Dense

Second part of the condensed version of Charged (Collection of Short Stories titled Love Is All Around)

– 0 –

PO1 Granada parted through the crowd like Moses dividing the Red Sea. Her uniform did the trick this time, her stature quickly accepted especially when they saw her caress her holstered gun.

“People! What’s going on here?”

“Loverboy there is decimating the flowers!”

The heckler was popular because he knew how to sew up the right words to create laughter. Known in the world as the ever-smiling race, he proved his claim to be the perfect example.

“Sir,” PO1 Granada wondered why on earth the man sat there like a fool, unperturbed by the loathing he repeatedly received. “You have to stop that. Park regulations prohibit people from destroying public property.”

Roger stopped suddenly, the phrase ‘she loves me’ his last. He sensed that the new arrival was different from the people around him.

He turned around casually, ready to defend his actions for all to hear. However, when he saw the police officer who admonished him, his eyes widened.

PO1 Granada gasped, her surprise total. Dispersing the crowd was the first option that crossed her mind. She would lose her credibility if what she feared occurred.

Shut up! Don’t do this to me!

Roger telepathically received the unspoken message, bowing his head to avoid eye contact with anyone. He was a portrait of a criminal, caught in the act of a senseless crime.

“Enough people! You have your entertainment for the day.”

“What about him?” the heckler asked, stopping the crowd from losing interest. “He should be punished.”

“He will be,” the policewoman agreed. “I know my job.”

“I am curious,” the heckler would not leave unsatisfied. “What will be his punishment?”

Roger did not move. He started blaming himself for the stunt he initiated.

“I know,” the heckler roared. “He should gather all the petals on the ground and make a crown. That way we could make him the King of Wishful Thinking. Yeah, like the song.”

The crowd clapped heartily with the suggestion. They began preparing their cellular phones and other gadgets. The scene could be uploaded in YouTube and other social networks.

“Enough!” PO1 Granada had to pronounce her authority. “There would no mob judgment. This is police business now.”

– 0 –

Handcuffed and herded like an ordinary felon, Roger was mum while the policewoman kept her distance. Onlookers watched them, most in a state of bewilderment on what happened.

“I am sorry,” he coughed out.

“Have you lost your mind?” she shot back, walking ram-rod and straight like a proper law enforcer.

They reached the Japanese garden, which was tucked away from the main grounds, unusually free from visitors.

“Give me you hands,” she produced the key to unlock the cuffs. “You do this again and you’ll be more than sorry.”

“I was really desperate since yesterday. I could not sleep. I had to do something to let my mind at ease.”

“Are you at ease now?” she mellowed her delivery.

“It depends on what you’ll decide,” Roger looked like a lamb, well, a bearded lamb who was on the verge of tears.

“You’re the most sincere man I have met,” she clasped his hands. “As a woman, I am supposed to follow the routine, you know. I have to keep you guessing. But …”

“But what?” Roger did not want to hear the usual parting words he heard so many times. Still, he bravely waited for her final say.

“with what you did today, I have to make sure you won’t try other silly performances.”

“So?”

“You’re not a bright person,” PO1 Granada, a.k.a. Sally, jested. “Do I have to spell it out for you?”

THE  END

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Sharp

A fresh start. It seems everything is in order: the sun is shining, the current is flowing, the connection is holding, and I am awake. 🙂

Here’s a condensed version of one of my short stories in the collection Love Is All Around.

Charged

Roger was ecstatic.

Walking briskly toward the park he frequented, he could not help but paint an almost permanent smile on his bearded face. His emotional bliss was brought about by the prospect of acquiring a girlfriend for the first time in his life.

Sally gave him the hint, that most important word to present him with hope: maybe.

There was a long, long list of female names he stashed somewhere to remind him of his heartaches, his forays to courtship that had gone sour before they even started. He was not the type to attract outright the female species: he was effeminate with a muscular built.

– 0 –

Strollers passed him by with most of emotions and degrees of surprise. One homeless male distinctly uttered the word ‘crazy’ behind his back.

“She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not, …”

The petals of assorted flowers were scattered around him: they were the victims of his whim, his faith to the old thought handed down through generations of lovers.

He could not pick it correctly. Every time, his performance ended with ‘she loves me not’ and he would repeat the process again.

Two teenagers lingered for a while, an arm’s length distance from his sitting position, observing him like he was a specimen inside an imaginary cage in a zoo. They whispered to each other, giggling quietly lest he could be offended.

A biker, rested from his early-morning round, parked behind where the teens stood, joining the onlookers. From his curled lips, a mocking grin formed.

More spectators milled around: oddities were hard to come by, especially in a public place.

– 0 –

PO1 Granada was not amused by his superior’s antics. A neophyte and a ‘girl’ (the same word spat out with a smirk), she was stationed in the national park to patrol the grounds. Without a partner to converse with, she looked like an ordinary woman in uniform. It was a joke.

Often, she would be accosted by strangers, thinking all along that she was in some kind of a masquerade, a hanger-on of Halloween, costumed all year round.

“Back off,” she warned. “This is a real gun.”

Reciting the same dialogue over and over again made her feel less confident. People did not show her the respect she deserved.

When she saw the crowd, she abruptly banished her distressing thoughts, recovering immediately to perform her sworn duty to preserve the peace and uphold the law.

“Thank heavens!” she sighed. “Something.”

– 0 –

“She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, …”

“You’re wasting your time!”

The loud comment hurt him a bit as if truth was a realization he had to surrender to. The heckler summed up the conclusion of most of those around.

“Let me be!” he shouted. “Go on! Leave!”

– 0 –

(to be concluded)

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Fleeting

There are chances and there are CHANCES.

It is up to us to make the most and the best out of them.

Given the opportunity, will you let it slip away?

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Split

Excerpt from the short story titled Dissolved, part of the Collection of Stories: Crimes Need Punishment 

(continuation)

The stillness of midnight was shattered with the first of the three explosions, the second and the third obviously triggered by the original, giving birth to a large fire that quickly engulfed a wide area of closely-built structures made of light materials. In only a few minutes, the fire raged uncontrollably.

First on the scene were three firetrucks of a nearby civilian brigade, its volunteer firemen jumping out from the vehicle in a hurry, performing the roles they constantly practice to near perfection.  Battling the blaze was easy: it was the unruly residents’ interference which made their jobs more difficult.

At that same moment, a city away from the conflagration, a familiar opening soundtrack of an action film could be heard. Used as a ringtone, it repeatedly played the short sampled loop exhorting the phone’s owner to take notice of its warning.

“What the hell?”

He tried to reach for it but his arm was too short. The gadget was another feet away on top of a table.

The dizzy spell was nothing new; the effects of the alcohol remained.

Slowly he stood up, balancing himself by holding to the arm rest of the chair. However, his first step fell on the pool of liquid which made him slid: he tumbled hard to the floor.

“This better be good,” he swore while pressing the respond button.

“Kevin, come quickly! There’s been a series of explosions in the middle of the slums.” His former partner, Alvin, sounded overly excited.

Since he was booted out from the unit, he could not care less whatever operation they were faced with.

“Why call me? You heard the Colonel, I am out. Call him!”

“Come on, man! You know this inside out. We could shortcut the investigation with your help.”

“I am drunk,” Kevin shouted on the phone. “You want me berated in front of many people. I can’t take it anymore.”

“What’s the matter with you? I thought you care, you want to save lives.”

“Ask the Colonel about that,” Kevin shot back. “He should be the one promoted to full retirement.”

Alvin wished he could change his partner’s mind. Kevin was pissed as hell when all he worked for was swept aside because of a simple disagreement on who to decide on the spot of an earlier operation. His partner was outranked even though he was correct.

“I’ll fill you in with the details. You’re my friend so you are responsible to give me any good advice.”

“I’ve taught you everything I learned,” Kevin calmed down. Alvin was his antidote: if he was fire, his partner was water. “You know where to find me.”

“How’s your new assignment?”

“I am a tail to a secretive Major inside a facility populated by hardened criminals. He’s bad, I am afraid.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He asked for my re-assignment which the Colonel approved immediately.”

“Let me guess. He needs a bomb expert. Not a bomb disposal expert.”

“You’re quick,” Kevin said, a germ of a doubt suddenly appeared in his mind. “Like I told you earlier, you’re ready to shine.”

Kevin was sobered by the conversation. He thought of his new job as punishment but Alvin’s remark was succinctly clear: he was moved for a reason.

The grenade rolled near the foot of the table. He picked it up and re-inserted the pin which was left still attached to his forefinger, looking more like a crude ring.

“I always like you,” he said, caressing the device. “You look real enough.”

E N D  of First Part

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Hot Head

Excerpt from the short story titled Dissolved, part of the Collection of Stories: Crimes Need Punishment 

– 0 –

Sitting in his favorite rattan chair for hours, in one hand an almost empty bottle of whisky, in the other a lethal weapon of his trade, Kevin could not understand why his professional life turned sour because of a wrong judgment call by a superior. True, he was not the easiest to get along with but for some reason that trait saved his hide during crises.

His re-assignment to another institution was a slap on his face. Insubordination, they reasoned out, should be dealt with early on to correct one’s high regard of oneself, especially if that someone was a maverick of sort.

Early that morning, Kevin reported to his new boss, his papers sent ahead of his arrival.

“You’re my guest,” Major Frank M jested, eyeing him while he stood at attention. “You’re not the first. I am sure you’ll not be the last.”

“Permission to ask a question, sir.” Kevin wanted to clarify his status. What he was told: his services were valuable, he was highly regarded for his experience, he was asked for to complete a task.

“Why not?” the short-cropped-haired head of the national penitentiary snapped his fingers, a mannerism Kevin would soon discover as a signal to shut one’s mouth. “Shoot!”

“Were you told why I am here? The real reason, sir.”

Major Frank M (his surname was not completely spelled out for security reasons) managed a hearty laugh. He was warned of Kevin’s strange ability to enrage a superior, even without trying.

“I have a problem. You are the solution.”

Kevin suspected that the elaborate charade was hatched days earlier to soften his resistance from leaving his post. He submitted his written explanation to refute his former superior’s allegation of grave misconduct during live operation.

“I am not sure I follow sir,” he calmly said. “I don’t mean to be rude but I have of no use here.”

Major Frank M clicked his tongue, another mannerism that meant he disagreed with what has been said.

“Do as you are told and we’ll be just fine. Dismiss.”

Kevin dropped the bottle on the cemented floor, its remaining contents flowed freely which created a pool of liquid that would surely stain later.

His tired eyes, playing tricks on him because of too much alcohol, kept staring at his collection of commendations and certificates of appreciation from various agencies. They were of no importance now if he was to be detailed to a position too far away from the real action.

“I might as well end this with a bang,” he slurred the words, studying the grenade on his hand.

He pulled out the pin while carelessly holding the lever. One false twitch of his fingers, he would be history.

His loud laughter reverberated inside the room, his neighbors would surely comment later on that he sounded deranged.

Slumping back to the chair, his knees buckled under his weight. Involuntarily, his hand released the grenade from his grip: it clanged on the floor.

The last thing Kevin remembered was the satisfied smile on his face.

(to be concluded)

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Pronounced (2)

From the Collection of Short Stories titled, Love Is All Around (Copyright)

Condensed Version

– 0 –

(continued)

Within the next half hour, she was greeted more or less with similar felicitations accompanied with respectful smiles. Only one creature looked at her with disdain: she surmised that the old man was probably a loyal supporter of the former president or an ardent follower of another Christian sect.

Sister Cristina remained in the present. There was no use pretending that the past could be resurrected to put an end to the current malaise in society in general.

“Will you be going back to the church?” asked a deep male voice from behind.

The disruption to her thoughts belonged to a young priest who frequently led her around, the daily trip to the bench included.

“Ah, Father Jess,” she gushed, grateful that his constant attention to her had not diminished. “You’re too kind.”

“I saw you from up there,” he pointed to the higher ground where the church entrance was located. “Perhaps, you waited long for me to fetch you.”

The young disciple of God was born to serve, Sister Cristina firmly believed. He hid no false pretenses with the way he cared for her.

“Can I stay a little longer?” she asked, her plea understandable.

“Of course, Sister.” Father Jess would always accede to her wishes. “I’ll come back after half an hour. Will that be all right?”

“That would be great, Father.” she nodded, smiling like a small girl.

The priest tapped her shoulder gently before turning back. The small gesture was enough to brighten her day.

Again, she tried to remember the past. Unfortunately, distractions began to build up. Her vivid reflections were diluted by the growing noise of traffic fifty feet from where she sat. Another solemn day was no more, replaced by the ordinary.

Her immaculate attire was a magnet to dust and dirt, slowly accumulating in the air as minutes passed by. She should have accepted the priest’s offer earlier so she could safely escape the noxious particles from exhausts of motor transports. The smoggy air began to bother her breathing.

The empty space near her was on the verge of being occupied by a smartly-dressed man in his early forties. The new arrival would thwart her wish to remain the sole occupant of her favorite bench.

“Mind if I seat here, Sister?” the man asked, already adjusting his pants to prepare for a comfortable seating.

“No, I don’t mind at all,” she replied, inching a bit toward the edge on her side.

“It’s nice to sit here,” he mused, taking a long deep breath, unafraid of the air pollution he just inhaled.

“Are you expecting someone?” Sister Cristina queried, noticing him glancing at his watch several times.

“She is late,” he confessed. “We’re supposed to meet inside the church.”

Ah, waiting, sighed Sister Cristina. It was a chore many  people disliked.

“Why did you come out? She might be there now?”

“It’s her turn to wait then,” he commented, his tone irritated.

Sister Cristina smiled. The man obviously hated tardiness.

“You know, waiting means you care,” she said. “Anticipation is a part of loving.”

He turned to her, studying her face for any hint of jest. Her enigmatic words were genuine: it touched a nerve inside him.

“I’m sure you are saying that to appease me. She’s been doing this to me ever since.”

“And yet, you anticipate her arrival every time?”

Sister Cristina watched him closely. He needed the guidance like everyone else.

“So, I always wait.”

“Exactly!”

“But, why always me?” he asked, confused why equality was not an issue. “She has never waited for me.”

“You’re missing my point,” Sister Cristina emphasized. “You’re talking about time. What I am talking about is Love.”

He frowned, showing his dissatisfaction. But slowly his face brightened up when he finally understood the nun’s perspective.

“I think you’re right, Sister. Thank you for enlightening me.”

He immediately stood up and waved his goodbye.

Sister Cristina looked up to the cloudless sky, reciting her firm devotion.

“I will wait as long as it takes when the time comes to join my God in heaven.”

T H E  E N D

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Pronounced (1)

From the Collection of Short Stories titled, Love Is All Around (Copyright)

Condensed Version

– 0 –

Nearly six in the morning, the sun’s streaks of yellow rays passed through the almost oval green leaves of a ten-year old Narra tree, creating moving splotches of changing patterns on the pavement. The gentle breeze from the west kept the air cold.

Local birds that normally populated the trees were still nowhere in sight. Perhaps, they, too, needed warmth that they hid themselves in several buildings nearby.

A small but well-kept park was carved out from a military camp that faced the former Highway 54. Renamed decades later as EDSA,  it was the world-renowned site where the so-called People Power Revolution took place in the mid 1980s. It was a fitting memorial to the struggles and triumphs of the common people.

Nearby, a towering metal statue of the Virgin Mary stood in front of the church built to signify the important contribution of the Church to achieve an almost bloodless change of power. The word miracle was often cited to describe the events during those turbulent times.

An elderly nun in an all-white habit sat on a marble bench: she was bathed with sunshine. The daily routine, which she never missed, gave her the opportunity to observe the surroundings before the chaos of traffic took over during the morning rush hour. Nothing could be so refreshing than to breathe the clean air before pollution from exhausts of motor vehicles poisoned it later.

She turned her upper body slowly and glanced at the huge statue. More often than not, it always triggered her reminiscence of the past, most especially those memories that reminded her how it all came about.

Sister Cristina was there when it happened. She was a middle-aged noviciate back then, locking arms with fellow religious workers and ordinary citizens, waiting for the government military regiments to break through their ranks. Bodily harm was a serious concern but she disregarded the mortal threat. Only their deaths could sever the human chain they formed.

It was touch and go at first, their pleading voices softened the resolve of loyalist forces dedicated to follow the current president. With food, water and flowers offered, the status quo was achieved. Peace was observed: violence prevented.

She believed that their contribution was instrumental in avoiding an armed confrontation between opposing armies, the rebels inside the camp while their counterparts held to a halt further away.

They were filled with hope that someday what they fought for would engender true change. All the lofty promises were given, bandied to the crowd, proclaimed to the world press.

But even before the celebration of victory was finished, history repeated itself. Only the collars were changed: political animals repainted their stripes, turncoats all over the place. They were all different and yet all too similar: personal interest reigned supreme.

Sister Cristina sighed deeply. Where were the years that passed by. Her devotion never wavered but her once energetic body began to wither with age.

People strolled by, reminding her that sooner the park would be populated by souls from all walks of life. The market atmosphere would take over and it would transform the early morning serenity of the place into a busy congregation of crowds.

“Good morning, Sister,” greeted a mother of three, cradling a newly-born baby, asleep in her left arm. Two small children held on to the hem of her skirt, unwilling to let her go for fear of getting lost.

“Good morning, too.” Sister Cristina blessed them with the sign of the cross. She, however, did not rise up to approach the children because her frail body lacked the will to move like she used to do when she was younger.

An exchange of pleasantries ensued for more than ten minutes. It could have been longer except the children hurriedly tugged at their mother’s skirt, signaling her to finish off the conversation.

“I guess, we’ll be on our way, Sister.” She sounded apologetic for the interruption.

“Children,” Sister Cristina smiled, her lined face filled with understanding. “They prefer happy places. Not boring companies.”

– o –

(to be concluded)

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Reprise

Good morning fellow bloggers!

Just woke up again! 😀

Earlier, I had a short stint online when the connection suddenly vanished while I was in the middle of writing a post. Before, I would rant offline to let steam off. But after my ‘cleansing’ yesterday, I did not react negatively. Instead, I was calm and collect.

So, what did I do?

I went back to bed. Since it rained and the hour was still early, there’s not much I could do than replenish my strength through another round of dreaming. 🙂

Have a wonderful Sunday, you hear! That’s an order! 😀

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Cured

It was dark inside the living room. The silhouette of the tree outside formed a black image on the window pane. In a strange fashion, it seemed swaying back and forth, moved by the evening breeze.

Alice left her husband in bed, snoring excessively like a fat boar, either because of his heavy supper or the games they played afterwards.

“Boooo!”

Who came from behind her she did not expect.

At first, she imagined a burglar sneaked in from the kitchen, ready to cover her mouth so she could not scream for help. But, the creepy sound was delivered in such way she was involuntarily pushed forward, nearly felling her to the carpeted floor.

“Hiccup!”

She turned around immediately, fearing the assailant would pounce on her while she was most vulnerable. Instead, it looked like an apparition from the jungle or wherever it came from which almost frightened her to submission.

“Who the …? Hiccup.”

The gurgling laughter of her husband was unmistakable. He stood in front of her, draped in a blanket, the masquerade complete with a spooky mask of a gorilla which he removed slowly.

“Is it gone?” he curiously asked. “It worked!”

A second later, she proved him wrong.

“Hiccup.” She did not find his stunt hilarious. “God! Are you crazy? You nearly gave me a heart attack! Hiccup.”

“Damn! That didn’t work?” he asked himself, perplexed why the common belief was not effective.

“Hiccup. If you want to help me, go get me a glass of water.”

“Oh, you believe that crap?”

“Yes. Hiccup.” She motioned him to go quickly. “In fact, I do. Hiccup.”

Mark ran to kitchen, dropping his costume on the couch like a superhero changing into his casual identity.

“Seven small gulps of water and it would be gone.” She recalled her grandmother instilling the lesson when she was five.

“I don’t think that will remove the hiccups,” he said dismissively.

“Hiccup. Just wait. Hiccup. My grandmother is always right. Hiccup.”

“I doubt that.” Mark rolled his eyes, showing his disbelief.

Alice seemed to concentrate as if in a trance. It was important that she followed the exact timing in between gulps.

“Well?” he asked anxiously.

“Hiccup.” She frowned, shaking her head repeatedly. “Hiccup.”

“You know what my grandfather used to say.”

“Hiccup. Your grandpa was weird. Bless his soul. Hiccup.”

“You don’t believe his tales?”

“Hiccup. Did you?” she asked incredulously. “You did! Hiccup.”

Mark looked as if he did not hear her because he noticed something under the couch.

“What do we have here?” he trapped it with his palm, the movement under it ticklish. “I think I found a remedy. My grandfather told me about this.”

“Hiccup. What is it? Let me see. Hiccup.” Alice, too, wondered if the old guy was not all air.

Mark lifted it up, holding it by the tail: she screamed at the sight of it.

“Get that thing away from me!”

“Quick! Open your mouth!” he ordered, approaching her. “Swallow it!”

“Never!” she yelled, running up the stairs, straight to their room.

He doubled up laughing, seeing her contorted face almost grimacing with disdain, coughing out her obvious abhorrence for his vomit-inducing idea.

“Well, it works every time.”

Mark let the small lizard escaped: it crawled so fast it vanished under the couch in a flash.

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No More

“Stella! Stella!”

Allen tried without success to contact her. Between last night toward the time he came over her house the next day, he could not manage to speak to her: suddenly she was unavailable.

The store was closed. That alone told him he could be spending a fruitless morning seeking her presence.

“You must be Allen,” called out an old woman from the second floor window. Her mother, who he had not met so far, looked prepared to give him the runaround.

“Please, I need to see Stella.”

“I am sorry young man but she left early for the province. She did not tell us why but she said that under no circumstances her whereabouts should be told to anyone inquiring.”

“I know, she’s in there!” Allen sounded disrespectful, but then he reverted back to his earlier helpless tone. “Stella, please. Listen to me. I love you.”

“Young man, you’re disturbing the peace,” the old woman pleaded. “The neighbors are out. Don’t make a scene.”

“Stella! Stella!” he yelled repeatedly.

– o –

She sat behind the counter, cocooned in the corner, her eyes red because she could not stop crying. Deprived of sleep, she kept on blaming herself for being so naive to believe that her dream has been realized.

“I should have known,” she pounded her chest, angry why she let herself be led to a quick romance. Her immediate desire to find love blurred her sense of reality.

Stella could hear him screaming outside. Still, she would not meet him. She could not.

“What will the neighbors say? What will all the men I turned down say? They will laugh at me, no, they will ostracize me for being too choosy which became my undoing; falling for someone much worse in their eyes.”

She covered her face and cried some more.

“Why Allen?” she wailed. “Why did you make me love you? You should have been honest to me. I could have turned you down like the rest.”

Stella felt betrayed.

“It’s unfair. Fate is so unfair to me. Why?”

– o –

“Stella! Stella!”

Kneeling down, his tired voice continuously repeated his plea. He wanted her love for him dictate what she was supposed to do: the right thing.

“I love you! Please listen to me!”

Allen was a damaged creature emotionally, his clothes soaked with sweat and dirt, the punishing heat of the noon sun merciless on his whole being. He was being forced to surrender whatever hopes he still managed to keep.

He took out the cellular phone she gave him, the gift he cherished. It was worthless now; her love made it precious. He had no use of it, but only as a reminder he was once loved, perhaps not as he was. More importantly though, he felt how to be loved.

Allen stood up, steadying himself not to fall back down. Whatever strength left on him was drained by feelings of emptiness. He was a wreck.

He left the phone at the store, his broken heart with it.

“I will always love you, Stella. I hope you find the man who will really make you happy.”

With bowed head, he turned around, walked away, never looking back.

– o –

It was only when evening came that she braved to go outside. Allen left hours ago but she could still feel his presence around. The phone he left on the store window bore witness to the long struggle he decided to give up in the end.

But, he still left her a message, something that would remind her of him.

She pressed a key.

“Forgive me, Allen.” She began crying. “We are not meant for each other. Society would be harsh on us. I am not prepared to suffer more than I already have.”

She turned off the phone and opened it up: she took the SIM out and threw it away.

“Goodbye, Allen!” Her mind ordered her broken heart to let go.

T H E  E N D

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