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Why I hate Helen

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Old 04-13-2007, 01:38 PM
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Default Why I hate Helen


Why I hate Helen


Helen is my sister. And I hate her. I hate her for destroying my life last night when she told me that…

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. My whole world has turned upside down and I can’t even think straight. I simply can’t come to terms with what she told me.

Let me tell you a little about Helen and me.

Helen was born fourteen months after me and we were very close. I think mum would have liked a son to make her family complete but it wasn’t to be. Anyway we were a happy family as I recall. Dad didn’t have a particularly well-paid job – he was the manager of a small furniture store – but he looked after us well enough and we always had nice furniture! We didn’t have that many luxuries but there was always food on the table and the holidays in Bournemouth each year.

I think that even back then I knew that I was always going to come a poor second to Helen. She was one of those sickeningly cute kids that, back in those days anyway, people would stop in the street and comment on. I might just as well have been invisible as far as they were concerned. I won’t go so far as to say that I was ugly – no child is truly ugly – but I was completely unremarkable in every way. Helen had this gorgeous blonde hair – about five shades lighter than mine and thick and shiny. Her eyes were a quite unusual shade of blue, surrounded by eyelashes that have never needed a stroke of mascara to this day. She even had – still has – that quintessential mark of cuteness – dimples. I really was drab by comparison – lank, dirty blonde hair, no dimples, and although my eyes were blue they were quite ordinary compared with Helen’s and over the years I’ve done my bit towards keeping up the cosmetics industry’s profits in my quest to find a mascara that would make my eyelashes look like hers, but to no avail.

On top of all that, Helen was cleverer than I was. She didn’t even have to work particularly hard to get good grades whereas I struggled to end up somewhere in the middle of the class. Yet for some reason she always seemed to look up to me. I was always there to look after her when she hurt herself on the hockey pitch or in the gym. I must admit that it gave me a small amount of comfort that she was absolutely useless at any kind of sport whereas I made the school hockey and tennis teams without even trying. I suppose I was always a bit of a tomboy, perhaps realizing even then that I was always going to be better off as one of the boys.

Of course, clever Helen passed her 11-plus at the top of the class and off she went to grammar school. There was never any chance that she’d be joining me at the local comprehensive. But I was happy enough – at least I was at a mixed school whereas Helen’s was a single-sex school. Strangely, although she was gorgeous she didn’t seem particularly interested in boys. She could have had her pick of them if she’d felt so inclined but all she seemed interested in was her schoolbooks. Boys were never interested in me as a potential girlfriend, and maybe for that reason I always felt comfortable around them.

Still, given all of our differences, Helen and I got on remarkably well. It didn’t even bother me that when I brought boys home they were instantly smitten by her. She was pleasant enough to them but never any more than that and somehow they seemed to realize that she was unattainable and were content to worship her from afar.

Dad died suddenly when I was fifteen and Helen fourteen. It was a tough time for us all but, as deaths often do, it seemed to bring us all closer together and although mum had a particularly bad time of it she eventually came to terms with the loss of her soul mate. Although Dad had had the foresight to invest in an insurance policy he hadn’t envisioned dying at the age of fifty-one so the payout we received was hardly a lottery win. Nevertheless, by tightening our belts we were just about able to manage, especially with the small amount that Mum was making as a Home Help.

Soon after we lost Dad I came of age to leave school. No-one had ever had expectations that I would pass my exams with flying colours and go off to university so my announcement that I intended to leave the comprehensive at the end of the term and look for a job was met with equanimity. After a couple of unsuccessful interviews I managed to get a clerical job at the local Town Hall. It didn’t pay a great deal but at least I felt that at long last I could contribute towards the household expenses.

To everyone’s great astonishment, on reaching the age of sixteen Helen announced that she, too, wanted to leave school and find a job. Her school grades had continued to be excellent, apart from during a brief period after Dad died, and we were dumbfounded by her decision. Helen was, by now, a truly stunning young woman and at long last was beginning to show an interest in the opposite sex. Personally I would have thought that continuing her education and going off to uni would have provided her with endless opportunities to meet boys but she was adamant in her determination that she, too, wanted to contribute something towards her own upkeep. Mum spent many an hour trying to persuade her that she was wasting a perfectly good brain but to no avail. Once Helen had made up her mind about something, nothing could change it.

Of course, being Helen, she didn’t have to undergo the humiliation of failed interviews. She decided that she wanted to work in IT and snagged the first job she went after, that of a trainee programmer in a small software house. Such establishments usually employ graduates but I guess they could see that Helen was something special, even without a degree.

By now Helen had become very aware of her attractiveness to the opposite sex and brazenly used that fact to her advantage. She could twist the boys, or rather the young men, round her little finger and no-one seemed immune to her charms. She’d also developed a rather cynical side and appeared to have no regard for anyone’s feelings, not even Mum’s or mine. It was definitely an unattractive facet of her personality. I must admit that by now I felt a little threatened by her beauty and her popularity. I had blossomed a little myself since I left school and dropped the tomboy façade. I, too, had become interested in the opposite sex and while nowhere near as successful as Helen I’d had my share of boyfriends. Fortunately Helen’s taste in men and mine seemed poles apart and neither of us ever seemed to find the other’s latest beau attractive.

Until Sean.

I was eighteen when I met Sean. At twenty-five, he was a bit older than me but the age difference didn’t bother either of us. I met him at the local pub on a Karaoke night – he was belting out a passable version of that old favourite, ‘Unchained Melody’. We got chatting at the bar and hit it off instantly. He was everything I like in a man – good-looking, attentive, generous – all the things at the top of most girls’ lists. We started seeing each other more and more frequently, during which time I was becoming more and more besotted.

Mum and Helen had, of course, noticed the difference in me and correctly ascribed it to my being in ‘luurve’, as we used to call it. For some reason I’d been reluctant to take Sean home; even though Helen had kept her hands off my previous boyfriends her recently developed personality trait worried me a bit and I didn’t want to take any chances. After all she was still a lot more physically alluring than I. I guess it’s not very flattering to Sean to imply that he would be swayed simply by physical beauty but that was how I felt.

Eventually, of course, I had to take him home. I did so with no little trepidation. I didn’t inform Mum or Helen that I was going to bring him to meet them; I didn’t want to give Helen the chance of dolling herself up to impress him. I just turned up with him one evening after work, taking the chance that the house would be reasonably tidy.


I needn’t have worried. Sean was charm personified and Mum and Helen were on their best behaviour. I’d expected that Sean and I would spend an hour or so at home with them and then go out for a drink but as it turned out, instead of he and I going out, the four of us spent the whole evening together. To be honest I was surprised that Mum stuck it out; whenever Helen or I had brought boyfriends home in the past she’d made herself scarce after a polite amount of time.

Helen was another matter. I didn’t know if I was being paranoid but it seemed to me that she couldn’t keep her eyes off Sean and was usurping my role as the attentive host; it was Helen who kept asking Sean if he wanted another drink, Helen who was pouting prettily and asking Sean all about his day at work. It became obvious that if Sean and I went out, Helen would want to come along too and I preferred not to give her the opportunity of maybe getting up close and personal in the pub. I didn’t like this feeling of insecurity and jealousy that had sprouted in me; I’d never experienced it before. But then I’d never before feared losing anyone like I feared losing Sean.

Over the next few weeks I brought Sean home several times and although I didn’t quite overcome the uncomfortable feelings I did at least manage to hide them. Quite often it was only Sean and I in the house anyway. Helen would be out with her friends and Mum seemed to have regained something approaching a decent social life. She’d just turned forty-nine and was still an attractive woman; Helen and I had been nagging her for months to start getting out a bit and it seemed as if she’d taken our advice. She’d occasionally be leaving the house as Sean arrived and he never failed to compliment her on her appearance. I could swear that Mum almost blushed!

I can’t remember exactly when it was that I had a feeling that something had changed. Helen’s reaction to Sean had stayed pretty much the same since that first meeting; it was obvious that she was attracted to him but he’d never shown any reciprocal attraction. In fact I’d even become comfortable about leaving them alone together; I was beginning to wonder if that had actually been wise.

Sean’s behaviour towards me seem unchanged except that we were possibly seeing very slightly less of each other. There was just the odd occasion when he’d suddenly announce that he was going out with his mates. I didn’t have a problem with that; I’ve never been one for thinking that you should drop your mates just because you’ve got yourself a love life. Having said that, I’m ashamed to admit that the first time it happened I was suspicious of my own sister and felt a huge relief when she was at home with me all night.

Of course, Helen wasn’t always at home on Sean’s ‘boys’ nights out, but as my relationship with him still seemed to be going well I eventually overcame my suspicions.

Nevertheless, something was bothering Helen. I’d asked her two or three times what the problem was but she refused to tell me. Of course this brought back all of my concerns and I feared the worst.

And then it happened. Helen destroyed my life.

“I’ve got something to tell you,” she blurted, completely out of the blue.

I felt my stomach clench. Surely not. Please God not. “It’s about Sean, isn’t it?” I asked.

She couldn’t even look me in the eye. She simply nodded.

“You bitch,” I said, “how could you?”

“What?” Her head shot up. “You think Sean and I…”

“That’s what you’re going to tell me, isn’t it?”

“God, no,” she said. “How could you even think I’d do that to you?”

I was relieved yet puzzled. “Then what?” I asked. “What about Sean?”

“He’s been having an affair with Mum.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Please critique!

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  #2  
Old 04-13-2007, 02:48 PM
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all and all, this is pretty good. it's a good flow, a promising topic (jealousy is one of the great eternal pillars after all!), and a question needing answers.

it's funny....i sometimes joke that i ruined my brother's life so i can kinda relate the subject matter....

a couple ideas?

i'm kinda thinking that the old expression of 'don't shoot the messenger' - or however its said in england might apply. given that helen didn't actually do anything wrong, i'm sort of wondering why the narrator hates her. don't most people scruple against that kinda thing? i could see narrator hating her mother or doing an enormous guilt trip for suspecting her sister...but hating her sister....? not quite sure if it works for me.

here and there your language is just a little bit stilted. i would suggest someone else read aloud to you if possible- in a monotone (or an electronic reader).

ex>Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. My whole world has turned upside down and I can’t even think straight. I simply can’t come to terms with what she told me.

Alt: Sorry, I'm just so frazzled- I can't think straight. Everything has turned upside and there is no way, just no way, that I can accept what she told me.

i hope mine shows a little more informal-ness....i get the idea that this is a confessional kinda piece but there's this unfortunate hint of report in the wording.

you do realize you're setting yourself up novella at least <evil grin>? nothing's really been resolved for keepers.



ennubi

ps: my current story is style in super secret (WC: 500).
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Old 04-13-2007, 03:06 PM
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Hi ennubi

Thanks for that. I see what you mean about the 'stiltedness'.

The bit about hating Helen, right at the start of the story, was meant to draw the reader into thinking the obvious i.e. that Helen had been having the affair with Sean.

But I'm afraid I didn't understand this paragraph of yours at all:

you do realize you're setting yourself up novella at least <evil grin>? nothing's really been resolved for keepers.

Regards

wannawrite
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Old 04-13-2007, 06:17 PM
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sorry . i'm partial to evil grins.

anyway, what i'm trying to say is that this really, really begs for expansion. in a lot of ways, you are covering 18 years or so in a very short space and resolving a problem with an even bigger problem that leaves readers going "so now what is she gonna do?"

that's a formula that begs for expansion into at least novella status .

two important points, if it's any consolation:
1. i really don't know jack or beep about short stories . i write long.
2. i do the same exact thing. given how much better the short story market is, it drives me nuts.

<evil grin>
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Old 04-18-2007, 08:30 AM
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I cut the paragraphs that I had nothing to say about...

Helen is my sister. And I hate her. I hate her for destroying my life last night when she told me that…

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. My whole world has turned upside down and I can’t even think straight. I simply can’t come to terms with what she told me. (This last sentence isn't really necessary. We already assume that what she told you was incredible when you say "My whole world has been turned upside down...)

Let me tell you a little about Helen and me. (Consider introducing the relationship before everything else. Age and other details can come later: For example, where you say "Dad died suddenly when I was fifteen and Helen fourteen." If you introduce their close relationship first, it will seem much stronger because it will have been the first thing the reader will read and it will carry through the piece.)

Helen was born fourteen months after me and we were very close. I think mum would have liked a son to make her family complete but it wasn’t to be. Anyway (is 'anyway' necessary?) we were a happy family as I recall. Dad didn’t have a particularly well-paid (well-paying?) job – he was the manager of a small furniture store – but he looked after us well enough and we always had nice furniture! We didn’t have that ('that' is unnecessary) many luxuries but there was always food on the table and the holidays in Bournemouth each year.

I think that (unnecessary) even back then I knew that (unnecessary) I was always going to come a poor second to Helen. She was one of those sickeningly cute kids that, back in those days anyway, people would stop in the street and comment on. I might just as well have been invisible as far as they were concerned. I won’t go so far as to say that I was ugly – no child is truly ugly – but I was completely unremarkable in every way. Helen had this gorgeous blonde hair – about five shades lighter than mine and thick and shiny. Her eyes were a quite unusual shade of blue, surrounded by eyelashes that have never needed a stroke of mascara to this day. She even had – still has – that (maybe change this "that" to "the") quintessential mark of cuteness – dimples. I really was drab by comparison – lank, dirty blonde hair, no dimples, and although my eyes were blue they were quite ordinary compared with Helen’s and over the years I’ve done my bit towards keeping up the cosmetics industry’s profits in my quest to find a mascara that would make my eyelashes look like hers, but to no avail.

On top of all that, Helen was cleverer (I think in this case it would be "more clever." I didn't think "cleverer" was a word. Then again, these things are rather tricky.) than I was. She didn’t even have to work particularly hard to get good grades whereas I struggled to end up somewhere in the middle of the class. Yet for some reason she always seemed to look up to me. I was always there to look after her when she hurt herself on the hockey pitch or in the gym. I must admit that it gave me a small amount of comfort that she was absolutely useless at any kind of sport whereas I made the school hockey and tennis teams without even trying. I suppose I was always a bit of a tomboy, perhaps realizing even then that I was always going to be better off as one of the boys.

-cut-

Dad died suddenly when I was fifteen and Helen fourteen. It was a tough time for us all but, as deaths often do, it seemed to bring us all closer together and although mum had a particularly bad time of it she eventually came to terms with the loss of her soul mate. Although Dad had had (The second "had" is unnecessary.) the foresight to invest in an insurance policy he hadn’t envisioned dying at the age of fifty-one so the payout we received was hardly a lottery win. Nevertheless, by tightening our belts we were just about able to manage, especially with the small amount that Mum was making as a Home Help.

Soon after we lost Dad I came of age to leave school. No-one had ever had expectations that I would pass my exams with flying colours and go off to university so my announcement that I intended to leave the comprehensive at the end of the term and look for a job was met with equanimity. After a couple of unsuccessful interviews I managed to get a clerical job at the local Town Hall. It didn’t pay a great deal but at least I felt that at long last ("at long last" is an awkward phrase. Consider changing it to something less wordy like "finally") I could contribute towards the household expenses.

-cut-

By now Helen had become very aware of her attractiveness to the opposite sex and brazenly used that fact to her advantage. She could twist the boys, or rather the young men, round her little finger and no-one (Doesn't need a hyphen. It's 2 words.) seemed immune to her charms. She’d also developed a rather cynical side and appeared to have no regard for anyone’s feelings, not even Mum’s or mine. It was definitely an unattractive facet of her personality. I must admit that by now I felt a little threatened by her beauty and her popularity. I had blossomed a little myself since I left school and dropped the tomboy façade. I, too, had become interested in the opposite sex and while nowhere near as successful as Helen I’d had my share of boyfriends. Fortunately Helen’s taste in men and mine seemed poles apart and neither of us ever seemed to find the other’s latest beau attractive.

Until Sean.

I was eighteen when I met Sean. At twenty-five, he was a bit older than me but the age difference didn’t bother either of us. I met him at the local pub on a Karaoke night – he was belting out a passable version of that old favourite, ‘Unchained Melody’. We got chatting at the bar and hit it off instantly. He was everything I like ("Liked." Stick with your tense.) in a man – good-looking, attentive, generous – all the things at the top of most girls’ lists. We started seeing each other more and more frequently, during which time I was becoming more and more besotted.

-cut-

Eventually, of course, I had to take him home. I did so with no little (This is awkward too. Maybe just use "great".) trepidation. I didn’t inform Mum or Helen that I was going to bring him to meet them; I didn’t want to give Helen the chance of dolling herself up to impress him. I just turned up with him one evening after work, taking the chance that the house would be reasonably tidy.


I needn’t have worried. Sean was charm personified (Maybe change to "the personification of charm" I had to read that a few times to understand what you were trying to say.) and Mum and Helen were on their best behaviour. I’d expected that Sean and I would spend an hour or so at home with them and then go out for a drink but as it turned out, instead of he and I going out, the four of us spent the whole evening together. To be honest I was surprised that Mum stuck it out; whenever Helen or I had brought boyfriends home in the past she’d made herself scarce after a polite amount of time.

-cut-

Over the next few weeks I brought Sean home several times and although I didn’t quite overcome the uncomfortable feelings I did at least manage to hide them. Quite often it was only Sean and I in the house anyway. Helen would be out with her friends and Mum seemed to have regained something approaching a decent social life. She’d just turned forty-nine and was still an attractive woman; Helen and I had been nagging her for months to start getting out a bit and it seemed as if she’d taken our advice. She’d occasionally be leaving the house as Sean arrived and he never failed to compliment her on her appearance. I could swear that Mum almost (Consider taking out the "almost". It seems unnecessary.) blushed!

I can’t remember exactly when it was that I had a feeling that something had changed. Helen’s reaction to Sean had stayed pretty much the same since that first meeting; it was obvious that she was attracted to him but he’d never shown any reciprocal (This doesn't seem like the right phrase for this situation. "he'd never returned the intrest"?) attraction. In fact I’d even become comfortable about leaving them alone together; I was beginning to wonder if that had actually been wise.

-cut-

Of course, Helen wasn’t always at home on Sean’s ‘boys’ (Try to lose the quotes. Use a phrase that doesn't need quotes instead.) nights out, but as my relationship with him still seemed to be going well I eventually overcame my suspicions.

Nevertheless, something was bothering Helen. I’d asked her two or three times what the problem was but she refused to tell me. Of course this brought back all of my concerns and I feared the worst.

And ("And" is unnecessary. I also think conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence are improper, I'm not sure if that's still a technical rule though.) then it happened. Helen destroyed my life.

“I’ve got something to tell you,” she blurted, completely out of the blue.

I felt my stomach clench. Surely not. Please God not. “It’s about Sean, isn’t it?” I asked.

She couldn’t even look me in the eye. She simply nodded.

“You bitch,” I said, “how (capitalize) could you?”

“What?” Her head shot up. “You think Sean and I…”

“That’s what you’re going to tell me, isn’t it?”

“God, no,” she said. “How could you even think I’d do that to you?”

I was relieved yet puzzled. “Then what?” I asked. “What about Sean?”

“He’s been having an affair with Mum.”
Try to search out all of your unnecessary "that"s. I found the first few. You know they're not needed when the sentence makes sense without them (for example, the above sentence could have been "You know that they're not needed when...").

I also think that you can draw out the last scene. It should be more suspensful, I think. Add more detail, emotion, etc., something to draw out the beginning and build tension.

I also agree with ennubi about the "Don't shoot the messenger" idea. Although it does set the story up to make the reader believe that the narrator's boyfriend was cheating on her with her sister, after the story is all said and done they will return to the beginning and think, "Now why does she hate Helen? It isn't her fault..." Thus creating more sympathy for Helen. It kind of seems like Helen gets a lot of sympathy. I think that the narator deserves more. (I, too, have a younger sister. We seem very much like your narator and Helen.)

Great story and best of luck.
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Last edited by Miette DuPain; 04-18-2007 at 08:39 AM..
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Old 04-18-2007, 11:02 AM
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Thanks Miette

You've obviously taken a lot of time and trouble over your comments, which are greatly appreciated.

I have a bit of a thing about the word 'that'. I find (that!!) I often have to make a quick mental adjustment when reading a sentence because the word has been omitted, when including it would have been more appropriate e.g. "I find dogs make better pets than cats." At first glance, 'dogs' seem to be the object of what 'I find', but they're actually the subject of the second clause. I don't know if that's the correct grammatical terminology, but you know what I mean.

Nevertheless I agree that I do tend to overuse the word in compensation so I'll look out for that!
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Old 04-24-2007, 10:23 PM
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I really liked it alot. I was shocked at the end. I hadn't eexpected that at all! lol. Everything flowed together beautifully. Wounderful work.
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Old 04-24-2007, 11:25 PM
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...Wow. Good opening, good flow, generally good description of the not-quite-rivalry between the sisters. I feel like I know them well by the end.
Unfortunately, the careful development of the sisters' stories is what makes the revelation in the final line crash and burn for me. The description of the mother is pretty limited, and I didn't catch any foreshadowing that she was fooling around with Sean. How, IYO, did you foreshadow that?

It would also be interesting to know why the protagonist hates Helen for spilling the beans. Why isn't she mad at her mom or Sean at this point?

Bottom line: I love the story, but I think it could use more foreshadowing and character development for the mother (and possibly Sean). Hope this helps. Good work!
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Old 04-25-2007, 02:34 AM
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It is well narrated and the characters are well developed. Style and grammar are good too. Suspense is nicely built up and one likes to continue reading.
The twist in the end is where it did not work for me. I got the feeling of “heard that already”. I expected something else, maybe more extraordinary.
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Old 04-25-2007, 02:41 AM
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Thanks Silverrain, Kaylaface and Arayat.

Silverrain, I deliberately kept the mother in the background to try to conceal how the story was going to end. It worked for Kaylaface but not for Arayat. Interesting. Thank you all for the positive comments.
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Old 04-25-2007, 11:04 PM
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Your welcome.
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Old 04-26-2007, 10:57 AM
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There's little I can add to the above technical comments. Some readers outside of the UK may not entirely understand some of the terminology for levels of schooling, but it's not enough to detract from the story.

So I'll speak to the effect. The title made me grin, and really grabbed my attention. The opening effectively held my attention and ensured that I would read the entire story. I didn't see the twist coming, and enjoyed it. I have to agree with the others with regard to the "don't shoot the messenger" aspect though, even though I didn't think of it until it was pointed out to me.

All in all, I very much enjoyed it. I hope that you will make some adjustments and let us read it again.
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