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datatime: 2022-11-30 19:50:12 Author:OOtSjNhO

I shook my head. No. He's mine.

Just to see if I can.

I shook my head. I have to do it, Richard.

I stared back into the hole and let myself acknowledge just how afraid I was. So afraid that I could taste something flat and metallic on my tongue. So afraid that my pulse was hammering in my throat, like a trapped thing. My voice came out calm, normal. I was glad. It doesn't matter that I'm afraid. I touched the flashlight, tried to pull it from his hand, but he held on. And, short of playing tug of war -- which I would probably lose -- I wasn't getting it away from him.

He clutched the flashlight tighter. Why? And somehow I thought the question was about more than the oubliette and why I had to climb inside it.

I shook my head. I have to do it, Richard.

He held on with both hands. Why do you have to do this? Just tell me that. You're so scared your mouth is dry. I can taste it on your breath.

Why? Why do you need to know that? You've proven to me and everyone here that you're tough. You don't have anything left to prove to us.

I shook my head. I'm not competing with you, Richard, or anyone else. I don't give a shit who's better or faster or braver.

What difference would it make if you couldn't climb down in that stinking hole? You'll never have to do it again, Anita. Just don't do it.

He clutched the flashlight tighter. Why? And somehow I thought the question was about more than the oubliette and why I had to climb inside it.

To me, Richard, I have something left to prove to me.

Why do you have to be the toughest, the bravest? Why can't you, just once, let me do something for you? Going down in the hole doesn't scare me. Let me do this for you. Please. His voice was still soft, and he was leaning into me enough so that I could smell the drying blood on him, the richness of fresh blood in his mouth, as if some small cut had not healed completely.

To me, Richard, I have something left to prove to me.

And I can taste fresh blood on yours, but I have to do it because it scares me.

Why do you have to be the toughest, the bravest? Why can't you, just once, let me do something for you? Going down in the hole doesn't scare me. Let me do this for you. Please. His voice was still soft, and he was leaning into me enough so that I could smell the drying blood on him, the richness of fresh blood in his mouth, as if some small cut had not healed completely.

What difference would it make if you couldn't climb down in that stinking hole? You'll never have to do it again, Anita. Just don't do it.

He shook his head. I let this happen. I'll get him out.

Why? Why do you need to know that? You've proven to me and everyone here that you're tough. You don't have anything left to prove to us.

Give me the flashlight, Richard.

I shook my head. No. He's mine.

He shook his head. I let this happen. I'll get him out.

I looked at him, at the puzzlement in his face, his eyes, which had bled back to their normal, perfect brown. I'd been trying to explain shit like this to Richard for a few years now. I finally realized that he would never understand and I was tired of trying to explain myself, not just to Richard, to everybody.

I stared back into the hole and let myself acknowledge just how afraid I was. So afraid that I could taste something flat and metallic on my tongue. So afraid that my pulse was hammering in my throat, like a trapped thing. My voice came out calm, normal. I was glad. It doesn't matter that I'm afraid. I touched the flashlight, tried to pull it from his hand, but he held on. And, short of playing tug of war -- which I would probably lose -- I wasn't getting it away from him.

Because it scares me, and I have to know if I can.

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