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African American Lesbian Contemporary

Her Eyes


Catherine points to a small plant growing through a crack in the concrete. It has a long, thin stem, bending slightly towards the sun. Catherine would call it wispy, or fragile, but in reality, it’s only flimsy, and I doubt it will survive for longer than a week. 


Her fingers stretch towards it as I pull her away by the other hand.  


“Delilah,” she says. Her voice flits through the air. “It means delicate.”


“You’ve been saving that name, haven’t you?”


“Yes,” she says, sounding breathless. I look down at the flower. With its small white petals and absence of leaves, it’s entirely unremarkable.


“So why this one? You know it’ll die in a week.”


She ignores me and gestures to a thornbush lining the cracked sidewalk. “Name that.”


I realize that my grip on her left hand has slackened and tighten my hold. “Cathy, let’s go home.”


“Catherine.”


“If I say Catherine and name the bush, will you let me take you home without stopping again? I’m going to be late for Alicia.”


She turns her large eyes to me. They’re dark brown, almost black, and beautiful. They look just like Dad’s eyes. My eyes are the same color as theirs, but while her and Dad's eyes are filled with magic, mine reflect the weariness that could only come with being Catherine’s older sister and legal guardian.


“Fine,” she says. 


“What is a name that means…” I stop walking to think. I’m not as good at this as Catherine is. 


“What about Briar?" she suggests. “Thornbush.”


“Ah,” I say, smiling. “Perfect.”



Her Hair


In only an hour, Catherine will be at school, and my summer with her will be over.


I signed her up for the elementary school lunch program, starting once my first term of college begins. I don’t want her to eat whatever filth I’ll try to scrape together while balancing school and housework. She needs more than pringles and instant ramen. 


Catherine comes out of her room wearing a hot pink dress and orange, polka-dotted leggings. She beams at me and points at her legs and then chest. She’s clutching a thick book under her other arm, the huge baby names book Mom and Dad gave her a few months after she started naming. 


“This outfit is named Phaedra,” she says. “It means bright.”


I laugh. “I like that name.”


“Thank you.”


She skips to the bathroom. “Could you do my hair?”


“Of course.”


As she sits down on a stool in front of me in the bathroom, I say, “Alicia is coming with me to drop you off, because we’re going to dinner right after. Is that okay?” Catherine nods.


“I can’t remember what Alicia means,” she says. “Could you tell me?”


“Noble,” I reply instantly. After I had gotten home from Alicia and my first date, only three months ago, I had looked it up, thinking of Catherine. 


I grab a hairbrush, created especially for Catherine’s hair type, from the drawer under the sink. It was Mom’s, who knew how to take care of Catherine's type of hair, having had the same type herself.


Catherine and I are half Nigerian, but I inherited more of Dad's European features while Catherine resembles Mom unmistakably. Mom used to do Catherine’s hair in beautiful little updos and buy her all the right products. Now I couldn’t even afford those. Mom and Dad left Catherine and me everything they had in their will, but Catherine can’t claim her share yet and I can only hope my half will last long enough for me to leave college and get a job, trying to save where I can. I’ve even debated dropping out. 


I can’t help thinking that if Mom were here, how different, less damaged Catherine’s hair would look.


A lot of things would be easier if Mom and Dad were still around. 


“You’ve named this hairbrush, haven’t you?” I ask Catherine. 


“Yes,” she says. “Cody. It means one who helps others in need.”


“I wish I could help you more with your hair. I’m sorry I don’t know as much.” Catherine’s back tenses slightly at the reminder of our parents.


“Alicia has hair like me too.”


She’s right. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of it before.  


I decide to let Catherine’s hair be free today. “Yeah,” I say. “I can ask her some stuff if you want.”


Catherine nods and jumps off the small stool to put on her shoes. Her hair is thick and curly and magical and poofs around her face like a halo. 


She’s an angel, after all.   



Her Hands


She has magic fingers. When Catherine points her fingers at something, it’s like she’s waved a wand and made it beautiful. 


She’ll point at an old, peeling mailbox and say, “Angelica. Messenger.” And suddenly, it’s not just a mailbox anymore, like she’s covered it with glitter and given it a smile. 


She’ll point at a neat welcome mat on somebody’s doorstep and say, “Bellamy. Means handsome friend.” And suddenly it’s more of a welcome than a mat. 


She’ll point at a stray dog curled up, sleeping under a park bench, and say “Ekanta. Solitude and peaceful.” And suddenly you’re running for the bag of dog treats you always have at home, not because you have a dog but because of how many times she’s done this before. 


We’re in the park, me sitting on a bench while Alicia and Catherine are walking around the playground. Alicia is holding one of Catherine’s hands while Catherine points to things with the other. I’m close enough to see Catherine’s eyes sparkle and Alicia’s soften lovingly whenever Catherine smiles. 


I have Catherine’s name book on my lap, where she asked me to hold it for safekeeping. The gold lettering, Baby Names and Their Meanings, shines in the sunset light. There’s a slight chill in the air, and as I shiver I refocus on Catherine to make sure she has a jacket. I see that she’s wearing Alicia’s jacket, her small body dwarfed by it, drowning in fabric. But now Alicia’s arms are bare, so I get up, making sure the name book doesn’t fall, and go to give her my own. 


As I approach, my jacket in my outstretched arms, Catherine glances at me and then points to my shoes. Her fingers are long and slim, compared to Alicia’s, which are chubbier. I drape the jacket over Alicia’s back and grab her hand, waiting for Catherine to speak.


“Kymani,” Catherine says. “Traveler.” And suddenly they aren’t shoes anymore, but adventurers.  



Her Smile


Today marks one year after my parents’ death. 


I’m in Alicia’s cramped dorm room. It’s decorated, in golden banners and balloons of many different colors. Alicia approaches me, sitting on her bed, with a cupcake in her hands and a grin on her face. 


“Happy Nineteenth!” She sings. She knows what day it is. She knows that today holds more significance than just being my birthday. The corners of her lips droop slightly when I respond halfheartedly. 


“Thanks, Alicia.” It’s the first birthday we're spending together. I try to smile convincingly, but it’s as if someone's cut a chunk out of my heart, filled it with lead, and placed it in my stomach. 


She quiets and leans closer to me. “Do you want to go home?”


“Yes, please,” I say, grateful. 


When we get to my house, I tell the babysitter she can go home early. 


“I tried to get her to do activities, but she's only been reading that book all day,” she said apologetically as she left, referring to Baby Names and Their Meanings. “She wouldn’t leave the room either, and didn’t seem to want to be around me at all.” 


I pat her gently on the arm. “I’ve been trying to get her to stop reading that book for months. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”


Catherine is in her room when I knock on the door. I run to her try to pick her up, but it ends up like a hug, for her legs skim the floor when I try to lift her. She’s tall and gangly, not much shorter than I am. Alicia stands in the doorway awkwardly.


“I’m sorry,” I whisper into her thick hair. It smells like peaches, thanks to the shampoo Alicia recommended. “I shouldn’t have left you alone today.”


I can hear her sniffling, and I pull back. She squeezes me a last time and then runs to Alicia, who stiffens momentarily and then strokes Catherine's hair happily.


The smile Catherine flashes me is weak, but it’s still as full of magic as it usually is. 








January 29, 2021 01:33

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69 comments

Amaya .
01:35 Jan 29, 2021

critique as hard as you can! please!

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Amany Sayed
17:58 Jan 29, 2021

Literally Beautiful. My only critique is a tiny grammar error. "Don’t be too hard on herself.”" I believe you mean 'yourself'. But your writing is pure gold, and I drank in every word. Wonderful job Amaya. On a side note, I have a new story so do with that information what you wish. You better keep writing, this is amazing!

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Amaya .
18:02 Jan 29, 2021

thanks Amany oh yes i'll change that i'll add to my list! later today I'll read :) thank you! i will!

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Amany Sayed
18:02 Jan 29, 2021

my pleasure! thanks :D <3

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Ru .
00:22 Feb 04, 2021

I love names! I have crazy long lists with different themes and listen to Baby Name Mondays on YouTube all the time. The little details are what made this story so meaningful and adding the name meanings made it all the more sweet. There's also an underskirt of sadness, though I wish you ventured farther into that feeling. All in all, a great read :)

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Amaya .
00:58 Feb 04, 2021

thanks, Ru! Thanks for the review :) I love names too! I have a GIANT list as well and write down any I hear.

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Zilla Babbitt
01:35 Feb 03, 2021

I meant to comment on this so long ago! I'm terribly sorry. This is beautiful, really beautiful. The tiny details, even the parts I might not like :). The names and the naming of the parts of her that are beautiful. I think this will get shortlisted, and you can quote me on that. This really is fabulous. Who wouldn't want to inherit exotic Nigerian looks? Or read "Baby Names and Their Meanings" all day long? I think another aspect you could add in the future would be to explain why she's so traumatized by being left alone. Maybe it was a t...

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Amaya .
01:50 Feb 03, 2021

Hi Zilla! Oh, that's totally fine, thanks for taking the time to read it! Aw, that made my day :) That would be amazing if it did. Ooh you're totally right. It just got approved, unfortunately, but I love the idea. Thanks for the sweet review :)

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Zilla Babbitt
01:51 Feb 03, 2021

Sure thing! I'm serious, though. You watch. Good luck ;)

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Zilla Babbitt
20:40 Feb 05, 2021

Ah man! This totally deserved a shortlist.

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Amaya .
21:22 Feb 05, 2021

aw Zilla you're so sweet, but i don't think so :) thanks though <3

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04:06 Feb 01, 2021

Whoa Amaya... This was truly beautiful, the simplicity of it brought an element of realness that I've never seen before. It contained so much raw emotion, I honestly can't believe this writing came out of a person! I love the way you separated each characteristic about Catherine like a new paragraph, making it seem like a new story altogether. I definitely think that this is your best work yet, so incredibly beautiful. I love love love it ♥

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Amaya .
02:05 Feb 10, 2021

thank you!

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Kathleen March
02:15 Jan 31, 2021

This story is utterly fascination, starting from the rhythm through the structure and the perfect grammar and spelling. I do think it is hard to grasp where you are going or how the story holds together, but that begins to resolve itself in the second half. I sense you are already a brilliant writer and the more you write, the better you will get. Again, if it were easier to identify what you’re trying to do at the beginning, it could strengthen the narrative. I also like the ‘voice’ you have created.

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Amaya .
03:32 Jan 31, 2021

thank you for this, I get what you mean and appreciate the input :) thank you :)

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Laiba M
19:09 Jan 29, 2021

"Catherine points to a small plant growing through a crack in the concrete. It has a long, thin stem, bending slightly towards the sun. Catherine would call it wispy, or fragile, but in reality, it’s only flimsy, and I doubt it will survive for longer than a week." and "Catherine nods and jumps off the small stool to put on her shoes. Her hair is thick and curly and magical and poofs around her face like a halo/She’s an angel, after all." were my favorites. I love this story so much. I love how she names everything, and how even the names ha...

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Amaya .
19:28 Jan 29, 2021

Laiba thank you! You're so sweet :) and I'm glad i wrote something that could make someone think about it all day, that's like the #1 compliment ever

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Laiba M
21:31 Jan 29, 2021

Of course!~ I'm so happy that I could make you happy!! I really have been thinking about it all day so far ever since reading it :D

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Amaya .
23:04 Jan 29, 2021

:D

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Maya W.
14:07 Jan 29, 2021

Hello Amaya! I really enjoyed this. I've labeled by multiple people a "name obsessed weirdo," a trait that has both started friendships and ended them (trust me, you don't wanna know). Because of that, this really spoke to me. I do a lot of research before naming my characters, and I can tell that you did for this story, too. I also loved the sisterly relationship between Catherine and Alicia. There definitely could be some work done here, but my main critique is that it could be longer, honestly. I'd like to see a longer list of the "magica...

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Amaya .
16:37 Jan 29, 2021

no way i actually think that's really cool (except the ended part). I might add some stuff later today, so the longer thing made sense, thank you! thanks

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Maya W.
17:14 Jan 29, 2021

Of course! Would you mind checking out some of my most recent stories?

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Amaya .
17:22 Jan 29, 2021

i read the one about the letter writer but I didn't review it, i will later today :)

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Maya W.
17:23 Jan 29, 2021

Okay, thank you!

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Scout Tahoe
04:28 Jan 29, 2021

Amaya, This was amazing. Honestly, you had a great idea and executed it wonderfully. A girl who can "do" magic. It was a story that transported me into the garden where Catherine was naming flowers and naming stray dogs. What a nice hobby. Okay, you mentioned you wanted critiques, and don't take this the wrong way: - I might be tired, but I'm a little confused. Are Catherine and the MC sisters? Their relationship is very unclear and you shouldn't be afraid to outright say it. - Alicia and the MC are dating, right? At first I thought C...

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Amaya .
04:34 Jan 29, 2021

thank you! this made my day! -so for this one, in the eyes section i said "while mine display the exhaustion that could only come from being Catherine's older sister and legal guardian." Basically since it was her nineteenth birthday a year after they died that means she was 18 when they died, meaning she could adopt Catherine. Yeah, I'm definitely going to add that in somewhere idk how i expected people to figure that out -yeah they are. oh, you're right, okay. yeah that makes sense -it's because alicia and Catherine both had african hai...

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Scout Tahoe
04:38 Jan 29, 2021

- Oh dear, I'm losing my mind. Sorry. Ugh. You don't need to add anything I just missed that. - :) - Ah, okay. I get it. You could a) take it off or b) specifically say they're African American. - ;) You're welcome! See you tomorrow!

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Amaya .
04:41 Jan 29, 2021

i just added in the one about the mom being half black, could you read the hair section again? I'm not sure how well I did it since I don't do well in the place reedsy gives for editing, but if you have suggestions for that part that would be good :)

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Scout Tahoe
04:46 Jan 29, 2021

It's lovely! Absolutely perfect.

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B. W.
04:02 Mar 07, 2021

hey

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Sapphire 🌼
23:12 Feb 25, 2021

elaga unnavu? chala rosalu ayindi neetho matadi :)

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Avani G
20:10 Feb 24, 2021

Amaya it's been so long since we've talked! How are you?

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Amaya .
21:18 Feb 24, 2021

Hi Avani! I know, it's been forever. I'm good, how are you? I'm writing this week!

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Avani G
21:57 Feb 24, 2021

Yay! Every time a contest ends I end up generating story ideas for the prompts, haha~

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Amaya .
23:44 Feb 24, 2021

same, I understand that completely. I've been trying to post every week (yeah, right) but my mind has been completely dry

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Amaya .
03:50 Feb 27, 2021

hey I have a new story out, if you have time i would appreciate it if you could read it :D

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Avani G
04:08 Feb 27, 2021

Will do! :)

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Laiba M
19:39 Feb 20, 2021

Hi!~ I can't wait to read your story this week!! :) How are you?

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Amaya .
22:16 Feb 20, 2021

hi! aw thanks Laiba, are you thinking of writing this week? Im good! How are you?

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Laiba M
23:58 Feb 20, 2021

I actually just finished my last exam, so maybe :D I'm really happy! I have a lot of plans for this weekend because I've been studying for so longgg~ Do you have any plans?

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Amaya .
22:38 Feb 21, 2021

that's great! oh that's amazing Laiba, im so happy for you :) i went to a bookstore! for the first time in a YEAR (including libraries). my heart is happy <333

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Amaya .
22:38 Feb 21, 2021

how long have you been studying for?

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Laiba M
23:56 Feb 21, 2021

Aww, thank you so much! I've been studying daily for a long time for a few months, and my schedule has been so fulllll T-T That sounds amazing!!! I miss libraries so much :( they were so fun to go to!! Did you get any good books?

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Amaya .
03:04 Feb 22, 2021

well im so proud of you and happy that it's over! me too :( yeah! I got Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, I've heard it's good and I'm hoping it is

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Amaya .
03:04 Feb 22, 2021

well im so proud of you and happy that it's over! me too :( yeah! I got Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, I've heard it's good and I'm hoping it is

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. .
14:43 Feb 13, 2021

VAYD. NEW STORY. QUICK.

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Amaya .
22:00 Feb 13, 2021

OH MY GOD THANK YOU

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Sapphire 🌼
21:30 Feb 04, 2021

Wow. This was so....magical I loved how creative it was, and I honestly don't think I would change anything! The names were very interesting and don't mind me If I use one of two in a story (giving you credit ofc :) I like how you switch between the different aspects of her, then continue the story, it made it flow much smoother :) Nee story chala bagundi! Asala, nenu koda intha manchidi rayalenu :) Also for fun I think I might add in some Telugu words in a story and make them names of characters XD Like Nilamani is Sapphire, maybe I ...

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Amaya .
21:42 Feb 04, 2021

thank you! thanks haha :) thanks! same, im not that good either. OOH i love that idea! love it love it love it! for my next story I'm probably going to make my mc desi, probably Telugu

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Sapphire 🌼
22:28 Feb 04, 2021

WOOP! YESSS YOU TOTALLY SHOULD!

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. .
13:54 Jan 29, 2021

THIS WAS SO FABULOSO!!!!!!! I have like no critiques, maybe show a little bit of him on his own.

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Amaya .
16:35 Jan 29, 2021

her** :) thank you! i like that idea actually, but since this story is based more around Catherine from an outsiders perspective idk if i want to do that

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. .
16:37 Jan 29, 2021

Ohhhhhhhhhhh ok

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02:21 Jan 29, 2021

ahhhh i love thisssss i love how she is obsessed with names, it's very unique and I haven't met anyone that is like that before :) you said to critique, so I have two suggestions: "Her hair is thick and curly and magical and poofs around her face like a halo. " I would replace the 'ands' with commas so it would look like this: Her hair is thick, curly, magical and poofs around her face like a halo. if you meant to use the 'ands', its fine like that too :) The second one is here: "I can’t help thinking that if Mom were here, how differe...

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Amaya .
03:09 Jan 29, 2021

i pretty much made up this whole hobby, i have no idea how or why i thought of it but i think it's rly cute so... i wonder if there's anyone who actually does this. I just love how names have meaning and i think that's beautiful which is sort of what inspired it Amethyst thank you! For the first one, yeah the 'ands' were on purpose :) for the second one changing that right now i love that idea thank you!

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15:46 Jan 29, 2021

Yeah me too, it’s rly cute and unique :) There HAS to be someone out there, I wanna be their best friend lol Yayyyy Np! This is my first time actually critiquing something, cause normally I just read something and say I like it, but you said you wanted some so here I am :) :D

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Amaya .
16:39 Jan 29, 2021

i know right, i want to meet them i feel honored to be your first, especially because they were really good critiques ;)

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16:41 Jan 29, 2021

aw thanks :) when i was writing the comment I was in full concentration mode, copying and pasting from the story on another tab XD

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Amaya .
16:41 Jan 29, 2021

for MY story? that means a lot :)

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02:32 Feb 14, 2021

Ahhhh I totally forgot to read this when it was posted (sorrysorrysorry), but it was so good!!! You’re amazing at adding touches of imagery without flaunting it and using it as a crutch. The idea is beautiful and the writing is as well, amd I can somewhat relate to Catherine is the sense that I love names with meanings XD I don’t have a ton of critique (and you can’t edit this story anyways :P), but if I could offer a suggestion in the future, it would probably be to maybe develop the characters a bit more? You’ve done a good job creating Ca...

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Amaya .
03:01 Feb 14, 2021

thank you! and haha that's totally okay thank you for reading it! thanks for the suggestion:)

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