Virginia and Sadie walk side by side, stride for stride, in silence. Bark and leaves on the forest floor carpet the sounds of determined footsteps. The trail winds and climbs through the bush emerging finally on to the sand at La Misere, St. Clouds most beautiful beach. They walk together, a friendship formed through tragedy. There’s intimacy here, deep in the heart of the bush where filtered green light gives little hint of time, and the quiet hum of insects are the only sounds of life.
“Look, there it is again…” Virginia points toward the yellow-flowered tree on which a small bird alights, tail spread in a soft arc against the bark. Aware of their gaze, it performs a small show of acrobatic flight landing softly on the path near their tired feet before flying on to rest then repeat the performance.
Sadie is transfixed, native birds and bush still unfamiliar, “It wants to come with us.” Her face glows in the pale golden, green light as she watches the bird fly to and from the path to the tree over and over, following their steps then guiding them forward.
“It’s a fantail,” Virginia smiles, her gaze following the little bird who swoops and sings in their wake.
Sadie’s reply is disturbed by a cough she’s been trying to suppress. The spluttering sound makes the fantail flee, disappearing into the bush as the cough rushes forward in a spluttering explosion. Virginia frowns as Sadie holds a hand out, palm up, shaking her head. “I’m okay, just something stuck…in my…throat.” Virginia proceeds to clap Sadie vigorously on the back, despite her complaints.
“I think you’re just unfit,” Virginia says a little smugly. “I need to get you out hiking more often.”
Sadie smiles, composure returning as her chest clears and her breath relaxes. “Maybe I’m allergic to something in here.” She gestures around at the dense green forest on either side of the trail. “Damn, I’ve frightened the fantail away.”
“Oh, he’ll be back. You watch and see.” Both women survey the forest. “He won’t be far away. He’ll be keeping close because he knows our footsteps will rustle up the undergrowth and unearth some breakfast.” Sure enough, as they watch the Fantail swoops behind them, and pecks at the leaves they have disturbed with their footsteps. Mission accomplished, it disappears back into the trees.
They walk on in companionable silence until the dense growth finally breaks out on to a sandy beach, the contrast startling after the protective cover of forest and fern. Virginia claps her hands together, drops her backpack and sinks into the warm sand. Sadie walks on to the water’s edge where she stops and lets her gaze take in the breaking waves and ripple of cool blue water.
She dumps her pack on the sand and pulls off her hiking boots, letting the cool water run between her toes and up around her sore muscles. Wading into the waves she beckons to Virginia who is already on her way.
“Heavenly.” Virginia closes her eyes as the exquisite coolness of water soothes away aches from the hot hike. “I sometimes wonder how I survived in London for so long.”
Since moving to St. Cloud ten years ago, Virginia and her husband Mike haven’t managed to return to London, even to visit. Absorbed in their careers at St. Cloud’s city hospital and content in a new life in the tropics, London’s fast paced hustle becomes less attractive year by year. Virginia, St. Clouds’ top gynaecologist, is immersed in the island community. She has a job that challenges her and a community of friends to stave off the lonely hours; her husband Mike, a cardiac surgeon, is a workaholic.
“I thought you loved London?” Sadie’s hands rub her chest gently, massaging residual tightness, gaze still fixed on the edge of the ocean, water lapping around her knees.
“I did. I do. I just mean, how does one manage to be happy so far from the sea?”
“You are the only person I’ve ever met who actually uses the word one to describe herself,” Sadie teases. “Apart from Colin Firth and Mr Darcy I didn’t think people really talked like that.”
Virginia extends an arm theatrically toward the ocean, “One can’t help being of fine stock.” She sighs lowering her arms into the water, letting her hands cool before placing palms on either side of her flushed cheeks. “Colin Firth would be nice though.”
“Not my type!” Sadie laughs.
“What about you? Don’t you miss home?” Virginia asks.
Sadie closes her eyes as though trying to conjure a memory. She nods and wrinkles her nose. “A little.”
“Just a little?”
“Believe me Saskatchewan gets a little old when you’ve lived there for twenty years. I needed to get away.” Her arms swing like a child’s. “I’m happy here. Besides, I have Jed.”
“Yes you do.” Virginia smiles at Sadie whose gaze rests on a spot far out to sea, wistful youth seems long ago. “Damn, look at the time, we better start heading back, I’ve have to be in clinic at one.”
Sadie cups some water in her hands, splashes her face and hair. “Well, we should hurry, those island vaginas won’t wait.”
“It’s true. I’m a woman of purpose.” Sadie laughs as Virginia continues. “Being a gynaecologist is a lesson in life, you wouldn’t believe the things I hear and see.” They sink on to the sand to struggle with wet feet and hiking boots.
“Don’t go on, I can imagine.” Sadie’s smile is followed by a frown. “Ginny, when you met Mike, were you ever…well…”
“Was I ever well what?”
“Were you afraid? You know, scared about marriage and all.”
“No, I can’t say I was. I was sure. But then I was almost thirty, we’d been together for a long time and I was ready to start a family.”
“Has Jed asked you to marry him?” Virginia is careful with her tone, conscious not to sound shocked.
Sadie laughs heartily. “Only every day since the day after we met. I keep saying no of course, I mean, he’s not really serious even though he thinks he is.”
“Is that why you keep saying no? Because you think he’s not serious?”
“Even if he was, I’d still say no. He has no idea what he’d be getting into. I mean, he hardly even knows me. It’s ridiculous.” Sadie’s fingers fidget with the dangling straps of her pack as she strides step for step in front of Virginia.
“You’ve been together a while now, I’d think he probably knows all he needs to.”
“Is there something you want to tell me?” Virginia frowns at Sadie’s back.
Sadie stops suddenly and Virginia ploughs into her back.
“Sorry.” Non-plussed that her abrupt halt has sent Virginia toppling into the bush, she offers a hand. “Yes, I want to tell you I’m pooped.” Taking a deep breath, she wipes her forehead and reaches for her water bottle drinking deeply. She splutters, choking back another chesty cough. “I think you’re right, I am so out of shape.”
Virginia brushes her shorts off. “You’re changing the subject. You were about to tell me if everything was okay with you and Jed.”
“No I wasn’t.”
“You are now.”
Sadie laughs, recovers then sighs. “Things are fine. Better than fine - they’re great. Jed’s great. It’s just…” she blows a stray hair from her face. “It wasn’t the plan.”
Virginia shrugs. “Sometimes letting things go unplanned is for the best.”
Sadie squeezes Virginia’s arm, tightens her pack straps and they begin their steady pace once more along the trail, where the bright sunlight diffuses to a pale green glow. Sadie’s pace is slow but sure. “You know Ginny, I almost bought that line. But you’re the most well-planned person I know. How can you be sure of that?”
Virginia smiles at Sadie’s back feeling a rush of regret. “I planned my life so beautifully I didn’t leave enough time for children. Then when I decided the big plan could fit them in, it was too late.”
Sadie doesn’t turn around, doesn’t respond with an insubstantial answer. She nods, keeping their pace steady, the rest of the walk passing in easy silence.
At 12.30pm Sadie, sun-kissed and smiling, breezes through the door of Beaujangles. The cafe is crowded, lunchtime rush in full swing, the fast pace of food prep and coffee creation accompanied by the frenzied banjo playing of Mumford and Sons through the speakers. The intoxicating scent of grilled goats cheese and roast peppers mixes with aromatic freshly ground coffee beans and just baked cookies. A sensory overload of smells, sights and sounds.
Sadie stops for a moment by the door to take in the scene; she closes her eyes and smells the air, listening to the buzz of conversation and laughter that bounce from the brightly coloured walls.
A familiar voice yells above the hum of cafe chaos.
“Hey! Quit dreaming over there and get your ass behind this counter - I’m dying here!” Jed raises his palms to the ceiling in exasperation. “I keep telling you I need you, but I don’t think you get it!”
Rolling her eyes, she walks leisurely through the maze of customers and tables. Sadie doesn’t do rushing. “Oh I get it.” She smiles lazily, eyes fixed on Jed’s boyish grin. “You need me for my plate scraping and dish washing capabilities. It’s flattering.” She slips in behind the counter, passing Jed on the way to the cafe kitchen. “Breathe a sigh of relief, I’m here to save you.”
Jed shakes his head at her retreating behind and turns back to the next customer, “She is you know.”
By 8.30pm the light outside is low. People stroll along the sidewalk heading to bars or restaurants, pace slow and relaxed. Jed stacks chairs and pulls heavy tables under the street side awning outside Beau Jangles. He loves this time of night, the gentle wind down of day and the warm smell of sunshine that coats the streets as the cool breath of evening descends. Warmth radiates underfoot, concrete storing the day’s heat and passing it on as night falls.
He’s always come home, wherever he’d ended up; travelling and surfing, trying on different lives. He’d wondered for a while if growing up in St. Cloud would limit his understanding of the world. He’d felt he had to travel, take some time to figure out where he wanted to be, what he wanted to do. Funny that after three years of wandering, surfing and working cafes for a living he’d come home, realising that St. Cloud was where he wanted to be. He’d loved it all; Europe, Asia, North America, Australia. But after a while, when the novelty of each place wore off, he’d pine for home and the familiar smells, sights and people of St. Cloud.
He picks up the Beaujangles sign that sits on the sidewalk and carries it into the brightly lit cafe. Sadie smiles, armed with a mop and bucket, the last of the evenings clean up tasks complete. “Hope I’m getting a pay rise!” She snaps off her gloves and wipes her forehead.
Jed grins, motioning toward the door, flicking off the cafe lights. “Come on, let’s go.”
“I’m beat.” Sadie slides a hand into Jed’s as they reach the sidewalk. “The hike with Ginny this morning, then eight hours’ hard slog with you. I hope there’s something in it for me.” She smiles and squeezes his hand.
Jed tugs her in the direction of the beach. “Let’s swim.” He leans in to kiss her on the forehead then leads her in comfortable silence in the direction of the ocean.
It’s been like this since they met. Easy, like he’d always known her. There are conversations he doesn’t have to have with Sadie. She gets it, she gets him and he’s never had that before. He never knew that being with someone could be so easy and feel so right. Sadie walked into his life, actually his cafe, and after that everything changed.
He hadn’t wanted a girlfriend, not then. He’d had enough trouble before, never seemed to meet the right girl. Beaujangles took all of his time and energy; it had been a few years since he’d been in a proper relationship. The guys teased him about it, and he took it good humouredly. He was happy with the odd fling here and there, no strings, no complications. Beaujangles was his baby girl and with her, he knew what he was doing. Women were different.
It’s dark by the time they reach the beach. The transition from day to night is almost complete and the stretch of beach is deserted. They walk barefoot, the water lapping at their feet until the lights of the city twinkle and the sounds of cars and street life fade. Sadie drops her bag and shoes under a tree before stripping off and heading confidently for the water.
Jed watches her retreating behind, wondering how he got this lucky. He’s never met anyone like her. In fact, he hadn’t realised women like Sadie existed. Calm and self-possessed, comfortable with her body in a way he’s never known another woman to be. She is beautiful but he doesn’t have to tell her, although he does. Her quiet, self-confidence drew him in from the beginning.
She’d walked in to Beaujangles and asked him for a job. He’d been busy and was short with her, barely looking past the dreadlocks. An hour later she was still sitting at the window seat, slowly sipping her coffee. He’d told her if she didn’t move on soon he’d have to charge her rent. It was then that she smiled and he’d been struck by that smile. She’d asked if she could work for food and somehow persuaded him to give her a trial for a day to see if he wanted to keep her.
Of course he did, and here they are almost two years later. Her hair is piled high on her head and she walks carefully into the waves before diving and disappearing under the black water.
She’d disappeared once before, decided she needed to travel some more, be without him and figure things out. He’d been stunned. He’d believed that they were together and there were no questions. The memory makes him shudder despite the warmth in the air. There had been no warning; she’d turned up at the cafe halfway through a busy Friday, back pack on. She told him she was taking off and asked if he wanted to go with her. What was he supposed to do? He couldn’t drop everything, and anyway he’d said before; he was done travelling. She’d told him she wasn’t big on goodbyes and she was leaving but she’d be back sometime. Sometime? He was floored by the unexpected departure and angry for a while. Angry with her and angry with himself, wondering why he didn’t tell her how he really felt. He’d just assumed she got it, understood without words - they were so good together.
She did come back and he’d been so happy. He knew then he’d have to figure out a way to keep her. Then Evan had died and life turned on its head. She’d been a rock and he’d fallen into that feeling of inevitability that came with their relationship; they were meant to be together. But lately he’s become nervous. He keeps coming back to the hurt. The scars of her unexpected departure haven’t quite healed over and it bothers him.
“Are you coming in?” She interrupts his train of thought. “You’re staring over there like a creepy old guy, get your clothes off and get in here!”
“Easy with the old guy.” Jed peels off his clothes and jogs into the water, diving toward her. She screams and tries to swim away but he catches her ankle and pulls her in.
There’s the pretence of combat, struggling and splashing but they know how this plays out. Jed lifts her hips as she wraps her legs around his waist, reaching to pull his face close to hers. When she finds his lips he’s smiling. He can’t help it. She’s smiling too but he hardly notices as the kiss that follows is deep and urgent. He’ll save the smiling for later; when his heart rate is back to normal.
The first time he’d told her he loved her she’d smiled and said “I know.” The self-assurance was disarming. She’d waited for her own moment, much later that night, when he’d been about to fall asleep, to tell him she loved him too. He hadn’t replied “I know”, because truthfully up until that moment he hadn’t.
When she tells him now it’s like a drug. There’s a high that accompanies those three simple words and he can’t get enough of it. Tonight, as the dark water beats against them she tells him again. Hands in his hair, legs wrapped around his waist she whispers the words in his ear. Jed closes his eyes and breathes her. He breathes her and the night; the salty ocean air and fragrant humidity. Tilting her hips to meet him he pulls her in, she gasps and bites down on his shoulder, breasts tight against his chest. There’s no holding back with Sadie - sex holds the drama of a grand finale each and every time. For a brief second, Jed considers the possibility; what if it were? The thought is gone before it takes root; all thoughts evaporate as sensory pleasures take over. Sadie takes control, guiding him deeper before slowly releasing, her rhythm matching the gentle pull of the tide.
Jed loses himself in the exquisite sensation of making love in the ocean; the contrast of body heat and cool water in the buoyancy and tow of the waves.
“Stay with me Sadie.”
He sucks in his breath pulling her deeper.” I mean it.”
Her eyes are open, fixed on his face as he comes. A small gasp escapes his lips, parted in pleasure. She whispers in his ear. “I know.”
It’s almost 7.00 pm when Virginia pulls her car into the driveway.
Turning off the ignition, she sits quietly for a moment watching the neglected façade of the house. It could be a place she’s never been before, so changed. All the life sucked out, a shell of its former vibrant self where life was everywhere.
It’s been six months since she’s been here. Six months for the weeds to wander, the grass to grow and wild flowers to bloom in the most unexpected places. The house looks neglected, unloved but not without a past. Overspill of emotion oozes from cracked weatherboard walls and chipped window panes. Regret and despair seep from salty windows, ocean air leaves traces of briny neglect. Windows reflect no sunlight and inside is blurry and disfigured behind the haze of time passed and tragedy.
She shivers and squeezes the steering wheel tightly, eyes straight ahead. Virginia, always practical, always level-headed, is having a moment. Her eyes squeeze tight shut, knuckles white from her determined grip on the wheel. One tear pushes forward and rolls uncertainly down her cheek; the next, less wary follows, trickling down the bridge of her nose where she intercepts it quickly with the back of her sleeve. She blows a slow breath outward, her fringe lifts and settles and still the hot tears flow.
“Damn it.” Releasing her fingers from their stranglehold on the wheel she delves into her handbag for a handkerchief.
“All right in there?” The voice makes her jump in her seat.
“Don’t you knock?” Virginia answers, dabbing her red eyes quickly before leaning over to open the passenger door.
Dan smiles, easing himself into the adjacent seat as gracefully as a cat. “Sorry, didn’t realise you were indisposed. Shall I hop out and start again?”
“No you moron. I was having a moment. Stay here will you, but don’t look at me.” She continues to sniff and dab her eyes. Dan reclines the passenger seat and leans back letting the expensive sunglasses that rest on his head fall forward to hide his own eyes. After five more minutes of sniffing and a loud nose blow, Virginia is ready and turns to him.
“Ok, that’s it. I’m good. Thank you.”
Dan nods gently and gestures toward the house. “Shall we go in?”
Virginia looks straight ahead, composure regained. “Let’s do this.”
Both car doors open simultaneously, creaking a welcome to the still autumn night. The sun lies low in the sky and the air is sweet and fragrant with late summer blooms.
Standing outside Billie and Evans house, Dan and Virginia are sombre. They have to go in, they’ve promised they would. They must check things over, clear a few things out and get the house ready for Billie’s arrival home.
Dan pushes the key in the lock and fiddles for a moment, twisting it left and right, till reluctantly it clicks and the door opens in a yawn. It is a house in hibernation. As light slices through the shadows a frantic rush of wings and feathers burst through the opening gap. Dan drops to his knees and Virginia screams.
A trapped bird. Its unexpected exit triggers overreactions borne from wary anticipation. Billie and Evan’s home has been locked up for six months.
“There must be an open window.” Dan’s voice is shaken, his cool exterior ruffled.
Virginia stands behind him, a smile slowly transforming her anxious expression. “You okay down there?” Dan is still on his knees in front of the gaping door.
Dan doesn’t miss a beat. “It’s an ancient tradition, I’m honouring past ancestors.” He looks up encouragingly to Virginia before lowering his forehead to touch the dusty doormat. “There.” He winks, rising awkwardly, dusting down his designer jeans. “Should be fine, think I’ve cleared the way.” Rolling her eyes Virginia follows him inside.
Fingers of late afternoon light weep through cracks in closed blinds, deep golden rays, peppered with dust motes, alight across floors and walls. The morbid still is a crushing contrast to the fleeing bird’s fight for freedom.
A light linen drape flutters in a far corner, a small, open upper window evidence of the birds’ recent entrance. They stand silently in the doorway, motionless, embodying the aura that settles all around. They wait, the house waits; a home without a family, quietly anticipating life’s return.
The house had been cleaned and cleared after Billie and the twins’ departure for Scotland; a job left mostly to Virginia and Zoe. Billie had been in no state to manage practicalities. Surfaces lie free of clutter, toys are packed away, windows closed and blinds drawn. The task of clearing Evan’s studio had been left for a time. No-one could face the scene of devastation. Art mimics life. Life mimics art.
Finally, Dan had faced the job with the help of Felix and Jed. Together they had cleared the chaos of broken wings and bodies, perfectly sculpted creatures of flight. Even the most mechanical, those with the hardest lines, the most rigid bodies had seemed to breathe life. That was Evan’s gift; the things he created with his hands sparkled with life. His creative world was blindingly bright and it stole the light from his days.
Virginia snaps out of reverie and moves with purpose opening curtains and blinds, prising open windows, letting air flood the stale space. Dan follows, still a little shaken by the unexpected flight of the escaping bird.
As air and light fill the house the solemn mood lifts gradually. Hope accompanies the light. As the room colours with late afternoon sun, the seed of a new beginning seems possible.
“How does she sound?” Dan unlocks and slides open the doors to the deck.
“Hard to say. Better I think, said she was ready to come home.” Virginia dusts off the countertops and shakes cushions purposefully. “Right, let’s get some sheets on beds.” She directs Dan to the bedrooms and he salutes in response, happy for once to have her boss him around.
The bedroom is heavy with Billie and Evan’s presence despite the passage of time. Virginia stops by the foot of the bed to gather herself before continuing on in her usual no nonsense fashion.
Sheets billow in the air then settle, crisp cotton layers of practicality on the barren double bed. “That’s better.” She bustles around, room to room, cleaning, airing, and readying the house for Billie and the twins’ return. Dan, redundant amidst Virginia’s whirlwind of domestic capability, sinks in to the swing seat on the back deck.
The ocean sparkles in the changing light, just visible through the tree break. A distant formation of sea birds fly together, forming a shape like the tip of an arrow. Their sleek bodies glint in the sun and its reflection on the ocean below. For a moment they disappear, the light creating a magical illusion. Turning and twisting, bathed in colour and sparkling sunlight then gone.
Virginia emerges half an hour later, sleeves rolled up, cheeks flushed. “Don’t tell me, this is another ancient tradition. By relaxing out here while I do all the work you’re somehow honouring St. Cloud ancestors.” Her expression is only half serious. The readying of the house has done her good, a practical step away from the past toward the future.
“Virginia, have I told you before you are both brains and beauty?” Dan opens his hands out toward the garden and view. “You’ll be happy to know our ancestors are pacified.” He smiles apologetically toward her. “Sorry.”
She shakes her head and pushes the awkward apology away with a flick of a hand. “It’s fine.”
Dan nods and turns back to face the glimpse of ocean at the end of the sprawling yard.
It isn’t fine. It hasn’t been fine for a while now. It’s something else, something forced, a game of make believe. They move on using routine as a crutch, it helps pass time and only time can truly help. Since Evan’s death they’ve carried on, each of them trying to live in a tragically altered reality. Nothing is fine. It can’t be.
He thinks back to the night he’d packed up the last of Evan’s clothes and belongings. Jed and Felix had helped but it had been a hell of a task. Virginia had insisted that by doing this one thing for Billie they’d be helping her manage her grief in stages, when she was ready. Coming home would be hard enough.
They’d sorted through and packaged everything up. Working in silence they’d removed most traces of Evan, and despite knowing the task was necessary it had all felt wrong. The process was too intimate, a forbidden glance into the private world of another. A life laid out in art supplies, broken sculptures and rumpled clothing.
They knew that sorting through his studio would be hard; they’d been ready for that. Clearing the carnage left behind after his last night in life, the splintered wood and crushed wings, years of painstaking work and passionate construction crushed and broken.
Strangely the chaos in the studio was not the hardest to deal with. It was the simple possessions and everyday objects, small symbols of Evan’s life that left them hollowed out.
Inside the untidy closet it was the worn sneakers and crumpled shirts, the balled socks and his faint but still present scent. Linseed oil and charcoal, oil paint and citrus.
When the sorting was over, they’d hugged. None of the usual back clapping, high fiving guy embraces. But a hug where they had given and received comfort, no words or apologies for the intimacy of holding each other in grief.
It took a few weeks for him to move on from the wrenching experience of packing Evan’s life in boxes. His dry, sarcastic wit was gone. He faked a flu and stayed home wallowing in the blues, listening to opera on his retro Dansette record player. He moved cocktail hour to 2pm and spent the mornings in bed reading Orson Welles until the hour approached and he could listen to Maria Callas and drink dry martinis. Dr Dan was out of commission and his evening persona, DJ Dan, was incommunicado.
After a week Virginia came banging on his front door armed with a brown paper bag containing organic produce and some herbal iron tonic. For backup, she was flanked by Jed and Sadie armed with takeaway coffee and blueberry muffins.
After his solitary week of the blues he was ready to be coaxed back into the land of the living. And although he protested half-heartedly, he was happy to shed the layer of self-prescribed sorrow. The knowledge he was loved more replenishing than any tonic.
“It’s ready.” Virginia rubs her hands together. “Ready as it will ever be.”
Dan nods and stands slowly, gaze shifting toward Jack’s house, another shadow of its former self. Shuttered and quiet, another casualty of the fallout from Evan’s death.
Jack’s place was always alive with the sound of a radio, power tools, dogs barking, a guitar strumming. Jack has been gone for three months and no-one knows when he might come home. A visit to see family, although they all know his departure is more than that - much more.
Dan brings his gaze back to Virginia, blinking as though to clear his head. “What now Mary Poppins?”
Virginia smiles, a layer of tension sliding from her composed features. “Beer. Let’s go to Santos. I could murder a Corona.”
Dan smiles warmly linking arms and leading her back through the sliding doors. Through the dust free, sparkling room and out through the door that will remain closed until Billie’s arrival. “You’re a terrible influence Ginny.” He opens Virginia’s car door and she slides in with a sigh.
“And you, Dan Wilder are a terrible tease.” She reaches to find her seatbelt and clips it firmly in place. “Now, I know I’ve mentioned it before but really, you should think about donating. You have such wonderful genes darling.” Her expression is wistful, then exasperated. “And let’s face it, the female race will never see your swimmers. Truly, think it’s your duty to donate that sperm.”
Dan opens his mouth, about to respond to their usual tête-à-tête, but she’s too quick.
“Just think about it.” She raises a palm to shield herself from his predicted negative response to the tired topic before backing out of the drive. “Come on then, I’ll buy you a Corona.” Accelerating quickly, a hand waving from the window, Virginia is gone.
Dan smiles wearily, shaking his head as he steps into his Chevy, easing carefully on to Frontiere Point Road. He’ll follow her into the city, to friends, a quiet beer and later, a few hours on air. Tonight’s show is worrying him a little, there’s no knowing how things might turn out. But he’s made a promise and he’ll keep it.