Since Small Town Witch recently got a new cover and we’re celebrating the Halloween season with a sale, I thought you might enjoy reading another deleted scene from the original novel!
Small Town Witch was the first book I ever published and I learned a lot as I got ready to release it into the world. I’d written novels before, but only shared them with friends and family, so I wanted this one to be polished. I went through several major rewrites trying to capture the story I wanted to tell. In the end, some things were left behind on the cutting room floor.
One thing that I had to do was refocus the story on Rosa’s conflict with her mom. That meant a lot of scenes with her friends and at school were ultimately removed from the story because they distracted from the main plot. There was a whole subplot about Rosa’s friend Heather, who was new at school and rumors started flying that she was unlucky because she was the 13th student in their class. A bunch of bad things happened at the school that got blamed on Heather (even though it wasn’t her fault). Like when the boy she was dating, Anil, accidentally blew himself up. Read on to find out what happened.
The Magitek Lab Explosion
On Thursday afternoon, Heather came by the photography classroom, which is in the new extension off the main school building, because the original ranch house didn’t have any rooms that could be easily converted into a darkroom.
Jennifer, the teacher, had agreed to let Heather try out the class to see if she wanted to keep it as her elective. The first thing she asked was how much she knew.
Heather admitted that she was an extreme beginner because her family had never owned a film camera before.
“My mom bought one of those new digital cameras a couple of years ago,” Heather said. “I could ask her if I could just borrow that. Isn’t it basically the same thing anyways?”
Jennifer shook her head. “It’s not the same thing at all. The quality of digital cameras has improved recently, so they will probably eventually become the equals of traditional cameras in the future in terms of the final image, but the process is entirely different, and that’s half of what we do in this class. As many of my students can tell you from firsthand experience, the way that you develop the film negatives has almost as much affect on the outcome of your picture as the way that you captured it in the frame.” She gestured at some of the prints that were hanging up around the room, showcasing students’ recent work. “Some of these remarkable colors come from our experiments with chemicals used to treat the film before or during development, and over there, we have a series of double exposure portraits—”
Jennifer spent a considerable amount of time taking Heather around the room, showing off examples of things that we’d done, and took her into the darkroom with all of the chemicals and equipment for developing film and making prints.
In the end, Heather was convinced to borrow one of the school’s simpler loaner cameras to try it out and get a feel for it. “Just explore with it,” Jennifer said. “Don’t worry about how the image is going to turn out. Learn to look at the world through the viewfinder and take snapshots of anything that interests you, at home or school or wherever you go. When you’ve finished a few rolls of film, we’ll develop them together and maybe we’ll discover something surprising.”
I helped Heather load her first roll of film and suggested that we go outside so she could try it out. “You’re not using a flash yet, so you’ll get better shots when you have a lot of natural light. I’m sorry, but maybe we can try to stay in the shade,” I added, seeing her already start to flinch at the idea of going out into the sun.
I brought my own camera along for pictures. The ranch setting of Crowther has a lot of great spots for landscape shots. Heather followed me around and dutifully took her own pictures of everything that I was shooting. After a while, she told me, “I don’t think I’ll be taking a lot of pictures at home.”
“Why not?” I asked without thinking.
“Well, it might be awkward,” she said. “It’s usually pretty dark inside my house. And my parents won’t show up in any of the pictures.”
I had stuck my foot in my mouth once again. Of course, that’s why her family didn’t use film cameras. The silver in film won’t reflect vampires any more than a silvered mirror will show them, so you can’t take a photograph of a vampire with a traditional camera. Was Heather in the wrong class?
“Do you think your parents will have a problem with you doing photography?” I asked.
She lowered her camera and chewed on her lip. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “They’ve never really encouraged me to do the kinds of things that normal humans can do and they can’t.”
That made no sense to me at all. “Isn’t now the chance for you to try them? I mean, if you’re going to change and lose the ability later—”
Heather looked at me, her dark eyes squinting against the light. “But won’t that just give me something to miss? It could make it harder to choose, when the time comes.”
I hadn’t considered that before: Heather didn’t have to become a vampire, and she might not even want to. I could choose not to study witchcraft or use my power, but I’ll always be a witch, just like Mr. and Mrs. Crowther will never be able to have children, because he’s a human and she’s a dwarf. “You mean, you’re not sure if you’re going to go through with it? You don’t know if you want to be a vampire?”
We were interrupted by a loud booming noise, followed by the sound of breaking glass. I turned and saw that there was blue smoke pouring out of several windows in the main school building.
I didn’t stop to think about what was happening—I just started running towards the school. As I got closer, I heard the fire alarm going off with its loud, piercing shriek, and then people started coming outside in their class groups, about as calmly and quietly as any bunch of teenagers can manage. There was a sense of panic in the air as teachers tried to get everyone to calm down.
One of the teachers, Ms. Stephens, saw me running to the school and said sharply, “Please stay back from the building. It could be dangerous. Find your teacher.”
I realized that I was still holding onto my camera, and held it up. “School paper,” I said, snapping a few hasty shots of the evacuating students. Then, before she could tell me again, I ran around the corner of the building in the direction of the smoke. After all, I wasn’t doing anything stupid like going inside.
I didn’t have to get very close to see where the explosion had happened. The smoke was all coming out of one room on the second floor: Mrs. Crowther’s magitek lab. I started thinking of any spells that I knew which might be able to help, then realized that with those alarms going off, everyone else with magic would already have rushed in to help. Besides, witchcraft isn’t exactly something you can turn to in a pinch. Unless you’ve got a prepared spell or charm already with you, the more complicated or powerful a spell is, the more tools and work you need to pull it off.
So I wound the film on my camera and started taking pictures again. Things were calming down, though, and the blue smoke slowly started to blow away. There were only so many different angles that I could take pictures from out here, and I knew that no one would let me go inside the building to get any closer, so after a few minutes I stopped and walked back to find out where in the fields the photography class was lined up.
Heather had already joined up with the rest of the group, too, and she was looking all around. “Oh, Rosa, thank goodness,” she said when she saw me. “I didn’t know where you’d gone.”
Jennifer also turned around and looked relieved. “You know where you’re supposed to go during an emergency evacuation. Why did you take off like that?”
I hung my head, feeling a little guilty for my reaction. “I thought I could get a few pictures for the school paper,” I said, although now it sounded like a weak excuse. None of the pictures were going to show anything exciting, anyways. “Hey, does anyone know what happened?”
Heather shook her head. “I think someone was hurt,” she said. “There’s a helicopter on the way from the hospital.”
We didn’t find out anything more about it then. Everyone had to wait around in the field for a long time while teachers did head counts and made sure that everyone was there. A helicopter did show up and they took someone off in a stretcher, but I couldn’t see who it was. Then the rest of emergency services came up the road, which took longer, and checked to make sure that the building was safe before anyone was allowed back inside.
By the time students were given permission to go back in and pick up their stuff, it was almost an hour after school normally ended, so everyone was in a hurry to leave. I wasn’t in the mood for hanging out then, so I said good-bye to Heather. “You’ve got a three day weekend to play with the camera,” I said encouragingly. “Have fun. And I will see you at the party tomorrow, right?”
She nodded. “I’ll be there.”
I found my sister, and we went home.