It's getting harder to make these cuts. Little scenes I've managed to keep in until now are going to the "cuts" file. While they contain character/relationship development, they don't contain a story beat so essential that it can't be understood to have happened by a brief reference in a later scene.
Did I mention this is hard to do? The feeling in my chest is one of grief, but it's slight, and it will pass.
The total word count is around 224,000 now. Heading in the right direction at least!
One such scene, from Kindred, Copyright 2009, by Lori L. Benton
He showed her how to hold the quill, how to dip it in the gourd and slide the nib against the rim, how to stroke it across the page so the tip didn’t snag and spatter the ink. After watching her mimic the procedure with exacting care, he set his hands to his own work, allowing her to get on with it in the privacy his back afforded.
When she made a small sound of frustration, he put down the claw-and-ball foot he’d been carving and turned to check her progress. Light from the door spilled over the workbench onto her face. She looked decidedly cross. He knelt to examine the page on her lap.
Not bad for a first try. Remarkably good, in fact. A few blots and dribbles marred an otherwise passable attempt to draw a vine. It was the dark spots on her fingers that alarmed him. He grabbed her wrist as she aimed the quill at the ink gourd.
She started so violently she dropped the quill. He let her go. She rose off the stool and put the pattern book back on his work bench.
“I didn’t mean to ruin your book.”
He held out his hands, palms up. “I wasn’t scolding. Ye did fine for a first try—better than fine. It’s your hands, lass. Look at them.”
She did, and frowned. “Won’t it come off?”
He snatched a rag from the bench and dunked it in a water bucket near the door. “Sit ye back down.”
Kneeling, he took up her hand and scrubbed at her fingers. He’d been right. Her skin was too light. The ink was going to stain. He rubbed harder.
“Blast.” He looked up to find her face inches from his own. “I wasn’t thinking,” he said, still oddly unable to perform that basic function. “Your hand… my fault. It’ll fade. A few days, what with the washing…. Can ye hide it ’til it fades?”
“Reckon I’ll have to.” Her voice was a thread.
He grew aware of the warmth of her knee pressed against his ribs, and her hand in his. He was still rubbing with the rag, gently now, though the action clearly had no effect. Her breath was on his cheek. He stood abruptly.
“Tell them ye were straightening the shop for me, that the gourd tipped and spilled. I’ll say the same, if I’m asked.”
He couldn’t tell what she thought of the suggestion.
“Mister Ian?” She wouldn’t lift her eyes. “You want me to keep on drawing, or no?”
He found the leather pouch that held his carefully hoarded lead, which he used for marking wood when a chalk line wouldn’t suit. He’d purchased a few English cedar pencils before leaving Boston, but chose for her instead one of the pointed string-wrapped slips.
“Try this instead. Ye use it like a charcoal stick.”
“I know what it is.” Her voice brightened with interest. “One time—years back—Miz Rosalyn got in a temper with Miz Judith and stamped her drawing leads to pieces. Miz Judith gave me the small bits… to throw out.”
Their eyes met, in perfect understanding.
He placed the pattern book back on her lap, aware of his heart banging.