We're trying something new for the next few weeks here at Have Novel, Will Edit. It's called Friday Features and it's an author's favorite (or not) scene from his or her book with an explanation about why it is or isn't and how hard or easy it was to write. To kick it off, I'm sharing a scene from The Convict and the Cattleman.
This is a scene I think about a lot, because it is absolutely one of my favorites (some day I'll give you one I hate, I promise). As you likely know, in this book, Bridget is a convict sentenced to seven years of servitude in New South Wales. She's sent to work for Jonah Andrus and they slowly but surely begin to fall in love with one another. In this scene, they've finished a nap after some, ah, other activities and, well, this is what unfolds.
Jonah woke to a soft itch on his palm. Bridgit traced the lines there, her touch light, but enough to stir him. During his nap, the sun had shifted to the other side of the tree.
“It’s going on evening. We’d best get home,” she said.
He drew her closer. “I’m comfortable here.”
The hair fell away from her neck, leaving a patch of skin he was certain hadn’t received any attention before their lovemaking. She giggled when his lips touched the spot.
“Come on. Olivia’s waking up.”
Bridgit rolled away and reached for her clothes. The shift slipped over her head, swallowing the curves. The brown serge followed and she straightened the skirt. The hem was ragged on the back, leaving a trail of strings.
“I hate that dress. It’s bloody ugly. Every time I see it, I long to rip it off you and toss it on a fire. I’m not even wearing it and I feel hot and itchy.”
She smiled, but he saw the sadness it masked.
“Your choice of garments, or lack thereof, aren’t appropriate for day-to-day wear, sir.”
He frowned. “There are unused dresses at the house. I insist you wear them. Otherwise moths will ruin them.”
She avoided his gaze. “I already owe you a great deal.”
“As your employer, it’s my duty to see you properly clothed and fed.”
“I am.” Her chin rose and her eyes widened.
“By impoverish standards, yes, but not the manner befitting an employee under my care.” He stood and dressed. Her stubbornness was no good against his own.
“What I know of nursemaids’ uniforms entails dark, somber colors of practical cloth. I’m afraid I own no dark colors, though serge is quite pragmatic. Your sister’s clothing isn’t the kind servants wear under any circumstances.”
“What you wear has no imagination, no life, and reveals far too much of your wrists and ankles.” He took her hand and lifted it. The scars caught the light, shining dully.
A pink flush spread over Bridgit’s skin. She jerked her hand out of his, curling her fingers.
“I’m beholden to you for giving me a job I like, a roof over my head and regular meals. I don’t want to owe you anything else.”
“It would be different if it meant taking food out of my mouth or Olivia’s. If the clothes weren’t already available. That isn’t the case. I know you long for the things you lost and you’re afraid of losing everything again, but no one will begrudge you a few dresses. It’s not charity. It’s about being a good Samaritan. Let me be good. I’m awful at it, but I have to try.”
An internal battle waged on her face. At last she nodded. “If you insist.”
“I don’t deserve your kindness,” she whispered, turning her face away.
“It’s true. If I can see the scars, I’m reminded of what brought me here. If they’re hidden, I might forget, and even today it slipped my mind.”
Jonah clenched his jaw. Like the mark of Cain, she wore her sad dresses and kept her scars bared for the world to see. Those pinkish marks reminded her every day that she deserved punishment for trying to feed her family. Give her a switch and she’d lash herself for crimes against the crown.
Beneath that was the woman she’d been an hour ago. Vibrant and teasing, full of laughter. He hated the woman she’d stolen from, the peace officer who had arrested her, the judge who sentenced her, the wardens who’d chained her and everyone else along the way that had broken her soul.
Why it's my favorite:
I think this one part reveals everything you need to know about Bridgit and Jonah's relationship. She feels that she can't love him because of her low status and he feels that it's unimportant. Despite her past mistakes--and his reluctance to take her in because of them--he's changing his opinion of her as he realizes they have the same values. At this point, Bridgit has already turned his stony heart into a gooey marshmallow. At least that's what I want you to think. Teehee.
The part about showing her scars is important to the story because even when it looks like she's going to become something more than a criminal, that reminder is always there, covered or not. It gives the reader a look into her vulnerability, at the attitudes she's already endured, and it all makes Jonah more protective of her.
The main reason I love this scene is because it's a turning point in their relationship. He's falling in love with her, and believe me, in the first and second drafts of this book, he was a hard-hearted SOB that I tried to replace a couple of time because he simply wouldn't give in. This scene fixed a lot of his problems.
Was it hard to write?
This scene wasn't bad. Once I got the flow of characters and figured out what I wanted to happen in the scene before this one, this one poured across the pages like melted butter in a Southern cook's skillet. Sorry for the bad metaphor. I think the worst part about writing this dialogue as an author was feeling Bridgit's pain and shame. It really helped that Jonah didn't try to make it worse or write it off. He responded, in his mind, with love and sympathy, and in the following scenes proves his feelings with actions, even if he doesn't say it in words.
You can get it at:
I hope y'all enjoyed the Friday Feature. I have some more wonderful authors lined up and we'll get into their heads as we examine scenes from their novels. Until then, Happy Friday!