enough?”
For a second, his eyes dipped to my lips. I held my breath. Then he looked again into my eyes. His gray eyes were cloudy. I couldn’t tell if it was confusion or desire. I dared not hope.
“Its the right decision,” he said finally.
And then my mouth was moving and words were coming out. “But does she know you?”
His eyes flashed up and locked onto mine. For a moment it was hard to breath.
“You were saying the other day,” I continued. “You said that people were usually trying to get something out of you and they didn’t really know you.”
Manny didn’t answer me. He just continued to look at me. It was the scariest thing, though. Because he was completely unguarded in this moment. An open book that I dared not read because I doubted I would know what to do with the contents therein. Then he broke the glance, looking away. The moment was gone.
“Its time for me to grow up,” he said to the wall. “You mean lengthen your attention-span.”
He laughed at this. A nice throaty laugh. I was close enough to him to feel his breath on my face. Again, a current ran where it touched my skin.
“I don’t seem to have any problems paying attention to you.” He was studying me again with that intense gaze that made me feel pinned.
“Well, Mr. Charmayne. I’m a damsel constantly in distress. Lots to work with.”
He shook his head. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Malika.” He grabbed my chin between his thumb and forefinger. I felt an electric charge, and from the look in his eyes, he did too. He swallowed before he spoke. “I see a giving, talented, caring woman. I like your sense of humor. I like that I don’t have to explain myself to you. I like just being with you. I like you.”
He released my chin and his knuckles rubbed against my cheek. He watched the descent of his hand, and I watched him. Now, before this minute, I did not believe in magic. But all the electricity that was in the air now was making me a convert.
I could feel him edge closer. Tentatively. More hesitant with himself, struggling with a decision. His eyes locked on mine, completely unguarded. I can’t put into words what I saw there, but I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted him to hold me. I wanted to be closer to him. I wanted him.
And then the doorbell rang!
We sprang apart. It took until the second ring for me to stand up and go to the door. When I opened it, my heart shrank.
I blinked at the man standing on the other side of the door. He held up a shiny police badge and asked me the question again.
“Are you Mrs. Wolfe?”
“Tavares,” I finally answered, so stunned that my voice was barely above a whisper. “I’m Malika Tavares.”
Manny came up behind me. “Malika is everything okay?” The officer still had his hand up with his badge. “Oh. Hello, officer. Is there something we can help you with.”
The officer opened his mouth to speak, but I beat him to it.
“He’s looking for Max’s dad,” I said to Manny. Then I turned back to the officer. “I haven’t seen or heard from him in almost three years, officer.”
The officer looked between me and Manny. Then back at me. “Can I talk to you in private for a moment…Ms. Tavares?”
Manny interjected, “Well, I’m a lawyer-”
“Manny,” I turned to him and placed my hand on his chest. For a second, I forgot the cop was there and revealed in the feel of his chest beneath my fingertips. “Manny, its okay. I can handle this.”
He studied me for a full moment, battling both his need to stay and my insistence on handling this alone.
“Seriously, one nosey Charmayne is enough for the night,” I smiled.
Finally, he acquiesced. “Alright. You’ll call me if…”
“I’ll see you tomorrow. Its not a big deal. Probably another bill collector looking for him.”
Manny nodded again, and then reached behind me and grabbed his coat from the hangar. He gave me one last lingering look as he stepped around the police officer and kept going out the door.
I turned my attention to the officer, who was eyeing me with interest now.
The officer didn’t finish his question, because my face glazed over into an impenetrable mask. “I told you, I don’t know where Anthony is.”
“Well, after two and a half years on the run, we just got a hit on one of his credit cards. He bought a bus ticket. To New Orleans.”
It was like ice going down my back. “What?” “Any idea why he’d want to come here?”
No. He wouldn’t contest the divorce. He’s not that stupid. “Are you sure you haven’t heard from him, Ms. Tavares?”
My attention snapped back to the officer. “No. I haven’t. I’d actually appreciate if you did keep a watch on my place. If he shows up, I want you to catch him.”
I’m currently writing Rumpeled: a Cindermama Story. Be on the look out for excerpts from the manuscript this summer.