Back to School, Part 1

Now that The Incident Under the Overpass is out in the real world, and not just in my head anymore, I thought I might share some early sketches. These are scenes that, for one reason or another, didn’t make it into the final story.

The following shows how Lacey happened to fall in love with Fox Becnel. It’s a bit long, so I split it up. I couldn’t resist editing it a touch. I updated some names, for consistency’s sake, and attempted to make some groan-worthy phrasing less groan-worthy.

But I didn’t do any fact-checking, so if some of the details about life at LSU, or the French bit, aren’t exactly right, that’s why.

The sound was back. Cars passing overhead, like an erratic heartbeat. But the overpass was nowhere in sight. Lacey wasn’t even in New Orleans. She was at LSU, on the quad outside the library. She could see herself, sitting underneath her favorite oak. She looked down at her hands. They weren’t there. She was invisible, watching the earlier version of herself. Her invisible heart leapt in her invisible throat, she knew exactly the time and place she was watching. It was early April of her second year at LSU, right before the Easter break.

Fox Becnel was crossing over to her. THE Fox Becnel. The subdued swagger evident in his walk. Lacey always wondered when it began. Had he always had it? A stride that oozed confidence. And virility.

LSU library. Photo credit: Cecelia Morise
LSU library. Photo credit: Cecelia Morise

His reputation had preceded him, before she had ever met him in the flesh, in an International Marketing class. Lacey was prone to dismiss all the hype—she had several acquaintances who had dated him. She’d always wondered how he managed to go through so many girlfriends, yet she never heard a disparaging word about him. She still didn’t get it once she finally met him. He was good-looking, but no movie star. Six-foot and barrel-chested, with dark, wavy, hair, he was definitely an imposing figure. But his features were rough—like they would look more natural on a 40-year-old than a 20-year-old. And he sported a perpetual stubble, something Lacey had never found attractive before.

But he took hold of her imagination first, captivating her with his wit. They were assigned to a group project together, along with five others from the class.

Their first meeting on the project was in the library. Lacey arrived early, and couldn’t help conducting an internal assessment of all the team members. Claude would have a thousand complaints (and excuses) but would still deliver his share of the work. Frannie would be an enthusiastic supporter, but would not be able to produce anything of substance. Someone would not hold up their end at all. Fifteen minutes into that first meeting, Lacey’s money was on Fox Becnel as the non-performer. It was an easy bet, because he was the only no-show at that point. It would be another five minutes before he finally showed up, with nothing more than a terse apology for being late.

Fox then tried to distract Will—a fraternity brother, she would find out later. Will was the one Lacey had pegged as the “silent reliable.” She felt vindicated when Will brushed off Fox’s attempted disruptions.

Fox picked up an Us magazine and started leafing through it.

Near her boiling point, Lacey stopped talking, turned to Fox and said, “Are you with us, Renardeau? Because we were just working out the timeline to make sure we meet all the components Professor Kambur outlined.”

Fox Becnel looked up from his magazine and met Lacey’s gaze head on. The corner of his mouth turned up as he said in an accent thick as a knot of cypress knees, “Pourquoi écoutez, Cherie, quand tu as décidé tout?”

And then he winked.

Lacey turned bright red, and stammered, “Well, I just wanted to be sure we all carry our weight with this project. Frannie, you were about to tell us your idea for the final presentation?”

Much to Lacey’s relief, Frannie excitedly told of her plan for an intricate role-play, with costumes, a dialect coach, and possible pyrotechnics.

But Lacey was preoccupied with this one thought: she had underestimated Fox Becnel. Her little reference to a fox cub had not only registered, but was answered with a major smack-down. Letting her know. . .what? That he thought she was being too bossy? Clearly. But why would he care? And why did he have to wink? Something stirred in her, and she didn’t think it was purely embarrassment. She was beginning to understand his curious appeal.

The Incident Under the Overpass is available now: Kindle editionPaperback

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