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Milli listened to him. He was enchanting. The way he spoke, how he watched her and how he moved. She smiled softly along with what he was saying.
“A new city. You know this place is full of inspiration. I mean there’s the busy streets, sure, but if you look some places up there’s great gardens.” She pointed out and for a second figured she really out to have shown him on a map but it slipped her mind and soon he was the one asking her questions. She glanced down to the bag with the book enclosed.
“Oh-“ She cut off a little and fumbled. “I uh, it’s more of a hobby. I went to university and studied history. I’ve always liked historic stuff. Sorry, nothing exciting.” She apologised prematurely because honestly a girl working in a bookstore with an affinity for history was hardly breathtaking. But he had called her a natural beauty and she wondered when the last time he had his eyes tested was?
“My parents love in Australia now, but we travelled when I was younger. I remember seeing the pyramids and the old ruins. I fell in love with them. When I was old enough I went to university. I wanted to move out there.” She murmured thoughtfully.
“An old man from there moved my face, when I was so little. He wanted to see my eyes and he said I had been blessed by Ra, to have the Eye of Ra.” She giggled softly at the memory and shook her head. She had held onto that fiercely as a child.
“What about you? Outside of finding inspiration and painting the worlds wonders, what do you like to do? I’m a local, I could help.” She said with an air of light heartedness.
They both seemed to have had a long day. He was happy to find that he had come into her presence once more, thinking that their interaction was as fleeing as a paper airplane, more than likely never to fly again once it touched the ground. Yet, here she was before him. Her hands were quick, smooth as they tucked away the book, him taking it as a sign of her taking interest in conversation now. That warmed him; he was a stranger still to her and yet she was showing clear intent to give him her full attention. Nathan was much the same, his eyes hadn’t looked anywhere but on her since boarding the train. “Long day,” he admitted to her. He didn’t like the idea of considering his art [I work] – more like a hobby, a passion that he hoped would bring some type of fruition to his life. He wanted to live comfortably and not rich, many seemed to find this as an excuse as to why he didn’t seem to pursue certain avenues or why he didn’t come off too strongly. Nathan liked to think it was because he cared about the [I right] things that would make him happy and money wasn’t at the top of the list. Though much of an overthinker, Nathan thought of himself as a simple guy.
She was wearing her hair up, which surprised him – he felt as though he was the only one paying any attention to her and in a good way. Understandably, many people in this decade kept to themselves. No one paying attention to the other, lost in their own world all held in their hands, earphones that sometimes had no sound – but still acted as a barrier not to be crossed in fear it would disturb whatever sense of [I peace] was existent. “My night was interesting? I guess, a bit maddening – couldn’t sleep, up painting. My mind has been wandering, but seems to settle in the same space which – well can be seen as boring?” He found that most of his sketches and beginner pieces had been inspired by his encounter with Milli, but he didn’t like the idea of everything being the same. He wanted his work to reflect the excitement – the renewed sense of spirit and yet the fear of a new experience – a new interaction.
“So, outside of being a natural beauty – what else do you get yourself into? Studies?” He asked as he motioned with his pencil toward the book she had tucked away.
Milli has almost been dozing off after a long day. She glanced up when she heard her name and for a second she was a little speechless. Nathan, the man from yesterday. She smiled a little and shook her head. She figured it was obvious she had no shoot.
“Just work.” She said to him as she shifted her bag and looked over to him. He looked like he had had a long day too.
She eyed him over,
“What about you?” She asked as she fixed the historical book in her bag. She glanced out the window again and then back to Nathan, she didn’t think she would see him ever again. She thought it was some brief, chance encounter with a beautiful stranger on a train. Although she wasn’t complaining, it was nice to see the tousle haired man again.
“How was your night?” She asked, not wanting the conversation to end and she remembered him mentioning he was new in the city. She figured new places could be a little strange for people and this city was busy and always changing. It must have been even more intimidating for him as an artist. She was curious about his work though but she figured it was no doubt rude to ask an artist about his works.
She had a shoot tomorrow, one in the town centre in a public garden and it was themed around fairytales. She figured she had a good chance given the theme of magic and mystery. She would have to see how it went and it was going to be an early start, and she wasn’t sure when they would finish or if she would even get the main spotlight. It was kind of weird to think about her face being on a poster or something but she knew the money would help her saving up for a new place or even a car or something.
Nathan was awakened not by his phone going off at six in the morning, but by Michael’s pillow slamming repeatedly against his face. Apparently, he worked an afternoon call and dd not appreciate not being able to sleep in. Nathan had never been able to sleep in. Since he was young as his mother told him, he was an early bird.
“Sorry sorry!” Nathan said with a chuckle, hand reaching over for the black device on his desk, the screen cracked from the countless amount of times he had dropped it. It was an older model, one that seemed to do the job of answering phone calls and texts just fine. He wasn’t a man of social media really and anything he posted was purely his art, save for his Facebook to which his mother mentioned family member had expressed concern over. He got out of bed then, stretching and trudging over to his suitcase to which he hadn’t unpacked fully just yet and finding something to wear.
An hour later after a shower, he was walking the city, trying to maneuver the foreign area. He reached a white building, no name to identify it but the street number which matched the address he was given. Nathan walked inside, greeted by a short women with a blunt black bob and bright red cat eye frames perched just at the tip of her nose. Sharon was a women who seemed all over the place and she wanted Nathan to get right to work. This type of pressure was new for him, as he was used to working on his own schedule, but she saw something in him and he had to deliver – he wanted to deliver. His mind was not on work though, and maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing as he hadn’t found himself this entranced by his work in so long, but there was no theme around his work, only a sense of fixation. Still, his first piece was coming along well. A portrait of the woman on the train, the tiredness in her eyes from an audition that seemed to go well but more than likely not in her favor. Still, he wanted to capture her beauty, so careful and not overpowering at all – almost naïve in a sense as to how beautiful she was.
He was happy at least that he had gotten something started. Nathan had boarded the train with a cup of coffee and his sketchbook in hand, the desire to create bubbling the minute he stepped on the train. His seat was open, but there were two other occupants – still, somehow he was able to recognize that brunette hair, the soft curl of her baby hairs at her neck – “Milli,” he said as he sat down and he felt embarrassed then, as though maybe it was weird for him to call out to her as he knew her. “No shoot today?” he asked, hoping it didn’t come off as a comment about her appearance – her energy was different now though.
Milli shifted a little, thumbing through a book. History of Egypt, never really enticed by fiction given it was mostly mushy romance. She glanced out the window she was perched by. Rain began to pitter down onto the street below and she smiled a bit as the rain cleared away everything from the day and made it shine.
Milli glanced to the clock and stretched, setting her book in her bag and heading to bed for the night. She stared at the ceiling for a while and mulled over the train journey again. She didn’t know why that man was engraved so starkly in her memory, she would probably never see him again.
By the time morning came rolling around, Milli was up and ready to go. It was no surprise she hadn’t had a call back yet from the photoshoot and she doubted she would. She was running late as she hopped on the train and there wasn’t a lick of makeup on her face and her brunette hair was tied up messily as she dashed down the street and found the book shop, fumbling with the keys, opening up and dumping her bag behind the desk. She finally breathed in a sigh of relief.
Most of the day was spent meandering the tall shelves and rearranging this and that, dealing with the local customers. Whenever it was quiet she had her nose buried in her latest read. Six PM rolled around in no time and she shifted to lock up. She glanced up as a street lamp flickered and made her way down to the station. It was quiet and she pulled out her book, finding a seat on the train and crossing her legs, bundled in a coat thanks to the rain which had done a great job of keeping most people indoors.
Milli set the book aside and sighed out softly, glancing out the window at the passing sights. She really needed to get a closer apartment to the shop. Then again, she didn’t mind the travel and she eyed a couple a few seats away enjoying each other’s company and tore her gaze away.
“Yes Nathan,” he said to the male. His look of surprise did seem to shock the guy.
“I’m Michael – I’m assuming Sharon didn’t mention room sharing?” He asked. Nathan nodded, he could deal with roommates but this was not the life of grandeur that Sharon had pushed into his mind. Michael chuckled.
“It happens. She has too many clients to keep up with. This whole building is filled with her and her husbands’ clients.” Michael took the time to show him around, a shared kitchen – coed bathrooms and of course everyone was responsible for their own food and cleaning up after themselves. Years of living with his mother had prepared him for something like this. He had to consider that success would possibly come quick, but was it realistic to think that he would have a fancy studio and his own apartment? Sharon had only seen a small glimpse of his work, the lighter pieces that the coffee shop was willing for him to show. Apparently it was enough to catch her attention and have her devoted to the point of doting time and money to him. Still, Nathan wondered just how much time she could devote to him considering all the clients she already had.
The night soon came, Nathan learning of Michael’s past as a hand model and how he was delving into the world of being an actor. Currently he was working on a stage production for Hamlet. He was nice enough to split his takeout with Nathan, considering he hadn’t even thought to bring food or even had food in mind – yet he was starving. A bowl of yellow curry over rice was more than suitable.
“How was the transit?” Michael asked as he handed over the spliff.
“it was pleasant, met a girl.” He said and he realized then what he said. “I mean I - well yeah I met a girl,” Nathan said with a chuckle, turning into a fit of laughter.
“You meet a lot of girls out here –” Michael said with a chuckle as he began to eat. Most of the other tenants were asleep, which meant some sense of quiet though Michael noted that wouldn’t last. The house could get quite busy and loud.
“Yeah but she was – different?” He said, looking down almost as though embarrassed, though not really so much as he truly believed what he said. Meeting [I her] on the train had brightened his day, but like Michael said, it wasn’t uncommon to meet a girl and he didn’t think he would be seeing her any time soon.
They finished their meal before leaving to retire to their bedroom. Nathan couldn’t sleep however, his mind focused on those eyes, eyes he had only seen for just a brief moment. It was after midnight and he found himself in the lobby area, trying to recreate that moment.
“Julia.” Milli greeted her friend as she stepped into the apartment complex as her friend waited outside her door.
“Hey! I brought takeout!” Julia was an established model, gorgeous blonde hair and shining blue eyes. She was a regular on the cat walks. She held up the brown paper bag. . Milli smiled a bit and unlocked her door, letting them both inside the poxy building.
“You really have to move somewhere else.” It was the same every time, Julia always told her she needed to move.
“Chow mein. How did that shoot go?” Julia asked and smirked a little to her friend as she rolled her eyes. Milli tied her hair up and dropped her rucksack as Julia plated up dinner. There were stacks of books in random pockets around the house.
“Working tomorrow?” Julia asked and Milli nodded.
“Long shift.” She sighed and Julia sat at the kitchen table and pushed the woman’s plate towards her. Milli sat with her and ate thoughtfully, mind casting back to the man on the train.
“Ohhh I know that look.” Julia teased.
Milli raised an eyebrow at her and shook her head as she finished her noodles.
“Who is he?” Julia asked and Millia tossed a tut in her direction.
“No one, just a guy on the strange.” She said to her with a shrug. “Really, he was just a nice guy.” Milli assured her and Julia giggled a little.
“Suuuure.” She teased and the two chattered for a while before Julia headed off.
Milli went for a shower, tidying up her flat a little before she finally settled in for the night.
Age was certainly something that was important when brought to attention or clearly obvious depending on presence. Though there were a fair share of woman who were models who looked nothing like their age. Beauty could be timeless, if you were smart enough not to tamper with it and unfortunately in this day and age, there were too many influences drawing you to make the decision to change something that quite possibly and more than likely didn't need to be fixed. Perfection - beauty was in the eye of the beholder, who was to truly say what was beautiful and not beautiful when you yourself was the beholder?
She unveiled her eyes in complete form, strands pulled back and draped behind her ear gently. Nathan raised a brow then as he watched observed her, her explanation almost as distant as the voice through the intercom announcing the next stop. Was it his stop? He wondered why he was so excited at the thought of getting off with her, though, looking at the scribbles on his ticket he made, he found he still had another ten minutes left of the ride.”Maybe they’re focusing on the wrong thing,” he said, his voice lost in the sound of the train coming to a slow stop, brakes screeching against the tracks.
She stood then, a natural and local by the looks of it as hse so easily navigated through the throng of people, pooling onto the platform like spilled coffee. “Good luck,” he said to her fleeing figure, offering a small wave. A simple moment of tranquil interaction was more than he expected to get his first night in. He wondered then what her life was like when she left the train. Did she pout her hair up freely when home, poised before a mirror and preparing herself for the next could be break?
Eventually his train pulled to his stop and he was one of the light few left, grabbing his suitcase and bag before exiting. Navigating the taxis was a bit harder than expected, but eventually he reached the apartment, not all too surprised to find that it was occupied by other artists and musicians, actors and such creatives with the expectation of [i making it]. He stepped into the room then, surprised to find another male, a tall muscular guy with mocha brown skin and dreads.
“Nathan?” He asked, as though expecting him to Nathan’s surprise.
Milli let the man speak, raising an eyebrow at his comment about being as much an artist as she was a model and she smiled away his comment. She figured he was right.
“Nice to meet you, Nathan.” She said to him, glancing between his face and the sketch pad he worshipped. She shrugged when he asked about whether it was a forever thing.
“Modelling is never a forever thing. People don’t want models in their 40s.” She pointed out and eyed his sketch pad,
“Art is timeless, though. Ageless.” She murmured and she supposed that was the beauty of it. An artist could be any age, anyone. She looked to him when he asked about her eyes. Of course he would.
She lifted her fingers and held her hair out her face, exposing her mismatched eyes.
“Just genetic. My great grandmother had it too.” She explained to him with a smile. She wasn’t offended that he asked, plenty people asked. She let her hair fall again, watching him.
“It’s off putting to some people, I suppose. Makes it difficult to focus.” She shrugged a little at that and smiled softly at him. She glanced up as the train began to come to a stop.
“It was nice to meet you, Nathan. And good luck, with the art.” She said as she got up, waiting for the train to stop. She stepped off transport and onto the station, bringing her coat around herself. She adjusted her bag and checked her phone. She glanced back to the train and smiled softly.
“I’m as much of an artist as you are a model I s’ppose,” he said to her and his cheeks turned just a soft rose color then. “Sorry, I didn't mean for that to come off the way that it did.” He admitted to her.with a chuckle. “I guess we are all [i something] right? Unless we wait for someone to tell us we are. He tossed his hair back then, pausing in his drawing to meet her eyes, or at least one of them. She was a rare beauty, though he wasn't sure if she was playing coy or if she was actually the [i shy] type. “I’d suspect it was a hard choice if you’re considered depending on what they are interested in. You don't have that [i harsh or cold] look.” Nathan had dated his fair share of women, all relationships which didn’t end in the best sense. He was a mess of a person and in some way he knew his selfishness and the control of creativity was his downfall when it came to relationships.
“Milli,” He repeated. ‘I’m Nathaniel, though I guess Nate .. Nathan works just the same.” Nathan shifted in his seat some.It wasn't hard for him to interact with females, though usually in a more relaxed setting. There was something jarring about a train and it wasn't just its movements - public transportation was [i fast] despite how long the route. It just didn't seem like anyone had any time or interest in sitting down and starting a conversation.
Nathan was more used to bar settings when it came to women, or linking up with socialites after presenting his art in a coffee shop. Relationships that didn't last longer than the thrill that came with gaining a few more likes on a few posts on instagram. “They say breaking into the modelling business is pretty hard - guess that’s true for any creative space.” He said, eyes briefly looking down to finish up the quick sketch. “Do you see it as a forever thing?” He asked. Art had always been his life, something he truly believed that he could make into a [i career] though he didn't like putting that label on something he considered a passion. Still, there was nothing else he could see himself doing. Yet, being an artist didn't pay the bills or help out his mother. Still, despite all the [i failure] Nathan was positive that there was the possibility of success in his future and this exhibit seemed to push that narrative.
“What’s with the eye?’ he asked with a raised brow.
Milli felt like she spent most of her life on trains at this stage. She watched the man and she raised a shaped eyebrow at him, as if curious but she didn’t put words to it. Interview? She shifted a little then.
“Uh, kind of.” She said to him with a shrug. “More like an audition. Photoshoot.” She explained, feeling a little awkward in all honesty. She glanced to his sketch pad and then back to his face. Messy hair, dark features and and a thoughtful expression. She didn’t know this guy, but she had to admit she was intrigued.
“You’re an artist?” She asked him, conversationally. She glanced back out the window, she had never been the creative type, even as a child. Her parents lived over in Australia, happy to enjoy their retirement and Milli was trying to make ends meet in London. It wasn’t easy, but she was doing alright for the most part. Although her shabby, tiny little apartment didn’t hold much testament to that. It wasn’t really in the greatest area either but it was affordable rent and fairly close by the shop she worked in. Milli shifted her shoulder length hair again to look at the man opposite her once more, drinking in his image.
“Oh, sorry. My names Milli. I mean, it’s technically Emilia but everyone calls me Milli.” She introduced herself. Emilia was far too formal for her, far too straight edge. She knew she was coming off scatter brained which was nothing new for her. There was something refreshing about this man, she wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe it was just the fact he wasn’t loved up, drooling over a woman. She had to admit it did make her slightly bitter knowing how many other girls got picked up by their partners from these shoots.
Nathan’s hands were quick, playing with the brief sense of shadow that seemed to shadow her until the lights broadened out as the doors closed and the train began to move. He turned his gaze then, blinking just a bit and turning to look at the image he had been sketching without even looking. She was a burst of colors, mismatched in darks and lights - blues and greens and that overcoming brunette hair, like a cloak she was hiding under. Was that the shadow he had seen? Or was he imagining things? The train jerked every now and then, the sound loud in his ear, threateningly louder if he were to press his head against the window he knew. He was exhausted too and leaning would lead to falling asleep and missing a stop in a new city didn’t seem like the best way to start a new beginning in a foreign place. It was just the two of them then, the train non stop at this point. He was grateful for it, not wanting to be the person obnoxiously taking up space with their baggage.
Was her voice soft or was it the rumbling of the tracks that seemed to make everything bounce carefully?
“Just alright?” He asked then with a raised brow, chuckling as he paused mid stroke and looked up at her. Color - she looked like the first flower of spring compared to the warm browns and dull silver of the leather seats and the poles of the compartment. “I haven’t been on a train in a while,” he admitted to her then. He was much too used to riding through on his bike, or driving his mother’s old station wagon. “Interview?” he asked her. Her lips seemed stained with some color, but it was clear she was coming toward her wind down time by her relaxed demeanor.
“Left, look up! Fabulous!” Every word was punctuated with the camera clicking and a flash that didn’t seem to make the woman flinch. Heterochromatic eyes turned to face the camera in the elegant gown in the midst of the busy studio. This was a small studio by anyone’s standards but Milli has been trying to break into the world of modelling for about a year now. Her left eye was a vivid blue and the other a vivid emerald, a striking mix as she finally finished up and wandered off to the side room to change and wipe the thick makeup from her face.
She got into more comfortable clothes, loose jeans and a loose shirt, washing her face and undoing her brunette hair from the pins. She glanced to the other girls who were chattering and getting ready and smiled a little.
“How was it?” One asked and Milli shrugged,
“We’ll see what the editors think.” She answered and the modelling job had been for a perfume poster but there was no guarantee her photo would be used.
She slung her bag over her shoulder and laced up her trainers as she checked the clock, damn, she was running late! She headed on down towards the station, avoiding the crowds as her phone buzzed and she answered.
“Hey! Julia!” An old friend. She chartered as she made her way into the packed train and sighed.
“Yeah, no that sounds great! I’ll be home in about an hour or so.” She explained and took a seat opposite a man. She hung up and looked out the window, setting her bag down finally.
She glanced over to the man. He was handsome, he had a thinkers look about him. She gave a polite smile and looked back out the window, not really paying much attention as the man scrambled to get out a sketch pad. Milli glanced over again and eyed the man, he looked a little dazed and she smiled awkwardly.
“Are you alright?” She asked him quietly, wondering if he was perhaps a little sick. She hoped not. She had a shift to put in at the bookshop tomorrow and she couldn’t afford to be sick. She wore her hair down, covering her green eye so she wouldn’t receive odd stares but evidently it wasn’t working.
There might have been once upon a time she would have flirted with the good looking stranger but that ship had long since sailed. She had seen love, she had read about it in the books she previously looked after at the shop but she hadn’t ever experienced it. Seeing loved you couples everywhere on the streets, hearing sad love songs every time she put on the radio- it was starting to become a nuisance more than anything. She ran a hand through her hair and let it fall back into place. She had never been a shy girl, she had never had the option really. But she did wonder if this guy was okay.
She shook her head a little and Milli looked back out the window as the world went whirring past in a colourful haze.
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“It’s just a few months mother, really . . .” Nathan mumbled under his breath, trying not to pay attention to the way his mother sulked at the door while he finished packing his things. Twenty-seven and still living with his mother seemed sad enough – twenty-seven and living with his mother and his grandparents. Surely, that was a sad living right? Well, one would think. When you didn’t have to pay rent and food was readily available, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. Except for those occasions when entertaining the opposite sex and having your mother fawning over the woman as though she would be the next Mrs. Thompson. Then – yes it could seem a bit embarrassing.
“A few months miles away. You have never been away from home this far. What if something happens?” Nathan sipped up hid final bag, non-surprisingly able to fit his whole life’s wardrobe in one suitcase, the other filled with an assortment of art supplies. Coming to a full height of 6’4, he turned to face the woman. For sixty she looked well, though aging had come on her quick as of late as his grandparent’s health was declining. He hated to leave her alone. Though, his sister had offered to help and of course she wasn’t happy about it. She had a life. She had a family. She had a [I job], she rightly liked to rub that in his face any chance she could. They both looked the same, just two years apart, her the oldest. They both had dark brown hair, his always growing out until pressured to cut it by his mother, chocolate brown eyes rich with sincerity and a very distinguishable nose. Despite how similar they looked in appearance, their behaviors were certainly different. Nathan was more introverted, he liked to walk into a room to observe while his sister tended to enter with the intention to be seen. Not just seen, but heard as well.
“Nothing will happen,” he said with a chuckle as he threw on his coat, winter was on its way out one would think with the months passing, but Mother Nature certainly had a grudge. Not that Nathan had any objections. He enjoyed the colder weather, grey skies seemed to make color much more exciting – that random peep of red on a woman’s lips, or the bright yellow on a child’s feet as they skipped along the sidewalk. Too much color seemed artificial and it was no wonder that his outfit consisted of black jeans, a white sweater, and a grey coat – the only [I spot] of color being the gold watch he wore since his father’s passing. A watch that was telling him he had thirty minutes to get to his flight or else he’d not be heading to London as planned. “I told you – I promised I would call as much as possible.” He gathered his things then, turning his back on the small room he had lived his whole life in, paintings and sketches, posters and whatever he could find abandoned on the streets decorating the walls.
Nathan’s mother opened her mouth to say something – interrupted by the distant sound of a bell ringing from downstairs. His grandmother had lost her ability to speak, but made good use of her strength when she needed to. He could see the flicker of worry in his mother’s hazel eyes, her hands finding nothing to do but push back strands of hair that framed her face. She smiled almost apologetically. “As much as possible,” she reiterated. Nathan was much like his father, at last his mother had told him constantly. He thought maybe in looks, as his father’s personality seemed just as bulldog-like as his sister’s. Leaning down, he pressed a kiss to her forehead, which seemed to ease her nerves somewhat. Together they headed down the hall and stairs. His mother paused at the door which led to his grandparents’ room.
“Nathan,” she said as he was making his way to the front door. “As much as possible.” She repeated and he knew it was her way of saying I love you, without the possibility of crying.
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A four hour flight later he found himself at the train station where he was to be heading toward a neighborhood downtown where many business people had taken residence, though was slowly becoming a haven for artists. Nathan was surprised when his sponsor had come up to him – a lanky woman with greying hair who smelled of cigarettes rivaled by the scent of jasmine. Until he met her, his art hadn’t really gone anywhere, a few sold pieces outside of a coffeeshop. Not enough to pay the bills certainly. Now he was going to be living rent free, working on an exhibit to present him into the world of famous artists – [I if] he knew what he was going to even be working on.
Bags in tow, he sunk into a booth by the window, sighing in relief as he sunk into the leather seats, eyes closed just briefly as the people filed in, the soft dinging as distant sound as the doors were closing. Muses were mysterious, sneaky little fairies that were quick to flee. When Nathan’s eyes settled on anything inspiring, he knew he would have to be quick or that moment of beauty would flutter and flee away. It took but one glance at the fairy in front of him, for him to quickly scramble into his bag, until the black leather sketchpad was in his hands, the charcoal intimately fitting in that corner between his thumb and finger. Was he staring?
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