The revision to The Night Girl continues. As you recall, I received some feedback and was inspired to write an isolated scene exploring Perpetua and Fergus’ relationship. I was fairly happy with what came out, and I decided to incorporate the scene into the story.
The altered scene, which you can read after the break, is my first attempt. Looking at The Night Girl as it now stands, I see that there are a limited number of places where such a scene could go, and key points have to happen within this scene and others that follow in order to keep the overall plot moving. However, the scene was adapted to fit with little difficulty. I still find it rather talky, but we’ll see if I can fix that in later drafts.
The risk, of course, is that this approach of inserting scenes into the overall plot might be like trying to expand a home without tearing down walls. It may be that to make this story function with equal parts of Perpetua’s working relationship with Earthenhouse and her romantic relationship with Fergus, I may have to reconsider the entire story, pull the component parts apart and put them back together from scratch. Many an author has done that — case in point being Erin, who considered an editorial letter regarding Sorrow’s Knot and responded by basically rewriting the whole story from the beginning, keeping the setting but removing and combining key characters, and discovering that the plot had twisted itself along a different path — rather like a river on a flat plane after the spring floods.
But the scene below seems to work, and the one that follows it seems to work as well. Sometimes it is possible to put an extension on a house instead of demolishing the house and starting over. Only time will tell if I’ve chosen the right solution.
I hope you like the revised scene. As always, your comments are welcome.
In her bedroom, Perpetua laid face first on her bed, her snores muffled by her pillow. Beside her, Pixel lay curled up, purring softly. The sunlight against the window set the curtains aglow. Outside, the city growled, but Perpetua wanted no part of it. Not until she was good and ready.
The phone rang. The machine clicked to answer it, but the line went dead. A moment later, the phone rang again. Again, the machine clicked to answer it, but the line went dead. The phone rang a third time.
Perpetua’s hand emerged from the covers and patted at the top of her bedside table, knocking over a book and a glass before finding the phone and pulling the receiver under the covers and to her ear. Her voice croaked. “Okay, whoever this is, you are about to incur my wrath.”
The voice at the other end of the line was infuriatingly chipper. “Hey, Tua? You up yet?”
“Fergus? Why are you incurring my wrath?”
“It’s two in the afternoon,” he said. “This is your wake-up call.”
“Fergus! It’s Saturday! I don’t have to go to work on Saturday!”
“Trust me,” he said. He could hear her grinning. It grated on her ears. “It’s important that you wake up, right now.”
“You are so dead! You and all chipper people like you!”
“You’d have to wake up in order to find me first.”
“Fergus, I’ve submitted papers I don’t remember writing, or even turning in. There’s no telling what I can do with any handy sharp object, and did you know that sleepwalking is a valid defence in court?”
“Seriously, though,” he said, and he really did sound it. “When did you fall into bed? Six a.m.? Six-thirty?”
“And when did you actually get to sleep?”
Perpetua kept a mutinous silence.
She said nothing.
“Fergus, what do you want with me?” she howled.
“To help you wake up. Look, I’m coming over.”
“If you come here, you’ll only make it easier for me to kill you.”
“And I’m bringing coffee.”
She paused. “Okay. You get to live. Provisionally.”
“Be right there.”
“Fine,” she mumbled. And she let the phone drop out of her bed and onto the floor.
She blinked once, and fifteen minutes passed. Someone was knocking on the door, and not giving up.
Groaning, she rolled out of bed. Dressed in her sleep outfit of panties and a long t-shirt, she peered groggily through the peephole, then opened the door.
Fergus stood there, a box under his arm and a paper tray with two large coffee cups. He held the cups out, as though offering alms.
She blinked at him a moment, then opened the door wider to let him in. She snatched the coffee from his hand before he took two steps and took a deep swig. “Mmm!” She could feel it working already.
“Good afternoon,” said Fergus, as she closed the door. He set the box down.
“What was all that about?” She gave him a firm stare. “Who said you could give me a wake up call?”
He took a sip of his own coffee. “Well, you’re a night owl,” he said, “But you’re not a night worker. Big difference, there.”
“Go on,” she said.
“Your body is not used to sleeping by day and working by night,” he replied. “Thousands of years of evolution say so.”
“I’ve been doing okay,” she grumbled.
“Yeah, but you’ve only been at this for a couple of weeks,” he said. “You’re putting a strain on your body unless you teach it to adapt. And that means getting really regular with when you go to sleep and get up. Notice how you couldn’t get to sleep until 90 minutes after you crashed into bed?”
She didn’t answer. Instead she took a swig of her coffee. ” I know what that’s like,” he said. “So I’m helping you adjust.”
“What, just like that?”
He grinned. “Hey, a couple of days ago, you asked me when I slept. Now I’m telling you. Consider it part of the coffee service.”
She let out a short, sharp laugh, then took another swig of coffee.
Fergus looked around her room. “You’re going to need some heavier curtains,” he said. “Or a sleep blindfold. Sunlight stimulates the circadian rhythms, even if your eyes are closed and you’re dead exhausted. That’s not a healthy thing to be exposed to.”
Perpetua groaned. “I didn’t ask for a sleep analysis.”
“Hey, at least I didn’t suggest cutting back on your caffeine late in your shift, like all the doctors say.”
She narrowed her eyes. “If you secretly switch me to decaf, I’ll come after you with a pitchfork!”
He chuckled nervously. “Now there’s an image that will haunt my nightmares forever. Don’t worry, I won’t.” He leaned over and picked up the box. “Listen, I got a present for you.”
She set her coffee down and came over. “You did? What for?
He held the box out but, at her words, he stared at her. “What do you mean ‘what for’? Can’t it be ‘just because’?”
She looked around frantically for a calendar. “Did I miss an occasion? Is it a one-month anniversary or something?”
“Relax,” said Fergus. “I just got this because I like you and I thought you’d like it.” He pulled the package from the bag and held it out to her.
“Oh!” She looked at the gift-wrapped box and began drawing up lists in her head about what to give him in return.
“Would you take this, please?” he asked. He shook the box. “It’s getting heavy.”
She grabbed it. It was heavier than she’d expected and she almost dropped it on her lap. “Wow!” She tore the paper off and opened the box. “It’s great! It’s—” She stopped when she pulled out a smooth rounded shape of brown, shiny stone (at least it looked like stone), all round, save for a clockface mounted in the middle of it. It was about the size of a latte, and surprisingly familiar.
“It’s a coffee bean clock,” she said.
He beamed at her. “It’s for your desk at work. Isn’t it cool!”
Beneath the clock, she noticed there were words printed in gold, blaring “Coffee Time!”
She grinned at the clock, then set it aside aside, came over and hugged him. “Serving me coffee when I wake up and giving presents too.” She chuckled. “You really are my boyfriend.”
He laughed, then his eyes widened. “Wait, what?!”
“Well, let me sum up, here.” She leaned back in his arms and held up a hand to count. “One, you come to my apartment to give me a wake-up call and, two, you come bearing a gift. And, three, we’ve kissed, like, several times in the past week. Do the math.”
He swallowed. “I’ve never been good with math.”
“It means we’re boyfriend and girlfriend, silly,” she said. Then she frowned at him. “Unless you have other ideas?”
“Uh… no?” He cleared his throat. “So, I guess we are boyfriend and girlfriend. Uh, I… like that. I like that a lot! So… what do boyfriend/girlfriends typically do together?”
Perpetua’s smile widened and she pressed herself closer to him. She hadn’t changed out of the long t-shirt and panties that she’d slept in.
Fergus let out a tight, nervous laugh.
Perpetua chuckled. “Or, if you’d rather, we could go out on the town and see the sights. Would you like?”
“Yeah!” he said quickly. Then he winced. “If that’s okay with you?”
She smirked at him, kissed her finger and put it to his lips. “For now.” She stepped back and pointed to the Futon. “Wait there while I get dressed.”