August 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

September 1, 2016

GoodbyeThere’s a place on earth where cedar wax-wings dip low enough to know air and water amalgamate. High overhead the sky is blue as only sky can be; no jewel can rob its glory. Osprey fish the river and eagles hunt from higher above, sometimes stealing from the osprey. It’s as if this place can boast of paradise, whisper of dreams, vanquish the veil between those who sought shelter then and now. Animals, birds, humans in a circle of life, a beating heart of beauty.

And I dared to name her parts. I dared to expose paradise. Her mountains hold mist, her valleys seep peat bogs. Zen, My Idaho, Elmira Pond. Paradise. Lost.

I knew this to be so the moment I opened the door. My first post on Elmira Pond in 2013, I wrote:

For me, paradise allows bare feet and requires binoculars. That means the soil is soft and sensual, beckoning toes to burrow, and it means the details are worth getting a closer look. If you drive north of Sandpoint on the International Selkirk Loop along scenic HWY 95 you might see me, barefoot with binoculars just as you pass the Elmira sign.

I’m looking at the pond. And singing to Blue Heron. Somehow, I believe if I make up a song to the tune of Moon River (insert “Blue Heron” instead) he might not flap away to the next pasture when I cross the fence. I’m just looking Blue Heron!

Looking is a part of paradise. We long to see paradise, feel its promised peace, kick back and take a breather from the grinding world of busyness. Do you remember what the Eagles sang in The Last Resort?

“They call it paradise
I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye.”

I draw near for a last kiss. Tenderly, I look at the mountains cloaked in timber, vulnerable to beetles, drought and fire. Beneath I see bare bones of granite, feldspar, schist mined for possible treasure, ground for gravel. Used and vulnerable yet always tenacious, full of enlightenment. I will always see your beauty, close-up or far away. For now, it will be from afar. I come to paradise for closure, for a goodbye.

Little did I know that the dance with paradise would end, and so bitterly. So I spit out the bitter to taste only what I remember of the sweet. Would I have moved here if I knew it would break my heart to leave? Would I have risked renting in a market that has no sympathies for humans in struggle? Would I have skipped gaily among the pond and birds if I knew I, too, was a migrant?

Then I would have missed the moments. I would have missed The Dance. North Idaho, I dedicate this goodbye song to you:

Yes, I could have missed the pain of goodbye, but I will never regret the dancing I did beneath North Idaho skies. Instead of moving back to Sunnyside tomorrow, we are driving to Sandpoint one last time on Saturday to say,  “Goodbye, Beautiful. Goodbye, Paradise.”

Todd has the breakthrough of breakthroughs. After 7 years of working mechanic contracts on planes, he is returning to aviation management as a maintenance controller for Skywest Airlines. I can’t even begin to tell you how monumental this is! Back when we learned our rental lease would not be renewed due to owners selling the house on Elmira Pond, I searched for homes and he for jobs. We both tossed darts and nothing timely struck. The same day we pulled our trailer to Moses Lake, Skywest called for the first of multiple interviews. Because we were dealing with his military PTSD in counseling, we talked about his inability to get re-hired in his career field for so long. Learning that his does have anxiety, being mindful of coping with it, and armed with tips from the VR&E, Todd made it through all the phases.

The next life adventure? We are headed to St. George, Utah the fairyland of deserts. I know paradise will show up in another form to tempt me to name her, to dance with her again, to record all she is with words that will never be as beautiful as the real thing. After a day of seeking places to park our trailer, I couldn’t find any. Snowbirds. Not a feathered migration but one of RVers. They all flock south for winter. However, in an odd turn of serendipity, I called on a rental on a ranch. I’ll keep you posted! No pond, but a community-focused non-profit that rescues horses to train them for therapy with autistic children.

The dance is life and we often do have to say goodbye — to loved ones, to unfinished dreams, to beloved places. It’s okay. The dance really never does end. Someone else will find paradise.

August 31, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye. It can be the last polka until next time; a farewell without end; a quick see ya later. How does the goodby inform the story. What is the tone, the character’s mood, the twist? Go where the prompt leads.

TWO WEEK EXTENSION. Due to the goodbye and relocation, this prompt will linger an extra week. Respond by September 13, 2016 to be included in the compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Time for Bed by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

Mary rocked on the porch with a quilt tucked around her and Lizzie. The baby within stirred. After evening chores, the boys took to bed, leaving Mary alone with none to hear her heart pound. Cobb insisted she move in with his parents, but she wasn’t ready to leave Watauga County. The familiar woods, the patchwork of corn and squash, the smells of hearth fires nearby. She was born just over the ridge she couldn’t see in the dark. All her children were born here. And so would this last one. It was time for bed, not for goodbye.

###

The Slow One by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

“For God’s sake, Ike! You’re forty-nine years old, you need readers, your one knee is bad and your other one worse. You know what the fellows on the Baffin expedition used to say? ‘Don’t have to be faster than the polar bear, just faster than the slowest in the group.’ Well, Ike, guess what? You’re that slow one!” Danni stood on the curb of the airport, ready to block his entrance.

“Babe, I know. But I have to.” Ike grabbed his duffle, kissed his wife goodbye and disappeared into the concourse as if Iraq had already swallowed him whole.

###

 

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91 Comments

  1. Annecdotist

    I’ve read your post over breakfast on a glorious sunny morning on the first day of meteorological autumn – and your good news has extended my joy in my own not-quite-Paradise. I’m sure all your followers will be as delighted as I am at this positive turn of events. I look forward to reading about how you become acquainted with Utah.
    Well, I’ve had pain in my life which I could certainly have done without, but I’ve also learnt you can’t avoid the agony of loss by not fully engaging in the good things (although some of us with insecure starts might be tempted to try). I’m already starting to contemplate my post: I know which novel I’ll pair my flash with, but I’m not sure what form my goodbye will take.
    Both your flashes are inspiring with different angles on the theme, and both with brilliant last lines, which also makes me think about how we say goodbye to the reader at the end of the work of fiction… ah, so much in this theme, but I’d better round off if I’m going to enjoy today’s fine weather

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anne! You’ve been such a good balance of wisdom and introspection and I appreciate you always thoughtful discussions and reviews!

    • Charli Mills

      And a great flash! Thank you Lady Lee!

  2. Norah

    Parting is such sweet sorrow. Charli, your nature writing is beautiful. I always enjoyed your posts at Elmira Pond. It is wonderful to read some snippets of it here now. When I read your beautiful descriptions I want to take flight and soar with the birds. The pictures you create are magnificent. I do look forward to your posts describing natural beauty of a different kind. I’m picturing vivid blue skies against the rusty desert hues with birds wheeling above. Your post dances through a variety of emotions. I hope the love you felt for Elmira Pond finds a new place to roost.
    It is great news for Todd. How wonderful to be employed in his professional capacity. I hope he needs to run no more. I hear excitement and hope in your post. I hope that excitement is long-lived and you both find joy and contentment in your new location.
    Your flash are wonderful as usual. How I can identify with Mary’s need to stay put where her children were born, and where this one will be born. It is difficult to leave the places that feel like “home”. I’m sure you are writing the piece out of empathy. I guess the goodbye between Danni and Ike is also familiar too – he leaving, she not knowing or understanding why. It’s interesting that, even at the times when we feel most rational, there are a lot of undercurrents and unknowns influencing our choices. You have displayed it well.
    I wasn’t sure about the readers that Ike needs though. What are they?

    • jeanne229

      Just had to jump the gun on Charli here Norah. “Readers” are reading glasses I believe 🙂

      • Norah

        Doh! Silly me! Thanks Jeanne. I can’t believe I didn’t see that. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a silly slang word!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah! For being the One at Carrot Ranch and for extending friendship from so far away. Soon we’ll be 1,000 miles closer!

      • Norah

        Yay! I’m looking forward to that! 🙂

  3. jeanne229

    What a reward I’ve reaped by foregoing the dreary news and alighting on your post for my first reading of the day. I echo Norah’s words on your nature writing, Charli. What beauty and lyricism you’ve wrought yet again with your words. I want to cry at the parting you must make now. But if life seems a series of losses, it is one of adventures too. I am excited for your new discoveries in Utah, for the stark chromatic vistas and enormous skies and canyons that speak of eons, and I can’t wait to see what you make of that in your writing. Your flashes made me hungry for more. The moment with Mary is so immediate, the stirring of the baby, the “patchwork of corn and squash” invisible in the dark”; the smells of the hearth fires.” Then the skillful second flash almost entirely composed of dialogue that rings absolutely true, speaking (showing) much more of Danni’s pain at saying goodbye than any straight telling could do, with that last devastating line, “as if Iraq had swallowed him whole.” Thanks for an amazing post.

    • Charli Mills

      We can’t get those heights without walking from the valley below. And I’m so excited for the new vistas. The journey begins…in about an hour!

  4. jeanne229

    Reblogged this on Jeanne Belisle Lombardo and commented:
    Gorgeous writing on nature and saying goodbye from writer and blogger, Charli Mills with two superb flashes to follow.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jeanne! We’ll practically be neighbors soon! 🙂

    • jeanne229

      Shoot! I think my reblog failed. My site is on wordpress.org. Gotta figure out how to combine that and my wordpress.com account (with which I reply to others’ blogs). I so want to repost this properly. And yes, we’ll be neighbors soon Charli!

      • Charli Mills

        Howdy, Neighbor!

      • jeanne229

        Howdy! I did figure out the reblog. Yay!

      • Charli Mills

        Yay! Thanks for that. How neighborly of you! 🙂

  5. Susan Budig

    Leaving Cousin Klaus

    “Sören, I didn’t even say goodbye.”

    “Not a word, Becca?”

    “Nothing.”

    He laced his fingers inward toward his palms then pressed his thumbs together repeatedly. After several seconds, he looked at Becca standing next to him. Impulsively, he reached out to rub the tear away that trickled down her cheek.

    “What would you have told him,” Sören asked.

    Her shoulders rose up as she twisted her head to face his. “Why, I couldn’t have said anything. My family was stealing away, running from the SA, Jungvolk and everything that evil elfish man represented…saying goodbye would have betrayed our plans.”

    • Charli Mills

      So good to see you (and Soren…forgive my lack of punctuation) at the ranch! You’ve been with me since the inception days of Danni and her Miracle of Ducks. Thank you fr your support!

  6. Sacha Black

    I am so happy for you <3 this is just fantastic news and you really deserve it. This reminds me of that famous quote – it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Maybe the beauty of love is that it is so short. Perhaps it is something too deep and too powerful that we can only contain it for a short while. That's why missing it hurts so much, but means everything to us. There are things, people, places I miss. All that I have loved. But I too would choose to have loved and lost than never had them in my life.

    My entry this week is actually from my novel Keepers…. I don't share from it often, but there is a goodbye… an awful goodbye, because it's a very final one.

    I had to tweak it a bit to get it to fit.

    Keepers, Chapter 3 Excerpt, by Sacha Black

    “We’ll leave you the train and travel to Siren city overnight. Okay?”
    I nodded. It wasn’t really a question and his tone of voice told me not to argue.
    Mother looked back, her mouth sagged just enough that her unsaid words pricked the air. I stepped from foot to foot, desperate to find a quick question she would answer. I had nothing. So, like a child, I reached out to cling on to her. She leant back pulling her body out of my grasp. A tear rolled down my cheek.
    “I love you, Eden East.”
    Then she was gone.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Sacha! Yes, the truth is in that Old Bard’s quote and wisdom in your observations, too.

      • Sacha Black

        Thank you ????

  7. denmaniacs4

    Great post and excellent news, Charli. All the best and have a safe and wonderful transition.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Bill! Heading out in a few hours!

  8. Lisa Ciarfella

    The Market was bustling, its usual lunchtime crazy, people jamming carts into each other left and right. Amanda’s out of control chocolate craving was the culprit, but she just had to have it; their new fire-cracker dark bar. Thinking on it since last night, she braved the parking lot, nearly sideswiped three times to park, then dashed in quick under the pelting rain. Grabbing the stash, she looked up and saw her; cart in hand, oblivious. Last semester’s professor who’d screwed her out of the Teacher’s Aide job. Paying, she ducked past fast, not waiting to get into it.

    • Charli Mills

      Fabulous flash, Lisa! Such a lively scene and unexpected encounter. I love the line, “Amanda’s out of control chocolate craving was the culprit, but she just had to have it; their new fire-cracker dark bar. “

      • Lisa Ciarfella

        Hey, thanks much CharlI!
        Super to hear, especially since I haven’t done a lot of flash!

      • Charli Mills

        Flash fiction is a great form, and also a useful tool. Since we “play” with flash fiction here, writers are free to explore and experiment. Maybe you’ll like the form, or maybe it will help you develop a new idea or character. Your flash rocked!

    • Deborah Lee

      I had a similar encounter myself recently. Nice flash!

      • Lisa Ciarfella

        Haha! Thanks much, Deborah.

  9. Lisa Ciarfella

    Oh, hi. Just wanted to introduce myself.
    First time visitor to your site and liked the prompt so I posted above.

    Not sure if you wanted us to link our site, but my blog is at http://www.writingfictionnow.com.

    Will be back for more!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Lisa!

  10. A. E. Robson

    They gathered for socials, celebrations and funerals. The old school house welcomed them all.

    Goodbyes Were Few
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Through the open door of the old country school, the lively sounds of a three piece band played on. Laughter and voices singing to the music. Small children lay asleep on benches around the room. Waltzes, polkas, old time schottische and swinging butterfles. Sashaying around the room with neighbours, friends and loved ones. Midnight lunch, a conglomerate of pot luck dishes on tables at the back of the room. The slowing chords and the crowd singing ‘Irene, Goodnight Irene’ announced the evening’s end. Across the grass covered field, was a chorus of “See you next time”. Goodbyes were few.

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/goodbyes-were-few

    • Charli Mills

      Ah! This makes me miss the old schoolhouse next door!

    • paulamoyer

      What a lovely scene, Anne!

    • Charli Mills

      The gates to new wonders have fully opened! Thanks, Kerry!

  11. paulamoyer

    This is good news, Charli. On several fronts. I hope your move goes smoothly — as smoothly as possible. I wish you all the best in your new chapter. Here’s my story:

    The Worst Goodbye

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean was never a follower of kidnap stories. Before the Amber Alert, she had glazed over the milk carton notices. A weird protection – if these cases weren’t real, her daughters were safe.

    Then, one night, the news bulldozed over her. An 11-year-old boy, missing for 27 years. His remains found on a farm 30 miles from home.

    Along with the boy’s mom, part of Jean had hoped he would surface alive.

    After the news, Jean and Sam turned on the porch light – for remembrance.

    Goodbye, little man.

    Hello to hope – not for your return, but for remembering your face.

      • paulamoyer

        Hi, Sharmishta. I’ve never tackled such a gruesome topic before. The news about the little boy in Minnesota (Jacob Wetterling), where I live, had just come out.

    • Charli Mills

      So powerful of a flash and so fitting a tribute for a boy who finally has his fate known. I’m so impressed how Minnesota never forgot its lost child and I imagine so many porch lights were burning at the news. I love how you turn it into hope of remembrance. Well written!

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Charli. I have never written about such a dark topic before, but the night Jacob Wetterling was found was a difficult night for me. I felt that this was some way to show tribute to him and his family.

      • Charli Mills

        I think your flash speaks for many who hoped all those years. You wrote it well, balancing the dark topic with the light of hope.

    • Norah

      Such a sad story, Paula. Though the family was hoping for another “hello”, at least they got to say “goodbye”. Small recompense though. The way you told the story is very moving. It is so sad when anyone goes missing, but particularly children.

  12. denmaniacs4

    Treachery

    Time, dust and mortality cycloned in on Dobbs. He had to move quickly. “Damnation,” he realized, “I should have located Caldwell earlier.”

    He scampered back into the morning shadows of Union City. “They will not harm the children,” he willed it to be. “They mean nothing to Caldwell.”

    Behind the bank, he peered in. The Banker was busy.

    He had a customer.

    Caldwell.

    There was an easiness between the two men.

    Each sported a twisted grin; two bedbugs, fat and sassy.

    He had been a fool to trust the Banker. Any banker.

    He would not make that mistake again.

    • Charli Mills

      Dobbs is pulled in deeper and deeper each week. What a great line to define treachery: “Each sported a twisted grin; two bedbugs, fat and sassy.” I can see the scene unfolding.

  13. Sharmishtha Basu

    loved the starting piece of the post Charli, it captivated the heart! the 99 word stories about goodbye are fantastic, loved the first one more a bit 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sharmishtha! I appreciate all your reading and comments, too!

    • Charli Mills

      Yours is a long goodbye, and final in the end.

  14. Sarah Brentyn

    “I know paradise will show up in another form to tempt me to name her, to dance with her again, to record all she is with words that will never be as beautiful as the real thing.”

    This is so true. I’m glad you got to say goodbye and are on another adventure. I’m glad, also, that you had the opportunity to experience this even though it meant having to eventually say goodbye. What awaits you now? All good things, Charli. <3 Best of everything in Utah.

    Love these two pieces. Excellent MOD Squad flash!

    • Charli Mills

      Amazing new adventures are already unfolding! I’m feeling in a mood for Beatles, “Hello, Goodbye.” It’s a circle that never ends. Utah is good for the soul — so much rock! Thanks, Sarah!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Rocks! <3 It already sounds wonderful. Surrounded by grounding energy.

      • Charli Mills

        It is so grounding! I sat on a rock in the shade and it was so smooth and warm it felt like a blanket. Now I just want to sit on rocks! 😀

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I would, too. *sigh*

      • Charli Mills

        I decided to become a rock hugger.

  15. Norah

    Hi Charli, I wrote about the first goodbye. It is here http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-LR I’ve been expecting that one day I would forget to let you know, and for the first time I did. That’s fitting I suppose. Just as well I had an extra week to get organised. Thank you. I hope you are travelling well. Best wishes.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Norah! I’ve missed our visits! I saw your link-back, but for some reason, they don’t always show up. I’m making my way through the ranks collecting all these lovely goodbyes when all I want to do is shout HELLO to everyone!

      • Norah

        HELLO Charli! Welcome back. I’m looking forward to reading all about your travels and new experiences. I’ve missed you too! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Hi Norah! I’ve missed you, too! So much to tell! I begin with a trip to Mars…

  16. ellenbest24

    Hello Charlie I am thrilled about your husbands job and the move to Utah. The ranch rental sounds a wonderful place to find inspiration so if you don’t get the oportunity to rent there ; you can visit. Everything happens to make room for something new to stretch us. We may not believe it’s better or even as good as what passed us by but time will tell. I hope you have found your slot, your place to be.
    Both of Your hundred word stories are excellent the goodbye at the airport Iraq swallowing him whole, the rich dialogue rang true. The smells and sights you squeezed into Mary’s story the moment captured perfectly. You have given a new height to reach for your participators. I will try to take part but life is slapping us hard and I’m not sure my head can do justice or even be focused enough. It could be what I need to make my mind get outside of the worry in my head; we’ll see. X good luck and I truly wish you both well. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Ellen, thank you for speaking so positively over our relocation. So far we are amazed at the beauty we didn’t even know about. Yes, life can stretch us and though it might feel painful at first, the stretching comes to feel good. I hope life treats you with a gentler hand. I’m wishing you words and wholeness! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Yay! Happy to see you pushed through. All forms welcome in the flash…go where it leads. It’s important, as writers, we follow that lead even if it seems unexpected. Thank you!

  17. cheryloreglia

    Thrilled to hear about your husbands new job! Below is my Flash! Full article:
    http://cheryloreglia.blogspot.com/2015/11/how-do-we-say-goodbye.html

    It was early December, The Carol of Bells by George Winston, was playing in the background. That was the last time I looked my Dad in the eye and said goodbye. I knew I would not see him again, well at least not in this life, and I was bartering with God for a little more time. I held his gaze through a blur of tears, lingering in that wretched space, knowing my beloved was close to death. Although I was not granted more time, embedded in that gaze was a lifetime of love, and I am grateful for the sacredness of the moment.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Cheryl. It’s been a huge turnaround for us. Ah, what a sorrowful, yet sacred goodbye. That last glance,like a last word can mean so much.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Drew! It’s been an upswing for us and new everything. I’m glad this inspired you to write!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Shane! It’s turning out to be a wonder! And thank you for your contribution!

  18. julespaige

    Oh Charli – I hope your ‘move’ is going well and that good luck continues to follow you. I enjoyed your prompt and your pieces.

    I wrote early…but I’ve been busy so here it is:

    Arrivederci
    (a haibun)

    I missed too many, those important last words…the ones from
    those who had whisper voices or none at all, before entering
    death’s door to never to be seen again. Related by blood or bond.
    Often the claim being that children brought germs. Did that matter
    to those who were dying already?

    last words lost and found
    in dreams appearing to be
    presently lucid

    Distance is a hamper for dirty clothes hidden in the back of
    a closet along with skeletons. Those who I could sit beside,
    kept last words hidden with medicated slurring…barely stirring
    to say…Good-bye.

    ©JP/dh

    Side notes (my mind wondered):
    Arrivederci = goodbye in Italian
    Arrived : verb : reach a place at the end of a journey or a stage in a journey.
    “we arrived at his house and knocked at the door”
    Erci = secondary in Chinese
    (I was playing with the ‘translator’ to see if separating the pieces of the word meant
    different things.)

    So in my mind arrivederci is kind of romantic, saying a second hello if you will for departing.
    Since good-bye is the contraction of ‘God be with you’. When one says Good-bye they are also saying hello to your future, even if it is not with them. Thank you for putting up with the meanderings of my poetic mind.

    Link to post:
    Arrivederci

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Jules! Ah, I have new eyes for both the words Arrivederci and goodbye. Wow–powerful thought: “Distance is a hamper for dirty clothes hidden in the back of a closet along with skeletons.” Goodbyes, especially the last ones, require us to be close. I remember Kate at the end with her newest grandbaby right there.

    • Charli Mills

      I like the sounds of that! Thanks for contributing!

    • Charli Mills

      My feet have landed on solid ground. Thank you, yes, mixed feelings but a good landing. Stunning, even. Thank you for both your contributions!

      • Rowena

        Good to hear the change is turning out well. Look forward to hearing more.
        xx Rowena

      • Charli Mills

        It is…I believe the healing has begun.

  19. elliotttlyngreen

    Wohoo!!! – guess I still made it! =]

    Them Windows by Elliott Lyngreen

    Angels humming; pass through in that sordid vanish of itself, that sort of end, that culminated bright waking where she rains so close to my temple; sense warmth where our heads were assuming endless yet turn up into the pillows. Barely touched her head and tremendous washed ‘awww-awww-ahhhs’ of angelic hums instilled into my dreaming still clenched in the raining. As I removed the pillow from our heads and I lay there, the day it seemed was washing away – as if I had seen her… again… Again the radio, the alarm was 24 Gone – Girl of Colours.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, you made it! Hello, Goodbye! 🙂 “Angels humming…” such vibrancy in your flash.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        You say goodbye and I say Hello… to a NEW Pair -a- dice mmm to rolll

        [Congratulations on the good news.!!! how awesome to read!!!] …

        When life is driving you crazy
        You feel your losing your mind

        Don’t give up, don’t give up
        When the road gets rough
        Don’t give up, don’t give up
        Even when it’s tough
        -white lion

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, yes! The rough road led to a gorgeous vista. New beginnings unfurl.

    • Charli Mills

      I had no idea how stunning it is down here! We are excited, guarded, hopeful. Not giving up our trailer just yet! Still gypsies. Thank you! <3

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