Happy Birthday, Søren! A deleted scene from The Saint
[Do not add this deleted scene to Goodreads or any book review site]
Happy Birthday, Søren!
You were born in the dark but your birth has been the light of my life.
Love Always, Your Creator Tiffany
“I have a fire-breathing dragon in my desk, and I’m not afraid to use him.” Eleanor stood up on the train table and stared down the barbaric horde assembled in front of her. “I need bottoms on steps in the next five seconds or no animal crackers for anybody. Not even the dragon. One…two…”
Twenty four-year-olds raced for the carpeted three-tier stage.
“Better,” she said. One little girl raised her hand. “Yes, Katie?”
“Do you really have a dragon in your desk?”
The children all groaned in disappointment.
“He’s not in my desk. He’s in the back room. Who would keep a dragon in their desk? That’s ridiculous. They’re huge.” She swooped her arms over her head and all the kids giggled. “Now chill out, Bookworms. I have a really good story today. And I think the author must have known all of you because the books is about wild things, and I’ve never met wilder children in my life.”
She picked up a copy of Where the Wild Things Are and held it up so everyone could see the book. A few of the kids ooh-ed and aww-ed at the sight of the monsters on the front cover. Kids—so easy to impress, so hard to shut up.
Eleanor turned to the first page to begin reading when she noticed someone watching her from the corner of the children’s book nook. He seemed to attempting to make himself unobtrusive which was pointless. Impossible to miss someone so tall and blond.
“Guess what, Kids?” She closed the book and walked over to the lurker. “I almost forgot our special guest today.”
She grabbed Søren by the arm and escorted him to the front of the children’s area. Twenty little necks craned to look up at him.
“Bookworms, this is Father Stearns. Say ‘Hello Father Stearns.’”
“Hello Father Stearns!” they all shouted in a parody of the concept of unison.
“Father Stearns, is this your first time at Wordsworth’s?” Eleanor asked, trying not to grin like an idiot. She couldn’t believe Søren had some to see her at work. She couldn’t believe it but she wouldn’t complain. She hadn’t seen him in a week. Juggling a full course load at NYU and working part-time was about to kill her.
“These kids are here every week. These are my Tuesday Bookworms.” She and the kids raised their index fingers and wiggled it. That was the official Bookworm Salute she’d instituted when she took over the story hours at the bookstore. Grabbing Søren’s hand she raised it up and forced him to make the worm wiggle salute. His finger waved more than wiggled. “Your wiggle is going to need a lot of work.”
“I think my wiggle is broken,” he said, looking at this finger in mock despair.
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“I am,” he said.
She ignored him and turned back to the kids.
“Bookworms, Father Stearns is a priest. Does anybody know what that is?”
A little boy named Luis raised his hand.
“He works at a church!” Luis shouted before Eleanor could call on him. Half credit. Usually they didn’t even raise their hands.
“That’s right,” Eleanor said, and everyone gave the Bookworm Wiggle Salute to congratulate his right answer.
“Why do you wear that thing?” a little girl named Sherri asked, pointing at her neck to indicate Søren’s collar.
“So his head won’t fall off,” Eleanor said.
“That’s not true,” Søren said and shook his head.
She looked at him with feigned outrage. “You lied to me.”
Søren ignored her and gave the kids his full attention.
“Priests wear collars like this so people know we’re priests,” Søren explained. “It’s the same reason firemen and police officers wear uniforms.”
“Otherwise people might not know he’s a priest,” Eleanor said, “and they’d try to do gross stuff to him like kiss him.”
All the kids stuck out their tongues like that was the most disgusting thing they’d ever heard of in their lives.
“Is your name Father?” six-year-old Steven asked.
“No. Father is a title, like Mister or Doctor.”
“My dad’s a doctor,” Casey called out.
“My dad’s a cop!” another boy countered. Eleanor hadn’t learned his name yet.
She took a deep breath while she let all the kids shout out what their parents did for a living. She decided not to join in. My father is a dead mob informant. That answer might have ruined the jovial mood of story hour.
“Kids!” She raised her hand and gave the Bookworm wiggle. The kids quieted down. “There’s something very special about Father Stearns you all should know. Father Stearns is not an ordinary priest. He has a magic power.”
“You do. Father Stearns can speak seventeen different languages. Can you all believe that?”
The kids collectively ooh-ed again.
“Eighteen,” Søren corrected.
“You told me it was seventeen.” She glared at him.
“I learned Mandarin last year.”
“Right. You just got bored one week and learned Mandarin?”
“More or less.”
“I speak Spanish!” Luis yelled out.
“I know you do,” Eleanor said. “So does Father Stearns. And he’s our special guest today because he’s going to translate our book into Spanish. I’ll read it English. He’ll read it in Spanish. Ready?”
She opened the first page and opened her mouth.
“One question first,” Søren interrupted. “Simultaneous or consecutive translation?”
“This is kindergarten Story Hour, not the United Nations Assembly.”
“Consecutive it is then.”
She read the first page. Søren translated. A third of the Tuesday Bookworms crowd were the children of immigrants whose parents or grandparents spoke Spanish. She’d been meaning to do an all-Spanish story hour, but first she had to learn the language. And these days learning French had become a more pressing issue.
They reached the page where Max announced the start of the “wild rumpus,” and Søren paused with a troubled look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” Eleanor asked.
“I’m not entirely certain how to translate the word ‘rumpus.’”
Søren said Luis’s name and started speaking in rapid Spanish. Luis paused, seemed to consider what Søren said, before speaking again. Another Spanish-speaking girl, little pigtailed Carman, chimed in. Søren asked her a question. Luis and Carman powwowed for a moment before all three of them went silent and looked at Eleanor.
“We’ve decided on the best course of translation.”
“Go for it,” she said.
“Que empiece la fiesta salvaje!” Søren said with impressive gusto and all the Spanish-speaking kids in the crowd laughed and danced in their seats.
At the end of the story, the kids gave Søren a raucous round of applause and cheering. Eleanor passed around the animal crackers and the kids gorged themselves with abandon.
“What are you doing here?” she asked in a low voice as the parents collected their kids. She gave a few hugs to her Bookworms who promised they’d wiggle back next Tuesday as she gathered the empty animal cracker cups.
“I wanted to see where you worked. It’s a beautiful bookstore.”
She smiled at him.
“I love it here. No one wanted to work in the kids department. Can you believe that?”
Søren watched as she pried a wad of chewing gum off the stage with her bare fingers.
“Can’t imagine why. I’m pleased to hear you’re enjoying the work. Although-”
She raised her hand.
“I’m not taking money from Kingsley. I don’t care if it was your money before it was his money.”
Søren raised his hands in surrender.
“I can certainly understand that sentiment. Pride is all well and good, Eleanor, but you have a very expensive education to pay for.”
“I’m not a freeloader like my dad.” She threw the gum and cups into the trashcan.
"I hope I'm nothing like my father either."
"We need better parents," Eleanor said.
"No, we only need each other."
She put her hands on her hips and gave him the evil eye even as her heart fluttered in happiness. Now that she lived in the city she didn’t get to see Søren as much as she wanted. Then again, even if she saw him every single day it still wouldn’t be as much as she wanted.
“Are you flirting with me? At work? In public?”
“Worse than flirting?”
He glanced left then glanced right. Eleanor tapped her foot as she waited for his reply.
“I’m asking you to dinner."