Bits and Pieces #Forever Never

Well, here I am again. I know I have been less visible lately and I apologize that it is taking me longer to visit all your wonderful posts. I work continually to catch up..  Between work and trying to enjoy life a bit as well as my creative projects I have less time for blogging as often as I have in the past.

To that end, I have been working more diligently on the novel and, as in the past, I wanted to share a chapter with you here.  If you haven’t read past chapters, some of the characters won’t be familiar but the sequence can stand alone as a preview of what is to come.

I welcome your thoughts or comments and hope you find something in this story that intrigues you.  If you are interested in the history of the story or previous chapters I have post, just type in Forever Never under archived posts.

I hope you all have a terrific week!

 

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Forever Never/Dawn of the Dream

Copyright Cheryl K Pennington 2019

 

 

One by one they made their way

Into the hills of dark decay..

 

Othar climbed the jagged steps to reach the summit where she knew the view was unobstructed, the work made harder by her girth and the added weight of the small girl who insisted on going with her.  And why wouldn’t the child want to see where her father had gone?  Youth and age somehow found communion in their sorrow and hope. They both loved Rith in their own way and were relieved when others in the village decided to join him.  Of course, the proud and private Rith balked at first.  He had always been such a loner but for his friendship with Carraig and grew even more withdrawn in the days following Carraig’s decision to join Amhain in his search for the mother of of their world. He was always amiable with the villagers; but he kept himself busy with work in the mines and trying to give his daughter enough love to make up for the absence of her mother.  Rith was grateful she had only been a babe when the starry night bled fire and rained ash, his heart torn between gratitude and anguish. He was thankful his precious child would not be tormented by dreams of Damanta’s dead eyes as she descended into the valley of caves, burning over half the villagers alive as the rest watched in confusion and horror. No one above ground saw it coming, with such a simple life going on as usual.  They had their food, laughed and chatted while the children chased light bugs around the fire pit.  

Othar giggled out loud, then slapped her hand over her own mouth. 

“Dear Mother,” she whispered.  “What a damnable thought,” she cursed herself for that moment of thinking. Light bugs.  That was what Damanta looked like as she descended into their valley.  Her eyes glowed like a couple of giant light bugs.

Othar had seen them first, floating above the horizon silently, then growing larger and brighter as she shattered their world with rage and purpose.  By the time the others saw them and grasped the reality of danger, the beast was in the valley, spewing fire and cinder across their lives.  Damanta cared not what she destroyed in her fury.  Families screamed as they fled in futility,  their contorted faces melting before Othar’s eyes just before they burst into flames.  Her only thought in those moments was to grab her best friend’s infant daughter and run, scrambling for the safety of the caves. Her mind raced to Carraig and their friends, but she could only worry about keeping Agra out of danger.  The heat of Damanta’s breath singed the ground behind every labored step that she ran; but the terror in Othar’s heart refused to allow her to see anything but the lights above them, the glowing miracles of the caves.  As she fought her way to the steps, those lights soon began to flicker and fade, for the ones who were safely in them snuffed their fires in the hopes of being spared. The ground quaked beneath her feet as she climbed the rocks that led to hope, holding tightly to Joy’s daughter and counting the familiar steps that would bring them to safety.  Rocks began tumbling from overhead and she ducked to avoid them, shielding the child with her body.  Dust and grit flew into her eyes and she cried out, unable to wipe it away.  She squinted, reached for the ledge with a free hand and climbed up, hoping her beloved and friends were there,  waiting.  

“Carraig!” She screamed.  “Joy, Rith! I have her. Agra is safe!”  Othar stumbled towards the safety of the cave and ran smack into Carraig. “Oh! Dear love, you’re safe!” She sobbed into the darkness.

“What in the name of all that is holy is happening?” He shouted over the din of falling rock, shouting and other unidentifiable noises.  “Look at your face, Othar!” He pulled a soiled cloth from his pocket and tried to brush the dirt from her eyes the best he could. She winced when he rubbed the fresh cuts on her cheeks.  With her eyes working again, she examined the infant for damage, but Agra slept in her arms as peacefully as though the world was not crashing down around her. Othar and Carraig  were relieved to see Rith bound up the last few steps, panting, his eyes wild with terror. 

“Have you seen them..” he began, then nearly collapsed when he saw Othar clutching his child to her bosom.  “Blessed Mothers, thank you,”  Rith mumbled as he rushed to their side and took his daughter from Othar, giving his friend an appreciative kiss.  “Thank you, thank you..” he murmured between wet the kisses he planted on his daughter’s face.  Huge rocks crashed against the ledge before tumbling to the ground below, sending a new wave of screams into the night.  Rith looked around frantically.   

“Where is Joy?!” he shrieked, as his eyes searched the shadows of the cave for that beautiful face and listened for the musical sound of her voice.  But,  there was only silence within that darkness and the eerily dancing glow on the cave walls from the fire outside. The shadow and light seemed to mock him.  He turned back to his friends, his moment of gratitude shattered by new fear as he looked past them and shouted, “Joy! Joy!”

Rith glared at Othar accusingly, the gripping fear overriding any crumb of rationality he might have had in that moment, and it broke her heart.  “Where is she, Othar?” His eyes begged for the answer he wanted to hear but she had no words. She shrugged innocently while Carraig stood behind her defensively, his arms wrapped around her.  

“Rith, Othar just got here with Agra. She climbed up here alone.  We haven’t seen Joy…”

“Rith! Othar, Carraig, where is Agra?”

Joy’s stricken face appeared like a miracle as she clambered up over the ledge, tripping on the last step.  When she saw them all standing there-everyone she loved-safe and sound, her heart beat with relief and happiness.  Being Joy, she found a smile in her heart and it spread across her beautiful round face, glowing like a torch in the darkest of nights they would ever know.  She held out her arms and Rith hurried towards her, holding their infant daughter.  He was a mere step or two away from his life’s purpose when a blast of hot, rancid air struck his face, stealing his breath and blinding him.  Instinctively, the loving father turned away, shielding their daughter from the heat.  He heard the sharp, scraping of claw to rock and the muffled, shocked cry that escaped Joy’s mouth in that last moment they shared. 

By the time he turned around, by the time Othar and Carraig ran from inside the cave and by the time Joy knew what was happening, she was firmly in the clutches of the beast. Although she wriggled, kicked and punched, she could not free herself.  The last image Rith had of his Joy was her arms reaching out in futility for those who longed to save her; and the look of shock and terror etched on the faces of her friends would be the last thing she would remember.  

Joy watched those anguished faces grow smaller as Damanta retreated, climbing higher into the night of a million lights.  She struggled against the claw that held her tightly, wanting only to die in that moment. Why hadn’t the beast burned her along with the others?  Who would care for Agra and Rith now?  She wailed into the silent sky, still as death, as it whooshed past her tear streaked face. Her heart was broken and she cursed the Realm for abandoning them all. 

Othar couldn’t breathe.  Carraig stood frozen on the ledge, the images of burned bodies, piles of rock and ash singed onto his his heart and soul.  The valley wreaked of death, the lingering cries of pain and despair hanging on the hot air like a fog that numbed his senses.  He looked at Rith, standing too near the edge of the ledge with his daughter lying precariously in his arms.  As if in a dream, Carraig saw Rith’s legs jerk, jarring him back into stark realization.  Carraig jumped, grabbing his friend by the shoulders.  In that same moment Othar realized what was about to happen and lunged toward the distraught male, grabbing Agra from his limp arms.  Othar clutched the infant tightly to her bosom,  fresh horror invading her heart.  

Rith tried to jump, he longed to jump over that ledge.   Somewhere inside his momentarily deranged mind, he thought he could fly after them, that the wings of his love would take him to where they were so that he could save his beloved, his life, his Joy.  He was only vaguely aware of the strong arms around his shoulders and that his daughter was ripped from his arms as the evil interloper held him back, keeping him on that dreadful, empty, painful ledge.  With fresh rage he fought against the intrusion, kicking and spitting. 

When Carraig finally wrestled his friend to the ground, they rolled away from the ledge, landing in an exhausted heap against the dwindling fire.  Orange embers scattered over their heads, igniting the anger in Rith’s heart, and he jumped on top of his friend, pinning him to the ground. With one hand around Carraig’s neck and the other raised over his head, fist clenched, Rith leaned in so close that Carraig could smell his dinner on the words he spat out. 

“Why. Did. You. Stop. Me?” He growled into Carraig’s face. “I could have saved her.”  Carraig choked and shook beneath him. Rith was angered by the look of fear and disbelief on his friend’s face-his stupid, fat friend that only cared about food and sleeping.  What did he know about saving anyone?  Rith’s long suppressed grudges boiled up from the dark corners of his soul, demanding their due.  In that moment he wanted to pummel Carraig’s face, for all the times he had been stupid, lazy and undeserving.  He shook with anger and was ready to put his fist right where it belonged,  but a firm hand wrapped itself around his weapon, its fingernails digging into his tough skin, the fresh pain stopping him.  The strange mix of painful strength and soft skin against his own confused Rith, drawing his attention from the moment of regrettable sweet vengeance. 

Othar’s voice trembled with disbelief for the sense of betrayal she felt towards their friend in that moment, for the sense of betrayal she felt towards the gods and goddesses who had allowed this to happen to them, and for the pain that threatened to drive her into an abyss of despair as well. 

“Get off of my Carraig,” she warned.  “Or I will push you over that ledge myself!”  She squeezed his fist as hard as she could, digging her nails in so deeply that droplets of red blood trickled down his forearm.    The glaring truth of Othar’s intent punched Rith squarely in the chest, taking his breath away as Carraig watched from beneath him in stunned silence. 

Rith could feel his anger deflating but he clung to it desperately, for it was the only thing that made him feel alive in that moment.  He trembled as reason won the battle and he lowered his arm, his fist falling open in defeat.  Still seething over his friends’ interference, he aimed his accusations at Othar.

“Why do you defend him?  He lets you cook for him and clean up after him, and what does he do for you?!”  he shouted.  “Does he ever take care of you?  Does he carry the wood, or even chop the wood for that matter? No, he does not!” Rith heaved a sigh and looked his friend in the eye piteously.  “Do you want to know what he does down in the mines all day, Joy..” 

“You are angry Rith, but not about Carraig,” She cut him off. No one knew Carraig as well as she did, warts and all; but he was hers and she loved him.  “Get off of him, Rith. Now. No one can do any good if we fight among ourselves this way.  It only helps the darkness to defeat us.” Othar cocked her head and whispered.  “Listen, Rith.  Do you hear those awful screams and moaning?  Those are our friends down there.  They need us now more than ever. How will we help them if we can’t help each other?” 

Rith hadn’t heard anything above the pounding of his heart and the roaring in his head until that moment of truth.  One by one the voices carved a place into his awareness. Every anguished cry, every lapping flame and tumbling rock hammered his heart with new pain.  He clapped his hands over his ears and shook his head as if he could empty it, the moan coming up from his gut in baleful recognition of their plight.   

As if in protest, a fresh new cry pierced the air with its innocent insistence.  The familiar sound stopped Rith’s writhing, stilled his anguish and spoke to every cell of his being.  In Othar’s arms, the blood of his blood, the flesh of their flesh and the light of Joy’s life, cried out in bitter protest. Rith gasped, snapped back to his senses by the voice of his Joy, somewhere from deep within his heart.

“You are stronger than this.  These are our friends. Our daughter needs your strength now, all of you.  I will always be with you as was our promise.” 

  Yet she was not there.  There was only dust and fire and ash.  And there was death.  There was so much death.  

“She is still alive, Rith,” came the voice of his long time friend,.  Rith looked into the eyes of allegiance from where Carraig had remained silently pinned down. “And I promise we will find her.”  

Defeated and suddenly exhausted, Rith got to his feet, wiped his bloodied hand on his pants and leaned over to touch Agra’s screaming face.  He kissed her forehead comfortingly and whispered, “Your Mama and Papa love you.  Always know it.”  He held his hand out to help Carraig up from the ground.  Rith put his hands on his friend’s shoulders and kissed his forehead roughly.  They embraced and no more words passed between them. None were needed.  

Tears streamed down Othar’s face.  Tears of pain and joy. Joy. She feared for her friend’s life but dared not speak of it in the days that followed. Those days had been for burying the dead and rebuilding their lives.  

Now Othar stood on the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley that lay between the Valley of Caves and the vast plains that would take Rith into the Black Mountains.  

A chubby pink hand tugged at her skirt.  “Can you see him, Mama Othar? Can you see my Papa?” 

Othar shielded her eyes against the glare of the rising sun and imagined she could see the small band of travelers inching their way towards their destiny.  She put her arm around Agra’s tiny shoulders and pulled her close.

“No, child, because they are getting close to the mountains now.  Soon your Papa will find your mother and…” she choked back the tears. “and my dear Carraig. Then they will all return home.” The cheerfulness in her voice did not betray her sense of foreboding. Othar knelt to face the child and brushed the hair from her eyes.  “Now won’t that be wonderful?” She smiled away the fear yet again for the sake of innocence and hope.  

Agra nodded and pointed at the jagged black horizon.  “Is that where my Mama is?” She asked.

“I hope so,” answered the only mother she had truly known.  “I hope so..”  

to be continued….

I hope you all have a beautiful week.  Like this…

 

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More Than This!/ Forever Never

I wanted t share just a bit from the novel. For those of you who have followed my tale since its inception in 2012, this will not be unfamiliar. For those who have read recent excerpts, this will hopefully make sense. Anyone who is reading for the first time can get some background by visiting past posts under the Forever Never category.

In this segment, others are awakened to the call for returning the rightful keeper of Domhan to her place in their world. From every corner, they will rise and make the journey to the Black Mountains, a journey into the heart and mind of darkness, for every one has been touched in some way by its selfish hand…

 

More Than This!
From the Land of Caves
Against the sky he shook his fist.
“By Eternity’s Light, we are more than this!”

He was stout, though leaner than most in his village, and his triangular face was etched with lines too advanced for his time on Domhan. Life had heaped mighty heartache on him in life too soon, making him feel weighed down and clumsy. His steps were slower, his eyes dull, and rarely a smile found his lips. He who once kept the village alive with laughter had grown morose and introverted, leaving his friends to avoid him most of the time. What they didn’t know was that the heart of his exuberance had always been his companion-she was his life, his comfort, his Joy. Since that dark night of nights when ashes flew and flames streaked the skies, his reason for living vanished in the clutches of the fire breather while he gaped, horrified, as they disappeared over the mountains and into oblivion. He was left alone to care for their newborn treasure, and he a simple rock cutter.

Now he looked up from the mess on his bed where all that he owned lay in a disorganized heap. He needed a moment to steal a glance at the tiny girl standing in the entrance to his cave, her face a mixture of loving adoration and knowing sorrow. A gentle smile moved across his lips in spite of himself. The child was so beautiful, and the look in her eyes-the Joy of her-brought him both comfort and agony at once.

She clung tightly to the rotund female beside her, her pink fists tugging on the skirt she hid behind as she sucked a chubby thumb. He frowned and she pulled it from her mouth, remembering how it made him angry when she reverted to that infant comfort. None but he would dare chastise her or steal such a small comfort. The rest of the village pitied the poor girl, losing her mother so tragically. Of course she knew no difference, having been raised by his best friend’s dear Othar, a gift herself sent straight from heart of the Realm, to be certain. Not only did she care for his motherless child since she was but a suckling, but she was loving and kind to his most unruly, unkempt, haphazard, well-intentioned best friend Carraig. Carraig, who never got enough to eat, Carraig whose bodily noises rivaled a thunderstorm, Carraig who would die for the world he was born to serve. And he might well have already done that by going off with the heartbroken son of M’na. At first Rith was furious with Amhain for accepting Carraig’s offer, but he didn’t have the heart to deny the young male. Rith’s allegiance to the Light Ones of Domhan was still intact, although he had conflicting emotions towards the Gods and Goddesses who seemed to have deserted them so long ago.

“Do you really have to do this?” Othar’s soft voice squeaked, but the vastness of the cave carried her simple question circling round its corridors in a chorus. She held her breath, knowing full well it was a futile question. Of course he was going. Rith never did anything frivolously or without careful planning. It just seemed to be so sudden, his decision to head toward those cursed black mountains.

Rith put his hands on the bed and lowered his head, searching for the right words, but there were none that would ease the pain of truth.

“My Joy was ripped from my arms by that..” he began, but stopped when he saw the terrified but inquisitive look in his child’s eyes. Othar pried Agra’s hands loose from her skirt and shooed her down the steps.

“Go, play with the others now. We’ll be down in a little while.” The child obeyed, but not without several furtive glances back toward the dark figure shadowed by the firelight flickering from the cave entrance. She felt confused and unsettled in a way that she had only a vague memory of, like a long ago dream. Something felt wrong and her stomach rolled over.

“Hi Agra! We’re playing hoop ball. Want to play too?” One of the children in the village urged her from her discomforting thoughts, and Agra left her sorrows in the dirt as the tiny doll she had been clutching slipped through her fingers onto the ground. She was told that her first mother-the one who was taken away-made it for her on the day she was born. It was nothing you could play with really, but she liked the color of its skin, made from soft vine cloth; and it was comforting to keep it in her skirt pocket. Agra had no true memory of that mother but thought she must have been very special if her father could not forget about their life together. Still, it broke her heart that he could not find enough joy in just being with Agra, playing with her and seeing her. What she didn’t know was that he truly did see her and that the very Joy in her face was what kept him from allowing himself to be comforted by her presence. The girl hastily bent to pick up the tiny treasure and stuff it back into her pocket, where it belonged. It was the least she could do for her father. With one last look up at the cave she ran to join the other children.

“How can I explain what I sense, Othar? I never wanted Carraig to go with that sorrow crazed son of M’na. I thought the boy just needed to accept what Eternity had taken from him, although anyone could understand his bitterness. In one night he was completely abandoned but for a brother who was very likely eaten by a talking wolf.” Rith shook his head, still unable to grasp the story as it had been told. “Now, though, I am seeing through new eyes. I look at Agra and think Amhain’s parents must be so proud of him for being brave and for not giving up as I did. I always thought Carraig to be lazy of mind and weak of body, his thoughts always on food and sleep.” Rith looked sorrowfully at Carraig’s most beloved. “I’m sorry, Othar, I shouldn’t..”

She shook her head and waved her hand at Rith, unable to speak for the lump of sorrow stuck in her throat. Rith was right, of course. Carraig was lazy, though he always went into the mines with the others, always stayed from sunrise to sunset, and always returned to her for a hearty meal which he gratefully devoured. He was unruly, unkempt and sometimes unclean, but he loved her. And she loved him. He also loved his best friend Rith, almost as much as her she guessed. It was that love which sent him off with the first son of Domhan on a wild quest to find his mother. The boy was certain the mother of Domhan was still alive, for how could she not be? She was created as an immmortal, the Keeper of Inion’s world, and yet where had she gone? On the night of the Devastation, she disappeared without a trace and no word had been heard since. The boy insisted he could feel her and often heard her voice as he drifted out of morning’s slumber, but he had not seen her in all these years.

“I should have gone with them, Othar. He is doing this for me, you know.” He began stuffing things into a leather bag and Othar moved silently beside him, gently taking the things out and folding his clothes.

“They will fit better if you do it this way,” she urged. Rith stopped, looked at Carraig’s companion and felt a twinge of affection for her himself. She wasn’t his Joy, but she was a good companion and had been more than a mother to his daughter. It seemed tragic that she and Carraig had not had a child of their own since Creation was awakened for them all. A tuft of wiry hair sprung from her bun and he reached up to tuck it back in. She recoiled a bit, then smiled nervously, fixing it herself before returning to the packing.

“I..I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be bold. Othar, I want to thank you..” Rith began, but she turned quickly to face him and put a finger to her lips. She looked him straight in the eyes, her face soft and glowing in the firelight.

“I know the affection you feel for me as Carraig’s best friend, and as the mother to your Agra since Joy left us.” Her voiced choked and she lowered her head for a moment. She wiped an escaped tear and looked at Carraig’s friend again. “Joy was my best friend. No one knows the loss I feel every day in her being gone. But having Agra to care for has eased the loss I felt. Carraig has been like another father to her as well. She loves you both. I miss him every moment of every sunrise to sunset.” Othar smoothed her skirt and tucked the tunic in where it was puffing out over the edges. “I am not a pretty one, like some of the others, even Joy. My gifts are in what I can do for others. Having Carraig to love me for my stews and my ability to love him in spite of his imperfect ways has been a gift from the Realm.”

Rith touched her arm and she did not pull away. “Everyone can see your beauty, Othar. Your devotion to Carraig is as plain as daylight, and someone who will care for her best friend’s child as her own on top of that has more beauty than the brightest bloom in Foirfeachta.

“Oooh, have you been to Foirfeachta, Rith?” He shook his head and they both laughed.

“No, but to hear the Sorceress and Warrior describe it, I feel I have been there. You can see it in young Amhain’s eyes too..” His voice trailed off.

“Well, you best be getting on with it if you are to make the next valley by sunset,” the words spilled from Othar’s mouth as a directive. “Agra will be fine here. You just go and find Carraig.” She stopped, bowed her head and closed her eyes, fresh tears spilling over her cheeks. Othar reached over and grabbed Rith’s hand. “Who knows? Perhaps you will find Joy also.” She squeezed his hand then released it again.

Rith turned away abruptly and walked to the cave entrance. The wind slapped his face and he crossed his arms, rubbing them to warm his skin. In the pink and orange glow of a new sunrise he watched his daughter playing with the other children of his village, so carefree. Something in him stirred, fueling a resentment that had lain dormant for too long. Agra deserved her mother, her true mother. Othar deserved to have her happiness back. And Domhan needed its Mother more than anything else. If M’na returned to the Garden-or what might remain there-she could stop the cruel hand of darkness that stretched its gray fingers over their world.

Rith turned back to look at Othar who watched him intently. He nodded and faced the horizon once more. As the sun peered magnificently over the edge of the unknown, its glow illuminated his hardened face. He raised his hand to the new dawn, the dirt stains from hard work glaring at him in the morning light. He made a fist and thrust it towards the face of opportunity.

“I am Rith of the Caves! And I am more than this!”

to be continued…

Words and images copyright Cheryl KP 2019

 

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Art Matters/#SoCS

When I saw the SoCS JusJoJan prompt for today I was nearly giddy with excitement. Finally something easy. But, wait, what kind of art to post about.

You see, I am kind of an art ADHD, in that I am not committed to one thing. I am sort of an artsy Jane-of-All-Trades and perhaps Master-of-None. I love creating but am constantly moving from project to project. It isn’t that I get bored. I just feel maybe I should move on or that time is wasting. I haven’t figured out yet what this semi-neurosis stems from but will keep you posted should I work it out. Maybe it will come to me in a dream. Many of my dilemmas are worked out during dreams.

Meanwhile, what to choose…so difficult! Since I am currently working as feverishly as I can on my Dawn of the Dream novel I think I’ll post a snippet. And maybe a photo or two of projects. I hope you enjoy them.

No matter what, I hope you find your own artistic outlet. Don’t even try to say it to me. Everyone has an artistic vein. It just takes something special to pull it out of us sometimes. Just ask anyone who has done a Cork and Canvas class. 😉

Okay, from the journals of my mind wanderings which will hopefully cohese into a novel. Someday….

from Dawn of the Dream…

Inside the Sorceress’s hut, the Hunter and Ella were not thinking of sleep. It was awkward, so long since either had known passion; and Ella tentatively worked at conversation. “Eolas, do you think Saol is comfortable in the cave, without..” Eolas put his finger to her lips and pulled her close to him.

“There is no need to worry about Saol. She is well cared for. Now, there is only us and we have so little time.” The Hunter took a deep breath, as though inflating his courage. The smell of lavender wafted across the room like a breeze. In times past this would have given him pause for sorrow; but in that moment, he felt comforted. It was as though Eagna was reassuring him.

‘Live, my love. Show our daughter what love can be.’

Eolas wasn’t sure exactly what the journey would bring; but he knew in that moment, for the first time since his world crumbled, he felt an almost overwhelming desire to love again. Ella pulled his hand from her mouth and slid it down to her breast. “I know we have both been here before, but I feel so…” Eolas silenced her again, but this time with his lips. There were no more words as they recalled the fire and desire of physical union, making the most of the moments they had to share. Neither worried for the lost sleep or when the sun would rise-only that it rose on them lying together…..

To be continued..

A bit of sizzle for your Saturday. And hop over to the bar. Our buddy Dan is back on his feet and having a beer!

Here are a few more of my happy distractions…

Tap lightly on an image to see the caption. Happy #Free48 everyone! Be your creative, artistic self. Oh, and if you haven’t already, try to catch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Netflix. It’s fantastic!

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