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RUSH TO JUDGEMENT and the Darling I Killed

It's a well-known adage of writers that you have to be prepared to "kill your darlings"...that is, edit out something you love for the good of the story. In a recent blog, I wrote about my writing process with Arcana Book Two: Rush to Judgement, including having to completely scrap the prologue for pacing reasons. In some ways, it broke my heart to cut it, but it was for the greater good. I also had written it in third person, as a way of further separating it from the rest of the book, which is in first person. Here it is, in all its deleted glory! What do you think?



Deleted Prologue: Rush to Judgement


Paul Sheffield spun the dial. “Left foot, green,” he grumbled.


He hated baby-sitting, but Dad had made it very clear that if Paul couldn’t handle Logan and Aria while he and Mom were out to dinner, then he didn’t deserve his allowance. The truth of the matter was that his brother, who was twelve, and their cousin, who was almost eleven, really required little supervision. Paul just didn’t like being told he HAD to do anything.


Logan groaned. “Watch your head.” He swung his left leg over Aria and stretched as far as he could to reach the nearest green dot on the mat. Unfortunately, Aria’s hand was already there.



“Ow! You’re stepping on my hand, butthead!”



“Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t reach any of the other green dots with that foot!” He struggled to find a tiny piece of the dot that wasn’t covered with his cousin’s fingers. “Curl up a couple of your fingers and give me some room, why don’t you?”


“Oh, for crying out loud,” she whined, but obliged. “Spin it, Paul.”


Paul rolled his eyes, resisting the temptation to kick over the contorted mass of limbs before him. He spun. “Right hand, yellow.”


Aria chewed her lip. This might free her from Logan’s foot, but getting to the yellow dots wasn’t going to be easy. Leaning slightly to put her weight on her left hand, she slowly lifted her right. She hadn’t counted on having to support some of her cousin’s weight, however, and the two of them toppled into a heap.


“Ha! Beat you again! Now you have to clean up my dinner dishes,” Logan teased.


Aria stuck out her tongue and untangled herself. “Good thing you ate every bite of your dinner.” She glared at him as he gathered up the mat. He grinned impishly, and she broke into a laugh. She was never able to really get mad at Logan. He was, well, he was just too NICE. “What time are my parents supposed to be here, Paul?”


“I already told you, nine-thirty. They’re taking a taxi from the airport, and then you’re all leaving tomorrow.” There was an implied thank goodness at the end of his statement.


Aria looked at the grandfather clock in the dining room as she carried her and Logan’s dishes into the kitchen. 8:05. She couldn’t wait to see what Mom and Dad had brought her from San Francisco. They went on vacation together every year, leaving Aria at Sheffield Glen, her uncle’s estate in Virginia. At first, Aria had felt insulted that her parents left her behind, but she was older and wiser now, and she knew that sometimes grown-ups needed a break from kids, just like kids sometimes needed a break from grown-ups. Besides, Sheffield Glen was beautiful, and she always had fun with Logan. She probably could do without Paul’s constant complaining about how unfair it was that he had to deal with another “brat,” as he put it, but over the past two or three summers, she had pretty much learned to ignore her older cousin. Aunt Pam and Uncle MJ said that Paul was just “going through a rough patch,” but as far as Aria could recall, he had always been a grouch.


After putting the plates in the dishwasher, she returned to the family room. Paul was scrolling through menus on the television.


“Okay, kids, I’m going to pick a movie, and I don’t want to have to deal with any stupid baby stuff. Just behave yourselves until one set of parents or the other gets here. Got that?”


Logan leapt to attention, faked a salute, and made a sad attempt at a hillbilly soldier impression. “Well, yessir, there, Sarge. You betcha. We ain’t gonna cause you nooooo trouble!” Aria burst into a fit of giggles.


“Both of you just sit on the couch and shut up! God, I hate kids!”


Aria and Logan, both still snickering, took their places on the couch and waited to see what movie Paul would choose. It wasn’t one Aria had seen. It was about some teacher who taught kids to appreciate poetry or something, and she just couldn’t get into it. It wasn’t long before she fell asleep.


Aria became dimly aware of someone shaking her gently and calling her name. She had no idea what time it was or how long she’d been asleep; she only knew that she would prefer to stay that way, and she rolled over with a groan, burying her face in the couch cushions.


“Aria, honey, you need to get up. Something terrible has happened.” With a great deal of effort, she forced her eyes open. She found herself looking into the red, teary eyes of her Aunt Pam.


“Wh—what’s going on?”


“Sweetheart, I’m so sorry.” Aunt Pam began sobbing. “Your parents—they won’t be—oh, baby, there’s been an accident. Your parents won’t be coming home.”



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