Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Birthday Outtake from belli486

This is the first chapter of the prequel to Always & Forever.  I’ll continue to write until it’s complete and send you all the new chapters first before I post. Sorry this one was  rather melancholy and angsty, but this is only the beginning.  I promise the sequel chapters will contain a hot epi with a thoroughly satisfying HEA.  Hope your birthday is the best ever!  
Love, Bev aka belli486 <3

A Thoroughly Modern Cinderella Story because She's All That
By belli486

"'There is a child in all of us,' a child in touch with a truth deeper than the logic of tragedy."
— Frederick Beuchner and Doug Thorpe

My fairy tale begins in tragedy, as they so often do.

It's probably safe to say that I, Isabella Marie Swan, fell in love with Edward Anthony Cullen at my mother's funeral.  We were both seven.  He probably would not have been affected by Renee's loss so much had he not already had that same experience when he was just six.  I would find out later that his biological parents, Elizabeth and Edward Masen Sr. had died in a car accident in Chicago.  

His adoptive parents, Esme and Carlisle Cullen, were my godparents and best friends of my parents.  They had adopted Edward mere months before.  Prior to my mother's death, I probably could have counted on one hand the few times Edward had spoken to me, but it was the kinship he felt with me in death that brought our friendship to life.  His emerald green eyes, stark against his pale skin and shocking copper hair, had mesmerized me even then.
When I cried for the loss of my mother that day, I really didn't understand all of what was going on.  I just knew I would never again hear my mother's voice or experience her touch.  As I stood in front of the closed casket, I couldn't believe my mother was in there.  The only evidence of that was the self-portrait Renee had painted.  It was displayed by the funeral parlor on an easel amidst what seemed like hundreds of flowers.  
Bereft and unable to contain the emotions welling up from deep within my soul, I flung my tiny body onto the sleek mahogany box.  I wasn't sure if I just wanted to seek definitive evidence that it was my mother in there or if my intentions were to bring her back somehow.  I just wanted to be close to her again.
Charlie was practically catatonic, and it didn't even register to him at that moment that I might need his comforting.  In my raw and crippling grief, I might have quickly become inconsolable had it not been for Edward's decisive action.  He had boldly come to comfort me, winding his little arms around my slight, trembling body, and allowed me to sob on his shoulder. 
"It's going to be all right, Bella," he soothed.  "Your mom is in heaven now and God will take care of her."
"Will God stop the cancer from hurting her now?"  I asked through my tears.
"Yes," Edward said without hesitation.  "Daddy Carlisle is a doctor and he says people don't hurt anymore when they die."
Looking into those clear, green eyes, I couldn’t help but believe him.  There was something about hearing those words from a little boy whom death had made too wise for his years.
From that day, Edward and I became inseparable.  While Edward had acquired two brothers when he joined the Cullen family, I had no siblings.  Emmett and Jasper had been adopted by the Cullens when they were toddlers.  Edward was an addition that delighted his new parents but threatened the equilibrium that his brothers, both his age, had already established in the Cullen household.  Thus, I had unwittingly become Edward's best friend by both default and design.  Although I had known Jasper and Emmett for as long as I could remember, Edward and I found we had much more in common.  Esme had synchronized our schedules at school so that Edward could adjust.  We were together at school all day and, due to Charlie's schedule at the Police Station; we rode home together from school most days.  We also had play dates regularly at each others' homes.  
Beyond our shared experience of death, we bonded over books, his music, my art and a friendship that was forged over a series of excruciating losses that would drive us apart before it brought us back together again.  Of books, our favorites were fantasies beginning with the Dinotopia books, which Esme had given us for Christmas the year Renee died.  On our play dates, we immersed ourselves in the fantasy lands of humans, dinosaurs, dragons, fairies, aliens, witches, wizards and other fantasy creatures in peaceful coexistence.  We loved acting out scenes from books, often drafting Jasper and Emmett in, as well.  Together, we drew and painted elaborate sets that brought our fantasy worlds to life.  We took our shared love of books very seriously.  
These books were replaced by many others until the last book we shared:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in July 2005, just before the Cullens moved the summer after our seventh grade year.  I remember it like yesterday because it was the last book that Esme bought us together.  She took us to the Borders in Port Charles and we were several chapters in before we got back to the Cullen house and finished it overnight.  Esme or Carlisle would check on us every couple of hours because we were holed up in Edward's room for our Harry Potter read-a-thon.  Little did we know, our discussion over Snape's betrayal was like a type and shadow of our future relationship.
"I knew Snape was a traitor.  He only pretended to be a loyal member of the Order of the Phoenix to help his death-eater friends and prove his allegiance to Lord Voldemort.  Why else would he follow through on the unbreakable vow and actually kill Dumbledore, who trusted him so implicitly?  It is the ultimate act of betrayal in my opinion."  We were sitting in the middle of Edward's bed in near lotus positions facing one another, having just finished reading the book.  I was indignant in my support of Harry's point of view.
"Dumbledore trusted Snape unconditionally, and this included trusting him with his life.  As Headmaster of Hogwarts, he was consistently self-sacrificing and time after time forfeited his own peace and happiness for the greater good.  It's logical to me that Dumbledore would want Snape to protect his cover, even if it meant he had to die to protect it,"  Edward insisted.
I narrowed my eyes at him suspiciously.  "So, you would hurt someone who loved and trusted you in that way?"
Edward was pragmatic in his role as devil's advocate.  "Sometimes duplicity is necessary to protect those you love."
"What does that even mean?"  
"Circumstances can render a person unable, or unwilling, to share all of what's going on in order to spare another person pain." 
"Um, example please, Mr. Philosopher."
Edward's face grew very serious.  "For instance, I know that Carlisle and Esme kept some details about my parents' deaths from me until recently."
"What details?"  I asked softly.
Edward looked down but not before I saw the sadness in his eyes.  "Like—my father had been drinking when they died."
I couldn't bear seeing him that way.  I scooted so close to him our knees were touching and threw my arms around him.  "I'm so sorry, Edward.  They must have had a good reason to wait until now to tell you."
"Yeah," he murmured.  "They thought I was too young to know what to do with that information before.  They wanted me to know all about my gene pool now, I guess."
I pulled away to look into his eyes again.  "Charlie's given me 'the drinking and drugs talk' at least half a dozen times.  Now that we're teenagers, we'll both be in situations where friends are encouraging us to do things we shouldn't.  Iit was time for you to know."
"Yeah.  It was just a surprise, you know.  All this time I—I'd seen them as—as victims, only to learn that my father killed them."  Edward was angry now.  So angry he was trembling.
I rubbed up and down both his arms hoping to calm him.  "It was still an accident, Edward.  And if your Dad had a drinking problem, he was sick."
"Then he shouldn't have gotten behind the wheel of a car.  Grownups tell us this stuff all the time, but they don't even follow their own rules."
"It's called being human.  The drinking impaired his judgment and your Dad made a mistake."
"Yeah, a mistake that took them both away from me.  I don't know if I can ever forgive him for that, Bella."  His voice cracked and it almost broke my heart.
I blamed Hermione, Ron, Harry and Ginny for what happened next.  The blossoming romances in the tale of the Half-Blood Prince still fresh on my mind, I kissed my best friend.  Not a kiss on the cheek or forehead for comfort either.  He was surprised by my forwardness for a second, but then he kissed me back.  I had wondered a few times what it would be like to kiss a boy and given the fact that I didn't know any other boys as well as I knew Edward, I figured having him as my first kiss was appropriate.  I was not prepared for what it would do to me.
With no frame of reference and without the faintest clue how it should be done, I just puckered up and pressed my lips softly to his.  Then it was as if all feeling and sound became magnified.  I could hear our hearts pounding wildly in our chests as Edward's firm, full lips connected with mine.  As our lips separated, briefly, I felt his arms go around me and I embraced him as well.  Our lips met a second time, parting without a thought.  Our tongues touched tentatively and then entwined and massaged.  I felt a sense of euphoria that I'd never experienced before.  Then it was like something possessed us both and we were sucking face like pros in the middle of Edward's bed, our books and previous conversation forgotten.
So lost were we in our newfound pastime, we didn't hear Dr. Cullen when he entered the room.  We heard a throat clear and our lips unlocked with a smack as we both looked up to see him standing in the doorway with a stern look on his face; then it contorted into a lopsided grin.  "Celebrating the end of the book, I take it?"
"Dr. Cullen!"
We said in unison, then I let Edward go first with the explanations because my face—well, my entire body—was warm.  I was mortified and sure I was blushing a deep shade of crimson.  Edward was pale as a sheet and stammering.
"B-Bella was...I was...We just finished the book and we were discussing it, and one thing led to another..."
"Yeah, there was a good bit of snogging in this episode of Harry Potter, so it was like a subliminal message or something..."
"I understand.  You two have been friends since you were seven.  I was wondering when the hormones would kick in.  It's only natural to be curious."  Dr. Cullen couldn't seem to stop smiling.  Esme came in at that moment, catching the end of the conversation.
"How much hormonal curiosity are we talking about here?" she asked, folding her arms across her chest.
"Just a little making out, dear.  Nothing to worry about," Carlisle said.
"Aww, Dad..." Edward began.
"It was just a few kisses," I protested.
Esme laughed.  "If it was more than three, you were making out."
I picked up my book and scrambled off Edward's bed.  "You all can stand around and discuss whether our first kiss qualifies as making out, but I'm going to bed."  I stood as tall and straight as I could and walked between Carlisle and Esme and out of Edward's room to the guest room down the hall where I usually slept.
It was more than a week later before we got up the courage for a repeat performance and by the end of the summer, we were doing all the same things together we had always done. We just kissed sometimes when we did them.  Esme and Carlisle thought we were cute, but they had to assure Charlie that they wouldn't let anything go on with us that he wouldn't approve of; and for good measure, Charlie cleaned his guns the next time Edward came over.  Edward almost swallowed his adam's apple that day and I scolded Charlie after he left. 
Later that summer, Dr. Cullen accepted a job in California and moved his family there.  I was heartbroken because I was losing my best friend, and while he didn't like to show it, Edward took the move as another unbearable loss in his young life, too.  We swore that we would keep in touch, and for about a year, we did.  However, as so often is the case, the letters, phone calls and emails lessened until they stopped altogether.  Distance and time had somehow conspired to kill the friendship we had forged through our loss in our youth. 
Inevitably, we each became immersed in our separate lives where we were planted.  I guarded my heart by distancing myself from people.  Eventually, I was badgered by one and unconditionally loved by another until I became fast friends with Alice Brandon and Angela Weber.  They were the only two girls in Forks who didn't think I was either too weird or too eccentric to matter.  In fact, they were each artistic in their own right.  Alice had known since she was kneehigh to a duck that she would someday have a career in fashion design, and Angela was a fantastic writer and poet who was bound for UW's Creative Writing program upon graduation.  
Even though we had grown apart, I kept up with Edward essentially by cyberstalking him and through my continuing friendship with Esme.  His social life exploded when they moved to Bellaire, a mecca of wealth, beauty and superficiality.  His preternatural beauty, and the impact of the losses he had experienced made him a prime candidate for fitting into that plastic environment quickly, where he was able to amass an indecent amount of surface friendships.  His Facebook friends numbered in the hundreds, while I barely had fifty people on mine and only about a half dozen that I could loosely consider friends, other than Alice and Angela.  It was as if Edward had made a conscious decision, as did I, to never put himself out there for anyone again because people you loved that much didn't tend to hang around.  What distinguished us was the fact that I had Alice and Angela, but he was never emotionally close to anyone, a fact that troubled Esme, who stayed in touch with me even when Edward did not.  
Carlisle flourished in his new position as Chief of Surgery in a hospital to the stars and Esme was a stay at home mom and embraced her favorite charitable causes.  Edward and his brothers became involved in academics, sports and a bevy of extra-curriculars at a posh private school that rivaled most colleges.  
Unbeknownst to Edward and me at the time, the imprint that we had made on each others' hearts before he moved away had been intense enough to be indelible.  It would take half a decade of separation and a miracle before we each realized it, but Edward would enter my life again as a young man who was in many ways, still very much a little boy.
I had spent so much time that summer with the Cullens that I was blindsided when my dad began dating Irina Gentry of Port Angeles in the fall.  They were married a year later and he brought her and her two daughters, Tanya and Kate, to live with us.  We were entering the ninth grade and I was adjusting to my second first day of school without Edward since second grade.  
This turn of events, though great for Charlie, effectively changed my life for the worse.  While Irina might have loved my dad in her own way, she abhorred me, because Charlie had never ceased to love my mother, and I was the product of that love.  Irina pretended to love me when my dad was around, but when he was away at work, as Police Chiefs often were, Irina and my stepsisters treated me with an indifference that bordered on abuse.  
Later that same year, tragedy paid another visit to the Swan household.  While responding to a robbery call at the local diner, my dad was killed in the line of duty.  
I often dreamed of the last time I saw Charlie alive.  He and I shared a special occasion between us that Irina never knew of.  Each year on the date of my parents' wedding anniversary, I would make a picnic basket and we would visit Renee's grave together.  What a cruel twist of fate that it became the very day that Charlie would also be taken from me forever.  
That final time we shared was poignant.  He picked me up from school in his squad car during my lunch hour with the picnic basket I’d prepared that morning and went out to the cemetery.  My characteristically taciturn father became a different man when he talked to his first love, even though they were separated by different realms.  He and I were standing reverently in front of Renee's headstone and Charlie was talking about me to Renee as if I weren't there.
"You wouldn't know Bells now, sweetheart. She's grown up so much.  Like you, she is kind, beautiful, and artistically talented.  I can barely paint the garage without messing it up, but you should see the works of art your daughter creates.  We got her those HPV shots.  Dr. Gerundy says they are no guarantees, but it gives her a great chance of staving off ovarian cancer..."
"Dad..." I pleaded, embarrassed that he had even felt the need discuss that with my dead mother.
Charlie soldiered on despite my protest.  "Knowing you, baby, I know you would want Bella to have the chances in life that you didn't.  So, I've invested a little money to help out on her college expenses."  He cleared his throat as his voice got husky with emotion.  "I guess you know that I'm married to Irina now and her two daughters, Tanya and Kate, are Bella's age and she is not lonely anymore."
I rolled my eyes at that statement, but did not interrupt the flow of his one-sided conversation. 
"This will probably be the last time I'll be coming on our anniversary, sweetheart, although I will come at other times.  It's probably not fair to Irina that I do this, but I am encouraging Bella to continue to come on this day, and as much as she wants."
Little did Charlie nor I know then, but he had been right that he would never come again on their anniversary, because he would be joining her in the afterworld on that very day.  I was called out of class by Mrs. Cope and found Irina waiting in the school office with one of Charlie's deputies.  Irina was dabbing a tissue at remarkably dry eyes and forcing herself to look like she had lost her best friend.  Deputy Crayford addressed me directly.  
"Isabella, I’m sorry to be the bearer of this news.  At 1:45 pm Pacific Time your father responded to a call from dispatch for Cora's Diner.  He interrupted a robbery in progress, and he had to draw his weapon to defend against the robber who was also armed.  Your father was hit by a bullet in his thigh that severed his femoral artery.  However, he got a shot off simultaneously that disabled the robber so that he could be apprehended.  Your father's blood loss was too great.  He died honorably doing something he truly believed in, protecting the safety of the citizens of Forks."  
When I heard Officer Crayford's words and the gravity of them sunk in, for the first time in my young life, I fainted.
My pain and grief were so acute I could not bring myself to cry.  The tears were consumed by a devastation that I could not describe.  I went through the funeral and memorial service on autopilot.  It was only by sheer force of will that I was able to get up each day and function.  Irina and the stepsisters magnanimously gave me two weeks to grieve.  After that, they resumed their abuse.  They demanded that I cook, clean, wash, and cater to them as if I was a Molly Maid, not the daughter of Irina's late husband and Kate and Tanya's stepfather.  They did not pretend anymore to show affection for the daughter of the man whose insurance policy proceeds, policeman's pension, and most likely my only source of college funding they were burning through like heaps of dry leaves.  And in my overwhelming misery, I did not have the strength to care.  In fact, I did everything asked of me and began to really like cooking, but I never told my stepmother that.
When Esme and Carlisle heard about Charlie's death, they came back to Forks to pay their respects after the fact.  Irina had not even bothered to contact them, and I had been too busy trying not to self-destruct to call anyone.  I vaguely remember Esme fighting with Irina about me.  Renee had been Esme's best friend and she feared that Irina wouldn't treat me well, so she and Carlisle hired a lawyer to inquire about getting custody of me.   
Edward called me while his parents were still in Forks working every angle they could to free me from my prison.  I don't know what I expected.  We hadn't talked in months and I wasn't prepared for how much he had changed.
An awkward apology tumbled out of his mouth.  "Bella, I' sorry.  Charlie didn't deserve to die that way."
My hand holding the phone was clammy with sweat, and my throat was dry, but I managed to answer him back.  "Thanks, Edward..."
"How are you holding up?"
"Okay—I guess."    
"Mom and Dad want to bring you back here to live with us.  I think—I think that would be great," he continued when I didn't respond.  "I can introduce you around at school to all the right people, and you'll fit in because you'll essentially be a Cullen by association."
"Oh, really?"
"Em, Jazz and me, we kinda rule at Bellaire Prep."
"So, you're part of the in-crowd, huh?"
"Yeah."  He chuckled.  "It's way different than Forks."
"Who are you and what have you done with the Edward who would rather die than be like Mike Newton and Tyler Crowley?"  I tried to joke it away, but I knew he was already entrenched.  Even his speech patterns were different.
"You don't have to be like Jessica Stanley or anything, Bella, jeez.  They take popularity to a whole new level here in So Cal.  You'd be like royalty because you live with us."
I couldn't believe how shallow he had become.  "Have you even read the book Esme gave us both for Christmas?"
"What?  Utopia?  Please.  They already have us reading tons of classics at school, and I'm not looking to read any more outdated literature than I have to."
"Are you even still playing your piano?"
"Yeah, but only when I feel like it.  I'm not practicing an hour a day or anything.  I've got sports now, too, you know.  Don't tell me you're still playing with your watercolors and oil paints?"
"As a matter of fact, I am."  As my anger spiked, I couldn't resist telling him off.  "You might have sold your soul to whatever devil you're worshipping now in Southern California, but I'm never giving up painting."
"Well, if you come here acting like a hick painter girl from rural Washington State, you'll be doomed to languish in the lower echelons of weird world."
"I never thought I'd see the day when you'd become such a monumental douche, Edward.  Grow up!"  I slammed the phone down so hard the handset cracked.  Just another thing I'd have to explain to Irina.
Esme and Carlisle, exhausted all their efforts to take me back with them, finally conceding defeat.  Charlie's will was clear and could not be successfully contested, unless Irina would allow them to take me with her consent.  Of course, Irina wouldn't hear of that.  She would lose her built-in maid and access to the funds that Charlie had left for me.  She was not about to let that happen.
I was disappointed for Carlisle and Esme's sake.  However, I convinced myself that I wasn't overly concerned at the time because I had decided that going to live in California with the version of Edward that I had recently had the misfortune of being reacquainted with was not something I really wanted to do.  I would rather cheerfully gouge my eyes out than live anywhere near that Edward.
Esme sobbed steadily through our goodbyes, and it was only then I had the good sense to fear what would happen when they left.  Irina and her daughters had been cordial and even kind to me while the Cullens were in town, but I didn't know what I was going to get once they were gone.
"Bella, I'll always be here for you.  If you ever need me don't hesitate to call.  I'll continue to call and write just as I always have," Esme promised.
Esme held me in her arms for a long time before they left.  It was the last motherly affection I would receive in a long time, and the last time I would hear from her until all the Cullens came back into my life.    


On the first day back to school of our junior year, I was going through my morning routine and serving Irina and the skank twins their breakfast when I heard some news.
"Morning, Irina, Kate, Tanya," I greeted them as they entered the kitchen.  The bacon, muffins, and fresh-squeezed orange juice was waiting for them on the table, and I was waiting for a spinach quiche to come out of the oven.
Why is breakfast late?" Irina asked, not bothering with the pleasantry of a good morning.
I delighted in coming up with the most bizarre excuses I could think of to annoy Irina.  "I was besieged by menstrual cramps so severe this morning I had to take four Midol before I could even walk."

Irina regarded the painting smock I was wearing.  "Seems to me someone's been painting before breakfast again.  Look at you, paint everywhere; and is that soot from the basement Buckstove on your face?"
"She should just sleep down there amongst the soot from that stove," Kate said, pulling out a chair and sitting down.  "That would be totally apropos for someone of her station."
"What's that godawful turpentine smell?"  Tanya asked, scrunching up her nose and plopping down in a chair.  "If you want to smell like a manual laborer...oh right, you are a manual laborer."
"That was harsh, Tanya,"  Irina said without conviction.  "Come here, Bella."
I slunk over to my stepmother.  Irina took my face in her hands and looked me over, as she often did, as if hoping to discover some ancient truth in my visage that wasn't there before.  I was convinced that it was in these examinations that she was recalling how much I looked like my mother, the woman whom her husband loved above all others, even in death.
"Your appearance and your wardrobe does leave a lot to be desired, my dear,"  Irina said finally, with a frown.  "What can I do to make you try?"

"I do try, Irina.  Everything I do around here is in an effort to make you happy.  I wish my style wasn't so offensive to you,"  I said, endeavoring not to sound disingenuous.

"It is your manner that offends, specifically, your flair for the dramatic and your disdain for truth."

"I will spend the majority of my day thinking of what else I can do, how I can act, that will make you care for me,"  I entreated her earnestly.  I had long ago learned that if I catered to and patronized my stepmother in this manner, I got a gentler version of her ire, something more akin to righteous indignation.

Irina took her seat at the head of the table. "In the years since your father died, I have loved and provided for you."  I knew that this diatribe would last several minutes, so I pulled the quiche out of the oven, placed it on a trivet on the table, and took a seat.
Irina continued as we began our breakfast.  "All I ask in return is that you do the things I ask of you in a timely fashion and without complaining.  Is that unfair?"

When I wanted the Irina diatribe to end, I knew exactly what to do:  agree with her.  "No, Irina."

"Good," Irina said, almost as if she was satisfied.  But then she continued.  "After all that I do and all that I have sacrificed to make a comfortable life for you here, it's not enough."  She put a strip of bacon to her mouth and nibbled in that affected manner she had of eating.  "This bacon is cold."
"Sorry, Irina,"  I said as if by rote.  There was always something about the meal that wasn't to Irina's liking.

I usually ate my breakfast and tuned Irina and the harpies out.  I had gone into my own thought zone until I heard a name that made my ears perk up in attention.

"Mom," Kate was saying.  "Tanya and I met these new rich boys yesterday at the mall in Port Angeles who have moved back to Forks after many years of living in California."
"Jasper, Emmett and Edward Cullen," Tanya said excitedly.
I dropped my glass with a thunk and orange juice splattered everywhere, including Kate and Tanya's coordinated outfits.
"Oh, shit!"  Tanya exclaimed. "You've ruined my outfit" 
And Kate let loose the granddaddy of all curse words, and in front of her mother, no less.  "Fuck!  Bella, you're a fucking spazz!"
"Language!  Girls, a real lady doesn't use such words,"  Irina said.  Then she took an icy tone with me.  "Clean this up.  Now!"
I scurried to the sink and grabbed a dish towel and a roll of paper towels.  I split a wad of paper towels between Kate and Tanya and commenced cleaning the table with the dish towel.
Tanya recovered first.  "As I was saying before we were drenched by the spastic juice geyser, the Cullens have moved back into their gorgeous house north of town that has been empty for like five years.  You know they've got to be loaded because their father is a surgeon and their mother doesn't even work.  They spent the entire summer having the house refurbished so they could move back in."
"I remember the Cullens," Irina said, regaling me with that special look that I liked to call her "bitch face."  When she became jealous or introspective, it looked as if her face was perpetually drawn up into a scowl, as if she was smelling something rather putrid.  Kate and Tanya were quickly beginning to perfect this rather inelegant look.  I considered it as proof positive that young women actually do eventually become their mothers.
There was also a look of fear and trepidation in Irina's eyes.  What was she hiding?
"Things are finally beginning to look up in the eligible bachelor department," Kate said, her face contorting into a look similar to her mother's.  "The selection here at Forks High just isn't doing it for me anymore."
I suppose it wasn't, considering that she and Tanya had blown through just about every reasonably good looking guy in town since 9th grade.  Now they were dating guys exclusively from Port Angeles.  The Cullen brothers had become their last hope to end their previous year of long-distance dating.
"Don't even think about trying for Emmett or Jasper, I haven't made up my mind whether I want the brunette or the blond," Tanya said snidely.  "Edward's coloring and mine kinda cancel one another out."
Kate's revelation made me nauseous.  "I’m not interested in either of them, anyway.  I'm concentrating solely on Edward."



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