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"I feel ridiculous," I whine petulantly and Kay only chuckles at me, tugging hard at the laces up my back while Nessa ensures the heavy article of clothing stays in place.
"No pain, no gain, Witchling."
The teasing makes Nessa giggle coquettishly as has become her custom around the handsome officer. Kayen is always the perfect gentleman with my sibling, which makes me even more grateful to her. Freed of her prickly madness, Nessa has become strangely childlike, a phenomenon that seems to be sticking around. It's sweet, but I sometimes worry that someone will take advantage of her.
With Nessa's hands steady on my hips, Kay draws hard at my bodice once again. Closing it like a trap around my entire torso. I concentrate on my sister's eyes, willing down the panic of the constriction. After a moment, my lungs adapt to the sensations and I realize that it's not as bad as I thought. Oh sure, I'm painfully aware of the press of heavy layers of fabric and steel boning shaping my torso, but I can feel that it's making me stand differently as well.
"That's one way to get perfect posture," Kay chortles, far too delighted with this whole event and I glower impotently. "And it fits perfectly. Lady Krysta will be thrilled."
"Since she's the only one who makes my clothes, I should hope so."
The sulky tone only makes them laugh and continue to fuss over me. The petticoats were first, carefully planned layers of rich fabric to enable a perfect flair of the intricate skirt that I actually rather like. Not too frilly, yet feminine and quite dramatic, at least for me. The colors are magnificent. I don't know how the talented dressmaker did it.
The dress is blue. Well, it’s many blues. From deep water to fresh snow at the trailing edges, she has somehow dyed the fabric to compliment my unique coloration. Layers of wide scallops make up the skirt, looking like waves with their nearly-white edges. Some discrete crystal sparkles highlight that effect, which will please Glinda to no end.
"Jacket," Nessa instructs softly, holding up the final piece of this costume. It's a tightly fitted short jacket that really does little more than cover my arms and shoulder blades, leaving only my hands and upper chest bare. The sleeves are long, coming to a careful point at my center knuckle. No shock that the jacket is a perfect fit as well.
"The woman really does know me well," I muse and my companions chuckle.
"You should thank your bride as well," Nessa says as she fiddles with the collar until it suits her. "She had as much to do with the creation as your tailor."
This new friendship with the woman I share a mother with boggles my mind. By working hard at Shiz, she's wheedled two weeks off to spend with us at the Emerald Palace for the wedding and winter holiday. She's turned out to be a good student and earned the time fair and square.
"Don't you look lovely, Elphaba," purrs Chackle as she paces in looking magnificent in her maid of honor clothes, cut to her slender frame. "We've just been to see Glinda and you are in for an exquisite surprise." With her are the twin cubs, not yet old enough to speak, though they watch their surroundings avidly.
"I'm so glad that you're here, Chackle. As well as you, young Master Tolo and Miss Beala." The cubs look at me with big eyes set in their fuzzy faces. "I know the trip in this weather wasn't easy. Especially with such young ones."
The Cheetah smiles gently and noses my fingers. "You're worth the effort my friend. Both you and your lady. Speaking of your lady, she has sent me with a gift she insisted you have before the wedding. She said that you would know what it means."
In the satchel at her side is what appears to be a hatbox of all the odd things, but it weighs virtually nothing. Puzzled, I pause to tenderly stroke the green ribbon on the pink box, remembering Glinda telling me that 'pink goes good with green.'
I couldn't agree with her more.
In the box is crinkly tissue paper topped with a heavy card with handwriting I would know anywhere. A familiar scent wafts up from the paper and I have to grin. It is one of the scents she would often wear at Shiz, making me nostalgic.
'Elphie, my love,' it reads. 'It was finished in time. Wear it for me.'
And when I pull away the flimsy tissue paper, I actually gasp out loud.
The gown is every bit as gorgeous as I had hoped when Lady Krysta indulged my interference in the process. Thankfully, she understood my need to be involved and we worked together fine. In fact, she is currently in the other room with Momsie to give me a few moments to myself.
The dress is beautiful. A lovely fitted bodice to show off my assets and endless layers of voluminous skirts and crinolines. The fabrics are dyed all shades of blue, from icy near-white to late-evening blue along the detailed edges. The deep scallops that make the skirt, like feathers, are patterned the same. The effect has worked even better than I had hoped and I can't wait to see Elphie's dress, the exact opposite of coloring patterns as mine.
I'm getting nervous enough to feel a bit ill.
Right on cue, the door opposite to the one Momsie and Lady Krysta used is opened and I jump in surprise.
"There, there, poppet," Missus Pew dimples at me and comes over to clasp my left hand in both of hers. I'm so glad to see her that I could cry. "You look as nervous as a cat in a dog kennel." With an ease I really don't allow anyone but Elphie, Kay and her, Missus Pew reaches out to adjust my sleeve and smooth the fabric over hip and belly. "Now, your sweetie is waiting for you, looking as gorgeous and regal as anyone has ever seen her. And you are radiant. You crazy unorthodox kids have brought joy and change to this whole dreary palace and city. Now go out there and show off for your fiancé. Don't you worry about those recorders or the crowd or your fretting mother. Just think about Elphaba."
She really is going to make me cry, but hugs me close to give me a moment to regain my bearings.
"It's been a busy year, child, I know."
One year ago yesterday, Delia arrived from the future. Yesterday had been a day for tears and cathartic pain. How we miss her and long for her presence in our lives. But my body remains stubbornly unresponsive to whatever magics she spoke of and I somehow feel like a failure. Yet Elphie is so patient and so sweet with me, her dedication unwavering.
One year ago today, Elphie and I became lovers; a bond that has only grown better with time and practice.
Tomorrow is our second Winter Solstice.
If I survive to see tomorrow…
Luckily, Chackle chooses this moment to return, looking entirely pleased with herself. "She was every bit as surprised and pleased by the gift as you'd hoped. And returns the sentiment. Check the bag."
It's a heavy wooden box, about half again as long as my hand, narrow and exquisitely carved. The surface glitters breathtaking iridescent like peacock feathers and the delicate ribbon is alive with tiny gemstone chips. Good grief… if the packaging is this exquisite, what can possibly be inside?
My breath catches painfully as the box falls open beneath the fumblings of my fingers to reveal the stunningly gorgeous prize within.
Remembering the intricate necklace that adolescent Delia wore, I had assumed it was me that made it. Oh, how I have underestimated my darling. Each of the heavy silver links is an individual braid, wound and soldered into a perfect oval. The intricate twists of silver that grip the crystal bubble twine sinuously like vines, leaving the impression that they would move if given a chance. The emerald, our link to our daughter, gleams with sorcerous light where it hovers in the bubble with no means of anchor save its own intent. It is smaller now, with the extraneous rock carefully removed from it, and glows all the brighter for it.
Clucking, Missus Pew swoops in to dab the free flowing tears before they soil my perfect dress. "Now, now, Poppet. Sniffle back those happy tears and let's get this pretty thing on you so that all this nonsense can be over and done with!" Her cheerful mother-henning calms me for the millionth time since meeting the woman and she carefully maneuvers the chain over my coiffed hair.
When the gem settles into the cradle of my cleavage, I am struck by the sense of calm and power that radiates from it. Elphaba's touch on the object is almost palpable, like the loving brush of her fingers on my skin, or her kisses.
Now I am ready.
A Sense of Permanency
A swelling note of familiar music signals that my fretting has come to an end. Right on cue, father frames himself in the doorway with what could almost be a faint smile.
"It's time, Elphaba," he offers in his cool voice, but there may be a thread of warmth there. He even offers his crooked arm for me to slip my hand onto the warmth of his sleeve. This may be the first intentional and willing contact he has ever offered me and I shove down my emotional reaction. When I offer my free hand, Nessa takes it and walks with us, her gait still odd with the magics that power her useless legs now. Though six months of practice has integrated sister and spells nicely.
The day is barely overcast, with the weather carefully nudged to the nicer end of the spectrum, and unnatural warmth bathes the Central Courtyard. The whole place sparkles like fresh snow and ice, nearly blinding in intensity. The murmuring roar of crowd noise washes down the massive main entrance hall and I feel an old fear of the very publicness of this halt my steps.
"Elphaba?" Nessa asks softly and all I can do is shake my head, paralyzed with terror.
I have an unlikely savior in Aharo trotting down the hall, beaming in unabashed delight. "Elphie! My darlingest, you look radiant." The use of Glinda's occasional nickname for me is startling enough, but when the man swoops in to cup my cool face in his warm hands and kiss me warmly on the forehead, I'm quite certain that I'm gawking. Grinning, standing so close, the resemblance of his daughter to him strikes me hard, making me smile tremulously in spite of myself. "How are you holding up?"
Clearing my throat roughly, I marvel at his easy physicality and answer as best I can. "A bit ill with nerves to be honest."
"Good!" He laughs and pats my cheeks before releasing me. "If you weren't scared half to death, I'd be concerned that you weren't serious about this!" His riot of good humor calms and Aharo nods politely to my sister. "Miss Nessarose." When his gaze swings to father, the warm body language goes cool and polite. "Governor Frex." And with a saucy wink for me, he trots back the way we just came, leaving me smiling in bemusement.
"Shall we?" I manage to say, unsurprised to hear a thread of a giggle in my voice. The orchestra starts up as we come into the sunlight and the crowd noises swell happily. It still stuns me how my life has turned from villain to hero. With an awkward wave to the crowd, I return my hand to father's arm and let him lead me to where these vows will take place. Kayen and Chackle are already there, both smiling happily, and the cubs play at their mother's feet. Waiting on the opposite side of the dais is Hurgle with Milla looking very small beside him. Our former schoolmate had made great effort to be an actual friend to Glinda since we briefly visited Shiz and had been good company during several visits to Tolerance. Unlike our ridiculous days at the university, she smiles authentically and directly at me.
Around the dais are our family and friends of all shapes and sizes. There's even Farkell and his bay girlfriend, who allowed themselves to be lashed into carriage harnesses to help get some of the others from Tolerance here in the hardships of winter weather. Ary is there with his wife and Sath, the twins bouncing and waving excitedly. If I thought I could crouch in these clothes without hurting myself, I'd beg for a hug from them, dignity be damned.
With another of those almost-smiles, father leaves me at the dais and Nessa squeezes my hand before stepping away to stand with Kay and Chackle. Then the music swells again and Hurgle gestures with his head back the way I just came and I half-turn only to be frozen in shock.
Glinda is a gorgeous woman, having been blessed with natural beauty from birth.
But today she is radiant.
The noise and the crowd fades away as I drink in the glory of her appearance and her glowing smile. "Wow," is all I can manage to whisper as Aharo transfers her slender hand to mine. Without a word, he gently kisses his only child's cheek and then does the same to mine. The gowns are mirrored, hers fading from light to dark, mine from dark to light and the effect is lovely. Kissing her knuckles, I do my best to pay attention to our tutors, there to officiate our wedding as well.
I barely hear a word of it.
I'm dimly aware of Stalia and Jethrie addressing the crowd, asking for blessings to these proceedings, blah, blah, blah.
I only have attention for my Elphaba. I knew she was going to look amazing today, but my imagination pales in the face of the reality. Her richly hued skin and beautiful gown both blend in and stand out from the constant green of this city, the blur of the crowd, the sparkling white that decorates every surface. My eyes and even my hand can't resist the sparkling draw of the circlet that looks so regal on her. When Delia loaned the thing out, I hadn't noticed how the glittering metal and teardrop-cut sapphire brings out the green and gold in Elphie's eyes.
Oh, but I notice now!
Jethrie has to impatiently clear his throat to get our attention and we do so automatically, having been well trained that he doesn't appreciate being kept waiting. He's a rough old Gorilla, but a wonderful teacher and champion. At least here he can't cuff either of us in the back of the head to make a point. But then again…
"With these blessings in the eyes of Oz and the powers that be, you have vows to exchange?" He rumbles, obviously amused.
Elphie and I stare at one another in something that might be amused panic. All of our careful words are meaningless in the face of the importance of this moment. Reaching up to place gentle fingers on her mouth, I force words straight from my heart. "A long time ago, you asked me to fly away with you, to defy convention, to defy society and sorcery and gravity itself. My hesitation caused me to lose you then and some part of me swore never again. Then, I got this second chance. It wouldn't have mattered to me if I spent the rest of my life in that forsaken cave, scrabbling for food and warmth, destined to die fighting by your side. I would have done it to be with you."
Brushing at the slow tears on the beloved green face, I hook my hand around her neck to draw her down so that I can press my mouth to her forehead, tickled by the blue stone there.
"You told me that together we'd be the greatest team there's ever been. Looks like you were right."
We tearfully laugh together, foreheads touching. "How am I supposed to follow that one up?" she complains sweetly, voice raw with emotion. "When I met you I would have never been able to fathom coming to this place. Then you made an effort to connect with me after a lifetime of separation and I was changed on a fundamental level. No matter how many friends I've made since, no matter the acceptance I've been awarded or won, none of it would have made a difference if you hadn't taught me to love. How could I not be forever crazy about you? You asked me for forever. You have it, my love, freely given."
Somehow I force the words past the lump in my throat; my watering eyes blind to all but her and feel the rising tide of the magics we share. "Forever, freely given."
This kiss is different, magic and wind whirling about us, drawing the power of this promise to the darkening solstice sky.
"Well then," Madame Stalia says, still blinking in bemusement over the crescendo of power that has left Elphie and I giggling softly. "With that ringing endorsement, I think that we can safely pronounce you married."
There are scattered chuckles and Jethrie's powerful voice rises over the crowd. "Witnesses! I give to you Elphaba and Glinda, bonded by love, respect and promises. What say you?"
"Witnessed!" The crowd roars back like a single entity and Elphie and I lean apart only far enough to raise our clasped hands to prove our response to their vows too. With a rush of sound that sends a ripple of reaction through the crowd, including us, the entire clan of Flying Monkeys burst from where they've been discretely clinging to the buildings of the Square to swirl in a great, acrobatic display of joy. My heart flies with them for a moment, these Animals changed by Elphie's unknowing hand. Chistery breaks from the flock to brush her outstretched fingers as he swoops over our heads and I'm warmed further by his attention to her. It's a rare and special friendship these two scarred people share.
As the Flying Monkeys climb like one entity to the afternoon sky, the orchestra starts up again, signaling the next phase of this event.
Elphie bursts into girlish giggling as her hand is yanked roughly in mine and I watch Kay pick her up for one of those crushing hugs the tall soldier is so good at. They don't speak, just cling for a long moment in the warmth of the special friendship that they've forged. Then the emerald eyes turn to me, glittering above a wicked smile and I too am swept into a suffocating hug. Missus Pew blubbers over both of us and we drape ourselves over our Animal friends as best we can for embraces before Popsical does his best to squish us both. Even Momsie and Frex have sweet cheek kisses for us.
Throughout it all, we are connected by our clasped hands.
There are more hugs and kisses from friends and well-wishers as we slowly make our way to the big space that the crowd has made by the orchestra. Barely aware of my surroundings, I willingly allow myself to be swept into my Elphie's arms for a dance. Arms draped around her neck, I fondle the heavy, dark strands and smile like a lovesick fool, soaking up these memories.
"Was it everything you hoped for?" she smiles at me, kissing the tip of my nose and I smile foolishly.
Quite the Reception
There are some facets of being a public figure that I'm not fond of. As yet another stranger grips my tired hand and congratulates me, this is one of them. Glinda and Kay have been taking turns keeping my spirits up, nudging me or cracking jokes and smiling. Wife and bodyguard, the two most important people in my life. As always, I'm unutterably grateful to their calm to shore me up in the eddies of exhaustion and chaos around me.
This time it's Kay's turn, her hand big and solid on the small of my back. There's an attractive woman waiting off to my left, oddly enough, and it speaks volumes how many clock-ticks it takes for my mind to catch up with what's going on. "Look down, Elphaba," Kay chortles softly near my ear and I obey.
To my delight, I instantly recognize the polite figure standing there. "Well hi," I beam at the girl, remembering how she was the first stranger to approach me after the battle that sent the Wizard packing. "I wasn't sure that I'd see you again." She's grown a lot in the last year, but I know the winning smile.
"Mommy made sure that we come back in time to be here."
Without thinking about it, I've offered my hands and hers are warm when she takes them. What I really want is a hug, but the bodice and short jacket have left my entire torso fatigued and if I kneel I'll never get up again. So, Kay reads my mind again and ducks around me to scoop the girl up, making her squeal. Then my arms are full of her and we cling like old friends.
"Do you know that you were the very first stranger that came to me?" I ask softly, enjoying the child's embrace, a bittersweet reminder of Delia's missing presence. Leaning away a bit, she regards me with bright blue eyes, a few shades darker than my wife and future daughter.
"'Cause you're green?"
It's blunt, almost cringingly so, but I smile faintly and nod. "Exactly."
To my surprise, she moves a small hand, stroking my cheek. "You feel the same," she muses thoughtfully and the lump in my throat is choking. "And you are very pretty. I'm glad everybody sees that now. I'm glad I got to see you again, Miss Elphaba."
"Oh, child, me too," I murmur into her baby-fine red hair. "You know, I never did get your name."
Giggling, she gives me one more neck-wrenching hug and squirms to get down, Kay's hands helping again. Then she offers me a hand with a giggle. "Pleased to meet you, my name is Amlie."
Completely willing to play along, I shake the warm little hand. "A delight, Miss Amlie."
Then she grabs the woman hovering nearby, who I recognize from last year, and drags her close. "And this is my mother, Dannia."
Once more, I have a stranger's hand in mine, but this time it means more to me. "A pleasure, Miss Dannia. Thank you for bringing her. Neither of you will ever know how much her approaching me meant. She's an extraordinary child."
"Thank you Miss Elphaba. She's been very excited to get back to the Emerald City and see you." Dannia is all smiles, the darker emerald eyes warm.
"If you two can stay close for a bit longer, I'd like to spend more time with you. Are you back in the city for some time?"
"Excellent. My bodyguard knows your faces now, so you'll have to come to the palace in a few days or a week to force me to socialize."
The woman dimples and I note that her eyes stray over my shoulder for a moment before she flushes lightly and forces her attention back. Knowing who's standing there, I smile knowingly and file the information away. Mother and child move down a bit to meet Glinda and I grin up at a smitten Kayen.
"Stop drooling, Stretch."
Startled, the older woman gives me a mock sour look that makes me laugh out loud.
A Long, Happy Day
It's an endless parade of people and I'm beginning to grow weary of the whole thing. Oh sure, I keep the bright smile in place for the sake of our guests and friends and, most importantly, Elphie, but I'm still exhausted.
Particularly when we get another shock, right near the end of the line.
Oh, we've already met the Winkie king and queen and I couldn't help but search for their handsome son in them. And here's the son himself, looking nearly as uncomfortable as Pfhanne and ShenShen. This is a surprise indeed. As the girls skirt around to approach me, Fiyero bows over Elphie's hand and she grins softly at him.
I barely hear the unusually calm and polite way that the girls talk with me, my mind on the drama beside us. The jealousy in my guts surprises me with the virulence of it and Pfhanne's eyes widen when I don't control it. Great, now I've given her ammunition for whatever obnoxious thing she'll say.
But, oddly enough, she only looks sympathetic. We have all changed it appears.
Quietly, Elphie and Fiyero chuckle over something involving a lion cub? Then I remember that day back at Shiz, that horrible day when Doctor Dillamond was dragged off by the government agents. The cage with the poor cub trapped inside, the chaos in the classroom when Elphie's emotional magics had wreaked havoc and the cage disappeared.
That's where my path diverted from where I knew it was going, just as I had always planned. From the bright, shining expectedness of what this young man offered, to the road never traveled with the mystery at my side. Across time, Elphaba's heartfelt words echo in my memories.
'Come with me to the Emerald City.'
And the rest is history.
Standing perhaps a bit too close for strict propriety, grasping Elphie's green hands in his, Fiyero is chuckling somewhat sadly about finding someone as interesting as she. The expression is echoed perfectly on her face and I my nerves and my heart hang on her words. "You'll find some fun and intelligent lady for your heart and status. Because heaven knows, I'm not that girl."
The self-depreciating comment makes Fiyero step back and the bittersweet of his expression touches me, despite my conflicting emotions. "I beg to differ, lovely lady." Then he gallantly bows to kiss her knuckles and steps away to turn and greet me.
It's a strange exchange that takes place in silence between our gazes. I feel a very real sympathy to him suddenly. To have come so close to possibly winning the stunning woman at my side, only to have her slip away. In sympathy now, I tug him down to kiss his cheek, murmuring a nearly soundless thank you. When he straightens, control is back, but the pain will take longer to leave his eyes.
"You are both very lucky. My congratulations," he manages to say with his tone not betraying his sad eyes and gathers the girls to allow the last few people in the line to move again. Slipping my hand into Elphie's, we watch our old schoolmates move off.
"I'm very glad that this part is almost over," she muses conversationally, her tone edged with melancholia, and I couldn't agree more.
As wedding days go, I could never ask for anything better. Everything goes off without any major glitches, the food and decorations and music are perfect. Even the melancholy meeting with Fiyero and the girls I once called friends reinforces the sheer rightness of this new life.
As the day grows dim and the enchantments holding back the winter sun begin to fade, I dance with my new wife, thrilled to pieces and completely smitten.
Better still, as we bid farewell to our guests and begin making our painstaking way back to our normal lives, I finally get her to myself now.
The Bonds of Matrimony
Exhausted, I groan in abject and carnal relief as the tightness around my torso loosens and gradually falls away. It's a direct echo of a similar sound Glinda made just a minute ago when I did the same for her. My torso really hurts where the tightness pressed into my flesh and I twist to try and knock out some of the soreness. "How can you stand those torture devices?"
In response to my whine, Glinda only chuckles and I turn to watch her expertly shucking off the elaborate costume's layers. "It takes practice, darlingest. A corset is indeed an evil device but does such amazing things to a woman's figure."
I note the words, but seeing the naked perfection of her petite body belies them. "Say what you will about the awful things, but you are most beautiful like this."
That sunny smile warms me and I stay put, content to watch her remove the last few items that break up the curvaceous lines of her figure. The hot orange light of the hearth paints her skin enticing hues, casting deep shadows that tease, and glitters off the gold curls. When she strides over to embrace me, I meet her halfway, trying to ignore the stiffness in my back as I lean down to kiss her lingeringly.
But eventually can't hide the uncomfortable squirming, torn between pleasure and pain at her touch. "You're really uncomfortable," Glinda notes and expertly yanks something on the heavy skirts that causes them to fall away under their own weight. "Get naked, Elphie, and lay down on your stomach."
Bewildered, I find my arms empty as she sashays away towards the vanity and water closet area. So I do as ordered, peeling off the petticoats that have long since chaffed me raw in places not for casual conversation and wallow in the relief of nakedness. The covers on the big bed are folded neatly back at the foot and I can stretch out on the cool, silky soft sheets. It feels decadent and I note the faint smell of roses that is a trademark of Missus Pew's household. The small familiarity makes me happy.
"You look impossibly enticing against those dark blue sheets," Glinda notes as she returns and I smile into the cradle of my arms. There's no fighting the power of her compliments and I do my best to just soak it up. I've got selfish hopes for what she has in mind, listening avidly to the odd popping sound that might be a stopper in a bottle. Then her warm, heavily oiled hands caress feather-light over my back and I moan appreciatively. By some lucky miracle, Glinda has a gift with this, massaging away my stress. This is not a regular treat, but when she does indulge me, I feel transformed.
Twitching like a horse's itchy skin, I can't relax for awhile, my nerves overly sensitive from the unfamiliar clothing and the exhausting day. But Glinda is patient, combing her small fingers across the long muscles of my back from nape to where her body nestles comfortably on my backside. As she calms that stress, heat builds and I'm more than ready to obey her order to roll over.
Now I can watch her shadowed face as she continues with the hills and valleys of my front side, caresses lingering as I respond avidly to her touch. The woodsy smell of the oil mixes with the fire and the fainter smell of our heating bodies, an intoxicating cocktail. Once more, my twitchy, hurt skin relaxes beneath Glinda's magic touch and I can't fight the rise of lust in my calmed body.
Our bodies are a slick blur in the firelight, our growing noises of abandon mixing with the whisper of fabric and the symphony of fire. Points of contact burn between us, hottest at mouth and hands as her body grows as oily as mine.
Wakened and aggressive now, I roll Glinda to her back and sit up, straddling one of her thighs. "So beautiful," I murmur, admiring her paleness streaked against the dark sheets, the way her hair splays about her head like sunbeams.
"You saying that is the only opinion that matters anymore," she whispers hoarsely and I feel a lump in my throat at the confession. "Make me yours for good."
"Together," I whisper against her lips, finding the deepest heat in her, wet and snug, feeling like I've come home. Then her clever hand tickles into my own heat, stoking the fire in my guts and completing the circle of love and lust.
And together, we fly.
To Be Continued…