In some reviews of RIVAL, readers have said they wanted to know more about what happens with Brooke and Kathryn, Actually, my first version of the story ended with an epilogue that revisited the two girls as adults to see where both ended up. I didn't show the results of the Blackmore, rather I stopped just as both girls were getting ready to step onstage, and then I jumped ahead several years. My agent at the time told me that needed to change, and of course she was right. But I think it's kind of fun to go back and look at that first ending, for a few reasons.
First, this ending was written nearly 6 years ago. You can see how rough my writing was in places and, I think, see how much I improved over time.
Second, this ending contains a perfect example of what we in fiction like to call a "Mary Sue." Basically, an author does a Mary Sue when she/he creates a character that is really an idealized version of him/herself. The author then does a lot of wish fulfillment by having stuff happen to the Mary Sue that the author wishes would happen to him/her. Mary Sues are pretty darned embarrassing, and this one is no exception: I don't think it'll take you long to spot the Mary Sue in the excerpt below. '
Finally, you can see that i always knew how things would turn out at the Blackmore, and you can see what I originally envisioned would happen for my characters in the long run. I still think things probably would have turned out a lot like this, so I hope readers will enjoy getting a peek at Brooke and Kathryn's futures.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVEN'T READ RIVAL YET AND DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHO WINS THE COMPETITION, THEN STOP HERE AND COME BACK AFTER YOU'VE FINISHED THE PUBLISHED VERSION OF THE BOOK!
And now... here's the first ending of RIVAL...
KATHRYN – EPILOGUE
New York City, October
I love coming here in the autumn, though I haven’t had much time to explore with all of these meetings. I’m sitting now in Bellamy which, I am told, is “the” restaurant at the moment. Ellen is due to arrive any minute, with David coming soon after. I’m nervous to finally meet him. Can’t believe it’s all really happening. Thank God for these few minutes alone; I need them to hide, catch my breath, try to remember who I am and why I’m here.
I lower my pen and frown at the ink scrawled across the pages of my journal. There’s so much I should be getting down, so much about this visit that I don’t want to forget, but I’ve never been able to write while I’m in the thick of things.
I turn my attention to the room around me. Bellamy appears to be one of those places where extraordinary décor gives cachet to ordinary food. $15 for a Caesar salad? I’m still not used to the idea that I can afford it.
Ellen, my agent, is late—the rest of the lunch crowd has scattered, leaving me by the window and a group of young guys in business suits at the bar. As my gaze sweeps past the wood-fired pizza hearth, I see something that makes my heart stutter.
Blonde hair. A swimmer’s shoulders.
The girl is at the servers’ stand with her back to me; I can see only a hint of her face. She’s laughing at something the bartender said, but the music in here is so loud that I can’t hear the voice to know if it’s really her.
After seven years, it can’t be. Can it?
“Ah, Kathryn! Did we keep you waiting?” The girl disappears into the kitchen just as Ellen descends on me, all dramatic flourishes and fabulous accessories. There’s a man with her—David Boyd. I recognize him from Ellen’s description: short, bespectacled, with a hoop in his middle-aged ear.
After a round of air kisses we order drinks, then settle in for small talk, the kind you make when an important discussion is coming but you don’t want to seem too eager for it. David has just pulled a stack of papers from his attaché case when I hear a voice behind me.
“Oh my God. Kathryn?”
My hand flies to my mouth as I turn to see ice-blue eyes and that unmistakably steep-sloped nose. She is carrying a tray laden with water, tea and red wine.
“Brooke,” I say. “I can’t believe it.”
There is an awkward moment where we both reach out for a hug and get stabbed by one another’s arms. I almost knock her tray over; she turns to kiss my cheek European-style but ends up with a mouthful of hair.
News tumbles out as she distributes the drinks: I am living in Chicago, in town for a conference. Brooke lives in Manhattan and just started working at Bellamy. As we talk, I study her for signs of what the years have done. She is as tall as ever, though much more thin. The tips of her hair are dyed deep maroon. She is dressed in a funky bustier top over jeans—I’ve worn enough thrift store clothes to recognize vintage when I see it.
“God, look how rude I am,” I say, suddenly remembering my tablemates. “Brooke, this is Ellen. She’s…”
“I’m Kathryn’s agent,” says Ellen, never one to wait for an introduction.
“Wow,” Brooke says, regarding me with new interest. “You must be getting some good gigs.”
“Oh no, no,” Ellen laughs. “I don’t do performers. I’m strictly literary.”
“Then you’re writing!” I think I see a hint of relief on Brooke’s face.
“My first book is coming out,” I tell her. “Next year sometime.”
“If we can get the contract signed,” David says with a wink. He offers Brooke his hand. “David Boyd. Editor at R&M Publishing.”
I’m blushing; I can feel it. Standing in Brooke’s presence after all of these years, I find that I am still on guard—still worrying about what she will think of me.
I hurry to change the subject.
“So I heard you were at Julliard. You went there after graduation.”
“Yeah.” Brooke rolls her eyes. “I did Julliard. I did the Met auditions. I’ve done hundreds of auditions, actually. Turns out every singer in this city has won some sort of big contest. I ate up the Cowgill money in six months just on rent.”
“But I thought your dad lived here.”
“Eh.” She waves her hand as if dispatching an annoying insect. “I wanted to do it alone. This place actually pays really well. Especially when they let me behind the bar.”
Ellen is stirring her tea, spoon clinking purposefully against the side of her glass. David eyes me expectantly, tapping the papers in front of him with the tips of his short fingers.
“I’ll get a waiter to take your order,” Brooke says. Then, “Hey. If you’re in town tonight, I’m in a show. It’s off-Broadway, and the theater’s sort of a dump, but we’re getting good reviews. I can leave your name at the ticket counter if you’re interested.”
Ellen raises an eyebrow; we were planning on having dinner with some of her other clients—a chance to decompress after a long day of networking.
“It’s cool if you can’t make it,” Brooke says. “I know it’s short notice.”
“No,” I say. “I’ll try.”
“Cool,” she says. “It’s the Black Box theater. Curtain is at 8.”
Then she’s off, back to the server’s stand, to the bartender and his jokes. And I am alone with Ellen and David, about to sign the book deal that has made me a minor celebrity at the writer’s conference we are attending. As I watch Brooke sit at an empty table to count her tip money, I realize that I am shaking. But there’s no time to recover; we have business to take care of.
“Now,” says David, pushing the contract across the table toward me. “What say we sign on the dotted line?”
** ** **
“I loved it.”
Next to me on the sidewalk outside the stage door, a girl is balancing on the curb while her friend tries to hail a cab. They look young—no older than 14—and I watch, amused, as they argue over the merits of the musical we’ve just seen.
“You would love it,” says her friend, who wears a red coat and purple hat.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” says the girl on the curb.
“You like all that dark stuff. The more depressing it is, the more you think it’s great. Admit it. You’re a drama junkie. Hey!” The girl on the curb has left her perch, snatching her friend’s hat and dashing into the street with a shriek of triumph. He friend follows, and both are nearly flattened by an oncoming car. The girls cling to each other as they make their way back to the sidewalk, laughing so hard they have to help one another stay upright.
They notice me watching and I have to look away, sorry to lose the distraction; their horseplay has helped pass the nervous minutes while I wait for Brooke to come out of the theater. Watching her tonight brought back so many memories: How devastated I was not placing in the top three at the Cowgill. How I accepted a small scholarship to the University of Minnesota and paid the rest of my tuition writing for the local newspaper. How a determination to succeed grew inside of me, into a novel that I finished in the evenings after taking a full-time job with The Chicago Tribune. I’m not angry with Brooke for winning instead of me. Watching her tonight, I realized that I’m not angry with her at all anymore.
The stage door opens; I step forward. It’s four men; Brooke isn’t among them.
I had thought to come back here and tell her how much I enjoyed the performance. I imagined we could get a drink together and catch up. But as the door opens again and another group of performers spills out, I know that I can’t do it. Too much time has gone by.
I have too much to tell her, yet nothing to say.
“Where are you headed?” I ask one of the girls at the curb.
“The Hard Rock Café at Times Square,” the one in red replies. “We’re supposed to be meeting my parents.”
“I’m staying just up the street from there,” I say. “Would you like to share the fare?”
** ** **
Back in my hotel room, I fire up my laptop to check e-mail. There’s a message from my fiancé in Chicago being driven crazy by my mother, who’s lived with us ever since Dad died. Photos from Matt in New Zealand with pictures of his wife and new baby. A portion of my critique partner’s new novel for me to read. A link to an article about Brooke’s musical that I found on Google before heading out tonight.
A tear splashes onto my keyboard.
I sit on the hotel room bed and cry. I cry for the friendships I haven’t made because I fear they will turn out the way things did with Brooke. I cry for all of the hurts that haven’t fully healed. I cry for the two young girls on the sidewalk, so happy in each other’s company, knowing that they are on the brink of darker days. And I cry out of relief that those days are behind me, that I know what happened to Brooke, and that she is OK.
Slowly the tears stop. I wipe my face dry with the palms of my hands and take out my notebook, the one where I outline all of my new projects, and I begin a new story about an opera singer who loses her voice to cancer but regains her strength, her spirit and her celebrity by swimming the English Channel. It is a decent story, and I map it up to the halfway mark before stopping. This isn’t what I should be writing right now. Putting the outline aside, I open the laptop again and prop myself up with a pillow. Then I start to write, a story for which I need no outline. A story about a girl trapped in a small town, dreaming of escaping through music, held back by her own fears and hurts and desires. Scrolling back to the center of the first page, I type the dedication:
“To Brooke, my rival and my friend.”