Monday, October 11, 2010

The Proposal (con't)


October 19

Chapter Six

“I don’t know if this is such a good idea,” Ann said the next morning. She looked up from the copy of Russell’s proposal and gave Theo a troubled smile. “If abortions can cause breast cancer, why isn’t anyone talking about it? This guy writes fiction, Theo. How do you know he didn’t invent all this?”

Ann didn’t seem to realize what she held in her hands.

Theo sighed. “His material has the ring of truth,” she answered, leaning across the kitchen table toward Ann. “The best fiction is based on fact, Ann, that’s why the guy’s first book sold about a million copies. Besides, in the proposal Russell has quoted two real people, a doctor and a lawyer here in Washington. If I can confirm what they told him—”

“How are you going to do that?” Ann demanded, dropping the proposal onto the table. “You can’t just call them up and say, `Excuse me, but I found your name in this outline I stole and now I want to write about you.’“

Theo frowned. “I didn’t steal it. Janet Fischer practically dumped it in my lap.”

“Only because she thought it belonged to you.”

“But I’m not using Russell’s novel plot. In fact, I could put that proposal in an envelope right now and start my research from scratch. But that would take forever, so I’m going to jot down a few of his facts before I return his proposal. Facts can’t be copyrighted, they belong to everybody.”

“Would you want someone to use facts that were part of your hot new idea?”

Theo bit her lip, then shook her head. “I wouldn’t care. If I were as successful as Theo Marshall Russell, I wouldn’t give two hoots if some minor leaguer got a hold of my facts and used them to break in. I’m no threat to him, Ann. And the book I want to write is nothing like his, could never be like his. But this is a hot topic, and if his research is accurate, this could make a difference for millions of women—and be my big break.”

Ann moved to the coffeepot and poured herself another cup. “I just think you ought to reconsider. You’re almost out of money and time, so you’re risking everything on someone else’s work. Why not write something of your own?”

“I can make this my own, Ann. Janette, my mom, my aunt Jean—all women in my family, all with breast cancer. And Mom and Aunt Jean are dead.”

Ann shook her head as she stirred cream into her coffee. “I don’t know, Theo. Have you prayed about this?”

“I think maybe God had it fall into my lap. Stranger things have happened, you know. I didn’t really do anything deceitful.”

“But do you really think a big company like Howarth House is going to publish a book that’s going to come down hard against abortion? Most of those people won’t share your pro-life perspective.”

“I’ve thought about that,” Theo said, watching the steam rise from her coffee cup. “A lot. But truth is truth, Ann, no matter what its source. If abortion is causing breast cancer, my personal feelings about unborn life are irrelevant. They aren’t going to change the truth. And Janet Fischer, and probably a host of other editors, are ready to buy the book based on its relevance to women’s health issues.”

Ann pulled out a chair and sat across the table from her friend. Warming her hands on her mug, she wrinkled her brow in the thoughtful expression Theo knew well. “If you don’t sell this idea,” she said finally, “we’ll all be stuck. In three months I’ll need a job; I really should start looking for one now. I’ve got to think of Bethany—teenagers are expensive, you know.”

Theo’s blood thickened with guilt. She’d been so busy thinking about her work, her book, that she’d forgotten that others depended on her, too. “I’m sorry, Ann,” she whispered. “But I really think I’m supposed to do this. I know I am.” She ran her hand through her hair. “I’ve been doing everything I can to break in, and from out of nowhere this happens. It’s like God dropped this project into my lap, with a hungry editor attached. Howarth House will buy my book in a minute if it’s any good.” She softened her voice. “If you want to look for another job, I’ll understand. But this is my last chance. I’m going to set Janet Fischer straight, return Russell’s proposal, and then write a truthful nonfiction book so good it’ll blow Janet Fischer right out of her chair. But I’ve only got three months, Ann, and I could really use your help.” She glanced toward Stacy, who had emptied the cupboard and now played happily on the floor with Theo’s mismatched collection of Tupperware.

Ann arched her brows into twin triangles, then gave Theo a hesitant smile over her coffee cup. “I guess I should be glad for you. I mean, I’m gainfully employed as long as you’re writing, right?”

“Right,” Theo answered, rising from the table. “As long as I’m writing, neither of us has to look for a day job.”

“And if for some reason things don’t go the way you hope, you’ll help me write a resume?”

Theo felt the flicker of a smile rise from the edges of her mouth. “I’ll write resumes for both of us. But hopefully, it won’t come to that.”

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