This is the continuation of my series about removing a character named Heather from my novel, Such a Dreamer, during rewrites. You can read the previous post here.
In this segment, Heather hits Dane with some big news. News that will force him to make a major decision about his future, and his future with Heather:
One day in the middle of April, as another long humid summer loomed ahead, Heather told Dane to relax after work while she prepared dinner. She nervously lit candles on their little square dining room table and then served him some white wine.
“Wow, what’s the special occasion?” he asked, but she brushed it off and told him that she just wanted to prepare a nice dinner. Being out in the heat a good portion of the day, playing softball with the girls, Dane’s hunger was ravenous. But he took his time eating, chewing his food carefully, acting like a gentleman and savoring the taste to show his appreciation for the well-prepared meal. For some reason, he felt it was going to be a special night.
“Dane?” she asked.
“What is it, sweetheart?”
“I really don’t know how to break this to you….”
She retrieved an envelope from her purse, pulled out a letter, opened it, and handed it to Dane. He looked at it for a long time. Reading it, re-reading it, trying to make sense of it.
He knew one of Heather’s strongest ambitions was to get the kind of college education that would allow her to help a lot of people. And she wasn’t the type of woman who would try to do it—she would simply do it. He’d failed to realize that her ambition—which he admired—somehow outweighed her ability to be the most compassionate woman he had come to know.
After spending a year at Graymont, Heather was ready to move on with her plans to reach her dreams. Dane knew that Graymont was a valuable experience to her, but he also realized that with her intelligence, she felt a need to acquire a more formal education.
And now Dane held her acceptance letter with a partial academic scholarship for the University of California. She had always wanted to return back home and possibly go to school there.
“You applied here?” Dane asked somewhat confused.
“Earlier this year.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t want to upset you—I … I didn’t even think I would be accepted, or if I would even go if I was. Really my parents talked me into it—they practically applied for me. And…and…after thinking about it, I realized that I do want to go.”
“Well, hell…I…uh…I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am happy for you…I know you want to continue school, you’ve even mentioned California once or twice in passing, but I didn’t really…I thought you would end up going to school here.”
“I kno-ow,” she said almost wincing, waiting for Dane’s next reply.
“So what’s this mean…I mean, what am I supposed to make of this?”
“I was hoping that…you would go with me?”
“What? And do what?”
“You’ll find a job. Maybe you’ll even decide to go to school too. Don’t you want to build a future together?”
“Well, yeah, but I figured we would discuss it in detail first.”
“I’m sorry, honey. But come with me, and we’ll figure it all out. It’s not like you haven’t got up and left before. It would be like a fresh start all over again, but with me.”
“How soon do you have to leave?”
“Very soon. I plan to take some classes during the summer semester. And have time to find a good part-time job before the fall semester.”
“Jesus Christ! I’m supposed to make this major decision overnight? I-I…no. I’m not ready to leave. I feel in my heart I’m where I need to be. That I have a purpose here and, and that I have work yet to do here. I feel at home. And I want you to be part of that home too. But I’m not ready to get up and go anywhere, Heather. I’m simply not ready.”
“Dane, Graymont is just Graymont. There are places exactly like this and in more need than Graymont over in Oakland and all over California, and to decide—”
“I’m not going to California, Heather.”
“Don’t you love me?”
Dane paused for longer than he cared to admit. “I don’t know.”