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Sara was in high spirits, dancing wildly around the living room of the yacht. Her favorite song from 'Starlight Express' was booming from the speakers, and she sang along, "... crazy... can you believe him? He's crazy... love him or leave him. He's crazy, goin' crazy... goin' crazy..." As she turned around once more, a little scream of fright escaped her throat. Placing her hands on her hips, she scowled at the blonde man, who only stood there, watching her. "Chris, how can you scare me like that?" she blurted.
He was still leaning against the door frame. The grin on his face grew bigger as he saw a little redness spreading across the cheeks of the young photographer.
"What are you grinning at?" she asked him. "Are you making fun of my dancing and singing abilities?"
Chris crooked a finger at her, motioning for her to come closer.
Sara did without a second thought and found herself pulled into a loving embrace.
"I'm not going to let you go again," he whispered.
She liked that he was in this mood. "What is the reason for your need to cuddle?" she asked curiously.
Christopher rocked her gently in his arms. "Every time I see you, I know why I only want you."
"Is that so. And here I thought it was because of my money," she chuckled.
He let go of her and looked at her in shock.
Seeing that she had hurt him with that comment, she ran her fingers through his long blonde hair. "I'm sorry. It was just a silly joke, don't panic. You are the most honest person on this planet and I treasure that. That's why I fell in love with you."
Chris laughed in embarrassment and tried to steer the conversation to another subject. "Do you have any idea yet how our wedding day will be?"
"Of course," Sara gushed.
"Well, how about telling me?"
"The actual wedding will take place at the pavilion in your garden."
Chris wrinkled his forehead. "But we don't have a pavilion in our garden..."
"Then you will have one," she cut him off, impatiently. "Before though, we will have the photographer take our pictures or else he will mess up my whole beautiful schedule."
"Before the actual wedding? I thought they say it causes bad luck to see the bride before the wedding?" Chris pointed out.
Sara just waved her hand. "I don't believe in such old-woman-tales."
He nodded. "Whatever you want. I'll leave all the preparations to you."
"That's right, dear," she grinned. "In the afternoon, we will cut the cake. The party will start early evening, after the main meal. Midnight, we will have some big fireworks. After that, we will hurry to the yacht, where the crew will be waiting. And then... we will be off to get our well-deserved honeymoon."
"That's what I'm looking for the most," he announced and waggled his eyebrows.
"Yes, it will be so great to experience South America," she agreed, dreamy-eyed. "I have to talk with you again about the guest list. Did you call your Uncle William?"
Christopher sighed. "Yes, I did. Like I told you before, it was in vain." After a pause he asked, "Have you talked to your Dad and invited him?"
Sara was caught off guard. She cleared her throat and then stuttered, "Uh... oh... no."
His eyes widened. "Oh Sara, please! You have to tell him! He is your father. I'm sure, he would like to be present at the wedding of his only daughter."
"I know, I know." Her voice sounded a bit tormented. "You don't know him and his principles."
"That's true. That's why I want to meet him." He grinned then and said, "Besides, I gotta make sure that it is a nice family I'm going to get soon."
"Oh you!" Sara exclaimed and shoved him gently.
Not paying much attention and completely lost in thought, Taylor drove her car through the gate and along the paved way closer to the house. She was mentally and physically exhausted, from thinking too much and from having the hardest training session yet. She stepped quickly on the brakes to avoid colliding with the venom-yellow Porsche that parked directly in front of her, close to the entrance door of the Stuart's house.
Victoria was waiting there for her, impatiently stepping from one foot to the other. The model knew that time was running out. She had come up with a plan that would ensure Taylor being on her side once and for all.
"Hey Vicky," the teenager greeted her. "Come on, inside."
In need for some rest, Taylor lay down on the couch in the living room and closed her eyes for a moment.
"You know, I got a surprise for you," Victoria announced and pulled two tickets for the movie theater from her purse. "I would like to take you to this awesome new fantasy movie that just came out."
Taylor's eyes opened and she smiled at the model. "Really? That's cool. I want to be out of here before Chris gets home for dinner."
A gleam appeared in her brown eyes and a happy, "Ooooh," escaped Victoria as she heard that particular name. Her happiness faded though and her face fell as Taylor explained, "For dinner with Sara Jones."
"That's not that great."
Taylor nodded. "I know. That's why we have to leave as soon as possible."
Victoria raised an eyebrow. "That's impossible."
"What?" the teenager asked, confused.
"That's the chance to get her out of the house and stay away from your family once and for all."
That thought made Taylor uncomfortable. "I rather just stay out of their way," she confessed. "Besides, I already told Chris that I would not be present for dinner."
Vicky knew she couldn't go on with this without making Taylor suspicious. Putting a mask of happiness on her face, the model declared, "Well, it's your decision. I'm telling you though that Sara is far more cunning than you think. I'm sure, she has already set up something to wrap you around her finger too."
Taylor shrugged her shoulders indifferently. "She can try whatever she wants, I'm not going to fall for it."
This declaration didn't satisfy the model completely. "She's probably planning something real big and absurd. Let's go now. We can talk about it some more on our way to the movie theater."
***** ONE WEEK LATER - CHRISTOPHER'S BIRTHDAY *****
"What?" Disbelief was heavy in Sara's voice as she looked at her fiancé. "You can not mean that. Baby, you can't leave me here all alone with Taylor!"
Chris pressed a tiny peck on her cheek as he walked past her and climbed into her Ferrari. His jeep was at the car repair due to some problems that the car always had. "I'm really sorry. I have to go to the airport. The man, who bought all my paintings, just called and told me that he has some trouble with customs."
"But it is your birthday!" she called after him.
"Don't worry, I'll be back soon, darling," he promised and drove off.
"Great, really great," Sara mumbled to herself and closed the door behind her. "He is going to be late for his own birthday party." She sighed and then started the final preparations for the big celebration that was supposed to take place soon.
Listlessly, Taylor came downstairs and sat down on a chair in the kitchen, scanning her surroundings and making sure to completely ignore Sara.
"Chris had to go," the photographer explained, trying to engage the girl in a little small talk. Shed hoped that Taylor was finally out of whatever weird, grumpy mood she had been in for a while. "What would you like for breakfast?"
"You don't have to act like my mother!" the teenager snapped and glared at her. "You are barely older than I am and just because you are sleeping here once in a while, it doesn't mean you live here!" With that, Taylor grabbed an apple and raced back upstairs.
Sara heard the door close with a bang and sighed. Stressed, she rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Just what am I doing wrong?" The daily fights with Taylor were beginning to wear her down. Chris was consoling her and told her again and again that eventually Taylor would come to terms with it, but it really didn't look as if that would happen any time soon. "I really hope that 'No Doubt' make a rrrrreal good performance. Maybe that will help to make Taylor nice again... or else I will really give up."
The door bell rang.
"I'm on my way!" Sara shouted. She opened the door and for the first time a true, happy smile appeared on her features. Christopher's birthday present had arrived. There, in front of the garage, stood a brand new Mercedes M- class.
The guy from the transport company smiled at her. "Metallic-black with a big red bow, just as you ordered it, Ms. Jones."
Sara's smile widened. "It's so beautiful. Just as I had imagined. Please, put it inside the garage. Thank you."
Drew Morgan was anxiously waiting for him as Christopher arrived at the airport. He met him at the customs department.
"Hello, Mr. Morgan," the blonde artist greeted him and shook his hand. "What seems to be the problem?"
"You need to give them a personal confirmation that I can take your paintings with me out of the country," the art dealer explained. "My flight will be in an hour and I booked a special cargo room just for your works. Please, you need to go into the office and sign some documents so that everything will be within law."
Christopher laughed and patted the nervous man's shoulder gently. "Sure, no problem."
After everything had been taken care of, Mr. Morgan accompanied Chris back to the car. On their way, the men were wrapped up in conversation. Drew whistled through his teeth as he saw the Ferrari. "Wow, that's one neat racing car you have there."
Chris rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. "Oh, that's not mine. I just borrowed it from my fiancée."
A wild grin appeared on the features of the other man. "Yeah, Sara is such a good soul."
Stopping in his tracks, Chris looked at him. "How do you know Sara? I have never mentioned her?"
Trapped, Drew froze, unable to say a thing. He didn't need to, because Chris could see the guilt plainly on his face. Drew rolled his eyes berating himself for not keeping his mouth shut, but now it was too late.
One big hustle and bustle was going on at the property of the Stuarts. As best as she could, Sara directed the arriving guests, presents and the catering service in the gardens. From time to time, she tried to get a phone call in to Sydney but her attempts failed because the phone lines were overloaded. The photographer was about to lose her patience. "Damn it! I can't believe I can't get through to Daddy. Chris will freak."
Drew swallowed hard and announced, "I really have to go. I don't think my plane will wait."
Christopher reached for his arm and held him back. "First, you will tell me everything and I mean EVERYTHING."
The art dealer knew he was in for it now and sighed. "I admit that Sara wanted me to buy your paintings..."
"What?" Chris looked at him in disbelief. "That means Sara paid for all my works?"
Drew nodded and answered in a small voice. "Yes."
Chris climbed into the car. "That's all I needed to know."
The art dealer called after him. "Wait! It's more complicated..."
Blind from anger and hurt pride, Chris raced away. At the exit of the airport compounds, he had to step full force on the brakes because there was a man standing in the middle of the street. Chris got out of the car and ran to him. "Are you alright, sir? Are you hurt?"
The man took off his earphones and commented dryly, "I really thought you weren't about to stop there for a second."
Chris exhaled sharply, unable to talk for a moment. "You caused me quite a fright."
"Calm down, son. If it makes you feel better... I would have jumped aside real quickly."
Slightly irritated, Chris looked at him questioningly.
"Well, I still can keep up with you young guys," the man explained and winked at him.
Chris laughed. "I like you. Can I take you somewhere?"
The man thought about it for a moment. "Mmmhhh... getting to drive in a Ferrari... something like that is not offered to me every day. I really need to go to the harbor where all the yachts are."
The artist opened the door for him. "Wherever you wanna go. By the way, my name is Chris."
"Nice to meet you. I am Matt."
They shook hands.
"My home is on the way to the harbor. Would it be okay if we stop there for a second?" Chris asked. "I need to go make a quick appearance at my own birthday party or else everybody will worry about what's keeping me."
"Yes, no problem. Happy birthday."
"Thanks a lot. I also need to have a word with my fiancée about our relationship."
Matt rolled his eyes. "Oh, stress with a woman, huh? You poor guy."
"The problem is, we have different opinions when it comes to money and how to deal with it. I'm a guy who likes to save... she instead likes to spend with excitement without thinking about any consequences."
The other man nodded. "Yeah, I would get angry too if she would spend my hard-earned money."
"It's not like that," Chris explained. "The money is hers."
Matt was really listening now.
"She is spoiling me extremely and I don't want her to spend so much on me."
"I understand. Chris, it seems you are a very good person. Only a few manage to withstand the lure of other's richness for long."
"Well, that's how I am."
Matt smiled. "You know, I think I like you too."
Sara heard the familiar and beloved sound of her car's engine and directed the guests to the garden, where they were supposed to wait and keep quiet so that Christopher wouldn't notice anything. After that, she hurried to the living room.
"Hello? Anybody home?" Chris called out.
"Yeees!" came Sara's reply and she walked to him. "I've been trying for hours..." She walked around the corner. "...but I just can't get a hold..." Her eyes widened in disbelief as she saw the man next to her fiancé. "...of Daddy..." She stood there, rooted to the spot. "DADDY???" The shock was visible on her pale face as she looked from one man to the other.
Speechlessly, the two men stared at each other too.
Taylor chose this moment to come downstairs, because she had heard Christopher's voice. She quickly retreated back to her room as she took in the rather delicate situation. "I think I need to give Vicky a call."
Danielle's condition had improved more and more. Together with Jack, she sat on a bench, in the clinic's gardens, relishing the beautiful, sunny weather. "It really feels nice to be outside once more. The air is so fresh and not smelling of disinfection or other chemicals," she said, inhaling deeply.
Jack smiled. "Yeah, that's nice for a change. What else? What did the doctors say?"
"Well, as it looks, I still need to stay here for a while longer, for some more therapies. To tell you the truth though, I really don't want to go back."
Danielle sighed. "I would feel very helpless in a world where everybody knows me but I don't know anybody."
He pulled a few pictures from his jacket's pockets. Karen had sent him those via UPS to New York. "Look here. I have a few pictures of people from home. Maybe that will help your memory a bit."
"It is worth a try," she agreed and took the pictures. One after another she looked at them and was able to give each person the correct name.
Jack's face brightened. Obviously, Danielle's brain wasn't as bad off as the doctor's thought at first.
But then she frowned. "Jack?"
"What is it?"
"Who is the dark-haired guy that has his arms wrapped around Liz?" She showed him the picture.
Jack couldn't believe it. "That's Alexander Parker!"
Danielle's face didn't betray any emotion at all. "So what? Am I supposed to know him?"
"You really mean to tell me, seriously, that you don't remember him?" Jack asked, astonished.
She shook her head. "I really don't know where I'm supposed to put him."
Matt, Chris and Sara were still staring at each other until Matthew finally smiled, went to Sara and hugged her tightly against his chest. "Congratulations to your upcoming wedding, sweetheart," he said to everybody's astonishment.
"How did you know?" Sara asked.
"I got a rather anxious call from your godmother and I was a bit concerned."
"Her words made your future husband appear as if he is an unsuccessful artist, who only marries you because of money."
"WHAT?" Sara exclaimed in shock. "Oh, that is so typical Aunt Cathy... always seeing the devil in everyone."
Matt cleared his throat. "Be that as it may. On our way here, I had a real good talk with Chris. So, if you love him and if you are happy, I have nothing against this marriage."
Sara hugged her father. "Thanks, Daddy! You're the best!"
"Yes I know." Then he whispered into her ear so that only she would be able to hear him. "Quite a nice guy you caught yourself there, sweetheart."
She grinned widely.
Matthew let go of his daughter and spread his arms wide before turning to Christopher. "Come here. Let me give you a hug, son-in-law. You really have to be someone very special when you were able to catch the eye of my Sara."
"If you say so, Sir," Chris replied bashfully.
"Awww, stop the Sir. Call me Matt, or better yet Dad!"
"Alright, now we are getting somewhere. Well, as it looks like there is one big party going on here. I'll get myself something to drink," Matthew announced and disappeared, searching for a cocktail.
Left alone, Sara embraced Chris firmly. "Happy Birthday, baby."
"So? How do you like my Dad?" she wanted to know, nearly dying from curiosity.
"Oh, he's cool."
She took his hand and led him to the gardens. "Come on, let's go and unwrap your presents."
"Okay." Then he remembered the thing about his paintings again. He was just about to mention it as the doorbell rang. Chris opened the door and froze.
Victoria smiled flirtingly at him. "Hi, Christopher," she greeted him in her most sultry voice.
"Victoria, what an unsuspected surprise. What do you want here?" he asked.
"Oh, I wanted to pick up Taylor," the blonde model answered.
Chris and Sara looked at each other in disbelief.
Then Taylor came racing down the stairs. "Hey!" she exclaimed and high-fived with Vicky. "We can go for all I'm concerned."
"Great, okay then. Chris, see you another time. Bye Sara." Victoria gave a little wave.
Taylor was about to follow her, but Chris held her back. "Wait a minute. Where are you two going?"
"To the concert," the teenager said, trying to loosen the grip her brother had on her arm.
At home, Catherine was laying in a deckchair next to the pool and read the newspaper. She was unable to really concentrate. Her thoughts were circling around her husband. "I know that you are hiding something from me. I will not let you destroy our family as you did 30 years ago!"
Memories of that time reared their ugly heads.
Catherine stood in the bedroom where Jonathan was busy packing up his things.
"I don't understand you!" she exclaimed. "How can you throw away what we had so easily?"
He sighed, continuing to put shirts, pants and suits into suitcases. "Look Catherine, I really am sorry. I just don't love you anymore."
"And what about Alexander? You want to desert your 5-year-old son?"
"It is of no use. We stopped being a real family a while ago."
Catherine walked to him and took his hands. "But if we really try, we could become a real family again. I know we can make it work. Give us another chance."
Jonathan took his hands away. "No, Catherine. You have to accept that it's over between us. None of us is happy and I can't continue living like this. This really is not the right environment for a little child." He took the suitcases and put them into his car. After that, he gave Catherine a little card. "Call me if either Alex or you need help."
She glared at him. "Are you sure that she can make you happy?"
"I love her like I never loved anyone ever before," Jonathan replied and was about to get into his car.
Alexander came racing out of the house, his face stained with tears. "Daddy! Daddy!"
Jonathan picked him up and hugged him. Gently, he wiped the big tears from his son's cheeks. "You have to be brave now, my son. Promise me, you'll take good care of yourself and your Mommy."
Alex sniffled. "Daddy, please, I don't want you to leave." He buried his face at his father's throat.
"It's better this way. One day when you are older you will be able to understand," Jonathan explained and kissed his temple. "I promise you though I will come visit you a lot and whenever Mommy allows it, you can come visit me and Kayla, okay?"
"Okay," Alexander responded and Jonathan put him down again. With one final wave the man got into the car and drove off.
Catherine's face darkened and fury rose inside her while Alex hugged one of her legs tightly. "You will regret this decision, Jonathan."
Abruptly, she was brought back from her dark thoughts as her son gently tapped her on the shoulder. "Hey Mom. Is everything alright?"
Catherine quickly put a smile on her face. "Of course, dear. I was just thinking."
"Okay. Is Dad still at the company?"
"I suppose," she answered and submerged herself into the newspaper once more.
Seeing that his mother wasn't in a mood for talk, Alex shrugged his shoulders and then dived into the pool.
Michiru looked at the clock and sighed. Another hour had gone by and still Jonathan didn't show up. "I honestly don't know why I'm doing this to myself. I'm sure there are better men out there... men that don't abandon me... men who think that the girlfriend is more important than work." She sat down on her couch, feeling very dejected.
A soft "meow" rang out and she discovered Demeter, who was sitting next to her feet. Michiru reached down, picked her up and the small cat snuggled close to her. "You know, Demi, if only I wouldn't love him so damn much, I would have already told him to go to hell."
Bombalurina decided to jump up on the couch too and cuddled up to Michiru's side. She laughed and stroked their soft fur. "You two really know how to cheer me up."
After Taylor's announcement, Chris looked in disbelief at his little sister. "Why is it that I now hear for the first time that you intend to go on a concert with Victoria today?"
"Because you never listen to me when I say something," Taylor snapped and scowled in Sara's direction. "Your future wife is all that counts. Everything else is completely unimportant to you."
"It's enough now," he interrupted her.
"Yeah, it's been enough for me for quite a while! Come on, Vicky. We have to hurry if we want to be in the first row. I wanna see them all rrrreal close up."
With a big grin on her face, the model pulled two VIP-passports from her jacket and declared, "I guess with these two thingies we will get verrrrrrrrrrry close to your favorite band."
Taylor's eyes were shining with happiness. "Let's go then. Till later, Chris."
They were nearly out of the door as Sara called out. She had recovered somewhat from the shock, "Taylor, you can't just leave! I have a surprise for you."
The teenager turned around, glaring darkly at her former best friend. "I don't care about any stupid surprises from you!" With that she grabbed Vicky's hand and dragged her along.
The model sent one more smoldering glance in Christopher's direction and breathed, "Bye, Chris." Then they were out of the door and drove off in Vicky's Porsche.
Sara stood there, thunder-struck. "Since when is your sister a 'Nightwish' fan?"
Chris shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea."
The door bell rang again.
The artist opened and in stepped Gwen Stefani, smiling brightly. "Hi. We are ready and can start. Where is the guest of honor?"
"Going to a 'Nightwish' concert," Sara remarked acidly.
"Oh... Do you still want us to play?"
"Of course," Chris chimed in. "I would like to hear your songs."
Elias Lunaris was in his office. Sitting at his desk, he was going over some documents, as it knocked on the door. "Yes?"
Jack entered the room.
"Oh, hello, Mr. Carpenter. How can I help you?"
"Hello, Dr. Lunaris. It's about my friend, Danielle Stiehl."
Elias smiled. "Good, so my suggestion with the pictures worked?"
Jack sat down and ran a hand through his hair. "Well... at least, she remembers nearly everyone I showed her on the pictures."
The psychologist nodded. "That's a good start. You have to consider it was a long time that she was in the coma. But, I think it's only a matter of time until the memories of your friend will have completely recovered."
"I don't think it will be so easy," Jack replied. "The one certain person... the one who is responsible for Dani's condition... she just doesn't remember that bastard!"
"Oh, that sounds like repression."
The computer specialist wrinkled his forehead. "What exactly does that mean?"
"It means, your friend must have experienced something that was so traumatizing and horrible that she protects herself with suppressing the memories," Elias answered.
"Is there a way to help her?" Jack wanted to know.
The psychologist reached for something to write. "I'll give you the number of a colleague of mine. He is an expert in that department."
"No. Please, Dr. Lunaris, I would like it if you could take care of Danielle."
He looked at him dumb-founded. "I'm truly honored by the trust you're putting in me, but I'm afraid I'm not the right man for that job."
"Because I'm a psychologist for children."
"Please, Dr. Lunaris. I trust you. I don't want for Dani to run from one bungler to the next. Please, give it a try."
Sighing in defeat, Elias relented. "Alright. If Ms. Stiehl agrees then I will add her to my patients."
A relieved smile slowly spread across Jack's features. "You have my deepest gratitude."
Jonathan was pacing back and for in his office. He thought about the difficult situation he found himself in. "What am I doing? What shall I do? Catherine knows something and she grows more and more suspicious every day. If only I could have come up with a much better explanation concerning the cats. And what about Michiru? She sure thinks I'm scum. If only I knew if Taylor Stuart saw me or not. And if she did, who knows what she told Michiru. Somehow I need to find out what the girl knows. After that, I have to make sure that she keeps it to herself if she knows something. But how? How do I go about this?" He sat down at his desk and rummaged in a drawer. There he found a picture of Kayla. "My Angel." Tears welled up in his eyes. "Kayla, it's been so many years and still... I miss you like crazy. Everything could have been so wonderful. Our sweet child, you and I... we would have been such a happy family. Why, oh why, was fate so cruel to us?"
The birthday party was over and the gig of 'No Doubt' had been one big success, even if the guest of honor had not been present.
Sara was at the balcony and stared out into the night.
Christopher joined her, hugging her from behind. "Your Dad insisted to stay the night at the hotel."
"Mmmh," she grumbled in answer.
"Wow, you sure are quite talkative. What's wrong?"
"I'm mad as hell!"
"At me? Why?" he asked astonished.
"Not at you. At Victoria, that damn bitch!" Sara exclaimed, barely able to keep from yelling. "Everything is starting to make sense now."
Chris wrinkled his forehead. Nothing made much sense to him at the moment. "Could you please tell me, what exactly you are talking about?"
"She is trying to get you. And she is using Taylor to accomplish that. I don't know what lies she told your little sister, but it seems to have worked great. The thing that bothers me the most is, that she went with Taylor to the concert today. She knew that I had this big surprise with 'No Doubt' planned for Taylor... I told her myself last week!... God, she is such a nasty, evil, damn bitch!"
"Would you like for me to talk with Taylor?" Christopher wanted to know.
Sara sighed. "I guess that's useless. Vicky has her completely wrapped up."
"I will still have a word with her. It can't go on like this, especially the way she is always so disrespectful towards you."
"Whatever you think will help," the photographer mumbled, still seething inside about Victoria's evil plans.
For a while they just stood there, until Chris remembered the matter with his paintings again. "There is one more thing I need to talk about with you."
Christopher exhaled sharply. "If there is one thing I can't stand... it is when somebody lies to me, Sara."
"What do you mean?"
"What paintings?" She was confused.
Comprehension dawned on her features before she paled.
"You bought my paintings. All my paintings! And then you made me believe that they caught the eye of a very important art dealer!"
"Chris, please, don't get upset..."
"What do you mean, don't get upset? Damn it, how does that make me look? Like a complete fool!"
Sara tried to explain why she did what she did. "Your pride would have never allowed me to support you with money. Did you expect me to just stand by and watch you fall apart or destroy yourself? You were so desperate that day I found you among your destroyed works. I really am sorry that you are mad at me now, but I had to do something to help you and your family!" Tears were running down her cheeks. "Don't you understand? I only did it because I love you so much!"
Christopher pulled her into his arms, holding her gently. He had not expected an answer like that. "I'm sorry, Sara. I'm not mad. Please, forgive me. I certainly didn't mean to make you cry."
"I really didn't want to lie to you, but you wouldn't have accepted my help if I had asked you."
"I know, I'm a stupid, Scottish, stubborn fellow. There's nothing to be done about that, it runs in the family." He kissed her tears away. "Will you please forgive me? I don't want to fight anymore."
Sara gave him a watery smile. "Okay."
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