Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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35. Am I in Heaven?

32. Am I in Heaven?

Regardless of how comfortable she was, Maia’s bladder forced her awake. It took her longer than usual to pop herself up off the mattress, enjoying the silence and the scent of freshly perked coffee. She never remembered being so comfortable, and Maia had to wonder if maybe she wasn’t alive anymore. The bed was so soft compared to anything she had ever slept in her life, her body just melted into it, her muscles relaxed and not aching as they had been for months. The pain in her lower abdomen was now in her lower back, and she knew that she had better wake up from this dream.

Maia’s eyes fluttered open to what unfocused seemed like a billowing cloud, scaring herself that she might be right--she might be dead. Maybe that baptism thing worked after all, and she’s in heaven instead of the earth right now. Maia rubbed her tired eyes, that needed much more sleep. She tilted her head from one side to the other, taking in the sight of it all. There was poufy material on the corners of each of the bedposts. She reached out to touch it. Like that itchy formal dresses material but softer. Weird. Maybe she wasn’t in heaven. Her idea of heaven would have nothing to do with formal dresses let alone have her bed covered in it. Above her, there was more of it, tied all together in like a center ring, and hanging from it, cascading crystal stars. When she sat up to investigate and see the prism of the refracted light on the walls, Maia saw the rest of the room.

“Whoa—” she said. Her eyes searched for her cell phone and found it on the whitewashed pine nightstand, next to the clear crystal-based light. She unplugged the phone from its cord and dialed Angie.

“Hey,” said Maia, afraid that Angie wouldn’t answer.

“Hey yourself. Are you okay?”

“I’m still alive right?”

Angie laughed. “What kind of trippy shit are you taking?”

Joey woke to hear Maia’s conversation on the baby monitor.

“I don’t know. This bed. Omg’s like a fucking cloud. It’s so soft that I don’t want to move.” Joey smirked.

“I have like no fucking idea what is over my head. I mean it’s pretty I just don’t know what that is or why it’s there.”

“It’s a canopy,” laughed Joey, sitting up.

“Man, Elly went all out. What else? Tell me more.”

“I haven’t sat up yet. My bladder is the only part of me that wants me to move. I wish you were here.”


“To pinch me.”

“What the fuck are they giving you? You sound stoned like you’re doing shrooms or something.”

“I don’t know, honestly, I don’t know what meds I’m on right now. I never had my own room before.”

“Tell me what’s in there. You got five minutes before I'm due in class.”

“Okay, okay,” she said, looking out past the bed. “Oh. Wow. Wow. Wow.”

Joey shook Paul awake who groaned and rolled onto his other side until he heard Maia’s voice as Joey turned up the baby monitor.

“What?” asked Angie.

“I got a desk. It's really pretty. It’s got one of those calendar pads and a pencil holder. There is a laptop and a printer on it. Wow…my own laptop. Aww, Papa Bear--"


“He’s got a big softy chair and ottoman. This room is bigger than my living room was. There’s a reading light next to it.”

“I know where you will camp out.”



“My dresser. It's tall.”

“That’s called a highboy.”

“Why is it called a highboy when I’m a low girl?” she asked, as the rest laughed at her.

“There’s a mirror on the other dresser. My curtains match my what’s that frou-frou thing over my bed?”

“A canopy.”

“Yeah, yeah. I need coffee. I smell coffee.”

“Uncle Paulie’s got an espresso machine.”

“Oooh espresso? That means an Americano. I need to get up."

“And a bunch of the syrups.”

“Ewww I hate sweet coffee. I got to find a bathroom.”

“Don’t pee on your princess bed.”

“I know, right? Fucking hell...”


“This bed is so high.”

“Do you need a stepstool?”

“I think I need a set of Doggy steps or those things on pick-up trucks,” she said. Joey and Paulie laughed.

“Right, Joey is going to have a set of running boards put on the side of the bed, Maia.”

“Oh man, my tube is tangled. Where’s Joey? Hey, I gotta call Joey.”

“I will call him.”

Joey knocked on her door. He was shirtless and in shorts.

“Come in. And, Joey’s here. TTYL, K?”

“Byes princess.”

“Do not call me a princess. That’s totally offensive. I’m hardly a princess. Byes!” she said as Angie laughed in return.

“Hey, need some help?”

“Yes, please. I got to pee, and I don’t know where the bathroom is.”

Joey unhooked her and led her to the adjoining bathroom. Joey turned on the light for her and exited it to give her privacy and untangle the tubing that was kinked and twisted. Maia’s eyes scanned the pink bathroom. Pepto Bismal pink. Bleh. There were a jacuzzi tub and a double sink with a beautiful chandelier.

“Joey, wait, where’s the toilet?”

“It’s behind that glass wall," he said about the glass brick privacy wall behind the jacuzzi.

“Oh wow,” she said, seeing the toilet with metal levers and a strangely shaped bowl. “Wait, how do you work it?”

‎An exasperated Joey answered, “Just go pee I will show you later.”

“What’s it for?”

“It’s a bidet and someday you will appreciate it.”

“Okies, she said going behind the glass and shutting the door to the water closet. Maia relieved herself faster than she ever had to, and when she had put herself back together again, she opened the water closet door.

Okay, now what?”

“Press down on the white handle.”

‎She did as he said and walked back out to where he stood, leaning on the doorjamb.

“What’s the other one do?”

“Wash you.”

“OMG Joey, with cold toilet water? Like that’s refreshing?”

‎Joey laughed at her as she washed her hands at the sink, and was afraid to dry her hands on the matching pink towel hanging on the little bar by the sink.

“Go ahead and use it, that’s what it’s there for, Maia.” Maia leaned on the counter feeling winded. “That’s not for show.”

‎Paul knocked on the door. He wore a wife-beater and plaid lounging pants. Joey handed her the oxygen tube that she quickly tucked into her nostrils and behind her ears. She tried to pick it up to carry with her, but Joey took it and led her out of the bathroom.

“Where’s my new baby?” asked an elderly woman entering the room.

“Hi?” Asked Maia.

“There’s my girl,” said Elly. “How do you like your room?”

“I thought I was in heaven at first. It’s gorgeous.”

“Elly designed it,” said Joey, motioning for Maia to sit in the big comfy chair. He sat on the ottoman and reached for her wrist. He checked her pulse while they chatted.

“There’s a chenille throw blanket to go on your chair. It should arrive today.”

Maia cleared her throat and needed to cough up the phlegm in her throat. Joey handed her a Kleenex box from the little beveled glass half-moon table beside the chair. ‎she took a couple and thanked him.

“Maia, are you hungry?” asked Elly.

“Yes. Can I have regular food?” she asked Joey.

“Of course,” he replied.

“Good! In that case, I’m starving.”

‎Elly winked at her. “Well, I’m all set to finish brunch.”

“I will check on Ruby,” said Joey, leaving them. When he returned, he said that Ruby would be down in a couple of hours.

‎Maia walked with them to the staircase and Paul reached for her and snagged her by the shoulder. “Hold it, you can’t go downstairs like that.”

Maia turned, shocked and concerned that he would grab her that way.

“Where are her slippers?” asked Paul.

“Downstairs. I didn’t get to bring them upstairs last night,” said Elly.

“Okay kiddo, take off the socks,” said Paul.


“Stone staircase.”

“What?” she asked incredulously of him getting upset about wearing socks.

“Listen, Maia, the guy that owned this house before me was a stonemason. You will break a hip or a head on thet staircase in sock feet. Shoes, slippers, or bare feet only.”

‎Maia lifted her foot, and he pulled each sock off. She adjusted the oxygen pack and almost fell forward, but Paul grabbed her and pulled her back. “Give me that. No falling down the staircase.”

“Can I slide down the railing?”

“No,” said Joey. “That marble ball at the base of it will break a pelvis.”

‎”Ow, Right!”

“Okay, let’s go princess,” said Paul.

“No, no, none of that. I’m not at all prissy. I only wear dresses on stage, and if I had it my way it would be a tux.”

“Nope, not happening,” said Joey. “If you want to be a successful concert pianist, you must look the part.”

‎Maia stepped down the staircase with her hand on the railing and stopped. She still felt dizzy and blinked a couple of times to take in the view of the beautiful stone fireplace in tans and browns with white grout between them. Offset by the gleaming black Steinway baby grand piano and the opulent silk drapes in mauve and burgundy with cream shears beneath and ivory carpeting.

Maia walked towards the piano, but she did not open the lid or move out of the stool. Instead, she stared at the painting behind it. Joey flipped a switch and turned on the gas fireplace as orange flames danced behind the glass.

“Ooh!” she said, surprised. There was a soft chair there with an Ottoman and a reading light, just like what was in her room but this one was ivory instead of khaki.

‎Maia smiled and held out her arm to Paul.


“Pinch me.”

‎He laughed and did.

“Okay, I’m still alive.”

“Stop playing, you didn’t really think you had passed?”

“Earlier I did when I woke up. I was so comfortable like I’ve never felt before. I didn’t want to move. I was so dizzy, I thought something was really wrong.”

“Your hose was so kinked, I doubt if you have had sufficient oxygen. We need to figure out a better system since we don’t have a stand to hold it upon.”

“She’s got a canopy. You can Gerry rig something, Joe.”

“All we need is a hanger,” said Maia. Slide the hose through it and hang it up so it doesn’t get caught under me.”

“There you go,” said Joey. “Problem solved.”

“I smell Sumatra,” said Maia, taking a deep whiff of the freshly brewed espresso dripping into a small pitcher.

“Good nose,” said Paul

“Not Starbucks,” said Maia, taking a deeper whiff.

“I’m impressed,” said Joey.


“Wait how—” began Paul.

“The citrus notes.”

“A coffee connoisseur? Wait, how?” asked Paul, leading them into the kitchen.

“Jonny,” replied Maia, her eyes taking in the oak cabinets with glass faces, the beautiful stemware and china dishes inside of them.

“Do you want Half-and-Half or 2%?” asked Paul.

“Ruin Sumatra with 2%? Are you playing me?” she asked him.

Joey laughed as Paul took the Half-and-Half from the fridge door and put it on the counter.”

“How many shots?”

“May I please have two shots, Americano with room?”

Joey chuckled.

“Sure,” said Paulie, making it for her in a white latte mug.

Maia poured the Half-and-Half into the latte mug. She palmed it with both hands like a priest with his hands on the chalice and slowly took her first sip. A sweet smile came to her lips and she took yet another.

“It’s like looking at your kid,” said Joey.

“Maia, how do you like your eggs?” asked Elly.

“May I please have two over-easy?”

“Sure. What kind of toast? We have 12 Grain, Sourdough and Buttermilk.”

“Sourdough please.”

“I have some lovely ham steaks,” Elly told Jimmy. The pair discussed the breakfast menu and what Maia could and could not eat. Paul led Maia to the breakfast nook that was on the other side of the big kitchen bar with a black granite top.

Paul led her to the breakfast nook table that was in the round of a bay window. With three oak chairs around the outside of it, it was pushed close to the bay, that had seat cushions upon them for guests.

Maia set down her coffee and started to cough violently. She got up from the table and held her mouth as Joey grabbed a handful of paper towels and put them to it.

She was so embarrassed to have puked up her coffee in the process.

“It’s okay,” he said as tears fell down her cheeks. “Shh, it’s okay, Maia, you couldn’t help it. C’mon, let’s go rinse your mouth out.”

“We should do the nebulizer treatment before I eat any more.”

“Elly, please hold off on brunch for a few more minutes. We’re going to do a breathing treatment first.” Joey led Maia to the bathroom off the kitchen and as the dimmed teardrop crystal light went up to full power, Maia’s eyes couldn’t stop looking at it. This bathroom, in creams and browns, was small with a shower stall behind a glass door.

Paul brought Joey the nebulizer, the medication bag, and his nurse’s bag.

“Sit here,” he said, pointing to the closed toilet seat. Maia’s eyes continued to stare at the chandelier over the bathroom sink.

“You all right there, Maia?” asked Paul, setting the nebulizer on the counter with the med bag and handing Joey the nurse’s bag.

“This is very pretty. Too pretty to puke in.”

“Tell that to your brother. He’s made quite a mess in here over the years.”

Maia laughed and Paul shook his head. “I’m going back to my coffee and newspaper,” he said, “Call if you need me.”

“Okay, let me do your vitals first,” said Joey. He took her temp with a forehead thermometer. “100.5. None of that, Maia.”

“What?” she asked.

“You have a fever,” he said showing it to her. Maia shrugged her shoulders as he pulled out his sphygmomanometer from his bag.

He put his stethoscope on and put the blood pressure cuff on her arm. With the end of the stethoscope pressed into her inner elbow, he pumped up the cuff as her eyes scanned the bathroom. From the little soaps in a tiny basket on the counter to the small hanging towel that has an LC monogram on it. He slowly let out the air. "110/70. Good girl."

“Gold star!” she exclaimed.

Joey laughed and put the pulse-ox on her finger and took her pulse. He nodded and wrote it down with the rest of the numbers while Maia put together the nebulizer.

“Okay girlie, let’s get this over with,” he said handing her the ampoule.

“Well look at you,” he said as she started puffing on the wand.

She looked smugly at him. “What? I’ve done this for years.”

“Why did you resist the one at the hospital?”

“Their shit was so gross.”

“Language. Don’t talk that way around your brother.”

“I apologize,” she said sucking more in. “What is the big deal about swearing?”

“It’s not proper. Besides, you can’t talk like that at school.”

Maia smirked and puffed some more, “Will it piss off the nuns?”

“Word to the wise, don’t piss off nuns. They get even in the worst possible ways.” Joey pointed to the wand, “You should’ve told them you liked this kind.”

“I don’t like either. This is just more palpable.” She sucked in some more and let it fall out of her mouth like a drag off a cigarette used to relax her. “Besides, those other ones they gave me were three times the strength of these.”

Joey sighed and shook his head. “Maia, stop swearing. I do not want to deal with the wrath of your brother today.” She finished and took the mouthpiece off and rinsed it off.

He reached under the sink and pulled out a paper towel roll, and Maia pulled one off and dried the mouthpiece then took another and set down on the counter and the mouthpiece on it. She took off the tube and rinsed it out and did likewise. She washed her hands and Joey set the nebulizer on the long counter separating the sinks.

She rinsed out her mouth.

“How long do you want to wait?”

“Maybe 15 minutes. Could you show me more of the house?”

Joey exited the bathroom and walked down the hallway. At the end of the hallway was a beautiful exterior door with a stained glass inset in the big oak door. Across the hall from the bathroom was an open door where the only light was the sun shining inside from the exterior windows and a small light over a soundboard. The light gleamed off the small knobs and Maia couldn’t take her eyes off it.

“Whoa,” she said, as the lights came on automatically,

“This is Paulie’s studio. Don’t touch his soundboard or anything in here—ever. We aren’t allowed in here officially.”

Paulie followed them in there. “And yet here you are.”

Maia looked up and saw the microphones, the piano, and Paul’s gold and platinum records on the wall. “Wow, you can record my auditions right here.”

“Yes, I can. What auditions?”

“Juilliard, maybe Curtis.”

Joey chuckled, knowing Paul’s response before it even came out of his mouth.

“You mean Winston.”

Maia shot them both looks. With Joey’s cocked eyebrow, she did not persist in this discussion.

“Come on, let’s show her more.”

“This is our library and study,” said Joey. There was a large cherry desk with two large computer monitors, a wall with matching bookshelves that were only half full on each shelf, the rest of the shelves with glass awards and framed photos. There, in the corner, across from the desk was another soft chair with ottoman and reading light.

“That makes three,” she said, nodding at the chair.

“There’s six. They are mine. But I will share them with you,” said Joey. Maia smirked.

“Joey is a big bookworm like you,” said Paulie.

“Do you have a library card?”

“Oh yes, I go weekly.” Maia danced about and hugged Joey.

“Do they got a website to reserve books?”

“Of course, they do.”

Maia snapped her fingers in glee, making Paul laugh at her antics.

“Yes! I was so afraid they’d still be using card catalogs and date stamps.”

“We aren’t that far into the hills,” said Paul, watching Maia scan the bookshelf.

She pulled one out from the rest and smiled. “John Irving! Yes! I haven’t read this one.”

“It just came out,” said Joey. “I got it while we were on tour. Elly must’ve put it away when she unpacked our stuff.”

“Did you finish it?”

“Oh yes!”

“Was it good?”

Owen Meany good.”

“Ooh! Can’t wait!” she said, hugging the hardback.

Hearing a snow shovel scrape a sidewalk, Maia stepped to the window and saw Mack. She waved to him and he stopped and waved back at her.

“Hi Mack!” she said waving.

“It snowed almost five inches since we got home,” said Paulie. He’s just doing the walk from his house to ours and the front walks. The other guy will be here with the plow the driveway later.”

Maia followed them out of the room and back to the kitchen. The feeders were full of finches and a couple of cardinals as the blue jays squawked from above trying to scare away the smaller birds.

She set the book down on the breakfast nook table and sat on the cushion behind it, so she could watch the birds. She scanned the rest of the yard, unable to make out anything but mounds of snow, but saw a small house on the far side and another little cottage on the opposite side. “Paulie, what’s that out there?”

He moved his newspaper to one side and looked where she pointed. Before he answered, he moved the paperback in front of his face so he could continue reading it. “The pool is right there and on the left side is a waterfall and on the right side is a hot tub.”

Maia nodded. “…a deer?”

“That is Zeus, and he’s a 12-point buck who will charge you in a heartbeat. Unless you got apples.”

“Note to self. Don’t go into the back yard without an apple.”

“Are there others?”

“Fallon and Venus are his chicks. There’s another buck he lives at Mitch’s though. Fallon goes over there with him.”

“Wait, they are your neighbors?”

“Yes, we share that greenbelt.”

“And you can’t get them to wake up and play current music?”

“We don’t talk about music, and neither will you.”

Maia pouted.

“They don’t like classical.”

“Don't believe that for a second. Your brother tolerates it. They all do. Don’t let him tease you. Andy goes to the recitals and concerts at Winston when he’s home. He always bugs me to get tickets for him and they sit with us. This one though, I’m always elbowing him because he will doze off by the second movement.”

“There’s a symphony up here?”

“Yes but we also go to Philly or New York. This symphony only does four concerts a year, and Winston’s only performs a couple of times a year as well.”

“Can I go?”

“Of course, we are looking forward to you being one of the artists,” said Paul.

Paulie made Maia another coffee, but a single shot this time. Joey sat at the table with Maia’s medications and read their labels while Elly finished their brunch.

“Okay,” he said, “I’m getting the medication boxes. She has seven different pills, four times per day.

Maia tucked her cold feet up under her and her shoulders rolled inward.

“Two inhalers and the nebby ampoules. We will put the ampoules in the bathroom with the machine, said Maia. “I can keep it in my bathroom.”

“How did Jimmy keep this all straight?”

“He didn’t, Cat did,” Maia replied, distracted by the squirrels trying to get to the bird feeder.

“Do tell, since I can’t call her up and ask her.”

“We used alarm clocks and set them.”

“Not a bad idea.”

“We could set alarms on our phones, Joey,” said Paul as Joey left the kitchen nook. Maia didn’t even notice he had left. Paul moved into the chair next to her and touched her shoulder.

“Hey, you okay?”

She shook her head. Maia had pulled her knees up to her chest while she stared out the window and her arms were hugging them.

“What’s up?” asked Paul. She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t feel well, Paulie.”

Elly brought over Maia’s food. “Here we go, Maia,” said Elly, putting the eggs, ham, and freshly buttered toast in front of her.

“Oh wow, thank you,” she said. Elly put a small dish of pineapple and strawberries by her too.

“Pineapple will heal that cough. Do you like pineapple juice?”

“I love it.”

“There are a bunch of those little ones on the fridge door. I want you to drink a few a day, especially when your throat hurts or your cough won’t stop. It’s better than cough syrup.”

“Oh we have that too,” said Joey, pulling two bottles from another pharmacy bag.

Maia groaned and crinkled her nose. Paul sipped his coffee as Elly set his breakfast in front of him. He waited until Joey’s plate was set before him to start eating.

Maia nibbled on the fruit and cut away the white of the eggs.

“They are pretty. I’m used to pigeons mostly. We couldn’t have bird feeders because of rats.”

“You went from starving to picking at your plate,” said Paulie.

Maia didn’t respond but cut into the yolk’s skin and dipped her toast in it and kept eating. Joey watched her as he ate half of his egg white omelet and a slice of wheat toast.

“Are you not feeling well?”

Maia shook her head and rolled her shoulders in. “I’m tired.”

“We overdid it. Back to bed with you after your meds.” Maia nodded but a tear fell down her cheek.

“Hey, Maia, what’s wrong?”

"I’m hungry. I just want to eat, but I’m so tired, that I can’t.” Maia dipped her toast in the other yolk and took a small bite, but it was too much effort to chew it and swallow.

Maia felt cold and folded her arms in and when she drank her coffee, it didn’t make her feel any better.

“Are you cold?” asked Elly.

“A little,” replied Maia, trying not to start trembling.

“Here, Baby,” she said, taking off her periwinkle sweater and wrapping it about Maia’s shoulders. She felt her forehead and Elly’s eyes met Joey’s. “She’s burning up, Joey.”

“Do you have any Tylenol down here?”

“In the bathroom drawer. How many would you like?”

“Let’s give her two. She’s rebounding.”

She cut a couple of bites of the ham and dipped them into the yolk before she nibbled on them. “Don’t you like the yolks, Joey?”

“I like them, but they are high in cholesterol and fat.”

“Well, I’ll trade you the whites for the yolks anytime.”

“That’s a good trade,” said Elly.

“Wastes fewer eggs,” said Maia. She took the pills Elly brought her with a glass of cold pineapple juice. For an odd reason, it felt refreshing to her and Maia was determined to eat the food on her plate. Maia knew she had to eat--force herself if she had to. She stared at the plate. How could she eat this with the least amount of energy? She decided to make a ham sandwich with the leftover toast and the little piece of ham steak. Dipping it into the yolk, she ate the whole little sandwich and finished off the yolks.

“See? She ate just fine,” said Elly, collecting their plates.

“That was really delicious, Elly, thank you,” said Maia, as Elly returned with a glass of water.

Joey set the box before her. She opened the little door and poured them into her hand. Maia started taking them as Joey read the expectorants’ labels.

“These medicine cups are so hard to read—” said Paul, picking one up.

Joey put his hand out for it and Paul put it in his hand, caressing the back of Joey’s with his thumb. The two’s eyes met and Maia rolled hers, waiting for the expectorant. Joey smiled at him and opened one of the bottles of cough expectorant.

“Oh look, shots,” she said throwing the first one back.

“Not funny,” said Paul.

Maia smirked and took a small sip of water. “I think I’m going to go back to bed now.”

“I’m going to walk you up and tuck you in, then I will shower,” he said as Paul smiled. Joey picked up her jetpack and as they were walking away from the table, Maia stopped for a moment. Paul had already picked up his newspaper and resumed reading the sports section.

“Paulie,” she said. He looked up from the paper.

“Thank you for all that you’ve done for me, and for opening up your home to me. You didn’t have to do any of it, but you did, and I just wanted to say thank you for loving me.”

Paul reached for her and held her in his arms. “You’re welcome, Maia. We want what’s best for you.” He kissed her forehead.

“Joe, she’s burning up.”

Joey felt her forehead as Elly cleared the table. She set down the plates she had picked up and waited for Joey’s response. “We had some food and Tylenol so that will help. I’ll check it again before I put you to bed.”

“My chi is so blocked. I got to get well,” said Maia as Joey and she walked down the hallway to her room.

“You and Bella would get along just fine,” aaid Ruby following them into Maia’s bedroom. Maia's teeth felt like they would chatter.

"Who is Bella?"

"My business partner," said Ruby. "We have a wellness retreat center about an hour from here."

"Very cool. What's her deal?"

"Bella is a holistic healer," said Joey.

"Awesome. When can I go see her?"

"When you aren't so contagious," said Ruby, not wanting to tell Maia that the center was only for adults.

“How about we get you into something cozy to sleep?” asked Joey, opening a highboy drawer and handed her a soft jersey nightgown with a matching shrug.

“That’s pretty,” said Ruby.

Maia smiled. “That’s a little prissy princess, but I’m so tired, I’ll let you get away with it this time.”

“Our tomboy,” said Joey. He led her into the bathroom and set down both the clothes and the jetpack on the counter.

Maia trembled as she did so, and as soon as she could, she was in bed and left her other clothes on a heap on the bathroom floor. He tucked her into bed and put her clothes in the bathroom hamper. When Joey checked on her after his shower, she was sound asleep with Papa Bear. He felt her forehead and it was still warm. He turned on the baby monitor and left her inhaler on the nightstand with her cell phone. She was rebounding, but they were home. Hopefully to stay.

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