A Deleted Scene from A Door Between Us

When I first read the prompt for this week’s blogpost, I thought, “deleted scenes? Do I have deleted scenes?” As a dedicated plotter who outlines and re-outlines every beat and scene of every story I’m working on, my editing is more about paragraph and sentence structure than the actual story.

But then I went back and looked at an early version of DOOR and right there in the first chapter was a whole deleted scene! The scene was deleted, not because I decided to go a different direction with the story, but because I found I could convey that piece of the story through a short summarizing paragraph rather than a whole scene.

For fun, I’m copying, below, the deleted scene plus the version that made it into the book. Do you think I made the right editing choice?


FINAL VERSION IN THE BOOK:

In their only private moment during the traditional first meeting of khastegari courtship, Sarah had primly announced that she had no intention of marrying Ali or anyone else and that she’d only agreed to meet him because of her parents’ pressure and Aunt Mehri’s insistence that he was a good match from a good family. It was Ali’s surprised chuckle and friendly encouragement that she should pursue what she wanted independent of her family’s wishes that made her notice his honey-colored eyes for the first time.

DELETED SCENE:

“I’m so sorry, sir, to have wasted your time,” Sarah said to the young man. “But I should mention that I really have no intention of marrying before I finish my university studies. My parents insisted, however, that I meet you and your lovely family”.

Ali looked surprised. He smiled. Sarah liked his smile. She had noticed that right off. He was a little short and thick but when he had entered the room, he did so with presence and had remained standing until all the ladies sat. Unlike most of the men in her own family, Ali was clean-shaven so his facial expressions weren’t obscured by a mustache or beard. His smile was framed by full lips that pulled back to reveal a set of teeth that were regular and strong except for one that had a small notch in it.

“No problem,” he said, smiling. “We can have a long engagement.”

This was not the reaction Sarah was expecting.

“What? No. I said I don’t want to get married.”

“You said you don’t want to get married before you finish your studies. Fine. We’ll get engaged and you can finish your studies while living at home.”

“But…”

“But what?” Ali’s smile conveyed some sort of a challenge. A dare almost.

“But…we’ve hardly spoken. How do you know we would be a good match?”

Ali shrugged. “Well…I don’t. But the truth is that I don’t want to get married either. Or at least I didn’t. My parents insisted and they’ve been dragging me all over Tehran to meet prospective brides. I’m getting tired of the whole khastegari thing. And…I don’t know…I just like you all of a sudden. I like it that you were honest with me right up front. I like it that you’re obviously pursuing what you want despite your parents’ preferences. I’m guessing we could have an honest friendship. Maybe we could build a life based on our own goals, not our parents. Maybe…we could have fun.”

Ali smiled again. And Sarah couldn’t help smiling back. And feeling happy despite her confusion. This was so different from any of the varied scenarios she had considered for the evening. But she was flattered that Ali had chosen her so swiftly, particularly given that he’d apparently had so many other options.

It wouldn’t do, however, to appear too eager.

“Well,” Sarah said, “I can’t decide something like marriage so quickly.”

“Look, I’m in no rush. Like I said, marriage was my parents’ idea. But you know how these things go. Two more meetings and your mother will start complaining that people are going to talk if you keep meeting me without a commitment. Sarahkhanoom (he was saying her name!) think about the kind of life you want to have. Think about what you want from a future husband. Ask me whatever questions you want and I promise to give an honest answer. I hope you’ll find me worthy. As for me, I’ve already made up my mind. You’re the one I want.”

“Ahem” Sarah’s mother cleared her throat and shot a meaningful glance at the couple to let them know their time was almost up.

Time. There just wasn’t enough time. How was Sarah supposed to make a monumental decision like this with so few clues about the likely outcome? It all seemed like a huge gamble with a life of joy…or sorrow as the potential prize. What questions would maximize the chances of a winning bet? How do you resolve differences of opinion? What do you see as the proper role for a husband and wife? To what extent should our parents be allowed to influence our decisions?

Oh, what the hell! These kinds of questions could really only be answered by time and observation. The only thing Sarah knew for sure was that she already liked being around Ali and wanted to see him again.

“Okay. So let’s do it. Let’s get married.”

Was it possible that such a huge choice had fallen so easily out of her mouth?

Ali was surprised too. “Wait! What? You’re sure? I thought you didn’t want to get married.”

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Ehsaneh Sadr is an Iranian-American novelist and activist with a PhD in International Relations. She has worked, in various capacities, on campaigns related to Palestinian human rights, Iranian sanctions, access to credit for rural villagers, and safe spaces for children in crisis. She currently works with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to create the cultural and infrastructure changes needed to support a shift away from carbon-based modes of transportation. Ehsaneh currently lives in Northern California with her husband and two children but also considers Washington DC, Salt Lake City, and Tehran to be home.

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