Copyright 1997 to <mijita@thetreehouse.net>. Please respect this copyright. Don't distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it's not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.

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[Image of Little Miss Naughty] The Reprieve
by Mija

As I sat in my room, waiting, as always I knew I was in trouble. That much was very clear. In trying to get out of it, I had made it worse - much, much worse. In my entire twelve-year-old life, I had never regretted quite as much as I had my actions over the previous twenty-four hours. It was 3:30PM. My mistake had begun almost exactly one day before.

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Yesterday I hadn't wanted to do my math homework. It was logarithms; they were long and tedious and I hated them. The day was warm and sunny and I wanted to play outside. So I did all my other homework and then put my books away and changed out of my uniform into my play clothes. I was headed outside when my mother asked:

"Mija, are you done with your homework?"

"Yes."

"All of your homework?"

Despite (or perhaps because of) my close to seven years of Catholic schooling, I replied without even a blink of the eye:

"Yes, I'm all finished."

So, without a care, I was released to roam the neighborhood, free from the dreaded grip of pre-Algebra. Time passed and I heard my mother call me in for dinner. My sister and I were bathed, put on night clothes, were fed and in bed by 7:30 (I know - I didn't like going to bed that early either!!).

It was only then, as I lay in bed, that I considered the consequences of my as yet unfinished homework. What would I turn in tomorrow? My father came in and kissed me good night. I nearly admitted my lie then. He would have helped me, would have let me stay up an extra hour to do my work. But I knew my mother would tell him I had lied to her. At best I would have to stay in the rest of the week. At worst I would have to stay in the rest of the week and I'd be spanked. I kept silent, planning to do my work the next day before school.

The next morning, I was so nervous I couldn't eat my breakfast. I started my homework on the way to school in my carpool. By the time we got to school, a fifteen minute drive, I was finished with one of the twenty problems. This was not good. I'd underestimated how long these damn logs took. I worked frantically out on the play yard for another half hour until the final bell. By then I had finished seven problems and had three pages of calculations. Maybe, maybe, if math were not until after lunch, I might finish. During the twenty minute break at 10:00AM I finished three more. After recess, when we were to turn in our homework, I had ten out of twenty. Maybe she wouldn't notice, and I could do them tonight and say I forgot to turn them in.

Sister Mary Francis began to assign students to the board. I should have put my hand up for the first problems, the ones I had some sort of answer for, but I was hoping since there were thirty students in the class that I could beat the odds. Silly me!! I was never lucky.

"Mija, eighteen."

My heart dropped, but I hoped I could fake it. I copied the problem out of my book and started to solve it.

Of course I made a mistake.

Sister flipped to my homework to help me to do the check. Of course it wasn't there.

"Mija, you didn't turn in problem eighteen."

"No, Sister."

"Is it still in your folder?"

I walked over to my desk and looked in my folder. Maybe Saint Teresa had performed a miracle and it would be there. I looked. The folder was empty.

"No, Sister."

"Did you complete your homework last night?"

My eyes began to prick with tears shame of crying before my peers forced me to hold in.

"No, Sister."

"Why not?"

"I ran out of time, Sister."

"Please take your seat."

I did. Ashamed, I put my head down onto my desk. An enemy snickered,

"Look, she's crying."

My best friend sent a note with a smiley face. I tried to smile at her, but my eyes started to water again and I looked down quickly.

After lunch I found a dreaded reprimand slip on my desk. It read:

"To the Parents of _Mija_:

The above student did not complete the assigned homework in _Mathematics_ last night. Incomplete homework makes it impossible for effective class work to occur. This has happened _1_ other time.

Please sign below to indicate your receipt of this notice.

Sincerely, etc."

My heart dropped. My mom and dad would have to know about my lie yesterday. The rest of the afternoon went by too fast. It was soon 3:00 and I slowly went out to the parking lot to await my mother's car. She was already there.

I sat in the back and let my sister chatter away while the other children were dropped off at their respective homes. After the last one slammed the door, the inevitable question came.

"And how was your day, Mija?"

I took a deep breath and said:

"I got in trouble and got a note sent home."

"What for?"

"I didn't have all my math done."

There was a pause as my mom pulled into the driveway. My sister got out and opened the garage, usually my job. Then my mom said:

"Didn't you say you'd finished?"

I nodded slowly, tears finally welling over.

"I'm sorry, Mami. I just wanted to go outside and play."

"You lied to me, Mija, and you didn't do what you were supposed to. Go to your room. Your father will talk to you about this when he gets home. And you'd better have all your homework done by then."

Crying, I ran from the car to the (un)safety of my room. Careful not to slam the door, I threw myself on to my bed. Why do I keep getting in such trouble?

Out of tears for the moment, I sat down and began my homework. Perhaps because of the excess adrenaline of anticipation, my mind worked quite quickly and my homework seemed to take no time at all. Then I had the two hours to wait until my father came home at 6:30. At 6:00 my sister came up with a tray of food.

"Mom says to eat this, take your bath and get into bed."

"Thanks," I replied, not looking up. She put her hand on my shoulder and squeezed.

I started to cry again as she walked out of the room.

I tried to eat the tomato soup, took a bite of the grilled cheese toast, drank a little juice, but my stomach was churning. I couldn't eat. I picked up my night clothes and went in to take my bath. As I washed, I heard my father come home, heard my mom show him the note, tell him I had told her I had finished my work, remind him this was the second note this term. Heard her say,

"Nothing else gets through to her you know. She has no respect for me at all!"

My father spoke too low to be heard. But I knew what he said. Five minutes later my father knocked on the bathroom door.

"Mija, when you're done with your bath come into my room. I need to discuss this note. . . . Did you hear me?"

"Yes, Papi."

"Answer when you're spoken to!"

"Yes, Papi."

When I had finished and put on my nightgown and robe, I walked slowly down the hall to my parents' room. As obvious as the situation was, I tried frantically to think of just the right thing to say to prevent the spanking I knew I was about to receive.

Their bedroom door was open. My father was standing next to my mother's dressing table. I sat down on the bed facing him and waited.

"Well?" he said.

"I'm sorry, Daddy. . . . I didn't mean for this to happen."

"What do you mean you 'didn't mean this to happen'? Did you tell your mother your homework was finished when it wasn't?"

I nodded.

"What didn't you mean then?"

"I don't know," I choked out.

"You meant you didn't mean to get caught. Right?"

I shook my head no. But I had no other answer.

"I promise. I won't do it again."

He sighed and looked at me hard.

"This isn't the first time, Mija. You had another note not two months ago and I punished you then. Obviously you forgot what happened."

I frantically shook my head no. I remembered now.

"I want you to remember this next time you think about not doing your school work or lying to your mother or myself. Nothing is more important than your family and your school work. Now take off your robe."

I stood up and slowly removed my terry cloth robe, folded it and placed it on the bed. My father turned the dressing table chair around and sat down on it. He picked up the Ping-Pong paddle from the table behind him (this was the first I'd seen it this night, it must have been behind him). Leading me by my waist, he placed me over his lap, his left hand securing me. He flipped my nightgown up. As I felt him tug down my panties, I began to cry with embarrassment.

"Please, Daddy, I promise I'll be good."

"I hope you will."

A split second before it made contact, I felt the air move and tensed. The paddle swatted hard. I don't think he swung very hard, but each time it landed it stung. As the spanking progressed, my cries changed from being for each individual spank to a steady wail. I felt his arm tighten as I started to kick harder. Two swats to my upper legs convinced me without words to move about less. Finally we reached the magic number twenty-five and he stopped, I hoped for good.

I felt him lift me on to my feet and turn my shoulder so I faced him. I continued to cry, my hands holding my bottom through my nightgown. I bent down to pull up my panties.

"No, Mija. You're not finished."

My surprise at his words almost stopped my crying.

"W-w-w-what?" I choked out.

"I want you to be very clear on how unhappy your mother and I are about getting letters from your teacher and your lying." He stood up and picked up a long (3 foot) thin switch that had been leaning against the dresser. I'd never seen one before, but I knew this would hurt.

I started crying again.

"P-p-please, Daddy, I'm sorry. I won't get in trouble again."

He didn't reply. Instead he directed me to lean over the bed and pull my nightgown up to my back.

"I don't -"

swish

Ooow! Aaaiii!

"- want to have to sign -"

swish

Aaaannhnn!

"- another note -"

swish

Aaaaiiinnnooo!!

"- from -"

swish

Oooowwwwww!!!

"- your teacher!"

swish

Aaaiiaannnnoooooo. . . .

"Is this clear, Mija? Because you'll get ten if this happens again, understand?"

I didn't answer right away. It was a second or two before I was sure the switching was over. I could feel every sting, like a burn. Gently I reached back and pulled down my nightgown, turned around and replaced my panties. I was still crying very hard. Finally I gulped out,

"Yes, Daddy. I'm so -s -s-or-ry."

He sat down on the bed and picked me up onto his lap.

"I know you are, sweetheart."

At that, all the tension of the day seemed to break all at once and I began to sob. I wanted to tell him how bad I had felt, that I had nearly been ill, that I wanted to be good more than anything. But all I could do was cry into his chest as he stroked my hair and said,

"Shhshhshh, mi'jita."

Finally, when I had quieted, he got up and walked me to my room and put me in bed. As I slid under the covers, I could feel the sting of my punishment and started to cry again. He turned off the overhead light, then turned on my desk lamp and sat down next to the bed.

My father wiped my tears with his handkerchief and asked me if I had one under my pillow. I said no and he gave me his. As I sat there and watched him he read over my homework.

I drifted off to sleep as he checked the math, his pencil making corrections.

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Now you would have thought with that punishment fresh on my mind (and my bottom) I could have stayed out of trouble for weeks and weeks. It did motivate me to study more and with greater diligence. My homework was neatly done and checked every night. I did extra credit problems, practiced my handwriting, had my mom quiz me on spelling words. As has been the case in my recent past [see Pablo's story], spelling was my downfall.

Monday of every week my class got twenty-five words to learn the spelling and definition of by Friday. Defining the words was never a problem; I was always a very well-read child and usually I already knew the words and what they meant. But I rarely, if ever, knew their correct spelling. And of course, as with all things I'm not good at, I didn't like to even try. Most weeks I barely passed the tests with a 'C'.

This was not 'most weeks', however. My motivation was boundless and I had my mom quizzing me daily. As is the case with all things, if you work at it hard enough, long enough and shed enough tears over it, eventually you'll succeed. So, by Friday I had the words memorized letter perfect (my mother knew them still better, of course). Instead of dreading the weekly test, I was looking forward to it, knowing that exhilarating feeling of being completely prepared. We had to get all our tests signed, so I was looking forward to bringing home an 'A', thinking of how proud everyone would be of me.

As I sat counting my chickens, the test was passed out. My teacher, still Sister Mary Francis, read aloud the words and we wrote them and their definitions down. Then came the task of writing sentences. I was zooming along when I felt a pinch at my left elbow. It was the new girl LaTisha, who had become my tablemate the previous week.

When I say LaTisha was new, I don't mean that she was new to the school. She was two years older than us (actually closer to three years older than me) and had been removed from the seventh grade for a poor midterm report, placed in with thirteen-year-olds. Of course, this had been quite embarrassing, and she was very angry. This would make the second time she had been held back. She was more mature physically than any of us, and at twelve I was much smaller and slighter. I had lost in a confrontation with her (she had been mad that I was 'staring' at her) earlier in the week. She hadn't hurt me, but had knocked me to the ground with a hard push. Wisely I had stayed there and she had walked away. We hadn't talked at all since then and I had learned not to make eye contact.

I'd forgot she was even next to me.

"Psst. . . . Let me see your test."

Without thinking I dropped my left arm to my lap and turned the exam toward her. How ironic! Most of the students in my class had been with me since I was four. None of them would have even thought that I might have the right answers to a spelling test. Most weeks I wouldn't have. But I did, and LaTisha craned to look and I shrank myself so as not to block her gaze.

From behind and overhead an arm came down and snatched both our tests away.

"LaTisha, Mija," the voice of Sister came from behind, my spine suddenly chilled, the golden day broken. "Go wait outside. Class, pencils down." There was no argument to be made, we were already dismissed. Yet LaTisha was brave enough to say:

"Why pick on me? I didn't do nothing."

She was ignored. Sister didn't even look at us, but raised her arm and pointed toward the door.

I shuddered. I had never done anything that warranted being sent from the room. With all eyes upon me (or so I felt) I cleared the books from my desk and closed the lid. I tried to move out silently. LaTisha, by contrast, slammed her books into her desk, slammed the top down. She bumped other students' chairs on the way to the door, muttering about being picked on the whole way.

The door opened and closed. We were outside. I wanted to go to the bathroom.

LaTisha pushed me against the outside wall, holding one hand against my chest, the other raised as if to slap my face. "You don't say we did anything. I wasn't cheating, neither was you."

I nodded and she released me, sat down on the floor and took a small ball out of her pocket and began rolling it around on her hands, humming. I was terrified. I had to go to the bathroom but I was afraid to leave the door without permission.

Soon the class filed past us, released for recess. We were called back into the classroom. Sister sat at her desk, we stood before it.

"Cheating is illegal at this, and every other, school. It is immoral, lying. LaTisha, I watched you copy from Mija, and I watched you, Mija, allow her to do so. Being the means of sin is as wrong as committing the sin, as you know."

She looked at us expectantly. I couldn't meet her stare and looked at the ground. My heart felt like Poe's tell-tale one. I couldn't tell the truth, yet I felt too guilty to lie. I wondered if LaTisha might tell Sister that she had cheated, but without my knowledge, yeah . . . right.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Sister. I was just trying to take my test. I don't even know this girl."

LaTisha seemed to have her story down pat. How could I tell the truth without holding her up as a liar?

"Mija?"

"I wasn't cheating, Sister." With a bit of a stretch I could say that was true. I didn't think that I had cheated.

"Did you let LaTisha copy your answers?"

"No." So now I was lying. But what else could I say? I couldn't admit what I'd done without calling LaTisha a liar.

"Mija, LaTisha, I know what you both did. You both cheated. This is against school rules and you both know it. In addition you both have lied to me. Come with me."

We followed her. I felt my feet dragging. We were heading to the principal's office. What was going to happen? I'd never been sent to the principal - had barely spoken to her except to say "Yes, Sister" or "No, Sister" when she asked me a question.

LaTisha and I were directed to sit down in the chairs in the lobby, where the school secretary did not even look at us, let alone offer a smile or reassuring look. Students came in with notes. I remember one first grader coming in looking at me with frightened awe. I was a 'bad girl' waiting to talk to the principal. Overlaying all this was my desire to go to the restroom, which was becoming overwhelming. I found that I was choking back tears.

A voice from behind the door called LaTisha in. I tried to hear what was said, but all I could hear was a low murmuring. Finally, LaTisha came back out. I could feel her stare, but looked only at the floor.

"They want to talk to you."

I couldn't look, didn't want to see the threat. I felt friendless and alone. The thought of what my friends where saying about me on the playground passed through my brain and I felt a hot flush.

"Mija!"

The faceless voice of authority was calling out to me. I stood and walked into the office.

When I walked in, the principal was seated behind her desk, my teacher in a chair by her right side.

"Mija, you've been a student here since you were four years old. This is the first time I've seen you in my office. Is this the first time you've cheated, or simply the first time you've been caught? Cheating is a form of lying, lying is a sin against your teacher and God. Are you going to lie again?"

I shook my head no. Stared down at the floor.

"Did you cheat on the test?"

"Yes, Sister. But it's the only time, truly."

"Then you should be glad you were caught. You most likely will never want to be in this position again."

"Thank you for telling us the truth, Mija."

She reached for the telephone and dialed a number. I saw her pause while it rang, was answered.

"Good morning, Mrs. de Perez. This is Sister St. Paul. I'm afraid we have a bit of difficulty here. . . . Mija has admitted to providing answers for another student on her exam today. I would appreciate it if you could come over as soon as possible so we could discuss this. . . . Yes, that will be fine. I'll be expecting you in the next hour. "

I was in shock. A telephone call. No note, but a telephone call! I was dead dead dead dead.

"Your mother will be here in forty-five minutes. Sister Francis, will you call LaTisha in?"

While LaTisha and I stood there, I heard the phone call to LaTisha's mother. I knew just from this call that this was not the first time LaTisha's mother had been called in. Her mother arrived five minutes before mine. With her mother's support, LaTisha began protesting her innocence. I was called upon to accuse her and I asked to go to the restroom.

In there I found I couldn't go, but I was sick. I stood over the sink and cried, remembering what my father had said about the 'next time'. Yet, for the life of me, I could hardly say where I had gone so wrong. Washing my face in the cool water, I realized I couldn't delay much longer.

I dried my hands and headed back to the main office.

When I got there, I could hear Sister St. Paul talking to my mother. The conversation stopped as I walked in.

"Sit down next to your mother, please. I was just explaining the consequences of LaTisha and your actions to your parents." She turned her face toward my mother as I slid into the empty chair. I did not meet my mother's eyes.

"Both girls will be suspended five days, not counting today. They may return to school a week from Monday, having completed all assigned work and having written the assigned lines. Neither Mija nor LaTisha may return without these assignments fully completed."

LaTisha's mother interrupted, "But I have to work. She can't be home alone all week. I pay tuition so that she has a place to go during the day, not so that I can stay home and baby-sit on school days."

Sister St. Paul picked up her pen and wrote on a sheet of paper for about thirty seconds. Then she said, "You pay tuition for the education of your daughter as a student and a Catholic. In both cases, cheating is opposed to the school's mission. LaTisha and Mija will absent themselves for a week for their own good and the good of their classmates. If you disagree, you are naturally free to enroll your daughter at another school with policies more to your liking. If you give this to the secretary, she will assist you in forwarding records and transcripts."

LaTisha's mom snatched the paper away, grabbed her daughter's arm and dragged her from the classroom. Sister watched them leave then looked at my mother and me.

"So, Mrs de Perez, will Mija be returning to Nazareth School?"

"Yes, Sister. Her father and I are glad she wasn't expelled."

"Mija has been close to a model student behavior-wise as far as Sister Francis and I are aware. I think she simply showed poor judgment in her friendship with LaTisha."

I began to cry. I wasn't friends with LaTisha. I wasn't. They would, could never understand.

I couldn't hear what they were saying. The dread had begun. What would my father say, do? This just wasn't possible to explain. How could things have gone so wrong? I knew they could never be set right, that I'd never be the good girl I'd been before I'd been sent from the classroom, made to sit in the front office. I remembered how that first grader had looked at me and felt so low, so guilty. The three adults had stopped speaking and were staring at me. I wiped my face.

"I believe this is all that needs to be said on this for now. Sister Francis will give you your assignments and books."

The principal wrote on a sheet of lined paper, "I am judged by the company I keep. I will keep on the side of the angels." She told me I had to write it one thousand times in pen in good penmanship by next week. My hands shook as I took the paper. I had never been assigned more than fifty lines. One thousand seemed impossibly large. But my hands were shaking with dread of what my father would do when he heard. Had I anything left in my stomach I would have lost it.

My mother prompted me. "Don't you have something to say, Mija?"

"I'm so sorry, Sister Mary Francis. I'm sorry Sister St. Paul. I-I-I want to come back please." My voice broke and I hung my head in humiliation.

Sister St. Paul nodded. "I look forward to seeing you when this is over with."

We were ushered out. My mother didn't speak to me on the way out to the car. Once inside she said, "I don't know what to say to you, Mija. I'm so disappointed in you. I never thought of you as the sort of girl who would cheat on an exam."

I burst out crying again and we drove home in silence.

When we got home I went to my room without being told. My mother made calls to arrange another mother to pick up the carpool and take care of my sister for the afternoon. I lay down on my bed, took my grandmother's throw from the end of the bed and cried.

I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up there was a golden dusk outside my window. My father would be home soon. I hadn't taken off my shoes, let alone my uniform. No one had come up with dinner, to tell me to bathe. I felt untouchable.

My father got home barely an hour later. I pretended to still be asleep, wishing that I could vanish or become deathly ill (then they'd be sorry). I could hear their voices, but not their words. The phone rang and I realized it had rung several times while I slept. I heard my father on the phone. Then I heard him come upstairs. I was turned toward the wall and had my eyes closed when he walked in.

"Mija? Wake-up, Mija. . . . Mija, I need to speak with you."

I sat up and turned over on the bed, facing him, my feet dangling off the side. I'm sure my face and eyes were swollen from crying.

"I heard you had quite a morning. Tell me about it."

"I got into trouble for letting someone copy my answers. I had to go to the principal. Mom had to come to school. I got s-s-s-sus-ss-pen---d--dd-d---" I started sobbing again and couldn't continue.

"You got suspended from school for a week, you have to write lines and do extra assignments. Is that what you were going to tell me?"

I didn't stop crying, but nodded.

"You also lied to your teacher when she asked you about it."

I nodded some more, trying to breathe in.

"What did I say would happen next time you lied and got into trouble at school?"

"That you'd punish me. That I'd get ten with the stick." I hadn't yet met his eyes. My voice came out a whisper.

"This was very serious, wasn't it?"

I nodded miserably.

"Get it."

After my last punishment, the switch had been put in my closet (mean, mean) to 'remind' me daily of the importance of honesty and hard work. I stumbled through tears (I remember them as blinding, then clear, like looking through a crystal prism) over to the closet, found it, got it out and walked back to where he was standing. He didn't reach out for it.

"Here, Daddy," I whispered.

He took the switch from me and set a pillow on the edge of the bed.

"Lean over the bed."

I did as I'd been asked. And waited, and waited. He didn't pull up my skirt. I didn't hear him talk. There was nothing at all. Finally, as the seconds ticked by I began to sob some more. I heard the cracking sound of the dry switch breaking, the chair was dragged from the desk to the bed and I felt his hands on my shoulders, turning me over so I was again sitting on the bed, facing him. Almost at eye level.

"Look at me."

I struggled and looked up.

"I'm angry with you for something else, Mija. Your mother and I are supposed to take good care of you. We try to, we want to. So why didn't you tell us this girl had knocked you down last week? Why didn't you tell us what was going on?"

Was that only last week?

"I don't know, Daddy."

"Try. I want you to tell me."

"I thought you might get mad. 'Cause I was fighting at school."

"Mija, you're almost thirteen years old. Sometimes you need to be brave and do the right thing even if you get into trouble. Had you told us we would have talked to your teacher then. You probably would have been moved, and this whole unpleasant day would never have happened. Instead, you mother has to hear it from Mrs O'Shell, because Janie tells her mother what happens every day. We ask you the same questions."

I had looked away again.

"I know what happened today. Your friends' parents have called to tell me. But much I should have already known and I didn't. I didn't even know you were seated next to a girl who was much older than you. You need to help me or I can't help you."

I nodded, staring at the floor.

"Come here. "

I stood up and walked the three steps over to where he was sitting. Holding both my hands, he looked up at me and said,

"Promise me you'll tell me when anything goes wrong at school again. If you tell me, I'll never be as angry as I will be when I find out another way."

I nodded. "I promise, Papi, really."

He didn't say anything else, but turned me over his lap and flipped up my skirt.

"You know, children aren't just spanked because it hurts them. They're spanked because it embarrasses them."

I didn't say anything, but squeaked slightly when he pulled down my underwear. I felt his hand come down swat on my bottom once, (ouch), twice (ouch).

This is the only time in my memory he spanked me with his hand.

I had already been crying and this didn't really hurt, but as I realized that this was my punishment I started to sob. He gave me ten spanks which stung (but hardly like a switch) but were not very hard. Still, I cried very hard. When I kept crying and didn't get up after he stopped, he pulled up my panties and turned me over on his lap, held me close as I cried.

Finally, as I quieted, he sent me to the bathroom to clean up and get ready for bed (though it wasn't quite even 7:00). I did. When I came back, the bed had been turned down. I was put into it, the sheets smoothed around me.

Yet when he kissed me good night I burst out sobbing again. I just couldn't stop crying. I don't know if it was the fear, or the humiliation, or the overall horror of the day, but I was in hysterics, breathing in but not out. He went and got a cold, damp washcloth and began wiping my face, hands and neck, telling me that it would all be alright, that I was ok, that my mother and he loved me.

When I lay back finally, exhausted, he pulled the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh off the shelf, and (though he hadn't read aloud to me in five years) began to read the stories of Pooh and Piglet and Owl and Rabbit and Christopher Robin. And I remembered lying in bed when I was four and listening to him read the same stories and falling asleep to the story of Pooh stuck in Rabbit's door.

And I did fall asleep.

And everything was ok. :)

'Course, I still had to write those lines! It took fifty sheets of paper!! (or thereabouts). :(

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