Longest Blogging Break Ever

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Yearly blogging break does not mean take a year off of blogging does it? Oops…

I know, I know. Blogging 101 says that you should be consistent. That a successful blog should at least write once a week. I was doing ok for a while, but then I wasn’t. It has been a weird year, a year where I questioned a lot of stuff in my life. Like what direction I was headed as a writer, or whatever you want to call me. The most annoying thing about myself is my tendency to beat myself up and second-guess every decision. I could make a career out of doing that, an official second-guesser. Is that a thing?  Well, it should be because I would be awesome and get lots of awards from the award giving people.

Anyways…

I started this blog as a therapeutic way to rehash some of my most awkward moments. I am still awkward as hell. It is one thing that hasn’t changed even though I am vastly approaching my third decade on this planet. I always thought my awkwardness would fade when I became an official adult.  All this adulting has done nothing for my unbearably awkward syndrome (its a condition, look it up).

Just the other day, I fell near the entrance of a local grocery store. Who falls trying to complete a simple task like grabbing a shopping cart? Me. That’s who. Did I mention it was in front of several people? One of which was a tiny older woman, who squealed when I flew backwards. Her yelp created an even larger audience to see the aftermath of my fight with Gravity. What a b word. Gravity, not the little old lady.

I don’t even know if I have an audience on this blog anymore.  I have possible lost the five or so followers I had.  Who cares. Its nice to be back.

The Elevator Game

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At least twice a year, my parents would brave the turbulent mountain pass between Montana and Washington to drive me to doctor appointments at a non-profit Children’s Hospital in Spokane. I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as baby, and with my parents struggling to pay bills; the hospital had become a blessing.

As an adult now, I realize how it must have been quite the hassle to take the only two days off you have from working full-time jobs to pack up both your children to drive two states away for an appointment that usually only lasts an hour or so. My parents made the best out of it, treating the trips as mini-vacations. My favorite thing about travelling was counting all of the things Spokane had compared to our little town. Not only did they have a mall with four different floors, but also there was TWO OF THEM! They had all the restaurants we saw in commercials when watching cable television, even that one that famously served unlimited buttery pieces of bread in stick form.

During one trip, the hospital had made a reservation at a motel that was as big as the Sears Tower (in my ten year old eyes).  When we walked the through the lobby to get to our rooms, we were faced with a large pool, the motel rooms seemingly built around it. The most mesmerizing thing was the lack of roof above the pool. It was the coolest thing my older brother Brandon and I had ever seen. My parents were not as impressed; not understanding the choice of architecture in a place that regularly snows in winter. My father called after us, as they waited for the elevator doors to open. No doubt I was easily amused, now turning my attention on the shiny silver elevator with ALL THOSE BUTTONS! I wanted to continue to ride it to the very top, but was disappointed when my parents stepped out at the twelfth floor. Later with my belly full of pizza, I fell asleep to the sounds of my family playing their usual dice game as the local news report blared in the background.

I awoke up in the middle of the night to find my Mom and Dad passed out in the bed next to me. My dad’s abnormally loud snoring kept me from drifting back to sleep.  My brother still awake, sat on the floor watching some old movie with talking monkeys who dressed like humans. I moved my way down to the edge of the bed only for him to ask “What are you doing up?” I shrugged my shoulders and simply said, “Dad.” He chuckled and returned his attention to the TV. After a couple of minutes of watching and not understanding my brother’s choice in movies, I whined that I was bored and wanted to go ride the elevators. (As if it was some sort of amusement park attraction.) Brandon, who was supposed to be the more rational one (being a whole three years old), agreed to take me, but only on the condition that I listen to him.

We fumbled to find our shoes in the darkness, attempting to be as stealthy as children could be. Outside the florescent lights above the room doors made it seem like it was still daytime. We ran towards the shiny elevator doors, free from our parents, free from the world.

We rode up and down the elevator for what seemed like hours, stepping out at each new floor, only to jump back in before the doors closed. Eventually the excitement started to fade. At the fifth floor, my brother decided it would be hilarious to leave me. A wave a panic hit when the doors closed before I could get in, the doors quickly opened again to reveal my brother practically on the floor from laughing so much. I shed a tear, mostly to make him feel bad. It didn’t work.

On a whim, he decided press the “L2” button, which lead to a level below where the pool and front desk were located. It was darker then the other floors, my brother slowly stepped out and turned the corner while I didn’t dare leave the brightly lit elevator. Instead, an idea flooded my head. I took a breath and mustered enough courage to seek my revenge. The doors closed before he could get back in, and I rode the elevator alone to the pool level. That’s what you get for messing with me, I thought to myself.

My brother must of hit the up button on his floor because the elevator started to make its way back down without any help from me. At the last minute, I decided I would pop out when the doors opened and scare him. I thought if I was successful in scaring him, it would make him think twice before messing with me again. As the doors slowly pushed open, I jumped out towards the middle of the elevator and let out a huge growl. Only the person waiting was not my brother, but a youngish looking man with a scraggly beard and a basket full of clothes. He let out a strange noise, but started to chuckle when he realized he was startled by a small child. I quickly retreated to the farthest corner away from the stranger and refused to make eye contact, looking down at my feet until we had reached his floor.

After the scraggly beard man left, tears started to flood my eyes as the elevator started to move on its own once again. I worried about where Brandon went. I wondered if there were more people down on “L2” and if they had decided to hold my brother hostage. The doors opened at the pool level, but there was no one there. I stepped out onto the silent floor with only my left foot. I felt a hand on my shoulder and quickly jumped back into the elevator.  I heard the sound of a familiar voice calling my name before the doors closed again.

After opening the doors once again to retrieve my brother, we decided to end our elevator adventure. Back on our floor, we spot our Dad, half awake, leaning against the metal rails in front of our room. As we made our way towards him, I knew our fun was over for the night. My dad, giving his best stern look, shock his head and said, “I hope you had fun because when I tell Mom tomorrow, the rest of this trip is going to be anything but.”

The Invisible Sister Gets Her First Stalker

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…and awkwardly deals with it. 

At the age of thirteen, I was convinced that I wasn’t pretty and that was the only reason boys didn’t like me. Obsessing over the fact that I wasn’t as skinny as the more popular girls or that my mom didn’t let me wear as much make up. Junior high can be hell when you live to impress your peers. It wasn’t until a mysterious high school freshman took notice of me that I realized that the boys in my grade might take my complete awkwardness into consideration.

Going to a K-12 school is an interesting experience. It is a strange environment that produces situations like third graders passing through a busy hallway, designated for high school seniors, on their way to recess. The section of the building reserved for junior high students was a little more secluded. Most of the older kids were strangers to me. My brother and his friends were all juniors, but they mostly ignored me if I passed them in the hallway. My brother was more popular than I was. So much, that most of the high school barely knew I existed. One day, during volleyball practice, I noticed two older boys hanging around. One of them, a boy with dark eyes and blonde buzz cut, kept staring at me. Him and his friend kept whispering back and forth, occasionally pointing at me and the other girls. My mind directly went to the fact that I wasn’t very athletic and he was probably trying to figure out how I made the team. They were certainly mocking me and I their presence distracted me. Eventually they left and I quickly forgot about them as I tried to focus on not sucking at volleyball.

“Tim Stockton* just winked at you!” Cas* giggled. It was a couple of days later and we were in the library doing research for history class. At the same time, a class of freshmen students was studying in the same area. That day, I learned that the mysterious boy’s name was Tim Stockton from my friend who just about everyone in our small school. I had caught him staring again and was trying my best to ignore it. My friend Cas noticed and decided to make fun of me for it. “He must totally like you!” she chuckled, as I tried to cover her mouth. She was not following the strict rules of the library, practically shouting for all to hear. Cas was dead wrong. There was no way that Tim liked me. Even if he did, I wasn’t so sure that I liked him. I barely knew who the kid was.

After school, Tim and his friend Bobby were back spectating the eighth grade girl’s volleyball practice. Every time I briefly glanced over at his direction, he greeted me with a wide, goofy smile. It made my stomach turn. Ok, maybe he did have a crush on me OR he was playing some sort of joke. I was just some random homely looking girl that he wanted to pull a prank on. Yeah, that seemed more reasonable. After practice, Cas and I waited in front of the school for our parents when Tim and Bobby walked by. “I just wanted to tell you, you are the most gorgeous girl I have ever seen!” Tim shouted in front of half my volleyball team. My face turned bright red. This amount of attention was too much. Instead of ignoring it, I giggled. I couldn’t stop giggling and couldn’t form a response back. The only thing I could think to do was turn around and face the brick wall I had been leaning on. Both the guys chuckled as they walked past. I stood frozen there for what seemed like hours before my dad’s car pulled up to save me. Cas and the rest of girls couldn’t hold in their laughter. I hopped into my dad’s car quickly realizing that if my parents let me, I would never go to school again.

The next few days, I saw Tim everywhere, he would smile or say something about how gorgeous I was. My reaction would always be turning bright red. From my response, Tim must have thought I liked the attention. In reality, I hated it. I just wanted it to stop. If it wasn’t Tim turning me bright red, my friends would, by poking fun at how I was too shy to talk to boys. Like they were any better. Eventually I got so sick of all of it that I avoided him, bracing every corner of the school as if I was stealthy ninja trying not be detected. When that didn’t work, I would just completely pretend like he wasn’t there. At times I felt bad, but at the same, it seemed like he enjoyed embarrassing me.

Over time, Tim Stockton was no longer a problem. I gladly returned to being that invisible girl that boys seemed to ignore. My friends never got why I didn’t just accept his praise because, to them, it could have lead to more.  Well, frankly, I didn’t want to be the girlfriend of a guy who gets off tormented girls into liking him.  I never really knew why he stopped seeking me out. Maybe he finally got the message that I didn’t like him.  Maybe he found some other girl to stalk. Or, Maybe he found out that I was the little sister of a very large and intimidating junior guy with angry issues.

Finally saying “Hi” to my brother in the crowded hallway, while Tim watched nearby, was a great plan.

My brief stint as a junior high mean girl

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In junior high I was always looking to improve my status.  Of course, my incredible shy demeanor did not help me whatsoever.  I had made some resolutions at the start of eighth grade.  I was determined to change how everyone saw me.  My list was everything you would typically expect out of a thirteen-year-old girl.

  1. Change my look (to be the hottest girl in my grade.)
  2. Get a boyfriend (one boy in particular)
  3. Become popular (become friends with the highest ranked social clique)

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My aspirations were pretty shallow, but I wanted them more than anything. After a disastrous couple of months in the boy department, I was ready to tackle other parts of my list. It was November and I was still reeling from Jack* leaving me broken-hearted at the Halloween dance. I had given up on him…for the time being. Every morning my best friend Anna and I would be in the eighth-grade girl’s bathroom applying all the makeup my parents never let me leave the house in. A bunch of girls in our class were huddled looking at one of the stalls. Someone had written something pretty vulgar about the eighth-grade class. While we didn’t have evidence, we could only assume it was the handy work of a few rotten seventh-graders.

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As the bell rang, I started to think that this was my opportunity to make a name for myself. No longer would I be Anna’s* best friend or my brother’s little sister. I had to get revenge. Using a brown eyeliner pencil I stole from my mom’s makeup drawer, I wrote, “For a good time, give a 7th grader a quarter.” I felt a rush, but still played it safe by using something easily washable. It was a proud moment for me when the other girls applauded my efforts. This single act of spontaneous rebellion quickly escalated into a full on war with the seventh-grade girls.

Eventually, more girls joined in when some of the comments became more personal. Anna and I became known as local badasses and the go-to people in the battle against our younger foes. I had sparked a revolution and the attention was intoxicating. I never wanted it to end. So every day I would come up with a new clever comeback finally taking the war to the other side. I would be excused to go to the restroom in class only to use the time defacing the walls with negative comments. By the end of the week, both bathrooms were covered in lewd remarks. The school had to repaint the walls, and the principal was looking for the culprits. My shy reserved self started showing back up as I became more and more nervous of getting caught.

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I wasn’t built to be criminal badass. The looming presence of certain punishment was too much for this awkward girl. Anna reassured me that they wouldn’t punish us that bad because so many girls had participated in it. I wanted to believe her, but I was too much of a paranoid mess to be completely free from guilt.

It only took a couple of days before someone cracked and named Anna and I the ringleaders of the whole operation. My parents honestly had a hard time believing that I could do such a thing. I think a part of them was actually kind of impressed, but they were mostly disappointed. My punishment was Saturday detention that ended up being exactly like The Breakfast Club. No seriously, but a story for another time.

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Being a mean girl was never in the cards for me. I don’t like girl on girl crime, but when I was thirteen it was programmed in my head as the easiest way to hurt someone. We give these words too much power. I think back to junior high and think about all the times I used horrible words to describe a girl I didn’t like. I cringe at the thought now, but I know I grew up not knowing any different. In a perfect world, girls would have stopped calling each other sluts and whores long before I was in junior high. They would stop using each other’s “faults” as a way to get ahead or make themselves feel better. I hope that one day we can get there. That all girls will realize the power their words have.

A Skeptical Third Grader’s Date with A Deadly Tree Frog

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It was slimy; my finger grazed its’ back as it tried to leap away. When my finger tingled I knew it was only the beginning of the end.

I was always one of those kids that took warnings to heart. When I was five I got lost in a supermarket, and my parents had always taught me not to talk to strangers. When an older man asked if I needed help, I screamed, “YOU’RE A STRANGER!!!” remembering everything my parents had warned me about. I ended up safe and only an aisle away from my dad the whole time, but nonetheless, I had always been paranoid.

In third grade, I was scrawny and shy, an obvious candidate for a tag along. My new best friend Celeste was magnificent and exciting. During recess, I would follow her every move. I admired Celeste’s independent and carefree attitude.   We would spend most of our recesses making up songs to sing, thinking that we would be the next “TLC” if only we could find a good enough third member. Other parts of our recess were spent escaping the grips of one of the Wilson twins, who had made it his mission to make one of us his girlfriend. He had orangish red hair, and his face was covered in freckles. He ran with his arms straight to his side, as if he had no elbows to bend them.   During class, I would count down the minutes before I could go outside and have my freedom.

My third-grade teacher Mrs. Crabtree was a robust old woman, who never taught us anything fun. Some days she would let us play heads up seven up, but most days it just be boring educational lessons.   We had been learning about amphibians in our science unit. One day as a special treat, Mrs. Crabtree brought in a tree frog to be our class pet for a week. I thought the frog was amazing; it was black and green, with dots of red on its back. The movements of his throat as it took a breath made me giggle.   We talked about him for most of the day.

“Can we touch it? Pleeeaaaseee” the whole class begged.

“Sorry kids, this frog is poisonous, so none of you are allowed to touch him.” Mrs. Crabtree said.

I don’t remember if she ever said that we could die if we were to touch this frog, but when she said the word poison, I automatically assumed as much. Celeste did the opposite; she took that warning as a challenge. From that day forward she became determined to touch that frog, even if it was deadly. Our recesses became filled with trying to find a way to get to the frog without Mrs. Crabtree being around.

Celeste came up with the idea of getting inside the building during recess when most of the teachers were in their lounge. Though I didn’t think it was a good idea, I didn’t want Celeste to think I was scared, so I went along with it. The only problem was getting into the building; kids were not allowed to roam the halls during recess. We had to get our hands on some bathroom passes from the recess aides, and they would never let us go together.

Then I remembered that I had accidently kept a pass from one of the aides a couple of weeks ago, I waited too long to give it back. Now it just sat in my desk, waiting to be discovered by my teacher. Who would no doubt accuse me of stealing and send me to the principal’s office, where I would be then banished from the school forever. See, paranoid. With access to an extra pass, we were sure that our plan would be a success.

On the day of our not so organized plan, my stomach was in knots. I wanted just to go back to pretending that we were “TLC” and being chased by overly freckled boys, but it was too late, I was in too deep. Celeste and I went into the building at separate times and met by the bathrooms. The halls by our classroom, usually filled with chatter were now eerily quiet. We peaked into the classroom door window to make sure Mrs. Crabtree was not inside. Man how I wished she was inside.

When we made in, Celeste pulled out a game changer.

“Ashley, I dare you to touch that frog for ten seconds, or I will tell everyone that you want to marry Ryan K.!!” Celeste said.

“What? I thought you wanted to touch it?” I asked. This was not a part of the plan.

“I changed my mind, don’t be a wuss!” Celeste demanded.

This is what I got for being a sidekick; I had to do all the hard work, and I had to taste the food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned for the queen. At first I hesitated, but I didn’t want my whole class to know that I was wanted to marry Ryan K. I pulled the lid off the class aquarium, reached down into my impending doom. The frog’s back was slimy as my finger grazed it back. It tried to escape, but I had it pinned it between my fingers and the glass of the aquarium.

“One…Two…Threeee…Foouuurrr…”   Celeste whispered.

A lot went through my head during those extremely long ten seconds. First was how mad my parents were going to be when I died of some tree frog disease that my teacher had warned us about. Second was that my big brother was probably going to take over my room the minute I croaked. Pun intended. Third was the fact that Celeste was taking a really long time to count to ten. Finally, when she did get to ten, I released the frog. My finger tingled; its starting, I thought. In a matter of days, maybe even hours, I’d be a goner.

In the coming weeks, I grew more and more paranoid. Thinking that Mrs. Crabtree would somehow lift my fingerprint off the frog’s back in an attempt to see what children had not listened to her request.

When my guilt had become too much for me, I confronted my parents with the news of my upcoming bad fortune. Only for them to chuckle and reassure me that Mrs. Crabtree was just trying to make sure the frog was safe. I wasn’t going to die! I eventually forgot about the tree frog and the whole mess about dying.

I learned two lessons in Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade class. The first was that teachers sometimes lie. The second was that I was not that bright at the age of nine.

A HORROR-ible night to remember…

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Sometimes I miss being so incredibly naive and hopeful like I was when I was thirteen. Watching too many romantic teen comedies gave me a false sense of how things worked in the real world. Like that one night or one party could change my luck. The luck I was looking for the boy of my dreams to notice me. Not just notice me but fall in love with me. Like I said, I was naive.

It was October and my friend Sara announced she was going to have a Halloween party at her house. If my life were a movie, it would have been Sixteen Candles. Jack* would have been my Jake Ryan. Most days I felt just as invisible to the whole world as Molly Ringwald did. I only wish that the boy would notice me.

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For the past month, I had been pretty bummed about the Jack situation. I felt like he didn’t notice me and if he did it was because I was that “weird girl” in his science class. He had been dating April*. She was pretty and nice which was a rare combination in junior high. I never had a problem with her until I saw her sitting on Jack’s lap one night.

Anna* and I decided to get some fresh air one night during the high school basketball game when we noticed them and another couple practically making out on the swings. It scared me. I wrote in my journal that night declaring that I was “afraid to grow up in a world of sex” and that Jack “made me sick!” (Lisa Frank Journal).

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After that, I tried to accept the fact that Jack was too advanced for me, and I should just let our love go.

Ok, I let it go for about a week. I kept writing about how I wanted to find a new boy to make Jack jealous, but it never happened. My second plan was to make April unpopular, but I didn’t know how to manipulate an entire eighth class into hating one of the prettiest girls in school. Eventually, I gave into the idea that maybe they were meant to be. I overestimated the seriousness of a typical preteen relationship.

A couple of days before the Halloween party the rumor broke out that Jack and April broke up. At the time, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. It was fate, I thought. That day I came up with a fool-proof plan to win Jack’s heart.

First things first, I needed a killer costume. Being only thirteen I had never dressed “sexy” for Halloween, but this year was going to be different. My idea of sexy was, of course, wearing tons of makeup and looking girly. I just wanted to look different, look prettier. I begged my parents to drive me the twenty minutes to the city to buy the best costume I could find. The costume store had been raided, but I ended up finding a red “saloon girl” dress. The day of the party I got self-conscious of trying to intentionally look pretty. I panicked and ended up changing my costume to “zombie saloon girl”.

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The second part of the plan was a bit flawed. I would ask Jack to dance and not just Jack, but other boys. I was going to make Jack jealous. I thought if he saw other boys taking an interest then he would be interested. I never took into consideration that other girls would be coming up with fool-proof plans.

Come Saturday night, someone was going to be Jack’s girlfriend. It just wasn’t me.

To be continued…

*Names have been changed because I don’t want to be sued for defamation. ☺

Bathing Suits and Lady Parts…

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I practically invented the “crotch shot” when I was twelve.

It was summer, the same summer that Anna* and I spent chasing Luke*. That day we were going to the river because Anna had called and said she wanted to go swimming and watch the older kids jump off the bridge. It wasn’t the highest jump and if planned right the middle of the river could be pretty deep. I always went along with Anna’s ideas because they were always better than mine. While Anna rode her bike to my house, I changed into my two-piece bathing suit.

My parents would not let me have a bikini. Frankly I didn’t want one. I had a hard time adjusting to my “womanly” changes. That past year I went from a training bra to a B cup. I also still had some baby chub around my stomach that made me feel fat. I didn’t want a one piece because I wasn’t a little kid anymore. At the time only old woman and little kids had one pieces.   So instead I got a tankini with matching “boy short” style bottoms. The top part fit me ok. The bottoms however were strangely cut. They fit snug on my waist when they were dry, but the minute I got them wet they sagged similar to a wet diaper. The worst part was that they didn’t fit in the lady parts. The shorts were extremely loose in that area. Which made me question if there was something wrong with my body. Yes, I questioned if my vagina was supposed to be bigger. Just another thing wrong with me, I thought. At the time I didn’t comprehend that the design of the clothing could be flawed. I also figured it would better to be loose than too tight. I didn’t quite know the term camel toe, but I knew it was something to be avoided.

I was all dressed with nowhere to go because Anna changed her mind. She decided that going to the river sounded lame. (Later I concluded that her parents probably told her that she couldn’t go to the river without an adult). Instead we watched some TV trying to think of something better to do. Riding our bikes past Luke’s was out of the question because he wasn’t home that day. Since we already had our bathing suits on we decided to go play in the sprinklers in my front yard. We played for a while, stopping every time a car would pass, just in case it was the older boys from up the street. We didn’t want them to see us playing in sprinklers like little kids, of course. Eventually we just sat around on some towels talking about boys and stuff that we could do tomorrow. I had forgotten about my ill fitting bathing suit as I sat cross-legged in the grass listening to Anna’s idea about riding our bikes to the store to get popsicles. I noticed Anna kept looking down when finally she said why.

“Oh my god, I can see your VAGINA!” Anna said busting into her booming laugh.

I couldn’t say anything. It actually took me a couple of moments to process what she had said. When I realized my best friend had just seen my lady parts, I wanted to die. My face rapidly grew warmer as I wrapped one of the towels around my waist. Even though it was put away, Anna couldn’t stop chuckling at me. I covered my eyes with my hands and felt like disappearing to any place other than my front yard. After moments of awkwardly listening to Anna straining to regain some composure, I joined in. It was the only thing I could do. I really wanted to run into my house and cry, but I was still kind of frozen from the mortification.

“THAT WAS THE BEST MOMENT…EVER!” Anna screamed. I honestly had a hard time trying to figure out why it was the best. In my head I was screaming, “THIS IS THE MOST EMBARRASSING THING EVER.” I wanted Anna to think I was cooler than I actually was, so I went along with it.

Lucky for me, Anna never told anyone about seeing my lady parts. That is a great part of having a best friend. They will laugh at you at your most embarrassing moments because they expect you to do the same. They will keep your embarrassing stories to themselves, unless those stories will benefit them while playing a drunken game of I never.

*Names have been changed because I wrote so.