Holy cow, you guys! I'm so excited to have so many new friends hanging out with us! We're celebrating today with another Southern Fried Blues deleted scene. Y'all ready for this one?
So about this deleted scene – waaaaaayyyy back in an early draft of Southern Fried Blues, I gave Anna a rusty college degree instead of giving her an incomplete college degree, then had her registering for classes to “freshen up” and work on a masters degree. This deleted scene is an alternate version of how she met Kaci and one of the other wives who only has a quick cameo in the final version.
Hope you enjoy!
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The road to the James Robert College campus loomed ahead on the right. Anna flipped on her blinker, checked her mirrors, slowed the car, then turned. Blossoming pear trees lined the drive. A couple men in green overalls, surrounded by pots of petunias and cornflowers, were working in the flowerbeds.
She’d met Neil in front of a tulip bed near the Armory on the University of Minnesota campus. He’d proposed there two years later.
If she enrolled in classes at James Robert, she most definitely wouldn’t be adding another M-R-S to her curriculum. She might’ve celebrated her first graduation with a wedding as well, but she’d learned her lesson.
She rounded a curve and the admissions building came into view. The grand Colonial reeked of old southern money and pretentious academics. The school wouldn’t have even registered as an option ten years ago when Anna enrolled in college the first time. Too expensive, too far from home. Now, it was a fresh start with no military affiliations. Not even an ROTC detachment. Exactly what she needed.
So long as RMC paid the bill.
She parked on fresh asphalt behind the building and followed the signs around the curving, flower-lined sidewalk to the side entrance. By the time she climbed the marble steps, her stomach was doing flip-flops and her hands were shaking.
What if she wasn’t smart enough to get in?
What if she took all the refresher courses and still couldn’t pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam?
What if she had to go home as the first divorced Jensen in the history of the Jensens, a complete failure as an engineer, unable to take care of something as simple as giving herself a home and putting food on the table?
What if Neil suddenly realized he couldn’t live without her and came back to beg her to quit and have babies?
The door towered over her. She gave the handle a tentative tug. It swung open with nary a squeak or groan.
Neil was history. Anna was her own future now. She’d failed enough for one lifetime. She was going to do this, and she was going to do it right.
The polished marble floor bore the school emblem beneath a skylight in the grand atrium. A bunch of kids who barely looked old enough to be out of grade school, much less on college campuses, milled about the room. Their voices floated about until the tapestries on the wall absorbed the noise. Anna squared her shoulders and headed for the giant mahogany desk situated between two curving staircases.
All this southern grandiose was starting to make Anna feel like a country hick.
The receptionist wore too little make-up and had hair too flat for her to be a local, but the vivacious blonde leaning over the desk had an accent that rivaled Dolly Parton’s. So long as she didn’t burst into song, Anna was okay with that. Heads together, the two women were studying something and squealing. As Anna approached, the object in question came into view. Her stomach lurched.
Somebody loved the blonde a heck of a lot if that diamond was anything to go by.
Anna blinked against the increasingly familiar sting in her eyes. It might not be her turn to be loved, but that didn’t mean her life had to stop. Willpower propelled her the last few steps to the desk. She cleared her throat. “Excuse me, please, I’d like to enroll.”
Still grinning, the receptionist turned to greet Anna. “Of course. Welcome to—Oh, dear.”
She darted a glance at the blonde and stood up. The blonde clucked her tongue, but before she could say anything, the receptionist’s smile came back and she extended her hand. “I’m Sarah. Welcome to James Robert College. Which degree program are you interested in?”
Anna took the woman’s hand and shook it, but the blond leaned into her space with an eye roll at Sarah. “Sugar, she don’t need—”
Sarah cleared her throat. “And have you downloaded our admissions packet?”
The blond leaned back and crossed her arms. Little rainbows exploded about the room when her ring landed in the sunbeam coming through the skylight.
Anna tried to smile back at Sarah, but all the happiness puking out of the blond’s ring was interfering with her tenuous grasp of her spontaneity. “Chemical engineering.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the paperwork she’d completed at the receptionist desk this morning after a more thorough perusal of RMC’s tuition assistance plan, and then re-reading Neil’s email about their D-word. “I actually have a degree. I just need a few classes to catch back up.”
“What you need—” the blond started, but Sarah cleared her throat again.
“Well, we’re delighted to have you here,” she said smoothly as she accepted Anna’s paperwork.
The blond’s foot tapped. She sent Sarah a meaningful look that Anna didn’t want to interpret.
Sarah’s pleasant smile remained. “Do you have your old transcripts?”
“You ain’t from around here, are you, sugar?” The blond said.
“I’m not either,” Sarah said. “Where’s your degree from?”
Anna’s gaze wavered between the two women. “Minnesota.”
“Military bring you here?” the blond asked.
She sucked a big breath in through her nose. “Nah, I always wanted to be underemployed in a place that doesn’t recognize ketchup as its own food group.”
The blond’s brow wrinkled. But Sarah laughed, and Anna’s shoulders suddenly relaxed.
“It’s a northern thing,” Sarah said to the blond. She winked at Anna and pointed to herself. “South Dakota.”
“Damn Yankees,” the blond said cheerfully. “Sarah, you keep this girl outta ol’ grandpappy’s class, you hear?”
Sarah inclined her head toward the door. “Office hours?”
“Well, tarnation. Always ruining my fun, you are.” The blond slung a suede messenger bag over her shoulder and turned her baby blues on Anna. “I’m Kaci. Y’all ever get bored, you come on over to the physics department and look me up. Got some stuff you’ll appreciate one of these days.” With an unrepentant grin aimed at Sarah, Kaci turned to sashay away. “Toodles, y’all.”
Three-quarters of the male teenagers in the room stopped to gawk at her as she went.
Sarah gave Anna a wry smile. “Takes all kinds to make the college go ‘round.”
“Her grandfather works in the chemical engineering department?”
Sarah’s face contorted and a weird sound came out of her mouth. “It’s… complicated.” The wrinkles in her forehead faded, though the crows feet at the edges of her eyes remained. She was older than Anna had first thought, whereas Kaci made that ring look like a dress-up accessory.
“So,” Sarah said, “let’s get you put in the system. As long as your transcripts are ordered, I can get you hooked up with an advisor, and you might be able to start classes when summer semester begins next week. Sound good?”
It sounded complicated.
And exactly what she needed.
* * *
I still have one more great deleted scene with Anna and Jackson together, and Jackson's working on a special post inspired by a question a fan asked on Facebook a while back, but I've been so busy getting The Husband Games ready for critiques and content edits that I haven't had time to sit down with him. He keeps nagging, though, so don't worry.
Plus I just might have a new cover to show y'all sometime soon…
Stick around! More fun's coming!