|The Man from Swift Current|
|© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved
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|Chapter 123: Renata|
Eva sat in her front room, waiting for Don to arrive for their weekly counseling session. It had been six months since Don had his heart to heart discussion with the boys. She had been amazed such a thing could occur, given Don’s stubbornness. Shortly after that event, Don had started spending weekends with her, and they were attending counseling sessions every Friday. While much progress had been made, she still wasn’t ready to move back to the farm with Don. He still held on to some of his anti-gay sentiments, and it really bothered her. She was concerned his religious bigotry would surface again, causing another rift in the family; one so wide it would be an insurmountable obstacle to returning harmony to her family. She had already seen how quickly her other sons had rallied to their father’s support, accusing Randy and Glenn of being the cause of her and Don’s marital problems. Next time, if there was a next time, she didn’t know what would happen.
Her discomfort with where Don was mentally and emotionally was so great, she had refused to give Don a key to her apartment last week. Don had gotten angry, accusing her of being extremely difficult. Their argument had devolved into the same pattern of each blaming the other for causing it. It ended with Eva demanding he get out of her apartment, or she would call the police to force him to leave.
Later, he had called to apologize. She hadn’t accepted his apology, telling him nothing had changed, despite his protestations to the contrary. She accused him of putting up a façade to deceive her. Fortunately, she had seen the old Don hiding just beneath the surface, before it was too late. She had wondered how Don could have changed so quickly. Now, she realized the changes were only skin deep, if that.
As she thought about what direction she should take, the phone rang and she answered it.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hi, Mom,” I said. “How are things going?”
“Things could be better, dear,” she replied.
“Are you still worried about what Dad did last week?” I asked.
“Yes, I am,” she admitted. “I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to the farm with your father, especially after what happened last week.”
“Then don’t go,” I said. “You know how Dad is.”
“Yes, I know,” she said. “But I don’t want to live alone, anymore. You don’t know how lonely I get.”
“Then insist Dad move into town with you. You’ve always said you wanted to move into town when you retired from running the farm. I know Gary wants the farm, so I’d suggest selling it to him and moving to Swift Current, permanently,” I said.
“I know we’ve always planned to move here, but I don’t want to live here, either. I want to move to St. Catharines, or back to Georgia,” she said.
“You don’t want to move back here, Mom. There’s too much prejudice here against anyone who doesn’t fit the Christian Right’s definition of an acceptable person,” I said.
“It’s always been that way, son. If you talk to Grandma about it, you’ll find out that before the civil rights issues for blacks and women were the cause célèbre, it was all about prohibition,” she said. “Our peach farm was in a dry county, where the sale of liquor was prohibited. After prohibition, our county opted to ban alcohol sales on Sunday.”
“So, despite a history of prejudice, you still want to live here?” I asked, in amazement.
“Yes, because my family lives there. If Grandma and Grandpa moved somewhere else, I would want to be near them,” she explained. “It’s not the place so much that is important; it’s the people I miss.”
I said, “I understand wanting to be near family, but just because you and Dad live in Swift Current doesn’t mean I want to move back there. I didn’t like living on the farm, and Swift Current was okay; but I’d rather live in St. Catharines. It’s much more scenic, and it’s warmer than Swift Current during the winter. Most importantly, the people aren’t prejudiced against gays.”
“And we have family there,” she added. “Your Aunt Hannah and Uncle Carl are wonderful people.”
“Yes, they are,” I agreed. “So, what are you going to do about Dad?”
She hesitated, before answering my question. “I think I’ll insist on staying in town for a couple of more months, while we work on things. Maybe by Thanksgiving we’ll have worked things out between us.”
“Which one?” I asked.
She laughed and said, “You’ve been in the States too long, or you wouldn’t have even asked that question. Of course, I meant the Canadian holiday in October.”
I protested, “I haven’t been here too long, Mom. I’ve only lived here for a little over three years.”
“That’s true, but you’re losing your Canadian accent, and you’ve become accustomed to their holiday schedule,” she said.
“I still talk the same way you do,” I insisted, ignoring the holiday issue.
She laughed. “No, son, you don’t. You’ve started to sound like you’re from Atlanta.”
Rick came up behind me and asked, “What’s wrong, Babe?”
“Hang on for minute, Mom,” I said. I turned to Rick and explained what Mom had just told me about my accent.
He patted me on the back and said, “It’s okay, sweetheart. I’ll still love you, even if you don’t sound like a Canadian anymore.”
I stuck out my tongue at him, and returned to my conversation with my Mom. “Mom, Rick’s being obnoxious to me.”
Rick guffawed, “No, I’m not!”
“I’m sure you’ll survive, Glenn. There’s your Dad at the door. I’ll call you later,” she said, ending the call.
I turned to Rick and said, “I told my Mom on you!”
Rick grinned and asked, “And what good did it do you?”
“It made me feel better, as a matter of fact,” I replied, standing up next to him. I wrapped my arms around his waist and lifted my lips to his.
After we kissed, he gave me a lecherous smile and said, “I’m glad you feel better, because I’m going to have to take you into our bedroom and show you how obnoxious I can be!” He squeezed my buttocks with both of his huge hands and kissed me deeply, causing things to stir down below!
I looked up at him and asked, “Does being obnoxious include fucking my brains out?”
Rick tilted his head to one side, while he considered my question. He smiled and replied, “It could. Let’s go find out.”
He led me to our bedroom, closing the door behind him. He turned to help me disrobe, and pushed me down on the bed. He quickly stripped off his clothes and joined me. The look in his eyes left no doubts about his intentions!
Eva got up from her place on the couch and walked over to open the door. Don stood there, waiting impatiently for her to open the door. She smiled at him and said, “I’m ready to go.”
She pulled the door closed, locking the deadbolt. She turned and followed Don out to his car. Instead of getting into his car with him, she said, “I’ll drive myself over.”
Don looked at her in surprise. “Why?”
“Because I think it would be best for now,” she responded. She walked over to her car and climbed in, starting the engine.
Don shrugged his shoulders and got into his car. He followed her over to their counselor’s office. They walked in together and sat down in counselor’s office. They had chosen a new counselor, after their initial, disastrous meeting with the first one. This one was a lady named Sherry Johnston.
She greeted them and said, “Good morning. How are you two doing?”
Don said, “I’m good.”
Eva said, “I’m okay, but I want to talk about something that happened last week.” She went ahead and recounted the events of the last week. When she had finished, she turned to Don and said, “Your anger at not getting what you wanted from me was a very forceful reminder of how you have treated me over the years. I thought we were making good progress until you lost your temper.”
Don looked away from her gaze. Sherry asked, “Don, is there something you wanted to say?”
He cleared his throat and said, “No, I have nothing more to say than what I already have. I apologized for my outburst several times, and Eva has refused to accept the fact I’m sorry for losing my temper.”
Eva asked, “Don, do you honestly think I’m going to go back to the farm with you, to be emotionally and mentally abused by you? Don’t you see the pattern here? You have always been short tempered, and I’ve been on the receiving end of your verbal and physical abuse.”
Don’s head whipped around and he said, in a voice tight with anger, “I’ve never laid a hand on you.”
Eva stared right back at him and said, “That’s lie, and you know it. You haven’t hit me since the boys became physically strong enough to clean your plow if you touched me; however, before that, you didn’t hesitate to strike me when the urge took you. I have photographs to prove it, Don. I had one of neighbors take them, to document your abuse.”
Don’s anger faded, as he listened to Eva. He knew she was right, but still couldn’t admit to himself he needed help to overcome his abusive nature. He said, “You’re right, Eva.”
Sherry said, “I think you should meet with a therapist who is qualified to help you with anger management, Don. I can recommend a couple of them I think will be able to help you.”
Don looked up at Sherry, nodding his head. “Okay, I’ll get help.”
Eva smiled. “I hope you really follow through with this, Don. I want to be with you and I still love you very much. I just can’t continue to live in fear, Don. You’ve got to figure out how to control your anger, and let go of your hatred toward your sons.” Don started to protest, but she raised her hand to stop him. “Admit it, Don. Since you started meeting with your pastor, you have developed a deep hatred of your sons. You blame them for all of your problems. You still haven’t been able to face the fact you aren’t perfect and acknowledge your personal failings are yours, and yours alone.” She stood up and said, “Thank you, Sherry. Don, I’ll meet you here next week for our usual Friday appointment.”
She walked out of the office and go into her car. She found she was shaking like a leaf in the wind. She took several deep breaths before starting the engine. She drove back to her apartment. She let herself into the apartment, threw her purse and keys on to the kitchen table, and took off her shoes. She sat down on the couch to try and collect her thoughts.
Don sat in silence for a few minutes after Eva’s departure. He looked over at Sherry and said, “Do you have the names and phone numbers for those therapists?”
She wrote them down on a note pad. She tore off the sheet of paper and handed it to him. “I hope one of these therapists will meet your needs. If not, there are others in Regina you could try.”
He stood up and said, “Thank you for working with us.”
Sherry smiled and said, “I think you’re going to make it, Don. As long as you are both willing to work at it, things will, eventually, work out for you.”
He nodded his head. “I had no idea it was going to be so difficult to make the changes Eva is demanding of me.”
Sherry said, “I know it’s hard. Eva is struggling, as well. She has to adjust her behavior, just as much as you are. She has been raised to honor and obey her husband. Yes, her mother is a very independent minded woman; but, just the same, she grew up in an environment where women didn’t openly challenge the men in their lives. They did what they could behind the scenes, always preserving the appearance of a perfect marriage, and equally perfect family. Challenging your treatment of her has been one the most difficult things she has ever had to do in her life. You should be proud of her and accept her help in making your own transformation. I admire her for her strength of character and her determination to find a workable solution to your marital situation.”
Don said, “It’s a huge change for me, Sherry. I’ve taken Eva for granted for too long. I’m glad she has finally found her voice and is ready to be treated as an equal in our relationship. I’ve just got to learn new ways of thinking of her and our marriage. It’s too easy for me to slip back into my old habits.” He stood up and said, “Thank you for working with us.”
Sherry said, “You’re welcome, and good luck.”
He left her office and returned to his car. He sat in his car and thought about his next steps. He read the therapists names and noted that there were only two in Swift Current. The others were in either Saskatoon or Regina. He didn’t really want to drive to either place, so he pulled out his cell phone and placed a call to the first name on the list.
The receptionist answered the call, “Dr. Howard’s office. How may I help you?”
“I’d like to schedule an appointment,” he replied.
“May I ask what kind of issue you wish to address?” she asked.
“Anger management,” he said.
“Dr. Howard has an open appointment this afternoon at 1 PM. Otherwise, you will have to wait two weeks,” she said.
“I’ll take the one this afternoon,” he said.
“May I have your name, please?” she asked.
He gave it and ended the call. He called Eva. He hoped she would answer the phone. He wasn’t sure she would. It rang three times before she answered the call.
“Hello, Don,” she said.
“Thank you for answering my call. I’ve set up an appointment with a Dr. Howard this afternoon for an anger management counseling session,” he said.
Eva smiled and said, “Good. I’m happy to hear you are taking the initiative on this. After you’re done with your appointment, stop by the apartment and we can talk about what you think about the therapist.” She was relieved to know Don was making the effort to get things back on course. She hoped things would go well for him.
Don said, “I’ll see you this afternoon.”
“Good luck,” Eva said.
“Thanks,” Don said, ending the call.
He was encouraged by the fact she had invited him to come to the apartment. He took that to mean she wasn’t giving up on him. Being alone on the farm during the week left him with a lot of time to think about things. He really missed his wife’s presence in his home. It was a very empty place without her. It had taken him a few months to figure out she wasn’t coming back, unless changes were made. Eva had made it pretty clear what those changes needed to be, and he was working hard to make it right. He was at loose ends, since he wasn’t with Eva; so he drove over to Dave and Mary’s house.
He parked the car in the driveway, and got out of the car. As he walked up to the front door, the door opened. Mary stood in the doorway and said, “Come in, Don. I was hoping you would stop by today.”
He looked at her in surprise, but didn’t say anything. She stood back and let him enter. He walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. He waited for her to join him.
Mary sat across from him and he could see she was upset about something. “What’s going on?”
Mary looked him in the eyes. “Why don’t you tell me, Don?”
He gave her a puzzled look and shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I just got a call from Renata Fredericksen, from Aneroid,” Mary said.
Don’s face went ashen, as comprehension filled his mind. “What did she want?”
Mary said, “She called to tell me she has filed for divorce from her husband.”
“Oh, I didn’t know things were going badly between them,” Don said, trying to keep his voice even.
Mary raised her eyebrows and said, “Don, she said she was having an affair with you.”
Don looked down at the table, unable to meet her gaze. “Yes, that’s true.”
Mary said, “At least you’re willing to own up to it; but, when were you going to tell Eva, or did you think she would never find out?”
“I didn’t think it would get this far,” Don said.
Mary said, “You didn’t think is a correct statement.”
Don finally looked up. “You’re right about that. I’ve tried to break off the relationship with Renata for a couple of months now.”
Mary’s voice conveyed her anger, as she said, “Don, Aneroid is a very small town. What made you think you could mess around with someone else’s wife and keep it a secret?”
“It started out as a way to get back at Eva for leaving me. I never intended it to become a permanent thing,” Don said. He put his head in his hands, trying to think what to do now.”
Mary said, “Don, you need to decide what it is you really want. This whole situation is going to get really nasty very soon. Renata called me this morning asking if I knew of a place she could stay until her divorce is final. She thinks you’re going to marry her after your divorce is final.”
“Why did she call you?” Don asked.
“I met Renata at the hospital when she delivered her last child. We hit it off and have been good friends ever since then. Plus, she knows I’m your sister-in-law,” Mary said. “She probably would have called Eva, as well, if she could have found her phone number.”
“Does Dave know?” Don asked.
“No, not yet,” Mary answered. “But you can bet Renata tried to call him, too. She wants to make sure all of us know you’ve been stepping out on Eva with her.”
Don met Mary’s gaze and asked, “What should I do?”
Mary shook her head. “I don’t know, Don. You’ve created a real bad situation, and only you can fix it. You’ve got to decide whether or not you are staying with Eva, or if you’re going to marry Renata.”
Don never dreamed things could get so bad. He was already on thin ice with Eva. At the time he started his affair with Renata, all he could think about was hurting Eva, and an affair with their neighbor was the best way he could think of getting back at her for leaving him. Somehow, in his anger, he thought he was getting even with her.
Mary waited in silence, as Don thought about his next steps. “Mary, what would you do, if you were me?”
“I’d tell Eva everything, and let the chips fall where they may,” Mary answered. “Anything else will only make matters worse for you.”
He had to agree with Mary’s assessment of the situation. He said, “I’ll tell her this afternoon. I’ve got an appointment with a therapist to help me with anger management.”
“That’s a good thing. Maybe it will help you to confront some of your past behavior,” Mary said.
Don asked, hesitantly, “Do you hate me for what I’ve done?”
Mary replied, “No, I’m just disappointed you have done so many things to hurt those who love you. I used to think you and Dave were the perfect husbands. Over the last few months, you’ve shown me I was dead wrong in that assessment. I used to think I was a good judge of character. Now, I can’t say that I am, based on what you’ve done to your family.”
Her words struck home more than anything else she could have said to him. He physically flinched as if she had struck him a blow. He said, “I’m sorry, Mary.”
“You will be very sorry by the time the day is over,” Mary said. “I’m not the one you need to convince you truly regret what you’ve done.” She stood up from the table. “I’ve got to run some errands. You’re welcome to stay until you need to leave for your appointment.”
She left the kitchen, and he heard the front door open and close. He put his head in his hands and let the tears come. The consequences of his actions were coming back to haunt him, and he knew it wasn’t going to be easy. In turns, he was angry, sad, fearful and anxious about his situation. Never, in his wildest dreams, had he ever contemplated being in such a mess. There weren’t any good options to choose from, at this juncture. All of them required him to confront the error of his ways and admit he was wrong.
He went to the appointment. Dr. Howard listened patiently as he laid out his current situation, and, how giving in to his anger had gotten him to this point in his life. Dr. Howard encouraged him to think through several ways to combat his tendency to overreact to things. They discussed anger management tools and behaviors. Leaving Dr. Howard’s office, he felt empowered and confident he could handle the coming storm. He didn’t know how things would work out, but at least he felt he could face whatever came his way.
He drove over to Eva’s apartment and parked the car. He got out and walked up to her door and knocked. She opened it and smiled at him. “Come inside and tell me how things went.”
They were seated opposite each other in the front room, as he began to recount his visit with the therapist. After a while, he paused and said, “Eva, there something I need to tell you.”
By his tone of voice, she knew whatever he was about to tell her wasn’t good. She said, “Okay, go ahead.”
He said, “When you left me, all I could think about was trying to get back at you for leaving me. I was so angry, I couldn’t see straight. A couple of weeks after you left, I met up with Renata Fredericksen, over in Shaunovan. We got to talking, and I found out Daniel was going to be in Vancouver for a couple of weeks. Renata made a pass at me and I followed her back to her place. One thing led to another, and, bottom line; I’ve been having an affair with Renata since you left.”
Eva didn’t know what to say to Don. She had already felt things weren’t quite as they seemed during their counseling session. This latest revelation of Don’s infidelity to his marriage vows didn’t come as a surprise to her. It hurt her to know he had been with another woman; but she wasn’t about to let him know how much he had wounded her.
She calmly asked, “Are you still seeing her?”
“No, but she called Mary today to tell her she is filing for a divorce from Daniel. She wanted to know if Mary knew of a place she could stay until the divorce is final,” he said.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do?” she asked.
Don said, “Yes, I have. I’ve tried to break things off with Renata for several months now.”
“So, where do you stand with her?” she asked.
“I’ve made it clear to her we’re finished,” Don said.
“Apparently, she thinks you’re still going through with the divorce because, she’s divorcing Daniel,” Eva said.
Don put his head in his hands and said, “I’ve made a huge mess of things, Eva. I don’t know what to do to make things right for us.” He looked up and met Eva’s eyes. “I admit I started seeing Renata out of a desire to hurt you for leaving me; but I soon realized I was only hurting myself.” Eva’s gaze was hard as steel, and her expression unreadable. “I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to tell me to get lost, Eva, after all I’ve put you through.”
Eva asked, “When was the last time you had sex with her?” Her voice was brittle and sounded like it would break at any moment.
He said, “It was before the boys came out for spring break. She has kept coming around to the house, but we haven’t had any sexual contact.”
“How do I know you aren’t lying to me?”
“You don’t,” Don responded. “I would beg you to believe me, but that wouldn’t change how you feel about what has happened.”
Eva agreed, “You’re right about that part, Don. Given what you’ve just shared with me, I think you should go. I need time to think about where I’m going from here.”
Don noticed that she didn’t say, “Where do we go from here.” It was very apparent she didn’t see them as a couple, after his revelations of infidelity. He nodded his head. “Let me know if you want to continue to go to counseling. I will be there if you decide it’s worth the effort to salvage what little we have left of our relationship.” He knew everything depended on how Eva felt about him. He said, “Eva, I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve done.” He stood up. “I’ll see myself out.” He walked out of the front room, leaving her staring after him.
She heard the door open and close, as he left her apartment. At that moment, all of the pent up anguish and sorrow she felt made its way to the surface and burst through the tight controls she had put in place to hide her emotions from Don. She let out a low keening, as the tears rolled down her cheeks. Her grief over her lost marriage was like a knife to her heart. She knew Don’s affair would forever change their relationship, if they had a relationship left. She would never be able to trust him again.
Rick and I had just returned from a night out on the town when my cell phone rang. Rick looked at me and asked, “Who is calling you at this time of night?”
I looked at the caller id and said, “It’s my Mom.” I hit the accept button on the phone and said, “Hi Mom. What’s going on?”
Her voice cracked with tears as she began telling me what had happened. The more I heard about what Dad had done, the angrier I got. Rick could see that I was getting agitated. He put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Let me talk to her, while you calm down.”
I handed him the phone and walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, trying to calm down. I called Dad every name under the sun. I returned to the family room to hear Rick talking to Mom.
“What do you think you’ll do now?”
I didn’t hear her response, so I asked Rick to put the phone on speaker. He said, “Mom, I’m going to put you on speaker.”
Rick repeated his question. “What are you going to do?”
Eva said, “I don’t know, Rick. I’m an emotional wreck right now. I shouldn’t be making any major decisions until I’ve had a chance to absorb what has happened. I think Don is genuinely sorry for what he did, but it still doesn’t stop the hurt I feel at his betrayal.”
I said, “We’re behind you 100 percent, Mom.”
“I know you are, dear. That is why I called to talk to you about it. I knew I could tell you everything, and you would help me to calm down,” Eva said. “Just talking about it has helped me to think more clearly about what I need to do.”
“Are you going to continue with the marriage counseling?” I asked.
She answered, “I think we should. It will help us work through this situation with Renata. I need to get to a good place about it, and Don needs to deal with his issues, as well. We may never be able to get back together after this, but I want to at least be able to be in the same room with him. The counseling sessions will help me accomplish that much.”
We chatted with her about what we were doing, before she bid us, ‘good night,’ and we ended the call. I turned to Rick and said, “He is such a real bastard.”
Rick said, “I know how you feel, Glenn. We’ve had enough emotional stress for today. Let’s go to bed. You need some very special attention tonight.”
“Yes, I want you to hold me and cuddle with me,” I said.
“I’ll do that and more,” Rick said, grinning. He was as good as his word!
The next morning, I woke up before Rick. He and I had made love last night in a way that left a deep impression on my memory. The sharing of our bodies with each other was augmented and amplified by our sharing our love for each other. I had heard couples speak of their experiences where they truly became one person. Now, I could add my own experience to theirs. We had, indeed, become as a single unit last night. Afterward, we talked for hours, reaffirming what we had both felt. I don’t know for sure what made the difference, but I know that something had changed between us, by mutual consent. I snuggled closer to Rick, as the memory of our evening together flooded my soul.
It was nearly an hour later when I awakened, again. This time I felt Rick stirring. His morning wood was poking me and I knew he was very much aroused. I lifted my head from his chest and caressed his six pack abs, circling lower.
He smiled without opening his eyes. “Hmmm….that feels good, Babe.”
I leaned over and kissed his lips, gently pushing my tongue between them. I deepened the kiss as I straddled him, taking him inside me. I pulled back and Rick opened his eyes. I met his gaze and smiled. “It’s my turn to show you how much I love you.”
Later, Rick pushed my damp hair back from my forehead, as he held me in his arms. We were both completely relaxed, enjoying the afterglow of our lovemaking. He kissed me and asked, “How are you feeling this morning?”
I looked at him in surprise. “I’m feeling really good right now.”
“I know that, because I’m feeling pretty good thanks to you; but that isn’t what I meant,” Rick said.
“I’m okay. You took good care of me last night, sweetheart. I needed you to love me, to hold me, and make me feel safe and secure. You did all of that, and more, last night,” I said. “In fact, I’ve never felt as close to you as I did last night. It seems something changed for us last night, and I don’t know what it was.”
Rick said, “I felt it, too. However, I think I know why it was different.”
I gave him a puzzled look. “Okay, tell me.”
“All of our barriers were down. Yours were down, because of what your mother told you last night. I’ve not seen you so completely defenseless, emotionally, since I first met you. I knew how vulnerable you were, and I wanted to protect you; to do whatever I could to keep you safe from harm. You put your complete trust in me, like you did when Ian dumped you and I held you in my arms. I felt that trust, and I, in turn, trusted you with my heart.”
I nodded my head. “You’re right, I did trust you to help me. I was pretty upset by what Mom told me.”
“The thing for us, moving forward, is to maintain the same level of trust between us as we experienced last night,” Rick said.
“I agree,” I said. “I love how I feel about you and me right now. I feel like I’m in heaven, being with you.”
Rick smiled and said, “That’s because it is heaven on earth when I’m with you, Babe.”
I looked at him and laughed, “That sounds like a line out of a song or something, but it does describe how I feel.”
Rick said, “That’s because we’re living our own happily ever after. Remember how you used to call me your Prince Charming?”
I nodded my head. “Yes, I remember. I don’t know when I got away from calling you my Prince Charming, but I definitely think we’ve broken through some kind of barrier. Maybe we’ve made it back into our own fairy tale.”
Rick grinned. “So, if we made it back into our own fairy tale, which one are we living?”
I said, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s a combination of fairy tales, or, even better, it’s a new one about two gays guys living their happily ever after.”
“That must be it,” Rick said. “Ours is a new one that will inspire gay guys to follow their dreams, and let them know that it’s possible to find true love.”
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