From This Day Forward went through an unbelievable number of rewrites to get it to the story you just finished.
In the early drafts, it was revealed that Beth cheated on David with Landon, much like it worked out in the final version. However, I didn't initially write David as being unfaithful. In the original version, Jess was happily married to Nate and they had a little girl named Katie. David was a workaholic who was grieving the loss of his father but remained fully committed to his vows.
The trouble with that script?
Beta readers HATED Beth and felt that David was too perfect to be believable. I shelved the entire project for months; at a complete loss for a conclusion.
Once I picked it back up and reread the manuscript, the affair with Jess seemed to jump out from the pages. Her insistence that he needed a haircut while visiting Elizabeth in the hospital. Her longing looks at their house afterward. As I read it with fresh eyes, it seemed like the key had been there all along.
But, what if I’d gone with my initial draft?
This scene is from the beginning of Chapter 29, when Landon shows up to find out why Elizabeth has been dodging his calls. It goes a bit differently than you may remember…
Landon showed up at my house on a Wednesday evening. David wasn’t due in until Friday and I had fallen asleep on the couch. I could tell he was angry the minute I opened the door.
He stormed into the kitchen and grabbed a beer out of the fridge before he turned on me, “I’m assuming there’s a good reason you haven’t answered my texts or phone calls. I’ve been worried sick about you for two weeks!” His voice was like ice and suddenly I didn’t feel strong enough to end it.
“I-I’m sorry. My therapist said I needed to take a break from,” I gestured to him, “this.”
He stalked over to me as if I were his prey, and put his hands on my waist, “She did huh? And what do you think of that ‘advice’? You want to end this?”
Without giving me a chance to respond, he placed his mouth over mine and lifted me up onto the island, stripping me from the waist down. His fingers brushed up against me, bringing me to the edge, before he purred in my ear, “Say you want to end this. Say it.”
“No, I want you. I do.”
“Say that you’ll never avoid me like that again.”
I was almost breathless by this point, “I won’t avoid you. I swear.”
He pulled me off of the island and carried me into the bedroom where he placed me face down on the bed. He began again, but allowed me the release I needed before he continued, “Now, I think a little punishment is in order for the disrespect you’ve shown me.”
Before I could register his words, there was a sharp sting as his hand came down across my ass twice. He entered me and finished while I cried.
He got off on that?
When David got home that weekend, he asked me about the marks and I lied, telling him that I was trying to dust the top of the kitchen cabinets when I lost my balance and fell. He joked about my clumsiness and I laughed with him.
I was not only a woman who was cheating and lying, but a woman who would let a man hit me. The scariest part of all was that a small part of me had liked it.
This deleted scene begins in Chapter 30, when Elizabeth comes home to find her house has been broken into while she was out to dinner with Lauren. This is during the flashback that occurs in the middle of her panic attack over the discovery that Landon is real.
I walked into the house and kicked my heels off in the living room before heading into the bedroom to get out of my dress. I took a deep breath, “Mom, it’s not what you think. It was a mistake and it’s over now.” Instead of heading into my closet for a t-shirt, I made my way into David’s closet. Just breathing in his scent calmed me down and I chose the denim pearl snap shirt he wore the night we met and put it on over my underwear.
“—Mom? Please say something.”
She sniffled again, “I’m just shocked…”
I opened up my closet to hang up my dress and found all my clothes lying in the floor. I wasn’t even listening to my mom anymore as I knelt to pick up remnants of what used to be a dress. My heart began to race.
“Mom— someone’s been in my house. I just…”
She interrupted me, “What? Get out. Call the cops! Elizabeth? Answer me, please!”
I surveyed the damage, too distraught and frightened to say anything when a hand reached down plucked the phone from my hands. The call ended and I turned to see Landon towering over me.
He yanked me to my feet and his eyes moved down my body, taking in my state of undress. “You knew I was stopping by, wanted to get dolled up for me?”
He reached down to touch me, but I slapped his hand away. “What have you done? Are you insane? How did you get in?”
Landon grinned, openly admiring his handiwork. “I left the guest bedroom window unlocked when I was over one night. Just in case. I didn’t like the thought of Davey boy seeing you in all those fine clothes. He doesn’t deserve it. I was there for you—not him.”
This last scene begins in Chapter 34, when Elizabeth comes to on the floor of her living room. She’s now fully aware that it was she who was unfaithful. Initially, this was part of the break-in scene. I added the flashback later because, at the time, it was all written as it occurred.
My pulse thrums steadily in my throat. “It’s true then. All of it’s true. You…and…me.”
Landon puts his phone down and slides closer. “Of course it’s true, Elizabeth. You were going to leave Davey and move in with me. At least, up until this ‘accident.’ Have you changed your mind?”
I stall as I try to process what he’s saying. It’s a lie—has to be. “Don’t you call him that—I’m married to David and you need to leave. It’s over.” I don’t know what his plans are in showing up, but I can’t stick around and find out. Not with what I remember about him. Knowing he’s distracted, I take my chance and bolt toward the front door.
I’m no match for his strength. Landon catches me just as I turn the handle, easily lifting me in his arms as if I weigh nothing. My back collides with the dining room wall and then he’s forcing his tongue into my mouth. I bring my knee up and connect with his groin, placing him on the floor and me back on solid ground.
With a heaving chest, I unsteadily move away from him. “Get out,” I croak. “Get the hell out of my house!”
He lets out a low groan and stands as if to leave. “You want me. You can’t deny what we are together, Elizabeth. You don’t want to end this, admit it! Don’t walk away from me!”
I make the mistake of looking down and he tackles me, knocking the air out of my lungs and cracking the side of my head against the hardwood floor. I manage to get my hands up and claw down the side of his face, drawing thin lines of blood.
He grips my cheeks painfully with one hand before growling in my ear, “I’m not letting you walk away from this. Now, admit you want me.”
I shake my head and he grins wildly before taking my lower lip in his mouth and biting down until my mouth is filled with the copper tang of blood.
I shake my head again, my eyes filling with tears.
Landon smiles down at me, something unstable visible in his eyes. “You’re a feisty little bitch, aren’t you?” His hips roll forward as he thrusts up against me and I immediately stiffen. “Yeah, that turns me on.”
When his hand moves down to unfasten his jeans, I fight back with everything I’ve got. I kick, hit, and scratch; knowing that my life depends on it. I’d made so many mistakes and if he knew half of them, David would be destroyed. I wasn’t about to make another one and let Landon take what had never been his.
I wince as he grabs a fistful of my hair and pulls me off of him. “Now, I’m going to make it hurt. I was going to go easy on you, but you’re pissing me off. All you had to do was admit that you still want this, but you want to play games tonight.”
He keeps me pinned down by my hair and works his jeans down over his hips. Knowing that he’s going to force himself inside of me, I begin to scream, praying that somebody hears me. The hand that’s twisted up in my hair quickly moves over my face, covering my mouth and nose. I struggle for air, but his hand is like a vacuum seal and with his full weight on top of me, I’m helpless.
He’s going to kill me…
“Elizabeth? Elizabeth, can you hear me? Just relax.” Hands touch my face and I jerk away, still fully convinced I’m about to die.
“Do you know if she took something?” The male voice asks. It sounds like Nate, which is weird, because I don’t remember him being in my house.
“I don’t think she’s been eating, to be honest. She’s going through a lot right now. She does have anxiety medication, but I don’t know if she took one tonight or not.”
I force my eyes open to find Jess and Nate hovering anxiously over me. I’m lying on the floor of a bar—Nick’s, to be exact.
“Where’s Landon?” I ask, suddenly afraid that he’s going to pop up from behind them.
Jess’s face falls. “Oh, Lizzie. That asshole is not going to hurt you anymore.” Seeing Nate’s confusion, she elaborates, “Landon is her prick of a soon to be ex-husband.” She rolls her eyes for good measure, but my heart feels like it just entered into a freefall from a cliff.
“Katie? The baby?” I force the words through frozen lips as all the blood has moved down into my gut.
She bites down on the corner of her lip and nods. “Still all true, I’m afraid.”
Nate helps me up into a sitting position and I pause as dizziness washes over me. “What happened?”
He answers this time. “Lack of food combined with alcohol would be my diagnosis. You fainted. How do you feel right now?”
I’m distracted by the multitude of ink on his skin and his matter-of-fact medical knowledge. “The tattoos…but, how?”
He lets out a low chuckle. “Well, I’m a doctor. You think you can stand back up?”
I nod dumbly and let the two of them settle me back into the booth. If we’re still at Nick’s and Jess just met Nate, then maybe there’s a chance that…
“Excuse me,” I slide back out of the booth.
Jess grabs my wrist. “Whoa there, Lizzie. Where are you going?”
I lift up onto my tiptoes, trying to see out onto the patio. “Please,” I beg. “I just need to check something.” She reluctantly lets go and I snag the nearly full glass of Malibu and Pineapple.
“I wouldn’t—” Nate begins, but I cut him off.
“I’m not going to drink it, I swear. I just need to step outside for a minute.”
He nods to Jess and she follows behind me as I make my way onto the patio. I scan the tables, knowing it’s completely insane to expect him to be out here. My shoulders drop and I turn to go back inside when I hear that bark of familiar laughter, the rumble reverberating throughout my entire body.
There he is. It’s a different table than before, but it’s him.
“Can we go back inside now?”
I turn back to Jess, unable to hide the smile on my face. “I—I just need to do something. Go back to your guy.”
Her eyes narrow. “You are acting so bizarre tonight. Are you sure you’re okay?”
I glance over at David and my grin widens. “I think I will be.”
With a deep breath for courage, I make my way over to him, counting the slats in the decking as I do. When I’m within a couple of feet, I slip my right heel into the deck and let my momentum push me forward.
Here goes nothing…
“Oh, heads up,” Mike yells and David instinctively grabs my waist before I face plant onto the deck.
So, there we are. The alternate ending to From This Day Forward. In this telling, Katya doesn’t exist as anything more than an ex-girlfriend, Nate never meets Kate, and Mike and Lauren are nothing more than supporting characters.