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He pressed pause on one cassette deck and stop on the other, before the next track could start.

He took a deep breath, and consulted his list. He was nearly done. There should be room for one last track, if he’d worked it out right, and he’d saved her favourite till last for maximum impact. He pressed eject on the playback deck with one hand as he reached for the empty cassette box with the other. Usually, he was very particular about rewinding all his tapes, but tonight he was just too focussed on getting through them all. He tucked the tape into its box and stacked it with the other albums to rewind later.

He pulled the next tape out of his rack, put it in on side B and started rewinding. He knew from habit how long it should take to rewind based on how far from the end it was. He pressed play; rewound a little further, pressed play again. There we go, he thought, practically dead on.

He waited, and paused the tape as the music ended. He poised himself with a finger on each pause button and pressed them both simultaneously, setting one tape playing while the other recorded.

“Dooby dooby doo dooo,” he sang absently. “Know the rules and ba bada.”

He cracked his knuckles and picked up his best school pen. Carefully, painstakingly, he started to write out the artists and titles on the inlay card.

“… what I’m thinking of…”

“For Kelly,” he muttered, writing on the spine. “From Ben.”

He sat back and smiled. This compilation was going to render her speechless.  She was going to love it.

He started to dance around the room. “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you!”

© Kari Fay

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