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Friday, 24 August 2012

Read my Romantic Thriller, Free: Chapter 32


If you haven’t started reading Breaking Faith, the reviews under the 'My Books' tab may persuade you to give it a try.

To those making the journey, I say, ‘Enjoy the ride.’

I posted Chapter 1 on 13 January. Subsequent chapters have appeared each Friday, and will continue to be posted until all 50 have featured here. You can find those already posted via the archive; just search by chapter number.

If you missed the start, you’ll find it here: http://stuartaken.blogspot.com/2012/01/read-free-my-novel-here.html

Read, enjoy, invite your friends along.

Chapter 32

Monday 5th July

There were too many things to do at once. Nobody could possibly learn to drive a car and co-ordinate all those movements. It was far too complex.
But, to my complete amazement, I was driving in straight lines and round corners by the end of the first morning. Michael, who was instructing me and Tony, an older pupil who was sharing the car, even persuaded me to drive the car back from the airfield to the school at lunchtime. By late afternoon, he was confident enough to let me drive along a few streets in a nearby village. Tony was doing less well, crunching the gears and stalling the engine so often I expected Michael to lose his temper, but he never did.
In the evening, we relaxed and drank beer or wine with the meal. Leigh’s introduction to this social habit meant I was able to pace myself and was never in danger of becoming drunk, unlike some of them.
Shirley sidled up to me in the middle of the evening and whispered in my ear as she inclined her head toward one of the younger men pupils. ‘Give us a couple of hours before you come up, eh, Faith? I’d do the same for you.’
‘I don’t mind if you have sex with him, but let me know when you’ve finished so I can get some sleep.’
‘I’m to send him down so he can tell you we’ve had a good screw and you can come to bed, is that it?’
‘That’s right, but I don’t want chapter and verse. Try not to keep him up there too long.’
‘I’m hoping to keep him up there for as long as possible. I can do without P.E., baby. I’m planning on a set of O’s to stand my hair on end.’
‘Well, I’m tired and I’d like to get to bed fairly early.’
She shook her head in the way a lot of people did when I spoke to them, as if they had difficulty in believing what I said. As she went to the stairs, she beckoned the man to follow her. He glanced at me as he passed. ‘Try not to stay up there all night, won’t you?’
‘Chance’d be a fine thing.’ He followed Shirley up the stairs.
Some of the others stared at me but looked away when I met their eyes. Tony signalled I should join him and I sat beside him on the sofa as the television bombarded the room with a suburban drama.
‘You know she’s told everyone, don’t you?’
‘Who’s told everyone what, Tony?’
‘You really are as innocent as you seem, aren’t you? I had it down as an act at first, but in the car it was obvious you’re naïve to the point of vulnerability.’
‘Leigh says I’m naïve. Innocent as well. He’s like Shirley when it comes to my attitude to sex; it’s as if they think there’s something wrong with me.’
‘Intriguing mixture and contradiction. You’re clearly as innocent as you seem, yet, if Shirley’s to be believed, you’re happy walking about stark naked.’
‘Is that a contradiction, then?’
‘Most people would think so, you’ll find.’
‘Why?’
‘In most people’s minds, nudity and sex are inextricably linked. You seem to manage to keep them separate. In fact I’m not sure you even make a connection between them in your own mind.’
‘Oh, I see the connection, Tony. People take off their clothes to have sex. But that doesn’t make being naked a signal for sex. I bathe naked, as I expect everyone does. I swim naked, because clothes are an encumbrance when you’re in water. And I sleep naked because it’s more comfortable and, as I’m alone, I see no need for cover.’
‘A logical and mostly unarguable response. But, let me put this to you; there’s a swimming pool outside. It’s hot; would you swim if others could see you?’
‘I’ll have to forgo the swimming, unfortunately.’
‘What about a bikini or swimsuit?’
‘I’d prefer not. Swimsuits and bikinis are designed to draw male eyes to the very parts that women aren’t supposed to show. It’s very hypocritical and I’d rather not encourage that sort of voyeurism. Though, I suppose if there were other people also wearing swimsuits, I wouldn’t feel so conspicuous, so I might do it then.’
‘I doubt if one person in ten thousand understands the reality of female swimwear. You’re the most extraordinary mixture of sophistication and innocence I’ve ever come across, Faith. You’re also an extremely attractive woman. If I were single, I’d enjoy the challenge of wooing you and trying to get you into bed.’
I was confident he was speaking hypothetically and not intending to get me into bed, as he put it. ‘You wouldn’t have sex with me unless we were in love and married, Tony. I have very definite views about that.’
‘Why?’
‘It’s obvious! That sort of intimacy and trust depends on real commitment to each other. Sex leads to pregnancy and children should be brought up in stable relationships.’
‘Plenty of reliable contraception about. Not catholic, are you?’
‘Certainly not! I take the pill; Mum said I need to be safe, just in case, as she put it. But I only take it for her sake. I’m not going to test its contraceptive powers. Commitment’s what really matters.’
‘So, casual sex is a no-no. What about a stable but non-marital relationship?’
‘Surely if two people love each other enough to stay together, they should be married?’
‘And sex before marriage?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Suppose you find you’re not sexually compatible after you’ve got married? Suppose the wedding night turns out to be a disaster with you incapable of accepting him or, possibly worse, him incapable?’
‘Leigh’s never had any difficulty with any other woman. Of course, I don’t know whether or not I could take a man’s penis inside my vagina, but I’m a normal woman as far as I know and I see no reason why there should be a problem. In any case, sex isn’t everything.’
‘There speaks someone who’s never experienced it. Sex without love is at best a physical joy, at worst a degrading disaster. But love without sex is simply incomplete; it’s half a life.’
I was interested in what Tony was saying but he stopped when it became clear some of the group were listening to our chat.
‘Trying to talk Faith out of her knickers, Tony?’
‘Bit past it, aren’t you?’
‘Watch him, Faith, he’s only after your body.’
‘And you’re not?’
Tony’s expression and embarrassment confirmed he wasn’t trying to persuade me to have sex with him. He shrugged at me with his face and I smiled my understanding. But the mood and opportunity were gone and I was left to consider alone what he’d said.
Shirley came down with the man and I went straight up to bed. I was slipping into sleep as she returned.
 ‘Everyone’s gone to bed. Fancy a swim?’
It was late and I was tired but the night was uncomfortably warm and the idea was very tempting. I thought it might help relax me. ‘Won’t we be seen?’
‘No chance. They’re all tucked up. I’ve just checked. And it’s dark enough, isn’t it?’
I was convinced, largely because the prospect of a swim in the moonlight in the safety of a cool pool was very attractive. It seemed likely we’d be safe from prying eyes if Shirley, with her odd prudery, was willing to risk it. ‘Come on, then. What are we waiting for?’
I took a towel from the bathroom and slipped a sundress on. Shirley followed suit and we sneaked downstairs, giggling quietly at our daring as we tiptoed through the darkened building and out into the sultry night. A few quick steps along the paved area at the side of the house and we were by the pool.
‘I’ve got to have a wee. Jump in if you like; I’ll join you in a sec. There’s one in the bar.’ Shirley wandered back into the house and I slipped my dress over my head and put it with my towel on a plastic sunbed. Very quietly, I slipped into the water, cool and deliciously refreshing after the clamminess of the day.
I was in the middle of my second length when the pool lights came on. At first, I was puzzled but then I looked about me and saw students and staff round the edge of the pool, clothed, of course, watching me. Shirley was with them, looking very pleased with herself.
I realized I was the butt of a joke but I was determined not to rise to the bait. They all expected me to rush from the pool and treat them to a view of my naked body clear of the water. So I stayed in the pool, ignored them and continued to swim. They had only a view of my back and bottom, distorted by the water.
Some grew bored and went back inside. A couple of the men sat on the sun lounger either side of my dress and towel, prepared to wait for me to emerge.
To my surprise and delight, Michael, my instructor calmly removed his clothes. ‘Don’t know about you lot, but I’m going to join our nymph.’ And he jumped into the pool and swam alongside me.
‘Thank you.’
‘Faith, it’s a pleasure. Dirty trick to play on an innocent like you. If I’d realized what they were about, I wouldn’t have joined them.’
It wasn’t long before others did the same. The swimming quickly degenerated into a splashing party. I took the opportunity to leave the chaos of the pool, wrap my towel around me and pick up my dress just as the noise brought out the school Principal in his dressing gown. He stood and looked at them all frolicking for a moment, turned his glance on me, frozen in his stare like a startled rabbit in headlights, shrugged and went back inside. I followed and found he’d stopped just inside the door.
‘I’m surprised at you, Miss Heacham. I was led to believe you were a shy and innocent young lady. So sad to find my natural cynicism proved right. Good night to you.’ He turned and was gone through one of the downstairs doors, leaving me feeling somehow responsible for what had happened.
I returned to my room. Shirley followed a short time afterwards and had the grace to look sheepish as she came in.
‘I don’t understand why you did that, Shirley.’
‘Shit. It was a shitty thing to do and I’m sorry. One of the men put me up to it and I didn’t really think. Thought it might be fun, a bit of a laugh, you know? I really am sorry, Faith. I hope you weren’t too embarrassed.’
‘I enjoyed my swim. I’d have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been the object of an attempt to ridicule and embarrass me. Fortunately, most of them did what I expected they would when I ignored them. Ignoring people works really well in all sorts of situations, Shirley. I’m going to dry my hair and go to sleep.’
I turned away from her. She tried to talk to me but I made no response. It wasn’t long before she got the message and became silent. After that, I spoke to Shirley only when necessary; otherwise, I ignored her completely.
The days passed, with busy times in the car and frequent questions about driving and the Highway Code. The evenings followed a regular pattern but I didn’t swim again and I never got another opportunity to explore with Tony. The group seemed to think I shouldn’t be left alone with any of the men. Shirley used our room each night and I went straight to bed after he’d left her.
Thursday night I glowed with pride as I won the Highway Code quiz again. This time, the prize was a case of wine, which I saved for the party on Friday night. Just one bottle went into my case to take back to Longhouse.
On Friday morning, I was leaving the bathroom after my shower when Shirley, sitting on the edge of her bed, beckoned me across. I remained where I was but waited.
‘I’m really sorry about what I did on Monday night. I wanted to find a way of making it up to you.’
She sounded genuine and I was willing to listen. ‘By all means.’
‘Never used it, have you?’ She pointed at my vagina. ‘Don’t know what a thrill it can give you as well as a man?’
‘I assume it holds considerable pleasure. It certainly seems to be the source of a huge amount of attention. I admit, I’m dumfounded by the amount of time and effort people put into attaining that pleasure.’
She took a small package from her bedside table. ‘I bought this when I was in Colchester, yesterday. Don’t open it now; we’d both be embarrassed. But promise you’ll have a good go when you get home.’
It looked and felt like a book. I could see no harm in that. ‘I promise. Thank you, Shirley. And, since it seems to matter to you, I accept your apology.’
‘You’re a strange woman, Faith. One of the oddest people I’ve ever met, in fact. I’ll miss your innocence and honesty. Good luck in your test.’
I put the book with my things. ‘Good luck to you, too.’
‘Oh, I’ll need more than luck. Keep your fingers crossed that I get a male examiner. I just might have a chance then.’
I popped on a summer dress and flat shoes so I’d be comfortable driving and left her to her extensive preparations.
As I helped myself to scrambled egg and crisp bacon, Tony cupped my chin in his hand and kissed my cheek. ‘Good luck, Faith. You’ll pass with flying colours.’
‘Thank you.’ I felt as if I should do something in return and I kissed his cheek. ‘Good luck to you, too.’
‘Luck isn’t goin to do it for me, Faith. I’m a terrible driver.’
‘You just need to relax, that’s all. You’re trying too hard. Imagine it’s just another lesson and there’s no one else there. I’ve watched you, Tony, and all that’s wrong is that you’re too tense.’
‘This is my seventh attempt and I’ve no reason to believe I’ll do any better than the other six hopeless failures. But thanks anyway. And I’ll try what you advise. What have I got to lose?’
‘Relax and enjoy it. Think of it as an experience. After all, as you said yourself, you’ve nothing to lose.’
I ate breakfast at a table full of people who were either silent and thoughtful or nervously garrulous. The tutors went round with words of encouragement and final bits of advice.
Shirley came down at last, made up to the nines and wearing her shortest skirt and tightest blouse with no bra and displaying as much cleavage as her breasts allowed.
‘He’ll not bother to test you, Shirley, just invite you into the bushes before he signs the pass certificate.’
She did a little curtsy to the admirer she’d had in her bed every night of the course.
‘Unless, of course, you get that ugly woman examiner. Then, you never know, she might be a raging dyke and take a fancy to you.’
Shirley glowered at the other woman’s warning and sat down to eat a slice of toast and drink her first of many coffees. She lit up immediately afterwards. She would chain smoke until her test at three o’clock.
Michael took Tony and me out separately for just under an hour each. At his suggestion and with Tony’s blessing, I then drove the three of us to the test centre in Colchester.
I’d driven in the town a few times during the week and knew all the places I was likely to go on the test. North Hill, the steep climb from the station, wouldn’t be used for the hill start as it was too busy, but there were plenty of other likely spots.
My examiner was tall and bald and wore a weary expression. He looked too hot already in his tweed jacket with its leather patches at the elbows. As he came into the waiting room and called my name, Michael wished me luck again and Tony gave me a thumbs-up sign.
The eyesight test was easy and I remembered every stage for starting the car and moving into traffic. At first, I thought everything was going against me as every set of traffic lights went red at my approach. But we made it to the quieter part of the town and drove down a tree-lined road that led to one of the army barracks. He explained how he would test my ability to stop in an emergency and I was listening but looking where I was going when a squirrel ran from the side of the road into my path. There was nothing behind us so I braked to avoid it and then continued without stalling.
‘I think we’ll give the emergency stop a miss, Miss, after that.’
We approached the hill where I expected to be tested only to find a short queue of traffic following a slow moving tractor. I was forced to stop half a dozen times because of the cars in front and he said that would do for the hill start. The three-point turn and reversing round the corner went relatively well; at least I managed not to stall or hit the kerb.
‘Back to the Test Centre, Miss Heacham.’
I sat in the car and answered his questions on the Highway Code. He said nothing apart from what he had to say to conduct the test and I thought his sombre silence signalled failure. I watched his nicotine stained fingers use an expensive pen to fill in some forms.
He handed me a signed sheet of paper. ‘Congratulations, Miss Heacham. I hope you continue to drive as well as you have today. Thank you for the rare pleasure of a stress-free interval.’
He shook my hand and went into the centre to collect Tony. I stood outside and looked at the piece of paper and realized I was crying.
Of the twelve of us, only Shirley and one of the younger men failed. Tony, to his great delight and surprise, scraped a pass.
Some left that afternoon, when we returned to the school; Shirley among them. A great walrus of a man driving a battered van collected her. He sneered at her scornfully as she slipped into the car beside him and swore loudly when she admitted failing again. I saw her dabbing at her eyes as the van set off down the lane.
The rest of us had a celebration party and I opened the case of red wine to share and drank a little too much.
During the evening, the Principal approached and shook my hand. ‘It appears I owe you an apology, Miss Heacham. I am now in full possession of the facts regarding the incident at the swimming pool and understand you were an innocent, if somewhat naïve, victim of a rather juvenile prank. It’s heartening to discover someone with such purity in our midst in these times of licence and loose morals. Congratulations on passing your test. And thank you for the wine, which I understand you donated after winning the Highway Code quiz.’
‘I couldn’t take it home on the train, so I thought I might as well let everyone enjoy themselves.’
‘As generous as you are delightful.’ He gave a little bow and went to talk to one of the female tutors.
Tony escorted me to my room at the end of the evening and I reached up and kissed him in thanks and congratulations. He held my shoulders and moved me away from him firmly but gently. ‘If I wasn’t a happily married gentleman I might take that as an invitation and make you wake in the morning full of regret.’
‘If you weren’t such a gentleman, Tony, I wouldn’t have kissed you.’
He smiled and shook his head. ‘You’d make a lovely daughter. I hope your dad’s proud of you.’
‘He is.’
‘Why the sudden sadness?’
‘Sorry. Dad’s dying, you see.’
He just took me in his arms and held me as the unstoppable tears came. He took me into my room and sat beside me, on my bed, held me and dabbed my eyes with a handkerchief. It was a while before I settled but he stayed, comforting me.
Once I was in control, he went to the door. ‘You got me through my test today, Faith. You made me see where I’ve been going wrong and gave me the strength to take a risk. I feel privileged to know you and I’ll miss you. Lock the door behind me. Not all men are so considerate after a few drinks. And you’re a very tempting package wrapped like that.’
The departure was an odd time with all of us leaving at different points during the morning.
The Principal came to me whilst I was having breakfast and placed a parcel on the table. ‘We thought it a little unjust that you shouldn’t make some personal gain from your quiz prize and we all felt your generosity and the positive contribution you have made to the course warranted some recognition. Please accept this on behalf of the tutors, your fellow pupils and the school.’
A smattering of applause alerted me to the eyes of everyone watching. ‘Thank you.’
The parcel contained a large road atlas and I was proud of myself for not letting them know I had no car and little prospect of owning one in the near future. The thought behind the present, however, made me feel wonderful and I stood and made a little curtsy as I’d seen other women respond in such circumstances.
Tony went early, just before me, and gave me a hug and kiss in farewell.
Simon took me back to North Station. Just beyond the school, he stopped the car and urged me into the driving seat. ‘I’m not supposed to let you drive, but… what the hell?’
I caught him looking at me. ‘Am I attractive, Simon?’
‘Is the Pope a Catholic?’
‘I imagine he has to be. But what…?’
‘It’s just an expression – I thought you’d have heard…’
‘Oh. I mean it, Simon; I want to know. I don’t mind you looking at me.’
He turned and had a good look at me. ‘You’re a very lovely woman, Faith. But you’re a real puzzle. I’ve never come across a woman as attractive and sexy as you who, “a” doesn’t know it and, “b” doesn’t take advantage of it. You’ve not tried to seduce any of the men into doing things for you; you’ve not pretended to be something you’re not. I wish I had time to get to know you better. I’ve a feeling you’d make a damned good friend even if you wouldn’t be prepared to be a lover.’
‘Thank you for your honesty, Simon.’
‘There, that’s what I mean. Most women would’ve found something to criticize in what I just said. I’d have been accused of chatting them up or being too slushy or taking the Mick. You just accept what I say at face value. It’s a refreshing quality, Faith. I hope you never lose it.’
‘If I asked you to have sex with me, what would you say?’
He was quiet for a moment before he laughed very softly, almost too soft for me to hear. ‘There you go again. With any other woman, that could only be interpreted as an invitation. Oh, it’s all right, Faith, I know it’s not what you meant. With you, it’s a straightforward question. But please be careful who you ask that sort of question and in what circumstances. Some men would definitely take it as a request and wouldn’t easily accept your refusal afterwards. But to answer your question; I’d be honoured, delighted, chuffed to buggery and I’d feel I was the luckiest man alive.’
‘Oh. So there’s nothing off-putting or odd about me, then?’
‘Odd’s a funny word. You’re unusual, but you’re neither odd nor off-putting in any way. You’re perfect, Faith. Don’t change.’
‘So, if I took off all my clothes and said you could put your penis in my vagina, you’d want to do it?’
‘You’re being unfair. I know you don’t mean to. I would certainly want to do it. I do want to do it. Can we change the subject, please? You’re putting pictures into my mind that I know on a rational level are not on offer, but my marriage equipment doesn’t appear to know that.’
‘You mean just thinking about sex with me is enough to make you have an erection?’
He shook his head and laughed out loud. ‘What the hell? See for yourself.’ He shifted slightly in his seat and I glanced and saw what he meant.
‘I see. I’m responsible for that?’
‘I don’t see any other female flesh about. Now, can we talk about something else; anything else, even the weather?’
I felt sorry for having caused his discomfort, but it seemed anything I might do would only make it worse. So I talked about the weather, which was hot, sultry and cloudless. By the time we reached the station, he was in a fit state to carry my case onto the platform for me. I kissed him in thanks and he embraced me, holding me very tight as if he never wanted to let me go. It felt nice but not the way it did when Leigh held me.
‘I don’t know who’ll be your first, Faith, but I hope he’s worthy of you. Don’t worry about me. I’ll just go through life comparing every other woman with you and remaining unsatisfied until I die.’ He made a strange laughing sound and I was left with the disturbing feeling that what he’d said wasn’t entirely a joke.
‘I hope you find a woman you’re happy with and who loves you, Simon.’
‘Thanks, but I don’t think that’s very likely now.’ He left just as the train came in, saying he had to get back to the school with the car.
Hot, bright sunshine had filled my week down south and it continued during my short time in London. I took a taxi, after I’d left my case at King’s Cross, and found the shops in the area Shirley had advised as we talked just before she’d gone. I’d commiserated with her for her failure.
‘It’s a divine judgement on me for playing that awful trick on you. I should never have done it.’
Tony had shaken his head as she walked away. ‘Nothing to do with the fact that Shirley’s driving is worse than mine, of course.’
But she’d answered my questions about shopping for clothes in London and named the King’s Road as the best place.
‘You’ve got to try that Vivienne Westwood place, it’s amazing.’
The taxi took me there quite quickly and I found the shop and dismissed it at once when I saw the blasphemous tee shirts and the weird people in black leather and torn clothes with safety pins and outlandish hairstyles. But I did find other shops with what I really sought. Back on the train, I pictured Netta’s face as she saw my purchases.
My journey home to Yorkshire was uneventful but I caught myself smiling at the thought of Leigh when I told him I’d passed the test. He’d be so pleased, and proud of me. I would dash from the train, waving my piece of paper for him to see. It was then, as I pictured the scene in my mind, that I remembered the small package he’d given me just before I set off. I’d slipped it into my handbag as the train came in and hadn’t even opened it.
The wrapping was gold with a neatly tied band of golden ribbon. It seemed a shame to spoil it. Inside was a black leather circle in a sort of tube shape, punched with small holes around both open edges. A long black lace was coiled inside it. I held it up and examined it but, for the life of me, couldn’t work out how such a thing would be worn, or where. Puzzled, I rolled it back up and slipped it back into its wrapping so I could quiz Leigh later.
I recalled Shirley’s present in my case and decided I might as well read on the journey. The book was called ‘The Joy of Sex’ and had explicit drawings of a couple engaged in sex in all sorts of ways. I blushed just opening it and was very pleased I was alone in my first class compartment. Once I’d started to read, though, I was intrigued and found I just had to know more.
Sunshine followed the train beyond Peterborough but then the sky grew increasingly heavy with cloud as we moved north. The rain started about twenty minutes before the train was due at Garsdale. I reluctantly put the book back into my case, having learned a great deal about sex in a very short time. I found myself considering things that previously I wouldn’t have thought worthy of a moment’s attention. My mind still occupied by the new knowledge, I zipped up the case and fastened the straps as the train began to slow down for the station.
Not just rain but a great, flashing, crashing thunderstorm lashed against the windows as the wind howled across the open fell tops. I looked out, knowing Leigh would be waiting for me, as we’d arranged, but in the car; there was no shelter at all on the station.
The train squealed to a halt before I knew it and I had to dash to struggle out before it set off again. Only as I stepped onto the deserted platform and into the lashing rain, did I remember my light jacket, still folded in my case.
But Leigh would be waiting in the dry in the car park just behind the station. I limped off with my case banging against my bare leg, rain soaking straight through the light cotton blouse and short red skirt I’d worn for the hot sunny departure from Colchester.
I was soaked literally to the skin before I’d walked the length of the platform. My shower proof jacket would have made no difference to the soaking but it would have spared me the embarrassment of having my breasts on display. For once, I’d decided to go without a bra; because of the heat and, if I’m honest, in order to impress Leigh. Water dripped from my hair, my nose and my chin and made my hand slip on the handle of the case, as the wetness loosened my grip.
At least I’d soon be in the car on my way back to Longhouse, dry clothes and a welcome cup of tea.
But the car park was deserted. He must have parked at the other side. I felt irritated that he hadn’t thought about me lugging my case all that way in the pouring rain, but he would have some reasonable excuse. I struggled down the steep sloping road and through the arch under the railway line and up to the gravel roadway that divided the platform from the short row of railway houses that were the only habitations for miles. Leigh wasn’t there either. He’d forgotten me.
The red phone booth further down the road beckoned. I struggled down a surface that had become a shallow stream of water, soaking my feet. I felt thoroughly deflated, miserable and angry.
At least it was dry and sheltered inside the small box. The phone rang for a long time before it was picked up.
‘Oh, hello, Sis. He’s on his way. Got sidetracked, I’m afraid.’ Netta’s voice was smug and self-satisfied and I very nearly called her a rude name.


###

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