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Lady Asphyxia
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[size=1][b][center]ASSIGNMENT[/b][/center]

Okay, here were the terms of my assignment; write a short story of 600-1,200 words. There were other criteria, but just general ones. There were no sentences to respond to, and there was no given situation. Basically, we were given free reign.

However, my story is 1,457 words. I need to cut it down. Any help would be appreciated.

[center]_____________________________________[/center]

[u][b]Past Tense[/b][/u]

Emily trudged down the narrow lane, her whole body projecting an air of forlorn determination. The ground rolled beneath her gaze, the muddy path weaving after her like a snail?s trail. The green hedges on either side brushed her bare arms as she passed them, almost as if they were real people.

It was the very beginning of spring; the Hawthorne buds were already blooming. It had rained the night before; the path was muddy and the hedges still held droplets of water in their green depths.

Emily?s pretty pink dress was already crumpled and untidy; the ruffles had long since ripped and shredded themselves on the hedges. She was about a mile from home, and it wasn?t much longer until she reached her destination. When she arrived at the clearing, however, she had to be certain of her footing. While the feud had ended in the Lowlands hundreds of years ago, up here in the Highlands, the feud was rampant.

Her mother had confronted her, face red with rage. ?You, Emily Síne Campbell, are not to consort with a McDonald. A McDonald boy, no less! Do you know what they did to our ancestors, Emily? Have you no family pride??

Emily had stared at the ground. She didn?t understand the family feuds; it had happened ages ago, but the part about family pride did needle at her conscience. She was proud of her roots ? who wouldn?t be? She loved the Campbell?s, and their existence. Nonetheless, she was friends with James McDonald. She wouldn?t, however, be friends with him for much longer. If her mother found out she was friends with him, she?d take away Emily?s books.

So Emily walked the path that separated the McDonald and Campbell properties. Callum McDonald ? a widower ? lived on one side of the hedge, while Enid and Kieran Campbell lived on the other. A month ago, Emily had never heard of James McDonald, but from what he?d told her, he?d come home from boarding school in Edinburgh. When Emily had pointed out that he couldn?t be that bad, really, if he was civil enough to go to Edinburgh, Enid had sniffed that a sane Highlander would never send their children to the lowlands to be educated, and if Callum McDonald was really as posh as that, then she was glad she?d never associated with the likes of him. Emily had given up at that point, and agreed to tell the boy that she?d not see him again.

The clearing was just up ahead. She could feel the tranquillity of it beginning to wash over her, like a breeze rolling through the trees. It was sometimes spooky; the way just being in the clearing could make everything in the world just perfect. It wasn?t as if the clearing was particularly pretty; except for the occasional wild flowers, there were only high, twisted mulberry trees ? someone?s futile attempt to civilise the region. There was no bench, just the limb of one of the trees that stood like Atlas to the children throughout the decades.

Emily had just scrambled up the branch when she heard James? voice behind her. ?You?re early today.?

?I can?t stay long, which is why I?m early.? She looked around, astonished as always to see him in the middle of the clearing. He was always there before her, always appearing out of nowhere to surprise her. It was almost as if he knew beforehand where she?d be looking, although she always tried to trick him.

When she peered at him again, his eyes were sad and taking on the lonely cast they?d had when she?d first met him. She smiled; hoping to delay the inevitable brush off she?d have to give him. His eyes brightened to their normal jovial smile, and Emily relaxed. ?Why don?t you climb the tree and see if you can beat me this time? I barely took two seconds.?

James scoffed. ?It was longer than ten seconds. You?re always so slow. I can climb much faster,? he boasted, and proceeded to demonstrate his talent. Emily shuffled her body to one side to make room for him.

They sat silent for a while; Emily swinging her legs, James fiddling with a leaf and staring at her. She became uncomfortable, fingers tracing the once impeccable ruffles of her dress.

?You want to tell me something. What is it??

This was it. Emily bit her lip, looking everywhere but at the boy. ?Look, James?you?re a McDonald. And, well, I?m a Campbell. In Edinburgh, where you go to school, things might be different, but here,? She glanced up, desperately hoping that he?d understand. ?Well?here, the feud is still going on. The Highlanders, they ? we ? remember things longer. And well?I can?t be friends with you any?? she didn?t finish her sentence.

James? eyes hardened, anger etching itself into his features. His anger was decades old ? not the anger of one child towards another. It was anger that had years to bubble and boil to the surface, like a slow-burning furnace. His eyes hated her, contempt and scorn evident in his entire being.

?I thought you were different. I thought you didn?t care about century old feuds.? He advanced at her, and Emily shuffled backwards, trying to avoid his penetrating stare. He kept coming toward her, as graceful on the branch as a tight walker who?d had centuries to perfect his art. His arms shot out, and he shook her. Emily screamed and knocked him away. He flailed for a second, eyes showing his shock and helplessness. His body hit the ground with a sickening crunch. Emily stood there for a second, panicking, then dropped from the branch and took off at a run.

The hedges rushed past; streaks of white on green. She couldn?t breath. Her lungs were screaming in pain, the breath panting out of her. Her dress was whipping her legs, so she lifted it past her knees and kept running. The hole in the fence was just up here, so close, but if she passed it then she?d have to go back and find it, and all the hedges look alike, and why wasn?t there a gate? But she knew the answer to that; to keep the Campbells out.

Emily gave up, instead scrambling up the Hawthorne hedges. Her dress caught, and she tugged on it. Another ruffle shredded itself on the green claws. She was almost at the house; if she could just make it, she could save James, but, oh God, what if Callum McDonald shot her on sight?

?Mister McDonald!? Emily called, her Scottish brogue ? already barely understandable to outsiders ? thickening itself with her panic. ?Mister McDonald!?

McDonald walked out with a shotgun. ?What is it you want, Emily Campbell? Come to spit on my lawns, like the rest of your cousins??

Emily nearly sobbed; she would have if she hadn?t been so overcome with panic and short breath she could barely think. ?There?s been an accident. Your son. He?s??

?My son? You, girl, are just like your shifty ancestors. But you should at least get your facts straight. I have not, nor will ever have, a son.?

?But Sir, James, your son. He came home from boarding school at Edinburgh??

His face ? so like an older version of James ? twisted into contempt. ?Well, you certainly have done your homework. Listen to me, Emily Campbell, and listen well. If you or any of your relatives ever mention James, and his death ? at Campbell hands, I might mention ?? Emily cringed, ?I will personally see to it that your family never forgets that your Grand mammy killed my brother!?

?I don?t care about your brother!? Emily cried. ?But James just fell out of the tree!?

Callum McDonald grabbed Emily?s arm, his old, twisted fingers digging into her skin. ?Listen to me well, Emily Campbell. I don?t care what sort of delusion you?re under, but I have not, and will never have a son, due to that fact that when I was twelve, my brother fell out of a tree ? because of a Campbell ? and while I was riding to get help, another of your relatives threw a stick into my wheels, and I then fell off and hit the bar on my bike. I have been sterile since that incident, which means, you little liar, that I cannot have children!?

Emily ripped her arm free, then grabbed his wrist and started pulling. ?Look, I can show you. James fell underneath the Mulberry trees. He??

Callum had gone pale. ?You were playing in the Mulberry trees? Don?t ever go near that place again.?

?Why??

?It?s haunted. By my brother?s ghost.?

?By James.?

?Yes,? he whispered, still pale. His eyes were glistening with tears. ?By James.?[/size]
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K. I've an extra fifteen minutes or so, and have no idea if I can cut out 250 words ... but I can give it a shot.
(having finished) There's no way I cut out 250 words. I ended up putting in many suggestions that didn't only have to do with cutting things out, hehe. Be wary of repetition; sometimes you say the same thing a couple of different ways. I don't think I caught all those instances. Good luck!

[center]_____________________________________[/center]

[u][b]Past Tense[/b][/u]

Emily trudged down the narrow lane, [strike]her whole body[/strike] projecting an air of forlorn determination. The ground rolled beneath her gaze, the muddy path weaving after her like a snail?s trail. [strike]The[/strike] green hedges [strike]on either side[/strike] brushed her bare arms as she passed them, almost as if they were real people.

[strike]It was the very beginning of spring[/strike] [color=green]Spring had just begun[/color]; the Hawthorne buds were already blooming. It had rained the night before; the path was muddy and the hedges still held droplets of water in their green depths.

[strike]Emily?s pretty pink dress was already crumpled and untidy;[/strike] the ruffles [color=green]of Emily's pretty pink dress[/color] had long since ripped and shredded themselves on the hedges. [color=green]It wouldn't be long until she reached home, or something more succinct. The next sentence is a little awkward.[/color] [strike]She was about a mile from home, and it wasn?t much longer until she reached her destination.[/strike] When she arrived at the clearing, however, she had to be certain of her footing. While the feud had ended in the Lowlands hundreds of years ago, [strike]up here in the Highlands, the feud was rampant[/strike] [color=green]it was still rampant here in the Highlands[/color].

Her mother had confronted her, face red with rage. ?You, Emily Síne Campbell, are not to consort with a McDonald. A McDonald boy, no less! Do you know what they did to our ancestors, Emily? Have you no family pride??

Emily had stared at the ground. She didn?t understand the [color=green]old[/color] family feuds[strike]; it had happened ages ago[/strike], but the part about family pride did needle at her conscience. She was proud of her roots ? who wouldn?t be? [strike]She loved the Campbell's, and their existence.[/strike] [strike]Nonetheless,[/strike][color=green]But[/color] she was friends with James McDonald. She wouldn?t, however, be friends with him for much longer. If her mother found out she was friends with him, she?d take away Emily?s books.
[color=green]The last three sentences or so are rather awkward together. Don't have time for suggestions, sorry :p[/color]

[strike]So[/strike] [color=green]And now?[/color] Emily walked the path that separated the McDonald and Campbell properties. Callum McDonald ? a widower ? lived on one side of the hedge, while Enid and Kieran Campbell lived on the other. A month ago, Emily had never heard of James McDonald, but [strike]from what he?d told her,[/strike] [color=green]apparently[/color] he?d [color=green]just[/color] come home from boarding school in Edinburgh. When Emily had pointed out that he couldn?t be that bad, really, if he was civil enough to go to Edinburgh, Enid had sniffed that a sane Highlander would never send their children to the lowlands to be educated, and if Callum McDonald was really as posh as that, then she was glad she?d never associated with the likes of him. Emily had given up at that point, and [strike]agreed to tell the boy that she?d not see him again[/strike] [color=green]knew her mother was inexorable: the friendship would have to end ?[/color].

The clearing was just up ahead. She could feel [strike]the[/strike] [color=green]its[/color] tranquillity [strike]of it beginning to[/strike] wash[color=green]ing[/color] over her, like a breeze rolling through the trees. [strike]It was sometimes spooky, the way[/strike] just being in the clearing could [color=green]somehow[/color] make everything in the world [strike]just[/strike] [color=green]seem[/color] perfect. It wasn?t as if the clearing was particularly pretty; except for the occasional wild flowers, there were only high, twisted mulberry trees ? someone?s futile attempt to civilise the region. There was no bench, just the limb of one of the trees that stood like Atlas to the children throughout the decades.

Emily had just scrambled up the branch when she heard James? voice behind her. ?You?re early today.?

?I can?t stay long, which is why I?m early.? She looked around, astonished as always to see him in the middle of the clearing. He was [strike]always there before her,[/strike] always appearing out of nowhere to surprise her. It was [strike]almost[/strike] as if he knew beforehand where she?d be looking[strike], although she always tried to trick him[/strike].

When she peered at him again, his eyes [strike]were sad and taking[/strike] [color=green]had taken[/color] on the lonely cast they?d had when she?d first met him. She smiled; hoping to delay the inevitable [strike]brush off she?d have to give him[/strike]. His eyes brightened to their normal jovial smile, and Emily relaxed. ?Why don?t you climb the tree and see if you can beat me this time? I barely took two seconds.?

James scoffed. ?It was longer than ten seconds. You?re always so slow. [strike]I can climb much faster[/strike],? he boasted, and proceeded to demonstrate his talent. Emily shuffled her body [strike]to one side[/strike] to make room for him. [color=green](Or, you could take out "You're always so slow." There's repetition in his speech, which is probably good, but we are cutting stuff out here :p. Or, you could take out the whole "Can you climb as fast as I?" thing altogether. Hard to say ... it does show their companionship, but isn't too key to the story.)[/color]

They sat silent for a while; Emily swinging her legs, James fiddling with a leaf and staring at her. She became uncomfortable, fingers tracing the once impeccable ruffles of her dress.

?You want to tell me something. What is it??

This was it. Emily bit her lip, looking everywhere but at [strike]the boy[/strike] [color=green]him[/color]. ?Look, James?you?re a McDonald. And, well, I?m a Campbell. In Edinburgh, [strike]where you go to school[/strike], things might be different, but here,? She glanced up, desperately hoping that he?d understand. ?Well?here, the feud is still going on. The Highlanders, they ? we ? remember things longer. And well?I can?t be friends with you any?? she didn?t finish her sentence.

James? eyes hardened, anger etching itself into his features. [color=green]It wasn't the anger of one child towards another, but something decades old.[/color] [strike]His anger was decades old ? not the anger of one child towards another.[/strike] [strike]It was anger[/strike] [color=green]Something[/color] that had years to bubble and boil to the surface, like a slow-burning furnace. His eyes hated her, contempt and scorn evident in his entire being.

?I thought you were different. I thought you didn?t care about century old feuds.? He advanced at her, and Emily shuffled backwards[strike], trying to avoid his penetrating stare[/strike]. He kept coming toward her, as graceful on the branch as [color=green]an experienced[/color] tight walker [strike]who?d had centuries to perfect his art[/strike]. His arms shot out, and he shook her. Emily screamed and knocked him away. He flailed for a second, eyes showing [strike]his[/strike] shock and helplessness. His body hit the ground with a sickening crunch. Emily stood there for a second, panicking, then dropped from the branch and took off at a run.

The hedges rushed past; streaks of [strike]white on[/strike] green. [strike]She couldn?t breath.[/strike] Her lungs were screaming in pain, the breath panting out of her. Her dress was whipping her legs, so she lifted it [strike]past her knees[/strike] and kept running. The hole in the fence was just up here, so close, but if she passed it then she?d have to go back and find it, and all the hedges look alike, and why wasn?t there a gate? But she knew the answer to that; to keep the Campbells out.

Emily gave up, instead scrambling up the Hawthorne hedges. [strike]Her dress caught, and she tugged on it.[/strike] Another ruffle shredded itself on the green claws. She was almost at the house; if she could just make it, she could save James, but, oh God, what if Callum McDonald shot her on sight?

?Mister McDonald!? Emily called, [strike]her Scottish brogue ? already barely understandable to outsiders ? thickening itself with her panic[/strike] [color=green](a nice touch, but costly word-wise)[/color]. ?Mister McDonald!?

McDonald walked out with a shotgun. [color=green](I might make the shotgun a little more exciting: "McDonald walked out, his shotgun live in his hands." Eh, that wasn't great, but you know what I mean.)[/color] ?What is it you want, [strike]Emily[/strike] Campbell? Come to spit on my lawns, like the rest of your cousins??

Emily nearly sobbed; she [strike]would have if she hadn?t been[/strike] [color=green]was[/color] so overcome with panic and short breath she could barely think. ?There?s been an accident. Your son. He?s??

?My son? You, girl, are just like your shifty ancestors. But you should at least get your facts straight. I have not, nor will ever have, a son.?

?But Sir, James, your son. He came home from boarding school at Edinburgh??

His face ? so like an older version of James ? twisted into contempt. ?Well, you certainly have done your homework. Listen to me, Emily Campbell, and listen well. If you or any of your relatives ever mention James, and his death ? at Campbell hands[strike], I might mention [/strike]?? Emily cringed, ?I will personally see to it that your family never forgets that your Grand mammy killed my brother!?

?I don?t care about your brother!? Emily cried. ?But James just fell out of the tree!?

Callum McDonald grabbed Emily?s arm, his old, twisted fingers digging into her skin. ?Listen to me well, Emily Campbell. I don?t care what sort of delusion you?re under, but I have not, and will never have a son, due to that fact that when I was twelve, my brother fell out of a tree ? because of a Campbell ? and while I was riding to get help, another of your relatives threw a stick into my wheels, and I then fell off and hit the bar on my bike. I have been sterile since that incident, which means, you little liar, that I cannot have children!? [color=green]I like his anger, but the second sentence he says is rather long, and doesn't really sound like someone's natural speech. Try seeing how you'd say it if you were just talking to somebody.[/color]

Emily ripped her arm free, then [strike]grabbed his wrist and[/strike] started pulling [color=green]him by his wrist[/color]. ?Look, I can show you. James fell underneath the Mulberry trees. He??

Callum had gone pale. ?You were playing in the Mulberry trees? Don?t ever go near that place again.?

?Why??

?It?s haunted. By my brother?s ghost.?

?By James.?

?Yes,? he whispered, still pale. His eyes were glistening with tears. ?By James."
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[size=1]My teacher has since informed me that she doesn't mind about length, as long as it's over 600 words. So I've taken some of your suggestions -- thank you so much for your help! -- and left some others.

Comments on my rough draft:

[list]
[*] Scots don't wear pink frills, and you wouldn't climb a tree in frills, either.
[*] James needs to be described.
[*] The branch needs to be described.
[*] The scene in the tree needs to be more believable.
[*] What are the ages of Emily and James?
[*] Why are they up a tree to [i]begin[/i] with?
[/list]

Now, in my opinion, Terra's comments were much more helpful, but I've taken into account Mnemolth's suggestions, Terra's suggestions, and my teacher suggestions, and this is my second draft:


[center][b][u]Past Tense[/u][/b][/center]


Emily trudged down the narrow lane, her whole body projecting an air of forlorn determination. The muddy path weaved after her like a snail?s trail. The green hedges on either side brushed her bare arms as she passed them, almost as if they were real people.

Spring had just begun; the Hawthorne buds were already blooming. It had rained the night before; the path was muddy and the hedges still held droplets of water in their green depths.

The blue, black, and green tartan of Emily?s plaid was smudged with dirt, and the hem had long since started to unravel itself on the hedges. She was about a mile from home. It wasn?t much longer until she reached her destination. When she arrived at the clearing, however, she had to be certain of her footing. While the feud had ended in the Lowlands hundreds of years ago, up here in the Highlands, the feud was still rampant.

Her mother had confronted her, face red with rage. ?You, Emily Síne Campbell, are not to consort with a McDonald. A McDonald boy, no less! Do you know what they did to our ancestors, Emily? Have you no family pride??

Emily had stared at the ground. She didn?t understand the old feuds; But the part about family pride did needle at her conscience. She was proud of her roots ? who wouldn?t be?

Nonetheless, she was friends with James McDonald. She wouldn?t, however, be friends with him for much longer. If her mother found out she was still friends with him, she?d take away Emily?s books. James was just like Emily ? he?d understand. He knew how precious Emily?s books were to her. But he also knew the folly of the family feuds. He was sombre and wise, something she assumed he?d picked up from his boarding school.

His clothes were old-fashioned, something that delighted her every time she saw him. He wore trousers, white shirt, braces, and a jacket everyday, no matter what the climate. He spoke of current events, of school competitions, and far away places, like Edinburgh and Glasgow. Emily was rapt. At just 11, she had found her soul mate.

So Emily walked the path that separated the McDonald and Campbell properties. Callum McDonald ? a widower ? lived on one side of the hedges, while Enid and Kieran Campbell lived on the other. A month ago, Emily had never heard of James McDonald, but apparently he?d just come home from boarding school in Edinburgh. When Emily had pointed out to her mother that he couldn?t be that bad, really, if he was civil enough to go to Edinburgh, Enid had sniffed that a proper Highlander would never send their children to the lowlands to be educated, and if Callum McDonald was really as posh as that, then she was glad she?d never associated with the likes of him. Emily had given up at that point, and agreed to tell the boy that she?d not see him again.

The clearing was just up ahead. She could feel its tranquillity washing over her, like a breeze rolling through the trees. Just being in the clearing could make everything in the world seem perfect. It wasn?t as if the clearing was particularly pretty; except for the occasional wild flowers, there were only high, twisted mulberry trees ? someone?s futile attempt to civilise the region. There was no bench, just the limb of one of the trees that stood like a fortress to the children throughout the decades. It protected them from the outside world, from the forces that would tear them apart.

The ?Meeting Branch? was almost 8 metres off the ground. To get there, one had to climb the trunk, and edge themselves up the limb of the tree until it was flat, where one could sit on it. Emily had just scrambled up the branch and adjusted her plaid when she heard James? voice behind her. ?You?re early today.?

?I can?t stay long, which is why I?m early.? She looked around, astonished as always to see him in the middle of the clearing. He was always appearing out of nowhere to surprise her. It was as if he knew beforehand where she?d be looking.

When she peered at him again, his eyes had taken on the lonely cast they?d had when she?d first met him. She smiled; hoping to delay the inevitable. His eyes brightened to their normal jovial smile, and Emily relaxed. ?Why don?t you climb the tree and see if you can beat me this time? I barely took two seconds.?

James scoffed. ?It was more than twenty seconds. You?re always so slow. I can climb much faster,? he boasted, and proceeded to demonstrate his talent. Familiarity had increased his speed, and he shot up the branches. Emily shuffled her body to make room for him.

They sat silent for a while; Emily swinging her legs, James fiddling with a leaf and staring at her. She became uncomfortable, fingers tracing the tartan lines of her kilt.

?You want to tell me something. What is it??

This was it. Emily bit her lip, looking everywhere but at him. ?Look, James?you?re a McDonald. And, well, I?m a Campbell. In Edinburgh, where you go to school, things might be different, but here,? She glanced up, desperately hoping that he?d understand. ?Well?here, the feud is still going on. The Highlanders, they ? we ? remember things longer. And well?I can?t be friends with you any?? she didn?t finish her sentence.

James? eyes hardened, anger etching itself into his features. It wasn?t the anger of one child towards another, but something decades old. Something that had years to bubble and boil to the surface, like a slow-burning furnace. His eyes hated her, contempt and scorn evident in his entire being.

?I thought you were different. I thought you didn?t care about century old feuds.? He advanced, and Emily shuffled backwards. He kept coming toward her, as graceful on the branch as a tight walker who?d had centuries to perfect his art. His arms shot out, and he shook her. Emily screamed and knocked him away. He flailed for a second, eyes showing shock and helplessness. His body hit the ground with a sickening crunch. His neck was bent at an odd angle. Emily stood there for a second, panicking, then scrambled down the tree and took off at a run.

The hedges rushed past; streaks of white on green. She couldn?t breathe. Her lungs were screaming in pain. Her kilt was whipping her legs, so she lifted it and kept running. The hole in the fence was just up here, so close, but if she passed it then she?d have to go back and find it, and all the hedges look alike, and why wasn?t there a gate? But she knew the answer to that; to keep the Campbells out.

Emily gave up, instead scrambling up the Hawthorne hedges. Her hem shredded itself on the green claws. She was almost at the house; if she could just make it, she could save James, but, oh God, what if Callum McDonald shot her on sight?

?Mister McDonald!? Emily called, her Scottish brogue ? already barely understandable to outsiders ? thickening itself with her panic. ?Mister McDonald!?

McDonald walked out, a shotgun live in his hands. ?What is it you want, Emily Campbell? Come to spit on my lawns, like the rest of your cousins??

Emily nearly sobbed; she so overcome with panic and short breath she could barely think. ?There?s been an accident. Your son. He?s??

?My son? You, girl, are just like your shifty ancestors. But you should at least get your facts straight. I have not, nor will ever have, a son.?

?But Sir, James, your son. He came home from boarding school at Edinburgh??

His face ? so like an older version of James ? twisted into contempt. ?Well, you certainly have done your homework. Listen to me, Emily Campbell, and listen well. If you or any of your relatives ever mention James, and his death ? at Campbell hands?? Emily cringed, ?I will personally see to it that your family never forgets that your Grand mammy killed my brother!?

?I don?t care about your brother!? Emily cried. ?But James just fell out of the tree!?

?Listen to me well, Emily Campbell. I don't know what games you're playing at, but you and your family know full well that I do not, that I cannot have a son! Not that that is any of your business! Heed my words, girl. When I was twelve, my brother fell out of a tree ? because of a Campbell. You and your kin know full well that since that day I can no longer have any children! What is this? Are you here to rub further salt into the wound? Are you and your family not satisfied with what you have done?"

The old man shook her violently, filled with anger and hatred.

"What is it girl? What's your game? Tell me!!"

His eyes bored through her soul but Emily remained strong. She ripped her arm free, then started pulling him by the wrist. ?Look, I can show you. James fell underneath the Mulberry trees. He??

Callum had gone pale. ?You were playing in the Mulberry trees? Don?t ever go near that place again.?

?Why??

?It?s haunted. By my brother?s ghost.?

Emily understood suddenly. Why James wore old clothes, why he appeared out of nowhere, how he climbed the tree so well, like he?d had years to practice. ?By James.?

?Yes,? he whispered, still pale. His eyes were glistening with tears. ?By James.?


[center]_________________[/center]

I'm still not happy with my explanitory paragraph: the one that starts with [i]"Listen to me well, Emily Campbell.[/i] It seems jumpy. Any help with that would be greatly appreciated.[/size]
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Emily trudged down the narrow lane, her whole body projecting an air of forlorn determination. The ground rolled beneath her gaze, the muddy path weaving after her like a snail?s trail. The green hedges on either side brushed her bare arms as she passed them, almost as if they were real people.

[COLOR=royalblue] Emily trudged down the narrow lane, her whole body projecting an air of forlorn determination. The ground rolled beneath her gaze, the muddy path weaving after her like a snail?s trail. The green hedges on either side brushed her bare arms as she passed them, as if they were real people.
[/COLOR]

It was the very beginning of spring; the Hawthorne buds were already blooming. It had rained the night before; the path was muddy and the hedges still held droplets of water in their green depths.

[COLOR=royalblue] It was spring; the Hawthorne buds were already blooming. It had rained the night before; the path was muddy and the hedges still held droplets of water in their green depths. [/COLOR]

Emily?s pretty pink dress was already crumpled and untidy; the ruffles had long since ripped and shredded themselves on the hedges. She was about a mile from home, and it wasn?t much longer until she reached her destination. When she arrived at the clearing, however, she had to be certain of her footing. While the feud had ended in the Lowlands hundreds of years ago, up here in the Highlands, the feud was rampant.

[COLOR=royalblue]Emily?s pink dress was already crumpled and untidy; the ruffles had long since ripped and shredded themselves on the hedges. She was about a mile from home, and it wasn?t much longer until she reached her destination. When she arrived at the clearing, however, she had to be certain of her footing. While the feud had ended in the Lowlands hundreds of years ago, up here in the Highlands, the feud was rampant. [/COLOR]

Her mother had confronted her, face red with rage. ?You, Emily Síne Campbell, are not to consort with a McDonald. A McDonald boy, no less! Do you know what they did to our ancestors, Emily? Have you no family pride??

[COLOR=royalblue]Her mother had confronted her, face red with rage. ?You, Emily Síne Campbell, are not to consort with a McDonald. A boy, no less! Do you know what they did to our ancestors, Emily? Have you no family pride??
[/COLOR]

Emily had stared at the ground. She didn?t understand the family feuds; it had happened ages ago, but the part about family pride did needle at her conscience. She was proud of her roots ? who wouldn?t be? She loved the Campbell?s, and their existence. Nonetheless, she was friends with James McDonald. She wouldn?t, however, be friends with him for much longer. If her mother found out she was friends with him, she?d take away Emily?s books.

[COLOR=royalblue]Emily had stared at the ground. She didn?t understand the family feuds; it had happened ages ago, but the part about family pride needled at her conscience. She was proud of her roots ? who wouldn?t be? She loved the Campbell?s, and their existence. Nonetheless, she was friends with James McDonald. She wouldn?t, be friends with him for much longer, if her mother found out she was friends with him, she?d take away Emily?s books. [/COLOR]

So Emily walked the path that separated the McDonald and Campbell properties. Callum McDonald ? a widower ? lived on one side of the hedge, while Enid and Kieran Campbell lived on the other. A month ago, Emily had never heard of James McDonald, but from what he?d told her, he?d come home from boarding school in Edinburgh. When Emily had pointed out that he couldn?t be that bad, really, if he was civil enough to go to Edinburgh, Enid had sniffed that a sane Highlander would never send their children to the lowlands to be educated, and if Callum McDonald was really as posh as that, then she was glad she?d never associated with the likes of him. Emily had given up at that point, and agreed to tell the boy that she?d not see him again.

[I] A month ago, Emily had never heard of James McDonald, but from what he?d told her, he?d come home from boarding school in Edinburgh. When Emily had pointed out that he couldn?t be that bad, really, if he was civil enough to go to Edinburgh, Enid had sniffed that a sane Highlander would never send their children to the lowlands to be educated, and if Callum McDonald was really as posh as that, then she was glad she?d never associated with the likes of him. Emily had given up at that point, and agreed to tell the boy that she?d not see him again.

This doesn't really make any sense, you should consider revising it to make it clearer about who is actually talking. I've read it four times and I still can't seem to pinpoint for sure who it is. It might be James or someone else.
[/I]

The clearing was just up ahead. She could feel the tranquillity of it beginning to wash over her, like a breeze rolling through the trees. It was sometimes spooky; the way just being in the clearing could make everything in the world just perfect. It wasn?t as if the clearing was particularly pretty; except for the occasional wild flowers, there were only high, twisted mulberry trees ? someone?s futile attempt to civilise the region. There was no bench, just the limb of one of the trees that stood like Atlas to the children throughout the decades.

[COLOR=royalblue] The clearing was just up ahead. She could feel it's tranquillity beginning to wash over her, like a breeze rolling through the trees. It was sometimes spooky; the way just being in the clearing could make everything in the world perfect. The clearing was particularly pretty; except for the occasional wild flowers, there were only high, twisted mulberry trees ? someone?s futile attempt to civilize the region. There was no bench, just the limb of one of the trees that stood like Atlas to the children throughout the decades.
[/COLOR]

Emily had just scrambled up the branch when she heard James? voice behind her. ?You?re early today.?

?I can?t stay long, which is why I?m early.? She looked around, astonished as always to see him in the middle of the clearing. He was always there before her, always appearing out of nowhere to surprise her. It was almost as if he knew beforehand where she?d be looking, although she always tried to trick him.

[COLOR=royalblue] ?I can?t stay long, that's why I?m early.? She looked around, astonished as always to see him in the middle of the clearing. He was always there before her, appearing out of nowhere to surprise her. It was as if he knew beforehand where she?d be looking, although she always tried to trick him. [/COLOR]

When she peered at him again, his eyes were sad and taking on the lonely cast they?d had when she?d first met him. She smiled; hoping to delay the inevitable brush off she?d have to give him. His eyes brightened to their normal jovial smile, and Emily relaxed. ?Why don?t you climb the tree and see if you can beat me this time? I barely took two seconds.?

James scoffed. ?It was longer than ten seconds. You?re always so slow. I can climb much faster,? he boasted, and proceeded to demonstrate his talent. Emily shuffled her body to one side to make room for him.

[COLOR=royalblue] James scoffed. ?It was longer than ten seconds. You?re always so slow. I can climb much faster,? he boasted, and proceeded to demonstrate his talent. Emily shuffled her body to one side making room for him.[/COLOR]

They sat silent for a while; Emily swinging her legs, James fiddling with a leaf and staring at her. She became uncomfortable, fingers tracing the once impeccable ruffles of her dress.

?You want to tell me something. What is it??

This was it. Emily bit her lip, looking everywhere but at the boy. ?Look, James?you?re a McDonald. And, well, I?m a Campbell. In Edinburgh, where you go to school, things might be different, but here,? She glanced up, desperately hoping that he?d understand. ?Well?here, the feud is still going on. The Highlanders, they ? we ? remember things longer. And well?I can?t be friends with you any?? she didn?t finish her sentence.

[COLOR=royalblue]This was it. Emily bit her lip, looking everywhere but at James. ?Look, James?you?re a McDonald. And, well, I?m a Campbell. In Edinburgh, where you go to school, things might be different, but here,? She glanced up, desperately hoping that he?d understand. ?Well?here, the feud is still going on. The Highlanders, they ? we ? remember things longer. And well?I can?t be friends with you any?? she didn?t finish her sentence.
[/COLOR]

James? eyes hardened, anger etching itself into his features. His anger was decades old ? not the anger of one child towards another. It was anger that had years to bubble and boil to the surface, like a slow-burning furnace. His eyes hated her, contempt and scorn evident in his entire being.

?I thought you were different. I thought you didn?t care about century old feuds.? He advanced at her, and Emily shuffled backwards, trying to avoid his penetrating stare. He kept coming toward her, as graceful on the branch as a tight walker who?d had centuries to perfect his art. His arms shot out, and he shook her. Emily screamed and knocked him away. He flailed for a second, eyes showing his shock and helplessness. His body hit the ground with a sickening crunch. Emily stood there for a second, panicking, then dropped from the branch and took off at a run.

[COLOR=royalblue]?I thought you were different, thought you didn?t care about century old feuds.? He advanced at her, Emily shuffled backwards, trying to avoid his penetrating stare. He kept coming toward her, as graceful on the branch as a tight walker who had centuries to perfect his art. His arms shot out, and shook her. Emily screamed and knocked him away. He flailed for a second, his eyes showing shock and helplessness. James hit the ground with a sickening crunch. Emily stood there for a second, panicking, then dropped from the branch and took off at a run. [/COLOR]

The hedges rushed past; streaks of white on green. She couldn?t breathe. Her lungs were screaming in pain, the breath panting out of her. Her dress was whipping her legs, so she lifted it past her knees and kept running. The hole in the fence was just up here, so close, but if she passed it then she?d have to go back and find it, and all the hedges look alike, and why wasn?t there a gate? But she knew the answer to that; to keep the Campbells out.

[COLOR=royalblue]The hedges rushed past; streaks of white on green. She couldn?t breathe. Her lungs, screaming in pain, the breath panting out of her. Her dress was whipping her legs, so she lifted it past her knees and kept running. The hole in the fence was just up ahead, so close, but if she passed it then she?d have to go back and find it. All the hedges looked alike. Why wasn?t there a gate? Emily knew the answer to that; to keep the Campbells out. [/COLOR]

Emily gave up, instead scrambling up the Hawthorne hedges. Her dress caught, and she tugged on it. Another ruffle shredded itself on the green claws. She was almost at the house; if she could just make it, she could save James, but, oh God, what if Callum McDonald shot her on sight?

[COLOR=royalblue] Emily gave up, instead scrambling up the Hawthorne hedges. Her dress caught, Emily tugged on it. Another ruffle shredded itself on green claws. She was almost to the house, if she could make it, she could save James. But, oh God, what if Callum McDonald shot her on sight? [/COLOR]

?Mister McDonald!? Emily called, her Scottish brogue ? already barely understandable to outsiders ? thickening itself with her panic. ?Mister McDonald!?

[COLOR=royalblue] ?Mister McDonald!? Emily called, her Scottish brogue ? already hardly understandable to outsiders ? thickening with panic. ?Mister McDonald!? [/COLOR]

McDonald walked out with a shotgun. ?What is it you want, Emily Campbell? Come to spit on my lawns, like the rest of your cousins??

[COLOR=royalblue]McDonald walked out with a shotgun. ?What do you want, Emily Campbell? To spit on my lawns, like your cousins?? [/COLOR]

Emily nearly sobbed; she would have if she hadn?t been so overcome with panic and short breath she could hardly think. ?There?s been an accident. Your son. He?s??

?My son? You, girl, are just like your shifty ancestors. But you should at least get your facts straight. I have not, nor will I ever have, a son.?

?But Sir, James, your son. Came home from boarding school at Edinburgh??

His face ? so like an older version of James ? twisted into contempt. ?Well, you certainly have done your homework. Listen to me, Emily Campbell, and listen well. If you or any of your relatives ever mention James, and his death ? at Campbell hands, I might mention ?? Emily cringed, ?I will personally see to it that your family never forgets that your Grand mammy killed my brother!?

[COLOR=royalblue]His face ? so like an older version of James ? twisted into contempt. ?Well, you certainly have done your homework. Now, listen to me, Emily Campbell, listen well. If you or any of your relatives ever mention James, his death ? at Campbell hands, might I mention ?? Emily cringed, ?I'll personally see to it that your family never forgets that your Grand mammy killed my brother!?
[/COLOR]

?I don?t care about your brother!? Emily cried. ?James just fell out of the tree!?

Callum McDonald grabbed Emily?s arm, his old, twisted fingers digging into her skin. ?Listen to me, Emily Campbell. I don?t care what sort of delusion you?re under, but I have not, and will never have a son, due to that fact that when I was twelve, my brother fell out of a tree ? because of a Campbell ? while I was riding to get help, another of your relatives threw a stick into my wheels, I then fell forward and hit the bar on my bike. I have since been sterile, which means, you little liar, that I can't have children!?

Emily ripped her arm free, then grabbed his wrist and started pulling. ?Look, I can show you. James fell under the Mulberrys. He??

Callum had gone pale. ?You were playing in the Mulberry trees? Don?t ever go near that place again.?

?Why??

?It?s haunted, by my brother?s ghost.?

?By James??

?Yes,? he whispered, still pale. His eyes were glistening with tears. ?By James.?


I don't know how much help that was...I didn't want to change the story too much by making it different and changing sentence structures and all....I basically went through and shortened sentences and rearranged some words... One paragraph should be rewritten to convey a better message of who's speaking and to whom, but it's a great story and I didn't want to change it too much....Sara
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