Deleted Scene – Jesse is Grouchy in the Morning
(This scene took place on Clair’s original walk to school, where she planned to confront Libby about using Improvement. Instead she ends up confronting Jesse, not knowing that today is the anniversary of his mother’s death.)
The crowd was becoming louder. An eye-in-the-sky drone was watching, in case things turned ugly. No one liked being held up, not even for breakdowns. Clair’s grandfather still told stories about traffic jams and how people had once been killed for getting in the way. Clair didn’t think anyone was going to be killed now, no matter how much pushing and shoving went on, but she moved in to forestall trouble anyway.
“Let me through,” she said. “I know him. Let me through!”
Jesse Linwood was staring into the booth, hypnotized. He only looked away when she took him by the arm.
“Jesse? Jesse, come on. What’s up?”
Clair tugged him aside, letting a red-faced, overweight woman past. She shuffled into the booth, muttering “Art Institute, Chicago.” The woman cast Jesse one last glare as the door slid shut on her.
Jesse was staring at Clair as though waking out of a dream.
“You’re Clair Hill,” he said. “We take Modern together.”
“What are you doing?”
“Stopping you from making an ass of yourself, apparently,” she said. She stepped back to get a good look at him. His skin was pale and his eyes were red. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yes,” he said. “No. I don’t know.”
“What were you doing back there? I thought you never–”
“I don’t, that’s right,” he said, suddenly pushing past her and heading for the sidewalk. His satchel swung furiously from side to side, knocking one of the people he had held up in the queue and prompting an angry response.
“Wait up,” she called after him. “I’ll walk with you.”
It had occurred to her at she could ask him about the mysterious spam. If anyone at college had heard of such things, it would be him.
He was long and gangly, with a stride that far outclassed hers.
“Leave me alone,” he said over his shoulder.
“I just want to ask you something.”
“Are you kidding?” He stopped so suddenly she almost crashed into him. “Today of all days?”
She retreated a step, stung by his sudden intensity. “What do you mean?”
“You hardly ever talk to me. You’ve never wanted to ask me anything before. You think I’m a freak, like everyone else. So why now? What’s suddenly going on that’s so important it can’t wait until tomorrow?”
“Okay,” she said, trying to lighten the situation, “apparently I’m the one being an ass, and I apologize. I do, really. But what’s wrong with today? Why can’t I just talk to you?”
He was moving again, shaking his head in dismissal.
His angular shoulders receded up Woodward Avenue, satchel swinging heavily between them. There was no point following him. It wasn’t important, anyway. Just spam.
To her surprise, Jesse stopped after ten paces, turned.
“Don’t tell anyone you saw me,” he called to her. “Back there, I mean.”
She nodded, remembering the conflicted look on his face when she had pulled him away from the booth. She had intruded on something personal and mysterious, and it wouldn’t help to drag that out into the harsh light of the day.
He was walking again, apparently satisfied that she would keep his secret.
She trailed him at a discrete distance, messaging Libby as she went.