This scene took place right after the final baseball game, when Josh comes home after intentionally striking out. I decided it didn’t need to be quite so dramatic, so I trimmed it down significantly into what ended up in the book. You can find the replacement scene beginning on page 378.
Mom’s car is the only one home when I get there. Dad probably went back to work for a couple of hours. Just as well – I don’t want to hear his shit about how I could have hit that last ball. Hell, Dad was the first one to teach me how to hit. He could probably tell I let the pitch go by.
I park and sit in the car for a minute or so, taking deep breaths and telling myself that I wasn’t out of line with Rachel, that I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not sure I believe it, but I say it to myself enough that it starts to sound OK.
The house is quiet. I close the door slowly and silently, just in case Mom’s taking a nap or something.
I should call Rachel. And Zik. I should do something. It’s like the three of us are talking to each other through a cloud of semi-particulate matter, trying to make ourselves understood while the air chokes us and blinds us and makes our eyes water.
Or should I give it a day? I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Maybe this is just the end. I graduate in a week. I finally escape from Brookdale. Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be. Leave everyone and everything in this town behind…
And then I hear a voice. It’s Mom. She’s saying, “…see you, too, honey.”
Huh? I leave my gym bag in the foyer and head up the stairs. She’s nowhere to be found and I can’t hear her any more. I pick up the phone. Dial tone. Am I hearing things? Didn’t she just say…?
I go downstairs. Dad finished off the basement a couple of years ago, so it’s not the cold, forbidding place it used to be, back when I sneaked down here to call Eve. I hear Mom again: “Of course I want to.”
I poke my head into the basement game room. Mom’s standing at the far end near the windows, the only place in the basement where you can get a decent cell signal. Her back is turned to me and she’s leaning against the wall.
“It won’t be long, honey,” she says in a tone of voice that’s somehow familiar, even though I can’t remember hearing before. “Well, of course I miss you, too.”
–Do you want to–
Ugh. Dad? Why would she be in the basement talking to
–Do you want to–
That voice. No, not the voice. The tone. The urgency underlying it like support beams…
–kiss me, Josh?
Is that it?
“…out with the girls,” Mom says. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
No. No. It can’t be. I don’t believe it. I back up, out of the game room, creeping silently up the stairs.
A minute later, she comes upstairs and gasps when she sees me there in the foyer. “Josh!” She clutches the cell phone in her closed fist as if that could hide it. “I—I didn’t know you were home.”
“Just got here.”
“Were you— Did you come downstairs?”
“No,” I lie, and the lie feels good, and she deserves it.
She smiles, but it’s a trembling smile, and my beautiful, gorgeous mother is suddenly the ugliest woman on the planet. I want to retch.
She starts to go upstairs.
“Who is it, Mom?”
She stops halfway up. I’m shaking. My body’s spastic.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she says, without turning. Trying to keep her voice steady.
“Who were you talking to?” Yeah, it’s better this way. Better that I lied at first. Better to let her think for a second she got away with it.
She turns around. “No one.”
“Didn’t sound like no one, Mom. ‘I miss you?’ ‘Honey?’”
She takes a deep breath and lets it out slo-o-o-wly. “OK, Josh. All right. You’re right. There. Are you happy?”
Not in the least. “Who is it?”
“Who. Is. It?”
Another deep breath. She leans against the railing. “Matt Cullinane.” I stare at her. It doesn’t make sense for a moment. That’s—
“Professor Cullinane?” I can’t believe it. Her boss?
“I can’t believe you!” It’s not just Mom. It’s Zik and Rachel and Coach and the whole team and the whole school and the world. “I can’t believe you, Mom! How can you do this? How long as this been going on? How can you do this–?”
“I don’t expect you to understand,” she says, far too calmly. “Your father…”
“What, Mom? He doesn’t satisfy you sexually? I know that.”
She takes a step up the staircase, shocked. “Good Lord! I’m not going to discuss sex with you!”
I follow her up the stairs. I don’t really give a shit what she thinks she’s going to discuss with me.
“Why not, Mom? That’s all you wanted to talk about when I was a kid!”
“That was different — you were abused. I had to talk about it with you.”
“I told you I loved her!” I scream it and lean in and Mom jumps back, terrified, and I don’t blame her because right now I could just rip her head off, just reach out and squeeze her throat until her eyes roll back in her head and then keep squeezing until her head just pops right off—
“I told you I loved her and you said that I didn’t know what love was! You bitch!” I’m crying now, but I don’t care. “You made me tell the police everything. You ruined everything and what the hell do you know about love, Mom? Huh? You’re the goddamn expert, but what the hell do you know, you cheating bitch? You’re a lying slut! You’re a—” And I run out of words, my vocabulary, my tongue, they just get overwhelmed and they can’t keep up with my heart and my thoughts and my rage and I’m just blubbering, collapsing to the floor, keening and moaning and wishing desperately that words existed in the English language for what my mother is, for what my mother’s done, for my mother’s sins.
She crouches down next to me. She reaches out to touch my cheek, but I slap her hand away, slap it hard enough that she screams in pain, hard enough that the sound of the slap echoes in the house like a rifle shot. She backs up, holding her wounded hand. “Josh, please look at me, honey—”
I snuffle and snort my way back to speech. “Don’t call me ‘honey!’ You call him honey! Shecalled me honey!”
“Josh, I’m truly sorry. I didn’t want you to find out like this. Believe me, I wanted—”
“Shut up, Mom. Just shut up. I’m telling Dad.” It’s my only triumph. The only victory I can pull out of this mess. If she thinks I’m going to keep her secrets after she made me give up all of mine, she’s dead wrong. I look up at her and say it again. “I’m telling Dad.”
She shakes her head sadly. “Josh… He knows already, Josh. I told him last week. We were just waiting until your first year in college was over to tell you we were getting divorced.”