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around my way


June 3 2006

The doctor told us that Amanda would experience some cramping and bleeding as if she was on her menstrual cycle. She told us that if the bleeding was heavy and lasted more than three days that we needed to take her to a hospital. With a bottle half way filled with antibiotics, we left in a dingy yellow cab. She cried the whole ride home, leaving a trail of her tears and mucus on my shirt, but I didn’t care. She needed me and I wanted her to know that I was there. It was hard walking her up the stairs and I had to practically carry her. Every few minutes or so she would complain about a burning sensation in her stomach, but the doctor said that it was normal and it would pass with-in a few hours. Her mother didn’t get off work until after midnight that night and her sister came and went as she pleased, so I stayed with her. I didn’t think it would have been good to leave her alone.

She laid down on her couch and I throw a blanket over her. I made her a cup of tea, which she didn’t drink and snuggled up beside her. She cried in my arms for a good fifteen minutes before she fell asleep and I can‘t tell you how awful it is to know that someone you love is hurting and there is nothing that you can do about it. She woke up an hour later not looking any better. Her skin was shallow and her lips had swelled causing the upper to overlap the lower and the doctor told us that might be happen as a reaction from the drugs she was given. The whites of her eyes were tinged with a hint of pink from all the crying. Every ten minutes her phone would ring, but she knew it was Peanut calling wondering why she didn’t show up for school. Of course she didn’t pick it up, no matter how many times he called and it must have been twenty times.

“He’s going to keep calling until you pick up.” I told her as I rubbed my hands up and down her sweater covered arms.

“I know, I just can‘t talk to him right now. He‘s gonna know something is wrong.” She argued and was right. With every word she spoke her voice wavered and thickened with sadness and it wouldn‘t be hard to tell that she was upset.

“He’s probably just wondering why you didn’t come to school today. Call him and tell him you were sick.”

“I can’t hear his voice right now.” She stated sadly and I could see tears forming in the corners in her eyes.

“You know Peanut, if he’s worried and doesn’t hear from you don’t be surprised if he just shows ---” I was cut off by a loud knocking on her front door. She muted the television and motioned for me to be quiet. The knocking turned to pounding and I could hear the worry with every thump.

“Amanda, you know that’s him. Let me open the door.” I whispered as she clung tighter to me.

“Think about it Chris, his been knocking for like five minutes now. If we suddenly open the door, how’s dat gonna look?” She whispered back and I didn’t follow. She saw the confusion of my face and sighed; she had no strength to explain herself yet she did it anyway. “He’s gonna think that we were messing around!” She hissed out before motioning me not to answer her. We heard one last knock and then silence. After a moment the wisp of sneakers sliding along tile clacked and he was gone.

“You had a point, that wouldn’t have looked good.”

“Yeah, and if he asks you didn’t see me today….okay?”

“Sure babe, what ever you want.” I replied. I guess I must have fell asleep because the next thing I knew I heard a loud screeching ring and felt the vibration of my cell phone in my coat pocket.

“Hello?” I groggily answered without checking the caller I.D.

“Chris, where the hell are you?” Aunt Mickey screeched and I instantly woke-up.

“Uhh…hey Aunt Mickey…….” I stuttered.

“Don’t hey Aunt Mickey me, where the hell are you?” She asked impatiently. I looked down at the still sleeping Amanda and contemplated making something up.

“Uh…I’m at Amanda’s. What’s wrong?”

“Your with Amanda? Do you know what time it is!?” She yelled condescendingly.

“No.” I replied honestly which probably wasn’t the most brightest thing to do.

“Oh really, it’s eleven o’clock. Roger and I have been worried sick about you! We were going to take you to dinner to celebrate and we come home and find your not here. We’ve been calling you for the last three hours. Tell me, what were you doing that made you too busy to answer the phone?” She snarled out and it was obvious what she hinting.

“Aunt Mickey, it’s not like that!” I replied harshly. I was sick of her thinking that I was sleeping with Amanda. I did love her, but the thought of doing anything besides hugging her was just plain wrong. I was growing more and more frustrated with Aunt Mickey’s assumptions that I was this close to just telling her I was gay.

“Oh, its not like that? Then tell me why your at your girlfriends house close to midnight on a school night if its not ‘like that’?” She asked sarcastically.

“You just said it was eleven and she‘s not my girlfriend.” I replied trying to lighten the mood with the softness of my voice, but she didn’t let me.

“Don’t get smart with me young man! I’m so sick of you just thinking you can do what ever the hell you want!” She yelled and I instantly became incensed. I disentangled myself from Amanda, who didn’t so much as bat an eye and I went inside of her bedroom so I could talk a little more privately and loudly.

“What the hell are you talking about? Since when do you give a damn about what I do or who I hang out with?” I yelled back. The nerve of her. For the last two years I had been allowed to do what ever I wanted basically. Where most kids my age would hang out in the streets getting high or doing what ever the hell else they wanted, what did I do? Nothing! That’s what I did, not a God Damn thing, but sleep and study while she stayed out most nights and now she was telling me that she was sick of ME doing what the hell I wanted! That just got to me.

“Don’t you fucking curse at me--” She started, but I cut her off. I had been holding a lot in and it was about time I told her a few things about her self.

“You know what, save it! Every fucking night your gone! Fucking gone!! I wake up in the morning and your gone! I come home from school and your gone! I thought that once Roger moved in, and by the way THANKS for thinking about me when you agreed to that, you would be home a little more, but I was wrong! Your gone more now, then you ever were before! What do I do that’s so bad huh? NOTHING! I do my fucking homework, get good grades, stay out of trouble and what do I get in return for it? Huh? Worries, all I get is fucking worries. I gotta worry about you and what your doing when you’re gone, I gotta worry about Amanda, I gotta worry about Wesley and Andrew, God knows what those two have been up to and the worst part is I gotta worry my boy--…….” I yelled out all in one breath. I was so close to blurting out the word ‘boyfriend’, that’s how mad I was. There was silence for a few moments before I heard a sniffle.

“Chris, God! I’m sorry. This whole parent thing hasn’t been easy for me you know? Let’s talk when you get home. I’ll send Roger to come and get you. Where are you?” She asked in a soft gentle voice.

“I’m at Amanda’s.” I replied and I could hear her biting her tongue.

“Roger’s on his way.” She replied and we both hung up. I sat there for a moment, not really realizing what had just happened. I didn’t mean for all of my emotions to just come pouring out, but they did. So why didn’t I feel any better?

I didn’t bother waking up Amanda, her day had been long enough so I left a little note on the coffee table. Roger’s voice was cold and rushed on the phone as he all, but yelled at me to come downstairs. He was dressed in his pajamas and his cold eyes told me that I’d better be quiet and listen to what he was about to say. He just rambled on for the ten minute drive about how he didn’t like the way I spoke to my Aunt Mickey and then he went on about he would never disrespect his family that way, but in all honesty I wasn’t really listening to him. No, my thoughts were all over the place. With Joey, with Amanda, with my birth mother and with my adoptive parents. It was like my chest was heavy with all these emotions and I couldn’t figure out how to make the pressure go away.

The first thing Aunt Mickey did when she saw me was hug me and tell me how much she loved me and that made me feel good. She wasn’t cold by any means, but having her arms around me reassured me that I was loved and that she did care about me and my feelings.

“I’m sorry Chrissie….I didn’t-” She started to say, but I cut her off with a hug. The whole day had been exhausting as it was and all I wanted to do was go to bed and deal with all of this mess in the morning. I told her that everything was fine, but Roger didn’t think so.

“Chris, we all need to talk.” He said and I tried not to let my irritation show.

“Roger, I’m sleepy. Can’t it wait until the morning?” I asked, but it really was more of a statement. I turned around to make my way up the stairs, when he put one of his hands on my shoulder a little too roughly. I turned to glare at him and he pulled his hand away, but his glare rivaled mine.

“No, I need to say a few things to you---” He started to say, but I cut him off.

“It can wait until the morning! I have to get up for school--” I started, but then he cut me off.

“Were you thinking about that when you decided to stay out until midnight? No, you weren’t so don’t try to pretend like your concerned with that when your trying to avoid being punished!” He stated. I didn’t like the tone of his voice and when I tried to challenge him with a look, Aunt Mickey intervened.

“Roger baby, let him go to sleep. We’ll talk to him after school.” She rationalized, but that only made Roger get angrier.

“Damnit Michelle! This boy has got to learn that he can’t just do and say whatever the hell he wants! He needs ground rules! This isn’t Ocean Township and he can‘t stay out and wonder these streets whenever the hell he feels like it! I’ve seen one to many brotha’s steer down the wrong path and I‘m not going to let that happen to him!”

“I wasn‘t wondering any streets! I was at Amanda‘s!” I yelled and Roger turned his attention back to me and the fire and rage in his eyes through me off guard. He walked over towards me and leaned down so his face was at eye level with mine.

“Listen here boy! I don‘t care who you were with or what you were doing! If your living in my house you obey my rules and that means you have your ass in hear by nine o‘clock on school nights! Do you understand?” I could feel my body shaking with rage as I challenged him back. I never in a million years thought that I could hate someone so much as I was hating Roger at the moment.

“This ain’t your house! It’s my house and your only living here until Aunt Mickey can find somebody better! Do you understand that!” I yelled back and Roger’s nostrils flared. I could tell the he was restraining himself from hitting me by the way he kept clenching his fists at his sides and I wasn‘t a fool, fuck I was a little scared.

“Christopher Malcolm Richardson you better watch your mouth! Apologize right now!” Mickey yelled, but I had had enough and wasn’t about to do anything I didn’t want to. Sixteen years of always being the good one, always listening, always being dealt the shitty cards in life and I was done. Certifiably over it and I wasn’t going to let Roger or Aunt Mickey try to make me feel like I was this horrible delinquent kid when I knew I wasn’t.

“No! I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not gonna say sorry when I didn’t do anything to be sorry about!” I yelled and ran up the stairs before they could respond. I locked my door and turned to stereo on high. Loud music helps you drown out your problems and it drowned out the banging on the door. I don’t know if it was Roger or Mickey banging, but after a few minutes it stopped and I could hear their bedroom door slam shut a few seconds later. I turned the music back down on low and reached inside the pocket of my jeans to pull out my cell phone and call Joey. I needed to talk to him because besides Amanda, he was the only one who could make me feel better.

“Hey man!” Joey said and I could hear the sounds of the streets behind him and I knew he was “working”. I hated how he had to do that, but really what other choice did he have? If he didn’t sell drugs to make up the money he owed then Boss Benny all, but said that he would kill him.

“Hey Joey….”

“What’s wrong?” He asked attentively.

“Everything…..this whole day has been so fucked up!” I started and told him of how the day had gone. I knew that in a way I was betraying Amanda by telling him about her abortion even though I knew she didn‘t want anyone to find out about it, but I needed to talk to someone about it. I had this array of emotions flowing over my body, the anger and sadness was smothering me and I didn’t know which emotion was stronger or which emotion I was allowed to feel. I knew I shouldn’t look at is as her killing her baby, when technically it wasn’t a baby yet, but a small part of me did look at it that way. Joey was a devout Catholic and when I said that Amanda had gotten an abortion he flipped out. He started cursing and saying that she shouldn’t have did that. Even after I reminded him that the baby was Nate’s and not Peanuts, in Joey‘s mind it was still wrong.

“I can’t believe she did that! God, I need to talk to her.”

“Joey you can’t call her because I wasn’t suppose to tell you!” I replied and the two minutes of silence that followed was deafening. I could hear his heavy breaths mingling with the crowded noise of the late night around him.

“Yeah….I just feel so bad for her. When we we’re little she was the girl who would always bring fucking stray cats and shit to my house because she didn’t want them to have to sleep outside, you feel me on that?”

“I got you, but she didn’t want to have the baby because it was a part of Nate and you know what kind of drama that would be in itself. I don’t really know how I feel about it, but I do know that if I were her, I probably would have done the same thing, but damn, it just feels like everything around me is out of fucking control!”

“I feel you---shit, hold on.” He stated and I could hear someone asking him for a bag of something, of what, I knew, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it.

“Joey, you can call me back, you know, later or I’ll see you in school tomorrow.”

“No, stay, talk to me. I’m not going to school tomorrow.” He replied listlessly.

“WHAT? Why not?” I hissed.

“Its already midnight and I’m gonna be out here for at least three more hours, there’s no fucking way I’m gonna be up in time. Plus I got to work at the bodega tomorrow afternoon and I got to rest for that.”

“You’re mom’s not gonna let you skip a day.” I replied and he laughed darkly.

“Ha Ha! Chris, she has no clue about nothing. Fuck, they both think I’m downstairs sleeping man.” The darkness in his voice was almost as scary as the hint of sarcastic joy that was in it. It almost sounded like he felt proud of himself at being able to so easily fooling his parents. I was just hoping that my boyfriend wasn’t getting caught up in that fast life style.

“Whatever….I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.”

“Wait! Why you want to go--shit, hold on for a minute.” He replied as I heard him talking to someone asking for a gram of coke. Anger mingled with fear inside of my chest that turned into annoyance at hearing him laugh at something his “customer” had said to him in Spanish. I felt like I was the one in misery, suffering and making my self seriously sick with worry not only about Amanda, but about him too and there he was laughing and having some good old fucking time with some crack head. I wanted to curse him out, but I seriously didn’t have the energy to, so I just hung up my cell phone and turned it off so if he tried calling back it would go straight to voice mail.’

Sleep didn’t come easy, in fact I don’t think it really came at all. Sure, I did manage to get a little bit of rest, but every time I closed my eyes, I would picture the look of defeat on Amanda’s face after her abortion. That look of sadness and shame mixed in with guilt and regret that I know she must have been feeling. God, I just wanted to help her, protect her, but it wasn’t my job to play superhero, but that didn’t matter because in my mind I should have been able to do something to take her pain away. But, I couldn’t, there was nothing I could do because I was just as helpless as her. We were sixteen and didn’t know anything about shit, but where we were from, you had to grow up fast or at least pretend that you did otherwise life would have been just that much more difficult for you. Over the months I had been living there for, I was quickly realizing that I had to adapt to that fact or be one of the ones prayed upon for weakness and fuck, I was so tired of being considered ‘the weak one’. I guess that next morning I woke up feeling like I had aged beyond my young years and I didn’t like the feeling of displacement, but I just had to deal with it.

Amanda didn’t call me that morning for our usual meet up at school. I knew there would be no way she would be up for it anyway and when I called her just to check up on her, her mother answered and said that she wasn’t feeling too well and was still sleeping. When I saw Peanut that morning waiting by her locker, I knew that he could sense that something was wrong by the look on his brown face and the way his thin shoulders were slumped and the fidgeting of his body. There wasn’t a part of his body that wasn’t moving in some form of spastic nervousness that only increased when his eyes met mine from across the crowded hallway. The space of the halls were tight and the overflowing of way too many kids left little room for movement, but he managed to push past the flows of people and get to me within a few seconds. I knew what he was going to ask me before he even opened his mouth and I didn’t want to lie to him, but I knew I had to.

“Yo! Where we’re you and Amanda yesterday?” He asked, but he wasn’t demanding or even accusatory, he was just puzzled and that made me feel more guilty for what I was about to say than before.

“I was sick. Amanda wasn’t here yesterday?” I asked as I did my best not to make eye contact. Everyone I knew always told me that I had a very expressive face and they could always tell if I was lying or not. But, I another thing I was learning to do was how to alter my emotions on the inside on how they showed on the outside. I was learning not to expose my true self and I didn’t as I continued to listen to Peanut wonder where Amanda had been and why she hadn’t called him. I just nodded my head and pretended to be just as puzzled as he was. I was hardening into someone I wasn’t, but that was the façade I had to put up otherwise I wouldn’t survive.


I stopped at a chicken joint to pick up a box of food for Amanda before I stopped at her apartment. I didn’t think food would cheer her up, but I didn’t want to show up empty handed and she wasn’t the type of girl who liked to be brought flowers. The day was cold, bitterly cold and the suns shined down on my in a blare of golden blindness. You know how the sun can shine down on you dryly on a cold winter’s day and the only thing its good for is making it hard to see what’s right in front of you because its so fucking cold out that even the little warmth the sun should have been providing, is eclipsed by the bitter, frigid coldness. Yeah, that’s the kind of afternoon it was. I walked down the three blocks. Passing empty, smoked out lots filled with trash, bricks from where buildings used to stand and even a stray shopping cart from a supermarket lay thrown about with other random forms of debris and other useless shit that only made the city look even more threatening and dirty than it could have been. The sidewalks were old and cracked and my foot got wedged between the cracks more than once almost causing me to fall. As I turned down Amanda’s block the site of Nate and Jay sitting on her stoop yet again made me want to turn right back around. What kept me walking towards them was the fact that Amanda’s little sister Wendy, barely 13 was hugged up on Nate as if he was her boyfriend and Jay was standing there grinning as his hand was resting on her pink puffed out winter coats shoulder. It looked like they were setting her up for a trap because Nate may have been in front of her, but Jay from behind was boxing her in. She may have been thirteen, but she could have passed for twenty. She must have learned like I had that you had to grow up face. But, the thing with growing up before you’re suppose to is that the choices you make aren’t necessarily always the best ones. When you’re thirteen you don’t know how to tell right from wrong. Its hard to decipher the dangerous situations from those that were harmless and its even that much more harder to spot a dangerous person. With the way that Nate was smiling at her and running his hands through her short, black hair you would have thought that he was just a nice guy, harmless even, just playing around with his girlfriend. Unlike Wendy, I knew just what kind of twisted perversions lay inside of him and I didn’t want her to experience it.

“Hey Wendy. Where’s your sister?” I asked as I willed myself not to even acknowledge that Nate and Jay were sitting on the steps less than five feet way from me. Unlike Amanda, Wendy was a dark brown and slender. If you didn’t know any better you wouldn’t have thought they were so much as cousins, let alone sisters.

“ChrIS! What’s up man!” She exclaimed as she threw her arms around my neck and pressed her curious body a little too closely for comfort against my body. She was the type of girl who Andrew’s mother would call “fast” meaning that everything she did in life was “fast”. She grew up too “fast”, she dressed too provocatively because she was “fast” and she was already sexually active because she was “fast”. In short, Wendy was a “fast girl”, but she was still a girl and that was the thing, she wasn’t even a woman yet. I laughed and asked for her to walk me the up the stairs.

“Naw, Wendy coming wit us to roll dat L!” Nate interrupted as he stood up to protest her leaving. I would be a fucking liar if I told you that he still didn’t intimidate the hell out of me. His tall, lanky yet muscular body only looked more threatening under the guise of his baggy black puffy winter jacket. My speculations of thinking that Nate and Jay were only up to no good was only proved right at the mention of the two of them taking Wendy to “roll an ‘L’”, which meant they we’re going to roll a marijuana joint. I knew the game they were playing and Wendy was just too dumb to realize what she was about to get herself into, but I wasn’t.

“Wait, Wendy, your mom’s gets off work early today doesn’t she? I know you’re grounded and you know how pissed she would be if she came home and you weren’t there.” I reminded her and she immediately sighed in exasperation as she told Nate and Jay she couldn’t leave with them. Nate and Jay shot me a look of pure hatred that made me almost regret opening my mouth in the first place. She hugged them good-bye and then moved up the stairs to unlock the front door. Nate and Jay stood close together so I had to move over to the other side of the stairs just to get past and as I was passing them Nate grabbed my arm and hissed out words that will forever haunt me.

“Nigga….you think you’re so fucking smart! I got something for dat ass Nigga!” He hissed and with that he walked away leaving Wendy to look at me curiously, but another thing in the hood you learned was not to ask questions because sometimes the answers could get you into trouble. Wendy didn’t ask me anything.

“Wendy, do yourself a favor and don’t I mean DON’T hang out with those two. They’re nothing, but trouble, trust me on that.” I warned her and she just rolled her eyes in annoyance.

“Nigga I know, I ain’t stupid! Dem Niggaz is crazy as hell. I just didn’t want them fucking wit my sister and shit so I kept dem downstairs. I hate Nate’s punk faggot ass. How he gonna get my sister pregnant and then leave her ass to get a fucking abortion all by herself. She was bleeding all fucking night and shit! I stayed home today to make sure everything was alright.” She replied and I shouldn’t have been surprised that Amanda had opened up to her, I mean hell they were sisters, but no one would suspect them to be close. I was glad that Amanda had someone other than me to talk about her problems with because sometimes one person just isn’t enough to deal and help you through them. It was a just a good thing that Wendy was hip to the game that Nate and Jay were playing. She was a “fast girl” after all and she had managed to pull a “fast” one on me.

Amanda looked like pure hell when I walked in. She was sprawled on the couch covered in a blanket and even though she was a thick bodied girl, she looked small and frail. Her hair was a wild mess of knotted curls and a bowl on uneaten cereal floating in spoiling milk from hours earlier sat a few feet away from where she laid. Her caramel skin was sallow and her eyes were framed with dark circles making her appear years older and like she was one of those woman with stressed lives and too many kids to handle. Even her usually pink full lips were paled a few shades lighter in an almost white melon color mixing with her cotton mouth. She tried to crack a smile when she saw me, but gave up when she saw the look of shock on my face.

“Amanda, you need to go to a hospital.” I told her as I sat down on the floor next to her with the palm of my hand on her face.

“Hospital? No, I’m okay. I got the antibiotics from the doctor and I just need a little rest that’s all.” She replied stealthy.

“Chris, I told her that this morning when her sheets were covered in blood, but she don’t want to listen to no mutha fucking body!.” Wendy cut in and I looked at Amanda in the way a father would look at his daughter who had just stolen his last twenty dollar bill.

“What! The doctor said you weren’t suppose to bleed heavy!” I yelled and I could feel the panic setting in almost over riding my fear that something seriously could have been wrong with her.

“Chris, I’m fine! I’m just tired and this fucking couch is hurting my back. Here, help me up.” Amanda asked me as she pulled herself to sit upright and held her hands up for me to take. I pulled her up slowly and the look of pain that played across her slanted brown eyes gave away just how much pain she was trying to hide. She had to let go of my hands and sit back down and Wendy immediately bought her over a glass of water.

“See, she been falling out and shit all fucking day! She needs to go to a fucking hospital!” Wendy yelled as she sat down next to her. It was sort of touching to see Amanda’s little sister being so concerned with her because on any other average day they were fighting and screaming at each other to the point where you thought they would kill each other or wind up in jail from a disturbing the peace charge. The fact that even Wendy was being so nice towards her, although touching, was making my worry’s about Amanda grow.

“Wendy….not now. You already know why I can’t go. If I do go, they’re gonna want to call Mommy and then she’ll find out about this and I don’t want her to.”

“Damn it Amanda! Fuck that shit, Mommy will be mad, but if you fucking die then….” Wendy cut herself off and got up off the couch and stormed into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind her. The water of the faucet rushed down and I could her quiet cries coming from behind the locked wooden door and that’s when things felt real, I mean really, really, real and I knew that Amanda needed to go to the hospital or she would be in more trouble than any of us could have handled.

“Amanda…..we should--” I started to say, but she cut me off with a glare that if I didn’t know her, would have made me think that she hated me. She stood up slowly, she refused to take my hands when I offered them to her by smacking them away. She moved closely to get into my face and when we were that close together, I could make out just how pale and frail her face appeared. She looked like a sick woman, like a dying woman and even if I killed myself trying, she was going to be taking her ass to the hospital.

“I don’t want to hear it! I’m going to bed!” She yelled as she tried to walk past me. She looked me in my eyes. My hazel ones peering into her dark brown ones ready for a battle. A slow cloud of sleep seemed to wash over her in an instant and as quickly as I blinked an eye, I watched her crumble to the floor. I tried to catch her, but we both ended up falling to the floor and she wasn’t moving. I panicked and screamed for Wendy who ran out and before I could think to do it, she picked up the phone and dialed 911 for help. I cradled her in in my arms, not wanting to cry because if I cried then that would be like I was admiting that something was seriously wrong with her and fuck, I wanted to have faith, just for a fucking little while I wanted to have just a little hope that God, as fucked as he seemed to be to me sometimes, wouldn’t let anything else bad happene to someone I love, happen to me. I wasn’t being selfish and I wasn’t trying to be demanding, but I couldn’t take it if anything else bad happened. I felt like I would literally lose my mind if it did, but this wasn’t about me, that I knew. This was about Amanda and her closed eyes that weren’t opening up. This was about how hot her body felt and how I saw a little trickle of blood run down her leg and spill out in two droplets on her wooden floor. Wendy was screaming in the background on the phone that her sister was dead, but I knew from the shallow puffs of breaths that I felt on my forearm, that she was still alive. I rocked her back and forth as I ran my hand through her dark hair to try and comfort her until help would come. She would be alright, this I knew and I just had to hold on to that hope. ......................

To Be Continued

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