I recently put out a second edition of Shadowmark (Book 1). And during my most recent edits, I nixed this scene. This is one of those instances where I really loved a scene, but it destroyed the pacing. It’s a poignant moment in Mina’s childhood and provides some backstory. So I’m putting it here. Because I like it. And I hope you do, too.
Freckles dotted Mina Surrey’s pale young face. Wild brown hair stuck out of her ponytail in curly spirals that defied every attempt to be managed. Dad didn’t know what to do with his daughter’s mop. And Mina’s mother had left them only six months before, so most of the time her hair stayed in a heap of frizzy curls.
She was traveling with her dad and her brother Lincoln. They were flying from their home in Indiana to see Dad’s sister, Aunt Julie, who lived in Minnesota. Mina was eight and Lincoln had just turned fourteen.
It was Mina’s first time in an airport.
Mina knotted her fingers in her lap as they sat in the terminal. She had only met Aunt Julie once when she was four, and Mina’s faded memory was of a plump woman with dyed red hair, bright red lipstick, and heavy eye shadow.
“Daddy, why do we have to go see Aunt Julie?” Mina’s brown eyes found her father’s blue ones. His face was already lined, his hair too grey for a man of thirty-eight. He wore his customary faded jeans and brown boots with a light blue button-up work shirt. Today his clothes were washed and neatly pressed.
Dad’s face twisted oddly, his eyes screwing up as he looked at Mina. “Because that’s what family does, Addy. We take care of each other when the time comes.” Dad had always called her Addy, short for Adamina. His name was Adam, and Mina’s mother had liked the name Adamina. But Dad always called her Addy even though everyone else called her Mina.
Even at eight, Mina knew what her father meant when he said Aunt Julie was out of time. Aunt Julie had cancer. And people with cancer usually ran out of time. Had her mom been out of time? If so, why hadn’t she let her family take care of her instead of that new man? Why had she left them? Young Mina wanted to ask these questions, looking first at her dad and then at Lincoln.
Lincoln scowled and jammed his thumb down on his portable cassette player. His earphones blared out “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains. Mina hated that song. Lincoln had played it for her the week before, and she was pretty sure Dad wouldn’t approve of the lyrics if he knew what they were saying. Dad didn’t approve of cursing or anything that could be interpreted as disrespectful.
But Dad wasn’t paying attention. He was picking a thread from a metal button on his shirt. He tugged at the blue string, watching it unravel.
“It’s going to fall off, Daddy,” she said. He wouldn’t be able to sew the button back on in the airport.
“Do you have any fingernail clippers?” Dad asked.
“No.” Mom would have had clippers, Mina thought. But she said, “Want to see a trick?”
Mina took the end of the thread from her father and carefully wound it clockwise underneath the metal button, first once, then twice, and again and again until she could hide the end of the it under the button. “See?” she said. “Now you don’t have to worry about losing it while we’re gone from home!”
“Good thinking. Thanks, princess.”
Mina glanced again at Lincoln. His shaggy auburn hair fell down over his closed eyes—he had refused several haircuts. Mom had always cut his hair. He stretched out his long legs, which already at fifteen made him taller than Dad and a favorite on the school basketball team. Mina dug her book out of her purple backpack and nestled as close to Lincoln as she could get with the armrest between them. She wrapped one arm under his and propped up her book. Her other hand rested on Lincoln’s arm. He didn’t open his eyes, but his scowl softened as he found her hand, giving it a quick squeeze before turning the volume down on his cassette player.
We’re going to be okay, right? She wanted to ask him again, as she had countless times in the last few months. But maybe now wasn’t the time. Because Aunt Julie’s time was running out.
She would ask the question again when Dad’s time ran out six years later.
Learn more about Mina in Shadowmark, available through Amazon.