Exclusive! Deleted Scene from All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Exclusive! Deleted Scene from All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Violet

September 20

The locals call it Carpenter’s Cemetery, but we prefer the name Mr. Ivers gave it: One Hundred Steps. It doesn’t look like much, just an old abandoned graveyard on a hillside on the outskirts of Brazil, Indiana. The staircase is long and wide and made of cracked and crumbling stone, the weeds growing through. We stand at the bottom and look up. We’re the only ones here.

Theodore Finch says, “I think technically we’re supposed to do this at midnight, but since you have to be home before dark and it’ll take about two hours to get back, this will have to do.”

Every person in this cemetery was once alive. They had hopes and dreams and families. They were hated, they were loved.

Even though it’s warm outside and daylight, I shiver, and he takes my hand.

“Can we walk up together?”

He says, “Maybe if we count to ourselves. I think it’s all in the counting, Ultraviolet.”

We start up, side by side. The legend goes that you need to count each step as you climb. When you reach the top, you look out over the tombstones and the field, and you’ll see the ghost of the original caretaker who’ll show you a vision of your death. After he vanishes, you head back down the stairs, counting once again. If you get the same number as you did going up, you’ll be okay. But if the number is different, the vision will come true, maybe even that same night.

I am saying the numbers to myself silently until we get to the top, where the steps fade away into the grass. I stop, but Finch keeps going, so I keep going, and we go as long as we can, fishing for the last few steps, and then we’re at the peak of the hill, on a wide grassy area with tombstones toppled over on their sides, all except one, which stands like the Washington Monument.

“Monolith,” he says. “That, Ultraviolet, is a monolith. Better known as an obelisk.”

The word makes me laugh, or maybe it’s because I’m nervous. I’m trying not to think of Eleanor and death and the accident. I want to shut my eyes in case the caretaker by some miracle appears.

Finch is laughing too, but more contained. He says, “I think we’re supposed to be respectful of the dead so that the caretaker will rise again.”

We wait and wait, and the whole time I’m thinking, Please don’t let the caretaker rise again. And then suddenly I’m laughing once more over “obelisk,” which Finch is now singing under his breath, searching for something that rhymes with it. We turn in all directions, but the only thing stirring besides us is a soft breeze.

Finch says, “Do you ever wonder at all these stories?” He stares down at the gravestones. “Every person in this cemetery was once alive. They had hopes and dreams and families. They were hated, they were loved. They did stupid, embarrassing things. Maybe some rotten things and maybe some good deeds, and now here they are, and all we know is when they were born and when they died, but none of the in-betweens.”

“The in-betweens,” I echo.

“That’s where the meat is. That’s the good stuff. Take Harvey S. Webb here. He was forty-one when he died.”

We stand looking down at Harvey S. Webb, born 1898, died 1939. His tombstone is encircled by a rusted metal fence, about two feet tall. The door to the fence swings open, creaking in the breeze. It’s an eerie sound that gives me goosebumps.

I forget to look for the caretaker. I forget to think of my own sister, born nineteen years ago, died last year. I say, “I wonder how he died.”

When we’re done, the sky is beginning to turn gold and pink. We go back down the stairs, hand in hand this time, and I count again.

“Let’s give him a story. And then let’s clean up his grave and all of these graves that no one ever visits except kids like us in search of a ghost.”

So we walk from grave to grave and Finch fills in the blank spaces and the in-betweens. We give every last person a story, some funny, some sad, and then we get down on our hands and knees and pull the weeds that surround the graves and try to right the ones that have fallen. At some point, Finch disappears and when he comes back, he is carrying flowers.

“Where did you find those?”

He grins, shaking the hair out of his eyes. “You can usually find what you’re looking for when you put your mind to it, Ultraviolet. And let’s just say I spotted them in a field as we parked the car.”

He gives me half of the bouquet and we go around the cemetery laying flowers on the graves. I think, I guess this is what we’re leaving behind this time.

When we’re done, the sky is beginning to turn gold and pink. We go back down the stairs, hand in hand this time, and I count again. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but for some reason I’m relieved when I come up with the exact same number as I did the first time through. “I got one hundred exactly, both times,” I say, shading my eyes as I look up at him.

His face is hard to read. “Me too,” he says. “One hundred up and down.”


Once again he walks me to my door, and once again he smiles at me, and once again he doesn’t kiss me. We stand on the step, and if it wasn’t midnight, I’d ask him in, but the house is dark and I know my parents are in bed, listening for me to walk in the door.

“I wish I could ask you in.” And I actually mean it.

“But it’s late.”

“It is.”

“Ultraviolet. I could stay up all night with you.”

No boy has ever said these things to me, just like no boy has ever spent the afternoon with me making up stories in a cemetery. I can feel my ears grow hot.

He says, “There are so many places to see. I don’t know how we’ll fit them all in.”

He waits until I’m safely in before he walks away. Leaning against the door, I think, Uh oh. And, Why now? And, Is this what it’s like to fall in love?

“I guess we’ll just do the best we can.”

“I like you, Ultraviolet.”

“I like you too.”

“But not the same way I like Charlie Donahue or Brenda or my sister Kate.”

I laugh and it comes out too loud in the quiet night.

He says, “You better get on in there before I get out the map and drag you off to Kokomo or Fort Wayne.”

He waits until I’m safely in before he walks away. Leaning against the door, I think, Uh oh. And, Why now? And, Is this what it’s like to fall in love?

From upstairs, my mom calls out, “Is that you, honey?”

“It’s me. I’m home.” I lock the door and look out the peephole, just in case, but he’s gone.


Finch

September 20

The thing is, I didn’t come up with one hundred. Going up the stairs, I counted ninety-eight. Going down, I counted ninety-nine. This means nothing, and I know it means nothing, but there’s a feeling I can’t shake off.

At home, no one waits up for me. The lights are on in Decca’s room and Mom’s room, and music is coming from under Kate’s door. I almost knock. I could go in and tell her about my day and keep it alive a little longer by talking about it. But instead I walk straight to my room and change my clothes, pick up the guitar, try to play along, then give it up and sit down at the computer, swinging my chair around so it’s backwards, the only way I can compose.

September 20. Method: None. On a scale of one to ten on the how-close-did-I-come scale: zero. Facts: In 2008, a man at Six Flags Over Georgia dropped his hat on a roller coaster. After his ride was over, he hopped two fences to fetch it, and the roller coaster came along and knocked his head off. I call this some seriously screwed up irony. Related facts: The Euthanasia Coaster doesn’t actually exist. But if it did, it would be a three-minute ride that involves a climb nearly a third of a mile long, up to 1600 feet, followed by a sheer drop and seven loops. That final descent and series of loops takes sixty seconds, but the 10 Gs gravitational force that result from the 223 mile per hour loops is what kills you.

I stop typing.

It’s hard to concentrate because my skin feels—well— off, for lack of a better description. I scratch one arm and then the other, stretch them above my head, get up, move around, sit back down.

I type a little more.

Stop again. Scratch. Stretch. Get up. Move around. Sit back down.

Type.

Stop.

Go downstairs.

Grab the keys.

Don’t leave a note, because no one will miss me.


Two hours later, Little Bastard and I are back in Brazil, back at One Hundred Steps Cemetery, where I walk up and down the steps counting. The air is so still it feels as dead as Harvey S. Webb. The flowers Violet and I placed on the graves are still there.

I am surrounded by the impending, weightless doom of all these dead people, who are nothing now but fragments of bone buried deep inside the earth. I go up, I come down, up and down, until finally I get the same number both ways: one hundred. Because, okay, I may have cheated, I go up and down once more, and this time I didn’t cheat at all, not even a little, and I’m still at one hundred.

Julijonas Urbonas, the man who thought up the Euthanasia Coaster, claims it’s engineered to “humanely— with elegance and euphoria— take the life of a human being.” Those 10 Gs create enough centrifugal force on the body so that the blood rushes down instead of up to the brain, which results in something called cerebral hypoxia, and this is what kills you.

I stand at the bottom of these broken, overgrown steps, in the black Indiana night, under a ceiling of stars, and think about the phrase “elegance and euphoria,” and how it describes exactly what I feel like with Violet.

For once, I don’t want to be anyone but Theodore Finch, the boy she sees. He understands what it is to be elegant and euphoric and a hundred different people, most of them flawed and stupid, part asshole, part prince, part screw-up, part freak, a boy who wants to be easy for people so that he doesn’t worry them and, most of all, easy for himself. He is exactly who I want to be and what I want my epitaph to say: the boy Violet Markey loves.


You can find more about All the Bright Places here and don’t forget to check out the other Zoella Book Club books here.