Bone Deep

The ebony-black door had been permeating my dreams, its silver bolts, inlay, and door latch glimmering as if winking at me. Dream me stood before it, and I hefted a small key carved from bone in my hand. The blackness of the empty keyhole called to me, and I leaned forward.

“Come away from that door, child. There’s only black magic that way.”

My eyes flew opened, and I had to blink away the image of the door from my sight.

I looked around the tower, but the Hags weren’t paying me any attention. I’d thought one of them had spoken, but if they had, it hadn’t been vocally.

I wiped drool from my chin as I sat up, struggling off the beanbag chair I’d fallen asleep in. My leg was asleep, though, so I rolled over onto my back, sprawling out on the plush rug that covered the lounge area of the Hags’ tower.

“Rachel, what on earth are you doing over there?” Sorita asked with a scowl, sprinkling a pinch of dried herbs onto a glowing disc of charcoal. The pleasantly spicy scent of frankincense mingled with the cooling scent of copal as smoke danced up to the ceiling and out the chimney.

“Sleeping through her lessons again,” Marian said, sniffing primly as she tied knots into a length of rope, yanking them harder than necessary.

“Any naughty dreams you want to share with us?” Althea asked as she stirred the small cauldron. She gave me a wink when she glanced my way, but there was a tightness in the set of her mouth.

“Thea!” Marian said, shocked.

“Really,” Sorita grumbled.

I forced myself to grin. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Of course I want to know. What other action do you think us old biddies see?”

I rolled to my feet to avoid her gaze. Had she honed in on my dream, or was it only a stab in the dark? I sauntered over to her side and peeked into the cauldron. The larger cauldron was for magic workings, but the fire beneath it was cold, the cauldron itself empty. The small cauldron she was stirring was for dinner.

“Boiled cabbage again?” I groaned.

Sorita dug through her herb draw without looking up. “It’s good for you.”

“Puts hair on your chest,” Althea added. She took a sip from the big wooden spoon and grimaced. “Needs more salt. Maybe some bacon.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m going out for a burger and fries.” I grabbed my jacket and headed for the door.

“Be back before midnight!” Marian warned.

“Never know what the weirdos will get up to on a dark moon.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Believe me, I’m aware.”

“Grab me some bacon from the butcher while you’re out,” Althea said.

I sighed. “Anything else?”

All three Hags started talking at once, so I darted out the door. I hated it when they treated me like their errand girl rather than the apprentice that I was.

Still, I was thankful for a reason to duck out. The apex of the dark moon was only hours away, and I had things to do that relied on it.

***

A few months ago, I’d found out that my mother, who had died was I was a little girl, had been the victim of a curse. At first I’d been devastated. Why would someone want my mother dead? Devastation turned to fury. How dare someone want my mother dead! I was still angry, but the anger had been banked down to a smoldering ember on the back burner of the stove of my life. The Hags kept me busy with my studies—and no small amount of errand running—so my sharply cutting fury had faded into resolute determination to find answers. Who wanted my mother dead? What sort of curse was it? Could it have been prevented? Could it be reversed?

Of course I knew her death couldn’t be reversed. That’d be silly. She’d been dead for over a decade, and at this point, her body was dust and I was certain her soul had moved on.

No, it was more personal than that. The oracle who had told me my mom had been cursed had given me a warning: the curse was coming for me, as well. So if I didn’t figure out if I could break the curse, I’d likely drop dead at a young age, just like my mother.

The Hags hadn’t ever asked how I’d found out about the curse—only Althea had ever asked what I knew about it at all—and, in fact, deftly avoided all conversation about it. But after I’d gotten back from the oracle, my training had shifted. Gone were the fluffy rituals and quiet meditation. They’d dropped a ton of books on me—magical theory and practice, communing with nature and the ancestors, protective charms and dream warding, and an entire encyclopedic collection on herbs and their uses, both medicinal and magical. They quizzed me weekly, both orally and practically.

I failed miserably, most weeks, but, as much as I hated to admit it, I learned from my failures better than my successes. A lesson Althea had hit me over the head with more than once.

And yet, any time I brought up curses, they sidestepped me. I couldn’t even ask a generalized question about curses without the stink-eye.

Marian would sniff and adjust her skirts, as if stepping around something distasteful. “Curses are below us. There’s nothing useful to learn about them except to avoid them.”

“Curses are black magic. We don’t practice black magic, nor do we teach it,” Sorita would say sharply, wrapping the back of my knuckles with wooden spoons.

“Who me? I don’t know anything about curses,” Althea would say, twinkle in her eye. Although one day, she muttered under her breath so the others couldn’t hear, “it’s a death curse, girl. Playing with it can trigger it, so don’t go messing around with it. We’re looking into it, and you should let us be the ones to do that. It’s safer for everyone, that way.”

That in itself was enough to keep me satisfied for about six weeks. But whenever I tried to bring it up again, she pretended she didn’t know what I was talking about or laughed it off.

So, I was done waiting for some magical solution from my well-intentioned but clearly not entirely capable mentors. How much could they find out from the safety of their tower, anyway?

I was done playing it safe. Not that my trip the last oracle had been particularly safe, but it was time to up the ante a bit. Since they’d given me zero answers about death curses, I was going to find someone who would. There were all kinds of oracles in the world, and the one behind that black door with the silver accents in my dreams had the answers I needed.

I hesitated in the vestibule between the tower and the real world. A bit of magic lived there, this gateway between things, so it changed scenery now and then. Tonight, the tower itself was a real stone tower, like something from Rapunzel. The sky was dark, and the sliver of a moon shone overhead. The ground was actual dirt and grass. It felt more open than it ever had, almost like I was in a real place. The exit door looked uncomfortably similar to the black door from my dreams. I ran my hands along my arms in an attempt to flatten my goosebumps.

At the door, I pulled out my skeleton key. It glowed uneasily as I held it up to unlock the door. They key had been my call to training when it first showed up on my keyring, and since then, it had been like a friend. It was always there, keeping me company (or in this case, letting me know how it felt about my current reckless plans). It got me into the Hags’ tower and let me out anywhere I wished when I left.

Well, almost anywhere.

I stepped out into my own neighborhood and caught the night bus to the park. Zipping up my jacket against the chill, I hoofed it to the center of the park, where a good-sized pond glittered in the fading light.

Oracles liked their puzzles and protections, and this one was no exception. I peered into the pond, waiting for the breeze to calm so the water would still. There, in the reflection, it showed a third-quarter moon. I pulled out a handful of change and poked through it until I found a quarter. I was glad it wasn’t a full moon. The silver dollar I had with me had been a stocking stuffer from my dad one Christmas. Taking the coin that matched the moon phase, I held it over the pond, over the shimmering reflection. Light glinted off the coin, and it got so hot I had to drop it. When it hit the water, there was a sizzle, and a moment later, a gargling sound. Something emerged from the depths and broke the surface.

The clues I’d found about how to reach the black door had been very specific for this first part but rather unclear after that. I’d have to see what the waters puked up for me to know what came next.

I hesitated only a moment before snatching it out of the water.

It was a little treasure box about the size of my palm with the tiniest little padlock through its latch. I shook it, but there was no sound. I pulled at the padlock with my finger and thumb, but it didn’t budge. Locked tight. I flipped it over and shone a pen light into the hole. Tiny. Too tiny for my skeleton key. It was needle-sized. Aha. I pulled out my pocketknife—always be prepared and all that—and popped out the needle attachment.

It slid into the lock, but nothing happened. Of course it wasn’t that easy. I examined the lock again, moving the needle around inside. There didn’t seem to be any pins in the lock itself, so there wasn’t a specific key that fit it. I took another look at the box itself and was slightly unnerved when I realized it was in the shape of a skull. The padlock was in the center of the mouth, and the mouth contained two pointed, exaggerated incisors. Vampire?

Probably a vampire. And what did vampires like? I sighed and used the needle to prick my finger, flinching only a little. Once I was sure there was blood on it, I stuck it back into the lock, and sure enough, it popped open.

I wiped the needle on my jeans and put it back in its spot, slipping the knife back into my pocket. I only hesitated a moment before removing the padlock and opening the lid.

Inside was a rolled-up piece of paper. I took the paper out and set the box on the ground to unroll it. There was a sucking sound, and the box sunk into the mud at the side of the pond.

“Good riddance, creepy vampire box.”

Shaking my head, I unfurled the paper. It was a picture of a tombstone, although reversed, like a mirror image. Great. Vampires and graveyards. This dark moon stuff was starting to seem like an emo teenager. Except, looking more closely at the image, I went still. An emo teenager wouldn’t have been able to get a photo of my mom’s tombstone in this little box. Even reversed, I recognized it.

I jerked my head up and looked around. Had someone known I had been coming? I crouched on the muddy ground next to the pond as still as I could, barely daring to breathe, listening with my ears and my witchy senses, but there was nobody there. If this was a sick joke, nobody had bothered to stick around for the punchline.

“What’s this even supposed to mean?” I grumbled to nobody in particular. I didn’t know, but I could guess. Mom’s grave was at the edge of town. My next clue was probably there.

I made my way back to the bus stop and waited, shivering. From the cold, not from the creepy feeling that had settled in my stomach. I hadn’t expected this to get personal.

The bus was warm, and I resisted the urge to blow the whole thing off. I could get off on the next stop and go back to my apartment. Or I could hop off on the next stop and catch a bus going the other way, go back to the Hags. Both would be admitting defeat. But the truth was, as much as I wanted answers, this had hit me harder than I expected.

Trouble was, even though the Hags had encouraged me to leave the curse alone, I couldn’t. I hated knowing that there was some death curse hovering over me with no idea how to fight it, what might trigger it, or even how much time I had left. I liked my life. I didn’t want to drop dead anytime soon. And as much as the Hags insisted they had things under control, I hadn’t seen any evidence they were doing a thing, aside from Althea telling me they were working on it.

Not that Althea had any reason to lie. But if there was something I could do to save myself, I had to find out. And I might not get another shot at this oracle, now that I had completed the first step. Of course there were others, but they were definitely black magic. A little blood magic seemed tame in comparison.

So I stayed on the bus until the last stop, stepping off across the street from the graveyard. I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head, darted across the street, and slipped through the bars of the closed gate.

I hadn’t been to visit Mom in awhile, not since I’d realized she wasn’t really there. We’d had her cremated and buried her ashes after Dad, Grandma, and I each took a small vial of them to keep. But that had been her earthly vessel. When I joined the Hags, they confirmed what I’d already suspected. We don’t stick around our bodies once we die. There are too many things to do, once we’re on the next plane, to hang around in a graveyard waiting for your daughter to visit you.

I made my way through the cemetery until I got to her grave. I did a full circle around it, but nothing immediately presented itself as to what I should do next. I sat crosslegged in front of her tombstone but did say hi. I pulled the photo back out and looked from it to the tombstone. Now what?

I tried the trick from the pond, where I held the photograph out so that it reflected the tombstone. Nothing. Of course not. I looked at the photo again, shining my penlight on it. Inspecting it more closely, I noticed a blemish in the lower righthand corner. I squinted, putting it up close to my face. Pursing my lips, I looked from the image to the stone. The stone in the picture had a thumbprint in the corner. It didn’t look like ink. I took a wild guess and got my needle back out. I wished I had some rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. I didn’t want to die of some stupid infection in my quest to figure out how to avoid dropping dead.

I shoved the needle into a different finger, jabbing a little deeper. I sucked in a breath at the burst of pain, and the blood began to well up. I squeezed it to make the blood drop bigger, then lathered up my thumb. I took another look at the picture, squinted one eye shut as I lined it up on the tombstone, then pressed my bloody thumb against it, right in the corner under where it said “beloved mother.”

“Sorry, mom.” I held up the photo so that it was a mirror image of Mom’s grave.

There was a tug, and then the feeling of slippery magic in the air, and the sound of stone grating against stone. I tilted my head, listening, but there weren’t any other sounds. There didn’t appear to be anything else out of the ordinary, either. I stood and brushed off the seat of my pants. This should be the last puzzle to get to the door. I just had to be smart about it. I checked the time. I was cutting it close. I didn’t have a ton of time to figure out an elaborate puzzle. I walked around the grave and stopped short.

On the back side of the tombstone was a mirror. I crouched down and peeked into it, looking for my next hint, but I stumbled back, landing on my butt.

A horrifying face had been looking back at me. I blinked at the face blinking back at me. I raised a hand, and the hand in the mirror came up, as well. It was me, sort of, but a me that looked like I had been a meth addict my whole life. The skin was yellow and papery, sagging on the bones. The face was worse, eyes sunken so far into the head that it looked skeletal, gums receded so far that teeth looked like fangs. My terrified expression didn’t show on hers. Instead, she looked smug and hungry. I scooted back, and so did she. There was a dark glint in her eyes I didn’t like. Anticipation.

Mirrors were gateways, and this was probably a portaal to get to the black door. But was there some sort of puzzle here? Or did I have to give myself over to this horrific creature?

I got back up on my knees and inched forward, and so did she, the longing clear in her posture. I reached forward, and so did she, clawed hands extending toward me, and I flinched, pulling back, disappointment in my mirror image’s face.

I took a steadying breath. This would be easier if it was a puzzle. I desperately wanted there to be one. But in this case, it was probably a test of courage rather than a puzzle. I had to face this mirror me to step through. And maybe it was less bravery than acceptance. We all have our shadow selves, after all. Maybe it was time to embrace mine.

I swallowed hard and inched forward again. I gave mirror me a little wave. “Hey there. Are you going to help me through?”

As I spoke, her words echoed me, changing what I said ever so slightly. Rather than a question, it was an answer. “I’m going to help you through.”

I nodded, and so did she. All right then. I reached toward her and placed my palm against the mirror, against hers. While I imagined my expression was probably resigned terror, hers was desperate greed.

But nothing happened. Crap. What was I missing? I chewed my lip in consternation, and she bit hers in anticipation. Her sharp teeth pierced her lip, and blood welled up.

Blood. Of course. It had all been blood, so far. With a sigh, I pulled out my knife again. She had one, too, and her expression was filled with desire. I swallowed again and swiped the knife across my palm.

“Son of a…” I gritted my teeth and cradled my hand. This set of trials officially sucked. Pursing my lips, I reached out again, hesitating only a moment before meeting my shadow self’s palm in the mirror. Sheer bliss crossed her face as her clammy palm pressed against mine.

The world went sideways a moment, and all the breath whooshed out of my lungs. I pressed my eyes shut as everything spun, and when I opened them again, I was curled up in fetal position, holding my bloody hand to my chest. The world around me was dark, lit by flickering firelight.

I pushed myself to my knees and looked around. I was in a clearing, and before me stood the ebony door, radiating darkness, sucking the light out of everything around it.

I’d done it. I was here.

I stood and made my way to the door, taking deep, calming breaths. Just being near it made my heart beat faster, my lungs feel too small. As I stood in front of it, I started to doubt the wisdom of this endeavor. Maybe the Hags were right. Maybe digging into the curse, invoking dark magic to do it, was a bad idea.

I licked my lips and checked the time. My cell phone screen was blank, so no help there. I craned my neck back and looked above me. Without knowing how I knew, I knew it was time.

I pulled the bone key from my pocket.

When Mom had died and her ashes had been divvied up between us, I’d been morbidly fascinated. They weren’t like any ashes I’d ever seen before. The texture was wrong. And there were big chunks in it. As I sifted through them, I’d found a chunk and pulled it out. I’d almost vomited when I realized what it was. A piece of Mom’s bone. Without knowing why, I’d put it in my vial of ashes. I’d kept it in there ever since, both squicked out but also happy that I had a more tangible piece of Mom than just what they’d burned.

I didn’t know what bone it was. Could have been a finger or toe, or it could have been a piece of bone from something bigger. Regardless, when I’d learned I needed a key carved from bone for this oracle, I’d immediately thought of Mom. Of course, technically, it wanted it to be a key carved from your own bone. But Mom’s bone was part of me, right? Or rather, I was part of Mom. My body had come from hers.

I’d taken great care to carve and polish the bone to the specifications. Gently and lovingly. Probably more lovingly than I would have my own bone.

I still wasn’t sure it would work, but I had to try. And if it didn’t work, well, then, I could try other oracles.

But it would work. It had to.

I stepped forward and put the key into the silver lock. I turned it, and it dissolved into the door. I held my breath for a few beats, but nothing happened. I looked around the clearing, but nothing had changed. I reached forward and tried the door, but it didn’t budge.

“Well, shit.” So much for that. It had probably been a long shot. I took one last look at the door and shrugged, fighting back my disappointment, my loss. The first oracle, I’d given up the coin Mom had been about to toss into a wishing fountain at the mall right before she died. This oracle, I’d lost her bone I’d been carrying for nearly as long. I didn’t necessarily need the physical reminders of her, but it hurt every time I lost one. The first oracle had been worth it. This…well, at least I hadn’t lost my own finger.

I turned to go, hoping that getting back through the portal was simpler than it had been to get here, when a cold, clammy breeze started tugging at my clothes and hair. I hesitated and glanced over my shoulder at the door. Still shut tight, but something had changed. It had grown blurry. Dark mist, I realized. That dark mist reached out for me, and I stumbled back.

Too slow. It darted forward and coalesced around me, becoming tangible, preventing me from moving.

“Its musssnt leave ssso fassst,” a voice rasped, coming from all around me.

Uh oh. I swallowed hard as I steeled my nerve, calling a quick protection charm to me. I gasped and cried out as the cold mist sliced through my charm and seemed to cut the very essence of me.

“Its wantsss to asssk a question, yesss? But its hasssn’t paid the price.”

I licked my lips, but my mouth was dry, so it only managed to make my mouth sticky. “Oh, that’s all right. I, um, don’t need any answers, after all.”

The mist grew even colder around me, and I couldn’t help but shudder.

“Its paid usss a falssse price. Mussst make it right. Mussst pay for wasting our timessss.”

Even though I knew it was pointless, I struggled, trying to get free of the tightening coils of black mist. I couldn’t even see the portal anymore.

“Look, I’m really sorry about the key. It was my mother’s bone. I figured it was basically the same thing. Feel free to keep it for your trouble.”

There was the sound of hideous, hissing laughter, and my heart fell into my stomach. I tried to summon a light charm, pulling something to banish this darkness, but my spell fizzled.

“We thinksss it will give usss what we asssked for, yess?”

The dark mist yanked me down, and I landed hard on my knees. They pulled my arm away from my body, stretching my hand across a slab of stone. A cleaver appeared out of nowhere, and the mist stretched my pinkie finger away from the rest of my hand.

I groaned. “Surely there’s something else I can do to make up for this?”

“It issss the price.”

I swallowed and pressed my eyes closed. “Fine. Whatever. Just do it.” I could live without a finger. As long as I got out of there with my life. I pulled on the collective and begged for a numbing of pain, and for quick healing, but before I’d even finished my request, the cleaver came down and severed my pinkie finger.

I screamed.

I didn’t look. I swallowed back bile, and sent healing energies to the fire that throbbed in my now missing extremity. After several deep breaths, I finally found my voice.

“All right, then. I paid my price. Do I get some answers to my questions, now?”

The laughter was back, and I went lightheaded. They weren’t done with me yet.

“We thinks it might want more parts separated from its body, yes?”

“No! No. Forget I asked. Just let me go.” I managed to keep the wobble from my voice, but it still sounded like a pathetic whine.

“Too late. We will take. And take and take. Must learn a lesssson, yes? Must learn to pay for what its asssks.”

I forced myself to struggle, trying to pull my arm free, but the black mist was like a vice. The cleaver came up, and as much as I wanted to scream, it took all my focus not to black out. In that moment, I believed that the Hags were right. I had gone looking for information on how to stop the death curse, and instead, I’d activated it. There was no way I’d live through another amputation.

I sent one last burst of energy out from me, and the cleaver hesitated, but only for an instant. As it swung down again, I braced for the end. I couldn’t even scream.

“That is quite enough of that,” Althea’s voice rang across the clearing.

The cleaver was flung out of the mist, and the mist loosened its hold on me.

“Be gone, witchesss. Thisss one is oursss. She failed to pay the price.”

“And for that, you took her mother’s bone. Without answers, she owes you nothing more than that. More than that is just plain greed. Return her finger and be gone, yourself.”

“You will not ssstop us. It is payment due!”

The cleaver was back, and flinging toward Althea. I think I did scream, then, but she batted it away like it was a fly.

“Witch!” the mist shrieked, a thousand voices in one. Blackness engulfed the white-robed woman standing before me. She slumped under its weight for only a moment before it was flung back again.

“Back, vile creatures!” Sorita shrieked as she appeared next to Althea.

“You have no power over us!” Marian said with booming authority.

How? How where they there? The Hags, who never left their tower? How where they there, saving me?

Wind whistled in my ears as light fought against the darkness. But the darkness was no match for the Hags, and it gave up almost before it began, fading away, back into the ebony door.

“Ssssss! Thisss sssad child issssn’t worth it. Keep her cursssed bonesss. They’re no use to usss.”

The black mist’s hissing faded away at the same time as my consciousness.

***

I woke up back in the Tower. Sorita and Marian were shuffling around, doing their normal things. Sorita was smoke cleansing and Marian was making something in the food cauldron. It smelled like bacon.

Althea, though, was sitting next to me, holding my heavily bandaged hand. It smelled of pungent healing herbs. My eyes went from our hands to her face. The depth of her concern, there, made it hard for me to speak for a moment.

“I didn’t think you guys ever left the tower,” I managed after a beat.

Althea snorted. “Just because you never see us leave doesn’t mean we don’t.”

I raised a tired eyebrow.

“True, we spend most of our time here when we’re training you, but we don’t actually live up here. There are other rooms in the tower, and you’re a terrible apprentice, so we have to go out now and then to run errands.”

“Heh. I’d love to see that.”

Althea let go of my hand and waggled a finger at me, her eyes twinkling. “I had to go get bacon myself!”

I gave her a wan smile. “Sorry about that.”

Althea’s face grew serious, and she glanced over to Marian and Sorita before dropping her voice.

“For what it’s worth…we were wrong to keep you locked in the tower. Just because we prefer to do most of our work here doesn’t mean it’s the same for you. We’ll try to be more accommodating of your need to…have answers to your complicated questions.”

I squinted at her. “Really? Sorita and Marian agreed to that?”

“Eh. More or less. They’ll come around. They’ll have to, I’m afraid.”

I blinked as I glanced to the other two women. Even though the Hags had always seemed like they didn’t take care of me, they were there for me. They’d proved that. They’d saved me. But beyond that, they’d taught me things, kept me safe from the evils of the magical world. And even if they didn’t tell me about it, I believed they were working on keeping the curse at bay.

I’d royally screwed it up. Although I’d paid for it. I held up my hand, trying to see if I could feel the lack of pinkie finger.

Althea put a finger aside her nose, then pulled out a small wooden box, sliding over to me.

“What’s this, then?”

She flipped the lid open, and I leaned forward to look. There, on a cushion of plush red velvet, sat my finger bone, polished clean.

“Uck!” I couldn’t help the revulsion. My finger! But then I looked again, and it seemed so plain. So benign. I’d seen my share of bones, working with the Hags.

But the darkness had said they hadn’t wanted my cursed bones. I looked up at Althea.

“Is it true, what they said? About even my bones being cursed?”

Althea gave me a sad smile. “Most curses do go bone deep. We tested yours, just to be sure.”

“And?”

Althea didn’t answer. She didn’t have to. I could tell by her expression.

I hid my sudden feelings of fear with huffiness. “Why give me this? With it, I can just go back to the door and again. Actually get my questions answered this time.

Althea just raised an eyebrow. “Will you?”

I hesitated for a moment too long. “Maybe.”

Althea rolled her eyes. “Well, if you decide you’re going to, at least let us know where you’re off, so we don’t worry?”

I snorted. “So you won’t worry? Or will?”

Althea winked and stood, joining the other Hags at the cauldron. “Mmm. Smells like it’s ready. Hungry for bacon and boiled cabbage?”

“Crap. I forgot to get a burger.”

“Injured apprentices need their vitamins,” Sorita insisted.

“Here’s a great big bowl. Eat up,” Marian said with entirely too much pleasure.

“I love bacon,” Althea sighed as she took a slurp.

I only grumbled a little as I sipped my soup. The warmth spread through parts of me I hadn’t even realized were still numb with cold from my ordeal.

Despite my threat, in my heart I knew I wouldn’t go back to the ebony door. I’d gotten a taste of that black magic. The Hags had tried to protect me from it.

I knew they meant, well—it was just another case of them thinking what you don’t know can’t hurt you—but they’d learned better. They wouldn’t keep me in the dark, anymore. And I, well. I’d try to be better at doing what they asked.

Most of the time, anyway.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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