Monday, May 10, 2010

Blogfest: Deleted Scenes

Deleted scenes. Most writers have them. I certainly do. Thus when I saw the theme to this blogfest, I had to join. This one is sponsored by My Literary Jam and Toast blog.

I wonder why writers delete scenes? Are they just not good enough?

Do they not advance the story?

Are they flawed?

Often I delete great scenes. Unfortunately, they don't advance the story. Or the story's changed and it no longer fits. And yes, occasionally, it's because it's flawed.

This particular scene from my work on submission is flawed. Hopefully soon I'll have good news about this story. My fingers are crossed.

Deleted scene from "Abracadabra" by Ashley Ladd
All rights belong to Ashley Ladd and may not be duplicated.


Today Savannah Davis’ lover Mark Campbell faced the judge to appeal his alleged crimes. Today this stranger out for his own political aspirations decided her man’s fate.

And hers…

Quietly going out of her mind, Savi worried her lip with her teeth. The victim’s horrid accusations haunted her. They replayed until she wanted to scream.

Touch the bottle.

What bottle? Freaked out, she whirled around but no one met her gaze. Where had that voice come from?

Inside your purse. Touch me.

Compelled, Savi peeked inside her designer handbag. Sure enough the bejeweled bottle she’d picked up at the Swap Shop Flea Market that morning on a whim, winked under the glare of the fluorescent lights. Gaping, she stared at the object demanding to be stroked, wondering why she was being so fanciful when Mark’s life was at stake, when her own future looked so bleak.

Then she remembered she’d left her purchase in the trunk of her car and breathed a sigh of relief. Security wouldn’t have let anything strange like that through. And bottles didn’t talk. They didn’t make demands. Obviously her one remaining brain cell had well and truly shrivelled.

Something in her purse rattled ominously, stealing her breath.

With great trepidation, she stilled her trembling fingers enough to open the satchel and peer into it. The damned bottle glowed inside.

Her jaw dropped and afraid the possessed object would burn her, she threw it off her lap.

She gulped and bit her lip to keep from screaming. Was she in some damned nightmare? She hoped so. In real life bottles didn’t glow and move by themselves.

Her knees wobbled and her heart pounded so loudly in her ears she couldn’t hear anything else except her thoughts. Then the entire bag levitated and floated back to her lap. Hurriedly, she zipped her purse before anyone noticed and prayed the handbag didn’t fly out of her grip and start zinging around the room.

“Kind mistress. I can help if you free me. Say the word and wish your man free.” A disembodied female voice with a lilting Arabian accent sent chills down Savi’s spine and made her jump. Feeling crazy to even consider it, she took the bottle out of her purse and gazed upon it.

Oh my god! “Wish? Genies aren’t real.” Her gaze glued to the possessed purse, Savi tiptoed out of the courtroom and found a deserted corner in the hallway despite her words.

“The desires of your heart called out to me, master. You are now mistress of the bottle and I am bound to grant you three wishes. But please, kind mistress, use your third wish to free me. My ex-master is dreadfully evil and he will do everything in his power to take revenge on me and carry out his nefarious deeds. The only way to stop him is to set me free before he gets his hands on me.”

Evil genies? Good genies? Savi’s budding headache exploded and she rubbed her throbbing temples. “I don’t believe in genies.”

“Release me, and see for yourself.”

“I can’t let you out in the middle of the courtroom where everyone will see you!” Even in liberal Fort Lauderdale where almost anything went, she didn’t think a half-naked woman coming out of a bottle was one of them.

“I’ll stay small and invisible. I promise, master.”

Chewing her lower lip, not sure how wise it was to let the literal genie out of the bottle, Savi popped the lid of the ornate urn. Despite warning that there truly was a magical creature in the container, she was still amazed when mist hovered around her and a very beautiful woman wearing a scandalous harem costume materialized beside her.

Her jaw dropping wide, Savi tried to collect her wits and recall her genie lore. Did genies come with printed instructions? Somehow she didn’t think television shows and cartoons told the entire truth. “Just how many wishes do I get?”

“Three. Please remember that you promised to use your third wish to free me.”

She didn’t recall promising any such thing but it seemed a reasonable request. She didn’t believe in slaves. Still extra cautious, she took inventory of her genie. Silky black hair was piled high into a luxurious pony tail. Still long, it curled around her bare waist. A brazen bikini top barely concealed her large breasts while gauzy pantaloons rode low around her shapely hips.

Crossing her fingers mentally, Savi rubbed the bottle. “What do I say?”

“Abracadabra. Genie come forth.”

Savi couldn’t swallow the chuckles that rose in her throat. The woman had to be joking.

Her heart plummeted to her feet when she spied a policeman striding towards her with a dangerous glint in his eye. Oh oh! “We’re about to have company. I can’t let the cops see you.”

“Just release me and I’ll handle the rest.”

Savi prayed for deliverance. “You’d better know your stuff. Here goes. Abracadabra, Genie come forth!” she muttered in a stage whisper.

In a blink, she found herself back inside a Broward County courtroom surrounded by the victim’s family, a gaggle of press, and courtroom staff. The victim glowered at her as if she was the predator who had assaulted her.

Chills scraped down her spine and she looked past the victim to a pathetic Mark who was being led into the room in handcuffs. Savi’s heart plummeted to her knees at the site of the man she loved being treated like a common criminal.

Mark’s entire countenance loomed gray. Not merely his prison jumpsuit, but the tinge of his flesh down to the whites of his eyes. When he stared at her with those soulless eyes, she couldn’t bear to meet his zombie-like gaze, and she veiled her eyes with her lashes.

His lips pursed stonily as if to open them would release demons. His raven hair was shorn short, lacking any style as if hacked by a dull axe. He was a ghost of the man who’d claimed her heart and now he stole her breath in an entirely different, horrible way.

Mark took his seat next to his attorney, a florid man with a double chin. Gaudy diamond cocktail rings adorned each of his pudgy fingers that he flashed garrulously. Just how many of those rings had Mark funded with his never-ending appeals?

She scowled. Far too many.

Next to her, her genie wore a contemporary business suit. Her glorious hair twisted into a becoming French knot, and diamond studs twinkled from her tiny lobes. She whispered into Sav i’s ear, “I can set him free if you like. State your desire in wish form and it will be done, master.”

Savi’s pulse leapt and tingles shot down her spine. Alarmed at the public use of her title, Savi looked about her nervously and shushed the genie with a hushed whisper, “Don’t call me that here.” She longed for Mark’s freedom with all her heart – but only if he was innocent. Ashamed to admit that she wasn’t one hundred percent certain, that she was scared to death that he was guilty, she veiled her eyes with her lashes, unable to return Mark’s avid gaze. Even if he came out the victor in this appeal, she’d never truly know if he was innocent. There was no way she could entrust her life to a man who had committed such an atrocious act—even one who owned her heart.

A brilliant thought stole her breath and she turned hopeful eyes on the woman beside her. Clutching the genie’s wrist with shaking hands, she asked in a hoarse whisper, “Can you make people tell the truth?”

The Arabian nodded soberly, the incandescent lights twinkling off her diamond ear studs. “Call me Adara, Mistress. I can bring the truth to light, if that is your wish.” Adara stood at unblinking attention, crossing her arms over her chest, awaiting directive.

The truth is what Savi needed, heart and soul. But that wasn’t all she needed. If Mark was innocent, he needed freedom—and absolution. She pondered the true desires of her heart for several moments before voicing her wish. “I wish for Mark to be set free permanently—today—but only if he is truly, completely innocent.”

Sucking in her breath, she stared at Adara, fervently hoping for Mark to be innocent. She imagined her wish would come instantly true, that they would be transported far away from the vile courtroom, their memories of the painful past two years erased. But she stood in the same place and Mark still sat a miserable five yards away from the yawning judge.

Leaning close to the genie so she couldn’t be overheard and disrupt court, she whispered, “Can you do that?”

Adara nodded, her midnight black eyes twinkling. “Yes, mistress. You see, Adara is a powerful genie. Watch and listen closely for the answers you seek.”

Savi swallowed a sigh. Apparently she couldn’t persuade her genie to stop calling her mistress, not without using a valuable wish.

The victim fidgeted in her seat, wringing her hands in her lap and biting her lower lip. Her former poise had fled leaving an angry crimson stain in the apple of her cheeks. Her pale hands shook as she was sworn in and the District Attorney asked her to tell the court what had transpired that fateful night more than two years before.

Leaping to her feet, her eyes wild, the victim blurted out, “I lied. Mark Campbell didn’t assault me. He-he rejected my advances and I was furious. He didn’t want my love and I swore revenge. I made him pay for hurting me. He needs to pay for ripping out my heart and destroying my life! Women everywhere should kiss my feet for putting him away so he can’t break other hearts so callously. You should be thanking me for having him locked away. Prison isn’t good enough for that menace. He should be executed for what he did to me!”

A collective gasp rang out in the courtroom, followed by several moments of stunned silence. The victim’s husband’s face purpled, his nostrils flared and murderous rage glowing in his eyes.

Looking like he could eat metal, the D.A. swore vehemently and punched the dais. “You weren’t supposed to tell the truth, you idiot! Now you’ll be up on perjury charges and he can sue you for everything from falsely accusing him to false imprisonment.” Muttering insanely, the partially bald man tried to pull out the rest of his hair.

The judge awoke from his stupor and leaned across the podium, fury exploding in his eyes. His brows pinched together ominously. “Please approach the bench, Mr. Zeman.”

“Let me turn up the volume so you can hear. This is good.” Adara smiled mischievously and blinked her eyes again.

When the D.A. stomped up to the bench, the judge asked Soto Voce, “Do I presume, Mr. Zeman, you knew your client was perjuring herself? That you have been perjuring yourself by keeping an innocent man in jail?”

The red faced Zeman looked like a little boy caught in a lie. Shuffling his feet, he ripped off his tie. “I’ve known for the past year. I didn’t know in the beginning.”

“And why pray tell didn’t you come forward with the truth?”

A totally astonished expression crossed the D.A.’s face. “What? And put a black mark on my record? Miss all the excellent press I’ve been getting? I have the perfect sympathetic client, a beautiful young woman who can cry on command, and you want me to blackball my case just because the defendant is innocent?”

Shaking his gray head, the elderly judge stroked his well–groomed goatee. “You and your client are under arrest, Mr. Campbell. Bailiff, handcuff these sorry excuses for human beings and get them out of my sight.”

“You can’t arrest me! My father’s the oldest judge on the circuit court! He’s your best golf buddy, your oldest friend! He’ll have something to say about this. You’d better watch your back.”

The judge rose to his full height, towering over the blustery D.A. “Silence! If I find out your father knew the truth, I’ll have him brought up on charges, too. And as far as watching my back, you’d better watch yours. You’re going to the same jail that you’ve sent all your defendants to. I wouldn’t bend over in the shower or close your eyes at night.”

“You just sealed your funeral, old man. You won’t get away with this outrage!”

Glee danced across Mark’s face, erasing ten years from his countenance so that he resembled the man Savi had fallen, deeply, madly in love with.

Stunned, joy flooding her, Savi sank slowly to the hard bench to digest the surprising events. Looking up at Adara with eyes so wide her cheeks ached, she asked, “All you did was make them tell the truth? You didn’t make them say anything false?”

Ebullient, the genie crossed her heart. “Promise, master. I only brought out the truth per your wish.”

Savi gazed at Mark, still shackled in the pitiful handcuffs. “But he isn’t free.”

“Patience, master. Freedom will soon come. Watch and listen.” Adara folded herself onto the bench beside her gracefully. She linked her hands primly.

“Will the defendant please approach the bench?” The judge smiled benignly upon Mark, waiting for him to step forward. “On behalf of the great state of Florida, I apologize for everything you’ve endured and I hereby rescind your sentence. You have the right to sue for false imprisonment, son.” He struck his podium with his gavel and turned to the Bailiff. “Bailiff, release this man.”

Awe-struck, Savi leaned close to the genie and whispered, “Don’t they have to send him back to the prison to be processed out?” At least that’s how Mark had explained it, if he should get lucky and win his freedom.

“Remember, master, I am your genie, and I can make anything happen. If you want your man free today, he will be free today.”

“He’s not my man,” she denied, standing to exit the courtroom, ignoring Mark’s signals to her. Deliriously happy for his victory, she was angry with herself for not believing in him when he needed her most. She didn’t deserve him. And she was scared that he wasn’t the same man she had fallen desperately, deeply in love with.

“Then why did you use your wish on him?” Adara’s forehead creased in perplexion as she followed Savi into the hall. “I thought you were in love with him.”

Savi stopped in her tracks and heaved a huge sigh, looking heavenward. “It’s complicated. I loved the man Mark was but I’m not sure he’s the same man after this ordeal. Besides, how could he want me now, after I abandoned him?”

“But you did not abandon him. Because of you, he is a free man.” The genie clasped her wrist and pulled her aside into an out of the way nook. “And because of you, I will be a free woman, too. Remember your promise. All you have to say is, ‘Genie, I wish you free.’ And poof! I will be free. Say the words, master. I implore it of you. Seven thousand years being stuck in this bottle makes me very claustrophobic. I gave lots of wishes, made lots of people happy and now it is my turn to live.”

Adara’s fingers bit into the sensitive flesh of her forearm leaving red finger prints. What could it hurt to free the genie? She wouldn’t get to wish herself rich or famous, but she made a decent living. She couldn’t wish for world peace, but she doubted even ten genies combined could accomplish such a miracle. And she owed the genie a huge debt of gratitude for not only freeing Mark but exonerating him. That was worth far more than all the treasure in the universe. She had been extremely blessed already. It was time to pay back the favour.

“Okay, genie, I wish you free,” Savi said in a low voice so as not to be overheard by anyone exiting the courtroom.

Poof! Savi found herself wearing a scanty harem costume, trapped inside the genie’s bottle.

Oh no! Savi’s heart pounded riotously.

“What happened?” she yelled, craning her neck to peer at the top of the bottle. Her echoing voice nearly deafened her and she turned around in circles seeking a way out, spying no escape hatch save the corked top. Her new residence rocked precariously and she was tossed from side to side. She could make out a pair of huge, midnight black eyes staring at her unseeingly.

Wicked feminine laughter greeted her. “You are now the genie. You wished me free.”

Staggered, Savi swore under her breath. “Wait! That wasn’t part of the bargain. I set you free in goodwill. I never said I’d exchange places.”

“You should’ve read the small warning print on the bottle. This place is full of lawyers. Ask them to explain contracts to you.”

“You can’t just leave me in here! What’ll I do? How do I get out?” Savi rubbed her throbbing temples, cursing her stupidity. Why had she trusted the powerful genie? I was an idiot, that’s why.

“You get out when your master summons you. Read the genie manual on the nightstand. Everything’s in there. I hope the evil one doesn’t find you. Adios amiga.”

“Wait!” Adara’s evil laughter faded away, and Savi screamed into a plump Persian pillow. Now she really didn’t have a prayer of getting back together with Mark. The irony of it struck her hard. She was all powerful, yet so weak.

* Be sure to check out the deleted scenes from the other blog fest participants.

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