Truth and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

This post today includes a collection of deleted scenes, the purpose of which is to emphasize my plea.

It’s not a plea for anything tangible or monetary. It’s a plea to everyone out there in the social media universe.

Can we stop weaponizing our opinions?

With every controversial issue out there, there are at least two sides. These two sides often have access to the same data, yet they come to completely different conclusions. So perhaps, instead of climbing up onto the soap box of our opinion and taking aim at anyone who disagrees, we could each try to be a little better about standing in the middle of the issues first. When we encounter debate, controversy, or issue, I hope we can take the time to look at all sides before carting ourselves off to one extreme or the other. I’m not asking that we all stay in the middle. Making informed decisions and holding informed opinions is a good thing. But I truly believe that the exercise of taking a few minutes to honestly consider the other sides would be a game changer in the way that we interact with one another. It would promote understanding and sympathy. We would be far less inclined to think someone is a bad person for simply holding a different view than us. It might even force us into the humble conclusion that we were wrong about something we’ve been defending our entire lives—whether it’s a political issue, a debate over the way we parent, the way we educate, etc.

It’s easy and natural to see the world from the perspective of the life we’ve lived, but putting on blinders and deciding that our view is the only legitimate view is flawed and short sighted.

Will we lose anything by considering a different point of view? I would say no. Even if we determine that the other point of view is just flat-out wrong, at least we will have gained a bit of understanding that will allow us to be a little kinder, a little slower to judge, a little slower to hate, a little slower to take offense.

This collection of scenes is an admittedly flawed example, especially when comparing it to two-sided issues where both sides have legitimate reasons for choosing their side. However, I do think it’s a good example of the way that we can all look at the same set of facts and draw completely different conclusions.

These scenes are from Keeping Kinley. They come from an alternate storyline that I pursued for a while before deciding that I didn’t want to delve into the subject matter that it presented.

You may recognize the beginning of the first scene because it remained the same in the final draft. This is when Kinley is visiting with Gavin and Ella, returning the book that she borrowed, which Jayden ruined and Rylan repaired.


“Jayden is a menace,” Gavin muttered as he studied the book and how it had been repaired. “Who fixed this? Obviously you can still see the damage, but I’m impressed with how well it was done.”

“A friend of mine offered to repair it.”

He raised one doubtful eyebrow at me. “How many friends do you know that appreciate books enough to know anything at all about repairing them?”

“Only one that I know of.”

He looked at me with a lopsided smile. “Who is he, Kinley?”

I twisted my lips to the side and wrinkled my nose at him. “What makes you think it’s a he?”

“Oh, it’s definitely a he,” Ella stated. “Come now, he’s clearly important to you. Are you friends, or is he paying you special attention?”

I fussed with my crazed curls, searching for the words to explain. “We are friends, and I think he wants to pay me special attention,” I admitted, though my neck felt hot when I said it out loud.

Gavin sat back and whistled. “What does Fynn think of him?”

“I don’t want Fynn to scare him off.”

Gavin laughed. “Fair enough. He must be gentry though, to have the skill and time to do this sort of work.” He tapped the cover of the book.

“Actually, his father is a lord.”

If possible, Gavin looked even more curious than before. “What is his name?”

“Rylan, or Rylander Baylor. Remember I used to work for the Baylors?” I gave him a meaningful look. “He’s the reason I can read.” He must remember the boy who had given us both a chance to learn.

Recognition came quickly to Gavin’s eyes, but instead of pleasant recognition, his face grew cold and angry. “Rylander Baylor has rekindled your friendship?” he asked through clenched teeth.

“Yes,” I admitted, confused by his reaction. “He’s…been very helpful.” I looked back and forth between Gavin’s burning anger and Ella’s face, which had fallen in disappointment or sadness or worry. “He’s always kind and solicitous.” Surely they couldn’t object to me spending time with someone so very human. A man who didn’t seem to care one whit that I was below him in station.

Gavin got to his feet, tension rolling off of him. “I’m certain he is,” he said caustically.

Ella reached out to touch his hand. “Gavin. Getting angry won’t help.”

He ran his hands through his hair, trying to listen to his wife’s soothing.

“It won’t help what?” I asked as a bit of panic settled in my chest. “What’s wrong?”

“Kinley, dear.” Ella took both of my hands, and my worry grew. “We are familiar with Rylander Baylor. He is considered, at the very least, to be an odd young man.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being odd,” I defended.

“Of course not, but that’s the very least of it.” Her eyes held pity for me.

“He keeps a mistress,” Gavin blurted.

“A mistress?” I whispered. But that couldn’t be right. There must be some sort of misunderstanding. Rylan was good. He was curious and knowledgeable. He had shared his tea tray with me and taught me to read when I was nothing but a kitchen maid. He had fixed my book and helped me harvest and carved little wax flowers for me.

“And not a sweet young love affair,” Gavin continued, his tone bitter and accusing, “but a kept woman, a commoner, whom he refuses to marry, and with whom he has fathered a child.”

I couldn’t breathe. A child? He had a child? He kept some woman, some common woman just like me, hidden away while he played the young hero, the dashing nobleman who helped me pick fruit? It didn’t make sense. How could it be true? “How do you know this?” I asked, hoping against hope that I would be able to explain it all away.

“Everyone knows. It’s not as though he is discreet about it. He’s a foolish young man, arrogant in the extreme to believe that he can just pay regular visits to a commoner and not have the world know his shame.”

I didn’t want to believe it. How could I believe it of the man I knew? Yet, it made sense. Why he would be in the village on market day, wearing that ridiculous outfit. Why he would happen upon the village dance in his finery. No doubt he had gone to be with his paramour in the village and decided to toy with me at the same time. I shut my eyes in humiliation at the thought.

I stood and walked away, feeling used and discarded. I bit down on the tip of my finger to keep from screaming, hoping the pain would distract me from the betrayal.

He had a lover and a child. A woman he kept in the village. It was despicable. 

I cried myself to sleep that night after taking his little wax carvings and throwing them in the fire.

***

Rylan came the very next day. I had been working hard all morning, pouring my anger into my labors in the hopes that I could ignore him if he showed up. However, the moment we entered the orchard, I felt it. I knew he was behind me before he said anything at all.

“Please go,” I said, my voice tight.

“Are you not feeling well?”

“I am perfectly fit,” I said, ripping a plum from its branch. “I just do not want you to be here.”

There was silence, heavy with confusion as I kept to my work.

“Might I come back tomorrow?” he finally asked.

I backed down the ladder and dumped my apron before looking at him. “No. I do not want you to come back at all.” I turned away, hoping he would just leave.

Instead he took hold of my arm. “Kinley—”

I tore my arm away, spinning around to pin him with a livid stare.

He looked so shocked, almost vulnerable. “What…? I don’t understand. Tell me what’s happened.”

“I do not wish to have you paying special attention to me, when you already have a child.”

His chin pulled back and his brow furrowed deeply. “I’m not even nineteen years old, Kinley.”

“As if that’s too young to make a child.”

He sighed in exasperation. “You’re right, it’s not too young. But this is me you’re accusing. I had hoped you knew me a little better than that.” He had the audacity to sound offended.

“Do I really know you at all? You’ve had five full years to grow up and become a man, and I know nothing about it. I’m sure there is plenty that has happened in your life that I’d rather not know.”

“You can know everything about my life,” he said, tossing his hands in the air. “I have nothing to hide and nothing to be embarrassed by.”

“Yet you’re hiding a child.”

He threw up his arms. “I don’t have a child!”

“Then why is it summarily agreed upon that you do?”

“Agreed upon by whom?”

“The whole of society. Is that why you did not wish to meet Gavin and Ella that day in the market? Everyone knows there is a woman tucked away in the village whom you visit regularly, whom you support, along with her babe.”

He fell back a step. “Good glory, Kinley. Listening to rumors, are you?”

“Try to deny it!” I was tired of this dance. I wanted him to just admit it and go. 

“Yes! There is a woman whom I visit, whom I support and see to her welfare along with her child.” He said it with such confidence, as if it was nothing, as if he were proud of it. “I felt it my duty when I found that my brother had shunned his mistress the moment he became aware of her condition.”

But…What?

He flung a finger in the direction of the village. “That innocent child is my niece. And no matter what the rumor mongers might say, I’m not going to abandon her and her mother just to save my own reputation. That would make me no better than my brother.” He turned his back on me, taking several steps away before turning back with a fury blanketing his face that was so foreign, I hardly recognized him. “Society and all your opinions can hang!” He strode away, his angry steps cutting through my orchard like some sort of wildcat. 

I stood there in a stupor, and he was gone before I could think to call him back. My knees gave out and I sank to the ground. Part of me was elated to know that it had been all a misunderstanding, that he was as good—better even—than I had believed. But the other part of me heaved in panic and grief as I realized what I had done. I had believed him capable of horrible things and I had thrown them in his face even when he denied over and over that they were true.

I probably knew him better than anyone else, and yet I had acted just like every other judgmental person around me.

I dug the heels of my hands into my eyes and heaved a sob.

***

Gavin came to check on me two days later. I knew that was the purpose of his visit because he came directly to the shed and leaned in the doorway, watching as I loaded apples into barrels for several moments before he spoke. “How are you?”

How indeed. I paused in my work, resting my hands on my hips as I stared down into the barrel. I had been angry at Gavin and his presumptions yesterday, but today I felt nothing but disappointment in myself.

“Kinley?” he prompted.

“I realize you were just looking out for me.” I finally looked up at him. “But you were wrong.”

Gavin’s look was pitying. “I know you want to believe the best of people. But sometimes even those we care about the most disappoint us. Multiple people have seen him with this woman. Many people have reported that he does in fact support her. Are you saying that everyone is lying?”

“No.” I gave a shrug and a shake of my head. “It’s all true.”

“Then how am I wrong?”

“Everyone took the pieces of truth that they had and came up with a story that made those pieces fit together. Then they called that story truth. But that’s not how truth works.”

“Then tell me a different story that makes sense. If everything that people say they’ve seen is true, then what other truth could there be?”

“His brother is a good-for-nothing philanderer who seduced a young commoner, then abandoned her when he discovered that she carried his child,” I said in a monotone, though my voice strained with emotion. “When Rylan found out about it, he took it upon himself to look after her, to make sure that his niece was cared for and safe.” My breath heaved as my grief and regret started to consume me. “That is the truth.”

*END*

So what do you all think? Have I convinced anyone to consider a different side? Is this something you do already? How do you think social media has affected the way that we interact with one another?

 

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One thought on “Truth and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

  1. Mrs. Larsen,

    I have loved your series “The Books of Dalthia” ever since I first started reading them, and I re-read them over and over again–they never get old. You write with such a freshness and vivacity that I really admire, and hope I too can write as you do someday!

    I really enjoyed reading this deleted scene from Keeping Kinley. It adds an enticing twist to the story I didn’t expect, but completely agree with. You should never develop an opinion of someone based off first impressions or gossip!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such amazing stories! They are utterly fantastic.

    I wish you luck in the writing of your future novels!

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