Saturday, November 10, 2012

I of the Storm - Chapter 2: Gavin

Happy Saturday, everyone!

I had a pretty productive day, although I did take some breaks to clean house and play Words With Friends and Bejeweled Blitz ... addicting!

I made a decision this morning that I'd start doing author interviews on here, and within an hour of posting the request on Twitter, I got about three willing participants that I will be spotlighting and introducing you to very soon. I'm all about promoting talent in the book world and doing what I can to boost my fellow authors. So, stay tuned for that!

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Now on to the main event for tonight's post ... Chapter 2 of my book. Enjoy!


It was a blistering disappointment that Gavin wasn’t as thrilled about being a parent as I was. I got a cruel taste of his resentment one evening at the dinner table. We were talking about the baby, and I simply suggested that we could try for a son later on. I thought the prospect of a son to carry on his name would spark some enthusiasm in him about parenthood. He stood up and whacked me on the head with a copy of my Fem Life magazine. Funny thing. When I bought it at the grocery store the day before, I never pictured it as a weapon.

“You think I have a money tree out back, woman?” he yelled. “You waste money on shit like this, yet you don’t take any of the advice that’s in it. Do you even read this crap? When’re you ever gonna look like this?” Gavin pointed at the gorgeous model on the cover of the magazine and chuckled as he got up and tossed it in the trash. “You haven’t even popped out that puppy yet, and you’re already thinking about making another one? You must enjoy being fat.”

That poor ,old couch was shown no mercy, considering the amount of hours it had been forced to support my dead weight while I brooded over my past, present and prospective future. I suppose most pregnant women fantasize about how they’ll get back in shape after the baby comes or if their baby will grow up to be president someday. I just wondered if Gavin would still hit me after the baby was born. I could not stand the thought of him hurting our child or of what worse things he was capable.

Up to this stage, I’d learned one important life lesson. Time … it heals all. But in order to heal, you must first be wounded.

I had one more hour to lie there in peace and daydream before Gavin got home to vent his weekend work stress on me. A mechanic’s assistant, he hated who he had become. Honestly, so did I, mostly because I got the brunt of his misery.

In high school, he wanted to be an architect. Gavin was a very talented artist and loved to draw. Art class was always his highest grade. As for me, I still had a fascination with astronomy and meteorology, but that passion dramatically dwindled after the accident when the fascination became entangled with fear. Career-wise, my true aspiration was to be a journalist, based on my love for reading, writing, and telling stories. After marriage, Gavin saw college as just another bill to pay, and I had instead become an Olympic swimmer in the daily pool of misery that was my life. Gavin would get angry anytime I mentioned school. He accused me of wanting to go just to make him look bad and to gaze at other men. Every time he shot down the idea of me going to school, I’d remember his infamous words:

“I can’t wait, Kira. Let’s get married as soon as we graduate. I love you so much. I swear I’ll work three jobs to make sure your dreams come true. You’re still gonna be a journalist just like you always wanted. I promise you that. I’ll make sure you don’t have to sacrifice your goals to be with me. So, please, baby. Be with me. Forever.”

Life pretty much ended when I met Gavin at a school dance during our junior year of high school. I was volunteering as the punch bowl monitor, and he came by to quench his thirst, only it wasn’t the punch he was after. With a sexy smile and some clever lines, he became my first boyfriend. I was claimed at first glance, he always said arrogantly. We started dating a few days after the dance and shortly after that, he stopped mentioning college and career goals. Instead, his focus became me and my every move.

He was a bit pushy, but I was blindly flattered by the excessive doting. In the third week of our relationship, he forbade me from talking to any guys at school, declaring it as disrespectful to him and our relationship. I subsequently ceased all hallway small talk, study groups and even simple greetings. It wasn’t too difficult since I didn’t have many friends to begin with. I learned to walk with my head down, and I memorized every sidewalk crack and dead bug on the walkways of Clear River High School. I really believed Gavin was the best I could do since I had never been pursued by any guy before him. As a result of my below-average self-esteem, I held on to him like a squirrel with the last nut on Earth.

My parents never liked Gavin. Mom was more vocal about her disapproval. She and I had countless arguments about Gavin, among other things.

“That boy just has a strange way about him,” mom would say. “I don’t like the way he carries himself, and he’s outright disrespectful, Kira. He doesn’t even greet us half the time when he comes to pick you up, like he’s entitled to you or something … like he’s coming to pick up a package from the post office.”

Regardless of how unhappy Gavin made me sometimes, a part of me stayed with him just to spite my mom for coming down so hard on me all the time. My grades were never high enough. I didn’t clean my room well enough. I didn’t read enough. She wasn’t a fan of the future journalist idea either. Mom fancied the idea of me becoming a meteorologist, which I thought was selfish of her since she knew I was forever traumatized by my near-death impact with a lightning bolt. She had the audacity to tell me I was no match for the writing competition out there and that I’d probably starve trying to make it as a journalist. I had no competition for Gavin, so I used her logic in that regard and chose what was guaranteed to me – Mr. Wrong. No competition there.

Less than a year into our relationship, I earned my first set of bruises as a result of my buoyant attitude toward the future. My senior year was thrilling to me. I was in hot pursuit of scholarship opportunities and job experience as graduation drew nearer, and I was a bit less preoccupied with my love story.

I took journalism and became a reporter on the school newspaper staff as well as a member of the yearbook committee. Just weeks into the first semester, Gavin got privy to my class activities, which I’d tried my best to conceal. I knew exactly what would happen. I bowed to his commands in the beginning, but this year was different. I was a senior with a future to mold, and I damn sure couldn’t do it by keeping my eyes on the pavement instead of the prize.

The moment of truth came one day after he saw me wave goodbye to a jock I’d just interviewed for a sports story. Gavin charged up to me like a raging bull and snatched me by the arm in the school courtyard.

“You forgot to mention you’d be goin’ around school flirting with guys all day in this class!” Gavin complained.

“Gavin! It’s not flirting ... and it’s not about talkin’ to guys! I’ll be talking to everyone. I’m one of the school reporters, so I have to interview people sometimes for stories and photos for the paper. It’s not a big deal. I love this stuff, Gavin. It’s fascinating to me. You know I want to be a journalist. I thought you were okay with that.”

“Wait … It’s not a big deal? Is that what you said? You’re out there flaunting yourself all over school, not even thinking how that makes me look! And that’s not a big deal?”

“It’s not even like that, Gavin! You make it sound like something dirty! It’s a class, and it’s my assignment! What is your problem!”

“What’s my problem!? My problem is that I have a girlfriend who doesn’t give a shit how I feel. And what if you meet some other guy and he starts tryin’ stuff on you, huh? I’m a guy, Kira! I know how the male mind works! You’re lucky I’m not one of those type ‘a guys and got respect for you. But I guess I’m supposed to just sit around clueless, waiting for something like that to bite me in the ass since it’s ‘not a big deal’ to you!”

“Gavin! Stop talking like that! I love you. I tell you that every day. Every. Single. Day. Why would I ever do what you’re suggesting. I’m not that kind of girl.”

“I don’t think you’re taking this relationship serious enough, Kira. I’m thinking twice about being with you, if that’s how you are. I’m starting to realize … you’re just like everyone else. I thought you were different. Thought you were on my level. But if you’re willing to lose me for some stupid class, then I consider myself lost. I’m outa here!” He released his grip from my arm and turned to storm off.

“What? Gavin … Gavin, wait!” At this point I was talking to the back of his head, because he stopped to hear me out but stubbornly refused to turn around. “It’s a class, Gavin. It’s all for school, for a grade. For my future as a journalist! This is the stuff I want to do professionally. I can’t tell you that enough. It’s important to me. You want me to consider your feelings, and I get that. But what about mine?”

“Kira, this is high school!” He turned around briskly to scold me and grabbed my arm again. “Nothing you do here is anything close to what you’ll be doing professionally! That’s what college is for. You still have that to look forward to, and so do I. What if I enrolled in some CPR training class or something here and started doing mouth-to-mouth on your buddies as practice for the class. How would you like that?”

“Oh, my God, Gavin, I’m not touching anybody! It’s journalism! And if you can’t handle this in high school, then how will you deal with it when I do the same thing in college? And then as a job. Plus, there is no such class you can take here, mister,” I mocked the silliness of his logic and tried to mollify the situation with humor and a soft, playful tap on his chin.

“OH! You laughin’ at me now? You think this shit is funny, and I’m being serious about us? You know what? I ain’t gonna stand here and get laughed at. Forget you, bitch!”

He gave my arm one last squeeze and flung it, causing me to stumble backward a few steps. Then he stormed off and left me stunned at what had just happened and at how fast I went from “baby” to “bitch.” I got a glimpse of my best friend, Celia, who was watching the action from across the courtyard. She shook her head and frowned at me before walking off.

Celia Vargas. My closest gal pal since the 1st grade. We became friends in about ten seconds. I was sitting alone under a huge oak tree on the playground reading a book about clouds. She approached me and said, “Hey, my name is Celia. I like clouds too. Wanna be friends?” With a huge smile, I said, “Okay! Sure.” She took a seat on the ground next to me, and so began a lifelong friendship. Simple as that.

I called her right after school to explain the scene she had witnessed. No matter how much I tried to justify Gavin’s behavior, which I felt compelled to do, Celia was completely outraged and demanded that I stay away from him. She referred to him as “the psycho” from that day forward. A while after our phone conversation, Celia came over and surprised me with strawberry cupcakes she had made to cheer me up. She apologized for being harsh with me on the phone about the psycho. She believed in tough love, something I appreciated when I was too faint of heart to do the right thing. She even gave me her orange, sequined tank top that I was crazy about. The entire front side of it sparkled, and I was spellbound every time she wore it. We spent the afternoon pigging out on cupcakes, listening to music and talking about all the guys she had crushes on.

After Celia left, I did some homework and spent the evening locked in my room. My mind was a raceway of thoughts as I weighed the pros and cons of what had happened between me and Gavin. Mom was relentlessly on my case, talking outside my door and demanding to know why I didn’t want any dinner. I kept telling her I was on my period and had horrible cramps. That age-old excuse is a female birthright, and I used it into oblivion. My mom was convinced I needed to see a doctor about all this pain and loss of appetite I usually got around menstruation time. Little did she know, I never had a cramp in my life.

I finally forced myself to get up and get ready for bed. I yawned and pulled off my T-shirt and jeans to change into my pajamas but decided to model the orange tank top Celia had given me first. It always looked so good on Celia’s curvy chest. I hoped for the same result even though I wasn’t as curvy. My reflection stunned me but not because the tank top didn’t look as good on me as it did on Celia. My upper left arm had a purplish-brown mark. And it didn’t hurt until I noticed it, as if it was validated by my acknowledgement. I twisted my waist and tried to get a good look at the back of my arm. Sure enough, I saw about three of those same marks. This must have happened when Gavin grabbed my arm during his temper tantrum. I couldn’t take my eyes off the bruises.

I felt a small sense of relief that Gavin had broken up with me. It was a fresh new start or a “blank canvas,” as Grandma Edan always said. For my 6th birthday, she gave me a blank artist’s canvas for my room. She advised me to look at the white canvas anytime I felt hopeless, and imagine all its possibilities. She said life was just like this canvas. I gave the canvas a quick glance, but the bruises won my undivided attention. I stood in front of the mirror in a trance wondering how such a thing could happen to me. He had to have clutched me awfully tight to bruise my brown skin so badly. As I lay in bed, I kept poking the bruises as if to continuously remind myself of what he had done to me.

Gavin and I didn’t speak for about one month. In teenager time, that was about a year. I hardly noticed his presence at school, because I truly enjoyed reuniting with society and spending time with friends, old and new–both male and female. I caught him staring at me in the cafeteria one Friday. Then, sure enough, he called me that same evening. I expected it because of the desperation I had noticed in his eyes.

“Hello? Persad residence.”

“Hello, Kira? It’s Gavin. Can we talk?

“Gavin? (sigh) It’s been a month. I didn’t expect to hear from you again,” I lied. “What is there to talk about anyway?”

“I still love you, Kira. I think about you every second of every day. I never stopped. Just wanted to give you some space. I was hoping the time would pass and you would miss me as much as I miss you. I want you back. I know I overreacted that day. I know you would never play around on me. I knew it all along. I just love you so much, and I get irate when I think of somebody else getting intimate with you.”

“Gavin. I don’t want to have this conversation, okay. It just goes in circles. And every time I try to talk, you interrupt me and get angry. I can’t even talk to you or joke around with you. ”

“Baby, listen, I just want to see you. I want to look in those beautiful, brown eyes and talk to you. I miss playing with your long hair and touching that caramel skin. You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, Kira. My Indian princess. Baby, please? Just give me one chance. I just want to talk. Please?”

I didn’t really fall for the sweet talk, but it felt so nice to be complimented.

“Last time I talked to you, I got some nasty bruises on my arm, Gavin!”

“What? What are you talkin’ about, Kira? What bruises?

“When you flipped out in the courtyard that day. You, number one, called me a bitch, which is incredibly hard to forget! Number two, you snatched my arm and bruised it up, which I discovered that night. And, number three, you dumped me and walked off. So tell me why you think I’d ever want to talk to you again!”

“Oh, my God! Kira, baby, I’m so sorry. I had no idea I bruised your arm. I would never do anything like that on purpose. I guess I didn’t realize my own strength. I was frustrated and wasn’t thinking straight. I had a really bad day. I was pissed because I failed my algebra test, and I guess I was just taking it out on you. I was wrong for that. God, baby, I’m so sorry. I have to see you, Kira. Please meet me. You won’t regret it. I promise.”

His pleading sounded so pitiful. I convinced myself that he didn’t bruise me on purpose. He must have been really frustrated over the algebra test. I knew he’d been studying nonstop for nearly a week. I missed his handsome face … when it wasn’t angry, that is. He had a whole month to miss me. Maybe he realized his stupidity and wanted to make amends. Maybe the second time’s a charm. I did kind of miss having a boyfriend, and no one else had made a move.

I agreed to meet him at Deepwater Hill. It was a hilly, out-of-the-way park area that was more beautiful at night and very naturesque. Hardly anyone went there, but it was known as an ideal make-out spot. A news report about a recent coyote sighting there had pretty much scared everyone from wandering through the area, but the claim was unconfirmed. Parks & Wildlife officials sent out notices that the area was deemed safe, but I was still wary. Nature had not been kind to me. And what if the “wild animal” was a boyfriend?

I preferably stayed away from such places as a result of my nature phobia, but Gavin insisted to meet there and claimed he had a surprise for me. Gavin said his dad often mentioned Deepwater Hill as an old hot spot for sports and hanging out when he was a boy. He told Gavin the place was a lot better kept in those days and that he used to take Gavin’s mom there to make out. Knowing this repulsed me, but I went along to keep the peace.

I pulled up to the gravelly parking area and cringed at the thought of having to touch grass. He’d gotten there first and was standing against his car with his arms folded, watching me anxiously while I parked. As I got out of my car, I had secretly hoped he wasn’t planning to take me on a romantic picnic out in the hills, but that was indeed a big part of his plan.

“God, you look so beautiful,” he said as he stared at me up and down. It made me uncomfortable, especially when his eyes paused at my crotch area. I didn’t know exactly why I kept conforming, but I did.

“Thanks. You look nice, too,” I lied. He looked hideous and unkempt, and he had huge bags under his eyes as though he hadn’t slept the whole month we were apart.

“Come here. I want to hug you.” He wrapped his arms around me and squeezed me passionately, rubbing the back of my head and moaning while he ran his fingers all around in my hair. Then he whispered in my ear. “I have something for you, baby.”

He reached into his car and pulled out a huge bouquet of flowers. I saw hibiscus, roses, daffodils, tulips and baby’s breath.

“The hibiscus and roses are from my mom’s garden. I bought the rest to make it exotic, just like you.”

“Aww. I love it. Thank you, Gavin!” I said sincerely. I had a weakness for romance. That night, he acted like the guy of my dreams. He said all the right things and made all the best promises. I was excited about the new and improved Gavin.

He held my face in his hands and stared into my eyes without blinking. Then he leaned forward and planted a soft, wet kiss on my lips. Without words, we were back together.

He put a hibiscus in my hair and led me up to the top of a small hill where we stargazed, shared thoughts and consummated our relationship. I lost my virginity underneath the stars. It seemed perfect enough, but I still had a nagging feeling that I was doing the wrong thing. I gave a deaf ear to the alarm of intuition, and I kept moving onward, following Gavin’s lead. His charming antics hypnotized me, and I even forgot about my fear of the outdoors for those few hours. I hadn’t even given a single thought to what my friends would say about me getting back together with Gavin after a whole month of promising them I wouldn’t.

Graduation was coming up, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about college. Gavin kept suggesting that we should get married right after high school and attend college together later. The way he romanticized the idea, it actually sounded amazing. He officially proposed to me on bended knee at the mall next to a big water fountain. Onlookers watched adoringly and cheered after I excitedly accepted. Then, we tossed some coins in the fountain water and each made a wish. I wished for a happy marriage. I also wished to know what Gavin wished for. Sadly, neither of my wishes ever came true.

Gavin convinced me that we’d enjoy the merriment of married life for just a year, save money, then tackle college together. I fell for it completely. I postponed my college plans and turned them into wedding plans instead.

I lost my interest in making friends after I got back with Gavin. The same old relationship rules applied, and I became the obedient girlfriend once again. The friends I was allowed to keep utterly despised Gavin, especially Celia. She threatened to stop speaking to me if I married him. I was thankful it was just an empty threat, although she was livid and never stopped ranting about what a mistake I was making. I wished I hadn’t told her about the bruises, but she was the only person I had to confide in, the only person whose opinion I cherished. Her tough love helped me on so many occasions but this time, her advice was rejected by a heedless heart.

A couple months before graduation, Gavin planned a dinner and movie date to celebrate our engagement and my eighteenth birthday. I was always apprehensive about my birthdays, because most of them had been plagued by mishaps and disappointments. I was born six minutes after midnight on April Fools’ Day, 1982. Oh, the irony. I always asked mom why she couldn’t have pushed a little harder to have me seven minutes earlier. The “foolish” birthday was seemingly a curse.

On my 1st birthday, dad had dropped me, and I got a nasty bruise on my forehead. Mom never let him forget about that one. Birthday number 2, I had chicken pox. Number 3, I fell out of a sixth-story window while visiting relatives at an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Dad was able to reach out and grab my ankle in time to yank me back in and save my life. They were so happy I was alive, they didn’t bother to scold me for trying to reach out of the window to touch a baby bird I had seen on the window sill. Birthday 4 was spent in the emergency room with a high fever and vomiting. On my 5th birthday, a bird pooped on my head as I picked flowers out in the yard. On birthday number 8, my dad’s car was stolen with all my birthday gifts hidden in the trunk. On my 10th birthday, I fell in a huge mud puddle outside the toy store after a rainy birthday shopping spree. I still remember the taste of mud in my mouth. My 11th birthday was my life-changing meet-and-greet with the lightning bolt, followed by Grandma Edan’s death.

The 14th birthday was also as sorrowful, because my Aunt Mona passed away from unknown causes. At 34 years old, she snuggled on the sofa for a nap and never woke up. Aunt Mona was very dear to me. She was that one cool aunt that every girl wished they had. She lived in St. Croix where my family is from, and I was supposed to fly out there to spend my birthday week with her and my cousins. Instead, my 1 p.m. April Fools’ Day flight to St. Croix ended up being a ticket to her funeral.

On my sweet 16, I fell down the stairs at the city library and broke my arm. Celia couldn’t resist making fun of the fact that I chose to spend my birthday at the library, not to mention that I got hurt at the library of all places. To me, there was no better place. I considered it my enchanted forest. All that knowledge on the pages of dead trees was purely euphoric.

Almost every birthday followed suit with some type of calamity, but I was lucky enough to enjoy a few disaster-free ones in between.

Despite my anxiety, I still dolled up for my 18th birthday bash with Gavin. I wanted so badly to impress him. I wore a new pair of jeans, dark denim and much tighter than my usual style. I put on a pink, plaid blouse that was cut low enough to expose my cloud and lightning bolt scar, and it had buttons that looked like diamonds. The top layer of my long, curly tresses was held back with a matching hair clip that sparkled with pink glitter. Some silver slippers my mom had bought me adorned my feet, and I painted my nails in lavender, my favorite color.

My naive, teenage heart fluttered when I heard the doorbell. I dashed down the stairs and swung open the door with a grin only to see my boyfriend scowl at me, kind of the way people react when they smell sewage or rotting garbage. Gavin’s discontent was a snake bite, and the venom didn’t take long to weaken me.

“Damn, Kira. You look like a whore. You want men to gawk at you? Your pants are skin tight; I can see … everything, and I can see straight down your blouse, too. And that scar, ugh! You might as well be naked! Look, just go change. I’ll wait in the car. And don’t take forever. You know I hate waiting,” he said as he frowned and walked away.

My perfectly buffed make-up was ruined after my eyes turned into waterfalls. I ran upstairs submissively to change. Mom saw me frantic and came to ask what was wrong. I didn’t answer her, so she started to abrasively lecture me about Gavin. “Kira! Why do you allow that boy to treat you this way? He is, by all means …” My dad interrupted with a more tranquil approach.

“Janetta, let me handle this one, eh,” dad said to mom as he entered my room. He always called her Jane but used her full name when he meant business.

“Okay then, Mr. Persad! You think you can do better, so be my guest,” mom fired back, also using a name variation. She normally called him Nico. Janetta and Nicholas Persad of St. Croix, the Caribbean king and queen of sarcasm jousting. It was actually a fun sport to watch, once it wasn’t directed at me.

“Kira. Just do your crazy, old dad a favor, eh. Always remember, there’s a lot of fish in the sea but just as many sharks! Keep your options open, and remember what you’re worth. Don’t just settle for a shark just because it’s the first to swim by. I know at your age you think you know everything but, baby girl, take it from the old dinosaur who’s been around a long time. Life has so much to offer, so much you don’t know about yet. Don’t put your happiness in the hands of any guy, eh. Be careful. Have fun, and please be home by curfew, otherwise your mother will drive me mad with her complaining, and I’ll run away from home.” Dad winked and gave me a hug. I wiped my tears, half-smiled at his corny humor and went downstairs to begin the next six years of my life.

At Gavin’s command, my conformity and my parents’ disapproval, the proverbial knot was tied three months after high school graduation in an old, musty wedding chapel in Texas City, Texas. Gavin’s grandparents chose the venue. They were avid church goers there and extreme supporters of wedlock, having been married since they were 16. We could have gotten married in a junkyard for all I cared. I was overjoyed about being a bride and couldn’t wait to wear the gorgeous, white wedding gown Celia hesitantly helped me pick out. It was a very plain, satiny design, short-sleeved with a V-neck cut in the back and front that exposed many of my scars. I didn’t mind, because it made me feel like Grandma Edan was there. The gown’s trail was long with heavy beading and lace that glittered as it followed me down the aisle. My beautiful veil elegantly shimmered over my carefully made-up face. I tried not to overdo it on the makeup in fear of Gavin calling me a w hore on our wedding day. I didn’t want to chance it by provoking him.

My mom pigheadedly did not attend the ceremony but sponsored the gown, my jewelry and some shiny, white, high-heeled shoes. Dad covered the decorations and my veil, and Gavin’s mom made my bouquet from her own flower garden. The only guests in attendance from my side were my dad who walked me down the aisle and looked melancholy as though I was dying of an incurable disease and Celia who loathed Gavin and didn’t smile once. A few random church visitors came in and graciously joined the ceremony. They added some genuine cheer to the atmosphere with handshakes, hugs and congratulations, completely oblivious to the discontent of my real guests.

This inglorious event happened six years ago this August. I didn’t ever allow myself to look forward to any celebrations because a year into married life, Gavin lost his appetite for romance. Life took a turn down a dismal road. I expected bad times, but this was far outside the borders of my imagination. Six years of infrequent good times, broken promises, broken dishes, broken bones, black eyes, frozen dinners and lonely nights. The closest I’d come to being a journalist was answering phones and filing charts at a local dental office for two dollars above minimum wage. Not exactly the bargain I was promised.

Since Gavin didn’t like me leaving the house unless it was necessary, I had nothing better to do than stroll down memory lane every chance I got. He kept track of every move I made, which was a one-way street since I wasn’t permitted to do the same to him. He even counted how many minutes per week I spent visiting my parents and insisted to accompany me most of the time. He was paranoid about what we discussed in his absence.

I married Gavin because I believed his promises and that things would improve as we matured together and shared a life. Six years later, there I was, sprawled off in pain on a dingy, hand-me-down couch on my birthday, carrying a child for a man who hardly had a nice word to say to me, spending all my time retracing the footprints of my life.
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Once again, thank you for taking the time to read me! Look out for Chapter 3 on tomorrow evening's post! Hope you're having a fabulous weekend.


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