Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

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Freewrite 2

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He flicks the lighter, shuts it, throws it into his other palm. Repeats.
‘This is it. We get out of here, and we jump.’
Flick, click, shut, toss.
‘You ready?’
I nod, mechanical, my neck muscles are iron.
He stands and opens the door. The city rushes towards us as the shuttle hurtles down the cable. We cut the brakes and engines two minutes ago.
I step to the edge with him. I want to hold his hand.
He puts his hand on the button that will deploy his wings, and he looks at the city – surrounded by water, caught in a web of cable lines. Our target. Our home.
With his other hand, he pockets his lighter.
‘GO!’
He jumps without a look back. I feel the edge of the metal doorway under my soles.
I watch him fall and – before I can convince myself that he’s okay – I push myself over the edge after him.
A flash of red. His wings deploy. I fumble for my button, trying to aim with the wind rushing in my eyes. What if I fail? How bad will it be to die like this?
Got it. Push. I jerk backwards, harness feels like its bruising my sternum. From falling, I float for a moment.
There. Paradise below me. People staring open-mouthed from shuttle windows.
He is far ahead now.
I open my mouth, turn my wings, and as I descend, rip-roaring-this-is-life, I scream.

Written by G.J.

04/10/2015 at 10:22 pm

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Solarpunk Noir 2

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First thing I did once home was sit at my table. Well, almost. First thing I did, really, was take a swig out the bottle of absinthe I’d bought on the walk home. Then I found it much easier to sit on my pillow, at my dusty candle table, light up the candles and incense and prepare my mind for some pain. I may have had a second swig.

Events seen and unforeseen. It couldn’t be helped. I breathed, exhaled, searched for the third eye within me, and opened her sand-cracked lids. I asked for Jess.

She responded like she’d been waiting all this time.
Jess, fourteen, drunk, wearing hot pants.
Jess, sixteen, in the bathroom at school.
‘It’s not a big deal, is it?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘It wasn’t even that good. I just wanted it out the way, y’know? I know he-‘
One line broke into the memory vision:
‘ -holding on to an impossible-‘
I pushed it away.
Jess, sixteen again. The faint look of fear when I glanced at her, glanced back having looked away having told her I like women. A slip of revulsion crossing over her lips.
‘Oh. Okay.’
‘-I’d have to be blind not to realise-‘
I threw the memory aside. Future, not me, not memories, give me some real vision, I begged.
She didn’t take the hint. She ran with the theme she’d latched to.
Nineteen.
‘Why are you being such a wuss about this? You always back down when you should be sticking up for me, for yourself-‘
‘You really think that style suits you?’ sneers thirteen-year-old Jess.
‘You knew it was never going to happen,’ comes that insidious whisper again.Enough, show me what I need to know!
I saw us graduate. Jess smiling. We threw our degrees in the air.

Sneaky bitch, that eye of mine. Lulled. False security. I couldn’t escape the full vision when it slammed on me again:
Last time I saw her. Three years ago. We were having coffee. Jess told me she was moving away.
‘This is…sudden,’ I said, too shocked to hide the hurt in my voice.
‘I didn’t expect it. But I don’t think I’ll be coming back.’
‘What’re you going to-‘
‘I didn’t want to leave without clearing some things between us.’
‘There’s nothing to clear.’
She raised her eyebrows. She’d threaded them too thin again. She always did that. She was drinking a caramel latte and wearing her best red sweater and she only had mascara on, no eyeliner. I didn’t need the vision to tell me these things. They were burned in me.
‘You’re holding on to an impossible dream,’ she said. Maybe she meant it to be so quiet I couldn’t hear over the cafe background chatter? No. No, she knew her voice would carry. And that wouldn’t have been like her. She was never a coward.
‘Rai-‘
She called me Rai. Don’t ask the reason. I’ll never tell.
‘Rai,’ she said. ‘I’m a straight woman. I’ll never feel for you the way you feel for me. And I’m going to be walking some…different paths, I think. We need to have a clean break. Be apart from each other.’
‘That’s pretty fucking presumptuous,’ I said. ‘You think coz I’m gay and your best friend that I’m in love with you?’
‘I’d have to be blind not to realise.’
‘You’re talking shit,’ I said. ‘Are you trying to piss me off to make this easier? Burn all the bridges behind you, as well as every one in front, like you usually do?’
She smirked.
I called her out on being her fuck-up self, and she smirked.
‘I burn what I burn. We’re done, I think. We’re not good for each other.’
‘You tell me that after the amount of times I held your hair back for you.’
‘And after the amount of times I stood up for you, friends I made for you. Look at us,’ she chuckled, shaking her head. ‘We’re no good. And I don’t need this baggage. I don’t need my past, half my life following me around, waiting for the day I get drunk enough to kiss her.’
I blushed, furiously, like a teenager.
‘So you didn’t forget.’
She shrugged.
‘I want what I want at the time. If you’d had the balls to admit it’d happened, maybe I’d have admitted to remembering.’
No good for each other.
‘But you knew it was never going to happen. You’re a coward, and you always have been. And I don’t have time for cowards and love-sick puppies anymore. I’m done with you.’
She took a last swig of her coffee and stood up. I wanted to cry, beg her not to go, tell her I’d do anything. I wanted to scream at her, call her a bitch in front of everyone in the cafe, tell her I’d be better off without all the pain she’d given me in the past ten, twelve years.
I said nothing as she left.

I pulled out of the vision.
Sniffed.
Swigged the absinthe.
Coughed.
‘Fuck you, eye,’ I said.
Another swig.
I closed my eyes. Breathed. The incense was going to run out soon.

Not Jess, then. But something. Give me something to do with it, some hint of my next job, what Meredith said-
Like a bolt, the eye opened and I saw her: Meredith. Smiling. Wriggling out of her dress and jumping onto her bed.
This, this is better, I thought.
Black-haired butch was with her. Chain-link tattoo around her umber bicep. Started to kiss each other, hungrily. I had a sudden sneaking worry that Meredith might prefer the manly type – the big, protective type.
Still, it’s better –
Mid-thought, suddenly Meredith was at the dressing table the next morning, rolling lip balm over those round, plump lips.
(Dammit! Why skip over the good part?)
Her beau jumped from the bed, looking at her phone in disbelief.
‘No,’ she said, ‘no no no no-‘
Meredith turned.
‘What’s up?’
‘No – I have to – I have to go, right now -‘
‘Immi, what is it?’
‘An-Gen,’ the butch said. When she looked up, tears were in her eyes. ‘It’s – it’s gone. James tried to call, I missed it, he just texted me, he says they broke in in the night, trashed the prototypes, stole the money, bricked the computers – it’s gone, it’s – it’s all gone!’
Immi burst into tears. Meredith comforted her.

They, I asked, show me who “they” are.
Eye showed me a man. Blonde hair, cropped at the sides, not young but not over forty. Standing in front of a classroom. Teaching philosophy.
‘Nasty, brutish, and short-‘
‘The world is full of impossible dreams, isn’t it?’
The voice was loud, real, in my mind. It interrupted the vision, but it was not my eye, not mine, not from me.
A whoosh, a smack, the vision was pulled from under me, and my eye jolted shut as my others burst open.
My pillow, my table, incense burned out.
Breathed, exhaled, rubbed my brows.
It was her.
I knew her presence like I knew my own teeth.
And yet, she had kicked me out of my own eye.
She had found me – and kicked me out.
I exhaled again.
Took another swig.
Then reached in my pocket and found Meredith’s card.

Written by G.J.

21/07/2015 at 9:55 pm

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Solarpunk Noir 1

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21.20, summer evening. It was June 13th. I was downing my favourite poison at the Saint’s Bar, one of the quieter joints in the anointed Sun City. Older joint. I was the only one there, bar Anita, who was polishing glasses and leaving me be.

Something in the air had whispered to me that that wasn’t going to be a good night – buzzes of foreboding creeping cross my brain – but I was determined to ignore that part of me and slug it down with the rest.

Still, I didn’t look up when the door opened, but I wasn’t surprised, neither. Only straightened when she put herself in the stool next to mine.

‘Hey,’ she said.

I glanced, despite my best judgement. Six foot of pure golden rays. Curls spilling over her shoulders, the most delicious zaftig femme I’d ever seen. She swung her stool and leaned her arm on the bar, leaning forward, bosoms speaking loud. I cleared my throat over their shouting.

‘Not many people come round here anymore,’ I said, signing to Anita for another rum. ‘It’s a little…archaic, for most queers’ tastes.’

‘The stained glass…the way the sunshines through it,’ she said, looking up at the windows. ‘I like it. Reminds me of church.’

She leaned further into me and it was like a light shone on my eye and I had to meet it. I looked. She had coral lipstick on tiny round lips. She smirked.

‘I like the sacrilege of it.’

Only so much a woman can take.

I downed my rum. Anita raised her eyebrow at me and turned, ignoring my sign for another. I sighed and pushed my trilby further back on my head. I had my hair pulled back in its usual bun, but nothing was sitting right tonight.

‘Look, you want a confession?’ I said. ‘I came here to drown my sorrows, not be picked up.’

‘I have a confession too,’ she said. ‘I came here looking for you…Clara Sinclair.’

Troubles. Knocking down my door. I signed desperately for another drink but Anita still had her broad back at me.

‘Meredith,’ the angel said, tipping her head. ‘That’s my name. You’ve probably guessed I have a job request.’

Defeated, I slumped over my folded arms.

‘I gotta warn you, I can’t see as I used to.’

‘Can’t, or won’t?’

How much does this bitch know, I thought.

I didn’t reply.

Meredith turned her stool around and leant her back against the bar, staring again at the patches of light barely shining through the painted bar windows.

‘My employers are looking for a woman who goes by the name of “The Mayflower.”‘

Her.

‘I heard you were the best point of contact as to her whereabouts. You have…history, I understand.’

Jess.

‘That was a long time ago,’ I said, turning my face away.

‘Not long at all, if you’re still drowning your sorrows about it.’

Jessica May. My life, my light, my unrequited ball-and-chain, my perpetual hornet sting, my adolescence in two words. The pit I dug myself out from. Jess, with her big eyes and pointed nose and chin, her loud cackling laugh, her gorgeous hair spilling like a waterfall.

‘My employers have a great interest in learning her whereabouts. She’s implicated in a certain amount of…events…seen and foreseen.’

I said nothing.

Meredith took out a card from her handbag and slid it across to me.

‘If you look again, you’ll find her.’

‘I don’t want to find her.’

‘You’ll be well rewarded.’

I laughed.

‘It’d better be damn good.’

Meredith looked up from under her eyelashes at me.

‘You know the finding is the reward,’ she purred.

Then she was gone.

I won’t do it, I told myself. I ignored the card, as it stood prominent on the oak bar, like the moon in the sky, like a phone screen in the dark.

Anita slid a glass in front of me, filled with purple liqueur. I glared up at her. Good ol’ Anita, forty-two years old and six-three, born under a man’s name, best potion maker this side of Sun City.

‘What’s this?’

‘Forget-me-not,’ she said.

I grasped it with both hands and chugged it down. Sweet, violets, strong afterburn at the back of the throat. Slammed the glass on the table, tossed Anita a few coins, and grabbed my coat.

Guess I knew I was doomed from the start, if Jess was involved.

Written by G.J.

26/05/2015 at 9:45 pm

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Complacency (poetry is always indulgence)

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I leave no stain on the world.

No more than the usual first-worlder.

Only plastics, carbon dioxide,

and wasted water.

I make no claim on the world.

I have struggled and found Enough.

Safety. Security.

And why not rejoice?

People would die, have died,

for Enough.

My pen lies empty.

I make no stand.

I once had plans

that washed through my fingers

and when I stood and looked again

my juniors walked ahead,

a mile away, ahead.

They speak their ambition in light tongues.

‘I might, I might.’

You will, for you are not me.

Nails crush into palm.

My pen lies empty.

I dabble in the shallows of my authorial plans.

Always Someday, Someday, Someday…

My pen lies empty.

How dare I do?

How dare I not do?

I said I would.

I said I would, but…

I have built this Enough

on this bones of my broken dreams.

I have calm.

For the first, I have calm.

And yet, O Muse, you haunt me.

Restless ambition.

Fool human condition.

This Enough is no longer Enough.

I leave no stain?

How dare I.

How dare I.

I make no claim?

How can I?

May I?

To make a stand?

I will break, as breaking does.

(How many times before I convince myself

that I am not brittle?)

How dare.

Still.

Ceaseless pen.

You urge me to write.

World.

Indulge me, please,

this once.

Allow my selfishness.

Please.

Dead conscious safety or reckless living vanity.

Either way, please indulge–

(No, only one way)

(Ever only one way)

Ever only one way.

So it is.

I write.

Urge.

I have no complacency with you here.

Written by G.J.

29/04/2015 at 11:11 pm

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Turtle Soul (poetry is always indulgence)

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Turtle soul,

Hedgehog soul,

Skunk.

Touch you and you become a fortress,

Reach for you and the spikes come out.

Sprays the bile all over

Stinking hot and wet.

_

Pound the metal, pound it hard.

Pound every weakness and impurity away.

Snap.

Bad panel.

Too weak.

Chuck aside.

Pound. Pound. Pound.

_

Rain lashes at the window,

water wears away stone over time.

‘That’s just the way the world is.

Nothing is going to be handed to you on a platter.

Grow up.

You’re no special snowflake.

You are not special at all.’

_

Kick a dog enough times and it turns.

That’s the sort of thing child-abused serial killers say.

Kick a dog enough times.

Woof, woof.

No responsibility for me, thanks. I’m an animal.

_

You are better than that, they say.

You are better than that.

You are better than this.

If I was better than this, I wouldn’t be here.

_

Pound, pound, pound.

Be realistic.

Pound, pound, pound.

Cliff to arch to stack.

Be realistic.

_

If you really wanted it, you’d work harder.

If you were really smart, you’d have followed a plan.

If you were really better than this, you wouldn’t be here.

_

Just look at you.

_

Strips away like layers of muslin on a mummy.

Hammered away until glowing-hot core is left.

Voice is acid that burns all but the bones.

You are nothing, nothing,

nothing but bones.

Worthless bones.

_

If I was meant to be better, I’d have done better by now

(says the skeleton, jaw clacking).

If I was any good, I’d know it, wouldn’t I?

Can’t trust people. They’re blind and liars and fools.

But I’d know if I was worth it, wouldn’t I?

_

First goes trust in others.

Their opinions are so slow and weak compared to that voice.

Kindness is burned away,

first to self,

then – withering after, drip by drip over time –

to the rest of humankind.

_

You’re right, you agree with the vicious, why should we care?

These people brought it on themselves.

The delusions, the fear, the insecurities.

The weakness.

Ha! Ha! Look at their weaknesses!

Laugh at them. Laugh at them. They should know better.

This is just how the world works.

Be fucking realistic.

_

(Just look at you, screams the voice inside.

You are them. You are weak.

The weakest).

_

Over the throbbing pulsing exposed kitten-soft core

Come scabs, and callouses.

Hard as shoeless feet, leathered, impervious.

What was once a child’s crying heart.

_

A turtle soul.

Knows better than to let anything touch it.

A hedgehog soul.

Barbs ready, up in defence.

A skunk.

Knows its best to hurt first. Hurt strongest. Leave a mark.

Do something, fucking do something.

This is just the way the world works.

You keep swimming or you die, you keep swimming or you drown.

The weakest are taken down first.

The old, the sick, the young.

From animal’s first impulse: do not be weak, do not be weak,

hide your soul or you will die.

They will reject you and abandon you and you will starve alone and die.

To fibre optic and LCD and sickness vaccines, and still,

you will die if you are weak.

The group laughs at you, you’re dead.

Must do as we say, must do as we want, must follow the rules we laid out.

(We just want what’s best for you, that’s all)

But be realistic.

Be realistic.

You are not special.

This is the best you can hope for.

And if you were meant to be any better, that was a lie.

You believed you were going to be better? What are you, conceited?

The weak only live by latching on to the strong.

How fortunate that we pity you.

(Must be good for something at least,

parasite,

flea).

_

I mean, just look at you.

_

Fine, comes the voice.

Echoing through the empty chambers of brown-green-black caverns.

From deep within the shell, comes the voice:

_

Fine.

I accept it.

I’ll play by your rules.

I am nothing.

You are nothing.

This world is nothing.

We are animals scrambling to the top of a pile and destroying each other and the ground we stand on. There is only so much earth, and material, and air to use. The weak get eaten. Stop swimming and you die. So shut the fuck up and get on with things and don’t you dare complain about what some sad soft-shitted adult or two said about your potential lifetimes ago, don’t you dare remember that people believed in you – they were fools, right? All fools. Be fucking realistic. The world is not going to hand anything to you, you entitled piece of shit.

I mean, really…

Just look at me.

Just…look at me.

If I was meant for anything better, I wouldn’t be here, would I?

If the world feels cruel, it’s only because I’ve been too soft for it.

Ungrateful piece of trash.

_

So says the voice,

of the turtle soul,

the hedgehog soul,

the skunk.

Pound, pound, pound.

Hammered out.

Never be so weak again.

The doors are shut.

The room is sealed.

No-one can hear the scream inside this head.

Nothing is unfair.

All is as it should be.

Pound, pound, pound.

No vocal fold to vibrate, no words to filter through the brain.

Only a vague sense of sound filling up the subconscious,

animal wail.

_

Turtle soul,

Hedgehog soul.

Skunk.

Done.

Written by G.J.

02/10/2014 at 12:50 am

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Savage Writing: A One-Year Man

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The theme for this week was “Heat”

__

A single droplet of water curved down Mollie’s neck, slipped over the two creases of folded flesh, and raced the rest of the way to her chest in the time it took her to say ‘Huh?’

One week until semester started. We’d packed everything into the new flat, and it would be just the two of us until Jessica would move in on Saturday. So, we took a celebratory trip to the pool – or more accurately, the sauna. It had the kind of heat that sits easy in your lungs and on your skin, unlike that summer’s burning sunshine.

‘We broke up,’ I repeated.

‘Really?’ she said, cocking her head further. ‘But you two seemed so happy together!’

I curled up and clutched my legs, trying to ignore how my bones dug into the wooden seat.

‘Yeah, well,’ I said. ‘You know how it goes with some people. He was a one­year man.’

‘What, like there was a natural time limit to him?’ she scoffed.

‘Yeah, kinda. It’s like a season, I guess. When it’s over, it’s over. Not much you can say about it.’

She raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. For the fourth time that day, I wished I could be like her. To walk around the pool with her suit clinging wet to all the contours of her torso, and be utterly uncaring. To slouch in the sauna, when she and everyone knew that that girls with any fat should never slouch. She had scarlet cheeks, a sweaty nose, wet hair flat and unflattering on her forehead – and yet she sat, without any indication that she noticed her transgressions of attractiveness, or cared. Like a baby, or a puppy: unaware, blissful. She did not constantly monitor herself from an imaginary third person eye. She merely was, in a way I could only hope to be.

I rested my chin on my knee, and was surprised to find my knee the colder of the two. Some things in life are surprising, I thought, but in hindsight, the break­-up shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Mollie had a long­-distance boyfriend of two years, and they worshipped each other like the sun. She couldn’t understand a time­limited relationship, but that was how it had been with Andrew and me. He was a one-­year man.

Autumn, last year. Mutual acquaintanceship made at a late summer barbecue, refreshed into mutual interest during a fresher’s week pre­-drinking session. Autumn has always been my favourite: the cooling air holds a promise of fresh, new things. Andrew had hair the colour of summer evenings, and his eyes and laughter lines creased when he smiled, and in the autumn days when the leaves crushed or slushed under our boots, he held a weight of novelty and potential in every word, every gesture, every brushing of his hand against mine. Once I grasped it in my own, I thought I could only ever be happy.

I have bad circulation. My fingers and toes are always ice-blocks, once it drops below fifteen degrees. Andrew, though, he was fire. He was a skinny guy, one of those naturally thin guys whose metabolism was cranked at full capacity, a furnace underneath twig ribs. He was my heat as we lapsed into winter: rubbing my fingers in his as if he was trying to make a spark from them, swearing when I put my feet on his calves in bed. Bonfires and mulled wine cooled over time, but the warmth of his skin on mine never ceased.

‘It’s more fun to have someone to go to these things with,’ he said, of seasonal dinners and events, even as his eyes roved over hair and down cleavage at seasonal drinks and parties.

I felt him slipping away with the long nights, as spring appeared. Missed meetings. Misunderstandings. ‘Monday, not Sunday.’ ‘Sorry, something’s come up.’ ‘You know how it is with my coursework’ – only to see a facebook revelry the next morning.

‘Tell me if you don’t want to be with me,’ I said. ‘Just be honest with me.’

‘Don’t be like that,’ he said, every time. ‘Come here.’

Stuck my hand in the flame, again and again. Leapt in harder after each threat of a cold world without him.

Exams and summer turned into sweaty jubilation. We’d rub our skin red on each other those empty afternoons. And then he wouldn’t text for a week.

Autumn came round again, as it would. I wished we could’ve lasted a season longer. We could’ve ended with a bang on Bonfire Night, instead of a slow, suffocating drain over multiple humid nights. The response to two ignored invitations at the end of July told me simply that he was leaving. ‘It’s been fun.’ Smiley face.

‘So,’ Mollie asked, that day in the sauna. ‘What’s he doing now he’s graduated?’

‘He went to London,’ I said to the thermometer. ‘Like he always said he would.’

‘You going to see him any time soon?’

I shook my head. The warmth of my cheeks disguised the flush of emotion; the sweat and poolwater hid the wetness of my eyes. I couldn’t tell her what I had realised: that there was never a “we” in that relationship. There was only him, and an afterthought. A consideration brushed aside like a cobweb; a moment sticky on the fingers, a tiny struggle to release himself, then nothing. Forgotten.

‘Well, that’s kind of prickish, isn’t it?’

‘I should’ve known better,’ I said. ‘He was that kind of guy. The sort who only sticks around

for a while, until something better comes up.’

I saw myself as he must have seen me: average, dull, clingy. A half-­played game of Jenga, where each missing block indicated a crucial feature I was missing as a person, as a woman. A barely standing tower of holes.

‘Oh, don’t you dare,’ Mollie said.

She stood up, and slouched herself down beside me.

‘Don’t you dare go thinking this was your fault,’ she said. ‘He messed you about for a whole year – he’s the prick here! It has nothing to do with you.’

I hugged myself away from her. Her words were comforting, but I knew the comfort wouldn’t last. We’d go outside into the wind, and the heat of the sauna would be blown away for good, and I would be left with cold toes, cold hands, without even the heat of a one­-year man.

Written by G.J.

21/08/2014 at 10:47 am

Goodbye 2013

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Hi everyone, sorry for the silence. I had planned to have the first of three new short stories written and up here by now, but…y’know…Christmas.

2013 was quite a shit year for me, and pretty much the only thing I can say with pride is that I finished a 140k first draft of a novel (referred to as Frills and Slaughter on my twitter) and am now 35k into the fourth draft of another one (Monster Book, aka That Thing I Wrote). I’m also proud of many of the smaller pieces that I wrote for this blog and for the Leeds Savages – though their schedule got a little spottier later in the year, as I focused on my PhD proposal and my longer pieces. (And discovered tumblr.) I’m glad to see this year go, since 2014 brings a lot more promise, both for my “real world” career and my future as a writer.

Thank you so much to everyone who follows this blog, though it’s one out of similar millions on the net. Thank you for following, liking, and commenting. It helps to keep me going when the demons are at hand 🙂

Thank you for reading and here’s to a great 2014!

Gemma x

Written by G.J.

31/12/2013 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized