Mopsy and the Chocolate Cake

Melissa L. White

© Copyright 2023 by Melissa L. White

Photo by Will Nchols on Unsplash.
Photo by Will Nchols on Unsplash.

Eighteen months after the Coronavirus first invaded the U.S., Jack Whitcomb kissed his wife goodbye at the front door as she left for work, then he grabbed his son’s muddy tennis shoes off the “Welcome” mat and shut the door behind him. After losing his job during the economic downturn in the early stages of the pandemic, he had evolved into the role of “homemaker.” Now that he was fully vaccinated, he hoped to return to the workforce and start fresh next year so, 2022 would mark a resurrection for him, of sorts.

“You guys ready yet? The bus will be here in five minutes. Let’s get a move on.”

“Yes, Daddy,” called Angie from her upstairs bathroom as she brushed her hair in the mirror. Angie was eight years old and had very long hair. She was quite proud of it as no one else in the entire third grade had hair as long as hers. The kids were excited to be back in school with in-person classes after a year and a half of remote-learning at home. Jack was excited too. Things were definitely looking up now.

“Come on! Hurry up!” called Lizzie from the hallway. “You’re hogging the bathroom again. I need to go.”

Jack headed up the stairs, relentless in his morning duty as bathroom monitor. “Lizzie, go use my bathroom. Angie’s fixing her hair right now.”

Lizzie planted her hands on her hips in protest. “But she’s always fixing her hair.”

A year younger than her sister, Lizzie was a tomboy, and she rarely ran a comb through her curly red mop. She had no patience with her sister’s primping.

“Don’t argue, Lizzie. Where’s Brian?”

Lizzie turned and headed down the hallway towards her parents’ bedroom. “He’s downstairs watching cartoons.”

Jack grabbed his son’s jacket off the doorknob on his bedroom door then hurried downstairs.

“Brian, turn off that TV,” he called as he approached the family room.

“Oh, Daddy, this is the good part. Can’t I just see the rest of it?”

“No. It’s time to go. You can watch it when we get back.”

Brian grabbed the remote from the coffee table and turned off the TV. He then marched up to his dad who stood in the family room doorway holding his son’s jacket up for him. Brian turned his back to his dad, slipped his arms into the sleeves one at a time then turned around to face his father.

I can do it,” said Brian, trying to zip up his jacket all by himself. Brian was four and a half years old. He attended preschool at the Friends Private Academy six blocks away. Each morning Brian and his dad would accompany Angie and Lizzie to the bus stop and wait with them on the corner for the bus to pick them up, then father and son would walk the remaining five blocks to Brian’s school.

Afterwards, Jack would return home, clean up the breakfast dishes, load the dishwasher, then settle into his office to begin his daily ritual of scouring Indeed and LinkedIn for employment opportunities. It had been fifteen months since Jack lost his job. His wife, Tina, was now the breadwinner.

After seeing his kids off to school, Jack returned to the kitchen and pried the
magic marker from its Velcro holder on the message board attached to the refrigerator door and added MILK, PEANUT BUTTER, VITAMINS, to the running grocery list. He poured himself a second cup of coffee then grabbed the San Francisco Chronicle from the kitchen counter and ambled into his office. He sat down at his desk and found a post-it note that his wife had left on his computer monitor. In her tidy, precise script she had written:

Just remember what Abe Lincoln said, “That some
achieve great success is proof to all, that others can
achieve it as well.” I believe in you. Love, Tina.

He took the post-it from his monitor, crumpled it up, and tossed it into the trash can. Being a professor of American history at the University of San Francisco, Tina loved to quote presidents. Jack was tired of her optimism and persistent positive thinking. He was tired of the housework, and the grocery shopping, and “nesting.” What he wanted was a real job.

He turned on his laptop and checked the weather: sunny and 72 degrees was today’s predicted high temperature, another beautiful day in Marin. He had three hours to look for work, tweak his resume and contact that headhunter he’d been meaning to call for several weeks now before time to pick up Brian from preschool; then put him down for a nap before father and son had to go meet his daughters at the bus stop.

Jack checked Indeed for new postings. He found two that looked promising. He composed a cover letter and emailed it along with his resume to the first one, then called the phone number on the second. After waiting on hold for seven minutes, he finally spoke with an office manager who told him in no uncertain terms that the position was entry level and that he was way overqualified.

Jack hung up the phone, folded his arms on his desk and laid his head down on his arms. He felt like running away. He lay there for fifteen minutes, trying to convince himself not to lose hope of finding gainful employment soon. He made a mental list of all the reasons why he should persevere and not let his emotions give way to depression. When he lifted his head to check the time, his forehead had an imprint left by his wristwatch. He could feel the indentations in his soft skin above his eyebrows as he ran his fingers over his forehead.

He picked up the paper and flipped quickly through the Business section then proceeded to work the crossword puzzle. After forty-five minutes, the phone rang. He grabbed it on the first ring.
Hi, Tina,” he said, quickly folding up the newspaper and putting it away as if his wife could somehow see through the phone line that he was slacking, and not spending his time in a more productive manner.

“Okay, I’ll pick up the dry cleaning. And tonight’s your late class, right?”

He reached down and plucked the wadded up post-it note from the trash can. He smoothed it out and placed it back on his monitor.

“Anything special you’d like from the supermarket? Low-fat strawberry yogurt? Okay. Great, see you tonight.”

He hung up the phone, switched off his laptop and then went into the kitchen and took a picture of the grocery list on the fridge with his phone.

After picking up the dry cleaning, doing the grocery shopping, and returning two overdue books to the San Anselmo Public Library, he came home and raided the cookie jar. He took a third Oreo then put it back. He knew he should go for a run, but lately he felt too depressed to exert the effort. He had gained fifteen pounds since he lost his corporate sales job, and this made him even more depressed.


That night after dinner, Jack helped the girls with their homework while Brian watched animated shorts on Disney +. At 7:00 p.m. Jack started the bathwater and commenced the nightly bedtime preparation routine. After all three children finished their baths, they gathered around Jack in his king size bed as he read them a bedtime story.

Just as he finished reading the story, their pet chocolate lab, Claire—short for Chocolate Éclair—began barking at the back door. Jack had forgotten to let her out after dinner, so he hurried downstairs and opened the door. She never ran off; she simply took care of business in their backyard then scratched on the door when she was ready to come back inside. Claire was by far the most maintenance-free member of their household.

When Claire returned to the back door, twenty minutes later, Jack heard her scratching and let her inside, surprised to see that she had brought him a present. The dog hurried into the kitchen, tail wagging, and dropped a mass of bloody fur on the kitchen floor.

Stunned, Jack bent down to examine the body and discovered that Claire had just presented him with the next-door neighbors’ pet bunny, Mopsy. The bunny was quite dead. Jack cringed. He wondered how Claire had gotten the bunny out of the pen in the neighbors’ backyard, but he didn’t stop to think, he simply flew into action. He grabbed the bunny and rushed into the laundry room where he proceeded to wash the dirt and blood off of Mopsy’s white fur. Just as Jack was elbow deep in suds, Brian stepped into the open doorway.
Daddy, we forgot to say my prayers.”
Jack panicked. He couldn’t let his little boy see what he was doing so he kicked the door shut behind him and yelled through the door at his son.

“You’re supposed to be in bed. Go upstairs and say your prayers, I’ll be up in a minute.”

Brian pushed the door open, peeking inside. “But Daddy, you have to hear my prayers.”

“Don’t argue Brian! Go upstairs now!” Jack glanced over his shoulder and seeing the look on his son’s face was worse than knowing that his dog had murdered a defenseless bunny, and that the neighbor children would surely cry real tears when they discovered their beloved pet was dead.

“I’m sorry son. Just go upstairs and wait for me like a big boy. I’ll be up in a minute. Please do as I ask.”

Brian shut the door and went back upstairs to his room. Jack rinsed the bunny, wrapped a towel around it, and left it in the sink. He washed his hands then hurried upstairs and hesitated just outside his son’s bedroom door where he could hear Brian crying softly. Jack opened the door, went inside, and knelt beside the bed. Brian pulled the covers up over his head.

Gently pulling the covers down so he could see his son’s face, Jack smiled at Brian. “Did you say your prayers?”

Brian turned away and faced the wall, wiping his face with the back of his little fist. Jack sat on the bed beside his son.

“Please don’t cry,” Jack said. “Daddy’s sorry he yelled. He shouldn’t have done that. Let’s just say your prayers now and go to sleep.”

Brian pulled the covers back over his head. Jack sat there a moment then said, “Dear God, now I lay me down to sleep.” He hesitated then pulled the covers down off Brian’s face.

“Say it with me Brian, like you wanted to.”

Brian said, “I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Angie, and Lizzie and MOM. And God Bless Grandpa and Grandma, and Mimi. And be with Pops in heaven. AMEN.” Brian rolled over and faced the wall.

“I’m sorry I yelled, Brian. Please don’t stay angry at me.”

“Good night,” said Brian.

Jack leaned over and kissed his son. “Night night.”

When Jack stood to leave, Brian rolled back over to face him. “Did Pops die because he was careless?”

Jack hesitated. “Absolutely not. Did someone tell you that?”

“Karen Wright said her mother told her that people who die from COVID were careless. That it’s not all that serious, so we don’t really need the vaccine.”

Jack kneeled beside his son’s bed, looking him right in the eyes. “COVID is serious. It kills older people and those who have conditions which weaken their immune systems. Pops was not careless. It wasn’t his fault. Millions of people have died, and none of them are to blame. It’s just something that happened. But we are taking precautions to keep you kids safe, like wearing face masks, and staying six feet away from other people. And when Pfizer approves their vaccine for children this fall, all of you kids will be vaccinated. You will be safer that way.”

Sighing heavily, Brian shut his eyes tight. “Karen Wright said the vaccines are dangerous.”

“The risk of getting sick with COVID-19 is much greater than any risk of side effects from the vaccine. Don’t listen to other people who are ignorant of the facts. We do what the CDC and doctors worldwide suggest. We are ALL getting vaccinated. It’s safer that way. I promise you that.”

Brian nodded. He rubbed his eyes and said, “I miss Pops.”

“I’m sure he misses you too, son.” Jack kissed his son on the forehead. “Try not to worry. You are safe.”

Brian nodded. He shut his eyes and sighed.

Jack headed to the door, then paused in the doorway, glancing back at his son. “Sweet dreams,” he said softly. He turned on the blue moon nightlight and left the door ajar as he exited.

He stood in the hallway outside his son’s room and took a deep breath. He’d underestimated how his father’s death was affecting his son. That he hadn’t allowed himself ample space to grieve was one thing. He was an adult. He and his dad had a history of misunderstanding one another. But it was different with his son. He knew Brian was frightened, and hearing rumors from classmates wasn’t helping the situation any. He shook his head and tried to convince himself that his children were okay. He’d talked to each of them about it repeatedly, individually, and then together as a family. He knew that he’d told them the truth. He’d done his best to keep them healthy and hopeful. But somehow, his son’s fears kept resurfacing and reminding him that perhaps he wasn’t as successful at assuaging his children’s fears as he thought he was.

Feeling rotten, Jack hurried into his bathroom, grabbed Tina’s hair dryer, and then went back downstairs and retrieved Mopsy from the laundry room sink. He turned on the blow dryer and let the hot air stream over Mopsy’s wet fur. Finding a gash on her neck where Claire had bitten her, and lacking any clear plan of action, Jack checked his watch and wondered if anyone would see him if he carried the dead bunny next door and placed it back inside its pen.

Jack turned to go, and found Claire sitting behind him, staring up at him. He stood there, briefly exchanging a conspiratorial glance with the dog until Claire raised her eyebrows and cocked her head to one side.

Jack took the dead bunny and went next door, placed it in its pen, and hooked the latch on the door. He ran back home and hurried inside to the kitchen. He went straight to the fridge, took out a bottle of beer and went into the living room. He plopped down in front of the television to watch reruns of Biggest Loser on YouTube TV. He sat there, drinking his beer, and thinking about the neighbor children’s certain anguish when they found their dead pet the next day. Maybe he should just go next door, get the bunny, ring their doorbell, explain the situation, and apologize profusely. It wouldn’t bring their pet back, but it would be a more noble thing to do.

He thought about the time when he was six years old and upon entering his father’s workshop behind the garage, he’d asked his father if he could help him build something. His father, a carpenter, was busy building a bookshelf. Whipping his folding ruler out of his back pocket, his father measured the wooden shelf then turned to Jack and said, “You can help me most by staying out of the way.”

To this day, Jack remembered how he felt the sting of his father’s comment as if he’d been slapped in the face. In tears, he had gone to his room, climbed up on his bunk bed and buried his face in his pillow, sobbing. He’d sworn, many times since that incident, that he would never treat his own children so callously. And now in his haste to protect his son from seeing something which might upset him, he did the same thing his father had done to him so many years ago. Jack felt awful.

Longing to have an adult conversation, Jack silently rehearsed his apology to his next-door neighbors and to his own son, hoping to absolve his feelings of guilt. He wanted to tell Tina what happened so she would tell him that he did the right thing, even though he knew she more than likely would be angry with him, and resort to quoting presidents, saying something like: “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. - Thomas Jefferson.” Or “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. – George Washington.”

Tina quoted presidents for all kinds of situations. She constantly recited quotes to the children, especially when arguments erupted between them during lockdown when they were forced to spend so much time indoors playing together with limited opportunities for any other type of diversion. Just last weekend she admonished them all to be sweet to each other instead of bickering over who got to play with which toy. Tina sat them all down at the tea party table in the playroom and made them write out, over and over, the following quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Whenever you do a thing, act as if the world were watching.”

If the world were watching Jack, would he be so quick to sneak a dead pet back into its cage? He took a sip of his beer and squeezed his eyes shut. At 10:41 p.m., Jack turned off the TV and went upstairs to get ready for bed. He knew Tina would be home soon, and that she would be tired after teaching her night class from 7:00 to 10:00. Jack brushed his teeth and put on his pajamas. He climbed into bed and turned off the lamp.

Six minutes later he heard the automatic garage door opener switch on downstairs as Tina pulled into the driveway. He turned the lamp back on and sat up in bed. He heard Tina come in, drop her keys and briefcase on the kitchen table, then climb the stairs. When she entered the bedroom, her dress was already unbuttoned.

“Hi honey,” she said breezing into the bathroom, shedding her dress as she walked through the room. She turned on the shower and popped her head back into the bedroom.

“How are you? How are the kids?”

Jack smiled. “Just fine. And you?”

“Tired beyond belief.” She slipped off her shoes and pantyhose as she spoke. “I’m never teaching another class on Tuesday morning after a Monday night class ever again. It’s just too much. Next semester I’m putting my foot down.” She returned to the bathroom, shutting the door. Jack heard her humming in the shower. He turned off the lamp on his side of the bed, reached over and turned on the lamp on Tina’s side.

When she came to bed, she wore flannel pajamas with anti-wrinkle cream under her eyes and on her forehead. She snuggled up next to Jack and closed her eyes. “It’s so good to be home,” she yawned. “What a long day.” She reached over and turned off her lamp.

Jack lay there for several minutes, trying to decide how best to tell his wife about Mopsy, until her breathing slowed into the steady rhythm of sleep.

“Tina?” he whispered.

She did not answer.

He continued, “Today Claire killed Mopsy, and I bathed the bloody bunny, blow dried her, and put her back in the pen. I don’t think anyone saw me.”

Tina began to snore softly.

“That’s nice dear,” said Jack, mimicking Tina’s voice.

“Thank you for listening dear,” he said in his own voice.

“You’re welcome. Thank you for being such a devoted husband and father,” he said in Tina’s high falsetto voice. He then rolled over onto his side, listening to the steady gentle snoring of his wife beside him. He lay there, unable to sleep, and kept imagining how it would be if Brian discovered Claire in the morning, dead, in their backyard.

He panicked. Jumped out of bed, threw on his robe and slippers, and ran next door to retrieve the bunny. He went to the pen, but Mopsy was gone. He opened the pen door and leaned down to look inside. Yep. Mopsy was definitely gone.

He glanced over his shoulder and ran quickly back to the safety of his warm home and climbed into bed next to his sleeping wife.

He shut his eyes and willed himself to fall asleep.


Two days later, Dan Dillon, the next-door neighbor, spotted Jack taking the garbage cans out to the street in the morning before walking the girls to the bus stop. Being a dentist, Dan wore his white medical coat as he carried his trash cans out to the curb. He waved to Jack.

Jack waved back. “Hi Dan, how are you?”

Dan wiped his hands on his thighs then said. “I’m fine. But the strangest thing happened the other day.”

Jack held his breath, feeling a huge surge of guilt sweep upwards through his body from his toes to his stomach.

“Mopsy died,” said Dan.

“Oh no,” said Jack. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Thanks,” said Dan. “But the weird thing is, I buried her in the back yard, but then she inexplicably appeared back in her pen. All sparkling clean.”

Jack shoved his hands in his pockets wondering if Dan suspected him. He suddenly felt an overwhelming urge for a giant piece of chocolate cake.



“That is strange,” said Jack.

“Yeah. Well, see you later.” Dan took his keys from his pocket and got in his car. Jack hurried back inside his garage and shut the door. He went into the kitchen and pulled down Tina’s grandmother’s Betty Crocker cookbook from the shelf and found a recipe for “Colossal Chocolate Cake” hand-written on a note card and stuck between the pages.


That evening when Tina arrived home from work, she found Jack sitting at the tea party table in the playroom with all three children sitting around him. They were eating chocolate cake. Brian had chocolate frosting on both corners of his mouth. Jack wore a dunce cap since Angie had given him the option of having a ‘time-out’ or wearing the dunce cap because he was talking during class. Angie loved playing school. She was always the teacher and was constantly assigning ‘time-outs’ to her father and siblings.

“What’s this? Why are you guys eating cake before dinner?” demanded Tina.

“Oh honey, do you want a piece? I made it from scratch with your grandmother’s recipe.”

Tina shook her head and folded her arms across her chest. “Honestly, Jack, you shouldn’t give them so much sugar.”

“Come on, dear,” said Jack. He took off the dunce cap and placed it on the tea party table beside his plate. “Life is too short not to eat dessert first, right kids?”

“Right,” said Lizzie. Angie concurred. Brian grinned in chocolate-rimmed approval. Jack wondered if his son had forgotten about being yelled at the other night or had simply taken the high road and forgiven his father. He wondered if some day, years from now, Brian would remember the incident and swear to himself that he would never treat his own children the way that his father had treated him.

Exasperated, Tina left the room.

“And now it’s time for our history lesson,” said Angie. “Take out your books and turn to page 44.”

Jack, Lizzie, and Brian pretended to open their schoolbooks. Angie continued, “Who was the first president of the United States of America?”

Lizzie raised her hand. Jack smiled as he noticed chocolate frosting under her fingernails.

Angie nodded at her sister. “Lizzie?”

“George Washington,” said Lizzie.


Jack sighed. He knew Tina was probably right. He really shouldn’t feed the kids cake before dinner. He thought of Tina’s favorite Thomas Jefferson quote – “Delay is preferable to error.” He decided to wait a little while longer before telling his wife about bathing and returning Mopsy. He watched his eldest daughter as she wrote 2+3 on the chalkboard and he picked up his dunce cap and put it back on his head.

Angie said, “Who knows the answer to this question?”

Brian raised his hand.

Jack watched his children playing school. Comforted by their innocence and their belief in him, he smiled warmly at his kids.

“Yes?” Angie said to her brother.

“Five,” said Brian.

“Correct! You get a gold star!”

Jack shut his eyes and tried not think about the neighbor’s dead bunny, or his unemployment, or his son’s fears about COVID. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, then kissed each of his children and went into the kitchen to prepare dinner.

As Jack cut up the cucumber and tomato for the salad, he decided to call the headhunter in the morning at 10:15. He’d read in a book called Closing that Sales Call, that the optimal time for closing any deal was usually on a Thursday morning, around 10:15 am—still close enough to the day’s beginning to be fresh, but not near enough lunch to be hurried, and still one day before week’s end. Perfect timing for closing the deal.

He went to the kitchen desk and wrote on a post-it, “Call HEADHUNTER 10:15 Thursday.” Hurrying into his office, he placed the yellow sticky-note on his laptop then quickly returned to the kitchen.

He opened the refrigerator to grab a beer. Hesitating, he thought of Tina, scolding him for serving cake before dinner. He shut the fridge and grabbed a bottle of Merlot from the wine rack. He took two wine glasses from the cupboard and uncorked the bottle. He would take Tina’s glass upstairs to her where she soaked in her bubble bath. He would sit on the edge of the tub next to her while she lathered and shaved her legs. He would even offer to shave her legs for her, the way they used to do when they were first living together before their wedding. Before the kids. Before their lives became so predictable, and so troubling for Jack while Tina earned the salary that kept them living comfortably in the style to which they’d all grown accustomed. Jack would redeem himself for his misguided meal plan for the kids.

He would ask Tina about her day, her lectures, and the outline for her new book. And tomorrow? He would finally make that call in the morning and climb his way out of this gilded cage he’d found himself in as a house husband. Rising victorious from the ashes, like a Phoenix from the flames of suburban lockdown, soaring up to the sky with wings ablaze, conquering death and unemployment, he would finally elevate himself, back into the career which the pandemic had “stolen” from him. And all would be “right” with the Universe.

Jack poured two glasses of Merlot and headed briskly upstairs. His fragile ego having been washed, rinsed, and blow-dried; then safely restored to its cage, with the hope that no one would ever notice that it had died, been buried, and resurrected by a curious, yet sweet dog—then finally put back in the pen to start fresh in the morning; revitalized for a brand-new day.

As he climbed the stairs to the master bedroom, he recalled a quote, not from a president but from Benjamin Franklin, the most prominent founding father who’d never achieved the role of Commander in Chief. He whispered the quote to himself, rehearsing the words before reciting them to Tina as she soaked in her bubble bath: “A right heart exceeds all,” as quoted from Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1739.”

Opening the bedroom door, he smiled, imagining how Tina would laugh, make a toast to him, and tell him that she loved him, adored him, and above all else, she respected him now more than she ever had before. He told himself these “truths,” holding them to be self-evident like a founding father penning the Declaration of Independence—Jack’s independence—without once considering that they might not actually be true. At least, not anymore.

Jack approached the bathroom, repeating the words in his mind, “Whenever you do a thing, act as if the world were watching.” He knocked on the bathroom door, and stepped inside, impervious to the nagging feelings of guilt that trailed along behind him like contaminated droplets from a COVID-positive sneezer in a crowded elevator. Tina looked up at him from the bathtub as he proffered her the wine glass, and she smiled. She needed to believe her own version of Jack’s truth. The truth she held to be self-evident.

At that exact moment, Jack decided he could never tell her the truth about Mopsy. It would crush her. He had to protect her from the worst parts of himself. He owed her that much. He watched as she raised her glass to him, smiling warmly at the love of her life. He took a deep breath and smiled. So much for self-evident truths.

As he sat on the edge of the tub, listening to Tina tell him about her day, it hit him just how reprehensible he’d been—as a dad, and as a human being. All he could think about was coming clean with his neighbor and his wife.

He felt sick with morning-after guilt. What he wouldn’t give for a Do-Over. But life rarely gives those. He wiped the wine from his lips with the back of his hand and wondered how he could have been so stupid. How would it feel if his own kids had found their pet, resurrected in such a cowardly manner, and placed back in its pen by a man too shallow to own up to the truth?

Jack hung his head, knowing he’d never be the man he should be. His father was right. He’d never amount to anything.

Dammit! Why did he always let his dad haunt him like this?

Jack told Tina he had to check on dinner and hurried downstairs, turned the oven off so the roast chicken wouldn’t burn, then he put on his jacket and headed next door. Walking up the sidewalk, he mentally rehearsed the story he would tell his neighbor— his confession. His apology.

No amount of childhood trauma was worth the continual denial of his self-worth. The buck stopped here. Right now. Today.

He rang the doorbell and waited.

When Dan answered the door, Jack took a deep breath, then dove headfirst into the deep end. Finally outswimming the stranglehold of all the trauma and abuse he’d suffered from his father. The dam broke and a massive flood ensued.

When it was over, Jack stood there with tears flowing down his face.

Don eyed him slowly, then he reached out and hugged Jack, surprising him completely with an enormous capacity for compassion and forgiveness. .

Jack held his breath, grateful at last to be free from his father’s clutches—free from the nightmare of his childhood and all its trauma. He sighed and knew now he could tell this same truth to Tina, and she too would forgive him. He shook hands with Dan and headed home. It felt empowering somehow to be utterly resolved to let his wife see him for the man he truly was—a man capable of owning up to his mistakes and earning her forgiveness and respect.

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