Now that The Sweet Far Thing is nearly finished (just waiting for copyedits to come back), I thought perhaps I should make good on my promise to post some outtakes from it. These are odds ‘n’ ends that didn’t make the final cut or were abandoned early on. I’ll try to give some DVD commentary on each bit to set the scene, give the backstory.
Mostly, these are like sketches, and sometimes, you decide to continue with the sketch; other times, you decide to draw it from a different angle. And sometimes, you crumple it up with an audible groan and chuck it into your fireplace. Um, if you have a fireplace. So, your metaphorical fireplace if you’re like me and are lucky to have a microwave oven.
Anyhoo. Here, without further ado, are some excised scenes (culled from my 700+ pages of Orphans) from The Sweet Far Thing, the Gemma/Kartik versions.
#1 The Sword
I had the idea early on that I wanted Kartik to teach Gemma how to sword-fight. I love swashbuckling, and I really wanted Gemma to kick some ass Errol Flynn style. Plus, the idea of K. teaching G. how to wield a sword was, well, sort of hot. But then I realized that G’s power doesn’t lie in the sword, and this sketch hit the fire.
He stands behind me, his arms wrapped around mine as he guides the sword. When he holds it, he makes graceful arcs, cutting the air. The sword is heavy in my hand. I make an inglorious swipe and it pulls me to the right. I nearly topple over.
“Steady there,” he says.
I wipe a loose curl from my forehead. It immediately lands in my eyes. Right. This is going well.
I raise the sword again. Its weight sends me swirling and stumbling into Kartik, who must take several steps backward to avoid an impaling at my hands.
He grins. “Was it something I said?”
“Oh, this is nonsense. I can’t do it.”
“You must.” He puts the sword back into my aching hand.
With a sigh, I lift the long blade and bring it down a bit too fast. It sticks fast in the ground, like Excalibur, not to be moved no matter how much I stare at it.
Kartik pulls it from the earth and tosses it aside. “Perhaps we’ll try the dagger,” he says.
#2 The Thwarted Kiss
Yeah, so this was a sketch for a pivotal scene between K and G following other pivotal scenes which were then cut. So, um, not so pivotal, it would seem. I wanted the kiss to be both passionate and awkward. In the later drafts, the scene that preceeds this was intense enough that I realized there would be no kiss…here. (Mwahahaha! Let me torment you with my hints! For I am evil. EEEEvilllll!) Sorry. Evil twin Skippy had her say. Anyway, this was a mock-up. The actual kiss scene(s) in TSFT are less…awkward.
He pulls me to him quickly. His kiss is not gentle, but I don’t want it to be. I want him to kiss me till I no longer see Pip’s terrible grin, Asha’s body, the crowd chanting for blood—my blood. I want to live and it makes me bold. My hand reaches behind his neck. His skin is warm and smooth. He moans softly, and it both frightens and excites me. We move backward till I’m against the wall. I should stop. I should. His tongue darts quickly into my mouth. It startles me so that I jolt, banging my head against the wall. The lantern loses its perch there and clatters to the boathouse floor.
“I’m…I should…” I rub the back of my head.
Kartik turns my face to his. “Are you…are you hurt?”
“I’m quite alright, really,” I say with a laugh that makes me sound insane.
His eyes are so dark, I could lose myself in them. I could kick myself for my skittishness. I want him to kiss me again.
#3 G and K in London
This is a preliminary sketch for a scene in which G and K have to go to London (not telling you why, so there.) I wanted them to get fish and chips. Not sure why. Perhaps because I…really like fish and chips. Perhaps the menu from the Chip Shop was staring me in the face and I was hungry. Perhaps because I once got fish and chips from a takeout joint in London and it was like biting into grease heaven, and I swear I can still taste it. Or maybe that’s a bad thing.
The point is that the addition of the food and frivolity didn’t fit the more serious tone of their mission and it began to distract from it. Like watching a thriller and suddenly having the Food Network or Victorian London on 40 Shillings a Day! interrupt your viewing. As Tim Gunn would say, “I’m concerned.” So this got jettisoned. But it did allow me to spend a bit more time exploring G and K’s fate-vs-free will argument, which is still an element of TSFT.
Walking the streets of London in this fashion is an education. I alter what they see, and they accept it. Only one little boy looks deeply at me. Turning his head this way and that, he questions what he sees. I give him a wink, and his nanny pulls him on. They may as well be blind. The gas of the lamps has given London a green-tinged fog. Portobello Road at sunset is a flurry of carts. Rugs are folded and put away. Everything you could ever want is here. Candlesticks and pipes, cards and linens, umbrellas and lace remnants.
A lady hawks fish and chips from her stand.
Kartik smiles as if the circus has come to town. “Chips! The greatest English invention next to cricket!”
The lady scoops hot rounds of potato into a newspaper. The paper goes wet with grease. I wrinkle my nose, and Kartik stares at me in disbelief. “Everyone loves chips.”
“Do they?” I say, my skepticism apparent.
“Yes,” he says firmly. “Go on. Try one.”
I hold one by my fingernails and taste it gingerly. It is very warm. Crispy. And delicious. I reach for another before I have even chewed the one in my mouth.
“Didn’t I tell you?” Kartik says excitedly.
“You did,” I say, stealing a third.
“Oi!” he says, pulling them away laughing.
We’ve come to the corner where the Beardons Bonnets ladies strike. They sit huddled together for warmth.
“Please, sir, have a care for our cause,” one of the ladies implores.
Kartik places a sovereign in her cup. It’s likely all he has. Now that he’s no longer with the Rakshana, he must earn his own pay.
“Why did you do that?” I ask.
He kicks at a rock on the ground, balancing it nimbly between his feet like a ball. “To encourage them. It isn’t the pound, it’s the hope.”
“But it’s all you have.”
“I know what it’s like to fight for things that others take for granted.”
I don’t know that he means me, but I feel the sting anyway.
Dusk has packed up and moved on. It’s night’s show now. We wander down by the embankment. It is thrilling to be here in a world I would never see otherwise.
“Oi! Kartik!” One of the urchins stumbles up the embankment. “’ow’ve you been, mate?”
“Do you know everyone?” I whisper.
“I have my friends in low places.” He greets the mud-caked boy as a brother. “Toby! How is the treasure hunting?”
“Not bad, not bad.” He holds up a few coins coated in filth. “That will buy a pint of ale.”
(Later, Kartik explains:)
“He’s a mudlark. They sift through the Thames for whatever they can find of value to sell or keep. It’s how they stay alive.”
“It sounds wretched,” I say.
“Life isn’t fair.”
“Surely they could find some employment other than this. My father says that hard work will take you far.”
“Yes. It can. If you have the opportunity. Not everyone has the same chance. Do you honestly think that if I walked into the Bank of England tomorrow, they would employ me? They’d see an Indian, nothing more. And they would show me the door.”
“You believe in caste. In fate. What if this is merely their destiny?”
I’ve caught him in his own snare.
(A reworking of this scene–and Kartik’s answer to the question–are in TSFT. I will taunt you with my bacon drippings of prose. Yes, yes, I will. Bacon drippings of prose? WTH? Was my cereal laced with crack? Oh you should just ignore my ramblings and keep reading.)
#4 The Persuasion
At one point, I had Gemma making a decision that was ill-advised. And I wanted Kartik to try to talk her out of it. This also seemed to involve some aruing about Simon Middleton. So really, it’s two, two, two scenes in one. Of course, once I changed Kartik’s backstory and Simon’s backstory and Gemma’s backstory…yeah, once I changed THE ENTIRE NOVEL…it was moot. Grumble. Whine. Piss. Moan. Anyway, here’s the excised bits:
“Gemma,” he whispers. It travels my spine like a kiss. “Why do you do this? You were destined for greater things.”
I shake my head. Tears burn at my eyes. “No.”
“Yes. Look at me. Please look at me.”
I can’t. If I look at him I will doubt, and if I doubt, I will fall in on myself like a house of cards. I will be lost. I must follow this course. It is the only safety left me.
His hand rests on the back of my neck. I want it to stay there, and I want him to go. I no longer know what I want. Someone must tell me. Others will make decisions for me, and I will rest.
“I don’t want it anymore,” I say, trying to hold back tears.
“It is a great gift,” Kartik says.
“No, you’re wrong. It’s a burden. I look at these other girls…they don’t feel what I feel. They seem content. What is the matter with me? Why is nothing ever enough? Why am I always searching for something I haven’t got?”
I’m crying now. There’s no stopping it, so I let it happen.
Kartik tries to pull me to him but I break away.
“Are they happy? Do you know that?”
“Yes. Look at them! They haven’t a care in the world.”
“How terrible for them.”
“What do you mean?” I say, sniffling. My voice is raw.
“To have no cares. It’s not really to be alive, is it?”
“Do you see that look? What do you make of it?”
I can’t tell. Their faces seem to be pleasant blanks, showing neither worry nor excitement. “Boredom?”
Kartik shakes his head. “Expectation. They expect things, and they always get them.”
“N-no,” I say, but I can feel the lie.
Kartik glances toward the shining lights of Spence, the ball. “I’ve seen you looking at Denby. You know he’ll never be happy with you. You’re not right for him.”
“That is cruel.”
His voice is soft. “No. It is honest.”
“Perhaps I would make him very happy! You cannot know!”
“I know he couldn’t make you happy,” he says, almost a whisper.
“You know nothing of the sort.”
“Does he know that when you are thinking, you gnaw softly on your bottom lip? That you like oranges and loathe porridge? Does he care that you talk to your mirror? I know that lot, Gemma. They like owning,”
How is it that he has noticed these things?
Okay, that’s it from the vaults for now. I’ll try to post a few more outtakes later on. But my mother-in-law has just arrived from AZ and I need to make her some tea and help her get settled.
Happy reading! Hope you enjoy.