May 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

May 20, 2021

Maple pollinators coat the ATV trail. The ground is such a livid neon yellow that it messes with depth perception and I wobble my first steps across the tree litter. The transition from spring into the life of summer comes amidst a hail of pollen, blossoms and organic fluff. I’m walking the dog for the gazillionth time because she’s too picky to poop in the detritus of spring. A winter puppy, she misses her snow banks.

Mause rears on her lanky back legs to snap at dandelion seeds floating across the lawn. On impulse, I’ve plucked two full dandelion heads to make a wish, or two. It’s the eve of my birthday and earlier celebrations for graduation wind down. Tomorrow two of my grown kids and their partners will be in town to spend a weekend of yard work with mom (for mom?). Already, the three kids pitched in to buy me a dump-truck load of pea gravel to build up my bonfire area. I wish for the weekend to extend as long as possible to enjoy time with them.

The puppy, now six months old and a master chewer, has exhausted me this week. I’m on my own with her as the Hub has flown out to Nevada to be with his family. She notices everything around her, like dandelion seeds spreading wishes and piles of tiny rocks. She decides to dig, helping us spread the gravel. Back home, past the woodland shadows and ground mists of blue forget-me-nots, she flops on her belly, panting, seeking the coolness of the grass. Her white coat glistens like the patches of fleabane scattered across my shaggy lawn.

It’s hot and muggy today, and I’m thinking about the naked farmers I once interviewed for a article. I can’t recall the name of their pizza, a secondary product they made from their naked veggies. It’s not the pup’s bare belly on grass that brought me to muse digging in soft soil sans clothing. It was one of the Rancher socials last Saturday and a conversation about World Naked Gardening Day that emerged. I knew this would have to be a prompt for May! Why not? How could skinny dipping beneath a garden hose go wrong?

Sometimes, writing can feel naked. (You knew I’d try to stretch a connection, right?) We write raw and vulnerable, even when we craft fiction. We hope to present our work fully clothed to readers but often we find that they strip away our outer veneer and see us beneath our carefully arranged words. We are like naked gardeners, exposing ourselves as we explore humanity.

Let’s be carefree as the trees and cast our clothes to the breeze for this one! And if you have a garden, send D. Avery some photos (of the garden, not the gardener) for her Saddle Up Saloon Garden Tour at

May 20, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 25, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Slip Up by Charli Mills

An early summer scorcher in the Great Basin robbed the buckaroos of their appetite. Bev wasn’t about to see her gang shrivel in the sun unfed. She sliced cold cuts and tomatoes and packed almonds and dried apricots for the trail. Wilfred, the ranch foreman raised a wooly eyebrow but kept silent. He advised everyone to tank up on water and required they carried canteens. After Bev cleaned the cookshack she headed for the garden, feeling sluggish. Later she’d claim she slipped in a pile of fresh horse apples when the crew returned early to find her gardening naked.   


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  1. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    Oh this one is a challenge! Definitely feeling vulnerable. But when doing the things we love, vulnerability breeds strength. Looking forward to the array of pieces this one will breed. I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of laughter either!

    And no shortage of love for you with your kiddos over for the weekend too. Enjoy to your heart’s fullest content, Charli. Can’t wait to hear the tales that the weekend conjures.

    • Charli Mills

      Rebecca, you share much wisdom in this statement: “But when doing the things we love, vulnerability breeds strength.” And we don’t fully appreciate the growth facing our vulnerability holds for us until we are through it. I had a wonderful weekend with my kiddos. Thank you!

      I loved where you took the prompt!

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks Charli! Glad you had a great weekend and that you enjoyed my response to the prompt. Learning to be vulnerable is a skill in itself, it’s a hard one to learn!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Thanks for the garden tour plug.
    And happy birth day!

    • Charli Mills

      Which reminds me that I have another photo to get to you — finally got the Poet Tree Sign in place with new garden ribbons.

  3. robertawrites235681907

    How lovely that your kids are coming for a visit, Charli. This is an unusual concept. I like to be covered up all the time. I can’t even sleep in a nightdress but must have knee length pants of some sort.

    • Marsha

      Me too, Robbie. I end up with night gowns wound around my waist and chest so tight I can’t breathe I’m much better with pants and a short shirt. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Hmm, dressing for bed might be another future topic. 😉

      • Marsha

        LOL Not a pretty picture here! But given some of the imaginations hanging around the ranch, it could end up as a murder or suicide, or worse, a walk in the park. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha — a walk in the park!

      • Marsha

        That kind of goes along with naked gardening. I need to get back and read all those stories. I had too many irons in the fire to get naked in the garden this week! Not to mention it’s been blowing about 50 mph here and sometimes the temp has been 40 degrees. My tomato plant looks torn apart from all the gales, and that’s the only thing that is still alive basically. Hope your garden turned out well. Thanks for the comment. I’ve been feeling out of touch.

      • robertawrites235681907

        Thank you, Miss D. I was brought up to cover up. There has always been a lot of rape in South Africa and it was all we every heard when we were younger.

      • Charli Mills

        I remember that song! “I’m standing over there by the tomaters…”

      • Charli Mills

        It pains me to hear that, Robbie. No one should have to fear such violence. Growing up on the edge of the wilderness, skinny dipping was not dangerous. It seems clothing has become more of an issue, with girls in school urged to “cover-up” but I think we need to be educating boys and men not to rape.

    • Charli Mills

      My son is one for covering up, too and I had to chuckle because he had on long jeans and sleeves, hat and sunglasses while we gardened!

  4. Norah

    Have an absolutely super-dooper birthday with your kidlets. How exciting to have your son and one daughter and their chosen ones with you to celebrate in person. I know your other daughter and her chosen one will be with you in spirit. A dump load of pea gravel doesn’t sound like the most desirable birthday present to me, but I understand why you would wish it, and I know that the most desired birthday gift is to have your young ones with you – and you have that. I don’t need to tell you to enjoy, as I know you will! I would advise you don’t spread the pea gravel naked. It could get nasty if you have a fall. Naked gardening made me think of the first garden and its naked inhabitants, and look where that led them – and us! Happy birthday! I know it’s already your birthday – enjoy every minute!
    Oh, and I love your flash too. Poor Bev – maybe she matches the radishes for colour.

    • Norah

      I’m back with my story. I hope you like it.

      Without a Hat
      The farmer was out standing in the field when, one day, a wind whipped up and snatched his hat, tossing it into the air. It swooped over the garden beds as if playfully daring, ‘Come catch me.’ But the farmer couldn’t catch the hat which had been a fixture on his head for countless years. Everyone said he looked naked without it, but no other hat would do. Without it, he wilted in sun’s heat and sagged in rain. As the parading seasons took their toll, he disintegrated and decomposed, continuing to nourish the garden in a new way.

      • Charli Mills

        Hee, hee, I had to laugh at “out standing in his field.” A creative story!

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli. I’m pleased you saw the humour in it. I’ve been wanting to use that phrase for a while. ????

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Perfect use, Norah!

      • Norah

        Perfect? You’re too kind. Thank you, Charli.

      • ellenbest24

        Dare I say … outstanding, nasty business that he sagged in the rain ???? double entendre’s both ways???? ????

      • Norah

        Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that. And here was I trying my best to make sure it was solidly g-rated. ????????????

      • ellenbest24


    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Norah! It was a wonderful time, even moving all that pea gravel. I got to treat my new DIL to genuine pasties and she enjoyed them. We all ate chocolate birthday cake and gardened with rocks. Everyone kept their clothes on. Oh, yeah — the first gardeners were naked. It was fine until they gained knowledge and overthought it…

      • Norah

        I’m so pleased you had such a wonderful time celebrating with your family, Charli. You definitely deserved to do so. Chocolate sounds good to me. I’m not so sure about the rocks. I’m pleased it worked for you. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Chocolate makes it all worthwhile.

      • Norah

        Chocolate makes almost anything worthwhile. ????????????

  5. denmaniacs4

    Barely Cultivated

    “He really knows his stuff, Harry. Has a feel for soil, for showing newbies the ropes.”

    “But, Walt, he’s also been showing his STUFF. Some of the guys don’t mind, not that they’d say anything, but we’ve got some fairly prim and proper…ladies…can I say ladies?”

    “Of course, you can say ladies. I don’t mind.”

    “Fine! Ladies. Women. And even some of the guys. People bring their kids. Their Grandkids. It’s not right.”

    “Okay, it’s just, you know, Sunshine in The Buff Acres, the local Nudist Club…it got sold. After forty-five years. Our Community Garden was his only option.”

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      The only option?! What a likely excuse… however I’m sure the kiddos would jump at the chance to join in, big and small. Brilliant piece of dialogue here Den!

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      A nudist with nowhere to practice his craft! LOL! I think that’s hysterical! Well done, Bill! 😀

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Aw, let him be, Harry. It’s an ass roots community garden, ain’t it?

    • Charli Mills

      The community garden would be tempting after the closing of the nudist colony. Are nudist colonies a thing anymore? There was one by Lake Tahoe when I was a kid and my dad had a logging job next to it!

  6. floridaborne

    My neighbor had a dog for his son to play with when he visited his dad. The “people” (and I use that term loosely) in the house on the other side of the block threatened to kill him if he came into their yard again — the yard he was born in and lived as a young pup.

    We took this sweet but precocious chocolate lab into our yard for his protection. Then, his son brought home to his dad an injured dog he’d found on the road. She became pregnant (or was already pregnant — I’m not sure) and had 8 puppies. He was able to find homes for 5 of them. Again, the neighbor warned that if puppies (a boy and 2 girls) or the mama dog came onto their property, they would kill them.

    By the time I could get the mama dog spayed, she was pregnant with 13 embryos. I just got the 2 girl puppies spayed, and the boy puppy will be neutered next month. Trying to keep those 2 girls sequestered and out of mischief has warn me down to a nub.

    I say this so you’ll know how well I understand what it means when your puppy is a “master chewer.” All 4 of the arms on 2 chairs have been “redesigned” and no sock is safe around them. Flip-flops are a delicacy, and best of all are the soft-chewy comforters.

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      Oh I understand this! We have only two but their beds never last, and any balls are deflated within the hour. What joy they bring though, despite the mess. Wouldn’t change a thing.

      • floridaborne

        Absolutely agree.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Joelle! What a chew-a-thon multiple litters of rescue puppies would be. I think there comes a point when you give in to the chaos and try to wait for puppy teething to end. Your furniture and mismatched socks have quite the story to tell.

      • floridaborne

        But the puppies are soooo cute.

      • Charli Mills

        When they sleep! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Such an interesting look at vulnerability and the expectation of exposure.

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Kid and Pal Hangin’ Out

    “Aaahhhggg! Ain’t never wanted ta see this side a ya Kid.”
    “Hey Pal.”
    “Not thet side neither! Kid, why’re ya gardenin’ in yer birthday suit?”
    “Almanac says plant by a full moon. Mmm, feel that loam ‘twixt yer bare toes.”
    “I’ll jist take ma boots off.”
    “Sunbeams sure feel good on yer belly.”
    “Mebbe ma shirt.”
    “Ahh, breeze in my hair.”
    “Yer hair? Yer wearin’ yer hat. Oh. I see. Jeez Kid. Feels good though?”
    “Mebbe this is whut them writers mean ‘bout pantsin’. Ok, they’re off. Mmmm. I feel powerfully vulnerable.”
    “Own it, Pal. Cultivate yer power.”

      • Liz H

        “reveal” is just the right–or should we say “write'” word…

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      Absolutely brilliant, D. I finally know the meaning of pantsin’ and I’m not sure I’m ready to do that… again! LOL! I’m still laughing over this one. <3

    • Jules

      I remember a story where a young niece went to visit her three old Victorian era Aunties… who as it turns out enjoyed bathing (not where they could be seen by others)…in the ocean by their home without the heavy wool bathing suits! Them Little old gals new ‘power’!

    • Charli Mills

      Sunbeams on bellies, loam between the toes. Sounds like it could be the next country song hit.

  8. Sarah Brentyn

    Happy Birthday!!! ????????????????

    A great prompt. Though what’s coming to mind is pretty dark, even for me.

    Enjoy your visit!

    • Charli Mills

      The darkness descends (and covers up the naked gardener). Thanks, Sarah!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Hope you had a wonderful day! ????

      • Charli Mills

        Best part was showing my son how to find agates and that he caught on and picked a beauty.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Okay. That is a “best part”. Agates are so swirly gorgeous! That sounds awesome.

      • Charli Mills

        He found one that was bubble gum pink, too.

      • Sarah Brentyn


  9. Doug Jacquier

    A tad racy this time around but don’t leap to conclusions until the end. 😉

    A brush with passion

    She was so provocative that she put new meaning into garden hoe. Draped across the trellis, she flaunted her nascent fecundity, exposing her femininity to his blushing gaze. Her rampant, unfettered, unproductive growth bore witness to his failure to fulfil his most earnest desire, which was to sup on the nectar of the gods.
    He knew what he must do but his hand trembled at the very thought of such intimacy. Nonetheless. he steeled himself to the task and dipped his paintbrush into her stamen and coated her beckoning pistil and imagined the future ecstasy of his passion fruit.

    • Liz H

      Bee-yootiful flash!

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      I loved this! I’m still laughing about the new meaning to “garden hoe!” LOL! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Wonderful play with the prompt, Doug.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Charli 🙂

  10. Anne Goodwin's next novel is out May 29th

    I’m glad the celebrations are extending into your birthday, Charli, and wish you a wonderful time. And your weather has flipped from winter to high summer – no wonder your dog’s confused. No naked gardening here, today feels like October, although we did have August in April.
    My 99-word story is on a mental health theme with reviews of two excellent novels about psychosis:
    Wide Sargasso Sea & The Octopus Man

    • Charli Mills

      The weather is indecisive here, too. We had a burst of hot weather blooms and now fear for frost the next three nights. Sweat or shiver, no in-between. Great reviews and flash, Anne.

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    “I’m too fat!”

    Was she? Not at all, though it was hard to tell underneath Amanda’s bulky clothes.

    “Amanda, it’s your choice, but remember, part of World Naked Gardening Day for us has always been about being comfortable with our own bodies, of celebrating the naturalness of them.”

    Maybe Amanda also craved the normalcy that the unusual family tradition offered; still warning about how fat she was, she took off her clothes and joined in gardening.

    How had she not noticed?

    Keeping a brave face through the planting, she determined to call their physician regarding anorexia that very day.

    • Liz H

      I’m guessing Amanda is not the one planning the call…
      Short , sharp, sad.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        It might be more clear in the slightly revised one at my site. Yeah, the “she” is the mom. This spring has revealed cases of anorexia underneath the heavy clothes of the covid winter.

      • Liz H

        ???? Oh dear!

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      Wow… that story packed a punch in the end, D. <3

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yeah. (See above comment) It’s always a concern but I think covid etc has added to anxiety and disordered eating among our young people. And of course drugs and alcohol issues.
        But hey, Amanda’s gardening with the family! There’s hope.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        I get that. You conveyed emotions that some people never understand. Bravo to you! ??

    • Charli Mills

      Such pressures on teens in any year, but this past one has probably hidden many other coping mechanisms. Well done.

  12. Pete

    You hear about Lewis?

    No. What now?



    He was trying to prune back the cherry tree. The one by his house?

    Doesn’t seem odd.

    Gladys said he’d been drinking. He was hot, so he stripped down.

    Like, naked?

    Naked as he came.


    He’s going on about the limbs, said they were messing with his satellite reception.

    I don’t think it was the tree.

    He’s got the shears, but then, no ladder. So he drags out the neighbor’s trampoline—

    Wait, what?

    –and he’s jumping, trying to, you know…

    Don’t tell me.

    Pruned his own cherries.


    • Liz H

      That’s the last time he EVER tries that! 😉

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      Ha, Ha! Very clever ending. I’m still laughing! <3

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Oh. Pete…
      Funny, I was just musing about chainsawyers, but even kevlar chaps wouldn’t have saved Lewis’ cherries.

      • Pete

        This prompt sort of landed at my feet. I was just lying on our trampoline with my kid the other day and looking at the cherry tree branches, and I thought, I could grab the shears and… no that’s not a good idea!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! I’m glad you write, Pete. Then you can examine the folly of trampolines, cherry trees, and pruning shears without getting hurt.

  13. Colleen M. Chesebro

    What a hysterical prompt! I had so much fun writing this. Thank you, Charli! <3

    • Charli Mills

      I was looking for some laughs from this one, Colleen! 😀

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        I laughed the entire time I wrote this. My garden spot in the backyard is wide open! Most of us don’t even have fences! ??????????????? My imagination ran away with me!

      • Charli Mills

        And the problem with moonlight and fair skin…! 😀

  14. Colleen M. Chesebro

    What a fun prompt! Here’s mine. I’ll be back later to read the rest! <3

    “Under the Full Moon”

    The moon’s glow washed over my garden, lighting up the angelica, feverfew, and mugwort shimmering with healing energy. I gathered my tools and prepared for my early summer gardening ritual. I stripped naked and danced under the full moon.

    My garden produced an amazing number of herbs from this tradition. I sold these herbs for sacred baths, teas, and tinctures, and even sewed them into spell bags.

    Naked gardening imbued my herbs with strong magick. For years, I’d kept this secret under wraps—literally! Until today when a camera flash exploded in front of me! My secret was out!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      What a bother! Thinking more than a secret was out. But that was the secret…

    • Jules

      Me thinks the yard needed some tall hedgerow or fencing! 😉
      I knew someone who had a ‘naked’ neighbor… in their own fenced in yard – Hard though to ignore when you are looking out the second story window and the fence isn’t high enough! ;D

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        LOL! I had fun writing this! Seriously, I couldn’t do it but shhh… don’t tell! ????

      • Jules

        I remember being in Maui… they have a ‘beach’ for such folk… we never did make it there… 😉

    • Charli Mills

      I can only hope the exposure sparked a new trend in magical gardening! What a fun flash, Colleen!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        LOL! ???? It would chase people away for years to come! ??????

  15. Jules


    I like your Bev. – But I’m not ready for my own public displays 😉
    I rooted around and played with a poetic form adding prose (looks better centered at my place) here:

    Defended the Defenseless

    Defended the Defenseless

    Lettuce seed
    Nestled in the
    Driveways’ edge, last year, caught a break and grew

    Naked little leaves unfolded in spring
    After a rain,
    Glistened, called
    “See me!”

    Of course
    Saving this
    Plant became a
    Priority – in the garden it went

    Just today with the grandchildren helping
    We added some
    New lettuce

    Looking at my raised garden, folks might actually think I knew what I was doing. I’m winging it. I’ve got some Bok Choy, rainbow and yellow peppers, some herbs, and of course the lettuce. Watching these plants grow makes my heart sing.


    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      The naked leaves of spring! Loved this, Jules. <3

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yeah… nurture the vulnerable little seedlings. Good take on the prompt.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes folks like Bev think they have the place all alone…! And then there is the little seed who thought they could and did. With a little help from the gardeners. I will remember to center your poem. Yes, it looks good in that format.

  16. Hugh W. Roberts

    Happy belated Birthday, Charli. I hope you had a great day and are enjoying the weekend with your kids. Sounds as if the weather flipped from winter straight to summer in your part of the world. I had no idea it was World Gardening Day at the end of April until it was mentioned. Springtime in the Northern hemisphere, so no chance of getting sunburnt (if you forget to apply the factor 50).

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Hugh! Well, it’s flipped back to winter again. At least it remains green and colorful. Just cold! Oh, yikes, yes 50 factor which I always seem to forget.

  17. Michael B. Fishman

    I hope you’re enjoying/you enjoyed your children’s weekend visit and you pup’s energy!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael! The young pup is out pacing us all with her energy!

  18. Liz H

    Because why not, on more than one level? And best to get it done before the bugs start biting…

    Naked Gardening
    It was Mabel’s favorite roadside stand, with unbeatable seasonal produce. Lettuce, firm and delicate, and tomatoes glowing with morning dew and midday sun were so flavorful, a scanty splash of vinegar and virgin olive oil defined perfection.
    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, right, Liz! Through on the clothes once the bugs arrive. My poor pupper had bulls-eye targets (black flies, not Lyme’s) all over her belly and that’s when I knew the bugs were emerging.

      • Liz H

        Black flies are the not-so-great part part of Lake Superior…that and when the army worms swarm… ;-(

      • Charli Mills

        Black flies are vampires! Their bites bleed and then itch so bad. Army worms haven’t established a fort on the peninsula (yet).

      • Liz H

        Hopefully not their year…and cicadas can just stay south-ish, k?

      • Charli Mills

        Please, please, please…!

  19. Susan Joy Clark

    Kendra handed her neighbor, Irene, a pair of gardening shears, handles first, over the garden fence, then screamed.

    “What are you screaming about?”

    “You … you’re naked! I can not unsee that.” Kendra covered her eyes.

    “It’s World Naked Gardening Day, and I’m in my own private yard. It’s liberating. You should try it.”

    There’s a day on the calendar for everything! “Uh … no, no thanks. I’m good over here. Carry on.”

    Before long, Kendra hears a kerfuffle, then a scream.

    “Why are you screaming?”

    “Bees! Bees! The whole hive is after me!”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! It certainly is no ordinary day in the neighborhood. What a fun flash. Thanks for joining in Susan!

      • Susan Joy Clark

        Thanks so much, Charli. 🙂

  20. suespitulnik

    Hi Charli,
    The wonders of a puppy…my grandson thought her needing a snowbank to poop was funny, as do I. A load of pea gravel as a gift. Right up my alley, something useful. I hope the kids help you disperse it to its new location. I’ll look forward to your potager pictures.
    I’m happy you had so many wonderful celebrations. You deserve them.
    On to the prompt…

    Selective Forgetfulness

    When Tessa and her mother arrived at Lexi’s country home, they found her and Emma outside, sitting in the baby’s wading pool, sans clothing.
    Lexi said, “Hi. I got some garden planted but then Emma woke up. When I brought her out here she kept crawling toward the pool. I was sweaty, so we both got in.”
    Tessa smiled. “I can see that.”
    Jenny was shocked. “I heard them talking about Gardening Naked Day on the radio this morning, but I didn’t think anyone would do it.”
    Tessa responded. “Mom, should I bring up Woodstock stories.”
    “That was different!”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Another good one Sue. This is quite a band of women.

    • Charli Mills

      To be a winter puppy is to poop on a hill. 😉 Yes, Sue, I love the practical gifts, too, and especially the ones that come with free labor. They pushed the gravel to a nice level surface. It’s so lovely! I’ll make sure I update D. with a shot of the new “beach” patio in the gardens. Celebrations have officially concluded. This was a wild May.

      Ha! I love the generational tensions eased with humor.

    • Charli Mills

      I was hoping the prompt would lead to the farm, Joanne!

  21. Charli Mills

    Thought-provoking, Donna!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!


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