Posts tagged “hospital

Lighthouse, Chapter 24

Posted on 30/08/2016

In the two-room suite of Bart and Geraldine’s office, the first three Teka siblings sat in companionable silence. Bart sat behind the executive desk, Abe on the opposite chair, and Clement perched on the window sill; all three wearing pensive expressions. Although they were not biological brothers, these three reacted quite similarly in perplexing situations—initially, at least. Astonishment… and then the rest depended on their different temperaments.

“Maybe I didn’t pay that much attention during that guardianship class,” Bart finally spoke up. “But what the Sam’s hill is emancipation?”

Using profanity was one of Bart’s vices, especially when things bothered him greatly. Being a dad of four impressionable children meant he had to employ milder terms in expressing his irritation.

Abe remained silent. Though his slow-to-anger attitude made him the more approachable brother, he bottled too much inside. The only way any of his family members could tell was by the pain in his eyes. Though this time, he kept his head bent, still reeling from the letter he’d found in Eleazar’s room hours ago.

“Well, it doesn’t matter now,” Clement spoke up, crossing one ankle over the other. “The letter was dated three years ago and since we knew nothing about it, he probably changed his mind. Although I don’t see why he couldn’t wait two more years to be legally independent and leave. This emancipation nonsense, who taught him that?”

“Not even Darah, with all her teenage dramatics, mentioned such rubbish.” Bart’s brows bent in a deep V. “But seriously, was that really in the orientation because I never learned about it. Back when Mom and Dad used to really drive us insane, did any of you consider it?”

Clement shook his head and scratched his chin. “Did we have a choice? Heck, their discipline and nagging sure beat living in a different hellhole every other six months.”

Out of the three, Clement had been through the horrible foster system and bore deep scars from it. His deeply-rooted bitterness stemmed from being moved from one bad foster home to another, and though it had shaped his life mission as an overseas orphanage chaplain, it had also hardened him. Even though he’d “found God” through his job, he was still battling demons from the past.

“Maybe that’s why…”

Bart and Clement looked up at the sound of Abe’s voice. He kept his head bent.

“Maybe he thought the alternative was better.” He put a shaky hand to his forehead, missing the worried look his brothers exchanged. “Even now, he thinks we’re… stifling him too much.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Bart groused. “We’re not nearly as stern as Mom and Dad were with us.”

“Yeah well I told you we shouldn’t have let him meet that woman,” Clement pushed off the sill and walked over to Abe, placing a hand on his shoulder. He frowned at Bart. “The minute I saw her, I knew she was bad news. I bet she was the one that put that silly idea in his head. Emancipation, my foot.”

Bart arched a brow. “Mrs. Crane? Pshaw! The kid’s old enough to know better. Since he turned eighteen, he’s acting like a punk but wants to be treated like a man.”

“Weren’t we all like that once?” Abe countered gently.

“Not if Mr. and Mrs. Teka had anything to say about it,” Bart quipped, irritation forgotten for a brief moment as he thought of their late parents. “Dad didn’t hesitate putting us in check, and don’t let Mom get a hold of your ear…”

All three brothers grimaced, Clement rubbing his ear absentmindedly.

Then Abe shrugged off Bart’s hand and reached in his pocket. His brothers curiously eyed the device he pulled out.

“What’s that funny looking thing?” Clement asked, watching Abe strap it on. “A watch?”

“A fitness something-or-other,” Bart answered, leaning back in his chair. “Darah persuaded Phoebe to buy Abe one, and now Geraldine keeps threatening to get me one.”

Clement chuckled and peered over Abe’s shoulder as he fiddled with it. “Looks like a prison bracelet. What is it, a tracking device?”

“Maybe so.” Bart crossed his arms over his head. “All Abe needs to know is it monitors his blood press…” he paused at the frown wrinkling Abe’s forehead. “Is it high? Bro, we’ll figure Eli’s situation out. Stop stressing yourself—“

“No, Phoebe called a gazillion times,” Clement said. “You’re in trouble?”

“Or maybe she saw the letter. Where did you leave it—?”

The front door of the suite flung open, startling the three men. A wild-eyed Geraldine stormed in, holding a wailing Augustus on her hip. “Where in Sam’s hill are your phones?! We’ve been calling you clowns and you were just here chilling?!”

The three men shot to their feet, Bart coming around the desk. When Augustus whined for him, he plucked his last born from Geraldine and kissed the tears away. “What happened? Why is he crying?”

Clement smoothed Augustus’ ruffled curls. “Poor guy.”

A now-docile Augustus propped his tear-stained cheek against Bart’s shoulder and Geraldine ran fingers through her disheveled mane. “He saw me crying, and started… been crying since we left daycare.”

Alarmed, Bart turned to his wife. “You were crying? Why?”

“What happened?” Abe asked gently, concern etched in his features.

“Especially you, with the call feature on your tracker, should’ve known we called a million times.”

“So it is a tracker,” Clement muttered, shaking his head.

Abe frowned. “I just turned it on, what happened?”

Geraldine rolled her eyes. “You’re supposed to wear it at all times, Abe. Look, if Phoebe finds out—”

“What happened?!”

She and Augustus flinched when the three Teka men snapped in irritation. Then she sighed. “You three need to get down to the hospital, ASAP.”

Their eyes widened. “What for now?” Clement asked, articulating their unease.

Geraldine’s face fell and her lips started to quiver. Bart shifted his son out of view. “Babe, what is it?”

“Darah was taken to the emergency. It’s the baby. Phoebe’s with her…”

Clement muttered an expletive and no one had time to call him out for it. They all remembered the times Phoebe had been rushed to emergency, only to miscarry the babies she’d carried. The thought of Darah facing the same fate, propelled Abe and Clement for the door, almost tripping over each other to exit the office suite.

Bart stalled, watching Geraldine wipe stray tears from her cheeks. He didn’t dare ask what happened, the look in her eyes revealed all and chilled him to the bone.

She then nodded, confirming his fears, and opened her arms to carry Augustus. “You head down first.”

“No, let’s go together,” Bart grabbed her hand instead, knowing Geraldine needed to be there as much as any of them. As far as he was concerned, she and Phoebe had become Darah’s sisters the moment they married into the family.

Geraldine let her husband lead her down to where Abe and Clement had pulled up in front of the building. Clement rolled down the window, his grave expression matching Abe’s. “You coming?”

Bart nodded. “We’ll drop off August with Mama first.”

“No,” Geraldine protested with a shaky voice. “Go with them, I’ll meet you—”

“C’mon, let’s go!” Abe barked from the driver’s seat.

Geraldine plucked Augustus from her husband. “I’ll meet you. Go.”

Bart nodded and kissed his family before climbing in the seat behind Clement. As Abe drove away, Augustus started to whine and Geraldine jostled him against her hip. “You have to be a big brave boy for Mommy and Daddy, okay?” Her eyes watered, walking across the lot to the minivan. “No crying, okay?”

—-

L.J. stirred awake, the sound of the beeping EKG greeting him in an empty room. He groaned and closed his eyes, groggy but without the searing pain. Thank God. Now if someone could do something about the cumbersome mask around his mouth. He reached for it just as the door swung open.

“Don’t think about it, Uncle,” Hana berated in a stern tone, carrying in a flask and a book. She nudged the door to close with her hip and continued her trip to his bedside. “You need to keep it on for now.”

He frowned in disapproval, watching her pour out a cup of coffee. Although it wasn’t his favorite kind, his mouth watered for a taste.

“I promise I’ll brew you your favorite once we get out of here…” she took a sip and faked a grimace, though a telltale dimple in her right cheek gave her away.

L.J. sighed forlornly. What a nice girl… if only J.R. would change his mind. The mention of his son had him scanning the room. He frowned and swung his gaze to Hana enjoying her coffee.

“J.R. stepped out for a bit.” She lowered the cup and folded her hands on the bed railing. “Uncle… there’s something you should know.”

The wrinkle between her brow and the conflict in her eyes made the hair on his forearms stand up. L.J. had a sinking feeling he wouldn’t like what she was about to tell him.

J.R. couldn’t keep his eyes off her. He gazed at the curtain of thick lashes laid flat, her parched lips parted in sleep, tendrils of dark curly hair laying against her pixyish face. His fingers itched to touch her, to hover over the rounded tip of her nose and feel her breathing. He needed reassuring that she’d be fine, that she wouldn’t suffer like his mother had in her last moments. Cold frisson rushed through him, sending tremors along his back as it had when Phoebe finally called him back with the dreadful news.

He drew in a breath and it caught in his throat. He choked on it and immediately felt a hand on his back. Phoebe, the only other person in the room. He’d been allowed entry to the room only because the staff believed he was her fiancé. J.R. closed his eyes tight, scolding himself. He should’ve proposed sooner and made her happy with his love. Why did he waste so much time until it was too late.

Phoebe squeezed his shoulder. “It’s a blessing they could save the baby… It’s a relief.”

He just stared at Darah’s peaceful face. For now, she could rest in peace but the blood-chilling fear when Phoebe first informed him of Darah’s condition made him shiver once more. He could’ve lost them both. The thought made his eyes water. His foolish reaction of Darah’s first child not being his and his begrudging the baby’s father for causing a lifetime of drama had caused this fiasco. If she’d lost the baby, Darah would’ve been crushed and he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself.

“Maybe this is a second chance,” Phoebe spoke through J.R.’s musing and she wore a pained expression. “Not many get that chance… Darah is a lucky woman. I pray she knows that and accepts her place as a mother now.” Her eyes glistened with tears as she gazed down at Darah. “My silly, lucky sister…”

The door opened and Darah’s three older brothers stumbled into the room. Phoebe quickly wiped her eyes, but not before Abe saw her. “It’s about time—” the rest of her words were muffled in Abe’s chest as he pulled her to him and held her tight.

“Is she alright?” Bart asked, standing by J.R.’s shoulder. He and Clement frowned at Darah’s still form.

“She’s asleep,” J.R. answered listlessly, returning his eyes to her. How he wished she would open those pretty eyes of hers and melt away the fear that gripped his heart.

“What happened?” Clement muttered. “She was fine when we left her at home.”

Phoebe sniffed back tears invoked by Abe’s touch. “I should’ve insisted she eat and rest. All that running around, the sleepless nights, the stress… it was too much.”

Guilt pricked J.R., as he recalled the night Darah slept on the stiff-backed sofa in his father’s room.

“And why wasn’t she at home?”

“She insisted on going out,” Phoebe mumbled against Abe’s shoulder. “She must’ve met up with her friend, Tess. Thank God the girl was with her or else she would’ve… w-would’ve lost…”

“Friend, my foot.” Bart snorted. “No telling if she wasn’t the one that caused it.”

“No one caused anything,” Abe countered firmly. “Like Phoebe said, thank God she was there… and Darah is fine.” He stroked his wife’s hair while staring at his sister’s sleeping face. “She’ll be fine.”

Clement took the seat Phoebe abandoned for her husband’s arms, and reached for Darah’s hand. Bending his head, he began to pray silently and the family followed suit.

“What’s with the moment of silence?” a feeble voice drew them out of their musing. As they lifted their heads and opened their eyes to Darah laying there staring at them, she gave them a weak smile. “I’m not dead… yet.”

“Oh dear!” Phoebe stepped away from Abe and hurried to Darah’s side, embracing her.

Darah closed her eyes and let herself be hugged tightly. Once Phoebe released her to perch on the bed beside her, she gave her sister-in-law a more convincing smile. “I’m fine.”

“You better be fine,” Bart groused, folding arms across his chest. “You almost gave Abe a heart attack.”

“Sorry about that.” Her gaze skimmed over her brothers, then settled on J.R, smile dimming. “It won’t happen again.”

“It better not,” Clement muttered, squeezing her hand before releasing it.

J.R. swallowed hard as relief swept over him like a rushing wave, stealing his breath and his words. He’d almost lost her, all because of his foolhardiness.

Her eyes searched his face and her features tensed visibly. “Guys, can you leave us alone for a minute?”

The brothers didn’t say a word, didn’t move a step. Phoebe glanced from Darah to J.R. whose gazes were locked with such intensity, and stood to her feet. “Sure, we can do that. C’mon, boys.” She patted Clement’s shoulder, hooked an arm under Bart’s and Abe’s, and tugged them towards the door.

Clement quietly stood and followed after them, closing the door behind him.

With only the hiss of the humidifier and the faint sounds of her siblings talking outside, Darah and J.R. just stared at each other for what seemed like forever. Then Darah released a sigh and lowered her gaze. “I want you to do me a favor, J.R.”

Her gently-spoken words unlocked something in him and he reached for her hand, cradling it between his. “Anything.” In fact, he was willing to die for her if the need presented itself–his love for her was that strong, that overwhelming.

Her lashes fluttered against her cheek. “I want you to forget me. I want you to move on.”

These words pierced him like a sharp dagger. His jaw slackened and he gaped at her. What on earth was she saying?

At his stunned silence, Darah raised her head and pinned her tear-filled eyes on him. “I want you to leave me alone and go away.”

<<Chapter 23 || Chapter 25>>

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Lighthouse, Chapter 22

Posted on 19/08/2016

“But…” L.J.’s eyes skimmed her face when Darah looked up. “He loves you.”

Her breath caught at the words. “He does?”

His expression turned quizzical. “You didn’t know?”

Dazed, Darah shook her head.

“You’re certainly are an odd one.” L.J. coughed and drew in a raspy breath, his brow furrowed in pain.

Alarmed, she reached out. “My God, are you okay?”

He held out a hand to ward her off. “Calm down before they hear you.”

Settling back in her seat, she warily eyed the prongs in his nose and the mask resting on his chin. “Are you sure you should be discharged?”

“Not you too,” he groaned as he lay back against the pillow. Then he sighed. “I hate hospitals.”

“Not many like ‘em.” She eyed his taut features. He wasn’t good at hiding much of anything, including pain. She motioned to the oxygen mask he wasn’t utilizing. “Maybe you should wear that.”

He didn’t even blink. “And maybe you should hush…”

Darah drew a hand over her mouth like a zipper. Relief loosened her shoulders when his lips twitched a smile. Maybe J.R.’s father could be charmed after all.

“Anyway, I’m sure you already know about J.R.’s mother.”

She sobered. “Hana told me about her.”

His brows raised, then shrugged. “Yeah, well it’s been a while since we had a woman in the house.”

“Except Hana.”

“Not counting Hana… she’s family.”

Ignoring the painful twist in her gut, Darah managed a smile. “I know she’s your pick for J.R.”

“Marrying Hana or anyone else…” he grimaced, unable to mask his discomfort. “… is his choice to make. I only make suggestions based on my experiences. It’s what parents do.”

She wrung her hands together. “Well, he values your opinion.”

“A bit too much, but that’s my fault.” L.J. muttered, fidgeting gingerly. “Ugh… I really hate this bed.”

Darah hurried to his side and ignoring the weight of his suspicious stare on her face, she fluffed his pillow before returning it behind his head.

“Thank you,” he mumbled as she took her place at the foot of his bed. “Where was I?”

“You’re welcome. And J.R.’s valuing your opinion being your fault…”

“Right,” he played with the rubber of the oxygen mask. “Well, it’s been a struggle for me to let him make choices for himself… and now I wonder if I haven’t held on too long.”

Darah nodded, knowing the gist of it all.

“I’d always assumed I’d live to see him get married and have kids.” His cursory gaze swept over her. “To live and bounce my grandchildren on my knee, and tell them stories of their heritage.”

Her shoulders tensed under his probing stare and she tightened her clasped hands.

“I guess I’d forgotten life can be unjust at time—” L.J. drew in an uneven breath that caught in his throat. His brows furrowed and alarm flitted in his features as he choked on the breath. The sound of the cough that left his mouth was violent and harsh, the sheer pain of it deepened the lines in his brow. He gasped for air, hand moving to his throat.

Frightened, Darah jumped to her feet. “I-I’ll get the nurse.” She hurried out the door before he could stop her, not that she noticed as she barreled down the hallway.

Nurse Karen turned the corner just as Darah hurried toward it. She grabbed Darah’s shoulders, chuckling. “Whoa, you okay?”

Heart racing, she gestured over her shoulder. “Please help. He can’t breathe.”

The woman’s amusement fled as her eyes drifted over Darah’s head. She brushed past Darah toward the room, and Darah didn’t follow, hurrying around the corner in search of J.R. and Hana.

She found them standing just inside the conservatory windows that overlooked the garden. Clement was nowhere in sight and from their identical stances, Hana and J.R. were in deep conversation. She bit her bottom lip, hesitating to interrupt them. Then the alarm in L.J.’s eyes propelled her forward. “E—“

“What will he say once he finds out?” Hana stifled Darah’s words.

“I don’t know,” J.R. answered in a strained voice. He was clearly exhausted.

“I know,” Hana countered. “He’ll be against it, especially since it’s not even your child.”

Darah’s stomach turned violently and she shifted from view when Hana turned her head to glare at J.R.

“What are you thinking, Bhaiyaa?”

Curiosity of J.R.’s thoughts temporarily outweighed Darah’s urgency to inform him of his father. So she stalled, waiting and dreading his response.

J.R. sighed heavily. “I don’t know.”

Darah’s brow furrowed. What didn’t he know?

“Are you really thinking of marrying her?”

J.R. was silent a little too long and Darah bit the inside of her cheek a little too hard, drawing blood. Her pulse thumped violently in her throat as she stared at his back and broad shoulders.

Hana sighed heavily. “Maybe I shouldn’t say this—”

“Then don’t.”

Darah glared at Hana. The woman was meddling more now than before she knew Darah’s little secret.

J.R. sighed, dragging a hand through his hair. “Look, it’s complicated.”

Darah frowned at the back of J.R.’s head.

Hana snorted. “Well it’s about to get more complicated, Bhaiyaa. Are you really going to let Uncle think the baby’s yours? And what if the father wants to be part of the baby’s life, can you handle the drama?”

With each second J.R. remained silent, Darah grew more troubled. Blood pooled in her mouth as she gnawed the inside of her cheek, eyes stinging with tears that threatened to spill, her stomach in gnarled knots. His hesitance condemned her for putting him in such an awful predicament; having to tell his dying father that the woman he’d chosen was having another man’s baby. She could imagine the horror and disappointment in L.J.’s eyes, and the hurt and shame in J.R.’s.

Darah took a step back, losing courage to announce herself. She was the bad guy in the story—the villain dashing L.J.’s dreams of beholding his grandchildren and seeing his bloodline through his only son. And every time J.R. would gaze at her son, he’d feel cheated and resentful. The thought of J.R. resenting her hurt more than the pesky ache in her stomach.

Taking another step back, Darah decided against revealing herself to the couple. They didn’t need to know she’d come for them, and Nurse Karen was more than capable of stabilizing J.R.’s father.

Suddenly Clement opened the door leading to the garden and stepped inside, greeting the couple with a smile. When he spotted Darah standing by the column, he started to call out to her.

Putting one finger to her mouth, she shook her head adamantly, pleading with him not to call her out.

Noticing Clement’s furrowed brow, J.R. turned in the direction of his gaze.

Darah ducked behind the column, heart pounding violently in her chest. If he knew she’d been standing there and overheard their conversation, he’d feel even more shame. She didn’t want that for him.

“What is it?” J.R. inquired gently.

“Uh, it’s nothing.”

Darah released the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, and a solid tear slid down her cheek.

“What are you still doing out here? Thought you’d be heading back.” Clement asked.

“Darah’s still with Uncle,” Hana answered. “So we’re giving them privacy.”

Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, Darah slunk away before Clement’s could respond. She’d make her decision now. J.R. didn’t deserve to bear the shame and pain of what she’d done.

“I see…” Clement spotted Darah trudging away and frowned. He’d noticed the sadness in Darah’s face, as if she’d been gutted. Something was wrong. He returned his attention to J.R. “Well, I better go see about her before I head back. The family’s wondering if she stay with you or come with me.”

Deciding to keep his opinion about that decision unspoken, J.R. simply nodded.

Hana placed her hands to her hips. “It’s not advisable that she stay here in her condition. Expectant mothers need as much rest as possible, don’t you agree Reverend?”

At the look of alarm on Clement’s face, J.R. nodded. “It’s okay, we already discussed it.”

Clement frowned. Was the discussion the cause of Darah’s shell-shocked expression? He turned to J.R., gaze wary. “You told her?”

“Actually,” Hana spoke up before J.R. could. “I figured it out on my own and confirmed with your sister.”

His frown only deepened as she confirmed his concern for Darah. He tamped a weary sigh. “Yeah, you’re right, Doc. I better get my pregnant sister home then.” Cutting J.R. a withering glance, Clement brushed past them to go after Darah.

The three found Darah standing outside the door to L.J.’s room. Clement scowled as Darah kept her head bent, hiding her face. No doubt she was crying.

Concerned that she was outside and not with his father, J.R. stepped forward. “What’s wrong?” He glanced toward the door and then back at her. “Did something happen?”

Clement frowned as J.R. placed his hands on Darah’s shoulders. “Why don’t you go find out about your old man first? I’ll handle my sister.”

J.R. hesitated, looking at Darah’s bent head. Her silence was unsettling, more so than her taut shoulders that drew in defensively when he touched her. His heart skipped a beat, afraid of what his father might have said to her? “What happened?”

Hana stepped around him to open the door, and gasped at the sight of the doctor and nurse by L.J.’s bed. “Bhaiyaa, come quick.”

At the panic in Hana’s voice, he looked up and spotting the somber expressions awaiting him inside, he released Darah’s shoulders.

Clement came to stand by Darah as J.R. stepped inside and closed the door. Then he placed a hand on her shoulder, feeling it tremble against his palm. “What happened?”

This time, Darah let out a whimper and leaned her forehead against his chest. Clement swallowed a sigh and wrapped his arms around her.

“Can we go home now?” her voice was faint, reminding him of the nights when she had terrible nightmares as a kid. “Please?”

The soft plaintiff made him tighten his hold around her. “Alright, let’s go.”

J.R. frowned at his sleeping father’s form, wondering what went wrong. The niggling thought of a morose Darah standing outside the door crossed his mind. “I thought you said he was stable. What happened?”

The doctor nodded, expression somber. “It seems the edema is taking its time to clear up. The oxygen levels are gradually increasing, which is good, but we’ll have to monitor him a bit more closely.”

His shoulders sagged. “So his discharge date…”

“We’ll have to postpone that for now.” The doctor glanced down at his patient. “His immune system is a bit compromised, so we’ll have to watch for infection also…”

The calmer of the two, Hana nodded and placed her hand on J.R.’s shoulder. “Thank you Doctor.”

Nurse Karen stalled after the doctor left the room, then she turned to the couple with a wan smile. “He’ll be fine, he’s in good hands. I’ll be praying for you.”

J.R. nodded listlessly and lowered to the chair beside his father’s bed, staring at his mask-covered face. Just when he thought his father was getting better, bad news re-surfaced. He dragged a hand over his face and let out a weary sigh.

“Thank you for catching it on time,” Hana said, her hand still resting on J.R.’s shoulder.

“Oh, it wasn’t me. The fiancée Darah found me first,” Nurse Karen responded. “She was a bit shook up, so I immediately knew something was wrong.”

J.R. looked up, surmising why Darah trembled in his arms. He was instantly reminded by the Teka siblings’ deeply-rooted aversion to hospitals. Just like him, they’d had their fair share of traumatic events and didn’t need another to remind them of their painful past. Maybe it was best for Darah to return with Clement than staying here with him. As much as he needed her now, she was better off at home with her family. Resolved, he turned to Hana.

She nodded with a half-smile. “I’ll check on her.”

He sighed as Hana stepped out, then arched a brow when she returned with a frown on her face.

“She’s gone,” Hana answered, hand on the doorknob. “She and her brother.”

His phone then dinged and vibrated at his hip. Fishing it out, he answered Clement’s call. “Hello?”

“Don’t worry about Darah. I’ll take her home.”

J.R. swallowed the lump in his throat. “Alright.”

Without another word, Clement disconnected the call and J.R. lowered the phone to his thigh. Part of him was relieved, part of him disappointed with the news. Deciding to worry about Darah later, he shook out of it to ask Nurse Karen the next steps in his father’s recovery.

In the car, Clement lowered the phone to the cup-holder and exhaled deeply. “You alright?”

In the passenger’s seat, Darah had her face to the window and kept silent.

When she sniffed back tears, Clement reached up and patted her head. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”

Unfortunately, his words offering no balm to Darah’s aching heart. The decision that awaited her would be the hardest one she would have to make, probably harder than her decision to keep the baby. More than anything, she dreaded and resented the resolution altogether.

Darah closed her eyes tightly shut, pushing one last tear down her cheek.

<<Chapter 21 || Chapter 23>>

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