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Deleted Scene Invincible Me

Original epilogue that lead to Carli and Maia's story. It didn't fit, and I decided to go in a different direction.

Note: This was a deleted scene. It was the original epilogue I wrote for Invincible Me. (Occurring at the same time as the epilogue in Merry Little Lies.) It turned out to be a little too angsty for an epilogue and in the end I decided to take Carli and Maia’s story in a different direction. I’m sharing it in case you’re interested but, again, please be aware this is a deleted scene that got cut. It isn’t canon at this point. And it may have tons of comma errors since my editor didn’t see it.



I plopped down on Carli’s bed, rubbing my eyes with the palms of my hands. I was a mess. But there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Except complain. “You think I should go the hospital? I think I should.” Cian’s sister had gone into early labor, and my best friend had struggled going to any hospitals after Teddy died.

“Why? So you can pace the waiting room and give Cian something else to worry about?”

“That’s not fair.”

Caleb sat next to me on the bed and pulled my head into his lap. He threaded his hands through my hair and rubbed at the crease on my forehead. Those hands were magical. My heart rate calmed, and I felt like I could take a breath. “I’m sure they’re limiting the number of people who can be there,” he said. “Cian knows you’re thinking of him.”

“You don’t understand.” I leaned into Caleb’s touch, trying to remain calm. “I’ve been through all of it with him. I was there when Teddy died. I was there when Theo was born, and he couldn’t go into the hospital because of a panic attack. I was in the hospital lobby reporting back to him every five minutes on how his sister and niece were doing. And I was definitely there when he freaked out about me going to the ER.”

“Cian went to the emergency room with you?” Caleb asked. Carli turned away, but I caught the smile on her face.

“No. But when he did come to see me, he was freaked out. And when we talked on the phone, he was freaked out. I know Cian freaking out and that was his freaked-out voice.”

Caleb massaged my scalp firmly causing a shudder to run through me. That felt so good and relaxing. He started to move his hands, and I grabbed his wrist. “It’s helping,” I said.

He kissed my forehead.

“Aaron said they made it to the hospital,” Carli said. “Everything is fine.”

“Cian had a panic attack in the parking lot.”

Carli rolled her eyes. I couldn’t see her, but I knew. And the reason I couldn’t see her because my eyes were shut tight, trying to keep from going into panic mode myself. “You know what I think Rob?”

I shifted on the bed trying to get comfortable and turned my face into Caleb’s side. I felt warm and safe. Protected. I avoided looking at Carli. I didn’t want to deal with her shit. “No. And I really don’t want to know.”

“I think you’re upset at being replaced.”

Her bedspread was soft and fuzzy. Very calming. I ran my hand over it so I wouldn’t grab something and stab her with it. Okay, so I wouldn’t really stab her. But I might throw that karate trophy she was so proud of at her.

“What do you mean by that?” Caleb asked. “It’s not like you guys were together, right?”

I reached for his arm and squeezed it. “We weren’t together. But we were best friends.”

“And now he has another best friend,” Carli said. “One who gives him —”

“Don’t finish that sentence.” I didn’t want to think about my best friend and his boyfriend like that. But they were cute together, and I knew that Aaron would take care of Cian. But still, we hadn’t been close since they’d got together. And those times Cian had tried to spend time with me—when Aaron wasn’t available—I resented him being there because Caleb and I had to continue hiding. Which brought me to the whole reason we were hiding. “This is all your fault.” I sat up and pointed at Carli.

She scowled at me. “It’s my fault that Emily went into labor early? It’s my fault that Cian doesn’t like hospitals? It’s my fault the hospital has stupid rules?”

“No. But it is your fault Caleb and I have to hide. Imagine the double dates we could have gone on.”

Caleb’s hand on my neck tightened, just a bit. A warning that I was going too far. He was right.

Carli’s face fell. I jumped up from the bed, missing Caleb’s nearness immediately, and rushed over to hug my other best friend and fake girlfriend. “I’m sorry,” I said. “That was harsh.”

“No. You’re right. And if it was just me, I’d announce it over the school intercom. But Maia…”

“Maia needs us to wait,” I agreed, hugging her close. Not much had changed in the last couple months. At least not for Carli and Maia. She’d enrolled at Dublin High, but she’d ignored Carli even when they had the same classes together. Pretended she didn’t exist but to be fair, Maia didn’t interact with many people. She’d developed a strange friendship with Jade. Strange only in that Jade seemed to know her secrets. But Jade knew everyone’s secrets. And no one knew his. Except maybe Aaron.

Jade had started hanging out with us more. Probably because Aaron was busy with his boyfriend. Mark was usually with him. Although I’m not sure why, since they didn’t get along at all. Sometimes Maia would be with them. I wondered why Jade never brought any of his boyfriends with him when we all hung out, but I didn’t dare ask him about it. I wasn’t that brave. I was still a little intimidated by Jade. Now that I’d given myself permission to like guys, I started noticing them all the time. It was like a switch had turned on in my head—and my body. Jade was gorgeous. It wasn’t really any one thing about him. He was just beautiful. And although I could now appreciate that other guys were attractive, none of them compared to Caleb. The man was good inside and out.

Carli pulled back. “Enough sappy stuff. We have an art show to get ready for.” She turned away from me and grabbed a tissue.

“Is Cian still going?”

“There’s no way Aaron’s going to let him bail,” Carli said, grabbing her dress from the closet and staring at it with love in her eyes. That girl and her clothes.

Caleb studied the pattern on the bed. Except there was no pattern. It was one color.

“I wish you could go, Caleb.”

He shrugged without glancing up. “It’s fine. I’m helping my mom with a new quilt she’s working on.”

I hated that we couldn’t go as a couple. We couldn’t do things other couples did. Caleb was out and proud. And I was asking him to hide. Not hide that he was gay but that he was with me.

“Would you guys quit being such idiots?” Carli said. “You can obviously come, Caleb. Cian even said to bring you along.”

He gave her a half smile. “I promised my mom. But you guys should get ready so I can see how hot you look before I go.”

Caleb had told me he was helping his mom, but I suspected he didn’t want to go and be introduced as my friend while Carli was introduced as my girlfriend. Not just once but to everybody we talked to all night. I didn’t blame him. I didn’t even want to go. Although I did want to support Cian and make sure he was doing okay.

Caleb went downstairs and kept Mrs. G company while we got ready. I’d brought my clothes over and while I changed in the bathroom, Carli used her room.

Once we were ready, we walked downs the stairs and I could feel Caleb’s eyes on me. Carli wore another beautiful dress her mom let her splurge on. And my grey suit complemented hers.

Carli’s mom took pictures of us like we were going to prom.

After what seemed like hours of posing, Mrs. G was satisfied. Carli had made sure to get pictures of Caleb with each of us and individually. Her mom didn’t seem to notice at all. And I could have kissed Carli for that.

We stepped into the garage and I started toward Carli’s car. She’d decided she wanted to drive tonight.

Caleb touched my arm to stop me. He bit his bottom lip and let his eyes travel over me. “You look gorgeous.”

“Why thank you,” Carli said. “I think I look rather nice, and I get to wear my sparkly shoes again. Bonus.”

“Oh yeah. You too Carli. You look very lovely.”

Carli tilted her head and put her hands on her hip. “How would you know Caleb? You haven’t taken your eyes off of Rob long enough to notice how I look.”

His eyes sparkled as he gave her a once over. It lacked the heat of the one he’d given me. “Stunning,” he said with a wink.

Carli blushed, and his smile faded.

“Two gorgeous people,” he said. “You guys have fun.”

“Hey, Carli,” I said. “Can you check that we have enough gas?”

“You could just ask me if I could leave you guys alone.”

“Isn’t that what I did?”

She shook her head and slid into the car.

“Did you need something?”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “There’s definitely something I need.” I kissed him, reminding him whose boyfriend I actually was and wanted to be.


We arrived before the presentation. Carli’s plan was to be there as little as possible. Right before we left, we got a call from Cian. Emily and baby Molly were fine. He sounded good. Happy. Excited. And still a little reserved.

“Are we just going to sit here?”

We were parked in front of the Cultural Arts building. When did that happen?

I’d had a feeling that Carli hadn’t told me everything and that was apparent when I was introduced to Carli’s aunt. She made a joke about me being the real Rob this time. And we laughed, but I felt a little ill. Carli was introducing her to yet another fake boyfriend. Not that anyone in this room knew that except for Carli and me. Not her family. Not our friends.

Cian did a great job introducing his art and talking about his experiences. I realized how much I missed hanging out with him, and I was determined to change that.

We wandered around looking at the exhibits, and I barely noticed when Carli wandered off.

I’m not an art person. I don’t dislike it. I just had never gotten into it, although I liked Cian’s work. As I studied the pictures, not understanding what I was looking at most of the time, one picture called to me. It was a picture of butterflies flying off in the distance. The focus of the painting was a tree with a cocoon hanging off a branch. A butterfly was stuck half-in and half-out. It wasn’t a realistic portrayal. The colors seemed intentionally off. Reds and purples. The red suggested a struggle. A fight for the butterfly to be free. To grow up. But something was holding him back, keeping him tethered to the cocoon. It captured exactly how I felt. The struggle within me.

But the picture also, at least to me, portrayed hope. The butterflies off in the distance suggested that freedom was possible. Within reach. That’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to join them. I could imagine one of them—the bright blue one in the lead—was Caleb, waiting for me.

I shut my eyes and shook my head at my weird thoughts. The old Rob would have been joking around and stuffing his face with food. Happy to be here with his girlfriend. I was a different person now.

An arm slid around me. Carli. Her touch. The way she smelled. The sound she made when she clicked her tongue against her teeth while thinking. All these things were familiar to me. I loved this girl. Just not the way I had when I’d been in that cocoon. I pulled her in front of me and wrapped my arms around her, resting my chin on her head.

“What do you think of this one?”

“I can relate,” she said softly.

I kissed the top of her head. “Me too.”

“Thank you, Rob.” Her hands reached up to my arms “I know this is hard on you. I appreciate you helping me.”

“You’re welcome.” I squeezed her one last time and let go. “Okay, enough mushy stuff.” That was usually her line.

She threaded our fingers together. “Let’s go bug Cian and Aaron. Then we can say our goodbyes. And you can get back to your hot boyfriend.”

“I love that plan.”


But that wasn’t how it turned out. When we made it outside, there was a fight going on. It wasn’t physical. Not yet. But it seemed to be headed that way.

“What the hell is going on.” I’d never heard Mark that loud or angry before.

“Fuck off,” Jade said. “You’re not the big man in charge here. You can’t just order people around.”

Maia watched them helplessly. Her eyes flying from one to the other.

“Maybe for once stop thinking about yourself. It doesn’t have to be the Jade show all the time.”

Jade’s face was redder than the red in that painting. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that anger.

Carli and I looked at each other and she shrugged. But she stepped forward first, going into the fray.

Okay. So we were doing this.

“Where’s that quick wit Jade?” Mark asked. “You always know what to say. How to put everyone in their place. But you don’t like it when it’s done to you.”

Before we reached them, Maia intervened, pushing them apart, her face streaked with tears. “Stop. Please.” Her voice was soft, but it had the desired effect.

They both seemed to deflate as their shoulders sagged.

“I never should have come back,” she said. “This all my fault.”

“Maia,” Jade said touching her shoulder. “This isn’t your fault. It’s not your fault that Mark is sexually repressed and thinks he knows everything.” But his words didn’t hold the usual heat.

Mark rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Jade’s right. About this. It’s not your fault, Maia. I’m just tired of being the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on. I want to help you.”

“Maia…” Carli’s voice startled them. They looked at us in surprise and broke apart. Each stepping away.

Maia’s demeanor changed. I couldn’t describe exactly what had changed. She was still tense, just in a different way. Her eyes had been sad before and now they looked wary.

But Carli wasn’t deterred. “Can we give you a ride home? Maybe give Jade and Mark a chance to work out there… differences?”

Jade’s eyebrows went up at that, and it looked like he was going to argue. I shook my head. Maybe Carli and Maia could work something out.

Maia glanced at the guys and then studied the ground. She avoided looking at Carli. Finally, she nodded and then hugged them. She whispered something to each of them. I couldn’t hear what she said, but both were quiet afterwards, sneaking glances at each other.

Carli and Maia started walking towards the car, but I held back. Carli turned to me. “Aren’t you coming?”

“I’ve already texted Caleb to come get me,” I said. “We’re going to do some studying tonight.”

Jade rolled his eyes but thankfully Mark didn’t seem to notice anything. He was probably focused too much on his own drama to worry about mine.

Maia’s eyes widened as she glanced over at Carli. Perhaps realizing that they were now going to be alone. Would she change her mind? But she continued following Carli to the car.

This was a good thing. They needed to work out their stuff. But then I was alone with Mark and Jade, and it was awkward as hell. I couldn’t wait for Caleb to get there.

Neither of them said a word. It was unusual for Jade to be silent this long.

“Did you guys enjoy the art show?”

They both shrugged their shoulders looking anywhere but at each other.

I tried again. “Cian showed me the picture of Molly on his phone. She is such a sweetheart.”

Surely talking about a cute baby could get this conversation started or at least less awkward. But it had the opposite effect.

Mark smiled smugly. “Did you hear that, Jade? Rob talked to Cian about the baby.”

Jade shot him a dirty look. “I was giving them time to settle.”

“Uh huh.”

“Hey guys,” I said. I didn’t know what was going on with them, but I was so over it. “You think you guys could work out whatever crap you have going on? Because it’s exhausting to watch. I can’t imagine how tiring it is to be in the middle of it.”

Jade opened his mouth. He looked stunned. He closed it again and lifted his chin up. He reminded me of the beautiful butterflies in the painting. But he didn’t seem to be free. Not sure what made me think of that. Something sad in his eyes or the tight line of his mouth.

A car pulled up beside us. Caleb. I was saved. He rolled down the passenger window. “Hey guys,” he said with a smile on his face.

All my anxiety melted away. I turned back to Jade and Mark. “Later boys,” I said, slipping into Caleb’s car.

Once we were on the road, I no longer thought about Jade and Mark. Or Maia and Carli. I was here with my guy. When he wasn’t using his hand to drive, he held mine. It felt amazing.

“You okay?”

“Better than okay.”

Maybe there was something to this art stuff. That picture helped me realize something. Others might still see me as that caterpillar. The same old Rob. And maybe it would be a while before I could tell them differently. But that wasn’t me anymore.

I had broken free of my cocoon.

And I no longer felt unsettled. I’d shed the old me and the itching beneath my skin had disappeared.

I felt renewed. More like myself than I’d ever been. And although the jitters weren’t completely gone, they were now more like bursts of excitement. I had a boyfriend that I loved. A family that loved me no matter what. I’d found a purpose.

I was flying free.

And finally living my life.