If You Like Pina Coladas

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story about summer love — the quarantine edition.... view prompt

94 comments

Romance Drama

Before Covid-19, Chris was a great husband - attentive, supportive and generous. He took his family on lavish holidays abroad and always made sure to listen to his wife’s stories about her work colleagues. The key, he found, was to remember one key fact from the previous conversation and to start a sentence with ‘I thought Sandra already…’ or ‘Is Elaine still…’ This, he thought smugly, showed a level of engagement that his friends didn’t have. Chris had a high level banking job in the city and most of his friends treated their wives like objects. Not like him. He respected his wife. 


He loved Jess, too. She was bright and outgoing, not to mention beautiful. She had long, curly hair that she dyed regularly so that the grey only ever made a brief appearance and she kept her figure trim by going to thrice weekly HIIT classes. He earned enough that she didn’t have to work - so few of his friend’s wives did - but she was determined and ambitious and wanted an identity outside him and the children. He admired that about her and often boasted to his colleagues about her work ethic. 


Because of their busy schedules, they had to consciously make time for each other. He often didn’t get home till 8 or 9 at night so they always made sure that between 9 and 10 they sat together and discussed their day, the kids and the wider world. Chris was a very happy man. 


Then lockdown happened. 


Chris found himself as one of the millions around the world who were suddenly working from home. This did not suit his personality at all - he liked the hustle and bustle of the office and the competitive nature of his colleagues, which was considerably muted now that they could take meetings in their pyjamas, as long as they wore a shirt over the top. 


Jess was furloughed from her job at a packaging company because suddenly, nobody was looking to change their products or spend extra money on new ones. 


The children, all three of them, became homeschooled overnight. From sniping about how little teachers did and wondering if they even deserved their end-of-year box of chocolates, Chris and Jess realised how challenging teaching actually was. Their four year old was learning phonics and had told Chris with no little amount of derision that he was pronouncing the ‘d’ sound wrong. Their 6 year old was attempting multiplication but apparently the method had changed since her parents had been taught it; they’d all ended up having a little cry after that session. And their 11 year old was learning about the subjunctive tense. Chris didn’t even try to touch that. 


Chris went from having a wife he adored and children he loved spending time with to living with a stressed out harpy and three little hellions that he got absolutely no relief from. His home office saw more footfall than Kings Cross station and his sacred hour debrief with Jess was now given to catching up on the work that he’d been unable to do while he was failing dramatically at being a teacher. 


He was stressed, depressed and, worst of all, he couldn’t talk to Jess about any of it. Every time he started to point out - reasonably, he thought - that as she was furloughed, maybe she should be teaching the three children, she blew up at him. She was completely impossible and seemed to think that he should be taking some hand in the housework and food preparation as the cleaner was banned from the house and he was technically physically available. She didn’t seem to understand that if he didn’t work, they wouldn’t have a house for their cleaner to come back to. She didn’t get that the fact that he was in the house didn’t mean he was free. And, as the cherry on top of a truly miserable sundae, their sex life had gradually decreased to nothing. 


Was it any wonder he found his way into Cheetr? 


The app was one that his friends had been raving about for a year or so. He’d always been repulsed by the idea of cheating. Why would he need to? Jess fulfilled all his needs and more. But having a mistress or two was, in the same vein as having a bit of a coke habit, de rigueur for bankers nowadays. 


And Jess was no longer giving him anything that he needed. 


So he downloaded the app. 


It was disguised as a calculator and you could only gain access by typing in the correct number sequence into the keypad. Once in, everything was anonymous. You could put up profile pictures and information if you wanted, of course, but Chris was new to this and did not have the confidence that his banking friends did. He chose the alias ‘Greg Jones’ and entered details that were similar but not identical to the truth. A career in stocks and shares; two children; a distant stay-at-home wife. Enough that he could be fairly honest with whoever he connected with but different enough that nobody would be able to identify him. When asked what he was hoping to get out of the app, he put, ‘A connection and maybe some fun too’ and then had to put his phone down for a bit to feel sad. 


It started simply enough. He was matched with a few people and some were interesting enough - or had photos attractive enough - to spend a few hours messaging. His office had a lock, though he wasn’t allowed to use it when the children were awake in case they had homework questions, but he found himself locking himself away in the evening for an hour or so most nights. Jess never tried the door so had no idea but Chris wasn’t taking any chances with her walking in on him with his pants undone. 


At first, it was a naughty thrill. He ended up messaging the same three women on a rough rotation and initially it was just about finding a bit of relief and enjoying flirting with someone again. Then one of the women, Susan, became a little more. 


She was one of the ones that had no picture but he’d been intrigued by her profile because she had once worked in the same field as Jess, albeit in a different part of the country. She’d given it up 12 years ago, when she had had children but, still. The vaguest connection to the woman his wife had once been was enough and he found himself messaging her more and more, way beyond their little dalliances each night. 


Susan was funny and engaging. Her views on politics lined up with his and they messaged for hours about the incompetent politicians and the ways in which they should improve. She had an utterly filthy mouth, too, and it took him right back to the early days of dating Jess, before marriage and kids and life made their time in the bedroom mundane and repetitive. He found himself confessing things - about his fantasies, about his ambitions, about his own failings as a father and husband - that he would never have dreamed of telling Jess. And Susan never judged him. She listened and comforted and indulged. 


Chris found himself itching to be away from Jess and the kids as often as possible so that he could message Susan instead. As he withdrew, his wife did too, possibly out of a sense of self-preservation. She gave up on trying to engage him in conversation and this made Susan all the more important. 


It wasn’t one way, either. Susan wasn’t married but she did live with her partner and their two children and she was going through much of the same things he was. They bonded over the creative writing and long division dramas. Her partner was, in much the way Jess was, distant and abrasive. He worked from home and holed himself away in his office from 9 till 7, which left her to do all the childcare and home maintenance. He had an important job as a London lawyer and she understood his need to keep working, even though the legal sector had slowed down somewhat. She said that she wouldn’t mind taking the brunt of the domestic side - she was a stay-at-home mother after all and had been doing the lion’s share for years - but her boyfriend never showed any appreciation or offered any support even though he was now around 24/7. She felt isolated and abandoned. Chris listened and consoled her, making sure she knew that her partner’s self-centred world view wasn’t a reflection on her.


Months passed. Every day, Chris felt further and further away from Jess and closer and closer to Susan. One night, Jess, desperate to reconnect after months of celibacy, dressed in black lingerie and seduced him. Afterwards, Chris lay next to his sleeping wife, feeling the sick stab of betrayal. He confessed the next day to Susan. She had slept with her other half in the last week or so, too, she said, and Chris had to bite down on the jealousy he felt. They agreed to turn down their spouse’s advances from then on, saving themselves for each other. 


It was the day before lockdown was lifted that Chris realised how deeply in love with Susan he was. She was at the back of his mind constantly and the buzz of his phone made him happier than he’d felt in years. Part of him was ashamed about breaking Jess’s trust but they were more like roommates now anyway. She had withdrawn almost entirely from him, focusing exclusively on the children. He wondered if she sensed that he had already mentally left her; she certainly seemed to carry a cloud of hurt and sadness around that he found faintly irritating.


Chris messaged Susan that evening. He loved her, he said, and he needed to see her. They agreed to meet as soon as restrictions lifted and when it was announced, a mere 12 hours later, that the world was going to start making its way back to normal, Chris felt an excitement that he hadn’t felt since he was a teenager.


They hadn’t video called at all over their four month courtship, fearing the interruption of their partners. The one thing that remained, Chris decided, before he could leave his wife was to see if the physical attraction was as strong in person as it was over IM. In fact, it had become somewhat of a taboo to ask each other about what they looked like. Chris found this deeply exciting, though. In his head, she looked like a different fantasy at any given moment. 


He told Jess that work had called him in for a full day meeting. She was frustrated because her work had done the same - pulling her off of furlough now that the government bailout money was drying up - and she’d been relying on him for childcare. But Susan had promised that she could make it up to the city and he was not giving up his opportunity to meet her. In the end, they managed to persuade the nanny to begin working again, earlier than government guidance. 


Chris worked hard on putting plans in place. Lockdown was only just starting to ease, after all. There were few places that were open to the public yet but his bank had a floor of a hotel in town permanently booked for visiting clients and, through significant wrangling and a fair amount of deception, he had managed to secure one of the rooms.


Susan was to meet him in the lobby at 10am. There was only a skeleton staff there but the hotel had been accommodating key workers through lockdown and he had no idea how many people would be around. They agreed, then, to wear certain things, in the style of old Hollywood movies, to identify themselves. Susan was to wear a red blouse and black trousers, with the cliched pink carnation in her jacket’s buttonhole. Chris was to wear a blue shirt and green tie. He’d chosen a yellow rose as his flower of choice. He bought the bouquet on his weekly trip to the supermarket and presented it, sans rose of course, to Jess. She seemed more sad than pleased but he shrugged it off. She had been so weird recently.


The morning finally arrived. 


Chris left while Jess was still in the shower, shouting a hasty goodbye and an excuse about avoiding rush hour. The truth was that he wanted to prepare the hotel room with champagne and make sure that he was in place way before Susan arrived. He felt the same way he’d done when Jess had first agreed to date him, all those years ago. He’d arrived early at the cafe back then as well.


At 9:55, Chris was sitting in the lobby, ostensibly reading the newspaper. His hands were clammy and the paper shook slightly as he watched furtively for the love of his life to walk through the doors. 


When she did, time slowed. She was wearing black heels that elongated her legs that he could see, even wrapped in black cotton, were shapely and long. Her red shirt clung to her curves and her pink carnation sat high over her right breast. Dark, curly hair bounced as she walked tentatively up to him and they paused, drinking in the sight of each other. Chris was shaken to his very core. She was beautiful. More beautiful than he’d imagined. But… 


“Jess?” 

“Chris?” 

August 04, 2020 14:50

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94 comments

Robyn Moss
16:11 Aug 09, 2020

I really loved this story. Your writing described exactly what you were trying to convey in your character’s lives. About halfway through, I did see the twist end, but the story still flowed and kept my interest all the way to the end. You are very talented. Keep up the good work.

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Laura Clark
20:18 Aug 09, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Adelaide Kirby
10:28 Aug 13, 2020

A great lockdown take on the song! I love that we're left to guess what happens next. I really enjoyed the discussion on passive voice in the comments as well. I once got taught, if you can add 'by zombies' to the sentence and it makes sense, then it's passive (and makes for some entertaining sentences!) A great story and I'll now be happily singing about pina coladas for the rest of the day!

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Laura Clark
11:06 Aug 13, 2020

That’s what I teach my kids! It’s tricky because once they’ve learned ‘by zombies’ you have to then make sure they understand passive with subject (by zombies is passive without subject so you’re essentially adding zombies as the subject but if it already has ‘by the boy’ then zombies won’t work). I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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Jonathan Blaauw
09:55 Aug 10, 2020

Hi Laura. I keep checking back to see if your ’13 submissions’ has become 14. Still not. Mmm… curious. In the meantime, I’ve got a new one, if you could take a look when you get a chance? It’s highly experimental. Highly. Done on nothing more than a whim. It was quite fun though, which is what matters. I think you’ll enjoy the title, at the very least. And I’ll just keep waiting for number 14 to appear…

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S. Closson
09:23 Aug 10, 2020

That was a very enjoyable story! I loved the modernized take on the song. The realistic detail of that devious little app really sold it for me. Thank you for sharing!

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Laura Clark
09:33 Aug 10, 2020

Thank you for commenting!

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21:31 Aug 09, 2020

This is a very happy/sad story. Both romantic and repulsive. Great build-up and you really feel for Chris, even if you can't, in good conscience, root for him. Nice work, I enjoyed reading it!

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Laura Clark
21:40 Aug 09, 2020

I’m so glad you were repulsed and didn’t want to root for him! I really don’t see this as a romance at all so I’m glad that someone else agrees, haha!

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Esa Manley
15:51 Aug 09, 2020

I guessed the ending but it was so well written I was hooked to see if I was right. This line made me laugh because it is so relatable, " a stressed out harpy and three little hellions" lol

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Laura Clark
20:18 Aug 09, 2020

Haha, I think a lot of lockdown couples can relate to that line! Thanks for your comment!

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Rambling Beth
15:01 Aug 09, 2020

I saw the twist coming, but I really love the build up to get there! I love how you showed that both Chris and Jess were feeling isolated from each other and then both found a new way to love each other. I particularly enjoyed Chris' POV, because it really demonstrated that, if quarantine hadn't happened, he'd never cheat. The detail about his coworkers suggesting the Cheetr App to him was wonderful, as well. I'm excited to read more of your stories. :)

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Laura Clark
20:19 Aug 09, 2020

Thank you! If you’re into stories where the couples are properly in love (as you said in the comments on your story) and want to read another of mine - check out Two Minutes and the Lifetime They Take. It’s all about the love and feel goods.

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Jessie Nice
20:03 Aug 08, 2020

Oh my goshhh I love this! I was gripped to the end, what an excellent twist and I only saw it coming in the last few paragraphs; maybe that was me being completely oblivious but I did enjoy it. :)

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Laura Clark
06:17 Aug 09, 2020

Haha, thanks!

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Jessica C
19:18 Aug 06, 2020

I agree with the consensus. This was a predictable ending. That being said, I truly think that it's because of your knack for creating vivid, likable characters (You wrote Popsicle-eating-world-ending monsters in such a way that I wanted to reach through the page and hug every one of them. C'mon!) I mean, Chris essentially cheated on his wife. That's a real scumbag move. And yet as I'm reading, I'm finding myself feeling sorry for him and hoping everything works out for him. And it does! There's a payoff! You have a very clean and s...

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Laura Clark
19:37 Aug 06, 2020

Thank you for such a lovely comment! I was a little sad that it was so transparent at first and I tweaked it a little to try and hide it but then I reread it a few times and decided I was okay with how transparent it is. I titled it after a well known song where this exact story plays out so 🤷‍♀️ I’m not quite sure why people think it’s romantic though - two people accidentally cheating with each other is still two people cheating. Thank you for your lovely compliments :)

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Charles Stucker
14:33 Aug 05, 2020

"Chris was a great husband. He was attentive, supportive and generous. He took his family on lavish holidays abroad and he always made sure that he listened to his wife’s stories about her work colleagues." How about a little tighter, something like, "Chris was a great husband- attentive, supportive and generous. He took his family on lavish holidays abroad and always listened to his wife’s stories about her work colleagues." It is the first sentence. "Because of their work schedules, they had to work to make time for each other. " Cha...

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Laura Clark
15:50 Aug 05, 2020

This is amazing, thank you! I’ve taken on your suggestions and even when I haven’t used the exact suggestion, I’ve changed it in the spirit of it. Thank you so much for your comprehensive help. I’m not seeing as much passive as you say though? Would you mind pointing some out, please? Maybe it’s because I usually go even heavier on passive (I do love it) but most of the sentences I’m seeing have either Chris or Jess as the active subject. I had not realised how heavily I was relying on ‘work’ either! Thank you for pointing that out. ...

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Charles Stucker
16:55 Aug 05, 2020

Passive places "Chris was a great husband" "The key, he found, was to remember" "Chris had a high level banking job" " She was bright and" " She had long," Pseudo passive (or passive aggressive as i call it) "she didn’t have to work" you can replace have to with need to. "she was determined" Pseudo again "busy schedules, they had to consciously make time" "Chris was a very happy man." This is all in the before lockdown happened paragraphs. In order of appearance. All the forms of be and have make for passive voice - except when ha...

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Laura Clark
17:39 Aug 05, 2020

Ah, this is the issue. Maybe this is a British/American thing. In British English, none of this is passive. Passive is where the subject is either removed from the sentence or is put to the end so that the subject is removed from active service, so to speak and the object does the heavy lifting. Active voice is where the subject is the agent in the sentence. So The boy (subject) threw (verb) the ball (object). - active because the subject is the agent. The ball was thrown by the boy - passive because the subject is moved to th...

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Charles Stucker
18:03 Aug 05, 2020

Maybe I'm sensitive because i hear every American editor harp on using be and have too much.

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Laura Clark
18:34 Aug 05, 2020

You’ve definitely got more experience than I there then - I’ve never had an editor, American or otherwise. I will keep an eye out for it in the future though, thank you.

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Julie Ward
22:23 Sep 13, 2020

I love this story, Laura. Your title is so clever. I enjoyed being in on the twist, wondering how Chris and Jess would react to each other in the end. I also kept wondering if one of them would figure it out before they met. It was a great read!

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Michele Duess
18:23 Aug 18, 2020

I saw the twist coming but still enjoyed the story. And the fact he can be sympathetic to a lover about the same things his wife complains about but with her they are dismissed. Very human. The only thing I would do is change the title since knowing the song might give away too much. Perhaps a hint like "If you like margaritas..."

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Laura Clark
18:59 Aug 18, 2020

Thank you for your kind comment! The story is a retelling of the song so using lyrics from it makes sense but I definitely see what you’re saying for stories where the twist is supposed to be protected. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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Tanja Cilia
04:54 Aug 15, 2020

I loved this, not only because of the claustrophobia so eloquently explained, but because I was waiting to see if I was right about the denouement. Look at this: http://fiftywordstories.com/2011/06/30/tanja-cilia-client-confidentiality/

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Laura Clark
06:54 Aug 15, 2020

Thank you! I had a look at your fifty word story but I have to admit, I didn’t get it. I feel very stupid for not though- it feels like it should be obvious. Love the word denouement - that isn’t used enough!

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Tanja Cilia
09:07 Aug 30, 2020

She earned her living as a high-class role-play prostitute. That day, her client was her husband.

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Jun Ann Peh
13:32 Aug 14, 2020

Just like the song but... a lot more dramatic and cliffhanger-ish!

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Laura Clark
21:54 Aug 14, 2020

Thank you!

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Dante Winters
20:57 Aug 13, 2020

This is a fantastic little story! Like several others, I definitely saw the ending coming, but I credit that to artful foreshadowing. I felt the tug of the ending, but it wasn't obvious enough to make me lose interest--rather I found myself hoping I was right, but not quite sure of it. I very much enjoyed reading it! You depicted nicely the gradual separation of a loving couple. In the interest of critique, I did feel you could have dived more deeply into the emotions. For example, instead of: "Chris went from having a wife he ado...

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Laura Clark
21:37 Aug 13, 2020

Thanks for the lengthy comment! I see what you mean about the emotions - I perhaps should have delved a little deeper there. A good note for next time! With the physical description, he would’ve recognised her instantly so the description was for the reader not him but I definitely think I could’ve polished it a bit more. Maybe a jolt when he first saw her etc. Thank you so much for the critique!

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Dante Winters
23:47 Aug 13, 2020

Ohhhh! I see, now! Loved the story, look forward to reading more!

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13:07 Aug 13, 2020

I loved your story. It's filled with so much emotion and truth. I liked the way you ended the story too, by taking it back to the day they first met and then ... surprise! Well done

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Laura Clark
13:57 Aug 13, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Barn Loser
09:07 Aug 13, 2020

Literally loved this story; the ending was unexpected but also great. No grammar issues and everything flowed well together. Well done :)

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Laura Clark
11:43 Aug 13, 2020

Thanks! That’s so kind of you to say!

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Vanessa Marczan
08:01 Aug 13, 2020

Hey Laura, I enjoyed reading your story. While the twist was a little predictable it didn't detract from the narrative. I felt your characters and setting were relatable, and it flowed really well for me. Thank you for sharing 🙏

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Laura Clark
13:59 Aug 13, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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Thom Brodkin
00:57 Aug 12, 2020

Your title drew me in but also spoiled the surprise. That being said I still loved it. A great read. Great flow. Believable. First rate. I wrote a story called “Consequences” using one of the other prompts. If you have a moment I’d love your opinion and a like if you do. 😀

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Laura Clark
21:39 Aug 12, 2020

Just did it! Thanks for the comment!

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Thom Brodkin
19:49 Aug 13, 2020

So I would love detailed feedback on one or both of my stories but here’s my dilemma, you very fairly ask for reciprocity as a condition for that feedback and I am not sure if I am capable. The two short stories I have written here are only the second and third I’ve ever written. I also don’t read. I mean I read sports and political articles but not really anything else. I have read more fiction stories in the last two weeks than the rest of my life combined. I basically can tell you if I enjoy your stories or if I don’t but any other advice...

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Laura Clark
21:21 Aug 13, 2020

Haha, no problem. I don’t mind an imbalance of contribution in comments but I just want to feel like if I’m putting 20 minutes into a detailed critique of someone’s story, I’d like more than ‘cool story!’ In return, which is something that happens fairly frequently on here. If you don’t feel able to pick mine apart (you definitely can - they are far, far from perfect!) then that’s no problem but if you could leave a comment giving your thoughts and reactions, I’d be grateful. I will definitely look at your writing - if you’re after advic...

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Raquel Rodriguez
01:34 Aug 11, 2020

This is great, Laura! Glad to see another one of your stories! :)

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Laura Clark
21:39 Aug 12, 2020

Thanks!

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Raquel Rodriguez
01:42 Aug 13, 2020

;)

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