I'm beyond thrilled to be able to reveal this alternate chapter for That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard. The book is incredible. Down at the bottom is a form for a giveaway of a signed copy of the book and some swag! This chapter reveal is written from Eli *the best friend's* POV while the book is written from Lexi's *or Xandra* POV. Just pointing that out. Still this chapter gives a sneak peak to the event that started Lexi's adventure. It all begins here. This is part of what leads Lexi to the circus. *DUN DUN DUN*
“Have you lost all ambition
Won't you give this thing a try
If you can't and you fail won't be the only loser…”
---DROPKICK MURPHYS, “THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS”
Orchard Street and Avenue A—Thursday, September 30
Waiting for Lexi. My mission in life.
She’s late, of course. And she probably has an exactly zero-percent viable excuse. She is probably reading one of those stupid books about the 1800s. Or making yet another playlist. Possibly for me, but there’s only so much depressing music one person can listen to, at least before they actually manage to be finished with high school and can move on to have some kind of actual life.
I flipped open my computer—it was still open to my blog. The one that no one knows about and doesn’t have my name anywhere. And somehow I still managed to give myself a coronary over her seeing it last week because of that time she grabbed my computer to look up some band name to win a stupid bet and she almost saw it.
But she just minimized the window without even seeing the blog. It had seemed sort of symbolic at the time.
I heard the Skype bell and jumped a little. Guilty for some stupid reason because Bailey was messaging me even though it’s not like she can see inside my head or anything.
I clicked to answer the call and Bailey’s face appeared in the window. She was wearing a lot of eye makeup.
“Eli! Baby!” She kissed the air right in front of her web cam. I started to laugh but caught it just in time.
“Hi, Bails. Why are you so fancy?”
“Did you just say fancy? You’re such a dork.” Bailey laughed, but I didn’t. Did she think I didn’t get that she was making another one of her verbal adjustments? Don’t say fancy anymore, baby. Got it. Noted.
I didn’t really know if she even knew she was doing it, or if the urge to fix me was just too strong for Bailey to resist.
I made myself not say you are wearing too much makeup. Baby.
Her face loomed closer to the camera again. She made a frown-y face. “That’s actually why I’m calling you. I’m so sorry but I have to bail on tonight! My dad’s got this thing, there’s a reception for his work and then dinner at Le Bernardin.”
It took everything I had not to whistle and say, “fancy.”
I settled for “Five stars. Nice. That beats Den of Cin and stale popcorn for sure.”
Bailey frowned again. “I’d rather go with you, but Dad says he needs me and Mom to come and be charming. You forgive me, don’t you? Is it too late to call Xandra and cancel?”
X was supposed to be here forty minutes ago, so yeah. “I’ll call her,” was all I said to Bailey. “Have fun. Call me tomorrow or whatever.”
“Of course I’ll call you tomorrow, stupid.” I got another web-cam kiss and then the window went black.
I sat there staring at the screen for a few seconds but then a familiar backpack came in through the fire escape and landed with a thud beside me. It was followed by a foot in a gray Converse, and then its twin. Lexi stood looking down at me. “’Sup?”
I remembered that I had to call her X now, pretending to play along with her changing her name to Xandra. I was sort of counting on her getting over it at some point.
“You’re late, X.”
She stared at me frowning, then she smiled, and flopped down beside me on my bed. “I know. I suck. Why am I always late?”
“It’s sort of early for psychoanalysis,” I told her.
She rolled closer to me, resting both hands on my chest, and lowered her head to rest on her hands. “As if there would ever be a right time for you, Eli Katz! You don’t ever want anybody figuring you out.”
I stared at her. She was right. She was also completely wrong. I sort of wanted one person to figure me out. But she never, ever had.
She was still looking at me. All the words I wanted to say came rushing into my head, and I almost said all of them.
I didn’t say any of them. I rolled off the bed and went to find my deck of cards.
“Want to play five-card draw?”
A look of maybe confusion passed over her face, but it was gone too fast to know for sure. “Okay,” she said, sitting up.
I sat on the floor and started shuffling the cards. I stared down at the cards and tried not to notice how short her skirt was when she sat down on the floor across from me.
I dealt us each a hand, and Lexi picked up her cards, and scooped a few dollars and change out of her pocket.
She seemed distracted, and I won the first two hands and most of her money. By the third round, she was clearly someplace else. “X? Call?”
Lexi jumped, looking guilty. “Fold.” She threw her cards in between us and sighed. “You’ve got my popcorn money, and my download budget for the next two weeks.”
Like I’d ever not buy her popcorn. Moron. “Try two days, addict.”
“You’re so funny! For a retarded person.”
I leaned in closer to her, then threw my cards at her. “Clean up that mess you made, will ya?”
She met my eyes for a second and then something insane happened. In that second I felt it, but all of a sudden I knew. She felt it too.
She didn’t look away first, like usual. Finally, I looked away, and I cleaned up the cards. She stretched out her legs and pulled her long hair up and held it on top of her head for a few seconds before letting it fall again.
Her phone rang, then, and she mouthed Gavin, at me. Like it was highly surprising that it was her dad calling. I could tell he was having to apologize for missing the college fair at school last night.
I sat back down on the bed, opening Facebook on my laptop just to have something to look at.
“I will if you will,” I heard her tell Gavin, and then she slid the phone back in her pocket.
“What did Gavin want?” I leaned over the side of the bed to ask her.
She looked up at me. “Just checking in.” She fidgeted with her skirt. “I need caffeine. I don’t think I’ll make it through Robot Monster. I think I’m gonna head.”
I saw her start to get up, so I leaned my head closer to hers. “That’s too bad,” I told her. “Bailey just messaged me; she’s bailing on us.”
It wasn’t lying to say just. Just still counted if Bailey had cancelled in the past hour. It was only almost lying.
Lexi stared up at me, and then it happened again.
She stood up slowly, and I watched her sort of climb over me, and she sat with her back against the wall, her legs draped over mine. It was like it was all in slow motion.
I didn’t let myself think about almost lying. Or about Bailey. It had taken too many years for a moment like this one to even happen. She was still looking down at me. I put one hand on her leg where it rested over mine.
“So what do you want to do now?” I asked her.
Intrigued? Well I am super excited to say that this book comes out in one week. This is J. J. Howard's first published book. If you want more information on the book *you know summary, gushing, ect.* just go here. You should definitely enter the giveaway for it though. I mean who can argue with the pleasures of getting a free book.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway