***This is a scene from the novel, set about ten years before the book begins. Ethan is a spoiled 17 year old who spent his whole life in Paris. Then, his mother died, and he had to move to rural Virginia with his estranged grandparents. In this scene, he is supposed to fly back to Virginia, but he refused to leave France. He finally shows up on the plane at the last second, shocking his grandparents.***
Ethan stumbled down the jetway, dark shades hiding his eyes and a large leather bag over his shoulder. He entered the craft, one of the last to board, and scanned the seat numbers, finally finding row 32 where Thomas and Cheyenne sat. They were primly buckled in, with a perplexed look over their faces. Ethan tossed his bag in the open overhead bin, the noise startling the couple. Ethan leaned in, his palms resting against the overhead bin. He reeked of booze and marijuana. He snidely smirked.
“So, tell me, is it cold in Virginia?” his tone was asinine.
“It can be, yeah,” Cheyenne was still dumbstruck.
Ethan raised his eyebrows over his shades, and cocked his head in resignation. Then he plopped into the empty seat next to them and instantly signaled to the flight attendant.
“Can I get a drink?”
She declined and told him they would be available after take off. He sighed, removed his jacket, threw it over his face, and leaned back to nap.
Thomas and Cheyenne eyed each other. Thomas raised his palm in a gesture meaning to leave Ethan’s behavior alone.
“There will be time,” he whispered to her.
Row 32 was silent during takeoff, neither adult daring to upset the precarious balance achieved with the drunk teenager in the aisle seat.
With the gentle ding of the unfasten seatbelt sign, Ethan jerked himself out of the seat.
Twenty minutes later, he still had not returned. Cheyenne eyed Thomas who briefly glanced in the direction of the lavatory.
“Is he…” Cheyenne’s unfinished thought involving Ethan, the airplane restroom, and some sort of controlled substance, sent Thomas on a search.
He finally found Ethan sprawled out in an empty row, asleep with his jacket over his head. Ethan remained that way for the duration of the transatlantic flight.
He reappeared some nineteen hours later for landing, sitting upright in his seat, disheveled and silent.
They landed in Richmond, and Thomas casually informed Ethan it would be a two hour drive to the house. Ethan just raised an eyebrow. Cheyenne waited with Ethan outside by baggage claim while Thomas brought the car around.
Ethan silently sprawled out on a concrete bench, wadding up his jacket for a pillow. He lit a cigarette, while Cheyenne watched him with a mixture of concern, pity and helplessness. She didn’t say anything. Finally, Thomas arrived with a red Land Rover, and Ethan helped himself to the generous backseat, his ever present jacket pillow and sleep.
Cheyenne and Thomas quietly talked of lunch as the airport complex began to give way to somewhat more familiar territory. They stopped at an IHOP and Cheyenne gently tried to wake Ethan. He irritably stirred, and then closed his eyes again.
“Are you hungry?” she asked gently.
He groaned and rolled over. Thomas stepped in.
“Ethan,” his voice was sharp. “Get out of the car, now.”
Ethan groggily sat up, and caught Thomas stern gaze. Ethan shrugged and exited the car, Thomas and Cheyenne behind him.
The trio of travelers entered the restaurant and Ethan plopped himself sideways into a booth bench. His long legs in black skinny jeans filled the orange booth. and his matted long blond hair was cleanly smashed against the side wall. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
Thomas’ agitation was growing. The waitress came to take the order. Ethan didn’t touch his menu. He barely opened his eyes, and ignored everyone. The waitress asked him for his order and he barely shook his head.
Thomas stepped in. “Ethan, you haven’t eaten anything since Paris. Order something, or I will order for you, and none of us will leave this table until you have eaten every last bite.”
Ethan’s eyes popped open, and they flashed cold, dark and blue at Thomas. Thomas met his gaze, and they stared at each other for a moment, while Cheyenne and the waitress looked awkwardly on.
Finally, Ethan cleared his throat, and held up one of the promotional flyers without so much as a glance at it.
“I’ll have this,” his voice was hoarse.
“Certainly,” the waitress said.
Once she was gone, Ethan excused himself, a pack of cigarettes in his hand.
“Was that necessary?” Cheyenne asked Thomas.
Out the window, they could see Ethan standing outside smoking his long blond hair blowing in the cool wind. He looked small and alone. Thomas shot Cheyenne a look.
“This one is going to be a handful.”
Cheyenne rose from the table and stepped out into the October air. She approached him and he acknowledged her with a simple eye movement.
“Hey,” she said.
He said nothing. She stood awkwardly with him for a moment.
“I know you don’t think so now,” she said finally. “But you’re going to make it through this.”
His gaze popped up, and he really looked at her for the first time. She saw something in his eyes she had never seen before. Vulnerability.
“How do you know that?” he whispered and stared off, drawing a long drag.
“Because that was the hardest part,” she said. “It’s all downhill from here.”.
He made a face, and nodded slowly.
“You know,” she continued. “We’ve all lost her. We all need each other to get through this.”
He rolled his eyes, and sighed his walls coming back up.
She continued. “Back in Paris, you said that we didn’t even know you. That’s true, we don’t. But, the truth is, you don’t know us either. Why don’t you give us a chance?”
He stopped as if he hadn’t given the idea a thought.
“Come inside. It’s cold out here. Eat something,” she suggested gently.
He shrugged, threw the cigarette on the ground, and followed her.