“Gracie in Pink” by Ellen Reeder


The day I turned eleven, I woke up before sunrise. Something felt heavy, weighing me down, and I thought it could be the remnants of a dream. But when I started climbing out of bed, The Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume “L,” almost as big as the Dallas White Pages, slid off my stomach and thumped onto the floor. Grandma had given me the whole set, A through Z, for Christmas. I must have fallen asleep while reading about bagworms, or Lepidoptera as they were scientifically named. The dingy black-and-white encyclopedia photograph of a tepee-shaped shrubby little bag hanging from a branch like a tear-drop earring wasn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity. Now, I wanted to find one, and I had a plan.

I put the heavy book on my bed stand and then rummaged through my dresser for clothing. After pulling on a pair of thick, cotton shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt, I considered socks and tennis shoes, but decided to go barefoot. My stomach was churning as I tiptoed past my parents’ bedroom, crept down the stairs, and veered through the swinging door that led to the kitchen.

“Grace of my heart, I’ve caught you.”

I stood there blinking in the sudden brightness. When my eyes recovered, I saw my father sitting on the barstool next to the kitchen island where all the coffee-making equipment was located, the Wall Street Journal open in front of him. He was staring at me, an amused look on his face.

Daddy was an orthopedic surgeon. Mother often explained how important he was, that he helped professional athletes and even children live better lives, and that was why he wasn’t home very much. All I know is that when I was very little, he’d read to me before I went to sleep, The Little Prince, Kidnapped, and King Arthur and His Court. I’d dream of great adventures every night. Now, I’m asleep before he gets home.

“What are you up to?”

“Searching for bagworms.” Surprised and thrilled that my father and I were alone together without Mother inserting her constant play-by-play, her own interpretation of all our lives. I went to stand close to him, close enough to absorb his scent, musky, like his pipe.

“I can assure you that our yard does not contain any of those little parasites.”

When he saw the disappointed look on my face, he continued, “But search away, Gracie Kate. Don’t be surprised if your mother sends you to confession, though.”

Mother was one of those Catholic women who wore crosses on her necklaces and rings, and prayed the Rosary every night. She hated that I played outside before church every Sunday, never getting all the way clean for Sunday School.

“Sunburns, countless scabs, and dirty fingernails are not what I expect from my little girl,” she’d said last night during bath time. “Cleanliness and order reveal Godliness. You must pray to the Virgin, Gracie, and ask her to help you learn to be a proper young lady.”

Please dear Virgin, don’t make me like my mother.

Mother took me to church every Sunday. But not Daddy. Mother would often say that even though she loved her husband very much, she was afraid for his eternal soul.

“Why don’t you go to church?” Since I was not ten anymore, but eleven today, I felt bold enough to ask.

“Religion and I don’t get along.”

His answer shocked me. “Will you go to hell?”

Daddy smiled and shook his head. “You and I haven’t talked about this because your mother wants you to have a chance to learn about her religion. So you can make a choice someday. My choice was made a long time ago.”

“What did you choose?”

“Cause and effect. Biology. Chemistry. The scientific method. Solid proof that something exists.”

Cause and effect. Like Daddy’s non belief always caused Mother to cry. I understood perfectly.

“Got to go, now Grace. We’ll talk more about this some other time.” He put his hand on my cheek and it felt soft and warm. “Happy birthday.” Then, he left, quietly like he did every morning so that he wouldn’t wake us up. But today I was awake, too. And I couldn’t wait to be outdoors.

This morning, a dewy fog rose from the grass in eerie waves that glistened with the touch of new sunlight. I stepped off the tiled porch and marched into the grass, watching the world unfold with each footstep, letting the fog engulf me before snapping on the flashlight. I couldn’t see a thing, only the fog that glowed like beige neon. Extinguishing the light, I searched through the grass with my toes.

My backyard was like a dazzling one-acre zoo encased in a six-foot wall made from bricks as red as dried blood. Day after summer day, I lived outside, surrounded by thick, humid air touched by the scent of cedar and roses, and the decaying cat shit in the sandbox left by the homeless cats I attracted with food and soft words. I climbed trees and crawled through shrubs, worshiping every thistle and thorn that bit into my hands, mesmerized by the chatty robins, blue jays, and starlings nesting in the towering oaks and maples that shaded the play area like a rainforest. I would sit on the damp ground and giggle at the ants tickling my bare thighs. My heart would leap when I discovered something new — the beautiful, lacy patterns in rough tree bark, a sky blue robin’s egg, or a snake’s dark, intriguing hole. Inhaling the dusky scent of soil and grass, I felt swallowed up by the world.

This foggy morning, I decided to wait for the sun before starting my adventure, so I set the flashlight on the damp grass and, standing with my arms outstretched, closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with the damp oxygen. I wiggled my toes and imagined that if the gardener added water and fertilizer, I would grow into a sturdy tree with strawberry blonde leaves that matched my hair color.

Now that you’re a tree, you’ll have to stay outside forever, the Virgin Mary whispered in my ear. My heart lifted just as the sun rose and turned the fog to gold before erasing it completely.

Time to explore.

After an hour spent crawling through the dozen pungent-smelling cedars that lined the far back wall, I discovered that the neatly-trimmed trees were indeed free of bagworms. Disappointed, I kicked the ground. But after several minutes of thinking, I had an idea. What about my neighbor’s yard? Since I was small for my age and the wall around my yard was very tall, I couldn’t see into the neighbor’s backyard. I would have to climb over.

With a deep breath, I raised my knee and stuck my big toe onto a protruding brick, grabbed another brick edge with my hand, and pulled myself up. Another step up, and I was almost two feet off the ground. Four more to go. Climbing barefooted, I felt like a forest monkey as I made my way up and up, until, reaching the summit, I plopped down on the uncomfortable cement and surveyed my neighbor’s yard. Only a few feet away and next to the wall stood four shaggy cedars with branches drooping from the weight of hundreds of bagworms. I almost cheered.

Scooting across the top bricks, I climbed down, wiggled between the trees’ massive limbs, and disappeared. Ignoring the sharp needles, I reached out and touched a hanging bagworm, sticky and flexible, securely attached to the tree. I pinched it off the tree branch, and, using the tip ends of my fingernails, pried it open and looked inside. A tiny, white larvae with dark, round eyes stared back. It was a female, I knew because I’d read that males were black and furry. Eventually, the male would grow wings and leave the bag in search of females to fertilize. The females attracted the males by sending out a glorious aroma, one they couldn’t resist, like chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. After the female had laid several hundred eggs, she would finally leave her woody home, drop from the bag, and die. That’s why I was here — to save the female bagworms from certain death.

I put the worm in my pocket, and searched for more.

“Gracie.” Mother’s voice seemed to echo out of another small bagworm plucked from the tree. “Gracie Compton, answer me!”

I hugged myself between the tree and the brick wall, listening. When the back door slammed shut, I slithered out from the tree and onto the wall, scraping my bare hands and face on some brown, dead needles. I had intended to stay longer, to save more of the females. But I never disobeyed Mother. It would be like swimming through a tidal wave.

Still, I hesitated. I loved the feeling of being hidden where no one would imagine looking. This was another world, my world, underneath the heavy branches, surrounded by duskiness, only a bit of sunlight slipping through. I wished I could stay forever.

“Who is that inside my buggy cedars cavorting with the spiders?” A booming voice came from above. My whole world collapsed. I had been discovered. Turning to see who was there, but staying beneath the tree branches, I saw two moccasin-style house shoes with holes in the toes. The toes wiggled, exposing his bare ankles, the skin gray with age. Above the scrappy shoes stood a stubby man wearing dark blue cotton pajamas and a white robe covered with pink five-pointed stars. He stood there, a garden gnome come to life.

“Come out and show yourself before I’m forced to take harsher action.” But, his voice sounded amused, not fearful.

So, I emerged from the protection of the cedar branches, my pockets bulging, hands filthy. I smelled like a forest.

“Ahh, my dear, everyone should learn to love the muck in life, don’t you think?” the little old man chuckled after looking me over. “I admit, my backyard contains a plethora of muck, but I’d wager you and I like it that way. Correct?”

I nodded, hesitantly. The sunlight reflected off his scraggly, greying beard. An overpowering scent of garlic came from his direction.

“Gracie, Graceeeeeee. Come in this house right now!”

I started cringing. My hands balled into fists, my fingernails, filthy and ragged from pinching off the bagworms, bit into my palms.

“I see,” my neighbor said. “You’re hiding in my cedars to avoid facing consequences, am I correct?”

Nodding, I whispered, “She likes me to be clean.”

“Not a lover of muck. I’m so sorry, dear,” he shook his head as if he’d heard the most sorrowful tale. “You know, Grace – my name’s Richard — I liked you right away because you go between things. Not everyone knows how to do that.”

His eyes met mine, and I smiled, wondering what he meant. Wanting to stay here forever, but knowing I had to go, I felt like I was both ends of the rope in a tug of war. “I’d like to stay there,” I said, indicating the space between the cedars, where he’d found me.

“Well, I’m no rule observer, myself. But given your tender age, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave. Take heart, Grace – a beautiful name, by the way — every moment, you are where you’re supposed to be. Our biggest mistake is not listening to our hearts.”

He offered me a hand up over the wall. In an instant I was up over the wall and back on the ground, running toward home.

Inside the kitchen, Mother was pouring herself a cup of coffee that Daddy had brewed earlier this morning before leaving for the office. After taking a sip, she grimaced and set the cup on the tiled counter. “Your father makes his coffee too strong for us ladies,” she said, shaking her head and clucking. “Antonia,” she called, “Antonia, can you help me?”

The housekeeper, a middle-aged Italian woman who spoke just enough English to fool Mother, shuffled into the kitchen, dust rag in hand.

“Antonia, can you throw out this coffee and make some more for me?” Antonia nodded, and went to find the coffee-making supplies. Mother didn’t cook, not even coffee. Antonia considered that to be a character flaw.

“Thank you, Antonia. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

I watched the housekeeper with interest. She didn’t seem to hear Mother’s compliment, but stuck to her task, unsmiling. When Mother’s coffee was brewing, Antonia turned to leave and caught sight of me. Her eyes widened and she covered her mouth with her hand. I pressed my lips to together and nodded “hello.” We both knew what was coming.

“Where have you been all morning?” Mother poured herself some coffee while she was talking, adding a little cream. “I insist on your cooperation today of all days, Gracie. I have to pick up your cake from the bakery, finish the decorations.” When she finally looked down at me, she grasped the cup with two hands.

“Can’t you stay clean even for one day? Your friends will be here at noon, in just two hours, and look at you.”

“Friends?” I looked up at Mother.

“I invited them for your birthday, silly girl.” She bent down and began brushing at the dirt on my T-shirt. “You are just full of dust, and pine needles. And, what is that in your pockets?”

“Nothing.” I hid my pockets beneath my hands.

“Will you do something for me today?” Mother sighed and tilted her chin down, raising her eyebrows. “After you are cleaned up and dressed for your party, I want you to wait upstairs until all of your guests have arrived, and then, after I call your name, I want you to make an elegant entrance.”

The lump in my throat felt like I’d swallowed an orange, whole.

Mother continued, “You’ll be such a pretty sight in your new, pink dress next to your beautiful skin (when it’s clean) and auburn hair. Will you do that one thing for me?”

You like to go between things, Grace, the voice of my next-door neighbor echoed in my head. Every moment, you are where you’re supposed to be. Our biggest mistake is not listening to our hearts. I swallowed, almost choked, and stood there blinking back the tears. Am I really supposed to be here? Finally, I nodded yes.

“You are a dear. Now go upstairs this minute and start getting ready. I still have lots of work to do.”

When I entered my bedroom, I found a tray containing a glass of orange juice, a bowl of cereal, and some milk in a pitcher. Thank you Antonia. I ate so fast, milk dribbled down my chin.

After I finished, I dug through my closet and found an empty shoebox. Removing the cover, I punched it full of holes, pulled the bagworms out of my pockets, and placed them inside. A couple of the bristly spindle-shaped bags were barely twitching. My heart beat faster when I realized I hadn’t included bits of cedar for their food. Reluctantly, I placed the lid on the shoebox and hid it under the bed.

In the bathroom, I washed my face, combed the dust and brambles out of my hair, and ran my bath, where I scrubbed and scrubbed, thinking that any minute Mother would appear. I spent an hour bathing, drying off, sprinkling on smelly powder, and every minute I yearned to be back with the cedar trees and bagworms.

After drying off, I found the new pink dress Mother wanted me to wear laid out on the bed along with pink tights and shiny pink patent leather Mary Jane’s. The dress was made of silky rayon a shade darker than usual, almost coral. It had round, white buttons the size of quarters plummeting down the back. Even though I hated every shade of pink, and didn’t care too much for dresses, I liked unbuttoning those big, round buttons.

Stepping one foot and then the other into the dress, I closed my eyes and pulled up the silky smooth material. My arms felt heavy as I slipped them into the short sleeves. Once I was safely inside, I reached around behind me, stretching to slip a couple of buttons through their holes so that the dress felt more secure.

The light pink tights were new, so I tore open the plastic, and then sat on the bed and lugged the stretchy cotton up until the waistband reached my navel. I unbuckled the new shoes, stuck my feet into them, and attached the buckle loosely. The shoes were stiff and slightly small, and my feet would be full of blisters by the end of the day.

“How are you coming along?” Mother said, walking through the door without knocking. She nodded in approval, and then finished buttoning up my dress. “You are such a beautiful girl,” she sighed. “I wish you acted like it.” She ran a brush through my hair and tied it back with a pink silk bow. “Remember when we watched the movie Gone with the Wind?”

I nodded.

“I want you to glide down the carpeted stairs like Scarlet O’Hara when she was going to meet Rhett Butler for the last time.” Mother’s eyes had lost their focus. “When you reach the bottom of the stairs, twirl around, just casually like you do it every day.”

If I’d been a regular girl, one who played with dolls instead of bagworms, who sat still long enough, I would have been a “beauty-pageant girl,” as all the other girls in school called it. Mother had been runner-up to Miss Teenage Texas, and pageants were as popular as church in the Dallas suburb where we lived.

“Well, I must get back to the decorations,” Mother said, coming out of her reverie. “Your guests will be here soon. You will be so pleased with your cake.” She opened her mouth to say something more, but instead just looked at me and shook her head. Her mouth pouted.

Mother shut the door behind her, and I knelt down and pulled the box full of bagworms out from under the bed, lifted off the lid, and stared at the wooly creatures. Feeling anxious about getting them food, I planned to introduce them to the cedar trees in my backyard tonight.

“Gracie, your friends are here!”

Reluctantly, I slid the bagworms back under the bed, and then crept through the bedroom door. When I stopped and looked into the hall mirror, the bow that held back my shoulder-length wavy hair reflected pink into my eyes. I have pink-eye. For a minute, before the image disappeared and I realized that I wasn’t ill, I felt ecstatic.

When I reached the top of the stairs, Mother smiled and motioned me down. “Look who’s here to see you,” she said, indicating the dozen or so girlish faces, plus two adults, all smiling and waiting expectantly.

Butterflies zoomed in my stomach as I surveyed the crowd shyly. Susan Frank, my best friend from last summer, several inches taller than the others even though she was my age, raised her eyebrows and looked up at me suspiciously. She used to live across the street, but had moved across town during the fall. Last summer, we were both in love with horses, and spent the entire time galloping throughout the neighborhood, Susan as a wild pinto mare named Eureka and me as the palomino stallion called Fury.

A dozen other girls dressed in yellow, pink, red, blue and white party dresses giggled wildly along with Mother, who seemed to be glowing. She was like the Pied Piper to girls who loved frilly outfits and patent leather shoes.

“Time for a morning of fun,” she laughed, and the little girls cheered. They had all come to see her, the tall, pretty lady with the gleaming smile and well-manicured nails. Not me, the quiet girl who was always emptying the dirt from her shoes.

So I gritted my teeth and stepped gingerly down each carpeted step. When I reached the bottom, my jaws hurt and my sweating feet had drenched my pink socks. I waited for a response from my mother, but all she said was, “Through these doors girls,” her voice pitched high because she wanted to sound youthful.

She guided everyone into the den where piles of old clothes, jewelry, hats, and shoes had been stacked neatly about the room along with full-length mirrors and used lipstick and rouge. I didn’t mind dress-up, slinking into old-lady clothes that smelled of moth balls and Chanel #5, dotting my lips and cheeks with mother’s make-up, and then laughing at my grown-up clown self reflected in the mirror. I closed my eyes and imagined wrinkles gouging my forehead and cheeks like soft rivers, and wondered if, despite my prayers, I would end up just like Mother. Would I forget my backyard, the bagworms under the bed so that they died from starvation, and get married and have clean, beautiful babies of my own? I stared in the mirror until I couldn’t look anymore.

Flashbulbs sparked as fifth-grade girls smiled, blushed, and posed for the cameras. I found a black cashmere sweater, worn to threads around the collar and elbows, pulled it over my head, and gazed at the dark, lush material that covered up my pink dress. Digging into the pile of ancient jewelry, my fingers closed around one of Grandmother’s sparkling and gaudy fake diamond rings. It just fit my thumb. As I admired it, thin, sticky fingers grabbed my wrist, and I looked up in surprise. Susan Frank, her freckled face contorted in a smirk, orange-pink lipstick smeared across her lips and nearly to her chin, held my wrist in a vice-like grip.

With fierce concentration, she swiped the ring off my thumb, pounded down the hall, and escaped into the bathroom. I charged after her. Susan, now giggling, held the ring over the toilet and, as I frantically reached for it, dropped the ring, plunk, into the water. Susan watched for my reaction, her eyes narrowed to quarter-moon slits. I gazed down into the toilet bowl, and in shock, watched horrified as the ring sunk to the bottom and began to come apart, the old glue ungluing itself, the glittering glass separating from the chipped gold band.

Enraged, in one swift move, I seized Susan’s thumb, and in retribution for stealing Grandmother’s gold ring, put the entire digit into my mouth and bit a bright red ring around the circumference.

Susan began to wail, “Mama, mama, mama.”

“Shut up,” I demanded. But the blood overflowed from Susan’s injury and began dripping onto the floor. Feeling suddenly nauseas, I handed a washcloth to Susan, who slapped it from my hand.

“God will punish you for what you did to me,” she cried.

“He will not.”

“Sure he will.” Susan stuck her face close to mine, and her breath smelled like tears. “My dad’s a Deacon at the Southern Baptist Mission Church and he says that Catholics like you are going straight to hell because you worship a lady, the Virgin Mary. That’s an unforgivable sin. So, I’m going to heaven and you’re not.”

Susan’s voice sounded singsong and chiding. I couldn’t speak. Images from church arose: spit balls splattering the pudgy, stuttering teacher’s blue and yellow polyester tie during Sunday school class; Richard Mardvark actually licking Kim Shift’s tongue; and me avoiding boredom by counting the number of white high-heeled pumps connected to women’s legs that walked by my pew during communion. My father denying that God even exists. Mother always telling me to pray to the Virgin. And the little man next door, only a few inches taller then me, who dressed like a gnome. Maybe Susan was right. I was going straight to hell. She smiled when I started crying.

“I’m going to tell your mother.” She stormed out of the bathroom.

Still sniffling, I knelt down on the tiled floor, reached into the toilet until the water stood above my elbow, and fished out the ring pieces, drying them in the black cashmere sweater and then laying them on the counter.

“Gracie, where are you?” Mother yelled, her high heels click-clicking on the tile floor as she walked quickly down the hall. “What is going on in here?” She pushed open the bathroom door. I gazed at her reflection in the mirror above the bathroom sink, brown hair tinged with golden highlights, cropped close and permed in soft curls that bounced when she walked. She must have been only thirty-five years old. She seemed like an ancient nun.

Laughter floated in from the other room, and a loud voice that said in a lispy high tone, “Where isth the mother and the daughter tho we can have thome cake.” Yes, other voices agreed, we want them to hurry.

Mother pushed Susan into the bathroom and began cleaning her wound. “You and Susan have to learn to get along,” she said, looking at me.

“We’re best friends,” I replied.

Mother snorted.

Susan wailed as Mother disinfected her bite with camphor. “It’s not as bad as it looks, but she’ll need a tetanus shot.” Mother wiped away Susan’s tears and bandaged her finger. “I’m going to take you to the emergency room, dear.” As she pushed Susan out the bathroom door, she turned toward me. “I’m sending everyone home. You’ll stay here and clean up. It better be done by the time I get back because we will have a talk, young lady. Things will be changing around here.”

Noises of disappointed girls being shooed out the door kept me hidden in the bathroom. Once, Antonia stuck her head in to check on me, and then put a finger to her lips. When I heard the front door slam shut for the final time, and everything became quiet, I tried to make myself get up and help Antonia. But, how could I clean anything? I’d just found out that I was going to hell. It was no consolation that I would be there with the rest of my family, with most people I knew. I could feel myself breaking out in the hives that appeared after I ate milk chocolate. If I were going to die and go to hell, I wanted to know what that felt like right now.

Lying down on the cold black-and-white tiled floor and staring at the blue puffy clouds that were painted as decoration on the ceiling, I whispered, “Hell. Hell. Hell” over and over, expecting the devil looking like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to come and carry me away, pink dress and all.

“I, Gracie, am dead, now and forever.”

Something happened, something sudden and warm that stopped my breath. Heat rushed from my toes to my scalp. My eyes burned. A delicious rapture swallowed time and I forgot about Mother and Susan, about Antonia cleaning up the mess, about Father who called me “Grace of my heart” whenever he was home. Something exploded, flinging my mind into tiny particles. I melted into the tile, the grout, Susan’s dried blood. A rhythm began to rock me, a soft lullaby, a sweet dance. Then I realized what it was. All the hearts. I could feel all the heartbeats, and my heart beat with them. It was like a lullaby, but instead of putting me to sleep, I felt more awake. My fingertips felt like fire, and the fire moved into my breath. I opened my eyes. I could still feel the rhythmic lug-lug of hearts. My whole body felt electric.

Hell didn’t seem like such a bad place after all.

I laughed. I roared so loudly that it shook the leaves on the trees outside the bathroom window. Finally, I took a deep breath and tried to stand. There was wet on the floor beneath me, the sour smell of piss mingled with camphor. My bladder had opened up along with the sky, and the pink dress was ruined. Without thinking, I pulled off my urine soaked clothing and dropped them in a heap on the floor. Then, I pushed open the bathroom door. A ghost of my mother, a mirage, stared down at me, its eyes narrowed and fiercely blue, hands cemented to its hips. “Aren’t you going to clean up after yourself?”

I squeezed my eyes shut. “I don’t care,” I whispered, and opened my eyes. The ghost was gone.

Suddenly, I felt itchy, like my skin needed shedding. Instead of scratching, I ran up to my room, felt under the bed, grabbed the shoebox, and held it next to my heart. Slipping off the pink patent leather shoes and cotton tights, I put on clean underwear, cut-off shorts and a T-shirt. Soon, I was standing next to the brick wall in my backyard.

I released the female bagworms into my father’s clean trees. They would live.

In a moment, without thinking, my hands found the rough, red bricks, and I was climbing again. Up and over the wall. Climbing like my life depended on it.

Ellen Reeder used to be a copywriter and editor for natural foods industry publications until she gave it up and turned to writing fiction. Her first novel, about a real-life women’s basketball team in the 1930s, was swept up by an agent, sent out to editors with great enthusiasm, and now sits on her hard drive unpublished (but not unloved). Her husband, a video producer/editor, helped her create a narrative video of the story that anyone can watch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fokmbnWmp50. Being an overachiever, she is currently half-way through a second master’s degree in Instructional Design and Adult Learning at the University of Colorado, Denver. In addition to her husband, her one-eyed cat, Isabel, is her constant muse.
To read Ellen Reeder’s comments on Rich Mallery’s “Tomorrow We Release the Dogs,” click here.

Notes from Chad Peterson, Managing Editor
This is the kind of story that I absolutely love to stumble on. It’s quiet, but refreshing—it leaves me with a sense of buoyancy. I’m happier for having read it, and for me that makes it a good story. Beyond that, the author has a clean, straightforward style with the occasional digression that adds complexity, and does a nice job of bringing the various pieces together. All in all a very enjoyable read and one of my favorites of this reading period.

Comments on this story by Rachel S. Thomas-Medwid, author of “The God of Meat”

The author artfully captures what it is to be a young girl on the verge of coming into her own, a period often fraught with both internal and external conflicts. It was easy to identify with Gracie and how other’s interpretations of her—particularly her mother—often clashed with her own. This universal touchstone resonated through the text and the protagonist’s reactions to her atmosphere and the people around her. The author’s characterizations and descriptions were tangible, bringing me back to the days of youthful desires, the possibilities that lie in rebellion, and the journey toward finding your future self by choosing what to take and what to leave behind.

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