January 7, 2014

This Must be the Place

I was walking into Penn Station on Christmas Eve when I felt my phone vibrate in my coat pocket. It was Richard.

"Hello, lover," I breathed, channeling my best phone sex operator.

Richard didn't laugh. His "Hey" was somber.

I ignored it. "I'm just getting here. Meet me by the Hudson News Stand"—I dodged a man coming at me with the intensity of a One Direction fan—"the one next to Duane Reade and we can get"—

"Jos," Richard cut me off, "I'm really sorry. But I don't think I'm coming. This just feels too fast, too soon."

I stopped so suddenly a woman crashed into me from behind. "You don't stop in the middle of Penn Station on Christmas Eve you stupid bitch!" she screamed at me as she stalked by.

"Merry fucking Christmas to you too!" I screamed after her, my rage fueled not so much by her, but by the jerk on the phone who I trusted not to do exactly what he was doing to me. Bail. After we had sex. Like he's done to every other girl ever.

"Josie!" Richard said. "What was that?"

"Nothing," I muttered.

"Do you hate me?" he asked, and that was when I noticed the echo. I turned, slowly, to see Richard standing right behind me, the strap of his overnight bag pulling one shoulder low and a huge grin eating up half his face.

I charged him and pounded my fists on his chest, laughing. "Now I hate you!"

Richard grabbed my wrists and leaned down. "No, you don't." We had a movie scene kiss right there, frenzied fast-walkers trying to make their trains huffing around us from all sides, but with Richard's hands dangerously low on my back, I couldn't have cared less.

"So how did Frank take it?" Richard asked, once we were settled into our seats, our coats and bags piled high on our laps. We were on the 4:11 to Summit, and the train was so packed there was barely enough room to roll your eyes at the one douchebag who had rudely given the seat next to him to his briefcase, never mind that there were about twenty people in the aisle, desperate to sit. I couldn't wait for the conductor to come by and tell that dude which way was up.

"Oh, you know Happy Franky. He poured me a glass of champagne."

Richard smirked. "Come on."

I had to wait for the official offer to come through before I could talk to Frank, and it took a few days longer than expected because there was some back and forth about my vacation time. They were offering me exactly what Literatti offered me, and Nance said in general, you don't want to leave a job unless you're getting a better offer on both salary and vacay-time. So that required me to put on my negotiator pants again and then HR had to approve it and then the offer letter had to be revised. Finally, the Monday evening before Christmas, I had a hard copy in hand.

First thing Tuesday morning, I knocked on Frank's door. "I'm sorry to bother you in the morning," I said, "but it's important."

Frank tossed his pen on his desk and sighed, "Come in."

When I shut the door behind me, Frank sat up straighter. I don't think he really believed it was important until I did that. I sat down in the chair in front of his desk. "So, before I say anything, I want to thank you for the amazing opportunities you've given me while I was here. I learned so much on the LA trip, and I'm so appreciative that you advocated for me to go with you, and to get that experience. So, thank you. Again."

Frank wasn't blinking. Two little pink circles appeared on his cheeks, right underneath his glasses.

"I got another job offer, and I'm accepting it."

I held my breath, waiting for him to say something, anything.

"Are you going to tell me where?" he asked, flatly.

"It's at Creative Writers and Artists."

Frank smiled cryptically and said, "Ah."

We sat in a tense silence for a few moments. I opened my mouth to ask what the next steps were, if I needed to talk to HR and when my last day should be, but Frank suddenly rose from his chair. He walked over to the window and folded his arms across his chest, staring out at his spectacular view of Columbus Circle and the lower loop of Central Park. "Let me guess," he said. "You're going to work with William."

I shifted in my seat so I was facing his back. "I am. They made me an offer I can't refuse."

Frank turned to face me and asked, "How much?"

I swallowed. I didn't know if this was an appropriate conversation to have, but I also didn't know how to tell Frank I wasn't comfortable telling him. "Seventy-five thousand."

Frank's eyebrows skipped up his forehead. "That's quite impressive for an assistant." He seemed to realize something. "You are going to be his assistant, aren't you?"

I nodded and Frank laughed knowingly, like he was part of an inside joke that I wasn't. "What?"

Frank sighed. "Josie, do you understand what your life will be like as the assistant of a literary agent at a powerhouse like CWA?"

The fact that even he referred to CWA as a powerhouse just made me want to work there more. "A lot of hard work," I said. "A lot of long hours. Not always dealing with the most pleasant people. Having a thick skin."

Frank gave me a pitying look, like I knew nothing. "It's a presentation." When I didn't appear to understand, he said, "You," he thrust his hands at me, "are the first thing a client sees when he comes in to meet William. And what a nice thing for the client to see."

"I'm sorry...I'm not following." That wasn't entirely true, because I kind of was.

Frank steepled his hands. "William is a buffoon. He's the laughing stock of this industry. Did you know that?" He waited for me to nod my acknowledgement but I wouldn't, the same way I wouldn't take the bait when William started in on Frank. After a few beats, Frank went on. "He wants a sweet, pretty, twenty-something assistant to get him his coffee and greet his movie star clients and give them a nice view when you turn around to lead them into his office. Then when you leave, they'll have a big laugh about the piece of ass that William has serving him hand and foot. It's a pissing contest over there to see who has the most bed-able assistant."

My face was flaming red. Even though I didn't believe it, not really, it was just such a crass, rude thing to say, and I was embarrassed.

"I'm sorry," I said, "I just really don't see it that way. I didn't pick up on anything like that when I was there. William has been good to me. And he's never once made me feel like he's interested in anything other than what I can offer him professionally. I know his reputation"—Frank tried to butt in, and I spoke louder, "but that was one woman and the lawsuit was thrown out. The judge said there was absolutely no evidence to show that William acted inappropriately, and I do believe she was just looking for a payday."

Frank didn't seem to have heard anything I said. "How old are you, Josie?"

I narrowed my eyes at him. "I'll be 26 in a month...why?"

"And I'm assuming being an assistant isn't what you want to be for the rest of your life?"

I gave him a look like, don't patronize me.

"There is a lot of in between in the publishing industry," Frank said. "You are on track to being an associate editor here. After that you're on to senior, and then there are all kinds of opportunities available to you after that, if you work for them. And you are a hard worker. I'm very impressed by you." He gave me a little nod. "At an agency, you are either an assistant, or an agent, and do you know how hard—and how long—it will take for you to become an agent, if you even become one at all?" He muttered, under his breath, "Which is unlikely."

I made a mental note of that. William has never once doubted my abilities. "The agent training program is an in between," I pointed out. "When you complete that, you're a junior agent."

Frank cocked his head at me. "Do you understand how difficult it is to get into the agent training program? And do you understand how difficult the program is once you're in it?"

I didn't say anything, so Frank continued. "Most people wait years to be nominated. Then the program?" Frank laughed, much louder than he needed to. "They send you back to the mailroom—which is where most kids start out before they're even promoted—promoted!—to an assistant. It's grunt work, the worst kind. You are on your feet all day, delivering mail, running errands, basically being everyone's servant from 5AM to midnight. Every. Single. Day. Even the weekends." Off my look he said, "Oh yeah, you don't get those off. And it's not a set amount of time either, like three months, so you at least have a light at the end of the tunnel. It's whenever they tell you you're done. You'll be in LA, away from all your family and friends, running yourself into the ground with no end in sight. And if you don't drop out—which the drop out rate is," he brought his hand to his chin and stroked it, "Eighty per cent I believe?" He walked back to his desk and placed his hands on the surface, leaning on them to level me with his gaze. "Twenty percent of candidates make it through. And then after that!" He held up his finger, excitedly, like he'd left out the best part. "You still don't become an agent! You come back to New York—or you stay in LA if they decide they want you to—and you're on a trial period until you prove you can bring in enough money to earn your keep." Frank perched on the ledge behind him and crossed his arms over his chest, satisfied that he'd sufficiently terrorized the living daylights out of me.

"Did William tell you all that?" he asked, when I didn't say anything.

I could barely speak I was so shocked. "Not in that amount of detail," I managed. "No."

Frank smiled. "Still wanna do it?"

When I still didn't say anything Frank cleared his throat. "You had a very smart, very fresh suggestion for who should introduce the new Sylvia Plath work."

I looked up at him, waiting.

"Lena Dunham." He smiled. "She's basically this generation's Plath, isn't she? Marginalized, equal parts celebrated and panned for being a talentless hack. A new kind of feminist. All just like Sylvia." He looked at me like, recognize any of that? And I did, because I'd written all of it in the pitch I'd given him. It had been my one dark horse idea.

"Everyone loved it," he said. "I think you have a real future here. And," he stood now, "I think it might be time to promote you. To associate editor. I don't know if we can offer you 75,000, but I think we could get you to 65. And as you move up the ranks," he demonstrated this rise with his hand, "you'll be compensated accordingly. You'll be stuck at 75 at CWA for as long as you are an assistant, which will be a while."

"So what are you going to do?" Richard demanded.

I looked at him, startled. I'd been so in my head recapping the conversation I forgot he was there. "Uh, go cry to my mommy."

Richard laughed. "Did you at least tell William they counter offered you?"

"He's on a flight to Switzerland," I said. "I emailed him and said we needed to talk, but I didn't want to get into the why over email." The train screeched to a stop and I simmered with self-satisfaction when all of briefcase douche's things spilled into the aisle. No one standing there helped him pick up his things and he had to get on his hands and knees in his nice suit and collect them himself. SWEET JUSTICE. "But I know exactly what I'm going to say to him."

"Which is..."

"Well, I want him to be brutally honest with me about the agent-training program. I want to know if Frank was right or if he was just trying to manipulate me into staying. Then I'm going to tell him they counter offered me, and ask if he can do better for me now. Better title. More money."

"But," Richard said, "Frank didn't offer you more money."

I smiled, slyly. "Did I say he did? I'm just asking if CWA can do better than what they're already doing for me, not what Literatti is doing for me." I shrugged. "The worst they do is say no, but at least I tried."

"We-hell-helllll," Richard said. "Look at you. Playing hardball." He dug his hands in my sides and I yelped when he hit a ticklish spot. Now everyone was looking at me with venom in their eyes, like I was briefcase douche. "Shhhh," Richard laughed, "sorry." He looped his arm around me and I rested my head on his chest.

"I wish I could have been more like you when I was your age," Richard mumbled, so quietly I almost didn't hear him.

"Richard, we're three years apart."

"Four."

I rolled my eyes. "Fine, three and a half."

I felt his sigh on the top of my head. "I'm just saying, Josie. I'm going to be 30 soon. It wasn't that I dicked around all these years, but I just couldn't figure out what I wanted to do."

"I thought you want to write a book."

"I do," Richard said. "But let's be real. That may or may not happen, and it's more likely to not pan out that it is to be my breakthrough. I need a career. I've moved around so much that I'm basically entry level wherever I go. If I'd stuck to something at 26, I'd actually be somewhere by now." He fiddled with a loose thread on the arm of my sweater. "I wish I had a do-over or something. I'd do exactly what you're doing."

I didn't know what to say, and the train was lulling me to sleep. I closed my eyes, equal parts exhausted and humming with energy.

When we arrived in Summit, Richard and I collected our things and filed off the train. I scanned the parking lot until I spotted Nance's car.

"Richard!" Nance said when we climbed in. "We are so thrilled to have you with us this Christmas, sweetheart."

Richard said, "I can't thank you enough, Mrs. Mitchell."

"Nancy," my Mom said. "I told you, call me Nancy! And thank you! For making my daughter this happy."

"Mom," I fumed. You should have heard Nance when I told her that Richard was coming home with me for Christmas. "I knew it!" she shrieked. "Just the way you looked at him, you weren't the most subtle, Josie. You should really work on that. Everyone likes a challenge." That made me laugh at least. What was Richard's word for me? Oh yes, cocktease, I believe it was.

Nance hummed along to her Kelly Clarkson Christmas album the entire ride home, and when I looked back at Richard I saw he was actually smiling looking out the window. It practically broke my heart in two—I don't think this guy has had a warm, homey holiday in a long time. He caught me looking at him. "What?"

"Nothing." I reached behind me and found Richard's hand. He gave it a little squeeze and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nance smile.




Part deux on Thursday!

43 comments:

  1. Yayyyyy Josie is back! I hope you had a great holiday, Jess. :)

    Crossing my fingers so hard that Josie doesn't go off with William after all. Oof. That gives me a knot in my stomach just thinking about it.

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  2. Guhhhhh. I loved it, but I sooo wanted something... dirty & exciting from Josie & Richard. This has been a LONG time coming, & I'm dying to hear more.

    Also, I'm skeptical of Frank. But William has a shady reputation, so it could be true. Although, it could just be Frank playing on his reputation to keep Josie around while offering her less money.

    Nance will have advice, though. As always, what mothers are for.

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  3. So happy the blog is back in action! Great way to start the New Year! Thanks!

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  4. Loved it! I really enjoy hearing about Josie's work life... even though I know this is a "love sex" blog, the other aspects of Josie's life are always so fun and interesting to read about. And as a recruiter, ooooh, Josie is in a tough spot! Honestly,I know money is alluring and her personality may seem to "click" more with William, Josie should seriously consider staying with Frank, ESPECIALLY as an associate editor. Frank's right, she's on track to be an assistant, where Frank could be offering her a tangible path. Just my two cents!

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  5. SO happy to have you back, Jessica! Great entry.

    I've been wanting Josie to stay with Frank, and I'm hoping that she does now. I trust Frank more than William, honestly, though I didn't like Frank's snarky attitude. The position at Literatti just seems better suited for her, and while she could maybe make it through the agent program, becoming an agent is something you probably have to want more than anything to bear it. I don't see her dying to be an agent, I see her as wanting to stick with William, make more money, and try something new. (Nothing wrong with trying something new, as long as she gets all the information about it first.) I bet Nance will be able to help her out with some advice. (**STAY WITH FRANK**)

    Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some hot, sneaky sex at home with Richard and Josie - I want to actually read a scene between them since we skimmed their first time!

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  6. Thank goodness this blog is back. It's been a loooong break.

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  7. Hey all! I kept seeing how many people were looking for another blog like our beloved LSP. I've decided to try my hand at a blog, and would love it if you stopped by to check it out. Can't promise my writing will be as amazing as Jessica's, but I promise the story will evolve nicely, and the posts will become more lengthy and meaty.

    www.minneapplegirl.blogspot.com

    I'll be posting at least 2x a week, and would welcome any new readership, suggestions, and feedback!

    Second, I keep wondering if Josie forgot her resolve not to jump into another relationship? Or is it different than with Richard? I'm still on Team Peter!

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    Replies
    1. Ditto on Peter! Team Peter all the way!

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    2. I've been definitely thinking the same thing since Josie and Richard got together. She made such an adamant point to Peter that she can't do two important things at once and that was why she couldn't be with him. And then made such a big point to herself that she needed to be single for a while. And yes, I know things happen. But it just kind of disappoints me that she couldn't stick it out with being single. (I know Richard and her aren't in a relationship, but at the pace they're going, I don't think this is all just for "fun.") I don't know, I guess I just feel bad for Peter because if he ever finds out Josie's with Richard, I think he's going to be genuinely hurt because of the whole deal Josie made about wanting to find herself and not be in a relationship AND she told him that she would never sleep with Richard. Sorry this is so long, I'm just glad someone else noticed it too :)

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    3. While I agree that Jessica's writing is amazing, I'm up to support new talents as well. Is your blog up yet?

      Jessica kept it going gal...One of us greatest fan and am Team Peter!!

      Jes

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  8. I love Frank. He is a crotchety old man, but damn I love his bluntness. Josie should take a hard look at what he told her. I can respect a no holds barred hard truth conversation even if you aren't thrilled with the person delivering it. I hope she stays with Frank. He seems like he could really mentor her in her career.

    Something about Richard is not right. I just have a nagging feeling that he will end up stabbing her in the back. Maybe that is just me....

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  9. As a long Island girl living in nyc, I can't tell you how accurate your description of own station is on Christmas eve.... lol, or that one person who chooses to take over too seats in a packed train, ugh. I'm hoping that Josie sticks it out with Frank. He might not fan over all her ideas but he respects her and can be a great mentor. If you have a boss who agrees with you 100% of the time, there's no room for growth. I feel that literatti is more the path Josie envisioned herself on since her goal is to be a writer. I hope she makes this decision on her own after thinking long and hard about where she would like her career to be. So glad the blog is back.

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  10. Interesting that when Josie was with Peter, she was steps behind him career-wise. Now, she's with Richard (basically) and is a few steps ahead of him.

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  11. OMG THANK GOD YOU ARE BACK!!! I thought I was going to claw my eyes out if I had to search for one more piece of rubbish to read! I LOVE this post! So happy about Richard...and SO HAPPY about the job. She really needs to stay at Literatti...they have integrity, and that is worth all the tea in China. But CWA will be full of drama for the story I feel. Hopefully she stays at Literatti! And...omg my heart almost broke at the beginning of this with Richard saying that...I so wanted to rip his head off, for like only a moment ;) Thanks for coming back Josie...I mean Jessica :)

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  12. So glad that you're back! Missed this blog over the last few weeks! I love that we see so many sides of Josie's life. I'm with the other commentators that she should stick with Frank and Literatti. Though I feel like if she does that, William probably won't take it too well.. should be interesting! I'm also all for giving Richard a chance, we'll see how it goes!

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  13. I read this blog, like it's a religion. I am hooked. If this was a tv show Id be hooked as well! You are a fantastic writer, I really enjoy my Tuesdays and Thursdays getting to live vicariously through Josie. Hope your holidays went well Jess!
    ~Jessica

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  14. So glad the blog is back! I hope there is a post about Kate freaking out a little about Josie and Richard.

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  15. I want her to go with William. Litterati seems boring an CWA reminds me of the agency from entourage. It would be so cool to work there. I think after being WIlliam's assistant for a while at cwa she could go on to become more than just an assistant with the experience she will get. she will be doing more with will that frank.
    Renee Marie

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  16. I just can't trust Richard. He seems so dodgy, like he has a second agenda. Run, Josie!

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but PLEASE BRING PETER BACK! He is The One for Josie!!

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  17. I love Josie and Richard together! Hopefully they stick together through thick and thin. I'm so glad this blog is back, nothing can compare or keep me away! Thursday could not come any faster. :)

    P.S. Awesome post

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  18. Just curious.. but is your book out yet? I really want to read it!!

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  19. oh God! I love it. We all agree we love it!!
    Please don't let Richard and Josie end too soon. I love them being together. They're best when they're together.
    Thank you for writing this, Jessica. I love Josie. I love you.

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  20. I am so glad you're back!! Love love love the post!!!

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  21. I am so glad you're back, Jessica! This is my first comment, but I have been an avid reader for forever, and just love your blog!
    Anyway, I'm also a softie for Richard and I am so hoping it works out between them. What sparked my interest in commenting, however, was others' comments about Josie failing to keep her resolution of staying single to focus on herself and her job.. I understand this and have thought a lot about it in my own life experiences, and I just personally think love is something that you don't plan for. You don't 'make time' for it or base your big plan around it; real love just flows naturally, and it just didn't seem natural for Josie with Peter or anyone else. (Although I will never get over how much Peter reminds me of Mr. Big, and I wouldn't be surprised if he came back more than once). Maybe this could finally be real love for Josie, as well as Richard.
    Regardless, great post and I'm crossing my fingers for Richard and Jos! :)

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  22. Loved this post. I don't know anything about the industry so it's great to read about how people move up the ranks.

    Richard comes across as depressed. I don't know. Seems like drama ahead with him!

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  23. I have never really commented on something like this before... But I thought you should know that there are a lot of people reading your blog, and who are excited to read about Josie's life - even if they don't comment on your posts. For instance, I am from Europe, and read your blog every week. Keep up the good work!

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  24. I am loving Josie and Richard but am scared of the consequences of him being jealous of her success! And I think she should stick with Frank, she will do higher quality work there.

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  25. Loving Richard, please let this all go well...I love love love them together!!

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  26. Chris - @nylonlover69 on TwitterJanuary 8, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    While I can respect Frank's directness, I can only be frustrated by employers who don't take the time to have the "you're going places here" discussions until AFTER the fact (been there, done that, took the other offer).

    Like all of the other comments, glad you're back to this, follow you via twitter and am SO happy your book project is moving on. Can't wait to hear more about it!!!

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  27. First Glad to see blog back, I missed it:) I think Josie should stay with Frank. Not even sure why, It just feels like a better choice. Ughh Richard, even when he's beiing decent there an undercurrent of sleeze/jerk to him. I just do not like him at all. Everything about him rubs me the wrong way...I am pretty sure there should be a countdown to him acting like a jerk...or I guess I should say being a jerk...since I don't think its an act at all. I think he is a complete and total jerk.

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  28. Welcome back, you were missed! Her and Richard make me smile. He's not Peter, but Peter's in a different place. I do see Kate losing it if this continues.

    Professionally, I think she should stay with Frank. For the blog, there would probably be more material if she goes with William, even though Frank's son was proving to be interesting. mum

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  29. She should stick with Frank. Going with William seems like a huge risk and possibly the destruction of her entire career. It's completely true what it says about literary agencies. There's a lot more potential for growth at a publishing house.

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  30. First time ever commenting but just wanted you to know that since I started reading your blog, I can't wait to read your book when it comes out. Your writing is great, love the josie chronicles! Lol

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  31. This blog is a good one! Been reading back when it was still on Cosmo and the story's been getting a lot better off it! If you have spare time and would want to read other blogs as well, try these ones:

    newyorkdixie.blogspot.com
    datingandmedicalschool.blogspot.com
    moderndayfaith.blogspot.com

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  32. Love love love!!!!

    Keep Richard and Josie

    Don't go with william

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