Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 52: Play the Game

“This can’t be good.” Max states as he stuffs a bagel in his mouth, his eyes glued to the field. “Man, this game is catching cool like it’s a cold. So not bored any more.”

Susie reaches for some food to eat when Max swats her hand away, pointing an accusing finger in her face as she pouts, “Tut tut tut. Mine!” Max insists childishly as he covers all the food with his arms, moving it all out of Susie’s reach.

Troy whacks the bagel right out of Max’s mouth before offering it to Susie, “Here we go Susie.”

“It’s Lucy.” Susie corrects, eyeing the half eaten bagel, “And uh, no thanks.” She declines ever so politely.

Troy shrugs before eating it himself.

I, on the other hand, am forced to watch the scene unravel and reveal itself before me.

Oog tackles one of the football players. Gland tries to pull him off the football player but to no avail. Oog is freakishly strong.

“It seems that there’s an obstruction on the fields. Did someone lose a caveman?” The commentator’s voice comes through the speakers, referring to Oog.

The football player removes his helmet, trying to get Oog off of him, only for Laiken’s face to come into view.

I slouch in my seat, trying to hide. If Laiken’s knows that I’m behind this, he will slaughter me, especially seeing as Oog is now savagely trying to bite his arm off.

I lean over Jay’s sleeping form and cover Susie’s eyes, “Don’t want you seeing your brother being bullied by a hobo. Gonna scar.” I tell her.

“What the hell!?” Laiken shouts as he stands up and flails his arm around, trying to get Oog to release his arm. He fails, Oog keeps his teeth sunk in.

“I can’t watch.” I say loudly, now covering my own eyes.

Benley hits my hands away from my face, “No way are you missing this. Watch what happens when you’re involved.”

Slobber is running in circles around the entire field, distracting the cheerleaders from the flips and pyramids etc. Boss Man is running after him, panting heavily as he tries to catch the fuzzball. Just when Boss Man comes close, Slobber purposely speeds up and dodges him.

What is Oog teaching my puppy?!

“I can see that things are starting to get interesting, so I’m going to do the honors and go by us all some more food seeing as Max ate everything like the pig he is.” Troy states as he gets up and leaves. It’s then that I notice that Simo is missing.

As if things can’t get any worse as is. I’m just so glad that Jay is sleeping through all of this or else he’d have my head on a silver platter no doubt.

“You do realize that this is all your fault, right?” Benley states in a ‘matter of fact way’ as his dark brown eyes land on me accusingly. “Can’t say I’m not happy about it. I am thoroughly enjoying myself.”

I bet he is.

I slap him across his chest at his rudeness, running my other hand through my loose curls - anxious, “I’m so dead.” I murmur softly.

“I can only hope.” Grey mutters from his seat, eavesdropping on our conversation.

“My life as never been more entertaining since meeting you.” Benley admits with an amused grin.

“My life has never been more…pointless since meeting you.” Grey objects, “I feel like I have no purpose any more. I solely blame you for that.”

I ignore the two of them, my mind elsewhere as my gaze strays back to the chaos at hand. I should really get down there.

The football players are now all chasing after Oog who has the football in his mouth.

Gland defends Oog - his best bud - by tackling some of the football players himself, not at all helping the situation that has now turned into violence as a massive fight breaks out.

Slobber keeps running circles around all of them. Greg, not far behind, is on Slobber’s tail in the hopes of catching the little bugger.

As for Jam, he happens to stroll past the cheerleading squad in all the commotion, the Tarantulas crawling off him and making their way to the cheerleaders.

The cheerleaders - who’d just begun their first routine - freak out, all of them giving high-pitched, girlie and deafening screeches of fear. The pyramid they’d built falls apart, quickly dismantling under the pressure of a gazillion spiders.

Bells, atop the pyramid, is dropped and comes flying down, hitting the ground hard on impact.

I gasp, concerned about Bells. She just took one hell of a fall.

“My baby!” Max stands up and shouts, worried about his girlfriend.

“Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.” Susie remarks as she places a hand over her mouth, shocked.

“That’s what she gets.” Nancy cackles rudely. She’s perfect for Grey. They’re both horrible people who are both insensitive. It makes me wonder why I like the both of them. I guess I’m just a natural people person.

“Oooh. It looks like the head cheerleader - Bella Bensten - of Burnsville High just took a mega drop.” The other commentator speaks up, currently narrating the events happening around us.

People seem to be more interested in what’s happening on the field instead of actually watching the game.

“Sit down!” People start yelling at Max so they can see how this all plays out. I’d rather vanish into thin air and not see how this all turns out. Benley is right, this is all my fault. This is exactly why I never get involved in school events.

Max ignores the people’s demands as he starts leaping over the chairs like a gorilla, even making ape noises for effect as he heads straight for the field.

King Kong is on the loose!

He ends up toppling over a few people, but keeps on climbing over the hoards of people, determined to get to Bells.

“Watch it!” Someone yells at Max just as the first aid people rush out on to the field.

“I said I’m fine!” Bells hisses as she tries to stand up, wobbling on her feet, only to collapse face first into the grass. “Why is the world spinning so fast?” Bells asks herself, completely out of it, before she throws up on one of the first aid guys who cringes in disgust.

“I’m going to be sick.” Grey turns his eyes off the field, now feeling queasy himself. He has a weak stomach.

Well, there goes our head cheerleader and possibly Bell’s rep seeing as she just vomited in front of the entire school.

The first aid guys place Bells on a gurney, preparing to take her off the fields. This encourages Max all the more to hurry it up.

Max steps on a large bald man’s head before jumping over onto the field - his last stretch done. The only problem is that large bald man follows after him and he doesn’t look all too pleased that his head had just been used as a stepping stone.

“You’re dead!” The bald man yells after Max before pummelling him to a pulp.

“I’m sorry!” Max screeches in terror before a fist slams into him.

Susie seems to find this all too hilarious as she bursts into fits of laughter.

Anyway, this would probably explain why Max is now in a gurney too, right beside Bells, as the two are transported away - off the fields. How romantic.

I slap my forehead in pure frustration.

Max is an idiot!

Pop!

Benley suddenly bursts out laughing as I turn my head to see where the sound had come from.

It’s then that I see that Oog has popped the football with his sharp teeth. The football is now completely flat and still hanging from his mouth.

The football players all begin cursing. Fortunately, Laiken runs to the locker rooms before coming back out with a spare football. The only problem is that it doesn’t stay in his hands for very long.

Gland, now really into the game of football, snatches the spare right out of Laiken’s hands all too enthusiastically. “My daddy always use to say that I’d never make a good football player. Tonight I prove Papa wrong!” Gland begins running away from Laiken before making a touchdown right in the center of the field.

Obviously he doesn’t know the rules of the game.

Gland breaks out into a victory dance as if he’d just made the final winning touchdown of the game.

“For f**k sake!” I hear Laiken roar from the fields - that’s how loud he is shouting, “Give the damn ball back you doofus! Your papa was right about you.”

I cover Susie’s ears (instead of her eyes this time) as a result of her brother’s cursing.

“Back off ‘White Boy’!” Gland threatens Laiken in warning.

“You wouldn’t know how to play football if it hit you in your face!” Laiken shouts in fury, having lost his temper.

“I wonder if you would know White Boy!” Gland shouts before drop kicking the ball into Laiken’s face. Laiken falls down, out for the count.

Susie throws her head back, laughing from her stomach. She’s loving this.

“Ouch! I felt that one. What about you Luke?” One of the two commentators asks his fellow commentator.

“Oh yeah Jason. Definitely. The famous linebacker, Laiken Edwards, just got K.O.’ed by some guy on crack.” Luke replies back, referring to Gland as the guy on crack.

One of the other football players chase after Gland who is doing ‘the worm’ across the field with the spare football in hand, “Give the ball back bro!”

Gland does the very opposite and throws the football - rather powerfully - into the crowds instead.

Thud!

There’s suddenly a loud thump from somewhere beside me as Benley falls into a fit of hysteric chuckles yet again.

It’s then I notice Blubber no longer on his seat, but rather lying face up on the floor, the football Gland had just thrown lying just above his red forehead.

“Oooh.” I wince for Blubs, “That’s gonna leave a mark buddy.” I say before laughing along with Benley. I can’t help it. It’s funny. We’re sadists like that.

I was really hoping that the game would have at least started before things went haywire. Wishful thinking I suppose.

“Mother fudge! My fat head hurts! Why me?!” Blubber whines from somewhere on the floor. “Can someone please help me up? Everything is fuzzy and blurry.”

“Shut up Blubber! I’m trying to focus.” I shush him, no one bothered about Blubber.

“But-” Blubber attempts again before Benley cuts him off.

“Quiet dude! At least you get to keep the game’s football. Now shut up. Trying to watch the game here. Don’t be so inconsiderate.” Benely insists just as Troy returns from his pitstop at the food corner.

“Hello there Gorgeous.” Troy winks at some random old lady passing by. The old lady gasps and scowls at him as she quickly buttons up her blouse.

I shove my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing.

Troy glances Benley’s way, seeking approval because everyone knows that Benley is king when scoring girls, “She wants me.” Troy states over-confidently to Ben Ben.

Benley merely shakes his head in disgust of Troy hitting on old people. Even ‘Mr BoyBand’ wouldn’t go that far. Only Troy.

Troy seems to think he’s a heart throb and that getting a simple flirtatious gesture from him, such as a wink, is a gift from heaven above.

Troy, like an idiot, stands in my way - blocking my view of the events playing out. People begin to complain, but he’s oblivious to it all. He’s zoned out as he watches the game (what’s left of it anyhow) from right in front of me like a child standing right in front of the TV.

“Sit down you Looney Tune!” I command, trying to shove him out of my way. “You’re making the audience mad.”

“Screw the audience, I am the audience!” Troy remarks back arrogantly as he turns to face me.

“Troy!” I whine, the space around us very limited. I’m starting to feel claustrophobic. “Move! I can’t see anything. You’re so fat.” I try push against him to get him to move.

That last part was probably the worst thing I could have said to him.

Troy’s mouth falls agape, “How dare you?!” He says before he lifts up his shirt, revealing his defined six pack as he flashes it right in my face. “I’ll show you fat.” Troy mumbles to himself with much pride as he purposely blocks my view with his abs.

People begin looking our way as comments and assumptions are made.

“Oh my gosh.” I say, exasperated, as I cover my eyes - embarrassed by his actions, “I’ve seen better Troy, now go sit down already.”

“Who is this ‘better’ you speak of?” Troy questions, dropping his shirt, much to my relief.

I motion to sleeping Jay right beside me.

Troy makes a move as if about to secretly lift Jay’s shirt to compare their bodies. “Troy!” I hiss as I swat his hand away from sleeping Jay.

“Awe c’mon! I just want to peak.” Troy complains, adamant, not seeing how creepy he’s being right now.

“Troy!” I shout at him this time. “You’re dropping all the food on me!” I complain, his hands that were full, now half empty. He’s so clumsy!

“Fine, fine.” Troy submits, but still refuses to move out of my way.

Eventually, after much pleading and begging on my part, he sits back down in his seat. Everything has to be a mission with him.

Troy’s eyes find the field again where Oog and Slobber go on rampage, “Oh boy! This is going to be good.” Troy says just as Jam gets slapped through the face by one of the cheerleaders for releasing the Tarantulas on them.

A smirk plays on Troy’s lips as he stuffs his face with popcorn, purposely chewing loudly to set me on edge.

To show that he’s finding enjoyment in my situation, he leans back in his seat - getting rather cosy - with his feet propped up on the empty chair in front of him and his arms crossed behind his head as if ready to watch a movie.

The umpire, security guards and coaches try to break up the fights on the field and do some damage control, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that they’re failing. Oog’s squad has the upper hand here.

Nancy, to no one in particular, asks, “Games at your school always go down like this?”

Troy, with a mouth full of popcorn, answers her, “Oh totes guuurl. Things get cray-cray ’round here Diddle Squat.” Troy snaps his fingers in Nancy’s face with much sass.

“You don’t even go to this school.” I remind Troy Story. “You’re not even in school any more.”

“Did you just call me Diddle Squat?” Nancy asks, confused.

“I’d like to just inform you all that this is the exact reason why I hate all of you and denounce all of your existences.” Grey says, leaning back in his chair, as he motions back to the field where our school’s obese, duck mascot is now parading around the field.

The duck mascot is trying to intervene with all the chaos.

“Is it just me Jason or does that duck look fatter than usual?” Luke, one of the commentators, asks.

“That’s it! I’m going down there!” I stand up with determination.

Benley snorts at my words, “Good luck with that.”

“And you’re coming with me!” I command as I pull Benley up from his seat.

“What?!” Benley coughs, spitting out the soda he’d just been drinking, all over Blubber.

“Yes!” I confirm, tugging him with me by his arm. “You.”

“But why me?” Benley pouts and struggles against me like a two year old. “I don’t wanna!” He moans, still fighting me on this.

“Because you’re my best bet here.” I tell him, “Blubber is still on the floor. Jay’s sleeping. Susie is too young. I don’t know where Simo is. Max and Bells are probably in the infirmary as we speak. Grey and Nancy scare me.”

“Why not Troy?” Benley asks, still whining as I slowly drag him along behind me.

“Because he’s an idiot,” is my reply.

Instead of being offended, Troy merely grins with all his pearly whites and nods rapidly, “It’s true. I am.”

I motion to Troy, “Told you.” I turn to Grey, the most responsible one left, “Watch Susie.”

“Whatever,” is his dull reply.

On the way to the field, I somehow manage to lose Benley among all the crowds of people.

“Benley!” I call for him over my shoulder, trying to find him. “Ben Ben!” I shout, “Ley Ley!” I call again, “Come out, come out wherever you are BoyBand!”

I round a dark corner when I’m suddenly pulled aside by someone.

My eyes adjust to the darkness as a football uniform comes into view.

I swallow nervously before I begin rambling, “Laiken, I swear, it was all an accident-“

The person removes the helmet off their head only to reveal toffee brown eyes and a killer smile - Mason Montry himself.

My expression drops at the sight of him as I cross my arms over my chest defensively, “What do you want?!” I snap at him, still infuriated with him after all that stuff he’d said about Jay when Jay is inherently good at heart. Jay is misjudged all the time and it pisses me off more so than it pisses Jay himself off.

Mason, who is all sweaty - his dark brown, wet hair sticking to his forehead in a messy attractive way as he sighs aloud, “Look Aqueela, I’m sorry about what I said.” He whispers huskily, not making any reference to the chaos currently happening on the field.

He’s all sweaty from chasing ‘Oog’s Squad’ around the field for at least an hour now.

Even through the darkness I can see genuine sincerity swirling away like coffee in his warm brown eyes.

“It’s not me you should be apologizing too.” I clarify, lowering my arms as I give him a chance to explain himself.

Mason understands that I’m giving him leeway here as a small smile breaks onto his lips, “I know, but I just need to say this. I just need to get this off my chest.”

I huff, still slightly annoyed as I lower my guard, “Go ahead then. I’m listening.” I give him my time of day for the sake our the twisted friendship we once had.

I do miss Mason as a friend. I really do.

Mason shifts awkwardly in his position as if nervous before he finally starts, “You’re not as smart as Bells.” He begins harshly.

My eyes widen at this. I was failing half my classes. I think everyone knows that I’m not exactly classified as intelligent.

“Wow,” I breathe, “Should I take that slap to the face personally?”

Mason shakes his head as he merely continues as if trying to work his way to a point, “You’re not as popular Bells.”

“Okay, where are you going with this?” I ask and then add, “And how do I go the other way?” I joke lightly, trying to not get offended by his insults. When it’s coming from Mason Montry - my childhood bully - I should be used to it by now.

Mason doesn’t crack a smile, his brown eyes fixated on me as he carries on, “You’re not as pretty as Bells.”

I nod, agreeing, “Who is right?” I ask aloud, wondering to myself why I’m still rooted here. Any other girl would have lashed out by now and stalked away, but instead I find myself frozen in place.

“You’re not as sensitive as Bells. You’re not as confident as Bells. You’re not as compassionate as Bells. You’re not as rich as Bells. You’re not as perfect as Bells. You can never measure up to her status. Bells will always be everything you’re not. You’re always overlooked…” Mason trails off quietly, “But not by me. I’ve never seen past anyone but you. To me, you are perfect. You don’t have to be Bells. You don’t have to be ‘her perfect’. Sure, you’re a little insensitive, mean, rude, weird, crazy, rebellious and so on, but it’s all those flaws of yours that I fell in love with. I fell in love with your flaws, not Bell’s perfection.”

It’s get more difficult each time for me to hear him say things like this. I sigh, feeling a damper in my mood at his heartfelt words, “Mason.” I start softly, “Please don’t do this.” I beg him. He knows I’m with Jay, but that fact never seems to hold him back. “You, of all people, should know when to let go.”

“The future is unclear, Aqueela. All I know is that I want to come out of it with you.” Mason tells me, earnest in his conviction of words.

I barely blink and he’s already got his football helmet back on, walking off to who knows where.

There’s no one like Mason who can depress me so easily. All he has to do is open his mouth and flood me by things I don’t want to comprehend, acknowledge or think about.

I sight to myself, biting on my lower lip in uncertainty, as I go in search of Benley.

It’s really not difficult finding Benley.

He’s in the middle of the cheerleading squad as to be expected as all the cheerleaders fawn over him like lovesick puppies.

I really don’t see what’s so appealing about Benley. Kudos to him because he’s sure got game.

I make my way there only to see Bells with her leg in a cast, on crutches, as she slams her crutches against Benley’s chest in aggravation, “Stop distracting my girls you bloody twat!”

“It’s a crutch, not a damn hockey stick.” Benley merely laughs mockingly and openly at her.

His reaction - or lack thereof - sets Bells off before she jumps on Benley’s back, ‘moon boot’ and all, as she starts pulling at his hair wildly. “Hey ouch!” Benley yelps, trying to shake Bells off his back. In response, Bells bites down onto his shoulder. Benley jumps up in pain before turning to Max who happens to be in a temporary, remote operated wheelchair, “Control your girlfriend!”

Max shrugs before joining in on the fun, using his remote to ram the wheels of his wheelchair over Benley’s foot repeatedly, even taking the liberty to reverse back over Benley’s feet.

“You bastards!” Benley shouts atop his lungs, clearly in pain.

“What up Flower?! Finally joining da fun?” Jam notices me as he tries to gather all the Tarantulas running freely. I’m glad he at least thinks that this is fun.

Bells, Max and Benley all turn my way at hearing my name.

“Oh thank goodness!” Benley exclaims, “You found me.” He says, exasperated, even though we both know he purposely left me, “Your friends are bullying me again.”

I shake my head at Bells and Max, “Even when you’re both injured, nothing stops you two from abusing others.”

Bells - still in her cheerleading outfit - offers a smile filled with pride, “You must know.”

I happen to glance at Jam again. I raise my eyebrow, curious, “Why are you barefoot?”

“Shoes are too mainstream.” Jam replies back absent-mindedly, not bothered about stepping on a spider accidentally.

“Uh oh. It seems Burnsville very own Aqueela Lawson as decided to make an appearance on the field. Everyone at Burnsville knows the trouble she gets into. Could she possibly be the one behind all this chaos tonight?” Luke comments aloud as the audience gasps, all eyes on me.

Dammit! They’re on to me.

I grin, “Cool. I’m popular after all.”

“Yeah, but in the bad sense. It’s impossible - in our school - to not have heard of you with all the crazy antics you’re always pulling.” Bell clears that much up for me.

Meanwhile, Benley has stolen Max’s remote that controls Max’s wheelchair. In a way, Benley has just taken ownership over Max’s life.

“Oooh!” Benley exclaims excitedly with childlike innocence to his eye as he glances down at the remote in his hands, “Look at all these colourful buttons!” Benley, apparently, has a weakness for gadgets and that’s a judgement based on the fact that he’s now going crazy and pressing all the buttons on the remote at once, sending Max flying into the backside of our fat, duck mascot.

“I worry about him getting his hands on a doomsday device. We’d all be goners.” Bells mumbles as she watches Benley, with wide eyes, lose his mind.

“Ouch! Stop it!” Max whines as he flies back and forth into the backside of the duck, the audience laughing their heads off at the sight, “It stinks!”

I grab the remote from Benley and hand it back to Max before Max ends up in a coffin. The crowd boos at me for that, but get over it quickly when Oog continues to rile up the football team.

Greg releases a breath as he finally catches Oog and grabs him, lifting him up into his arms just as his eyes meet mine, “Aqueela!” He shouts, “Don’t ever ask me to babysit again!” He then cracks a smile as he holds up Oog’s small frame to me like that scene from ‘The Lion King’ - except, Oog’s not nearly as cute as Simba. Oog bares his teeth to the audience and growls, thrashing around in Greg’s grip. “I got him.” Greg breathes in relief.

I smile back at him, but my smile drops immediately when I see what’s coming, “Greg, duck!” I warn him.

“I see the mascot duck. What about it?” Greg calls back to me from the small distance between us.

It’s too late!

One moment I see Greg and Oog perfectly fine, the next moment I see them on the ground, both buried under a ton of football players.

They just got tackled, by pretty much, the entire football team. They’ve literally disappeared under all the jocks.

But then there’s a warrior cry from behind me. I turn to see Gland charging my way.

A shriek leaves my lips as I grab onto Max’s wheelchair and duck behind him, using him as cover.

Gland shoves Max and I out of his way that Max goes spinning in his wheelchair. But then Gland stops, feeling guilty, as he turns back to apologize to me, “Sorry Baby girl Eela, that was so rude of me.” He doesn’t even bother to apologize to Max.

“Sure, run over the disabled guy in the wheelchair!” Max hisses sarcastically, “He’s good for nothing anyway.”

It’s then that I see that Gland is in a football uniform too. Don’t ask me how he got it. This guy and his crazed dream of being a football player…

Gland goes back to his warrior cry as charges through the football players like a brick wall, like a slab of cement, or better yet - like a bulldozer.

He begins tossing the football players aside effortlessly as he digs out Oog and Greg, whilst the fat mascot duck keeps the crowd going by shaking his gigantic ass in front of the football players - taunting them.

“You were going to sacrifice me?!” Max shouts at me after finally managing to turn his wheelchair my way, referring to the fact that I was going to let Gland charge over him instead of me, “I’m already in a wheelchair and temporarily disabled! What more do you want?!”

“It’s nothing personal Max. I just consider my own life more valuable then yours.” I reassure him, though he just looks more angry.

The mascot takes off his mask. My jaw drops at the sight.

“So that’s why our mascot is fatter than usual and why the rear side smelled so bad.” Max says blatantly.

“Simo?” I question aloud. How’d he get the mascot suit? How did Gland get a football uniform? So many questions…

Simo ignores me and turns to the audience cheering and clapping him on, “Simo want to thank all for opportunity to be mascot. Simo dreamed always of being mascot.”

He’s a lousy mascot. Everyone knows that mascots are never suppose to reveal their identity.

I would have reacted more had Gland not just taken Greg out from under the mass of football players that had been on top of him.

Greg, half conscious, is breathing heavily having almost been suffocated. Still, he manages to lift his head from Gland’s arms to look at me, “I’m going to kill you.” He assures me.

“Eela!” Oog screams before racing to me and hugging my leg, “Oog missed you.”

I crouch down to his level, “You caused all this chaos just ’cause you missed me?”

Oog nods.

“Would you look at that!” Benley laughs, mocking me, “This really is all your fault.”

“Shut up!” I hiss.

“You’d make a fine football player, or captain of a football team. We are extending our invite for you to be quarterback of our varsity’s team. We want to recruit you for the position. We’re offering you a full time scholarship.” Some Dean from some varsity tells Gland.

“And Simo for mascot!” Simo pipes up, the Dean ignoring him.

A tear drips down Gland’s face before he gets all emotional and burst into tears, shaking the Dean’s hands, “Bless you. You’ve just made a little black boy’s heart very happy. I accept. My daddy would be so proud.”

“Wow.” Bells comments, “I never thought I’d see the day Gland cries.”

“But he’s not even a school student. He’s a grown man.” Laiken objects.

Gland turns to Laiken, towering over him threateningly with a dark glare intact, “Don’t ruin this for me White Boy.” Gland mutters to Laiken in warning.

Laiken, not heeding the warning, backs off with his hands placed up in surrender.

Melinda walks past me just then, stopping directly in front of me with her hands placed on her hips, “Drowned Rat makes an appearance to a school event for the first time ever and this is what happens.” She motions to the field as if it is my fault - which it is.

“You are seriously gaining much weight in your face.” I tell her, inspecting her closely in order to piss her off.

She scowls at me, “I don’t know how I know, but I just know that this is all your fault somehow.”

Well, she isn’t wrong.

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