613 – Mistletoe (Chapter 13)
Sitting under the mistletoe
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Someone came, and kissed me there.
- Walter De La Mare
Gentle light warmed my eyelids as I drifted into consciousness, the feeling flooding into my limbs. My mind still fuzzy from sleep, I became aware of a shape behind me, spooned cosily around my back against the cool morning air. Brian. A small smile pulled up the corners of my mouth as I felt his arm tucked around my torso, palm resting peacefully against my chest, and sensed the gentle heat of his breath on the back of my neck, the tickle of his soft hair by my shoulder. God, I missed this. My smile spreading, I let out a contented sigh and snuggled further under the covers, cautiously pressing myself against the warm mounds and valleys of his chest. With Christmas just around the corner, winter had truly arrived in Pittsburgh and even the well-insulated loft could not keep out the weather's seasonal chill. I wondered briefly what to get Brian as a gift; buying presents for Brian Kinney had always been difficult. Giving something too trivial and jokey would back up his comments about the meaninglessness of gift giving, yet something too sentimental would put him on the spot and scare him off. Getting the balance right was going to be tricky.
The shrill of the telephone drilled into my thoughts and I sighed. Brian began to stir with the sound so I slipped out from beside him and walked naked to the phone, feeling the gooseflesh starting on my back and arms - for although we had heating in the loft, Brian never liked it on too high and the spacious apartment was frequently cool. I saw him groan and rolled over as the ringing continued and I smiled to myself: he never looked quite so angelic once he'd woken up with his bed-hair. I stooped to pick up the phone.
"Hello, is a Mr. Taylor there" A deep confident voice asked. I shifted the phone clamped it to my ear with my shoulder as I scratched the back of my head.
The voice changed immediately, was warmed with a glowing familiarity. "Mr. Taylor! It's me, Henry Olsen. From the Manhattan gallery! We've all been rather worried about you! You had to make a terribly sudden return to Pittsburgh."
I glanced over at Brian, who was now awake and gazing absently at the ceiling, one arm bent, shielding his eyes from the light, his smooth chest bare.
"Mr. Olsen… Henry. It's good to hear from you. Sorry I didn't call sooner, I meant to but…"
He cut me off. "Never mind that, lad. I'm phoning to ask when you plan to return to us!"
I took a deep breath and squeezed one eye shut in concentration. It was now or never.
"I have thought about it, Henry, long and hard. Much as your gallery has given me and much as I appreciate the doors open to me in New York… I'm not coming back."
I saw Brian lower the arm shielding his face and look at me, his eyes growing darker and more dangerous by the second. Mr. Olsen spluttered on the other end of the phone.
"What? Are you… sure?"
Brian got up abruptly and strode into the bathroom, sliding the door shut roughly behind him. I sighed inwardly and took advantage of the privacy it afforded me.
"Look, Henry, I did leave very suddenly, and I didn't want to go into why at the time, but the truth is … my partner has cancer. I'm not going to sacrifice being with him."
The silence on the other end of the line conveyed to me a blurry picture of Mr. Olsen's shocked face, jaw slightly slack, small jowls wobbling, bristly chin of stubbles, eyes wide and motionless… Then he spoke.
"Oh Justin." He said. "I'm so sorry." He said. "I understand." He said. And then he chuckled. "I wouldn't advise it as the best move for your career, but then who am I to say? You need to do what you need to do. And there never was any stopping you!"
I thanked him and promised on his insistence that I would not lose touch. When I finally put the phone down I paused for a moment, tilting my head back and sighing out through my teeth. Now to face Brian. Who hated it when he felt I had given something up for him, that I was losing out in some way. How little he knew. I went and sat on the bed, feeling the dark velvet bedspread soft and luxurious under my fingers, biting my lip. Brian came out of the bathroom, dressed in a grey shirt and black pants, and stopped abruptly seeing me in front of him. I held his gaze steadily. After looking at me for a few seconds, he let out the words he had obviously been pent up.
"You should go back. Don't be a stupid little shit and throw it all away."
I crossed my arms and hugged myself as I looked earnestly at him. "I'm staying here."
Brian's eyes left mine as he stared at the floor in an abrupt gesture of frustration. "If it hadn't been for this fucking cancer…"
But I interrupted him. "Don't be so selfish. I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for me, Brian. I thought I could get along with out you, that I could focus on other things. But when this happened, I realized that I DO want it all, that life is too short for me to sacrifice my happiness for the sake of expectation. I can paint in Pittsburgh. This is my home."
Lindsay entered the festive diner, leading little Gus by the hand. The young boy was trussed up head to toe in a brown woollen coat with a blue hat and scarf, which Lindsay began to take off once they sat down in a booth. Debbie spotted them within seconds and hurried over to pinch Gus's cheeks and Lindsay smiled, she felt at peace with the world. Of course she hated the cold weather, but she had a beautiful and intelligent son, Brian seemed to be getting stronger, and the warmth of the diner gave her a glowing sensation in her middle. Smoothing Gus's chestnut hair, which had been ruffled by his woollen hat, she wondered what she would buy Mel for Christmas. Always a believer in tactful and heartfelt gifts, Lindsay knew she wanted this year's present for her wife to be extra special. A necklace perhaps? Or maybe she could go all out, get Brian and Michael to look after the kids, and take Mel on a carefree holiday to the Bahamas. Lindsay chuckled to herself at the daring of the idea, and then Gus was tugging on her sleeve.
"Mom? Mom, can I please have hot fudge sundae? Pleeeaassee?"
His big green eyes were pleading and Lindsay looked at her watch; it was just before lunch. Debbie bustled up with a notepad in hand and a twinkle in her eye.
"Go on honey, let him have one. It's nearly Christmas after all!"
Lindsay laughed and gave in, and Gus jigged up and down with excitement whilst Debbie, grinning, jotted down his order. Checking her watch - Mel was supposed to meet her - Lindsay mentally listed all the chores she had to get done that day: going to the toy store to buy Gus and JR's presents, visiting the supermarket to stock up on stocking fillers, stopping by the hairdressers for a haircut. Emmett's voice made her look up as he came over to her and scooted into the seat next to Gus.
"I have had SUCH a day! You wouldn't even imagine!" He pronounced, unzipping his pink leather jacket and squeezing Gus in greeting. "I saw Drew this morning, on TV, and I had to go and distract myself so I went to the tanning salon. Well, being as …preoccupied as I was how could I be expected to be paying absolute attention? … You would have thought the staff would be so nice as to tell me that I was still wearing my bracelets, but no! Not a word! Now look!"
He pulled back his sleeve indignantly to reveal several white bands of skin, incongruous to the rest of his arm.
Lindsay tried very hard to repress a giggle. "Oh Emmett… I thought that people didn't go to the salon in winter – isn't the whole point that people are naturally paler in December?"
This earned her a disdainful look from Emmett. "Honey, all's fair in beauty and fags."
"God bless John Lyly! …However misquoted he may be." Mel's voice made Lindsay look around. Her wife kissed her hello before handing over JR for Emmett to sit down next to Gus, and lowering herself into the seat next to Lindsay.
"What's this? Mutiny?" She asked amusedly, looking at Gus who was tucking into his treat.
Lindsay grinned at her. "Yes, I'm afraid so, in the form of a hot fudge sundae. …Since that's the no-sugar rule out of the window for today, maybe JR like one too, and you?"
Mel sighed in mock exasperation as she watched the children together, and put her arm round Lindsay's shoulders. Emmett grinned, his disfigured arm forgotten. Lindsay felt a sudden gratitude for her friends and let the smile stay on her face as she smelt the aroma of fresh waffles drifting across from the kitchen, where Debbie was calling out orders by the dozen, and squeezed Mel's hand under the table.
Her wife broke the contented silence, "So, what do you think of Justin staying in Pittsburgh? Who would have thought it? And you were so sure he was going to make it big in New York, Linds."
Lindsay furrowed her brow. "I don't think we can really make judgements about the situation."
"Sure we can! I mean, I think I know why he is staying… I just thought they had ended that saga once and for all, that Brian had finally let go…"
"Mel!" Lindsay gave her partner a warning look. "It's not a 'saga'. You know they love each other." He expression softened. "And I understand Justin's actions. If you were sick I don't think I could leave you."
"I never thought I'd say this" Emmett chipped in. "But I do think they need each other. I saw them once, cuddling. It was cold out and they were waiting for a cab home and Brian had Justin wrapped up in his coat with him, they were so adorable. Lindsay's right. After all, they say home is where the heart is."
Mel shrugged and helped herself to a spoonful of Jenny Rebecca's sundae. Lindsay smiled at Emmett. She thought she understood now, better than she had before, although Mel still seemed slightly deceived. The thing was, Brian Kinney appeared to be, hell, TRIED to be one of the most arrogant, narcissistic, selfish, conceded assholes in Pittsburgh who knew he could fuck anyone into next week because he was the best. But that was not the real Brian. That was only a part of him; the feigned part. The rest of him was terrified he'd be exactly what his mother and father always insinuated he'd be. He'd spent the first fifteen years of his life listening to people fighting, arguing, hating each other and hating him. He'd lived fifteen years in a house with no love, where feelings were repressed and strained and his mother neglected him and his father emotionally and physically abused him, telling him he was worthless and then hitting him to prove it. That's why his pride was so important to him. That's why he appeared to be so superficial. If he had money, and looks, gave the best fuck, and everyone either feared him or envied him, it meant he was something real and not worthless. He had value if everyone else knew he was the best. And Brian had always equated sex with proving himself.
Until he met Justin. And then it became something else; very gradually it became something more.
Joan twisted her hands together as she paced in front of the fireplace in her meticulously tidy living room. She didn't know if he would show up. She didn't even know if he had got her message. He may have deleted it, knowing him he probably got rid of it without even listening. Joan stopped by the frigid panes of the window and looked out; it was a cold blustery day, violent eddies of wind whipped the bare trees into a stiff dance, and small clusters of snow were gathered half-heartedly in corners, as if to shelter from the relentless gale. Joan smoothed her hair; she had had many sleepless nights recently, and had spoken to many new people. The friendly bottle on the kitchen counter had lost its appealing glow as she had found herself uncertain, confused and agitated, angry and despairing, calling out to a silent deity for answers to questions she was appalled she was asking. Never in her life had Joan Kinney been uncertain, and she didn't like it one bit. Single-mindedness had an easy finality to it, and Joan had enjoyed to carefree mindset it afforded her. Except when it made her lose everything.
A rap on the door made Joan suck in her breath and clench her hands in surprise. Pursing her lips, she walked through to the hallway and lifted the latch to reveal Brian standing in the entranceway, his hair windswept, his hands shoved into the pockets of his heavy leather coat, the bottoms of his trousers wet from the damp ground. He looked elegant in a grey scarf, and although he was still pale, his eyes were brighter than when Joan had last seen him. Putting a hand on her stomach, smoothing invisible creases in her yellow cardigan, Joan spoke:
Brian's expression was hard and his posture nonchalant. "Yeah, don't sound so surprised. You're my mother, it's my familial obligation."
Aware of her lips in a thin line, Joan invited her son in. When he sat down on the edge of the sofa and faced her, an expectant expression on his face, she saw, for just a moment, a child version of Brian. It was the messy hair that did it. His hair always had always succumbed to sections that stood straight up or lay at odd angles. Joan had very early on given up any attempt at keeping it tamed. She thought Brian had grown out of it, but now she realized it was just an expensive haircut and one windstorm away from chaos again. All he lacked now was a sprinkling of tanned freckles and a band-aid covering some latest scrape or scratch. Joan resisted the urge to briskly smooth his hair off his forehead and tell him to go to bed before Jack got home. Jack was dead. And so was the past.
Brian was watching her warily. Thinking back, Joan remembered that even as a child, he had a sad, cynical air. He had always had those large eyes, soulful and riveting, like out of a Margaret Keene painting. He could express volumes without speaking. Joan blinked and shook herself out of her thoughts, turning to her son.
"I suppose you are wondering why I asked you to come here."
Brian's eyebrows raised a fraction in answer. Joan took a deep breath and continued, her voice sharp and strained.
"From the moment they handed you to me in the hospital, you surprised me. Claire was such a homely baby, red and bawling, but you were reserved, like an old man, and perfect in every detail. You hardly ever cried… there were times when I was afraid you had died because you were so quiet…"
"Mom, why are you telling me this?"
Joan looked up at Brian's impatient expression and ploughed determinedly on.
"You were right, Jack didn't want me to have you. He was furious when I refused to have an abortion. He wanted to stay free and unbound for as long as possible."
Brian tipped his head back, squinting at the beige ceiling, and Joan poured herself a drink from the bottle on the coffee-table - feeling a worming anger at herself for creating this situation, for giving in to her doubts - before continuing:
"But when you were old enough to play sports, he took an interest in you. You were a natural athlete, something he envied. But I never went to your games because Jack would be there, yelling at you in front of everyone. He always put you down… even when you won. If I protested, he hit me. Even worse, he would hit you."
Brian stood up abruptly and walked to the window, folding his arms defensively across his chest. Joan looked at his broad, leather-clad back and felt her heart pounding from what? Fear? Remembering Jack's cold expression, Joan spat out the next few sentences as if forced to do so by something unseen..
"He said I spoiled you, because I protected you from him. He said I would… I would make you a queer."
Brian let out a snort of cold laughter from where he stood. Joan heard it and folded her hands on her primly collected lap, knees tucked in, emotions bottled. After a second, Brian turned around, his eyes bitterly amused.
"You didn't make me queer, Mom. It wasn't anything you… or Jack, did. It wasn't even being fondled by your faggot priest brother. If you feel guilt over that, forget it."
"Then what, Brian? It wasn't like you couldn't have a girlfriend. All the girls adored you."
Brian nodded slightly and turned back to the window, pushing the lace curtain open a little further. Joan felt she couldn't turn back, and continued in an emotionless voice.
"When did it happen?"
This time Brian looked her in the eye. "It didn't 'happen', Mom. It always was. I tried it with girls. I wanted to be 'normal'. But that's not 'normal' for me. It felt wrong. Being with men felt right."
"I'm not going to pretend I understand, Brian. I do find it difficult that you are ...different."
"For me, it isn't 'different'. It's the only way."
"What about AIDS?"
"What about it? I'm negative. I get tested."
"But you are promiscuous."
"Who told you that?"
"Does it matter?"
Brian dipped his head with a snort and a disbelieving smile, before striding to the fireplace and tapping the ash out of his cigarette in the ashtray there, a relic from the days of Jack Kinney, no longer used but still, strangely enough, kept by Joan. She saw the chestnut sheen of his hair, and wondered yet again why he had been spared, why he had lived through cancer yet again. Just another discord in the growing incongruity of her God. Slowly, hesitantly, she rose from her perch on the chair, and came to stand behind her son. Putting her hand on his shoulder, only just able to reach, she felt the strong muscles beneath the leather jacket and realized with a jolt that this was the first time she had touched him in… she couldn't even remember how long. Brian showed no sign of having felt her, but he obliged when she increased the pressure to get him to turn around. One he was looking at her, Joan removed her hand as if touching hot coals, and cast her eyes away.
"I will pray for you, Brian."
She couldn't see, but she was sure she sensed his expression.
"You do that, Mom, if that makes you feel better. But I'll still be gay after your prayers."
Joan did not move, but neither did she raise her eyes to meet her son's. "Then I'll pray for my own understanding."
Corner of Tremont and Fuller
Brian pulled up his corvette alongside the curb, cutting the engine and swinging the door open, immediately hit with a cold blast of wintry air. About to step out of his car, he paused, having caught sight of Justin waiting by the entrance to their apartment building. Justin must have seen him too, because a smile pulled up the corners of him mouth and he walked towards where Brian was parked, reaching the car and resting his arm on the roof while he leaned down to grin at Brian.
Brian pulled his lips into his mouth to suppress a smile. "Hey yourself."
"Would you mind coming with me to see something? I need ask your opinion."
"You mean I don't even get a 5 minute break to rest my poor arthritic knees?"
Justin stuck out his tongue. "Nope."
Minutes later they were in Justin's car speeding down the freeway. Brian leant back in his seat and watched the buildings flashing past in the freezing grey of the afternoon.
"So, did you have a nice day, dear?" Justin's eyes were fixed on the road but were lit with mischievous fire.
Brian glanced at him briefly, taking in the beautiful manly profile and the flawless pale skin before he drew in a breath and answered:
"I saw my Mom."
"Your Mom? What did she want?"
"I'm not quite sure."
At that moment, Justin swung the wheel and they pulled up to a big warehouse-type building in the centre of Pittsburg. Brian followed him out of the car, up the steps and through the door, where they were greeted with a concrete expanse of a room, empty and freezing cold. Justin held out his arms and twirled happily.
"Well, what do you think?"
Brian craned his neck back to take in the cavernous ceiling. "About what?"
"This! As my studio. I'm renting it. I figured I need to get working seriously again, and I can't paint in the loft… so when this place came on the market I phoned in and sealed the deal. What do you think?" His cheeks were glowing, and his breath came in silver puffs in the shadowy space.
Brian gave him a sardonic look. "It's fucking freezing."
Justin tucked his hands into he sleeves of his parker and let out a defeated laugh. "Yeah, it is. But the contractor promised he would sort it out. It needs a bit of work, but spatially it's just what I need… and it's got great light!"
Brian bit his lip for a moment, gazing at his partner, before walking forward and wrapping his coat around the younger man, pulling him close and chuckling into his ear.
"You artists and your fucking light."
Ted Schmidt bent over a pile of paper, shuffling through the sheets with an exasperated expression. After a minute, he bent down and pulled out a big drawer from the filing cabinet beside him, it made a clunking, rolling noise. From this drawer he extracted a folder from which he pulled yet more sheets, pouring over them for a second before throwing his hands up in exasperation and picking up the phone. A few muttered exchanges later, he hung up with a determined expression, and, his eyes fixed on the sheet he took up in his other hand, dialed a different number.
"Hello? Bri? It's Ted."
This seemed to elicit a lengthy teasing response, which Ted nodded tolerantly through before interrupting, absently tapping the sheet against the surface of his desk with a sound like a dog scratching itself.
"Brian, look… I just called about… Yes, we do. Seriously. I don't now how long you plan to continue this… as your accountant I advise… no of course it's not earning money! In fact it's probably losing it!"
Ted leaned back in his chair, putting down the sheet of paper on top of the others and tapping two keys on his computer to wake it up. When the screen was illuminated, Ted clicked few times and then shifted forward and scanned closely.
"Well… no. But I also don't think it would benefit you… this can't go on indefinitely. … Alright, I'll do what I can. It just seems…. Okay Brian. Bye now."
With that, Ted put down the phone and shuffled the papers on his desk, muttering to himself, as was his habit, before storing them all away and rolling the clunking drawer shut.
As I cleaned up the kitchen, I thought of dinner at Debbie tomorrow. My mum had said she would be bringing Molly, and I was looking forward to the festivities I had missed the year before.
But right now, I wanted to be with Brian. Just Brian. I had managed to persuade him not to go to work, it being Christmas Eve and all, and we had driven out of Pittsburgh to go for a walk in the crisp grass of the surrounding countryside. Brian still did not have all his strength yet, so we had just walked, arm in arm, at a leisurely pace, not saying much, but enjoying each other's presence and the fresh clean of the winter air. But now we were home and it was evening.
I felt the hairs in on the back of my neck raise in expectation as a thrill shot through me. I felt like I was drifting, divorced form reality, on an ethereal plane where the only truth was the heightened sensation of my body, the quiet assurance, the bubbling determination. I rinsed the sponge out in the warm water of the tap and folded the dishcloth over the rail before walking to the bedroom.
Brian was waiting for me on the bed when I came up the steps, his long legs crossed in front of him, a lazy swirl of smoke curling elegantly from the joint held loosely between his fingers. Smiling, I came to stand in front of him, seeing the way the light from behind him made him into a dark silhouette. Brian held out the spliff to me and sitting down next to him, I took a puff before putting it out in the ashtray on the floor and turning to look into his eyes. I felt a sudden surge of anticipation, was reminded how much I loved this man, loved everything about him. Brian was unusually silent, as if he were apprehensive, so I took charge. Very slowly, talking my time, I leaned in and pressed my lips to his.
After a second I felt him respond. He took my face in his hands with almost unbearable tenderness and we kissed gently but deeply, his fingers running through my hair. I caressed the back of his neck and the side of his face as he sucked on my bottom lip, running his tongue along the inside, sending tingles straight to my groin. Finally, when the flutter in my chest threatened to stop my heart, I pulled back. Brian took the opportunity to ease my shirt over my head and cast it aside. Everything was painfully slow and tentative. His hands promptly returned to my torso, gliding across the surface, touching in just the right places to send my head rolling back, my neck calling out in invitation to which he responded by running his tongue from my clavicle up to my ear.
Undressing each other became an extended process, both of us paying attention to each new area of skin as it was uncovered. Together on the bed, our hands, lips, tongues, teeth exploring freely, rediscovering every inch of each other. Ardent but unhurried. And then I pushed him over onto his back, kissing him tenderly, sucking on his tongue, winding my fingers in his hair and pushing my hips against his. When I pulled back a little and propped myself up on my elbow, his hazel eyes followed me, his lips slightly parted, and I held his gaze for a second before I began to lick and suck the skin of his shoulder, working my way down his chest, feeling the pliant muscles beneath my hands and the heat of his skin against my lips. We had made out like this since I came back, incredible, mind-blowing kissing sessions that usually resulted with me coming, but this time I knew it was more, I was focused as I continued down his body, taking the lead, pulling us both back into the magic we had forsaken for too long.
When I reached his navel Brian let out a moan and arched up against me, his hands finding their way into my hair. I brushed my nose against the faint trail of hair that led down from his stomach to his pubes and felt with a thrill his cock hard beneath my chest. My heart began to pound and I ran my hand up his side, feeling the bumps of his ribs beneath my palm. And then I dropped my head into his lap and finally got what I'd wanted since we'd walked in the door, the taste and smell and feel of Brian in my mouth.
I tongued the vein running up his cock, and then took just the head between my lips, lightly, before licking him up and down, and he let out the most amazing breathy gasp. Brian makes the best sounds. I think about his voice more than anything when I'm jerking off. I kissed his thighs, the place where his leg meets his hip, his balls. Very deliberately, I caressed them one at a time, first the prosthetic, then the genuine, drawing them into my mouth, my tongue dancing on the soft skin. His eyes were on me, an unfathomable expression darkening them, but then I closed my lips on his shaft and took him as deep into my throat as I could, swallowing him, my hands slipping under his ass and lifting him up to my face, and his eyes closed and his back arched up. He had one hand in my hair, twisting and stoking it, and the other back on the wall, and he was writhing under me, covered in sweat. The smell of him was so hot and so familiar, I'd missed it so much, having him in my mouth whenever I wanted him there. Just this, and this, and this. This for all eternity, the raging love that threatened to consume me as surely as the shattering lust that was bursting from my groin.
I knew he was close and moved up his body again, causing him to open his eyes. When I was directly above him, I leant over and grabbed a condom from the drawer and then rolled off onto my back, pulling him on top of me. Whilst he held himself still, arms either side of my head, I reached down and slipped it onto him, never breaking eye contact. I could perform that in my sleep, so many times had I done it. And then I put my hands either side of his face and pulled him down into a kiss, raising my head up to meet his half way, desperate to feel the fiery connection once again. Wrapping my legs around his back, I beckoned him into me, nudging inside the tightness, unused to this after so long. And oh God, nothing compares to that feeling. The feel of Brian in me, and around me, everywhere, pervading my senses, taking over everything, until I can feel nothing else. He was panting, his eyes screwed shut against the pleasure, and I reached down and grasped his ass, urging him forward.
Very slowly he angled his hips, and pulled out a fraction. Jesus, I was so hard, I knew I wasn't going to last long. My cock was hot and pulsing on my stomach, leaving a train of wetness below my navel. I felt my body and mind go into a higher place, as Brian wrapped me in his arms, his taut stomach rubbing against my dick, and started to thrust, slowly, gently, both of us so close it was almost unbearable. Dropping his forehead to my shoulder, he groaned and I knotted my fingers in his hair and gasped for air, feeling the cool of sweat on my skin, momentarily taking my mind off the suffocating pleasure which was growing in my core. I arched upwards into his arms as he hit something wonderful inside of me and then he was kissing me again, his mouth tasting amazing and just like him, lips warm and soft, still unbearably slow, and meaningful. When I felt my orgasm erupting, overpowering me, more powerful than I could remember in along time, I cried out and clutched at him, feeling him come inside me and squeezing my eyes shut as my body spiraled out of control.
Afterwards, when we had both come back down to earth and were lain together in silence, him still half on me, his head on my chest, his arm tucked around me and my hand in his hair, he craned his neck to glance up at me, a small smile playing on his lips.
"Merry Christmas, Sunshine."
~ End of Chapter 13 ~