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 Post subject: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 7:32 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Posts: 973
Location: Australia
Title - Through the earth
About - This is an original work of fiction. It has lesbian content and an angst factor. Welcome to part one. There will be many to follow.
Note - This is set in Australia and the spelling will be as such. Don't be bothered by the extra letter Us.
Feedback - Please; it fuels my urge to write.

1

I was 15 when I realised, to my disgust, that I loved her. We’d had a typical childhood. Long conversations at dawn, pressing our faces against the window to watch the sunrise and leaving steam on the glass when we spoke. Testing our mothers' words of caution and eating cookie dough until we discovered that it really did make our stomachs hurt. Wrapping ourselves in sleeping bags and sliding down the front steps of my house, leaving tracks that never came off despite two attempts by a dry-cleaner.

I went to her wedding and watched as she was given away to a man who she'd confided didn't love her the way she wanted to be loved. I organised a divorce party for her where we drank vodka through penis-shaped straws and cackled about his faults. I invited her kids over for pizza and movies whenever she had to work late, and I would tuck them into the bunk beds I kept in my guest room. These days, I still did whatever I could for her, but tried to keep things light and friendly between us.

“Anna?”

“What is it?” I was painting the walls of the living room a strong salmon colour that had attracted me in the store but now, in my house, seemed an unappetising choice.

Laura waited for me to put down my brush, stop what I was doing and face her before speaking. It was a very typical trait of hers; she demanded full attention.

“Can Hayley stay over tonight?’’

I looked curiously at her. “Yeah, of course. Is everything okay?”

She shrugged her shoulders, but didn’t explain. “I’ll bring her over at five. Thanks, An.” She smiled her thanks, then left.

I rolled my eyes as I returned to painting. Part of her appeal was her mysterious modus operandi, but sometimes I wished she were more explicit. It was annoying at times.

At exactly five, her 10-year-old came rushing through the door, her cheeks pink with exertion. “Anna!” she called.

“Hey!” I wrapped my arms around her, breathing in the scent of her bubble bath and all the candy she must have recently consumed. Her breath was warm when she reached to give me a kiss on the cheek.

Laura stood by the door. “Thanks,” she said again. “I’m sorry to do this to you.”

“Anna doesn’t mind,” Hayley said, laughing as she tickled my neck. “You can go now.”

She didn’t go; she stood and watched us for a minute.

“Really,” I added, “it’s fine. Hayley and I always have fun, don’t we?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

“Okay.” Laura pulled her car keys out of her handbag and kissed Hayley on the cheek. “I’ll come by tomorrow morning,” she said to me.

“Night, Laura.”

I watched her walk down the path and something seemed off. She was well dressed, which wasn’t unusual except she usually got changed in a hurry after work. I saw that her son was sitting in the front seat of the car. I shook my head, hoping to clear it. I knew that if something was wrong, she would tell me when she needed to.

Hayley pulled me into the living room and started rummaging through my DVD collection.

“Aunt Anna, why do you have some DVDs locked up separately?” She looked at me, her face scrunched up with confusion.

“Some movies are for adults and some are for kids. I want you and Daniel to be able to go through the box even when I’m busy on the phone or making dinner, so I keep your movies away from mine.”

She stared at me like I was stupid. “No, I know that. My mum keeps her movies separate so we know that we shouldn’t watch them unless she lets us, but she doesn’t lock hers up.”

I sighed. How could I explain that her mother didn’t have movies with pictures of two women on the cover? I also had to separate my books. Laura's books had blurbs about family dramas or an unexpected island romance. Mine were sprinkled with terms like 'cultural hegemonies', 'neo-feminist discourse' and 'queer polemics.' I realised that my locked cupboard seemed a little creepy, and struggled to explain.

“Hayley, there are some things that I don’t think your mother wants you to see. I’m sorry to have to hide them from you.” I made a mental note to ask Laura how she would feel about me coming out soon to the kids. It was starting to become a nuisance, the way I had to make up lies to cover the parts of my life that were not kid-friendly. It was much easier when they were young and not as interested in the fine details of my existence.

She was deep in thought. “Anna, do you want to have kids some day?”

“I would like to, yes. If the right person comes along.” I thought about my exes – one who liked to party, not procreate, another woman who would have made a great mother if she hadn’t decided she was straight, and the last, Tia, who had passed away.

“I think you’d make a good mum. You’re very good with kids.”

With that last comment, she obviously decided that she’d had enough conversation for the night and began to watch her chosen movie.

***

The next morning, Laura was late to pick up Hayley. When she arrived she was breathing heavily and I noticed that she hadn't put on her makeup yet.

“I'm so sorry,” she exclaimed. “The car wouldn’t start.” She reached out for her daughter. “Morning, baby.”

“Morning!” Hayley had had a very nice morning that involved pancakes, strawberry-flavoured milk, watching the final scenes of the movie we had started last night, and having her hair styled the way she liked it.

They started to walk down the path and Laura paused, turning to look at me. “Thanks, Anna. You’re a lifesaver.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I waved the thanks away. “Now take the poor kid to school before she gets a detention for being late.”

"Bye, Anna," Hayley called.

"Laura?"

She turned to look at me and I shook my head. "Don't worry."

I was useless when it came to confrontation. Laura looked as though she had a lot on her mind and I knew that some people could not talk without some encouragement. But then I also knew Laura, and knew that her strong-minded ways were not something I wanted to interfere with.

As soon as they left, I rushed to get myself organised. When I was with them, sometimes I forgot that I had a life that existed externally to their activities and routine.

I taught art at the local high school. I worked part time, so I had time to plan classes, run errands, teach and work on my photographs.

Once, a student who loved painting and had fought with his controlling parents to enrol in the class, had mocked my career. “It must be really hard,” he had said. He was a nice enough kid, but he liked to start conflict. He told me it made him paint better.

Naturally, I bit the bullet. “What must be really hard?”

“To be a teacher in the area of the arts. Teaching literature or music or visual arts. Aren’t you all, basically, people who have failed getting published or signed or exhibited? Like, no offense.”

I had shaken my head at his ignorance. “You know what, kiddo,” I had retorted, “working in the ‘area of the arts’, as you eruditely called it, doesn’t actually make a lot of money. Teaching is just an extra job, alongside my other career.”

“What do you mean? You’re an artist?”

“I most certainly am.”

The next day I brought in some of my prints that had been published in journals and had won competitions; a collection of black and white portraits, the contrast satisfyingly sharp, in addition to some wild nature shots. The class just stared, apparently in disbelief. I don't know what they thought of me before that day, but I won their respect instantly when I opened my portfolio.

I wanted to take photographs of Laura but she always declined. I don’t know what bothered her the most. People refuse for all sorts of reasons – not wanting to be immortalised in a gallery, fear of how they will look or sadness that their youth is gone. Some think I am joking about wanting to capture their image, and can’t understand why I would want to do so.

I can’t see Laura’s reason as being any of these. I think she knows exactly how she would come out under my lens. Beautiful and completely desirable. Maybe that’s what frightens her.

She has thick black hair, the type of hair that people say will be too thin when you reach middle age, but so far she seems to be keeping it. Her eyes are narrow and, to be honest, derisive. She looks at people as though she has figured them out and is amused by what she sees. It is off-putting for many, and I’m sure it’s why she has so few friends.

Her skin is very white, almost unnaturally so. She wears dramatic clothing and it looks striking together with her dark hair and pale skin. Her husband used to call her ‘my femme noir’. She would joke back that he better watch his back. Her son, Daniel, searched for the term on the internet and found it was the website of African lesbians. This troubled him until he clarified the meaning with his mother.

It's an itch, a crazy urge to capture her. I don't know what I would do with the print. I couldn't put it on the wall because that would be a confession. But I'm determined to get it one day.

Deep down Laura must know that I love her. I’ve never known how to hide it.


Last edited by vix84 on Wed Oct 12, 2005 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 8:23 pm 
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14. Lesbo Street Cred

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 9:00 am
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Just a note to say I hope you continue this. You've managed in a very short, apprently mundane interaction to present two characters who promise a fair bit of depth. I for one am looking forward to finding out more.

I liked how you interjected a comment about the paint color in to Anna and Laura's first conversation. The story seems very grounded - these come across as two women who have real lives. More! (ahem - More, please.)

- Boschi


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 8:47 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Oooooooooooh, bubsie!

I really like it! They are both such interesting charachters and I can see myself loving Anna to pieces!

My favourite line was

Quote:
I was 15 when I realised, to my disgust, that I loved her.


Magnifico!

Keep writing it, pleassseee!!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 10:53 pm 
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Oh I love this! Please keep writing! :applause

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 5:15 am 
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11. Fish in the Bowl
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Rozy! you little vixen. I'm so excited to see this new story. What a great surprise.

Quote:
I was 15 when I realised, to my disgust, that I loved her.
That was an intense way to capture the reader. This first update is so thick with hidden truths and emotions. I'm so very interested to see what you've got running in that head of yours. Your description of their childhood, albiet brief, hit all the points in time that made this reader feel for the character. Did I mention how much I like this?

The relationship between the women seems to have created a bond between Anna and the children. That's so wonderful. It says so much.

Quote:
“No, I know that. My mum keeps her movies separate so we know that we shouldn’t watch them unless she lets us, but she doesn’t lock hers up.”
Umm hmm. This conversation is such a pivotal moment between adult and child, that realization that innocence is about to evolve. I like the inner dialogue that Anna has. It's amazing how the simple questions that children ask can hit to the core of fears and hidden truths. You've written this scene so perfectly.

Quote:
"What do you mean? You’re an artist?”

“I most certainly am.”
I love how Anna is the artist and the teacher. Somehow I think that photograph of Laura is going to be important down the road. I'm so fantasmicly excited to see this story and read it and I can't wait for the next updates. <-- notice the plural as a subtle hint that much more should come muchously faster.

Now that I've spoken my peace, I'm so happy that you shared this. Thank you. Mwa!!!!!!!!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 8:15 am 
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2. Floating Rose

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This story is fantastic. Your writing style is very fluid. I cannot wait to read more.

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 6:19 pm 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman

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I really enjoyed how you put us into a situation that we've all probably been in before...yet, you've put an original stamp on it. Everything fits and I'm very much interested to see how things flow from here.


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 12:52 pm 
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8. Vixen
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Wow.....not only are you hot, your writing is quality too! I remember your pic :flirt hehe

I love how we have this involuntary empathy with Anna already, i'm curious as to where you're going to take this, its really good so far!

Keep it coming :-D

Stace xXx

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 6:22 am 
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Woah..this is amazing so far, I love it :x . Love sam xx

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 3:37 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

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Super. Really super.

You handle first-person well. Not too deep, yet still closely attached. I like that a lot. Very few words in this, but you’ve managed to say quite a bit, introducing characters (including the 1st person narrator--bravo) and placing them into emotional coordinates, demonstrating distance and closeness all at once.

Darn it, this is a great vignette. Awesome job.

--SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2005 2:05 pm 
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11. Fish in the Bowl
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Well, didn't take much to get me hooked! :-D

Great start.

BV

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2005 9:49 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Boschi, Tara22, LesbianJedi87, Urn of Osiris, tcurti3, Kieli, StaceAngel, sam, SQ and BV:

Thank you so much for leaving feedback for this little snippet of writing. I'm pleased that you all like Anna so much! I know where I'm going with the plot but I'm experimenting with the vignette form and finding out just how long a story can be told in fragments. If you have any criticisms or suggestions, go ahead and make my day. I like knowing what would make it better.

2

The owner of the shop liked me, I was sure of it.

I walked down the aisle, examining different grades of paper and considering which would best suit the look I wanted. I held up a thicker, resin-coated sheet and narrowed my eyes. It would work. The question was whether something could work better.

She appeared in front of me without any warning and without producing a sound. I glanced at her heels and at the wooden floor and frowned.

"Okay," I said, "how did you do that?"

"Do what?" She was wearing white, which made her blend in with the packages of paper and the containers of chemicals.

"Walk over from your desk to where I'm standing without making any noise. It's impossible." I stepped forward experimentally and grinned at the loud noise my boots created. "See?"

She ran a hand through her hair. "I guess you were really caught up in whatever you were looking at, because I made a hell of a lot of noise." She turned and walked down the aisle and then back to me. She was right; there was an undeniably loud click after each of her steps. "See?" she mimicked.

"Oh. Right." I shrugged, not embarrassed. "Well, I'm the first to admit it: I love choosing paper. It excites me."

"At least you're proud of it. Some people try to hide their passion for paper."

"Paper pride. I'm all about it."

We smiled at each other and I saw that her gaze lingered longer than it should have.

"Are you a photographer?" I asked.

"A bit of a novice, actually. This used to be my parents' shop and I'm taking over as owner. I only learnt about photography recently."

"Good on you. Do you enjoy it?" I had the afternoon off and nowhere to be. Conversation with a stranger was good exercise for me, socially. The only meaningful conversations I ever had were with children. This was exerting.

"I love it," she said. "I used to see things that I wished I could take pictures of - you know, children doing unexpectedly cute things, lightening flashes over the city and smashed cars. Now I can capture them." She smiled as though this was a normal thing to say. Of course, I wasn't going to comment - I'd taken pictures of far worse things.

"Do you have any photographs here to show me? I'd love to see a gorgeous, destroyed automobile. That's my cup of tea."

She nodded and I followed her over to her desk, carrying a stack of paper in my arms like a baby.

"Here's one I took last week. There was a crash at that massive roundabout near the university. I waited until the ambulance and police left, and took a picture of the car before the repair truck arrived."

I glanced at the picture. It showed the torn belly of a white jeep, with so many scratches and bumps it resembled the surface of the moon.

"Nice work," I said sincerely.

"You think so? Thanks." She put the photgraph back into the drawer. "Don't think I'm being rude by not asking if you're a photographer. I know you are."

"Oh?"

"My parents told me about you," she explained, laughing at my look of surprise.

"Why do I have the feeling that you mean 'warned' rather than 'told'?"

"They like you," she replied. "My mother has always liked your work. She told me to consider using you to promote the shop."

"Really," I said. "What do you want me to do; paint my body in advertising and parade around the city?"

"Nothing so severe," she chided. "I was thinking more along the terms of mentioning you in our brochure. 'Local photographer Anna Mears is a regular customer. According to Anna, the service here is simply the best.'" She winked at me.

"The best," I mused, aware of flirting and feeling unable to speak without doing so. "Yeah, I suppose that's true. Where else does a girl get to look at pictures of smashed cars and talk about her twisted fetish for paper?"

"Only here," she exclaimed, waving her arms. "Excellent, I'll let my mother know that you're interested."

"That's fairly presumptuous," I said. "Kind of like calling a stranger by their name when you never asked them what it was."

"Fine. What's your name?" she asked.

I attempted to swat her with my paper stack. "What's your name? I need to be able to quote you, if anyone ever asks me to recommend a professional wreckage photographer."

"It's Philippa."

She added up how much I owed her, and I handed over the notes. Ouch; she certainly charged for her unusual service.

"I like the first-name only mystique. Very hip."

"Hey," she said slowly, as thought an idea was forming. "Would you like to go for a coffee?"

"I can't," I said, looking mournful. "Alas, I'm a taken woman."

"Taken by whom?" she asked.

"My urge to put images on paper," I said. "I have to go and do some work instead of chatting. I'm entering a couple of competitions and haven't done nearly enough work."

She sat down and picked up her newspaper. "OK. But Anna, if your urge changes from paper to coffee, come and see me."

I nodded and walked out of the shop. "Fantastic," I said aloud. "Why do you always turn down the hot ones?"

A woman stopped what she was doing - which was, incidentally, pressing chewing gum into the parking metre so she wouldn't have to pay - and stared at me.

Feeling as insane as I probably looked, I looked both ways, held the handle of my shopping bag tightly, and crossed the road.


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 7:11 am 
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8. Vixen
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:shock ooooooh....i like Philippa! Lets have more of her :-D

Quote:
"Yeah, I suppose that's true. Where else does a girl get to look at pictures of smashed cars and talk about her twisted fetish for paper?"



:lol :lol :lol That made me giggle a helluva lot :lol

MORE! PLEASE!

:-D

Stace xXx

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 7:30 am 
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11. Fish in the Bowl
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It’s intriguing, the way you put this reader in a mood and then leave me hanging there. The tour of the shop was peculiar. I was going to say interesting, but I know how you take that word. Anna has a reputation and I'm sure that it isn't for her devotion to paper. I do wish you'd give us more background in a realllllllly long, super juicily jam packed update.

I have hundreds of guesses as to what brings Anna to the place she is now. I’m sure there is a passion that deems her ‘taken’ but which is it really. Something tells me that I’m going to have to wait a long time to read the circle of this story. I fear it’ll require heaps of tissues.

Your writing is always engaging and leaves so many unanswered questions. I look forward to more. Thank you for sharing this.

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 5:13 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light
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Oh, just fabulous! I love how your opening lines just reach out, grab the reader and toss them into it right along with Anna. Sharp, tight spectacular writing!

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 10:50 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Awesome update, babe! I love this story. It's like short sweet updates that are so different from each other. I love how interesting it is and I love the characters! Woohoo for vignettes!

Quote:
"Paper pride. I'm all about it."


Quote:
"That's fairly presumptuous," I said. "Kind of like calling a stranger by their name when you never asked them what it was."


I adored these lines :D You kick ass, hon!!!!!

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“It's just, we, well, we both really like cows. Really like them. To the extent of wanting to buy one, when we're older." - The Crying Game by vix84
♥♥♥ Mr. Happy and Mr. Eevil Forever ♥♥♥
~*@.......We are the weirdest person in the world.......@~
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Leap of Faith by Urn of Osiris: Read it, Love it! <-- Click here


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 1:58 am 
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This is a great story :)

Your openings for each update really draw the reader in get them hooked to the story.

I liked Anna and Phillipa too. I guess Anna said she was taken because of her feelings for Laura and because dating someone else would mean admitting she doesn't have a chance of a relationship with Laura.

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 4:13 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
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Location: New Jersey
Another great update, Vix. Good, solid character introduction. Great maintenance of the story’s forward motion.

Two things that struck me as needing attention:

1) Try to avoid mimicked, chided, and the like and use said wherever possible. Though those are decent qualifiers, too many of them (too many is often a very low number) distract the reader. Not that you’ve gone gonzo with them in this, but be aware of when you opt not to use ‘said.’

2) The developing relationship between these two feels free and natural except for two instances: One with a lingering stare being mentioned, and the other with the coffee invitation. That’s not to say that the characters can’t behave like this, just that this early in the game you’d be better-off downplaying any overt signs of attraction. Try to disguise them.

[--“Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer,” I said, noticing the uninterrupted gaze she held with me.

Her eyes crept away, regarding the shelves next to where she stood. “Speaking of pictures,” she started, “I’ll bet that’s why you’re so into paper. Let me guess... Oils? Water colors?”

I shook my head and offered a polite smile. “Sometimes the odd photograph... If something catches my eye.”

A wily grin raised her cheeks. “Oh, I know. I know all about your work.”

“Then why did you ask?”

She leaned against the shelf next to me, placing herself a bit closer to my personal space. “It isn’t like you were going to tell me, now was it?”--]

Not the best example, but the overture is more nonchalant and is quickly veered-away from, only to be echoed a sentence or two later. That can help plant seeds rather than saplings. Seeds give your characters (and readers) much more freedom than saplings. In other words, there’s a bit of a tease going on, both between the characters and between the author and reader.

Again, these are just my observations, not an indictment of what you’re doing, or how well you continue to do it. Food for thought.

Phillipa and the narrator both have plenty of dimension, and I look forward to discovering more about them. Keep up the great work.

--SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2005 11:09 am 
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4. Extra Flamey

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Hello Vix,

I was very glad to have taken some time to read your story - it really does have the air of something almost auto-biographical. It has also has the foundation to go very far, into novel terrority, perhaps. You have three fascinating characters in hand and what reads like an impending menage a trois. I'm anxious to see how it turns out.

My only edtorial note would be, for a revision - to simply fil in the location details. You mention this is set in Australia - could we know some specifics - especially about the house and the shop, etc ? You've got the charcter pieces down and through dialogue give them depth - but a sense of place can add to the power of it, too.

But that said - it's hard to know what any writer intends! I just hope you keep wrting. Congrats on a great start. :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:55 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Australia
Stace: I'm glad I made you giggle! Since you asked nicely - well, demanded nicely - I will make sure to include a lot more of Philippa in future updates.

Urnie: Sorry for fucking with my readers.:P I guess I enjoy making people feel alienated and doubtful... well, you anyway. Thanks so much for being a faithful reader and giving me your feedback. Yes, the circle of the story will be a long one. This story is plaguing my mind and I'm sure it's going to mess with me when I'm trying to write NaNo, because ideas for it keep popping up. I hope you enjoy the next part. PS. OMG, 57.

Steph: Thanks, dudette! I really appreciate your sharp, tight feedback! Thanks for your words and hopefully you continue to enjoy reading.

Rachy: Well hey there! I'm glad you like this story and characters. I have word from them that they like you, too. As does the writer. :geek

justin: Woohoo, I got feedback from you for both of my stories in the same week. How exciting! I think Anna struggles with the idea of dating others and essentially has to force herself to do so. Ah, unrequited love. A sucky thing.

SQ: Thanks a lot for your comments, I appreciate them. I really love using qualifiers and struggled as it was to cut them down to two. As for the disguising attraction, I like your suggestions and I will try to take them on board. If I'm still doing it, please don't be shy to bring attention to it again, as I'd love to make it more subtle. Again, thanks for the detailed feedback. There's nothing I like more than being given tips for my writing!

tm: Wow, your avatar is seriously hypnotic.

Thanks for taking the time to read this story and giving me your thoughts. I adore your writing style and am therefore eager to take any advice you give me. (This includes your prediction of a menage a trois. I'll see what I can do.)

As for filling in location, I've never given my stories much of a sense of place. When I read your comment I thought about some of my favourite novels and realised that in all of them, the location is an essential part of the story and is often one of the reasons why I love the book so much. In the next update I've given it a try - hopefully the location details aren't too obvious and forced this time. :P Feel free to berate me if they are!

Update below.


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 8:13 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Australia
3

When I saw her car pull into my driveway, I checked my watch to see how much time had passed since she'd called me and said she'd be there in half an hour. Thirteen minutes. I gathered my wallet, keys and phone and dropped them into the bag hanging by the door. It was brown with shells knotted into the strings; Laura had bought it for me the previous summer on her family vacation.

"Shit, Laura," I said, walking over to her car and resting my arms on the open window. "What happened to the girl I once knew? Wasn't it you who was so late to the school formal the principal called the police?"

"That's me." She reached over and removed the pile of papers from the passenger seat to make room for me. "I'm really hungry, so I raced over here when I was done shopping." She gestured towards the back of the car.

My eyes followed her gesture. "My god!" The backseat was covered in food. It wasn't the cheap kind of food that people grabbed off shelves in a rush to get to a lunch on time. She'd bought olives sparkling in marinade, oozing cheeses, two bottles of Yarra Valley wine, a thick loaf of bread and about a tonne of Tasmanian salmon.

It took me a moment to de-fog my mind; I was a food lover while Laura was the type to eat whatever required the least effort. She could never understand people who rushed out to restaurants after reading reviews and paid hundreds of dollars for, as she referred to it, "Small, unsatisfying portions." I stared at her. "This looks delicious. But are you really intending for each of us to drink a bottle of wine and eat that much salmon? I have class at two and don't want to be the fishy drunkard they all expect from an art teacher."

"Get in, Anna," Laura said in a voice that, had it been Hayley, I would have called a whine. She leant forward to move her handbag and her thick hair fell away from her shoulders. Honestly, I felt myself twitch. I forced myself to look elsewhere.

She drove quickly, humming along with the radio and dismissing my attempts at conversation, and parked her car in the Opera House car park. I raised an eyebrow. "You've got to be an imposter. The real Laura would never pay 25 bucks for two hours of parking."

"You're paying," she said, smiling at me as she locked the door. "It's only fair, seeing as I bought lunch."

"I see..." Maybe it was Laura and not an imposter, after all.

We trailed along the edge of the harbour into the Botanical Gardens, passing tourists taking photographs and children pleading to take the mini-train rather than walk. I remembered doing the same with my parents and grinned at the kids. They stared back at me.

"I thought you were hungry," I said, after we'd been walking uphill for some time. "What's wrong with sitting here?" We had stopped at the pond to watch ducks dive under the pads on the surface.

"Nothing's wrong with it, but I want to go further," she said, her dark eyes fixed on me.

I couldn't turn down such a request, and held up my hands in surrender. "Lead the way."

We stopped just outside the rose gardens, close enough that the grass was soft and trampled and the fragrance of the mixed roses settled around us.

"Is this some favourite spot of yours or something?" I asked, watching her pour generous quantities of wine into plastic glasses.

"I just thought it would be nice. You know, we're taking some time off. Might as well smell the roses." She was really having a go at her wine. I couldn't help laughing, until I thought of why we were meeting and stopped.

"Laura, why did you call the way you did?" Her call had been short and blunt. She'd reached me on my way out to go jogging and had been firm. She needed me. Obviously, I'd agreed instantly, but had been worrying until her car pulled up.

"I thought I could do with having a listener. You know, someone to hear my little problems." Her smile was delicate and seemed to require effort.

"Go on," I said, folding cheese into the soft bread and taking a bite. "And knowing you, they're not little or you would be keeping them to yourself."

"Let's eat first," she said.

We poured wine down our throats and stuffed ourselves to the extent that a gourmand would have been applauding wildly. Light-headed, we lay back on the grass, feeling the stickiness of recent rain and the itch of insects crawling through the roots.

"This has been fun," Laura said at last, startling me. I'd thought she had fallen asleep.

"It has." I sat up, brushing weeds off my clothing. "Don't sound so sad, we can do stuff like this anytime."

She nodded. "We should."

I stood up and began to collect our rubbish. I surveyed our damage; we had nearly finished the second bottle of wine, eaten the entire loaf of bread and container of olives, left a sad wedge of cheese, and had made a small dent in the salmon. Laura carefully wrapped up the leftover food.

We walked back to the car park in silence. The afternoon sun felt heavy on my back and I found myself squinting, having forgotten my sunglasses. "So..."

"Mm?" Laura, who appeared to be in a daze, looked at me.

"Well, remember our plan to talk after we ate? How about it?" I wished my words would sound more affectionate and sensitive. I felt my casual tone was completely at odds with the anxiety she was exuding.

"Oh, yeah. I'm sorry, Anna." She took a deep breath. "It's Daniel," she said. "He's sick at the moment. I'm not sure why."

I had figured something like this, after seeing him in the car the other night, but it still stung. I loved that kid. "I'm sorry, Lau. Really. If there's any way I can help you out, I'll do it."

"Thanks. I'm hoping that it's going to turn out to be something like chronic fatigue. There's got to be some obvious explanation for a 13-year-old to lose his energy the way he did. Don't you think so?"

"Yeah." My mind swarmed with images before I could stop it, of busy hospitals, hollow-eyed children, and doctors giving bad news. I'd done a volunteer assignment for a children's charity once, photographing the young patients playing with toys given by sponsors. The interaction had choked me up. Not because they were sad or in too much pain, but because while they played and giggled and joked, I could see the parents watching from the plastic chairs, slumped and lost in sorrow. "When will the doctors know what's wrong?"

She took the parking ticket out of her wallet and put it in the machine for validating. The screen flashed the amount and she started to reach for money. I stopped her, my hand light on her arm. I felt the heat of her skin and the speed of her pulse. "Laura?"

There was nobody waiting to pay for parking on a sunny afternoon at the Opera House. After checking to see that nobody was coming, Laura pulled me into a hug. I felt myself stiffen; we hadn't hugged since we were about 18. I put my arms around her and let her hide against me. She didn't cry but I felt her body shake. I didn't know what to say and I feared that if I opened my mouth, I would make some dumb joke. So we stood there, under the eye of the woman taking credit card payments, and didn't speak.

She drove me to school in time for my class, and I noticed the odour of fish and alcohol circling our bodies like an aura. I hoped my students would take mercy. "Call me if you need anything or if something happens," I said, stressing the words. "I'll keep my mobile on during class, just in case."

She smiled, a tight smile that said she was done with talking, and drove off.

I walked into the school, holding my arms around myself the way Laura just had. It felt like I'd stepped into a different word, where things were similar but something essential was very off. "What the fuck," I whispered to the empty playground, wanting to cry, and walked to the classroom.


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 8:26 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2005 2:30 pm
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Hey, Vix. This is really getting interesting. It's probably just me, but I was actually thinking along the lines that Daniel was in some other kind of trouble (like, arrested for shoplifting). That probably says more about my misspent youth than about any clues that may have been dropped in the text.
Having spent a chunk of my childhood on a youth ward, I totally agree that the parents suffer the most by far. Nicely stated without being over the top. Well done!

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:09 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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I loved it, baby! You painted to scene in the park so beautifuly.

How sad about Daniel :|

Laura already knows, doesn't she? She could be in major denial or something!

Eeek!

I can't wait to read more!!!

You rock!

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2005 8:01 pm 
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14. Lesbo Street Cred

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Location: Middle 'o the middle, U.S.A.
I'm trying to summon constructive criticism, but am too impressed with your dialogue to bother.

Eehxcelleeehnt.

Very BBC-ish, in a totally charming, easy way. (OK, mock me all you Brits, I don't care.)

You still have me hooked.

- Boschi


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:28 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Excuse the amount of time I took to update. I'm bad. :happy

Tara22, Boschi and tcurti3, thanks for continuing to read. *pats my darling readers*

4

It doesn't matter if you study history, popular culture or sociology; trends don't make any sense. When we were in high school, kids teased Laura about the way she looked. She kept her nails long and sharp, her eyes lined in kohl and her lips colourless, while the others had French manicures, violet eye shadow and glossy lips.

Our classmates would whisper about Laura reading poetry books in the playground, and the way her lips moved as she read, even though she was one of the top English students. She would sigh and put down her book if someone approached her, as though she had to force herself to move between the fictional world and reality. It wasn’t hard to guess which one she preferred.

They left me alone, despite my association with Laura. This could have been because I dressed the same way they did, treated my textbooks with disdain and passed notes with the others. I wasn’t a follower. It was a fluke that I fit in so well; there happened to be nothing more to my personality than casual clothes and a smile.

They weren’t happy when I continued to hang around Laura, talking and laughing with her, unable to see what made her different to me. One girl pulled me aside during a class, whispering so close to my ear that I could smell her body wash. “All our parents are saying we should stay away from Laura.” I was so shocked by her words that I couldn’t respond, which made me ashamed of myself for a long time.

As a teacher now, I see girls crowding around their lockers before class, showing off leather wristbands beneath their striped shirts, or plastic studs to keep their piercings intact during the school week. I see crucifixes and pentagrams, badges and folders with political slogans. The popular students at this school are the ones who stand out. They’re louder and angrier, and will do anything to their appearance to make this known. I think Laura would have been considered ‘cool’ by these kids.

As soon as I unlocked the dark room, I leaned against the wall so that my students could rush past without maiming me. This was our tenth lesson together, and to the shock of the principal, parents and teachers, these students were responding to my teaching.

They belonged to a group known as the After School Kids, ASK, or Don’t Ask, as the teachers joked. ASK was a mixed bag of students. Some had repeatedly failed classes, some had parents who felt they needed additional activities and some had chosen to be there for various reasons.

During our first lesson, as I explained how to turn a negative into a photographic print, I found that one of the boys had written ‘I ♥ pussy’ on his forehead. Having focussed more on the humour than the intricacies of his task, his words were written backwards. While my students practically wet themselves, I wondered why I had accepted the job.

I didn’t give up. I went through the month long theory component of the course, and then progressed to field work. Despite what the school principal said, I was unable to imagine anyone not finding the next lessons enjoyable, even those brats. I loaded them all up with old SLR cameras and took them out for an afternoon in the park. The next week we developed the film and, to my great satisfaction, they were awestruck. Every time one of them produced a print, regardless of the quality, they brought it over for me to inspect, like a child bringing home a smudged handprint.

I had discovered photography when I was fifteen, when our school decided we were old enough for the elective. My classmates were putting their faces over the containers of chemicals, staggering about and pretending to be high. I'm sure I looked more drugged than them, tilting my head as I gazed at the array of equipment and pointing things out to my friends in a hushed tone.

My art teacher had watched with bemusement, and said she wished I was as reverent when it came to Church. She had also been my religious studies teacher, which made art quite unappealing.

I had enjoyed studying religious iconography and symbolism with the previous art teacher. She was able to enthuse us so much with the passion and drama of religious art that some of the students started going to Church again, while others were inspired to go to art galleries in their spare time. Best of all, we knew she prayed to multiple Gods, which we thought was weird but admirable all the same. When she left our school it was not to take up another teaching position, but to study at an Ashram in India.

There was just something about photography that did it for me. My teacher's best efforts weren't enough to ruin photography for me, the way she had destroyed my love of sculpture. Until then, I had considered myself a passionless person. Other people yearned to act, to write or to make money, while I floated through classes and career talks with a blank mind.

“Move down," one of my students said, while I walked around the room, distracted. "I'm working with Lauren today."

"Screw that. I'm not moving. You said you would work with me."

Even after I turned off the lights, I could see a short frame standing stubbornly by the table.

"Can you not be selfish, like, for once in your life?"

"What's the problem?" I walked over to them with a sour expression on my face, which was wasted in the darkness.

"Is that you, Ms Mears?"

"Yes. Could you tell by the gritted teeth?" I swung around to address the first girl. "I have an idea; how about we move you today?"

I made her follow me across the room, planning to seat her in a corner, and she dropped complaints as she walked.

"You're so mean," she said, keeping her voice low, which did little to disguise the fact that she sounded like a member of the kindergarten art group.

"Does enjoying this make me mean?" I put her books on the floor next to a chair in the corner, ensuring that the new spot made it hard for her to speak to her friends.

There was a pause. "Yes." She put her hand against the wall, and I guessed she was disorientated in the darkness.

"In that case, I'm a horrible human being."

As soon as my students were organised and focussed on their work, I went to the drying racks to check out the progress of my own prints. I had taken a series of nature photographs, innocent pictures that I planned to frame and put on my newly painted walls. There was one shot of three cactii, their sharp needles reflecting the lights I had set up when I took the pictures.

I had taken down the old prints from the living room after my friend, Chris, said they made me look like a stalker. They had been on my wall for years, kept there for sentimental value. They were photographs of the first model I worked with, in a style some would refer to as glamour photography. Really, though, there had been nothing glamorous about it. Some people imagined a nude photography session to be rich with wine, jazz, innuendo and neglected clothing, followed by breathless lovemaking, all in the name of art.

In reality, she had laughed and touched her hair while I set up my camera and tried to adjust the light in the room. Our conversation, even after more than four sessions, had been stilted and uncomfortable.

”Ms Mears?”

My troublemaker came up behind me, making me drop the print back onto the rack. “What is it?”

“It’s really hot in here. I don’t want to, like, pass out. I feel gross.”

I sighed. It really was hot in the dark room and my students were intense enough without the addition of heat stroke.

“Okay, we’ll finish earlier today.”

Although summer started a month ago, the neighbourhood was just starting to feel the heat. I found it humming in my ears as I tried to sleep, the crickets calling, the cars rushing past, the laughter coming from the balcony next door. Living near the ocean didn’t dilute the heat, I discovered years ago. It enhanced it, so that every time I wiped my forehead I found a sticky substance, almost as thick as blood.

I regretted the clothing I had chosen that morning, shades of khaki and olive that were ideal for a safari, not a classroom. In my walk-in-wardrobe, the outfit had looked ideal for the hot weather. Almost immediately, I found the shorts clinging to my thighs. I spent the day attempting to peel them away, an embarrassingly public exfoliation.

Early in my teaching career, I had noticed how I didn't fit in with the other teachers. They wore pressed suits and pointed shoes, and talked about their work gravely, as though they were doing the world a favour by explaining a formula or correcting grammar. Still, we got along well, both curious about the other.

I was able to come out casually. I was asked, "Are you bringing anyone special to the Christmas party?" and replied, "No, she's working that night." They didn't even blink. Sometimes I wondered if they compared me to Tamara, one of the newer teachers, who had short hair and wore a rainbow pendant on a chain around her neck. I had no visible pride items, nothing about my appearance that would match any stereotype in their minds. I stood out in other ways, from my clothing to my unusual attitudes towards discipline and education.

It was as though Laura and I had switched roles since leaving school. I went out of my way to be different, to make people ask questions about what they regarded as the norm. Laura hadn't chosen to be different; in the past she had done so effortlessly. Now she didn't stand out at all.

When she lined up with the other mothers to pick up her kids, she had the same hair and clothing, the same harried look after rushing around the city to get things done. If you didn't know her, you would think she was like them, but I knew better.


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 12:20 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hi, I just discovered this story, and wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying it. Bouncing around to different shots in Anna's life is an interesting way of letting us get to know the character. Although, I'll admit, I have a great deal of curiosity about Laura. I hope you write more about her in your next update.


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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 7:11 am 
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Hey Vix,

it is wonderful to see you writing this again. I am curious about the characters and quite anxious for this to progress. Please keep up the work and the fine texture of this piece. I love it.

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 9:31 am 
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2. Floating Rose

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Yay! An update from vix84 marks the start of a very good day. Can't wait for some more interaction between Anna and Laura.

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 10:30 am 
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I just found this too, and I love it. I may be odd, but I like this kind of story where it feels like life, rather than an action film (although I like the other sort too, when I'm in the mood). And this feels like life, like Anna exists somewhere. And I love the gentle teasing out of the details. It feels like I am discovering her, rather than being told about her, if you see what I mean.

Anyway - I'm enjoying this, and I'm looking forward to more.

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 Post subject: Re: Original fiction - Through the earth
PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 4:29 pm 
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14. Lesbo Street Cred

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Location: Middle 'o the middle, U.S.A.
Woo hoo! Glad to see this update - definitely like Anna and relate to her. Thanks for continuing to write this.

- Boschi


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