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God Grant Me Serenity—Deleted Scene

This deleted scene is from All Our Broken Pieces. This is how I originally wrote the scene that comes right after Ginny and Alex fight, she asks him to leave, and then trashes her room. I’ll let y’all read it first and then I’ll talk about the problems with it.

God Grant Me Serenity

I fell asleep without a blanket, with my arms banded around myself, curled into a fetal position.

It was nearly midnight when my phone rang. I fumbled to find it in the chaos and saw “Alex” as the caller. A breath hissed through my teeth and I checked myself, weighing my emotional state to determine if I could handle a conversation with him. Then I answered. I was still upset and confused, but if Alex was willing to reach out after what I’d put him through, then I couldn’t ignore it. 


“Can you meet me?” His voice was strained and I sat up straight, instantly on alert.

“Of course. What’s wrong?” 

“I’m standing outside a liquor store and I need a reason not to go in.”

I jumped to my feet and headed for the door, grabbing my keys and my purse as I went. “Where are you?”

“Corner of Pontiac and Colfax.”

“Do you have your bike?”

“No, I walked. I was just walking, blowing off steam. Then I ended up here…” There was a panic in his tone that scared me. I got in my car and turned it on, pulling away from the curb before realizing I didn’t have shoes on.

Oh well. At least I was still dressed, having never changed before falling asleep.

“Can you walk away?” It would have been easier to drive if I got off the phone, but I knew I had to keep talking to him. It would take me twenty minutes to get to Highland.

“Yeah.” I could hear the effort it took for him to say that. 

“Okay. Start walking, and tell me what stores are around there. What buildings are you passing?”

I got him talking and I could hear from his breathing that he really was walking. On one hand, I was grateful he’d called me. Of course I wanted him to call me if the alternative was breaking his sobriety. But the stress and fear building inside me kept screaming, Don’t you have a sponsor? Why didn’t you call them??

Maybe I’d ask him that later, but I was pretty sure the answer had everything to do with me. He needed to blow off steam because of me. Because of our fight. Because I’d insulted him and then thrown him out.

I kept him on the phone for the entire drive. I made him keep talking about where he was. I made him tell me what clothes he was wearing, what time he had left his house, how many miles did he think he’d walked. I asked any question that I knew he could give an answer to, but I didn’t dare approach the subject of why he had been standing outside a liquor store. That could wait until I got to him, until he was in my car.

As I made the final turn and spotted him walking along the road, a wave of relief washed through me. “I see you,” I said into the phone.

He looked up and waved, a half-hearted limp gesture. We hung up as I pulled up beside him and he quickly got into the car. He was shaking like he was cold, but sweating even though it wasn’t even warm outside. He sat there, staring straight ahead as he rubbed his hands on his thighs.

I wanted to say something, to keep talking and try to make things better, but now that he was in the car with me, all I felt was awkward. He had told me he didn’t really want to take the job, that he hadn’t wanted to consider moving or leaving me. And I had repaid him by kicking him out.

About halfway back to my house, he reached over and took my hand in his, squeezing it with such pressure that it was uncomfortable, but I just squeezed back, hoping that the action would somehow be helpful.

I drove slowly, using just my left hand, which was easy considering the deserted roads, and we made it back to my apartment without any hiccups. As I put the car in park, it occurred to me that he might have wanted to go back to his own house, but I had been on autopilot.

Neither of us made a move to get out of the car. Finally, I had to ask. “Was it…our fight?” Because if our relationship had the ability to knock him off the wagon… “Is that why—”

“No. That wasn’t it. I mean, that wasn’t fun, and of course drinking crossed my mind, because it always will. But…” His voice drifted off as he stared out the window into the darkness.

I let the silence linger, waiting for him to get his thoughts in order.

“I was just shooting hoops, trying to stay active while my mind was going too fast. A couple guys joined me and we played a couple games. They were nice. When we sat down to take a break, one of them tossed me a can of beer.” He stared down at his hands, like he could still see the can there. “And the weight of it, and the sound of them opening their own cans just…” He shook his head. “I didn’t even let myself hold it for more than a couple seconds. I put it down and left. I walked, and as I walked, I realized I didn’t want beer. I wanted something a lot stronger.” Now his hands were shaking along with his voice. “And it just kept going though my head, over and over. The look of whiskey when it’s poured, the weight of the glass in your hand. And then I was standing in front of a liquor store.” He cradled his head in his hands. I wanted to reach out to him, to rub his back or hold his hand, but I waited. “I’d been walking to get away from that, and instead my feet took me right to it.”

He raised his head and stared ahead again, looking too pale. 

I should have said something, but words escaped me. I couldn’t think clearly enough to know what would be helpful. I thought of my mom and what had helped her, and finally an idea hit me. I took both of his hands in mine, closed my eyes and started reciting. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

Alex joined in and we continued in one voice. “The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

He squeezed my hands, then leaned forward and kissed my forehead. “I’ll find a meeting tomorrow.”

I nodded. “Did you want me to take you back to your place?” I asked.

He shook his head. “It’s better if I’m not alone right now.”

I nodded, giving him a chance to decide on a course of action.

“You could take me to my mom’s house, I guess.” He looked like he really didn’t like that idea but didn’t have many options.

“You can sleep on my couch,” I offered.

He finally turned to look at me. “Really?” There was so much hope and relief on his face that it made my throat constrict with emotion.

“Yeah.” I smiled the best I could . “Come on.” I climbed out of the car and he followed, reclaiming my hand as soon as we stepped onto the sidewalk.

We quietly went into my apartment, and after I’d retrieved everything I thought he would need, Alex wrapped his arms around me. I relaxed into his hold, then he kissed me and I took my time breathing him in, letting him soothe my tattered soul and hoping I did the same for him. Then we said goodnight and I returned to my own room, which looked like a tornado had ripped it apart. The broken mirror caught my attention, and I sighed in resignation and picked up my waste basket, setting it on the floor before crouching to gather up the reflective pieces.

What’s Wrong With It

There are a lot of things wrong with how I wrote this scene. The most egregious is that at this pivotal moment, I made the story about ALEX instead of about GINNY. As big a role as Alex plays, this is not his story. So to take the story at this point and ignore the basic conflict of Ginny’s grief and instead focus on Alex’s alcoholism is just plain wrong.

Another big issue is that as far as recovering alcoholics go, I got this scene really wrong. Some very helpful beta reader let me know that this reaction would be typical of someone who had been in recovery for three months, not three years. And the last thing I wanted to do was to misrepresent someone in that way.

My purpose in writing it this way was to make Ginny strong. To give her a moment to pull out of her grief and be the hero of sorts—to be selfless. But really it’s just a big distraction. Real strength needed to come from Ginny being willing to let Alex in, to make the choice to show him the wreck she’d made of her room. She needed to voluntarily invite him into her most embarrassing and terrifying reality and trust that he’d stick around.