Everything was off.
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No, literally – all the lights in the hallways were turned off, engulfing us in absolute darkness.
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"I can't see!" I hissed, desperately caressing the walls for a sense of surrounding. It simply astounded me how he – judging by his footsteps – seemed to be walking as though one were taking a morning stroll in the park! I guess, for someone so dark on the inside, actual darkness must have practically been daylight, right?
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"Not that I'm fond of appreciation, or practiced the gesture myself, but it would be appreciated if you stopped stating the obvious," he spoke in his signature cold voice, which only seemed more chilling in the dark.
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"Hey, do you think you can speak in a nicer tone?" I requested. "It's not the best feeling, thinking there's a serial killer walking beside you."
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Silence overwhelmed the hallways.
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This felt even worse.
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Finally, as I was about to break, a light shone at end of the hallway. It was the kind of light that briefly casts itself on the opposite wall when someone opens a door. Someone was opening their door. As soon as the door shut, there was a moment of darkness once again, until another source of eye prickling light lit the narrow hallway in a single streak of luminous glow.
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Great! Now we had a person with a torch in the hallway.
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It was a man; he was getting closer.
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Perhaps, he just wanted to use the toilet.
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Or not. I've come to know that every room in this goddamn building already had its own bathroom.
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Maybe, he just wouldn't care about us.
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But then again, I had also come to know that everyone in this goddamn building did care about the extraordinary 202. Too much.
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If he'd come any closer, he would have easily recognised who we were. And woefully for us, the only way we could prevent that from happening, was if we somehow camouflaged into those stainless white walls. Unachievable.
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Now, he was alarmingly close to us.
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Ever heard of the saying 'a deer in headlights'? Yes, well, that was us at this point. We were the deer – or rather deers – and that torch was the headlights – or rather headlight. And then, I was panicking—
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In a flash, – no pun intended – Everest pressed me to the wall. And had it not been for the escapade we were pulling off, or the faint ache in my shoulder, this would have been one of those highly overrated, steamy scenes that every teenage girl craves between her and her crush.
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However, I hardly understood the point of vigorously striking me against the wall; the stranger was still obviously able to see that there were two people in the hallway. That was, until I was enveloped by darkness. Utter darkness.
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Before I could question what was happening, I felt hands. Strong, hard hands that that clasped my face. They declared power.
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And then. And then, I was feeling something on my lips. It felt less strong and less hard; powerless, but only deliberately.
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I hate to sound like the damsel in distress who feebly utters nonsense like: it happened so fast. But, that's exactly how it happened.
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He– he– he was... kissing me!
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Gasp and scream! He was actually, literally, legitimately kissing me.
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His lips were on mine!
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I could have— should have done something smart that the cocky part of my mind always found a way to do out of sheer reflex. But I didn't. Oh, no, for that, I would have had to first master the simple fashion of thinking straight. That, I couldn't do. So, instead, I remained still, the flat palms of my hands pressed against the wall so firmly, there was a crack.
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Oh, well done, Emerald. Maybe if the ground wouldn't swallow you whole, the building will.
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The sound of the man's footsteps passing was the only thing that brought me back to reality.
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Everest released me.
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Just as the light ran off, I caught a glimpse of his eyes. They resembled a dark abyss. Empty. A whole load of nothing conquered the iceberg's eyes. Nothing was to be found in them! Nothing, except the Antarctica. No compassion, no remorse, no—
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He was walking off. He was bloody walking off! Then, realising I wasn't following him, he stopped. "Come."
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I didn't move. "You did not just do that."
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"You kissed me!"
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"Our lips touched," his voice remained as cool as a mountain stream. "It is the same as any other body parts touching. I fail to see why it has to be made into any big of a deal."
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"You kissed me!"
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"Are you done?"
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How could he remain so frustratingly calm? So... so.. what was the word? What was the word?
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Grief, empathy, shame, remorse, fear, contempt, love.
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"Oh," I said aloud.
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His silence demonstrated that he understood what I was "oh-ing" about. Or maybe he just wanted to be his usual silent, cold self. Either way, it put the conversation to an end. And even though there was a lot more I wanted to say, I decided against it, because it wouldn't have meant anything to him. Grief, empathy, shame, remorse, fear, contempt, love, remember?
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Surely, I wasn't upset about this?
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Ha! Good one!
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No, could it—
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I said, good one!
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I needed to get out of the darkness; it was doing something to me.
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Hence we were now walking in absolute silence. Without my complaints about the darkness, without our consistent bickering, without really knowing where we were going.
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I bumped into a wall.
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"Turn." I heard his voice say.
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Which way, genius? I thought, but didn't ask.
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"Left," he said, reading my thoughts. Or perhaps, he just realised my footsteps weren't matching his.
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"Amanda said the front desk is open throughout the day and night. That means, there will be someone at the reception," he explained, in the dark. "Keep your head down, and let me do the talking."
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When we got to the reception, what he said was exactly what happened: I kept my head down, and he asked the receptionist to open the front door for us – the one that pointed guns at us, when we first came in. It went something like this:
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"Open the door."
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Oh, did I say 'asked'? I meant ordered.
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"For what reason?" The receptionist asked.
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"I didn't realise there had to be a reason to exit the building." I could just hear how hard he was trying to resist the frostiness from claiming his tone.
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"Usually, no," the receptionist then looked at his watch. "But at this time? Safety protocols."
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There was a pause. And then:
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"We need to make a call."
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"You can use this telephone," the receptionist gestured to the telephone sitting on his desk.
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"It's international," Everest concealed.
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"None of your business."
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There was another moment of silence. This time, it came from the receptionist.
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"Look," he started. "I would let you out, but I can't. I'm not allowed. It's a security breach—"
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"Brian sent me."
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I raised my eyebrows at one. Impressive.
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The receptionist wore my own expression, but for a different reason entirely. "M-Mr Reynolds sent you?"
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"That's what I said."
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"Well, uh, then, of course. I don't see why not." The man's hands fumbled over the control panels until he hit the opened up the double glass doors.
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I slipped through them without waiting, the chill of wind hitting my face. Immediately, I started walking. Soon after, Everest caught up to me.
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There was barely anyone on the streets, which was ironic seeing as we were in the heart of the capital. But then again, I wasn't counting on encountering masses of people at four in the morning on a cold December's day.
And although, the reoccurring thought of what now circulated my mind, I didn't ask. Why? Didn't really feel like asking. I didn't have to though, anyway, because he told me.
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"We're going to the airport." Alright, I never said he bothered with details.
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I walked in silence.
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Silence? Now there's something new.
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"You're quiet," He said, when we stopped at a traffic light.
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Quiet. What a foreign way to describe myself.
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But it was only in silence, did I realise how much I really talked. For example, on a usual basis, right now, I'd ask him "How are we going to get to the airport" even if I knew the answer already. I did it for clarification. To know that we were both on the same page. Right now, however, I didn't bother with clarification. I didn't bother with anything.
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Oh my God, I was giving him the silent treatment!
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No, I wasn't! 202 didn't roll that way.
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Oh my God, I just called myself 202!
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No, seriously, I never gave silent treatments. Ever. They were useless, and petty, and a waste of time. Besides, I never could keep my mouth shut, so if anything, I'd only be punishing myself.
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So, why was I doing it now?
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Because I was angry? No, if I were angry, that lamppost would have crashed through that nice looking house behind it.
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That meant, I was... I was... what was that feeling parents feel when their kid does something bad, except, they're not angry...
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"Just disappointed," I replied, after what seemed to be several blue moons.
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Disappointed? But, in what?
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"In you. In myself," I elaborated, even though he never asked. "With the way they made you. With the way they didn't make me." I was speaking gibberish. But if my thoughts were gibberish, then, so be it.
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"I can't see what there is to be disappointed about."
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I turned to face him. "I don't need to feel shocked or displeased or dumbfounded about what you did. You don't. You feel nothing; good nor bad. So, why should I?"
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"You're disappointed that I didn't feel anything?
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How do I say yes without coming off as some lovestruck freak?
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"I'm disappointed that it doesn't affect you the way it affects me." This was true.
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Suddenly, he stepped forward. "In what way?"
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I stared at the red man in the traffic light. "In a shocked, displeased and dumbfounded way."
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"Displeased," he repeated. Maybe that feeling, he was aware of.
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"In myself," I cleared. "For feeling shocked and dumbfounded when you didn't."
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His toneless eyes held my stare, before he walked off.
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Oh. Green man.
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The ups of traveling so early that the birds hadn't even woken up yet, was that they was no to ticket conductor at the train station – yay free rides – and there was practically no one in the trains – yay seats!
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Sitting in the train towards one of London's several airports, I thought about something that made me want to face palm myself.
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"We should have asked Amanda for money!" I shouted over the ear splitting screeches of the train.
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"What?" Everest asked, leaning in.
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"I said, we should have gotten money from Amanda!" I yelled into his ear.
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He pulled back and stared into blank space. The expressionless expression on his face admitted I was right. Only he didn't say it.
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As the constant whistling of the train filled the silence between us, I reflected on the absurdity of our motives. To clarify, we were only going to travel all the way to San Francisco, to somehow seize the cure from Gemma. If that didn't scream insanity from light years away, I didn't know what did!
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The train came to a halt at a station, no more significant than the previous eight stops we passed. Except someone decided to board this time, and it wasn't any old passenger either – it was a smart looking gentleman in a uniform.
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Seriously? What was the point of sending a ticket collector in a near empty train? It was like they were just waiting on us to turn up.
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Observing how there was no one else in the carriage, he headed straight over to us.
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"Tickets, please," he spoke in a deep, dominating voice.
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Not so gentle, then. What was that, an alto? Or, perhaps a bass tenor?
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"Well, this is awkward," I muttered, shifting in my seat.
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"Hurry up, I haven't got all day," he stated, impatiently rapping his fingers on a pole.
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"Actually you do. The day's just begun."
I offered an apologetic smile. "And uh, how do we say, we don't have one in a nice way?"
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His eyes drooped, like he was done with living. "You don't have tickets?"
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"You would be on your way now if we did," Everest replied.
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The ticket collector shook his head, taking out a pen and a pad.
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"Name?" He asked me.
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"E—" I stopped myself in time. I smirked. "Gemma Reynolds."
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He noted it down, then asked for my date of birth and address. I was practically reciting Gemma's biography.
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He ripped out the duplicate, and handed it to me. A fine.
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"And your name?" He asked Everest.
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Everest gave him a long, hard look. "Just Everest."
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"You don't have a last name?"
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"Listen, I need your last name so we knowing who we're billing."
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"I can't give you something I don't have," Everest spoke cooly.
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"It's too damn early for this," The ticket guy sighed, writing something on the pad. "Alright, date of birth and address?"
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Everest muttered some nonsense.
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The ticket guy handed him the same slip that he gave me.
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"Make sure the fine is paid within forty days," he lifelessly stated, as if he'd already said it a thousand times. As the next station arrived, he got off.
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"That went smoother than I'd expected," I grinned, crumbling up the slip. "I can't believe he didn't even make us get off."
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Everest sent me a glacial glare.
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"Oh, calm down. She's rich. I'm sure she'd be able to pay off a—" I opened up the slip again. "— sixty pound fine."
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"That's ours," Everest announced, when the train screeched to a stop at another station.
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"Give that here," I seized the wrinkled paper from his hands, tossing it into the first trash can, I saw when we departed.
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Just as the sun began to rise, and pools of chattering crowds began to spill into the station, I realised the night wasn't so silence anymore.
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I always contemplated on when to make the treasured kiss happen, and also where and why and how. Initially it was supposed to be all romantic and loving. But, Everest doesn't do romance (ugh, blame the Front). And Emerald isn't exactly head over heels over him, so yeah, that wasn't going to work. Hence this very important, beginning-of-everything-or-maybe-not kiss was one that was full of shock, horror, and nothingness. I just felt it was a little too far-fetched for them to have the kiss of the century, being two different people with many disputes. But, it certainly got them thinking. And after all, it's about the journey, not the destination, right? I mean, it's a little bit about the destination. Anyway, the journey's gonna be gooooooood. No really, they're about to embark on an interesting journey to California.
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And who knows when their lips will meet again? I guess we'll just have to continue believing in miracles.
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Please like, comment, and share. Thank you!
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