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"Wehaveenoughmoneyforfood,"protestedFrancie."Wedon'thavetouseourChristmas
money."
"ImeantogivetotheTynmoregirlsforChristmas.Noonetakeslessonsfromthemnow-people
saythey'rebehindthetimes.Theydon'thaveenoughtoeatandMissLizzie'sbeensogoodto
us."
"Well,allright,"consentedFrancienotveryenthusiastically.
"Gee!"Neeleykickedthetablelegviciously.
"Don'tworry,Neeley,"laughedFrancie.You'llgetapresent.I'llbuyyou
fawn
-coloredspatsthis
year."
"Aw,shutup!"
"Don'tsayshutuptoeachother,"chidedKatieabsentmindedly.
"Iwanttoaskyouradvice,Mama.TherewasthisboyImetinsummerschool.Hesaidhemight
writebutheneverhas.IwanttoknowwoulditlookforwardifIsenthim'aChristmascard?"
"Forward?Nonsense!Sendthecardifyoufeellikeit.Ihateallthoseflirty-birtygamesthat
womenmakeup.Life'stooshort.Ifyoueverfindamanyoulove,don'twastetimehangingyour
headandsimpering.Gorightuptohimandsay,'Iloveyou.Howaboutgettingmarried?'That
is,"sheaddedhastilywithanapprehensivelookatherdaughter,"whenyou'reoldenoughto
knowyourownmind."
"I'llsendthecard,"decidedFrancie.
"Mama,wedecided,NeeleyandI,thatwe'dlikecoffeeinsteadofmilkpunch."
"Allright."Katieputthebrandybottlebackinthecupboard.
Andmakethecoffeeverystrongandhotandfillthecupswithhalfcoffeeandhalfhotmilkand
we'lltoast1918in
caféaulait
."
"
S'ilvousplâit
,"putinNeeley.
"Wee-wee-wee,"saidmama."IknowsomeFrenchwords,too."
Katieheldthecoffeepotinonehandandthesaucepanofhotmilkintheotherandpouredboth
intothecupssimultaneously."Iremember,"shesaid,"whentherewasnomilkinthehouse.
Yourfatherwouldput,alumpofbutterinhiscoffee-ifwehadbutter.Hesaidthatbutterwas
creaminthefirstplaceandjustasgoodincoffee."
Papa...!
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LII
ONEsunnydayinthespringwhenFranciewassixteen,shewalkedoutoftheofficeatfive
o'clockandsawAnita,agirlwhooperatedamachineinherrow,standinginthedoorwayofthe
CommunicationsBuildingwithtwosoldiers.One,short,stubby,andbeaming,heldAnita'sarm
possessively.Theother,tallandgangling,stoodthereawkwardly.Anitadetachedherselffrom
thesoldiersanddrewFrancieaside.
"Francie,you've
got
tohelpmeout.Joey'sonhislastleavebeforehisunitgoesoverseasand
we'reengaged."
"Ifyou'reengagedalreadyyou'redoingallrightanddon'tneedanybody'shelp,"saidFrancie
jokingly.
"Imeanhelpwiththatotherfellow.Joeyjust
had
tobringhimalong,darnit.Seemslikethey're
buddiesandwhereonegoestheothergoes.Thisotherfellowcomesfromsomehicktownin
Pennsylvaniaanddoesn'tknowasoulinNewYorkandI
know
he'llstickaroundandI'llnever
gettobealonewithJoey.You've
got
tohelpmeout,Francie.Threegirlsturnedmedown
already."
FrancietookaspeculativelookatthePennsylvaniafellowstandingtenfeetaway.Hedidn't
looklikemuch.NowondertheotherthreegirlsrefusedtohelpoutAnita.Thenhiseyesmet
hersandhesmiledaslowshysmileandsomehow,whilehewasn'tgood-looking,hewasnicer
thangood-looking.TheshysmiledecidedFrancie.
"Look,"shesaidtoAnita,"ifIcancatchmybrotherwhereheworks,I'llgivehimamessagefor
mymother.Ifhe'sleft,I'llhavetogohomebecausemymotherwillworryifIdon'tturnupfor
supper."
"Hurryup,then.Phonehim,"urgedAnita."Here!"Shefishedinherpocketbook."I'llgiveyouthe
nickelforthecall."
Franciephonedfromthecornercigarstore.ItjusthappenedthatNeeleywasstillatMcGarrity's.
Shegavehimthemessage.Whenshegotback,shefoundthatAnitaandherJoeyhadgone.
Thesoldierwiththeshysmilewasallalone.
"Where's'Nita?"sheasked.
"Ireckonshe'srunoutonyou.ShewentoffwithJoe."Franciewasdismayed.Shehad
expectedittobea,doubledate.Whatintheworldwasshetodowiththistallstrangernow?
"Idon'tblamethem,"hewassaying,"wantingtobealone.I'manengagedmanmyself.Iknow
howitis.Thelastleave-theonlygirl."
"Engaged,hm?"thoughtFrancie."Atleasthewouldn'ttryanyromancing."
"Butthat'snoreasonwhyyoushouldbestuckwithme,"hewenton."Ifyou'llshowmewhereto
getthesubwaytoThirty-fourthStreet-I'mastrangerinthiscity-I'llgobacktothehotelroom.A
personcanalwayswritelettersIguess,whenthere'snothingelsetodo."Hesmiledhislonely
shysmile.
"I'vealreadyphonedmyfolksthatIwon'tbehome.Soifyou'dlike...."
"
Like?
Gosh!Thisismyluckyday.Well,gee,thanks,Miss...."
"Nolan.FrancesNolan."
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"Myname'sLeeRhynor.It'sreallyLeobuteverybodysays'Lee.'I'msurepleasedtomeetyou,
MissNolan."Heheldouthishand.
"AndI'mpleasedtomeetyou,CorporalRhynor."Theyshookhands.
"Oh,younoticedthestripes."Hesmiledhappily."Isupposeyou'rehungryafterworkingallday.
Anyspecialplaceyou'dliketogoforsupper...Imeandinner?"
"
Supper's
okay.No.Noplacespecial.You?"
"I'dliketotrysomeofthisherechopsueyIheardabout."
"There'sa,niceplaceuparoundForty-secondStreet.Withmusic."
"Let'sgo!"
Onthewaytothesubwayhesaid,"MissNolan,doyoucareifIcallyouFrances?"
"Idon'tcare.EveryonecallsmeFrancie,though."
"Francie!"Herepeatedthename."Francie,anotherthing:WouldyoumindifIsortofmade
believethatyouweremybestgirl-justforthisevening?"
"Hm,"thoughtFrancie,"fastworker."
Hetookthethoughtoutofhermind."IguessyouthinkI'mafastworkerbutit'sthisway:I
haven'tbeenoutwithagirlinnearlyayearandafewdaysfromnowI'llbeonaboatheading
forFranceandafterthat,Idon'tknowwhatmaybe.Soforthesefewhours-ifyoudon'tmind-I'd
consideritagreatfavor."
"Idon'tmind."
"Thanks,"heindicatedhisarm."Hangon,bestgirl."Astheywereabouttoenterthesubway,he
paused."Say'Lee,'"heordered.
"Lee,"shesaid.
"Say,'Hello,Lee.It'ssogoodtoseeyouagain,dear.'"
"Hello,Lee.It'ssogoodtoseeyouagain..."shesaidshyly.Hetightenedhisarm.
ThewaiteratRuby'sputtwobowlsofchopsueyandafatpotofteabetweenthem.
"Youpouroutmyteasoit'smorehomelike,"saidLee.
"Howmuchsugar?"
"Idon'ttakesugar."
"Meeither."
"Say!Wehaveexactlythesametastes,don'twe?"hesaid.
Bothwereveryhungryandtheystoppedtalkinginordertoconcentrateontheslipperywetfood.
EverytimeFrancielookedupathimhesmiled.Everytimehelookeddownathershegrinned
happily.Afterthechopsuey,rice,andteawereallgone,heleanedbackandtookoutapackof
cigarettes.
"Smoke?"
Sheshookherhead."Itrieditonceanddidn'tseemtolikeit."
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"Good.Idon'tlikeagirlwhosmokes."
Thenhestartedtotalk.Hetoldherallthathecouldrememberabouthimself.Hetoldherofhis
boyhoodinaPennsylvaniatown.(Sherememberedthetownfromreadingitsweekly
newspaperinthepressdippingbureau.)Hetoldherabouthisparentsandhisbrothersand
sisters.Hespokeofhisschooldays-partieshehadgoneto-jobshehadworkedat-hetoldher
hewastwenty-two-howhehadcometoenlistattwenty-one.Hetoldherabouthislifeatthe
armycamp-howhegottobeacorporal.Hetoldhereverysinglethingabouthimself.Excepting
thegirlhewasengagedto,backhome.
AndFrancietoldhimofherlife.Shetoldonlyofthehappythings-howhandsomepapahad
been-howwisemamawas-whataswellbrotherNeeleywas,andhowcuteherbabysisterwas.
Shetoldhimaboutthebrownbowlonthelibrarydesk-abouttheNewYear'snightsheand
Neeleyhadtalkedontheroof.Shedidn'tmentionBenBlakebecauseheneverenteredher
thoughts.Aftershehadfinished,hesaid:
"AllmylifeI'vebeensolonely.I'vebeenlonelyatcrowdedparties.I'vebeenlonelyinthe
middleofkissingagirlandI'vebeenlonelyatcampwithhundredsoffellowsaround.Butnow
I'mnotlonelyanymore."Hesmiledhisspecialslowshysmile.
"That'sthewayitwaswithmetoo,"confessedFrancie,"exceptI'veneverkissedanyboy.And
nowforthefirsttime,I'mnotlonelyeither."
Thewaiteragainreplenishedtheiralmostfilledwaterglasses.Francieknewitwasahintthat
theyhadsattheretoolong.Peoplewerewaitingfortables.SheaskedLeethetime.Almostten
o'clock!Theyhadbeentalkingfornearlyfourhours!
"Ihavetostartforhome,"shesaidregretfully.
"I'lltakeyouhome.DoyouliveneartheBrooklynBridge?"
"No.TheWilliamsburg."
"IhopeditwastheBrooklynBridge.IthoughtthatifIevergottoNewYork,I'dliketowalk
acrosstheBrooklynBridge."
"Whynot?"suggestedFrancie."IcangetaGrahamAvenuetrolleyfromtheBrooklynendthat
willtakemerighttomycorner."
TheytooktheI.R.T.SubwaytoBrooklynBridge,gotoutandstartedtowalkacross.Halfway
over,theypausedtolookdownontheEastRiver.Theystoodclosetogetherandheheldher
hand.HelookedupattheskylineontheManhattanshore.
"NewYork!I'vealwayswantedtoseeitandnowI'veseenit.It'struewhattheysay-it'sthemost'
wonderfulcityintheworld."
"Brooklyn'sbetter."
"Ithasn'tgotskyscraperslikeNewYork,hasit?"
"No.Butthere'sa
feeling
aboutit-Oh,Ican'texplainit.You'vegottoliveinBrooklyntoknow."
"We'llliveinBrooklynsomeday,"hesaidquietly.Andherheart'sskippedabeat.
ShesawoneofthecopswhopatrolledtheBridgecomingtowardthem.
"We'dbettermove,"shesaiduneasily."TheBrooklynNavyYard'srightoverthereandthat
camouflagedboatanchoredthereisatransport.Thecopsarealwayswatchingoutforspies."
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AsthecopcameuptothemLeesaid,"We'renotgoingtoblowupanything.We'rejustlooking
attheEastRiver."
"Sure,sure,"saidthecop."Don'tIknowhowitisonafineMaynight?Wasn'tIyoung,meself,
onceandnotsolongagoasyoumightthink?"
Hesmiledatthem.LeesmiledbackandFranciegrinnedatbothofthem.Thecopglancedat
Lee'ssleeve.
"Well,solong,General,"saidthecop."Give'emhellwhenyougetoverthere."
"I'lldothat,"promisedLee.
Thecopwentonhisway.
"Niceguy,"commentedLee.
"Everybody'snice,"saidFranciehappily.
WhentheygottotheBrooklynside,shesaidthathewasnottotakehertherestoftheway
home.Shehadoftengonehomealonelateatnightwhenworkingonthenightshift,she
explained.He'dgetlostifhetriedtofindhiswaybacktoNewYorkfromherneighborhood.
Brooklynwastrickythatway.Youhadtolivethereinordertofindyourwayabout,shesaid.
Intruth,shedidn'twanthimtoseewhereshelived.Shelovedherneighborhoodandwasn't
ashamedofit.Butshefeltthattoastrangerwhodidn'tknowaboutitthewayshedid,itmight
seemameanandshabbyplace.
FirstsheshowedhimwheretogettheElthatwouldreturnhimtoNewYork.Thentheywalked
overtowhereshehadtogetthetrolley.Theypassedaone-windowtattooshop.Insidesata
youngsailorwithhissleeverolledup.Thetattooartistsatbeforehimonastoolwithhispanof
inksnear-by.Hewasprickingoutanarrow-piercedheartonthesailorboy'sarm.Francieand
Leestoppedtostareinthewindow.Thesailorwavedatthemwithhisfreearm.Theywaved
back.Theartistlookedupandmadesignsthattheywerewelcometoenter,Franciefrowned
andshookherhead,"no."
Walkingawayfromthestore,Leesaidwithwonderinhisvoice."Thatfellowwasactually
gettingtattooed!Gosh!"
"Don'tyouever
ever
letmecatchyougettingtattooed,"shesaidwithplayfulseverity.
"No,Mother,"heansweredmeeklyandtheylaughed.
Theystoodonthecornerwaitingforthetrolley.Anawkwardsilencecamebetweenthem.They
stoodapartandhekeptlightingcigarettesanddiscardingthembeforetheywerehalfsmoked.
Finallyatrolleycameinsight.
"Herecomesmycar,"saidFrancie.Sheheldoutherrighthand."Goodnight,Lee."
Hethrewawaythecigarettehehadjustlighted.
"Francie?"Heheldouthisarms.Shewenttohimandhekissedher.
Thenextmorning,Franciedressedinhernewnavybluefaillesuitwiththewhitegeorgette
crepeblouseandherSundaypatentleatherpumps.SheandLeehadnodate-hadmadeno
arrangementstomeetagain.Butsheknewhe'dbewaitingforheratfiveo'clock.Neeleygotup
frombedasshewasabouttoleave.Sheaskedhimtotellmamashewouldn'tbehomefor
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supper.
"Francie'sofafelleratlast!Francie'sgotafelleratlast!"chantedNeeley.
HewenttoLauriewhowassittingbythewindowinherhighchair.Therewasabowlofoatmeal
onthechair'stray.Thebabywasbusilyengagedinspooningouttheoatmealanddumpingiton
thefloor.Neeleychuckedherunderthechin.
"Hey!Dopey!AtlastFrancie'sgotafeller."
Afaintlineappearedontheinneredgeofthechild'srighteyebrow(theRommelyline,Katie
calledit)asthetwo-year-oldtriedtounderstand.
"Fran-nee?"shesaidinapuzzledway.
"Listen,Neeley,Igotheroutofbedandgaveherheroatmeal.It'syourjobtofeedhernow.And
don'tcallherdopey."
Asshecameoutofthehallwayonthestreet,sheheardhernamecalled.Shelookedup.
Neeleywashangingoutofthewindowinhispajamas.Hesangatthetopofhisvoice:
Thereshegoes
Onhertoes,
Alldressedup
InherSundayclothes...
"Neeley,you'reterrible!justterrible!"shecalleduptothewindow.Hepretendednotto
understand.
"Didyousayhewasterrible?Didyousayhehadabigmustacheandabaldyhead?"
"Youbettergofeedthebaby,"sheholleredback.
"Didyousayyouweregoingtohaveababy,Francie?Didyousayyouweregoingtohavea
baby?"
AmanpassingonthestreetwinkedatFrancie.Twogirlscomingby arm-in-armhadaterrificfit
ofgiggling.
"Youdamnedkid,"screamedFrancieinimpotentfury.
"Youcursed!I'mgonnatellmama,I'mgonnatellmama,I'mgonnatellmamayoucursed,"
chantedNeeley.
Sheheardthetrolleycomingandhadtorunforit.
Hewaswaitingforherwhenshegotoutofwork.Hemetherwiththatsmile.
"Hello,mybestgirl."Hetuckedherarmwithinhis.
"Hello,Lee.It'sgoodtoseeyouagain."
"…dear,"heprompted.
"Dear,"sheadded.
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TheyateattheAutomat-anotherplacehehadwantedtosee.Sincesmokingwasn'tpermitted
thereandLeecouldn'tsitstillforlongwithoutsmoking,theydidn'tlingertotalkaftercoffeeand
dessert.Theydecidedtogodancing.Theyfoundadime-a-danceplacejustoffBroadway
whereservicemenweregivenhalfrates.Heboughtastripoftwentyticketsforadollarandthey
startedtodance.
TheyhadgonebuthalfwayaroundthefloorwhenFranciediscoveredthathisgangling
awkwardnesswasextremelydeceptive.Hewasasmoothandskillfuldancer.Theydanced,
holdingeachotherclosely.Therewasnoneedforconversation.
TheorchestrawasplayingoneofFrancie'sfavoritesongs,"SomeSundayMorning."
SomeSundaymorning,
Whentheweather'sfine.
Shehummedthechorusasthevocalistsangit.
Dressedupingingham,
WhatabrideI'llbe.
ShefeltLee'sarmtightenaroundher.
Iknowmygirlfriends,
They'regonnaenvyme.
Franciewassohappy.Oncemorearoundthefloor,thenthevocalistsangthechorusagain,
thistimevaryingitslightlyinhonorofthesoldierspresent.
Dressedupinkhaki,
Whatagroomyou'llbe.
Herarmtightenedaroundhisshouldersandsherestedhercheekonhistunic.Shehadthe
samethoughtKatiehadhadseventeenyearsagodancingwithJohnny-thatshe'dwillingly
acceptanysacrificeorhardshipifshecouldonlyhavethismannearherforalways.Andlike
Katie,Franciegavenothoughttothechildrenwhomighthavetohelpherworkoutthehardship
andsacrifice.
Agroupofsoldierswereleavingthehall.Aswasthecustom,theorchestracutoffthesongthey
wereplayingandwentinto"TillWeMeetAgain."Everyonestoppeddancingandsanga
farewelltothesoldiers.FrancieandLeeheldhandsandsang,eventhoughneitherwasquite
certainofthewords.
...Whenthecloudsrollby
ThenI'llcomebacktoyou,
Thentheskieswillseemmoreblue...
Therewerecriesof"Goodbye,soldier!""Goodluck,soldier!""Tillwemeetagain,soldier."Then
thedepartingsoldiersstoodinagroupandsangthesong.LeepulledFrancietowardsthedoor.
"We'llleavenow,"hesaid."Sothatthismomentwillremainaperfectmemory."
Theywalkeddownthestairsslowly,thesongfollowingthem.Astheyreachedthestreet,they
waiteduntilthesongdiedaway.
...Prayeachnightforme,
Tillwemeetagain.
"Letitbeoursong,"hewhispered,"andthinkofmeeverytimeyouhearit."
Astheywalked,itstartedtorainandtheyhadtorunandfindshelterinthedoorwayofavacant
store.Theystoodintheprotectedanddarkdoorway,heldeachother'shandandwatchedthe
rainfalling.
"Peoplealwaysthinkthathappinessisafarawaything,"thoughtFrancie,"something
complicatedandhardtoget.Yet,whatlittlethingscanmakeitup;aplaceofshelterwhenit
rains-acupofstronghotcoffeewhenyou'reblue;foraman,acigaretteforcontentment;abook
toreadwhenyou'realone-justtobewithsomeoneyoulove.Thosethingsmakehappiness."
"I'mleavingearlyinthemorning."
"NotforFrance?"Suddenlyshewasjoltedoutofherhappiness.
"No,forhome.Mymotherwantsmeforadayortwobefore..."
"Oh!"
"Iloveyou,Francie."
"Butyou'reengaged.That'sthefirstthingyouevertoldme."
"Engaged,"hesaidbitterly."Everybody'sengaged.Everybodyinasmalltownisengagedor
marriedorintrouble.There'snothingelsetodoinasmalltown.
"Yougotoschool.Youstartwalkinghomewithagirl-maybefornootherreasonthanthatshe
livesoutyourway.Yougrowup.Sheinvitesyoutopartiesatherhome.Yougotoother
parties-peopleaskyoutobringheralong;you'reexpectedtotakeherhome.Soonnooneelse
takesherout.Everybodythinksshe'syourgirlandthen...well,ifyoudon'ttakeheraround,you
feellikeaheel.Andthen,becausethere'snothingelsetodo,youmarry.Anditworksoutall
rightifshe'sadecentgirl(andmostofthetimesheis)andyou'reahalf-waydecentfellow.No
greatpassionbutakindofaffectionatecontentment.Andthenchildrencomealongandyou
givethemthegreatloveyoukindofmissineachother.Andthechildrengaininthelongrun.
"Yes,I'mengagedallright.Butitisn'tthesamebetweenherandmeasitisbetweenyouand
me."
"Butyou'regoingtomarryher?"
Hewaitedalongtimebeforeheanswered.
"No."
Shewashappyagain.
"Sayit,Francie,"hewhispered."Sayit."
Shesaid,"Iloveyou,Lee."
"Francie..."therewasurgencyinhisvoice,"ImaynotcomebackfromoverthereandI'm
afraid...afraid.Imightdie...die,neverhavinghadanything...never...Francie,
can't
webe
togetherforalittlewhile?"
"Wearetogether,"saidFrancieinnocently.
"Imeaninaroom...alone...JusttillmorningwhenIleave?"
"I...couldn't."
"Don'tyou
want
to?"
"Yes,"sheansweredhonestly.
"Thenwhy...."
"I'monlysixteen,"sheconfessedbravely."I'veneverbeenwith...anybody.Iwouldn'tknow
how."
"Thatmakesnodifference."
"AndI'veneverbeenawayfromhomeovernight.Mymotherwouldworry."
"Youcouldtellheryouspentthenightwithagirlfriend."
"SheknowsIhavenogirlfriend."
"Youcouldthinkofsomeexcuse...tomorrow."
"Iwouldn'tneedtothinkofanexcuse.I'dtellherthetruth."
"You
would?"
heaskedinastonishment.
"Iloveyou.Iwouldn'tbeashamed...afterwardsifIstayedwithyou.I'dbeproudandhappyand
Iwouldn'twanttolieaboutit."
"Ihadnowayofknowing,nowayofknowing,"hewhisperedasiftohimself.
"
You
wouldn'twantittobesomething...sneaky,wouldyou?"
"Francie,forgiveme.Ishouldn'thaveasked.Ihadnowayofknowing."
"Knowing?"askedFrancie,puzzled.
Heputhisarmsaroundherandheldhertightly.Shesawthathewascrying.
"Francie,I'mafraid...soafraid.I'mafraidthatifIgoawayI'llloseyou...neverseeyouagain.
TellmenottogohomeandI'llstay.We'llhavetomorrowandthenextday.We'lleattogether
andwalkaroundorsitinaparkorrideontopofabusandjusttalkandbewitheachother.Tell
menottogo."
"Iguessyouhavetogo.Iguessthatit'srightthatyouseeyourmotheroncemorebefore....I
don'tknow.ButIguessit'sright."
"Francie,willyoumarrymewhenthewar'sover-
if
Icomeback?"
"
When
youcomeback,I'llmarryyou."
"Willyou,Francie?...please,willyou?"
"Yes."
"Sayitagain."
"I'llmarryyouwhenyoucomeback,Lee."
"And,Francie,we'llliveinBrooklyn."
"We'lllivewhereveryouwanttolive."
"We'llliveinBrooklyn,then."
"Onlyif
you
wantto,Lee."
"Andwillyouwritetomeeveryday?
Every
day?"
"Everyday,"shepromised.
"Andwillyouwritetometonightwhenyougethomeandtellmehowmuchyoulovemesothat
theletterwillbewaitingformewhenIgethome?"Shepromised."Willyoupromisenevertolet
anyonekissyou?Nevertogooutwithanyone?Towaitforme...nomatterhowlong?AndifI
don'tcomeback,neverto
want
tomarryanyoneelse?"
Shepromised.
Andheaskedforherwholelifeassimplyashe'daskforadate.Andshepromisedawayher
wholelifeassimplyasshe'dofferahandingreetingorfarewell.
Itstoppedrainingafterawhileandthestarscameout.
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