As promised, I’m continuing my tribute to Heather, the character I had erased during a heavy revision of my coming-of-age novel, Such A Dreamer. If you missed the initial post, you can view it here: Death of a Character.
The second deleted scene between Dane and Heather is when they first get to know each other over a lunch break at work. In this excerpt, Dane begins to discuss why he’s passionate about social work. He shares a story with Heather that is personal to me. Personal because I had witnessed the event he shares when I was in my early 20’s. The memory has stayed with me and still moves me when I think about it, so I hope you’ll get something out of it too:
Outside on a picnic bench, they shared cold cuts and potato salad…
“Have you always wanted to work at a place like this or would you rather do landscaping?” Heather asked.
Dane laughed, replaying the morning’s encounter in his head.
“I wanted to do something positive, and this job kind of fell into my lap.”
Dane thought it over and a memory came to him. Maybe not the real reason or the full reason, but definitely part of the reason he wanted to work at a place like Graymont. He took another look into those brown comforting eyes and believed he could trust her.
“Okay, maybe not the whole story.” He laughed now. “While in high school, I was a volunteer for a walk hosted by The American Cancer Society. Before the actual walk, when people were socializing and visiting the different booths and tables of information, I walked by this group of people who all seemed to be in good spirits and were smothering this little girl with love. The girl couldn’t have been more than six years old, yet her head was bald from chemotherapy.”
Heather’s smile faded and her eyes narrowed. She listened intently.
“She must not have been in pain at the time, because she was smiling from ear to ear. She was so beautiful; bald head and all. She wore this cute little white sundress with little pink bows all over it.
“I stood there admiring all of the attention and affection this group gave to her. It filled my heart with warmth, I guess.
“Two men walked up and stopped beside me. One of them approached a member of the girl’s family and said, ‘Such a beautiful child. She seems to be doing well today.’
“A man from the group who must’ve been her father said, ‘The doctor told us there’s nothing else we can do for Annabelle. It’s only a matter of time, Frank.’ It was obvious that this man—the father?—tried to keep his composure and be strong for the family. ‘It’s only a matter of time,’ he said again.
“The other man said, ‘Ohhh Jim, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.’
“Just then, this frail little child looked at me—right at me—and gave me the biggest, friendliest smile you could possibly imagine. I take that back, I don’t think it’s possible to imagine a smile so genuine,” Dane said looking down and shaking his head. “Then she held her right hand up and waved her little fingers at me.”
Dane smiled, remembering how adorable she’d been. “I returned the smile and wave, then gave a general nod to the rest of the family and people surrounding her. Then I turned and walked away…quickly. I had to because…I lost it and began to cry. And I didn’t want little Annabelle to notice. So, I walked out into the park and sat alone for a while.
“That poor little girl would never ride a bike, drive a car, graduate from high school, have a boyfriend—none of it. And…and I really hated God at the time. Hell, in my life, those things were a given—everyone had a chance to do them. But … you know, now I pay attention to everyone’s lives or at least I try to. I want to help in any way I can, so people don’t have to suffer and instead make the most of their lives. And I’ll never forget that little girl.”
Heather dabbed tears from the corners of her eyes with a napkin.
Dane turned his head and looked away for a moment. What he couldn’t tell Heather was how he had actually envied the little girl. She was filled with joy and was surrounded by her loved one’s who showered her with affection. The love…he could actually feel it emanating from her family. Annabelle had experienced a deeper love and bond than most people will never come close to experiencing in their lifetimes. That is what Dane envied, because he didn’t believe that he could allow anyone close enough to love him so intensely.