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

189 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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189 comments

Riel Rosehill
12:30 Feb 04, 2023

And I thought I was sheltered, with my dad insisting my friend walked me home from school once I wanted to take the bus by myself when I was 12 instead of getting a lift, or picking me up proptly at midnight from clubbing like I was some cinderella! This was intense to read - but such a gripping story. I guess your parents didn't mean it, but just shows how you can want the protect someone and kind of leave them less ready for the world as a result. I'm glad you shared this, I think stories like yours are important to tell. Deserving of that...

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Liv Chocolate
06:16 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you very much, Riel! I think any level of sheltering, including what you experienced, can be extremely irritating to a child, especially at 12 and up. I feel, at that point in our lives, we know how to get around the world on our own, and any type of babying poses a huge threat to our self-esteem. I regret not including this part, but I had to sit in a car booster seat until 12 years old. Like a legit baby booster seat with the cushioned straps and special harness and everything. It was absolutely mortifying pulling up to school in tha...

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Jane Andrews
08:32 Feb 04, 2023

Liv, this was such a well-deserved win - not just because it was so beautifully crafted (for example, the justaposition of the kids at the party looking at the Pokemon ball upstairs while the narrator sits on the couch downstairs with her dad and her internal thought that "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,...

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Liv Chocolate
07:00 Feb 07, 2023

Jane, thank you! And you're spot on about the connection between helicopter parenting and mental health. There was definitely something going on w that. And oh god...the paranoia: *random person walking dog* "That person is spying on us. Everyone go back inside the house now and lock the door." *me telling the cashier I start eighth grade in August* "Why did you tell the cashier your summer vacation ends in August? Now he knows when to come wait outside your school to kidnap you." Even children can develop mental health issues of their own...

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Philip Ebuluofor
08:10 Feb 04, 2023

Yeah, so many parents are like that. I don't know why but eventually, the overprotected always become wide. Maybe you will still be wide later. So pray hard.

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Liv Chocolate
07:06 Feb 07, 2023

Thanks for reading!

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Molly Kelash
03:52 Feb 04, 2023

Congratulations on the win! Well deserved—this story had me wondering if the MC was in reality a kidnap victim her “parents” didn’t want anyone to find. But as someone else mentioned, the horror really was that she’d been so over-protected she didn’t know how to function on her own. Great, realistic voice and a terribly ending—fantastic!

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Liv Chocolate
07:08 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you so much, Molly! Definitely a genius twist for a fiction story. It's definitely a self-fulfilling prophecy where the child ironically can't function on their own, even as adults.

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Molly Kelash
16:25 Feb 07, 2023

Oops! Rereading my comment I realize I had a pretty awful typo there at the end (damn you, tiny iPhone keyboard)! What I meant (I think) was, "Great, realistic voice and a terribly tragic ending--fantastic!

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Kendall Defoe
02:14 Feb 04, 2023

This is a damn impressive narrative... I want to know more about this character...and you! Good job...and a well-deserved win! ;)

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Liv Chocolate
07:16 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you, Kendall! 💜 Would love to get to know you too

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Jessica Stone
02:01 Feb 04, 2023

This is so beautifully written. I LOVED how you infused humor with the overarching loneliness and isolation. You are gifted at setting the "tone" or "mood". This is truly a gorgeous piece. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Liv Chocolate
07:22 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you, Jessica!!! Comments like yours really encourage me to keep writing. Thank you for reading 💜 📖

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Riley Elizabeth
01:51 Feb 04, 2023

Liv, this was really powerful. Thank you for sharing this.

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Liv Chocolate
07:23 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you very much, Riley!

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Sophia Gavasheli
01:18 Feb 04, 2023

Damn, that last line... Firstly, thank you for writing this. My mom can also be a bit helicopter-y sometimes, and it's definitely frustrating. My heart went out to the MC (and you). I can imagine it's hard for parents too; there's a very fine line between love/wanting to keep your child safe and becoming overprotective. That's a valuable lesson I learned from this story. The parents' reasons for keeping the MC sheltered seem so ridiculous, but I guess a lot of rational thinking goes down the drain when you're a parent. The MC's parents clea...

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Liv Chocolate
07:29 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you, friend! 😄 I love the adjective helicopter-y I can tell you're empathetic and have the ability see many different perspectives (something I struggle with), even the "antagonist's" perspective. Definitely a superpower to have as writer. And thank you for calling out the title! Made my day. I was hoping so much the play on words would come across. Thank you for believing in me and for reading 💜

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Henry Riddle
00:23 Feb 04, 2023

I love the simple message in this story. It is so authentic her words. There are parents like this in the world who do exist. My parents have restricted me many times, but I have a greater amount of self reliance than this girl does. Yet, this story gives only flickers of moments in her life, but they are all we need. The numerous numbered lists that appear in the story are creative. The ending may have been cut a tad bit short, but the final lines say enough to encapsulate the stories message. And perhaps there is a success in ending th...

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Liv Chocolate
07:33 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you, Henry! This is probably the most "fm the heart" thing I've written. I couldn't believe the win bc I thought it was just too raw and unfiltered and needed a lot of cutting and euphemisms. I agree on the ending, and you're not the first to call that out. A lot of people agree w you, myself included, that it was cut short. I love your justification though that these moments pass us by quickly. I still do think it could've been fleshed out a bit more - maybe w a tie in to the beginning, going back to that first time crossing the...

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Sorelle Fisher
17:09 Feb 03, 2023

Liv this story is super engrossing! I started to read (as I often do until the ADHD distractibility kicks in) and it kept me locked in til the end. Although, Would have loved to see the plot lead to a real kidnap attempt which she then handles brilliantly, kicking her parents voices out of her head and rebirthing her self confidence. But, Im a sucker for the hero's journey ;P Awesome babe thanks for writing it

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Liv Chocolate
19:50 Feb 03, 2023

I'm the exact same way! Takes a lot for me to read something fm start to finish. You know, I'm honestly surprised I haven't been kidnapped considering how cringingly naive I was in college. Definitely have made up for lost time having sleepovers w my female friends at 28. I feel like my mental maturity is really regressed, but it's also fun to still feel like a kid! Thank you so much for reading!

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Rebecca Miles
16:47 Feb 03, 2023

I'd never come across the term helicopter parenting before reading the comments, but I recognised the portrait of over-protective parents instantly. Poor kid, wrapped up in cottonwool to the extent that all fun and adventure was sure hard to come by. And the life skills needed too, as your end made quite clear. The use of bullet and number points was neat; really emphasised the clear cut logic of Mum and Dad which of course was incomprehensible to your poor narrator. I'm with her: let me just go and play Barbie's wild horse rescue! Well done...

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Liv Chocolate
19:54 Feb 03, 2023

Thank you, Rebecca! "wrapped up in cottonwool" is such a vivid, perfect description I wish I'd thought of. Thank you for reading <3

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Wendy Kaminski
13:57 Feb 03, 2023

I can't believe I forgot to say it here, too, but congrats on the win, Liv! AWESOME! :)

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Liv Chocolate
19:54 Feb 03, 2023

Thank you, Wendy! <3

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Wendy Kaminski
19:58 Feb 03, 2023

Er, fixed, good grief :).

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Susan Catucci
19:59 Feb 02, 2023

You know, Liv, halfway through this, I ran back to the beginning of it to see if you'd tagged this story under "horror." I'll admit this, only to you of course, but I read most of it with my jaw hanging. I wanted to call the social authorities and report these people. But, besides triggering all my rebellious instincts - I'm still bristling - it's not out of the realm of what a lot of parents experience; past, present, and I'm willing to bet, future. No wonder so many kids get to college and wind up in the hospital with alcohol pois...

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Liv Chocolate
19:56 Feb 03, 2023

Thank you, my friend! Definitely a good way to set up your kids to "go wild." I was more of the breed of sheltered kid who were just really socially awkward and mentally regressed--acted like a child at really inappropriate ages. I tried complaining about it to other adults as a kid, but they always just said "your parents just love you and want to protect you, sweetheart!" I was like bish...you try staying indoors ALL DAY in an era w no wifi or smartphones. XD

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Susan Catucci
20:58 Feb 03, 2023

Hahahaha - love the "bish." Well, you have to admit, that sheltering certainly equipped you with a gem of a story. Well earned win, my friend.

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KT George
16:17 Feb 01, 2023

I loved this because it felt real. Like this was your childhood, and you were sharing an intimate part of your life. These are the people that do get kidnapped and murdered because they don't know how to function outside their safety bubble. Would love to read more about her college years! :)

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Liv Chocolate
22:16 Feb 03, 2023

Exactly! XD probably would've jumped into the free candy van for sure if I'm being honest Thank you for reading!

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Stevie Burges
08:11 Jan 30, 2023

Liv, thanks for writing this. I suffered claustrophobia all the way through. I found the more constraints put on me the naughtier I became! Good story, built up my frustration nicely. Good writing.

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Liv Chocolate
03:16 Jan 31, 2023

Thanks, Stevie! It's only human nature. This is how you create a little demon!

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Stevie Burges
05:15 Jan 31, 2023

Going by my personal experience - so true!

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Stevie Burges
06:43 Feb 04, 2023

well done. A deserved winner.

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Suma Jayachandar
08:22 Jan 29, 2023

Funny , visceral and unsettling- this story fit the prompt perfectly. The voice is so real and believable. Great job, Liv!

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Liv Chocolate
03:17 Jan 31, 2023

Thank you, Suma!!! That means a lot

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Suma Jayachandar
16:38 Feb 03, 2023

Congratulations!! It was a well deserved win.

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Liv Chocolate
22:21 Feb 03, 2023

Thank you so much Suma!!! <3 I'm so ecstatic and thankful!

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Wendy Kaminski
19:28 Jan 28, 2023

Really felt this one, Liv. Excellent story and warning for the overly-protective. I got a good chuckle out of many of the lines, but this was my fave: "kidnappers, murderers, and kidnapper-murderers..." My heart broke for the narrator when her Dad faked her out on the movies just to pull the sleepover. Who does that? Ugh. Extremely well-done!

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Liv Chocolate
06:10 Jan 29, 2023

Thanks, Wendy! All based on true events. I was concerned it'd come as a middle schooler whining, so I'm so happy it made you feel something

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Wendy Kaminski
06:11 Jan 29, 2023

Oh no, not at all! The fact that it's real just makes it tragic, not whining. :(

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Liv Chocolate
06:12 Jan 29, 2023

btw, your allergen warning has me cracking up already XD I'm reading yours right now

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Wendy Kaminski
06:13 Jan 29, 2023

LOL Thank you! :)

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Wendy Kaminski
17:03 Feb 03, 2023

WINNER! Congrats :).

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R W Mack
17:42 Jan 28, 2023

I remember this being a part of life. The ending was the real clenched for me. Good work. Technicals were solid and pacing didn't drag me out of the flow or leave me any speedbumps. Smooth and mellow with plenty of weight. I dig it.

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Liv Chocolate
06:11 Jan 29, 2023

Yes, I was fumbling with the ending there. Please feel free to drop any advice you have on writing closings. Thank you for taking the time to read!

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R W Mack
13:03 Feb 04, 2023

Tally one on the board, you earned it.

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Liv Chocolate
07:17 Feb 07, 2023

Thank you!!

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R W Mack
14:18 Jan 30, 2023

I'm loathe to give too much like that in the wild because I feel it takes away from the progenitor's creation a bit (or in a sense takes away a bit of spiritual parenthood, if that makes any more sense) but it's the "right" ending as far as I can see. I can't see it going any other way without feeling fake and pulling the reader out of the story when they should be so enthralled they don't realize it ended.

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Lily Finch
05:49 Jan 28, 2023

Great story Liv. Neurotic parents hinder their child's social interactions and development of living in the real world. A dysfunctional adult who is lost to the point she cannot take care of herself. Well done, Liv. LF6

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Liv Chocolate
08:23 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you, Lily! You totally get it. Kids can't build confidence in a cage.

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Lily Finch
12:39 Jan 28, 2023

Came through loud and clear. LOL

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Kaden Peters
19:08 May 08, 2023

As I was reading this, I was most definitely not expecting her dad to lie about going to the movies and having her cancel the sleepover. That perfectly depicted helicopter parents in their true element. Great story!

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