Disclaimers: For all disclaimers and all that business, please see Part I.
Author's Note: Since this part is has a lot of the restaurant setting, I thought I'd try to clarify a few terms. The "wheel" refers to the printer on the Cooks' line that prints the order tickets. Prior to having a printer available, a lot of short order places used a silver wheel, which held the tickets the servers wrote the food orders on. When a cook calls the wheel, it means they run the kitchen and are responsible for getting the orders out in a timely manner. They are also responsible for prioritizing tickets as they arrive, such as ensuring that appetizers are ready for service prior to the meal. A grooved grill is primarily used in restaurants that lack pit BBQs and makes all those grill lines on steaks and stuff like that. Flat grills are used for grilling pretty much every other item that is placed on the grill that doesn't require "grill" lines.
Hope this helps out a little!
Hey, this bard's hungry… email@example.com
Jack didn't even bother to listen to the radio on the way to work. Man, this sucks!
He had hoped that Abigail would have stayed with him indefinitely. As far as he knew, he hadn't done anything to upset her. Hell, I made her breakfast every morning! I got all of her favorite foods. I thought that whole "I love women" crap was some kinda stupid phase!
Slamming his car door angrily, he entered the restaurant. Maybe work would improve his mood. Friday lunches were hectic, so he hoped he would be too busy to think about her. At least I don't work with her today.
After he clocked in, he took his place at the fryer station, carelessly flipping the appetizer baskets on the counter. Opening the freezer drawers by the fryers, he threw them shut when he realized they hadn't been restocked. Great! Now I gotta do someone else's job! Stomping as he turned around to enter the walk-in cooler/freezer, he knocked his container of sanitized water on his pants leg. This day just won't get any better, will it? Thank God no one else was on line yet!
He fumed as he cleaned up his mess.
"Hey, Jack." Christina entered the Cooks' line from the flat grill side.
Jack didn't answer as he stood up.
"Jack," Christina said, advancing towards him. "I said hello. What's up?"
"Nothing," he snapped as he stood up.
Narrowing her eyes, she responded, losing her friendly tone. "Look, Mr. Wonderful, you need to park that attitude."
He dropped the plates that the dishwasher handed him to set on the line.
Christina yelled for Samantha to take care of the Cooks' line. Putting her hands on the cutting boards, she nodded at Jack to leave the line. "Let's go to the stockroom, Jack."
He shrugged his shoulders. "The plates just slipped, Christina."
"Go to the stockroom. Now."
Leaving the Cooks' line from the fryer side, they stepped around the corner and into the stockroom. Closing the door behind them, Christina tried not to look impatient. "Jack, what's the deal? Is it Maggie? She giving you a hard time?"
Jack laughed. If only! "No, nothing like that."
"Well, you can't work like this." Softening her voice, she continued. "I know you need your money just like I do. Let's get this out on the table, okay? I don't want to send you home for something we could have avoided."
Jack's Adam's apple bobbed in his throat.
"Is it this psycho business?"
Jack nodded his head. "Well, kind of."
Losing her patience, she clipped a response. "Don't make me play guessing games with you. All week long, you've been on edge. But not as bad as today. Either you get your act together or you go home, got it?"
Christina put her hand on the door as Jack began to speak. "Uhm, it's Abigail."
She felt her heart quickening and tried to hide her reactions. "Abigail?"
"Yeah." He blew out a sigh.
Christina's mind whirled as her heart pounded. "Yeah?" Oh, shit! "What'd she do?"
He stammered for a moment, trying to avoid looking at Christina. "Well, you know. I mean, we've been friends for so long."
"You've probably been her best friend, Jack." Man, this is not a topic I want to be discussing with you! "You guys have been through a lot together."
"Yeah." Fidgeting, he removed his hands and began drumming on the stock shelves. "We've been through a lot."
"And I'm sure she values your friendship. But what does this have to do with work?"
"I dunno." Inside, Jack was dying. I've got enough friggin' friends!
"So...you think you can focus on work today?" She smiled as she spoke, hoping he couldn't read her mind. "I could really use your help, you know. Fridays are hell, and you're my third cook. Whaddya say?"
Jack took his baseball cap off and moved his hands through his hair. He needed this job. "Alright. Hey, can you give me a minute? Let me get cleaned up and I'll be right there."
Christina left Jack in the stock room and went to the Cooks' line after washing her hands. The last thing in the world she wanted was to get in a conversation with Jack about Abigail! It was obvious to her the way Jack mooned over the petite strawberry-blonde.
"Hey, everything okay?" Sam was filling orders as Christina took her place in the middle of the Cooks' line.
"Yeah." Looking over the tickets, she pointed to the one closest to Samantha. "This one done?"
"Waiting on the steak to finish cooking."
"Alright. You stay on the cold table and take the first flat grill. I'll take these two grills and the fryer side until Jack gets on line. You call the wheel."
Within minutes, Jack was on line.
"Jack, you take fryers and the grooved grill." Christina shifted to the center of the line, directly in front of the printer they affectionately called "the wheel". "Alright, Sam, I've got the wheel and the second flat grill." She spoke to Jack as she watched the front door. "Go ahead and drop a half basket of fries. They're starting to come in."
Jack dropped the fries and turned to look at the tickets as he saw Abigail at the computer closest to the register, his mind went blank. What the hell is she doing here? Abby's supposed to work dinner, not lunch!
"Jack, drop me three shrimps and two cods." Not getting a response from Jack, Christina looked at Jack, then followed his gaze. Aw shit! Not today, in front of Darlene! Please let him pull it together. "Jack!"
"Huh?" He looked away from Abigail and faced Christina.
"Look man, if you can't handle it today, you need to go do prep. I'll cover you."
Lunch was a bear without the third cook. Rather than keeping Jack on line the whole time, Samantha and Christina utilized Jack as a runner to restock the line.
"Damn, girl, what's his problem? I thought he was doin' better than that." Samantha was frustrated. With Jack freezing on line, it essentially left only two cooks to handle the busiest day of the week.
"Got some stuff going on, I guess."
"We all do." She took a sweet tea for herself and Christina from Theresa. "I'm not trying to tell you your business, Chris, but we can't afford that."
"I know." Scrubbing the flat grill with a grill brick, she continued. "I'm gonna talk to him today."
Christina found Jack in the freezer, organizing shelves. As she noticed the shelves, she could see that he had spent quite a bit of time straightening the boxes and turning the bags of product so they would be easy to grab or count.
Smiling, she got his attention. "If I would've known what an organizer you were, I would've had you taking care of the stock areas. Looks good, Jack."
Jack smiled back as he moved a case of fries. "Thanks."
"Hey, take a break?"
"Alright. Let me finish with these fries."
"I'll be in the office."
Jack finished stacking the cases of fries, dreading the conversation ahead. There was only one thing this could be about: his dismal performance at lunch.
No sense putting off the inevitable.
He approached the office door. Christina opened it for him and motioned him to enter. "Here, I got you some tea." After handing him the tea and giving him a chance to sit down, she pulled the office door closed.
"Look, I'm sorry about lunch."
"Me too, Jack. I don't want to pry in your personal affairs, but you can't let them affect your job. You've been doing a good job here - good enough that I scheduled you on a Friday lunch."
He hung his head as his shoulders sloped downward. "This isn't a "beat up Jack" session."
He gulped down some tea and hesitated.
"What is it?"
"I'm just having a problem dealing with one of my co-workers."
"Well, we need to get it straightened out. Who is it? I'll bring them in here and we'll settle this right now."
Jack glanced away. "Uh, it's personal."
"Listen, if it's affecting you here, that makes it business. Now, who do we need to talk to?"
"Is this still about Abigail?'
He suddenly became defensive. "I was just worried about her, man! There's a crazy bitch after her. I'm just worried for her safety, that's all!"
"Right." She breathed a sigh of relief. At least she was free of hearing Jack talk about the object of both of their affections! "Well, what are we going to do about today? I can't have a repeat performance."
Jack stood up and straightened his ball cap. "And you won't, Christina. Sorry about that. Won't happen again."
Shortly after Jack left the office, Darlene had Christina summoned to the dining room.
"Please sit down. Care for some lunch?"
Christina ordered a salad as Darlene continued. "What happened today? I distinctly remember checking the Cooks' schedule and seeing three cooks, not two."
"I used my third cook as a runner today. It didn't cause any delay in service, did it?"
"Fortunately, no." Hazel eyes pierced through glasses at Christina. "If you need a runner on Friday, then schedule one. You are a competent cook and a good Kitchen Manager. As Kitchen Manager, I don't expect you to tolerate situations like this. His lack of performance could have very easily cost us a good portion of our lunch business."
Christina looked at Darlene dumbfounded. "I addressed it with him. I moved him to a position where he could be more effective. He had some personal situations where he wasn't able to focus."
Darlene paused, taking a drink of her coffee. "Then I expect I can find a letter of counseling in his file."
Trying to maintain her poise, Christina responded. "Actually, no. I didn't feel the situation warranted one. We talked about it. I felt a verbal warning was all that was really needed. Jack's new and he tries hard; everyone has off days."
Taking off her glasses, Darlene propped herself up on her right elbow. "Christina, I'm new here, so I'm going to let this slide. But it won't happen again on a Friday lunch or someone - you or your cook - will be written up. If someone's personal life interferes with their work performance, they need to switch shifts, rather than let the restaurant suffer."
She paused to take a sip of coffee. "I don't mean that we can't be caring and concerned about our staff, but the business has to come first."
"I understand." Christina responded, keeping her voice level.
"Good." Darlene stood up, gathering her things. "I have a meeting with some of the local vendors. I'll be back before you leave."
The brunette remained seated. She tried not to take the admonishment personally. Flipping the day through her mind like cue cards, she examined the situation to determine if she handled the situation inappropriately.
"Hey." Abigail smiled, placing her hand on Christina's shoulder. "How's it going?"
She smirked as she looked at the strawberry-blonde. "You don't want to know."
"Just part of the job." Christina looked away from her friend.
"I know what'll put a smile back on that face."
She glanced at Abigail, smiling slightly. "Yeah?"
"You need to go fishing!"
Christina laughed. "Yeah, but I don't have time. Split day today."
"I've got a split, too. Why don't you hang out with me? I'll even fix lunch."
"That's the best thing I've heard anyone say to me today."
Andrew watched Abigail's apartment from a distance, swigging from his pint of whiskey. Dumb bitch gotta come home shoon.
Briefly invaded by remorse for having slipped back into the bottle, he pushed that thought aside as he wiped his mouth. Nothing changed for him. He should have realized that a long time ago.
Once, he thought he was a nice guy. Now here he was again, at Lita's beck and call, ready to do whatever she ordered. Wotta man!
Struggling to focus, he thought he saw Abigail rounding the corner with some tall woman. Who's that chick?
Stepping backward, he fell over a trashcan. It was so much easier to spy on people when he wasn't loaded.
He'd really tried to quit. Hadn't touched a drop since Lita went to prison.
Ever since Lita found him, he ran back into the bottle so deep he doubted he would ever find his way out. Shomething about Lita and not drinking jush don't mix!
Stumbling to his feet, he stared as they entered the apartment. Gotta tell Lita.
Christina was silent as they entered Abigail's apartment.
"Hey." Emerald green eyes smiled at her. "You alive in there? Haven't said more than two words on the way here. Is it only when you talk about fishing that you like to talk?"
"Sorry about that."
The strawberry blonde fixed two glasses of water and handed one to Christina. "So what's on your mind? Is it my scary apartment? We already cleaned it up!"
"Nah," she replied. "Just that stuff at work."
"What happened? It isn't like we were waiting on food or anything."
"Ms. Hughes and I had a difference of opinion about how I run the kitchen."
Abigail fixed their salad as she waited for Christina to continue.
Sitting down at the breakfast nook, she changed the subject. "Look, I'd really prefer it if we didn't talk about my workday. How was yours?"
"Great. Plenty of good tips." After making a salad, she joined Christina at the breakfast nook. Smiling, she took the brunette's hand in hers. "I've got an idea. Unless either one of us needs to blow off steam, let's not talk about work."
Blue eyes softened as they connected with the strawberry blonde. "I like that idea. A lot."
"Good. I knew there was a reason I liked spending time with you."
"Yeah? And what would that be?"
Her emerald eyes smiled as she slid closer on the bench seat. "Well, you're very smart." Entwining her arm in Christina's, she moved against the taller woman's side. "Not to mention absolutely beautiful."
Feeling her skin warming from the contact, Christina responded softly. "Hmm. I think you hold that title."
Abigail gently guided Christina's chin, bringing both women face to face. Lightly brushing the taller woman's angular face, she kissed her soft lips. "Depends on who's looking."
Unconsciously, a feeling a familiar panic rose within Christina. Reacting to the overwhelming fear, she stiffened and pulled away.
"Hey," Abigail softly continued. "You okay?"
Leaning against the back of the bench, Christina tried to act more confident than she felt. "Moi? Of course!"
Hurt by the other woman's bravado and distance, Abigail retreated across the bench and rose quickly. "I need to go to the bathroom. Excuse me."
Seeing the emotions flicker across the smaller woman's face, Christina laid her hand on the strawberry blonde's arm. "Hey, I'm sorry. Old reflexes."
Brushing her off, she moved away and into the next room. "It's alright. Be out in a minute."
Christina walked into the living room. Damn!
Abigail returned and kept a respectable distance. "I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable."
Christina crossed the room towards Abigail. "Hey, I'm the one who's doing the apology here." Smiling, she tried to close the gap that had surfaced. Careful not to touch the smaller woman, she leaned closer. "Forgive me?"
Taking a step backwards, the strawberry blonde retreated towards the television. "Sure." Reaching down for the remote control, she quickly turned on the set. "What did you want to watch?"
"Can you turn that off? I'd really like to talk with you."
The other woman turned off the set and sat on the love seat, opposite where Christina was standing.
"I know that I'm giving you some really mixed signals and I'm sorry. You're a very beautiful woman." She paused, forcing herself not to look away. "It isn't you, it's me. I really like you. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I find you incredibly attractive."
Abigail sat with her arms folded across her breasts, her face impassive.
Leaning forward, propping her forearms on her knees, she continued softly. "Please don't shut me out, Abigail."
The strawberry blonde held her ground. "Maybe we need to back off a little." Taking a deep breath, she continued. "You know, I've really got so much going on right now, maybe we need to be friends and nothing more."
"Wait a minute." Christina crossed to where the smaller woman sat and crouched in front of her. Placing her hands on the strawberry-blonde's shoulders, she continued. "If this is because you're overwhelmed right now, I can respect that. But if not, let's talk about, okay?"
"Okay. So talk."
Rubbing the smaller woman's arms, she looked into Abigail's emerald green eyes. "I'm really enjoy your company. I think you're beautiful. I just need to take it really slow, okay?"
Softening, Abigail smiled in response. "Well, I wasn't trying to get us a quick roll in the hay in between shifts!"
Laughing, Christina took the smaller woman's hands in her own. "I know. Like I said, just an old reflex." Impulsively pecking Abigail on the lips, she continued. "Forgive me?"
"Hmm." Abigail raised her eyebrows and smiled. "I'll think about it."
The evening was busy, but uneventful. Christina was thankful. The last thing she wanted was another confrontation with Darlene.
She'd been on her own, basically running the restaurant for a while now. It would be difficult to adjust to Darlene's way of thinking.
"Christina," Darlene called from the office. "Can you come here, please?"
Oh, great! What now? "Sure."
She sat on a chair in the small office and waited for her boss to begin.
"I was thinking about this afternoon." She hung the clipboard on the hook on the door, clearing off the desk. "I wanted to clear up any misunderstandings that might have arisen."
"I don't want you to get the wrong impression. I'm not an unfeeling woman. This is my career. I take it very seriously." She paused momentarily. "I'm aware that we have different management styles. Neither one is wrong. I'd like for you to share with me your views on how this restaurant should run."
"Well, I think that people are our number one asset." Christina drank some of her tea. "As such, I think as a manager, I need to be responsive to my staff. As long as it doesn't interfere with the needs of the restaurant."
"And what did you think of this afternoon?"
"You obviously didn't agree with my method of dealing with Jack."
Darlene smiled. "You're right. I didn't."
"Well, the way I see it," she continued, gathering her courage. "The restaurant has invested a lot of money in training Jack. This wasn't a normal situation for him. I felt it was in my best interest, as Kitchen Manager, to try to help him through this rough spot." Christina leaned forward slightly. "But believe, me, Darlene, I laid it on the line with him. No more of this, or there would be consequences."
Darlene's smile grew. "I knew you were a bright girl." Standing up, she opened the office door. "That's exactly what I wanted to hear! Have a good evening, Christina."
Abigail sat in the breakroom, waiting for Christina. Relieved to see the smile breaking across the brunette's angular face, she stood up. "Guess everything went okay, huh?"
"Yeah. Hey, you wanna go sit on the boat for a little while?"
"I'd love to."
The silvery moon glowed in the velvet sky as they boarded the Lessie Mae. A slight breeze filled the air, creating a small chill. Christina moved closer to Abigail on the bow seat. "Cold?"
Placing her arm around Abigail's shoulders, she pulled the smaller woman into her chest. "C'mere. That's what I'm here for. Your own personal heater."
"Mmm." Abigail smiled as she snuggled closer. "I could get used to this."
"I hope so." The strawberry-blonde relaxed in Christina's grip.
"Since you make such a good blanket, I think I'll forgive you for this afternoon."
"Yeah." Settling into Christina's athletic frame, Abigail continued. "That's contingent on your heat factor. You've got to be my blanket when I'm cold."
Hugging the smaller woman, she responded. "Oh, I think that can be arranged."
Nestled comfortably in Christina's arms, Abigail drifted off to sleep.
Christina gazed at the moon. I hope I'm doing the right thing…she is so not like Gwen!
Her relationship with Gwen had always been rocky at best. Surprisingly enough, it lasted three years.
They met through a mutual friend. She could still recall the first time she saw Gwen - Gwen was slightly shorter than she was, with flowing blond hair that reached midway to her shoulders. Her blue eyes twinkled, like she had a secret she was keeping. She flashed one of the most gorgeous smiles Christina had ever seen. And her compact, lithe frame was hardly hidden by the trappings of her clothing.
Yeah. If I knew then what I knew now.
Lightly pecking Abigail's forehead, she tried in vain to stay focused on the present.
I was a different person then.
She could still hear Gwen's infectious laughter. Repositioning herself slightly away from Abigail, she allowed herself to reflect on her torrid affair with Gwen.
Sobriety was still very new to her when they began dating. She'd been sober maybe six months. Her friends tried to caution her against getting involved so soon, but she didn't listen. Christina had never felt these kinds of emotions before in her life! Too bad it wasn't until much later that she realized that, prior to sobriety, the only feelings she really knew were anger and fear. Every other feeling was so new to her, they engulfed her.
For the first time in her life, she had to deal with desiring someone. It was a whole new experience. And it was so hard to handle all the new emotions constantly rushing her.
That was the major problem, I guess. Aw, hell - we had so many major problems!
It was so hard, dealing with the loneliness. When she was drinking heavily, she'd never experienced anything but the compulsion for another drink and the self-loathing for drinking it. Plagued with all these new emotions and ill equipped to handle them, she jumped feet first into a relationship with Gwen.
In the beginning, she felt good around Gwen, like she was needed. She could still remember some of the things her ex told her, things she'd never heard before. The warm glow from hearing those sentiments still popped up from time to time, against her will.
It all started out rather innocently. She was meeting with Jamie, a friend from work, in a small coffee shop where Gwen worked. Trying to ignore the desire that arose as she watched the beautiful blonde flit from customer to customer, Christina pretended to listen to her friend's conversation.
"Hey," Jamie said, waving her hand in front of Christina's eyes. "Hello in there! Anyone home?"
"What? Oh, I'm sorry. What did you say?"
Jamie followed Christina's eyes. "The moon is made of green cheese."
"Okay." It dawned on Christina what her friend said. "What?"
"You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?" Jamie laughed, watching Christina watch Gwen.
"Sorry. Guess I'm a little distracted."
"Yeah. That's like saying that there's only one bridge linking all the Florida Keys!"
"Alright, Jamie. I deserved that." Tearing her eyes away from the blonde behind the counter, she looked at her friend. "Sorry."
"Uh huh." Nodding towards the blonde woman, Jamie raised sipped her coffee. "Do you know Gwen?"
"Gwen? Who's that?"
Smirking, Jamie lowered her voice and answered. "The blonde behind the counter, bone head! You know, the woman you've been staring at!"
Christina's face flushed. "No."
"Let's just solve that, shall we?"
Before she had a chance to answer, Jamie called the blonde server to their table. "Hey, Gwen! Can you get us some coffee?"
Christina sunk down in her seat. Shit! Quickly gulping down her coffee, she tried to ignore the beating of her heart in her ears. "What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna introduce you to Gwen."
The lithe blonde approached the table with a coffeepot. "Here you go, Jamie." Turning towards Christina, she smiled. "Would you like a refill?"
Christina, embarrassed, just nodded her head.
Jamie jumped in. "Gwen, you know my friend Christina?" She motioned across the table, sipping her coffee. "She's new in town."
Gwen flashed Christina another brilliant smile. "Nice to meet you. What brings you to Pinkston?"
Jamie answered for her. "She's working at that new restaurant on the beach."
"Yeah? You a manager?"
Christina nearly choked on her coffee. "Not hardly!"
Gwen sat down next to Jamie. "What do you do there?"
"I'm just washing dishes."
"You moved to Pinkston to wash dishes? I hate to see where you came from!"
Laughing, Jamie responded. "No, silly! It's a new restaurant! Plenty of opportunity to work you way up, right Christina?"
"Yeah." Christina followed Jamie's lead. The last thing she wanted to do was talk about where she came from. "I want to learn all the positions and see where they take me."
"Seems to me like you could do that as a manager."
Trying to help Christina avoid embarrassing questions, Jamie answered. "Yeah, she probably could. Different strokes for different folks."
Gwen smiled at the brunette across the table. "Well, there's a lot of different strokes in this town."
Christina smiled shyly as a blush burned underneath her olive skin.
Winking at Christina, she continued. "My shift's almost over. Do you guys have any plans?"
Jamie shook her head.
"Great! Why don't you guys come over and watch a movie with me?"
It wasn't long after that Christina and Gwen begun seeing each other regularly. Actually, it was a little more than regularly; it was more like every night.
Against the sage advice of friends, Christina ventured forward, unprepared for all that a relationship entailed.
Needing release from her painful memories, Christina watched Abigail sleep. Running her hand through the strawberry-blonde mane, she observed a slight smile on the other woman's face.
Finding comfort in the soft smile, she made a promise to herself. I'll take it one step at time. I don't have to repeat old mistakes.
Glancing down at the strawberry blonde, comfortably nestled in her arms, Christina forced out a silent breath.
Go slow this time. Like I should have then.
She woke Abigail gently. "Hey, sleepy head. Time for you to get up."
Green eyes fluttered awake as she let out a small yawn. "Oh. What time is it."
"I'm not sure, but I know it's late. Probably too late for you to go back to your apartment, since neither of us drove." Not wanting to give Abigail the wrong impression, Christina continued. "You go take the cabin. I'm gonna sit up for a little while longer."
"That's not right. I can't kick you out of your bed."
"You're not." Christina stood up and stretched. "I'm gonna fish for a little bit, until I get sleepy. I'll probably end up asleep in the deck chairs. Happens all the time."
"Don't you work in the morning?"
"Actually, no. Darlene wanted me to work the dinner rush instead."
Popping her back, Abigail conceded. "Well, if you're sure I'm not keeping you up or pushing you out of your bed."
"I'm sure. Now, g'an to sleep, Ms. Ma'am!" The brunette smiled and placed her hands on Abigail's shoulders.
"Well, if you insist..."
"I do. Now get outta here and put yourself in bed. It's high tide. How am I gonna fish with you standing there, sleeping(???)?"
The strawberry blonde laughed. "Okay, okay. See you in the morning."
Watching Abigail enter the cabin, a sense of peace filled her. Just take it one step at a time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lita sat on the beach, waiting for Andrew. Too bad I can't find someone more reliable! Guess he'll suit my purpose...for now.
Absently, her time in prison flittered through her mind. As she thought of the strip searches, the open showers, the total lack of privacy, she shuddered. All because that damned Thanis had to stick her nose in where it didn't belong!
The anger built in her as she remembered being constantly supervised. Someone always telling her what to do, for five years! For five years, someone stalking her, watching her every move, waiting for her to break their petty rules! Five years of nothingness, of wasted time!
Staring out across the water, she reviewed her plans for Abigail Thanis. I want her to know what it feels like, knowing someone is watching your every move. Waiting to pounce on your mistakes.
Laughing, she stood up. "This is going to be so much fun!"
Continued in Part IV
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