Revitalizing Theo

Continuing on Noelle's suggestions for enhancing Rosemary's reactions to Theo's odd behaviour, I examined the second chapter of Rosemary and Time. I had thought that this part of the story dragged, and the ideas Noelle raised gave me some clues on how to fix this.

In my original draft of chapter two, Theo and Mrs. Watson come home, with Mrs. Watson frantic at her son's distant and medically unsound behaviour (his pulse is depressed and he is blinking once every fifteen seconds). This, as you can imagine, puts a damper on the evening so, while Mr. Watson volunteers to drive Peter home, Rosemary is at a loss for what to do. Unwilling to interrupt while her mother questions Theo, she occupies herself with several slides across their backyard ice-rink until her father comes home. There's some banter, and then Rosemary heads for bed. In the middle of the night, she sneaks into Theo's room and tries to find out what's going on.

All of this takes two scenes, and not much happens in either. There is no reason why these two scenes can't be combined and, if you add some anger into the mix, sparks fly. Here's how the scene(s) now read:

Note that it's later revealed that Theo's sole contact with his surroundings is through the book he's reading, a special book that's being written as he reads it in Rosemary's point-of-view.

Her father had made a rink in the back yard with a garden hose. The ice was covered with new snow, but Rosemary was able to entertain herself with running slides. Her mind went over the day again and again. Folding girls and now Theo.

She hadn't told Peter about the girl in the library because she wasn't sure it was real. Theo made it more real. She couldn't ask her mother -- not yet anyway, she decided. She don't know what she was talking about, and Mother would be alarmed that not only was her son losing his mind, but so was her daughter.

The back door banged closed. Rosemary skidded to a stop.

She looked back and saw Theo on the back porch, leaning against the siding, his eyes on the book in his hands. "Hey, Rosie."

She slid across the rink and stumbled onto the snow. "Hi."

They stared at each other. Or, rather, Rosemary stared at Theo. He stared at his book. The silence stretched between them. Rosemary opened her mouth to say something, but Theo spoke first.

"I-- I heard you were in a fight."

Rosemary gaped. "Did Dad tell you?" How did Dad know?

"You shouldn't -- let those boys get to you," he said, still not looking at her. "They're -- only words."

"Theo, are you all right?"

Theo sat silent a long moment, hardly blinking. She could see no change in his expression, but somehow Rosemary sensed that he was considering his answer very carefully.

"Of course I'm all right," he said at last. "Don't worry about me."

"Theo, look at me."

He looked at her. His eyes were glazed and unfocused, as though she were in a fog, or he was reading subtitles.

"Theo, I know something's wrong. Is it -- is it like high school? Are you sick?"


She bit her lip. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Rosie, it's okay."

"No, it's not!" Her voice cracked. "I hate to see you like this! I hate to think that I--" She halted. "Snap out of it!"

"Rosie, please--"

"It's not fair!" Rosemary shouted. "You're not supposed to be like this! You're the one who protects me, gets me out of fights. You're supposed to be strong!"

His eyes glanced down at the pages as she spoke. He closed them, in pain. "Rosie, please, I'll handle this. I'll be all right. Just... stay away from the books."

She stuttered to a stop. "What?"

"Just... be careful." He took a deep breath. "Stay out of this." He turned and stepped back into the house.

"Theo, wait!" She struggled through the snow drifts after him and scrambled up the back porch. She banged her way into the kitchen and ran into the front room. It was empty. Upstairs, she heard Theo's bedroom door click shut.

As she debated whether to follow, the lights of the station wagon pulled into the driveway. Her father entered, stomping the snow from his boots. "I drove your boyfriend home, safe and sound, Rose!"


"What?" Her father looked playfully blank.

"He's not my boyfriend!"

"He's your friend, isn't he?"

"Well, yes, but--"

"And he's a boy, isn't he? Those are the two criteria for the term, aren't they?"

Rosemary scowled at the floor. "You know what I mean."

Her father nudged her chin. "Yes, dearest. I do."

"How can you be so flippant at a time like this?"

"It's how I cope."

Rosemary softened. "What do you think happened to Theo?"

Mr. Watson sighed. "I don't know. But we'll find out, dearest. I promise."

My only concern is that the tone of the scene switches tone abruptly at the end with her father's teasing. The teasing is something her father would do to lighten the situation, and some of that comes across, but I still wonder if the change is too jarring...

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