Rough Drafts, Fair and Foul, Part 2

In my last post, I shared a chapter from my earliest attempt at writing a sequel to Lady of the Veils. It is about 60,000 words long. I decided not to use it, not because the story wasn’t entertaining, but because it wasn’t actually a sequel. It was set ten years after the events of the first book, and the characters were so changed they weren’t even recognizable. Far from being young people trying to carve places for themselves in a pair of twin worlds, these had become thirty-year-olds with thirty-year-old problems.
So I decided to take another pass at it: I would move the timeframe in a little. Instead of being set ten years in the future, it would be set four years in the future. Some of the problems from the first draft of the sequel could be completely avoided. That’s the nice thing about fiction: you don’t have to worry about all the time paradoxes. If you don’t like the past, just erase it and hope the future comes out better.
Let me also say this before I present you with the second version of chapter 1: at the time when I wrote this piece, I had given up on publishing Lady of the Veils. In fact, I had not written anything in quite some time. When I started this piece, I thought I may never write professionally, but I have to write for me. It makes me happy. The characters, of course, would not let me be. They were a part of me.
When I was about 115 pages into this particular draft, a got a letter from an agent who said, this is a great story, but the writing needs work. Your best bet is to join a writer’s group. So I did. I workshopped Lady of the Veils like crazy, changed its name, and sent it out. Eventually three different publishers offered to pick it up. (This is why they advise against multiple submissions, kids.)
So. Without further delay, here is the first draft of the second attempt at Knight of Avalon 2.

Beri’s skin reminded Karen of a pool of water brightened by the moon. It had the color of a pearl, and a luminosity that cast the far corners of the room into shadow. His pale hair was loose on bare shoulders, and his eyes gleamed with the satisfaction of a spoiled Persian cat. He twisted a strand of Karen’s hair around his right index finger, then pulled on it until the curl straightened and let go so that it would bounce back into place.
Karen used her finger to mark her page and shut her biology book. “Why are you pulling my hair?”
He, fey as ever, answered her question with one of his own: “Did you know that when I pull your hair straight, it reaches almost to the middle of your back?”
Karen laughed. “Do you think I should wear it straight today?”
Beri bounced another curl. “Is that possible?”
“Sure. It only takes a flat brush and a blow dryer.”
“Or you could just-“ he placed the curl between his index finger and thumb, then slid it through his fingertips. When he reached the end the curl had straightened.
Karen rolled her eyes. “Fix that.”
Beri tugged on the end of the uncurled strand, and it bounced back up into its natural state. “What is it with you and my hair?” she wondered aloud.
“Under electric lights, it turns red and golden.” He paused, then stretched the freshly restored curl across the bridge of her nose. “There. Is that better?”
“Yes. Much.” Karen opened her book again, but she knew he wasn’t going to let her read. She was not disappointed. He ran a finger up her bare arm and across her collarbone. Karen’s skin raised itself into rows of goose bumps, and she shivered. “Is there something I can help you with? Because I’m trying to study.”
Beri chuckled warmly, and replied, “There is one thing.”
Karen closed the book again, this time without bothering to put her finger between the pages. He regarded her with his mischievous eyes and a curve of full lips.
“Do you ever think about anything besides sex?” Karen asked him bluntly.
His half smile turned into a laugh. “No. Well, rarely. Actually, I am so brilliant that I can think great things and still think about sex at the same time.”
Karen wanted to smile, but she bit her lip and shook her head. “It’s a shame.”
“If you weren’t so pretty I would finally be able to ace a science course.”
Later, as she lay with her head against his chest and his arm resting under her breasts, Karen asked, “Do you think I’ll still be this in love with you when I’m old?”
Beri kissed the top of her head and said, “I hope so. I shall certainly be this in love with you.”
“Nah. My hair will fall out and you won’t want anything to do with me.”
He made a serious sounding noise. “I never thought about that. Perhaps I should just break off with you now.”
“Maybe. How will you bug me if you can’t pull my hair?”
“It will be impossible. You will be completely useless to me.”
“See?” She snuggled down into the covers, and his arms twined around her. The digital clock on her bedside table read 3:15. “I knew you would get bored sooner or later. By then I’ll be too old to be of any use to anybody.”
He made a sound near her arm that was something like a cross between a sigh and a purr. “And wrinkled. Don’t forget that you’ll be horribly wrinkled.”
Karen sighed. “It’s three fifteen. Maybe you should be getting home.”
Beri released her, and propped himself up on his elbow. “Karen. I was joking. I couldn’t stop loving you if I wanted to. Since I’ll outlive you by quite a while, I may someday wish that were an option. But it’s not.”
Karen smiled a little, then kissed his soft bottom lip. “I know. I’m not mad. But you have to get up in, like, three hours. They’re going to be wondering where you are. “
Beri groaned and threw himself dramatically back down on the pillow. “Oh, Goddess. Every time. I’ll be useless tomorrow.”
Karen grinned. “But you were great tonight.”
He laughed, then rose with his typical grace to pull his clothes on. “And what time are you up tomorrow? Hopefully disgustingly early.”
“Yeah,” Karen said. “I have a calc final at eight thirty. And I assure you I won’t be well rested for it.”
“A shame.” Beri shot a quick smile at her as he finished adjusting his fly. Karen stood, pulled on the t-shirt she had been wearing before he arrived, and closed her eyes to focus on the spell to open the doorway to his bedroom. With a gust of breeze, the dresser vanished and she could see his bed through the darkly glittering fabric of nothing that she had created.
Beri wound his arms around her waist and kissed her one last time. “Good luck with your test,” he whispered, as the guards could probably hear him now.
“Good luck with the whole High King thing you have planned today,” she whispered back. “I miss you already.”
“Cheesy dame,” he chuckled, then stepped out of her arms and through the Doorway. She quickly closed the door. The silence was sudden and lonely.
“At least we don’t have to rely on e-mail and phone calls,” Karen muttered. But his absence always felt like an aftermath. She picked up the scattered clothing on her floor and put it away, then straightened her twisted bedclothes and climbed between them. They were scented with the musky odor of his skin and she breathed deeply. It was a while before she could sleep. Karen couldn’t help but wonder what it might be like to get to fall asleep and wake up beside him. But eventually, even these melancholy thoughts drifted into smoke and she was asleep.
Karen’s alarm clock, as usual, was an audible stab at seven-thirty. She groaned and dragged her body out of bed and into her shower. The hot spray woke her, but her mind was still foggy from lack of sleep. She dressed in jeans and a green t-shirt with the Beetles emblazoned on the front (to this day she could not get over how good it felt not to have to wear a uniform to class) and went out, locking the door behind her. Her roommate, Constance, had never come home last night. She would be in the calc final this morning. She had probably spent the night with her boyfriend, Jim, at the Sigma Beta house. Karen lived just down the road from campus, but she drove to avoid being late and then entered the amphitheater where the test was being held. As expected, Connie was slouched in the back row, hiding behind dark glasses. She did not look as if she had showered that morning, but instead had pulled her particolored hair into a claw clasp at the nape of her neck. Karen settled herself beside her friend.
“Rough night?” Karen asked.
Connie lowered her glasses and peered at Karen over them. “You should talk. Did you even comb your hair this morning after the mystery man left?”
Karen ran an embarrassed hand over her hair. “Yeah, I did. But I didn’t blow dry it so it got all frizzy.”
Connie grinned. “When are you going to introduce me to this guy? We’ve been living together for almost two years now, he’s been over, like, three nights a week, and I have yet to do a single Jell-O shot in his presence.”
Karen had to smile back at the idea of Beri Quintinar doing shots with Constance Miller. “I know, I know. Someday. You guys will love each other. You’re both completely out of your minds.”
Connie rolled her eyes. “You always say that. Why can’t I meet him?”
Karen sighed as she pulled her number two pencil out of her bag, then scratched idly at her scalp with the tip. This was a question she never knew how to answer. “I’m sorry, Connie. But you embarrass the bejeezus out of me. I seriously can’t introduce you to anybody.”
Connie stabbed Karen in the side with an index finger. “I know what it is, Kay. He’s a professor. And he’s married. And you think I would tell his wife or some lame shit like that.”
Karen snorted. “You got me. I’m banging a forty year old.”
“It better be Dr. Martinson,” Connie told her. “I swear to you, I would do that old man like my life depended on it. He is a stone cold gray fox.”
Karen laughed aloud, and several people turned to look at her. “That’s fortunate,” Karen said. “I heard he will date his students. And he’ll give you an A, too.”
“No way,” Connie said seriously. “That is prostitution. I would do him just for the sheer joy of it.”
“But you wouldn’t turn down an A in history.”
Connie smirked. “Remind me to take history next semester.”
There was a newspaper on the desk before her, and Karen turned her eyes to it. LOCAL DEATH RULED SUICIDE, it proclaimed, below the headline that announced the paper as the Lincoln Star Journal. There was a picture on the front, of a smiling fellow, about thirty, with a square jaw, pale greenish hair, and gold eyes.
“Huh,” Karen said, interested and a little disturbed.
“What?” Connie asked.
Karen passed her the sheet of newsprint. “Look at this. Some half fey killed himself.”
Connie frowned, a little confused. “Oh? Did you know him?”
“No,” Karen told her. “It’s just that there aren’t very many of us. It’s just weird that this paper happened to have one in it.”
“Lincoln Star Journal,” Connie read aloud. “I wonder if he was friends with some corn husker who transferred here.”
“Weird,” Karen said, but then the professor appeared and started to pass papers to the people in the front row. He was a balding fellow with a little paunch and watery eyes. Karen nudged Connie and whispered, “It’s him. He doesn’t look like much, but the things he can do with his tongue are illegal in eight states.”
Connie guffawed loudly, and people once more turned to look at them.
“Shut up,” Connie stage whispered. “If I don’t pass calc this time my mom will kill me.”
Karen chuckled and accepted her paper from someone in the row in front of her. “If you can’t focus on your test, maybe you should move somewhere else.”
From the front, the professor called, “The test has begun, girls. Please, no talking.”
They both fell silent. If there was one thing Connie was good at, it was waking her up.
After the test, Karen walked to the gym slowly, feeling a little sorry for herself. Beri was the most beautiful person she had ever met. He was also smart, kind, funny, charming, and loyal. And she couldn’t even introduce him to her friends. They had decided to tell themselves that she was dating a married man, just to make her normal. It was hard. They could never be together openly. It was true, there were hundreds of people who suspected the true nature of their relationship. But if it was ever confirmed, that would be it. They would either have to break up or go into exile. He might be forced to abdicate the throne. There would be assassination attempts. It was no longer illegal for a fey to marry a human, but the fey had long memories. Loving a half breed was just enough to get a king murdered.
There had been a time when Karen wanted a family, children. But that was not her fate. Her fate was stolen kisses in the middle of the night, pressing her body to skin that she could never really have. And the alternative was worse. God help her, the alternative was worse
Karen sighed. The professor, indeed. If that was what Connie wanted to call him, the professor he would be. She would never know his real name


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