The Untimely Death and Strange Afterlife of Laurel Anne Blaise (Part I)

on August 23, 2011 in Other Tales, TUDaSAoLAB

“So you’re the expert, Lorellon… do you think it was a fire demon, then?”

Lorellon Brand laid down the sheet with the columns of numbers she’d been scrutinizing. She put the magic quill she’d been using to move them around atop it, then very carefully folded her hands and composed her face… and strengthened her mental shields… before looking up at the smirking elf. She knew he’d be smirking before she looked up, because he was always smirking.

“Xylon, what have I said about you sneaking up on my desk?” she asked.

“I don’t know, was I supposed to be writing that down?” Xylon said. “We do have dictation crystals, you know. Anyway, I wasn’t sneaking. In respectful deference to your creepy, paranoid obsession with privacy, I was deliberately foregoing my naturally silent elven tread so as to give you ample warning of my approach, because that’s how much I care about you, Lorellon Brand, as a valued and respected co-worker.”

“You walk like a cat.”

“Exactly. Have you ever heard one of those things stomping around?”

“No, I haven’t,” Lorellon said. She glanced down at Xylon’s feet. “You’re wearing elven boots.”

“So? You have something against my culture now?”

“I mean, elven boots,” she said. “You’re wearing boots designed and enchanted specifically to be silent.”

“Well, my tap shoes are at the cobbler’s,” Xylon said. “Anyway, is that what these are for? I just think they look nice. Who has time to sit around comparing the loudness and softness of different styles of footwear? Honestly, this is just like the time…”

“…you mistook the single occupancy restroom for a cloakroom. Right.”

“And everybody was so suspicious and I had to take that stupid class. But seriously, why else would I be hanging out inside it in my cloak?”

“Why would you be hanging out inside a cloakroom in your cloak?” Lorellon asked.

“I thought that’s what cloakrooms were for,” Xylon said. “Honestly, cloaks have fallen so far out of fashion that nobody ever seems to wear them except for sneaking around, so I think I can be forgiven for a trifling little faux pas like that. Incidentally, in the course of committing that tiny error of judgment, I did find out why Karen from the pocket dimensionality study group always…”

“I really don’t want to know,” Lorellon said. “Now, one of us has a lot of work to do and both of us, for some reason, are employed here.”

“Oh, it’s easy to stay employed here… at least, once you figure out that they can’t afford to waste anyone with usable mind-talents in non-production positions, like personnel resources or administration.”

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”

“If you say things like that, how will I know you’re serious when you say you don’t hear me sneaking up on you?”

“Xylon, why are you in my office?”

“I wondered what you thought of this,” he said, laying a newspaper down on her desk.

“Well, as a concept, I think it has a few years of viability left in it, but they’re going to have a real struggle to keep up with the innovations the world wide weave is bringing,” she said.

“Not the medium, the story,” he said. He tapped the picture over the fold on the front page, a full-color image of a barn on fire. “Do you suppose it was a fire demon?”

“Excuse me?”

“The one who was besieging the town,” Xylon said. “Or did the villagers try to burn it out of the barn? That wasn’t really clear from the news reports. Just that there was a demon and then fire.”

“First of all, while I’m not about to go marching for demon rights, given the villagers had him surrounded and trapped in a barn, I’m not sure you have the subject and object of that first sentence in the right places,” Lorellon said. “Second, all demons are ‘fire demons’. They were all cast through the elemental plane of fire into the infernal realm, or are descended from demons who were.”

“Right, but some are more… fiery… than others,” Xylon said. “Right?”

“In a way, I suppose,” Lorellon said. “I mean, some will have spent a lot of time honing their control over their flame, and some will have spent more time suppressing it… though I have to imagine that some of those with the most control over how they use their flame will also be those who are best at keeping it in check…”

“But aren’t fire demons just naturally better at it?”

“Xylon, I just said there are no ‘fire demons’,” Lorellon said.

“Well, actually you said they’re all…”

“The idea that there are different types or classes of demons is the pet theory of a lot of armchair demonologists,” she said. “But it’s a mistake. It’s based on the fact that this account over here has a demon who’s clever and charming, or who’s concerned with long-term planning, and that one over there has one who seems to only care about destruction, or immediate self-preservation. Add in the fact that some demons use magic or study various mundane skills and some don’t, and you’ve got the makings of an imaginary infernal taxonomy… but the truth is that while demons differ from each other, it’s the same way that humans differ from other humans or elves differ from other elves, not the way that humans differ from elves.”

“Well, obviously saying that two demons were as different from each other as elves are from humans would be going a touch too far,” Xylon said. “But are you so sure that there isn’t something to it?”

“To what? The tendency of people to try to classify everything into neat little boxes?” Lorellon said. “There are other classes of beings in the infernal realm, yes. Imps and hellhounds and things, stuff that was banished at various points or that may be native but no one really knows because it’s hard to conduct a proper survey of a realm that’s actively trying to devour your soul. But demons… demons were a mortal, created race like most of the races that live on this plane.”

“Wow, sorry,” Xylon said. “I feel like I’ve backed my cart over somebody’s beloved pet peeve.”

“I’m sorry,” Lorellon said. “It is a pet peeve, I guess. I’m used to it from humans… we spend so much time… for lack of a better word… demonizing demons that a lot of important information about them is forgotten or obscured. I can see where some of it comes from. I mean, it’s easy enough to understand why people might be more comfortable imagining that monsters who look just like humans might have some hideous and recognizable ‘real form’. Or to understand why someone might want to believe that demons have some kind of magical-seduction-mind-control power… believe me, there have been times I’ve wanted to believe that.”



“That was the cue for you to elaborate on those times,” Xylon said. “How did you get so interested in demons, anyway?”

“I didn’t,” Lorellon said. “Until one got interested in me.”

“You’re just going to keep saying things like that and then act all mad when it piques my interest, aren’t you?”

“Believe it or not, Xy, I don’t frame my statements with any thought as to how they’re going to affect you,” she said. “I just say what I feel comfortable saying. If that’s more or less information than you’d optimally prefer, that’s just too bad.”

“I’m never going to hear this story, am I?”

“It’s not the sort of thing you can overhear in a ‘cloakroom’, no.”

A lifetime before…

Laurel Anne Blaise stepped warily into the kitchen of the small house she rented. She was not surprised to see the man sitting at the dinged-up thrift store card table. The surprise had been when she’d felt his presence in her house… or rather, when she’d felt the lack she’d come to recognize long ago as him hiding his presence.

“It’s funny,” she said. “I don’t remember speaking of you.”

“So… I guess you know,” he said.

“I’ve worked it out, yes,” she said.

“Must’ve been hard not to, with the evidence staring you in the face like that all this time.”

He gestured towards the hallway, in the direction of the bedrooms.

“It was more given who my mother is. It wasn’t hard. I’m not stupid, you know.”

“Of course not. You were never stupid.”

“No, I just had a cool and mysterious older friend who never got tired of telling me how smart and mature I was. I wanted you to be right about that… it made me reluctant to question anything you about anything. Consciously, because I didn’t want you to change your mind. Subconsciously because I needed you to be right. I thought it was pretty slick, when I first started figuring out how you’d worked me over.”

“Yeah, it was, wasn’t it?” he said. “I’m not going to insult either of us by denying it. Modesty is a bad color on me.”

“It wasn’t slick, though. It was obvious and easy. Any child needs to know she’s special. Emotionally distant mother, absent father, sisters who treated me like the kids the baby-sat. I was an easy target… I was the low-hanging fruit.”

“Little lady, you are no one’s low-hanging fruit.”


“Don’t what?”

“Call me that. Or flatter. Or cozen.”

Cozen,” he repeated. “Sometimes you bust out a word and I can’t rightly tell if you picked it up naturally growing up in the backwaters of Blackwater, or if you picked it out of a book. Who says cozen?”

“Don’t try to distract me. either.”

“Alright, listen. I may have adjusted my tactics to make them, shall we say, age-appropriate…”

“The age-appropriate way to seduce a child is don’t.”

“You were never just a child to me, Laurel Anne Blaise.

“No, I was Brimstone Blaise’s child.”

“That may have added a certain frisson of danger and excitement to the proceedings, but it’s not why I wanted you, no: and I’ll swear on anything you find meaningful that I would have been just as interested if you hadn’t been a child when we met.”

“Try to imagine what a comfort that is to me, knowing that you came after me despite me being a child and not because of it.”

“Look, it’s clear you’ve moved on, and if I’m honest, so have I… so you can believe what you will about the time we spent together…”

“Don’t call it that.”

“Is there a list somewhere of the words I can and can’t use?” he said. “Because it’s hard to have a conversation…”

“Then stop trying.”

“Lady, I only came here to talk,” the man said, “but if you won’t let me do that, there are so many other things I could be doing instead.”

“And now the threats,” she said. “See? I knew it. Your cheap charm goes away as soon as you know it’s not getting you what you want.”

“I don’t have to threaten you,” he said. “If you don’t want to talk, we don’t have to talk. I can actually do what I want… get what I want… without ever bothering you, without you ever knowing. But it seemed, well, just plain decent to run it by you first, since it concerns your child.”

“You leave Mackenzie alone. If you think I won’t go to my mother…”

“That wouldn’t be pleasant for either of us, so let’s just avoid it for now,” he said. “I have no intention of interfering in your daughter’s upbringing. Maybe if I’d been there when she was younger, but no… you have things well in hand, obviously. I’m talking about your other child. Our other child.”

“You leave him alone, too.”

“Why so protective? He’s never known you. He’s never known me. I think it’s about time he knew who his folks were. Especially since he’ll be at a bit of a tricky age right now, if you catch my drift.”

“You mean an age where he’s vulnerable.”

“What? Oh, no… I thought maybe you’d been reading up,” he said. “You see… my kind of people, we got through a maturation phase, sort of like insects or goblins. Though it’s less of a metamorphosis of body than one of nature. Back in the day, before the great exile, it was a survival trait: our child was would be just like a human child. The child of two of us could pass as human for nearly all purposes. It was only when they stopped growing, reached full maturity, that the differences started to express themselves.”

“‘Survival trait’… more like a hunting trait,” Laurel Anne said. “Place a foundling baby in a human village, wait until it grows…”

“‘It’, even,” the man said. “Nice. The point is that when you get something that’s half-human and half-demon… well, you might think it’ll stay human-ish longer but it doesn’t work that way. You only get about half the maturation period, which means that all the ‘extra’ stuff comes on at a time when the natural alchemy of the brain is all in a state of upheaval. It can be a bad time. If I counted the years correctly, then I reckon I’ve already missed a chance to be there for little Aidan during his change, but my information is that he survived it so it’s not too late to help him.”

“If he’s been okay so far, I really don’t think he needs you.”

“Don’t you think he should have the choice?”

“I think his parents should have something to say about that.”

“That’s why I’m asking you,” the man said. “Look, maybe this was a mistake. Maybe you feel you don’t have any claim to the boy, or any say in his upbringing, but I thought if I’m going to take an interest, I should give you the same opportunity. I understand why you’re suspicious, but look at this rationally: I’m not talking about taking anything from you, changing anything about your life, or doing anything with the child you’ve been raising. So what’s my angle here?”

“I’m not going to say this again: leave Mackenzie out of this,” Laurel Anne said.

“And I’ll say as many times as I have to that I intend to,” the man said. “You’ve been raising her up just fine, from what I can tell… not that I’ve been paying overmuch attention,” he added quickly, raising his hands in a defensive gesture. “I can tell I don’t need to be paying attention. You have everything well in hand. But just as she-who-shall-remain-out-of-this has benefited from all the love and attention of a natural parent, why shouldn’t our other child have the same benefit? Why shouldn’t everybody?”

“I’m sure Aidan, wherever he is, has all the love and attention he needs,” she said. “He certainly has parents.”

“He does, and you know that whoever they are, they must be fine people, because your mother picked them out,” the man said. “Right?”

“I don’t know a thing about them,” Laurel Anne said. “And I doubt you do, either… you disappeared when I got pregnant with Aidan. I really doubt you’re suddenly interested in him now.”

“Things came up,” he said. “I dealt with them and came back to you.”

“After he was gone,” she said. “And then you started things back up with me as fast as you could. If you were interested in him at all, you could have gone after him at any point. You could have spirited me away while I was still carrying him… it wouldn’t have been hard to convince me to run away with you, no harder than it was to get me pregnant in the first place. No, you lost interest in me as soon as I conceived him, and your interest came back as soon as he was gone.”

“Well, your calculations fall apart after that, don’t they?” he said. “If you’re assuming my ‘interest’, my comings and goings, depended on the contents of your womb.”

“No, you never came back after Mackenzie was born,” she said. “If you’d stayed away forever, I’d assume you’d lost interest in me completely… well, I do think that. Because you didn’t come back for me. You only came back now.”

“Because Aidan is…”

“You’re not here about Aidan. Aidain,” she said, shaking her head. “Nothing significant has happened to him to bring you back into my life. By your own counting, he would already have had his ‘change’… but the same arithmetic means that Mackenzie will be coming due for hers.”

“Well, if you mean to say that maybe I had the side motive of making sure you had some idea of what’s coming, then you’ve got me dead to rights there,” the man said. “With you being so suspicious of me, you can’t blame me for not thinking you’d trust a warning if I came out and said it.”

“And why would you assume I’d be suspicious of you, if you were so innocent and well-meaning all along?”

“I haven’t seen you in most of a decade,” he said. “Seemed safer to assume you might be a touch… miffed.”

“Right, miffed,” she said.

“Look, I just came to get your input on this one thing and then I’ll be gone. If you don’t think I should contact Aidan, or whatever he’s called now…”

“What would you do if I said go ahead, feel free?” Laurel Anne said. “Leave and never come back?”

“If I had the feeling you’d welcome me, it might be another story but I can tell that ship’s sailed.”

“I don’t believe you,” she said. “He’s your cover. He’s your excuse. If I tell you to go ahead, you’ll find some other excuse…”

“Then go ahead and call my bluff, if that’s what you think it is. I’ll be on way and we’ll both be happy.”

“No,” she said. “For two reasons. One is that it would never be that simple. If I call your bluff, that doesn’t mean I win. That means you move on to the next tactic, which might be less open. Two is that it’s not my place to say. Whether you were being honest or not, the permission you want isn’t mine to give.”

“But you don’t think I’m really interested in the boy,” the man said. “So it wouldn’t hurt anything for you to say ‘Sure, go ahead. Do what you think is best, as long as you’re doing it far away from me.'”

“It’s the principle,” she said. “You might want to discover what those are.”

“Then tell me no.”

“That’s not mine to say, either,” she said. “I’ll tell you that you have no right to him, but you have no right to be here, either. That’s why this is such a hollow charade. You’re here pretending you care what I want and what I think, but the fact that you’re not listening to me…”

“Now, now… have you asked me to leave?”

“I didn’t ask you in.”

“You let me in before… anyway, if I paid attention to where humans think I have a right to be, I’d never have walked this plane and you wouldn’t have a daughter… but I can see you need some space to think this over,” the man said, getting to his feet. “I tell you what… you mull it over a bit. I’ll be back. Not this week, though. I have a few things cooking that I need to look in on.”

“There’s no reason,” she said. “Not if you’re interested in Aidan, not if you’re looking for my permission. I’ve said what I’ll say about him. If you come back, you’re only proving what I already know.”

“Well, then, it’s a good thing you like being right.”

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36 Responses to “The Untimely Death and Strange Afterlife of Laurel Anne Blaise (Part I)”

  1. Sigbjørn says:

    Got to love it when you flesh out such interesting characters.

    Current score: 0
  2. Alyxe Barron says:


    Niiiiice. Two bits, same paragraph, though. -sheep-

    “I thought it was pretty slick, when I first started figuring out how you’d wored me over.”

    Perhaps “wooed”?

    “I wanted you to be right about that… it made me reluctant to question anything you about anything.”

    There seems to be an extraneous “anything” in there. -g-

    I really am starting to conflate Lorellon’s elf and MackDaddy now. Both are smarmy and somewhat irritating.

    [EDIT: Oh yes, and perhaps a missing “-y” in “Emotionally distant mother, absent father, sisters who treated me like the kids the baby-sat.”

    Current score: 0
    • Potatohead says:

      i thought it was “whored me over”, which in LAB’s mindset and what happened between them, would fit just as well as ‘wooed.

      Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      A couple more…

      “She knew he’d be smirking before she looked up, because
      – because what?

      “Don’t try to distract me. either.”
      Comma instead of period?

      Current score: 0
    • Labman says:

      I’m more inclined to think that the second one might have been meant to be “question anything you *said* about anything”.

      Current score: 0
  3. Iason says:

    One of the things I always enjoy in a good story is that you get interested in what came before. How did things end up as they did… and that in itself becomes a good story too.
    I like the current progression of the MU story a lot and the revelations about Laurel’s past (and, apparently, present) are nice sprinkles on top of the cake.
    Thank you!

    Current score: 1
  4. Matt says:

    “my kind of people, we got through a maturation phase”– got should be go, I believe.

    Current score: 0
  5. WhatATwist says:

    Is my reading comprehension down or does it seem like Lorellon Brand and Laurel Anne Blaise are the same person.. and that Mack’s mother is still alive? (I feel like there’s been another side story that placed Lorellon in the same timeframe as the main story.)

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      It has not been said outright but it has been hinted at broadly that the two are the same. Very broadly. About as broadly as the Indian continent broadsiding into the Asian continent and creating the Himalayas.

      If nothing else, the names are almost identical. Lorellan is a different way to phonetically spell out Laurel Ann, and Brand is a German (amongst other languages) word for fire or blaze.

      And in her first story we learned that she has two children who she, because of some agreement that was alluded to but not explained, is not allowed to visit, ever.

      And of course in this story the hint of there being a history of Lorellan and a demon and then the flashback to Laurell Ann and a demon comes as close as possible to saying that the two are the same without outright saying so.

      Current score: 0
      • Bramble says:

        Not only does she have two children she’s not allowed to visit, but she showed very definite signs of being interested in Mack but refused to get in touch with her, even when Mack was sending requests to Lorellan’s place of work for someone who could safely access her mind, and Lorellan was definitely the best qualified to do so.

        Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      The title points at it being a bit of both.

      Current score: 0
  6. WhatATwist says:

    I felt compelled to go look it up! Lorellon is even putting stories about Mack in a scrapbook!

    Current score: 0
  7. p says:

    i thought it was “worked me over” , because she’s calling him out for the really sick way he got to her when she was a kid.

    Great start, I can’t wait to see where this goes.

    Current score: 0
  8. anelfgirl says:

    oh snap. I didn’t realize what I was reading in the earlier Lorellon story but…. oh SNAP.

    Current score: 0
  9. Brenda says:

    I must say, if this is what happens when you write in the bathtub, please keep doing it…

    Current score: 0
  10. Frelance says:

    “She knew he’d be smirking before she looked up, because”


    Current score: 0
  11. Carrie says:

    Oooh, just went back and re-read “Meanwhile…” Lorellon mentions she has a non-custody agreement when mentioning Prax. Cool!

    Current score: 0
  12. Raemon says:

    Liked this chapter a lot!

    Want to doublecheck my facts: Mack’s Mom was supposed to be psychic, right? And “Lorellon” here is a psychic with powers “wasted” on a desk job?

    Current score: 0
  13. Jennifer says:

    I think we have a misspelling of Aidan the second time.
    “`You’re not here about Aidan. Aidain,’ she said, shaking her head.”

    An excellent read, but now I really want more. Greedy of me, I know…

    Also, I wonder when exactly on the timeline this second conversation occurred – before Mackenzie turned nine, obviously, but I’d love to know more specifically. When she was seven or eight, perhaps?

    Current score: 0
  14. vee says:

    Lorell On Brand
    Laurel Anne Blaise

    I think any other corroborating facts are mostly redundant if you look at the name(s).

    Current score: 0
  15. TJ says:

    I don’t think anyone spotted these yet:

    sisters who treated me like the kids the baby-sat.

    sisters who treated me like the kids *they* baby-sat.


    Back in the day, before the great exile, it was a survival trait: our child was would be just like a human child.

    is it?:
    our child would be just like a human child

    Current score: 0
  16. Zathras IX says:

    In which Laurel Anne
    Blaise establishes what will
    Become her Brand name

    Current score: 1
  17. Kaila says:

    “Well, my tap shoes are at the cobbler’s,”

    Love it.

    Current score: 1
  18. readaholic says:

    Om nom nom.

    Current score: 0
  19. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    Some of the typos that have been mentioned have been fixed before I checked the story, while some remained for me to spot. The first four I have to report have all been mentioned but not fixed. I’m reposting them to make them easier to find.

    it made me reluctant to question anything you about anything.

    Extraneous “anything”.

    sisters who treated me like the kids the baby-sat.

    The “the” before “baby-sat” should be “they”.

    my kind of people, we got through a maturation phase,

    The “got” should be “go”.

    our child was would be just like a human child.

    Extraneous “was”.

    This last one wasn’t mentioned by anyone else that I could see.

    I’ll be on way and we’ll both be happy.”

    Missing a “my” in front of “way”.

    Current score: 0
  20. Kuda says:

    Awesome chapter! If it isn’t a typo, then I think we might have actually just found out Mack Daddy’s real name!

    Current score: 0
    • Miz*G says:

      I’m betting on typo… Aidan was named after a character in a book, and from what I can see from a quick re-read (dialogue and last couple paragraphs only) of previous Laurel Anne/the Man interactions, she never learned his name. She didn’t know it when Aidan was born: “If she’d known his father’s name, she might have given it to him… it was only then that she realized how strange it was that he’d never told her it. She named Aidan instead, after a character from one of the books they’d shared. ”
      And there’s no mention of her asking him after that. He’s referred to as “the Man” and her “man that lived on the other side of the woods” for the rest of that story arc.

      Current score: 0
    • Miss Lynx says:

      Interesting side note: the literal meaning of the name Aidan is “little flame” or “born of fire”.

      Current score: 1
  21. anon y mouse says:

    “it made me reluctant to question anything you about anything.” – question you about anything, or question anything you said about anything, maybe

    “sisters who treated me like the kids the baby-sat.” – they baby-sat

    “our child was would be just like a human child.” – ‘was’, or ‘would be’, or possibly ‘would have been’

    “You’re not here about Aidan. Aidain,” – Aidan the second time, unless she’s correcting pronunciation

    “I’ll be on way and we’ll both be happy.” – on my way

    “You’re here pretending you care what I want and what I think, but the fact that you’re not listening to me…” – the fact is, or was she cut off before she could finish her thought?

    Current score: 0
  22. N'vill says:

    I started a few weeks back on page one. Every bit of spare time has since been devoted to reading right up to the present moment.
    I hope that conveys how spellbinding I found your work is, and how much I have enjoyed it.
    Thank you, and I am looking forward to the next page and story.

    Current score: 3
  23. pedestrian says:

    This is a chilling portrayal of the self-serving manipulations used by a child molester.

    Current score: 3
  24. Melissa says:

    Mackenzie sure is her mother’s daughter. The similarities between them really stood out in this bit, I think. Especially their habit of arguing. 😀

    Current score: 1
  25. Khazidhea says:

    “Don’t try to distract me. either.”
    Extra fullstop or missing capitalisation

    Current score: 0
  26. Dr. Tarr says:

    “…That wasn’t really clear from the news reports. Just that there was a demon and then fire.”

    This should probably be one sentence, especially as it’s dialog, most folk seem to talk in run on sentences, and the last half works much better as a phrase than as a sentence.


    “I didn’t,” Lorellon said. “Until one got interested in me.”

    Same thing, it reads better as ““I didn’t,” Lorellon said, “until one got interested in me.”


    “Don’t try to distract me. either.”

    I seem to be on the comma train today.


    “That may have added a certain frisson of danger and excitement to the proceedings, but it’s not why I wanted you, no: and I’ll swear on anything you find meaningful that I would have been just as interested if you hadn’t been a child when we met.”

    First, I love the duplicity of “I’ll swear on anything you find meaningful….” It makes one wonder if the speaker would be willing to swear the same oath if the thing to be sworn upon was meaningful to the swearer?

    Also, the colon should most likely be… yeah, you guessed it, a comma.


    “Well, your calculations fall apart after that, don’t they?” he said. “If you’re assuming my ‘interest’, my comings and goings, depended on the contents of your womb.”

    comma instead of period after “he said.”


    “No,” she said. “For two reasons.” works better as:
    “No,” she said, “for two reasons:

    I didn’t mean to be the comma police, but I’ve been writing a lot of dialog myself recently, and so I guess it’s popping out at me.

    Great story, look forward to the next one.

    Current score: 0
  27. Lara says:

    This chapter was freaking amazing. I can’t get enough of your dialogue! This is the kind of conversation I wish I could have had with my abuser. Felt SO good to read.

    Current score: 1