To Die, To Sleep is very close to the end, so I think I'm going to have to go back and add a lot in places. It's much too short to be a YA novel, and it needs to be about double the length it is now.
Now...would y'all like an excerpt of To Die, To Sleep? Since I'm guessing the answer is yes, here's one of my favorite scenes:
Violet watched out of the corner of her eye as her father and Grant’s uncle hastened behind the mirrored wall panel. As Grant entered, she could hear him muttering to himself so she quickly hid on the second stairway that led up to the balcony. She couldn’t confront him yet; her nerves had taken over. If she moved into his line-of-sight now, she would surely mess up the whole scheme.
Grant stood in the center of the lobby and looked around. He crossed to the grand staircase and began a slow ascent. Violet ducked back even further.
“‘To be…or not to be…’” Grant said. “‘That is the question.’ Is it nobler to endure life’s pains, or to fight against them in hopes of overcoming them? To die…to sleep, nothing more. But, if by sleep, we could end heartache and other daily anxieties that humans suffer, it would be warmly welcomed. ‘To die, to sleep/To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub.’”
“He’s positively mad,” Violet murmured, already beginning to mourn the loss of Grant. She missed his poetry, his laugh, and his grin. He hadn’t smiled in so long. She missed running lines with him, and their last minute rituals before a performance, and their good luck charm, a giant stuffed penguin they’d named Guildenstern. Grant had won Guildenstern at a carnival when they were in middle school, and they’d named him the first time they’d seen Hamlet.
Grant was still talking. “Those dreams we might have during the sleep of death must make us take pause. They are what make us tolerate suffering for so long. Who would bear this world’s torments—the tyrant’s injustice, vanity’s rudeness, the pain of unrequited love, law’s delay, and the insults the innocent suffer—when one could settle everything with a mere blade?” Grant reached into his pocket and pulled out his dagger. Violet had to cover a gasp. She readied herself to rush forward and stop him, but Grant made no motion to injure himself. “Who would continue to bear such a burden, if not for the dread of something after death? Death is an unexplored country from where no traveler ever returns. It makes us hesitant and causes the choice of troubles in this life. Our intelligence makes us cowards, and determination takes on a sickly complexion. This process causes endeavors of even the highest importance to lose their momentum.”
Violet decided she could wait no longer. She tucked the things from Grant into her jacket pocket. She flipped to a random page in her book—she’d read The Soul’s Dark Forest so many times, it didn’t matter where she started—and began slowly descending the steps. It was show time.
“Shut up!” Grant muttered to himself. “The fair Violet is here.”
He met her at the foot of the stairs, and she looked up from her book. Both attempted cordial smiles. Both failed miserably.
“How are you today?” Violet managed to ask.
Grant pulled her to him. She squeaked in surprise but reflexively hugged him back. She missed his hugs, too. Vi was the first to let go, though. She had to be strong.
“Grant, I have things of yours I’ve wanted to return for quite some time,” she said, reaching in her pocket for some letters first. “Would you take them now?”
Grant’s expression froze over. “No. I never gave you anything.”
Violet was confused. “But, you know very well you did. They were given together with fragrant sentiments, like the flowers I tend in my greenhouse. But their perfume has faded, so take these presents back instead.” She was slowly becoming hysterical. “Look, I also have the four bracelets with Shakespeare quotes you gave me for my birthday, and I dried the corsage you gave me for homecoming this year, and here’s the book on horticulture you gave me just because, and the violet charm necklace, and—”
“Is that so?” Grant said callously. Then he asked, “Are you chaste?”
Violet, practically in tears, was startled. “Pardon?”
“Are you beautiful?”
“What do you mean by that?” Violet exclaimed.
“Well, if you are both chaste and beautiful, your chastity should protect your beauty,” he intoned. “But beauty can easily corrupt chastity. Once upon a time this was unthinkable, but now there’s living proof.”
Vi turned away so Grant wouldn’t see her crying. He was being unnecessarily cruel. Then he said something that crushed her even more.
“I loved you once.”
She turned back and looked Grant square in the eye, despite her tears.
“You made me believe you did,” she responded.
He shrugged nonchalantly. “You shouldn’t have. That wasn’t love.”
“I was certainly deceived,” Violet said, holding her head high.
“You should become a nun. Otherwise you’ll give birth to sinners,” Grant sneered. “I’m reasonably moral, but I’m guilty of so many things that my mother ought to never have had me. I’m proud, vengeful, and ambitious. And like every human, I have more potential for wrongdoing than I can imagine. What right do scoundrels like me have to life? We are all wretches. Don’t believe any of us. Get yourself to a convent.”
Grant grabbed Violet suddenly by her arm. She squeaked and dropped her book. There was a scuffling sound up the right staircase to the balcony, and Grant looked around, his eyes narrowing. Violet was confused; she had no idea who could be up there.
“Where’s your father?” he asked.
“At home,” she replied, her voice trembling.
“You should lock him up there so he won’t be the subject of public embarrassment. I’ll go now,” said Grant, releasing his grip.
Violet crumpled to the ground at the top of the stairs. She hugged her knees to her chest and stared after him. When Grant reached the foot of the stairs, he glanced back. His eyes were wide and unhinged.
“Oh, God, help him!” she whispered.