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Pepper groaned internally as the trio discussed the possibility of splitting up and, subsequently, who wanted to 'take' her-- as if she were some starving puppy on the street. It was humiliating. Had the blistering sun not already reddened her face, the burgeoning flush of embarrassment would've been painfully visible on her cheeks.

Another savory sting from her forceful detachment of hairs.

More than anything, Pepper wanted to haul herself up, put her hands on her hips and declare that she could survive by herself. Then, somehow, she'd get her bag down all by herself to demonstrate the point and march off into the dusty backdrop with a sense of self-worth larger than anything in the world. It reminded her of all the great heroines in the plays she loved, women who didn't need a soul to help them accomplish the things they wanted in life. In one of her earlier stories, she'd made herself into one of those heroines-- a battle-hardened war-goddess that everyone respected.

Paprika the Beloved.

But she feared that was as close as she'd ever get to being an independent, fearless woman. Just a character in a story. In reality, she'd always just be meek, timid, overweight Pepper Clarke who can't even watch scary movies without wanting to hide.

And as such, Pepper could do no more than shakily pull herself up from her crouched position and stagger awkwardly toward the trio without so much as a spark of confidence.

"Thanks," She replied softly when Benny mentioned getting her bag down, "It's really high up, I, uhm, can't get to it by myself."

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I Can Hear the Bells · The Streets
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