Many of you know that a novel does not just come out all shiny and clean. It goes through an extensive editing process before its eventual release—a process which can be frustrating, painful, enlightening. For the most part I thought editing was great. Though I did suffer a period of emotional trauma at the beginning where I wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with the process. In the end, I found a way to scare myself into facing the music and getting the work done. What was the scare tactic? Evil notes from my editor (who happens to be very nice). I'd visualize her sending me scathing emails saying the contract had been cancelled and that my book was now a pile of literal ashes in the mind of my publisher. Done. Dead. Career over.
That did the trick.
But, no, it wasn't easy.
There were a few painful cuts in the editing process akin to death. And I did mourn. Certain scenes that I loved, but which interrupted the flow of the book, had to go. But, but. but. No. My editor was firm. "I suggest," she said, which meant, "You'd better." So I did.
The following is one of those scenes I loved but my editor felt was redundant and unnecessary. Mouth shut, I extracted it and kept it in its own file so that the pain of the cut wouldn't be so hard. In the end she was right, and I'm grateful for her advice. You may notice a few strange things: a 'sister' who did not make it to the final draft, and also Grandmother Carrie is still in the hospital in this scene—which would have made up the last chapter. I hope you enjoy it, and remember, the ebook is free on Amazon today. Thank you!
There were a few things we had to do. It just wouldn’t be right to leave without saying goodbye to a couple of very important people.
The first being my family. I sent William to the house pretending to be some guy with a lost dog. I watched from the Camaro as he walked up the drive and rang the doorbell at 108 South Walters Street. He flashed a hand behind his back to signal someone was coming to the door. I gasped when a pale little face leaned out through the open frame . . . Annabeth.
He said a few words and pulled Mimi out of his jacket. Annabeth looked hesitant, but made no protest when William offered to lay the little puppy into her arms; smiling, she instantly began to cuddle it in joy. But her face turned uncertain when he asked a question. She paused, then shaking her head, gave an answer with apparent sadness to which William nodded and backed away. The door shut as he made his way down the steps and headed for the street.
She’s in the hospital.
She is? I shouted back.
Yes, calm down. We’ll go there right away.
Then he was already at the door, opening it and getting in with a masculine swing. “Springvale Medical Center—same place you recovered after the crash. I guess she broke her hip a few weeks ago.”
I remembered the fall of course, and the reason it had happened. Without hesitation, William swerved the car to make a U-turn and started for the hospital, determined, I knew, to reach it as fast as possible. For someone who had never been given the chance to drive, he sure had wicked skill behind the wheel. He said it was years of visualization, reading, and then, of course, jumping into cars to watch. I liked to see the excitement on his face as he began to touch all the things solid people took for granted. He was like a kid—a very, very manly and beautiful kid.
Grandmother Carrie was on the second floor. We stepped into the room and I turned to hide my face in William’s chest at the sight of her tired and sallow looking body. But I knew it wasn’t right to hide like that. I crept to her bedside, leaving him a few feet behind.
“Grandmother Carrie?” I whispered, not wanting to startle her as she woke.
Her little eyes opened and fluttered closed for a moment. “Emma?”
I laughed. How beautiful to hear her say my name! “Yes, yes, it’s me. How are you Grandmother Carrie? Is your hip better?”
She smiled, taking in my face for a moment. “Sure is. I get to go home in a few days.” She moved a little to peer behind me.
“Grandmother, this is William. My fiancé.”
Her mouth twisted into a smile, but she spoke with all the sternness I had always known and loved. “What happened to the other one?”
Great question. If only I had an answer that didn’t sound like a sci-fi movie plot. “He . . . disappeared.” Literally. Now a part of a communal system of soul-stealing ghouls. The thought made my stomach turn.
William introduced himself and offered to get Grandmother Carrie something from the vending machine down the hall. I knew the intent behind the gesture and grazed his hand softly with my own before he left the room. Those sincere blue eyes melted into mine for a moment, then he was gone.
After he left I let out a deep lungful of air, and blinked against the tears I could feel forming inside the corners of my eyes. “Do you remember when we first came to Springvale, Gran?”
She nodded, watching me with an even expression. “Mm-hmm, you were a mess, walking around with your hair covering your face—a permanent picture of pain. Somebody would ask you a question and it was like drawing an oyster out of a tightly closed shell. Then the second we got your attention, you’d close back up even more. I had to be clever.”
I grimaced, chewing my lip at the not so distant memory of how I used to be. “Have I ever thanked you for not giving up on me? ‘Cause, I know I can be difficult sometimes.”
She shrugged, smiling.
“We’re leaving. Tonight.”
“Promise me you will get better.”
“I’m already better, Emma. Told you I get to go home soon.”
“Yeah, but I mean get strong again. Like you were before all of this happened. I can’t leave knowing you are like this.”
“Emma, you know that I won’t live forever, right?”
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms in front of my chest, like a child. Here we went, she was talking about dying again. Not my favorite subject in the world. “I don’t want to.”
“We all die. It’s part of life.”
“I can’t be strong forever, not the way you want me to be. But I promise that I will always love you, and no matter what, we will always be together.”
I took her hand and held it inside mine, matching her knowing look with one of my own. We would always be together, I knew that to be true. We shared so many of the same qualities, down to our stubbornness and brown eyes. And we, of course, shared a special gift that many people would never understand. I had resisted it for so long, and now it was the central ingredient of my life, holding William and I together in a deep and eternal way.
“Tell Mom and Annabeth that I love them. Is Mom . . .”
“Yes, she still goes to that damned ministry. I try to talk it out of her every night, but she just won’t listen. She says they told her you and Jesse ran off, and that both of you are thieves. It’s best that you do leave town, they might be bringing up charges soon, my dear.”
They would do something like that—turn me into a criminal so that my only choices were to leave or join their disgusting ministry for good. Not a likely option. It made me so angry to think that I had been tainted in the eyes of my own flesh and blood. When William came back, we’d just have to drive down there and . . .
“She’ll see through them eventually, Emma. Don’t fret. If it’s the last thing that I do, I’ll get her away from those monsters.”
That made me smile.
In a few minutes William walked into the room holding an armful of chocolate boxes, flowers, and gardening magazines. I couldn’t help but snicker.
“Anything left in the gift shop?”
He flashed a wide grin. “Nope.”
“Well.” My new life was waiting for me—a beautiful, unbelievable future with the most amazing person to share it with—but none of that made it any easier. Not really.
“Emma, I’ll be okay, knowing you are safe and happy.” I could promise that last part as William’s hand slipped into mine.
“Goodbye Grandmother Carrie. I’ll send my address so we can write.”
“I love you,” that sweet voice whispered.
“I love you too.” I hugged her and kissed her delicate, rose-scented cheek one last time.
“He’s a looker,” she whispered.
“Mm-hmm,” I winked, pulling away, happy to see her smiling back at me. William kissed her on the cheek as well, then turned to me, asking silently if I was ready to leave. I answered yes with one look, smiling at the thought of our future plans. But, there was one more person we had to say goodbye to.
This time it was both our turn. I watched as William stood before a door carved with every forest creature known to man. He raised his fist to knock—a first he said. He usually just flew through the wall, no knocks required.
Paul opened the door wearing a Yogi bear t-shirt and cut off jean shorts. “Yeah,” he mumbled. It looked like he had been busy at work, as millions of tiny wood shavings lay all over his knees and toes. There were even some in his hair like snowflakes.
“Hello, Paul. You don’t know me, but—” William gently pulled me forward.
“Yellow bird!” Paul greeted me. “You made it back okay. I knew that you had strong spirit.”
“Only thanks to you. And this is William, the one who visited you so many times but you could never see.”
Paul put his hand on William’s shoulder, giving it a generous squeeze. “I knew you’d come back! Come on in you two.”
We shuffled past the doorframe, still holding hands—our permanent state of being. Paul herded us to the back of the house then out the door to the garden, where he had an almost completed figure sitting up on an old stump. “I make new carving—a female wolf.”
It was beautiful. With his deft hands he had niched out all the little ruffles of her blowing tufts of hair, all the way down to the tiny nails which peeked out of softly padded paws.
“It’s wonderful,” I murmured, tracing my finger along the bridge of her raised snout.
“It be yours Yellow Bird and Morning Sky Eyes. Just let me finish her real quick. Take a seat.”
William and I both looked at each other in surprise, then after searching around, chose a couple of totem chairs painted in vibrant colors. For an hour we sat and watched as shavings flew from the wolf. When he was done, Paul thumped into the house then came back out with a huge woven blanket and wrapped it around the figure with care.
“She protect you, friends.”
There were tears in my eyes, not just for the gift of his beautiful artwork, but for where life had led me; the things it had given me. Not too long ago I was lost, never believing, never letting anything in. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to be and now I was a complete person. There were sacrifices I’d had to make and would still have to make to ensure a happy future, but I knew life sometimes called for that. Besides, who cared about an occasional bad day when I had my angel at my side?
After many thanks and a few hugs, we left. William strapped the wolf into the backseat of the Camaro and hopped behind the wheel, then turned to me with a serious look.
“So.” I repeated, anxious. It made me wonder if he was beginning to change his mind all of a sudden.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked, causing my heart to flip out of its holding and crash down to my feet.
“Wha-what,” I began to stammer. “You don’t want to get married now?” What had I done? It was all happening so fast, perhaps his brain had finally caught up with everything that had happened in the last few days. Maybe now that he was alive, he wanted to enjoy it without the pressure of anyone hanging around to weigh him down.
“Emma!” William reached out and unsnapped my seatbelt, pulling me into his arms. “I mean, are you sure you want to drive? We could take a plane, get there faster.” His eyes twinkled wickedly; lips twisting into a smile.
“Oh you!” It would be a long drive, hours upon hours of time alone with my favorite person in the world. We’d see the empty, golden prairies of Kansas, the majestic splendor of Colorado’s snowy peaks, and everything else this great land offered. But nothing more beautiful than the person sitting next to me.
“Hmm, I want us to drive there.”
Tracing his finger along my neck, William sighed then lowered his lips to mine. A giant spark shot into the tender skin, causing me to jump back in alarm.
“Hey! I thought that was supposed to go away when you came back to life. Ouch.”
We met again, holding fast despite the fuzzy electricity that continued to sparkle in our kiss.
“Are you complaining?” he whispered.
“Not at all,” I murmured back. “How fast do you think you can drive?”
The engine revved loudly in reply.