beyond wonderful CI by rockstarkisses @ tda !
Chapter 18. Sick
Draco stared at me for a few long moments, letting my words, my declaration, hang in the air. I almost felt like I could smell it in the space between us, polluting it, turning bad like a banana after it's gone spotty and brown. Then, without saying anything, he snapped violently around and began marching away from me.
To my own surprise, this actually angered me.
«Hey, idiot!» I yelled and caught up with him. He barely moved his head in my direction, but I wouldn't let him get away without... without saying it back.
«Yeah, I'm talking to you,» I said after he went back to staring ahead, ignoring my prescence, but then apparently he got sick of me following him and with a sigh (and lengthening his steps) he growled at me.
«I love you.»
«Yeah, you said that already.»
«No, really!» It craved all the strenght I had to keep up with his pace, so I took a hold of his elbow in order to slow him down. Needless to say, it didn't work – he simply dragged me after him. «I love you.»
«This isn't funny, Brownie.» He was calling me 'Brownie' again! That at least was an improvement.
«It isn't supposed to be.» Then, with all the determination I could muster, I managed to pull him to a halt. This irked him, but he let me have my way this time, even though he still didn't look at me. The fact that he was letting me speak made my insides rejoice, and that again made a smile appear on my lips.
«I love you,» I stated, so sure of myself that my voice radiated with clear, determined emotion. «And I'll tell you again; I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you.» He was looking at me now, so I stepped closer to him and lifted my hand up to his face with great care. When he didn't stop me, my heart gave a jolt, and I felt my palm prickle when it met his cheek. Our skin melting together, savouring the sensations of finally being connected again. «I truly, deeply, completely, desperately, definitely love you, Draco 'Blondie' Malfoy.»
Not even now did he say anything. His lips were tightly shut, and his expression empty. Cold.
I was all of a sudden utterly terrified that he might not give me another chance. That maybe he was tired of waiting for me, and too heartbroken about the things I'd said to him at my office. My gut was squirming in agony as I waited for a reaction that it seemed would never come.
Then, not a moment too soon, he stopped just looking
at me, but shifted his eyes so that they were locking with mine – sending me a message, a dare.
I actually gave a delighted laugh as I let out a relieved breath, feeling so elevated that I didn't even feel the need to stand on my toes as I practically went flying up to melt his lips with my own.
«I love you too,» he muttered hoarsely between kisses, but didn't let me go. And I hoped that he never would.
«I have fallen in love,» I suddenly blurted out, not able to keep it in any longer, before specifying, «with a man that's not my fiance.»
Ginny didn't even look up from her plate, she focused on dipping her nan-bread into the spicy sauce covering her chicken tikka.
Still no reaction.
«How horrible a person does one have to be to do such a thing?»
«Pretty horrible,» Ginny responded, chewing slowly on the bread dripping with sauce.
«You're not even going to act surprised? Or maybe you didn't hear what I said -»
«My hearing's perfectly fine, thanks very much,» she muttered before swallowing, now she finally lifted her eyes to me, and I immediately wished that she hadn't done just that. Those brown eyes of hers could pry the secrets out of a person quicker than Veritaserum. «And please, I've known that something was going on between the two of you ever since the first dinner. What do you take me for? Actually, if you recall, I tried to talk to you about it when we went dress shopping.»
It took me some time to process this, and I used that time to take a bite of my lamb kebob. After chewing it much longer than strictly necessary, I looked up only to meet those eyes of hers again.
Why did all the people I know have to have such mesmerizing eyes?! It wasn't fair that they had such control over me. Not fair at all.
«... What am I going to do?» I whispered, not successful in keeping the emotion out of my voice.
Punched in the stomach, kicked in the head, slapped in the face.
«I can't do that!» I insisted breathlessly, even though I, in the furthest back of my mind, knew that she was right. It just seemed so dramatic, so final... I wasn't even remotely ready to even think
about ending my engagement, so I shook my head.
No. I just couldn't. I couldn't do that to Martin. But then again, what I was currently
doing to him didn't seem so fair either... Still, I didn't want to abandon him like that.
«You're not still marrying him, are you?»
«Of course I am!» After spending a few moments drowning in Ginny's dark eyes, I didn't feel so sure anymore. Doubt took the place of certainty, and the thoughts that I'd just a second ago pushed away, was now coming flooding back over me. «I think...»
«That's mental, Hermione,» Ginny stated, adding more rice to her plate. «You do realise that you have to choose between them sooner or later? Preferably before
the priest says 'please speak now, or forever hold your peace'.»
«Of course I've realised that,» I whispered, grabbing some nan-bread and then mournfully tearing it up into tiny little pieces. «But it's so difficult. They both mean so much to me, in two very different ways...»
Minutes passed without either one of us speaking. My stomach was acting up, and I pushed away the spicy kebob, grimacing as the smell suddenly repulsed me.
«You know what I am?» I suddenly asked, breaking the silence, before answering my own question. «I'm a bitch.»
«Yeah, so?» Ginny's attention was directed at her plate, continuing to stuff her face with the Indian food. «That's not a good enough reason to not
«You're not even going to pretend to disagree with me?»
«Why should I lie? You're the
bitch.» She swallowed before looking up at me. «You
know it, I
know it, and it's just an X amount of time until everyone else catches on.»
«Gee. Don't spare my feelings, now.»
«What? You just said so yourself.»
«So I really am a bitch?»
«Mhm.» The sight of my best friend practically bathing
in the spicy sauce made me even more queasy, and I had to look away. I reached for my water, sipping it slowly. «You are. You're a bitch.»
«Hey!» I interrupted her bath
, and her eyes now latched on to my own, burning me. «...That's Ms
Bitch to you.»
«And a Mrs very soon, if you don't hurry up.»
«Don't remind me...»
Suddenly, I had the intense urge to vomit and had to grab the ends of the table and breathe slowly in and out to control myself.
«Are you okay?» Ginny looked at me, concerned.
«I think I'm having a bad reaction to the food,» I choked out between closed teeth, afraid of what might happen if I opened my mouth too wide. «I think I have to get back home.»
«Of course.» My redheaded best friend put her hand on my forehead and furrowed her brows. «Yeah, you've got a bit of fever. Here,» she dipped a clean napkin into the cold water in my glass and dabbled it on my forehead.
«Thanks,» I muttered and leaned in against Ginny's touch, feeling how the queasyness slowly let go, and I opened my eyes. «We'll talk more about this later, okay? I need to get home and lie down.»
«That's alright.» She smiled at me, and helped me to my feet, which must've looked dumb seeing as she
was the one almost nine months pregnant.
«Ring me when you feel better?» With a gentle hug, she let go of me and I nodded at her before walking away with uneven steps.
It was all I could do to Apparate back to my apartment, and when I felt my feet hit the safe ground I ran to the nearest bush and hurled out all the meals I'd had that day.
I sat down and grimaced as the tangy, burning aftertaste reminded me not to eat Indian food again for the rest of my life. But, to my immense surprise, after a few minutes of breathing heavily, I felt perfectly well again and got shakily to my feet. I dried my eyes, got my wand and smoothly swirled it across my open mouth. When I now tested my own breath in my hand, I was pleased to find it pepperminty fresh.
My body wasn't trembling anymore, so I went calmly into the building, climbed the stairs and let myself into the apartment. I noticed Martin's shoes by the front door, and mentally pat myself on the back for already freshening up my bad breath. I didn't want him worrying.
The memories of what mood he'd been in lately made me tread lightly, so when I entered our bedroom it didn't surprise me that he hadn't heard my silent arrival.
Martin was standing over a big suitcase, then marched back and forth to the closet and drawers, grabbed some clothes and put them carefully into the suitcase.
My heart raced. Like it had never
He was packing. He was leaving. Abandoning me!
My breathing had turned shallow and loud, causing Martin to snap around with a pair of knickers in his hand. A surprised and disappointed look carved in his face.
«Oh,» he muttered. «Ehm, you're home already. I thought you were going out with Ginny? You're not supposed to be back so soon.» He was rambling, making my fears triple and turn into an acid that was infecting me.
«What are you doing?» I choked out, not really sure how I managed to say anything due to the poison in my body.
«Packing. I had been hoping to finish this before you got back, but -»
«Martin,» I breathed, interrupting him before he uttered the words I knew I couldn't bear to hear. «I-I know I've been preoccipied lately, and that our relationship has suffered from it, but please,» I gulped away the sobs that were only seconds away from exploding out of me, «please don't do this. Don't leave.»
My voice had cracked on that last word, and Martin's expression was one of deep confusion.
«What are you...-» he began saying, but stopped when I couldn't hold in the tears any longer and almost fell to the floor crying.
Martin's eyes flew open.
«Oh! Oh, no, no! This is not- No
!» He ran over to me, knickers still in hand, and threw his arms around my violently shaking body. «I'm not leaving you. I love you!» he whispered into my hair, then he began kissing me feverishly from my neck to my lips, proving that his words were true. «I'm packing our
bag because I'm taking you on a holiday. That's all.»
«What?» I croaked, blinking away the tears that were blurring my vision.
«Yes! Remember my surprise anniversary-present to you? Well, this is it.» With tender movements he ran his hand up and down my back, calming me down. «I thought we both needed a little time away from our busy schedules and just focus on each other. Think of it as a pre-wedding honeymoon.»
«But...» My head was spinning, but I didn't allow myself to be relieved just yet. «I-I have work, and -»
«No, you don't.» Martin smiled at me and threw the knickers he was still holding into the suitcase, then dried away one of my tears with his thumb. «I cleared it with your boss. He was surprisingly agreeable, and almost insisted that you take a few personal days. I think you have an admirer at your office.»
You have no idea...
I thought to myself, but my breath caught in my throat as I looked into his eyes. I was just about to say something when Martin cut me off before I'd even opened my mouth.
«We're leaving tonight, actually.» He looked at me, apologetic about how he'd sprung it on me.
«Really?» I asked with a shaky voice, tears welling up in my eyes again. «You're not leaving me?»
Martin's lip quivered before he took my face in his determined, warm hands. His eyes bore into mine, and I gulped when I noticed the deep, unconditional love shining through them.
«When will you get it through your head? I love
you.» The husky, emotional whisper vanquished the doubt in my mind and I let out another sob. One of relief this time. «I'm never leaving you.»
«I-I love you too,» I responded, the truth of the words damaging me more than it healed.
I was in a hell of a mess.
Travelling without magic was awfully complicated. And boring.
I hadn't even counted all the hours I'd spent on a plane, or waiting for one, and I think that if I did I would have just become more irked than I already was. On top of it all, what made the 'journey' worse was the fact that I had been feeling sick with a few hours intervalls ever since the cab to Heathrow Airport. From that moment, I knew I was in for a horrible trip.
Once I finally stepped out of the last airport and into the piercing sun, I squinted my eyes while huffing and puffing(resembling the big, bad wolf from that story I can't remember the name of. Somehow there were pigs involved. Innocent, unsuspecting pigs. Martin was the pig to my big, bad wolf.) toward the nearest cab.
Martin took my hand and helped me into the cab, the cab that it turned out was being driven by a man who enjoyed his cigarettes. Although, now that I sniffed it again, I noticed that it had a strange smell, not your typical cigarette smell.
«Ehm, the Paradise Cove Bungalows, please,» Martin said, emphasizing each word. «Google maps said it was about a ten minute ride away, so -»
«I know where it is, man,» the driver answered in a thick accent, his lips squeezing to hold onto the 'cigarette'.
I coughed and opened the window, but it would only open about mid-way. I leaned into the fresh, hot air that was whipping across my face, enjoying the smoke-free smell. Martin looked at me with worry. He'd noticed how I'd been feeling sick the whole way here, and had asked me how I was feeling every chance he got. Suddenly, instead of spending his time questioning me about my health, he turned to the driver.
«Excuse me, sir, but -»
«Ionakana.» The driver puffed his strange-smelling cigarette before throwing us a grin. «Call me Ionakana.»
«A-All right,» Martin swallowed nervously. «Ehm, Mr Indiana, I was wondering if you could put out that cigarette. M-My fiancee isn't feeling too well, and -»
«Of course, man.» While taking a sharp turn and honking at a girl in a bikini that was too small for her, he took one last inhale and savoured it for a few seconds before letting the smoke out. His throat made a weird grunting sound, and he laughed at something I couldn't pick up on.
My head was spinning more than it had done before we got in the cab, and I felt even more sick. Martin obviously caught the colour draining from my face, and rolled his own window as far down as it would go.
Ten minutes later, I was relieved to step out of the smelly cab, and followed Martin to the advanced bungalow with a sign that read 'Welcome!' in five different languages. We went inside, and I gave a loud moan when I finally felt the great wonder that was air-condition sweep away the beads of sweat on my forehead.
I didn't even register that I'd thrown myself onto a nearby sofa, and had fallen asleep the second I closed my eyes. A gentle hand carefully awoke me, Martin took my hand only to pull me up from the sofa and lead me to a bungalow a few minutes walk away. It was placed directly in front of the most beautiful beach I'd ever seen, but I didn't really notice this until later, though. Instead I almost ran to the bed and dropped on top of it. I bet that I fell asleep in mid-air.
Grumbling was my answer.
«Hermione, I ordered us some roomservice. It's here now.»
With a long-lasting yawn, I sat up straight and my eyes immediately caught the sight of the wonderful food. I didn't even wait for Martin but threw myself into culinary heaven.
It took me only seven minutes to devour over half the tray of food.
«You're feeling better, I see,» Martin chuckled as I unbucled my belt and leaned my back against the pillows on the bed.
«I guess I'm not a good traveller,» I sighed and put my hand on top of my stomach, feeling it process the large quantities of food in there. «But I'm glad you took me here, love. It's beautiful.»
«I thought you'd like it. There's nothing better than watching a sunset together to rekindle the fire.»
«Our fire needs rekindling?» I asked but keeping my eyes fastened out of the window, not wanting to miss a second of the beautiful sunset.
«Not really, but you know what I mean...»
«Martin? Do I still make your blood boil with desire?» My mouth was just blurting out the question, and it wasn't until I heard my own words out loud that I realised how stupid they sounded.
«Ehm, nothing,» I answered hurriedly, biting my lip. After a second of thinking about the question I'd asked him, I let out a wondering sigh.
«Penny for your thoughts.»
Well, I might as well go with it now... I was too curious about what his answer might be anyways.
«Do you think we've lost your passion?»
«What do you mean?» Martin furrowed his brows.
«Like I asked before, do I still make your blood boil with desire?»
«You're sounding like a cheap novel.»
«But that's the whole point,» I said propping myself up on my elbows. «The characters in those cheap, smutty novels experience such a scorching passion that it practically jumps off the page. Even Shakespeare wrote about it. I mean, look at Rome and Juliet -»
«Romeo and Juliet committed suicide, Hermione,» he interrupted me, looking at me strangely. «Are you sure you're feeling better?»
I rolled my eyes, and with a newfound strenght, I pulled Martin toward me in a deep kiss. He put his arms around me, careful not to put too much pressure on my belly. I guess he didn't want me getting sick again.
«I'm not made of glass, you know,» I reminded him, my voice just a hoarse whisper against his lips.
«Your wish is my demand.»
«I haven't demanded anyth-»
«I can read your dirty, little mind.»
The chuckle emitting from me seemed to empty me from all signs of sickness. Powerful as it had a tendency to be, happiness sweeped over me, and my foggy mind barely had the capacity to revel at how Martin's touch ignited a fire within me that I hadn't felt in a while.
Not with him, at least.
That was a bad thing to think, wasn't it?
Being a man, Martin caught this fire of mine, and didn't hesitate for a second before crushing his lips against mine, rolling on top of me and letting his hands wander all over my body.
Moans were erupting from the deep of me, and I couldn't help but being dragged into the sensual position under Martin's masculine body. After giving my bottom lip a playful bite, he smiled seductively at me before beginning to unbutton my shirt and kissed my skin as it was being exposed.
After he'd peeled off my shirt, he pulled off his own and hovered over me for some painfully long seconds before slowly lowering his body to mine, all the while smiling. When our skin met I barely contained a small scream and grabbed his face only to kiss him passionately on the mouth. I breathed between kisses, and didn't stop doing so until I felt Martin start to pull off my pants.
«I-I thought you wanted to wait until -»
Martin interrupted my question by nibbling on my earlobe and tracing wet kisses down my neck and continuing down my breasts. Not until I thought I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen did he stop in his tracks and look up at me.
«I changed my mind.» With a devilish grin he pressed our bodies close together before spinning around so that I was on top. The sudden movement had made me dizzy, but I ignored it.
was a mistake.
As the situation got more and more intense, my queasyness was acting up again, kicking in for real. Just before I thought I might be sick all over Martin, I ripped myself from him and ran to what I thought was the bathroom. It wasn't. It was an empty closet. But it had to do, so I kneeled down, grabbed a trash can that was stashed on the shoe-shelf and hurled up the gigantic meal that I'd enjoyed not so many moments ago.
«Hermione!» Martin called out and ran to me to hold my hair away from my face. I reminded myself to thank him for that later.
My body fell limp against Martin's legs after I'd emptied my stomach, and he crouched down to kiss me on top of the head.
«Are you okay?»
«Yes.» My voice bore the signs of a sore throat, but I dared not to clear it in case it would force out more of that partly digested food.
«Are you sure? Do you want me to call for a doctor? They have those on islands, right? I'll call the recep-»
«I'm sure it's nothing,» my scratchy voice interrupted him, and I let his strong hands lift me up and put me back on the bed. «I've been feeling funny all day, and I bet it's because of that Indian food I had with Ginny earlier.. Don't worry, I'm alredy feeling better.» And truth is, I actually was.
This was a strange kind of food poisoning, I thought before I closed my eyes and fell asleep again.
Three days were spent in a constant state of worry that I'd be sick again. I was feeling nauseous every now and then, but I took great care to refrain from puking my guts out. It had happened a few times that I said I was going to the reception for some more towels but instead located a bush far enough away to empty my stomach without Martin knowing about it.
We were now just passing through security, being beeped and poked by the dark skinned officers mumbling their strange language. I breathed through my mouth as the stuffy air in the crowded airport had a weird smell to it, and was relieved to be ushered away with my purse in one hand and my belt in the other.
«Martin, when does our plane take off again?» I asked, putting on my belt. He didn't answer. «Martin, when -» I'd turned around only to realise that Martin wasn't behind me. In fact, he was standing between a couple of the biggest officers, a confused look on his face. I briskly walked back to him, and pushed my way through the growing mass of uniformed men and women.
« - I'm telling you!» I heard Martin say with a slight amount of panic in his voice. «I'm not this 'Monsieur LaRou'! I mean, obviously, I'm English
, as you no doubt can
hear.» He caught sight of me and he looked hopeful. «Here's my fiancee! She'll tell you that you've got the wrong man.»
They all turned their heads and stared at me, talking to me in that strange language of theirs.
«I-I don't understand,» I stammered, my voice almost disapperaring in the sea of angry chants at my fiance and I.
A strong-jawed woman put her hands in the air and successfully made the other officers go silent immediately.
«Madame LaRou -»
«That's not my name,» I cut in, but I regretted it the second I got a burning look from her. She
was clearly the one in charge here, and I was one her turf.
I would only speak when spoken to from now on.
«Madame,» she began with authority in her voice. Her accent as thick as her brown hair. «We've been informed that your husband is in possession of illegal drugs purchased on this trip.» She stared at me, looking for signs that might confirm her suspicions. «Do you know anything about this, Madame LaRou?»
«I-I'm not Madame LaRou, officer. My name is Hermione Granger, and this is my fiance Martin Anderson.» I gulped before continuing. «W-We don't know anything about any d-drugs. This is, this is a mistake.»
The lady in charge bore her eyes into mine, suspicious to her very core. She looked from me to Martin, who had now become angry and red in the face. While squinting her eyes she gave the man holding Martin's arm a low, but determined command, and in a heartbeat he'd turned both of Martin's hands behind his back and cuffed them.
«But-But we're not
the LaRou couple! My name's Hermione Granger!» I fumbled to get my passport, and panicked when another man went to Martin's other side and together they pulled him away from me. Martin was fighting against their grip, but his attempts to break free were futile. «H-Here's my passport. See? Hermione Jean Granger! Please, officer, you have to believe me!»
«I believe you,» she told me without even taking a glance at my passport. «It's your fiance that I don't believe.»
«This is crazy!» Martin yelled, still trying to get away. «When the English Consulate hears about this, they'll throw a tantrum!»
I was just about to run after him, but the lady grabbed my elbow, not allowing me to join him.
My eyes shifted from Martin being dragged away from me to the stern woman holding onto me.
«Martin!» I called out to him, and for a moment he froze as if just now remembering that I was there.
«Hermione! Call the English Cons-» Right then a wall of officers surrounded him and they walked briskly through a door with advanced-looking bolts keeping it safely locked away from the passers by.
«What are you doing
? Where are you taking him?!» I ripped my arm away from her grip, demanding answers.
«I can't discuss.»
«Oh, yes you bloody can! And you will!»
«Miss Granger.» She gave me another stare, one that made me cringe and look away. «We will not need you here anymore. You can leave.»
«I will not
leave until you tell me where you've taken my fiance,» I grumbled, still not looking at her.
«Until we get him to a trial, he will be staying at a local facility for -»
'?!» My head snapped and I stared at her with my mouth open. «You're incarcerating him! But you didn't even find any evidence!»
«We don't need to. He's wanted in several different countries, and h fits the profile perfectly. But I'm afraid that's all I can tell you, Miss Granger.» She began escorting me away from the bolted door, and then pushed me in the direction of the gates. She nodded at a couple of guards before turning to me one last time. «Have a nice flight.»
«But you've got the wrong man!» I called after her as the two guards caught my arms and pulled me toward my gate.
It took me several moments to realise that I was better off being calm and collected. Being hysterical didn't help in a situation as this. With my mind clearing up, I rummaged my brain for a way to make them realise that they'd gotten the wrong man. There had
to be some way of proving it.
In the distance I could see my gate getting closer to me, and I suddenly panicked. I couldn't get on that plane. If I did, Martin didn't have a chance.
«Ehm, I need to go to the ladies room,» I said to the men that were walking me down the hall the moment I'd caught glimpse of the sign. The two gorillas were exchanging confused looks and grumbled some words in that clicking language. «You know,» I sighed, «el bano.» I was sure that I wasn't pronouncing it correctly, but I had to try. «Ehm, le pee-pee
One of the men went 'ah!' and then told the other man something, apparently he'd understood what I meant and they turned to the small corridor that lead to the restrooms.
«Thank you,» I said, but they simply stared at me. «Ehm, gracias
.» While rolling my eyes I walked into the ladies room, leaving my bodyguards waiting on the other side of the door.
I swept the room with a determined glance. Remembering what they did in movies, I went to each cubicle and looked under the door to see if there was anybody in there. Proud of my cleverness I confirmed that the room was indeed empty. With that I grabbed the wand out of my purse, stepped behind a wall so that I couldn't be seen from the door and took a deep breath. It was now or never.
I screamed louder than I'd ever screamed in my life, feeling the volume itself rip my throat.
As planned, I heard the thumping steps of the two guards as they stumbled into the ladies room. They called out to me, but I stayed in my place, waiting for them to round the corner. When I caught sight of their gorilla-shaped bodies stepping around the edge of the wall, I jumped in front of them. They looked at me with a confused expression.
» I said in a clear voice, pointing my want at both of them. They immediately froze and tumbled over, falling onto the dirty floor. I flicked my wand again and their bodies rose in the air, floating back to the very end of the row of cubicles, then sat them down on the floor on each side of the toilet.
Their eyes were rolling back and forth, and I knew that they were confused and afraid, and quite a bit angry. It was probably unusual for them to be so powerless, but I actually liked having the upper hand. I bet these lads could benefit from being taken down a peg or two. Sadly, they wouldn't remember any of it.
With yet another firm grasp on my wand I pointed it at the two unmoving bodies and took a stabilizing breath. I'd already passed the point of no return. The point of no return was merely a dot in the distance for me now.
,» I whispered and spent a few moments just watching how their eyes turned foggy and unfocused.
My work here was done, I thought and closed the door to the cubicle, locking it magically. I did the same with the door to the ladies room itself, and found some joy in thinking about how difficult it would be for them to get out of there later.
«Alright,» I muttered to myself as I retrieved a small mirror from my purse and touched my hair with my wand. I stared as the colour went from soft golden-brown, to pitch black. Doing the same to my eyes, I marveled at how I reminded myself of an asian version of me. I now felt confident enough to walk out of the corridor and into the huge airport-hall, locating the nearest exit.
Who would have thought that I, Hermione Granger, would be so good at breaking the law?
Now all I had to do was get my fiance out of a foreign prison. Somehow I had the feeling that this would be easier said than done.
So how did you like this little plot-twist? :D I quite enjoyed writing it, and I hope you had an aqually good time reading it :)
Tell me what you think! Please ^^
Again, thanks for being such wonderful readers!