As promised, I am posting my rewrite of scene 1. Here is the original:
“Tell her, David,” a faint whisper resonated in his ear, rousing David Rice from sleep. Rubbing the sand from his eyes, he searched the room for the owner of the voice. The corners were dimly lit from a streetlamp outside, but nothing seemed out of place. His room in the boarding house was sparse, containing only a writing desk, a typewriter, his bed and a wardrobe overstuffed so that the doors hung ajar, a single sleeve peeking through the crack as though an invisible man was climbing out.
A glance toward the single window revealed that the pouring rain changed into snow. “Maybe that’s what woke me,” he muttered to no one. The room was empty. Must have dreamed it. But who is her? What am I meant to say? Shaking his head to clear it, he dropped back onto his pillow and closed his eyes.
By sun up, the snowdrift climbed up the window pane. Padding over to the glass, David peered out. Wind drove the snow down and around in circles so that he saw only white. Shrugging, he pulled on a pair of trousers that spent the night draped over his desk chair, revealing threadbare upholstery. He released a shirt from his wardrobe and added an ascot, tying it while his gaze searched the room for his waistcoat, which hung faithfully on the wall, along with his bowler hat. Dressed as well as he ever bothered, David left his room and descended the steps in the corridor.
“Good morning, Mrs. Harrison. Breakfast smells good today.”
“It’s just toast, Mr. Rice. We’re saving what we can, what with the snow.”
David nodded and sat in the only remaining seat around the scrubbed-wood table, which was busy with other boarders. David knew almost all of them. Mr. Barrow, a man with a bulbous nose, was a journalist who reported for The New York Times. Tommy Smith pushed toasted bread into his already-stuffed mouth. He never combed his hair, but David didn’t much care. Miss Walker, a woman of nineteen, attended the normal school down the street. They often talked at length about her plans to become a teacher. Even snowed in, her hair was impeccable—pulled back into a tight bun at the back of her head. For a moment, he watched her eat, slowly and deliberately.
Then there was the stranger. Hunched over a cup of black coffee, the tawny-haired man was balding on top of his head. His eyebrows were bushy and his face clean shaven. His shoulders rolled forward, hands clasped protectively about the mug. David couldn’t see his eyes, but they seemed lost in the coffee.
“What’s your name? I’m David Rice.”
The stranger looked up, and David wished he hadn’t. The man’s eyes were cold—the color of steel. “McCullough,” he answered with a brogue.
“And what do you do, Mr. McCullough?” David bit off the corner of a piece of buttered toast and accepted his own cup of coffee from Mrs. Harrison.
“Any paying job.” McCullough delivered his reply as though shooting each word from a pistol.
Here is my rewrite (things are going to happen in a slightly different order):
A sigh hissed past David Rice’s lips as he rested his forehead against the cold glass. Beyond his blue-eyed reflection, he watched an assault of rain drops lay siege to the window. No stroll with Miss Walker today, he lamented, pushing away from the window to shrug off his wool coat. He dropped it onto a hook adorning the otherwise sparse wall, and topped it off with his bowler.
Frowning into the mirror that hung, lopsided, on the back of the door, David attempted to press his hair down. It was no use. A host of cowlicks that plagued him since childhood were as unruly as ever, shooting his straight, sandy hair in every direction. At least she’s already seen me like this. Both he and Miss Walker, boarders in the three-story brownstone, were well acquainted, but he could never bring himself to call her by her given name, Sarah. Despite the fact that he walked with her–eighteen blocks to the normal school where she was studying to become a teacher–when the weather permitted, his heart still raced when he thought of the prospect of calling her “Sarah.” On days such as this, Miss Walker always took a carriage. If I stop dawdling, I might at least see her at breakfast.
David took the stairs two at a time. He stumbled on the last step, but managed to catch his balance, stopping short in the face of a stranger.
“That would have been a nasty fall.” The words lilted from the man who stood in the foyer, shedding a soaking wet jacket. The wool was thin and worn in places so that David could almost see through it. The Irishman was tall–almost a head taller than David, and wore a mustache. His brown hair was receding, accentuating his already prominent forehead. David entertained the thought that were the man’s eyes set deeper, he might resemble a mole. Without intending to, he stared at the stranger.
“Erm,” he furrowed his eyebrows, unable to look away. The man’s steel eyes fixed on him; David’s shoulders slumped under the weighted gaze.
“I’m McCullough,” the man offered his hand. ”I’m looking for Mrs. Harrison.”
David shook in greeting, stammering out his own introduction before clearing his throat. He stood at his full height and asked in a clear voice, “How did you get into the house?” Mrs. Harrison, the landlady, was strict about keeping the door locked.
“A young lady,” McCullough dragged his eyes away from David long enough to glance up toward the ceiling, “Sarah Walker, she said her name was, let me in as she was leaving. Perhaps she took pity on my drenched state.” He smiled a half-smile.
I’m too late! ”Ah,” was all David answered for the moment, before looking down the long corridor that led to the kitchen. ”Is she expecting you? Mrs. Harrison, I mean.”
“I dare say so. I’m renting here now.” McCullough followed David’s eyes. ”Is she down that hallway…?”
David nodded. ”In the kitchen, probably,” he muttered over his shoulder as he turned to lead the way. Not once did he look back to see if McCullough was following him. Instead he just walked into the kitchen and sank into a chair on one side of the scrubbed-oak table.
McCullough isn’t as gruff and David’s a little more moody, but overall I’m pleased with the rewrite thus far. I’m hoping to continue it some tonight–if I manage another scene, I’ll be happy.