62 comments

Horror Suspense Romance

“So, how come you didn’t want to FaceTime with Afra? Surely you aren’t worried she’ll be upset we’re together.” 

Gervassi leaned away from Hanna. She reminded him of a song. Afra reminded him of entire playlists, movies, sunsets, and of course, onions. Hanna was a line in a chorus and Afra was… more than that. Obviously! What was wrong with him? Hanna was a friend. She was an awesome friend who smelled like caramel and always showed up whenever he needed her most, but still, a friend. 

“I don’t know. I thought she’d find it weird you magically showed up in my town.” 

Hanna laughed. “I’m here for work, dummy. What’s wrong with that?” 

Probably, Gervassi thought as he wanted to bury his head in his hands, the fact that you’re naturally friendly and for some reason I’m taking that as more than I should. Man, for all the little effort it took to fend off an ex-girlfriend in Colorado, Gervassi was beyond flustered that Hanna, a much older tutu saleswoman, was making him want to lie to Afra. 

“Nothing’s wrong with that. Um, maybe I should go, though, I’m sure you have convention stuff to catch up on.”

Hanna frowned. Her lip gloss was light purple and made Gervassi think of the Sugar Plum Fairy dance. He pinched his leg. He wasn’t thinking about Hanna’s lip gloss or her lips.  

She pointed at the glass of water he had in his hand. “You haven’t even started on that water, and wouldn’t it upset Afra more if you didn’t stay hydrated?” 

“Yeah. It would.” Gervassi smiled and took a sip of his water. Hanna munched on the cookie she’d previously bought for him, but was gifted back when he didn’t want it. “So, um, tutu sales are good. What else is going on? Are you dating these days?” Ah, that was awkward. Gervassi wanted to roll under the bench and hide there with the squirrels. Why would he ask something like that? Why did he care? He didn’t. It was just a friendly conversation. Because they were friends. 

“No, actually, I was engaged for a while but after I realized Jude didn’t care for my pet bunny,” Hanna threw her hands, “Out the door!” 

“How old are you?”

It wasn’t on purpose, like a fly doesn’t get stuck to a spider’s web with hopes of being eaten, but Gervassi was hook, line, and sinker-ing into this conversation. 

“Don’t you know you should never ask a lady her age?” Hanna seemed serious for a second and Gervassi was relieved because if he’d made her mad she would leave and the problem would be no longer. But Hanna wasn’t serious. “Kidding, kidding.” She patted Gervassi’s dyed orange hair and grinned, straight white teeth glimmering like fine china. “I’m twenty four.” 

Gervassi was almost seven years younger than Hanna. That was insane. She was practically geriatric. This was basically  illegal and he was just talking to her. He stood up. “I’m almost nineteen.” 

“Oh, when’s your birthday? We should go celebrate! You can bring your little girlfriend.” 

“She’s not my ‘little’ girlfriend. There’s nothing ‘little’ about our relationship.” 

Hanna moved her arm back into her own personal space bubble, still smiling but now her eyes glimmered more than her teeth did. “I’m not saying it’s not a serious relationship but you guys are still pretty young-” 

“I know! And that’s an awesome thing. A really cool thing that means we’re going to get old together and when we die, we’ll have decades of history together.” Gervassi sat back down on the bench, but he was ready to run at any second. 

“That’s not what I was going to say. Look, I know you and Afra think this is it, but the truth is, things happen in life that we can’t control. Days happen where we wake up and find it’s not as easy to fall into the same pattern of easy love as it was the day before.”

“What are you saying?” Gervassi asked, but he knew the answer and it stuck against his teeth like cotton candy. 

Hanna, pastel against the park’s streetlights, smiled again and this time her teeth didn’t show. “I’m saying that if it doesn’t work out between you and Afra for whatever reason, you,” she poked Gervassi in the arm, “know where to find me.” 

As much as Gervassi wanted to jump up and yell that no, he would never leave Afra even if a million wild horses ripped him from side to side for it, he didn’t. He didn’t jump up or yell anything at all. “I won’t need to do that.”

“Why? Are you and Afra getting married?” Hanna was amused. “I of all people know that plans like that don’t always add up and even if you do get married, that’s not a promise you’ll stay together forever.”

“Yes, it is! That’s literally why most people get married. I don’t know why I’m arguing with you about this." Gervassi backed up so quickly he almost fell off the bench and when he didn’t, he wished he had. Falling on the hard park ground would have shaken some sense back into him. 

Hanna nodded. She tapped her long nails against her black jeans and watched two girls walk by with long scarves. They were either both into Harry Potter, because the scarves were Hogwarts themed, or had raided a lost and found bucket at the local high school.

Hanna remembered her high school days well.

She’d always been so popular. Now she was older and selling tutus for a living, which, as much as she liked traveling, was a far fall from being valedictorian and prom queen. Maybe she’d read the signs wrong, but Gervassi had seemed to like her. She thought, under all that ‘I’m in love’ bravado, he probably still did. Hanna found herself easy to like. 

“Look, I’m not trying to be some homewrecker, I promise. All I’m saying is that you could come travel the world with me. Imagine,” Hanna grabbed Gervassi’s hand and though hers was cold and her nails were chipped, digging into the sides of his fingers, he didn’t let go, “We could go anywhere. You have troubles with your dad, right? Leave him behind and come with me. It’ll be good. And so fun.” 

Gervassi didn’t want good and fun. He needed to tell Hanna this before she got even more the wrong idea, but his hands wouldn’t move. He couldn’t will them to because as much as he knew all signs pointed to, “Get the heck out of here,” there was still a part of him that liked Hanna and her caramels and tutu and really, really cold hands. It was the part of Gervassi that told him Afra would forgive him for thinking maybe she wasn’t all he ever wanted or needed. 

“That’s a terrible idea.” He looked at the sky. His hands didn’t belong to Hanna but he wasn’t calling her out for trespassing, either. It was bad and he didn’t know what to do to stop whatever was happening and at this point in the story you should jump up and yell your advice at this guy because honestly, I don’t know what he should do either.

“I’m going to go.” He picked up his hand and glared at it for being made of nerve endings and fragile, betraying bones.

“Remember we met on a bus too. There’s still room for a second story.” Hanna tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear and stood up as well, grabbing her purse and shoving the last of her cookie into her mouth. “I hope I didn’t scare you away.” She cocked her head and smiled at Gervassi as though he were the cute pet she wanted him to be. “I’m not a bad person.” 

“Neither am I.” Gervassi took out his phone. “Let’s take a picture for Afra before I go. I don’t want her to find out we met and then think I was lying to her.” 

Hanna put her hands on her tutu-ed hips. “But you were lying.” 

“I’ll explain to her what happened. She’ll understand. Something bad happened and you were right around the corner. It’s not like I kissed you. I’m fine. It’s okay. We’re all good.” Gervassi hated that he had brought up kissing this strange version of his beloved LIB. She was different than how she’d been on the bus and it confused him more now because did it mean she’d always been like this or that she wanted him now that he was so far gone with Afra? 

Spiders were scary, but Hanna was a different type of killer. 

“Do you want to kiss me, Gervassi?” She was digging her knives of mental doubt into his stomach and he prayed a lightning bolt would knock the nearest tree over, smacking him into the ditch he belonged in. 

“No.” He didn’t want to kiss Hanna, he just thought it would be a good distraction to kiss someone, and she happened to be nearest. “I do not. And I’m leaving now because I finished my water and I need to call my girlfriend. Who I adore. And respect enough to tell her that you-”

“I didn’t do anything.” 

“Excuse me.” Gervassi moved to go past her, but Hanna held out a hand. In her the center of her palm was a single, wrapped and wicked caramel. If he took it, she had him. If he left it, he would lose her but still tell Afra what had happened. It was a split second decision that took him ions too long. 

“I’m on a diet. No sugar.”

Gervassi closed Hanna’s fingers over her extended palm and with a final look, swept past her. The water cup crunched with a plastic snapping noise as he smashed it in his clenched fist; then he threw it into the nearest trash can. He called Afra, but her phone went to voicemail.

“Dang.” Gervassi did ask that she answer when he called, but after all that had gone through his mind about Hanna, he had to cut her some slack. The most slack. In a world in which slack was a cake, Afra would get the biggest slice. 

Please leave a message after the tone. Beep.” 

“Afra. Hi. I need to talk to you. I wasn’t alone in the park and I didn’t go home when I said I would. I’m sorry. I was with Hanna. You know her, she’s the,” Gervassi had no classification that fit that woman anymore, “Tutu saleswoman. She was here for a convention in Naples and we were catching up, but then she was saying all these things about me and her traveling the world together… I don’t want to, though. I love you. Please call me.” 

He put the phone back in his pocket and the park was spinning, full of families and couples and singles and friends and strangers. Gervassi’s stomach jolted. Water couldn’t wash away the revolt in his body and mind, ice couldn’t freeze the ticking of his damaged internal clock. 

Afra bounced on her heels as she finished putting the final touches on her newest piece of art. It was a sprawling quilt made from pictures of things she loved; all her friends, her parents, Gervassi, her dog, places she felt at home in, and things around that made her feel safe, like all the blankets on her bed and the stuffed animals lined up like soldiers next to her pillows. She was so proud of the quilt. Her smile was cracking her teeth, splitting her face down the middle and making her cheeks ache. It was such an expressive piece and this moment would forever be etched into the wet cement of her memory. 

Afra sighed, content with what she’d accomplished, and sunk back into her bed. She turned her phone off silent. Oh, there was a missed call from Gervassi. Tim Gunn, Afra’s dog, jumped onto the bed and settled beside her. As she petted his soft ears, she listened to the voicemail Gervassi had left her. 

“Afra. Hi.” She liked the way he said her name. She always listened to his voicemails more than once because they were a sweet reminder of what she already knew. “ I need to talk to you.” Those words were never good. “I wasn’t alone in the park and I didn’t go home when I said I would. I’m sorry. I was with Hanna.”  

Afra cracked her knuckles against Tim Gunn’s stomach. He yawned. The recording went on playing. “You know her, she’s the,” Gervassi’s voice broke,  “Tutu saleswoman. She was here for a convention in Naples and we were catching up, but then she was saying all these things about me and her traveling the world together… I don’t want to, though. I love you. Please call me.” 

He loved her. 

He wanted her to call him. 

Afra didn’t know whether she should be glad he was being so honest or furious he’d lied before, when she wanted to talk and he said no, that he was tired and was headed to bed. She didn’t want to talk, though, now she wanted to light something up, preferably something flammable that would send smoke signals saying, “et tu, brute?” to Gervassi all the way in idiotic Florida. 

“Hello?” Gervassi popped his head in the doorway of his apartment and the sickening fumes smacked him back. Only one possible explanation. The roommate must have come back, and brought friends with him. “Rogelio?” 

“We’re busy!” 

“This place is nasty and I hate the way it makes me feel like I’ve done nothing productive or healthy with my life!”

From the other side of the closed bedroom door, Rogelio sighed an enormous sigh. “I pay my rent, you pay yours.”

There was a click, and the door swung open. The floor was littered with Scrabble tiles and Uno cards. There was an open can of Pringles resting sideways on Gervassi’s mattress and three fruit snacks- orange, grape, and cherry- were jammed like sticky tack to the ceiling. 

“Are you kidding me? This is all gross. How can you stand it?” 

Rogelio shook his head, morose eyes gazing past Gervassi. “You were cooler before you met that girl.” 

“I do now, and the least you could do is not use the apartment as a modern art exhibit. How do you get fruit snacks on the ceiling?” 

“Creatively. It was an assignment for class.” 

“What’s your major?” 

Rogelio cackled and his friends joined the chorus, the noise seeping into the walls and disturbing the sleep of everyone in a three mile radius. “Business.” 

“You major in business?” 

“No. But you should just mind yours.” 

Gervassi’s phone started to buzz. He glared at Rogelio, scowled at his friends and their board games, and twisted the strings of his hoodie so tight around the ends of his fingers that they matched the grape fruit snack on the ceiling.

He slid the answer button and put the phone to his ear. “Afra? Are you there?” 

“I am.” She was holding a stuffed rabbit in her lap and biting her lips. 

“Good, good. I have to talk to you and say that whatever you think happened, it’s probably not true. She was just talking.”

“And you gave her the satisfaction of listening.” 

Gervassi could feel Rogelio and Co. staring; their eyes were greedy for the drama. “She’s not you. She’ll never be you. I was still upset with all that my dad told me and I just wanted the company, you know that.”

“I wish you would stop using your problems as an excuse to make problems for me, too.” Afra gritted her teeth and squeezed the rabbit’s neck. “I wish you would stop pretending your walls are all broken down, because I get the feeling you never let me past the front gate. Am I still standing in the courtyard, Vassi?” Afra twisted the nose of her stuffed stress release. “I don’t want to be.” 

“Of course not. You’re not in the courtyard.” Whatever that meant. “You’re with me, you’ll always be right here with me.” 

“Until I can’t be and you mess up and then you call me and ask me to forgive you because you were going through a rough time? Where’s your backbone?” 

Gervassi shot another deadly look at his roommate. He wouldn’t leave. “Um, Afra, my roommate is watching me and it’s kinda creepy. Do you mind if I go outside and call you back?” 

“I don’t care where you go. I know where I think you should go, though, and it’s not outside.” The stuffed rabbit was a corpse in Afra’s lap. She threw it across the room and her phone followed it, thudding into the wall with a resounding whack. Afra walked out of the room while Gervassi was still talking. It was true. 

Sometimes ignorance was bliss. 

November 29, 2020 04:57

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62 comments

Rhondalise Mitza
04:57 Nov 29, 2020

don't hate me cause I'm beautiful :)

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Orenda .
15:44 Nov 29, 2020

i won't doubt that :)

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21:15 Dec 07, 2020

Okay, since Afrassi is more like a novel than a short story, I’ll leave detailed critique for intervals. But I did have a few thoughts. First, you’re trying too hard on conflict. Conflict will come naturally, if you write the characters with all of their flaws and human nature. Second, in the first part with Hanna, Gervassi lies, but then he repents and shuts it off. He’s absolved in our minds. Afra rejects a sincere apology from someone who’s already relented—I presume for the sake of conflict. Here’s some ideas to make this smooth...

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Rhondalise Mitza
00:10 Dec 08, 2020

Ahh I had a whole response typed out to this and it deleted itself! I'll have to write it up again but basically, like always, thank you for reading! Your feedback is really helpful.

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00:16 Dec 08, 2020

I just re-read my comment, and I just realized I sound really bossy... just to let you know, I’m only suggesting, not telling you what to do with your story! It’s just easier to type on the tiny phone screen.

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Rhondalise Mitza
00:18 Dec 08, 2020

Haha, no, you don't sound bossy. I'd let you know if it was bossy, don't worry. How's Wisconsin treating you?

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00:21 Dec 08, 2020

Pretty good so far. 😊 Cold, but good.

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18:06 Dec 07, 2020

Hey! I finally got through The Bert Swap. I know, I’m a bad Reeder for taking so long!! Life has been absurd. But anyways, I really liked it. I do have a few thoughts, if you wanted to hear. I’m doing this on my phone so I couldn’t leave comments in the doc itself. What I found was mostly trivial—a few sentences that could be cleaned up, a typo here, a style issue there—but I did see at least one major item with the story itself. Also, I really need to catch up on your stories... yours and Zilla’s! I’m slow right now—can’t believe I’ve...

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Rhondalise Mitza
19:18 Dec 07, 2020

Hi, Leo! How are you? Now worries, hope life is less absurd now. I'd love to hear what comments you had on the Bert Swap, of course, and take your time catching up. :)

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20:17 Dec 07, 2020

I’m pretty good. 😊 Actually in Wisconsin atm. So, the main comment I had, and the one that all the others stem from, is the anticlimactic nature. We have a conflict between Yayden and Lana, and Lana and Christmas Catie, and even Bert has some say in the conflict. However, Lana doesn’t have to struggle to win out over her conflicts. She muscles Catie, sings her own favorite song for Yayden, and helps Bert by giving him to Bastian. She never has to fight to make any of these goals happen. In particular, the conflict with Yayden was short an...

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Rhondalise Mitza
20:25 Dec 07, 2020

Wisconsin! Well, hey, are you eating a lot of good cheese? a.) it was a very lame problem, yes, but since it was based on a semi true story I wasn't sure how to structure the plot more, like you said, compellingly. I'll be working on that though now that I have free reign of the word count mwah haha. It was 5k max so I sadly cut corners, though maybe not correctly. b.) I can totally add parental figures now, thanks for the recommendation! c.) It is based off of me, yes, and I have the Bert doll with me all the time even though I ca...

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20:35 Dec 07, 2020

Neat! I’d love to read the finished version! Yes, haha! I’m gonna try and eat as much cheese as possible. You could probably guess, but I LOVE food. 😂

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Iykkkkk, good luck with the wisdom teeth! Alsoalsoalso, I have a new story out! It’s a dystopian story I wrote for school. It’s not on a Reedsy prompt, but I’m posting it for some feedback. Because if this, it’ll probably be removed when the contest ends by Reedsy. Whatevs. Mind checking it out? 🥺☺️😄 Oki so....bye!

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Amaya .
01:00 Dec 01, 2020

so basically.......I read this story and after the first paragraph i loved it so much and I went back and read all the other Afra and Gervassi ones so that this one would make sense. THIS IS SO GOOD OMGGGGG

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14:42 Nov 30, 2020

Nice, Rhondalise! (By the way, I really like your name!) I've never seen a tutu salesman, why don't I get offered caramel? I dunno who I like in this situation besides Afra. When she yelled at Gervassi, I was like, 'Yes girl! Tell him off!' :)

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:10 Nov 30, 2020

Yesss, this is part of a series so if you haven't read the rest it may not make a whole lot of sense but I think you hit the mark with cheering for Afra in this one. :)

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18:21 Dec 01, 2020

Oh, that makes sense! :) Yay, Afra! Lol.

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Leya Newi
07:36 Nov 29, 2020

Ahhhhh yes!! I love Afra and Gervassi fighting almost as much as I love them being cute together. I want to know what happens next, per usual. Brilliant job, and I can’t part for the next part! ((What number that is, I can’t remember. But it’ll be epic.))

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B. W.
21:48 Dec 11, 2020

could ya check out "A strange lover" and then leave some feedback on it?

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B. W.
18:49 Dec 09, 2020

Heyyyy

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Rhondalise Mitza
19:05 Dec 09, 2020

Heyyy

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B. W.
20:21 Dec 09, 2020

how are ya?

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Rhondalise Mitza
21:37 Dec 09, 2020

I'm doing okay, how are you?

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B. W.
21:53 Dec 09, 2020

I guess im good but im just sort of bored and tired

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Rhondalise Mitza
23:01 Dec 09, 2020

Yeah, I'm studying for the ACT right now. It's kind of hard but that's okay!

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B. W.
19:57 Dec 07, 2020

Hey, could ya possibly check out "To Catch A Killer" and leave some feedback?

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B. W.
23:56 Dec 05, 2020

Ya wanna hear some jokes or something?

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Rhondalise Mitza
00:07 Dec 06, 2020

Oh I read your bio! It was cute :D

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B. W.
00:13 Dec 06, 2020

Ya think so? ^^

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B. W.
22:58 Dec 05, 2020

I made a new Bio, could you maybe check it out and tell me what ya think? It was about time I fixed it :/

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B. W.
22:01 Dec 04, 2020

Heyyyy

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Felicity Anne
16:55 Dec 04, 2020

A raven is like a writing desk because they both have quills dipped in ink. They also can both produce a few notes, though they tend to be very flat. :)

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Raven Wei
07:08 Dec 03, 2020

Well, I'm an idiot. Was I supposed to read the other story about Afra and Gervassi first? At any rate, I really liked this story! It was really well written and flowed extremely smoothly. It was so vividly descriptive that it was so easy to imagine the entire story as if I'm watching it not reading it. Amazing story. -Whirlwind

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Rhondalise Mitza
14:01 Dec 03, 2020

Hi! Yes, this the thirteenth installment of the series! I love that you liked this one, though, and thank you so much for the feedback.

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B. W.
03:32 Dec 03, 2020

Heyyy

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Rhondalise Mitza
04:04 Dec 03, 2020

Heyyy

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B. W.
04:11 Dec 03, 2020

how are ya?

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Rhondalise Mitza
04:49 Dec 03, 2020

Good and you?

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B. W.
05:43 Dec 03, 2020

I'm just kind of a bit bored and tired

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B. W.
05:27 Dec 01, 2020

Could ya maybe check out "Unforgivable" and leave some feedback on it?

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Zilla Babbitt
23:57 Nov 29, 2020

For some reason the tutu salesmen aren't coming by my door and it's bothering me. Where are they? I enjoyed this addition to the literature universe of Afra and Gervassi. My favorite line was "Spiders were scary, but Hanna was a different type of killer. " Happy 81st story! Halfway to that magical 162nd story. Lovely last line.

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Rhondalise Mitza
23:59 Nov 29, 2020

Thank you so much! I liked that line too and REALLY where are those tutu salesman? Probably at that blasted convention in Naples.

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B. W.
21:12 Nov 29, 2020

I don't have much to say for this story except its still a really great one like all of your other stories and it gets a 10/10 from me :)

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14:55 Feb 12, 2021

another good story!! thank you so much for getting me through math classssss <3 one question- why's one of the categories horror? i get the suspense and drama part, but it just didn't seem very horror-ish to me. is there something i'm missing?

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Rhondalise Mitza
15:36 Feb 12, 2021

Oh it was because I had a challenge to write a horror story and I'm not a horror writer so I jus put of the categories as horror instead!

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