William Faulkner is credited with this famous writing advice, "Kill all your darlings!" Sometimes it's so hard to push that delete button! You've written something absolutely spectacular. Problem is, it doesn't belong in your story. So we writers are sneaky and we back door them in by posting our deleted scenes on our blogs! Brilliant, eh?
When I first gave my manuscript for TRAPPED UNDER ICE to my editor I had WAY too much going on. She wrote me a little diagram of all my plot points and it made me understand that some of it just had to go. For instance, in the original piece Roger had a thing for Beth. It made for some fun scenes, and some good angst, but in the end it had to go. Cassie also had a car accident and there was a subplot involving her coming to terms with the physical and emotional scars left behind. It worked in so many ways! It provided another stumbling block to Beth and Chad getting together for a while, and it helped to develop Chad's character as he helped Cassie sort things out. But it got the axe, too.
Today I want to share with you a scene, or a pair of short scenes, from this deleted plot line. Chad has finally called Beth and they agreed to meet in Milwaukee, but she doesn't show...
* * *
Saturday came and Chad took a little longer getting ready than usual. Part of him knew that it was a waste of time. He’d be all sweaty and need to take a shower after the show anyway. But maybe she would come before then…
Roger walked into the dressing room before the show and found Chad in front of the mirror. “Doesn’t somebody look spiffy?” he teased, giving Chad’s hair a ruffle.
“Hey! Cut it out, asshole!” Chad yelled, though smiling. He fixed the damage before turning around.
“Has she shown up yet?” Roger asked.
“No. But it should be soon. Listen, I want to thank you, man.”
“Nah. It was no big deal.”
“But I was being a real jerk.”
“You can say that again!”
Chad continued as if he hadn’t heard the remark. “And I just want to say sorry.”
“It’s okay, buddy. I understand. Now, we’ve got about three more minutes. Are you ready to rock?”
“Sure. I’ll be out in a minute.”
Chad picked up his cell phone, and called the front desk for the second time. “Yeah, Ralph…did anybody pick up those tickets yet…no? Okay, thanks.” He hung the phone up and stared off into space for a second. He could hear the roar of the crowd as the first band was winding up their part of the show. He set the phone down and trod out the door.
Two hours later Chad returned to the dressing room, sweaty and excited. Grabbing the phone, he hit redial. “Ralph, this is Chad. Somebody finally picked up those tickets, didn’t they? …No? All right, thanks.” He hung up the phone, horribly disappointed.
He took a shower, closing his eyes and tilting his head up to let the water run over his face. Why hadn’t she come? Could she have been in an accident? Or had she not come for another reason? Maybe he had done something to scare her off. What if he was never going to see her again?
As the questions buzzed through his head, it dawned on Chad that he had never given her his number. He jumped out of the shower, leaving the water running, and grabbed a towel. When he entered the dressing room, Pete was persuading a young lady to leave.
Pete and the fan looked over at him as he stood there soaking wet. “Hi!” he said, awkwardly. But he had no time for manners, he grabbed the phone and found the number he wanted and dialed it.
Much later, after the fifth time in as many hours, someone finally picked up at about 4 a.m.
* * *
Cali opened the door to the house with the keys that Beth had given her. She marched right up to Beth’s bathroom and started throwing things in a sack. From the bedroom she heard the phone ring. She let it go to the answering machine while she gathered the things that Beth had asked for.
“Hey, Beth. It’s Chad…you didn’t make it to the show…I was just wondering…”
“Hello? …Who’s this?”
“This is Cali, Beth’s friend. While I’ll be damned, you really are Chad Evans! She was telling the truth!”
“Y-yes…” Chad was disconcerted by the odd conversation. “Is Beth there?”
“No. Cassie was in a horrible accident. She was life-flighted to Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee--”
“What?” Cali heard a click. “Hello?
* * I*
Chad saw her the minute he walked into the hospital. Beth wore jeans and a white tank top with a faded denim shirt over it as she paced a short pathway. God, she looks good, he thought instantly. Leaving Roger behind, he rushed towards her. “Beth!”
Beth glanced up and, seeing Chad, started to run to him. They clung to each other for several minutes, neither of them saying a word.
When the pair finally released their hold, they began talking over each other.
“Oh, Chad, I didn’t know how to reach you.”
“I know, it’s all right. How’s Cassie?”
“She looks awful. She went halfway through the windshield. The driver was killed, she was Cassie’s best friend.” Beth peered up at him, tears pooling in her eyes. She had the wild, desperate look of someone in shock. “Her face is all cut up. She looks awful. It was her best friend….”
Chad pulled her into another embrace, “Beth. Beth. It’s all right.” He added in a whisper, “Everything is going to be all right now.”
It was the words she had been saying to herself for hours, but somehow hearing it from Chad made her almost believe them.
“Listen,” he held Beth at arm’s length, bending down to look her in the face. “We’ll get the best plastic surgeons--”
“You don’t understand,” she responded tearfully. “They aren’t even sure if she’s going to…they said something about twenty-four hours….”
Chad pulled her close again, finally understanding the severity of the situation. “Beth, why don’t you sit down here for a minute? I’m going to talk to Roger, but I’ll be right back.”
Roger stood right inside the doorway, looking uncomfortable in the hospital surroundings.
Chad strode towards him, his boots ringing down the corridor. “You’re going to have to cancel the show in Chicago.”
“Cancel the show, man! I’m not leaving her now.”
Roger was always the bottom-line man, the dollars-and-cents kind, and cancelling a show was tantamount to treason in his book. But, peering down the hall to where Beth was sitting, still looking shell-shocked, he swallowed.
“Okay, okay. I’ll call Stan.” He pulled his eyes away from Beth to look at Chad, “Just take care of Beth, Chad, and give her our love. Anything you guys need….”
Chad hugged him. “Thanks, Rog’. You’re the best friend a guy could have.”
* * *
Chad returned to Beth’s side. He sat down and put an arm around her. She leaned into him and rested her head on his shoulder. Beth was comforted by his body heat, by his smell, by his closeness. They sat that way for a long time, Chad rubbing her arm to soothe her. With a lot of time to think, Chad wondered why it was always misfortune bringing them together. Was it an omen? Or was it a divine intervention of sorts, allowing him to be there for her when she needed him the most?
The door across the hall opened and Beth jumped up, startling Chad, who was an instant behind. A young, prematurely-balding doctor, with a kind face, started talking to Beth right away.
“Mrs. Donovan, the results of Cassie’s new CT show no further swelling, but she is still nonresponsive. This is good news, but not the best. We are concerned about her still not regaining consciousness. I encourage you to talk to her, like you were doing before. It may help. The lacerations and abrasions on her face look very good, but there will be some scarring. We can talk about further plastic surgery when she’s out of the woods. I wish I had more I could tell you,” he put a hand on her arm, “but at this point, I’m afraid only time can give us our answers. I know waiting is difficult, but hang in there.”
Beth struggled to find her voice. “Thank you, Doctor. Can we go in now?”
The doctor gave Chad the once-over. Only family was allowed in, and he knew Mrs. Donovan was a widow; but she seemed much calmer, more put together now….
He smiled down at Beth. “That would be fine.”
They opened the door, and slowly went in. A nurse was still adjusting an IV and taking notes. She smiled encouragement when they came in, but did her best to hide in the background. Chad had both hands on Beth’s shoulders. He could feel them start to shake. She covered her mouth with her hand, weeping without making a sound.
He was shocked by what he saw. Of course, there were the usual tubes and wires running everywhere, but Cassie looked so pale, and small, on the big hospital bed. Her face was worse than Chad expected. Small, jagged cuts could be seen everywhere, as well as two large gashes, one on her cheek, one, in her hair-line on the same side. She must have turned her head a little, he surmised. They were forced to shave a section of her hair away to stitch the cut above her eye. Beth later told him it took hours for them just to remove the glass from her face and scalp.
They approached the bed, and Beth talked to Cassie in a soothing tone. She reached out a shaking hand to touch her daughter, but hesitated, seeing there were even cuts on her hands.
The nurse noticed her movement from the other side of the bed. “It’s okay. You can touch her. She’s got enough pain medication in her now that she’s not feeling anything. But she will recognize the warmth of your touch.”
Beth nodded, and touched Cassie’s hand gingerly. The feel of her daughter’s skin seemed to overwhelm her anew. “I used to hold these hands when she was little,” she whispered, “to help her across the street, to keep her safe--” A sob interrupted her words.
“Beth, you couldn’t prevent this.”
“I know, I know. It just hurts.”
Chad saw her beautiful eyes were full of pain. He hadn’t felt so useless in a long time, powerless to take this away from her. He’d gotten used to being able to solve any problem by calling in the right favor, by throwing money at the right people. This he couldn’t fix, and it was killing him.
* * *
Hours later, the doctor, now grimfaced, came back. As they rolled Cassie away for another CT scan, a nurse spoke to them, “Mrs. Donovan. We can find a place for you to lie down, if you’d like. You haven’t slept since you got here.”
“No, no. I’m fine. I want to wait for her right here,” as the nurse turned to go, Beth touched her arm. “I want to thank you, for all you’ve done.”
“That’s quite all right, Mrs. Donovan,” the nurse laid her hand on top of Beth’s. “I understand this is particularly difficult because your husband was here, when he passed away.” Chad blinked in surprise. “If there’s anything we can do, just let us know.”
“Thank you. You’ve been so kind.”
“That’s our job. Your daughter’s probably going to be gone awhile. You may want to close your eyes and get some sleep, or perhaps go down to the cafeteria for a bite.” The nurse looked at Chad to make sure he understood before she left.
“Why don’t we go down and get some food?”
Beth’s response was automatic. “I’m not hungry.” But after a beat she added remorsefully, “But Chad, you must be. I never even thanked you for coming. And it’s Sunday, what time’s your show in Chicago?”
“I canceled it.”
Beth’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, no, Chad. You can’t do that.”
“It’s already been done,” he told her firmly.
“When Roger called earlier, he said the promoters were thrilled. They were thinking of canceling anyway because there was a huge ice storm in Chicago. This just made their decision easier.”
“Your fans will be so disappointed.”
“Don’t worry. We already rescheduled it and the venue is giving them an additional $25 off the ticket price. See, so everybody’s happy.” He gave her a squeeze.
“Chad,” she said seriously, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else. So, come on. Let’s go down to the cafeteria, even if it’s just to stretch our legs.”
She consented, imagining his long legs must be cramped. When they got there, Beth ended up ordering a cup of cocoa and a yogurt. Chad watched as she downed the yogurt within minutes. He finished up his bacon and eggs while she sat staring into her mug, her hands cupped around it for warmth. Chad studied her for several minutes before leaning across the table to take her hand.
“It’s going to be all right, you know.”
He hesitated, not knowing if he should broach the subject. “I didn’t know your husband had come here.”
Again she nodded. She swirled the cocoa in her cup without looking up. “Paul was gone before he even got here. But I had to come up…and make arrangements.” She glanced up at him for the first time and remarked, “It was a drunk driver. So senseless.” She shook her head and stared down into the depths of her mug again. “So, now I help out with driver’s education classes. It’s my way of trying to stop it from happening to someone else.” She shrugged, then, raised her head again. “Do you mind if we go back up now? I want to be there when she gets out of radiology.”
“Sure,” he responded, surprised. He had thought of her as fragile, vulnerable, but now he could see how truly tough she was.
* * *
Chad could tell by the weight of her head, and the steady breathing, Beth had finally fallen asleep. He sat as still as he could, knowing she needed the rest. He could see Cassie’s bed coming down the hall, but the nurse signaled to not wake Beth yet. “The doctor will want to read the tests first,” she whispered.
Chad settled back in, until the doctor came out. “Beth…” Chad murmured. She was awake in an instant.
“Well, I have good news, Beth.” Chad noted his use of a more familiar name; it must be good. “Our latest CT shows the swelling has actually gone down. I feel fairly certain there won’t be any permanent brain damage.”
Beth threw her arms around him. “Thank you, doctor! Thank you!”
“Well, well,” he replied, appearing both surprised and embarrassed. “It wasn’t my doing, I can assure you. Your daughter is a fighter. And I think your time with her may have helped, too. You can go in if you’d like.”
“Thank you,” Beth repeated, rushing forward.
As Chad moved to pass him, the doctor put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, uh…I just bet all the nurses twenty dollars you weren’t Chad Evans of Trapped Under Ice….”
Chad leaned in and whispered, “Then if I were you, I’d either be ready to get my wallet out, or find a good place to hide.” He grinned and followed Beth into the room.
“Damn!” the doctor said, still smiling.
It was fun revisiting that scene! I hope you'll join me again for my next deleted scene! Thanks for coming!