Contest #182 winner 🏆

Careful—You’ll Slip, Fall, and Die on Those Slippery Slopes

Submitted into Contest #182 in response to: Write a story where someone’s paranoia is justified.... view prompt

191 comments

Funny Creative Nonfiction

This story contains sensitive content

cw: references to sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder


The first time I crossed a street by myself—as in, without one or both of my parents present—I was seventeen. 


My parents warned me that the outside world was dangerous, and that, if something were to happen to me, I wouldn't know what to do. According to my parents, kidnappers, murderers, and kidnapper-murderers lurked on every corner of our small, suburban town where, statistically, my chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime were less than my chances of being allowed to cross the street by myself, or, more importantly, being allowed to sleep over at Taylor's house. 


“What if something bad happens?” my dad argued when I asked why I couldn't spend the night.


My mom agreed with him. “She lives too far away.” 


Defeated, I looked out the window at Taylor's house across the street. I imagined what it’d be like to paint your best friend’s toenails Mystic Purple at midnight while telling her your deepest darkest secret.


This, I'd confess between coats of paint, is my first time over at a friend's house.


***


I stopped receiving birthday party invitations after around the fourth grade. I blamed it on the fact that I didn’t understand basic social dynamics but more on the fact that I became known as the girl who would bring her dad to your birthday party.


The few parties I did attend, my dad stood next to me at all times, arms crossed, warning me of all the ways you could accidentally die or hurt yourself at a kid's birthday party.


  1. There was the cake you could choke on.
  2. There were the patio steps you could fall on and crack your head on. 


One year, at my friend David’s birthday party, when everyone ran upstairs to see my friend’s Pokémon Ball, I followed, ecstatic, but something stopped me. I didn't know what it was until I turned around and found my dad pulling me back, as if stopping me from walking off a cliff.


“Stay here,” he warned, and we sat on David's family's ugly floral couch, listening to my friends upstairs opening and closing the plastic Pokémon Ball. I pleaded with my dad to let me join them.


“Do you know what a child molester is?” he asked me.


As I heard David’s faint voice upstairs explaining to everyone the mechanisms of his toy, my dad explained to me that there are sick people in the world. Very sick people who like to put their hands in your pants and then cut up your body parts into tiny little pieces that fit in a garbage can. 


There could be one hiding upstairs, he told me. A creepy uncle or something.


I imagined my friends being chopped up into bite-sized pieces that could fit and be hidden inside David's Pokémon Ball. I wondered if we should rescue them, bring them down to the safety of the ugly floral couch. But just as fast as I'd had the thought, everyone came down, all in one piece, completely intact and untouched.


From there, I was permitted to take approximately five stiff and awkward supervised jumps in the jolly jumper outside before my dad said it was time to go.


***


By the time I reached my preteens, I’d finally negotiated myself the privilege of a play date. I’d never been on a play date before—that is, one that didn’t take place in my own home under my parent’s supervision. 


At the time, my parents' stipulations were that:


  1. I could only go to Taylor's house across the street.     
  2. I had to bring a Walkie-Talkie with me in case I needed help.
  3.  I had to be escorted across the street to her house. No walking there or back alone. I could get run over and die. 
  4.  I had to stay inside the house at all times. No playing in the front or the backyard. 
  5.  And most importantly, no sleeping over. 


The day of my first play date, my mom coached me on how to behave as she took me across the street. Say please. Say thank you. And tell them you’re not allowed to go outside. 


I promised.


Then, just like that, my mom left me at the door, a momentary illusion of freedom. Behind me, she was still standing across the street, monitoring my every move as I reached to ring the doorbell.


Taylor's mom answered. “Hello, Mrs. Jones,” I said to her. “I thank you for having me over at your home. I will not be allowed to go outside. I have to stay inside at all times.”


She let out a wtf laugh. “Um. Okay. Come in.” 


I stepped inside. I still remember the feeling of the plush carpet under my shoes.


That day, for what was maybe only one or two hours, Taylor and I played Barbie’s Horse Adventures: Wild Horse Rescue on her PS2. I still remember the feeling of the plastic buttons under my fingers, helping Barbie locate her missing horses--horses who'd gone missing the same way my parents claimed I'd go missing if I ever left their sight. Before this, I’d never been on my own before—aside from when I was at school or running through the sprinklers (supervised through the window) in our fenced-in backyard. Up until that point in my life, playing Barbie's Horse Adventures: Wild Horse Rescue an entire twenty feet away from my home was the most exhilarating experience I'd ever had. We could've stared at her living room wall, and it still would've been just as exhilarating to me.


But eventually I wanted more. Play dates across the street weren't enough. I was almost in high school, and I wanted a sleepover. 


I negotiated with my parents, though my first several attempts failed. I made PowerPoints. I used the Ethos-Pathos-Logos thing I learned about in Language Arts. None of it worked.


Then, one day, I got a yes.


I didn't know how or why. All that mattered was I got a yes.


***


I thought about that sleepover every second of every day in the week leading up to it. I packed my cat pajamas in my pink suitcase a week in advance.


Then, the night of the sleepover, things got even better for me. My dad had good news.


"What's the good news?" I asked, pink suitcase in hand.


"We're going to the movies tonight. We're going to see Chicken Little."


In my house, going to the movies was like dining out--a rarity reserved only for the most special of occasions.


"So," my dad said, "you need to call your friend and tell her maybe another time."


I was upset, but the thought of going to the movies on an otherwise unofficial holiday kept me from screaming.


"Okay," I said. I called Taylor. "Sorry. I'm going to the movies tonight. Another time."


Then I hung up, and as I went to put my suitcase away, my dad had more news. “We’re not actually going to the movies," he told me.


"Then where are we going?" I asked.


"Nowhere."


***

I remember staring at a BBQ sauce bottle on the kitchen table that night as my parents listed the reasons I couldn't sleep over at Taylor's.


1. You might play Truth or Dare and your friend will dare you to jump in her pool and, knowing you, you'll do it, drown, and die.

2. Her parents will forget to lock the door. How do we know if her parents are the type of people who lock their doors at night?

3. If the doors are unlocked, someone will come inside at night when you're sleeping and take you. We'll never see you again.

4. If something bad were to happen to you, you wouldn't know how to handle it.


Screaming and crying, refusing to eat my now cold plate of dinner, I demanded more reasons, but my mom stopped my dad from going on. "We already gave her our reasons," she told him. "She should understand by now why it's a bad idea."


***

Things improved over the years, and eventually I gained more freedom. By the time I was seventeen, I had:


-crossed the street

-been on a play date

-attended a slumber party

-signed up for Neopets (on the condition that I put my gender as male)

-gone to a public place other than school without supervision


Then, at seventeen, I applied to college. I was on the phone with my friend Bridget one night when my dad demanded I hang up and come to the kitchen.


I hung up and came out, sat at the same table we'd sat at when they listed their anti-slumber-party reasons.


"We need to talk about college," said my dad, angry, my mom sitting at the table, upset. "Why are you applying to far-away colleges? What if something bad happens to you? What if you have an accident or an emergency? What are you going to do if we're not there to help you?"


"Maybe you can go to the local community college, and your mom can drive you there," he added. I hadn't been allowed to drive alone yet. I had my license, but I wasn't allowed to use it.


After more negotiations, we settled on a school--not too far away but also not too close to home. I was even allowed to live on campus.


But my first year of college, something strange happened--my parents' paranoid voice chattered in my head most days, reminding me that I didn't know how to do anything on my own.


"Do you know how to use an ATM?" I asked my roommate one day. "Or how to get to a class? I don't know how. I actually don't know how."



January 28, 2023 04:01

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191 comments

Roger Scypion
18:56 Feb 03, 2023

Wow, so sad. It took courage to write this. I commend you.

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Liv Chocolate
19:35 Feb 03, 2023

Thank you, Roger! I feel writing about things like this can be therapeutic but yes difficult

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Bliss Arden
00:50 Feb 04, 2023

Very entertaining it had my attention the whole time. It reminded me of my childhood great story!

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Liv Chocolate
00:55 Feb 04, 2023

Hi Bliss! I always get excited when I meet someone who had a similar experience. Thank you for reading and good to "meet" you!

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Zack Powell
21:11 Jan 30, 2023

Jeez, and I thought my parents were overprotective when I had to wait until I was twelve to be able to take the bus home from school. Little did I know that the helicopter parenting rabbit hole goes deeper. Aside from the awful childhood memories this dredged up in me, I loved this. Could relate to this situation and narrator more than I wanted to. Also, what a killer first sentence. I read it, double checked the Creative Nonfiction tag, read the sentence again, read it a third time, and then I buckled up because I knew this was gonna be a ...

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Liv Chocolate
02:57 Jan 31, 2023

Seriously, was helicopter parenting just a 90s kid thing?! Furbies, Nickelodeon, and not being allowed to do ordinary kid stuff? I'm so happy you get how devastating this can be for a kid, especially a preteen. It seems trivial looking back on it, but at that age, I felt *so* trapped and LIVID (no pun intended on my name hahaha). Helicopter parenting does more damage than good in the long run. I think the biggest consequence was: -Alarmingly low self-esteem. I didn't even know how to lock a door haha. -Zero perception of danger (for ex...

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Zack Powell
04:44 Jan 31, 2023

It's the craziest thing too, because if you watch some of the kids/teens shows from the 90s, you have these kids going out at night unaccompanied, or just hanging out at the mall/roller rink/arcade for hours at a time. Like, you'd think there's no danger in the world at all. And then we have you and me, who weren't even allowed to leave the house without an ankle monitor tracking our every step. Television definitely didn't do anything to aid that trapped/livid feeling. Now I'm just gonna be waiting on a "Write about a character who's the v...

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Liv Chocolate
19:32 Feb 03, 2023

I am more than appreciate of constructive criticism, especially fm writers who know what they're doing like you. Please let me know what you think of Arkangel once you watch it. It's probably my second favorite episode after San Junipero. 15 Million Merits is a close third place. OMG the stove thing - definitely here too. Wasn't allowed to plug things into outlets either. But I mean, those Kid Cuisines are pretty bomb at least XD I'd probably eat one now at 28 (secretly of course) I think if there were smartphones in the 90s and early ...

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Zack Powell
19:57 Feb 03, 2023

Before anything else: Congratulations, Liv! 🏆🎉🥳 It was only a matter of time before one of your stories won. You are so insanely talented. (😂 And you can certainly throw out my critique of the story's ending - clearly it works just fine.) That's very kind of you, too, thinking I know what I'm doing. XD You'll be the first to know my thoughts on the Black Mirror episode - episodeS, now! Your parents were more health-conscious than mine, clearly. We never had Kid Cuisines, only Lunchables. And I can't even imagine smartphones back then - it ...

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Liv Chocolate
22:31 Feb 03, 2023

You're too talented to create a mess. You could have five minutes and whip out something that'll leave us all shook. Seriously! Took me years to get a phone too. I asked my friend w a phone for a name of a random phone model, and then I just told everyone I had that type so they wouldn't make fun of me. Had this nonexistent Motorolla Pebl for years. can't wait to stalk your profile later!

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Liv Chocolate
05:35 Feb 11, 2023

Lol Zack, why is this fool copy and pasting your comments? Look up Teknovate Crm on Reedsy and go to his comments - wouldn't click on his weird ass link tho lol

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Henry Azure
23:27 Feb 03, 2023

Im taking you to the desert to frolic in the ecstasy of this well deserved win. No rules, just sand and stars. 🐍 ✨

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Liv Chocolate
23:31 Feb 03, 2023

I can't way, bday boy. I'll try to stop talking your ear off about the same writing topic 24/7. I have an obsessive personality type. (But I'm also obsessed w you). <3

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David Sweet
19:38 Feb 03, 2023

As a teacher, I have encountered a few students who were handicapped by being too sheltered just like this. Thanks for sharing this piece; it's always good to be cautious, but another thing entirely to be neurotically paranoid.

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Liv Chocolate
22:20 Feb 03, 2023

Thanks for your comment, David - you are absolutely right. It renders the kids pretty much completely dependent. Random good memory of a first grade teacher though. I told her I didn't know how to walk to the playground and needed help and she just said "You don't need help. You know how to get there," and I did. That moment really stuck w me bc it was the first time in my life an adult told me I didn't need help. It gave me a boost of confidence when I walked to the playground on my own.

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David Sweet
22:46 Feb 03, 2023

I grew up on a farm and, literally, was playing in the woods at the age of four years old within sight of our house. I was thankful for my independence. Hopefully, this story will open some eyes.

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20:26 Feb 06, 2023

frrr tho

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Kathryn Kahn
18:08 Feb 03, 2023

I enjoyed this story a lot! I really liked that I was on the edge of my seat waiting for a scary event, and then realized at the end that the real scariness comes from too much protection. An interesting, amusing story with a message.

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Liv Chocolate
19:36 Feb 03, 2023

Thank you, Kathryn! Definitely a self-fulfilling prophecy and a good way to make kids "street dumb" which defeats the purpose of the protection

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Timothy Cooper
09:05 Apr 12, 2023

Not to mention totally unfair (in my opinion). So ur parents got to actually make so many of their own decisions, taste life in all it's fullness and glory (the good, the bad, the safe, the risky), create memories that u'll never have, etc., etc., etc., but they took that right from u all because things for them haven't been all Skittles and ponies and sunshine??? I would probably still be livid about that today. U were robbed of so much life at an early age. I also remained at home 95% of the time when I was growing up but it was more bec...

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Liv Chocolate
04:42 May 06, 2023

I'm super curious about the nearby correctional facility you mention. Sounds like you have some gold material for a story if you're open to sharing. Thank you so much for reading Your point that overprotective parents get to enjoy all their own freedoms is completely true and something I regret not mentioning in this story. The overprotection is really less of an act of selfless protection and more of a selfish act to ease their own anxieties. You have my follow!

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Timothy Cooper
21:37 May 20, 2024

Oh there's plenty of em in the surrounding areas. There's the prison in Muskegon (about 64 miles away, so about an hour drive from here), a prison in Battle Creek (about 55 miles and a little less than an hour away), a prison in Allegan (38 miles and 44 mins away, according to GPS), a prison in Paw Paw (24 miles away, which is a 34 min drive, says GPS) and a prison in Ottawa County (GPS says it's 37 miles (38 mins) away). I myself have been locked up in the Berrien County jailhouse (which is like a 30 - 35 min drive away) more times than I w...

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Timothy Cooper
21:44 May 20, 2024

Forgot to mention that Jackson is like maybe an hour and 45 mins away. (Not that that kept Mama from driving up and down these country roads doggedly looking for me if she just so happened to come home and find me nowhere around but still....)

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John Kearney
18:02 Feb 03, 2023

Hello Liv, if this story is true and this is how you were raised, that’s very unfortunate. You’re parents deprived you of living a normal life, I life that allows you to feel wonder, and joy. To also feel fear and other normal emotions when you intact with people and the world around you. As I’m writing this I’m thinking of what I was able to do, and places where I could go. They were not big adventures, but as a kid to be able to ride your bike with your friends to go get an ice cream or a burger. Or spend the day in the woods and letti...

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Liv Chocolate
19:46 Feb 03, 2023

Thank you, John! Those experiences you described--riding your bike and getting ice cream or a burger, or spending a day in the woods and inventing different characters--those are such life-shaping experiences for kids however simple they may seem to us now as adults. I'm so happy you got to experience those things, and that your son did too. You were setting him up for confidence by doing that. Maybe this is just me, but I think the world is an overall safe place. I think there are more good people than bad. Yes, these events are all true, ...

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17:34 Feb 03, 2023

honestly wow- this is how i want to write in the future

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Liv Chocolate
19:47 Feb 03, 2023

That is such a high compliment. Thank you, Divine!

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Michał Przywara
21:40 Feb 01, 2023

Oh man, it's funny, but also frightening, sad, and stress inducing, given the "creative non-fiction" tag. But parents get like this. Parents get worse. Keeping a kid safe is part of the responsibilities for sure, but so is cultivating independence. But their POV is understandable, even if extreme. There is a large amount of danger out there - insane, constant danger if the news is to be believed. It's enough to drive someone irrational, like believing there's a serial killer at every ten-year-old's birthday party. Still, it comes with co...

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Liv Chocolate
22:28 Feb 03, 2023

You're right, Michael. These "things" definitely happen, even if it's rare. I've been watching a lot of Unsolved Mysteries w Robert Stack lately (the 90s version bc it's free on my TV lol) and Jesus....the craziest things happen. For the most part, it's usually between people who already knew each other. It's almost never a random stranger grabbing a kid. It's usually a bitter divorced parent killing the shared children in revenge 'filicide' or whatever it's called or an angry ex gf/bf planning some grisly murder. I'm so happy what I was g...

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Michał Przywara
23:14 Feb 03, 2023

Funny/unsettling definitely achieved! Congrats on the win :D

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Lily Vanilla
03:21 Oct 20, 2023

Hi, Miss Chocolate, I'm a student in Highschool and we're currently assigned an essay to your story. I and the class of 2025 are so impressed and inspired by your narrative and were wondering if you could reach out to my English teacher to set up some kind of meeting because my peers and I would meet you. Her email is abreed@humbleisd.net

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Liv Chocolate
19:05 Oct 20, 2023

Hi Lily, that's so awesome! Thanks for reaching out. I'll send her an email this Monday

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Shaili Dutta
18:24 Sep 23, 2023

This somehow breaks my heart and infuriates me at the same time. One one hand, I knew the parents weren't wrong, they were just unnecessarily paranoid but on the other end my fingers were tingling from wanting to shove them hard. It was deeply engrossing, and the language went straight to my heart (I loved the line--I had packed my suitcase a week in advance) as that is something I always do. It also beautifully shows the dangers of paranoia. Congrats on the well-deserved win!!

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Liv Chocolate
07:13 Sep 29, 2023

Shaili, thank you for your thoughtful comment! I'm glad you felt involved in the story <3 always encouraging to hear when I've made a reader feel what the characters were feeling

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Ella Lacroix
17:10 May 03, 2023

So sad but amazing! Good job.

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Liv Chocolate
04:37 May 06, 2023

Thank you!

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Michelle Tinarwo
02:30 May 01, 2023

All too familiar😕

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Liv Chocolate
04:38 May 06, 2023

sorry to hear :( thanks for reading!

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Savannah M
20:31 Apr 04, 2023

OMG! Girl, you are so amazing! This has to be one of my favorite stories you have written! Keep writing, you're going to do great things in life, I just know it!

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Liv Chocolate
06:52 May 06, 2023

This is such an encouraging comment! Really really means a lot <3 thank you for reading

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Jullianne Peace
17:24 Mar 29, 2023

That is some skill! I commend your effort- I love your style and ability. Especially when you use words like kidnapper-murderers, words that some people use to get points across. I think too often people get caught up in making sure their writing is correct. They forget that sometimes it creates depth to use certain words instead of the word that is grammatically right.

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Lee Brooks
07:13 Mar 09, 2023

Oh. My. God! You dared to write a story and post it? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? Glad you did. It is a great bit of writing. I grew up in a completely different age. We would wander in the woods miles from home,not come back until dark, and nobody cared. Hmmm. Maybe they were just hoping I wouldn't come back.

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Liv Chocolate
05:58 Mar 12, 2023

Thanks, Lee! I can tell we're going to be good writing friends based on your sarcasm alone. I grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I would've loved to trade decades w you. Wandering in the woods until dark sounds like something out of a movie to me.

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AJ Ullah
23:10 Feb 22, 2023

Well written, draws you in and holds you - the ending highlights how parents can actually make you dependent rather than independent I am happy that you fought for your independence

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Liv Chocolate
19:25 Feb 24, 2023

Thank you, Aj! And that's exactly what tends to happen. I played catch up but I think I'm finally there! :D thank you again

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Richard E. Gower
20:46 Feb 20, 2023

An enjoyable read. A very clever piece of writing complete with an embedded object lesson. Well done! RG

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Liv Chocolate
19:26 Feb 24, 2023

Thank you, Richard!

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Ezekiel Benns
18:40 Feb 16, 2023

i love this story its sad but happy and weird in its own way but its awesome

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Liv Chocolate
19:49 Feb 16, 2023

Thank you, Ezekiel, I like happy-weird!

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Lindsey B
00:13 Feb 14, 2023

This is such a good story. I've read it a few times and it still hits me. The first time, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and then when it didn't, I realized waiting for the other shoe to drop is the problem.

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Liv Chocolate
04:31 Feb 16, 2023

Thank you, Lindsey! That's a pretty mind-blowing way to think about it. It almost puts you in the paranoid characters' mindset. I haven't thought of that

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Lindsey B
06:00 Mar 25, 2023

Also, every time I've read this, I felt the stab of betrayal from the lie of going to see the movie like it happened to me. What an awful thing to do to someone.

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