Below is a conversation I cut from a draft of my manuscript. This deleted scene is really backstory. It gives you an idea about the events that shaped Cora, Sophia, Aunt Ferna, and even Oliver.

Aunt Ferna has taken Cora out to a restaurant for her birthday dinner. This restaurant has a live feed of that Martian landscape. Just before this scene, Cora reflected on the day her sister Sophia attacked her. Cora and her sister are both Askovian, which means they have special abilities. In their case, they can both sense other people’s emotions, but Sophia can also manipulate other people’s feelings.

Cora starts the conversation, regretting that she couldn’t be more like Sophia.

“If I’d been stronger, my parents wouldn’t have sent me away,” Cora reflected, flashing back to a sunny day when she was five and Sophia thirteen. Cora burst into the sunroom and spied her mom and Sophia. “Mom, mom. Guess what I saw in the garden?”

Slowing her steps, Cora eventually stopped as she felt waves of Sophia’s rage crashing toward her. The waves of fury and hatred washed over her, filling her mind. She was drowning in an ocean of bitterness and pain. She opened her mouth to cry out for help, but it was too late—her world went black. A few weeks later, her parents packed her off to boarding school, explaining it was for her protection, but it always felt like a punishment.

“When your parents sent you away, you’d done nothing wrong. They just didn’t know what to do about Sophia,” Aunt Ferna sighed. “They struggled to raise a very headstrong and powerful Askovian. And they needed to keep you safe from her.”

“What were you saying earlier about more to the story?” Cora asked.

“Oh, yes. Where to start…,” Aunt Ferna began, surveying the leftover food on her plate. “On the day Sophia attacked you, she also attacked my Oliver.” She sighed, and sadness crossed her face. “Oliver’s attack happened earlier that morning. Sophia and Oliver used to have regular social sessions together. They were both very powerful and a little wild. Most parents were too frightened to leave their children alone with either of them.” She took a sip of wine.

“Anyway, on that particular day,” Aunt Ferna continued. “They got into a fight which escalated to them both using their abilities. Neither I nor Oliver’s dad have any abilities—we were powerless to stop the fight.”

“That must’ve been so frightening,” Cora shivered. “I’ve been on the receiving end of Sophia’s abilities. It’s quite painful.”

“Yes. In this case, she nearly killed Oliver before your mom arrived and stopped Sophia. Oliver needed special doctors for weeks after.”

“Never thought I’d feel sorry for Oliver,” Cora said with a frown as she’d been one of Oliver’s victims in the past.

“The EGS is quite strict about dangerous Askovians,” Aunt Ferna said. “They would’ve taken her away to one of their facilities. So, your mom, dad, Oliver’s dad, and I hid evidence of any fighting and kept both Sophia and Oliver under strict surveillance. Your parents sent you to boarding school, and we all paid another Askovian to watch Oliver during the day.”

“I can’t believe it,” Cora blinked back tears of betrayal. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It was your mom’s idea,” Aunt Ferna said in a quiet voice. “I could never go against her.” After a moment of silence. “I’m so sorry, dear.”

“All these years, I thought my parents punished me for being weak,” Cora said in a shaky voice. “I really was in danger from Sophia.”

“Yes, dear,” Aunt Ferna picked at the food on her plate. “Your mom thought we shouldn’t tell you for your own safety. If you accidentally told the wrong person, the EGS would round up Sophia and you.”

“You’ve no idea how much being sent away hurt,” Cora said with an edge. Then her face suddenly fell, and she sighed. “The thing is, my parents hardly ever visited.”

“Well… I didn’t say they were perfect,” Aunt Ferna nibbled on a bite of food. “They became obsessed with keeping Sophia under control, as they were terrified of losing her.”

Cora gazed at the Martian landscape as she sifted through Ferna’s words.