Please, Don’t Kill Me Part 4

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If he’d just gotten up, Corey might take an interest in watching the sun rise. However, Corey had not just gotten up. He’d never gone to bed. So, he didn’t watch the sun rise, he watched the shadows shift and the color of the room change, but without much interest.

He had so many questions. It seemed impossible to wrap his head around WHY. Why ask him to do this? He might fail miserably or rat Faddey out.

No. No, he would not rat Faddey out. He would do this and live. No one would know, he would be done with it, he’d quit his job, move across the country, start over somewhere with blonde hair and a dress and call himself Cora. Screw all the why’s and suck it up, Buttercup.

After setting up an Uber ride, he took a long shower, sat for an hour, took another long shower, then turned off his good sense, and made a decision. Running on autopilot, he brushed his teeth, combed his hair, dressed, and ate a fine omelet for breakfast. If he was going to die today, he may as well have an exciting last meal.

He wouldn’t have to wash the eggy pan, because he’d be dead. Or in prison.

On the way to work, he looked cassata up on his phone. A sort of ricotta cake thing with lots of candied fruit, marzipan, and who knows what else. The variations were as numerous as Indian dialects. However, it did appear they needed refrigeration. When he arrived at Ichino’s, he got out without hesitation, marched up to the back door, opened it, took a deep breath of the familiar grease and spice, and began his hunt. The same laughing Ichino voices poured in from the front.

Mind of steel, heart of stone, mind of steel, heart of stone. Knife of steel. Corey grabbed a knife from one of the prep counters. Now, which cooler? He’d been introduced to the main cooler yesterday, but another one with a shinier handle and a more sturdy composition had not yet been introduced. Nothing in the first cooler resembled a cake, so it had to be the other one. Facing fear, gnashing his teeth at it, he opened up the cooler door. The cooler’s seal separated with a plastic swish, and the cool air brought the sweat on his body to his attention. He took a quick look behind him and entered the cooler, closing it gently behind him.

There they were. A row of dazzling ornately fruity cakes.

Spare not for beauty.

Corey quickly removed the lid of the cassata closest to him and lifted up a candied mandarin orange from the center. He cut a hole where it had been and stuffed a small packet of cocaine into the middle, placed the orange back on top, then, uncertain what to do with the chunk of cake, stuffed his mouth with it.

Good grief was it sweet.

He moved on to the next cake, slicing a hole in the center. His hasty work showed, but the candied mandarins saved the day. Just as he prepared to return the candied mandarin to the second cake, the cooler door opened like a dead man’s gasp.

 

Nonna stood erect as she eyed him first, then shifted to eye the cakes nearest to him. He tried to tuck the mandarin orange into his sleeve, but as the sensible, non-pants-crapping version of himself would have anticipated, the candied orange fell to the ground with a bold squatch. If it had not been candied, it would have been a squash, but as it was, it was squatch.

“I will kill you,” she said. “You idiot! You know what kind of work it takes to make these jewels? Get out! Leave!” She rushed upon her precious cassatas to baby them, while Corey, all too gladly, flew out of the cooler and dumped his bag of cocaine into the big garbage can nearby.

Turning to escape the premises, he came face-to-face with Nonna, shaking a baggie of coke.

“You, hiding drugs in my cassatas? You no good piece of—”

Mr. Ichino barreled in from the front, and seeing Corey backed up against a prep table, took the stance of a man preparing to be tackled, shaking his hands in front of him.

“What’s goin’ on? What’s goin’ on?”

“I tell you not to hire him, I tell you to hire a Sicilian, I tell you these things, and what do you do? You hire a man who would mutilate a cassata!”

“You touched Nonna’s cassatas?”

“And put drugs in them,” Nonna added.

“I can explain, if you’ll just let me—”

That’s when Dom entered the scene. “Looks like a standoff, what’s up?”

“Corey here stuffed drugs in Nonna’s cassatas.”

“You messed with the cassatas?”

“With drugs!” Nonna shrieked.

“If you’d just—”

“Oh, no.” Mr. Ichino petted his own head several times, panting. “Why did it have to be the cassata? Corey,” he put his hands on Corey’s shoulders. “I’m gonna have to let you go.”

“Obviously!” Corey yodeled.

At that moment, however, nothing was obvious. From his left, someone—he wasn’t sure who—came with a bag. He struggled against it, but Mr. Ichino’s big arms held him ‘til a strange smell inside the bag overwhelmed him, and Corey fell asleep.

He awoke to a moldy smell and the sound of dripping and clanging pipes. As he opened his eyes, he realized his face lay on a table in front of him. He lifted his head and looked around at the darkness ’til his eyes caught on a faint white face. He pushed back in fright, sending the chair skidding behind him and cracking on the cement floor. He stood, squinting, bracing himself against the terror turning his stomach inside out and climbing up his esophagus.

A lighter, Faddey’s face, then darkness, then the smell of cigarette smoke.

“Corey, Corey,” Faddey said. “Tell me, did you watch an online video called ‘Proof of Jinn in the U.S.A.?”

Corey scrunched his face. “What?” he hissed.

Faddey tsked a few times before taking a long drag of his cigarette and laughing the smoke out.

“You shouldn’t have done that, Corey. Shouldn’t have done it.”

“Done what?”

“Watched that video. Listen, I came down here just to give you an explanation,” he said.

“You were the last person we needed to hunt down after that video was leaked. This will be your home now.”

“What? Who are you? Are you with the government? I want a lawyer!”

Faddey laughed. “You’re so far beyond lawyers now. Thank you for doing the cocaine in the cassatas. It gave us a good reason to take you into custody.”

“What… what is this? Is this a set up? Over a friggin’ video online?”

“Well, Corey, when you look for conspiracies, you find ‘em.”

With that, the glow of the cigarette disappeared with the loud clank of a heavy duty, locked door.

Now he couldn’t even look up “Please, don’t kill me” in Russian.

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Please, Don’t Kill Me Part 3

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Surprisingly, Corey’s first day at Ichino’s went quite well. Once they opened their doors for business customers flooded the front open to close, and Corey had little time to worry himself then. By the end of the evening he felt far more optimistic about his fate, and by closing time he was breathing easy. With a pat on the back from Mr. Ichino, Corey pushed the door open and stepped out of the thick restaurant atmosphere into the cool fresh fragrance of city air.

“Corey, hey,” a voice called.

Corey turned around. He knew Vanna’s voice pretty well after hearing it all night, but he was surprised by her silent approach and jumped a little.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“You did a great job. I think you’re gonna do well here.”

Until now, Vanna had not communicated with him often. She and Dom barked at each other now and then, and she talked to the customers, but largely, she ignored Corey. She seemed a typical twentyish girl with a shade of shallow, and this professional, complimentary approach to his performance, coming from her mouth, felt as natural as American cheese.

“Thank you, ma’am. I sure hope so.”

She smiled, then shifted her eyes just to the right.

“Faddey!”

Corey took a sharp intake of breath. “Excuse me?”

“My katonyak,” came the voice.

Vanna walked past Corey to embrace a young man, older than Corey, but a young man nonetheless. They hugged and kissed, and Corey, realizing the man had a concealed weapon temporarily revealed by the Vanna osculation and massage experience, decided the conversation with Vanna was over. He ducked past them to his vehicle, opened the door, and tossed his rolled up apron into the backseat. Breathing in the cool night air, he closed his eyes for only a moment before seating himself and putting the key in the ignition. He turned the key and nothing happened. He turned it again, and still nothing happened.

Thoughts. Terrible thoughts came to him, but he couldn’t entertain them. After taking a deep breath and blowing it out, Corey stepped out of the vehicle and wordlessly came around front to lift the hood. Just as he whipped out his phone to google for a solution, a voice with an accent that could only belong to someone named Faddey called out.

“Something the matter?” Faddey asked, his arm slung around Vanna.

Corey licked his lips and choked on his dry throat.

“C-c-,” he stammered, licked his lips again and sucked the cotton ball feeling down. “Car won’t start,” he said.

“Faddey can give you a ride home,” Vanna offered. “Call a mechanic tomorrow. I’m sure Dom will pick you up for work, too.”

Why not Mr. Ichino? He could call a friend, call a cab, call anything, call, call, call, say no! Get out, Corey, what are you doing, Corey? You don’t deserve to live, Corey! Grow a spine, Cor—

“Sure. Okay. Thanks.”

Faddey squeezed Vanna. “I’ll be back for you,” he said.

“You know,” Corey began, “on second thought—”

Hand in one pocket, without turning around, Faddey tossed a hand into the air as he strode over to his own car. “You heard Vanna. Let’s go.”

“It’s okay,” Vanna insisted, patting Corey’s arm.

Corey didn’t quite heave a sigh, but his mouth hung open and leaked a little air with the sound of a dog whistle stabbing through it. Nevertheless, he closed his mouth, closed the hood, closed his door, and closed his mind. He may have been at ease by the end of his shift, but that didn’t mean he should be. No use offending the boss’ daughter over a concealed weapon. Lot’s of people carry concealed weapons, after all.

“Night,” he said, passing Vanna and following Faddey, who leaned on his vehicle, resting on his elbow.

“Ready?” asked Faddey.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready,” Corey muttered.

Faddey didn’t smile, but nodded. “Good, good. Get in.”

Corey opened the door of Faddey’s 2 door Pontiac and seated himself through an invisible billow of spicy perfume and cigarette smoke. Death metal blasted the silence as the engine rattled to life. Faddey reached out to turn the music down, giving Corey a quick view of a hand full of tattooed rings. He tried not to stare, deliberately turning away.

“Which way?” Faddey asked.

Corey gave him step by step instructions as they went, after five minutes, nothing seemed amiss except for Corey’s gut. Faddey pulled up to the apartment building, and Corey thanked him, reaching for the door handle, but Faddey reached out and grasped Corey’s clammy left hand.

“Hey, uh, Corey,” he began, then chuckled slightly.

Faddey’s grip, though strong, did not hurt. Still, Corey knew he was going to die tonight. Somehow.

Faddey continued, “I have a favor to ask of you.”

Corey swallowed hard once, then twice.

“What?” he squeaked.

With his left hand, Faddey reached under his seat and pulled out a paper bag.

“I want you to take what is in this, find nonna’s cassatas tomorrow night, and put what is in this bag into the center of the cassatas. No one can know. No one should be able to see.”

Arguing seemed like a stupid thing to do. Accept, stay alive, then consider all factors, and make a more intelligent decision in the safety of home.

Corey said, “Okay.”

Faddey released his hand and Corey took the bag.

“Remember, nobody but you and me, yes?” He stared intently at Corey, driving his hard eyes into Corey’s.

“Yes,” Corey whispered.

“Good. Bye bye.” Faddey dismissed Corey with a flutter of his fingers.

Corey opened the door and left the vehicle slowly. Too much haste would raise suspicions. He closed the car door with care. He couldn’t be sure, but he felt he ought to check his pants when he got in.

Inside, Corey locked the door of his apartment. Walked away. Turned around, unlocked and locked the door again, and repeated this a few times before crashing on his couch with the paper bag. Reluctantly, he opened it and found what he expected: several bags of cocaine.

The police.  He should call the police.

He hesitated with phone upraised. Faddey knew where he lived now.

Finger tattoos. He’d look up finger tattoos. Maybe they’d give him a hint about who he might be dealing with.

“Finger ring tattoos,” he said aloud, then he stared at the screen in silence, blinking, sweating, panting.

Vory v zakone. Thieves in Law.”

After a glance at a few stories about the vory, Corey decided he had but one choice. He typed in his next search and murmured, “How to say ‘please, don’t kill me’ in Russian.”

****
What would be the best thing for Corey to do? I have ideas, but one of the main things here is that I want to take cues from you, so please give me yours!

Why I May Be Gone Briefly

Hi, everyone.
I hate to go when I’ve just begun, but it won’t be long. I’m going to try to get part 3 of Please, Don’t Kill Me out before then, but, for a brief time, I will be stepping back to have my fourth kiddo. 😉 I’m about 38 weeks pregnant at the moment, so, it could be anytime, really. 😉 Just a heads up. Stay tuned. 😉

Sarah VanDeBogert

Please, Don’t Kill Me Part 2

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“Here’s the big guy!” Mr. Ichino called out. “How’s it goin’, Corey?” He stood up and strode over to Corey with his hand out for a shake. Corey, still reeling, shook his hand, but did not return the one armed hug that followed.

Corey swallowed hard and stammered, “I’m w-well, Mr. Ichino.”

Mr. Ichino smiled broadly, patting Corey on the back of his shoulder as he presented him to the rest of the family.

“Hey, folks, it’s Corey!” He gestured to an old woman sitting at the table. She seemed to be a healthy old woman with rich olive skin and very little in the way of osteoporosis. Her sharp brown eyes were fixed on Corey.

“This is my mamma. Almost everybody else calls her Nonna.”

She smiled and nodded. “Call me Nonna.”

“It’s easier ‘cause my daughter’s got the same name.” He gestured to the beautiful, young girl beside Nonna. “Giovanna waits the tables, but we’re gonna get another waitress soon, I think. Business has been all right, after all, so we gotta beef it up ‘round here.

“And, uh, this here is my son Dom. He’s gonna be teaching you how to cook the stuff. Mamma will be there with you, too. She likes to see over the cooking herself, see?” Mr. Ichino winked at Corey, patted his shoulder again, and asked, “Corey, you all right? You look not so good.”

“I’m fine, sir. I’m fine.” Corey tried to smile well enough to convince everyone, but he managed only a sickly upturned mouth.

“Hey, Dom, take him out back and—”

Corey’s heart leapt into his throat. “Out back where?”

The family all exchanged confused looks, but Mr. Ichino’s spicy laugh exploded all over the place. “Corey, Corey! Take you out back to the kitchen. Dom, take him to the kitchen and show him around, will ya?”

“Yeah. C’mon Corey, let’s go… out back.” Dom smirked and shook his head as he passed by, thumping his hand down on top of Corey’s shoulder as he did.

Corey clenched his tacky hands briefly, closed his eyes, muttered a curse word at his own flub, and then, opening his eyes, followed Dom to the kitchen area.

“You got a lot of experience?” Dom asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Ah, cut the sir crap. Call me Dom. Here’s the walk-in.”

Dom opened the big metal door and gave Corey a quick look at where to find everything, then led Corey out, the walk-in door thumping closed behind them, and to the front of the kitchen.

“We got the lowboy down here.” Dom gave an innocuous kick to the little fridge. “Right about now we gotta get the pasta cookin’. We use cuscusu, busiate, and anelletti the most here. I’ll show you where it is in the back.” He smirked, beckoning with his hand.

“Nonna about killed us all when we told her we weren’t gonna make all our noodles fresh in the restaurant,” Dom laughed. “It’s not her way. She wants it all to be like she does things, y’know? It’s just not gonna happen. We make our sfincione and breads though, and that settled her down. You studied the menu, Corey?”

The sudden shift startled Corey. “Men… Yes, I studied the menu.”

“Good, good. Nonna’s got this idea that only a Sicilian can make Sicilian food right. We told her, ‘Nonna, we’re not gonna find any Sicilians ‘round here,’” he piled up the bags of anelletti, cuscusu, and busiate in Corey’s arms, “and me and Vanna aren’t anywhere near getting’ married an’ makin’ little cooks yet, y’see what I’m sayin’?”

“Dom!” Giovanna’s voice came from the front with a tint of urgency. Dom rushed ahead of Corey while Corey attempted to grapple the bags of pasta into submission. He quickly followed once he had them mastered.

“What?” Dom asked.

“The mattonella. We have only one left out here.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“Yeah, I’m serious.”

“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?”

“I just forgot, okay?”

“Vanna, I can’t just poop out a mattonella. Keep your head in the game.”

Giovanna rolled her eyes and walked away.

“The mattonella with chocolate and figs is our best-selling dessert.” He growled a little. “That Russian boyfriend of hers distracts her. She’s not the same woman these days. Here, fill the pots with water and get ‘em on the stove for the noodles.”

Dom stormed out of the kitchen through the swinging doors.

Corey’s nerves had calmed down a little. He grabbed one of the large pots from the counter behind him and took it to fill up at the sink. Just then, Mr. Ichino barreled through the doors and into the kitchen.

“Corey, where’s Dom?”

Corey stammered and shrugged.

Mr. Ichino cursed. “Well, which way did he go?”

Corey pointed. “He went out that door.” His palms were sweaty again.

In a huffy jumble of rush, Mr. Ichino blustered through the doors to the front, leaving Corey alone with his pot nearly full. He turned the water off and took the pot to the stove top where he turned the heat on high and took the next pot to the sink.

Mr. Ichino returned as Corey place the second pot of water on the stove top. Corey put his hands out in front of him and backed away just a little as Mr. Ichino came closer than Corey expected.

Mr. Ichino’s breathing was thick, his expression, conflicted.

“Listen, uh, Corey, my son, Dom, he’s uh…” Mr. Ichino sighed, flopping his hand in the air. “he was a police officer back in Jersey, y’see, and—”

Corey puffed a small laugh but regained his senses quickly when Mr. Ichino’s face turned from conflicted to quizzical.

“What?” he asked. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing. Nothing, sir.”

“Something about Dom bein’ a cop made you snicker?”

“No, no, sir.”

“You snickered.”

Back paddling wasn’t working, Corey needed to paddle back to where he began.

“Yes, sir. I snickered because so many people believe that Sicilians will be connected to crime, as opposed to fighting it.”

This was going to be ugly. There seemed no way around the offensiveness of this behavior, and Corey knew it. He sighed and closed his eyes.

Mr. Ichino’s laughter rolled and rumbled all around his throat and out his mouth. Then he said, “honesty!” He chuckled again. “As I was sayin’,” he lowered his voice, “my son was a cop in Jersey, but he ended up with a head injury. Ever since then, if something sets him off, he’s set off. That injury is why he couldn’t go back, and joined us instead.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Ichino.”

“Yeah, so, well, uh, you’ll be learning how to make mattonella di cioccolato con fichi tonight! That’s a good thing.” He patted Corey on the shoulder and smiled. “Dom will cool down and be back shortly.” He peeked into the pots. “And, uh, don’t forget to salt the water— I mean, really salt the water— once it’s bubbling real good.”

Corey swallowed his nerves down. “Mr. Ichino, did I offend you?”

“Offend?”

“When I laughed.”

Mr. Ichino chuckled again. “Corey, no, no. Forget about it. I like you. We’re gonna get along real nice.”

As much as Corey wanted to believe him, he couldn’t. He cursed under his breath.

Now where was the salt?

 

****

Yay! Part 2! Thank you for reading. 🙂 As I want this to be a story where the readers have some say in each part, I’d like to ask you all for your input for part 3.

Option 1:

Giovanna warms up to Corey and causes mischief.

OR

Option 2:

Nonna warms up to Corey and causes mischief.

😉 If you have any other thoughts on where the story should go, or something a character should do, please, let me know. I’d like to consider it. 🙂

Please, Don’t Kill Me Part 1

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He wasn’t a bigot, he just doubted his own judgment when he decided it was a good idea to work for a Sicilian-American family.

That’s all.

He liked their manners, their personable, you’re-family-now mentality, but even Al Capone was friendly, personable, and a “nice guy” to a lot of folks. Paid for their hospital bills after his goons beat the crap out of them. A real nice guy.

Corey grabbed his phone and turned off the alarm, squinted at the screen, considered the time, and set the alarm again. Just a few more minutes of self-loathing and terror to start the day. Why did he take this job? Why? WHY?

He rolled out of bed and went to the kitchen to contemplate the content of his moral fiber over orange juice and a low-fiber toaster pastry.

Would he tell the police if he saw anything illegal?

Did he have time to look up a tutorial on how to save his life if he witnessed a crime?

He looked at the time on the microwave. Nope.

He ran his hands through his hair as he walked to the bathroom where he set his phone on the counter, prepared his tooth paste and tooth brush, then, tooth brush hanging from his mouth, picked up the phone for a quick search.

Si prega di non uccidermi,” he attempted through the tooth paste and brush.

Please, don’t kill me.

It wouldn’t hurt to be prepared. Perhaps his crappy Italian would strike their hearts with sympathy, or maybe their sense of humor, and maybe, just maybe, they really wouldn’t uccidermi, so-to-speak.

Maybe, just maybe, Sicilian was a language of its own? Crap. He hadn’t thought of that.

During the ride to work he half-listened, half-watched videos on self defense from a knife attack, a hold up, rape, how to detect poison in your food, how to…

He cursed under his breath. He’d arrived.

The restaurant didn’t open for another hour, but Mr. Ichino wanted him there early to get accustomed to the place before the action started. When Corey came for his interview, Mr. Ichino happened to be outside for a smoke and greeted him by name, conducting his interview and hiring agreement outside. Except for a glimpse through the glare of the sun and his own reflection in the windows, Corey didn’t have the opportunity to see the inside of the place, yet. He imagined that the inside had to look like a restaurant and was, indeed, a restaurant, but the unknown of the matter made him nervous.

He roughed his hair up, blew a great puff of air from his mouth, and mustered all of his open-minded, politically correct capabilities to say aloud, “They could be a nice Sicilian-American family from Jersey.”

He swallowed hard and glanced at the red, white, and green banner hanging over the main entrance with the name “Ichino’s” printed on it. The eerie Sicilian flag flew alongside of the door, a red and yellow background with a disembodied, eyeless, Medusa head served on a bed of wheat, resting on a platter of bare legs.

His palms were tacky as he turned in to the back parking lot.

“Ichino’s,” he whispered. “Well, why don’t you scratch it already? But wash your hands before you make my food.” He laughed at his attempt at humor, sobered, and cursed once more.

There was nothing to it but to do it…

Per their instructions, Corey entered the ristorante through the back door. The restaurant was not open ‘til the lunch hour, so while the door was unlocked for him, the quiet, gray kitchen, the smell of grease, and a faint odor of basil and garlic alone greeted him.

“Hello?”

The utility sink dripped. He took a few steps in that direction, and the voice that hired him drifted past the cook’s window. The explosion of a well-seasoned, contagious laugh bloomed through the bland stillness of the kitchen. Corey made his way to the front with boldness now. It was a friendly laugh, after all.

From behind the counter it appeared there weren’t any signed autographs from Al Pacino, or even a photo of Scarface with his Little Friend.

He stepped out from behind the counter and turned toward the laughter, thinking about how Al Pacino was all right and all, but in this circumstance he was relieved not to have any photos of ol’ Al—Oooohhhh, there it was.

Hanging on the wall, just beyond Mr. Ichino and his family, hung a gigantic black velvet painting of Al Capone.

He kind of missed Al Pacino now.

Si prego… Uh…Crap… Uccidermi?

****

Thanks for reading the first part of Please, Don’t Kill Me. I plan on a few more installments of this short story, but I would like your help. What is your opinion on how things should go? Should Corey fumble with the Ichino family and inadvertently offend them right off the bat, or should he quickly endear himself to them? Let me know in the comments, please! 🙂

Thanks to my friend, Corey, for his contribution of name and inspiration!

Help Me Begin!

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Hello!

This blog is not intended to be a super helpful blog that you refer to when you’re not sure of comma placement, nor is it meant to offer marketing advice. The purpose of the blog is stated in the busy business to the left.

To begin, I can’t (or can’t understand how to) indent the first line of my paragraphs on WordPress, apparently. That will frustrate me to no end.

Now that I have that out of the way…

I’ll post other writerly and readerly things, but one goal  is to write short stories as supplied by readers. My request from you is for writing fodder! I would like to write short stories in a series, the length and number of posts devoted to each story may vary, but I haven’t decided yet. So, this is kind of an opportunity to choose your adventure, and I hope you’ll come along with me as I stretch myself writing short stories (partially) from other people’s heads.

Here’s what I need to begin with the first one!

  • Give me a character or two. Be as descriptive as you want to be. Offer suggestions for appearance, name, occupation, etc. if you are inclined to do so.
  • Give me a setting. A distant planet? Ohio? Guam? The ocean? A made up place?
  • Give me a problem (or a wonderful happening) that will start the character on a new journey.

If you will help me get this started, I’ll be ever grateful to you. I may or may not take all the ideas. If there are several, I will, of course, have to pick and choose. After you’ve thrown me some ideas, make sure to stop by again to see the beginning of our first story once I’ve posted it!

Thank you, everybody! I look forward to collaborating with you.

Sarah VanDeBogert